Recovery on Bahamas begins as Hurricane Dorian heads for Florida, Carolinas

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

By Dante Carrer

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (Reuters) – Debris extended for miles and floods covered much of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, in what the archipelago’s prime minister called one of the worst disasters to ever strike the island nation.

Emergency workers struggled to reach victims as search and rescue operations continued into Wednesday and the scope of the damage and humanitarian crisis unfolded.

“We are in the midst of one of the greatest national crises in our country’s history,” Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told a news conference. “No effort or resources will be held back.”

News media reported early on Wednesday that some storm victims remained stuck on rooftops, waiting for rescue. The official death count of seven is expected rise in the coming days.

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

“We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information,” Minnis told a news conference.

“Marsh Harbor has suffered, I would estimate, in excess of 60 percent damage to their homes,” Minnis said, referring to the port on Great Abaco.

“The Mud, as we know, has been completely destroyed or decimated,” he said referring to a shantytown known as the Mud and the Peas.

Aerial video of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island showed miles of flooded neighborhoods, pulverized buildings, upturned boats and shipping containers scattered like toys. Many buildings had walls or roofs partly ripped off.

“Victims are being loaded on flatbed trucks across Abaco,” said one Twitter poster with the handle @mvp242, describing a rain-blurred photograph of limp bodies strewn across a truck bed. Other Twitter messages said whole communities were swept away.

Dorian’s winds had diminished to a Category 2 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson intensity scale, the hurricane grew in size and picked up speed.

Forecasters said it would come dangerously close to Florida’s east coast on Wednesday, where more than a million people have been ordered evacuated.

Dorian packed sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (165 kph) and was moving north-northwest at 8 mph, as it churned about 90 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida, the NHC said in a 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) advisory.

“On this track, the core of Hurricane Dorian will move dangerously close to the Florida east coast and the Georgia coast through tonight,” a 5 a.m. NHC advisory said.

Hurricane-force winds had expanded to 60 miles from the storm’s core. “Dorian is expected to remain a powerful hurricane during the next couple of days,” the NHC said.

Heavy rains and storm surge waters moving inland could cause life-threatening flash floods, the NHC said. The risk extended from Jupiter, Fla., to Surf City, N.C. Tornadoes are possible along the Florida coast until tonight, with the risk later moving to Georgia and South Carolina.

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

An aerial view shows devastation after hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, September 3, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. Michelle Cove/Trans Island Airways/via REUTERS

LONG LISTS OF MISSING

With telephones down on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, residents posted lists of missing loved ones across social media.

A single Facebook post by media outlet Our News Bahamas seeking the names of missing people had 1,600 comments listing lost family members since it went live on Tuesday morning.

The exact toll in the Bahamas will not be clear until the storm passes and rescue crews can get to devastated areas, said Theo Neilly, the Bahamian consul general in Washington.

“We expect it to be very devastating and the damage to be extreme,” Neilly said. Dorian has battered the Bahamas for the past three days.

As many as 13,000 homes in the Bahamas may have been destroyed or severely damaged, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, in the strongest storm ever to hit the Bahamas.

Food may be required for 14,500 people in the northern Bahamas’ Abaco Islands and for 45,700 people in Grand Bahama, the U.N. World Food Programme said in a statement. The preliminary estimates were based on an assessment by representatives of Caribbean nations, the WFP and other groups.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said on Twitter it was air-lifting critical relief items, such as plastic sheeting, hygiene kits, and water containers, from Miami to the Bahamas. The U.S. Coast Guard said four of its helicopters were assisting in humanitarian efforts.

Dorian, which killed one person in Puerto Rico before striking the Bahamas on Sunday, is tied for the second-strongest Atlantic storm to make landfall with Gilbert (1988), Wilma (2005) and the 1935 Labor Day hurricane.

Tropical-storm-force winds and rain squalls were already lashing parts of the Florida coast early on Wednesday, and hurricane-force winds are possible today. The winds and heavy surf is likely to hit the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina coasts by late on Thursday. More than a million people were ordered to evacuate coastal counties in those states.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for South Carolina on Tuesday, freeing funds, other federal resources and manpower to assist during the storm and aftermath recovery. Emergencies have already been declared in Florida and Georgia.

(Reporting by Dante Carrer in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas; Zachary Fagenson in Jacksonville, Florida; Gabriella Borter in Titusville, Florida; Peter Szekely and Matthew Lavietes in New York;, Rich McKay in Atlanta; Idrees Ali in Washington: Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; and and Rebekah F. Ward in Mexico City; editing by Larry King)

Nearly 2 million Mozambicans in need after cyclone: U.N.

School children and a man carrying food aid cross a river after Cyclone Idai at Coppa business centre in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26,2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

By Emma Rumney and Stephen Eisenhammer

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Cyclone Idai’s deadly hit has left some 1.85 million people in need of assistance in Mozambique, the U.N. humanitarian agency said on Tuesday, as relief workers assess the scale of the disaster and determine what help is most urgently needed.

“Some will be in critical, life threatening situations,” Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, coordinator in the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs, said of the affected people.

“We’re now going out on the ground, dropping people off from helicopters to determine what the critical needs are.”

Idai flattened homes and provoked widespread flooding after slamming into Mozambique near the port of Beira on March 14. It then ripped through neighboring Zimbabwe and Malawi, killing at least 686 people across the three southern African countries.

Survivors of cyclone Idai cross a temporary bridge as they arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Survivors of cyclone Idai cross a temporary bridge as they arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mozambique – which has a population of around 30 million – was hit hardest, with tens of thousands of homes destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced across an area of some 3,000 square km (1,200 square miles) – roughly the size of Luxembourg.

Receding flood waters have allowed greater access and a greater sense of how much people have lost. Thousands of people, stranded for more than a week by the flooding, are now being moved to safer shelters.

Increasingly, the relief focus has turned to preventing or containing what many believe will be inevitable outbreaks of malaria and cholera.

Though no cholera cases have yet been confirmed, health workers on the ground have reported an upsurge in cases of diarrhea – a symptom of the disease.

“We are testing as we go,” said Rob Holden, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) incident manager in the capital Maputo. “But nonetheless we are treating acute watery diarrhea, it’s the same as treating cholera. That’s just the diagnosis.”

BIG, DENSE POPULATION

Dozens of people queued in front of a clinic in Beira’s Munhava district on Tuesday, as nurses wearing surgical masks out a chlorine solution to prevent the spread of diseases like cholera.

“There is a big population, dense population in Beira,” said Gert Verdonck, emergency coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). “Of course any spread of any kind of epidemic will be a lot quicker here.”

The WHO is dispatching 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine from a global stockpile. The shipment is expected to arrive within 10 days, and a first round of vaccinations will target 100,000 people.

Cholera is spread by feces in sewage-contaminated water or food, and outbreaks can develop quickly in a humanitarian crisis where sanitation systems are disrupted. It can kill within hours if left untreated.

Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Survivors of cyclone Idai arrive at Coppa business centre to receive aid in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 26, 2019. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has designated Mozambique a level three emergency, placing it on a par with Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. The agency is preparing to feed 1.7 million people in Mozambique.

The U.N. is appealing for $282 million to fund the first three months of the disaster response in Mozambique, and a total of $337 million. So far, only 2 percent of that amount has been funded.

SEARCHING THROUGH RUBBLE

In Zimbabwe, where 179 people have died, another 329 people were still unaccounted for on Monday.

In hard-hit Chimanimani district, villagers used hoes and shovels to dig through debris on Tuesday and search for missing relatives believed buried by the mudslides unleashed by the cyclone.

One family has spent a week digging day and night for four relatives, in what was once a settlement of 500 people but has been reduced to rubble.

Large rocks, some more than two meters (six feet) high, which rolled from a nearby mountain at high speed are what remains after the storm swept away a police camp, houses and an open market.

“I am an orphan now and I am so much in pain because I lost my brother who looked after me. He was more of a father to me,” said Sarah Sithole, 32, whose policeman brother was washed away while on night duty at the police station.

“We will continue searching until we find him and bury him. We will not rest,” she said, her hands and feet covered with red soil.

Around 95 percent of roads in affected districts have been damaged, impeding access to rescuers with earth moving equipment. Zimbabwe has requested for search dogs from South Africa to help look for those missing, a local government official said.

The WFP said it will aim to distribute food assistance to 732,000 people in Malawi and 270,000 in Zimbabwe.

(Additional reporting by Gift Sukhala in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe, MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)

Cyclone hit millions across Africa in record disaster: U.N.

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

MAPUTO/HARARE (Reuters) – Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disaster recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbors Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

“There’s a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn’t caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” he added.

The official death count in Mozambique stands at 84 – but its president Filipe Nyusi said on Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, seen bodies floating in rivers and now estimated more than 1,000 people may have died there.

The cyclone hit land near Mozambique’s port of Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its wake on Tuesday.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme said. It gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

WORST FEARS

Several rivers had broken their banks, or were about to, leaving a huge area covered by the waters, and only accessible by air and water, Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa, told the U.N. briefing by phone from Johannesburg.

Heavy rains preceded the cyclone, compounding the problems, said Clare Nullis of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said .

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

“It the worst fears are realized … then we can say that it is one of the worst weather-related disasters, tropical-cyclone-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.” Droughts are classed as climate-related not weather-related.

In Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, Nullis said the water had nowhere to drain. “This is not going to go away quickly,” she said.

Beira is also home to Mozambique’s second largest port, which serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

The control room of a pipeline that runs from Beira to Zimbabwe and supplies the majority of that country’s fuel had been damaged, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo told state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday.

“We, however, have enough stocks in the country and I am told the repairs at Beira may take a week,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)

Greek prosecutors charge 20 over deadly wildfire in Mati

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises in front of burnt houses in the village of Mati, near Athens, Greece, July 28, 2018. REUTERS/Costas Baltas -/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek prosecutors charged 20 people, including a regional governor and two local mayors, over a wildfire that killed 100 people in the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas last July, a judicial source said on Tuesday.

Most of the victims couldn’t escape from a maze of poorly planned streets in Greece’s worst wildfire disaster. Authorities were accused of a slow response and lack of coordination in rescue operations.

The charges include involuntary manslaughter and causing bodily harm due to neglect, the source said. Prosecutors have drafted a 292-page report that details “a series of mistakes” in handling the disaster.

The accused include Rena Dourou, the governor of Attica region, which includes Mati; Elias Psinakis, mayor of Marathon; and Evangelos Bournous, mayor of Rafina and Pikermi, all towns in the region. The accused have denied any wrongdoing.

Greece’s judicial system has several preparatory stages and the compilation of charges does not necessarily mean that the individual will face trial. An investigating magistrate is now expected to take over and look into the case.

The government attributed the fire to arson and dismissed accusations that it failed to evacuate people in time, saying that unlicensed building had thrived under previous governments.

Mati, a heavily wooded area on the coast east of Athens overlooking the sea, was popular with pensioners and children at summer camps.

Other prosecutors are also investigating separate cases linked to the Mati fire, following citizen lawsuits.

(Reporting by Constantinos Georgizas, writing by Renee Maltezou, editing by Larry King)

Thousands evacuated as Guatemala’s Fuego volcano erupts

Steam rises from Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) – Nearly 4,000 people were evacuated on Monday from areas around Guatemala’s Fuego volcano, which began violently erupting overnight, the country’s disaster agency Conred said.

The volcano spewed out dangerous flows of fast-moving clouds of hot ash, lava and gas early Monday and more than 2,000 people had taken refuge in shelters so far, officials from the agency told reporters. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

A general view shows Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) erupting as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

A general view shows Fuego volcano (Volcano of Fire) erupting as seen from San Juan Alotenango, outside of Guatemala City, Guatemala November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Luis Echeverria

More dangerous flows of hot ash and lava could be expelled, said Juan Pablo Oliva, the head of the country’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute Insivumeh.

In June, explosive flows from Fuego killed more than 190 people.

This is the fifth eruption so far this year of the 3,763-meter (12,346-feet) volcano, one of the most active in Central America, about 19 miles (30 km) south of Guatemala City.

(Reporting by Enrique Garcia; Editing by David Gregorio)

Lights, TVs back on in Indonesia quake city, but fate of thousands unknown

A father holds his daughter's hand in a hospital as she receives medical treatment for injuries sustained from the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

By Kanupriya Kapoor and Fathin Ungku

PALU, Indonesia (Reuters) – Electricity was restored and shops began reopening in Indonesia’s quake and tsunami-stricken city of Palu on Thursday, but the fate of many thousands of people in outlying districts remained unknown nearly a week after the disaster struck.

The small city of 370,000 people has been the focus of the aid effort launched after last Friday’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on the west coast of Sulawesi island.

A soft toy is seen among the ruins of a house after an earthquake hit the Balaroa sub-district in Palu, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

A soft toy is seen among the ruins of a house after an earthquake hit the Balaroa sub-district in Palu, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

International help for survivors has gathered pace, but communities in more remote areas have been cut off by broken roads, landslides and crippled communications, leaving people increasingly desperate for basic needs as aid has only just begun to trickle through.

By Thursday, the official death toll stood at 1,424, but it is widely expected to rise as most of the dead accounted for have been from Palu, while figures for remote areas are trickling in or remain unknown.

“There are so many challenges with this disaster, it’s never been so bad,” said Frida Sinta, an aid volunteer trying to get basic food and other supplies out to fellow residents of Palu.

The city, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, with outbreaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back in operation.

A local resident stands next to damage cars days after the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A local resident stands next to damage cars days after the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Orderly queues formed at petrol stations after the arrival of fuel shipments and late in the day, traffic lights and televisions flickered back to life as the power came back on.

The improvements are helping with the aid effort.

“We carry whatever we can by car or motorbike within the city wherever we can. But not yet to the most inaccessible places,” Sinta said.

State port operator Pelindo IV said Palu’s port, which was damaged by the quake and tsunami, was open, though a Reuters reporter in the city said she had not seen any shipping activity.

Altogether, the worst affected areas in the disaster zone include some 1.4 million people.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts, where residents have said they have been scavenging for coconuts, bananas, and cassava.

Villagers rushed a Red Cross helicopter that landed near the town of Donggala, northwest of Palu, to distribute bread and other food, a Reuters photographer said.

National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a briefing the main roads to the south, west, and east of Palu had been opened.

But there has been scant information about conditions on the road to the north, along the coast towards the epicenter of the quake, 78 km (50 miles) from Palu.

“There’s no data,” said Abdul Haris of the national search and rescue agency, when asked about the string of small settlements that line the road, which passes some sandy beaches that attract a trickle of tourists.

“Places have been damaged by the tsunami along the coast,” Nugroho said, but he had no details.

Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami queue up for fuel at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami queue up for fuel at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

‘DIFFICULT TIME’

While the power is back in Palu, it will take much longer for people to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Asril Abdul Hamid, 35, a business owner, was poking through the wreckage of his home in Palu’s Balaroa district, which was badly hit by deadly soil liquefaction.

He salvaged a few mementos including a family portrait.

“My immediate family is safe, thank God, but my cousin was killed,” he told Reuters, adding that his family had got food and water in the past few days.

International aid is beginning to arrive, including supplies from Britain and Australia, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to accept help from abroad.

The United Nations announced an allocation of $15 million on Wednesday while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was appealing for 22 million Swiss francs ($22 million).

The United States had provided initial funding and disaster experts and was working to determine what other help could be given, the State Department said.

Indonesian Central Bank Governor Perry Warjiyo said the disaster was a huge challenge but he played down the impact on Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

“We are united and we stand strong,” he told a briefing late on Wednesday.

Straddling the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia has long been vulnerable to quakes and tsunamis.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

But safety measures implemented after that disaster, including tsunami warning systems, failed on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Tom Allard in PALU, Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Maikel Jefriando, Tabita Diela, Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy, Fanny Potkin, Ed Davies and Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA, Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Indonesian quake survivors scavenging in ‘zombie town’; president ramps up aid

Policemen walk at the ruins of a church after an earthquake hit Jono Oge village in Sigi, Indonesia's Sulawesi island, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

By Kanupriya Kapoor and Fathin Ungku

PALU, Indonesia (Reuters) – Hungry survivors of an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia said on Wednesday they were scavenging for food in farms as President Joko Widodo made a second visit to the area to ramp up aid efforts five days after disaster struck.

The official death toll from the 7.5 magnitude quake that hit the west coast of Sulawesi island last Friday rose to 1,407, many killed by tsunami waves it triggered.

A ship is seen stranded on the shore after the earthquake and tsunami hit an area in Wani, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A ship is seen stranded on the shore after the earthquake and tsunami hit an area in Wani, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

But officials fear the toll could soar, as most of the confirmed dead have come from Palu, a small city 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Jakarta, and losses in remote areas remain unknown, as communications are down, and bridges and roads have been destroyed or blocked by landslides.

National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said most of the aid effort had been concentrated in Palu, where electricity supply has yet to be restored.

But rescue workers have begun to reach more remote areas in a disaster zone that encompasses 1.4 million people.

Johnny Lim, a restaurant owner reached by telephone in Donggala town, said he was surviving on coconuts.

“It’s a zombie town. Everything’s destroyed. Nothing’s left,” Lim said over a crackling line.

“We’re on our last legs. There’s no food, no water.”

Debris and damaged property are seen following an earthquake in Petobo, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Palang Merah Indonesia (Red Cross)/via REUTERS.

Debris and damaged property are seen following an earthquake in Petobo, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Palang Merah Indonesia (Red Cross)/via REUTERS.

In another part of Donggala district, which has a population of 300,000 people, Ahmad Derajat, said survivors were scavenging for food in fields and orchards.

“What we’re relying on right now is food from farms and sharing whatever we find like sweet potatoes or bananas,” said Derajat whose house was swept away by the tsunami leaving a jumble of furniture, collapsed tin roofs and wooden beams.

“Why aren’t they dropping aid by helicopter?” he asked.

Aid worker Lian Gogali described a perilous situation in Donggala, which includes a string of cut-off, small towns along a coast road north of Palu close to the quake’s epicenter.

“Everyone is desperate for food and water. There’s no food, water, or gasoline. The government is missing,” Gogali said, adding that her aid group had only been able to send in a trickle of rations by motorbike.

Underlining a growing sense of urgency, President Widodo made his second visit to the disaster zone, putting on an orange hard hat to talk to rescue workers at a collapsed hotel in Palu.

“What I’ve observed after returning now is heavy equipment has arrived, logistics have started to arrive although it’s not at maximum yet, fuel has partly arrived,” Widodo told reporters.

A mother and her son, both injured by the earthquake and tsunami, wait to be airlifted out by a military plane at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

A mother and her son, both injured by the earthquake and tsunami, wait to be airlifted out by a military plane at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

‘PRESIDENT NOT HEARING’

Widodo, who will seek re-election next year, called on Tuesday for reinforcements in the search for victims, saying everyone had to be found. He repeated that on Wednesday, after inspecting what he called an “evacuation” effort at the Hotel Roa Roa, where he said some 30 people lay buried in the ruins.

Yahdi Basma, a leader from a village south of Palu hoping to get his family on a cargo plane out, said Widodo had no idea of the extent of the suffering.

“The president is not hearing about the remote areas, only about the tsunami and about Palu,” he said.

“There are hundreds of people still buried under the mud in my village … There is no aid whatsoever which is why we’re leaving.”

At least seven cargo planes arrived at Palu airport earlier on Wednesday carrying tonnes of aid, some bedecked in the red and white national colors and stamped with the presidential office seal declaring: “Assistance from the President of Republic of Indonesia”.

The quake brought down hotels, shopping malls and thousands of houses in Palu, while tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet) scoured its beachfront shortly afterward.

About 1,700 houses in one neighborhood were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an earthquake behaves like a liquid, and hundreds of people are believed to have perished, the disaster agency said.

Indonesian Red Cross disaster responders said the village of Petobo, just south of Palu, which was home to almost 500 people, had been “wiped off the map”.

“They are finding devastation and tragedy everywhere,” Iris van Deinse, of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.

Nearby, rescue workers, some using an excavator, were searching for 52 children missing since liquefaction destroyed their bible study camp. Bodies of 35 of the children have been found.

Aircraft, tents, water treatment facilities and generators were the main needs for survivors including more than 70,000 displaced people, according to the national disaster mitigation agency spokesman.

Sitting on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to quakes and tsunamis. A quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Adding to Sulawesi’s woes, the Soputan volcano in the north of the island, 600 km (375 miles) northeast of Palu, erupted on Wednesday but there were no reports of casualties or damage.

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Maikel Jefriando, Tabita Diela, Gayatri Suroyo, Fransiska Nangoy, Fanny Potkin, Ed Davies and Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA and Matt Spetalnick in WASHINGTON; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Hurricane Florence: A picture and its story: Dogs in the disaster zone

FILE PHOTO: Panicked dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, are rescued by volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

By Jonathan Drake

LELAND, N.C. (Reuters) – Three days after Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina, I was documenting the damage to Wilmington and communities to the south when I was tipped that volunteer rescuers were headed to a Leland church where people were isolated by rising floodwaters.

Even with a pickup truck, it is daunting to drive through waters dark and deep enough to obscure road signs. But experience covering storms and good waders enable you to cautiously measure water depth and current strength so you can get to compelling stories waiting to be told.

Ryan Nichols and David Rebollar have another way of getting to people and animals trapped by floods: a boat they haul from their Texas home to disaster zones. In the case of North Carolina, that was more than a thousand miles (1,600 km).

Having endured Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston last year, the former Marines are on a mission to help when disaster strikes.

This day, as they lowered their craft into the water from a slice of dry land, a road was identifiable only by a few 7-foot-high street signs jutting above water. My colleague and I joined Nichols in the boat, and we made our way to the church about a thousand feet (300 meters) ahead.

Colonies of fire ants formed little islands floating beside toys. Desultory swing sets, as well as trees, gravestones and doleful statues, peered above the waterline.

While Nichols spoke with people at the church, we heard persistent barking at the back of a property across from it. He went to investigate and before long reappeared, saying urgently that “they” were trapped and we should hurry.

Abandoned dogs trapped in a cage, filling with rising floodwater, swim away after volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, freed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Abandoned dogs trapped in a cage, filling with rising floodwater, swim away after volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, freed them in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

We moved through knee-high water until we saw three hounds in a caged doghouse – two on their hind legs, the other on all fours with its head just above water. They were trembling, terrified and desperate to get out.

Nichols tried to soothe the dogs as he worked to open the cage. When he did, not three but six dogs bounded out, half swimming, half bouncing through a stretch of water that led to nearby dry ground. I followed the action with my camera close to the water at their height.

A neighbor up the street found some dog food, which they devoured.

With more and more people in the vicinity needing help, the volunteers and local residents decided to leave a lot of food for the dogs and let them roam on the higher ground to which they now had access and to tell local authorities about them.

Volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, pets one of the dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, pets one of the dogs that were left caged by an owner who fled rising floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Floodwaters rose in the hours that followed, and only began receding the next day, when Nichols returned to check on the dogs. He encountered their owner, who said she had had to evacuate in haste with young children, and that someone sent to check on the dogs was refused entry to the area because of flooding.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Drake; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Jonathan Oatis)

North Carolina devastated as floodwaters rise from deadly storm Florence, 17 killed

People clean their house after the passing of Hurricane Florence in New Bern, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Ernest Scheyder and Anna Mehler Paperny

WILMINGTON/WILSON, N.C. (Reuters) – Deadly storm Florence drenched North Carolina with more downpours on Sunday, cutting off the coastal city of Wilmington, damaging tens of thousands of homes and threatening worse flooding as rivers fill to the bursting point.

The death toll rose to at least 17.

Florence, a onetime hurricane that weakened to a tropical depression by Sunday, dumped up to 40 inches (100 cm) of rain on parts of North Carolina since Thursday, and continued to produce widespread heavy rain over much of North Carolina and eastern South Carolina, the National Weather Service said.

“The storm has never been more dangerous than it is right now,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference. Many rivers “are still rising, and are not expected to crest until later today or tomorrow.”

Some rivers were not expected to crest until Monday or Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

More than 900 people were rescued from rising floodwaters and 15,000 remained in shelters in the state, Cooper said.

Many of those rescues took place on swift boats in Wilmington, a historic coastal city of about 117,000 people on a peninsula between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.

Rescue crews negotiated downed trees and power lines to reach stranded residents, Mayor Bill Saffo told WHQR radio.

A partially submerged car is pictured on a flooded street after Hurricane Florence struck Piney Green, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

A partially submerged car is pictured on a flooded street after Hurricane Florence struck Piney Green, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

“There are no roads … that are leading into Wilmington that are passable because of the flooding that is taking place now inland,” Saffo said.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the area until at least Monday morning and said up to 8 inches (20 cm) more rain could fall in some areas, creating an elevated risk for landslides in Western North Carolina.

Officials urged those who had evacuated to stay away.

“Our roads are flooded, there is no access into Wilmington,” New Hanover County Commission Chairman Woody White told a news conference. “We want you home, but you can’t come yet.”

In Leland, a low-lying city north of Wilmington, homes, and businesses were engulfed by water that rose up to 10 feet (3 meters) over Highway 17, submerging stop signs in what local people called unprecedented flooding.

The sheriff’s department and volunteers, including locals and some who came from Texas, rescued stranded residents by boat, extracting families, infants, the elderly and pets.

Gas stations were abandoned and fallen trees made many roads impassable. The whir of generators could be heard throughout the city, a sound not expected to dim soon as crews work to restore power.

In New Bern, a riverfront city near North Carolina’s coast, Bryan Moore and his nephew Logan did exactly what authorities warned against: they left their homes to go swimming in the floodwaters after having spent days at home without electricity or running water.

“We were stir-crazy from being inside so long,” Moore said. “Feels great. The water’s really cool. … We’re just having a good old time out here, enjoying the weather.”

Ember Kelly (C), 5 years old, runs with Iva Williamson (2nd L), 4 years old, to a boat brought up to the edge of flood waters on a street in their neighborhood, during their rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

Ember Kelly (C), 5 years old, runs with Iva Williamson (2nd L), 4 years old, to a boat brought up to the edge of flood waters on a street in their neighborhood, during their rescue from rising flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, North Carolina, U.S., September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

More than 641,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in North and South Carolina and surrounding states, down from a peak of nearly 1 million.

Florence set a record in the state for rain from a hurricane, surpassing the previous record of 24 inches (61 cm) set by Hurricane Floyd, which killed 56 people in 1999, said Bryce Link, a meteorologist with private forecasting service DTN Marine Weather.

The storm killed at least 11 people in North Carolina, including a mother and child killed by a falling tree, state officials said. Six people died in South Carolina, including four in car accidents and two from carbon monoxide from a portable generator.

South Carolina’s governor urged anyone in a flood-prone area to evacuate.

“Those rivers in North Carolina that have received heavy rainfall are coming our way,” Governor Henry McMaster said during a news conference. “They have not even begun (to crest). But they will. And the question is how high will the water be, and we do not know.”

By Sunday night, Florence’s winds had dropped to about 30 miles per hour (45 kph), the National Hurricane Center said, with some weakening forecast over the next 24 hours before intensifying once again as an extratropical low-pressure center.The center of the storm was about 45 miles (70 km) north-northeast of Greenville and moving north at 10 mph (17 kph), the hurricane center said.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny and Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Miami; Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York and Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frances Kerry, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

Myanmar dam breach floods 85 villages, thousands driven from homes

Evacuees stay in a temple after a dam breach near Swar township in Myanmar, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

By Shoon Naing and Antoni Slodkowski

SWAR CREEK DAM, Myanmar (Reuters) – As many as 85 villages were flooded in Myanmar after a dam failed, unleashing waters that blocked a major highway and forced more than 63,000 people from their homes, a state-run newspaper said on Thursday.

The disaster spotlights safety concerns about dams in Southeast Asia after last month’s collapse of a hydroelectric dam in neighboring Laos that displaced thousands of people and killed at least 27.

Firefighters, troops and officials launched a desperate rescue effort on Wednesday after the spillway of an irrigation dam burst at Swar creek in central Myanmar, sending a torrent of water through villages and the nearby towns of Swar and Yedashe.

A flooded area after a dam breach is seen near Swar township in Myanmar, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

A flooded area after a dam breach is seen near Swar township in Myanmar, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Antoni Slodkowski

By Thursday morning the water was receding, but two people remained missing and were feared to have been washed away, said Min Thu, deputy administrator of Yedashe.

“People whose villages are on higher ground are preparing to go back to their villages,” he told Reuters.

The ruptured spillway had flooded 85 villages, affecting more than 63,000 people and submerging a section of highway, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Traffic between Myanmar’s major cities of Yangon and Mandalay and the capital, Naypyitaw, was disrupted after the flooding damaged a bridge on the highway linking the cities.

INTERNAL PROBE

Work was underway on Thursday to repair the dam, where the water level had dropped by several meters, exposing sandy banks.

A priority was to get as much water into the reservoir as possible before the dry season when it is needed for irrigation, said Kaung Myat Thein, an irrigation official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.

He said a probe would seek the cause of the dam breach.

Railways are seen under water after the spillway of an irrigation dam burst at Swar creek in Swar township, Myanmar, August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ko Lwin

Railways are seen under water after the spillway of an irrigation dam burst at Swar creek in Swar township, Myanmar, August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Ko Lwin

“The retaining wall of the spillway sank into the foundation about 4-5 feet, causing the flooding, but the main dam is intact,” said Kaung Myat Thein.

Days before the breach, authorities had given the all-clear to the dam, which can hold 216,350 acre-feet of water, despite residents’ concerns about overspill, state-run media have said.

Kaung Myat Thein said the dam was regularly inspected and a spillway collapse could not have been predicted.

“We could not know one day before, one hour before,” he said.

FIELDS RUINED

As floodwaters receded, elders gathered at Oo Yin Hmu, a village of about 1,000 people only a few miles downstream from the dam, to review the damage.

Paddy fields stretching from the edge of the village were inundated. It would be years before they could be planted with rice again, said Zaw Zaw, a 45-year-old farmer.

Residents ran to higher ground to escape the floodwaters, he said, but many lost their homes and possessions and were expected to ask the regional government for compensation.

“My house was at the northern part of the village and all houses in the northern part didn’t survive,” said Pan Ei Phyu, 24, a villager who escaped with her family, buffalos and cows.

“All of my farmland is turned into mud now. I don’t have land or anything else anymore. I don’t know what to do.”

 

(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis and Thu Thu Aung in YANGON; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Darren Schuettler)