U.S. states declare emergencies to help farmers hit by propane shortage

(Reuters) – At least eight U.S. Midwest states declared emergencies in recent weeks over regional shortages of propane needed by grain farmers to dry their crops amid a late harvest and wet weather.

Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin eased restrictions on the transport of propane to help alleviate the local shortages. There is no nationwide shortage and residential propane prices recently were about 22% below that of a year ago.

Spring flooding in U.S. Midwest farming states led to late harvests that have triggered a surge in demand for the fuel used to reduce moisture in corn crops to ready for sale or to safely store the grain.

“The late harvest and high demand for petroleum products throughout the Midwest have resulted in low supplies of propane as well as difficulty transporting,” according to a notice on Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ website.

The state’s declaration relaxes size and weight limits on vehicle transport. An earlier proclamation eased operating-hour rules on propane carriers. The latest rule, like most of the other states’ orders, is effective for a month.

Propane carriers faced four- to six-hour waits last week at the Conway, Kansas, propane terminal that is the nation’s second-largest, and drivers were facing restrictions due to the wait, one official said.

“There is plenty of propane on hand in the country,” said Greg Noll, executive vice president of Propane Marketers Association of Kansas. “We just need to get it from the points that have it on hand to the points where it is needed.”

Texas, which is home to the nation’s largest storage in Mont Belvieu, reported no emergency or shortage.

Consumers have not faced shortages because most homeowners would have had their tanks filled by now, said Noll.

Residential propane prices at the start of the U.S. heating season were under $2 a gallon, or about 22% lower than at the start of winter last year, according to government data issued on Monday.

Propane and propylene stocks were 97.6 million barrels the week ended Nov. 8, up nearly 14 million barrels from a year-ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported last week. It said average wholesale propane prices in the Midwest were 78 cents a gallon excluding taxes, flat from a year earlier.

(Reporting by Arpan Varghese and Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru, Gary McWilliams in Houston; editing by Bill Berkrot)

Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

By Riccardo Bastianello and Emily G Roe

VENICE (Reuters) – An exceptionally high tide hit Venice again on Friday just three days after the city suffered its worst flooding in more than 50 years, leaving squares, shops and hotels once more inundated.

Mayor Luigi Brugnaro closed access to the submerged St. Mark’s Square and issued an international appeal for funds, warning that the damage caused by this week’s floods could rise to one billion euros.

Local authorities said the high tide peaked at 154 cm (5.05 ft), slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 187 cm level reached on Tuesday, which was the second highest tide ever recorded in Venice.

But it was still enough to leave 70% of the city under water, fraying the nerves of locals who faced yet another large-scale clean-up operation.

“We have been in this emergency for days and we just can’t put up with it any more,” said Venetian resident Nava Naccara.

The government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating 20 million euros ($22 million) to address the immediate damage, but Brugnaro predicted the costs would be vastly higher and launched a fund to help pay for repairs.

“Venice was destroyed the other day. We are talking about damage totaling a billion euros,” he said in a video.

Sirens wailed across the city from the early morning hours, warning of the impending high tide. Sea water swiftly filled the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica, built more than a thousand years ago.

Venice, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is spread over 118 islands and once presided over a powerful maritime empire. The city is filled with Gothic architectural masterpieces which house paintings by some of Italy’s most important artists.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said initial checks suggested the damage to St. Mark’s was not irreparable, but warned that more than 50 churches across the city had been flooded this week.

“Visiting here you see that the disaster is much bigger than you think when you watch the images on television,” he said.

CLIMATE CHANGE

After Friday’s high waters, forecasters predicted tides of up to 110-120 cm during the weekend. In normal conditions, tides of 80-90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

The mayor has blamed climate change for the ever-increasing flood waters that the city has had to deal with in recent years, with the mean sea level estimated to be more than 20 cm higher than it was a century ago, and set to raise much further.

Groups of volunteers and students arrived in the city center to help businesses mop up, while schools remained closed, as they have been most of the week.

“When you hear the name Venice, it is always like sunsets and everything pretty but it is a bit crazy now that we are here,” said British tourist Chelsea Smart. “I knew it was going to flood … but I didn’t expect it to be this high.”

At the city’s internationally renowned bookshop Acqua Alta — the Italian for high water — staff were trying to dry out thousands of water-damaged books and prints, usually kept in boats, bath tubs and plastic bins.

“The only thing we were able to do was to raise the books as much as possible but unfortunately even that wasn’t enough … about half of the bookshop was completely flooded,” said Oriana, who works in the store.

Some shops stayed open throughout the high tide, welcoming in hardy customers wading through the waters in boots up to their thighs. Other stores remained shuttered, with some owners saying they had no idea when they could resume trade.

“Our electrics are burnt out,” said Nicola Gastaldon, who runs a city-center bar. “This is an old bar and all the woodwork inside is from the 1920s and earlier which we will have to scrub down with fresh water and then clean up again.”

A flood barrier designed to protect Venice from high tides is not expected to start working until the end of 2021, with the project plagued by the sort of problems that have come to characterize major Italian infrastructure programs — corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays.

(Additional reporting by Giulia Segreti in Rome; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Powerful, ‘abnormal’ rains lash Rio de Janeiro, at least six dead

Firefighters work at the site of a mudslide after a heavy rain at the Babilonia slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

By Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Torrential rains doused Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday, killing at least six people and sowing chaos in Brazil’s second largest city, which declared a state of emergency after a storm that the mayor described as “absolutely abnormal.”

A bus is seen underneath trees uprooted by heavy rains in the Leblon neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

A bus is seen underneath trees uprooted by heavy rains in the Leblon neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

A woman and her 7-year-old granddaughter were buried in a mudslide as they rode in a taxi, and the driver’s body was also found inside the vehicle, police detective Valeria Aragao told O Globo newspaper. Two adult sisters died when their home in a slum was buried in a mudslide, while a man drowned in another part of the city, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

The rains began around Monday evening and had not let up by midday Tuesday, with a heavy downpour forecast through the end of the day. More than 34 cm (13 inches) of rain fell on parts of the city in the last 24 hours, according to the mayor’s office.

Videos on local news showed normally calm residential streets turned into raging torrents that dragged people and cars. A coastal bike path meant to be a legacy of the 2016 Olympics that had been weakened by previous storms suffered more damage, with chunks of the path falling into the sea.

“These rains are absolutely abnormal for this time of year; none of us expected so much rain at this time,” Mayor Marcelo Crivella told an early morning news conference.

The mayor’s office declared a state of emergency on Monday night. Major roads were closed, and the mayor’s office said 785 places were without power.

Emergency services acted to rescue people trapped in cars and on the streets. TV images on Tuesday showed divers examining a car submerged in a flooded underpass.

A truck is seen stuck on a flooded street during heavy rains in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

A truck is seen stuck on a flooded street during heavy rains in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

Rio’s streets were quieter than usual on Tuesday, as nearly all schools shut and people worked from home to avoid the risk of being trapped at work.

It was the second major storm in two months to batter Rio. A violent tempest that hit the city in February killed at least seven people.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter in Rio and Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

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)

Punishing Hurricane Michael bears down on Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael is seen in this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satlellite (NOAA GOES-East satellite) image in the Gulf of Mexico, October 9, 2018. Courtesy NOAA GOES-East/Handout via REUTERS

By Devika Krishna Kumar

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) – Hurricane Michael was still strengthening as it closed in on the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with the threat of catastrophic surges of sea water and roof-shredding winds, and was expected to be the worst hurricane ever recorded in the region.

Michael caught many by surprise with its rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT) it was carrying top winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour), making it a very dangerous Category 4 storm on five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the National Hurricane Center said.

Authorities told residents along the affected areas of Florida’s northwest coast that they had run out of time to evacuate and should hunker down.

The storm caused major disruption to oil and gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Michael’s core was forecast to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon on Florida’s Panhandle and could drive sea water levels as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters) above normal in some areas, the hurricane center said. The storm could still strengthen further before coming ashore, it said.

As the outer bands arrived, ocean water was already flooding parts of Port St. Joe.

Mayor Bo Patterson said about 2,500 of the town’s 3,500 people were still there, including about 100 in a beachside area who did not follow a mandatory evacuation order. The two bridges leading out of Port St. Joe were closed, meaning no one could get out now.

“People are finally getting it, that this is going to be pretty strong,” Patterson said. “This happened so quickly, we weren’t exactly prepared.”

Michael grew from a tropical storm to Category 4 hurricane in about 40 hours.

“This kind of sprung up for us quite quickly,” said Andrew Gillum, mayor of the state capital, Tallahassee, which lies about 25 miles (40 km) from the coast and was preparing for a battering.

“We honestly felt we might have a tropical system and weren’t sure where it would go and now we’re staring down the barrel of a Category 4 storm,” Gillum told CNN.

“Satellite images of Michael’s evolution on Tuesday night were, in a word, jaw-dropping,” wrote Bob Henson, a meteorologist with weather site Weather Underground.

People in coastal parts of 20 Florida counties had been told to leave their homes. Much of the area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as Tallahassee.

Waves crash along a pier as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S. October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Waves crash along a pier as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S. October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

TOO LATE TO LEAVE

Governor Rick Scott said on Twitter on Wednesday morning that it was too late to evacuate the target zone and that people who had stayed should immediately seek refuge.

Hurricane center Director Ken Graham said on Facebook that Michael would be the worst storm in recorded history to hit the Panhandle.

“Going back through records to 1851 we can’t find another Cat 4 in this area, so this is unfortunately a historical and incredibly dangerous and life-threatening situation,” he said.

Nearly 40 percent of daily crude oil production and more than one-third of natural gas output was lost from offshore U.S. Gulf of Mexico wells on Wednesday because of platform evacuations and shut-ins caused by Michael.

The hurricane was about 60 miles (95 km) south-southwest of Panama City, Florida, and moving north-northeast at 14 mph (22 kph), the hurricane center said in its 11 a.m. ET advisory.

Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said his city, which could suffer some of the worst of the storm surge, was under mandatory evacuation orders.

“My greatest concern is that some people are just now starting to take this storm seriously and are evacuating,” he told CNN. “And I just hope the others that have not made that decision get out while the roads are still passable and before the bridges close.”

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.

POWER CUTS START

Authorities warned of coming disruptions for those in Michael’s path. About 10,000 customers were already without power around midday.

The region should brace for “major infrastructure damage,” specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters on a conference call.

Many state offices, schools and universities in the area have been closed since Tuesday.

Helen Neal, 88, and her husband, J.W. Neal, 87, preferred to take their chances in a hotel rather than in their two-story beachfront house about a mile away in Panama City.

“We just finished renovating and updating,” she said. “We’re kind of nervous. God willing we’ll still have some place.”

About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.

NHC Director Graham said Michael represented a “textbook case” of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.

He said the storm would still have hurricane-force winds as it pushed through Florida into Georgia and tropical storm-force winds when it reaches the Carolinas, which are still reeling from post-Florence flooding. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rainfall was forecast for some areas.

Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in November’s congressional elections, declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for 92 counties in his state and a state of emergency also was announced in North Carolina.

The last major hurricane, a storm of Category 3 or above, to hit the Panhandle was Dennis in 2005, according to hurricane center data.

(Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Tallahassee, Florida; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Panama City, Florida, Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton in Washington, Gina Cherelus and Barbara Goldberg in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Liz Hampton in Houston, Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Trott; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Hurricane Florence nears Carolinas, forcing 1.5 million in westward exodus

Hurricane Florence is seen from the International Space Station as it churns in the Atlantic Ocean towards the east coast of the United States, September 10, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Anna Driver

HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (Reuters) – More than 1.5 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful to menace the Carolinas in nearly three decades, barreled closer on Tuesday.

Florence, a Category 4 storm packing winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kph), was expected to make landfall on Friday, most likely in southeastern North Carolina near the South Carolina border, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for both North Carolina and South Carolina, a step that frees up federal money and resources for storm response.

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket as residents prepare for Storm Florence's descent in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. @missgil/via REUTERS

Empty shelves are seen at a supermarket as residents prepare for Storm Florence’s descent in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. @missgil/via REUTERS

Residents boarded up their homes and stripped grocery stores bare of food, water and supplies. The South Carolina Highway Patrol sent “flush cars” eastbound on major highways to clear traffic, before reversing lanes on major roadways to speed the evacuation of the coast, state officials said on Twitter.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered about 1 million residents along his state’s coastline to leave starting at noon on Tuesday, when the highways will become westbound only. He evoked the memory of 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, which killed 27 people in the state, in urging people to comply.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” McMaster told ABC’s “Good Morning America” TV show on Tuesday. “We want people to get out and get safe.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an evacuation order for about 245,000 residents in flood-prone coastal areas beginning at 8 a.m. local time.

GENERATOR, HOME REPAIR STOCKS UP

The storm was located about 950 miles (1,530 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 8 a.m. ET, according to the NHC, which warned it would be “an extremely dangerous major hurricane” through Thursday night.

In addition to flooding the coast with wind-driven storm surges of seawater as high as 12 feet (3.7 m), Florence could drop 20 inches to as much as 30 inches (51 cm to 76 cm) of rain in places, posing the risk of deadly flooding miles inland, forecasters said. They warned the storm could linger for days after making landfall, drenching an already saturated landscape.

Shares of generator maker Generac Holdings Inc rose 3 percent, adding to Monday’s more than 5-percent gain, in expectation that the company will benefit from increased demand as the storm knocks out power for residents in the storm’s path.

Anticipating a rush for home protection and repair materials, investors also pushed up the shares of Home Depot Inc and Lowe’s Cos Inc for the second day.

STAY OR FLEE?

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Customers line up to buy propane at Socastee Hardware store, ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S. September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks in North Carolina on Tuesday after more than 50,000 people were ordered on Monday to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke, the southernmost of the state’s barrier islands.

“We haven’t plywooded our house for several years but I am for this one,” said Tom Pahl, 66, by phone from Ocracoke Island. Pahl, who serves as a Hyde County commissioner, said he had not yet made up his mind about leaving the island, which is reachable only by ferry and plane.

Retired Maryland State Police pilot Paul Jones and his wife hit the road early on Tuesday to avoid traffic from Hatteras Island to their Maryland residence.

“I will not stay for a hurricane,” Jones, 68, said. “I have had enough excitement in my life.”

Classified as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, Florence is the most severe storm to threaten the U.S. mainland this year.

The United States was hit with a series of high-powered hurricanes last year, including Hurricane Maria, which killed some 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Harvey, which killed about 68 people and caused an estimated $1.25 billion in damage with catastrophic flooding in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Susan Heavey in Washington and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Rigby)

Japan’s heat wave drives up food prices, prison inmate dies

A woman uses a parasol on the street during a heatwave in Tokyo, Japan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Vegetable prices in Japan are spiking as much as 65 percent in the grip of a grueling heat wave, which drove temperatures on Wednesday to records in some areas hit by flooding and landslides, hampering clean-up and recovery efforts.

As many as 65 people died in the week to July 22, up from 12 the previous week, government figures show, while a prisoner in his forties died of a heat stroke in central Miyoshi city, amid what medical experts called an “unprecedented” heat wave.

An agriculture ministry official in Tokyo, the capital, warned against “pretty severe price moves” for vegetables if predictions of more weeks of hot weather held up, resulting in less rain than usual.

“It’s up to the weather how prices will move from here,” the official said. “But the Japan Meteorological Agency has predicted it will remain hot for a few more weeks, and that we will have less rain than the average.”

The most recent data showed the wholesale price of cabbage was 129 yen ($1.16) per kg in Tokyo on Monday, the ministry said, for example, an increase of 65 percent over the average late-July price of the past five years.

Temperatures in Japan’s western cities of Yamaguchi and Akiotacho reached record highs of 38.8 Celsius (101.8 Fahrenheit) and 38.6 C (101.5 F), respectively, on Wednesday afternoon.

In Takahashi, another western city and one of the areas hit hardest by this month’s flooding, the mercury reached 38.7 C (101.7 F), just 0.3 degrees off an all-time high.

In Miyoshi, where the prisoner died after a heat stroke, the temperature on the floor of his cell was 34 degrees C (93 F) shortly before 7 a.m. on Tuesday. The room had no air-conditioning, like most in the prison.

Authorities who found him unresponsive in his cell sent him to a hospital outside the prison, but he was soon pronounced dead, a prison official said.

“It is truly regrettable that an inmate lost his life,” Kiyoshi Kageyama, head of the prison, said in a statement. “We will do our utmost in maintaining (prisoners’) health, including taking anti-heat stroke steps.”

On the Tokyo stock market, shares in companies expected to benefit from a hot summer, such as ice-cream makers, have risen in recent trade.

Shares in Imuraya Group, whose subsidiary sells popular vanilla and red-bean ice cream, were up nearly 10 percent on the month, while Ishigaki Foods, which sells barley tea, surged 50 percent over the same period.

Kimono-clad women using sun umbrellas pause on a street during a heatwave in Tokyo, Japan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Kimono-clad women using sun umbrellas pause on a street during a heatwave in Tokyo, Japan July 25, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

In neighboring South Korea, the unremitting heat has killed at least 14 people this year, the Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention said.

The heat wave was at the level of a “special disaster”, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday, as electricity use surged and vegetable prices rose.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo and Jeongmin Kim in SEOUL; Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Aaron Sheldrick in TOKYO; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Yemen’s cholera epidemic likely to intensify in coming months: WHO

FILE PHOTO: A nurse walks by women being treated at a cholera treatment center in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen October 8, 2017. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

RIYADH (Reuters) – The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a cholera epidemic in Yemen that killed more than 2,000 people could flare up again in the rainy season.

WHO Deputy Director General for Emergency Preparedness and Response Peter Salama said the number of cholera infections had been in decline in Yemen over the past 20 weeks after it hit the 1 million mark of suspected cases.

“However, the real problem is we’re entering another phase of rainy seasons,” Salama told Reuters on the sidelines of an international aid conference in Riyadh.

“Usually cholera cases increase corresponding to those rainy seasons. So we expect one surge in April, and another potential surge in August.”

A proxy war between Iran-aligned Houthis and the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a Saudi-led alliance, has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015, displaced more than 2 million and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, including the health system.

Yemen relies heavily on food imports and is on the brink of famine. The United Nations says more than 22 million of Yemen’s 25 million population need humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million who are in acute need.

Salama said the country had also had an outbreak of diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease that usually affects children and which has largely been eliminated in developed countries.

Both cholera and diphtheria outbreaks are a product of the damage to the health system in the country, he said, adding that less than half of Yemen’s health facilities are fully functioning.

“We’re very concerned we’re going to go from a failing health system to a failed one that’s going to spawn more infectious diseases and more suffering,” Salama said.

However, Salama said that despite more than 2,000 deaths from cholera, the fatality rate has been low, at around 0.2 to 0.3 percent.

The WHO has approval from the government for vaccination campaigns and is working on ensuring all parties to the conflict implement the plan, he added.

(Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Alison Williams)

United Passenger jet lands in Hawaii after engine covering rips apart

The plane with engine problems is seen on the tarmac in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Peter Lemme/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Honolulu had a scary trip over the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, after the casing around one of the engines ripped apart, officials said.

The plane with engine problems is seen on the tarmac in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Mariah Amerine/via REUTERS

The plane with engine problems is seen on the tarmac in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Mariah Amerine/via REUTERS

United flight 1175, with more than 370 people on board including crew members, landed without incident at Honolulu International Airport, United Airlines Inc spokesman Charles Hobart said in an email.

Passengers brace during the plane landing in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., February 13, 2018 in this still image taken from a social media video. Mariah Amerine/via REUTERS

Passengers brace during the plane landing in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S., February 13, 2018 in this still image taken from a social media video. Mariah Amerine/via REUTERS

“Scariest flight of my life,” Maria Falaschi, a marketing consultant from San Francisco, wrote on Twitter. She posted photos on the social media website of the aircraft’s engine with its covering, also known as the cowling, missing.

Hobart said he could not immediately say whether or not the engine on the Boeing 777 continued to function after the cowling came off.

The pilots of United flight 1175 declared an emergency due to a vibration in the right engine before the plane landed safely, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email. The FAA will investigate the incident.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles)

Philippine province declares ‘calamity’ as volcano lava spreads

Clouds partially cover Mayon volcano's crater as it spews a column of ash during another mild eruption in Legazpi City, Albay province, south of Manila, Philippines January 16, 2018.

MANILA (Reuters) – A central Philippine province declared a state of calamity on Tuesday as a volcano spewed lava that reached the limits of a six-km radius no-go zone and spread ash on nearby farming villages.

Mount Mayon, a volcano in Albay province in the coconut-growing central Bicol region, has been erupting since Saturday and the number of people fleeing their homes had more than doubled on Tuesday to about 25,000, said Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council gave a smaller estimate, saying there were close to 22,000 evacuees.

Placing the province under a state of calamity will give the province access to extra funds.

“This kind of eruption, it will take about weeks, so we have to sustain the operations in the evacuation centers,” Bichara told ANC news channel. “We need to use the calamity funds.”

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said it had recorded nine more tremors, four of which accompanied lava fountains, as pressure leads to lava flows and ash plumes.

It reiterated that the activity signified a possible hazardous eruption within weeks or even days from the near perfectly cone-shaped volcano.

The provincial government has also expanded its suspension of school classes to more towns around the 2,462-metre (8,077-foot) volcano, about 340 km (210 miles) southeast of Manila.

Class suspensions have allowed the government to use schools as temporary shelters.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie)