Pakistan heatwave kills 65 people in Karachi – welfare organization

Men and children cool off from the heatwave, as they are sprayed with water jetting out from a leaking water pipeline in Karachi, Pakistan May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Saad Sayeed

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A heatwave has killed 65 people in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi over the past three days, a social welfare organization said on Tuesday, amid fears the death toll could climb as the high temperatures persist.

The heatwave has coincided with power outages and the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours. Temperatures hit 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) on Monday, local media reported.

Faisal Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation that operates morgues and an ambulance service in Pakistan’s biggest city, said the deaths occurred mostly in the poor areas of Karachi.

Residents sleep on a building pavement, to escape heat and frequent power outage in their residence area Karachi, Pakistan. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Residents sleep on a building pavement, to escape heat and frequent power outage in their residence area Karachi, Pakistan. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

“Sixty-five people have died over the last three days,” Edhi told Reuters. “We have the bodies in our cold storage facilities and their neighborhood doctors have said they died of heat-stroke.”

A government spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

But Sindh province’s Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho told the English-language Dawn newspaper that no one has died from heat-stroke.

“Only doctors and hospitals can decide whether the cause of death was heat-stroke or not. I categorically reject that people have died due to heat-stroke in Karachi,” Pechuho was quoted as saying.

Nonetheless, reports of heat stroke deaths in Karachi will stir unease amid fears of a repeat of a heatwave in of 2015, when morgues and hospitals were overwhelmed and at least 1,300 mostly elderly and sick people died from the searing heat.

In 2015, the Edhi morgue ran out of freezer space after about 650 bodies were brought in the space of a few days. Ambulances left decaying corpses outside in sweltering heat.

The provincial government has assured residents that there would be no repeat of 2015 and was working on ensuring those in need of care receive rapid treatment.

Edhi said most of the dead brought to the morgue were working class factory workers who came from the low-income Landhi and Korangi areas of Karachi.

“They work around heaters and boilers in textile factories and there is eight to nine hours of (scheduled power outages) in these areas,” he said.

Temperatures are expected to stay above 40C until Thursday, local media reported.

(Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Alison Williams)

Power outages linger as U.S. Northeast recovers from deadly storm

Commuters wait as service was temporarily suspended on all Metro North lines at Grand Central Terminal due to storms in Manhattan, New York, May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A violent spring storm that killed at least five people in the northeastern United States downed trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power on Wednesday.

By daybreak, more than 370,000 residents were without power in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, down from more than 600,000 on Tuesday night.

Amtrak and most local commuter railroads in the New York metropolitan area said their services were back to normal on Wednesday. Some schools canceled classes or delayed their openings.

The line of strong thunderstorms with wind gusts of 50 to 80 miles per hour (80 to 129 kilometers per hour) sped eastward across the region Tuesday evening, causing local flooding, scattering debris and dropping hail as large as tennis balls.

Falling trees killed an 11-year-old girl and a woman in separate incidents in Newburgh, New York, police said. Falling trees also killed two people in Connecticut in separate incidents, as well as a person in Pennsylvania, local media reported.

Local news showed footage of trees resting on top of crushed cars and houses, and vehicles submerged in water.

There were more than 100 reports of hail in states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, the National Weather Service said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in several counties in southeast New York and deployed members of the New York National Guard to assist with the recovery.

Officials in Brookfield, Connecticut, declared a town disaster and told residents to stay inside until they could assess the damage.

“Please be aware that there are hundreds of downed trees, utility poles and electrical lines. AVOID all down trees and utility poles as they may still involve LIVE power lines,” the Brookfield Police Department said on Facebook.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alison Williams and Susan Thomas)

Storms kill at least 78 in western and northern India

People remove the logs of uprooted trees from a road after strong winds and dust storm in Alwar, in the western state of Rajasthan, India May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Hail and rain storms knocked down power poles and uprooted trees, killing at least 78 people in northern and western India, government officials said on Thursday.

Thirty-three people were killed on Wednesday in the western desert state of Rajasthan and 45 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, authorities said.

A damaged electric pole is pictured in a market after strong winds and dust storm in Alwar, in the western state of Rajasthan, India May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

A damaged electric pole is pictured in a market after strong winds and dust storm in Alwar, in the western state of Rajasthan, India May 3, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

“We experienced a fierce storm, with an unusually high wind speed, and as a result, 33 people died in Alwar, Dholpur and Bharatpur districts of Rajasthan,” Hemant Gera, responsible for relief and disaster management in Rajasthan, told Reuters by phone from Jaipur, the state capital.

Storms lashed four districts of Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur, Bareilly, Bijnore and Agra.

Heavy rain and high winds knocked down electricity poles and trees, blocked roads and disrupted power supplies in the worst affected areas.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Venezuelan schools emptying as Chavez legacy under threat

Juliani Caceres, grand daughter of Carmen Penaloza, have rice and platain for lunch at her home in San Cristobal, Venezuela April 5, 2018. Picture taken April 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

By Vivian Sequera and Francisco Aguilar

SOCOPO, Venezuela (Reuters) – It is mid-morning on a weekday yet all that can be heard in the once-bustling corridors of the Orlando Garcia state primary school is the swish of palm trees outside in the wind.

The white, tin-roof building in the town of Socopo once held nearly 400 children, yet closed two months ago in a protest by teachers and parents at low salaries and lack of school lunches.

Nearly 3 million children are missing some or all classes in Venezuela, according to a study by universities, in a depressing knock-on from a deepening economic crisis that could cause long-lasting damage to the South American country.

Venezuela has about 8 million school children in total, and free education was a cornerstone of ex-President Hugo Chavez’s 1999-2013 socialist rule of the OPEC nation.

Now, along with hospitals and other flagship welfare projects, the education sector is in crisis, heaping pain on Venezuelans and eroding Chavez’s legacy as his successor Nicolas Maduro seeks re-election in a May 20 presidential vote.

In Socopo, in the agricultural savannah state of Barinas that was once home to Chavez, half of the 20 public schools, including Orlando Garcia, closed completely in February, mid-term.

They have since reopened, but, along with the rest of Barinas’ approximately 1,600 public schools, they are operating just three days a week.

Venezuela’s economic implosion has led to millions suffering food shortages, unable to buy basic goods. Prices double every two or three months and the currency is worth less every day.

Education experts fear a stunted generation.

“Hungry people aren’t able to teach or learn,” said Victor Venegas, president of the Barinas chapter of the national Federation of Education Workers.

“We’re going to end up with a nation of illiterates.”

A major bonus for school children was once free food but state food programs are now intermittent, and when lunches do come, they are often small and missing protein.

The problems are felt across the country, with children often falling unwell or dizzy due to poor nutrition.

“We were singing the national anthem and I felt nauseous. I’d only eaten an arepa (a local cornbread) that day, and I fainted,” recounted Juliani Caceres, an 11-year-old student in Tachira state on the border with Colombia.

“BACK TO THE 19TH CENTURY”

While critics lambast him for incompetence and corruption, Maduro blames Venezuela’s crisis on Washington and the opposition, accusing them of waging an “economic war.”

Officials constantly downplay the social problems.

“There may be weaknesses in the food program in some municipalities, but we are always attentive and looking to improve the situation,” Education Minister Elias Jaua said in an interview in Barinas.

The government insists education remains a priority and says that 75 percent of the national budget goes to the social sector.

“Amid the economic war, the fall of oil prices, international harassment and financial persecution, not a single school has closed,” Maduro said at a Caracas rally last month, referring to U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

His Barinas governor, Argenis Chavez, however, acknowledged the closures in Socopo, blaming them on the opposition as part of a plan to sabotage the upcoming election.

Despite Venezuela’s plethora of problems and Maduro’s personal unpopularity, he is widely expected to win re-election, given that the opposition’s most popular leaders are banned from standing and the main anti-Maduro coalition is boycotting the vote on grounds it is rigged in advance.

One opposition leader, former state governor Henri Falcon, has broken with the boycott and is hoping Venezuelans’ fury at their economic woes will translate into votes for him.

According to the opposition, prices rose more than 8,000 percent in the 12 months to March.

Teachers in the public sector earn around four times the minimum wage of just over a dollar a month at the black market exchange rate. That is nowhere near what Venezuelans need to feed themselves and their families.

“With my last paycheck, I was able to buy a kilo of meat and a kilo of sugar,” said Roxi Gallardo, a 35-year-old teacher in the Andean city of San Cristobal who, like so many others, is looking to leave Venezuela.

In addition to food shortages, school communities are suffering from a collapse in transport systems and inability to pay bus fares, plus frequent water and power-cuts.

“We’re heading back to the 19th century,” said Luis Bravo, an education researcher at Caracas’ Central University.

Doctor Marianella Herrera, at the same university, said the combination of inadequate nutrition and patchy education would cost Venezuela dearly in the future, depriving it of skilled workers.

“The longer this goes on without reversing the situation, the tougher it will be,” she said.

Eudys Olivier, a 39-year-old homemaker in a poor area of San Felix in southern Bolivar state, and her two children, live off her husband’s bakery wage of just under $5 per month.

“If there isn’t enough food, I prefer to leave the children at home,” she said. “I want them to go to school every day because it’s their future. But I can’t send them hungry.”

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Francisco Aguilar, Additional reporting by Maria Ramirez in Bolívar and Anggy Polanco in Tachira; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien)

Storms unleash tornadoes in U.S. east, record snow in Midwest

Dark clouds hover above buildings amidst tornadoes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the U.S., April 10, 2018 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Emmet Finneran/via REUTERS

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Deadly slow-moving storms generated record or near-record snowfall and low temperatures in the U.S. Midwest and tornadoes further east on Sunday, leaving airline travelers stranded and thousands without power.

In Michigan, where snowfall was expected to reach 18 inches in some areas, about 310,000 homes and businesses were without power because of an ice storm, most of them in the southeast of the state.

Large areas of Detroit were without power and customers were not expected to have it back on Sunday night, utility DTE Energy said. It was working to have 90 percent of outages restored by Tuesday, DTE spokeswoman Carly Getz said in a statement.

Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS

Cars are seen on a road during a tornado in Mountainburg, Arkansas, U.S., April 13, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. JOSHUA COLEMAN/via REUTERS

The weight of ice on power lines, coupled with high winds, caused more than 1,000 power lines to fall in Detroit and Wayne County, DTE said.

The worst of the snow was focused on the upper Great Lakes, with Green Bay, Wisconsin, seeing its second largest snowstorm ever after 23.2 inches fell as of Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

For the twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, the April monthly record for snowfall of 21.8 inches (55 cm) was surpassed on Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

Two tornadoes tore up trees and ripped apart homes in Greensboro and Reidsville, North Carolina, killing a motorist who was hit by a tree, according to Greensboro’s city manager, local media reported.

The storms stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest and were moving into the Northeast and New England.

Record low temperatures for the date were expected in Oklahoma City on Monday at 30 degrees F (-1 C), and in Kansas City, Missouri, at 25 F (-4 C), Hurley said.

On Friday, the weather system produced 17 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, with four people injured and 160 buildings damaged in a possible tornado in northwest Arkansas, local media reported.

The weather was blamed for two traffic deaths in western Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to National Public Radio.

The storms also killed a one-year-old girl when a tree fell on a recreational vehicle where she was sleeping, the sheriff’s office in Bossier Parish, Louisiana, said.

By Sunday night, 1,804 flights had been canceled into or out of U.S. airports, the website flightaware.com reported, including 148 flights in or out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M.; Editing by Adrian Croft and Peter Cooney)

Winter storm to strike U.S. East, snarling traffic, closing schools

A pedestrian walks through a late season snow storm in New York, U.S., March 21, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) – Millions of commuters along the U.S. East Coast will face another round of heavy snow, ice and wind gusts on Wednesday when the fourth major snow storm this month strikes the region, closing schools, grounding flights and halting buses and trains.

The nor’easter storm is on track to dump up to a foot of snow and bring gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kmph) to major cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston on Wednesday and into Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

“Significant amounts of snow, sleet and ice will make travel very hazardous or impossible,” the service said in an advisory for New Jersey.

More than 2,000 flights had already been canceled on Tuesday evening at the three major airports that serve New York. Airlines said they were waiving fees to change flights from and to the East Coast.

The storm forced schools across the region including those in Philadelphia and New York, the largest school district in the United States, to cancel classes on Wednesday.

“For everyone’s safety, because it could be such a big storm … we want to be ahead of it,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

Both Greyhound bus service and Amtrak passenger train service suspended or abbreviated routes for the day. Throughout the East Coast, local bus and train services that millions of people rely on to commute to and from work and school also canceled service on Wednesday.

Widespread power outages were also expected on Wednesday as heavy snow and ice along winds may topple trees and power lines, the service said.

The latest storm comes after storms on March 2, 7 and 12 left at least 9 people dead across the region and more than 2 million homes and businesses without power.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

Blizzard bears down on New England, knocking out power

A tractor stands covered in snow during a snowstorm in Huntington, New York, U.S., March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – Driving snow enveloped the U.S. Northeast on Tuesday in its third winter storm in two weeks, closing schools, canceling flights and knocking out power to about 140,000 homes and businesses.

The nor’easter was forecast to drop up to 20 inches (51 cm) of snow. It followed two storms that rumbled up the East Coast this month, killing at least nine people and knocking out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses at their peak.

The storm stretched from New York state to Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. Forecasters warned of blizzard conditions, where high winds make travel dangerous, from coastal Massachusetts through Maine.

“We’re anticipating that we’ll be seeing through the mid- to late morning and probably into midafternoon snowfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour (up to 7.6 cm),” said Bob Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

About 140,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey lost power as the storm downed trees and power lines.

“As soon as the snow stops and the wind stops blowing, we will be pushing the utilities to give people a sense of when the power will come back on,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told reporters on Tuesday. “They will move quickly and aggressively to deal with this once the snow stops.”

Schools in Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, were shut on Tuesday, Maine’s state legislature canceled its session, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy closed all government offices and the Amtrak passenger rail line halted service between Boston and New York.

More than 1,500 U.S. flights were canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. The hardest-hit airport was Boston Logan, where about four out of five flights were called off.

Nor’easters are storms that typically bring strong winds from the northeast, and they tend to occur most often and most violently between September and April along the East Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

Some nor’easters carry hurricane-force winds. Winds were expected to reach 65 miles (105 km) per hour, forecasters said.

This storm’s heavy snow could down trees weakened by the last two storms and bring a fresh wave of power outages, officials warned.

Lower tides meant the storm would probably not bring a repeat of the flooding that sent icy water pouring into the streets of Boston during a storm early this month, forecasters and officials said.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York; editing by Bill Rigby and Jonathan Oatis)

Travel snarled, power outages as storm bears down on U.S. Northeast

A woman walks during rain while the New York skyline and the One World Trade Center are seen from Exchange Place in New Jersey, U.S., March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The second winter storm within a week crept into New York and surrounding states on Wednesday, with forecasters predicting intensifying snowfall that could snarl the evening commute as thousands remained without power from the last nor’easter.

Between 4 and 12 inches (10 and 30 cm) of snow were forecast for New York City and the surrounding suburbs in New Jersey and Connecticut through to Thursday morning, with wind gusts creating “near-whiteout conditions” for commuters, the National Weather Service said on Wednesday.

The storm will spread with varying degrees of intensity across the Northeast, from western Pennsylvania up into New England, and officials took precautions.

New York’s three major airlines reported a total of 1,431 canceled flights on Wednesday morning, about 40 percent of their normally scheduled flights.

All schools were closed in Philadelphia while schools across the region canceled classes or shortened the school day ahead of the storm, local news media reported. Schools stayed open in New York City.

This week’s storm was not forecast to have the hurricane-strength winds whipped up at times by the storm last week, but forecasters say strong gusts of 60 miles per hour (96.56 km per hour) and accumulated snow will still be enough to knock down more power lines.

Last week’s storm brought major coastal flooding to Massachusetts, killed at least nine people and knocked out power to about 2.4 million homes and businesses in the Northeast.

Some 100,000 homes and businesses in the region remained without power on Wednesday. A nor’easter is an East Coast storm in which winds blow from the northeast.

The governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania declared states of emergency, giving them access to support from the U.S. government if needed.

The Amtrak passenger train service canceled some Wednesday trains between Washington and Boston, as well as some services in Pennsylvania, New York state and other parts of the Northeast.

The storm got off to an uncertain start in New York City, where the air was damp, and the odd stray snowflake could be spotted, but many early commuters saw no reason to unfurl the umbrellas stashed under their arms.

“I was expecting more than this,” Michelle Boone, 50, said as she waited for a bus to get to her job at a Manhattan homeless shelter. “I’m happy it’s not doing what they said it was going do. This evening could be different, though.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Big Mexico quake cuts power and damages homes; two dead in crash

People stand on the street after an earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City, Mexico February 16, 2018.

By Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A prolonged 7.2 magnitude quake that rocked Mexico on Friday left nearly a million homes and businesses without power in the capital and south but the only reported deaths came when a military helicopter crashed after surveying the aftermath.

At least 50 homes suffered damage in the southern state of Oaxaca, which, along with Mexico City, is still reeling from earthquakes that caused widespread damage in September.

The epicenter was about 90 miles (145 km) from Pacific coast surfer resort Puerto Escondido in the southern state of Oaxaca and had a depth of 15.3 miles (24.6 km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least two people died when a helicopter carrying Mexico’s interior minister and the governor of Oaxaca crashed while trying to land after a tour of damage from the earthquake, officials said. The senior officials survived.

The powerful, sustained shaking on Friday gave way to 225 aftershocks, the national seismology service said, and caused widespread panic.

In Mexico City, the seismic alarm sounded 72 seconds before tremors were felt, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said, giving residents time to flee to the streets.

Patricia Gutierrez, a 66-year-old English teacher, was taking a nap with her 11-month-old granddaughter, Juliet, when she heard the distinctive siren.

“She recognized the sound. When I opened my eyes, I saw her eyes in terror. Her eyes were wide, like plates. She didn’t say anything,” Gutierrez said of her granddaughter.

Gutierrez managed to leave her ground floor apartment before the quake began. “I left the phone and everything except for my shoes and the baby,” she said.

Authorities said no deaths directly linked to the quake had been reported nationally.

BRICKS AND RUBBLE

The Oaxacan town of Jamiltepec appeared to sustain the heaviest impact in the southern region, with 50 homes damaged along with a church and government building, the state’s civil protection agency said.

Patients were evacuated from a hospital there and from another in the nearby town of Putla Villa de Guerrero. On a local highway, a fire ignited when two high-tension electric cables struck each other.

In the town of Pinotepa Nacional close to the quake’s epicenter, a photo obtained from Oaxaca’s civil protection agency showed a single-story building where a portion of the brick facade had crumbled into the street. A hospital was also damaged, and a collapsed structure blocked a major highway.

About 100,000 people in Oaxaca had lost power, the state’s governor said.

National oil firm Pemex said its installations were in order, including its biggest refinery 240 miles (386 km) from the epicenter. A hotel operator in Puerto Escondido said his property had no damage.

Tremors were felt as far away as Guatemala to the south.

Images in the media appeared to show bricks and rubble fallen from buildings, and products tumbling off shelves in a supermarket.

In Mexico City, tall buildings swayed for more than a minute as seismic alarms sounded, with older structures in the chic Condesa neighborhood knocking into each other, and some cracks appearing in plaster and paintwork.

The Popocatepetl volcano south of the capital sent a kilometer-high column of ash into the sky, said Mexico’s disaster prevention agency.

Two young men standing by a building that collapsed in a Sept. 19 earthquake were still hugging minutes after the tremor. People crowded in the streets, one lady in her pajamas.

Trees, overhead cables and cars swayed, and a fire truck raced down the street.

Guadalupe Martinez, a 64-year-old retiree, said she was still shaking from shock. But the quake was a far cry from the tremors that struck Mexico in September, Martinez said.

“This time it was strong, but it did not jump up and down,” she said.

(Reporting by Julia Love, Christine Murray, Michael O’Boyle, David Alire Garcia, Anthony Esposito and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Lisa Shumaker and Tom Hogue)

Killer Storm brings freezing rain and snow to U.S. Northeast

(Reuters) – A winter storm packing freezing rain and heavy snow was expected to sweep across much of the U.S. Northeast on Wednesday, snarling transportation, closing dozens of schools and threatening power outages.

The same storm system has killed several people in accidents in the Midwest since Monday, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.

Much of the region from southern Indiana northeast through Maine was under either a winter storm watch or warning. Some 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow and a 1/4 inch (.5 cm) of ice accumulation were in the forecast, the National Weather Service said.

“Travel will be dangerous and nearly impossible,” the service said, warning that ice may cause widespread power outages.

Dozens of school districts in the East Coast, including in Pittsburgh and Albany, New York canceled classes on Wednesday while Baltimore schools delayed the start of school for two hours. Federal agencies in Washington D.C. were also opening two hours later than normal.

About 800 flights within, into or out of the United States were canceled on Wednesday nationwide, according to the FlightAware tracking service.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Frances Kerry)