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Natural Disaster

Mozambique’s President Says Cyclone Idai Death Toll May Be 1,000

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This image made available by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Monday March 18, 2019, shows an aerial view from a helicopter of flooding in Beira, Mozambique. The Red Cross says that as much as 90 percent of Mozambique’s central port city of Beira has been damaged or destroyed by tropical Cyclone Idai. (Caroline Haga/International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) via AP)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi says that more than 1,000 may have by killed by Cyclone Idai, which many say is the worst in more than 20 years.

Speaking to state Radio Mozambique, Nyusi said Monday that although the official death count is currently 84, he believes the toll will be more than 1,000.

“It appears that we can register more than 1000 deaths,” said the PR, adding that more than 100,000 people are at risk of life.

“The waters of the Pungue and Buzi rivers overflowed, making whole villages disappear and isolating communities, and bodies are floating,” said Nyusi. “It is a real disaster of great proportions.”

Nyusi spoke after flying by helicopter over the central port city of Beira and the rural Manica and Sofala provinces in which he saw widespread flooding and devastation.

Other officials in emergency services cautioned that while they expect the death toll to rise significantly, they have no way of knowing if it will reach the president’s estimate of 1,000.

The Red Cross said that 90 percent of Beira, a city of 500,000, had been damaged or destroyed.

Beira has been severely battered by the cyclone which cut off electricity, forced the airport to shut down and cut off road access to the rest of the country. Cyclone Idai first hit Beira last week and then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Beira has been severely battered by the cyclone which cut off electricity, forced the airport to shut down and closed road access to the city, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Monday.

Cyclone Idai first hit Beira last week and then moved inland spreading heavy winds and rainfall to Zimbabwe and Malawi. More than 215 people have been killed by the storm according to official figures in the three countries, hundreds more are missing and more than 1.5 million people have been affected, according to the Red Cross and government officials.

The scale of the damage to Beira is “massive and horrifying,” said Jamie LeSueur, who led a Red Cross aerial assessment of the city. The team had to view the city by helicopter because roads were flooded, he said.

“The situation is terrible. The scale of devastation is enormous. It seems that 90 percent of the area is completely destroyed,” said LeSueur.

With Beira’s airport closed, the team drove from Mozambique’s capital Maputo before taking a helicopter for the last part of the journey because roads into Beira have been flooded.

While the physical impact of Idai is beginning to emerge, the human impact is unclear.

“Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible,” said LeSueur.

“Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday (Sunday), a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.”

The storm hit Beira late Thursday and moved westward into Zimbabwe and Malawi, affecting thousands more, particularly in areas bordering Mozambique.

At least 126 people had died in Mozambique and Malawi, according to the Red Cross. In Zimbabwe, 89 people have died from the floods, the country’s information ministry said Monday.

Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa both returned from foreign trips to attend to the emergencies caused by the storm.

Zimbabwe’s president returned home from the United Arab Emirates “to make sure he is involved directly with the national response by way of relief to victims of Cyclone Idai,” the information ministry said. The Zimbabwean government declared a state of national disaster.

U.N. agencies and the Red Cross are helping with rescue efforts that include delivering food supplies and medicines by helicopter in the impoverished countries.

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Tornado Outbreak

36 Tornadoes Occurred In Southeast Tornado Outbreak

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BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — The number of tornadoes confirmed to have touched down in a deadly weekend outbreak across the Southeast has risen to at least 36.

Survey teams for the National Weather Service found evidence of the twisters in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

The most powerful was an E4 tornado blamed for killing 23 people Sunday in rural Lee County, Alabama. Its destructive winds reached 170 mph (274 kph) as it carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide. The tornado trekked nearly 70 miles (113 kilometers) from western Alabama into Georgia after crossing the Chattahoochee River at the state line.

All of the tornado deaths were in Alabama, though several people in Georgia were injured.

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Tornado Outbreak

23 People Killed So Far In Deadly Southeastern Tornado Outbreak

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BEAUREGARD, Ala. (AP) — Rescuers searched for victims Monday amid homes smashed to their foundations, shredded metal dangling from trees and dead animals lying in the open after a tornado ripped through a rural Alabama community and killed at least 23 people, including children.

Traveling straight down a county road, the twister carved a trail of destruction at least half a mile wide and about a mile long Sunday, overwhelming the Lee County coroner’s office, which was forced to call in help from the state.

“It looks like someone almost just took a giant knife and scraped the ground,” Sheriff Jay Jones said.

With daybreak, volunteers used chain saws to clear paths for emergency workers, and at the R&D Grocery, people were constantly asking each other if they were OK.

“I’m still thanking God I’m among the living,” said John Jones, who has lived most of his life in Beauregard, an unincorporated community of roughly 10,000 people about 60 miles east of Montgomery near the Georgia state line.

The twister, with winds believed to be around 160 mph (257 kph) or higher, was part of a powerful storm system that slashed its way across the Deep South, spawning numerous tornado warnings in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida.

“All we could do is just hold on for life and pray,” said Jonathan Clardy, who huddled with his family inside their Beauregard trailer as the tornado ripped the roof off. “It’s a blessing from God that me and my young’ns are alive.”

He added: “Everybody in Beauregard is a real close-knit family. Everybody knows everybody around here. Everybody is heartbroken.”

The sheriff said children were among the dead, but he didn’t know how many. And he said the death toll may rise as the search continues amid houses reduced to their concrete slabs.

Levi Baker took a chain saw to help clear a path for ambulances and other emergency vehicles. He said he saw dead people and animals and demolished houses, with one home swept off its foundation and left in the middle of a road.

Along the hard-hit country road, giant pieces of metal from a farm building dangled from pine branches 20 feet (6 meters) in the air, making loud creaking sounds as the wind blew. For an entire mile down the road, pines were snapped in half.

A mobile home crushed by two trees marked the end of the path of destruction.

The National Weather Service said the tornado was rated an F3, which means wind speeds of 158 mph to 206 mph (254 to 331 kph).

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Earthquake

7.5 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Ecuador/Peru Border

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QUITO/LIMA, Feb 22 (Reuters) – A deep magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the Peru-Ecuador border region early on Friday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said, causing tremors that the Ecuadorian president said were felt around the country.

The quake’s epicenter was in a sparsely populated area 224 km (140 miles) east-southeast of Ambato, Ecuador, at a depth of 132 km. The USGS’s initial reading assessed the quake, which occurred at 5:17 a.m. local time (1017 GMT), at magnitude 7.7.

There was no risk of a tsunami being triggered, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and there were no initial reports of casualties or damage.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Twitter that preliminary reports “do not indicate major damage,” though he added that provincial response teams had been activated and that the tremors had been “felt throughout the country.”

One resident in Cuenca, Ecuador, 253 km (157 miles) from the epicenter, described the temblor as very strong, while a second resident there reported experiencing “a good 30-second shake,” according to witness statements on the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre website.

Ecuador’s emergency response service said the main quake and other smaller ones had shook the south of the country with reports of some minor injuries, evacuation of patients and staff from several hospitals and damage reported in some Amazonian towns.

Some areas were without electrical power, authorities said, while the country’s oil pipelines and hydroelectric dams were operating normally.

In towns near the epicenter of the quake, the tremors caused alarm. “I felt the walls and the floor move. I was very scared and we went out to the street,” Lissette Alarcón, a 25-year-old university student, told Reuters.

“We still aren’t used to these earthquakes,” she said.

A magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck Peru’s southern coast in January 2018, killing one person, injuring scores more and causing roads and homes to collapse. A 7.8-magnitude quake in Ecuador killed around 700 people in 2016. (Reporting by Mitra Taj in Lima, Alexandra Valencia in Quito and Jason Neely and John Stonestreet in London; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Alison Williams and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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