Turkey Braces For More Bad Weather After Floods Kill Four

Galataport is pictured from The Costa Venezia cruising ship moored in Istanbul, on June 6, 2022. –  (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

 

Strong rain, winds and flash floods are expected in northern and central Turkey on Monday, after a weekend of flooding that reportedly killed at least four people.

Bad weather warnings were in place in 42 towns and cities in the north and centre, including the capital, Ankara.

Schools were closed in Ankara and the central town of Gemerek.

Last year, around 100 people died in violent weather events in Turkey, including flash floods, wildfires and droughts.

The disasters pushed climate change up the political agenda, especially among younger voters.

Torrential rains and hailstorms swept through the north and centre at the weekend, causing floods that killed three people near Ankara and another in the central province of Karaman, local media reported.

Rescue services were still searching on Monday for a person missing in the Ankara region.

Several towns were damaged by the floods.

Eight villages in the northern province of Kastamonu were still cut off on Monday after several roads collapsed.

India Relaxes Environment Rules For Coal Mines, Citing Heatwave

An auto rickshaw driver drinks water as he takes a break on a hot summer day in New Delhi on May 9, 2022. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP)

 

 

 

India has relaxed environmental compliance rules for coal mines seeking to ramp up production as power outages exacerbate a sweltering heatwave, a government notice showed.

Coal makes up more than two-thirds of India’s energy needs, even as unseasonably hot weather illustrates the threat from climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

Soaring temperatures have prompted higher energy demand in recent weeks and left India facing a 25-million-tonne shortfall at a time when coal spot prices have skyrocketed since the start of the year.

In a letter dated May 7 seen by AFP, the Environment Ministry said it has allowed a “special dispensation” to the Ministry of Coal to relax certain requirements — like public consultations — so mines could operate at increased capacities.

The relaxation comes after it received a request from the Ministry of Coal “stating that there is huge pressure on domestic coal supply in the country and all efforts are being made to meet the demand of coal for all sectors”.

Coal mining projects previously cleared to operate at 40-percent capacity may now increase capacity to 50 percent without undertaking fresh environment impact studies, the authority said.

The letter coincided with the government launching a new scheme last week to lease abandoned state-owned coal pits to private mining companies, assuring them of fast-track environment approvals.

“The Ministry of Environment and Forests understands that they need to cut out the red tape,” coal ministry official Anil Kumar Jain said at the launch event Friday.

The government hopes to woo private mining giants — like Vedanta and Adani — to revive more than 100 dormant coal mines previously deemed too expensive to operate, using new technology and fresh capital.

– Coal needs set to double -India needs a billion tonnes of coal annually to meet its current domestic demand.

Most of its needs are met by domestic producers, with a record 777 million tonnes mined in the fiscal year to the end of March.

The shortfall is imported from countries like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa.

The government says it plans to increase domestic coal production to 1.2 billion tonnes in the next two years to support a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Despite a commitment to increase its renewable energy capacity to 175 gigawatts by 2022 and 500 gigawatts by 2030, Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi said Friday that India’s coal needs are set to double by 2040.

A renewed focus on accelerating coal production risks India missing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s COP26 commitment to meet 50 percent of energy demand through renewable energy by 2030, according to experts.

The world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, already home to 1.4 billion people, is projected by the UN to become the planet’s most populous nation by the middle of the decade.

Extreme Weather Kills 140,000 Europeans In 40 Years – Report

TOPSHOT – An aerial view shows the damaged village of Iversheim in western Germany, on July 18, 2021. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

 

Extreme weather events such as heatwaves and floods have cost Europe almost 510 billion euros and around 142,000 lives over the past 40 years, according to a new report published Thursday.

In its study, the European Environment Agency (EEA) called for continued adaptation measures at both individual and state level.

A small number of extreme events, about three percent of the total, were alone responsible for about 60 percent of the financial damages incurred from 1980-2020, the report showed.

When it came to loss of human lives, heatwaves accounted for 91 percent, with the heatwave experienced in the summer of 2003 killing around 80,000 people.

READ ALSO: At Least 23 Killed In Landslide, Wall Collapse In India Monsoon Rains

Similar heatwaves after 2003 caused significantly lower fatalities “as adaptation measures were taken in different countries and by different actors”, such as the installation of air conditioners, the EEA noted in a statement.

Globally, the World Meteorological Organisation estimates that the number of weather-related disasters has increased over the past 50 years, causing more damage but fewer deaths.

In Europe, the EEA said the data from the past 40 years does not allow for a definite conclusion to be drawn about whether the increase is due to climate change, because of the very irregular damage recorded in different years.

“All the hazards we describe as weather- and climate-related are influenced by climatic conditions. This said that is not the same as saying they are all influenced by climate change,” EEA expert Wouter Vanneuville told AFP.

Recent studies, notably the work of the IPCC, indicate that the frequency and severity of events such as drought and forest fires are easier to link to climate change, he said.

For others, such as hailstorms, there is still a lack of evidence.

“For some types, like non-tropical storms, the climate signal in Europe is unclear so it is uncertain if they will increase or not,” he said.

“But for others — like droughts, not only in the Mediterranean but over most of Europe —  will intensify based on climate predictions.”

Germany was the country in Europe that suffered the most with losses amounting to 107 million euros ($120 million) and 42,000 victims, over the past four decades.

This was followed by France (99 billion euros in damages and 26,700 deaths) and Italy (90 billion euros and 21,600 deaths).

Only 23 percent of material damages across Europe were covered by insurance, but there are also massive disparities between countries.

In Romania and Lithuania, only one percent was insured compared to 55 percent in the Netherlands or 56 percent in Denmark.

Disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are not included in these figures, as they are not meteorological.

According to a similar report by the US weather agency NOAA, the US has suffered 310 weather and climate disasters since 1980, with total damage exceeding $2,155 billion.

AFP

At Least 23 Killed In Landslide, Wall Collapse In India Monsoon Rains

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021.
Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

At least 23 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in India’s financial capital Mumbai, authorities said Sunday.

A falling tree demolished a wall in the eastern suburb of Chembur during Sunday’s early hours, burying nearby residents, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said.

Seventeen bodies had been recovered from the rubble, it added. Rescuers were searching the scene for more survivors and bodies.

And in the suburb of Vikhroli in the city’s northeast, six people were killed after a landslide hit five homes early Sunday, the NDRF added.

Building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon season, with old and rickety structures buckling under days of non-stop rain.

Mumbai, home to 20 million people, has been hit by downpours since Saturday, with local transport services affected.

The Indian Meteorological Department said early Sunday that “moderate to heavy rain or thundershowers” were forecast for the next two days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and added that there would be financial compensation for victims’ families.

Last month, 12 people were killed when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum.

In September, 39 people died when a three-storey apartment block collapsed in Bhiwandi near Mumbai.

AFP

Nine Children Among 10 Killed In Storm-Hit Alabama Crash

Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead - 9 children and one adult.
Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead – 9 children and one adult.

 

 

Nine children and an adult were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on an Alabama highway as heavy storms lashed the southeastern US, authorities said Sunday.

Saturday’s crash on an interstate highway near the city of Greenville involved at least 15 vehicles and was “probably” caused by hydroplaning under torrential rains, Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock told AFP.

Storm Claudette dumped up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the Gulf Coast region Saturday. It was blamed for at least two other deaths.

The dead in the crash included a father and his nine-month-old daughter in an SUV, and eight occupants of a van — aged four to 17 — from a “girls ranch” for neglected and abused children, local media reported.

“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” Sheriff Danny Bond told the al.com website.

He said at least two of the vehicles involved were 18-wheel trucks, and that four or five other people had suffered nonfatal injuries.

The driver of the van was pulled out alive by a bystander, witnesses said. The bystander then tried to help the children but was prevented by a fierce fire engulfing the vehicle, Garlock said.

The van driver was identified as Candice Gully, director of the girls farm in Tallapoosa County, an official with the state ranch system told al.com.

‘Suffered a great loss’

The SUV driver was identified as Cody Fox, 29, an emergency management worker from Tennessee. His fiancee was injured in the wreck.

Garlock said the crash scene was in an area notorious for hydroplaning as Interstate 65 curves down a steep hill.

Northbound and southbound traffic on the busy highway was halted for hours by the accident, but both had reopened by Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said on Twitter.

The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch said it was providing grief counselors for children there.

“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss… Please send prayers our way,” the ranch’s account said on Twitter.

The van in the accident was one of two bringing children back from a weeklong beach outing to nearby Gulf Shores, al.com reported. The other van was unscathed.

Storm Claudette, later downgraded to a tropical depression, has dumped heavy rain across the southeastern US.

The Tuscaloosa News said two people died — a 24-year-old man and his three-year-old son — when a tree fell on their house.

Claudette is forecast to return to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina, before weakening again by Tuesday.

The system has washed out roads, trapped motorists in their cars, and flooded residential areas in the region, and the National Hurricane Center warned that further flooding was likely.

Rescuers Race To Save Scores Of Stranded Whales In Australia

This handout photo taken and received from Brodie Weeding from The Advocate on September 22, 2020 shows rescuers working to save a pod of whales stranded on a beach in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania. (Photo by Brodie WEEDING / BRODIE WEEDING/THE ADVOCATE / AFP)

 

Rescuers raced to save nearly 200 whales stuck in a remote Australian harbour on Tuesday, hoping to minimise the death toll of a mass stranding which had already killed 90.

Officials said at least 25 of the mammals had been freed so far.

A large pod of long-finned pilot whales is currently stuck on a sandbar in Macquarie Harbour, on Tasmania’s rugged and sparsely populated west coast, scientists said.

Images from the scene showed a shallow body of water, thick with scores of the large slick-black creatures manoeuvering for space, and rescuers wading in as they worked to refloat the whales in deeper passages.

About 60 people — including volunteers and local fish-farm workers — are involved in the rescue attempt.

Government marine biologist Kris Carlyon said “about a third” of the 270 animals were dead by late Monday, and that rescuing survivors would be a challenging task likely to take several days.

But there were hopes Tuesday that efforts were already paying off, with at least 25 rescued and escorted to open ocean by boats, according to the official leading the operation.

“We have now freed a small number successfully that appear to have stayed out at sea, and are now scaling up that approach,” Parks and Wildlife Service manager Nic Deka said.

Though mass whale strandings occur relatively often in Tasmania, such a large group has not been seen in the area for more than a decade.

The animals are only accessible by boat, limiting the number of rescuers who can reach them.

This handout photo taken and received from Brodie Weeding from The Advocate on September 22, 2020 shows rescuers working to save a pod of whales stranded on a beach in Macquarie Harbour on the rugged west coast of Tasmania. (Photo by Brodie WEEDING / BRODIE WEEDING/THE ADVOCATE / AFP).

 

They are battling chilly and rainy conditions as well as the harbour’s unusual tides, which are dictated by barometric pressure.

“In terms of mass whale strandings in Tasmania, this is up there with the trickiest,” Carlyon told reporters in the nearby town of Strahan.

However, Carlyon said many of the partially submerged whales should be able to survive for the several days it would take his team to complete the task, in part due to the inclement weather.

“It’s pretty ugly for people on the ground but as far as the whales go its ideal — it’s keeping them wet, it’s keeping them cool,” he said.

Carlyon said rescuers would still have to “triage” the whales, prioritising the healthiest and most accessible.

– ‘Notorious whale trap’ –

Most of a 30-strong group of whales on a nearby beach were found dead Monday, though two were saved and released.

About 60 others on the sandbar are also believed to have since died and Carlyon said it was “inevitable that we’ve lost more”, but a detailed assessment using infrared cameras from the air was planned for Wednesday.

Once the whales are returned to deeper water, Carlyon said, the biggest challenge is herding the social creatures out of the sandbar-riddled harbour — and hoping they don’t swim back to the remaining pod.

Scientists said it was unclear what caused the latest stranding, but Carlyon suggested the pod may have gone off track after feeding close to the shoreline or by following one or two whales that strayed.

Karen Stockin, an expert in marine mammals at New Zealand’s Massey University, said Tasmania was a “particular hotspot” for pilot whale strandings in large pods.

“It seems to be a notorious whale trap… you do tend to get these mass stranding events there,” she told AFP.

Stockin said that while pilot whales were typically more resilient than other whale species, rescuers faced a race against the clock as the mammals can overheat, their muscles deteriorate and their organs become crushed outside their natural environment.

“Time is never your friend,” she said. “So without doubt, the more expedited rescue missions are, the more likely there is an increased (chance) of survival.”

Mike Double, the head of the Tasmania-based Australian Marine Mammal Centre, said it was “tragic” that such a massive pod had become stranded, but other whales had previously been saved from the same location.

“The state team responsible for responding are extremely experienced and they’ll be absolutely working incredibly hard to get the best possible outcome,” he said.

AFP

Over 40 Persons Killed In Monsoon-Triggered India Landslide

A collage showing the devastation stirred by the Monsoon in India.

 

At least 43 bodies have been recovered after a massive landslide triggered by monsoon rains swept away dozens of tea estate workers in southwestern India, police said Sunday.

The landslide in Idukki district, around 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Kerala state’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, occurred Friday but the ongoing search and rescue efforts have been hampered by torrential downpours.

The toll rose to 43 on Sunday afternoon, Idukki district’s police chief, R. Karuppasamy, told AFP.

Twenty-six of the bodies were recovered on Friday night, a police official said earlier Sunday.

Local media reported that some 78 people were believed to live in the area, with many still missing.

Kerala has been hit by deadly floods during the annual monsoon.

At least 18 people died in a passenger jet crash in Kerala on Friday when an Air India Express jet overshot the runway while trying to land in a storm and plunged down a bank.

The monsoon across South Asia is critical to replenishing rivers and groundwater, but also causes widespread death and destruction.

More than 300 people have died in floods and landslides in eastern and northeastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal in recent weeks.

Workers load goods on a cargo boat in the Buriganga river as rain clouds loom over Dhaka on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Munir Uz zaman / AFP)
People wade along a flooded street after a monsoon rainfall in Lahore on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
Commuters make their way along a flooded street after a monsoon rainfall in Lahore on August 9, 2020. (Photo by Arif ALI / AFP)
Rescue workers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by heavy rains in Pettimudy, in Kerala state, on August 8, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP)
Commuters make their way along a flooded street after heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi on August 7, 2020. (Photo by Asif HASSAN / AFP)

Nine Dead, 20,000 Affected By Niger Floods

 

Heavy floods in Niger have claimed nine lives and destroyed more than 2,000 homes, affecting at least 20,000 people, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The southwestern Dosso region, central-south Maradi and Tahoua and Tillaberi in the west have been worst hit, it said in a statement.

Niger, one of the world’s driest as well as poorest countries, often experiences intense rainy seasons, which typically last two or three months.

The authorities announced early this month that more than 300,000 people were at risk from flooding by the Niger River and from rainwater runoff since heavy rains began in June.

Fifty-seven people died last year and more than 200,000 others were affected by floods that struck the capital Niamey and the country’s desert north.

The interior ministry urged people not to take shelter in ruined houses or to set up their homes in flood-prone areas.

 

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.