Torrential Imelda rains kill 2, flood homes, snarl travel around Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Imelda dumped torrential rains over the Houston-area, killing at least two people, while rescuers in boats pulled hundreds from flooded cars, the airport temporarily halted flights and tens of thousands of people lost power.

Heavy rains had abated by Thursday evening, although flash flood watches remained in effect through Friday morning and rescuers were still working to reach stranded motorists and those trapped in homes late into the night as floodwaters were slow to drain off.

The National Hurricane Center said in a late Thursday bulletin that up to 45 inches of rain will have fallen in some areas by the time the storm blows off on Friday afternoon.

Ed Gonzalez, sheriff for Harris County, which includes Houston, confirmed the second death from the storm.

He tweeted on Thursday that he was at the scene where first-responders tried to save a man who had driven his white van headlong into deep waters.

“The water level was about 8′ (8 feet) high,” Gonzalez wrote, describing the incident. “The driver paused briefly, then accelerated into it the water, causing his van to go under.”

Gonzalez said the man driving the van was pulled from the vehicle after some 20 minutes underwater and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The other victim of the storm was electrocuted southeast of Houston while trying to move his horse to safety, according to a statement on the Facebook page of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. No other details were provided.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport halted all flights for about two hours, and Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster covering more than a dozen counties.

Hundreds of motorists were stranded in their vehicles as some of Houston’s main roadways flooded, submerging cars. Firefighters, police and ordinary citizens were out in boats and all-terrain vehicles to pick up people trapped in their homes by the rising waters.

The storm knocked out power to around 100,000 people in Houston and southeast Texas, according to reports from energy companies, while work at oil refineries in the area was slowed or halted.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city was better prepared to rescue 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 small town of Winnie, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Houston, was also badly hit. Officials there evacuated Riceland Hospital and tried to rescue people marooned in their vehicles after roads turned into lakes.

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, Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas, and Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio and Tom Hogue)

Death toll from India, Nepal, Bangladesh floods jumps to over 300

Flood-affected people receives water purifying tablets from volunteers in Jamalpur, Bangladesh, July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

By Serajul Quadir and Sudarshan Varadhan

DHAKA/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The death toll from severe flooding in parts of India, Nepal and Bangladesh rose to more than 300 on Monday, even as heavy rains are starting to ebb and water levels started to recede in some of the worst-affected areas.

Heavy rains and overflowing rivers swamped vast swathes of eastern India more than a week ago, and officials on Monday said so far 102 people have died in Bihar state, 35 more than what the state government had estimated on Thursday.

Torrential rains in Bangladesh killed more than 47 people in the last two weeks and at least 120 are missing and feared dead following severe floods and landslides in mostly mountainous Nepal, authorities from the two countries said.

A flood-affected woman wades through flooded area in Jamalpur, Bangladesh July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

A flood-affected woman wades through flooded area in Jamalpur, Bangladesh July 21, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Parts of Pakistan have also been flooded.

In Bangladesh, at least 700,000 people have been displaced.

Deaths due to flooding in the region more than doubled in the last five days.

At least five districts in central Bangladesh are at the risk of being flooded, as water levels of two rivers are still rising, an official at the Bangladesh Water Development Board told Reuters.

Authorities are struggling to deliver relief supplies to marooned people.

“We have enough relief materials but the main problem is to reach out to the people,” Foyez Ahmed, deputy commissioner of Bangladesh’s Bogra district, said. “We don’t have adequate transport facilities to move to the areas that are deep underwater.”

In India’s tea-growing state of Assam, close to the border of Bangladesh, severe flooding has displaced millions of people and killed more than 60, officials have said.

Separately, at least 32 people were killed on Sunday in lightning strikes in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state in the north.

India’s weather office on Monday forecast “extremely heavy” rain in four of the 14 districts of the southern state of Kerala.

Kerala last year faced its worst floods in about a century, with heavy rain and landslides killing nearly 500 people, destroying houses and wiping out farmlands.

Monsoon rains, which deliver 75% of India’s annual rain, have not been evenly distributed.

The Himalayan region has received substantially more rain than some of the areas in the plains, where rainfall deficiency has widened to 60%, according to the state-run India Meteorological Department.

(Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj & Kim Coghill)

Rain grounds Mozambique aid flights as cyclone death toll hits 38

Residents wade through a flooded road in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

By Mike Hutchings

PEMBA, Mozambique (Reuters) – Rains grounded aid flights in northern Mozambique for a second day on Monday, hampering efforts to reach survivors of Cyclone Kenneth as the death toll there jumped to 38.

Rescuers managed to use a brief break in the downpours to send one helicopter packed with aid to the island of Ibo, where hundreds of homes were flattened by the second cyclone to hit the country in less than six weeks.

But rains started again and conditions were too dangerous for the next flight to take off, the United Nations said. Roads to rural districts further north were swamped and impassable after torrential rains on Sunday.

Aid workers load food onto a truck as flooding spreads in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Aid workers load food onto a truck as flooding spreads in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 29, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

“Unfortunately the weather conditions are changing too fast and threatening the operation,” said Saviano Abreu, a spokesman for the United Nations’ humanitarian arm OCHA.

Cyclone Kenneth slammed into the Comoros and then Mozambique’s province of Cabo Delgado on Thursday with storm surges and winds of up to 280 kph – stretching resources in a region still recovering from Cyclone Idai which struck further south in March.

The storm knocked out power and communications. Some rural communities were reduced to mounds of jumbled wood, with only the occasional structure and coconut tree left standing.

Four people died in the Comoros, the United Nations said. Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management said its death toll stood at 38 on Monday – up from an earlier estimate of five – and just over 168,000 people had been affected.

After the first hit, heavy rains pounded Mozambique’s north, an area prone to floods and landslides. Information about the scale of the flooding in more remote districts remains scant.

In the port city of Pemba at least, waters had started to recede, OCHA’s Abreu said. Water was still waist-deep in some neighborhoods. One man ferried residents in a wooden boat. Others just waded through the deluge, some carrying belongings on their heads.

The aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth is seen in Macomia District, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 27, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on April 28, 2019. OCHA/Saviano Abreu/via REUTERS

The aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth is seen in Macomia District, Cabo Delgado province, Mozambique April 27, 2019 in this picture obtained from social media on April 28, 2019. OCHA/Saviano Abreu/via REUTERS

Idai destroyed the port city of Beira and submerged entire villages, vast swathes of land and 700,000 hectares of crops. It killed more than 1,000 people across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Forecasters have said Kenneth could drop twice as much rain as Idai on Mozambique’s north. Authorities urged people living near rivers to move to higher ground over the weekend.

The United Nations said it had released $13 million in emergency funds for Mozambique and the Comoros to provide food and water and repair infrastructure.

(Additional reporting by Emma Rumney and Mfuneko Toyana in Johannesburg; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Heavens)

Mudslide risk in Southern California wildfire zones prompts evacuation of thousands

Mud flows along a beach in Malibu, California, U.S., December 6, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Mike Gardner/via REUTERS

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Heavy rains and the threat of mudslides in Southern California forced the closure of a key coastal highway near Malibu on Thursday and prompted authorities to order evacuations of almost 3,000 residents from hillside areas scarred by recent wildfires.

The same Pacific storm also brought snow to the region’s high country, leading to the temporary closure of a stretch of Interstate 5 called the Grapevine, a major truck route that traverses a mountain pass north of Los Angeles, officials said.

The storm, which led the National Weather Service to issue flash-flood warnings for parts of Southern California, heightened concerns about the long-term risk of mudslides and debris flows around communities where wildfires have stripped foothills and canyon slopes of vegetation.

Last month, the Woolsey Fire incinerated 1,500 buildings and charred 97,000 acres (39,000 hectares) in the upscale coastal enclave of Malibu and adjacent areas near Los Angeles, leaving large swaths of hilly landscape vulnerable to slides and flooding.

“The fires have generated some risks that we need to be aware of and be cautious of for several years into the future,” Cindy Matthews, a senior National Weather Service hydrologist, said.

About 2,700 people were ordered evacuated from Lake Elsinore and surrounding Riverside County communities about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles, where rains threatened to unleash rivers of mud, boulders and other debris down hillsides, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) Captain Fernando Herrera.

Some mudflows occurred on Thursday in the area, burned earlier this year by the Holy fire, but no major property damage was reported, Herrera said.

The threat of mudslides in the Woolsey Fire zone around Malibu was not deemed severe enough to trigger evacuations there, Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Tony Imbrenda said.

However, as a heavy debris flow smothered a nearby section of Pacific Coast Highway, forcing authorities to close that stretch of the scenic highway for a few hours.

In all, the storm dumped more than 3 inches (8 cm) of rain in some parts of Southern California, according to the National Weather Service.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis, Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)

Rising flood waters from Florence menace Carolinas – kills at least 32

Houses sit in floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence, in this aerial picture, on the outskirts of Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

By Ernest Scheyder and Patrick Rucker

WILMINGTON/FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) – Rising flood waters threatened communities across the Carolinas on Tuesday as storm Florence hit the U.S. Northeast with heavy rains and tornadoes after killing at least 32 people.

Widespread flooding has already reached roofs, turned highways into rivers and left thousands to be saved by rescue workers. Waterways are expected to keep rising on Tuesday in places like Fayetteville, North Carolina, a city of 200,000 in the southern part of the state, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

People take cell phone photos of the flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Fair Bluff, North Carolina, U.S. September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

People take cell phone photos of the flood waters in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Fair Bluff, North Carolina, U.S. September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Randall Hill

At least 32 people have been killed since Florence came ashore as a hurricane on Friday, including 25 in North Carolina and six in South Carolina. One person was killed when at least 16 tornadoes developed from Florence on Monday in Virginia, where dozens of buildings were destroyed, the NWS reported.

The dead included a 1-year-old boy swept from his mother as they tried to escape their car amid floodwaters. The woman had driven around barricades to reach a closed road, the sheriff’s office in Union County, near North Carolina’s border with South Carolina, said on Facebook.

“Flooding is still going to be a concern into the weekend and into next week,” NWS meteorologist Hal Austin said, noting there is a chance of rain for the region on Tuesday and Wednesday. “No more water, not even a drop, please.”

With 1,500 roads closed across North Carolina, fire and rescue crews were waiting to go into many areas to assist with structural damage after Florence dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain on the state since Thursday.

“Road conditions are still changing,” the North Carolina Department of Transportation said on Twitter on Tuesday. “What’s open now may become impassable.”

All told, more than 8 trillion gallons of rain fell on North Carolina, NWS said.

Forecasters warned heavy rains could cause flash flooding in the U.S. Northeast on Tuesday. As much as 6 inches (15 cm) of rain was possible in parts of the region, the NWS said. The storm was now passing through the mid-Atlantic and was about 100 miles (165 km) northwest of Philadelphia, according to the NWS.

It is expected to keep producing heavy rain over Pennsylvania into southern New England.

An aerial picture shows a flooded Interstate 95 (I-95) after Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

An aerial picture shows a flooded Interstate 95 (I-95) after Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

STRUCTURAL DAMAGE

Thousands of rescues have taken place in the Carolinas and more than 650 people were taken to safety in and around Wilmington, North Carolina, said Barbi Baker, a spokeswoman for New Hanover County. The city took a direct hit when Hurricane Florence came ashore and has been largely cut off since then due to storm surges and flooding from the Cape Fear River.

More than 340,000 customers were without power on Tuesday morning, according to power companies, down from a peak of nearly 1 million outages.

North Carolina had deployed about 2,000 boats and 36 helicopters to help people stranded in floods, the state’s director of emergency management, has said.

The Coast Guard said it had 26 helicopters and 11 aircraft looking for people in trouble.

Property damage from the storm is expected to total at least $17 billion to $22 billion but that forecast could be conservative depending on further flooding, risk management firm Moody’s Analytics said.

A power outage at a wastewater treatment plant in Wilmington caused partially treated sewage water to be released into the Cape Fear River, said Reggie Cheatham, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Management.

Sewage releases in the Neuse River were reported as well as overflows at several hog “lagoons,” used to store waste from pig farms.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Miami; Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee: Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina; and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

In quake-prone Japan, attention shifts to flood risks as heavy rains increase

FILE PHOTO: The staff of metropolitan outer floodway management office looks around a pressure-adjusting water tank, part of an underground water discharge tunnel which was constructed to protect Tokyo and its suburb areas against floodwaters and overflow of the city's major waterways and rivers during heavy rain and typhoon seasons, at the facility in Kasukabe, north of Tokyo, Japan August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

By Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese have long been conditioned to prepare for earthquakes, but recent powerful typhoons and sudden, heavy rains have brought to the forefront another kind of disaster: flooding.

Experts warn that thousands could die and as many as 5 million people would need to be evacuated if massive dikes and levees in low-lying eastern Tokyo are overwhelmed by surging floodwaters.

The cities of Osaka and Nagoya also face flood risks, experts say, amid an increase in sudden heavy rainfall across the country in recent years, a symptom linked to global warming.

“Japan’s major metropolitan areas are, in a way, in a state of national crisis,” said Toshitaka Katada, a professor of disaster engineering at the University of Tokyo.

In July, parts of western Japan were deluged with more than 1,000 millimeters (39 inches) of torrential rain. Gushing water broke levees and landslides destroyed houses, killing more than 200 people in the country’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.

“If this happened to Tokyo, the city would suffer catastrophic damage,” said Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director of the Japan Riverfront Research Center and author of the book “Capital Submerged,” which urges steps to protect the city, which will host the 2020 Olympics and Rugby World Cup games next year.

Particularly vulnerable are the 1.5 million people who live below sea level in Tokyo, near the Arakawa River, which runs through the eastern part of the city.

In June, the Japan Society of Civil Engineers estimated that massive flooding in the area would kill more than 2,000 people and cause 62 trillion yen ($550 billion) in damage.

Experts could not say how likely that scenario was. But in recent years, the government has bolstered the city’s water defenses by building dams, reservoirs and levees.

But the pace of construction is too slow, said Satoshi Fujii, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who is known for pushing big infrastructure projects.

“They need to be taken care of as soon as possible,” he told Reuters.

John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination commission for the Tokyo 2020 Games, said the city should “take into account the potential for some of these disasters that seem to beset your country.”

In tacit acknowledgement that more needs to be done, the transport ministry late last month asked the finance ministry for 527 billion yen for levee reinforcement and evacuation preparation in next year’s budget. That’s a third more than the current year.

SURROUNDED BY WATER

Tokyo was last hit by major flooding in 1947, when Typhoon Kathleen inundated large swaths of the city and killed more than 1,000 people across Japan.

A survivor from that disaster, 82-year-old Eikyu Nakagawa, recalled living on the roof of his one-story house with his father for three weeks, surrounded by water. He remembered a pregnant woman who had taken refuge in a two-story house next door.

FILE PHOTO: Eikyu Nakagawa talks about flood preparation on a bank along the Nakagawa River near his house during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

FILE PHOTO: Eikyu Nakagawa talks about flood preparation on a bank along the Nakagawa River near his house during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo, Japan August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

“The baby could come any minute, but we could not bring a midwife to her or take her to a doctor,” he said. “I was just a kid, but I lost sleep worrying that she might die.”

A similar disaster today would be much worse, Nakagawa predicted, because the area around his house in Tokyo’s eastern Katsushika ward, once surrounded by rice paddies, is now packed with buildings.

“It’s going to be terrible,” he said. “Now it’s so crowded with houses. Little can be done if water comes.”

Intense rainfall is on the upswing across Japan. Downpours of more than 80 millimeters in an hour happened 18 times a year on average over the 10 years through 2017, up from 11 times between 1976-85.

Warming global temperatures contribute to these bouts of extreme weather, scientists say.

“Higher ocean temperatures cause more moisture to get sucked up into the air,” said University of Tokyo’s Katada. “That means a very large amount of rain falling at once, and typhoons are more likely to grow stronger.”

Just last week, western Japan was battered by Typhoon Jebi, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in 25 years, which killed at least 13 people and inundating the region’s biggest international airport.

FILE PHOTO: Residents of Tokyo's Katsushika ward show a floating boat which they keep for a possible flood in Tokyo, Japan August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

FILE PHOTO: Residents of Tokyo’s Katsushika ward show a floating boat which they keep for a possible flood in Tokyo, Japan August 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

EVACUATION NIGHTMARE

In late August, five low-lying wards in Tokyo jointly unveiled hazard maps outlining areas at high risk of flooding, and warned that up to 2.5 million residents may need to evacuate in case of a major disaster.

The maps, which will be available to residents online and via hard copy, show how deep floodwater would likely be for each area, and how long each area would remain underwater.

But such maps were largely ignored during the deadly flooding in western Japan in July.

If a disaster hits during weekday working hours, the number of evacuees could swell to 5 million, including those from neighboring wards, says Tsuchiya – a logistical nightmare. Tokyo prefecture has grown to 14 million people, with millions more in surrounding areas.

Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has called for a new ministry that would focus on disaster prevention and recovery. Currently that is overseen by the Cabinet Office, which handles other disparate tasks such as laying out basic fiscal policy and nurturing technological innovation.

Companies also are waking up to the danger of floods, said Tomohisa Sashida, senior principal consultant at Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting.

“We have been often approached for quake-related business continuity plans.” he said. “But now they realize they need to keep flood risks in mind and flood-related consultations are certainly on the rise.”

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Kwiyeon Ha; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Gerry Doyle)

Evacuations in North Carolina as hurricane Florence roars closer

A photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Florence over the Atlantic Ocean in the early morning hours of September 6, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

By Rich McKay and Letitia Stein

(Reuters) – North Carolina officials on Monday ordered residents to evacuate the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands beginning on Monday ahead of Hurricane Florence, the first major hurricane to threaten the eastern United States this year.

With winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph), the storm had reached Category 3 strength on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale by 11 a.m. on (1500 GMT) on Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

It warned the storm would be “an extremely dangerous major hurricane” by the time it made landfall, forecast in the Carolinas on Thursday.

The hurricane was gaining strength as it traveled over warm Atlantic waters, about 1,240 miles (2,000 km) east-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

A beachfront home is boarded up ahead of Hurricane Florence, at Holden Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver

A beachfront home is boarded up ahead of Hurricane Florence, at Holden Beach, North Carolina, U.S., September 10, 2018. REUTERS/Anna Driver

All of Hatteras Island was under mandatory evacuation order and other parts of the Outer Banks will have to evacuate by 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) on Tuesday, Dare County Emergency Management said in a statement.

Hurricane-force winds could buffet the Carolinas by Wednesday night with landfall likely in South Carolina and North Carolina on Thursday, followed by heavy rains that could cause flooding in much of the U.S. Southeast, the NHC said.

The governors of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all declared states of emergency.

Residents as far north as Virginia were warned that Florence could bring a life-threatening coastal storm surge, as well as inland flooding from “prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall,” the NHC said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged his state’s residents to get ready, noting the storm was generating swelling waves and dangerous currents.

NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen said historically, 90 percent of fatalities from hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions have been caused by water. Some 27 percent of the deaths have come from rain-driven flooding, sometimes hundreds of miles inland.

The NHC also was tracking two other hurricanes farther out in the Atlantic.

Isaac strengthened into the fifth hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season on Sunday, the NHC said, and as of early Monday, it was about 1,230 miles east 1,305 miles (1,985 km) east of the Windward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

Hurricane Helene was spinning in the Atlantic off West Africa’s Cape Verde islands with 85-mph (140-kph) winds on Monday but did not appear to pose an immediate threat to land.

As Florence gathered strength far out in the Atlantic, Wall Street was trying to pick winners and losers from any havoc it might cause.

Generac Holdings Inc, building materials maker Owens Corning and roofing supplier Beacon Roofing Supply Inc, which were up between 4 percent and 8 percent. Retailers Lowe’s Companies Inc and Home Depot Inc gained more than 2 percent.

On the downside, several insurers that are seen vulnerable to potential claims losses slipped, led by a 1.8 percent drop in Allstate Corp and a 1.7 percent decline in Travelers Companies Inc.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida, and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Editing by Alison Williams and Bill Trott)

Gordon dumps heavy rains, Florence barrels toward Bermuda

A car passes a sign after Tropical Storm Gordon in Dauphin Island, Alabama, U.S., September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) – Tropical Depression Gordon moved north on Thursday, threatening central U.S. states with heavy rain, while Hurricane Florence churned toward Bermuda, packing maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kph), forecasters said.

Some parts of northwest Mississippi and much of Arkansas could receive up to seven inches (18 cm) of rain, totals that could reach up to 10 inches through Saturday in some areas, raising the risk of flash flooding, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, which left flooded streets in Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, has caused minimal property damage since it made landfall late on Tuesday. A two-year-old girl was killed, however, when a tree fell on a mobile home in Pensacola, Florida, authorities said.

Hillarie Jones, manager at Bob’s Downtown Diner in Mobile, Alabama, said she shut down the restaurant on Wednesday but that luckily the storm did no damage to the business.

“The reason why we closed yesterday was so our employees wouldn’t have to travel to work during the storm,” Jones said.

As of Thursday morning, fewer than 1,000 homes and businesses remained without power, according to PowerOutages.us, as utility companies restored service for tens of thousands of customers across the region.

Energy companies and port operators along the Gulf Coast worked to resume normal operations after Gordon shut 9 percent of the region’s oil and natural gas production.

Oil prices fell about 1 percent on Wednesday after fears about the storm eased.

TRACKING TOWARD BERMUDA

In the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Florence, a Category 3 storm on a five-step scale, headed for Bermuda, forecast to affect the island’s surf by Friday. It was too early to say whether the storm would hit land, the NHC said.

“Swells generated by Florence will begin to affect Bermuda on Friday and will reach portions of the U.S. East Coast over the weekend,” the NHC said. “These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

Florence, the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, was 1,170 miles (1,885 km) east-southeast of Bermuda on Thursday morning.

Florence is expected to weaken but remain a strong hurricane for the next several days, the NHC said.

(Reporting by Kathy Finn; additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Lisa Shumaker, Dale Hudson and Larry King)

Rains pile misery on India’s flooded Kerala state as toll rises to 164

A man rescues a drowning man from a flooded area after the opening of Idamalayr, Cheruthoni and Mullaperiyar dam shutters following heavy rains, on the outskirts of Kochi, India August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

By Sivaram Venkitasubramanian and Gopakumar Warrier

KOCHI/BENGALURU, India (Reuters) – The worst floods in a century in the Indian state of Kerala have killed 164 people and forced more than 200,000 into relief camps, officials said on Friday, with more misery expected as heavy rain pushed water levels higher.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit the southwest state later on Friday and its chief minister said he was hoping the military could step up help for the rescue effort, which is already using dozens of helicopters and hundreds of boats.

“I spoke to the defense minister this morning and asked for more helicopters,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told a news conference in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, adding that he planned to send 11 more helicopters to the worst-hit places.

“In some areas, airlifting is the only option … thousands are still marooned,” said Vijayan.

The floods began nine days ago and Vijayan said 164 people had been killed – some in landslides – with about 223,000 people forced into 1,568 relief camps.

A Reuters witness on board a relief helicopter in Chengannur town in the south of the state said people stranded on roof tops were seen waving desperately at navy aircraft.

“The town looked like an island dotted with houses and cars submerged in muddy flood waters and downed coconut trees,” said the witness.

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

People wait for aid on the roof of their house at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Two navy helicopters circled as people on roofs of flooded homes waved clothing to call for help.

The helicopters dropped food and water in metal baskets and airlifted at least four people, including a three-year-old child, from roofs, the witness said.

Elsewhere, a man with a cast on his leg was seen lying on the roof of a church as he awaited rescue.

Anil Vasudevan, the head of the Kerala health disaster response wing, said his department had geared up to handle the needs of victims.

“We’ve deployed adequate doctors and staff and provided all essential medicines in the relief camps, where the evacuees will be housed,” he said.

But a big worry was what happens after the flood waters fall. People going home will be susceptible to water-borne diseases, he said.

“We are making elaborate arrangements to deal with that,” he said.

PLANES, TRAINS DISRUPTED

Kerala is a major destination for both domestic and foreign tourists.

The airport in its main commercial city of Kochi has been flooded it has suspended operations until Aug. 26 with flights being diverted to two other airports in the state. Rail and road traffic has also been disrupted in many places.

“Water levels continue to overflow on track and surpassing danger level of bridges at different places,” Southern Railway said in a statement, adding it had canceled more than a dozen trains passing through Kerala.

The office of the chief minister said heavy rain was falling in some places on Friday. More showers are expected over the weekend.

Modi said on Twitter that he would travel to Kerala “to take stock of the unfortunate situation”.

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

An aerial view shows partially submerged houses at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Kerala has been hit with 37 percent more rainfall than normal since the beginning of this monsoon, the Meteorological Department said.

Some plantations have also been inundated. The state is a major producer of rubber, tea, coffee and spices such as black pepper and cardamom.

“It’s very scary. I can still see people on their roofs waiting to be rescued,” said George Valy, a rubber dealer in Kottayam town.

(Reporting by Sivaram Venkitasubramanian in Kochi and Gopakumar Warrier in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Jose Devasia in Kochi and Swati Bhat and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Writing by Euan Rocha and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Italy motorway bridge collapses in heavy rains, killing at least 35

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

By Stefano Rellandini

GENOA, Italy (Reuters) – At least 35 people were killed when a motorway bridge collapsed in torrential rains on Tuesday morning over buildings in the northern Italian port city of Genoa, Italy’s ANSA news agency cited fire brigade sources as saying.

A 50-meter high section of the bridge, including one set of the supports that tower above it, crashed down in the rain onto the roof of a factory and other buildings, crushing vehicles below and plunging huge slabs of reinforced concrete into the nearby riverbed.

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

“People living in Genoa use this bridge twice a day, we can’t live with infrastructures built in the 1950s and 1960s,” Deputy Transport Minister Edoardo Rixi said on SkyNews24, speaking from Genoa.

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14, 2018. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

The collapsed Morandi Bridge is seen in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy, August 14, 2018. Local Team via Reuters TV/REUTERS

Within hours of the disaster, the anti-establishment government which took office in June said it showed Italy needed to spend more to improve its dilapidated infrastructure, ignoring EU budget constraints if necessary.

“We should ask ourselves whether respecting these (budget) limits is more important than the safety of Italian citizens. Obviously, for me it is not,” said Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing League which governs with the 5-Star Movement.

A crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

A crushed truck is seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Helicopter footage on social media showed trucks and cars stranded on either side of the 80-meter long collapsed section of the Morandi Bridge, built on the A10 toll motorway in the late 1960s. One truck was shown just meters away from the broken end of the bridge.

Motorist Alessandro Megna told RAI state radio he had been in a traffic jam below the bridge and seen the collapse.

“Suddenly the bridge came down with everything it was carrying. It was really an apocalyptic scene, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said.

BRIDGE ‘CONSTANTLY MONITORED’

Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli told Italian state television the disaster pointed to a lack of maintenance, adding that “those responsible will have to pay.”

But Stefano Marigliani, the motorway operator Autostrade’s official responsible for the Genoa area, told Reuters the bridge was “constantly monitored and supervised well beyond what the law required.”

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Rescue workers are seen at the collapsed Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

He said there was “no reason to consider the bridge was dangerous.”

Restructuring work was carried out in 2016 on the 1.2 km-long bridge, first completed in 1967. The motorway is a major artery to the Italian Riviera and to France’s southern coast.

Autostrade, a unit of Atlantia, said work to shore up its foundation was being carried out at the time of the collapse.

But the head of the civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, said he was not aware that any maintenance work was being done on the bridge.

Borrelli said there were 30-35 vehicles on the bridge when the middle section came down, including three lorries. He said 13 people had been hospitalized, including five in a critical condition.

Some 200 firefighters were on the scene, the fire service said, and Sky Italia television said four people had been pulled from the rubble.

Police footage showed firemen working to clear debris around a crushed truck, while other firemen nearby scaled some of the huge broken slabs of reinforced concrete that had supported the bridge.

Firefighters inspect a crushed car at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Firefighters inspect a crushed car at the collapsed Morandi Bridge site in the port city of Genoa, Italy August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The government has pledged to increase public investments and lobby the European Commission to have the extra spending excluded from EU deficit calculations.

“The tragic facts in Genoa remind us of the public investments that we so badly need,” said Claudio Borghi, the League’s economy spokesman.

The office of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he was heading to Genoa in the evening and would remain there on Wednesday. Defense minister Elisabetta Trenta said the army was ready to offer manpower and vehicles to help with the rescue operations.

Train services around Genoa have been halted.

Shares in Atlantia, the toll road operator which runs the motorway, were suspended after falling 6.3 percent.

(Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Additional reporting by Angelo Amato; Writing by Gavin Jones and Steve Scherer; Editing by Hugh Lawson)