U.S. to deliver over 200 tons of aid to Venezuelan border

Sacks containing humanitarian aid are pictured at a warehouse near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia February 14, 2019. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

MUNICH (Reuters) – U.S. military aircraft are expected to deliver more than 200 tons of humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan border in Colombia, with the shipment likely to take place on Saturday, a U.S. official said on Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. State Department planned to make an announcement about the shipment on Friday but provided no further details. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. special envoy on Venezuela last week said the aid effort was being coordinated with the opposition team but said the aid would not be forced into Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has overseen an economic collapse in the oil-rich South American country that has left millions struggling to buy food and medicines and has fueled an unprecedented migration crisis in the region.

An aid convoy supplied by the United States and Colombia arrived in the Colombian border town of Cucuta last week, where it is being held in warehouses. Maduro has refused to let supplies in.

Self-declared president Juan Guaido, the opposition leader, told a huge rally of supporters on Tuesday that humanitarian aid would enter the country on Feb. 23.

Guaido invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself interim president last month, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was a sham. Most Western countries, including the United States and many of Venezuela’s neighbors, have recognized Guaido as the legitimate head of state.

Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions including the military.

Seeking to strengthen support for Guaido, the United States has said it will try to channel aid to Venezuela via Colombia and possibly Brazil.

Maduro has called the aid a U.S.-orchestrated show and denies any crisis. However, opposition member Gustavo Tarre has said the sole aim is to ease “the suffering of Venezuelans” and has denied any political, economic or military motive. [nL1N2090UC]

(Reporting By Idrees Ali; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

U.S. sends food, medical aid to Colombia-Venezuela border

People cross into Venezuela over the Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia February 4, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is sending food and medical supplies to Colombia’s border with Venezuela where it will be stockpiled until it can be delivered to the economically shattered nation, U.S. officials with knowledge of the plan said on Tuesday.

One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the aid will be prepositioned at the main Colombian-Venezuelan border crossing at Cucuta.

It is unclear how the supplies will get into Venezuela without the blessing of President Nicolas Maduro and cooperation of the Venezuelan military, which has remained loyal to the socialist leader and is stationed on the Venezuelan side of the border.

The U.S. officials said trucks carrying the humanitarian aid were headed to Cucuta and would arrive later this week at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who last month declared himself to be the South American nation’s interim president.

Prepositioning aid in warehouses or in truck convoys at border posts for weeks, or sometimes months, is common while officials negotiate the safe passage of humanitarian supplies to those in need. In countries like Myanmar, South Sudan and Syria, aid has often been stockpiled as sides negotiated the terms of allowing aid into areas.

Pressure is growing on Maduro to step down after more than a dozen European Union nations, including Britain, Germany and France, on Monday joined the United States, Canada and a group of Latin American countries in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

However Russia, China and Turkey continue to back Maduro, accusing Western nations of meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

The 35-year-old Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, has galvanized the opposition with a hopeful message. He has repeatedly called on Venezuela’s military, which has remained loyal to Maduro, to support a transition to democracy.

The United States could attempt to seek the approval of the United Nations Security Council to deliver aid without Maduro’s cooperation, but Russia could block such a move.

So far, Maduro has rejected foreign aid. “We are not beggars. You want to humiliate Venezuela, and I will not let our people be humiliated,” he said on Monday.

FLOW OF MIGRANTS

Maduro’s government, overseeing an economic collapse that has prompted 3 million Venezuelans to flee the country, lashed out at the EU nations, saying their move would affect relations with Caracas.

In a statement, it accused them of submitting to a U.S. “strategy to overthrow the legitimate government” and singled out Spain, which had previously led mediation efforts, for acting “cowardly.”

With almost no information about how aid will be distributed, the Cucuta crossing from Venezuela appeared to be quiet on Tuesday.

The largest city along the frontier, Cucuta has borne the brunt of the arriving migrants. Thousands of people cross the pedestrian bridge daily lugging suitcases and plastic bags.

“Maduro doesn’t want help,” said Carolina Rozo, 20, as she crossed the bridge with a wheeled metal shopping cart. “He wants us to be poor. We have to come to buy food because we cannot even get cooking oil and eggs in Venezuela.”

Those who settle in Cucuta are often Venezuela’s poorest.

Others walk and bus hundreds of kilometers to other cities in Colombia, or follow thousands of others to Brazil, Peru, Chile and Argentina.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Additional reporting by Michelle Nicols at the United Nations, Roberta Rampton in Washington, Helen Murphy in Bogota and Anggy Polanco and Nelson Bocanegra in Cucuta; Editing by Paul Simao)

Brexit survival kit helps Britons face the worst with freeze-dried fajita

'Brexit Box' ration kits which contain dehydrated food, water purifying kit and fire starting gel are pictured at the warehouse of emergency food storage.co.uk in Leeds, Britain January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LEEDS (Reuters) – With just nine weeks to go until Britain is due to leave the European Union, a company is selling worried Britons a survival kit to help them prepare for the worst.

The “Brexit Box”, retailing at 295 pounds ($380), provides food rations to last 30 days, according to its producer, businessman James Blake who says he has already sold hundreds of them.

With still no deal on how Britain will trade with the EU once it leaves, retailers and manufacturers have warned a “no-deal” Brexit could cause food and medicine shortages due to expected chaos at ports that could paralyze supply lines.

The Brexit Box includes 60 portions of freeze-dried British favorites: Chicken Tikka, Chilli Con Carne, Macaroni Cheese and Chicken Fajitas, 48 portions of dried mince and chicken, firelighter liquid and an emergency water filter.

“Right now we are in a Brexit process that nobody has control over, we have no idea what is happening. Our government has no idea what is happening, but you can control what happens to you by taking control yourself,” said Blake.

“One of those things is to be a little bit ahead, have some food in place,” he added.

Customer Lynda Mayall, 61, who ignored government assurances that there is no need to stockpile food for Brexit, said: “I thought: let’s make sure I’m covered in the event of things going awry.

In addition to her Brexit Box, Mayall, a counselor and therapist, has stocked up on household products such as washing liquid, which she thinks may become scarce.

The Brexit Box’s long shelf life – the canned food will last up to 25 years – is appealing.

“In the event I don’t need it for Brexit, it is not going to go to waste,” Mayall said.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Survivors find reasons to be thankful after deadly California fire

After their home in Paradise was destroyed by the Camp Fire, Orin and Sonya Butts shop for new clothing for their son, Landyn, 3, in Chico, California, U.S., November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

CHICO, Calif. (Reuters) – Most years, Kelly Doty marked Thanksgiving by delivering scores of meals to low-income families with children in the tight-knit Northern California mountain community of Paradise.

But after the Camp Fire all but incinerated the town of nearly 27,000 residents on Nov. 8, killing at least 77 people and leaving almost 1,000 missing, the family resources center where Doty worked as a director had to scrap the annual food drive.

After their home in Paradise was destroyed by the Camp Fire, Orin Butts shops for new household items with his wife, Sonya, their kids, Abby, 4, and Landyn, 3, and Sonya's grandmother, Yvonne Tranah, in Chico, California, U.S., November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

After their home in Paradise was destroyed by the Camp Fire, Orin Butts shops for new household items with his wife, Sonya, their kids, Abby, 4, and Landyn, 3, and Sonya’s grandmother, Yvonne Tranah, in Chico, California, U.S., November 18, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

“All the families are displaced. There’s no houses to deliver boxes to,” Doty, 37, said by telephone from Battle Ground, Washington, where she and her two sons and boyfriend are staying with relatives.

She does not know the whereabouts of the 80 meals that staff at the Paradise Ridge Family Resource Center collected ahead of the holiday, or even if they survived the blaze.

Her house was reduced to rubble by the fire, as were the homes of the center’s three other employees.

Still, Doty said she had plenty to be thankful for. Her family survived and managed to escape with belongings such as family photos and children’s clothing. Many of her neighbors fled with only the clothes on their backs.

“I feel like I still have a lot,” Doty said.

In a twist, she said they were the ones receiving charity this year. During a visit to a Battle Ground pizza restaurant last week, the owner discovered they were Camp Fire evacuees and gave them a $100 gift card and $50 bottle of wine.

The band playing that night passed a tip jar around the room on their behalf, too. “It was just incredible, these people didn’t know us and they were donating money to us,” Doty said.

TURKEY IN THE PARK

For years in Chico, a few miles (km) west of Paradise, a 59-year-old homeless woman named “Mama” Rose Adams has served a Thanksgiving meal for homeless people in a park. She and her helpers buy some of the food from money they raise recycling, while the rest is donated by friends and family.

On Sunday, she was serving 17 roasted turkeys at an event advertised on social media and flyers around town. She was encouraging evacuees from the wildfire to attend since they are now homeless too.

“I’m sure a lot of them are uncomfortable now,” Adams said at the park where a few dozen people sat at picnic tables to eat. “A lot of them don’t have places to cook or eat.”

Among the displaced in Chico was Sonya Butts, her twin sister, Tonya Boyd, and their families. They had been among those hoping for a Thanksgiving meal parcel from Doty’s center.

The Camp Fire may have taken her home, her job and her town, Butts said, but it left her with the things that matter most to her.

“Being alive, knowing my husband and my kids got out alive, that’s all I ever wanted,” Butts, 28, said by phone from a Red Cross evacuation shelter at Bidwell Junior High School.

Butts, her sister and their families are lucky to be alive after a harrowing escape. They fled in a four-car caravan as the wildfire all but surrounded them, eventually reaching Chico where they watched their hometown burn in the hills behind them.

Still, Butts counts her blessings.

“Everything else can be replaced,” she said. “My family cannot.”

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

For asylum-seekers on Greece’s Lesbos, life ‘is so bad here’

Migrants wash their clothes and fill bottles with water at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

LESBOS, Greece (Reuters) – Hundreds of asylum-seekers stranded on Greece’s Lesbos island are living in makeshift tents in a field overrun by garbage, without electricity or running water.

Moria, Greece’s biggest migrant camp in a former military base on the island, is holding 9,000 people, nearly three times its capacity, according to the latest government data.

A view of the Moria camp for refugees and migrants and a makeshift camp set next to Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

A view of the Moria camp for refugees and migrants and a makeshift camp set next to Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

Aerial footage obtained by Reuters shows several dozen tents have spilled over into an adjacent olive grove, where hundreds of asylum-seekers, most of them Afghan, live in grim conditions.

Young children with muddied faces play among piles of rubbish and women wash clothes and plates in buckets of murky water. Others break off tree branches to shelter their tents from the elements.

“The situation is so bad here,” said Ali, an Afghan asylum-seeker who arrived in Greece with his three children in August. “Night is so bad … my children cannot go to the toilet because everywhere it is dark here and we are in a forest.”

Greece has said it will move 2,000 asylum-seekers from the island to the mainland by the end of the month as aid groups increased pressure on the government to ease the overcrowding.

A local governor threatened to shut Moria down next month unless authorities clean up what health inspectors described as “uncontrollable amounts of waste.”

A tent is illuminated at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

A tent is illuminated at a makeshift camp next to the Moria camp for refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

In Athens on Wednesday, the European Union’s top migration official, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said it was an EU “priority to create the best possible conditions on the islands”.

Small numbers of migrant boats arrive on Lesbos and other Greek islands near Turkey every week, though they are a fraction of the nearly 1 million people who landed in Greece in 2015.

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

‘Monster’ Hurricane Florence to pummel U.S. Southeast for days

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 Ernest Scheyder

WILMINGTON, N.C. (Reuters) – Hurricane Florence, on track to become the first Category 4 storm to make a direct hit on North Carolina in six decades, howled closer to shore on Tuesday, threatening to unleash deadly pounding surf, days of torrential rain and severe flooding.

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Sailors cast off mooring lines to the Command hospital ship USNS Comfort as the ship evacuates Naval Station Norfolk in preparation for Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2018. Jennifer Hunt/US Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Fierce winds and massive waves are expected to lash the coasts of North and South Carolina and Virginia even before Florence makes landfall by early Friday, bringing a storm surge as much as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center in Miami warned. Catastrophic floods could follow if the storm stalls inland, it said.

Although Florence was still days from arrival, authorities took extraordinary measures to move people out of harm’s way. More than 1 million residents have been ordered to evacuate from the coastline of the three states, while university campuses, schools, and factories were being shuttered.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed ports in Wilmington and Morehead City, North Carolina and Hampton Roads, Virginia to inbound vessels greater than 500 tons and was requiring vessels of that size to leave if they did not have permission to be in the ports.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour (225 km per hour), the storm ranked as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and was expected to grow stronger and larger over the next few days, the NHC said.

“This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said. “Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out a monster.”

He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina, “bringing days and days of rain.”

To hasten evacuations from coastal South Carolina, officials reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so all major roads led away from shore.

Kathleen O’Neal, a resident of Ocracoke Island in North Carolina’s Barrier Islands, said she, her husband and son would ride out the storm. “A lot of local people are staying,” she said of the island, which is reachable only by ferry or plane.

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

John Muchmore helps to lay sandbags at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City Beach, South Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

LONG-TERM POWER OUTAGES POSSIBLE

Maps of Florence’s trajectory showed its center most likely to strike the southern coast of North Carolina. The last Category 4 hurricane to plow directly into North Carolina was Hazel in 1954, a devastating storm that killed 19 people and destroyed some 15,000 homes.

NHC forecasts showed the effects of Florence would be widely felt, with tropical storm-force winds extending nearly 300 miles across three states. A hurricane warning was posted for most of the Carolina coast north to the Virginia border.

In addition to wind-driven storm surges of seawater, Florence could dump up to 35 inches (89 cm) in some spots as it moves inland, forecasters said.

Communities in Florence’s path could lose electricity for weeks due to downed power lines and flooded equipment, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long said.

Utilities deployed crews and gear in advance, with workers en route to the region from at least 15 states, according to trade group, the Edison Electric Institute.

Crews also prepared 16 nuclear reactors in the three-state region for the storm. One power station, Duke Energy Corp’s Brunswick plant, the closest to the area where landfall is forecast, faced a likely shutdown as a precaution. Shutdowns also were possible at two more plants in the path of predicted hurricane-force winds.

The American Red Cross said more than 700 workers were headed to the region while shelters were set up to house those unable to flee. A hospital in Hampton, Virginia, was transferring patients to safer places.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed declarations of emergency for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, freeing up federal resources for storm response.

“We are sparing no expense. We are totally prepared,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump faced severe criticism for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria last year in Puerto Rico. Some 3,000 people died in the aftermath of that storm.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

U.S. President Donald Trump holds an Oval Office meeting on hurricane preparations as FEMA Administrator Brock Long points to the potential track of Hurricane Florence on a graphic at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

COMMERCIAL OPERATIONS

Days before its arrival, Florence was already disrupting commercial operations.

Boeing Co suspended work on Tuesday at the South Carolina plant where it assembles 787 widebody jetliners, and a Volvo automobile plant in South Carolina’s evacuation zone was also closed, company officials said.

Smithfield Foods Inc [SFII.UL] said it would shut down the world’s largest hog-slaughtering facility in Tar Heel, North Carolina, on Thursday and Friday due to the hurricane.

Residents prepared by boarding up their homes and stocking up on food, water and other essentials, stripping grocery store shelves of merchandise. Many gasoline stations were running low on fuel.

“I’m scared we’ll get 30 inches or more of rain,” said Carol Trojniar, 69, a longtime Wilmington resident and retired real estate agent who has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane. “What is flooding going to do to our home, our city?”

Trojniar said she and her husband were packing up belongings and plan to stack sandbags around their single-floor home in Wilmington’s eerily named Landfall neighborhood near the ocean before checking into a hotel to ride out the storm, with plenty of wine.

“Where else can we go? If we try to leave, we’ll just get stuck in the rain,” she said.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Anna Driver in Holden Beach, North Carolina, Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Scott DiSavino and Alden Bentley in New York, Nichola Groom and Alex Dobzinskis in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski, Bill Trott and Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Tarrant, Lisa Shumaker and Michael Perry)

Hurricane Florence set for ‘direct hit’ on U.S. east coast

Trent Bullard fills gas containers for his generator ahead of Hurricane Florence in Pembroke, North Carolina, U.S., September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver

By Anna Driver

HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (Reuters) – More than 1 million people were ordered to evacuate their homes along the U.S. southeast coast as Hurricane Florence, the most powerful storm to threaten the Carolinas in nearly three decades, barreled closer on Tuesday.

Florence, a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 miles per hour (210 kph), was expected to make landfall on Friday, most likely in 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, freeing up federal money and resources for storm response.

“This storm is not going to be a glancing blow. This storm is going to be a direct hit on our coast,” said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We are planning for devastation.”

The slow-moving storm was about 905 miles (1,455 km) east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 11 a.m. EDT, according to the NHC, which warned the storm was expected to strengthen with life-threatening storm surge possible along the coasts of North and South Carolina.

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.

“This is still a very dangerous storm. We must take it very seriously,” South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said at a Tuesday news conference. “We are in a very deadly and important game of chess with Hurricane Florence.”

McMaster lifted an earlier evacuation order for parts of three southern coastal counties – Jasper, Beaufort and Colleton – but left them in effect for the state’s northern coast and urged residents to flee.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said classes would be canceled after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, joining other colleges in the state making similar plans.

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze departs Naval Station Norfolk to ride out the storm in the Atlantic Ocean ahead of Hurricane Florence, in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Handout via REUTERS

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze departs Naval Station Norfolk to ride out the storm in the Atlantic Ocean ahead of Hurricane Florence, in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. September 10, 2018. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Wolpert/Handout via REUTERS

12-FOOT STORM SURGE

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.

Wall Street was sniffing out companies that could gain or lose at the storm’s hands. Generator maker Generac Holdings Inc rose 2.2 percent and reached its highest price since April 2014.

Insurers Allstate Corp and Travelers Companies Inc were up slightly in early trade after falling sharply on Monday on worries about claims losses.

At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks barrier islands in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Vance McGougan, 57, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and his family did not wait for the noon deadline to evacuate a rented house at Holden Beach, about two hours away.

“We had already decided … that it was prudent for us to get on the road,” McGougan said.

Two years ago, when Hurricane Matthew crossed Fayetteville, McGougan said his house was without power for five days.

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, Liz Hampton in Houston, Susan Heavey in Washington, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Alden Bentley in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

Rescuers with dogs search for survivors after deadly Japan quake

A woman (C) wipes her tears after her missing father was found at an area damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Kaori Kaneko and Malcolm Foster

TOKYO (Reuters) – Rescue workers with dogs searched for survivors on Friday in debris-strewn landslides caused by an earthquake in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, as electricity was restored to just over half of households.

Public broadcaster NHK put the death toll at 12, with five people unresponsive. Earlier, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 16 had died, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later clarified in updated numbers that nine had been confirmed dead and nine others were in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest, a term typically used before death is confirmed.

Another 24 were still missing after Thursday’s pre-dawn magnitude-6.7 quake, the latest deadly natural disaster to hit Japan over the past two months, coming after typhoons, floods and a record-breaking heat wave.

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Nearly 5,000 Hokkaido residents spent the night in evacuation centers where food was distributed in the morning.

“It was an anxious night with several aftershocks, but we took encouragement from being together and now we’re grateful for some food,” one woman told public broadcaster NHK.

Some 22,000 rescue workers had worked through the night to search for survivors, Abe told an emergency meeting on Friday. With rain forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday, he urged people to be careful about loose soil that could cause unstable houses to collapse or further landslides.

“We will devote all our energy to saving lives,” Abe said.

As of Friday afternoon, Hokkaido Electric Power Co had restored power to 1.54 million of the island’s 2.95 million households. The utility aimed to raise that number to 2.4 million, or over 80 percent, by the end of Friday, industry minister Hiroshige Seko said.

Flights resumed from midday at Hokkaido’s main airport, New Chitose. The island, about the size of Austria and with 5.3 million people, is a popular tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes, rolling farmland and seafood.

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) search for survivors from a house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 7, 2018. Kyodo/via REUTERS

LANDSLIDES WRECK HOMES

Soldiers in fatigues and orange-clad rescue workers searched for survivors, picking through debris on huge mounds of earth near the epicenter in Atsuma in southern Hokkaido. Aerial footage showed rescuers with dogs walking through the destruction.

All the missing people are from the Atsuma area, where dozens of landslides wrecked homes and other structures and left starkly barren hillsides.

“I just hope they can find him quickly,” one unidentified man told NHK as he watched the search for his missing neighbor.

The quake damaged the big Tomato-Atsuma plant, which normally supplies half of Hokkaido’s power and is located near the epicenter, forcing it to automatically shut down. That caused such instability in the grid that it tripped all other power stations on the island, causing a full blackout.

Hokkaido Electric was bringing other smaller plants back on line and also receiving some power transferred through undersea cables from the main island of Honshu.

Kansai International Airport in western Japan has been shut since Typhoon Jebi ripped through Osaka on Tuesday, although some domestic flights operated by Japan Airlines Co Ltd and ANA Holdings Inc’s low-cost carrier Peach Aviation resumed on Friday, the carriers said.

JR Hokkaido planned to resume bullet train operations from midday. It was also trying to resume other train services on Friday afternoon, a spokesman said.

Manufacturers were still affected by power outages.

Toyota Motor Corp’s Tomakomai factory, which makes transmissions and other parts, said operations remained suspended indefinitely until power was restored, a spokesman said.

Toppan Printing Co Ltd’s operations at a plant in Chitose, which makes food packages, would remain suspended until it regained power, a spokesman said.

The quake prompted Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to cancel two joint military exercises in Hokkaido, including the first-ever drill with Australian fighter jets, and a training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps.

A soccer friendly between Japan and Chile scheduled for Friday in Hokkaido’s main city of Sapporo was also called off.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher, Kaori Kaneko, Makiko Yamazaki and Osamu Tsukimori; Writing by Malcolm Foster and Chris Gallagher; Editing by Paul Tait and Christopher Cushing)

Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii with heavy rain, winds

A chicken hops through floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Kehau Comilla/via REUTERS

By Jolyn Rosa

HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hurricane Lane, a powerful Category 3 storm, lashed Hawaii on Thursday with high winds and torrential rain, causing flash floods, landslides and raging surf as residents hunkered down to ride out the storm.

The storm spun in the Pacific Ocean about 165 miles (260 km) southwest of Kailua-Kona and nearly 20 inches (51 cm) of rain had fallen on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

“There’s lots and lots of rain, torrential rain, with a lot of moisture in the atmosphere,” NWS meteorologist Chevy Chevalier said, noting there were reports of 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) wind gusts. “We’re in it now.”

There were no reports of injuries, but roads were closed because of flash floods and landslides in the Pacific island state. Tourists were advised to stay away from a popular attraction on the island of Maui called the Seven Sacred Pools, a scenic cluster of waterfalls and grottos.

“Life threatening flash floods. This is a very dangerous situation. Avoid unnecessary travel,” Governor David Ige said on Twitter.

Evacuations were underway on parts of Molokai and Maui islands while power outages were being reported on social media.

The latest predictions showed the eye of the storm twisting west of the Big Island on Friday morning before glancing past Maui and several other islands later in the day on its way to Oahu. But authorities warned the islands could still expect to be hit hard.

Lane shifted from heading northwest and was headed north at 6 miles per hour as the Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale was packing winds of 120 mph (195 kph), the service said in an evening advisory.

“We’re telling everybody to take the storm seriously, make your final preparations, and be prepared to ride out what is going to be a prolonged rain event,” said Andrew Pereira, communications director for the city and county of the state capital Honolulu.

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Ryan Leinback/via REUTER

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Ryan Leinback/via REUTERS

REMEMBERING INIKI

The National Hurricane Center warned storm surges could raise water levels 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) above normal along the western shores of the Big Island and that extreme rainfall could mean “numerous evacuations and rescues.”

Ige has urged residents to set aside a 14-day supply of water, food, and medicine. All public schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai were closed at least through Friday.

“We are in our room at Alohilani Resort waiting for Hurricane Lane to arrive,” said Janina Ballali on Twitter. “Hopefully, the hurricane will have mercy with our beloved Oahu.”

Par Pacific Holdings Inc said it had shut its 93,500 barrel-per-day refinery in Kapolei due to the storm.

In Hanalei on Kauai, rain fell Thursday as residents and businesses prepared for the hurricane while tourists continued to shop and dine in places that were still open.

Dave Stewart, owner of Kayak Hanalei, had boarded up the windows on his shop by mid-afternoon and moved the company’s rental kayaks to high ground.

He said he wasn’t taking any chances, having lived through severe flooding on Kauai’s North Shore in April and through Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

“That was total destruction,” he said of Iniki. “Seven out of 10 telephone poles were down, so even if your house was OK, you couldn’t get out.”

Iniki was the most powerful hurricane on record to hit Hawaii, making landfall on Kauai island on Sept. 11, 1992, as a Category 4. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.

The shelves of a downtown Honolulu Walmart were stripped of items ranging from canned tuna to dog food, bottled water and coolers full of ice.

Video footage showed whipping palm trees and darkening skies in Maui. In the Manoa Valley neighborhood in Honolulu, sidewalks typically full of joggers and dog walkers were empty as residents stood outside their homes watching the skies and businesses closed early for the day.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for Hawaii and ordered federal authorities to help supplement state and local responses, the White House said on Thursday.

The Coast Guard has ordered all harbors to close to incoming vessels and the U.S. Navy moved most of its fleet out of Pearl Harbor, where ships could provide aid after the storm.

Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made changes to how it works, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said at a briefing in Washington, making sure generators are in place so they can provide power to residents and quickly restart the water system.

“It’s not just providing food and water. If you fix the power first, you solve 90 percent of the problems,” he said.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Doina Chiacu and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Approaching hurricane sparks runs in Hawaii on plywood, water and gasoline

Paul Akamine fills propane tanks for customers as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

By Sue Horton

HANALEI, Hawaii (Reuters) – Micco Godinez, who rents out kayaks on the island of Kauai and loves surfing, said he was twice tempted to hit the waves on Wednesday but kept his focus on a more pressing concern – getting ready to board up his home for a major hurricane.

With forecasts calling for Hurricane Lane to strike or brush past Hawaii’s “Garden Isle” on Friday, Godinez, 66, has joined tens of thousands of others on Kauai, and across the state, in the rituals of disaster preparation.

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

Lane, wavering between Category 4 and Category 5 strength on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, churned toward the U.S. Pacific island state with sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph) on Wednesday, as authorities urged residents to stock up on water, food and medicines.

Across Hawaii, jittery residents lined up at hardware centers, gasoline stations and grocery stores. But nowhere was the sense of urgency perhaps more palpable than on Kauai, where torrential rains four months ago triggered widespread flooding that destroyed homes and washed out roads.

“Some people here were just wiped out in that flood. It rained 50 inches (127 cm) in 24 hours,” said Hanalei resident Charlie Cowden, who owns several surf shops on the island. “Now there is this.”

Many older residents recalled even greater devastation from the last Category 4 storm to pummel Hawaii, Hurricane Iniki, which made landfall on Kauai in September 1992, killing six people and leveling or damaging more than 14,000 dwellings.

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

‘SLIM PICKINGS’

Godinez, who lives two blocks from the ocean in the bayside town of Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore, said he spent part of his day shopping for lumber and a recharging device for his portable drill.

He described the mood in town as “pleasantly apprehensive” and said he even felt the familiar pang of one of his favorite pastimes. “Twice the surf was up, and twice I wanted to go surfing, but I had other things pressing on my mind.”

He recalled getting up early to drive to a Home Depot building-supply outlet before it opened at 6 a.m., only to find two dozen others already lined up ahead of him.

“There’s a run on plywood,” he said. “It was slim pickings when I was there.”

Pausing later after filling up jugs of water, Godinez said he and his wife would spend the rest of the day taking measurements and cutting plywood to fit over more than 18 windows on their two-story house.

“Measure twice, cut once, and away we go,” he said, adding they would wait until Thursday for the latest forecasts before deciding whether to go ahead with fastening the boards to the windows.

Since Hanalei is on the opposite side of Kauai from where the hurricane is most likely to come ashore, Godinez said he was less concerned about ocean storm surge than ferocious winds.

Godinez said he, his wife and two guests planned to “hunker down” in a first-floor laundry room at the height of the storm, should it make landfall by late Thursday or early on Friday.

With two small laundry windows sealed up and probably no electricity, except for battery-powered flashlights, “It’s going to be hot and dark,” he said.

(Reporting by Sue Horton; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Peter Cooney)