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  • Philippine landslide kills 4, injures 26
    Monday, June 30, 2008
    MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Officials say heavy rains have triggered a landslide that killed at least four people and injured 26 others in the central Philippines.

    Estrellita Escanan, the Office of Civil Defense's provincial coordinator, says a woman and her 1-year-old daughter were among those killed when the houses of six families were buried late Sunday in mountainous Samboan township, in Cebu province. Two young boys died in a nearby house. Many of the people were sleeping when the earth crashed down.

    Escanan said Monday it had been raining heavily and villagers reported a squall that whipped up winds in the area before the landslide.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:27 PM  
    Storms in South, East cause flight delays; child killed
    HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) -- A 5-year-old was killed when strong winds blew over a row of tents at an Alabama air show during storms that stretched across the South on Sunday while severe weather caused airport delays in the East, officials said.

    The winds that toppled the tents and canceled the air show in Huntsville came during an isolated strong thunderstorm that developed just west of the airport with gusts of 48 mph, said Tim Troutman of the National Weather Service.

    Witnesses told The Huntsville Times that a generator fell on the child Sunday. The death was confirmed by the Madison County coroner's office.

    Twelve others were treated for injuries, but only one, a different child, was admitted to the hospital. That child was in serious condition, said Pam Sparks, spokeswoman at Huntsville Hospital.

    In New York, severe thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon battered LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports, causing delays of as much as three hours at Kennedy airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Some LaGuardia flights were delayed up to 75 minutes.

    Weather also caused delays averaging more than an hour and a half in flights to Boston's Logan International Airport and delays of more than two hours at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, the FAA said.

    The National Weather Service in Omaha, Neb. said Sunday it estimated the winds that caused extensive damage in eastern Nebraska Friday reached 115 mph, but the storm did not spawn a tornado.

    Residents of Omaha and the surrounding area continued cleaning up debris and fallen tree limbs Sunday as utility crews worked to restore power.

    The weather agency said the winds were likely at their strongest when the storm was between Fremont and Omaha, where evidence of winds between 110-115 mph was found. The winds slowed before hitting Omaha but remained between 70-90 mph.

    Omaha Public Power District officials estimated that nearly 33,000 customers still lacked power Sunday. And some customers likely will not regain power until next Saturday.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:26 PM  
    Mississippi flooding closes St. Louis to barges
    By Lisa Shumaker

    CHICAGO (Reuters) - Flooding on the Mississippi River has closed the St. Louis harbor to barge traffic, halting commercial traffic at an important junction of several major waterways, said the U.S. Coast Guard.

    On Saturday, the Coast Guard closed the Mississippi River from mile marker 174 to 189, which includes the harbor. Vessels with two or fewer barges can travel during daylight hours. There was no estimate on when the harbor would reopen.

    In addition, the Illinois River is closed from mile marker 0 to 24.

    The upper Mississippi River has been closed to barge traffic since locks began shutting down on June 12, which has disrupted shipments of grain, coal and petroleum products.

    The Missouri and Illinois rivers flow into the Mississippi River in the St. Louis area, making it a key point for barge traffic. The Mississippi River is the main channel for grain flowing from production areas in the Midwest to the export terminals at the Gulf. Between 55 and 65 percent of all U.S. corn, soybean and wheat exports leave from the Gulf.

    The worst U.S. Midwest flooding in 15 years has begun to ebb, but floods have destroyed millions of acres of corn and soybeans, sending corn prices to record highs on fears of a small crop from the world's top grain exporter.

    (Editing by John Picinich)
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:24 PM  
    No new California fires, but old ones still rage
    SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- The good news in Northern California is that more than a thousand wildfires aren't growing. The bad news: There's no relief in sight.

    No new major fires had broken out Sunday as fire crews inched closer to getting some of the largest of 1,420 blazes surrounded, according to the state Office of Emergency Services. About 364,600 acres -- or almost 570 square miles -- have burned.

    A "red flag warning" -- meaning the most extreme fire danger -- was still in effect for Northern California until 8 a.m. ET Monday. And the coming days and months are expected to bring little relief.

    Lower-than-average rainfall and record levels of parched vegetation likely mean a long, fiery summer throughout Northern California, according to the Forest Service's state fire outlook released last week.

    The fires burning now were mostly sparked by lightning storms that were unusually intense for so early in the season. But summer storms would probably be even fiercer, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

    "Our most widespread and/or critical lightning events often occur in late July or August, and we have no reason to deviate from that," the agency's report said.

    The blazes have destroyed more than 50 buildings, said Gregory Renick, state emergency services spokesman. More than 19,500 firefighters are battling the blazes and 926 helicopters have been used.

    A wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest has forced the closure of a scenic stretch of a coastal highway and driven away visitors at the peak of the tourist season.

    Air quality districts from Bakersfield to Redding issued health advisories through the weekend, urging residents to stay indoors to limit exposure to the smoky air.

    A fire in the Piute Mountain area has burned more than 1,000 acres, causing some small communities to be evacuated, mostly vacation homes, The Bakersfield Californian reported Monday.

    On Saturday, President Bush issued an emergency declaration for California and ordered federal agencies to assist in firefighting efforts.

    But California emergency officials said state and local governments also would need federal financing to cover the costs of fighting so many fires this early in the year.

    Federal aid now includes four Marine Corps helicopters, remote sensing of the fires by NASA, federal firefighters and the activation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    In Arizona, residents of a remote mountain community north of Phoenix were evacuated Sunday as a 500-acre wildfire moved toward town, but a late afternoon wind shift spared all but one structure in Crown King. Flames came within a mile of town.

    The surrounding ponderosa pine forest has a large number of dead trees, victims of a bark beetle infestation that has killed millions of trees across the West in recent years. About 120 people were evacuated from the town of about 400 scattered homes and summer cabins, said Debbie Maneely, a spokeswoman for the Prescott National Forest.

    Evacuation orders were lifted Sunday morning for residents of Tajique in central New Mexico, where a blaze has destroyed six homes. The fire, sparked by lightning June 23, was more than 60 percent contained.

    In Guffey, Colorado, about 40 miles west of Colorado Springs, most of the 100 residents who fled a 1,115-acre lightning-sparked wildfire were allowed home Sunday. Final evacuation orders were expected to be lifted Monday morning.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:22 PM  
    Hurricane Center director talks forecasting in interview
    Associated Press Writer

    MIAMI — Substantially improving the accuracy of hurricane intensity predictions could take years and tens of millions of dollars, the National Hurricane Center's director said Tuesday.

    In an interview with The Associated Press, Bill Read said reducing by half the errors made in tasks such as determining whether a storm would remain a Category 1 or grow stronger would be a costly and long-term effort.

    Predicting a storm's intensity is much harder for meteorologists than estimating where it will go. Since 1990, forecasters have reduced by more than half their errors in predicting a storm's path, but over the same time the accuracy of their intensity forecasts has remained virtually unchanged.

    "To really get after that you're talking tens of millions of dollars, if not more, to reach an ambitious goal," Read said. "We've made a steady gain in the improvement of the track forecasts, and we haven't figured out how to do that yet for rapid intensification."

    That could take between five and 10 years, he said.

    Read said he's satisfied for now with the $3 million the government is spending this year for research into improving intensity forecasts. Long-term improvement, however, would require a sustained investment.

    Read took the helm of the National Hurricane Center in January. The six-month Atlantic hurricane season which officially began June 1 is his first as director. The center monitors the movement and strength of tropical weather systems and issues storm watches and warnings for the U.S. and surrounding areas.

    Read said he expects to spend a lot of time talking about preparing for storms, as other directors have. He said it's denial, not complacency, that keeps many people from being prepared. They just don't think a storm will hit, and that's what emergency managers and others have to overcome, he said.

    Read also talked about the sensitive issue of a suggested link between global warming and hurricanes, acknowledging it carries "so much emotional baggage" it can be "really hard to sift out the science."

    Read said he agreed with others at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and that the link between global warming and hurricanes "is still to be determined." While people who model climate largely believe "global warming is real and it's going to get worse," Read said, there is much more disagreement about the effect of warming on tropical storms and whether the number and intensity of storms will be affected.

    "All of that comes out as different numbers. I think there are a lot of unresolved issues in the science," Read said.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:12 PM  
    Storm pounds southern China
    Sunday, June 29, 2008
    The remnants of typhoon Fengshen, which ripped through the Philippines last week killing hundreds, triggered flash flooding and mudslides across southern China.

    The storm killed at least 14 people in Guangdong province alone and left lakes across the south dangerously high.

    Helen Long reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:15 PM  
    Wildfires' smoke, ash chokes Northern Californians

    SACRAMENTO, California (AP) -- Hundreds of lightning-sparked wildfires have turned the air of Northern California into an unhealthy stew of smoke and ash, forcing the cancellation of athletic events and other outdoor activities.

    Health advisories urging residents to stay indoors to limit exposure to the smokey air were issued Saturday from Bakersfield north to Redding, a distance of nearly 450 miles.

    Air pollution readings in the region are two to 10 times the federal standard for clean air, Dimitri Stanich, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, said Saturday.

    Some areas are experiencing the worst air quality on record, with the smoke hanging down to the ground like a fog.

    Air quality agencies are especially concerned about high readings of small-particle pollution. The tiniest particles can penetrate past the body's immune defenses, traveling deep into the lungs and the bloodstream.

    "When you have it on the scale we are seeing now, it is very dangerous to the general public health," Stanich said. "This is a very serious problem."

    Changing weather brought smoke-clearing breezes and brief relief to some areas Saturday, but it could also bring lightning storms similar to the ones that ignited fires across Northern California a week ago.

    Thunderstorms could strike anywhere in the northern Sierra Nevada or the northern Central Valley on Saturday night, said National Weather Service forecaster Johnnie Powell in Sacramento.

    The thunderstorms could also bring a small amount of much-needed rain, he said. The front was expected to pass by Sunday, setting up a second week of abysmal air quality.

    The renewed threat of dry lightning and stiffer breezes that could stir the wildfires led fire officials to declare a "red-flag warning" -- meaning the most extreme fire danger -- for Northern California until 5 a.m. Monday.

    On Saturday, President Bush issued an emergency declaration for California and ordered federal agencies to assist in firefighting efforts in many areas. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made the request Friday.

    More than 15,000 firefighters, 1,000 fire engines and more than 80 helicopters and aircraft were fighting more than 1,000 fires Saturday, said Ruben Grijalva, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    "The summer has just begun, and fire conditions will only get tougher," Grijalva warned in a weekly radio address on behalf of the governor.

    Areas hardest hit include Butte County, where 31 fires have burned 19 square miles and threatened 1,200 homes; Mendocino County, where 121 fires have burned 45 square miles and threatened 900 homes; and Shasta and Trinity counties, where about 160 fires have burned 58 square miles and threatened 230 homes.

    South of the tourist town of Big Sur in Los Padres National Forest, a wildfire that started three weeks ago had burned 92 square miles and destroyed 16 structures including two homes. It was 80 percent contained Saturday. Watch a wildfire burn through Los Padres National Forest »

    Stanich, of the Air Resources Board, advised people to stay inside and keep activity to a minimum. Children, the elderly and people with heart and lung problems are particularly vulnerable, but pollution levels are high enough to affect healthy adults.

    Health officials have reported an increase in people complaining of eye and throat irritation and coughing. The poor air quality can also trigger asthma attacks and bronchitis.

    They said surgical masks, wet cloths and bandanas are not enough to filter the smoke. Only N95- and P100-rated masks filter out the smallest and most dangerous particles.

    Some veterinary offices said pet owners were bringing in dogs and cats with symptoms ranging from weepy eyes and irritated skin to difficulty breathing or unusual lethargy. Vets were advising that pets remain inside until the smoke clears.

    Smoky air canceled this weekend's 100-mile Western States Endurance Run for the first time in its 31-year history. The decision disappointed 370 runners who had traveled from as far away as Africa for the annual race from Squaw Valley at Lake Tahoe to Auburn in the Sierra foothills.

    In Sonoma County, the limited visibility kept the Energizer Bunny and dozens of other colorful hot air balloons from lifting off during Saturday's Hot Air Balloon Classic in Windsor.

    Cities also closed public pools, canceled softball games and called off July Fourth fireworks displays. Schwarzenegger urged residents not to buy fireworks this year and said local governments should consider an outright ban, though he would not impose one statewide.

    In central New Mexico, a blaze caused by lightning that forced the evacuation of 400 people was 35 percent contained. Thunderstorms were forecast, and firefighters welcomed the possibility of rain but feared that winds could change the fire's direction.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:17 PM  
    Tropical Storm Cristina forms off Mexico's Baja peninsula
    Saturday, June 28, 2008

    MEXICO CITY (AP) - Tropical Storm Cristina has formed far off Mexico's Baja peninsula.

    Miami's National Hurricane Center says the storm does not threaten land. It is the third named storm of the eastern Pacific hurricane season.

    Cristina was located this morning more than 1,100 miles southwest of Baja California's southern tip with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. Forecasters say the storm is moving out to sea at 7 miles per hour.

    It joins Tropical Storm Boris, which was 615 miles off the Baja tip moving out to sea with winds of 50 miles per hour.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 7:16 PM  
    Toxic cargo halts ferry search
    The search for hundreds of bodies feared trapped on a capsized Philippines ferry is halted the following the discovery of toxic cargo.

    Philippines authorities said Sulpicio Lines, the owner of the Princess of the Stars, would be held accountable for not alerting them to the 400 boxes of endosulfan.

    The company has been heavily critisized for allowing the ferry, with nearly 900 passengers and crew on board, to set sail during a typhoon at the weekend.

    Only 56 people are known to have survived after the vessel capsized in heavy seas.

    Helen Long reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 6:15 PM  
    Fires burn in New Mexico
    Reports of fires raging in the Manzano Mountains of New Mexico where Governor Bill Richardson declared a state of emergency.

    Reportedly, 400 people have been forced to evacuate their homes and about 35 hundred acres of land have already burned.

    Sarah Irwin reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 6:14 PM  
    China flooded by tropical storm
    China hit by tropical storm which kills at least four and brings torrential rains, landslides and flooding.

    The storm downgraded from a typhoon after ripping through the Philippines on Saturday (June 21), where it killed hundreds and triggered flash floods and power cuts. Fengshen, which means "wind god" in Chinese, landed in the southern manufacturing hub of Guangdong province bringing heavy rains and causing further flooding to the already waterlogged region.

    Penny Tweedie reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 6:12 PM  
    Over 20,000 homeless in Orissa
    The death toll in Orissa floods triggered by heavy rains during the past fortnight touched 11 even as officials on Saturday claimed there was signs of improvement in the situation.

    The floods have claimed 11 lives and affected over 1.5 million people in about 1,600 villages in six districts of the state, a state revenue department official said.

    More than 20,000 people have been rendered homeless. The affected districts are Balasore, Bhadrak, Kendrapada, Jajpur, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj. The highest 1,014 villages were inundated in the coastal district of Balasore, the official said.

    ''The water has receded in all the affected areas and we are now able to reach out to the victims,'' Orissa Joint Commissioner (Relief) Hemanta Kumar Das told IANS.

    Many of the affected people have returned to their villages and are re-building their homes, he said.

    However, Oriya newspaper The Samaya Saturday reported that thousands of residents of more than 300 villages in the affected areas were still awaiting relief and many of them were drinking flood water due to shortage of drinking water.

    The newspaper reported that thousands of people were living on rooftops of high rise buildings while many had camped on the national highway because their houses had been marooned by water.

    The state government said 368 relief camps had been set up to provide food to flood victims.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:27 PM  
    Strong 6.1 quake sways Tonga; no damage
    NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (AP) — Officials say a strong earthquake in the South Pacific has shaken homes and other buildings in Tonga, but there were no immediate reports of injury or damage.

    The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 6.1 temblor struck midmorning Friday about 125 miles northeast of the capital, Nuku'alofa, and some 12 miles below the sea floor.

    A safety officer with Tonga's National Disaster Management Office, Mafua Maka, says no damage or casualty reports have been received and no tsunami warning has been issued.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:54 AM  
    Tropical Storm Boris forms in Pacific
    MEXICO CITY - Tropical Storm Boris has formed off Mexico's Pacific coast, but is not threatening land.

    Miami's National Hurricane Center says the storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph on Friday. The storm was located on Friday night 645 miles south of the southern tip of Baja California.

    Forecasters say the storm is moving northwest out to sea at 10 mph.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:42 AM  
    Tropical storm Fengshen kills 9 in China
    BEIJING (AP) -- The Chinese government says Tropical Storm Fengshen has killed at least nine people in southern China.

    The storm hit China this week after killing at least 540 people in the Philippines.

    Chinese authorities say the storm destroyed more than 1,200 houses and damaged roads, crops and power lines in Guangdong province, which abuts Hong Kong, the government's Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.

    Xinhua says nine people were killed but gave no details. It said economic losses totaled 1.2 billion yuan ($175 million).

    The report said the storm also dumped rain on the inland province of Jiangxi as it moved north before weakening.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:31 AM  
    Burma Flood kills five in KIO controlled area
    Friday, June 27, 2008
    Five people were killed this morning in floods in Laiza stream after incessant heavy rains since last night in the Laiza business centre and headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) on the Sino-Burma border in Northern Burma, said residents.

    A Laiza resident said the dead had not been identified yet but they were drug addicts. They died while they were trying to cross the flooded stream from KIO territory to Chinese territory on foot to procure drugs.

    According to Laiza residents, water in the small mountain stream which divides Laiza and the Chinese territory, started rising unusually by about four feet starting from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

    The KIO authorities in the Laiza administration sounded a warning on floods to Laiza residents advising them to get ready for evacuation, said residents.

    About 20,000 people live in Laiza controlled by the KIO and China, and many people are KIO servicemen and businessmen from outside Laiza, according to residents.

    Meanwhile, electricity supply in the KIO side of Laiza has been totally cut off since this morning as the main hydropower plant in Munglai River near Laiza stopped operating because of the mud in the flood waters which blocked flow of water to the dam, a resident told KNG.

    Though heavy rain stopped this afternoon and the water level dropped in the Laiza stream residents are on alert, said Laiza residents.

    In 1991 flood waters which carried logs and mud along the Munglai River, which flows between the borders of Kachin State and China killed, 35 KIO servicemen including the famous Dr. Nlam Awng.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:07 PM  
    Foot-and-mouth Outbreak in Irrawaddy Delta
    An outbreak of animal foot-and-mouth disease is spreading in townships affected by Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy delta and in Rangoon and Pegu divisions, according to sources in Rangoon.

    There was no estimate of the number of affected animals or when the outbreak first occurred. The disease typically occurs among some animals during this time of the year.

    Because of the large numbers of farm animals killed during the cyclone, more animal deaths in the area could mean additional woe for farmers who are struggling to rebuild their lives.

    A veterinarian in Rangoon said foot-and-mouth disease can strike cows, buffalos, sheep, pigs and goats. The viral disease can spread among animals and can be fatal if untreated. The disease seldom affects humans, although humans who come in contact with the virus can pass it on to animals.

    Cases of the disease have been reported in Kawhmu and Kungyangon townships in Rangoon Division; Kawa Township in Pegu Division; and the cities of Laputta, Dedaye, Pyapon, Kyonmangay, Wakema and Kyaiklat in the Irrawaddy delta, according to the Rangoon-based journal, Bi-Weekly Eleven and other sources.

    Aung Gyi, the director of the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department’s Animal Health and Development Division, told the Rangoon-based Popular Journal in mid-June that cows and buffalos often suffer from the disease during the rainy season from June to October.

    According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the cyclone killed an estimated 200,000 farm animals, 120,000 of which were used by farmers to plow fields.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:57 PM  
    California wildfires burn
    In the northern part of California, authorities say more than 800 wildfires are still burning.

    More than 100,000 acres have burned so far -- forcing thousands of residents to flee their homes.

    Jon Decker reports.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:43 PM  
    Chileans return to volcano town
    Dozens of residents of the Chilean village of Chaiten visit their abandoned homes for the first time since a May 2nd volcanic eruption left the town flooded in volcanic ash.

    Experts have said that the volcano could continue to erupt at a less volatile pace for months or even years.

    Chile's approximately 2,000 volcanoes, of which 500 are potentially active, is the world's second largest chain of volcanoes, after Indonesia.

    Pavithra George reports.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:42 PM  
    Storm chaos in southern China
    Southern China faced fresh misery on Friday from a tropical storm which triggered landslides and killed at least two people.

    A week ago the same tropical storm - called "Fengshen" and then graded a typhoon - killed hundreds in the Philippines.

    As the torrential rains swept across the provinces of southern China, state media showed pictures of the devastation and reported that two people had been killed. China is used to seeing heavy rains and flooding during its annual wet season: already this season 200 people have been killed and 1.7 million people have been evacuated from their homes.

    In May, Sichuan province was hit by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake which killed more than 70,000 people.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:40 PM  
    Floodwaters breach Mississippi River levee
    (CNN) -- Muskrat holes weakened a Mississippi River levee on Friday, allowing floodwaters to pour into Lincoln County, Missouri, just north of St. Louis, officials said.

    Sheriff's deputies alerted residents to evacuate, yelling "get out, the levee broke" as they went door-to-door in the affected areas, according to an Associated Press report.

    Winfield resident Debbie Halcomb, 52, heard warning sirens and knew her worst fears were realized, the AP reported.

    "I was hoping it would hold, but it didn't," the AP quoted Halcomb as saying. "I think we probably lost it on this last bunch of rain."

    Though overnight rains were reported in the area, officials speaking at a Friday morning press conference said muskrats looking for food or making dens had dug into the earthern levee, weakening it enough that nature took care of the rest.

    The river had been forecast to crest at 37½ feet on Saturday. The levee it broke around 5:30 a.m. Friday.

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been fighting "down slides" that had occurred in two separate 100-foot-sections of the levee in the past several days. Down slides occur when portions of the earthen levee shift because of water seepage.

    The Corps said that the Mississippi, having exceeded the original levee, was being held back by sandbags placed by volunteers and the National Guard.

    The levee was the last one remaining in Lincoln County and was protecting about 100 homes. Almost 700 homes in the area have been damaged by floodwater.

    President Bush on Wednesday declared 22 Missouri counties to be disaster areas. The declaration makes federal funding available to state and local governments for disaster-related damages.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:39 PM  
    Landslides kill one in east China as tropical storm Fengshen lands
    NANCHANG, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Landslides triggered by a heavy downpour have killed one person in east China's Jiangxi Province, where tropical storm Fengshen landed Thursday noon.

    The victim, a villager in central Jiangxi's Yongfeng County, was buried by mud and rock late Wednesday afternoon and had died after being pulled out, said a spokesman with the provincial headquarters for flood control.

    Fengshen, now downgraded to a tropical low pressure storm, made landfall in Ganzhou in southern Jiangxi Thursday noon after lashing neighboring Guangdong Province, the spokesman said.

    Meteorologists forecast Fengshen would affect Jiangxi for 36 hours, bringing more heavy rain in the central and southern areas of the province. It was continuing to move northeastward.

    Fengshen, which means the "God of Wind," made landfall at Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, early Wednesday, with winds of up to 83 km per hour.

    One crewman was injured and another was missing after falling into the sea as their container ship made an emergency mooring off Shanwei City, Guangdong, at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday.

    The storm was downgraded from typhoon level. Hundreds were dead or missing in the Philippines after the typhoon hit last week.

    From June 6 to 16, nine provinces in China's east, south and southwest had experienced torrential rain, leaving at least 63 dead, 13 missing and 1.6 million people displaced, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:45 AM  
    Food dwindles for cyclone survivors
    Thursday, June 26, 2008
    NEARLY three quarters of those who survived Burma's devastating cyclone lack enough food to last more than a week and remain in desperate need of help, according to the United Nations.

    More than 138,000 people were killed or remain missing in the wake of Cyclone Nargis hitting southwest Burma on May 2 and 3.

    Only 45 per cent of survivors are getting food from international aid agencies, according to a report by the United Nations and the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN, which conducted a detailed assessment of the worst-affected areas.

    "Considering that 42 per cent of all food stocks were destroyed, continued food assistance is required," the UN said in a statement.

    More than 28 per cent of people affected by the storm said they have no food supplies, while 18 per cent said they had enough food for one day. Around 25 per cent said their stocks would last for up to a week.

    The Irrawaddy Delta region, a key rice-growing and agricultural area, bore the brunt of the storm and is home to most of the 2.4 million people the UN says were affected.

    About 60 per cent of households still do not have adequate access to clean water, the report said, while many farmers are out of work after their fields and livestock were wiped out.

    "More immediate, life-saving relief needs remain to be provided ... humanitarian relief efforts should continue to cover unmet needs," the UN said.

    While no major outbreak of disease was found, the assessment teams discovered that 22 per cent of people were suffering from psychological stress.

    ASEAN sent about 250 people into Burma earlier this month to assess the damage, after weeks of stalling by Rangoon's military regime.

    The junta was heavily criticised after the cyclone for its delays in letting foreign aid in to the isolation nation.

    It took a personal visit from UN chief Ban Ki-moon to prompt a relaxation of their stance, including permission for the ASEAN teams to do their work.

    The ASEAN-UN report released Wednesday was compiled with half the data collected from their mission. A full report has been promised on July 3.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 7:29 PM  
    Drought hit Cyprus to import water from Greece
    NICOSIA (Reuters) - Drought-hit Cyprus will start importing water from Greece on Monday in a drastic bid to counter a critical shortage which a senior official blamed on climate change.

    The first of six tankers which will is due to dock on Monday, carrying about 50,000 cubic meters of water. By November, the island will have imported 8.0 million cubic meters of water from Greece.

    "The water problem is extremely serious ... I could even say tragic," Cypriot Agriculture Minister Michalis Polinikis said on Thursday after signing the import deal in Athens.

    Scientists say average local rainfall has fallen by more than 20 percent in the past four decades. The island has two desalination plants running at full capacity and a third is to come on line this year.

    Reservoirs were 7.5 percent full on Thursday. Containing a paltry 20,462 cubic meters in total, the island's 17 main reservoirs held less than half the quantity being brought over on the first boat next week.

    "The Mediterranean is one of the regions most affected by climate change," said Charalambos Theopemptou, Cyprus's environment commissioner.

    "There is an increase in temperature and a reduction of rainfall. In some areas of the globe its one or the other ... we have both evils," he told Reuters.

    Authorities have imposed stringent cuts on households, giving homeowners just about enough water to refill water tanks.

    Similar conditions apply on both sides of the island, which is split along Greek and Turkish Cypriot ethnic lines. The water supply from Greece will only cover the Greek Cypriot areas.

    Turkish Cypriot officials said a Turkish firm was looking into the possibility of importing water via a pipeline, but they said the studies were at an early stage.

    Restaurant owner Fatma Hussein, 43, said she had to spend large amounts of money to bring in water on private tankers every day. "At home we have large water tanks ... we are used to the cuts and this is how we live with it," she told Reuters.

    According to some historical accounts, Cyprus was almost abandoned in 306 AD because of a 17-year drought.

    Theopemptou said that while Cypriots had learned to cope with little water, more could be done to conserve meager reserves and to reuse and recycle water.

    "We have experienced these problems before. We should have learned from the past and we haven't," Theopemptou said.

    (Writing by Michele Kambas; Additional reporting by Sarah Ktisti and Simon Bahceli; Editing by Caroline Drees)
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 7:23 PM  
    Wildfires rage across California
    A strong lightning storm with 8000 strikes hits Northern California sparking 800 new fires in the region.

    Tens of thousands of acres now lie burned, and hundreds of residents have had to evacuate.

    Katharine Jackson reports

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 1:34 PM  
    Divers scour Philippines wreck
    U.S. navy divers join rescue teams searching a capsized ferry in the Philippines as hopes of finding more survivors fade.

    The Princess of the Stars capsized on Saturday in typhoon conditions with 865 passengers and crew on board, of whom less than 50 have so far been found alive.

    Paul Chapman reports.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 1:32 PM  
    Tropical storm Fengshen moves further away from Hong Kong
    HONG KONG, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Hong Kong Observatory replaced the No. 8 Southwest Gale or Storm Signal by Strong Wind Signal No. 3 at 11:15 a.m. here (0315 GMT) Wednesday, as the Tropical Storm Fengshen is moving further away from the territory.

    Although schools, financial markets suspended in the morning, the city was spared of major damage during the passage of Tropical Storm Fengshen Wednesday. All rainstorm warnings were canceled at 12:20 p.m. here (0420 GMT) while Northern New Territories Flooding warning and Landslip warning are still in force.

    The Hong Kong Airport Authority said a total of 139 flights arriving in or leaving the city had been delayed or canceled on Wednesday morning due to the bad weather.

    Public transport companies are gradually resuming their services since Wednesday noon. There were 27 floodings at various locations throughout Hong Kong and three landslide incidents up to 11:00 a.m. Five reports of collapsed scaffoldings were received by the Buildings Department of Hong Kong. No injuries from these incidents were reported.

    There were a number of reports of full or partial road closure due to fallen tress or collapsed scaffolding. The Transport Department of Hong Kong has liaised with bus operators to make necessary re-routing arrangements.

    The Education Bureau of Hong Kong announced all day schools including bisessional PM primary schools remain suspended Wednesday.

    Child care centers, elderly services centers and day rehabilitation units re-opened from 2 p.m.

    The Judiciary of Hong Kong announced that all courts, tribunals, court registries and offices will remain closed Wednesday.

    Clinics of the Department of Health of Hong Kong, venues of the Leisure and Cultural Service Department and the Immigration Department resumed normal service two hours after the cancellation of typhoon signal No. 8.

    Home Affairs Department has opened 22 temporary shelters and up to 11 a.m., 124 people have sought refuge at the shelters.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:11 AM  
    Firefighters battle hundreds of blazes in California
    Wednesday, June 25, 2008
    SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- Fire crews from Nevada and Oregon have arrived to help California firefighters battle hundreds of blazes that have darkened skies over the San Francisco Bay area and Central Valley.

    The lightning-caused fires have scorched tens of thousands of acres and forced hundreds of residents to flee their homes, though few buildings have been destroyed, said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

    Public health officials have issued air-quality warnings.

    "It's just extremely, extremely dry," Berlant said Tuesday. "That means any little spark has the potential to cause a large fire. The public needs to be extra cautious because we don't need any additional wildfires."

    More than 800 wildfires were started by an electrical storm that unleashed nearly 8,000 lightning strikes across Northern California over the weekend.

    The storm was unusual not only because it generated so many lightning strikes with little or no rain over a large geographical area, but also because it struck so early in the season and moved in from the Pacific Ocean. Such storms usually don't arrive until late July or August and typically form southeast of California.

    "You're looking at a pattern that's climatologically rare. We typically don't see this happen at this time of summer," said John Juskie, a science officer with the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "To see 8,000, that's way up there on the scale."

    The lightning storm struck California as the state was experiencing one of its driest years on record. Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought and directed agencies to speed up water deliveries to drought-stricken areas. Many communities have adopted strict conservation measures.

    Areas hit the hardest by the weekend thunderstorm include Mendocino County, where 131 fires have burned more than 13,000 acres and threatened about 500 homes; Butte County, where 25 fires have burned more than 3,900 acres and threatened 400 homes; and the Shasta-Trinity Forest, where more than 150 fires have burned about 8,000 acres and threatened 200 homes.

    Firefighters continue to battle the state's largest blaze, a 58,000-acre fire that began more than two weeks ago in a remote region of the Los Padres National Forest in southern Monterey County. A separate 8,500-blaze was burning in the forest's Big Sur area.

    The lightning storm struck California as the state was experiencing one of its driest years on record. Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought and directed agencies to speed up water deliveries to drought-stricken areas. Many communities have adopted strict conservation measures.

    Areas hit the hardest by the weekend thunderstorm include Mendocino County, where 131 fires have burned more than 13,000 acres and threatened about 500 homes; Butte County, where 25 fires have burned more than 3,900 acres and threatened 400 homes; and the Shasta-Trinity Forest, where more than 150 fires have burned about 8,000 acres and threatened 200 homes.

    Firefighters continue to battle the state's largest blaze, a 58,000-acre fire that began more than two weeks ago in a remote region of the Los Padres National Forest in southern Monterey County. A separate 8,500-blaze was burning in the forest's Big Sur area.

    Even before the lightning struck, California had already seen an unusually large number of destructive wildfires that had burned nearly 90,000 acres, compared with 42,000 acres during the same period last year, according to CalFire officials. The fire season typically does not peak until late summer or early fall.

    "This doesn't bode well for the fire season," said Ken Clark, a meteorologist in Southern California with "We're not even into the meat of the fire season at this point, and the brush is extremely dry. It's not going to get any better, it's going to get worse."
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 4:23 PM  
    Philippines to probe ferry disaster
    Philippine investigators are set to open an inquiry into a ferry disaster that may have claimed 800 lives.

    The probe comes as hopes of finding more survivors all but disappeared on Wednesday.

    Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo, a spokesman for the coastguard, said a fact-finding investigation into the cause of the accident was to begin in Manila on Wednesday.

    He said ferry operator Sulpicio Lines as well as maritime experts had been summoned to the inquiry which aims to determine whether the ship was seaworthy and why it was allowed to leave port during Typhoon Fengshen.

    He added that details gathered in the inquiry could be used for a criminal prosecution.

    Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas said the inquiry was expected to conclude its findings within 20 days.

    Recovering bodies

    More than 100 divers continued to comb the wreckage of the 24,000-tonne Princess of the Stars in waters off the central island of Sibuyan on Wednesday, but Lieutenant-Colonel Edgard Arevalo, a navy spokesman, said "there are no signs of life".

    Rescuers said anyone who had managed to find air pockets in the ship would have suffocated by now.

    Divers from the Philippine navy and coast guard cut their way through the ship's hull three days after it capsized in the typhoon on Saturday but found only bodies.

    Many more corpses remain inside the ship.

    The navy said rescuers were prevented from reaching the ship sooner by roiling seas and lingering strong winds.

    Lieutenant Commander Inocencio Rosario, a coast guard diver, said he was hoping for a miracle.

    "I hope somebody there is alive," he said. "We have only probed about 15 per cent of the ship."

    Only 57 people survived, according to civil defence figures, out of more than 850 people on board.

    US assistance

    Our correspondent quoted the coastguard as saying that there were not enough divers and insufficient equipment to tackle a disaster of this magnitude even with assistance from the US navy.

    US divers have joined the recovery effort for bloated bodies of men, women and children who were on the 22-hour trip from Manila to central Cebu when the typhoon struck.

    The US has also offered to send an aircraft carrier to help Philippine relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Fengshen that hit the country's south and central regions last weekend.

    George Bush, the US president, made the offer during talks with his Philippine counterpart, Gloria Arroyo, at the White House on Tuesday.

    Ferry owners summoned

    Arroyo said Sulpicio Lines, the owners of the ferry, should be held accountable for one of the country's worst maritime disasters.

    "We are holding the ferry company accountable to ensure that we find how this tragedy could have occurred so we can take steps to make sure it never happens again," the Philippine's Daily Inquirer quoted her as saying in Washington on Tuesday.

    Angry relatives have asked why the Princess of the Stars was allowed to sail with a typhoon approaching.

    Sulpicio Lines, the ship's owner, said it sailed with coast guard approval.

    On land, Typhoon Fengshen killed 227 people and left 275 missing in the worst-hit region, with dozens reported killed elsewhere by floods and landslides.

    The powerful storm flooded numerous communities and caused an estimated $74.2m in crop damage.

    It is now on its way to Taiwan and southwest China.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:21 AM  
    Tropical storm hits China's SE coast
    SHANGHAI (AP) -- Tropical storm Fengshen lashed southern China on Wednesday with heavy rains and strong winds, bringing new misery to a region already struggling to recover from this month's deadly floods.

    Fengshen, which killed hundreds in the Philippines as a typhoon, made landfall Wednesday morning with winds of up to 51 miles per hour in the economic zone of Shenzhen, whose meteorological station forecast heavy rains of up to nearly 8 inches Wednesday and Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

    Flooding in China's southeast earlier this month killed at least 63 people, forced the evacuation of at least 1.66 million and caused billions of dollars in damage in a region anchored by the country's manufacturing capital, the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province.

    In Hong Kong, the storm injured at least 17 people and flooded at least 38 areas across the city, officials said.

    Flood control authorities in Shenzhen told Xinhua no deaths had been reported as of 8 a.m. Meteorologists in the region said the storm was expected to weaken as it moved north and further inland.

    Both Shenzhen and Hong Kong stopped school classes Wednesday, and more than 13,000 ships in Guangdong province came back to harbor before the storm made landfall, Xinhua reported.

    The storm also shut down Hong Kong's financial markets and courts.

    The storm's heavy rains will also affect the provinces of Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Hunan, Xinhua reported the China Central Meteorological Station as saying.

    Fengshen left more than 800 passengers and crew missing in the Philippines this week after the typhoon capsized a ferry. Only four dozen survivors have been found. The storm's toll on shore in the Philippines included 227 dead and 275 missing in the worst-hit region, with dozens reported killed elsewhere by floods and landslides.

    China has paid little attention to this month's flooding in its southern region, focusing instead on relief for last month's earthquake in central Sichuan Province. The death toll from that disaster is expected to pass 80,000, Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said Tuesday.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:20 AM  
    Tropical Cyclone Bulletin:No. 8 Northwest Gale or Storm Signal is in force
    Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Tropical Cyclone Bulletin

    Here is the latest Tropical Cyclone Bulletin issued by the
    Hong Kong Observatory.

    The No. 8 Northwest Gale or Storm Signal is in force.

    This means that winds with mean speeds of 63 kilometres per
    hour or more are expected from the northwest quarter.

    At 4 a.m., Severe Tropical Storm Fengshen was centred about
    15 kilometres east of Hong Kong Observatory (near 22.3
    degrees north 114.4 degrees east) and is forecast to move
    north or north-northwest at about 14 kilometres per hour
    crossing the eastern waters of Hong Kong.

    Gale force wind is affecting western Hong Kong. Sheltered
    by terrain, wind speeds are lower in other areas. Winds
    are expected to become west to southwesterlies later this
    morning and those places sheltered by terrain will become
    exposed. The public should beware of the coming change in
    wind direction.

    In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at
    Chek Lap Kok and Cheung Chau were 64 and 67 kilometres per
    hour with maximum gusts 78 and 107 kilometres per hour

    (Precautionary Announcements with No. 8 Signal)

    1. Since seas are rough, you are advised to stay away from
    the shoreline and not to engage in water sports.

    2. Flights at Hong Kong International Airport may be
    affected by the weather. Please contact your airline for
    the latest flight information before departing for the

    3. Please listen to your radio or watch your TV for the
    latest weather information broadcast at the 15th, 30th,
    45th and 58th minute of each hour. You can also browse the
    Hong Kong Observatory's web site for the information.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 8:44 PM  
    Tropical Cyclone Warning for China

    Tropical Cyclone Bulletin

    Here is the latest Tropical Cyclone Bulletin issued by the
    Hong Kong Observatory.

    The Strong Wind Signal, No. 3 is in force.

    This means that winds with mean speeds of 41 to 62
    kilometres per hour are expected.

    At 8 p.m., Severe Tropical Storm Fengshen was estimated to
    be about 140 kilometres south-southeast of Hong Kong (near
    21.2 degrees north 114.9 degrees east) and is forecast to
    move north or north-northwest at about 16 kilometres per
    hour in the general direction of the Pearl River Estuary.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 1:38 PM  
    East China braces for tropical storm Fengshen (Frank)
    FUZHOU -- East China is bracing for the arrival of severe tropical storm Fengshen, which is forecast to make a possible landfall in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Guangdong on Wednesday.

    The Fujian provincial meteorological observatory issued a warning at 6:33 am on Tuesday, saying strong winds would hit the southern coastal area and the Taiwan Strait in the next 24 hours.

    Vessels should return to harbor, it warned.

    Fengshen was moving through the northeast South China Sea, around 470 kilometers south of Shantou City, Guangdong, at 5 am on Tuesday, according to the China Central Meteorological Station.

    The storm, with winds of up to 108 km per hour, was forecast to move north at a speed of 15 km per hour, the station said.
    The storm had been downgraded from a typhoon and was likely to land in the coastal areas between Shanwei in Guangdong and Zhangpu in Fujian during the day on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain, it added.

    Guangdong's flood control headquarters implemented its typhoon emergency response plan late on Monday. It ordered ships return to harbor and the evacuation of marine fish farms and in low-lying coastal areas.

    The Philippines Red Cross and disaster relief authorities announced on Sunday that at least 229 people had been killed and 700 were missing after Typhoon Fengshen ripped through the archipelago on Friday afternoon.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 1:30 PM  
    The problem with predicting a typhoon
    Located about 800 kilometres off the Pacific coast of Asia, the Philippines is a collection of over 7,000 islands spread out between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam.

    Almost all of the islands are volcanic and if that were not enough, the archipelago sits squarely on the so-called typhoon belt that attracts as many as 20 typhoons a year.

    On average at least five or six cyclonic storms hit heavily populated areas setting off landslides, floods, storm surges and mass evacuations.

    Typhoon Fengshen is the first of many storms expected to sweep through the archipelago in the months ahead.

    According to the National Coordination Council, typhoon Fengshen caused more damage than expected, because its behaviour could not be predicted. Among the hardest hit areas was the western part of Visayas where the weather bureau failed to raise the storm alert in time.

    In contrast, Bicol Province of the southern Luzon island managed to evacuate 200,000 people due to a storm alert being released early.

    Speaking to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Government's weather bureau, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) maintained that there was not much they could do.

    PAGASA director Prisco Nilo was quoted as saying that "initially, all the forecasts including those from meteorologists in the United States, Japan, and other countries, said the typhoon would not hit the Philippines.

    "Around Thursday afternoon, we changed our forecast saying it's going to hit the Samar and Bicol region." He added that, "It did hit Samar. But after crossing Samar, we noticed some changes again."

    This change was not expected and typhoon Fengshen is now being classified as the worst typhoon to hit the western Visayas in a decade. The only saving grace being that the storm missed the Bicol region, which is usually the hardest hit by typhoons.

    And while rescue and relief continues in the affected regions, questions are being asked as to why the experts got their predictions so wrong.

    Weather experts from around the globe are poring over satellite photographs of the typhoon and if some analysts are to be believed, the forecast was out by four degrees longitude, or by at least 36 hours.

    One possible explanation being offered by meteorologist, Jesse Ferrel of is that there are no high-resolution models available for the Philippines, which in turn could have skewed any estimates based on them.

    All of which has once again put the focus back on the science of predicting typhoons and storms.

    There are currently two types of typhoon prediction. Seasonal forecasts of overall activity for the coming season, and intensity forecasts, the tracking of particular, individual storms with a lead time of up to five days.

    A number of organisations provide seasonal forecasts around the world, but for the Pacific it is the University of Hong Kong and a company called the (TSR) venture.

    The Hong Kong predictions are issued in April while the TSR forecasts come in early June. Since they are seasonal forecasts and based on statistical analysis, they are broad in nature and are useful only as a rough guide.

    Intensity forecasts on the other hand are predictions that take place while a tropical cyclone is active. Forecasts of the storms position and maximum winds at 12, 24, 36, 48 and up to 120 hours ahead are issued every six hours by the regional meteorological agency with appropriate warnings.

    For the north-west Pacific, the two main sources are the Japan Meteorological Agency and the US Navy and Army joint Typhoon Warning Centre (JTWC) based on the island of Guam.

    According to Mark Saunders and Paul Rockett from TSR, the only near certainty in forecasting is that the forecast will be wrong.

    In a 2001 paper entitled "Improving Typhoon Predictions", the scientists noted that "typhoon tracking errors will continue to fall as computers become more and more powerful and as satellite provides better real-time monitoring or tropical environmental conditions."

    They also say that "typhoon intensity forecasts are expected to become more accurate in future seasons".

    The people in the Philippines could be forgiven for quietly disagreeing with that sentiment.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 1:28 PM  
    Little hope for ferry survivors
    Rescuers held little hope for 800 people missing after a ferry capsized off the coast of the Philippines at the weekend.

    As distraught relatives of passengers from a ferry that sank off the coast of the Philippines await news, the Filipino navy announced on Monday (June 23) there were no signs of life from the capsized vessel that was carrying more than 850 people.

    Lyndee Prickitt reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:57 PM  
    Anger over Philippine ferry disaster
    Anger is mounting as more than 700 people remain missing after a ferry capsized in a typhoon in the Philippines.

    Relatives of those on board the MV Princess of the Stars are claiming the vessel's operator is not facilitating their search for their loved ones missing at sea since the weekend.

    Only 33 people of the 864 people on board have so far been found alive. Relatives are furious about the way ferry operator Sulpicio Lines has responded to the tragedy.

    Sonia Legg reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:56 PM  
    Divers yet to find ferry survivors
    (CNN) -- Philippine divers found bodies but so far no survivors inside the hull of a ferry that capsized in a typhoon, a Philippine Coast Guard official said Tuesday.

    A total of 864 people -- 725 of them passengers -- were aboard the Princess of the Stars when it overturned about a mile off Sibuyan Island early Saturday as Typhoon Fengshen pummeled the Philippines, according to the ship's owner, Sulpicio Lines.

    Rescuers earlier found at least 34 survivors and at least 11 dead from a ferry that capsized in a typhoon, the Philippine Information Agency said Monday.

    Divers received no response on Monday when they hammered on the 23,824-ton Princess of Stars that was jutting from the water off Sibuyan island in the central Philippines.

    "We're not ruling out that somebody there is still alive," coast guard chief Wilfredo Tamayo told The Associated Press. "You can never tell."

    But high seas that have prevented rescue ships from approaching the ferry showed no sign of abating Monday as officials planned how to enter the ship -- either with divers or by drilling a hole in the hull, Tamayo said. Watch aerial pictures of the sunken ferry »

    Hope faded by the hour that large numbers of survivors will be found on land where communications were hit by the weekend storm that killed at least 163 people.

    Officials added that they have also found victims and survivors from other fishing boats that capsized in the area.

    A U.S. Navy ship equipped with helicopters will soon join the search and rescue effort, said Richard Gordon, the head of the Philippines Red Cross and a member of the country's Senate.

    Fishermen found 30 survivors from the ferry Princess of Stars, which rolled over early Saturday morning, Gordon said. One person died after being picked up, and another was lost during rescue efforts, he said, but the remaining 28 have been delivered to police.

    "There's quite a few people out there that are still missing," he said. "We are trying our best to find them, and I hope we could get some help."
    The Princess of Stars had 864 people on board, according to the vessel's owner, Sulipicio Lines. The manifest posted on the company's Web site lists 725 passengers, 112 crew members and 27 others including security escorts, canteen personnel, and sea marshalls.

    It overturned about a mile off the shore of Sibuyan Island early Saturday as Typhoon Fengshen pummeled the Philippines.

    Sulipicio said the family of each person killed in the accident will receive 200,000 pesos (approximately $4,600), the Philippine Information Agency reported.

    The crew of the vessel, which can hold up to 2,000 people, reported that its engines had failed during a regular run from Manila and Cebu City, according to Vice Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo, the head of the country's coast guard.

    Rescuers knocked on the ferry's hull Sunday evening in hopes of hearing signs of survivors within the capsized ship, the captain of which had given orders to abandon it before contact was lost.

    Sulipicio said the family of each person killed in the accident will receive 200,000 pesos (approximately $4,600), the Philippine Information Agency reported.

    The crew of the vessel, which can hold up to 2,000 people, reported that its engines had failed during a regular run from Manila and Cebu City, according to Vice Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo, the head of the country's coast guard.

    Rescuers knocked on the ferry's hull Sunday evening in hopes of hearing signs of survivors within the capsized ship, the captain of which had given orders to abandon it before contact was lost.

    Gordon said Sulpicio Lines -- which operates the ferry -- has a history of previous accidents, "and people are pouncing on them right now."

    "The mood here is very ugly," he said.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:43 PM  
    'Many' bodies found in Philippine ferry
    OFF SIBUYAN ISLAND (AFP) - Philippine rescue divers said they found many bodies Tuesday inside the ferry that sank with more than 850 people on board, confirming the worst fears of desperate relatives.

    Anxious and angry family members had been clinging to hope their loved ones might still be found alive inside the doomed Princess of the Stars, which capsized and sank Saturday when it got caught in the path of a typhoon.

    But with blame flying over how the 24,000-tonne ferry was allowed to set sail with the storm looming, shaken rescue divers said they had discovered the worst when they finally worked their way into the submerged ship Tuesday.

    "We saw 15 bodies trapped in one section of the ship,"said coast guard diver Lieutenant Commander Inocencio Rosario.

    "The bodies are floating inside," he said, adding that most of them were not wearing life jackets.

    "Two men were on the bridge, wearing the Sulpicio Lines uniform. One was holding the radio. He must have been an officer," Rosario said.

    Passage through the ship was hampered by fallen furniture, equipment and broken glass, he said, adding that they did not have enough underwater flashlights or batteries to dive for long.

    The vessel is sitting upside down on a coral reef off San Fernando, Sibuyan Island, with most of the bottom of its hull protruding from the water.

    At least three bodies were removed from the ship and placed in cadaver bags aboard a coast guard vessel, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

    Philippine civil defence chief Anthony Golez said 57 people, some of whom made it onto lifeboats, survived the sinking -- one of the worst maritime disasters in the country's history.

    But many passengers reportedly had little time to react when the vessel, trapped when Typhoon Fengshen suddenly changed path, began tilting and then quickly capsized off the central island of Sibuyan.

    The ferry reportedly developed engine trouble while trying to make it to safety.

    There have been reports from local officials of dozens of survivors being found on nearby islands, but the coast guard said they had yet to confirm the accounts.

    Vice-President Noli de Castro, who inspected the recovery operations on Tuesday, said they still hoped that survivors might be found in an air pocket inside the ship.

    But he warned that rescue efforts would have to proceed slowly to avoid fuel leaking. Oil spill booms were seen being set up around the sunken vessel.

    A US navy supply ship and a maritime patrol plane have joined the search, and the local military said the Americans had deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle to hunt for survivors.

    The tragedy was the fourth for Sulpicio Lines since 1987, when the Dona Paz collided with a tanker and sank, killing more than 4,000 people.

    The government slapped an immediate ban on Sulpicio's vessels from leaving port on Monday, though the company said it was still selling tickets because it had not been formally notified of the move.

    Sulpicio is one of the largest ferry operators in the Philippines, where people are heavily dependent on ferries to get around the country's more than 7,000 islands.

    "We are at a loss as to what really happened," vice president Sally Buaron said.

    She said the captain, Florenio Marino, sent a distress call moments before giving the order to abandon ship.

    "As long as there's small hope that there is an indication that people are still in the waters, we will continue to search," Golez said.

    Another ship, the transport vessel Lake Paoay, went down in the same area during the storm on Saturday, leaving three dead and 17 missing.

    Officials were trying to make sure they do not mix the survivors or casualties from the different vessels when accounting for those on the Princess of the Stars.

    President Gloria Arroyo on Monday ordered the coast guard to review sailing guidelines, especially those relating to typhoons.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:40 PM  
    World must manage water carefully: experts
    SINGAPORE (AFP) - The world's water resources must be carefully managed to meet the needs of billions of people flocking to urban centres, experts said Tuesday at a conference on sustainable development.

    Advances in water technology will play a key role in increasing supplies, but simple steps such as plugging leaks and conserving water at home are important, they said.

    Tony Tan, chairman of Singapore's National Research Foundation, said the world was witnessing the biggest migration from urban to rural areas in human history, surpassing that in Europe and North America in the 18th century.

    "By the end of this year, for the first time in history, more than half of the world's population will reside in urban areas," he told hundreds of delegates to the conference, which ends Wednesday.

    "Most of the growth in urban areas has been and will be in developing countries, particularly in Asia," he added.

    By 2030, analysts project that towns and cities in the developing world will account for more than 80 percent of the world's population, he said.

    The shift was expected to strain transportation systems, housing and water supplies, and make it tougher to meet health and sanitation needs, Tan and other experts said.

    Tan cited the example of China, which today has more than 660 cities, up from 220 cities some 25 years ago.

    In less than 10 years, more than half of China's population, or 870 million people, were projected to live in urban centres, he added.

    Assuming that new cities will be built to accommodate these people, it would mean the emergence of 40 new mega-cities, each equivalent to the current size of Beijing, he said.

    Former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said that despite strong economic growth, the Asia-Pacific region is home to 700 million people with no access to safe drinking water, while many more lack access to basic sanitation facilities.

    "This is a very critical situation," Mori, president of the Japan Water Forum and Asia Pacific Water Forum, told the conference.

    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said water was increasingly seen as a potential global flashpoint, with the pace and scale of urbanisation intensifying the challenge of providing safe, reliable and affordable water.

    "More and more cities and countries see access to water as a security concern and a potential trigger of conflict," Lee said in a keynote address.

    "Global warming can aggravate this by altering existing water distribution patterns, intensifying droughts and disrupting the lives of millions, as is happening in Darfur," he said, referring to the Sudanese region where conflict broke out five years ago.

    Fehied Al-shareef, governor of the Saline Water Conservation Corp in Saudi Arabia, said technological breakthroughs have enabled countries to recycle waste water and desalinate seawater.

    But these technologies can be expensive, he added, suggesting that age-old measures such as controlling water leakages in the network and managing the use of water at home should also be emphasised.

    "We have to manage the water demand," he said.

    Political will was also key to tackling problems such as water shortages, said Feliciano Belmonte, the mayor of Quezon City, the most populated city in the Philippines.

    Top climate scientists predicted last year that billions of people would face water scarcity and hundreds of millions would likely go hungry as damage from greenhouse gases changed rainfall patterns, punched up the power of storms and boosted the risk of drought, flooding and water stress.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:39 PM  
    China quake death toll to 'exceed 80,000'
    BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The death toll from last month's massive earthquake in southwestern China is expected to exceed 80,000, state media reported Tuesday.

    Officially 69,181 people are dead with another missing 18,498, according to authorities.

    "Because it is presumed that the missing people are already dead, the total death toll of this disaster is likely to exceed 80,000," said Vice Premier Hui Liangyu.

    If all the missing are dead, then the death toll would top 87,000.

    The magnitude 7.9 quake devastated Sichuan province and surrounding areas on May 12, leaving more than 5 million people homeless.

    On Monday China reported it had fired 12 officials for dereliction of duty and misuse of earthquake relief.

    Supervision Minister Ma Wen said her department had received 1,178 complaints involving officials' response to the May 12 quake in Sichuan province and had dealt with more than 1,000 of them.

    Administrative punishments were handed out to 43 officials, the most serious being removal from office, Ma said at a news conference. She didn't specify when the officials had been fired.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:36 PM  
    Myanmar cyclone toll rises to 138,000 dead, missing
    YANGON (Reuters) - More than 138,000 are dead or missing from the devastating cyclone that struck Myanmar last month, the government said on Tuesday, according to an Asian diplomat.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu informed a meeting of government and foreign aid workers the official death toll from the May 2 disaster had risen to 84,537 from a previous figure of 77,738, the diplomat told Reuters.

    The number of missing fell to 53,836 from 55,917 announced by the government in its last casualty update on May 16.

    Nearly two months after Cyclone Nargis left up to 2.4 million people destitute, a joint assessment team has recently completed its work and a new appeal for foreign aid is expected in July.

    (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Jerry Norton)
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 12:35 PM  
    Storms and heavy rain rip through Poland
    Monday, June 23, 2008
    Violent storms and heavy rains have hit the West Pomeranian region, north-western Poland leaving flooded streets and broken trees.

    No serious accidents or injuries have been reported, however.

    Fire-fighters were called more than 160 times to remove the wind-felled trees from roads and pump water out of flooded basements.

    The weather was also rough in Lubusz and Greater Poland provinces, western Poland, where broken branches fell over several cars and power lines. Fortunately, there were no power cuts.

    The weather forecast for the first two weeks of summer holidays, which started in Poland last weekend, are rather pessimistic, with rain expected all over the country with not much sunshine. (jm/
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:49 AM  
    ‘Frank’ weakens over South China Sea - Pagasa
    MANILA, Philippines - Typhoon "Frank" (Fengshen) slightly weakened over the past six hours while over the South China Sea, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Monday morning.

    In its 11 a.m. advisory, Pagasa said "Frank" was estimated at 300 kilometers northwest of Dagupan City as of 10 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 110 kph near the center and and gustiness of up to 140 kph.

    "(But) severe Tropical Storm 'Frank' will continue to enhance the Southwest Monsoon and bring rains over the Western sections of Luzon and Visayas," it said.

    Pagasa said "Frank" was moving northwest at 15 kph and was due to be 420 km northwest of Laoag City Tuesday morning, and 500 km west northwest of Basco, Batanes by Wednesday morning.

    Under Storm Signal 1 are Northern Zambales, Western Pangasinan and La Union provinces. Storm warning signals elsewhere had been lowered. - GMANews.TV
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:49 AM  
    California heatwave sparks wildfires
    Lightning sparks wildfires in northern California with dry conditions contributing to the spread of the flames in the state.

    The fires spread as the U.S. state baked under an early summer heat wave. Days of high temperatures have strained the state's power grid and left residents wilting.

    Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:08 AM  
    Desperate hunt for Philippine ferry survivors
    ABOARD THE BRP PAMPANGA (AFP) - Philippine rescue teams battled furious seas and high winds Monday in a desperate hunt for more survivors of a ferry that sank in a typhoon with 862 people aboard.

    Only the tip of the bow of the Princess of the Stars remained above water after it tilted and quickly capsized Saturday, and navy frogmen have found no sign of life aboard the doomed vessel just off the central island of Sibuyan.

    A local radio station said 28 more people had turned up alive when their lifeboat reached a coastal village, raising the number of survivors so far to 32, and there were hopes more would be found on the many tiny islands nearby.

    "We have not lost hope that there might be more survivors," said coast guard chief Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo.

    However, several bodies have also washed up on shore along with children's shoes, heightening fears of a high death toll. A coast guard crew was among those slowly combing the waters for victims of the disaster.

    "We have slowed down to scout for floating bodies," the boat's master Lieutenant-Commander Inocencio Rosario told reporters on board.

    "After three days they tend to float," he added.

    The search came as the ferry company revised up the number of passengers and crew on board from 747 to 862.

    Anxious relatives waited at the Manila offices of the company, Sulpicio Lines, waiting for news -- and answers.

    It was the company's fourth disaster at sea in the past two decades, and the transportation department slapped an immediate ban on further sailings.

    "Definitely, Sulpicio Lines is responsible here," said Transport Undersecretary Elena Bautista.

    The government also set up a taskforce to investigate the cause of the accident, while anti-corruption campaigners said they would launch a class action against the company, claiming it should lose its operating licence.

    The Princess of the Stars had been allowed to sail despite Typhoon Fengshen bearing down because, under current Philippine law, the vessel was large enough to stay afloat in the periphery of the storm.

    But Fengshen tragically made a sudden change of direction from north to west, and headed directly into the ferry's path. The powerful storm has since also killed almost 230 people on land.

    The captain tried to get the vessel to safe harbour, but it ran aground. There were conflicting reports that he had slowed the engines in the face of the storm and that the motors had given out.
    The almost 24,000-tonne ship issued a distress signal on Saturday afternoon from near Sibuyan, about 150 kilometres (100 miles) south of Manila. One survivor said there was almost no time to react.

    "It seemed like everything happened in 15 minutes," Reynato Lanorio, one of the crew, told DZBB radio. "Next thing we knew, the ship had gone under."

    The station reported that 28 more people were found alive after surviving in a lifeboat. Survivors said 30 had been in the boat but two were lost at sea -- one tossed overboard by large waves just minutes before they made it to safety.

    "The search and rescue effort resumed at first light today," navy spokesman Eduardo Arevalo told DZBB. "If we can't find anyone on the water, we will also have the capability to go underwater."

    There were 80 more divers en route to the site as well as a second vessel with cutting equipment, but the rescue effort was hampered by the bad weather. Aircraft were also helping with the search.

    Countless people in this impoverished nation rely on relatively inexpensive ferries to get around the country's 7,100 islands, and Sulpicio Lines is one of the biggest of the ferry companies.

    It has had at least three other major accidents since 1987, when its Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker. Around 4,000 people were killed, one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history.

    President Gloria Arroyo has ordered regulatory authorities to change the rules that allowed the Princess of the Stars to set sail with the typhoon nearby, her spokesman Jesus Dureza said.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:31 AM  
    Hopes fade for Philippine ferry victims

    By Manny Mogato

    CEBU, Philippines (Reuters) - Rescuers held little hope on Monday of finding some 800 people missing from a capsized ferry in the Philippines, as divers prepared to drill into the ship's hull in the hope of finding survivors in air pockets.

    Coast guard boats searched the area around the ferry, which capsized during a typhoon with gusts up of to 195 kph (120 mph) on Saturday afternoon. By Monday only 33 people had been found alive.

    A spokesman for the navy said a team approached the ship on Sunday afternoon to check for possible survivors.

    "We just approached the hull of the ship, we got near and then banged, knocked in order for us to give a sign if ever there are still people inside," Lieutenant-Colonel Edgard Arevalo said. "Unfortunately there was no response."

    Typhoon Fengshen pounded the archipelago at the weekend, washing away houses and roads and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate. Aside from the ferry disaster, a further 155 people were killed, according to the Red Cross.

    A U.S. vessel was en route to help with search efforts and was expected to reach the site in around 15 hours, Jesus Dureza, a spokesman from the presidential palace said.

    Nine male corpses believed to be passengers from the MV Princess of Stars washed ashore on the central island of Masbate on Monday.

    "The bodies were bloated and decomposing. What we did was just to wrap them up and buried them right away," a local mayor told radio.
    Photographs showed only the tip of the ship's bow visible above the waves.

    In the worst-hit province of Iloilo, damage to agriculture and infrastructure was pegged at 1.7 billion pesos ($38 million).

    The Department of Agriculture said in a statement nearly 250,000 ha of farmland was damaged, mostly paddy fields, at a cost of nearly 555 million pesos.

    Disaster officials were worried about food supplies for evacuees, crammed into schools, churches and townhalls.

    "I don't think they have enough rice to tide them over," Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippines' Red Cross, told local television.

    The typhoon is currently over the South China Sea and is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it moves northwards.

    It will likely bring heavy rain and winds to Taiwan and Zhangzhou and Fuzhou in China in the next few days according to storm tracker website


    A passenger picked up by a fishing boat and 28 others who landed at a small coastal village after drifting for more than 24 hours in a rubber boat, were the latest survivors from the Princess of Stars.
    Fifteen people were reported dead.

    Philippine transport authorities said on Monday they had grounded the vessels of ferry company Sulpicio Lines for inspection. The company's ships have been involved in three other major disasters over the past 21 years.

    In 1987, the Sulpicio-owned Dona Paz ferry collided with an oil tanker killing more than 4,000 people in the world's worst peacetime sea tragedy.

    Distraught relatives of the 845-plus people on board the vessel complained to Sulpicio employees while waiting for news in the central city of Cebu, where the Princess of Stars was meant to dock.

    "You can't bring our loved ones back. You should be held responsible," one woman told employees of the company.

    A floor of the passenger terminal was converted into a mini chapel with a makeshift altar. Nuns and priests comforted those waiting.

    During an emotional Catholic mass, one man pounded the wall in grief over his missing son.

    Edward Go, one of Sulpicio's owners, said the company was relying on the coast guard for information.

    "We fully understand the feelings of the people and we are prepared to help them in any way we can, but, as of now there is really no information available," he told Reuters.
    The Red Cross' Gordon said a survivor described mountainous waves and chaos as the ship went down on Saturday afternoon.

    "According to him it was so dark, it was high noon but it was so dark, and there was too much rain and the waves were just too much for the ship," Gordon said.

    An archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year and has a long history of shipping tragedies.

    (Additional reporting by Karen Lema and Rosemarie Francisco; Writing by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

    Liz Kennedy reports.

    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 10:12 AM  
    Heavy rains soak Japan, with landslide killing one
    Sunday, June 22, 2008
    TOKYO: Torrential rain and thunderstorms battered large swaths of Japan this weekend, triggering floods and landslides that left at least one person dead.

    The Japan Meteorological Agency said it expects heavy rain of 1 to 2 inches per hour in northeastern, eastern and central Japan on Sunday night and Monday as a seasonal rain front and low-pressure system made their way across the country.

    More than 15 inches of rain fell on the southern island of Kyushu between Thursday and Sunday morning, the agency said.

    In a small town in Kyushu's Kumamoto prefecture (state), a landslide buried a one-story family home early Sunday, killing 24-year-old Yuri Toyonaga while she slept.

    The other three family members escaped unharmed, according to Taragi town police.

    The downpour also disrupted transportation around the island, with service on some train lines canceled or delayed.

    In Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, the rain forced workers in some areas to suspend the search for 10 people still missing since the June 14 earthquake that killed at least 12 people.

    The meteorological agency predicted about 7 inches of rain in the eastern Tohoku region and 4 inches in the Tokai and Kanto regions over the next day. It warned of landslides, lowland flooding and quickly rising rivers.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:39 PM  
    Survivor from MV Princess identified
    LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines -- A survivor from the M/V Princess of the Star, which capsized west of Sibuyan island town, and two others from another fishing vessel, were found on the shore of Barangay Mabini in San Fernando, Romblon.

    Many of the ferry's 800 passengers are feared dead, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

    San Fernando Mayor Nanette Tansingco identified the survivor as Jessie Boot, 30, of Siquijor province.

    She said Boot claimed to be crew member of the Princess of the Star.

    Two others were also found but claimed they were crew members of the fishing vessel "CYC."

    They were Sonny Pistola, 37, and Arnel Alde, 44.

    Tansingco said she sent a team of policemen at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Mabini, around 8 kilometers away from where the Princess of the Star capsized.

    Tansingco said the team she sent had to walk to the remote village of Mabini since some roads were impassable.

    "The team I sent reported that slippers and other objects were scattered in the shoreline of Barangay Mabini," Tansingco said in mobile phone interview.

    She said the overturned ferry had a hole in the center.

    Ensign Elmer Sumunod, spokesperson of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon, said the Philippine Navy tried to send its vessel PG 378 stationed in Burias Island in Masbate 10 a.m. Sunday to help rescue the victims.

    PG 378, which could carry up to 50 persons, was the vessel nearest to the area where the Princess of the Star sank.

    "But due to bad weather and big waves, the vessel retreated and arrived back in Burias 1:45 p.m. Once the weather condition becomes favorable, we will send it back to the area," Sumunod said.
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:35 PM  
    Survivor: ‘I could hear children wailing as the boat sank’
    LEGAZPI CITY -- More than 700 passengers and 169 crew members of the M/V Princess of the Stars of the Sulpicio Lines, which capsized west of Sibuyan island town, were still unaccounted for as of Sunday afternoon and were feared dead, authorities said.

    This developed as four injured survivors were found in the remote village of Mabini in San Fernando, Romblon, after four hours of being swept away at sea on a life boat.

    San Fernando Mayor Nanette Tansingco identified the survivors as crew member Renato Lamorias of Cebu and passengers Jesus Cica, Oliver Amorin of Olango Island, and Jessie Boot of Siquijor province.

    Boot, 30, and two others from a fishing vessel were found earlier in the day.

    The two others claimed they were crew members of the fishing vessel "CYC." They were Sonny Pistola, 37, and Arnel Alde, 44.

    Lamorias, in a mobile phone interview, said he could not forget the hundreds of unconscious bodies floating at sea and the reverberating cries from the victims.

    "There were many children trapped inside the boat. I could hear them wailing before the boat sank," Lamorias said.

    He remembered hitting his face on a rock, when he was in the sea.

    He said the overturned ferry had totally sunk at around 11:45 a.m. Sunday.

    Lamorias, who seemed to be in a state of shock, recounted that strong winds and big waves caused the ferry boat to capsize.

    He said the lashing that tucked the cargo was torn, which probably affected the balance of the ship while it was being smashed by strong winds and big waves.

    "Ang mga alon halos kasing laki ng bundok (The waves were almost the size of a mountain)," Lamorias said in a shaky voice.

    "At around 10 a.m. the ship slowed down and started to dance. I noticed that it was running tilted," he added in Filipino.

    Lamorias said when the ship's captain announced "abandon ship," many hysterical passengers jumped off the sinking boat.

    He said all 14 lifeboats of the Princess of the Stars were let down but big waves still engulfed some of them.

    "We were on a life boat for four hours before we reached Barangay Mabini," Lamorias said in-between coughs.

    Tansingco said most of the survivors had contusions all over the body and lacerations in the head.

    She added that the survivors would be brought to the health center in Barangay Poblacion for treatment and would be housed in her residence.

    However, since roads were impassable, the survivors would have to walk two kilometers and travel 12 kilometers more aboard motorcycles to Poblacion.

    Tansingco said she sent a team of policemen at 1:30 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Mabini, around eight kilometers away from where the Princess of the Stars capsized.

    She said the team she sent had to walk to the remote village of Mabini since some roads were impassable.

    "The team I sent reported that slippers and other objects were scattered in the shoreline of Barangay Mabini," Tansingco said in a mobile phone interview.

    She said the overturned ferry had a hole in the center.

    Ensign Elmer Sumunod, spokesperson of the Naval Forces Southern Luzon, said the Philippine Navy tried to send its vessel PG 378 stationed in Burias Island in Masbate at 10 a.m. Sunday to help rescue the victims.

    PG 378, which could carry up to 50 persons, was the vessel nearest to the area where the Princess of the Stars sank.

    "But due to bad weather and big waves, the vessel retreated and arrived back in Burias 1:45 p.m. Once the weather condition becomes favorable, we will send it back to the area," Sumunod said.

    Commodore Bert Araojo, NFSL commander, said it was really impossible to reach the tragedy area because the waves were about 10 feet high even as of Sunday afternoon.

    A local official of San Fernando, Sibuyan, Romblon, who was interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer at about 12 noon Sunday, confirmed that Princess of the Stars capsized in the western side of the island municipality of Sibuyan.

    Councilor Ric Aligno said they found a life vest with the name of the vessel and the owner on it.

    Aligno said he saw the vessel with only one-third of it, the front side part where the anchor was tied, visible.

    The San Fernando councilor said he was viewing the vessel from Sitio Cabitangahan, Barangay Taklobo, around 1.5 km away from the coastline.

    At around 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, he said he saw two dead women, ages 60 plus and mid-30s.

    "There was no one to blame, the weather was fine Saturday until 11 a.m. when the ferry made a last call, saying they were on a full stop in Sibuyan," he said.

    This was the first time it happened in Sibuyan, added Aligno, who appealed for help as, he said, he saw oil spill on Sunday morning.

    On Saturday night, telecommunication lines such as Globe bogged down with many dead spots.

    Local government units are now undertaking clearing operations.

    The passenger vessel left the port of Manila at 8 p.m. on Friday and was on its way to Cebu when it sent a distress signal to report "engine trouble" and "listing," chief petty officer Benito Vidal of the Southern Tagalog Coast Guard Station said, quoting reports they received Saturday at 12:55 p.m.

    "The national headquarters said there were 626 passengers and 121 crew members aboard the boat," he said.

    Other reports, however, placed the number of passengers at 702.

    On Sunday, Vidal said they received reports that the boat, sunk "seven nautical miles, north-southwest of Sibuyan Island, Romblon."

    Vidal said they had yet to receive reports regarding the current condition of the sunk ferry, or the actual cause of its sinking, although, he said, if the ferry was reported listing, that would usually mean the boat really had a hole that was taking in water.

    He said they had yet to establish contact with the deployed rescue boats.

    No reports on casualties or sea conditions around Romblon have been received, although Vidal said Batangas sea conditions were calm.

    The Coast Guard deployed a boat each from Cebu, Batangas and Manila on the ongoing search and rescue operations for the sunk Sulpicio Lines vessel.

    According to the Sulpicio Lines website, the M/V Princess of the Stars is a passenger-cargo vessel, weighing around 23,824 tons and able to accommodate around 1,992 people.

    Reports from Madonna T. Virola, Jaymee T. Gamil and Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon
    posted by Moderator Image Hosted by Londen time 11:34 PM  
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    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