Severe Weather: More Than 110 Die In Pakistan, Afghanistan

A woman walks after heavy snowfall in Quetta, Pakistan on January 13, 2020.
Banaras KHAN / AFP

 

Avalanches, flooding and harsh winter weather has killed more than 110 people across Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent days, officials said Tuesday, as authorities struggled to reach people stranded by heavy snowfall.  

At least 75 people died and 64 were injured across Pakistan, with several still missing, while a further 39 people were killed in Afghanistan, according to officials in both countries.

Forecasts suggest more harsh weather is on the way.

Pakistani Kashmir was the worst-hit area, with 55 people killed and 10 others missing, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said in a statement.

In the picturesque but conflict-riven Neelum Valley in Kashmir, heavy snowfall triggered several avalanches, including one that killed at least 19 people.

“An avalanche hit their village, 10 people are still missing,” the NDMA said.

Frequent avalanches and landslides occur in Kashmir during the winter, often blocking roads and leaving communities isolated.

Authorities have shuttered schools, while several highways and roads were closed across the country’s northern mountainous areas, according to officials.

To the southeast in Balochistan province, at least 20 people had been killed in separate weather-related incidents.

“Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding that hundreds remained stranded.

Across the border in Afghanistan, more than 300 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged throughout the country, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi a spokesman for the Natural Disaster Management Authority.

“A cold snap, heavy snowfall and rains that started two weeks ago have caused damage,” he said, adding that most casualties were caused after roofs collapsed under thick snow.

Hardest hit were southern Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and western Herat provinces.

In Herat, seven people —  all members of the same family and including children — died when their roof caved in, Azimi added.

Harsh winters often take a heavy toll in mountainous Afghanistan, and the country remains poor despite billions of dollars in aid from the international community.

 

AFP

At Least 11 Dead As Storms Sweep Through US South

 

 

Severe storms sweeping the southern US killed at least 11 people, authorities said, as tornadoes and high winds upturned cars, destroyed homes and left tens of thousands without power.

The storms hit parts of the south on Friday and were expected to move east and north on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, which issued flood and tornado warnings for several states.

Among the dead were a policeman and firefighter who were hit by a vehicle in Texas after being called out to respond to traffic accidents in icy conditions, local authorities said.

In Louisiana the bodies of a couple were found on Saturday near their destroyed mobile home after it was hit by storms the night before, said Bill Davis of the county sheriff’s office.

“It’s totally rolled over. It looked like a couple hundred feet into the back yard. Debris is all over. It’s just a sad situation,” said Davis, according to local television channel KTBS 3.

The National Weather Service said three people were confirmed dead on Saturday in Alabama, where local channel WHNT News 19 showed buildings reduced to rubble.

Other structures had parts of their roofs ripped off and downed power lines were strewn across roads.

The storms left more than 200,000 people without electricity early Sunday, the poweroutage.us website said, with North Carolina and Alabama among the worst affected areas.

US Man Shoots Kids Throwing Snowballs At Cars

 

 

Police in the northern US state of Wisconsin said Tuesday they are looking for a man who shot two children who threw snowballs at his car over the weekend.

The children — a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year old boy — suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds, the Milwaukee Police said in a statement.

They were part of a group of kids throwing snowballs at passing cars Saturday evening in Milwaukee, a city of about half a million people 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Chicago.

“One of the snowballs struck a white Toyota, no further description, and the driver of the auto fired shots into the group of kids striking the two victims,” the statement said.

The department asked for help identifying the shooter.

14 Dead As Cyclone Bulbul Smashes Into India, Bangladesh Coasts

 

Fourteen people died and more than two million others spent a night huddled in storm shelters as Cyclone Bulbul smashed into the coasts of India and Bangladesh with fierce gales and torrential rains, officials said Sunday.

The cyclone packed winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour when it hit late Saturday, closing ports and airports in both countries.

Seven people were killed in India’s West Bengal state, the Press Trust of India reported, including two after uprooted trees fell on their homes and another after being struck by falling branches in Kolkata.

An eighth person died under a collapsed wall in nearby Odisha state.

In Bangladesh, six people were killed — five by falling trees — and at least 20 people were injured.

Five others are missing after a fishing trawler sank in squally weather on Meghna river near the southern island of Bhola, district administrator Masud Alam Siddiqui told AFP.

The cyclone also damaged some 4,000 mostly mud and tin-built houses, disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP.

In coastal Khulna, the worst-hit district in Bangladesh, trees swayed violently and were ripped from the ground in the fierce storm, blocking roads and hampering access to the area.

Some low-lying parts of the district were flooded, disaster management minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening as it moved inland.

“It has turned into a deep depression, causing heavy rainfall,” Bangladesh weather bureau deputy chief Ayesha Khatun told AFP.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest which straddles Bangladesh and India, and is home to endangered species including Bengal tigers and Irrawaddy dolphins.

The mangroves shielded the coast from the storm’s full impact, Khatun said.

‘Trail of destruction’

Some 2.1 million people across Bangladesh were relocated to cyclone shelters.

Troops were sent to coastal districts while tens of thousands of volunteers went door-to-door and used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate their villages.

“We spent the night with another 400 people,” said Ambia Begum, who arrived at a shelter in the port town of Mongla late Saturday along with her family.

“I am worried about my cattle and the straw roof of my house. I could not bring them here. Allah knows what is happening there,” the 30-year-old mother of three told AFP.

Around 1,500 tourists were stranded on St. Martin’s island off southeastern Bangladesh after boat services were cancelled.

In India, nearly 120,000 people who were evacuated started to return home as the cyclone weakened, authorities said.

“The storm has left a trail of destruction as it’s crossed the coastline of West Bengal,” the state’s Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.

Bangladesh’s low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, and India’s east are regularly battered by cyclones.

Hundreds of thousands of people living around the Bay of Bengal have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.

While the frequency and intensity of the storms have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of thousands of coastal shelters.

Cyclone Fani was the most powerful storm to hit the area in years when it struck in May, killing 12 people.

Nine Killed As Typhoon Lashes South Korea

 

 

At least nine people were killed and several others missing after Typhoon Mitag lashed South Korea with heavy rain and strong winds, authorities said Thursday.

The storm hit southern parts of the country on Wednesday night, prompting flood warnings and triggering landslides in affected areas.

A total of nine people were killed across the country as of Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Interior and Safety said, but the toll was expected to rise with several people missing.

READ ALSO: Four Police Officers Killed In Paris Stabbing, Attacker Shot Dead

A woman in her 60s was found dead after her home was buried in a landslide in the southern port city of Busan and around 600 rescue workers were trying to locate three others believed to be trapped beneath the rubble.

Park Young-hak was inside his tool shed — later buried in the landslide — and said he escaped after hearing a loud “roar”.

“When I ran out to see what it was the house next to me had already disappeared,” Park told AFP.

More than 1,000 homes were damaged and over 1,500 people evacuated their houses in advance, the ministry said.

Mitag is the 18th typhoon this year and seventh to hit the Korean peninsula.

30 Killed As Dorian Storms Bahamas

This satellite image obtained from NOAA/RAMMB, shows Tropical Storm Dorian as it approaching the Bahamas and Florida at 13:430UTC on August 31, 2019. HO / NOAA/RAMMB / AFP

 

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 30 in the Bahamas, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told American network CNN on Thursday.

Authorities had previously reported 20 dead, but have warned that the final figure is sure to be far higher.

Minnis has said that the storm caused “generational devastation.”

READ ALSO: 33 Bodies Recovered After California Dive Boat Disaster

The United Nations said 70,000 people in the Bahamas were in “immediate need” of aid.

Dorian, currently a Category 2 storm, was pounding the US states of North and South Carolina Thursday night with strong winds and driving rain, bringing dangerous storm surge.

 

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.

Morocco Landslide Leaves 15 Dead

Morocco Rejoins African Union

 

Moroccan emergency crews pulled 15 bodies from the mud after a rare summer downpour triggered a landslide that buried a minibus, authorities said Friday, providing the first official toll.

The victims — eleven women, three men and one child — were found in the bus buried some 20 metres (more than 60 feet) under the masses of earth and rock dislodged by the rain, local authorities said.

“There are no survivors,” they said in a statement.

The official toll comes after public broadcaster 2M reported Friday morning that 16 bodies had been recovered.

The bus was buried Wednesday evening when a deluge in the Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh triggered flash flooding.

Images released by the authorities show excavators working to dig a path to the bus, more than 24 hours after it was engulfed by the debris.

A weather alert on Tuesday warned of storms in several provinces in the North African country, which rarely receives summer rains.

Investment in Morocco’s road network has largely focused on the main transport arteries and many rural areas can be reached only by dirt tracks that are vulnerable to extreme weather.

Every year, nearly 3,500 people are killed on the North African country’s roads.

AFP

Trump Declares State Of Emergency As Storm Bears Down On New Orleans

 

US President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency as Tropical Storm Barry bears down on New Orleans, as the southern city braces for extreme winds over the weekend.

The weather system is expected to reach hurricane strength Friday or early Saturday when it nears Louisiana’s coast, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and has already caused major flooding in the low-lying city.

Trump on Thursday issued a national disaster declaration, which will allow federal agencies to participate in emergency relief efforts, in response to a request by Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards.

“Thank you President Trump for quickly responding to my request… We appreciate the support of the White House and our federal partners as we continue our unprecedented flood fight,” the governor said in a tweet Thursday.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) separately announced that it would temporarily halt immigration enforcement activity in areas subject to the state of emergency.

It said that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency would not target migrant families who were evacuating during the storm, ahead of sweeping operations nationwide to detain and deport illegal immigrants expected to start this weekend.

“Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and safety. In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to the storm, except in the event of a serious public safety threat,” the agency said in a Thursday press release.

The incoming storm has evoked memories of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest and deadliest hurricane in US history, which submerged about 80 percent of New Orleans as the city’s flood defenses gave way.

Katrina also pounded other parts of Louisiana as well as Mississippi and Alabama, leading to about 1,800 deaths and more than $150 billion in damage.

AFP

Collapsed Wall Kills 22 In Mumbai Monsoon Chaos

 

A wall collapsed and killed at least 22 people in Mumbai on Tuesday as the heaviest monsoon rains in a decade brought chaos to India’s financial capital and surrounding areas.

Scores more were injured when the structure came down at nighttime in a slum, said Tanaji Kamble, a disaster management spokesman for Mumbai’s local authority.

By late Tuesday one more person had succumbed to injuries, increasing the previous death toll of 21, the Press Trust of India reported.

The tragedy came during heavy rains which lashed the teeming coastal city of 20 million residents for a second consecutive day, bringing it to a virtual standstill.

Authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday and advised all residents to stay indoors. Schools and colleges were closed while more than 100 flights were either cancelled or diverted from Mumbai airport.

The airport’s main runway was shut after a SpiceJet plane carrying 167 passengers and crew overshot it shortly before midnight Monday.

“Currently secondary runway is in use, our team is trying their best to bring the main runway back in operation and this may take up to 48 hrs,” the airport tweeted.

READ ALSO: Eight Dead, 15 Missing After Indian Dam Breach

According to Skymet Weather, a private weather-tracking agency, large swathes of Mumbai received around 350 millimetres (13 inches) of rain overnight into Tuesday morning, the most in a decade.

The deluge left low-lying areas submerged.

“Everything around us is flooded. It’s scary and the problem persists every year despite government promises,” Vishal Agawane, a 32-year-old resident of the Dharavi slum, told AFP.

Around 1,000 people living close to the city’s Mithi river were evacuated to higher ground as it threatened to burst its banks, said Kamble, the disaster management spokesman.

Waterlogged tracks disrupted train services on Mumbai’s colonial-era rail network, a lifeline for the city’s population, while motorists were seen pushing cars through flooded streets.

Rescuers sifted through the debris of the collapsed wall in Mumbai’s north, hoping to find more survivors.

‘Begging for water’

The dead included a 10-year-old girl, who was trapped alive under the debris for hours before rescuers pulled out her body in a 12-hour unsuccessful operation.

A local rescue volunteer earlier in the day told the NDTV channel that they heard the girl crying in pain and begging for water.

Building collapses are common during the monsoon, when dilapidated structures buckle under the weight of continuous rain.

Three people, including a toddler, were also killed Tuesday in Thane district, which borders Mumbai, when a wall collapsed at a school.

Two waiters were electrocuted after rainwater gushed into a restaurant and came in contact with a live wire in Thane. Another person was critically injured.

And six labourers died near the western city of Pune, 150 kilometres (around 100 miles) from Mumbai, when a wall fell onto their makeshift shacks. At least 15 labourers died in a similar accident on Saturday.

Mumbai’s streets regularly flood during the monsoon, which runs from June until September or October, and which provides India with most of its annual rainfall.

In 2005, 950 millimetres (37 inches) of rain fell on the coastal metropolis in just 24 hours, killing more than 500 people.

At least 10 people died in August 2017, when intense rainfall brought the commercial hub to a virtual standstill for two days.

Activists say Mumbai’s susceptibility to floods has worsened in recent years due to a construction boom that is trying to keep up with the city’s swelling population.

Much of Mumbai’s mangrove cover, which helps drain water, has been destroyed over the past decade to make way for glitzy highrises.

According to various studies, anywhere between 40 to 50 percent of the city’s population live in slums, which become a sea of blue tarpaulin every monsoon as residents try to keep out the rain.

AFP

Eight Dead, 15 Missing After Indian Dam Breach

 

Eight people were killed and at least 15 were missing on Wednesday after the heaviest monsoon rains in a decade breached a dam in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said.

In the state capital Mumbai, the death toll from a wall collapse in a slum on Tuesday following the torrential downpour reached 24, with more rain expected in coming days.

Heavy rain continued to lash the coastal city of 20 million people Wednesday, bringing it to a virtual standstill as flooding cut train lines, closed the airport’s main runway and caused traffic misery.

Building collapses and dam breaches are common during the monsoon in India due to dilapidated structures that buckle under the weight of continuous rain.

India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told AFP they were using drones over the area flooded by the breach of Tiware dam, around 275 kilometres (170 miles) from Mumbai.

READ ALSO: Collapsed Wall Kills 22 In Mumbai Monsoon Chaos

“We have located eight dead bodies and over 15 people are still missing,” said spokesman Alok Awasthy.

Police teams and government officials were also helping rescue efforts.

In the state capital, a spokesman for the local authority said the death toll from the wall collapse in a slum in the north of the city had risen to 24, with many others being treated for injuries.

Six labourers also died in the nearby city of Pune when another wall collapsed.

India’s weather department has warned of “extremely heavy rainfall” in parts of Mumbai in coming days.

After more than 100 flights were either cancelled or diverted from Mumbai airport on Tuesday, officials announced the operations on the main runway were still closed.

According to Skymet Weather, a private-weather tracking agency, Mumbai faces serious risks of flooding with more than 200 millimetres (eight inches) of rain expected in the next few days.

First Death Recorded As Cyclone Kenneth Smashes Into Mozambique

File Photo: Residents stand on rooftops in a flooded area of Buzi, central Mozambique, on March 20, 2019, after the passage of cyclone Idai./ AFP

 

A powerful cyclone smashed into northern Mozambique, leaving one person dead on Friday, barely a month after a super-storm hit the centre of the country, devastating the area and leaving hundreds dead.

Category three Cyclone Kenneth, packing winds of 160 kilometres (100 miles) an hour, struck the north coast’s Cabo Delgado province late Thursday after swiping the Comoros islands.

The United Nations warned of flash flooding and landslides as Mozambique’s emergency agency the INGC reported one person was killed by a falling coconut tree in the port city of Pemba, Cabo Delgado’s provincial capital.

On the tourist island of Ibo, 90 percent of homes for the 6,000 population had been flattened, according to a spokesman for the agency, Antonio Beleza.

“I don’t expect to find my hotel undamaged,” said Swiss hotel owner Lucie Amr, who took refuge in Ibo’s fort alongside many local residents.

The winds had reduced to about 70 kilometres an hour on Friday, according to the local meteorological institute, but heavy rains are forecast over the next 24 hours, raising fears of flooding and mudslides in Cabo Delgado, which borders Tanzania.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said over 600 millimetres (almost 24 inches) of rainfall was expected.

That would be nearly double the amount accumulated in 10 days of rainfall that caused flooding in Beira, which was devastated during Cyclone Idai.

‘Additional blow’

The most powerful storm to strike the region in decades, Idai cut a path of destruction through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. It left more than 1,000 dead, causing damage estimated at around $2 billion (1.8 billion euros)

“Although floodwaters have receded in most areas it (Idai)affected, access is still a challenge as infrastructure was severely compromised,” the WFP said.

“This second cyclone is an additional blow for the people of Mozambique and bound to complicate the humanitarian response,” adding that it had already provided food aid to 1.3 million people after Idai.

READ ALSO: Floods Kill 51, Displace 1,000 People In South Africa

It said the government has made public buildings including schools available to people seeking shelter from the flooding and the WFP has “prepositioned” over 500 tonnes of food in Pemba.

A helicopter is expected to arrived in Cabo Delgado when weather conditions allow as roads are expected to be impassable because of flooding, making food delivery difficult, it added.

Forecasters at Meteo-France warned that Kenneth could trigger waves off Mozambique’s northeastern shore as much as five metres (16 feet) higher than usual.

“I was quite preoccupied by the sea because they announced six metre waves… the wind was very strong, and I’ve never seen anything like it in my 15 years in Pemba,” a Portuguese owner of a lodge on Wimby beach, Anabela Moreira, told AFP.

Local journalist Jonas Wazir told AFP that some houses had collapsed and that electricity supply in the city was down.

The Red Cross warned it was “especially concerned” about the storm’s impact, as many communities in Mozambique are still recovering from a cyclone that hit on the night of March 14-15.

“Cyclone Kenneth may require a major new humanitarian operation at the same time that the ongoing Cyclone Idai response targeting three million people in three countries remains critically underfunded,” the UN’s humanitarian coordination office OCHA also warned.

Kenneth first passed by the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Comoros on Thursday, battering it with high winds and heavy rains, the country’s Meteorological Office wrote on Facebook.

Tanzania concern

Tanzanian authorities ordered schools and businesses shut in some southern districts on Thursday and urged people to brace for extreme winds and rain.

The Tanzanian provinces of Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma were at highest risk, the country’s meteorological agency said.

Residents in Mtwara were leaving the coastal enclave with their families, some on foot, for emergency shelters, witnesses told AFP by phone.

Gelasius Byakanwa, the governor of Mtwara, ordered schools closed in his province and asked “students to stay home and employees not to go to their offices”.

AFP