Aid workers say 8 people confirmed dead in Vanuatu cyclone By NICK PERRY3 hours ago Reuters Videos Video shows Vanuatu destructionReuters Video shows Vanuatu destruction CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (AP) — At least eight people were confirmed dead in Vanuatu after a massive cyclone tore through the tiny South Pacific archipelago, and the death toll is likely to rise much higher once communications are restored with outlying islands, aid workers said Sunday.Related Stories
Packing winds of 270 kilometers (168 miles) per hour, Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu early Saturday, leaving a trail of destruction and unconfirmed reports of dozens of deaths.Chloe Morrison, a World Vision emergency communications officer in Port Vila, said officials from Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office confirmed to her agency that at least eight people died in and around the capital, Port Vila.Officials have yet to assess the damage in many of the hard-hit outer islands because communications and power remain cut, she said. Morrison said she had heard reports of entire villages being destroyed in more remote areas.”People are really upset and it’s really hard, just because for the last couple of years, we haven’t received a really big cyclone like this one,” said Isso Nihmei, Vanuatu coordinator for the environmental and crisis response group 350. „Most people right now, they are really homeless.”He came upon one of the storm’s victims on Saturday, while surveying the damage along the coastline with other relief workers. The group spotted a man lying on the ground, not breathing, and rushed him to the hospital. By the time they arrived, however, he was dead, Nihmei said.Structural damage across Port Vila was extensive, Nihmei said, with the majority of homes severely damaged or destroyed.Some residents began cleaning up what was left of their wrecked houses and checking on family members. Relief workers, meanwhile, were trying to get temporary shelters to victims as fast as possible, Nihmei said.”We’re still not having communications with the other provinces,” Nihmei said. „We’re just running around trying to get information around Port Vila; with the other islands it’s really hard to get anything.”Waves and scattered debris are seen along the coast, caused by Cyclone Pam, in the Vanuatu capital o …A westward change of course put populated areas directly in the path of Pam. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there were unconfirmed reports of an additional 44 deaths in Vanuatu’s northeastern islands after Pam moved off its expected track.Residents awoke to much calmer weather Sunday after many hunkered down in emergency shelters for a second straight night, Morrison said. Many people who have ventured out from 23 emergency shelters around Port Vila have found their homes damaged or blown away altogether. Teetering trees and downed power lines have made parts of the capital hazardous.Morrison said communications have been so problematic that her aid group hasn’t yet been able to account for many of its own 76 staff members on the islands.For anybody who wasn’t in a secure shelter during the cyclone „it would have been a very, very tough time for them,” she said.Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital.UNICEF estimated that 54,000 children were among those affected by the cyclone.U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the impact and scope of the disaster caused by the cyclone wasn’t yet clear, but he feared the damage and destruction could be widespread.”We hope the loss of life will be minimal,” Ban said Saturday at the World Conference on Disaster Risk and Reduction in Japan. The U.N. said it was preparing to deploy emergency rapid response units.The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, who was attending the conference, told participants, „I do not really know what impact the cyclone has had on Vanuatu.””I am speaking to you today with a heart that is so heavy,” he said. „I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and the people to give a helping hand in this disaster.”Morrison said the first priority was to ensure people had adequate food, drinking water and shelter. Beyond that, she said, there would need to be a long and concerted rebuilding effort in the months ahead.New Zealand pledged 1 million New Zealand dollars ($734,000) to help with relief efforts. On Sunday, Australia pledged 5 million Australian dollars ($3.8 million) in aid, and sent in a relief team with supplies including water and temporary shelters.The small island nation, located about a quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii, has repeatedly warned it is already suffering devastating effects from climate change with the island’s coastal areas being washed away, forcing resettlement to higher ground and smaller yields on traditional crops.Scientists say it’s impossible to attribute single weather events like Cyclone Pam to climate change.The cyclone has already caused damage to other Pacific islands, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. Authorities in New Zealand are preparing for Cyclone Pam, which is forecast to pass north of the country on Sunday and Monday._Associated Press writers Kristen Gelineau in Sydney and Elaine Kurtenbach in Sendai, Japan, contributed to this report.
Aid heads for Vanuatu after devastating Pacific cyclone By Christopher McCall and Lincoln Feast41 minutes agoLocal residents look at damaged boats washed up into a small inlet in Port Vila, the capital city of …By Christopher McCall and Lincoln FeastRelated Stories
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The first shipments of aid landed in Vanuatu on Sunday as authorities declared a state of emergency and global relief agencies geared up after a „monster” cyclone tore through the vulnerable Pacific island nation.With winds of more than 300 kph (185 mph), Cyclone Pam razed homes, smashed boats and destroyed crops as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday. Aid workers described the situation as catastrophic.The official count of confirmed deaths was at eight with 20 people injured. But those numbers were almost certain to rise as rescuers reached the low-lying archipelago’s outlying islands.Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office said the government still had no word from outside the capital.”Our communication link is still down,” said Paolo Malatu, a relief official at the office. „We haven’t got any information from outside Port Vila.”A car lies abandoned amongst damaged trees along a road in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacifi …”The biggest need at the moment is shelter and food and wash kits,” Malatu said.Witnesses described sea surges of up to eight meters (26 feet) and flooding throughout Port Vila after the category 5 cyclone hit.Satellite images on Saturday showed a menacing spiral of storm covering virtually the whole archipelago as it swirled around its eye.Residents said the storm sounded like a freight train. Port Vila, the capital, was strewn with debris and looked as if a bomb had gone off.President Baldwin Lonsdale, who happened to be at a disaster risk conference in Japan on Saturday, appealed to the world to „give a lending hand”. Lonsdale, who was trying to reach home on Sunday, told the BBC the storm was like a monster.Homes are damaged amongst fallen trees in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific island nation o …”Most of the buildings have been destroyed, most houses have been destroyed, schools, health facilities have been destroyed,” he told the BBC, adding that his people were „hopeless” and in a state of panic.Kris Paraskevas, a consultant from Melbourne who has lived in Port Vila for three years, said the situation was catastrophic.”The villages are no good. Many houses were just poles and tin or thatch. There’s nothing left, people are just sitting in rubble,” Paraskevas said.Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is sprawling cluster of 83 islands and 260,000 people, 2,000 km (1,250 miles) northeast of the Australian city of Brisbane.It is among the world’s poorest countries and highly prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and storms.A damaged building and debris can be seen on a road in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pacific is …Aid officials said the storm was comparable in strength to Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013 and killed more than 6,000 people, and looked set to be one of the worst natural disasters the Pacific region has ever experienced.FIRST FLIGHT Aid flights, including a New Zealand military Hercules aircraft carrying eight tonnes of supplies and an initial team, began to land on Sunday as Port Vila’s airport partially reopened.Australia sent two military aircraft including one with medical experts, search and rescue teams and emergency supplies while a U.N. team was also due in Port Vila on Sunday with members drawn from as far away as Europe.Oxfam’s country manager Colin Collett van Rooyen said Vanuatu’s outlying islands were particularly vulnerable.Local residents look through the remains of a small shelter in Port Vila, the capital city of the Pa …”We are talking about islands that are remote and really small, with none of what we would call modern infrastructure,” he said.”We anticipate that that will go higher,” he said, referring to the confirmed death toll of eight.Sune Gudnitz, regional head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said he was particularly worried about the densely populated volcanic island of Tanna in the south. Nothing had been heard from the island, which has a population of about 29,000 people, he said.Australia has promised A$5 million in aid, while Britain, which jointly ruled Vanuatu with France until independence in 1980, has offered up to two million pounds ($2.95 million) in assistance. The World Bank said it was exploring a swift insurance payout to the government.”We will also be deploying humanitarian supplies to provide support for up to 5,000 people in the form of water, sanitation and shelter,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in PerthAurelia Balpe, regional head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told Reuters Vanuatu’s medical system was poorly equipped to handle such a disaster.”The country mostly relies on first aid posts and the supplies in the clinics are probably just antibiotics and pain relief.”On Sunday, Pam was moving away to the southeast, and New Zealand’s northern regions were starting to feel its effects. Authorities there were warning the public to prepare for damaging winds, heavy rain and massive seas.(Editing by Robert Birsel)
Costa Rica volcano spews ash in most powerful eruption in 20 years March 13, 2015 9:31 PMPeople take pictures of an eruption of the Turrialba volcano, from San Gerardo de Irazu near Turrialba, …A plant covered in ash after an eruption of Turrialba volcano is seen at El Roble near Turrialba, Ma …Ash rises over Turrialba volcano, as seen from San Gerardo de Irazu near Turrialba March 13, 2015. R …A Red Cross worker collects ash thrown by Turrialba volcano, at El Roble near Turrialba, March 13, 2 …Red cross workers inspect a property on the slopes of the Turrialba volcano, in El Roble near Turri …SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Costa Rica’s Turrialba volcano belched a column of gas and ash up to 3,280 feet (1 km) into the air on Thursday in its most powerful eruption in two decades, and local authorities started to evacuate residents from the surrounding area.Four explosions emanated from the volcano in central Costa Rica on Thursday, and ash reached parts of the capital San Jose some 30 miles (50 km) away, where the airport was closed. It was the volcano’s strongest eruption since 1996.”We have recommended the evacuation of people and small animals as a precaution. The last explosion was very strong,” a spokesman for the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (Obsivori) said.Costa Rica’s emergency services ordered the closure of access roads near the volcano, which is major tourist draw, and were evacuating a radius of just over a mile around the volcano.Turrialba erupted in October, when it also sprinkled the capital with ash after it spewed magma for the first time since around 1863.(Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel; Editing by Simon Gardner and Cynthia Osterman)
Mummy mystery lingers on daunting Mexico peak By Yemeli Ortega18 hours ago Chalchicomula (México) (AFP) – A blanket of fresh snow has fallen on Mexico’s highest summit, preserving the mystery surrounding the discovery of two mummified bodies near the peak locked in a cold embrace, frozen in time. Could they be two of three climbers buried by an avalanche 55 years ago? For now, the answer will have to wait because fog conceals the top of Pico de Orizaba.The storm has delayed an expedition to recover the cadavers discovered last week, raising concerns that the remains could be lost again on the 5,610-meter (18,400-foot) volcano, also known as Citlaltepetl.As rescue teams await better weather to begin their expedition, it is adding to the anxiety of friends and families of climbers who vanished five decades ago.”We fear that the cadavers will be covered up again… and that they are forgotten again,” Luis Espinosa, a veteran mountaineer who has searched for three friends missing since 1959, told AFP.The slopes of the mountain, which straddles the states of Puebla and Veracruz, were white with snow on Friday while the summit was walled off by dense fog.The snowfall forced the closure of the Mexico City-Puebla highway for several hours on Thursday.And the expedition to recover the bodies, initially planned for this weekend, was indefinitely delayed as four meters (13 feet) of snow fell on the mountain.”We know a lot of people are worried. There are many relatives who could think that it’s an easy task. But a rescue at an altitude of 5,000 meters puts everybody’s lives at risk,” said Ricardo de la Cruz, the federal civil protection director general.Handout picture released by the town council of Chalchicomula showing one of two mummified corpses f …The first body was discovered by chance by climbers on March 1. After they reported seeing a head protruding from the glacier, an official expedition was sent and discovered the second cadaver embracing the first one.- The avalanche -Luis Espinosa, 78, is convinced that the bodies belong to his missing friends and hopes the third one can also be found.”It’s them, without a doubt,” the chemical engineer said, showing a newspaper he saved from November 4, 1959, which describes the „intense search” for Alberto Rodriguez, Manuel Campos and expedition chief Enrique Garcia following an avalanche.He said red cloth found on a body matches the color of Garcia’s sweater, worn 55 years ago.The theory was backed up by Gerardo Reyes, who maintains a registry of climbers on the north side of the volcano, where the bodies were found.Handout picture released by the town council of Chalchicomula showing one of two mummified corpses f …He showed yellowing pages in which mountaineers have written their names since the 1930s.”We don’t know of anybody else who has remained lost on the mountain, neither foreigners nor Mexican nationals,” Reyes told AFP in his refuge for climbers.But he acknowledged that some people go up the mountain without registering and could have vanished without anybody knowing.The mayor of nearby Chalchicomula, Juan Navarro, said he received calls from people as far away as Spain and Germany asking for information about the bodies.- Spirit of the mummies -The mystery has prompted the government to restrict access to the volcano because some people have been caught trying to sneak up to see the bodies.”We have caught some climbers trying to go up. They were going directly toward the mummies,” a Chalchicomula town official told AFP.Alberto Rangel, one of the climbers who found the first body, said his group tried to keep their discovery as quiet as possible because „we know how daring climbers can be.”They were 200 meters from the summit, climbing a 50-degree glacier, when they decided to come back down because some in the six-person team were injured.It was on the way back that they spotted something that looked like a coconut on the snow. They deviated from their route to investigate and discovered that it was a mummified human head.After they took a picture, one of the climbers slipped and tumbled 300 meters down the slope. He escaped with slight injuries. Was it pure luck to get away so lightly?”I’m not a believer or anything like that, but I don’t know what to think,” Rangel said, chuckling at the „protection” provided by the spirit of the mummies.
China ‘falling short’ on fighting pollution: premier 1 hour ago Beijing (AFP) – China is falling short of its people’s expectations in battling smog, Premier Li Keqiang said on Sunday, one week after authorities blocked a scathing documentary on the country’s air pollution problem.Related Stories
Li, who is second only to President Xi Jinping in the Communist hierarchy, made the comments at his once-a-year meeting with journalists at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.Reporters attending the annual event are typically required to submit their questions in advance.”The Chinese government is determined to tackle smog and pollution,” Li said. „The progress we have made still falls short of the expectations of our people.”One year ago, Li pledged that China would declare „war on pollution”, and the premier said Sunday that Beijing is „determined to continue our efforts”.”We will continue to track down and pursue polluting companies,” he said, adding that „environmental authorities must not suffer interference from industry, and should be brave enough to take on responsibility”.Delegates arrive for the closing of the 3rd Session of the 12th National People’s Congress, at t …China’s cities are often hit by heavy pollution, blamed on coal-burning by power stations and industry, as well as vehicle use.The issue has become a major source of popular discontent with the Communist Party, leading the government to vow to reduce the proportion of energy derived from fossil fuels.Last month, former Chinese state media journalist Chai Jing released a hard-hitting independent documentary on the country’s air pollution problem.The 103-minute video investigation, „Under the Dome”, racked up more than 155 million views on mainland Chinese video streaming sites just one day after its release.China’s newly-appointed environmental protection minister, Chen Jining, praised the video, telling reporters that it should „encourage efforts by individuals to improve air quality”.But days later, the documentary was taken down from China’s mainstream video sites, and Chen did not address it in an hour-long news conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber-stamp legislature.Li was asked about the video Sunday and the role of China’s state-owned oil companies in pollution.He did not directly address the film issue but in a reference to China’s annual top political meetings said: „Since environmental protection has been continuously stressed in the Two Sessions, the people running companies should not be so silly to overlook it.”They must have already noticed it. But why do they continue to ignore the policies made by the state?” he asked.
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A big coastal wildfire was briefly contained then flared to life again in hot, windy weather, although it posed no threat to homes in the nearby Pacific ports of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, officials said late Saturday.Related Stories
Chile’s National Emergency Office said the revival was mainly in unpopulated forest along two roads connecting the two cities, and sections of both routes had to be closed.Earlier Saturday, many of the more than 7,000 people who had been evacuated after flames neared their neighborhoods the previous night were allowed to return to their homes as the blaze waned in those areas.About 200 firefighters on the ground and water-dumping helicopters and planes were battling the wildfire, which started Friday afternoon at an illegal dump and was quickly spread by strong winds. Officials declared a state of emergency.The fire was blamed for the death of a woman in her 60s who suffered a heart attack. Thirty-two people had been injured, including 19 firefighters, the emergency office said. Five of the firefighters were badly injured, but their lives were not in danger.
Electricity service for about 12,000 people was turned off as a precaution, officials said.A helicopter dumps water on a forest fire in Valparaiso, Chile, Saturday, March 14, 2015. A serious …The fire comes nearly one year after a wildfire tore through Valparaiso neighborhoods, leaping from one hilltop to another. The blaze killed 15 people, injured more than 500 and destroyed nearly 3,000 homes.No houses were reported damaged from the latest fire, which Chile’s Emergency Office estimated had affected about 740 acres (300 hectares) by early Saturday.The government asked people to avoid traveling to either of the coastal cities, both of which are popular weekend destinations, especially during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months.Valparaiso, about 50 miles (85 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Santiago, has a vibrant port and is home to Chile’s national legislature.The city, known for its colorful, tightly packed neighborhoods which hug steep hillsides, was declared a U.N. World Heritage Site in 2003.