Late monsoon floods kill more than 150 in India and Nepal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -More than 150 people have died in flooding across India and Nepal in recent days, as heavy late monsoon rains triggered flash floods, destroyed homes, crops and infrastructure and left thousands stranded.

The north Indian state of Uttarakhand has been especially badly hit, with 48 confirmed deaths, SA Murugesan, secretary of the state’s disaster management department, told Reuters.

In Nainital, a popular tourist destination in the Himalayan state, the town’s main lake broke its banks, submerging the main thoroughfare and damaging bridges and rail tracks.

In nearby Chamoli district, rescuers from India’s paramilitary National Disaster Response Force continued to search debris following landslides caused by the heavy rains.

India’s federal interior minister Amit Shah surveyed badly hit areas on Thursday.

“Crops and homes have been wiped out, which is a severe blow to families already grappling with the devastating fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Azmat Ulla, a senior official at the International Federation of Red Crescent Societies.

“The people of Nepal and India are sandwiched between the pandemic and worsening climate disasters, heavily impacting millions of lives and livelihoods.”

Some 42 people have died in the last week in the southern Indian state of Kerala, according to a statement from the chief minister’s office.

In neighboring Nepal, at least 77 people have died.

India’s annual monsoon rains usually run from June to September.

(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow and Jose Devasia in Kochi, Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)

More than 20 dead after floods hit southern India

By Jose Devasia

KOCHI, India (Reuters) – Leaders in the southern Indian state of Kerala opened near-overflowing dams on Monday after at least 22 people died when heavy rains lashed the region over the weekend.

Rainfall across Kerala triggered flash floods and landslides in several areas, with the Indian army and navy called out to rescue residents.

Opening dams could reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic overflows like those partly blamed for the state’s worst floods in a century in 2018, when at least 400 people were killed and 200,000 displaced. But by releasing water downstream, areas already experiencing floods could suffer more.

Authorities have already opened smaller dams to prevent flooding, Kerala Power Minister K Krishnankutty said in a statement, while the state’s largest, the Idukki dam, will also be opened on Tuesday morning local time.

Sheeba George, the top official in Idukki district, told local media that dozens of families had been evacuated from their homes ahead of the dam openings.

At least 13 people were killed by a landslide in the village of Kuttikkal, officials and witnesses said.

“There were four landslides that happened there yesterday, the hill behind me, which brought water and other items downwards,” a local resident told Reuters partner ANI on Sunday, standing in front of a now-barren hillside.

P.K. Jayasree, the top government official in Kottayam district where the landslide took place, said six of the dead were from a single family.

Kerala will receive further widespread rain, including isolated heavy downpours in many areas, for two to three days from Oct. 20, the state government said on Monday.

(Reporting Jose Devasia in Kochi; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Peter Graff and Mark Heinrich)

Flash floods sweep through northern Turkey in new natural disaster

ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Seventeen people were killed in flash floods in Turkey’s Black Sea region on Thursday that sent water and debris cascading through streets, damaged bridges and ripped up roads in the second natural disaster to strike the country this month.

The floodwaters brought chaos to northern provinces just as authorities were declaring that some of the wildfires that had raged through southern coastal regions for two weeks had been brought under control.

The floods and the fires, which killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest, struck in the same week that a U.N. panel said global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control.

Fifteen people were killed in the floods in Kastamonu province and two people died in Sinop, authorities said, adding that search and rescue operations were continuing.

More than 1,400 people were evacuated from the areas affected, some with the help of helicopters and boats, and about 740 people were being housed in student dormitories, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said.

Helicopters lowered coast guard personnel onto the roofs of buildings to rescue people who were stranded as flood water swept through the streets, footage shared by the Interior Ministry showed.

The deluge damaged power infrastructure, leaving about 330 villages without electricity. Five bridges had collapsed and many others were damaged, leading to road closures, AFAD added. Parts of the roads were also swept away.

Television footage showed the floods dragging dozens of cars and heaps of debris along the streets. The heavy rainfall in the region was expected to ease on Thursday evening, AFAD said.

Authorities said that 299 forest fires which had burnt across southwestern provinces for the last two weeks had been brought under control.

President Tayyip Erdogan said they were the worst fires Turkey had faced in its history. Thousands of Turks and tourists were evacuated as the flames spread through Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions, fanned by hot, dry weather and strong winds.

(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Dominic Evans, Angus MacSwan and Sonya Hepinstall)

Indonesia seeds clouds to keep them away from flooded capital

By Bernadette Christina and Jessica Damiana

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s air force seeded clouds with salt on Friday to try to stop rainfall reaching the slowing sinking capital after deadly flash floods and landslides triggered by some of the heaviest rain ever recorded.

The death toll in Jakarta and surrounding areas rose to 43 as of Friday, the disaster mitigation agency said, while tens of thousands of people have been displaced.

Indonesia’s technology agency BPPT and the air force carried out three rounds of cloud seeding on Friday, with more expected when needed, a BPPT official said.

The seeding, shooting salt flares in an attempt to trigger rainfall, is aimed at breaking up clouds before they reach Jakarta.

“We will do cloud seeding every day as needed,” BPPT chief Hammam Riza told reporters.

Cloud seeding is often used in Indonesia to put out forest fires during the dry season.

The floods followed torrential rains on Dec. 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s Day that inundated swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns, home to about 30 million people.

The deluge at the start of 2020 was “one of the most extreme rainfall” events since records began in 1866, the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on Friday.

The agency said climate change had increased the risk of extreme weather and warned that heavy rainfall could last until mid-February, with Jan 11-15 an expected peak.

Television footage showed flood waters inundating parts of Southeast Asia’s largest city and mud-covered cars, some piled on top of each other.

President Joko Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the disaster, including the construction of a canal that has been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.

Widodo last year announced he would move Indonesia’s capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo island to reduce the burden on overpopulated Jakarta.

More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the centre of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.

Jakarta is sinking by several cm a year in northern parts, an official said in October, due to extraction of groundwater over the years causing layers of rock and sediment to slowly pancake on top of each other.

(Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; editing by Nick Macfie)

Flood death toll rises to 26 in Jakarta, tens of thousands evacuated

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people were evacuated in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Thursday after flash floods and landslides killed up to 26 people amid some of the heaviest rain in more than 20 years, with more deluges forecast, authorities said.

The flooding, among the deadliest in years, caused chaos in parts of Southeast Asia’s biggest city with train lines blocked and power outages in some areas. Swathes of Jakarta and nearby towns were inundated after heavy rain fell on Dec. 31 and into the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Social affairs ministry data showed 26 people were killed in the flooding, up from the earlier toll of 21.

As of Thursday morning, over 62,000 people were evacuated in Jakarta alone, disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said, although later in the day he told news channel Metro TV the number of evacuees were down to around 35,000 people.

Rainfall at an airport in East Jakarta measured at 377 millimeters (15 inches) early on Jan. 1, the highest daily reading during major floods since at least 1996, according to the Meteorology, Clilmatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

Umar Dani, 52, and his family were evacuated overnight from his home in East Jakarta on a rubber boat after water levels rose up to his neck.

“It has not flooded for so long here. We didn’t have the chance to bring anything,” he said.

“I have to live on the streets now.”

President Joko Widodo told reporters evacuation and safety measures should be prioritized and called for more coordination between city administrations and the central government.

On his Twitter page, Widodo blamed delays in flood control infrastructure projects for the flooding. He said some projects have been delayed since 2017 due to land acquisition problems.

“EXTREME WEATHER” EXPECTED

Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan said authorities deployed hundreds of pumps to suck water from residential areas across the capital, which had allowed some people to return home.

“They want to return home immediately and start cleaning up their houses as soon as they are able to enter their houses as water recedes,” Baswedan told reporters during a visit to a densely populated area in East Jakarta affected by the flood.

Residents waddled through murky water to see the governor while workers pumped water out of the area into a nearby river.

The mitigation agency said on its Twitter page that water levels have come down in a few affected areas, showing pictures of streets covered by mud and littered with debris.

Authorities however warned people to remain vigilant as “extreme weather” is expected to continue until Jan. 7.

Dwikorita Karnawati, head of the Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), told reporters separately that heavy rainfall may continue until mid February.

Television footage on Thursday showed rescuers in the nearby city of Tangerang evacuating residents, guiding them across a strong current by holding on to a rope.

Jakarta and its surroundings are home to more than 30 million people. More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the centre of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.

The government announced last year that it is relocating the capital to East Kalimantan province on Borneo, though the planning ministry pledged that the government will invest $40 billion in modernizing Jakarta.

(Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau; Editing by Matthew Tostevin, Kim Coghill, William Maclean)

Floods in Indonesia’s capital kill nine, force thousands to evacuate

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Flash floods inundated swathes of Indonesia’s capital and nearby towns on the first day of the New Year after torrential rainfall overnight, killing at least nine people and forcing thousands of people to evacuate, authorities said on Wednesday.

“As of 4 pm today, there are 19,079 displaced residents who have been evacuated at temporary shelters throughout Jakarta,” city governor Anies Baswedan told a news conference.

“The rain in Jakarta has stopped, now we are waiting for the water to recede”.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said at least 9 people had died in flash floods and landslides triggered by the rain in Jakarta and nearby towns.

Most of the deaths were due to hypothermia, though one was a teenager who was electrocuted by a power line, disaster mitigation agency spokesman Agus Wibobo said.

Television footage showed cars almost completely submerged and people wading through meters murky brown water in some neighborhoods of the capital.

Water levels in East and South Jakarta as well as in the satellite cities of Tangerang and Bekasi in West Java province started to quickly rise from 3 a.m. local time (2000 GMT), according to the disaster mitigation agency.

Indonesia’s state electricity utility said it had switched off the electricity in hundreds of districts in Jakarta, which is home to 30 million people.

The floods also caused the temporary closure of the runway at Jakarta’s domestic Halim airport, with flights redirected to the capital’ bigger Soekarno airport.

City authorities have in the last few years sought to improve low-lying Jakarta’s vulnerability to flooding during the rainy season.

More than 50 people died in one of the capital’s deadliest floods in 2007 and five years ago much of the center of the city was inundated after canals overflowed.

Jakarta resident Daniel, whose neighborhood had been waterlogged, told reporters of his disappointment with the city government’s efforts to mitigate the floods, which happen yearly during the rainy season.

“I only have one hope, which is to ask the current governor to fix this because it impact all the people,” he pleaded.

“Take the right action please, look at what is happening now, bring the situation back to normal.”

(Reporting by Jakarta bureau; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Second wave of tornadoes, thunderstorms to pummel the U.S. South and Midwest

National Weather forecast for 4-17-19

(Reuters) – Tornadoes and thunderstorms will hit the U.S. South and Midwest for a second time this week, starting Wednesday afternoon and pushing eastward, forecasters said.

At least five people, including three children, were killed over the weekend in a storm system that drove more than three dozen tornadoes across the U.S. South.

Communities in central Texas and western Louisiana, already hit by flash floods and twisters in the first round, will be hit once more by high winds, twisters and intense rain, according to AccuWeather and the NWS.

“This is a dangerous, vigorous storm,” Jim Hayes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in Maryland, said early Wednesday.

The storm is expected to stretch from Iowa and Missouri in the north through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas to the south, said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist John Feerick.

“Dallas and Oklahoma City, from there on eastward is probably at greatest threat from damaging winds, flooding downpours and tornadoes,” said Feerick.

Northern Oklahoma could be pelted with hail 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, or larger, on Wednesday, the NWS tweeted.

NWS forecaster Hayes said the storm gets its initial fuel from warm, moist air over the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’ll kick-up this afternoon over southern Kansas and about all of Oklahoma, with rain, wind gusts of 65 mph, hail and tornadoes.”

“The worst will hit before midnight,” he added. “By early Thursday it’ll push into Kentucky and Alabama.”

As the storm tracks eastward, it will extend from Indiana south to Florida by late Thursday, hitting the Atlanta area that night and the Atlantic coast the next day.

Picking up moisture from the ocean, the system is likely to produce intense thunderstorms up the eastern seaboard as far north as New York state.

New York City, Philadelphia and Washington may face travel delays from the rain and possibly property damage from high winds, AccuWeather warned.

Flash flooding could remain a threat in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts on Saturday, the weather service said.

(Reporting Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

California wildfire that killed at least 85 people fully contained

FILE PHOTO: Vanthy Bizzle hands some small religious figurines to her husband Brett Bizzle in the remains of their home after returning for the first time since the Camp Fire forced them to evacuate in Paradise, California, U.S. November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage/File Photo

(Reuters) – The deadliest wildfire in California history that destroyed the mountain town of Paradise and killed at least 85 people was 100 percent contained on Sunday, according to state fire officials.

FILE PHOTO: The word "sorry" is spray painted on the edge of a property burned by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

FILE PHOTO: The word “sorry” is spray painted on the edge of a property burned by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 21, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

The number of people still missing from the Camp Fire north of San Francisco dropped to 249 on Sunday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said. The number was revised down from 475 as people who were believed missing were found in shelters, staying in hotels or with friends, officials said, adding that many did not know they were on the list.

The Camp Fire that started on Nov. 8 destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and burned nearly 154,000 acres (62,000 hectares) – an area five times the size of San Francisco.

Searchers will have a few more days of dry weather, but starting late Tuesday, another 2-5 inches (5 to 13 cm) of rain is expected to drop on the Sierra Nevada foothills through next Sunday, hampering the searchers work and renewing fears of flash floods and mudslides, forecasters said.

“The fear is that the rain will drop in intense bursts,” Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the federal Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said early Sunday.

“All the vegetation has burned away, and that’s a dangerous recipe for mudslides,” Hurley said.

Last week, 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) of rain fell there and turned ash from the thousands of destroyed homes into slurry, complicating the work of finding bodies reduced to bone fragments.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has warned that remains of some victims may never be found.

The town of Paradise was a popular destination for retirees, with people aged 65 or older accounting for a quarter of its 27,000 residents. Most of the victims of the fire identified so far were of retirement age.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire.

Thousands of people forced to flee Paradise spent Thanksgiving in warehouses in the nearby city of Chico, or with friends or relatives in nearby towns.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter and Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Tropical Storm Rosa will still pack a punch to southern California, Arizona

Hurricane Rosa is shown from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) GOES East satelite over the eastern Pacific Ocean on September 27, 2018, in this image provided September 28, 2018. Image taken September 27, 2018. NOAA/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Tropical Storm Rosa diminished from a Pacific hurricane over the weekend, but will still bring strong winds and dangerous rip currents to Southern California on Monday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

It could also bring life-threatening flash floods to central Arizona over the next few days, the NHC added.

“This storm still has a punch, it’s still dangerous,” said David Roth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Swells generated by Rosa on Monday are affecting the coasts of southwestern Mexico, the west coast of the Baja California peninsula and southern California through Tuesday, the weather service said in an advisory.

“We’re already getting rains in southern California through southwest Arizona,” Roth said.

Baja California and southern California could receive 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated spots of 10 inches in the next few days. The desert southwest of Arizona could get up to 4 inches of rain, potentially bringing flash floods and mud slides, Roth said.

Rosa was packing 50 mph (85 kmh) winds and was about 140 miles (225 km) west southwest of Punta Eugenia, Mexico at 2 a.m. Monday, Pacific time, the NHC said.

It is expected to diminish in strength as it makes landfall on Monday night and its remnants are expected to move across the southwestern desert on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Gaerth Jones)

Hawaii residents hit by floods from Hurricane Lane as new storm forms

FILE PHOTO: Large waves crash against the shoreline on the east side of Oahu as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – Flash flood warnings were issued on Tuesday for the Hawaiian island of Kauai, with residents on the north coast told to evacuate and others left stranded by high water as the remnants of Hurricane Lane drenched the archipelago and a new storm brewed in the Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii was spared a direct hit from a major hurricane as Lane diminished to a tropical storm as it approached and then drifted west, further from land. But rain was still pounding the island chain, touching off flooding on Oahu and Kauai.

“It has been a steady rain since after Lane but I got up 2:30 a.m. (Hawaiian Standard Time) to the National Weather Service flash flood advisory and that’s when we put out the release as well as an island-wide telephone call,” County of Kauai spokesman Alden Alayvilla said.

The advisory urged residents near Hanalei Bridge on the north side of the island to evacuate their homes due to rising stream levels. A convoy that had been used to escort residents over roads damaged by historic floods in April between was shut down, leaving many cut off.

“Heavy pounding and hazardous conditions are being reported island-wide. Motorists are advised to drive with extreme caution. Updates will be given as more information is made available,” the Kauai Emergency Management Agency said.

A flash flood watch also remained in effect for Oahu, home to the state capital Honolulu and 70 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents.

Micco Godinez, who lives on the north side of Kauai, said he found the only road out of Hanalei, where he lives, barricaded by police vehicles when he tried to leave for work on Tuesday morning. He expected to be stranded for at least another day.

“I can’t get out at all,” Godinez said. “Our little community of Hanalei is isolated and then west of us is even more isolated,” he said.

Even as Hawaii residents sought to recover from Lane, they kept a watchful eye on Tropical Storm Miriam, spinning in the Pacific Ocean some 2,000 miles to the east and expected to become a hurricane by the time it approaches the islands.

“Miriam is supposed to go north and dissipate in the colder waters and drier air, so I’m not really worried about it,” Godinez said. “But it is hurricane season, and there’s another one behind that. You know what they say: Without rain you wouldn’t have rainbows.”

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)