Puerto Rico Braces For Hit From Hurricane Dorian

A person is seen along the beach as Tropical Storm Dorian passes the island on August 28, 2019 in Luquillo, Puerto Rico.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP 


Hurricane Dorian bore down on Puerto Rico Wednesday as residents braced for a direct hit, the first since the island was ravaged two years ago by Hurricane Maria.

Even before the storm hit, an 80-year-old man was killed in a fall from a ladder while fixing a roof in a San Juan suburb, police said.

US forecasters said Dorian was upgraded to a hurricane from a tropical storm as it chugged near St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands and was expected to make landfall in populous eastern Puerto Rico later Wednesday.

The latest path also puts Dorian on a trajectory to strike the Atlantic coast of Florida or Georgia by the weekend, with few obstacles to weaken it after Puerto Rico.

Residents of the seaside town of Fajardo, hard hit by Maria in 2017 and now directly in Dorian’s path, scrambled to get ready, fueling their vehicles and stocking up on basic necessities.

Miguel Melendez joked that the popular tourist area has become a “welcome committee” for hurricanes.

“I went to bed more or less at ease,” the 63-year-old retiree said. “But my sister woke me at 7:00 am to tell me: ‘Look, this has changed, this is headed to the house again.'”

Carmen Donos exited a Fajardo supermarket Wednesday morning with a shopping cart loaded with “my little basic things, and some sweets for when I’m anxious because the lights have gone out.”

The 49-year-old said she lost “absolutely everything” to flooding during Maria. “I definitely don’t want to go through that again.”

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, which is a US territory, authorizing federal assistance even as he lashed out at the island as “one of the most corrupt places on earth.

“Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt,” he said on Twitter.

Evacuations were getting underway, starting with people living in Maria-damaged homes that still have blue tarps for roofs, Carlos Acevedo Caballero, head of the local emergency management agency, told reporters.

Some 30,000 houses in Puerto Rico have blue tarps where once they had roofs.

Maria, a Category 4 hurricane, shattered the island’s already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services and left many residents homeless.

A study accepted as valid by the government, which initially put the death toll at 64, estimated that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane and the months of disruption that followed.

Dorian, though far less powerful than Maria, looms as the first major test of the island’s halting recovery.

As of 1800 GMT, the storm was over St Thomas, packing 75-mile-an-hour (120-kilometer) winds.

It is forecast to dump four to six inches of rain on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Agents ‘ready to respond’

Forecasters project that after it crosses Puerto Rico, the storm will move into the Atlantic. It is expected to follow a trajectory north of the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos before swinging west toward Florida sometime over the weekend.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned that Dorian could grow into a major hurricane as he warned people to get ready.

“All Floridians on the East Coast should have 7 days of supplies, prepare their homes and follow the track closely,” he tweeted.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said some 3,000 agents had been deployed in Puerto Rico and were “ready to respond.”

“Emergency communications, logistics & transportation teams are also positioned on the island,” it said Tuesday on Twitter.

Puerto Rico’s new governor, Wanda Vazquez, said the island was better prepared this time to respond to any contingency.

Former governor Ricardo Rossello was forced to resign last month in part because of criticism of his handling of the emergency created by Maria.

Three US Tourists Die In Caribbean Drowning Tragedy


Three American tourists have drowned in the Turks and Caicos Islands after apparently getting caught in a fast-moving tide fueled by high winds, authorities and local residents said Tuesday.

The victims – two men and a woman — were from two families from Texas who were spending the holidays together, along with their two girls, police said.

They had been exploring scenic Bambarra Beach on the sparsely populated island of Middle Caicos when disaster struck on Monday, police and local residents said.

The children were plucked from the ocean by rescuers and were being cared for by local social welfare services.

The body of a 34-year-old woman washed ashore shortly after the incident. Searchers scouring the beaches recovered the second body a few hours later. The third was discovered early this morning with assistance from the US Coast Guard.

Residents said the families may have been attempting to cross the half-mile distance through shallow water from Bambarra Beach to nearby Pelican Cay.

Police Commissioner Trevor Botting described the incident as a “terrible tragedy.”

“Five tourists from two families got into difficulties in the waters off Middle Caicos. Whilst two children were thankfully recovered alive from the water, two adults related to one of the girls were recovered but sadly they had died. One other man, related to the other child, was found early today and has also died,” he said.

The tragedy has triggered calls locally for increased warning signs on the islands’ often deserted beaches.

The Turks and Caicos Islands is British overseas territory that consists of two island chains southeast of the Bahamas

Hurricane Maria Hits Puerto Rico

Winds lash the coastal city of Fajardo as Hurricane Maria approaches Puerto Rico, AFP PHOTO / Ricardo ARDUENGO

Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean.

The US National Hurricane Center warned of “large and destructive waves” as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast.

Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has told residents to brace for “the worst storm of the last century”, opening 500 shelters that can accommodate 67,000 people.

“The wind sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs!” photographer and storm chaser Mike Theiss posted on Twitter as the hurricane hit.

“We are getting absolutely hammered right now.”

Puerto Ricans had scrambled to board up windows and buy last minute supplies as the storm approached the densely populated island of 3.5 million.

“Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane,” tweeted US President Donald Trump.

“Be careful, our hearts are with you — will be there to help!”

Maria made landfall as a Category Four storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, packing winds of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour.

The US and British Virgin Islands — still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma — are also on alert, along with the Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Dominican Republic.

Maria has already torn through several Caribbean islands, leaving two people dead in the French territory of Guadeloupe and causing major damage on the independent island of Dominica.


New Storm, Hurricane Maria Threatens Eastern Caribbean

People walk past smashed boats on September 16, 2017 at Marigot shipyard on the French Caribbean island of Saint Martin after the island was hit by Hurricane Irma.
AFP PHOTO / Helene Valenzuela

Hurricane Maria has barrelled towards the storm-battered Eastern Caribbean and was expected to strengthen on Monday as it churned along a path similar to that of megastorm Irma earlier in the month.

The new storm, which the US National Hurricane Center warned could become a “major hurricane”, threatens the French territory of Guadeloupe, which was the staging area for relief operations for several islands hit by Irma.

Guadeloupe was to go on “red alert” Monday with schools, businesses and government offices ordered closed.

Warnings were also triggered for Dominica, St Kitts, Nevis, the British island of Montserrat and France’s Martinique.

French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb warned in Paris on Sunday that “we will have major difficulties” if Guadeloupe is hard hit, noting that the territory “was the logistical centre from where we could supply Saint Martin and organise all the air bridges.”

15 people died from Irma on Saint Martin, an island shared by France and the Netherlands.

Officials in Guadeloupe predicted severe flooding in low-lying areas and urged people living there to move to higher ground.

France, Britain and the Netherlands have been criticised for the pace of relief efforts and failure to contain lawlessness in their overseas territories amid widespread shortages of food, water and electricity after Irma.


Culture of risk

In the Guadeloupe capital Pointe-a-Pitre, local official Josette Borel-Lincertain said authorities had ample experience preparing for hurricanes.

“We have a culture of risk, we know what needs to be done,” she said.

Collomb said an additional 110 soldiers would be deployed to the region to reinforce some 3,000 people already at work tackling security problems, rebuilding infrastructure and supplying food and water to hurricane-hit islanders.

He said up to 500 more people could be sent if needed.

The Category Five Irma left around 40 people dead in the Caribbean before churning west and pounding Florida, where at least 20 people were killed.

As of 0600 GMT, Maria was a Category One hurricane, the lowest on the five point Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph) winds.

The storm was about 145 kilometres (90 miles) northeast of Barbados and moving at 13 mph (20 kph), the NHC said.

Martinique was placed on “orange alert” from Monday with high seas and heavy rain expected to cause flooding. Schools and universities will be closed, authorities said.

Tropical storm warnings were in place in Antigua and Barbuda, Saba and St Eustatius, and St Lucia. The tiny island of Barbuda was decimated by Hurricane Irma September 5-6 when it made its first landfall in the Caribbean as a top intensity Category Five storm.

The NHC said Maria could produce a “dangerous storm surge accompanied by large and destructive waves” that will raise water levels by four to six feet (1.2 to 1.8 metres) when it passes through the eastern Caribbean.

It also forecast a maximum potential rainfall of 20 inches (51 centimetres) in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands through Wednesday night — conditions that could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

A second hurricane, Jose, is also currently active in the Atlantic and has triggered tropical storm watches for the northeastern United States.

Hurricane Irma broke weather records when it sustained winds of 295 kilometres per hour (183 miles per hour) for more than 33 hours.

Many scientists are convinced that mega storms such as Irma and Harvey before it are intensified by the greater energy they can draw from oceans that are warming as a result of global climate change.


Buhari Assures EU Of Commitment To Human Rights Protection

Muhammadu-Buhari-in-France The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday told the European Union that his administration was doing its utmost best to protect the fundamental human rights of persons in the ongoing counter-terrorism operations against Boko Haram insurgents.

The President gave the assurance on Wednesday while addressing a special session of the parliament in Strasbourg, France.

President Buhari said that his government shared the European Union’s commitment to peace and security, respect for human rights, democracy and good governance as well as equality and tolerance as ways of developing prosperous and strong societies.

On our part, we have updated our Rules Of Engagement in fighting terrorism and pay very close attention during operations to the treatment of captured terrorists, civilians caught up in the conflict and in general, safeguarding property.

“Our aim is to use minimum force necessary in our fight against terrorists,” the President told members of the parliament and the European Union commission.

Economic Partnership Agreement

President Buhari also spoke of Nigeria’s concerns about the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union (EU), African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states (ACP), collectively endorsed by the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS).

He said that Nigeria was yet to sign the agreement because pertinent technical issues raised by the Federal Government have not been satisfactorily addressed.

“Giving due consideration to the mismatch of the two regions (Europe-ECOWAS) in terms of technology and manufacturing experience, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and Associated Trade Unions raised concerns over the negative impact of the agreement on Nigeria’s industrialisation programme.

Muhammadu Buhari addressing parliament in Strasbourg, France

“Nigeria is working towards addressing her own side of the issues and I therefore, urge our European Union partners to also address our own concerns to allow for an economic partnership agreement that is mutually beneficial and can contribute to the prosperity of our people, in the context of our shared values and interest at promoting cordial bilateral trade relations,” he said.

Oil-theft And Illegal Bunkering

The President also sought greater support from the European Union for Nigeria’s efforts to curb the theft of its crude oil and corruption in its oil and gas sector.

“Nigeria is facing the challenges of oil-theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger delta as well as recovery of illicit funds. In this regard, Nigeria solicits the cooperation of the European Parliament to support the efforts aimed at stemming these vices.

“Our attempt to restore security, curb corruption and fight crime will result not only in improving social stability in Nigeria but will re-open the doors for full economic relations with Europe and the rest of the world.

“Those who wish to invest in our country have immense opportunities and we intend to guarantee the security of people and investments brought to Nigeria,” he said.

Illegal Migration To Europe

President Buhari also assured the parliament that Nigeria would collaborate with the European Union to address illegal migration to Europe.

“Our government is making concerted efforts to address the push-factor that propel migration, especially from Nigeria, as both destination and transit country.

“In this year’s budget, the government has provided for over 500,000 graduate employment in the teaching profession alone. We are equally collaborating with the states and local governments to strengthen skills acquisition centres in order to train the teeming youth in various vocational skills, so that they can be self-employed and eventually become employers of labour,” he stated.

The Nigerian leader further said that his government was also making efforts to diversify the economy, giving impetus to agriculture and solid minerals exploitation, to create wealth and employments.

“Nigeria welcomes the outcome of the Valletta EU-Africa summit on migration, including the launching of 1.8 billion Euros Emergency Trust Fund to address the root causes of migration from Africa to Europe.

“Nigeria will work with the countries of the Sahel and Central Africa to submit to the board of the Emergency Trust Fund, our identified projects for funding in due course.

“The Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM), which Nigeria was the first African country to sign on March 12, 2015, is a demonstration of the positive spirit of our cooperation with the European Union in the field of migration and development,” President Buhari further told the gathering.

He also proposed a reciprocal visa waivers for holders of Nigerian diplomatic and official passports attending official meetings and conferences in Europe.


Zika Virus Triggers Pregnancy Delay Calls

zika virusOfficials in four Latin American and Caribbean nations have warned women to avoid getting pregnant amid concerns over an illness causing severe birth defects.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica have recommended delaying pregnancies until more is known about the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

This follows an outbreak in Brazil where nearly 4,000 babies have been born with suspected microcephaly – or abnormally small heads.

Meanwhile, the US health authorities had warned pregnant women to avoid travelling to more than 20 countries in the Americas and beyond, where Zika cases had been registered.

Brazil is experiencing the largest known outbreak of Zika, with most cases in the north-east. Others have been detected in the south-east, an area which includes Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of cases of Zika in several other Latin American countries.

In Colombia, more than 13,500 cases had been reported.


Worries Grow Over El Nino Weather Report

el-ninoAid agencies have warned that millions of people are likely to face hunger and disease in 2016 due to the strongest El Nino weather on record.

Experts say the weather phenomenon is set to worsen droughts in some areas, while increasing flooding in others.

Some of the worst impacts are likely to be felt in Africa with food shortages expected to peak in February.

Regions including the Caribbean, Central and South America will also be hit in the next six months.

This periodic weather event, which tends to drive up global temperatures and disturb weather patterns, has helped push 2015 into the record books as the world’s warmest year.

Technical Aid Corps Recruits 1,500 Professionals As Volunteers

The Directorate of the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) has commenced its 14th biennial orientation course for approximately 1,500 volunteers who will be traveling to different part of the world.

The volunteers who are professionals specialized in different fields would be sent to 43 less developed countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, for two years.

They will work in various fields of endeavour, to impart some Nigerian expertise to their host countries, as part of efforts to contribute to these countries’ development.

Speaking at the opening session of the orientation course in Akure, the Ondo State capital, the Director-General of the Directorate of the Technical Aid Corps, Pius Osunyikanmi, commended the Federal Government for showing renewed interest in the programme by increasing the number of participants from 200 to over 1,500.

He added that the volunteers were chosen through a competitive process that was purely merit driven.

The Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, however advised the volunteers to see the programme as an opportunity for them to learn from the practices in those countries. He also highlighted the possibility of building relationships that would add value to their future plans.

“Some of you who are smart would make lifelong contacts that will change your lives completely, in terms of opportunities”, he said.

The Technical Aid Corps, TAC, was established by the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida in 1987. Volunteers are recruited strictly on the basis of request from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, ACP.

Tambuwal Assures Of Proper Legislation To Tackle Oil Theft

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal has restated that the House is working on a legislation to check the rising network of oil thieves in the country.

To deal decisively with the matter, the speaker called for collaboration between African, Caribbean, Pacific and European Union (ACP-EU) at the conclusion of the tenth regional parliamentary meeting in Abuja, to help checkmate the country’s shortfall in revenue.

Tambuwal said the economic challenges, oil theft and bunkering posed a serious threat not only to Nigeria, but for Africa and the globe, stressing that the menace has led to a proliferation of violence and terrorist acts across the country.

The national assembly had earlier revealed that the country loses about 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which translates to a loss of one billion dollars every month.

Muhammad Ali to be crowned king of boxing

Former heavy weight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali will be named the ‘King of Boxing’ at the 50th convention of the World Boxing Council (WBC)

The event will begin Monday December 3-8 in Mexico’s Caribbean coastal resort of Cancun and will have over 100 champs and ex-champs to attend the convention.

The “crowning” of Ali will be one of the main events at the convention celebrating the 50th year of the WBC, which is headed by Mexican Jose Sulaiman.

Mr Sulaiman who has been the WBC president since 1975 mentioned that “It will be recognition for an entire life of greatness, there is nobody in the world who has done what Ali has done.”

He added that Ali deserved the honor “which he needs more” at this point in his life.

The former world champion has suffered from Parkinson’s for years.

The WBC was founded in 1963 by Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos

Nollywood actress Omotola receives BEFFTA award in London

Popular Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde also known as Omosexy recently received the Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts (BEFFTA) awards in London.

Omotola has become the first Nigeria movie star to be awarded with the special BEFFTA honorary award in the film category, other high profile personalities who received BEFFTA special award this year included Sir Trevor McDonald Obe recipient of BEFFTA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Addressing the press in London, with so much excitement Omotola said, “this is the best award I have received on a global level, it is such an honor and I’m truly humbled that 16 years of my work in the film industry has been rewarded in a special way internationally.”

BEFFTA founder Pauline Long commended Omotola for her contribution to the film industry and also for her great charitable work.

BEFFTA (Black Entertainment Film, Fashion, Television and Art) award is a special inclusive award ceremony that is committed to celebrating both unknown and known actors under one roof. It is an award ceremony that aims to inspire the community to achieve at the highest level. It also intend spreading its tentacles into the Caribbean, Africa, Canada and USA in the near future.

The BEFFTA Film Icon Award was presented to Omotola by Theodora Ibekwe.