At least 24 people have been killed and dozens are missing in parts of eastern Zimbabwe hit by the peripheral effects of tropical cyclone Idai which lashed neighbouring Mozambique, government said Saturday.
Zimbabwe’s ministry of information announced on Twitter that so far the “number of deaths is confirmed at 24 mainly from Chimanimani East,” including two students, while at least 40 other people have been injured.
Many houses have been damaged and bridges washed away in parts of the Manicaland province which borders Mozambique.
A group of people who fled their homes were “marooned” on top of a mountain waiting to be rescued, but strong winds were hampering helicopter flights, the ministry said.
Earlier a lawmaker told AFP that thousands of people have been affected, power cut off and major bridges flooded.
“The information we have so far is that over 100 people are missing and some of them” may have died, Joshua Sacco, a member of parliament in Chimanimani district, told AFP.
“At least 25 houses were swept away following a mudslide at Ngangu township in Chimanimani urban. There were people inside. They are part of the missing,” he said.
‘Serious humanitarian crisis’
Tropical cyclone Idai battered central Mozambique on Friday killing at least 19 people there and cutting off more than half a million in Beira, one of the country’s largest cities.
Local officials in Mozambique said that heavy rains earlier in the week, before the cyclone struck, had already claimed another 66 lives, injured scores and displaced 17,000 people.
Heavy downpours in neighbouring Malawi this week have affected almost a million people and claimed 56 lives there, according to the latest government toll.
Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Jacob Mafume tweeted that a “serious humanitarian crisis (is) unfolding” in eastern Zimbabwe districts.
“We need state intervention on a massive scale to avoid biblical disaster,” he said.
The ministry of information said the Zimbabwean national army was leading the rescue efforts.
One school has been shut in the area and students were waiting to be airlifted to safety.
When the cyclone hit Mozambique, authorities there were forced to close the international airport in the port city of Beira after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.
An official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) of Mozambique told AFP on Friday “there is extreme havoc”.
“Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged.
“The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircrafts are damaged.”
The death toll from a cyclone that battered India’s eastern coast has reached 33, a disaster official said on Sunday, as authorities assessed the damage caused by the powerful storm.
Cyclone Gaja, which packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, had barrelled into Tamil Nadu state after hitting the coast on Friday.
Thousands of trees were felled by winds that destroyed homes and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee to shelters.
“So far 20 men, 11 women, and two children have died due to the cyclone,” said an official with the state disaster management authority, who asked not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to media.
“As of now 177,500 people are housed in over 351 camps. Thousands of trees have been uprooted and livestock has also been badly affected,” he told AFP.
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, who has announced compensation of $14,000 each to the families of victims, said most deaths were caused by flooding, house collapses and electrocution.
Hundreds of emergency workers have been pressed into service to restore roads and power cables, as the full scale of the disaster becomes clear.
A Navy helicopter and two ships have joined relief efforts in the state, the local government said.
India’s weather department said the cyclonic depression had moved westwards Saturday into the neighbouring Kerala state before continuing into the Arabian Sea.
Gaja is the second major storm to hit India’s east coast in recent weeks. Cyclone Titli battered Odisha state in October, killing at least two people.
Storms regularly hit southern India between April and December. Last year, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.
In the morning, before she left for work, Ambika Thankappan called her son Arun to tell him their world was about to drown.
“Da, it’s already flooded to the nearby villages,” she told him in a calm voice, using an affectionate Malayalam word for boy. “And it’s starting to reach our village.”
“I’ll be there in an hour,” he replied.
Arun jumped on his motorbike and set off through the rain toward their home. But the water was already a foot and a half deep. And it was rising fast. If he didn’t get there in time, it would swallow everything they’d worked their lives to build: their home and everything they loved, including Messi, their tail-wagging, face-licking yellow dog.
On a normal day, Arun would be working at a shop at the Cochin International Airport, in India’s southwestern coastal state of Kerala. Ambika would be working at the same airport, collecting trolleys and lining them up for travelers; a man named Wilson Perez would be picking tomatoes in Immokalee, Florida; and in Toronto, two men named Klever Freire and Gabriel Otrin would be doing something that 81 million people do, every day, without expecting to fight for their lives: taking an elevator.
But August 15, 2018—India’s Independence Day, as it happens—was not a normal day for Arun and his mother. That morning, after three days of nonstop heavy rain, the water began to rise. And rise.
“I can never forget the 15th of August,” Ambika said later. “We never expected the water to rise this high.” And then she began to sob.
It took Arun a frantic two-and-a-half-hour ride, over flooded roads, to reach home. He was relieved to find their house still dry and Messi safe in the yard. So he went to check on their neighbors in the lush, green, low-lying acres behind the Cochin airport—the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy.
But inside the airport, the water was rising. It was already flooding the solar panels. At around noon, it started to surge through the wall behind the runway with the force of water exploding from a dam.
Arun climbed up on the wall to get a better view. He stood for a long time, mesmerized by the violent, muddy rush of water.
Suddenly, panic kicked in: The water would reach their house within minutes. Messi, and everything they owned, would be swept away.
Until now, scientists have often framed climate change in terms of the future: cities that will be underwater by the year 2050, the year 2100 or the next 50, 100 or 200 years. But for a growing number of people across the globe, that watery future is already here.
A landmark report issued by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday, October 8 pointed out that our world has already warmed by one degree more than pre-industrial levels. Without “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” the world’s top climate scientists warned, our world will exceed 1.5°C much sooner than we think—as early as a dozen years—which will increase the likelihood of floods, heatwaves and droughts.
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice,” said Panmao Zhai, co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group on the physical science of climate change.
One of the most immediate, concrete consequences of those changes is flooding. As higher temperatures lead to sea level rise and more extreme rainfall, more and more people are already learning to live with catastrophic flooding. Many find creative ways to adapt. But it comes at a cost—first and foremost to them, but in the end to all of us.
Economists are still trying to calculate the long-term effects of our drowning world on global trade chains, national GDPs, household income and inequality. Emerging research suggests that the human and financial costs of flooding are already much higher, and much longer-lasting, than ever suspected. One recent study found that without large-scale structural adaptations, the total economic losses from river flooding alone will increase by 17 percent globally, thanks to climate change, over the next 20 years.
“If we’re only adding up the direct cost of a flood on the houses that were inundated, and the price it took to bail those out, and the price it takes to repair infrastructure, and other things like that, then we’re potentially missing large hidden costs associated with those floods,” said Amir Jina, a University of Chicago professor who works with Climate Impact Lab, a collaboration between climate scientists, economists, data engineers and risk analysts that is attempting to comprehensively quantify the impacts of climate change.
Four years ago, Jina and another researcher, Solomon M. Hsiang, looked at the effects of hurricanes—of which flooding makes up a major part of the cost—on national incomes. “We found something which I think surprised a lot of people, even us,” said Jina. “Even 20 years into the future after a hurricane hits, you see a decline in their GDP.”
The people who live in the path of a flood, like Arun and Ambika, are often those who would normally be carrying out the small, everyday tasks that keep the global economy in motion.
Because floods tend to hit them the hardest, it can take these families decades to recover. The damage to them will cost us all—even if we don’t live anywhere near the sea.
“It’s not just a coastal problem,” pointed out Jina. “It’s an everybody problem.”
2. CASCADING ECONOMIC EFFECTS
There is a saying in Malayalam about Onam, the annual harvest festival: prepare your Onam feast, even if you have to sell next year’s seeds to do it. The meal marks the end of the monsoon season—characterized by scarcity—and the return to a good life.
In a normal year, the Onam feast would be dozens of Kerala’s famous dishes, served on a banana leaf with a pappadam and payasam, a ceremonial sweet pudding with nuts. Kerala suffered catastrophic damages during the flood. But one of the most significant losses was something intangible: Onam.
Aside from the immediate damage, each flood has a series of long-lasting and far-reaching effects—what risk analysts refer to as “cascading costs”—that ripple outward through geographies, economies and lives. Some costs are tangible, and may be recovered in time; but the less tangible costs are often irretrievable.
“It’s not difficult to replace a building or dry it out or do what you have to do,” said Tania Caceres, a Toronto-based risk analyst who consults with large institutional real estate owners, investors and developers. “But the downtime and the loss of productivity that the operation in that facility generates could have global impact.”
The Cochin airport is one such example. When Ambika found out her house was flooded and everything in it destroyed, she handled the overwhelming pain by going back to work.
For six days, starting on August 18, Ambika and hundreds of others—about 800 regular airport workers, she estimates, and 400 from other parts of India—worked continuously to clean the Cochin airport. It took 200,000 man-hours—about 833 people working around the clock for ten days—to fix it all.
By August 22, a week after the flood, the Cochin airport was mostly ready to go. But all the people who keep an airport running, like support staff, were not. With people’s lives still in chaos—living in camps because their houses were uninhabitable, roads washed out, diseases like rat fever (leptospirosis) beginning to spread—the airport estimated that 90 percent of the airline and ground handling staff wouldn’t be able to make it to work. After meeting with airline and ground handling agencies, the airport announced that it would remain closed for another week.
The Cochin airport estimated the cost of closing for two weeks at 2 billion rupees, or $27 million. But it will probably take months or years to calculate the impact of the lost Onam holiday season on the local economy. Normally, thousands of Keralites fly home from all over the world for Onam. But with the airport closed for two weeks, the entire tourist season was gone.
“Onam is the trademark celebration of Kerala,” said Prasanth Nair, Deputy Secretary to Government of India in the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy. “It’s also the biggest shopping season. All the shopkeepers take advances and they buy more stock. Most of them would have stocked up in anticipation of a huge business, and you have this flood taking out everything. And unlike huge business concerns, these people wouldn’t have insured.”
Even a relatively small flood can have unexpected costs months later. In the United States, the heavy rainfall from Hurricane Irma in September 2017 caused severe flooding in Immokalee, Florida. That happens to be where much of the country’s winter fresh-market tomato crop is grown—and where Wilson Perez, one of the farmworkers who pick those tomatoes, happens to live.
Perez and his four-year-old son, José, spent a week huddling in a local high school with hundreds of others until the floodwaters went down.
Afterwards, they faced the kind of devastation that is becoming more and more familiar across the globe: wreckage and muddy, garbage-laden waters that left the whole area smelling foul for weeks.
Perez and his neighbors all got sick—especially the children. After being cooped up inside a shelter for what would normally have been their first week of school, the kids wanted to play outside.
When Immokalee’s tomato pickers finally returned to the ramshackle, overpriced trailers where they live, it was impossible to stop their children from jumping in the dirty water. “They thought of it as the sea, a lake, or a swimming pool,” said Perez. “I told them it could make them sick. But they played; it’s part of being a child.”
Most of the physical damage to fields and farmworkers was eventually repaired. But the disruption to fields and to farmworkers’ lives delayed the winter planting season. Two months later, that resulted in a shortage of tomatoes—and that, in turn, led prices to go up as high as double across the country, from California to Illinois. “All of a sudden by mid-November the market spikes up real high, because there’s not as many tomatoes as the market was expecting,” said Michael Schadler, Executive Vice President of the Florida Tomato Exchange, whose membership represents about 95 percent of the tomatoes grown in Florida. “Pretty soon you go from a market that was maybe $10 a box, to $15, then $20, and then by mid-December, late December, it was up above $30 a box.”
As Jina, the economist, points out, the biggest loss from any catastrophic flood even to both businesses and people is simply what never happened—what economists call opportunity cost, and the rest of us might call the future: degrees never earned, savings never invested, small businesses that lost their chance to grow and thrive.
Ten days after the Kerala flood, on August 25, Arun and Ambika celebrated their Onam feast with two bottles of water and a packet of bread from a relief camp. “I felt like crying,” said Ambika.
Their house was full of mud. At least 483 people were dead. Rat fever was beginning to spread. Arun and his brother Abin spent days rescuing people from the water on homemade boats, then came home to find three blue kraits, a poisonous snake whose bite can be fatal, in their yard. Arun’s brother lost his engineering textbooks—and his chance to study for his upcoming exams. When he saw the books destroyed, he burst into tears.
Collectively, Ambika and her sons had lost 18 days of work and $1,500 worth of goods: beds, printer, computer, washing machine, sewing machine, stove, motorbike, food processor, soda maker, radio and television.
Worst of all, their beloved dog Messi was gone. Since he never left the yard, he had to have drowned. “We all were sad that he left us,” said Ambika.
“Our hearts were broken,” said Arun. “Everything is gone.”
3. WHY DO WE GET MORE SEVERE FLOODING?
In Toronto, on August 7, Klever Freire and Gabriel Otrin were working late at the office when they did something that is normally perfectly safe: they took the elevator to the basement parking garage to check on Freire’s car.
But this was not a normal day. A sudden, violent rainstorm had dumped up to 72 mm (2.8 inches) of water on downtown Toronto in just two hours. The elevator sank into the water with a whoosh and stopped responding. The emergency phone shorted out. The ceiling hatch wouldn’t open. No matter how much the men pounded, the doors stayed sealed shut—ironically enough, a safety measure in cases of fire.
They couldn’t get out; but the water could get in. It gushed into the elevator and started to rise. When it reached the top, they would drown.
A flood is nothing new; it is one of the oldest human stories. But in recent years, flooding has become more severe and catastrophic than ever before. Worldwide, floods are the most frequent form of natural disaster. And natural disasters have increased dramatically in our lifetime, thanks to changing weather patterns.
Nobody knows this better than reinsurers, the companies that underwrite risks—like earthquakes, floods, volcanoes and other natural disasters—that are too big for individual insurance companies to absorb on their own. According to analysis by Munich Reinsurance Group (Munich Re), the frequency of “relevant loss events”—events that caused loss of life or a certain threshold of property damage, adjusted to the country’s income level—has increased by a factor of three to four since 1980. Last year, 2017, was the second most expensive on record.
“We clearly see an increase in the number of natural disasters worldwide,” said Ernst Rauch, Chief Climate and Geo Scientist at Munich Re. “And almost all of this increase is coming from weather-related disasters.”
As the earth’s temperature increases, its atmosphere can hold more water vapor. More moisture in the air means more sudden, violent rainfalls—and, paradoxically, more droughts. “When you do have a rainfall, it’s more intense, because there’s more moisture in the air,” said Andrea Dutton, an Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Florida and expert on sea level rise.
Warmer temperatures are also causing sea levels to rise. One main driver is thermal expansion—warmer water expands and takes up more space—especially since the ocean absorbs most of the earth’s increasing heat. The other main factor is the increasing rate at which glaciers and ice sheets are melting into the sea. A recent study, conducted by 80 scientists from around the world, found that ice is being lost to the ocean at a much faster rate than ever thought before. By modeling data from satellite surveys over the region, they discovered that the rate of ice-shelf collapse had tripled between 1992 and 2017, setting off a kind of feedback loop that is expected to raise sea levels even faster than previously thought.
In cities by the sea, both of these changes—sea level rise, and more extreme precipitation—can combine to create even greater floods. Higher sea levels mean higher water tables; when heavy rains come, the rain falling from the sky cannot soak into the ground, because soil already saturated with seawater cannot absorb more water. “In coastal zones where you’ve had sea level rise, the water table is higher,” said Dutton. “And so the water, instead of being able to percolate into the ground, is now being forced to sit on the surface or try to run off the surface.”
Today, 40 per cent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers (63 miles) of a coastline. And that number is increasing—also, in part, thanks to climate change. Increasingly, droughts are driving people in the countryside to migrate to the outskirts of the world’s major cities, many of which—eight out of the world’s top ten—are located on or near coastlines.
The people who migrate to coastal cities often end up living on the outskirts, like the area behind the Cochin airport where the Thankappan family and other airport workers live. These areas tend to be more vulnerable to flooding.
Increased urbanization, combined with climate change and outdated infrastructure, all compound each other to make floods more intense and damaging. Much of the globe’s infrastructure was designed for a world before climate change.
Kerala’s Idduki Dam was built in 1976. Parts of Toronto’s storm water removal system was built as long as a century ago. But even the systems built in the past half-century didn’t account for how much, or how quickly, the water would rise.
“They assumed that the storms of 2018 would look like the storms of 1970,” said J. Marshall Shepherd, director for Program in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia, and an expert on weather and climate. “And they don’t.”
In Toronto, Freire and Otrin watched as the water in their office elevator reached their waists and kept rising. They stood on the railings. The railings broke. They treaded water and prayed and shouted for help.
Finally, they managed to pry a tiny opening in the metal sheets of the ceiling. It was enough to stick a cellphone through and get a signal to call for help. The two officers who responded swam through the flooded basement and pried open the elevator door with a crowbar just as the two men inside had a foot of air left to breathe.
Luckily, the two men were healthy enough to swim back out through the flooded garage. But Freire was so drained that despite his lifeguard training, he couldn’t make it out without help.
Freire and Otrin survived. But the image of two men almost drowning inside an elevator upended everything we think we know about safety. Building owners and municipal governments prepare us with safety protocols for fire, or acts of terrorism; but not, until now, for a more watery world.
“We teach them how to exit a building when it’s on fire, but we don’t talk to people about what to do when the building is flooded,” said Caceres, the Toronto-based risk analyst. “If there was a bomb threat, they would know what to do. And we’re less likely to have a bomb threat than we are a flood these days.”
Some cities do plan for flooding. As waters rise, one way to prepare is simply to accept that they can’t be stopped—perhaps even to embrace them. Since King Canute, Northern Europe’s port cities have had a long history of accepting the inevitability of water.
In Hamburg, the port city and shipping center in northern Germany, the River Elbe overflowed its banks and broke its levees in 1962, killing more than 300 people and destroying 6,000 homes. Since then, Hamburg built a massive, improved system of levees around the city. It also invested € 3 billion in HafenCity, a mixed-use redevelopment of the old harbor areas right along the riverfront.
By the end of this century, according to current projections, climate change could expose as many as 5 million Europeans to so-called hundred-year floods every year. In 2012, Hamburg’s municipal government began to raise the height of the riverfront promenade from 7.2 meters to 8.6–8.9 meters, in order to protect against the storms of the future. At $86 million, the project will be expensive—but cheaper than the destruction caused by a flood.
“Compared to the cost of a city flooding, definitely,” said Jan Hübener, an architect who has been working on the flood wall for 12 years, first at the world-famous Zaha Hadid Architects firm, which leads the project, and now as partner at studioH2K Architekten. “I think for a city like Hamburg, especially downtown Hamburg—for such a densely-populated area, with all the infrastructure, with subways and lots of office spaces—I think that it’s not an option to accept flooding here.”
Of course, it shouldn’t be an option anywhere. Three weeks after the Kerala flood, on Friday, September 7, Ambika was still scrubbing mud out of her family’s clothes by hand. Books on science and engineering basked in the sun on a woven straw mat. “We’re hoping that we can save them,” said Arun.
But there was one small, good thing: Messi the dog. He lay stretched out, luxuriating in the shade underneath a table, wagging his whole body and scratching in the dirt.
Ten days after the flood, a nephew found Messi, half-starved and traumatized, and brought him home. He didn’t recognize his family at first. But then Ambika called out his name, and he bounded over and jumped up on his hind legs to greet them. “After he came back, everyone was happy,” said Ambika. At first, he was so emaciated that he couldn’t eat without whimpering. So, they fed him biscuits until he could eat solid food.
“Now he’s fine,” she said, smiling, setting a plate of rice and fish on the ground for him to eat. “He needs a share of everything we cook. A slight hint of smell and he’ll start barking.”
They found out later that the neighborhood children rescued Messi when the water came. The children carried the dog on their shoulders to higher ground. They brought him food until the water covered that area too, and then he disappeared.
If a flood can be said to do one good thing, it was this: everyone helped each other.
Hundreds of Kerala’s coastal fisherfolk turned their boats into rescue vessels and saved thousands of people from drowning. They tied ropes between electrical poles for the elderly and children to hang on to so they wouldn’t get washed away in floods.
In Immokalee, Florida, people from all over the state cooked hot food and brought it to those trapped in shelters.
Meanwhile, 6,000 volunteers all over the world, many of them diasporan Keralites, were working around the clock to coordinate rescue operations remotely. From call centers in Cochin, Bangalore, Chennai and elsewhere, they identified and geo-tagged locations where people were trapped on rooftops or inside their homes, and dispatched rescue workers on the ground.
In disasters, people invent informal, temporary networks for helping each other. These outpourings of generosity are extraordinary, but they are not unique.
Social scientists who study disasters find that people are actually more likely to help each other when disaster strikes than to look out for themselves. Social distinctions become, for a moment, unimportant. “Flood has no caste,” pointed out Prema Kumari, a handloom weaver from Kerala.
When the crisis is over, most people go back to their everyday lives, and these fleeting experiments disappear. But maybe they don’t have to. Nair, of India’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, is hoping to harness the momentum of those thousands of volunteers to build a more sustainable, compassionate version of his hometown.
“You had the tendency to go and fill up a bit of the river, even encroach upon a bit of the river, build your huge mansion there, and you thought that you did a smart job,” said Nair. “That’s not the way we should be rebuilding here. You had even major projects being announced without giving much thought for the environmental impact. Let’s not do that again.”
A major earthquake on the Indonesian holiday island of Lombok killed at least 37 people and injured dozens, officials said Sunday, damaging homes and triggering panic among tourists and locals.
The powerful quake was also felt on the neighbouring island of Bali, one of Indonesia’s most popular attractions, where people ran onto the streets in terror.
The shallow seven-magnitude tremor struck just 10 kilometres (six miles) underground, according to the US Geological Survey, followed by further secondary quakes and nearly two dozen aftershocks.
It was the second quake to hit Lombok, whose beaches and hiking trails draw holidaymakers from around the world, in a week.
Rescue officials said much of the damage had hit Lombok’s main city of Mataram.
Agung Pramuja, a senior official with the Mataram search and rescue agency, told AFP the death toll had climbed to 37.
Residents of the city described a strong jolt that sent people scrambling to get out of buildings.
“Everyone immediately ran out of their homes, everyone is panicking,” Iman, who like many Indonesians has one name, told AFP.
Electricity was knocked out in several parts of the city and patients were evacuated from the main hospital, witnesses and officials said.
Pictures showed patients lying on their beds outside the clinic while doctors in blue scrubs attended to them.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, said most of the damaged buildings in the city were built with substandard construction materials.
Impossible to Stand Up
Singapore’s Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who was in Lombok for a security conference when the earthquake struck, described on Facebook how his hotel room on the 10th floor shook violently.
“Walls cracked, it was quite impossible to stand up,” he said.
Officials issued a tsunami warning, which was later cancelled, but seawater poured into two villages, senior disaster agency official Dwikorita Karnawati told local TV.
The quake caused light damage as far away as the Javanese city of Bandung, some 955 kilometres from Mataram, but was felt strongly on the neighbouring resort island of Bali.
People could be heard screaming as locals and tourists ran onto the road.
Agung Widodo, a resident of Bali’s main town of Denpasar, said he felt two strong tremors.
“The first one lasted quite a while, the second one was only about two-to-five seconds. The first one was the bigger one,” he told AFP.
Bali’s international airport suffered damage to its terminal but the runway was unaffected and operations had returned to normal, disaster agency officials said.
Facilities at Lombok’s main airport were also unaffected, although passengers were briefly evacuated from the main terminal.
Early reports suggest the quake wrecked buildings in several districts across Bali.
The tremor came a week after a shallow 6.4-magnitude quake hit Lombok, killing 17 people and damaging hundreds of buildings.
It triggered landslides that briefly trapped trekkers on popular mountain hiking routes.
Indonesia, one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth, straddles the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.
In 2004 a tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in western Indonesia that killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.
The State Government has advised residents around Oke Agboona in Okemesi Ekiti to stay at least 300 meters away from the hill due to the likelihood of a re-occurrence of a natural disaster known as soil creep in the area.
This was made known by the Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Professor Kolapo Olusola during the on-the-spot assessment of the havoc wrecked by the disaster.
Soil creep which involves the slow and downward progression of rock and soil destroyed properties worth millions of naira in Okemesi Ekiti, last week Thursday, after three days of heavy downpour.
Professor Kolapo Olusola, addressing the traditional ruler of Okemesi Ekiti, Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji and the people of Okemesi appreciated that no life was lost and promised that the government will hold a meeting with the traditional ruler and stakeholders on how to minimise the effect in future.
“Governor Fayose sent us here to commiserate with residents whose properties were destroyed by this large magnitude soil creep, there will be a meeting with stakeholders on how to mitigate its effects if the natural phenomenon occurs again in the future.
“Experts have said there is the likelihood of a re-occurrence, though it’s painful that properties were lost and relocating is not expected to be easy, we need to adhere to their advice that we stay 300 meters away from the hill,” Olusola said.
Adedeji noted that the residents were already alluding the natural disaster to spiritual attack and called on the governor to help expand the base of the hill.
“What happened on Thursday once happened in 1973 but nothing was done by the government then, the creep also occurred in recent times but not of this magnitude, I plead with your excellency to help us expand the mountain base (Eleyinmi).
“If the base is expanded and a channel is created, a channel is there already but needed to be expanded, once it is expanded, whenever a creep occurs, the water and debris will have a place to move to. As it is now, God forbid, if it happens before the expansion, it is most likely to be disastrous.”
The Benue State Government has described Benue flood, which has displaced many residents and submerged close to 3,000 houses, as a disaster which is beyond human control.
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Terver Akase, who made this disclosure on Channels Television Breakfast Programme, Sunrise Daily, agreed that the disaster has wreaked huge havoc on the state, noting that it was unexpected by the government.
The sad occurrence which began on Sunday, August 27, affected residents of Nyiman BIPC Housing Estate, Achusa districts and many other parts of the state capital. Akase said this is both a natural and man-made disaster and that it could have been avoided if the government were perhaps more prepared and the people less negligent.
“As a government, we feel that this shouldn’t have happened but it has happened. It is a natural disaster. Many families are without homes now; many people are displaced.
“It is both natural and man-made. Water is beyond human control; it must come whether we like it or not. It is natural disaster in the sense that, it is rain. We can’t prevent rain from coming. It is man-made because, perhaps we neglected some of the things that we should have done as a people. I am not blaming Benue people. Perhaps, the government failed to do something before now. That is why it has become emergency.
“It is man-made because drainages have been blocked and the State Government under Samuel Ortom has been telling people to dump their refuse at dump sites,” he said, adding that various environmental sensitisation has been carried out to curtail further occurrence.”
The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ortom, who lauded the Federal Government for its swift intervention added that more ecological funds were needed by the State Government for long-term plan to manage flood disaster in the state.
“It is a situation that calls for all hands on deck and we are happy that the President is doing much to give succor to the people of Benue. The president’s intervention is timely.
“Governor Ortom has set up a committee, headed by the deputy governor to see that relief is provided to Benue State people and as a long term plan, we are requesting that the Federal Government includes Benue on its list of states that will benefit from the ecological funds.”
About 96 high tension poles belonging to Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHED) were destroyed by heavy wind, during the downpour that occurred on Tuesday evening in Port Harcourt.
As a result of the damaged poles with other associated materials such as 150mm aluminum conductor spanning over 32,000 metres, several cross arms, among others were also destroyed.
A cross section of Port Harcourt metropolis has been thrown into darkness.
In the wake of the loss, five 33kv and four 11kv feeders namely; Borikiri 33kv, Rainbow 33kv, Choba 33kv, Rumuolumeni 33kv and UST 33kv were affected.
Others affected are 11kv in Rumuomoi, Federal, Wokoma and Water lines.
The Chief Executive officer of PHED, Mr Jay McCoskey, reacting to the natural disaster that culminated to the loss of supply to the affected areas, appealed to the residents to exercise patience while the damaged poles are being replaced.
He assured the residents that the management would do everything possible to ensure early restoration of power supply.
“It is regrettable that PHED is facing such a loss at this moment due to natural disaster, but I can guarantee that supply will be restored to the affected areas because we have started sourcing for the materials to replace the damaged poles and other accessories,” McCoskey said.
Farmers in Ossomala, Ogbaru local government area of Anambra state have said the flood relief fund distributed by the government had little or no effect on their recovery process, as it was not properly and equitably distributed.
The 2012 flood ravaged over seven local government areas in the state but Ogbaru and Anambra West local government areas, which are water logged areas, were the worst hit.
At St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish, Reverend Father in-charge Chris Ossomala recalled the untold devastation of the flood which caused the destruction of properties and complained of the process of government intervention.
Also, Mrs. Omelogo Eke, a commercial cassava farmer, who produced over eight basins of cassava for sale in the local market, complained of the poor intervention from government. She said she was forced to lend money to ensure that her business did not collapse, as it was her family’s only source of livelihood. On his part, Mr. Obiorah Oranyelu, a physically challenged cassava and yam farmer commended the government for intervening at all but expressed bitterness over the way the flood relief fund was distributed, maintaining that it did not really serve the purpose it was meant for.
Although the government had said it would assist the affected communities, the farmers said their hopes were dashed and called on the government to device a better means of distribution, so the donations can get to the targeted people.
The farmers say cultivation of a hectare of land costs between fifty to sixty thousand naira. While the dissatisfaction goes on, the farmers suggested that government should distribute any relief to targeted farmers to achieve result and in his suggestion; Rev. Fr. Odimegwu said government should extend the relief to school fees to support the struggling parents.
In his reaction, the Secretary to the State Government and Chairman of Flood Intervention Committee, Oseloka Obaze explained that all the money the federal government released to Anambra for the flood intervention was properly channeled.
In a bid to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the recent flood disaster and other less privileged people in the state, the Kogi State Government is distributing 1,500 metric tons of grains to the people.
The state deputy governor, Yomi Awoniyi, who presented the grains to the representatives of the 21 local government areas in the state, said the administration was determined to tackle food shortage.
To this effect, the state government has embarked on the cultivation of 10,000 hectares of dry season rice farms as part of its post-flood agricultural recovery programme, the deputy governor said.
The distribution of the grains which took place at the government store house, was witnessed by the liaison officers of the 21 local government areas, some top government officials and some of the flood victims.
Speaking at the occasion, the representative of the heads of the local governments affected by the flood disaster, and the Chairman of Ibaji Local Government, Mr. David Ogwu said the response to the flood disaster by the federal and state government has been timely and progressive.
The deputy governor thanked the federal government for allocating grains to the state, saying that appropriate committees have been put in place in each local government area to ensure that the items get to the targeted beneficiaries.
Millions of people were left reeling in the aftermath of monster storm Sandy on Tuesday as New York City and a wide swathe of the eastern United States struggled with epic flooding and massive power outages. The death toll climbed to at least 30.
Sandy, which crashed ashore with hurricane-force winds in New Jersey overnight as the biggest storm to hit the country in generations, swamped parts of New York’s subway system and Manhattan’s Wall Street district, closing financial markets for a second day.
As the weakened but still sprawling storm system continued its trek inland, more than 1 million people in a dozen states along its path were still under orders to evacuate. Sandy left behind a trail of damage – homes underwater, trees toppled and power lines downed – up and down the Atlantic coast.
The storm interrupted the presidential campaign a week before Election Day, giving President Barack Obama an opportunity to look presidential as he oversees the government response. He drew praise from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has been a strong supporter of Obama’s opponent.
“I want everyone leaning forward on this,” an aide quoted Obama as telling his disaster-response team in the White House Situation Room. “I don’t want to hear that we didn’t do something because bureaucracy got in the way.”
Houses and businesses on the New Jersey shore sustained extensive damage from the storm’s onslaught. “The devastation is unthinkable,” Christie told reporters after seeing aerial pictures of the area.
In the storm’s wake, Obama issued federal emergency decrees for New York and New Jersey, declaring that “major disasters” existed in both states. One disaster-forecasting company predicted economic losses could ultimately reach $20 billion (12.4 billion pounds), only half insured.
“Make no mistake about it. This was a devastating storm, maybe the worst we have ever experienced,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. All along the East Coast, residents and business owners awoke to scenes of destruction.
“There are boats in the street five blocks from the ocean,” said evacuee Peter Sandomeno, one of the owners of the Broadway Court Motel in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey. “That’s the worst storm I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been there for 11 years.”
Sandy, which was especially imposing because of its wide-ranging winds, brought a record storm surge of almost 14 feet (4.2 meters) to downtown Manhattan, well above the previous record of 10 feet (3 meters) during Hurricane Donna in 1960, the National Weather Service said.
Water poured into the subway tunnels that course under the city, the country’s financial capital, and Bloomberg said the subway system would likely be closed for four or five days.
“Hitting at high tide, the strongest surge and the strongest winds all hit at the worst possible time,” said Jeffrey Tongue, a meteorologist for the weather service in Brookhaven, New York.
Hurricane-force winds as high as 90 miles per hour (145 km per hour) were recorded, he said. “Hopefully it’s a once-in-a-lifetime storm,” Tongue said.
As residents and business owners began a massive clean-up effort and faced a long and costly recovery, large parts of the region remained without power, and transportation in the New York metropolitan area was at a standstill.
The U.S. Department of Energy said more than 8 million homes and businesses in several states were without electricity due to the storm, which crashed ashore late on Monday near the gambling resort of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
More than 50 homes burn
The unprecedented flooding hampered efforts to fight a massive fire that destroyed more than 50 homes in Breezy Point, a private beach community on the Rockaway barrier island in the New York City borough of Queens.
New York University’s Tisch hospital was forced to evacuate more than 200 patients, among them babies on respirators in the neonatal intensive care unit, when the backup generator failed. Four of the newborns had to be carried down nine flights of stairs while nurses manually squeezed bags to deliver air to the babies’ lungs, CNN reported.
The death toll continued to rise, with reports of at least 30 people killed by the storm.
“Sadly the storm claimed lives throughout the region, including at least 10 in our city … and we expect that number to go up,” Bloomberg said. Other storm-related deaths were reported elsewhere in New York state in addition to Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Toronto police also recorded one death – a woman hit by flying debris.
Sandy killed 66 people in the Caribbean last week before pounding U.S. coastal areas.
Federal government offices in Washington, which was spared the full force of the storm, were closed for a second day on Tuesday, and schools were shut up and down the East Coast.
The storm weakened as it ploughed slowly west across southern Pennsylvania, its remnants situated between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with maximum winds down to 45 mph (72 kph), the National Hurricane Centre said.
As Sandy converged with a cold weather system, blizzard warnings were in effect for West Virginia, western Maryland, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky and western North Carolina.
Wind gusts, rain and flooding were likely to extend well into Tuesday, but without the storm’s earlier devastating power, said AccuWeather meteorologist Jim Dickey.
At its peak, the storm’s wind field stretched from North Carolina north to the Canadian border and from West Virginia to a point in the Atlantic Ocean halfway to Bermuda, easily one of the largest ever seen, the hurricane Centre said.
Obama and Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney put campaigning on hold for a second day instead of launching their final push for votes ahead of the November 6 election.
Obama, who has made every effort to show himself staying on top of the storm situation, faces political danger if the federal government fails to respond well in the storm’s aftermath, as was the case with predecessor George W. Bush’s botched handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
But Obama also has a chance to look presidential in a national crisis.
With politics cast aside for the moment, Republican Christie heaped praise on the Democratic incumbent for the government’s initial storm response.
“The federal government response has been great,” Christie, a staunch Romney supporter, told NBC’s “Today” show. “I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally … and the president has been outstanding in this.”
New Jersey towns flooded
Three towns in New Jersey, just west of New York City, were inundated with up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) of water after the nearby Hackensack River flooded, officials said. Rescuers were using boats to aid the marooned residents of Moonachie, Little Ferry and Carlstadt.
In New York, a crane partially collapsed and dangled precariously from a 90-story luxury apartment building under construction in Midtown Manhattan.
Much of the city was deserted, as its subways, buses, commuter trains, bridges and airports were closed. Power outages darkened most of downtown Manhattan as well as Westchester County, affecting more than 650,000 customers, power company Consolidated Edison said.
Neighbourhoods along the East and Hudson rivers in Manhattan were underwater, as were low-lying streets in Battery Park near Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centre once stood.
U.S. stock markets were closed on Tuesday but would likely reopen on Wednesday. They closed on Monday for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Most areas in downtown Manhattan were without power on Monday morning. As the sun rose, most of the water in Manhattan’s low-lying Battery Park City appeared to have receded.
A security guard at 7 World Trade Centre, Gregory Baldwin, was catching some rest in his car after labouring overnight against floodwater that engulfed a nearby office building.
“The water went inside up to here,” he said, pointing to his chest. “The water came shooting down from Battery Park with the gusting wind.”
In Lower Manhattan, fire-fighters used inflatable orange boats to rescue utility workers stranded for three hours by rising floodwaters inside a power substation.
One of the Con Ed workers pulled from the floodwater, Angelo Amato, said he was part of a crew who had offered to work through the storm.
“This is what happens when you volunteer,” he said.