Storm death toll rises as wind, rain batters northern EuropeBy Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Anthony Deutsch 15 hours agoView galleryEngineers look at the damage as a crane working on redevelopment at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, near to Downing Street in London, was brought down by high winds, Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. A major storm with hurricane-force gusts is lashing southern Britain, parts of France and Netherlands, causing flooding and travel delays with the cancellation of many flights and trains. Weather forecasters say it is one of the worst storms to hit Britain in years. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Anthony Deutsch LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Hurricane strength winds battered northern Europe on Monday, killing more than a dozen people, cutting power and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and train journeys.At least seven people died in Germany while there were four deaths in Britain and fatalities in the Netherlands, Denmark and France as the storm brought down trees, blew roofs off houses and turned over trucks, causing chaos across much of the region.In Germany, falling trees killed several drivers, at least one man drowned and a 66-year-old woman died when a wall collapsed on her, German media reported.The storm had barreled in overnight, with gusts of up to 99 mph, leaving a trail of damage across parts of southern Britain, before heading eastwards into mainland Europe.A 17-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell onto her home while she slept in Kent, southeast of London, while a man in his 50s was killed when a tree crushed his car in the town of Watford, just north of the capital.A man and a woman were found dead in west London after several houses were damaged in a suspected gas explosion on a street where the storm blew a tree down. London police said the tree may have damaged gas pipes, causing the explosion.A crane smashed into the Cabinet Office, a ministry in the heart of London, forcing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to cancel a news conference.Thin volumes on London’s financial markets suggested many traders had been stuck at home, along with millions of commuters who would normally head into London but were thwarted by train and Tube lines being shut by toppled trees and power failures.London’s Heathrow airport said 130 flights were canceled.Passenger Nozipho Mtshede said she was going to miss her father’s funeral in Zimbabwe due to her flight being delayed eight hours: „I won’t make it because they can’t keep him so I’ll have to miss his burial.”Winds of more than 150 kph swept across the low-lying Netherlands, killing two.Uprooted trees smashed cars, homes and sank a houseboat on an Amsterdam canal. Roofs were blown off buildings and several houseboats were ripped from their moorings, police said.A woman died in Amsterdam when a tree fell on her. A 24-year-old man who was struck on the head by a branch while cycling in the central city of Veenendaal died in hospital.COUNTING COST—The storm brought trains to a standstill across much of the country, and services had not fully resumed by Monday evening.Fifty flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport were canceled and Rotterdam Port, Europe’s busiest, said incoming and outgoing vessels were delayed.In France, a 47-year-old woman was found dead after being swept out to sea during a cliff walk on Belle Ile, an island off France’s northwestern Brittany coast where the high winds generated waves of 5 to 6 meters, local authorities said.Winds topping 100 kph struck the north and northwest of the country felling trees, whipping up seas and cutting power supplies to around 75,000 homes, according to the ERDF electricity distribution company.Homes and businesses were counting the cost of the damage as a British Met Office spokeswoman said the worst of the storm in Britain had passed by late morning as it headed east.Some 486,000 properties in Britain were left without power, UK Power Networks said, in one of the worst storms to hit England since the 1987 „Great Storm”, which killed 18 people and felled around 15 million trees. By mid-afternoon, 115,000 properties were still without power.The Association of British Insurers said it was too early to give figures on the insured loss. The 1987 storm caused 2.2 billion pounds of damage in today’s terms (1 billion in 1987 money). The last comparable storm to Monday’s was in 2002, a Met Office spokesman said.”So far it is not as bad as ’87,” said Philip Moore, group finance director at LV, which insures more than 500,000 British homes.Gusts – in places above the 33 meters per second classified as hurricane force – battered Scandinavia from mid-afternoon, closing the bridge between Sweden and Denmark and paralyzing road and rail transport.A Danish man was killed in Gilleleje, north of the capital Copenhagen, by a collapsing wall and a woman was injured when she was trapped under a fallen roof in the province of Jutland.As evening fell there were no reports of injuries in Sweden but widespread reports of damage with roofs blown off buildings and trees and overturned trucks blocking roads.A ferry ran aground off Karlskrona on southwest coast, but the Swedish Maritime Administrations said the 33-man crew were not in danger.(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn, Guy Faulconbridge, Estelle Shirbon, Chris Vellacott, Shadi Bushra, Joshua Franklin in London, Anthony Deutsch and Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam, Brian Love in Paris, Mette Fraende in Copenhagen, Sarah Marsh and Victoria Bryan in Germany; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Simon Johnson; Editing by Alison Williams)
View galleryHurricane SandyThe unprecedented nature of Hurricane Sandy — which struck the U.S. East Coast one year ago this week — had a significant health and psychological impact on people in the region that continues today, experts say.The storm caused more than 100 deaths, and displaced thousands of people from their homes, some of whom required medical attention for new or ongoing illnesses.Sandy also took a toll on mental health, exposing millions of people to at least some type of short-term distress, experts say. A smaller group of people, perhaps numbering in the hundreds of thousands, were exposed to more severe conditions that could increase their risk of long-term psychological trauma, experts say.And for some people, the psychological effects of the hurricane are just starting to surface today.”Mental-health concerns are always underneath, [but] they can come out unexpectedly,” said Christian Burgess, director of the Disaster Distress Helpline, a national hotline dedicated to year-round disaster crisis counseling.”We’ve had callers recently say, ‘I never realized until now exactly how much I was affected by Sandy. It’s only now, a year later, that I’m starting to feel depressed,'” Burgess said.There are also some lessons to be learned from Hurricane Sandy’s impact, including potential ways to reduce fatalities from drowning — which was the main cause of death from the storm.And while experts say emergency responders now have a much greater appreciation for the potential mental-health effects of disasters than ever before, improvements are still needed to better identify the people at risk for psychological trauma, and to deliver early, effective interventions.Deaths and injuries—In the United States, at least 117 people in six states died as a direct or indirect result of Hurricane Sandy, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study.Drowning was responsible for 40 fatalities (34 percent of all deaths). Other causes of death were trauma from being crushed, cut or struck (16 percent), and carbon-monoxide poisoning (7 percent).While drowning used to be a very common cause of death in all U.S. hurricanes, it has become a less-frequent contributor in recent years, thanks to improvements in hurricane warning and evacuation systems, said study researcher Dr. Michelle Murti, a former CDC epidemic intelligence officer. For example, the leading cause of death from Hurricane Ike in 2008 was carbon-monoxide poisoning. But drowning was the leading cause of death for Hurricane Katrina in 2005.Drowning can occur when people in evacuation zones do not heed orders to evacuate. Of the 20 people who drowned in their homes in New York, 18 were in evacuation zones.Murti and her colleagues said that more research is needed to better understand how effective authorities are in reaching the people who need to hear the warnings, and the reasons people do not evacuate.”Drowning is preventable,” said study researcher Rebecca Noe, a CDC epidemiologist. „The key is that emergency managers — they really need to ensure that affected persons receive, and also understand, evacuation messages,” Noe told LiveScience.A survey conducted by New York City government after the hurricane found that most people in evacuation zones (88 percent) knew they lived in an evacuation zone before the storm hit, and that 71 percent heard the announcement to evacuate. Still, 22 percent of those who reported hearing such warnings did not evacuate, compared with 32 percent of those who did not hear the warnings. The most common reason for not evacuating, the survey found, was a belief that the storm wasn’t strong enough to be dangerous.According to the CDC study, other reasons for not evacuating included a fear of looters and a lack of transportation. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]To maximize evacuations in future storms, New York City government recommends publicizing the availability of evacuation help for homebound individuals, and coordinating with advertising companies to use digital billboards to display evacuation information.Another analysis from the CDC found that, of the people relocated to New Jersey shelters after the storm, more than 5,100 reported a health care visit — 52 percent for an acute illness; 32 percent for follow-up care, such as blood-glucose checks or medication refills; 13 percent for a worsening chronic illness; and 3 percent for injuries.Mental-health toll—While studies have assessed the numbers of deaths and injuries from the storm, it is more difficult to estimate the storm’s mental-health toll.Although some 70 million people, across eight nations, were in the path of the storm, their experiences were very different depending on where they lived, said James Shultz, director of the Center for Disaster & Extreme Event Preparedness (DEEP Center) at the University of Miami School of Medicine.”It wasn’t a one-size-fits-all storm; it was a very, very complex set of exposures,” Shultz said.However, a Gallup-Healthways poll conducted in January this year provides some idea of the storm’s mental-health impact. The poll found that among adults living in the most affected ZIP codes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, there was a 25 percent increase in diagnoses of depression in the six weeks following the storm. That translates to about 540,000 new diagnoses of depression.The likelihood of developing a severe psychological condition after a disaster depends, in part, on the degree and intensity of the trauma a person experienced.Many people who experienced a power outage — which affected at least 8.5 million people during Sandy — and transportation shutdowns endured transient stress and distress that generally resolved when the services were restored, Shultz said.Other people, such as those who experienced a life-threatening situation during the storm, or severe losses after the storm (such as loss of their home) may be at risk for more severe conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder, Shultz said.According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hundreds of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, 174,000 people received monetary housing assistance after the storm and 23,000 people sought refuge in temporary shelters.Although mental-health needs should not be overlooked during disasters, they often are, as people are focused on getting basic needs such as food, water and power restored, Burgess said.However, „the reality is, we never leave our emotions behind,” Burgess said. „Sooner or later, it will rise to the surface,” he said.Since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a greater appreciation for the psychological consequences of disasters, Shultz said. There has also been a greater focus on including mental-health services in disaster-response plans, Burgess said. New York City also has its own crisis hotline, LIFENET.But more needs to be done: There should be a greater effort to promote mental-health resources after disasters, Burgess said. „People experience crisis, and are in distress in all phases of disasters,” he said. „These people need to know what resources are available.”And while researchers are starting to develop early interventions that can be delivered to people soon after disasters strike, more research is needed to show that these methods are effective, Shultz said.Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.
Brazil tops Lonely Planet’s list of top countries to visit in 20141 hour ago RelaxnewsView gallery Brazil’s Iguazu Falls: one of the must-see sites in 2014 according to Lonely Planet.In its yearly Best in Travel selection, Lonely Planet compiles its picks for the top destinations over the coming 12 months. In its selection of 10 countries to visit in 2014, Brazil is in first place, followed by a more surprising destination: Antarctica.Brazil—As the location of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil will host soccer fans and elite athletes from around the world next summer. In preparation for the event and for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the nation has made significant investments to improve its hotel and tourism infrastructure, meaning that there has never been a better time to plan a trip to Brazil. Between its diverse cities, exquisite beaches, rainforests, and natural wonders such as the Iguazu Falls, the country offers something for every traveler.Antarctica—Polar tourism is picking up speed, according to Lonely Planet, fuelled by concerns that climate change will soon melt the glacial continent. An Antarctic expedition offers the chance to admire the continent’s vast and untouched landscapes, its Northern Lights, and its extraordinary wildlife.Scotland-Between the historic Edinburgh Castle, Glasgow’s nightlife, the magnificent Highlands and a number of legendary whisky distilleries, Scotland has something for everyone. In 2014, the nation will host the XX Commonwealth Games in July and August, before making a significant stride towards resolving the question of its independence from the United Kingdom through a referendum in September.Sweden-As the 2014 European Capital of Culture is Umeå, located in the north of Sweden, there has never been a better time to explore the snow-covered landscapes of the Lapland region. Those more interested in culinary tourism should consider a trip to Stockholm and Gothenburg, homes to some of the most innovative chefs in Europe today.Malawi-Lonely Planet’s experts recommend the small African nation as one of the best places for an authentic safari, far from mainstream tourist traps. Native plants and wildlife have returned to the country’s reserves and natural parks thanks to recent repopulation initiatives.Mexico—Though still a popular destination, Mexico’s reputation has been tarnished in recent years due to crime, but the country is turning the trend around in some places. Lonely Planet recommends venturing off the beaten path for an authentic and rewarding experience of the true Mexico. Explore the Mayan wonders of Mérida and Tulum or relax on the beaches of Chacala.Seychelles—Once a haven for billionaires, the island nation has become somewhat more accessible recently, as a number of more affordable hotels have cropped up among the luxury resorts. Travelers have their pick between an increasing number of bed & breakfasts, and flight prices have gone down in the face of competition, so even less affluent travelers can take advantage of the Seychelles’ truly idyllic beaches.Belgium—The European nation will be among the top destinations for historical tourism in 2014, which marks the 100th anniversary of World War I. Belgium was the site of a number of key battles during the Great War, and in addition to visiting these historical sites, travelers can explore the country’s remarkable medieval cities, world-class museums and rich cuisine.Macedonia—Skopje, the capital of this Balkan nation, is currently undergoing a major facelift slated for completion in 2014. The city has restored a number of its historical sites, which range from vestiges of the Ottoman Empire to Yugoslavian architecture, and its urban life is becoming more vibrant every day. The rest of the country is following the capital’s lead, and visitors to Macedonia will be met with rich cultural sites and pristine natural landscapes.Malaysia—The nation continues to develop its tourism industry, and things seem to have returned to normal since the riots that shook the country during the 2013 elections. A number of new tourist attractions have opened — including the Melaka Bird Park and Legoland Malaysia — and the Kuala Lumpur Airport has been expanded. Whether travelers are looking for eco-tourism or a luxury resort experience, Malaysia’s vast array of accommodations is likely to have something that appeals to all kinds of travelers.
Europe storm deaths rise to 15; huge cleanup ahead3 hours agoView gallery COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Europe storm death toll has risen to 15 after Danish police say a driver was killed when he crashed into a tree knocked down by violent gusts.Monday’s storm was one of the worst in years in western and northern Europe. Authorities said Tuesday that dozens were injured in Denmark as wind gusts up to 194 kph (120 mph) swept across the country.In Denmark, train passengers spent the night in a sports facility due to fallen trees on the tracks. The storm left a trail of uprooted trees, damaged buildings and collapsed scaffoldings across the country.Germany had six deaths, Britain five, Denmark two and France and the Netherlands had one each.Tens of thousands of people were without power Tuesday in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Latvia.
Dozens of migrants die of thirst in Niger desertBy Boureima Hama 14 hours agoView gallery Niamey (AFP) – Dozens of migrants from Niger, most of them women and children, died of thirst in the Sahara desert earlier this month after their vehicle broke down, officials said Monday.One survivor recalled how a man watched his wife and nine children die, and said the migrants, who were headed for Algeria, had been packed „like cattle” into overcrowded vehicles.”Thirst was the main cause of the deaths of our wives and children,” Sadafiou told the Sahara FM radio station, adding that „hunger and the travelling conditions also took their toll”.Rhissa Feltou, the mayor of the main northern town of Agadez, told AFP that two vehicles were carrying at least 60 migrants when one broke down, and they were all left behind in the desert while the remaining vehicle was driven off.”About 40 Nigeriens, including numerous children and women, who were attempting to emigrate to Algeria, died of thirst in mid-October,” he said.”Many others have been reported missing since their vehicle broke down in the desert.”Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries and has been hit by successive food crises.View gallery.”This picture taken on October 8, 2005 shows a would-be immigrant resting in the middle of the Sahara …The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that at least 30,000 economic migrants passed through Agadez between March and August of this year.The army found the bodies of two women and three adolescents, a paramilitary policeman told AFP. No other bodies have so far turned up.”Travellers told us that they saw and counted up to 35 bodies, mostly those of women and children, by the road,” said Abdourahmane Maouli, the mayor of the northern uranium mining town of Arlit.According to Feltou, two vehicles left Arlit with at least 60 passengers „around October 15”, heading for Tamanrassett, an Algerian town in the heart of the Sahara.When one vehicle broke down, the other drove on empty, leaving the passengers behind in a plan to find spare parts and bring them back for repairs, the mayor of Agadez said.The migrants, short of water, dispersed in small groups in search of an oasis, Feltou said. After days of walking, five survivors reached Arlit and alerted the army, „who arrived too late at the scene”.A survivor told Niger’s bimonthly Air Info that 82 people had perished, in a further conflicting report on the death toll.
Italian vintners look abroad as home sales slumpBy MICHELE BARBERO and FRANCESCO SPORTELLI 15 hours ago ItalyView gallery TORANO NUOVO, Italy (AP) — It’s harvest season at the family-run vintner Emidio Pepe in central Italy and workers are wading into the vineyards, hand-picking grapes and pressing them under their boots in giant wooden vats.The seasonal ritual has brought together generations of rural communities. But the final product, the highly-rated Pecorino white, is now more likely to be enjoyed in New York or Beijing than in the local village of Torano Nuovo, in the Abruzzo region. That’s because wine-drinking in Italy, one of the world’s biggest producers, is hitting record lows, forcing many vintners to seek buyers abroad.Consumption is at its weakest since Italy was unified as a country in 1861, according to Coldiretti, the main farmers’ association. The most immediate cause has been the economic downturn, which has pinched incomes. But that has just accelerated what has been a decades-long slide in consumption.Italians are expected to drink 40 liters (10.6 gallons) a head this year, down from 45 liters (11.9 gallons) before the financial crisis began in 2007 and just about a third of the 110 liters (29 gallons) seen in the 1970s, according to Assoenologi, the main enologists’ association.In the past 25 years, wine „has become a hedonistic product, which is not part of Italians’ basic diet anymore,” said Michele Fino, law professor and wine expert from the University of Gastronomic Studies in Pollenzo.View gallery.”In this photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, wine expert Daniele Cernilli is interviewed by the As …That leaves it more exposed to short-term fluctuations in economic conditions. The two-year recession was like „the flu that arrives when one’s defenses are already low,” Fino said.Italians’ change of attitude is going hand in hand with the increasing popularity of other, more casual alcoholic drinks — above all, beer, particularly among the young. While the average Italian’s consumption of wine is only a third of what it was in the 1970s, beer drinking has doubled.”We like beer because it’s more refreshing, lively, soft and lighter,” said Francesco Rizzo, a 30-year-old hanging out with friends one night in Campo de’ Fiori, one of Rome’s nightlife hotspots where beer is a top choice.Other traditional wine-producing countries in Europe, such as Spain and France, have also seen a drop in wine consumption. But the shift to other drinks is less dramatic. In Spain, people already drink twice as much beer as they do wine.With interest ebbing at home, more than 50 percent of Italian wine is currently exported, up from 28 percent in 2000. The biggest buyers are the United States and Germany. But sales are rising quickly in many new markets. In China, for example, they grew by almost a fifth from 2011 to 2012.View gallery.”In this photo taken on Sept. 9, 2013, workers hand-pick the grapes at the family-run Emidio Pepe vin …But it’s mainly top-end wines that find a way on foreign markets, meaning many Italian producers of low- and mid-range wines are still suffering.”Paradoxically, the wines that do best during an economic crisis are the most expensive ones because those who buy top-end wines are those with economic means, and therefore those who suffer the crisis the least,” said food and wine expert Daniele Cernilli.Emidio Pepe is one such example.Sofia Pepe, who is in charge of production and sales, said the company had been able to weather the recession by securing a loyal customer base abroad that is willing to pay its high prices. Its bottles go from 15 euros for a 2011 Trebbiano to 300 euros for the 1964 Montepulciano.Sofia says Emidio Pepe relies on its reputation for producing organic wines made with traditional methods. No weed killers, filters or purifiers are used in the production process. Demand has held up, with some 45 percent of production exported, up from 20-25 percent in the 1970s.View gallery.”FILE – In this Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 file photo the sun rises on the Villa Germaine vineyards of Ari …”We’re lucky because recently people have been rediscovering unadulterated wines, genuine wines, so we’ve not really been affected by the crisis,” Pepe said.Incarnating that foreign interest was Chris Leo, a 39-year-old American who participated in the vintner’s harvest this year. Leo, who decided to fly over from Los Angeles after tasting an Emidio Pepe wine back home and loving it, argued that interest in wine would endure the slump in Italy.”In good times you can drink wine in an expensive restaurant, in bad times you can have an incredible dinner in your house with a bottle of a wine on the table,” he said. „I think there is always a need for wine.”___Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.
Eleven dead as storm lashes northern EuropeBy Alice Ritchie 15 hours ago LondonFranceView gallery London (AFP) – At least 11 people were killed on Monday as a fierce storm tore across northern Europe, causing mass disruption to transport.Four people were killed in Britain and three in Germany as heavy rain and high winds battered the region. The storm also claimed two victims in The Netherlands, one in France and one in Denmark.Rough conditions at sea also forced rescuers to abandon the search for a 14-year-old boy who disappeared while playing in the surf on a southern English beach on Sunday.British Prime Minister David Cameron described the loss of life as „hugely regrettable”.Winds reached 99 miles (159 kilometres) per hour on the Isle of Wight off the southern English coast, according to Britain’s Met Office national weather centre, while more than 500,000 homes in Britain and France were left without power.Heavy rain and winds of 80 mph elsewhere brought down thousands of trees and left hundreds of passengers trapped in planes at Copenhagen airport.View gallery.”A handout picture from the London Fire Brigade shows firefighters standing outside three houses coll …In Britain, a 17-year-old girl died after a tree fell on the parked caravan where she was sleeping, while a 51-year-old father of three died when a tree hit his car, police said.The bodies of a man and a woman were later found in the rubble of three houses in London that collapsed in an explosion thought to have been caused by a gas pipe being ruptured in the storm.A woman in Amsterdam was killed by a falling tree as she walked along a canal, while in Germany three people were killed when trees fell on their cars.A 22-year-old man was killed by a falling branch in the central Dutch town of Veenendaal, although high winds had died down by early evening.In France, a 47-year-old woman was swept away by waves on the island of Belle-Ile in Brittany and her body was found on a beach several hours later.The storm claimed an eleventh victim in Denmark when a man was hit by a flying brick as a wall collapsed in the port town of Gilleleje.View gallery.”A construction crane lays on top of the cabinet office government building after collapsing in high …Some 460,000 homes lost power across Britain, with a further 75,000 homes affected in northern France, according to industry organisations. Thousands were later re-connected.The electricity also went down at a nuclear power station in southeast England. Dungeness B station automatically closed down both its reactors, leaving its diesel generators to provide power for essential safety systems.Transport chaos-The storm sparked mass cancellations of train services across southern England, Denmark, The Netherlands and parts of Germany, while a spokeswoman for Copenhagen’s main airport said some 500 people were trapped in their planes when strong winds made it impossible to connect stairways to the exits.The airport later said it was closed for all inbound and outbound traffic.London’s Heathrow airport cancelled 130 flights, about 10 percent, while delays were reported on the Eurostar cross-Channel train service due to speed restrictions.View gallery.”Large waves break against the dyke at the entrance of the port of Boulogne, northern France (AFP Pho …More than 450 people were stranded on two ferries outside the English port of Dover after it closed for more than two hours, finally docking shortly after 9:00 am (0900 GMT).Even Buckingham Palace in London was affected, although Queen Elizabeth II was not staying there at the time.A spokeswoman said several slates fell off the roof and two of the windows were cracked.And Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had to cancel his monthly press conference because the government building where he works was closed after a crane fell on the roof.The Met Office said 50 millimetres (almost two inches) of rain fell in some areas of Britain overnight, while the Environment Agency issued around 130 flood alerts.The storm was named Christian in France and dubbed St Jude by the British media, after the patron saint of lost causes whose feast day is on Monday.It had been predicted to be the worst for a decade but the devastation was not as bad as many feared, and fell far short of that caused by the „Great Storm” of October 1987.During that storm, 22 people died in Britain and France and the damage was estimated at £1 billion ($1.6 billion or 1.2 billion euros at current exchange rates).
View galleryTokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is the world’s biggest, …By Antoni Slodkowski and Kentaro Hamada NIIGATA, Japan (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Co must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its „institutionalized lying” before it can expect to restart another nuclear station, the world’s largest, said a local government official who holds an effective veto over the utility’s revival plan.”If they don’t do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted,” Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters in an interview on Monday.Izumida must approve the embattled utility’s plans to restart the reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the world’s biggest nuclear complex on the Japan Sea coast some 300 kms (180 miles) northwest of Tokyo.A former economy and trade ministry bureaucrat who has emerged as a leading critic of Tokyo Electric, or Tepco, Izumida said he would launch his own commission to investigate the causes and handling of the Fukushima crisis and whether strengthened regulatory safeguards were sufficient to prevent a similar disaster.Izumida, 51, declined to provide a timetable for completing that review – a process that could force the utility to scrap or abandon one of the key assumptions behind its turnaround plan.”If Tokyo Electric doesn’t cooperate closely with the prefecture nothing will be solved,” he said. „Unless we start we won’t know,” he added when asked how long his review could take. „If they cooperate with us, we will be able to proceed smoothly. If not, we won’t.”Even if Japan’s nuclear safety regulators approve Tepco’s restart plans for its Niigata reactors, Izumida can effectively block it because of the utility’s need to win backing from local officials. That gives Izumida, a political independent, a platform for calling for a wider reform of Asia’s largest listed electricity utility, which provides power to 29 million homes and businesses in and around Tokyo.REMOVE TEPCO FROM FUKUSHIMA CLEAN-UP-Izumida urged Japan’s government to strip Tepco of responsibility for decommissioning the wrecked Fukushima reactors, and consider putting it through a taxpayer-funded bankruptcy similar to the process used to restructure Japan Airlines.Without that kind of sweeping restructuring, Izumida said, Tepco could be left without the resources needed to ensure the safety of its remaining nuclear plants.In its current form, the utility threatens to be distracted by how to fund the dismantling of the Fukushima reactors over the next 30 years and the more immediate problem of containing contaminated water at the Fukushima site, Izumida said.Unless we create a situation where 80-90 percent of their thinking is devoted to nuclear safety, I don’t think we can say they have prioritized safety,” he said.Izumida also called on the government to make more than 6,000 workers involved in decommissioning at Fukushima public employees. A Reuters investigation of working conditions at the plant found widespread abuses, including skimmed wages and the involvement of illegal brokers.”The workers at the plant are risking their health and giving it their all. They are out in the rain. They are out at night,” Izumida said. „The government needs to respect their efforts and address the situation.”A Tepco spokesman said the utility would cooperate with Izumida’s investigation. „Safety is our utmost priority and we are not acting on an assumption of nuclear restarts,” said Yoshimi Hitotsugi. „We want to work on this issue while gaining the understanding of the local population and related parties.”BEHIND SCHEDULE—Tepco has posted more than $27 billion in losses since a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The disaster knocked out cooling systems, triggered meltdowns in three reactors and a radiation release that forced more than 150,000 people from nearby towns to evacuate.It is behind schedule on its initial business turnaround plan, which had called for firing up at least one reactor at Kashiwazaki Kariwa by April.The utility says it can return to profitability in the business year to March without restarting the sprawling complex. But if all seven of the Niigata reactors were operational, Tepco says it would save $1 billion in monthly fuel costs.The utility’s admission in July – following months of denials – that the Fukushima plant was leaking radioactive substances into the Pacific Ocean was evidence that Tepco has not changed, Izumida said, adding the utility developed a culture of „institutionalized lying.”He said that unless the utility changes its corporate culture he won’t be able to trust it to run the nuclear plant in the prefecture.”There are three things required of a company that runs nuclear power plants: don’t lie, keep your promises and fulfill your social responsibility,” Izumida said.(Editing by Kevin Krolicki, Edmund Klamann and Ian Geoghegan)
Halloween Week: The Ingredients for Scary Weather Published: Oct 29, 2013, 9:25 AM EDT weather.com
Snow, Powerful Wind Storm Rattles California, Utah, Nevada Published: Oct 29, 2013, 6:30 AM EDT Associated Press Soda Springs, Calif.
Mickey Gray cleans snow from the deck of his home overlooking Serene Lakes near Soda Springs, Calif., Monday, Oct. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) TRACY, Calif. — A storm blasted the Southwest with powerful wind gusts, snow and rain on Monday, knocking over big rigs on a stretch of California highway, toppling trees in Las Vegas and causing dust storm warnings in some areas.(MORE: West Storm Forecast)It was a gusty prelude to a storm that was forecast to drop more than a foot of snow in mountainous areas of Utah. A foot had already fallen in the upper elevations of the Sierra Nevada, and a 103 mph gust blew across the mountains near Lake Tahoe.Play VideoA FOOT of Snow Where?The National Weather Service says rain and snow will linger into Wednesday.The California Highway Patrol said two drivers suffered minor to moderate injuries after truck accidents on a Northern California highway.Heavy winds also whipped through Nevada, where planes at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas changed their takeoff patterns. The airport said no flights were delayed because of the weather. Clark County officials issued a dust advisory that will remain in effect through Monday evening.In Utah, the town of Cedar City was blasted by winds that were toppling trees and shorting power lines. There were scattered power outages in the state.The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a man and his teenage son were safe after two-foot waves capsized their canoe on a reservoir. Both were wearing life jackets.(MORE: October’s Increasingly Snowy Reputation)KGO-TV reports wind also knocked the facade off a Forever 21 store in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Emeryville. No one was hurt, but two vehicles were damaged.Authorities in northern Arizona postponed prescribed burns because of the high winds.MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Will It Rain on Trick or Treaters?Play VideoWill Trick or Treaters Get Wet?
Navy’s Giant, Stealthy New Destroyer Gets Hull Wet Published: Oct 28, 2013, 8:31 PM EDT Associated Press0
Raymond Weakens Quickly weather.comHurricane Raymond Gets Stronger Autoplay Raymond continues to weaken in the eastern Pacific Ocean. As the storm moves over cooler water and experiences stronger wind shear, the weakening process will continue through midweek. Raymond should dissipate into a remnant low by Wednesday or Thursday.
Raymond developed as Tropical Depression Seventeen-E on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 19.
From Sunday morning, Oct. 20, into early Monday, Oct. 21, Raymond rapidly intensified with top sustained winds increasing from 40 mph to 120 mph, becoming the first major hurricane of 2013 in the entire Western Hemisphere. Raymond peaked in intensity late Monday with top sustained winds of 125 mph.
Raymond brought heavy rainfall to the south-central Mexican coast last week. Acapulco, the largest city in Guerrero, reported nearly 10 inches of rain in the 72-hour period ending 7 a.m. CDT Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Raymond weakened to a tropical storm early on Wednesday, Oct. 23, before returning to hurricane strength in a second spurt of rapid intensification during the morning hours Sunday, Oct. 27. Winds increased to 105 mph late on Oct. 27, but then Raymond weakened significantly the next day.
The latest forecast path and wind speeds from the National Hurricane Center.
So, where exactly is the cyclone’s center located now? If you’re plotting the storm along with us, click on the „Current Information” map below to get the latitude/longitude coordinates, distance away from the nearest land location, maximum sustained winds and central pressure (measured in millibars).
How does the system look on satellite imagery? Click on „infrared” satellite imagery, to see how „cold” the cloud tops are. Brighter orange and red shadings concentrated near the center of circulation signify a healthy tropical cyclone.
MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Images of Hurricane Raymond’s Impacts on Mexico
The Campos family stands in what is left of their home after it was damaged by rain triggered by Hurricane Raymond in the community of Papa Gallo de Tierra Colorada, near Acapulco, Mexico, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)