More than 200 killed in Sierra Leone as mudslide sweeps away homesBy Christopher Johnson and Umaru Fofana View photosA man walks under umbrella in water covered street in Freetown, Sierra Leone August 14, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. Instagram/dawncharris via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDITBy Christopher Johnson and Umaru FofanaFREETOWN, (Reuters) – A mudslide killed more than 200 people on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown on Monday, sweeping away homes and leaving residents desperate for news of missing family members.The Red Cross said at least 205 bodies had been taken to the central morgue in Freetown. Police and military personnel were at the scene in the mountain town of Regent searching for people trapped in the debris.Many people living at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf were asleep when the mountainside collapsed, burying dozens of houses, including two-storey buildings, witnesses said.Standing in the rain, residents sobbed as they mourned family members and waited for news of those missing. Adama Kamara wept as she described a failed attempt to rescue her 7-week-old child.”We were inside when we heard the mudslide approaching. I attempted to grab my baby but the mud was too fast. She was covered alive,” said Kamara, who escaped with bruises. She said she was not sure what had happened to her husband.A man said he had left early in the morning to buy bread. When he returned, his wife, children, siblings and in-laws were all dead.The death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered, Red Cross spokesman Abu Bakarr Tarawallie said.Vice President Victor Foh told Reuters at the scene: „It is likely that hundreds are lying dead underneath the rubble.” He said a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.”The disaster is so serious that I myself feel broken,” he said. „We’re trying to cordon the area. Evacuate the people.”An excavator plowed away at the mountainside and ambulances rushed back and forth to the city center with bodies and wounded, but rescue efforts were hampered by bad roads and the weather, a Reuters witness said.Community chief Fatmata Tarawallie said she had started calling for help at 4 a.m. (0400 GMT) but that it did not come soon enough.”Now our community has sunk,” she said.Mudslides and floods are fairly common during the rainy season in West Africa, where deforestation and poor town planning has put residents at risk.(Additional reporting and writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
Tropical Storm Gert strengthens in the Atlantic OceanMIAMI (AP) — Tropical Storm Gert continues to strengthen in the Atlantic Ocean, with swells expected to soon begin affecting portions of the U.S. East Coast.Related SearchesTropical Storms In The AtlanticTropical Storms 2017Tropical Storm DonThe National Hurricane Center said Gert was centered about 455 miles (735 kilometers) west-southwest of Bermuda Monday evening and had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph). It is moving north at 8 mph (13 kph).Gert is expected to become a hurricane Monday night.A gradual turn toward the northeast with an increase in forward speed is forecast for Tuesday night.Swells generated by Gert will begin to affect portions of Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast — from North Carolina to New York — over the next couple of days.The Hurricane Center says these swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
Firefighters battle wildfires across GreeceBy Phoebe Fronista and Alkis Konstantinidis Firefighters battle wildfires across GreeceBy Phoebe Fronista and Alkis KonstantinidisATHENS (Reuters) – Firefighters battled more than 90 forest fires across Greece on Monday, an outbreak fed by dry winds and hot weather that saw blazes burning near Athens, in the Peloponnese, and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.The fire near Athens was burning unchecked for a second day, damaging dozens of homes. It had started in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, and spread overnight to three more towns. A state of emergency was declared in the area.On Zakynthos, an island popular with foreign tourists, several fires continued to burn for a fourth day and authorities declared a state of emergency. One minister said those fires had been set deliberately.”It’s arson according to an organized plan,” Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, who is the MP for Zakythnos, told state TV when asked to comment on the dozen fires burning on the island. „There is no doubt about it.”It is not clear what caused the fires, and no investigation has begun into possible arson. Late July and August often see a outbreaks of forest and brush fires in Greece, where high temperatures help create tinder-box conditions.Near Athens, authorities ordered a precautionary evacuation of two summer camps and homes in the area and evacuated a monastery after flames reached its fence on Monday. Hundreds of Kalamos residents fled, heading to the beach to spend the night.”It was a terrible mess, that’s what it was. You could see homes on fire, people running, people desperate, it was chaos and the fire was very big,” a resident told Reuters TV.Andreas Theodorou, a local councilor, said the blaze had damaged „several dozens of homes.””Help did not arrive fast enough, and if you don’t stop a forest fire so large as soon as it breaks out, it’s very hard to put it out,” he said.The fire brigade said rugged terrain dotted with small communities made the fire fighting difficult.In the Peloponnese region of Ilia, the site of Greece’s worst fires in 2007, which killed more than 70 people, blazes broke out in three areas on Monday, prompting the evacuation of a village.(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, George Georgiopoulos and Karolina Tagaris; Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Larry King)
NOAA Upgrades Hurricane Season To Above NormalNina Godlewski Less than half way through the 2017 hurricane season the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has upgraded the chances of an above-normal season in the Atlantic. In May, NOAA had estimated that the chance of an above-normal season was about 45 percent. Now the chance of an above-normal season is set at about 60 percent.This change came in part due to the fact that during the first nine weeks of the season there were six named storms, accounting for half of those budgeted for the entire season. One of those storms was Tropical Storm Emily that brought major flooding to Florida just two weeks ago. Additionally, as the chances of an El Nino forming have decreased since May, the chances of a stronger unsurpassed hurricane season have increased.Read: When Does Hurricane Season Start? Atlantic, Pacific Storm Forecasts Predict Many CyclonesForecasters are now predicting that the season will be extremely active, possibly comparable to the 2010 season. In May, NOAA was predicting 11 to 17 named storms for the season, a range that has been upped to 14 to 19. The prediction is that those 14 to 19 storms will include two to five major hurricanes, and five to nine hurricanes.A storm gets a name when it progresses from a tropical depression, with maximum wind speeds of 38 miles per hour, into a tropical storm, with maximum speeds of 73 miles per hour. Once a storm reaches wind speeds higher than this is becomes a hurricane or typhoon, according to the National Hurricane Center at NOAA. hurricane season updateFor the Atlantic, there are six lists of names used for the storms and they’re recirculated every six years. If a name is used for a particularly deadly or expensive storm, those names are then retired and replaced. The names are used to clearly identify storms with easy names to pronounce that are unique and difficult to mistake for other names. The Pacific has its own lists of names.Read: Sea Level Rise Accelerating In Southeast US Due To ‘Hot Spots’So far during the 2017 season, six names have been used of the 21 names on the list. The season usually picks up in late August going into the cooler fall months, when storms are more frequent and strongest, said NOAA.“As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan,” Brock Long, Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator, told NOAA.
Elephants Rescue 500 People Trapped By FloodJuliana Rose PignataroAs heavy rains battered Nepal Monday, elephants saved more than 500 people trapped by flooding. Landslides and flash flooding from the Rapti River in Sauraha, about 50 miles south of Kathmandu, left hundreds of people stranded before the region’s elephants came to the rescue.Sauraha borders Chitwan National Park, a hot spot for tourists seeking elephant rides, rhinoceros watching and other attractions. Packed hotels in the area were submerged by the flooding, trapping hundreds of tourists. Elephants were deployed to get people to safety, including to the nearest roads and the local airport.”Guests were rescued on elephant backs and tractor trailers to [nearby] Bharatpur yesterday,” Suman Ghimire, the head of a group of Sauraha hotel owners, told Reuters Monday. „The rest will be taken to safer places today.” View photosRTS1BQS1The rains are a product of monsoon season, which began in June and should end in September. Nepal is hit with heavy flooding each year during the season. This year’s flooding knocked out power and electricity in numerous areas, according to the Red Cross. Twenty-six of Nepal’s 75 districts were underwater or had been hit by landslides Monday, Reuters reported. At least 15 people were killed due to the recent flooding, while almost 2.3 million were displaced. Officials said they expected the death toll to go up as an additional 50 people remained missing Monday.”The situation is worrying as tens of thousands of people have been hit,” information and communications minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet told Reuters. At least 60,000 homes were completely underwater, Basnet confirmed. Many of those homes provided necessary crops for the Nepal and elsewhere. The mass flooding of such farmland could have catastrophic impacts on food supply in the region, according to aid workers.”The heavy rains hit at one of the worst times,” said Sumnima Shrestha, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization Heifer International. „Shortly after the farmers planted their rice crop in the country’s most important agricultural region.”Photos from the area showed flood-ravaged roads covered by water and debris from landslides. Chief district officer of Chitwan Narayan Prasad Bhatta said workers were doing everything they could to help those affected.”We are mobilizing all the resources we have,” he told BBC News, „to ensure that everyone is safe.”View photosRTS1BQV2
Elephants help rescue hundreds from flooded Nepali safari parkBy Gopal SharmaElephants help rescue hundreds from flooded Nepali safari parkBy Gopal SharmaKATHMANDU (Reuters) – Elephants helped rescue hundreds of tourists from a flooded jungle safari park in Nepal, officials said on Monday, as the death toll from flash floods and landslides after four days of heavy rain rose to 70.The Rapti River overflowed its banks in Sauraha, 80 km (50 miles) south of the capital, Kathmandu, inundating hotels and restaurants and leaving some 600 tourists stranded.Sauraha, on the fringe of Chitwan National Park, is home to 605 rhinoceroses and is popular with foreign tourists, including Indian and Chinese visitors, mainly for rhino watching and elephant rides.”Some 300 guests were rescued on elephant backs and tractor trailers to (nearby) Bharatpur yesterday and the rest will be taken to safer places today,” Suman Ghimire, head of a group of Sauraha hotel owners, said by telephone on Monday.Floods have also swept the nearby northeast Indian state of Assam state in the past two days, killing at least 15 people and displacing nearly 2.3 million, officials said on Monday.Nearly 90 percent of Assam’s Kaziranga national park, home to the world’s largest population of the endangered one-horned rhinoceros, was under water, Forest Minister Pramilla Rani Brahma said. The animals have moved to higher ground.In Nepal, relief workers said 26 of the country’s 75 districts were either submerged or had been hit by landslides after heavy rains lashed the Himalayan nation, home to Mount Everest and the birthplace of Lord Buddha.The death toll was expected to rise with another 50 people reported missing, Information and Communications Minister Mohan Bahadur Basnet said.Basnet said more than 60,000 homes were under water, mainly in the southern plains bordering India. Estimates of losses were not available, with rescuers yet to reach villages marooned by the worst floods in recent years.”The situation is worrying as tens of thousands of people have been hit,” Basnet told Reuters.Large swaths of farmland in the southern plains, Nepal’s breadbasket, are under water and the country could face food shortages due to crop losses, aid workers said.”The heavy rains hit at one of the worst times, shortly after farmers planted their rice crop in the country’s most important agricultural region,” said Sumnima Shrestha, a spokeswoman for U.S.-based non-profit group Heifer International.Monsoon rains, which start in June and continue through September, are important for farm-dependent Nepal, but they also cause heavy loss of life and property damage each year.(Additional reporting by Zarir Hussain in ASSAM, India; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie)
Monsoon flooding kills at least 173 across South Asia NIRANJAN SHRESTHA and NIRMALA GEORGEView photosCommuters wade through flood waters on a road in Murkata village east of Gauhati, north eastern Assam state, India , Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. Heavy monsoon rains have unleashed landslides and floods that killed dozens of people in recent days and displaced millions more across northern India, southern Nepal and Bangladesh. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)KUNAULI, Nepal (AP) — Heavy monsoon rains have unleashed landslides and floods that killed at least 173 people in recent days and displaced millions more across northern India, southern Nepal and Bangladesh.Officials said Monday that they were still trying to determine the scale of the disaster, as weather forecasters predicted more rain for some areas and casualties were reported in multiple locations across the Himalayan foothills of South Asia.Nepalese police were searching Monday for scores of people reported missing after rivers burst their banks and killed at least 80, according to police spokesman Pushkar Karki.”The death toll may go up further as reports come in from remote areas,” Karki said.Many of those killed had drowned or been caught in collapsed houses or under toppled trees.The floods destroyed key rice crops in Nepal and drove thousands of farmers and their families to take refuge in schools or tents on higher ground, as water submerged roads and cut transport to affected areas. Near the Nepalese village of Kunauli, on the border with India, people were sheltering in tents pitched along the main highway after the land on both sides became inundated. Cows and buffalo meandered between the tents, and poisonous snakes slithered through the water.Electricity and cellular phone services were cut off. Soldiers passed out clean water, grain and rice, which people were cooking on small, kerosene-fueled stoves. But aid workers said some did not have enough food or water.”The heavy rains hit at one of the worst times, shortly after farmers planted their rice crop,” Sumnima Shrestha, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-based anti-poverty charity Heifer International, said in a statement. „Making matters worse, large numbers of livestock have been swept away in the flash flooding.”Across Nepal’s southern border, flooding swamped seven districts in the Indian state of Bihar and left more than half a million people homeless. Officials said two people had also died.Landslides and flooding are common across South Asia during the summer monsoon season, and have become more dangerous thanks to widespread deforestation and poor urban planning that makes it harder for the land to absorb rainfall.Bangladesh was bracing for worse flooding Monday, as weather forecasters predicted more rain. At least 18 major rivers were flowing at dangerously high levels, according to the state-run Flood Forecasting and Warning Center.Twenty-seven people have been killed over the last few days in the low-lying delta nation, while another 600,000 are marooned, Bangladesh’s disaster management minister, Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, said Monday. Around 368,000 people have taken refuge in more than 970 makeshift government shelters, he said.Bangladeshi soldiers were working to evacuate those who were stranded on rooftops or in trees, after floodwaters inundated hundreds of northern villages.In the northeastern Indian state of Assam, the floodwaters have damaged bridges, downed power lines and washed away thousands of homes. Officials said that at least 2.5 million people had been affected, including some 200,000 now staying in 440 relief camps, and that 18 people had been killed.With railway lines inundated, the remote region was largely cut off from the rest of the country. Indian air force helicopters were dropping food and drinking water packets in the worst-hit districts, said Assam’s chief secretary, V. K. Pipersenia.Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was in contact with Assam’s authorities. „All possible support is being provided to Assam for overcoming the flood situation prevailing in parts of the state,” Modi said on Twitter.Most of Assam’s Kaziranga National Park was also under water, forcing many of the wildlife reserve’s endangered rhinos and deer to move to higher ground. Dozens of deer were killed by cars after they leapt onto a nearby highway to escape the floods.Farther to the west, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, soldiers recovered the bodies of 46 people who had been traveling in two buses that were buried in a massive landslide of rocks and mud on Sunday._George reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Wasbir Hussain in Gauhati, India, Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala, India, Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and Roshan Sedhai in Kathmandu, Nepal, contributed to this report.