MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Arthur, the first named storm of the 2008 Atlantic season, formed Saturday near the coast of Belize, but was already over land and was expected to weaken later in the day, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
As of 2 p.m. ET, the center of Arthur was located about 50 miles (80 km) north-northwest of Belize City, Belize, and about 185 miles (300 km) southwest of Cozumel, Mexico. Its winds were near 40 mph (65 km/hr) with higher gusts.
The storm was moving west-northwest at near 8 mph (13 km/hr), forecasters said. "On this track, the center of circulation will be moving over Yucatan today and early Sunday," the hurricane center said in an advisory.
The storm's strongest winds were northeast and east of the center. Tropical-storm force winds extended outward up to 260 miles (415 km), mainly to the northeast of the center, forecasters said.
The government of Belize issued a tropical storm warning for the nation's coast, and the government of Mexico issued a tropical storm warning from Cabo Catoche southward to the border with Belize.
A tropical storm warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within the warning area -- in this case, within the next six to 12 hours.
The storm was forecast to dump up to 10 inches of rain over Belize -- up to 15 inches in isolated amounts, the hurricane center said.
The 2008 hurricane season begins Sunday. The federal government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted earlier this month the season would be above normal, with up to 16 named storms and up to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or above.
The noted Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team predicted earlier this year there would be 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. The team calculated a 69 percent chance at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline.
GALVESTON, Texas — Robyn Worthen's work depends on the weather, but she doesn't put much faith in the long-range forecasts that call for an active hurricane season that officially begins this weekend.
Like many of those who proudly proclaim themselves BOI — born on the island — Worthen puts more stock in local storm-watchers.
"A lot of people have their own charts, have kept their own maps for years," Worthen, 31, said from behind the counter at the family-run Aunt Margie's Bait Shop near the seawall designed to keep a storm-tossed Gulf of Mexico from swamping Galveston. "My dad's kept maps for 12 years. I'm not worried. I trust my dad a lot more than the weather people."
Widely publicized hurricane forecaster William Gray is calling for a "well above average" Atlantic storm season this year, including four major storms among 15 named storms.
There's a better than average chance that at least one major hurricane will hit the United States, says Gray, who retired from Colorado State University in 2004 but continues to work with the hurricane research team there.
While such forecasts might cause some to fear catastrophes akin to the devastating 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita, they tend to roll off the backs of folks on this island just southeast of Houston.
Paul Pool, a retired engineer who lives in a home on stilts at Pirates Beach, is among the critics of Gray's forecasts.
"Those of us who live here know better," said Pool, 53. "He doesn't know what he's talking about. Let's see. how many hurricanes did he predict last year? And how many did we have here? Duh!"
The only hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. last year hit just up the coast, sparing Galveston but sloshing ashore as a minimal Category 1 storm at High Island, about midway between Galveston and Port Arthur.
Pool grew up in the Houston-Galveston area and remembers his first big storm, Hurricane Carla, in 1961. He was in the third grade. Now, if a storm is threatening, he monitors a NOAA weather radio and decides for himself when or if he needs to pack up and flee.
"I don't keep anything of value here — kayaks, golf cart, cheap TV, stuff like that," he said. "If it goes, it goes. And I pay a heck of a lot of insurance."
For Galvestonians like Worthen and Pool, Hurricane Alicia in 1983 is the last big storm to leave an impression.
"We got walloped," Worthen said.
Alicia was the only major hurricane that year, making landfall in August as a low Category 3 storm. It left 21 people dead and more than $2.6 billion in damages to the Houston-Galveston area.
By the time it reached Houston, inland about 50 miles, it had downgraded to Category 2.
According to John Nielsen-Gammon, professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University and the Texas state climatologist, the Houston area has not taken a direct hit from a Category 3 storm or higher in 65 years.
Long-term statistics show Houston, home to some 5 million people, should be slammed by a major hurricane about once every 21 years.
"Statistically, the Houston area has been very, very lucky," he says.
The past two years have been calmer-than-normal hurricane seasons and forecast numbers have exceeded the actual number of storms. An average season would have 11 named storms, six of them hurricanes and two achieving major status of at least Category 3, meaning winds clocking at least 111 mph.
Also on average, any Texas coastal county will receive a hurricane landfall at least once in every decade, Nielsen-Gammon said.
He said La Nina, the climatic phenomenon of cooling some surface waters in the Pacific Ocean, could become a factor this year. When that occurs, hurricanes in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean tend to be especially active.
"There's a La Nina out there right now, but it's been weakening," he said. "I think we'll get a much better picture of what the hurricane season is going to be like in a few months."
Some have pointed to global warming as another possible influence.
"Please!" scoffs Pool. "This climate has been changing since the beginning of time. We had an ice age, and we don't now."
"There are a lot of studies being done on this topic right now," Nielsen-Gammon said. "But the problem with hurricanes is not just global warming. They do enough damage, with or without global warming."
All the predictions and speculation is just weather hype to 70-year-old Bob McMurry, who owns a couple of Economy Liquor Stores on Galveston.
While acknowledging the island is overdue for a big blow, he believes the long-range forecasts can contribute to unnecessary anxiety.
"It doesn't change things," he said. "I'm not sitting here telling them what to say, but I do think it's gotten to be a bit overworked."
The Burmese government has lashed out at international aid, saying that starving cyclone survivors can live on frogs and fish instead of foreign handouts. Meanwhile camps of survivors are being forcibly cleared by the army and the people trucked back to their villages, without the supplies they need to survive.
According to newspaper New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece: "The people (of the Irrawaddy delta) can survive with self-reliant efforts even if they are not given chocolate bars from (the) international community.
"Myanmar people can easily get fish for dishes by just fishing in the fields and ditches. In the early monsoon, large edible frogs are abundant."
In an apparent attempt to instill paranoia about the presence of foreign aid workers, it warned that if they were given have full access to the delta that would mean they "are to be given permission to inspect all the houses thoroughly at will".
Aid workers say that the regime is still taking 48 hours to issue travel passes for the delta. Although the United Nations has been receiving visas, other aid agencies, such as the Red Cross, have not.
Up to 200,000 people were killed by Cyclone Nargis and many of the 2.5 million survivors have been living without adequate food, shelter or water ever since the storm struck on May 2.
Most have received no aid at all. Those who have found shelter are now being forced back to their wrecked homes.
"The government is moving people unannounced and dumping people in the approximate location of their villages, basically with nothing," Teh Tai Ring, a UNICEF official, said yesterday.
It appears the regime is concerned that some camps may become permanent settlements dependent on aid, and that there is insufficient labour in the delta to plant the crucial rice crop in the coming weeks.
Around 400 cyclone victims were evicted from a Rangoon church and driven away on Thursday.
"It was a scene of sadness, despair and pain," said a church official.
"Those villagers lost their homes, their family members and the whole village was washed away. They have no home to go back to."
"The uncertainty of where they will be sent to made them very fearful, sad and helpless," he said, adding that many of the victims, parishioners, doctors and nurses were crying.
GAUHATI, India — A river in northeastern India, swollen by heavy rains, burst its banks today, flooding at least 100 villages.
A local government official says there are no reports of injuries, but large parts of the Dhemaji district in Assam state were cut off after the waters flooded the main road in the region and inundated the villages.
The official says disaster management teams are in place and wooden rowboats and some motorized boats have been pressed into service to evacuate anyone stranded.
Dhemaji is some 250 kilometres northeast of Guahati, the state capital.
Assam is prone to flooding.
Last year, millions of people were forced to temporarily abandon their homes after floods left much of the state under water.
(AFP)Italy has declared a state of emergency in the north of the country after flooding and mudslides have left four people including an infant dead in heavy rains that also hit Belgium, Britain, France and Germany.
The state of emergency, which will enable aid to be speeded up to the affected regions of Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta, was decided at a cabinet meeting, the ANSA news agency said.
In Piedmont, four people were killed in landslides on Thursday (local time), including a three-year-old child.
Schools are closed in the town of Saviglano because of mudslides, and 30 people have been evacuated from their homes in Demonte.
A mudslide in Villar Pelice near the city of Turin swept away a house, killing an elderly man inside it, civil protection authorities say.
A second person has been found dead in a car also caught up in the mudslide.
Fifty patients were evacuated from a hospital in Turin, but Red Cross official Giuseppe Vernero told the Sky TG-24 television channel the worse seemed to be over.
By Friday (local time) the sun was shining again in the Valle d'Aosta after days of heavy rain.
In France the SNCF train operator closed lines overnight between Turin and Lyon, to avoid accidents after heavy rains in the region.
Road tunnels linking France and Italy were closed to trucks for several hours after parts were affected by a mudslide.
Several highways were blocked or closed for safety in the Alpine districts of Savoie and Isere, local authorities say.
In Corsica two hotels have been evacuated overnight due to flooding, firefighters say.
Mudslides and flooding has also cut hit villages and cut secondary roads in eastern France overnight, while other routes were blocked by fallen trees, authorities say.
Rivers of mud
Meanwhile, further north, streets have been turned to rivers of mud in the eastern Belgian city of Liege after a violent storm, but no casualties have been reported.
Belgian television pictures showed flooded houses and cars swept along in the mud.
In south-western Germany media reports say heavy rain and hail had caused extensive damage, while at Moenchengladbach a woman suffered a severe electric shock when she went into her flooded cellar in bare feet to cut the power.
Dozens of motorists had to abandon their cars, while in Baden-Wurtemberg lightning set fire to a farm.
A clean-up operation is under way in south west England after torrential rain caused flash flooding there on Thursday night (local time).
The worst-hit area is the southern part of the county of Somerset.
Cars were abandoned on water-logged roads, fire crews had to rescue a number of motorists and hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded out.
MANAGUA,(ap) Nicaragua - The remnants of Tropical Storm Alma dumped rain on Honduras on Friday and led to the death of a child who was swept away by a swollen stream.
The 7-year-old girl drowned in the southern province of Choluteca, Honduras' national Emergency Commission said in a news release.
The storm also blew down trees, knocking out some electricity lines in the southern region, Honduran national energy company spokeswoman Karla Matute said.
In Nicaragua and Costa Rica, officials cleared trees from roads and repaired roofless homes on Friday.
Alma reached land Thursday near the Nicaraguan colonial city of Leon, the first such storm for the eastern Pacific season.
The storm blew roofs off homes, knocked out power and telephone service and brought down a light pole at the city's baseball stadium.
A 30-year-old man was electrocuted by a power line that snapped under high winds, said Nicaraguan emergency official Flor de Maria Escobar.
"The wind whipped up the sand, and it lashed your face like sandpaper," said Erasmo Lopez, a fisherman in the coastal hamlet of Poneloya, near where Alma made landfall. "The trees were shaking like crazy, cars were shuddering and you couldn't even see in front of you."
In Costa Rica, authorities rescued three children and their mother after an embankment collapsed on their house outside the capital, San Jose. A 7-year-old girl was still in critical condition Friday.
Along the coast, 200 families were evacuated to storm shelters after Alma dumped rain over the country for 24 hours. Landslides blocked a few highways.
The eastern Pacific hurricane season began May 15.
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar must stop forcing cyclone survivors to return to their shattered homes where they face more misery or even death, rights groups said on Saturday, as a U.S. official accused the junta of being "deaf and dumb" to foreign aid pleas.
The former Burma's junta started evicting destitute families from government-run cyclone relief centers on Friday, apparently fearing the 'tented villages' might become permanent.
"It's unconscionable for Burma's generals to force cyclone victims back to their devastated homes," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
"Claiming a return to 'normalcy' is no basis for returning people to greater misery and possible death," he added.
Myanmar has said the rescue and relief effort is largely over and it is focused on reconstruction, but the United Nations has said the scale of the devastation means the relief phase after Cyclone Nargis struck on May 2 is likely to last six months.
In some of the bluntest comments by Washington on Myanmar's response to the cyclone, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said tens of thousands had died due to the military government's refusal to allow foreign aid.
Nearly a week after junta leader Than Shwe promised to allow in "all" legitimate foreign aid workers, 45 remaining U.N. visa requests had been approved on Wednesday, but red tape is still hampering access to the Irrawaddy delta.
U.S. and other Western naval ships cruising nearby have also not been allowed to deliver aid directly to the devastated areas.
Locals and aid workers said on Friday 39 camps in the immediate vicinity of Kyauktan, 30 km (20 miles) south of Yangon, were being cleared as part of a general eviction plan.
"We knew we had to go at some point but we had hoped for more support," 21-year-old trishaw driver Kyaw Moe Thu said as he trudged out of the camp with his five brothers and sisters.
They had been given 20 bamboo poles and some tarpaulins to help rebuild their lives in the Irrawaddy delta, where 134,000 people were left dead or missing by Cyclone Nargis on May 2.
A government official said at one camp where people had been told to clear out at short notice that it was for their own good.
"It is better that they move to their homes where they are more stable," the official said. "Here, they are relying on donations and it is not stable."
GENERAL SHWE SHARS "JOYS AND SORROW"
The United Nations could not confirm rumors that the evictions were occurring in state-run camps across the delta, but U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters in New York "any forced or coerced movement of people is unacceptable."
The evictions come after official media in the former Burma lashed out this week at offers of foreign aid, criticizing donors' demands for access to the delta and saying cyclone victims could "stand by themselves".
"The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries," the Kyemon newspaper said in a Burmese-language editorial.
"It is better that they move to their homes where they are more stable," the official said.
SURVIVING ON FISH AND FROGS
U Kyi, who fled with his wife to a camp in Kawhmu, south of Yangon, days after the storm, said he would prefer to go home.
"Unfortunately, almost the entire village is still marooned and we cannot go back," said the 70-year-old.
One senior U.N. official in Yangon said the pace of the closures had caught many agencies by surprise.
"We knew it was going to happen, but we didn't expect it to happen so fast," said the official, who declined to be named.
The United Nations could not confirm rumors that the evictions were occurring in state-run camps across the delta, but U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe told reporters in New York "any forced or coerced movement of people is unacceptable."
The evictions come after official media lashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticizing donors' demands for access to the delta and saying cyclone victims could "stand by themselves" and did not need "chocolate bars" from foreign countries.
A Friday editorial in the New Light of Myanmar said: "Myanmar people can easily get fish for dishes by just fishing in the fields and ditches" and that "large edible frogs are abundant".
The media is believed to reflect the thinking of the top generals, who until now have shown signs of grudging acceptance of outside assistance after the cyclone.
Official papers on Saturday carried a commentary on a trip by Senior General Than Shwe to the delta area, with photographs of Shwe comforting cyclone victims, including one besides neat looking rows of tents it said were in a relief camp in Pyapon.
A positive aspect of the relief effort so far was that there did not appear to have been a major outbreak of diseases such as cholera, said a spokeswoman in Yangon for the charity CARE.
"We are teaching people how to treat water and make it safe. But they are used to dealing with polluted water and difficult conditions, and they pretty much know what to do already.".
CONTRAST WITH ACEH AND BANGLADESH
In Singapore, the visiting U.S. defense secretary contrasted Myanmar's reluctance to accept aid from the U.S. military with the willingness of Indonesia and Bangladesh to accept help after the 2004 Aceh tsunami and a cyclone in Bangladesh last November.
"With Burma, the situation has been very different -- at a cost of tens of thousands of lives," Gates told an annual gathering of Asian security and defense officials.
Gates said Washington had tried as many as 15 times to get the junta to accept more aid in the current crisis.
"It has not been us that have been deaf and dumb in response to the pleas of the international community but the government in Myanmar," he said, referring to international pleas to allow in more foreign aid and relief workers.
Four weeks after the disaster, the United Nations says fewer than half of the 2.4 million people affected have received help from the government, or international or local aid groups.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray, Jan Dahinten and Melanie Lee in Singapore)
Almost 200,000 people have now been evacuated to higher ground from an area at risk of flooding from a lake formed after the Sichuan earthquake.
Residents around the city of Mianyang are being moved as troops dig diversion channels to relieve pressure on the lake, made by landslide-blocked rivers.
But there are fears that the dam could burst before they finish.
China has emergency plans to move a further one million people. Water would reach major urban areas within 4 hours.
Our correspondent Nick Mackie, in Mianyang - where at least 70,000 are now on higher ground - says the government is briefing locals on the emergency plan through the media and at street corner gatherings.
Public transport would be on hand to take children, the old and infirm to some 61 sites around the city that are being equipped with toilets and provisioned with food and water.
The majority, however, on hearing the sirens, would have to go on foot as no private cars would be allowed, our correspondent says.
But an evacuation drill planned for Saturday will not take place.
Instead, the authorities will test their communication channels and readiness to respond to a breach in the barrier holding back some 180 million cubic metres of water.
The official Xinhua News Agency said 197,477 people had been evacuated to safe ground as of 0800 (0000 GMT) on Saturday.
Tangjiashan lake is the largest of more than 30 similar lakes formed by the earthquake two weeks ago.
The Chinese government has allocated 200m yuan ($29m, £14.5m) to making the "quake lakes" safe, according to Xinhua.
The confirmed death toll of the 12 May earthquake stands at 68,977. Another 17,974 people are still missing.
The Amazonian city of Altamira played host to one of the more uneven contests in recent Brazilian history this week, as a colourful alliance of indigenous leaders gathered to take on the might of the state power corporation and stop the construction of an immense hydroelectric dam on a tributary of the Amazon.
At stake are plans to flood large areas of rainforest to make way for the huge Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu river. The government is pushing the project as a sustainable energy solution, but critics complain the environmental and social costs are too high.
For people living beside the river, the dam will bring an end to their way of life. Thousands of homes will be submerged and changes in the local ecology will wipe out the livelihoods of many more, killing their main food sources and destroying their raw materials.
For the 10,000 tribal indians of the Xingu, whose lives have changed little since the arrival of Europeans five centuries ago, this will be a devastating blow.
"This is the second time we are fighting this battle," says Chief Bocaire, a young leader of the Kayapo, one of more than 600 Indians from 35 ethnic groups who gathered in record numbers in Altamira. The Indians had travelled hundreds of miles to get there in an area with hardly any roads. The roads that do exist are mostly dirt tracks, impassable in bad weather and difficult and dangerous at the best of times. For most it has been an odyssey of several weeks, travelling in small boats to reach the roads.
"In 1989, our parents defeated a similar proposal with the help of the international media. Now it is back. But we are ready to fight again. This time we speak their language, and we are more determined than ever," says Chief Bocaire.
With so much at stake, tensions spilled over into violence this week when an engineer from the power company Eletrobras was caught up in a melee with Indians wielding machetes. Paulo Fernando Rezende had his shirt ripped from him and was left with a deep cut to his shoulder.
Nineteen years ago, the Indians called on the support of the rock star Sting and the late Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. Pictures of the pair alongside Chief Raoni, with his lower lip distended by a traditional lip plate, sent their message to the outside world.
The reservoir will flood up to 6,140 square kilometres (2,371 square miles). Scientists say it will cause a dramatic increase in greenhouse-gas emissions. from the decomposition of organic matter in the stagnant water of the reservoir.
"Hydroelectric dams have severe social impacts," Philip Fearnside, one of the world's leading rainforest scientists explains, "including flooding the lands of indigenous peoples, displacing non-indigenous residents and destroying fisheries."
Dr Fearnside said the project helps aluminium plants looking to cash in on exports but does little for local needs, and in fact increases the health risks to local populations, including malaria.
For three months in the dry season, the flow of the Xingu reduces to a trickle and the dam's turbines will stop working, unable to maintain the supply of power and necessitating the use of inefficient fossil-fuel power stations.
Last November, Chief Bocaire delivered a letter to President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Signed by 78 leaders, the letter demanded that all dam be halted.
But Glenn Switkes, of International Rivers, says: "The Lula government and its political allies are closing ranks to ensure it goes ahead no matter what the cost. The construction cost could be more than £5bn, and Belo Monte will not be feasible without building other dams upstream to regulate the flow of the Xingu – and that means facing off with the Kayapo."
May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Typhoon Nakri strengthened into a Category Four storm with winds of 232 kilometers (145 miles) per hour as it moved across the Pacific Ocean in the direction of Japan, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
Nakri, the sixth storm of the northwestern Pacific cyclone season, was 1,147 kilometers south-southwest of the Japanese island of Iwoto, formerly known as Iwo Jima, at 9 a.m. Tokyo time today, the center said.
The storm was moving west at 7.4 kilometers per hour and waves in the vicinity of its eye were 10 meters (32 feet) high. Nakri's winds were gusting to 279 kilometers an hour, the center said on its Web site.
The typhoon is forecast to turn north by tomorrow and pass to the south of Tokyo early on June 3. Navy forecasters expect Nakri's sustained winds to weaken to 213 kilometers an hour by 9 a.m. tomorrow.
Nakri is a Category Four storm, the second-strongest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.
The storm is named after a flower in Cambodia, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists names used for tropical storms and typhoons that form in the northwest Pacific.
May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Nicaragua downgraded a hurricane warning as Tropical Storm Alma hit the western coast today with heavy rains and high winds that will probably ease as the tempest moves inland.
Alma, the first named storm of the northeast Pacific Ocean hurricane season, made landfall around noon local time near the city of Leon, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in a statement. Wind speeds dropped to 50 miles per hour this afternoon from 65 miles per hour earlier. The storm is forecast to bring as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain.
``Rains may produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,'' said the Miami-based hurricane center. The governments of Nicaragua and Honduras issued tropical storm warnings.
Alma may reach El Salvador and Honduras tomorrow.
The storm threatens Nicaragua's agricultural industry, which is trying to produce more beans, corn, wheat and rice to combat rising food costs. The western coast also holds Nicaragua's main shipping port, near the city of Corinto.
Police were dispatched to 255 areas throughout Nicaragua to protect against flash floods, police spokesman Francisco Diaz told reporters in the capital, Managua. The nation is still recovering from Hurricane Felix, a Category 5 storm that lashed the Central American country last September.
The storm poses no danger to oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico, on the opposite side of Central America, said private U.S. forecaster AccuWeather.com. Central American mountains tower more than 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), acting as a wall and exhausting the energy contained in Pacific storms.
A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when it has sustained winds of 74 miles per hour (119 kilometers an hour) or faster. There are five classes of hurricanes, with Category 5 storms carrying winds of more than 155 miles per hour.
The eastern Pacific's hurricane season began two weeks ago, and the Atlantic's starts in three days. Both seasons run through the end of November.
NOAA/NWS via BBSNews 2008-05-29 - [2:00 pm PDT Advisory] -- Center Of Tropical Storm Alma Making Landfall On The Northern Pacific Coast Of Nicaragua.
At 2 Pm Pdt...2100 Utc...The Government Of El Salvador Has Discontinued The Hurricane Watch For The Coast Of El Salvador.
At 2 Pm Pdt...2100 Utc...The Governments Of Nicaragua And Honduras Have Replaced The Hurricane Warning With A Tropical Storm Warning.
At 2 Pm Pdt...2100 Utc...The Government Of Costa Rica Has Discontinued The Tropical Storm Warning South Of Jaco.
A Tropical Storm Warning Is Now In Effect For The Pacific Coast Of Central America From Jaco Costa Rica Northwestward Including Nicaragua...Honduras And El Salvador.
For Storm Information Specific To Your Area...Including Possible Inland Watches And Warnings...Please Monitor Products Issued By Your Local Weather Office.
The Center Of Alma Made Landfall Around 12 Pm Pdt...1900Z...On The Northern Pacific Coast Of Nicaragua Near The City Of Leon. At 200 Pm Pdt...2100Z...The Center Of Tropical Storm Alma Was Located On The Coast Near Latitude 12.4 North...Longitude 87.0 West Or About 50 Miles... 85 Km...West-Northwest Of Managua Nicaragua And About 175 Miles...280 Km...East-Southeast Of San Salvador El Salvador.
Alma Is Moving Toward The North Near 9 Mph...15 Km/Hr. This Track Should Bring The Cyclone Farther Inland Tonight. A Gradual Turn To The Northwest Is Anticipated During The Next 24 Hours.
Maximum Sustained Winds Are Near 65 Mph...100 Km/Hr...With Higher Gusts. A Gradual Weakening Should Begin Tonight As The Cyclone Moves Farther Inland.
Tropical Storm Force Winds Extend Outward Up To 105 Miles...165 Km Mainly To South And West Of The Center.
Estimated Minimum Central Pressure Is 994 Mb...29.35 Inches.
Alma Is Expected To Produce Total Rainfall Amounts Of 10 To 15 Inches Over Portions Of Central America From Costa Rica Northwestward Through Portions Of Nicaragua...Honduras...El Salvador...Guatemala And Belize. Isolated Maximum Storm Total Amounts Of 20 Inches Are Possible In Areas Of Higher Terrain. These Rains May Produce Life-Threatening Flash Floods And Mud Slides.
Repeating The 200 Pm Pdt Position...12.4 N...87.0 W. Movement Toward...North Near 9 Mph. Maximum Sustained Winds...65 Mph. Minimum Central Pressure...994 Mb.
An Intermediate Advisory Will Be Issued By The National Hurricane Center At 500 Pm Pdt Followed By The Next Complete Advisory At 800 Pm Pdt.
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) -- A strong earthquake shook southern Iceland on Thursday, damaging roads and buildings. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the 6.1 magnitude quake hit at 3:46 p.m. (1546 GMT), with its epicenter near the town of Selfoss, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east, southeast of the capital, Reykjavik. The Icelandic Geological Survey said it measured a magnitude 6.1.
Residents in the capital felt buildings shake.
Iceland's national broadcaster RUV radio reported no injuries but said buildings had been damaged near the epicenter. Authorities advised residents in the area to leave their homes because of the possibility of aftershocks.
The road between Reykjavik and Selfoss was closed by quake damage, RUV said.
Don Blakeman, an earthquake analyst at the U.S. Geological Survey, said earlier, less reliable readings had indicated the quake could have been as powerful as a magnitude 6.7.
"It looks like a 6.1 or a 6.2," he said by telephone. "As this part of Iceland sits on the north Atlantic ridge, it's not uncommon for there to be earthquakes."
Iceland, population 300,000, is a geologically unstable volcanic island in the north Atlantic.
The country's last major earthquake, in June 2000, measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. It knocked down a dozen houses but caused no serious injuries.
BONN (AFP) - Environmental damage and species loss costs between 1.35 and 3.1 trillion euros (2.1 to 4.8 trillion dollars) every year, according to a report released Thursday at a major UN conference on biodiversity.
The study, commissioned by the European Union (EU) and the German government, is the biggest assessment ever made of the economic impact of ecological damage, and supporters compared it to the famous "Stern Report" on the cost of climate change.
It was issued at a meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity, a 12-day meeting in Bonn of 6,000 representatives from 191 nations due to wind up on Friday.
The report, entitled "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity," attaches a monetary value to species and to environmental assets that usually are not considered in cash terms.
It looks, for instance, at the dollar value of clean water, healthy soil, protection from floods and soil erosion, natural medicines and natural sinks that store greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane.
"Though our wellbeing is totally dependent on these 'ecosystem services', they are predominantly public goods with no markets and no prices," the report notes.
Principal author Pavan Sukhdev, who heads Deutsche Bank's global markets business in India, described this lack as "trying to navigate uncharted and turbulent waters with an old and defective economic compass."
Sukhdev warned that some ecosystems were probably already damaged beyond repair, and predicted other systems would be badly wounded unless protective measures were urgently taken.
He said that by 2050, under a "business-as-usual" scenario, these catastrophes loom:
-- 11 percent of natural areas remaining in 2000 could be lost due to conversion to agriculture, development, and climate change;
-- 40 percent of land currently under low-impact agriculture could become intensively farmed, accelerate biodiversity losses;
-- 60 percent of coral reefs could be lost, directly affecting the livelihood of a billion people.
As with climate change, the consequences of this damage will fall mainly on the world's poorest and most vulnerable denizens, according to the report.
The true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services must be incorporated into policy decisions, the study said.
Environmental groups at the meeting in Bonn welcomed the report. "This is a long overdue recognition of biodiversity as a key development issue," said Gordon Shepard, director of international policy for World Wildlife Fund International.
The report puts a spotlight "on the economic value of biodiversity both to our global economy and for the millions of people directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods," he said.
Joan Ruddock, the British Minister for Wildlife, said the report "is vital to the effort to stem the loss of species and habitats," and announced that Britain would help fund a fuller study.
About 150 species of flora and fauna go extinct every day, a rate that is 100 to 1000 times higher than a natural dying out of species, according to scientists.
The inspiration for the new report is the landmark 2006 assessment by British economist Sir Nicholas Stern that sparked awareness about the economic cost of global warming.
Stern said that climate change could shrink the global economy by as much as 20 percent, but if action were taken immediately, the bill would be only one percent of global gross domestic product (GDP).
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- The World Bank warned Thursday that an exceptionally high tide could inundate the Indonesian capital next week, forcing thousands of people to flee homes and cutting off the highway to the international airport.
The situation - exacerbated by global warming and the fact that Jakarta is sinking up to 2 inches a year - could mean flooding will exceed last November's roof-high levels in the hardest-hit areas, said Hongjoo Hahm, the bank's infrastructure expert.
"This is just the beginning," he said, as he pointed to homes reaching a mile inland that will likely be affected Tuesday and Wednesday by the 18-year semiannual tide cycle. "It's getting worse and worse."
Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation, is one of the world's largest contributors of carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to the rapid pace of deforestation. But experts say the country is also at risk of becoming one of the biggest victims of climate change.
Rising sea waters especially pose a threat to coastal cities like Jakarta, which has sunk at least 7 feet in the last three decades because of excessive ground water extraction, said Hahm.
Eventually, the government should consider building a Dutch-styled dike to protect the Jakarta Bay, he said, "but that will cost billions of U.S. dollars."
The 18-year high tide cycles occur when the sun and moon are in direct alignment and making their closest approach to the Earth. Other factors, such as global warming or El Nino and La Nina, have made the sea swells even larger in recent years, Hahm said.
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Global warming will likely drain more water from the Great Lakes and pose added pollution threats to the region's vulnerable ecosystem, environmental groups said in a report issued on Wednesday.
Climate change could further reduce scant ice cover observed in recent winters, increasing evaporation rates and dropping water levels in the five lakes that collectively make up 20 percent of the world's surface fresh water.
Last year, Lake Superior water levels receded to their lowest in 77 years before rebounding, and the report by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition predicted global warming could lower lake levels by up to 3 feet (1 meter) over the next century.
The lower levels will hamper lake shipping, expose polluted sediments, and further damage water quality.
"Climate change is threatening the health of the Great Lakes and jeopardizing efforts to restore them," the coalition's Jeff Skelding said in a teleconference.
The coalition represents groups including zoos, fishing and hunting interests, business organizations and environmental groups.
The report said global warming added to the urgent need for the U.S. Congress to act on more pieces of a $20 billion Great Lakes restoration plan, proposed back in 2005.
Spending priorities are billions of dollars needed to repair antiquated sewage treatment plants as well as cleaning up toxic sediments from past pollution, restoring coastal wetlands that naturally cleanse pollutants and stopping invasive species of fish, plants and mussels, the report said.
Scientists studying climate change have predicted more frequent droughts that will hurt the lakes' coastal ecosystem coupled with more intense storms that produce runoff containing toxic metals, viruses and other pollutants, the report said.
The report blamed warming temperatures for ruining ice fishing in many areas, shortening the snowmobile season and harming Michigan's tart cherry crop. Warming could expand or create new oxygen-depleted "dead zones" in the lakes caused in part by uncontrolled algae growth and other processes.
"If Congress delays in acting to curb global warming and to restore the lakes, the problems will only get worse and the solutions more costly," Skelding said.
Perhaps the most promising avenue for new funding is contained in a proposal in Congress that calls for auctioning off permits to emit greenhouse gases in a so-called cap-and-trade system. Proceeds from the auctions could provide a stream of up to $3 billion a year for ecological restoration, said Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation.
Meanwhile, eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces bordering the lakes should enact a compact to prevent diversions of lake water to an "increasingly thirsty world," Buchsbaum said. All but three states have passed the compact, after which the federal governments of both countries would be asked to ratify it.
At least 16 people have died in Colombia after two of the country's main rivers overflowed due to heavy rains, flooding nearby communities, officials say.
Floods caused by the Cauca and the Magdalena rivers have affected 27 of the country's 32 provinces, or departments, officials told The Associated Press.
The flood waters have affected more than 100,000 people, damaged more than 10,000 houses and destroyed crops in much of the nation's agricultural heartland, a government report said.
And officials from the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies warned residents that the rainy season would continue until mid-June.
Forecasters also predicted that the rains will intensify in the next few days.
Rescue workers in the affected regions have been assisting residents in removing belongings from flooded homes.
"Our situation here is that the river flooded everything. It damaged all the crops - look at the banana plantations - the river also killed my pet," one resident, Guillermo Hernandez, told Reuters.
Others said the flood waters would have long-term repercussions for their livelihoods.
"The crops are all gone because the papaya dies immediately and it takes time for the banana plantations to produce again. Any help that someone could give to us will be welcome," Julio Gonzalez also told Reuters.
On Wednesday the flooding also hit residents in the central and south west provinces of Cundinamarca, Tolima, Valle and Cauca, the government said.
And in the northern city of Baranquilla, residents tied their cars to lampposts and trees to avoid them being swept away by flood waters.
Last year in Colombia heavy rains killed 58 people, injured 111 and left 14 others missing, officials said.
Damage to forests, rivers, marine life and other aspects of nature could halve living standards for the world's poor, a major report has concluded.
Current rates of natural decline might reduce global GDP by about 7% by 2050.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review is modelled on the Stern Review of climate change.
It will be released at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Bonn, where 60 leaders have pledged to halt deforestation by 2020.
"You come up with answers like 6% or 8% of global GDP when you think about the benefits of intact ecosystems, for example in controlling water, controlling floods and droughts, the flow of nutrients from forest to field," said the project's leader Pavan Sukhdev.
"But then you realise that the major beneficiaries [of nature] are the billion and a half of the world's poor; these natural systems account for as much as 40%-50% of what we define as the 'GDP of the poor'," he told BBC News.
The TEEB review was set up by the German government and the European Commission during the German G8 presidency.
The two institutions selected Mr Sukhdev, a managing director in the global markets division at Deutsche Bank, to lead it.
At the time, in an article for the BBC News website, Germany's environment minister Sigmar Gabriel wrote: "Biological diversity constitutes the indispensable foundation for our lives and for global economic development.
"[But] two-thirds of these ecosystem services are already in decline, some dramatically. We need a greening of globalisation."
The document to be released at the CBD is an interim report into what the team acknowledges are complex, difficult and under-researched issues.
The 7% figure is largely based on loss of forests. The report will acknowledge that the costs of losing some ecosystems have barely been quantified.
The trends are understood well enough - a 50% shrinkage of wetlands over the past 100 years, a rate of species loss between 100 and 1,000 times the rate that would occur without 6.5 billion humans on the planet, a sharp decline in ocean fish stocks and one third of coral reefs damaged.
However, putting a monetary value on them is probably much more difficult, the team acknowledges, than putting a cost on climate change.
The report is expected to highlight some of the planet's ecologically damaged zones such as Haiti, where heavy deforestation - largely caused by the poor as they cut wood to sell for cash - means soil is washed away and the ground much less productive.
'Too little, too late'
There are some indications that biodiversity and ecosystem issues are now being heard at the top tables of politics.
G8 environment ministers meeting in Japan last weekend agreed a document noting that "biodiversity is the basis of human security and... the loss of biodiversity exacerbates inequality and instability in human society".
It also emphasised the importance of protected areas and of curbing deforestation.
At the CBD on Wednesday, 60 countries signed pledges to halt net deforestation by 2020.
But the main CBD target agreed by all signatories at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992 - to "halt and begin to reverse" biodiversity loss by 2010 - is very unlikely to be met.
An early draft of the TEEB review, seen by BBC News, concluded: "Lessons from the last 100 years demonstrate that mankind has usually acted too little and too late in the face of similar threats - asbestos, CFCs, acid rain, declining fisheries, BSE and - most recently - climate change".
The Stern Review talked to governments in a way that earlier climate reports could not, because it was written by and for economists; and the architects of TEEB hope it will eventually do the same thing for biodiversity.
The flimsy bamboo hut built near a road is all Aye Shwe has to keep his family of eight dry. They lost their home to the cyclone and fear they may soon be uprooted again by soldiers ordering them to leave.
Burma’s reclusive government has opened up slightly to the world in the past week, allowing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with the country's ruling general, Than Shwe, and inviting 50 countries to a donors conference in Rangoon to raise money for victims of the May 2-3 storm that killed at least 78,000 people.
But survivors in the ravaged Irrawaddy delta say the junta and its soldiers are as iron-fisted as ever, making some victims return to their flooded, collapsed homes and forcing others to work. Even some Burmese volunteers donating food and supplies to survivors are being prevented, and the government has started impounding cars.
"Where my house used to be is still filled with water up to my waist," said Aye Shwe, who was ordered by soldiers to leave the hut. "How can I build a new house there?"
In the nearby town of Bogalay, about 120 survivors were crammed into the Sanchaung monastery, filled with the sound of rattling coughs and wailing children.
They heat up food delivered by donors, mostly meals of rice and vegetables, about twice a day. But abbot U Kawvida said no aid has been provided by the government.
Those stuck outside aren't as lucky. Bodies line the monastery walkway lying atop tarpaulins and rattan mats. Plastic sheets strung from the roof provide limited shelter from the daily rains, but some able-bodied survivors are being forced to leave to work.
"Some of the survivors were sent to Maubin last week to build roads now that reconstruction has started," said the monk, adding he has heard they are being paid about 1,000 kyat (less than US $1) a day. "They have told me that they are being exploited by certain generals."
Maubin is a delta town northeast of Bogalay, which also was slammed by Cyclone Nargis. Some 1.5 million people remain homeless from the storm, facing hunger and disease. The government has blocked most foreign aid workers from getting access to the delta, although the country's head of state last week promised to allow in outside help.
Much of the relief effort has instead been carried out by ordinary Burmese volunteers and the local staff of aid agencies, packing their vehicles with food, water and supplies and driving to the delta. They hand out rations every day to hungry survivors begging along roadsides going into the delta, but several donors have reported being harassed by police or having their vehicles impounded.
"We didn't drop food on the road, and we didn't violate any traffic regulations," said Nyi Nyi Zaw who was stopped on his way back from dropping supplies at a delta town. "I cannot understand why we were herded into a compound and held there for several hours. It was absurd and very unpleasant."
Some have reported having their driving licenses and car registrations taken by authorities and being told they will be charged with traffic violations. In some cases, worried volunteers have abandoned plans to deliver their aid.
That means people like 93-year-old Khin Mya, whose only form of shelter is an umbrella and a plastic bag, may have one less meal.
"I get very worried every evening because I have to find a place to sleep—maybe under a tree, or if I can share a hut with someone," she said. "I must come to the road to receive food from donors or else I will starve."
May 28 (Bloomberg) -- A tropical storm formed over the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines and the system may strengthen into a typhoon as it heads for the southern islands of Japan, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
Tropical Storm Nakri, the sixth storm of the northwestern Pacific cyclone season, was 1,129 kilometers (701 miles) south- southwest of the Japanese island of Iwoto, formerly known as Iwo Jima, at 9 a.m. Tokyo time today, the center said.
Nakri's maximum sustained winds were blowing at 102 kilometers per hour, with gusts to 130 kilometers an hour, the center said. Waves in the vicinity of Nakri's eye were 4.3 meters (14 feet) high. The storm was moving north-northwest at about 9 kilometers per hour.
The storm is forecast to maintain that path through tomorrow before turning northeast and heading for Iwoto. The storm is expected to become a typhoon by 9 p.m. today with winds of 120 kilometers per hour, navy forecasters said.
Nakri is the name of a flower in Cambodia, according to the Web site of the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists names used for tropical storms and typhoons that form in the northwest Pacific.
The US National Weather Service says that some 1 200 tornadoes have been reported, killing 110 people. While that figure may be revised downward, 2008 is likely to break all records by the end of the year.
At least 22 tornadoes this year have been rated three or higher on the five-step Enhanced Fujita scale. The tornado that devastated Parkersburg, Iowa, killing seven people, on 25 May was the strongest to hit Iowa in 32 years and was the first Category-5 tornado in the USA in more than a year.
The record for the most tornadoes in a year is 1 817 set in 2004.
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- An unstable lake created by a landslide is China's "most urgent task" in the aftermath of this month's massive earthquake, Vice Premier Hui Liangyu said, according to state-run media.
Tons of earth-moving equipment and explosives have been flown to the site of the quake-created dam in southwestern China's Beichuan county. Engineers are attempting to create a spillway to relieve water pressure as the Jianjiang River fills in behind the massive pile of rock and soil.
"The Tangjiashan quake lake should be our most urgent task," Hui said. "It is threatening millions of lives in the area downstream and any negligence will cause new disasters to people who have already suffered the quake."
Authorities have evacuated 158,000 people from nearly 170 communities, but that number could swell to 1.3 million if engineers become convinced a catastrophic release of water is about to occur, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The so-called quake lake is holding 170 million cubic yards (130 million cubic meters) of water and it has risen to within 83 feet (25) meters of the top of the dam.
The volume of water is equal to about 50,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to Liu Ning, chief engineer of the Ministry of Water Resources.
Creating a spillway to relieve the pressure is expected to take 10 days, state media reported, allowing enough time if the lake continues to rise at its average of about 6 feet (2 meters) per day. Watch the effect of the quake on China's one-child policy The official death toll from the quake rose to 68,109 on Wednesday, an increase of about 900, with about 19,850 missing. The total number of dead has been increasing daily.
The government estimates that 45 million people, mostly in Sichuan province, were affected by the earthquake and that 5 million were left homeless.
Earthquake-ravaged Sichuan province suffered through four aftershocks Tuesday, injuring at least 63 people -- six of them critically -- and causing the collapse of more than 420,000 homes, according to Xinhua.
All of them measured between magnitude 4.5 and 5.5, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The original earthquake on May 12 registered a magnitude 7.9, the USGS said.
A strong aftershock on Sunday killed at least eight people, injured about 1,000 others and destroyed more than 70,000 homes in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. Watch how a survivor reacted to a collapsing mountain »
The worst damage occurred in Sichuan, which has experienced thousands of aftershocks over the past two weeks, but Sunday's -- which the U.S. Geological Survey measured at a magnitude-6.0 -- was the strongest since a magnitude-5.8 tremor shook the region a day after the initial quake.
Shaanxi experienced the highest death toll as a result of the aftershock, with four people losing their lives. One each died in Sichuan and Gansu.
The aftershock damaged more than 200,000 other homes, according to state media. It also damaged another dam, cutting off several more roads in the region.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials on Monday emphasized the country's one-child policy allows families with a child killed, severely injured or disabled to have another baby.
As the hurricane season takes off in the US so too will drone planes which will fly into the eye of the storms.
It is part of an ongoing project funded by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) to monitor the Earth's atmosphere.
The planes will send back a continuous stream of information which researchers say will allow them to predict the intensity of hurricanes.
But the remote control planes will not be able to take off from the US.
For this year at least, they will embark on their hurricane research missions via the Caribbean island of Barbados because the US Federal Aviation Administration has not given Noaa approval to operate the planes from US territory on safety grounds.
Noaa is hoping to launch between two and five flights during this year's hurricane season - which runs for the next six months.
The planes can fly into the eye of a storm at just 300 feet above sea level. This means they can monitor the energy transfer from the sea's surface to the storm, a critical improvement on previous methods of monitoring which used 'hurricane hunter' aircraft that flew at around 10,000 feet. They will send back a continuous data stream of information including temperature, pressure, wind and humidity readings.
It promises another big improvement over the previous readings scientists have been able to take via instruments flung from planes which took snapshots as they fell through the storm.
The remote controlled planes are powered by a 24cc motor and a single propeller and can fly at about 70mph and cover 2,000 miles on a single US gallon of fuel, according to researchers.
Noaa announced a $3m (£1.5m) investment into unmanned aircraft in January of this year.
As well as predicting the intensity of hurricanes, researchers will also use the planes to track how fast Arctic summer ice will melt and whether Pacific storms will flood the west coast of America.
Another 80,000 Chinese people are being evacuated from near a lake formed by landslides in this month's huge earthquake, state media report.
Experts fear the build-up of water at the swollen Tangjiashan lake could burst the banks, deluging the area.
About 70,000 people have already been moved from nearby Mianyang city in Sichuan province, Xinhua said.
Chinese soldiers have been working all night to dig a channel to ease pressure from the so-called "quake lake".
The official death toll from the 12 May quake was raised slightly on Tuesday to 67,183, with another 20,790 listed as missing. Landslides triggered by the disaster have blocked dozens of rivers in Sichuan province, leading to the formation of many new lakes, some of which have already engulfed villages.
Officials are particularly worried about the Tangjiashan lake, where the water level has risen rapidly to within 26 metres of the fragile dam's lip.
Landslide debris is holding back about 130 million cubic metres of water at the site in Beichuan county.
Emergency workers aim to evacuate the 80,000 people by midnight (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.
Troops are using earth-moving equipment as they try to ease pressure on the lake's banks. They are also preparing to use explosives.
More than five million people remain homeless following the 7.9 magnitude quake and the area is still being rocked by sizeable aftershocks.
Six people died and 300,000 more homes were wrecked by a strong tremor on Sunday.
Storms have been forecast for the region, potentially compounding problems as rain water drains into the lakes.
Officials have said that reconstruction work in the area is set to take at least three years.
The look on Lei Lei’s face is one of hopelessness.
She takes no notice of the school uniform that a private donor had left for her. Instead, the 12-year-old girl stares ahead at the vehicles passing back and forth along the highway. On her back, her sick sister coughs relentlessly.
Every time a car passes by, Lei Lei raises her hand and shouts, “Please give us some food!”
A truck stops a bit farther ahead and Lei Lei’s head swiftly turns in its direction. She sets off running, her baby sister bouncing up and down in the sarong over her shoulder.
Some of her friends are already waiting with hands scratching the air toward the truck drivers. They push and jostle their way closer to the back of the truck where two men are throwing packages down to those desperate souls below them.
After a struggle, Lei Lei emerges with a small pack of steamed rice. She shares some with her sister and eats the rest greedily.
Today was the 19th day that Lei Lei had spent begging for food on the highway—some three weeks since Cyclone Nargis destroyed her family home in Bogalay and killed her father.
She said she does not feel self-pity as all the survivors have to queue in lines all day to get a handout of food and drinking water.
“I feel sad when I hear that other children will go back to school next month though,” she says.
“But for now, I need food, not schooling.”
According to a recent government announcement, all schools in Burma—except in the areas devastated by the cyclone—must reopen on June 2. In the Irrawaddy delta, schools are still a long way from being rebuilt.
UNICEF says up to 90 percent of the schools in the cyclone-affected areas have been damaged or destroyed, totaling some 3,000 primary schools and affecting more than 500,000 students. The academic year for those areas will be delayed at least two months.
In the meantime, the Burmese junta is bargaining with the international community to leave all matters of aid and reconstruction in its hands.
“This time last year, my father took me to Rangoon to buy text books and stationery for school,” Lei Lei recalls tearfully.
She lays her small hand on her sister’s forehead to check her temperature.
“My sister has got a bad cold,” she murmurs. “She has been out in the rain for so long.”
Though they have plastic sheets for shelter at night, they have no protection from mosquitoes.
Like other traumatized survivors, Lei Lei also dreams about the fatal night that swept her father away.
"I cry out at night," she admits.
"My mother cries in her sleep,” she says. “When I ask her in the morning, she says she was thinking about my father.”
"Sometimes, I get involved in quarreling and fighting with other girls my age,” she says. “We are all trying to get as much food as we can.”
On May 16, flocks of cyclone victims rushed to a field where a helicopter was about to land. Fights broke out. Lei Lei says she was pushed aside by the crowd and fell over. Her baby sister was almost trampled.
In the end, no one got any food. The helicopter had only landed to take on more gasoline. The crowd’s fighting had proved futile.
When asked what she expects of the future with regard to education or her dreams, Lei Lei frowns and shakes her head.
"I must be on the side of the road from dawn to dusk every day," she says solemnly.
CHENGDU, China (CNN) -- Chinese military engineers Monday prepared to dynamite a potentially dangerous "quake lake" created when landslides dammed a river after this month's earthquake in which more than 65,000 people were killed, state-run media reported.
Authorities are concerned the swelling lake will burst as water from the Jianhe river in Beichuan county in China's southwestern Sichuan province rises behind the earthquake-created dam, the Xinhua news agency reported.
"The lake ... may cause a devastating flooding if the barrier bursts," Xinhua said. Authorities want to control the flow of water -- rather than have the dam give way all at once -- by creating a spillway.
Helicopters transported military experts armed with dynamite and heavy equipment to the site Monday morning. About 1,800 Chinese soliders and police are already at the site. Watch report on rising lake that has drowned homes ».
More than 30 of the so-called quake lakes were created by the 7.9-magnitude quake that devastated the region on May 12. Watch a report on dangerous quake-made lakes and dams »
A strong aftershock on Sunday killed at least eight people, injured about 1,000 others and destroyed more than 70,000 homes in China's Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces.
The official toll from the original quake has now risen to 65,080, China's Civil Affairs Ministry said Monday. Another 360,058 people were injured and 23,150 are missing, according to the ministry.
In another development Monday, officials said China's strict one-child policy would be relaxed for some families affected by the quake, The Associated Press reported.
The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee in the capital of hard Sichuan province announced families whose child was killed, severely injured or disabled in the quake could get permission to have another child.
The worst damage occurred in Sichuan, which has experienced thousands of aftershocks over the past two weeks, but Sunday's -- which the U.S. Geological Survey measured at a 6.0 magnitude -- was the strongest since a 5.8-magnitude tremor shook the region a day after the initial quake.
Shaanxi experienced the highest death toll as a result of the aftershock, with four people losing their lives. One each died in Sichuan and Gansu.
The aftershock damaged more than 200,000 other homes, according to state media. It also damaged another dam, cutting off several more roads in the region.
Sunday's aftershock was felt in Chengdu, one of the largest cities in the Sichuan province and about 150 miles (240 km) from the aftershock's epicenter. A CNN employee, on the 24th floor of a high-rise hotel, reported that the building swayed.
At a news conference Sunday, a Civil Affairs Ministry official said rescue workers have pulled alive 6,537 people from the rubble of the earthquake.
An official from the Ministry of Water Resources said at the same briefing that 69 dams damaged by the quake are in danger of bursting in Sichuan province.
The government estimates that 45 million people, mostly in the Sichuan province, were affected by the earthquake and that 5 million were left homeless.
(CNN) -- Eight people have died in tornadoes that battered the Midwestern United States, with seven reported dead in Iowa and a toddler in Minnesota, authorities said Monday.
A tornado touched down at about 6 p.m. Sunday in the north-central Iowa town of Parkersburg before moving 10 miles east to New Hartford, said Bret Voorhees with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Seven people were killed in that storm.
Spotters also reported a tornado near Dunkerton -- about 40 miles east of Parkersburg -- that they said caused considerable damage and flung debris as the storm moved at 23 mph. Marble-size hail fell in Waterloo, where authorities reported significant damage to homes, trees and power lines.
"Early reports indicate that these communities have suffered severe and widespread damage, and I plan to visit the region very soon to offer my support to those affected," Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said in a statement. He declared disaster areas in three counties.
Meanwhile, a Minnesota twister killed a 2-year-old and seriously injured nine others -- including another child -- in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The tornado struck Hugo, about 25 miles north of the Twin Cities, destroying 50 homes and damaging another 150, city manager Mike Ericson said.
The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado in Hugo that touched down just after 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and authorities reported twisters in nearby Coon Rapids and Blaine.
Video footage from the scene showed chairs, televisions, shingles and other debris tossed into the streets of Hugo. Nickel-size hail and larger pelted the suburb. Sgt. Rick Boone of the Coon Rapids Police Department said a twister cut through the middle of town, downing trees and causing minor damage to several homes. No fatalities or injuries were immediately reported.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty planned to meet with local authorities Monday afternoon and tour the affected areas.
Also Sunday, authorities in Moore County, Texas, reported sightings of three twisters.
On Saturday, tornadoes formed over northern Oklahoma, skipping across the rural landscape and severely damaging a hog farm about an hour northwest of Oklahoma City. There were no reports of injuries, officials said.
However, two people were found dead Saturday in south-central Kansas in a car accident that authorities said a tornado caused.
May. 25 - The violent tremor rocked parts of the south west nearly two weeks after the huge quake that has killed thousands.
The U.S. Geological Service said the aftershock measured 5.8 magnitude but state televison put the magnitude at 6.4 and reported at least one death, hundreds injured, and thousands of buildings destroyed.
Heavy rains across the Great Plains this week have sparked fears of major flooding from Wyoming to the Dakotas.
In the small town of Kaycee in Johnson County, Wyoming, residents piled sandbags along the Middle Fork of the Powder River. The sandbags held Friday but more heavy rain was predicted this weekend.
The last major flood to hit the community of 250 residents was in 2002 when more than 80 percent of the town was damaged when heavy rains forced the river from its banks.
Friday night emergency officials closed all highway underpasses and warned residents to be prepared to leave their homes in Grand Island, NE. Significant flooding was reported across the southern part of Cozad damaging homes and businesses.
And near Rapid City, SD, residents were preparing for the possibility of major flooding along Black Hills streams.
Rain pelting southern Alberta for fifth straight day Michelle Butterfield and Richard Cuthbertson With Files, Calgary Herald Published: Sunday, May 25, 2008 Bragg Creek resident Gladell Adelman almost lost her dog Muffin to the torrent Saturday morning.
She'd taken Muffin out for a walk near the Elbow River, alongside her home and called the dog back from the river's edge seconds before the bank gave way to raging waters.
"She wouldn't have made it," Adelman said. "I could never have got her."
The Elbow River and other watercourses raged in southern Alberta Saturday as rain pelted down all day.
Residents of Bragg Creek were bracing themselves as rain and snowmelt made the Elbow an ornery river.
Low-lying communities south of Calgary were poised for flooding as well. High River in the south and Hidden Valley Golf Resort east of Calgary are expected to be hard hit today, with Environment Canada predicting riverbanks could overflow early this morning.
Calgary and its surrounding areas have received up to 55 millimetres of rain since Wednesday. An additional 20 mm are expected in the next two days, with rain tapering off late Monday.
Late Saturday, Calgary's fire department issued a flood warning for the Elbow River, advising residents to stay clear of the banks and offering a list of what to do in case of flooding.
Greg Solecki, emergency management planner for the City of Calgary, said water levels do not come close to those of 2005 -- when nearly three times the normal amount of water overwhelmed the Glenmore dam and played a part in flooding downstream.
"We still wouldn't experience any flooding until there's a much larger amount of water coming out of the dam."
Still, a Mission condo project under construction was one of the first Calgary sites emergency crews responded to Saturday night.
About a metre of water accumulated in the hole dug for the building's foundation at the site near the Elbow River and 25th Avenue S.W. The owner of the Conform Works Inc. project did not want to comment on the effect of the flooding on what will be a 33-unit, five-storey building.
Behind the construction site are three old homes that had their basements filled with water during the last flood in 2005.
"I'm not nervous," said a homeowner who didn't want to be named. "But that's what I said last time."
At 8 p.m., the water was 50 centimetres from the top of a cement barrier in front of his yard.
On nearby 24th Avenue S.W., condo resident Matthew Deyell said fire crews told him to be ready to evacuate his building, which faces the river.
Rising waters along the Elbow gave residents of Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and the surrounding areas eerie memories of 2005.
"The water is definitely rising and making us nervous," said Rob Evans, deputy chief for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, which also serves Bragg Creek and surrounding areas.
"It's pretty close to levels where it was in 2005."
Evans said his department learned a lot from the 2005 flood. Three years ago, they tried pumping water from homes.
The problem: the water was drawn from houses and sent back into the ground, where it simply returned to the houses.
Evans said if houses are flooded this year, they will try to salvage the most important possessions. That said, his department had received no calls of flooding by Saturday afternoon.
We assume that they're handling it so far," Evans said of local residents.
High River issued a local state of emergency Saturday night, putting local crews on standby.
"If things start to go real sour on us, this will assist us," said Len Zebedee, fire chief and director of emergency management for the town.
Fire crews started placing sandbags Saturday to prevent possible flood damage.
"We are not expecting any overflow of the river, but if it does it will only affect the low-lying areas and farmlands," Zebedee said.
Fire and RCMP crews in the town had set up an emergency operations centre and were taking phone calls and answering questions as the river rose.
Dick Burgis, general manager of Hidden Valley Golf Resort near Gleichen, said residents are wary of the rain because the community was hit hard by flooding in June 2005.
"We always make sure to keep a careful eye on the water this time of year," he said.
Three back-to-back storms in the spring of 2005 caused millions of dollars in damage throughout southern Alberta as water spilled over riverbanks and into basements, in some cases washing away cars and engulfing homes.
And although river levels had not raised concern in Lethbridge Saturday, saturated ground was posing a problem.
Sgt. Dwayne Smith of the Lethbridge Police Department said if the rain continued, a lot of soggy basements could be expected.
A woman camping near Pincher Creek, southwest of Calgary, called 911 when she discovered all roads leading to the area had been washed away, leaving her stranded.
A group of Girl Guides at Silverland campground near High River were asked to leave by fire crews, who were afraid overflow from the Highwood River would leave them stranded by tomorrow.
In Black Diamond, officials closed a campground for fear of washed out roads and high water levels from the Sheep River.
SWOLLEN RIVER PROMPTS CALL TO ACTION
The Calgary Fire Department issued the
following tips Saturday night to residents who live near the Elbow River:
- Move valuables from lower floors to upper floors.
Businesses should move important records.
- If you don't have a mechanical back-flow prevention device in place, install the cap in the basement floor sewer drain. If there is no cap, stuff the drain with rags to avoid sewage backing up.
- Remove newspapers from basements to avoid ink stains.
- Do not sleep in the basement until it is safe to do so.
- Listen for radio or television updates on the flooding.
- Check sump pumps to assure they are working.
- Stay out of the basement if water accumulates.
- If in danger, call 911. If you smell gas, leave, leave the doors open for ventilation and call 911.
BEIJING, China (CNN) -- China warned Sunday that dozens of dams were in danger of collapse in Sichuan province following the 7.9-maginitude earthquake that devastated the region earlier this month.
The warning came as authorities revised up the death toll from the May 12 disaster to 62,664 with another 23,775 missing and a powerful magnitude 5.8 aftershock hit the area killing at least one person and injuring 400 others.
The aftershock -- the strongest since another of equal magnitude a day after the quake -- was felt in the provincial capital Chengdu, 240 kilometers from the aftershock's epicenter.
China's water ministry on Sunday warned that 69 dams were close to bursting their banks.
It was not immediately clear what the risk presented by the damaged dams presented. Earlier dam scares have seen China mobilize its military to perform emergency engineering work on damaged structures.
Meanwhile, state media reported Sunday that rescue workers had two days earlier pulled an 80-year-old paraplegic man from the rubble of his home, 11 days after he was trapped by the quake.
The man, Xiao Zhihu, had been trapped for nearly 266 hours.
The beam of Xiao's house in Mianzhu City collapsed during the quake, trapping him, China's state-run television CCTV said.
The station said Xiao's wife could not go and call for help. She brought him food, until he was found and freed by rescue crews Friday.
Since the quake struck, workers have made several other dramatic rescues. But the numbers have dwindled in recent days as time has passed.
China's central government put the death toll from the quake at 60,560 with another 26,221 people missing and 353,290 injured.
The government estimates that 45 million people, mostly in the Sichuan province, were affected by the massive earthquake and that five million were left homeless.
On Saturday, China's Premier Wen Jiabao gave United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a dramatic look at the damage, taking him to a town near the epicenter.
"The world will not forget," Ban told Wen, who appealed the U.N. chief to help raise international aid for the region.
Wen said no infectious disease outbreaks have developed despite the harsh living conditions for survivors. Wen optimistically predicted that life would return to normal in the quake area in about three months.
The central government estimates that 45 million people, mostly in the Sichuan province, were affected by the massive earthquake and that 5 million were left homeless.
China put out an urgent call for tents and medical supplies to help victims of the earthquake.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The approaching 2008 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be above normal, with up to 16 named storms and up to five major hurricanes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday, citing climate conditions.
The outlook issued by the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center calls for "considerable activity," with a 65 percent probability of an above-normal season, and an overall 90 percent chance the season will be normal or above, the agency said in a news release.
A "normal" season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity.
For 2008, NOAA said, there is a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms.
"The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity," said Conrad Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and a NOAA administrator, in the news release. "It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms."
On Thursday, the agency urged residents of coastal states to be prepared for the season, which begins June 1. It said the outlook is based in part on lingering effects of La Niña, a phenomenon in which surface waters in the eastern Pacific are colder than normal.
Storms aren't named until they are designated tropical storms, with sustained maximum winds of at least 39 mph. Tropical storms become Category 1 hurricanes when their sustained winds reach 74 mph and major Category 3 hurricanes when their winds reach 111 mph.
The NOAA's outlook falls in line with predictions issued by the noted Colorado State University hurricane forecasting team.
In a forecast issued April 9, the CSU team predicted 15 named storms, an increase from its December number of 13. Of those, it predicted, eight will become hurricanes and four will grow into major hurricanes.
The team calculated a 69 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coast. In addition, the team said, there is an above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.
The predictions came after calmer-than-normal seasons of 2006 and 2007.
But "we believe that the Atlantic basin is still in an active hurricane cycle," William Gray, who co-heads the CSU team, said in December. "This active cycle is expected to continue at least for another decade or two. After that, we're likely to enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period."
The 2007 season was the weakest in five years, despite two hurricanes making landfall at Category 5 intensity, according to the National Hurricane Center. Hurricanes Dean and Felix hit Mexico and Nicaragua respectively, marking the first time in history that two Category 5 storms made landfall in the same season since records started being kept in 1851, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Of 2007's six hurricanes, only one -- Humberto -- made landfall in the United States, striking the upper Texas Gulf Coast on September 13. Humberto was blamed for one death.
In 2006, there were nine named storms and five hurricanes. None made landfall in the United States. Gray's team that year had predicted 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five of them major.
The NOAA said its outlook will be updated August 7.
A slow-moving storm packing tornadoes and hail battered rural Oklahoma on Saturday, destroying several buildings, tearing up trees and tossing a mobile home onto a highway. The bodies of two storm victims were found in Kansas.
A twister destroyed three barns at a hog farm near Lacey in Kingfisher County, about 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, said Michelann Ooten, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Emergency Management Department.
No injuries were reported at the farm or elsewhere in the state.
"It's all been out mostly in the countryside," Kingfisher County Sheriff's dispatcher Lonnie McDade said. "But that farm happened to be in the path and took a direct hit."
John Hardaway, a production manager at the farm, said the 3,900 pigs housed at the farm were kept in crates and most were not hurt.
In Garfield County, a trailer was blown onto State Highway 74 near Covington and power lines were downed, said the county's emergency manager, Mike Honigsberg.
The pace of the storm was slow for a system producing so many tornadoes, Daryl Williams, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Norman.
"It gives us time to get the warnings out, but where the tornadoes are on the ground, it creates a lot more damage," Williams said. "We've been lucky because this has been mostly rural areas, but it's not lucky if it's your farm."
Saturday's storm followed two days of violent weather in the Midwest. In Kansas, cleanup was under way a day after a storm system raked the state with at least 17 tornadoes.
That storm killed at least two people, injured at least six others and heavily damaged at least 19 homes, authorities said.
The two people killed in the storm were found Saturday in a car near Pratt, the Pratt County Sheriff's Office said. The vehicle had been blown 150 yards off a highway. Gary S. Whitlow, 33, and Kimberly S. Whitlow, 29, died.
Authorities are looking into whether lightning killed a camper in Osage County.
A Kansas Highway Patrol aircraft flew along the path of the tornado to search for other possible victims.
In northern Colorado, where a tornado struck Thursday, killing one person and damaging hundreds of homes, residents of the hard-hit farming town of Windsor were allowed into their neighborhoods Saturday to assess the damage and in some cases, salvage what they could.
"Our house is not too bad," said Courtney Schinner. "Our roof is gone, a lot of windows are blown out, but the interior is OK.
"We got really lucky compared to a lot of people," she said as she gathered her valuables and prepared to move into a hotel while her apartment is repaired.
Officials advised residents of the dangers in the area: exposed electrical wires, severed gas lines, nails, broken boards and other debris.
Of the 596 homes officials said were damaged by the Colorado storm, 102 were deemed unsafe to occupy.
About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the weather service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late fall.
Two people from Colorado were found dead in their car in a field east of Pratt Saturday morning, and Osage County authorities were investigating whether a camper was killed by lightning overnight.
Gary S. Whitlow, 33, and Kimberly S. Whitlow, 29, of Rocky Ford, Colo., were pronounced dead at the scene after authorities found their car in a wheat field 150 yards north of U.S. 54, about 13 miles east of Pratt.
The Pratt County Sheriff's Office said the car, barely visible from the road, was destroyed by a tornado that also swept a semi off the highway and knocked down power poles and lines across the road.
In Osage County, the Sheriff's Department said a visitor to Pomona State Park, 30 miles south of Topeka, found the body of a 20-year-old man and three other injured campers Saturday morning.
Deputies told the Topeka Capital-Journal that it is thought that the man, who was camping with friends, was struck by lightning between 1 and 4 a.m., but they and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks were still investigating.
The victims' names were not released.
The storm system spawned at least 17 tornadoes across central and western Kansas on Friday, injuring at least six other people and damaging or destroying dozens of homes.
The tornadoes began forming around 4:30 p.m. and didn't subside until after midnight, spanning across at least nine counties, according to Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General's Department.
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Dodge City said that office issued 33 weather warnings Friday, the second straight day of highly active severe weather.
A damage assessment team from the office was visiting damaged areas on Saturday and were still in the field at sundown.
Stafford County officials reported that five to six people were injured in the storms, including one person who was transported to a Wichita hospital for "significant injuries," Watson said.
Gove County officials reported that one man was taken to the hospital in Quinter after winds tossed his car across I-70 near Quinter on Friday night. At least 12 houses had major damage.
An unknown number of houses were reported destroyed in Pratt and Trego counties, and shelters were opened in Quinter and in Decatur County. The town of Ellis was without power overnight Friday.
Searches for other possible victims were conducted in several counties including Clark, Comanche, Decatur, Ellis, Gove, Lane, Pratt, Stafford and Trego, Watson said. The Kansas Highway Patrol used one of its aircraft to help in the search and to assess damage, Watson said.
A tornado in Pratt County caused damage along an estimated 24-mile swath northeast of Sawyer in south-central Kansas, Watson said.
At least 11 electric cooperatives reported damage directly related to the storm, though there were no estimates for power outages.
Several tornadoes also touched down Saturday in northwestern Oklahoma. One destroyed three barns at a hog farm near Lacey, about 75 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, but no injuries were reported.
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