PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, February 28 (Itar-Tass) - Hurricane winds and heavy snowstorms have come to the south of the Kamchatka Peninsula with a powerful cyclone. A storm warning has been issues. Emergency response services have been put on the alert. The fleet near the Kamchatka coast has found shelter in safe bays.
The cyclone moving towards Kamchatka from the Japanese coast with a speed of 40 kilometres an hour is some 500 kilometres from the south of the peninsula over the northern islands of the Kuriles chain. The pressure in the centre of the atmospheric whirlwind is 960 millibar.
The wind force increased to 40 metres per second in the southwest coast of Kamchatka in the Ozernaya settlement. The wind speed is reaching 25-30 metres per second in the east of the peninsula and in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – 25 metres per second. All local schools cancelled classes.
Snowstorms have been registered everywhere and visibility on motor roads reduced to 500-100 metres, the Kamchatka hydrometeorology centre told Itar-Tass.
The arrival to the peninsula of planes from Moscow expected on Thursday has been delayed. Specialists warn that no weather improvement is expected during the day. On the contrary, the wind force and intensity of precipitation will be growing.
Coastal and island communities between Kalumburu and Port Keats are being urged to prepare for a possible cyclone, following the development of a tropical low between the WA and Northern Territory border.
At 9.30am the Bureau of Meteorology advised that a developing tropical low was estimated to be 75 kilometres north northeast of Kununurra and 120 kilometres south, southwest of Port Keats. It is moving west northwest at 9kmh.
The tropical low is expected to remain over land close to the coast, but may move into the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf overnight or on Friday.
The bureau said there was a possibility of a tropical cyclone developing on Friday. Gales are not expected in coastal areas within the next 24 hours, however gales could develop later.
Kimberley District Manager Gordon Tiddums said there were a few simple steps people could take to help reduce the impact of cyclones on their homes and families.
It is essential that everyone takes responsibility for their own preparation,” said Mr Tiddums
“People who know what to do before, during and after a cyclone have an easier time coping with the event, and early preparation can reduce undue stress and panic.
“Now is the time for people to consider their options, prepare a family plan including actions they will need to take during a cyclone and make sure everyone knows what to do.
“It is also important to let your neighbours and relatives know your plans.”
Mr Tiddums said people should clean up rubbish in their yard and stock up on emergency supplies and fuel to avoid a last minute rush.
“The SES will issue alerts during the cyclone warning period to remind you of actions to take as a cyclone comes closer,” he said.
For more information about cyclone preparation people can contact their local SES Unit, FESA regional office or visit the website at www.fesa.wa.gov.au
The latest weather information is available at www.bom.gov.au or call the bureau information line on 1300 659 210.
PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, (Itar-Tass) - All air flights on lines between the peninsula and the mainland were suspended till February 29 due to the cyclone, raging over Kamchatka. There are no flights on local lines either, Itar-Tass learnt at the air controller service of the Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky Air Company.
The company reported that the main Kamchatka airport in the city of Yelizovo is open, but foul weather conditions – low visibility and wind gusts – prevent flights.
Motor traffic, linking Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky with the Milkovsky, Ust-Bolsheretsky and Ust-Kamchatsky districts of the territory, is also closed over limited visibility of up to 50 metres. The village of Oktyabrsky in the peninsula’s west was marooned too. Only heavy vehicles can move along roads, the forwarding service of the Kamchatavtodor firm reported.
The danger of avalanches increased sharply in mountainous areas. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, surrounded by hills, is also apprehensive of avalanches.
The cyclone approached Kamchatka from Japan on the night of February 27. The territorial centre cancelled classes at secondary schools and some higher educational establishments over the stormy weather. Motorists are called upon to refrain from trips. Gale winds – up to 28 metres per second – snap power transmission lines, leaving dwelling houses without electricity. Four small villages in the territorial centre's suburbia were left without power. Repair teams are trying to restore power supplies, but the storm interferes with their work.
The Kamchatka weather centre reported that foul weather in the peninsula would remain for another day. Weather is expected to improve gradually in the afternoon on February 29. All communal services are working now full blast. The storm warning is in force.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- At least 600 rare Himalayan goats - famed for their pashmina wool, also known as cashmere - have died and thousands face starvation after their desert habitat was blanketed with snow during the region's worst snowfall in three decades, authorities said Thursday.
Over 100,000 cashmere goats have faced starvation as winter stocks of fodder ran out after heavy snow covered pastures in the remote Ladakh region near the border with China last month.
"We have reports of over 600 deaths due to starvation so far, and the mortality is mostly among young ones," said Tsering Dorjay, a top official in the region.
Dorjay said the death rate could be much higher because authorities were still unable to get emergency supplies to the worst-hit Tegazong area, where nearly 60,000 goats were starving and scores of pregnant goats had miscarried.
Nomads and Tibetan refugees herd the goats in the remote and barren area. Despite being high in the Himalayas, Ladakh usually receives only about 4 inches of precipitation a year.
However, this year the Himalayan region witnessed the heaviest snowfall in the last three decades, with about 2 feet of snow accumulating at many places in the area.
Local officials said they approached the Indian government for immediate help, but "nothing is forthcoming," said Dorjay.
The highly prized wool is used to make famed pashmina shawls and cashmere, which takes its name from the Kashmir region, and is a major source of revenue in the area.
Earlier this month, the government sent dozens of truckloads of fodder to the area, but the consistent bad weather has not allowed the air force to airlift supplies by helicopter.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the area in its entirety.
LONDON (Reuters) - An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 shook parts of Britain on Wednesday but officials said there were no reports of anyone being killed or serious damage.
The quake struck about an hour after midnight and many people in the capital London and other areas said they had been woken up by the tremors. Quakes are uncommon in Britain and Wednesday's was the strongest for nearly quarter of a century.
In the northern English town of Barnsley, a man was injured in the pelvis when a chimney collapsed and plunged through the roof of his bedroom, said an ambulance service spokeswoman. The man was taken to hospital.
"(The quake) was really bad. I was fast asleep and woke up and the room was shaking," Jemma Harrison, who lives in the northwest English city of Manchester, told the BBC.
Soon after the quake occurred the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimated the magnitude at 4.7, but the British Geological Survey later raised the figure to 5.3 before settling on 5.2.
The USGS said on its Web site the quake's epicenter was 205 km (127 miles) north of London and 80 km (50 miles) east of the major northern English city of Sheffield.
"We have no reports of injuries (in London)," said a police spokesman in the capital.
Police in the English county of Lincolnshire said some people had reported minor damage to their homes. The quake was the largest to hit Britain since one with a magnitude of 5.4 in 1984.
"This is a significant earthquake for the UK and will have been widely felt across England and Wales," said seismologist Brian Baptie of the British Geological Survey.
A WARNING has been issued by the weather office that people steer clear of low-lying bridges and roads as severe thunderstorms are expected to hit large parts of the Eastern Cape.
With Port Elizabeth experiencing welcome rain during a thunderstorm last night, Garth Sampson of the PE weather office said “severe thunderstorms as well as hail” were expected to strike the area in and around Queenstown.
“High winds are expected and could possibly cause damage to homes and property.”
He said rivers and streams were filling rapidly in and around the Border-Kei region. Search and rescue units in both East London and Queenstown are warning the public against crossing low-lying bridges on foot and in vehicles.
A warning to those living around Queenstown as well as the Mthatha region has been issued by the weather office. Severe thunderstorms, with heavy rain are expected as well as large hailstones.
The whole of the Eastern Cape can expect moderate thunderstorms, bringing scattered showers and possible hail. The interior can expect to receive the most rainfall.
Along the coast, cloudy conditions with rain and showers in the south are expected to spread to the east in the afternoon.
The East London area can expect light to moderate rainfall as well as thunderstorms.
The eternally drought-stricken Karoo region can look forward to heavy rainfalls and well as scattered thunderstorms as the storm clouds head for the interior.
ALMATY, Feb 26 (Reuters) - More than 12,000 people have fled their homes in Kazakhstan after rain-swollen rivers swept away houses and bridges, the emergencies ministry said on Tuesday.
Spring flooding is a recurring problem across Central Asia but a sudden rise in temperatures on Feb. 20 following weeks of severe cold has exacerbated the problem this year.
One person was killed in the floods and 12,700 others had to be evacuated from Kazakhstan's most populous region bordering Uzbekistan, the ministry said.
Melt water destroyed roads and schools and killed hundreds of cattle as rivers burst their banks.
The emergencies ministry said its rescue teams, equipped with boats and diving gear, were working to contain floods and assess the situation.
People were being evacuated to safe areas but it was unclear when they would be able to return home. A total of 2,000 houses have been destroyed. (Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)
Hydrologists have warned of the possibility of loss of more human lives and destruction of agricultural and developmental infrastructure in northern Namibia with more water expected to flow in from Angola.
Guido van Langenhove, a hydrologist in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, yesterday said more rains were received in the northern part of the border area. It is highly likely that there will be more water in the Cuvelai oshanas. He said water levels are rising again at the flood warning stations between Engela and Okalongo. The possibility of the danger posed by the water to human lives can therefore not be ruled out as well as damage to property and crops and general disruption.
Floods have already affected thousands in the North. Last week, the Government introduced air rescue service to reach those marooned on small islands. Heavy rains in neighbouring Zambia and Angola over the last month caused the Zambezi and Kunene rivers to burst their banks, resulting in flooding in the northern parts of the country and eastern Caprivi. At Katima Mulilo, the flood wave originating in south-east Angola has levelled off at 6.11 metres compared to last year when the water levels were at 7.23 metres. Upstream levels in the main Zambezi River do not indicate new floods, and water levels in the river are expected to fall in the coming week.
However, the floodplains in the eastern parts of the Caprivi Region have started to fill up. The water level at Kongola has now reached 3.55 metres, the highest level since 1981. Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer for the Mariental Municipality, Paul Nghiwilepo, says there is no major concern regarding the outflow of water from the Hardap Dam.
On Saturday, NamWater opened sluice gates at the dam to release water that had exceeded its 70 percent mark. Since then, the gates have not been closed as the catchment area continues to receive rains. According to Nghiwilepo, by midday yesterday, the dam level was at 70.6 percent, with an inflow of 100 cubic metres per second and outflow of 200 metres per second. Yesterday morning, the dam was 70.8 percent full. The highest reported inflow was 500 cubic metres recorded at 22h00 on Saturday. The water level was 71.8 percent at that time. NamWater public relations officer, Tommi Riva Numbala, said the water utility will keep the two sluice gates open as long as the catchment area continues to receive more rain.
He assured that there was no danger yet regarding the outflow of water. Nghiwilepo said the municipality has installed an electronic system that will enable residents in the area to, at any time, monitor the water situation in the dam and other weather-related matters. "This we did not have in the past. The system is helping a lot because now the residents can access all the information they need," he added. On the Kavango River, the first flood wave is subsiding in Rundu and Andara. But there have been heavy rains in the upper catchment area in Angola during the past week. Another flood wave is expected in the coming week, Van Langenhove said.
Regarding the Orange River, water level reached one metre at Seeheim on Sunday night. The Fish River has been continuously flowing since January 13.
TAILANDIA, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's federal police said it launched an operation on Monday aimed at fighting deforestation in the Amazon, a week after townspeople clashed with local police over illegal sawmills.
About 300 federal police agents and troopers from the paramilitary national security force arrived in northern Para state in helicopters and a caravan of vehicles. The operation dubbed Arch of Fire should have a total of 1,000 agents on the ground when it is in full force, the agency said.
"This operation will be permanent in nature," a federal police spokesman said.
Violent protests broke out last week in Tailandia, about 112 miles south of Para state capital Belem, when local police seized 17,000 cubic yards of timber from illegal sawmills.
Logging is a mainstay of the local economy and Tailandia, with 140 sawmills, is at the center of a battle over land and resources within the Amazon. Hired gunmen are often involved and the town is one of Brazil's most violent municipalities, according to official statistics on homicides.
Official figures released in January showed that between August and December of last year, about 2,703 square miles
were chopped down illegally in the Amazon rain forest. It was the first increase in deforestation after three years of declines.
(Reporting by Carmen Munari and Paulo Santos, Writing by Elzio Barreto)
ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Cyclone Ivan killed 60 people when it tore through Madagascar last week, officials said on Tuesday, more than doubling the previous death toll of 22.
"More than 200,000 people are affected," Jean Rakotomalala, head of the country's National Office of Disasters and Risk Management, told reporters.
"Most of them still need urgent help in many areas ... mostly the south, the north, the east coast."
Bruno Maes, the local UNICEF representative, said the United Nations would announce a new appeal by the end of the week.
Ivan, one of the biggest cyclones ever to hit Madagascar, was packing winds that topped 125 mph (200 kph) when it swept onto the giant Indian Ocean island's east coast early last week.
Six cyclones struck Madagascar last year, killing at least 150 people. Scientists say warming seas linked to climate change are likely to increase the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones in coming decades, and some suspect they already have.
(Reporting by Fanja Saholiarisoa; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Matthew Jones)
BEIJING (Reuters) - A spill on the Hanjiang River, in central China's Hubei Province, has affected water supply for 200,000 people living along three tributaries since Sunday, the Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday, citing local media.
The water became "red with large amounts of bubbles," Xinhua said, citing Gao Qijin, head of Xingou Township Tap Water Company in Jianli County, which is along the Dongjing River, one of the affected tributaries.
Water supply has been cut for about 60,000 residents in the town, who are relying on bottled water. Five schools also have stopped classes.
The environmental protection authorities were investigating the source of the contamination, Xinhua said.
Meanwhile, in southeastern China's Yunnan Province, police have detained a farmer whose homemade fertilizer contaminated the drinking water of 9,000 people and killed 20 tonnes of fish in a fishery last week, Xinhua said.
The villager, Zhou Shunfu, dumped 120 tonnes of waste residue with phosphor onto his own fields, thinking that it could be used as fertilizer, and wiped out a neighbor's fish farm.
After a string of well-publicized cases of water pollution, China is moving to crack down on industrial polluters. It is debating a draft law to fine the heads of companies that foul water, and contemplating ending tax breaks for polluting exporters
But accidents and careless use of chemicals still poses a grave hazard, especially in smaller towns.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Modern technology and surging oil prices have suddenly made the prospect of drilling in the remote, icy Chukchi Sea irresistible to the world's oil giants -- and that is worrying the Inupiat people who have lived at the sea's edge for centuries.
With drilling opportunities dwindling elsewhere, oil companies earlier this month bid an astonishing $2.66 billion for drilling rights in the Chukchi, a stretch of water off Alaska's northwest coast that is frozen half the year and is a major polar bear habitat.
The Inupiat, relatives of the Inuit who inhabit other parts of the Arctic, fear oil spills or drilling activity will disrupt the endangered bowhead whales and other marine animals that they have hunted for generations.
"We want to continue to survive. Our lives are tied to subsistence. So is our culture and our religion with all the animals," said Jack Schaefer, president of the Inupiat village of Point Hope, a settlement on the Chukchi that is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America.
"We don't have anything to replace that with. The high unemployment rate here will continue even if there is offshore oil and gas development since there will only be a few jobs that will be available."
Shell and ConocoPhillips, the two biggest bidders in the U.S. government's sale of drilling rights in the Chukchi, insist they will take the concerns of local communities into account as they search for the 12 billion barrels of oil the government believes lie under the sea floor.
But native leaders and environmentalists say the oil companies and the U.S. government's Minerals Management Service (MMS) have not done enough research to see if drilling in the Chukchi will be safe, especially in light of climate change, which is already transforming the Arctic environment and putting stress on delicate ecosystems.
"The MMS's environmental impact statement did not take into account what we have learned in the last year -- we are not going to see as much sea ice (in the Chukchi) and this is going to have really big ramifications for a number of species like the polar bear and walrus," said Chris Krenz, a researcher with Oceana, a marine environment advocacy group.
The Chukchi sale comes as the U.S. government is pushing to move more acreage in other parts of the Arctic like the Beaufort Sea into the hands of oil companies.
"It's too much, it's too soon and it's just going too fast," said Edward Itta, the Inupiat mayor of the sprawling North Slope Borough, a north Alaskan area the size of Britain.
ICE AND OIL
Native groups and environmentalists most fear a serious oil spill in the Chukchi. The MMS itself estimated in the environmental impact statement authorizing the lease sale there was a 40 percent chance of a spill of at least 1,000 barrels or more over the life of any single oil development project in the Chukchi.
"If oil spills under ice in the middle of January there is absolutely nothing they can do about it," said Rick Steiner, an oil spill expert at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.
"There's a large stretch of time when they would be producing oil and have no way of cleaning up a spill."
A legal challenge to the validity of the MMS's environmental impact statement is under way, and a similar suit temporarily halted Shell's plans to drill in the Beaufort Sea last summer.
Drilling opponents are pessimistic about their chances of putting a stop to the rush into the Arctic.
"Maybe there can be something worked out, but at this time it really doesn't look that way," said Schaefer.
"They don't really seem to care, and as this is a democracy they'll tend to deal with those that are the majority."
(Additional reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, editing by Matthew Lewis)
STRONG 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island early today, the US Geological Survey said, sparking a local tsunami alert and causing people to wake and flee outside.
The quake, the second off Sumatra in 12 hours, struck at 5.06am AEDT at a depth of 35km, 164 km south-west of Sumatra's Padang, the survey said.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued the tsunami alert 11 minutes after the quake.
Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology office (BMG) put the quake at 6.3 and put it at a depth of 25km. They did not issue any local tsunami warning.
"Most probably it's an aftershock following the quake yesterday," BMG official based in Jakarta, Benny, said.
Yesterday afternoon a 7.2-magnitude quake struck off the west coast of Sumatra, briefly triggering a tsunami alert, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage.
There were no initial reports of damage or injuries from the latest quake.
A policeman in Padang who gave his name as Kalinggin said the latest quake was felt quite strongly and residents rushed outside to ensure their safety, but there was no panic "as people have got used to quakes".
"There were no immediate reports of damage," he said.
Last Thursday, a strong 7.5-magnitude quake also rocked Indonesia's Aceh province, at the tip of Sumatra, killing three people and seriously injuring 25 others on remote Simeulue island.
The Indonesian archipelago sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates collide and cause frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
Indonesia was the nation worst hit by the earthquake-triggered Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, which killed about 168,000 people in Aceh.
BEIJING, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- Drought and snow has affected about 22.9 million hectares of China's arable land, more than one sixth of the total.
A severe drought that began last winter had affected 11.1 million hectares in north China, said the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in south and east China, freezing temperatures and heavy snow and sleet hit 11.8 million hectares, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
More than one sixth of China's arable land, which stood at 121.8 million hectares in mid-2006, has been affected either by winter weather or drought.
By Saturday, drought has affected 1.89 million heads of livestock and left 2.43 million people without sufficient drinking water in north China, said the headquarters.
The north is suffering from water shortage as the region's rain and snow declined by 70 percent this winter," said Zhang Zhitong, vice director of the general office of the headquarters.
Towns and cities are also facing difficulties as ground water levels fall in the major north China plains, he added.
"For instance, the ground water level of Beijing and Tianjin has dropped half a meter while some areas dropped more than one meter," he said.
A total of 120,000 wells in Hebei and Shanxi provinces in north China are unable, or nearly unable, to pump water, he added without elaborating on the impact on food prices.
The consumer price index (CPI), a barometer of inflation, rose to an 11-year high of 7.1 percent last month as snowstorms cut transport links and power, and pushed up food and energy prices.
Analysts said although agriculture prices went up substantially last month, it normally takes one or two months for the pressure to pass through to manufactured and processed food items, which will add pressure to inflation in the following months.
Food price rises may in turn spill over to other sectors, pushing up prices of other products and labor costs.
A powerful storm is rolling in from the Pacific Ocean, bearing down on California this weekend. The storm will blast the state with heavy rain, coastal flooding, strong winds and mountain blizzard conditions into Sunday before spreading problems east of the Rockies early next week.
Widespread warnings, watches and advisories are in effect over California as the powerful Pacific storm grinds toward the coast. The important weather alerts pertain to the wind, rain, snow and rough surf the storm is expected to pound the state over the balance of the weekend.
According to the West Regional News story, rain and gusty winds began to buffet northern and central California Saturday while the storm was still hundreds of miles offshore. The storm will bear down on the state tonight into Sunday with its powerful winds, flooding rain and crippling mountain snow.
Skiers and motorists planning to trek through the mountain passes are being warned that the combination of the heavy snow and howling winds will create dangerous blizzard conditions in the Sierra. Western Expert Meteorologist Paul Yeager states 3 to 5 feet of snow will pound the mountains above 7,000 feet.
The storm's strong winds will not be confined to the mountains. The winds could cause damage along the coast and in the other lower elevations across the state. Drivers of high-profile vehicles should use extreme caution. Gusts in many areas may reach or exceed 60 mph.
Strong winds on the California coast will help to create large ocean waves and swells. Wind gusts will top 60 mph in some coastal areas, over the ridges and through the passes. Wind gusts of 40 mph can occur anywhere as the storm moves inland and winds swing around to a northwesterly direction. Waves on the west-facing beaches will reach between 12 and 17 feet. Waves farther north along the California coast may reach 20 feet or higher. According to Western Expert Meteorologist, Ken Clark, "This type of wave action will not only lead to coastal flooding, but can also cause considerable structural and property damage in the coastal areas."
Away from the mountains, the storm will spread drenching rain over the state's lower elevations into Sunday. Significant rain will also reach into Southern California.
The amount of rain the storm produces, which Yeager's colleague Ken Clark details, could lead to some flooding, especially across the northern third of the state. The threat for flooding in Southern California will be greatest over areas recently burned by devastating wildfires.
As the weekend comes to a close, some of the storm's rain, mountain snow and wind will encompass the balance of the Western states. While California will bear the brunt of the storm's fury, the highest elevations in the Wasatch and central and northern Rockies will still receive close to a foot of snow.
According to the Midwest Regional News story, the storm will emerge from the Rockies on Monday. A zone of accumulating snow and a wintry mix will spread across the Midwest, then into the Northeast Tuesday and Wednesday. Another round of severe weather is likely for the South.
While the Winter Weather Center will finesse the details of next week's storm this weekend, the eastern half of the nation will generally welcome a break in the weather this weekend. An area of high pressure will promote the calm conditions.
Light winds and low-level moisture can lead to fog problems Sunday morning. The fog will be most prevalent in areas that were cloudy much of the day Saturday, then cleared Saturday night, allowing temperatures to cool to the saturation point. Foggy areas may be a problem for morning travel over a significant portion of the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, as well as the Atlantic Seaboard. Where temperatures drop below freezing Saturday night, black ice can add to the danger for highway travel.
The recent storm dropped heavy snow on parts of the region Thursday night into Friday. Poughkeepsie, N.Y., topped the snowfall totals list from the winter storm with 11.2 inches. Other snow amounts are given below. Beverly, Mass.: 10.0 inches Staten Island, N.Y.: 8.0 inches Boston, Mass.: 7.5 inches Newark, N.J.: 6.8 inches Philadelphia, Pa.: 3.2 inches The snow at all three reporting stations in New York City, ranging from 6 to 7 inches, set daily snowfall records for Friday. According to the Associated Press, the blanketing snow forced officials to cancel over 1,100 flights at the major airports in the city and Newark, N.J.
As snow covered the region's roadways, jackknifed semi-trucks led to the closure of Interstate 95's southbound lanes for a couple of hours in Greenwich, Conn. Accidents related to the storm on Friday claimed the life of a man in Connecticut and two others in Ohio.
MANILA, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine weather bureau has spotted a new low pressure area near Mindanao, southern Philippines, prompting authorities to raise warnings against possible flash floods and landslides, said the official Philippine News Agency on Sunday.
A low pressure area was spotted at 2 a.m. local time (1800 GMT Saturday) Sunday some 170 kilometers east of southern Mindanao, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) was quoted as saying by the news agency.
As a precaution, PAGASA said that the widespread rain over eastern Mindanao may trigger flashfloods and landslides, according to the report.
"Eastern Visayas and Mindanao will experience cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms becoming widespread rains over Eastern Mindanao which may trigger flashfloods and landslides," said PAGASA.
At least 32 people have been killed by flooding caused by continuous rainfalls last week in central Philippines, while 80,000 people have been evacuated in some provinces which have been declared calamity zones, said government officials.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has dispatched 5 million U.S. dollars of emergency aid to the victims of the flood.
The northern Luzon region is covered with cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and isolated thunderstorms, said PAGASA.
The Philippines has been visited by one tropical storm this year so far and is expected to be hit by three more in the first quarter of the year, the PAGASA said.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has forecast heavy snow and blizzards across its industrial and agricultural heartland over the next three days, even as the country struggles to recover from its worst winter weather in 50 years.
Unseasonably cold weather and ice storms across central and southern China in January and earlier this month killed at least 129 people, caused transport chaos and cut off power and water for millions.
Authorities are still battling to repair power lines and ensure food supplies after severe weather damaged millions of hectares of crops and killed more than 70 million animals.
Snow and sleet would hit six provinces spanning China's central, eastern and northern regions, including Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hubei, Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu, the National Meteorological Centre said on its Web site (www.nmc.gov.cn) on Sunday.
Blizzards were also expected in the northwestern part of central Hubei province, already plagued by winter storms earlier this month.
The Centre advised local governments and power, transport and communication authorities to prepare emergency relief work.
"Strengthen inspections and checks on roads, railway lines and power lines," the notice said.
The forecasts come as more than 1.66 million people displaced by the winter freeze remain in temporary shelters, Xinhua news agency reported.
The cold, which has driven up food prices and contributed further to a surge in annual inflation to an 11-year high of 7.1 percent in January, had caused 151 billion yuan ($21 billion) in economic losses, Xinhua said, citing China's Ministry of Civil Affairs.
In northern China, however, largely unaffected by winter snows, a prolonged drought has damaged about 11 million hectares of arable land, including 317,000 hectares of cropland, Xinhua said.
Winter rainfall in parts of central north, northeast and northwest China was between 20 to 70 percent of average falls, affecting drinking supplies for 2.43 million people and 1.89 million head of livestock, the agency said, citing the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Jerry Norton)
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- A major snow cyclone hitting Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk has caused the Russian city's airport to close down, disrupting air travel throughout Russia.
The decision by air transportation officials to close down the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport was particularly detrimental to air travel as the airport serves as the gateway for most air travel to Russia's Sakhalin region, ITAR-TASS reported Saturday.
The insular region was not completely cut off from necessary supplies by the winter storm as a ferry line to the island continued to operate, the Russian news agency reported.
Railway service to the region also had not been affected by the snow cyclone and remained a transportation option, the regional department of the Russian Ministry for the Emergency Situations said.
The forecast for Sunday for the region offered a hint of optimism as the storm and its gale-force winds were expected to diminish.
Authorities are warning people to take extra care as wild weather delivers hazardous conditions to the top of the North Island.
Strong winds and torrential rain were still battering some areas on Saturday night, causing flooding and knocking out power.
Northland was the worst affected area but Auckland and Coromandel Peninsula were also getting hammered.
Rising flood water has made travel difficult in the region and police warned local residents to avoid travel in the affected areas.
Low lying and tidal, there has been serious flooding in Kaeo in the Far North with the town turning into a giant swimming pool and some roads impassable under a metre of water.
Some people were forced to take extreme measures to get to work.
"We've got registered nurses and caregivers there and its due for a shift change and some of them have been there since two o'clock yesterday," said Nurse Pat Smith from Whangaroa Hospital.
Flood waters also closed State Highway 10 at Whangaroa Road for some time.
Chief Executive for the district council Clive Manley says Whangaroa is the scene of a slip that has cut off 25 properties.
Manley says they won't be able to repair it until Sunday morning.
In Paihia a catamaran has been blown on to rocks and a length of road on the sea front at Paihia is also closed because of high waves.
The MetService has now issued severe weather warnings across the country - for storms, gale force winds and heavy rain.
Power though has been restored to most of the 800 homes in Auckland and Northland which were without electricity since this morning.
Vector spokeswoman Philippa White says they had been working to get the power going as quickly as possible.
White says power is also back on at Waiheke Island.
Vector customers without power on its northern network (North Shore, Waitakere, and Rodney districts) need to call their electricity retailers to log a fault.
Vector customers in the Auckland and Waiheke area should call Vector on 0508 832 867.
Three people in Hokianga reliant on dialysis have been evacuated to hospital as a precaution against power cuts.
It all started on Friday night with high winds whipped up around Auckland.
Boaties were scrambling to save their prized possessions and daylight brought no let up with high gales.
One casualty of the weather was the Starlight Symphony in Auckland, which was expected to attract up to 200,000 people.
Organisers have postponed it until Sunday night, weather permitting.
Storm warnings also forced the cancellation of yachting events.
"They're likely to damage their boat, even lose a mast," says David Cooke, race organiser.
The Two-Handed Round North Island Race was postponed until Sunday giving some of the competitors more time to prepare.
"We would expect to have heavy weather somewhere on the race definitely....I mean heavy weather is what offshore racing is bound to be about and you have to be ready for it," says Tom and Vicky Jackson of the "Onboard 'sunstone'".
Bad conditions have also forced the delay of the annual 24 hour yacht race on Pupuke.
Warnings are in place for those driving over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the high winds have put paid to preparation for Sunday's Weetbix Kiwikids Triathlon and not to mention the Lantern Festival.
The forecast for Sunday though is better with the rain expected to ease up North, starting on Saturday night.
But rain is still expected in the North and West of the South Island.
The weather is then expected to settle down over next couple of days, with fine weather throughout the middle of the week but it could pack in again by next weekend
JAKARTA -- Eleven people, including two children, have been killed and more than 5,000 displaced by floods in Indonesia this week, officials said Friday. The health ministry's Rustam Pakaya said in a text message that nine people were killed and about 3,500 evacuated in three districts across Central Java province following heavy rains that began early last week. The two children died after being caught in flooding on the Indonesian portion of Timor island in East Nusa Tenggara province, a local official said. "Two school children drowned in floods on Thursday in Kupang town," said Frans Salem, from East Nusa Tenggara's social affairs office.
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Officials in Sweden say an overnight storm battered the southern part of the country with hurricane-strength winds - knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and causing flooding in the coastal city of Goteborg.
More than 80,000 households are reporting power outages after the storm, which also caused major traffic disruptions.
No serious injuries are reported.
The Swedish news agency TT says one person was hospitalized with minor injuries after being trapped between falling trees.
Parts of a roof were torn off a house on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, and a passenger bus was pushed onto its side in a water-filled ditch on Sweden's west coast.
Thomas Andersson, a spokesman for The Swedish Road Administration, says downed trees blocked more than 40 roads overnight.
Those roads later reopened.
At least six train lines in the southern part of the country were closed as rail companies worked to clear fallen trees from the tracks.
Sten Laurin, a spokesman at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, said winds off the country's southern coast reached speeds of 140 km/h, though the storm later eased.
Winds of about 120 km/h are classified as hurricane-strength.
Inland, gusts of up to 114 km/h were recorded in some places, Laurin said.
On Saturday morning, more than 50,000 Swedish households still were without power.
Quito - Flooding in Ecuador has killed12 people, including five who died when their ambulance fell into the water. The government has declared a nationwide state of emergency.
More than 60,000 people have fled their homes. Many roads and vast tracts of farmland are flooded. The flooding has led to an increase in the number of people suffering from dengue fever, which is spread by mosquitoes.
Argentina has promised to send 17 tonnes of relief supplies. Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru have also been hit flooding.
By Ephraim Aguilar Southern Luzon Bureau, Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) At least 21 people have died and more than 294,000 displaced by floods and landslides in the central and southern Philippines, relief officials said Friday.
The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the local Red Cross reported 15 dead and four missing in the Visayas and the Bicol region, southeast of Manila.
Another six people died in Mindanao after heavy rains lashed the area this week.
Most of the dead in the Visayas and Bicol were drowned by flashfloods while those in Mindanao were killed by a landslide, the OCD said.
It said in a statement that it would conduct an aerial survey of the affected areas to determine the extent of flooding and landslides.
A military C-130 flew to Samar, which bore the brunt of the storms, to deliver relief goods, the OCD added.
The Red Cross, the social welfare department and other relief agencies are also distributing food and relief goods in other affected areas.
The public works department has deployed heavy equipment to clear landslides and set up temporary bridges to make roads passable.
The entire province of Albay in the Bicol peninsula as well as the eastern half of Samar and one town in Capiz province have been placed under a state of emergency to help deal with the damage.
The weather bureau said a low-pressure area and the tail-end of a cold front in the country's south had combined to bring unseasonal heavy rains across the islands over the past week.
In Albay province, 9,839 families or 50,458 persons were evacuated as of 11 p.m. Thursday, Governor Joey Salceda said Friday morning.
Salceda ordered a preemptive evacuation Thursday afternoon after incessant rains during the past eight days showed a 45.72-millimeter rainfall reading at 1 p.m., a level that signaled an evacuation was necessary to keep residents in areas threatened by possible lahar flows out of harm's way.
Salceda urged Albayanos to be prepared to fight what he described as a "guerrilla type of disaster."
"We are facing a new variant of disaster with many small incidents erupting sporadically when there are no major weather disturbances except continuous rains," Salceda said.
He said an estimated P2.7 million had been allotted for relief goods for the affected families or a cost of P140 food packs for each family for two days.
As of 7 a.m. Friday, the death toll remained at three, the same number reported before the evacuation was ordered.
Over the past 24 hours, disaster officials recorded 16 landslides in the towns of Tiwi, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo, Manito, Daraga, Bacacay, Ligao, Pioduran, and in the cities of Legazpi and Tabaco in the province of Albay.
Four major roads, the Ligao-Pioduran, Ligao-Pantao, Legazpi-Tabaco, and Ligao-Tabaco roads, were still not passable but Salceda ordered the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to clear them Friday morning.
Salceda announced the suspension of classes at all levels and advised those stranded in isolated areas to avoid unnecessary movements while waiting for rescue units.
An aerial inspection was set by the Albay Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council to monitor the floods and landslides.
Nine six-by-six army trucks and two rubber boats had been deployed for continuing rescue and evacuation efforts since Thursday night up to Friday morning in Legazpi City and the towns of Libon, Daraga, and Camalig towns.
Residents in Barangay (village) Busay in Daraga, Albay asked for rescue as floods submerged homes almost up to their roofs.
The sun shone in Legazpi City Thursday morning but Salceda said they were keeping residents in landslide-prone areas in evacuation centers.
"Soil saturation cannot be cured immediately. The threat of landslides is still there. We will be checking weather forecasts to see if there are still threats of flooding and lahar," the governor said.
Salceda added that the rainfall accumulation reached 297 mm within the past 24 hours, the highest without a typhoon.
Salceda said the provincial government was also conducting strict monitoring of the prices of commodities to guard against overpricing.
He said they also wanted to make sure agricultural products and medicines were immediately available.
Most business establishments in Legazpi City's central business district, including drug and grocery stores, were submerged in the floods and closed Friday.
MANILA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from floods and landslides caused by heavy rains in the Philippines has risen to 26 while 10 persons remained missing, said the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) on Saturday.
The disaster-stricken areas include Southern Luzon, Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao, said NDCC.
Floods were particularly severe in the central Bicol region, where five days of incessant rains in Albay have forced more than 80,000 people to evacuate from their homes to evacuation centers.
Local government officials in Bicol said evacuees will not be able to go home in the coming days as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has warned of more rains Saturday and Sunday.
In the province of Albay which has been declared a calamity zone, assistance goods and materials are being delivered to the disaster-stricken towns with the help of the military.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that the provincial government was doing everything it could to ensure minimal or zero casualty, according to a report by local television ABS-CBN News.
BEIJING (AP) -- The freakish winter storms that coated much of central and southern China in snow and ice have left 129 people dead so far this year, a senior Chinese official said Saturday.
Aside from the death toll, which was higher than previously reported, Civil Affairs Vice Minister Li Liguo said in remarks carried by the official Xinhua News Agency that four others remain missing.
The storms, which started in early January, have continued to lash areas of China accustomed to milder weather, leaving communities without electricity and clogging railways and roadways. The disasters showed up weaknesses in the government's emergency planning, with Beijing forced to mobilize the military to aid in recovery.
Economic losses so far have reached $210 million, Li said.
BEIJING (Reuters) - Northern China is likely to be hit with more frequent and more severe sandstorms this year, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday, posing a challenge to Olympics organizers hoping for blue skies over Beijing.
Sandstorms were forecast to increase this spring in the northern provinces of Inner Mongolia and Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, Xinhua said, citing the China Meteorological Administration.
Eastern regions would be prone to drought, which could raise the risk of forest fires.
Meteorologists said the adverse forecasts were related to the La Nina weather phenomenon.
But decades of overgrazing and deforestation mean that China is also fighting to contain its deserts, whose spread has helped fuel the sandstorms that lash the country's north every spring and whose effects are felt in South Korea and Japan.
Beijing has pledged to hold a sandstorm-free Olympics come August, and has launched campaigns to restore denuded land and plant trees, with its noxious air quality a major concern for both athletes and organizers.
(Reporting by Lindsay Beck; Editing by Alex Richardson)
OSLO (Reuters) - An earthquake of 6.2 magnitude -- the biggest in Norwegian history -- jolted the thinly populated Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic on Wednesday night, the Norsar seismic research institute said on Thursday.
No one was hurt by the quake and no damage has been reported in the islands, about 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole, reports said.
"This is the biggest earthquake on Norwegian territory in history," the institute said in a statement, adding that the quake occurred at sea, about 10 km (6 miles) below the surface.
Anne-Karin Bekken, one of roughly 2,000 residents of the archipelago's main town Longyearbyen, said she and her boyfriend were jolted awake by the earthquake.
"We woke up and everything was shaking. It was a bit scary," she told Reuters over the telephone.
"Before I realized what it was, it was over. I thought it was the blizzard blowing the house into pieces," said Bekken, a consultant at the local coal mine.
Norsar said Svalbard registered several aftershocks, and predicted there would be more.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other leaders will be in Svalbard next week for the official opening of a seed vault which will store frozen crop seeds from around the world in case crops are wiped out by a future disaster.
Norsar seismologist Johannes Schweitzer said it may take a few days for aftershocks to stop but that they should not pose any risk to next week's ceremonies, which will take place in the darkness of the Arctic winter near Longyearbyen.
Schweitzer said the quake took place in an area where several smaller quakes had occurred in past years and said nothing indicated Wednesday's jolt was a precursor to heavier seismic activity in the region.
The quake was reported at 9:46 p.m. EST and its epicenter was about 140 km (85 miles) southeast of Longyearbyen.
The last big earthquake struck the archipelago, which is roughly the size of Ireland, on January 18, 1976, and measured 5.5 on the Richter scale, the research institute said.
Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard, which lies north of mainland Europe and east of Greenland, in the Arctic Ocean.
(Additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa; editing by Caroline Drees)
WELLS, Nevada (Reuters) - A strong earthquake in northeastern Nevada badly damaged the historic center of a remote town and injured several people at dawn on Thursday, but nearby mining operations were only briefly disrupted.
The 6.0 magnitude quake near the town of Wells damaged an estimated 400-700 homes, the high school and some churches, said Gary Derks, operations officer for the Nevada Division of Emergency Management.
The main street dating from the late 1800s suffered the most as ceilings collapsed, windows broke and bricks fell. Although many of its saloons, markets and banks are no longer used, officials had talked about reviving the area.
"The historic district is pretty much done for," said City Manager Jolene Supp.
About 380 miles north of the gambling center of Las Vegas, Wells came to life in the late 19th century as deep, clear springs attracted travelers going west to California.
The Chamber of Commerce touts the town of around 1,600 people as a "perfect setting" for western and road movies.
Sparsely populated northwest Nevada is home to the most prolific gold mining region in the Western hemisphere. Mines quickly resumed their round-the-clock operations even as dozens of aftershocks hit throughout the day.
About 50 miners were underground some 100 miles from the epicenter when the quake hit but they evacuated without incident, said Mary Korpi, a spokeswoman for Newmont Mining Corp.
In Wells, one man broke an arm, another had cuts to the head and a third person had trouble breathing, said Kevin McKinney in the Elko County Sheriff's Department.
All commercial establishments in Wells were closed. The ceiling fell in the only grocery store, leaving a smell of alcohol from broken bottles. Paint spilled across the floor in the hardware store next door.
WHY BE UPSET?
Many residents viewed the damage as just part of life on a rugged frontier of the American West.
"It's Mother Nature, what good would it do to be upset?" said Mitch Smith, owner of the hardware store. "We've already decided to have a 'half off' sale on dented cans of paint."
The quake struck at 6:16 a.m. PST (1416 GMT), with a shallow epicenter 6.2 miles (10km) deep.
The area includes Goldstrike, the largest-producing mine of Barrick Gold Corp. Company spokesman Louis Schack said he had not heard of any effect on operations centered 90-100 miles west of the epicenter.
A Chevron Corp spokesman said there was no effect on its 45,000 barrel per day Salt Lake City refinery, about 180 miles east of Wells.
Randy Bowers said he was working the overnight bartending shift at Donna's Ranch, Wells' 140-year-old brothel, when he felt two powerful jolts and a lighter one. Nevada is the only U.S. state with legal prostitution.
"The building is here but everything else is demolished, everything inside is trashed," Bowers said.
"Stuff didn't fall off, it flew off," he added, noting there were no customers in the brothel at the time and that the "working girls were in their rooms."
(Writing by Adam Tanner; Additional reporting by James Nelson in Salt Lake City, Erwin Seba in Houston and Mary Milliken in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Callaghan)
SANTA ROSA, Chile (Reuters) - Chile is suffering its worst drought in decades, and the government is handing out emergency drinking water along a quarter of the Andean nation's length as wells dry up.
Farmers in small towns in south-central Chile have lost crops and livestock in the drought blamed on the weather phenomenon La Nina.
Rainfall records show the semi-arid region got one of its lowest levels of precipitation in half a century, and some specialists say its been 80 years since the weather got so dry.
"For me this is the worst drought. We've had sort of dry years before, but there was always ground water," said 68-year-old Oscar Cerda, standing beside a dried out 20-foot (6 meter) well in Santa Rosa, a community 60 miles southwest of the capital Santiago.
A few yards away in the parched earth, shaded only by thorny vegetation, lie the remains of a cow and two calves who did not survive the drought.
To keep his remaining 20 cows alive, Cerda needs to trek half a mile to another, 164-foot (50-meter), well that still has some water.
Santa Rosa is one of 89 rural communities hit hardest by the drought and declared an agricultural emergency area by the government. Media report at least 120,000 people have been affected.
Fruit growers have not been hurt yet because they have deep wells, but there could be problems next season for this major Chilean industry and economists warn of higher energy and food prices as water levels are low at hydroelectric dams.
Authorities have installed tanks in the most needy areas and trucks come by weekly to fill them. Forage for livestock is also delivered once a week.
"The situation is pretty dramatic and maybe the citizens don't realize the true extent of the problem, in part because the government has been fairly active and anticipated the issue," said Rodrigo Weisner, Chile's public works director in charge of water resources, who calls it one of the worst droughts in 80 years.
Water has always been sacred in this region, where truckers leave bottled water by a shrine to a folk saint La Difunta Correa, reputed to have perished of thirst in the desert while she kept her baby alive as it suckled at her breasts.
But this year the situation is in the hands of another lady, the weather phenomenon known as La Nina, which means 'The Girl' in Spanish.
La Nina occurs when the surface temperature of the central coastal Pacific Ocean cools. In this part of Chile that prevents precipitation, while in neighboring Bolivia the same phenomenon has caused torrential rain and flooding.
"La Nina reached maturity in January and then began to decline. Model projections indicate decline. From now until May La Nina will be weaker, but she'll still be there," said Jorge Carrasco, a meteorologist with Chile's Climatology Department.
In the Santa Rosa community, residents are braced for the hard months ahead before they can hope for rain.
"The next two months will be critical, but we hope things will get better by May," said Flor Abarca, on the community council and a director of the Santa Rosa water committee.
(Writing by Lisa Yulkowski; editing by Pav Jordan and Jackie Frank)
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Tonnes of fish, from carp to exotic tropical specimens, have washed up dead along 320 km of beach on Taiwan's outlying islands because of cold temperatures, a local official said on Friday.
About 45 tonnes of fish, some wild and some farmed, appeared on the tourism-dependent Penghu Island archipelago in the Taiwan Strait from February 14 following a cold snap, county environmental staffer Hsu Ching-fang said.
Local media said on Friday that 10 times that amount of dead fish was still in the water, adding it was the worst mass killing off Penghu in 30 years.
"Every beach in Penghu has been hit with fish in varying amounts," Hsu said. "This is something we haven't seen before."
Temperatures dipped below 9 degrees Celsius for three days in early February, unusually low for subtropical Penghu.
That weather came along with snow storms in nearby China.
Government agencies have allocated T$1.06 million ($34,000) for daily beach cleanups, Hsu said.
Tourists can still use the beaches, which are normally known for their windswept expanses of white sand and offshore coral.
(Reporting by Ralph Jennings; Editing by Ken Wills)
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OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A magnitude-6.2 earthquake, the largest ever recorded on Norwegian territory, hit off the Arctic Svalbard islands early Thursday, the national seismic monitoring center said. No casualties or damage were reported.
The quake could have been catastrophic if it had hit a more densely populated area, said Conrad Lindholm, senior researcher of the seismic institute NORSAR.
"This is extremely rare," Lindholm said by telephone, adding it was the strongest quake in Norway since it started taking records about a century ago.
The Web site of the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 for the temblor, but did not say whether it was a record for Norway.
The quake was centered under waters, about 90 miles southeast of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard, Lindholm said.
He said there could be aftershocks, but little chance they would move closer to the few settlements on the sparsely populated islands, some 300 miles north of the Norwegian mainland.
Small quakes are quite common in Norway and rarely cause damage.
Herdis Lien, one of roughly 1,800 residents of Longyearbyen, said on the state radio network NRK that she was woken up by the earthquake.
"I woke up because my bed was shaking, and everything was rattling in the house," she said. "It was very unpleasant."
The Svalbard governor's office told NRK that there were no immediate reports of damage, possibly because virtually all buildings in Longyearbyen are built on pilings driven into the permafrost, which can withstand more shaking than conventional foundations.
The Meteorological Department has said that it is closely monitoring the movements of Cyclone Ivan which has killed about 11 people in Madagascar is now headed for Mozambique.
Tropical Cyclone Ivan has caused havoc on the Island of Madagascar, which according to media reports, has left about a dozen people dead and has flattened a hotel and trapped people who were inside the hotel.
The tourist paradise of Sainte Marie Island off Madagascar was the worst hit area as the cyclone, dubbed ‘Ivan the Terrible’ by local media, slammed into the east coast at wind speeds of more than 230 kilometers per hour, the Tribune de Madagascar reported.
Ivan was expected to hit central Mozambique on Tuesday or Wednesday where accompanying rains could worsen the heaviest flooding in many years caused by torrential seasonal rains in the flood-prone country.
Around 100,000 people have already been evacuated to higher ground from four main river valleys in neighboring Mozambique.
However, the cyclone that has now been reduced to the level of tropical storm.
As has been the case with South Easterly winds and rainfall from Mozambique that end up affecting Malawi, there are fears that if Cyclone Ivan hits Mozambique, Malawi would also be affected.
According to Edward Chimwaza of the Meteorological Department, the tropical storm will only have indirect effects on Malawi because it has lost its energy as it was moving from Madagascar to Mozambique.
He said the effects felt by Malawi would also depend on the intensity of the storm once it arrives in Mozambique.
“Unless it hits the Africa Coast then we will have direct effects from the storm. But we are monitoring its movement and if it does hit the African Coast, the will issue warnings,” he said.
Chimwaza added that right now the Cyclone has surrounded the Mozambican Coast and is just moving around it.
“Because of that, the Southern Region could have heavy rains caused by the South Easterly winds and for the Central and Northern Region there will be an influx of the Congo air mass which will also cause some rains,” he said.
He added that the Cyclone Ivan drew its energy from the warm oceanic waters but it has since lost its strength because of the friction and the cold grounds that it has been moving in, hence the reason for being downgraded to a storm from a cyclone.
“There is no need for people to panic here as we are closely monitoring its developments,” he said. *dailytimes
As initial assessments shed light on the extensive damage caused by Cyclone Ivan earlier this week, Madagascar is bracing itself for another onslaught as Cyclone Hondo picks up and heads for the island's east coast.
Ivan slammed into Madagascar's northeastern coast on Sunday, 18 February, with winds of up to 210km per hour, leaving a trail of destruction on its way across the island until it slowly diminished in strength and dissipated in the Mozambique Channel on Tuesday.
Ivan brought "two levels of disasters: destruction caused by the intense wind first, and now the flooding", said Dia Styvanley Soa, spokeswoman for the National Office for Natural Disasters Preparedness (BNGRC). "And we can expect more - we are in the middle of cyclone season you know - Hondo is now threatening our coast."
Hondo developed into a full-blown category four tropical cyclone in the centre of the Indian Ocean at the beginning of February, but quickly lost intensity and never threatened to make landfall.
But Styvanley Soa said that according to Madagascar's weather forecasters, Hondo was making a comeback. "Hondo is now 1,600km from our east coast. It does not affect the weather yet, but we must be alert to its evolution."
Taking stock of the damage
Assessment missions were still being carried out by the BNGRC, with the help of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), like the US-based Care International. "The biggest problem now is access - many of the roads have been cut," she said.
On Sainte Marie, a 60km long island off Madagascar's northeast coast, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, "75 percent of the houses have been destroyed," Styvanley Soa said.
"Yesterday we got the results from the helicopter assessment. It is an assessment done from the air, so it only gives us an outline of the damage. All I can say now - because I don't have precise data yet - is that almost all the regions of Madagascar are flooded and accessibility is a real problem."
The initial assessments indicated that nearly 15,000 people had been affected - already double the estimates made on Tuesday - with over 8,000 left without shelter and two people dead. An additional nine victims are thought to be buried under the rubble of a collapsed hotel.
"The cyclone damaged road infrastructure and houses and blew down trees. In many parts of the country, especially the northeast, the electricity is cut off and rivers are reported to have begun flooding," said Volana Rarivoson, public information officer of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar.
Concerns have also been raised over food security after large areas of rice fields were flooded in the Ambatondrazaka region, where most of Madagascar's rice, the staple food, is grown.
Almost all the regions of Madagascar are flooded and accessibility is a real problem
Limited food distribution has already started in accessible areas. "WFP is planning to distribute one tonne of high energy biscuits in the most affected areas, taking advantages of the assessment teams that will be deployed with the helicopter/small planes," Rarivoson said. The UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) was providing the district of Toamasina with non-food items like shelter material, the Malagasy government had made 20 tonnes of rice available in Toamasina through the BNGRC, while CARE had 600 tonnes of food available in Fénérive East.
The cyclone season was overlapping with the lean season between harvests, and the precarious food security situation was worrying, Rarivoson said. "After the passage of the cyclones, many people lose their harvest. This situation would likely cause a severe deterioration of the situation in the coming months."
Well recieved Despite the severe damage, Madagascar could not have been much better prepared: a contingency plan and cyclone simulation exercise in October 2007 brought together all the relevant authorities, UN agencies, civil society groups and NGOs.
"The participants unanimously identified cyclones on the east coast, followed by floods, as the main risks," Jean Marie Stratigos, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Madagascar, told IRIN. The simulation exercise "took place on the east coast in Foulpointe - Fénérive East - Soanierana Ivongo [north of the second city, Toamasina], exactly where IVAN struck; everyone is familiar with the location, people know one another."
Madagascar has a history of devastating cyclone encounters: the previous one, Fame, claimed 12 lives in late January 2008; in the 2007 cyclone season, the worst in living memory, six of these storms ravaged the island, killing over 150 people.
MANILA, Philippines - Weeklong rains have triggered landslides and floods across the eastern Philippines, leaving at least nine people dead, seven missing and tens of thousands displaced, aid officials said Wednesday.
Most of the deaths occurred from drowning in Eastern Samar province since Feb. 15, when a low pressure area dumped heavy rains that caused flash floods and cut off major roads and damaged bridges, the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council and the Philippine Red Cross reported.
The government's national disaster council in Manila said the entire province was under a state of emergency to enable officials to draw emergency funds for relief operations.
Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone was quoted as saying about 140,000 people have been displaced and many houses were submerged.
The Red Cross said at least 23 people were injured when four rivers burst their banks.
The island of Samar, which is prone to flooding and natural disasters, is about 350 miles southeast of Manila.
More than 1.3 million people affected by the Bangladesh cyclone are still living in temporary shelters as the monsoon rains approach, international agency Oxfam has warned.
Three months to the day after Cyclone Sidr killed 4,000 people and destroyed millions of homes, Oxfam is concerned that despite an energetic initial response the current recovery efforts are not meeting the massive needs of cyclone-affected communities.
Hundreds of thousands of families are living under plastic sheeting, tarpaulins and other basic shelters which leave them at the mercy of the elements.
The cyclone also destroyed crops, livestock and fishing gear. Many communities lost both their incomes and their assets, and a quick and effective recovery depends on restoring people's livelihoods quickly.
Oxfam has spent approximately US$ 7 million supporting 193,000 people in five of the worst-affected coastal districts.
It is providing 'emergency shelter kits' of iron sheeting and building accessories to nearly 10,000 households as a temporary measure until more permanent shelter is provided, as well as working on livelihoods projects.
Heather Blackwell, head of Oxfam in Bangladesh, said: "Bangladesh's early warning and preparation saved up to 100,000 lives. The number of people killed, although high, was not as large as in previous similar disasters. This is a tribute to the disaster preparation work done before the cyclone.”
But now more than 1.3 million people are facing terrible monsoon weather with completely inadequate shelter. Having suffered from the elements once, they could soon suffer again. It is vital that the Bangladeshi government and the international community – including the UN – urgently devise a better plan for giving these people proper shelter.
At the same time they must help those people affected by the cyclone to start working again. People need more than just food aid - they need to start farming and fishing again if they are to recover from the havoc wreaked by Cyclone Sidr.
Oxfam would like to see the Government of Bangladesh, the international community and civil society work together more closely to reduce the vulnerability of those living in disaster-prone areas and tackle the problem of climate change that threatens more and bigger disasters.
Rich countries must implement the commitments made at the 2007 UN Conference on Climate Change and start delivering on pledges to set up a fund that will help developing countries adapt to the burgeoning cost of climate change.
The Bureau of Meteorology has downgraded tropical cyclone Nicholas to a category one storm.
The cyclone is weakening further as it moves south near the West Australian coast, with damaging winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour still possible between North West Cape and Cape Cuvier, and perhaps even as far as Carnarvon, forecasters said today.
That region is on a blue alert, while communities near Coral Bay are being advised to be cautious.
A strong wind warning has been issued for the region between Kalbarri and Windy Harbour thanks to a strong high pressure ridge developing south of the state and the cyclone in the upper west coast.
Residents in Coral Bay on Western Australia's north-west coast remain on red alert on Wednesday despite tropical cyclone Nicholas being downgraded in strength.
The WA Bureau of Meteorology's (BoM) cyclone warning centre said Nicholas was rapidly losing its potency but warned gale-force winds were still expected around Coral Bay and other areas further down the coast.
"Our latest satellite data shows the cyclone is weakening considerably and it has been downgraded to a category one," BoM duty forecaster Rabi (Rabi) Rivett told AAP.
"We are expecting some considerable rainfall to follow, mostly on the coast and there are possible flooding warnings for the Greenough and Irwin rivers.
"The rain, however, will be more of a blessing than a curse as it is expected to move further inland and fall on agricultural areas."
By 8am (AEDT), Nicholas was sitting just 26km north-west off Coral Bay and was continuing to move south at a steady 11km/h and was expected to cross the coast between Coral Bay and Cape Cuvier around noon on Wednesday, Mr Rivett said.
Although it was downgraded overnight, the storm system was still packing winds of up to 75km/h, with gusts as strong as 120km/h.
The Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) said roads into Coral Bay and the Pilbara town of Exmouth, which earlier was on red alert for possible destructive winds, remained closed overnight but were expected to open later Wednesday morning.
MAPUTO, Feb 19, 2008 (AFP) — At least 72 people have died of cholera and other intestinal diseases brought on by floods that have ravaged central Mozambique since the beginning of January, medical staff said Tuesday.
"Of the 450 cholera patients we have treated in areas affected by the floods, eight have died," global humanitarian organisation Doctors without Borders said in a statement.
"This figure is added to the 64 other deaths ... from diarrhoea in the single village of Tete reported by municipal authorities two weeks ago."
According to official figures, the floods have directly claimed ten lives in Mozambique as people drown or are devoured by crocodiles emerging from rising river beds.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced and damage estimated at more than 100 million dollars (68 million euros) has been caused, while about 250,000 Mozambicans were said to be depending on emergency food aid.
GENEVA (Reuters) - Climate change threatens the human rights of millions of people who are at risk of losing access to housing, food and clean water unless governments intervene early to counter its effects, experts said on Tuesday.
At a conference on climate change and migration, United Nations officials said rising sea levels and intense storms, droughts and floods could force scores of people from their homes and off their lands -- some permanently.
"Global warming and extreme weather conditions may have calamitous consequences for the human rights of millions of people," said Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights.
"Ultimately climate change may affect the very right to life of various individuals," she said, pointing to threats of hunger, malnutrition, exposure to disease and lost livelihoods, particularly in poor rural areas dependent on fertile soil.
Kang, a South Korean, said countries had an obligation "to prevent and address some of the direst consequences that climate change may reap on human rights."
This may include providing safe housing, ensuring good sanitation and water-drinking supplies, and making sure citizens have access to information and legal redress, and take part in decision-making, she said.
Environmental disasters and natural resource scarcity have long been seen as contributors to displacement, for instance in Sudan's Darfur region where 2.5 million people have been driven from their homes by conflict rooted in part in access to water.
But the United Nations has not yet expressly tackled climate change as a human right, for instance by enshrining the right to protection from its effects in an international convention.
Michelle Leighton, director of human rights programs at the University of San Francisco's law school, told the conference pressures from global warming could also force would-be migrants into the hands of criminals.
Some three quarters of sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural drylands are now degraded to some degree, she said, pointing to West African countries such as Ghana, Senegal and Nigeria as most acutely vulnerable to climate change-related damage.
Many people in Somalia, Mali and Cape Verde will also have little option but to leave their lands in coming years, and many are likely to turn to human smugglers for help in accessing more prosperous countries in Europe and elsewhere, she said.
"This is a big business now," Leighton said. "If the climate change predictions come true, and we see much more pressure on agricultural lands in sub-Saharan Africa, we are likely to see an increase in illegal smuggling as well."
Gordon Shepherd of WWF International told the session that such pressures must be addressed by the international community as well as governments. "None of us will escape the effects of the disasters that are facing the future generations," he said.
MAPUTO (Reuters) - Cyclone Ivan is expected to lash Mozambique with heavy rains when it reaches land, worsening the flooding that has engulfed parts of the southern African nation.
Ivan killed at least 11 people when it swept through Madagascar earlier this week, packing winds of more than 200 kph (125 mph). It was one of the largest cyclones ever to hit the Indian Ocean island.
Officials in Mozambique fear it may do similar damage when it makes landfall on Tuesday or Wednesday.
"We are monitoring it on satellite and we expect it to intensify by tomorrow very close to Madagascar and have an impact on the rainfall in Mozambique," Mussa Mustafa, the head of Mozambique's National Meteorological Institute, told Reuters.
Mozambique is among a handful of southern African nations that have been pelted with torrential rains in recent weeks, causing rivers to burst their banks and forcing thousands of villagers to flee flooded homes.
At least 45 people have died in the region from the floods.
Cyclones hit Mozambique in 2000-2001, worsening floods that killed 700 people and drove half a million from their homes.
Western Australia's Exmouth has escaped the fury of Tropical Cyclone Nicholas, however other parts remain in the firing line as the system moves down the coast.
Coral Bay has now been placed on a status of red alert as the cyclone moves south, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning of damaging winds and high seas.
The Bureau said that the cyclone has continued to weaken across the coast, but that wind gusts of up to 130 Km/h would be expected between North West Cape and Coral Bay.
Gales with gusts to 120 Km/h are affecting the west coast between North West Cape and Coral Bay, with gales to extend further down the coast to Carnarvon later today.
Tides on the southern side of Exmouth Gulf and over west coastal parts between Coral Bay and North West Cape are likely to rise above the normal high tide mark during the next few hours, with very rough seas and possible flooding of low lying areas, the Bureau said.
The system is now moving at about 11 Km/h, with its behaviour described yesterday as erratic.
The Bureau also said that residents in the areas of Cape Cuvier and Carnarvon should begin taking precautions.
IDW24200 Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology Western Australia
Media: The Standard Emergency Warning Signal should NOT be used with this warning.
TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST
TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 69 Issued at 12:55 am WDT on Wednesday, 20 February 2008 BY THE BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING CENTRE PERTH
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Exmouth to Carnarvon.
At midnight WDT Tropical Cyclone Nicholas was estimated to be 60 kilometres north of Coral Bay and 255 kilometres north of Carnarvon and moving south at 11 kilometres per hour.
Tropical Cyclone Nicholas is situated very close to the coast. The cyclone weakened a little during Tuesday but remains a Category 2 system. DESTRUCTIVE winds with gusts to 130 kilometres per hour may occur over west coastal parts between North West Cape and Coral Bay early this morning. Gales with gusts to 120 kilometres per hour are affecting the west coast between North West Cape and Coral Bay. Gales may extend further down the coast to Carnarvon later today.
Tides on the southern side of Exmouth Gulf and over west coastal parts between Coral Bay and North West Cape are likely to rise above the normal high tide mark during the next few hours, with very rough seas and possible flooding of low lying areas.
Details of Tropical Cyclone Nicholas at midnight WDT: Centre located near...... 22.6 degrees South 113.7 degrees East Location accuracy........ within 35 kilometres Recent movement.......... towards the south at 11 kilometres per hour Wind gusts near centre... 130 kilometres per hour Severity category........ 2 Central pressure......... 974 hectoPascals
FESA-State Emergency Service advises of the following community alerts: RED ALERT: People in or near Coral Bay should take shelter. BLUE ALERT: People in or near coastal communities between Cape Cuvier and Carnarvon including Carnarvon should start taking precautions. ALL CLEAR WITH CAUTION: People in or near the communities of Onslow and Exmouth are advised to proceed with caution. The next advice will be issued by 4:00 am WDT Wednesday 20 February. Cyclone advices and State Emergency Service Community Alerts are available by dialling 1300 659 210
A map showing the track of the cyclone is available at: http://www.bom.gov.au/weather/cyclone
HIGH SEAS WEATHER WARNING FOR METAREA 10 ISSUED BY THE AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING CENTRE PERTH AT 1312UTC 19 FEBRUARY 2008
STORM FORCE WIND WARNING FOR THE WESTERN AREA
Please be aware, wind gusts can be a further 40 percent stronger than the averages given here, and maximum waves may be up to twice the height.
SITUATION At 1200 UTC Tropical Cyclone Nicholas was relocated to within 20 nautical miles of latitude twenty two decimal three south [22.3S] longitude one hundred and thirteen decimal seven east [113.7E] Recent movement : south at 6 knots Maximum winds : 50 knots Central pressure: 974 hPa
AREA AFFECTED Within 110 nautical miles of the centre.
FORECAST Maximum winds to 50 knots near the centre decreasing to 30 knots by 1200 UTC 20 February. Winds above 48 knots within 30 nautical miles of centre until 1800UTC 19 February with high to very high seas and moderate to heavy swell. Clockwise winds above 34 knots in remainder of area with very rough seas and moderate to heavy swell until 1200 UTC 20 February. Forecast positions At 0000 UTC 20 February: Within 40 nautical miles of 23.6 south 113.6 east Central pressure 982 hPa. Winds to 40 knots near centre. At 1200 UTC 20 February: Within 60 nautical miles of 25.2 south 114.2 east Central pressure 988 hPa. Winds to 30 knots near centre. REMARKS All ships in the area please send weather reports every three hours. Regular weather observing ships use normal channels. Other ships please use either email to email@example.com or fax to +61892632261 or satellite to SAC 1241 through Land Earth Station Perth 312.
Next warning will be issued by 1900 UTC 19 February 2008.
Preparations for the evacuation of people living in the flood-prone areas of the Caprivi Region have started with thousands of farmers relocating their livestock to dry land.
Herds of cattle have been relocated to Lusese and Kabbe. According to the senior area headman of Lusese, Fidelis Sikopo, there is so much flooding in the eastern areas of Caprivi, igniting fears that both human lives and livestock could be lost.
He confirmed that so far, roads leading to areas such as Schuckmansburg, Nankuntwe, Ikaba, Muzii and Itomba are all impassable because of floods and these areas can only be reached with dugout canoes.
New Era has also learnt that people residing in areas such as Schuckmansbarg, Nankuntwe, and Muzii have to travel via Zambia when they want to go shopping at the provincial town of Katima Mulilo because local roads are unsafe.
Sikopo said the Masubia Tribal Chief, Kisco Moraliswani, whose jurisdiction covers the entire eastern part of Kabbe Constituency, has been flown by helicopter over these areas to assess the situation and alert the inhabitants to start moving to higher ground.
Sikopo confirmed that he is holding meetings with the people of Lusese to ready them to receive flood victims who are relocated to his area on an annual basis. He urged all those affected to start moving to higher ground. He said his people were ready to host those affected.
Meanwhile, the Chobe and Linyanti rivers have burst their banks flooding nearby fields. So far, some crop fields and a few villages at Sangwali and Muyako are surrounded by floodwater.
Linyanti Constituency chief clerk, Albertinah Musukubili, confirmed receiving complaints of damage to crops.
Her office is awaiting books from the regional council to start registering those affected.
She said although most people cultivated their fields and were looking forward to a bumper harvests this year, it is doubtful that this would be the case because many fields have been submerged.
"I do not know how I will survive this year, because my field has already been destroyed. As you can see, I am not working and I am taking care of a lot of orphans and I don't know what they will eat this year," moaned Agtor Salufu Mwaka, whose crops have been destroyed by floods at Sangwali, about 150 kilometres west of Katima Mulilo.
She also confirmed that crocodiles have been lurking around making it difficult for her to inspect her crops.
Yesterday, it caught my children's clothes thinking it was a person but we were lucky that we were far away," she said.
Hundreds of farmers who cultivate along the fertile Lake Liambezi at Muyako are also in trouble as combined floods and heavy rains have submerged fields and destroyed crops. According to a resident of Muyako, Mike Sambi, the lake is full and crops are under water.
He said most farmers have started to prematurely harvest their maize crops for fear of a total loss.
The tropical cyclone data presented at this site are intended to convey only general information on current storms and must not be used to make life or death decisions or decisions relating to the protection of property: the data may not be accurate. If you are in the path of a storm you should be listening to official information sources. These data have no official status and should not be used for emergency response decision-making under any circumstances