Flash flooding in parts of Alabama kills one, prompts several rescues

(Reuters) -Heavy rain flooded parts of Alabama near Birmingham late on Wednesday, killing at least one person, closing roads and prompting several water rescues after a flash-flood emergency was issued for several counties.

Flash flooding was blamed for the death of a child in Arab, about 65 miles (105 km) north of Birmingham, the Marshall County Coroner’s Office said early on Thursday.

The U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) said numerous people had been rescued from vehicles stuck in water and that homes and roads were flooded, with the rains forming and moving into areas already suffering from significant and life-threatening flooding.

The NWS issued a flash flood emergency late Wednesday for Shelby and Jefferson counties in Alabama, where weather stations recorded 5-10 inches (13-25 cm) of rain in a day.

“While heavy rainfall has ended at this time, runoff is resulting in continued significant flooding w/major impacts. Elsewhere, areas of rain continue into the night,” the NWS said in a tweet early Thursday.

Birmingham receives an average of about 3.34 inches of rain in October, according to CNN, which means some areas received around double the precipitation they normally receive in an entire month.

“We’ve had numerous water rescues, people trapped in cars and rescued by fire departments and police departments, and we’ve had damage reports of trees on houses and trees on roadways, and it’s really across the entire Birmingham metro area,” Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Coker told CNN.

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mark Heinrich)

‘We need food’: heavy rains lash Haiti quake survivors

By Laura Gottesdiener and Ricardo Arduengo

LES CAYES, Haiti (Reuters) -The search for survivors of a weekend earthquake that killed more than 1,400 people on Haiti resumed on Tuesday after an overnight storm battered thousands left homeless with heavy rain before the weather front moved on.

The quake brought down tens of thousands of buildings in the poorest country in the Americas, which is still recovering from a temblor 11 years ago that killed over 200,000 people, and flooding caused by the storm has complicated rescue efforts.

By Tuesday morning, only a light rain was falling over Les Cayes, the southern coastal city that bore the brunt of the 7.2 magnitude quake after Tropical Storm Grace had dumped torrential rains and caused flooding in at least one region.

At a tent city in Les Cayes containing many children and babies, over a hundred people scrambled to repair makeshift coverings made of wooden poles and tarps that were destroyed by Grace overnight. Some took cover under plastic sheets.

Mathieu Jameson, deputy head of the committee formed by the tent city residents, said hundreds of people there were in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care.

“We don’t have a doctor. We don’t have food. Every morning more people are arriving. We have no bathroom, no place to sleep. We need food, we need more umbrellas,” said Jameson, adding the tent city was still waiting for government aid.

Haiti’s latest natural disaster comes just over a month after Haiti was plunged into political turmoil by the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7.

Several major hospitals were severely damaged, hampering humanitarian efforts, as were the focal points of many shattered communities, such as churches and schools.

Haitian authorities said on Monday that 1,419 deaths had been confirmed, with some 6,900 people injured.

As hopes began to dim of finding significant numbers of survivors among the wreckage, the storm impeded rescuers in the seaside city of Les Cayes, about 150 km (90 miles) west of the capital Port-au-Prince, which bore the brunt of the quake.

By early morning, Grace, which had been forecast to dump up to 15 inches (38 cm) of rain on parts of the country, had moved past Haiti and was advancing on the coast of Jamaica, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Centre.

Rescue workers were digging alongside residents through the rubble on Monday evening in a bid to reach bodies, though few voiced hope of finding anyone alive. A smell of dust and decomposing bodies permeated the air.

“We came from all over to help: from the north, from Port-au Prince, from everywhere,” said Maria Fleurant, a firefighter from northern Haiti.

Emergency workers pulled a blood-stained pillow from the rubble, followed by the corpse of a three-year-old boy who appeared to have died in his sleep during the earthquake.

Shortly after, as the rain intensified, the workers left.

RISING TOLL

With about 37,312 houses destroyed by the quake, according to Haitian authorities, and many of those still unexcavated, the death toll is expected to rise.

Vital Jaenkendy, who watched as a bulldozer shifted rubble from his collapsed apartment building, said eight residents had died and four were missing.

Jaenkendy and others have been sleeping under a tarpaulin on a dirt road nearby, and were hunkering down for the rains.

“When the storm comes, we’ll take shelter in car ports of the houses nearby, just until it passes, and then we’ll return to our place in the road,” he said.

Doctors battled in makeshift tents outside hospitals to save the lives of hundreds of injured, including young children and the elderly.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who was sworn in less then a month ago after Moise’s assassination, vowed to disburse humanitarian aid better than in the wake of the 2010 quake.

Though billions of dollars in aid money poured into Haiti after that quake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, many Haitians say they saw scant benefits from the uncoordinated efforts: government bodies remained weak, amid persistent shortages of food and basic goods.

“The earthquake is a great misfortune that happens to us in the middle of the hurricane season,” Henry told reporters, adding that the government would not repeat “the same things” done in 2010.

(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener and Ricardo Arduengo in Les Cayes, Haiti;Additional reporting by Herbert Villarraga and Robenson Sanon in Les Cayes; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Clarence Fernandez and Giles Elgood)

Heavy rains cripple Indian cities; at least 35 killed

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s capital New Delhi and the main financial center of Mumbai were drenched with heavy rain on Monday, a day after at least 35 people were killed across the country in landslides and house collapses triggered by downpours.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted heavy to very heavy rain in north India, including New Delhi, over the next two days. In Mumbai, the IMD has issued a heavy rain and thunderstorm alert for the city and surrounding districts.

At least 30 people were killed on Sunday in three Mumbai suburbs when several houses collapsed in landslides after rain.

At least three people were also killed when a house collapsed in the northern state of Uttarakhand after a downpour, Reuters partner agency ANI reported.

In a separate incident on Sunday evening, a three-story building collapsed in the city of Gurugram, bordering Delhi. Two people were killed and rescue operations were still underway.

Several low-lying areas of Delhi and Mumbai were flooded and Twitter was filled with images of submerged vehicles and people wading through waist-deep water.

Mumbai’s water treatment plant in the suburbs was flooded on Sunday forcing the municipal council to impose water cuts in some parts of the city.

India is in the midst of its annual rainy season but the downpours over the past few days have been particularly heavy.

Extreme weather has hit several parts of the world in recent weeks with flooding in Europe, dam collapses in China and heatwaves in North America adding to worries about climate change.

(Reporting by Swati Bhat; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Robert Birsel)

Russian-annexed Crimea declares state of emergency over floods

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Authorities in Russian annexed Crimea declared a local state of emergency on Thursday after heavy rain caused flooding in parts of the peninsula’s east including the city of Kerch.

The flooding affected nearly 300 homes and a city hospital, the emergencies ministry said.

Whole streets were submerged in water in parts of the city. In one place a fire engine could be seen driving through deep water towards a submerged passenger bus in a video posted online. Some cars were almost completely under water.

“In terms of material damage, the situation is severe. But now commissions have been set up, a regional emergency has already been declared,” Sergei Aksyonov, head of the Russian authorities, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv wants the peninsula back.

Aksyonov was shown on a boat in Kerch, surveying the flooding in video circulated by the RIA news agency.

(Reporting by Maxim Rodionov and Elena Ostrovskaya; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Barbara Lewis)

Hundreds evacuated in New Zealand’s Canterbury region floods

By Praveen Menon

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of people were evacuated overnight and many more face the risk of abandoning their homes in New Zealand’s Canterbury region as heavy rains raised water levels and caused widespread flooding.

At least 300 homes in Canterbury were evacuated overnight as water levels rose in rivers across the region in a “one-in-100-year deluge,” local media reports said on Monday.

Several highways, schools and offices were closed and New Zealand’s Defense Forces deployed helicopters to rescue some people stranded in floods in the Ashburton area.

Ashburton’s Mayor Neil Brown said “half of Ashburton” would need to be evacuated if the river’s levees broke but there was “still quite a bit of capacity” in the river.

“We need it to stop raining to let those rivers drop,” said Brown, according to the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand’s MetService had issued a red warning on Sunday for heavy rain for Canterbury and multiple warnings elsewhere.

The government announced NZ$100,000 ($72,500) towards a Mayoral Relief Fund to support Canterbury communities impacted by the flooding, Kris Faafoi, the acting minister for emergency management said in a statement.

“While it is still very early to know the full cost of the damage, we expect it to be significant and this initial contribution will help those communities to start to get back on their feet,” said Faafoi.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Diane Craft)

Indonesia quake kills at least 42, injures hundreds

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Stanley Widianto

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake killed at least 42 people and injured hundreds on Indonesia’s island of Sulawesi on Friday, trapping several under rubble and unleashing dozens of aftershocks as authorities warned of more quakes that could trigger a tsunami.

Thousands of frightened residents fled their homes for higher ground when the magnitude 6.2-quake struck 6 km (4 miles) northeast of the town of Majene, at a depth of just 10 km, shortly before 1.30 a.m.

The quake and aftershocks damaged more than 300 homes and two hotels, as well as flattening a hospital and the office of a regional governor, where authorities told Reuters several people have been trapped under the rubble.

“Praise be to God, for now OK, but we just felt another aftershock,” said Sukri Efendy, a 26-year-old resident of the area.

As many as 42 people have been killed, mostly in Mamuju and the rest in the neighboring district of Majene, the country’s national disaster mitigation agency said in a situation report on Friday evening. More than 820 people were injured, it said.

The heightened seismic activity set off three landslides, severed electricity supplies, and damaged bridges linking to regional hubs, such as the city of Makassar. Heavy rain was also worsening conditions for those seeking shelter.

No tsunami warning was issued but the head of Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Dwikorita Karnawati, told a news conference that aftershocks could follow, with a possibility that another powerful quake could trigger a tsunami.

There had been at least 26 aftershocks, she said, with Friday’s quake preceded by a quake of 5.9 magnitude the previous day.

Mamuju resident Muhammad Ansari Iriyanto, 31, told Reuters that everyone panicked and sought refuge in the nearby hills and mountains.

“Mamuju is now empty, everyone went to the mountains,” he said. “Lots of buildings collapsed and people are afraid of a tsunami.”

Another resident Syahir Muhammad said: “It’s raining and we need help.”

Videos shared on social media showed residents fleeing to higher ground on motorcycles, and a young girl trapped under rubble as people tried to shift debris with their hands. Rescue workers used cutting and lifting equipment to free survivors and find the dead.

President Joko Widodo offered condolences to the victims, urging people to stay calm and authorities to step up search efforts.

Emerging workers are now trying to restore telecoms and bridge links and ensure the delivery of tents, food and medical supplies, said West Sulawesi provincial government spokesman Safaruddin.

About 15,000 people have fled their homes since the quake, the disaster agency has said, with the coronavirus pandemic likely to complicate the distribution of aid.

“It is certainly one of the most challenging, this (disaster) was one of our fears and now we are putting all of that planning and protocols into place,” said Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross in Indonesia.

Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In 2018, a devastating 6.2-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.

A 9.1-magnitude quake off the north of Sumatra island triggered a tsunami on Boxing Day in 2004 that lashed coastal areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and nine other nations, killing more than 230,000 people.

(Additional reporting by Angie Teo; Additional reporting by Yishu Ng in Singapore added as Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)

Michigan governor declares emergency after dams collapse

(Reuters) – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday declared an emergency for Midland county after two dams breached and on expectations of extreme flooding.

The county said two dams, Edenville and Sanford, have collapsed due to heavy rain in the past few days and residents nearby have been told to evacuate immediately.

“In the next 12 to 15 hours, downtown Midland could be under approximately nine feet of water”, the governor said in a news conference.

Aerial view of water from a broken Edenville Dam seen flooding the area as it flows towards Wixom Lake in Michigan, U.S. in this still frame obtained from social media video dated May 19, 2020. RYAN KALETO/via REUTERS

About 3,500 homes and 10,000 people have so far been affected by the evacuation notices, CNN reported, quoting Mark Bone, Chairman of the Midland County Board of Commissioners.

No injuries or deaths have been reported so far, CNN said, citing the chairman.

Residents were also advised to seek higher ground as far as possible from the Tittabawassee river.

Two rivers in Michigan, the Tittabawassee River in Midland and the Rifle River near Sterling, were in major flooding stage, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.

The NWS also said it issued a flash flood emergency in locations downstream of the failed dams.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler and Kim Coghill)

Flights axed and floods feared as Storm Ciara clobbers Europe

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Storm Ciara lashed Britain and northern continental Europe with heavy rain and wind speeds that reached more than 90 miles an hour (145 kph) in places on Sunday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

More than 200 flood warnings were issued across Britain, which recorded a maximum wind speed of 93 miles an hour at Aberdaron in Wales. One severe flood warning was put in place in Yorkshire, northern England, where water was predicted to overflow flood defenses and potentially threaten lives.

The storm caused major disruption to transport across the region; in the Netherlands, around 240 flights to and from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, one of Europe’s busiest, were canceled as Ciara roared in off the Atlantic with gusts of up to 74 mph (120 kph).

In Germany, where Ciara was named Sabine, about 180 flights to and from Frankfurt airport – about 15% of all planned flights – were axed. Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>, Germany’s largest carrier, said it would cancel short and long-haul flights from Munich airport on Monday until 1200 GMT and 1300 GMT, respectively.

Lufthansa’s budget unit Eurowings said it had suspended flight operations at Hamburg, Berlin, Hanover, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne and Stuttgart. Meanwhile, some British domestic and international flights were also canceled, from airports including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Train services also fell victim to Ciara’s wrath.

German railway operator Deutsche Bahn warned of severe disruptions and said it would stop long-distance train travel across Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, in the evening.

Britain’s Network Rail said the weather had caused problems across its network, with fallen power lines, trees and even trampolines blocking tracks, and warned people not to travel unless they had to.

SPORT DISRUPTED

All shipping movements in and out of Britain’s Port of Dover on the south coast were suspended and the Humber Bridge in northern England was closed to all traffic for only the second time since it opened in 1981.

London’s eight royal parks, home to more than 170,000 trees, were closed and even the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, a tourist draw, was also canceled.

Sporting events were also hit; Manchester City said its English Premier League soccer match against West Ham was postponed due to “extreme and escalating weather conditions”, while Scotland’s Women’s Six Nations rugby match against England was among the other matches canceled.

All professional Dutch soccer matches were canceled, along with most outdoor sporting events.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan in London, Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Pravin Char)

Storm halts flights into Houston, city braces for torrential Imelda rains

HOUSTON (Reuters) – All flights into Houston’s international airport, one of the busiest in the United States, were halted on Tuesday as Tropical Depression Imelda inundated southeastern Texas with heavy rains and triggered flash flood warnings.

The George Bush Intercontinental Airport tweeted that it was under a “full ground stop” while the National Weather Service said flash flood warnings were in effect for the Houston area through the evening.

The National Hurricane Center forecast that up to 35 inches (89 cm) could fall in some coastal areas, while Energy Texas said over 37,000 people were without power so far. Work at oil refineries southeast of Houston was also slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked city residents to avoid roads as Imelda’s slow-moving rain bands were expected to hit their peak in the afternoon.

Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue any stranded residents and deal with flooding than when Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, leading to dozens of deaths in Houston and billions of dollars in damage.

The mayor said that as of mid-morning, a small number of residents had been evacuated because of flooding in northeast Houston.

Millions of people in and around Houston and nearby western Louisiana were under flash flood watches on Thursday as the National Weather Service predicted a final 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) of rainfall throughout the day.

The small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes.

“The community of Winnie is being devastated by rising water,” the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement, advising residents that the Red Cross had opened a shelter and that emergency officials were rescuing people by boat.

Parts of Interstate 10, a major east-west highway, were closed near Winnie.

Imelda made landfall as a tropical storm near Freeport, Texas on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Jonathan Allen in New York and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Editing by Will Dunham and Steve Orlofsky)

Hurricane Dorian gains strength as Florida braces for hit, Trump says Florida faces ‘absolute monster’

Shoppers wait in a long line for a Sam's Club store to open before sunrise, as people rushed to buy supplies ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Kissimmee, Florida, U.S. August 30, 2019. REUTERS/Gregg Newton

By Zach Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Hurricane Dorian gained strength as it crept closer to Florida’s coast on Friday, raising the risk that parts of the U.S. state will be hit by strong winds, a storm surge and heavy rain for a prolonged period after it makes landfall early next week.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a hurricane watch for northwestern Bahamas, and said Dorian was likely to remain an extremely dangerous hurricane as it approaches Florida through the weekend.

“The biggest concern will be Dorian’s slow motion when it is near Florida, placing some areas of the state at an increasing risk of a prolonged, drawn-out event of strong winds, dangerous storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the center said.

The storm began Friday over the Atlantic as a Category 2 but was already expected to be classified a Category 3 later in the day, with sustained winds of at least 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour).

The entire state of Florida was under a declaration of emergency, and Governor Ron DeSantis has activated 2,500 National Guard troops, with another 1,500 on standby.

Forecasters predicted the storm would grow more ferocious as it gained fuel from the warm waters off Florida, slamming into the state late on Monday or early Tuesday. Tropical storm winds could be felt in Florida as soon as Saturday.

No evacuations were ordered as of early Friday, but many were expected as the storm’s path becomes clearer before it makes landfall.

If, as expected, the storm reaches Category 4 over the weekend, its winds will blow at more than 130 mph (210 kph). There was concern that it could slow from its current 12-mph (9-kph) march across the map, giving it more time to draw fuel from warm seas.

Recent NHC weather models show Dorian smacking into the center of Florida. It was trending northwest in the latest advisory issued at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) on Friday.

The storm could roll inland toward Orlando on Tuesday or early Wednesday, weakening as it moves away from the sea. Other NHC weather models show it tracking south toward Miami before hitting the peninsula, or heading north to the Georgia coast.

Along with the dangerous winds, the storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain on the coastal United States, with some areas getting as much as 15 inches (38 cm).

“This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods,” NHC forecasters said.

President Donald Trump on Thursday canceled a planned weekend trip to Poland, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, so he can make sure resources are properly directed for the storm.

“Now it’s looking like it could be an absolute monster,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that food and water were being shipped to Florida.

Governor DeSantis said Floridians need to take the storm seriously.

“Hurricane #Dorian is moving slowly & gaining strength,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Now is the time to get prepared & have a plan.”

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.

‘NOT LOOKING GOOD’

Angela Johnson, a 39-year-old bar manager in South Florida, said on Thursday, “We’re worried. This is not looking good for us.”

“We woke up a lot more scared than we went to bed last night, and the news is not getting any better,” said Johnson, who manages Coconuts On The Beach, a bar and restaurant on the surfing beach in the town of Cocoa Beach.

Officials were making piles of sand available for Cocoa Beach residents to fill sandbags starting on Friday.

Dorian could churn across dozens of launchpads owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Air Force and companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

(Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Miami and Rich McKay in Atlanta; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter, Andrew Hay, Helen Coster in New York, Alexandra Alper, Joey Roulette and Eric Beech in Washington; writing by Paul Simao; editing by Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis)