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

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

By Pedro Fonseca and Rodrigo Viga Gaier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windy rainstorm whips U.S. Northeast, cutting power to hundreds of thousands

Storm Summary has been initialized for the deep low pressure system which is bringing damaging winds, heavy rain across the Northeast, even some snow over West Virginia.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fierce winds and heavy rain downed trees and knocked out power across the U.S. Northeast, halting trains during the Monday morning commute and leaving neighborhoods from Boston to Washington in the dark.

Wind gusts of 82 miles (131.97 km) per hour were reported on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, while steady rain from Sunday into Monday dumped up to 4 inches (10.16 cm) of water across New England, said National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Chenard.

“There has been quite a bit of wind, and when the ground gets wet like this, trees fall,” Chenard said.

Amtrak train service between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended early on Monday as crews scrambled to clear branches and restore power, authorities said.

Connecticut commuters piled onto buses or sought alternative routes after Metro-North Railroad suspended service on its New Canaan line and on its Danbury line, which it said on Twitter was hampered by a mudslide and related signal problems.

More than 800,000 homes and businesses lost electricity overnight throughout the Northeast, including about 300,000 customers in Massachusetts, 270,000 in New Hampshire, 142,000 in Rhode Island, 30,000 on New York’s Long Island, 56,000 in Maine and 35,000 in Vermont, according to local media.

Early on Monday, traffic lights in parts of Washington remained dark due to power outages.

The storm hit the East Coast on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. That late-season hurricane killed at least 159 people in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, and damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes.

The National Weather Service said the heaviest rains and winds ended late on Monday morning, but lighter precipitation and some gusts would persist throughout the day.

“The biggest potential now is for more trees to come down and for minor-to-moderate river flooding in eastern New York and much of New England today into tomorrow,” Chenard said.

It was not immediately known how long it would be until power is fully restored.

 

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

Vietnam braces for typhoon Khanun after floods kill 72

A boy paddles a boat past a flooded village's gate after a heavy rain caused by a tropical depression in Hanoi, Vietnam October 16, 2017.

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam braced for typhoon Khanun on Monday after destructive floods battered the country’s north and center last week, killing 72 people, the disaster prevention agency said.

Last week’s floods were the worst in years, the government and state-run Vietnam Television said, with thousands of homes submerged. Another 200 houses collapsed and several towns remain cut off by the floodwater.

The floods also damaged more than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice.

Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017.

Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Vietnam is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee, although the floods have not affected the Southeast Asian nation’s coffee belt.

Eighteen people from the hardest-hit province of Hoa Binh in the north were buried by a landslide, but only thirteen bodies have been found, Vietnam’s disaster agency said.

The government has said it is fixing dykes, dams and roads damaged by last week’s flood and is preparing for typhoon Khanun, which is expected to cause heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam from Monday.

It has also warned ships and boats to avoid the approaching typhoon.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wreaked havoc across central provinces last month.

Floods have also affected nine out of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west. Three people had been killed in flooding since last Tuesday, Thailand’s disaster agency said on Monday.

The Thai capital, Bangkok, was hit by heavy rain at the weekend, with gridlocked traffic bringing parts of the city to a standstill. Bangkok has often been described as the “Venice of the East” because of its many waterways.

However, the floods prompted criticism of Bangkok’s city government, with some social media users accusing authorities of not managing water levels in canals properly.

The city government defended itself, saying it was working closely with the irrigation department. Thailand suffered its worst flood in five decades in 2011, with hundreds of people killed, industrial estates engulfed and key industries crippled.

 

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait)

 

Dissipating storm Katia kills two in mudslide in eastern Mexico

Lifeguards are pictured at a lifeguard post ahead of Hurricane Katia in Veracruz, Mexico, September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Victor Yanez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Two people died in a mudslide in Mexico sparked by storm Katia, and thousands were left without power as the weather front dissipated inland on Saturday, threatening to dump rains in waterlogged areas also shaken by a major earthquake this week.

The two people died in Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz state, when mud loosened from a hillside by Katia’s rains trapped them in their home, Luis Felipe Puente, head of Mexico’s national emergency services, told Reuters.

Katia weakened rapidly after hitting the land on Friday night, although Veracruz Governor Miguel Angel Yunes said the storm had left some 70,000 people without electricity and caused damage in 53 of the Gulf state’s 212 municipalities.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that as a tropical depression, Katia was blowing maximum sustained winds of 35 miles (56 km) per hour as it dissipated over the mountains of central eastern Mexico by midmorning on Saturday.

Mexico is dealing with the aftermath of a huge quake that struck on Thursday night, and President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Friday that Katia could be especially dangerous in hillsides rocked by the magnitude 8.1 tremor.

The earthquake, the strongest to strike Mexico in more than 80 years, killed at least 61 people.

Katia was about 125 miles (201 km) west northwest of the port of Veracruz by midmorning on Saturday, the NHC said, noting that the threat of heavy rainfall continued.

Officials in Veracruz warned that Katia could cause landslides and flooding, and they urged people to evacuate vulnerable areas.

Mexican emergency services said this week that Katia was worrisome because it is very slow-moving and could dump a lot of rain on areas that have been saturated in recent weeks.

State energy company Pemex [PEMX.UL] has installations in and around the coast of Veracruz but has not reported any disruption to its operations there.

As Katia reached the Mexican Gulf Coast, Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, walloped Cuba’s northern coast.

Millions of Florida residents were ordered to evacuate after the storm killed 21 people in the eastern Caribbean and left catastrophic destruction in its wake.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose continued to move northwestward in the Atlantic and was blowing winds of 145 mph as a Category 4 storm about 120 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) on Saturday.

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

270 bodies recovered from Sierra Leone mudslide: mayor

270 bodies recovered from Sierra Leone mudslide: mayor

By Christo Johnson and Umaru Fofana

FREETOWN (Reuters) – Rescue workers have recovered 270 bodies so far from a mudslide in the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, the mayor said on Tuesday, as rescue operations continued and morgues struggled to find space for all the dead.

President Ernest Bai Koroma urged residents of Regent and other flooded areas around Freetown to evacuate immediately so that military personnel and other rescue workers could continue to search for survivors that might be buried underneath debris.

Dozens of houses were covered in mud when a mountainside collapsed in the town of Regent on Monday morning, one of the deadliest natural disasters in Africa in recent years.

“We have a total of 270 corpses which we are now preparing for burial,” Freetown mayor Sam Gibson told reporters outside city hall.

Bodies have continued to arrive at the city’s central morgue. Corpses are lying on the floor and on the ground outside because the morgue is overloaded, a Reuters witness said.

“Our problem here is space. We are trying to separate, quantify, and examine quickly and then we will issue death certificates before the burial,” said Owiz Koroma, head of the morgue.

He did not have an updated death toll but said: “It’s in the hundreds, hundreds!”

270 bodies recovered from Sierra Leone mudslide: mayor

The surface of a hillside is pictured after a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone August 14, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Henry

FEAR OF DISEASE

Sierra Red Cross Society spokesman Abu Bakarr Tarawallie said by phone he estimated that at least 3,000 people were homeless and in need of shelter, medical assistance and food. The Red Cross said another 600 were missing.

“We are also fearful of outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Freetown. “We can only hope that this does not happen.”

Contaminated water and water-logging often lead to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhea after floods and mudslides.

Crowds of people gathered, waiting for news of missing family members.

“I’ve been looking for my aunt and her two children, but so far no word about them,” said Mohamed Jalloh, crying. He said he feared the worst.

President Koroma said in a television address on Monday evening that rescue centers had been set up around the capital to register and assist victims.

Bulldozers dug through mud and rubble at the foot of Mount Sugar Loaf, where many residents had been asleep when part of the mountainside collapsed. The government said a number of illegal buildings had been erected in the area.

(Writing by Nellie Peyton; additional reporting by Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

Villagers begin to mourn dead after deadly China landslide

Relatives of victims react at the site of a landslide in the village of Xinmo, Mao County, Sichuan Province, China June 26, 2017.

By Sue-Lin Wong

XINMO, China (Reuters) – Villagers in China visited what used to be their relatives’ homes on Monday to mourn loved ones lost when a landslide swept down a mountain, with little hope of finding anyone alive after more than 48 hours of fruitless searching.

At least 93 people are missing after the landslide engulfed Xinmo village in mountainous Sichuan province as dawn broke on Saturday. Ten people have been confirmed dead.

“Our house was somewhere around here but everything has been destroyed beyond recognition,” said a middle aged woman, one of a few residents who were away when disaster struck, after she pulled a green blanket she recognised out of the mud and rocks.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS

The government has sent some 3,000 rescuers, along with heavy digging equipment, and has promised to do all it can to look for survivors.

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, authorities have said.

Some villagers said they’ve always known landslides are a big danger but authorities never offered to help them move.

With danger of more landslides, authorities have been restricting access to the disaster zone, but hundreds of people were allowed back on Monday.

Mournful wails and firecracker explosions echoed through Xinmo’s steep valley as bereaved relatives returned, many clutching snacks and wrapped in plastic and bottles of wine as offerings for the dead.

Some people burned paper money and lit incense which, along with setting off fireworks, are traditional acts of mourning.

“Every single family has been impacted by the landslide, it’s horrible,” said Sun Danxian, from a neighbouring village who was walking through the site.

The government of Mao county, where the village is located, posted on Monday drone video footage of the area showing about dozen mechanical diggers shifting through a landscape of grey rocks.

‘LYING FOR THREE DAYS’

Earlier on Monday, about 100 villagers, unhappy with what they said was limited information, met government officials at a nearby primary school, insisting they had to get to Xinmo.

They also voiced fears about the possibility of rebuilding homes before winter and what would happened to orphans.

“These government officials have been lying to us for three days,” a middle aged man from Xinmo, with several missing relatives told Reuters. He declined to give his name.

“They told us we could go back yesterday morning but they kept delaying and delaying giving us all kinds of excuses. They told us a central government official was going to come to visit us. He showed up and didn’t even bother to speak to us.”

Another relative said the government should have moved them out of an area they knew was prone to landslides.

“There have been landslides before but no one has ever suggested we move. The government knows it’s dangerous to live in these kinds of villages and yet they do nothing,” said the elderly man, who also would not provide his name.

The official China Daily cited Xu Qiang, a disaster expert at the Ministry of Land and Resources, as saying large-scale relocations in the area were difficult.

“Many of the villagers have been living here for generations and have seen no major geological disasters,” Xu said. “This is their home and livelihood and it is very difficult to convince them to leave, specially when you only have a hypothesis and predictions.”

Sichuan province is also prone to earthquakes, including an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan’s Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

Mao county is next to Wenchuan. State media said the mountainside that collapsed onto the village had been weakened by the 2008 earthquake.

Most residents of the area are poor farmers of the Qiang ethnic minority and the area is the target of a poverty alleviation project, according to government officials.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

Brazilian Dam Breaks, Flooding Village with Mud; 2 Dead, Dozens Missing

Two dams at a Brazilian iron ore mine collapsed on Friday, resulting in a devastating mudslide that has killed at least 2 people, injured 30, and left dozens missing.

A spokesman representing the firefighters said that the numbers of deaths, injured, and missing will likely rise due to the mudslide knocking over cell towers and blocking roads. Time Magazine reports that union officials believe the casualties could be as high as 15.

“In reality there are a lot more, but we can’t confirm any more than that. We don’t even know that we’ll find everybody,” firefighter Adão Severino Junior in the nearby city of Mariana told Reuters.

Hundreds of families were evacuated from the area after the initial escape to higher ground. Television footage of the incident showed a car perched on top of a wall, trees being leveled, and roofs being ripped off of houses due to the waste waters that were unleashed from the dams, according to Reuters.

Rescue teams are still looking for trapped survivors.

Monday Storm Brings Rain, Snow, Mudslides, and Flash Flooding to California

California and other parts of the western United States – including Sierra, Nevada – saw the first winter-like storm of the season on Monday. the storm brought heavy rain and snow and even caused a 20 car pile up due to gusts of wind bringing up dust. Five people were minorly injured.

San Francisco saw an inch of rain and other Bay Area cities had an inch or more of rain thanks to the cold front from the Pacific Northwest. Traffic accidents and power outages were widespread across the region according to ABC News. Mudslides also blocked roads close to Livermore.

Mountain areas around Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border reported a foot of snow. The Sierra Nevada mountain range had storm warnings for heavy snow from Kings Canyon to Yosemite that were in effect until late night hours. Areas above 9,000 feet saw 5 inches of snow by early evening, and snow levels were expected to fall to 5,000 feet.

Yolo, Lake, and Colusa counties were issued flash flood warnings according to the weather service.

The snow in Sierra could help with the drought that has hit California. California counts on snowpack to feed reservoirs. The storm also hit areas that were burned by wildfires earlier this year.

California Experiencing Flash Floods and Mudslides, Trapping Motorists

As flash floods and large hail hit areas north of Los Angeles, California emergency crews scrambled to rescue motorists that were trapped on roadways.

As some motorists took refuge on top of their cars, excavator trucks were brought to the scenes to scoop and haul mud. Approximately 15 cars were wedged in debris and 5 feet of mud and needed to be towed. Over 100 people were stranded on Interstate 5 and were still waiting for help Friday morning. So far, there have been no reports of deaths or injuries. Firefighters are still searching the roadways and abandoned cars for people who may be stuck and needing help getting to a safe area.

Two major highways and several secondary roads have been closed due to the impassable mud and debris, leaving some residents trapped inside their homes.

Between 4-6 inches of rain fell in parts of Kern and Los Angeles counties, causing the floods that have led to nearly a half dozen of water rescues.

Robert Rocha, a 37-year-old resident, was driving home from work when the storm hit.

“It was getting pretty hairy out there,” he said. “I’ve never seen it rain that hard in such a short period of time, the hail and wind — it was coming down hard,” he said. “The debris was just intense — chunks of wood and rock flowing everywhere.”

Guatemalan Mudslide Kills 237; Death Toll Expected to Rise

Recovery after the Guatemalan Mudslide that erased part of  the town of Santa Catarina Pinula last week has uncovered 237 bodies so far from the mountains of mud and debris in the mudslide created from heavy rainfall.

Backhoes continued to remove thousands of tons of dirt from the acres-wide mudflow in the neighborhood of Cambray, on the outskirts of Guatemala City, with very little hope of finding anyone alive.

Officials have reported that many other people are still missing.  

Several hundred people were being housed in shelters run by the local government National Disaster Reduction Commission known as Conred.

The agency has said it issued a number of warnings about the dangers of living on the base of this mountain area. Officials this week declared the area uninhabitable.

Manuel Pocasangre, the communications director for the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula said state employees in recent years had gone door-to-door to talk to people about the risks of where they lived even in the last year.  

Stating that he had warned Mayor Tono Coro of the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula that the river was eating away at the base of the steep hill. “What we know is that people were conscious about the risk they were taking,” Pocasangre said Wednesday.  

Maldonado acknowledged there are many neighborhoods like Cambray in and around Guatemala City that are at risk of flooding or mudslides

The country’s prosecutor’s office has announced an investigation of the matter.