‘You can’t break down’: Bahamas keeps up search of Dorian-devastated island

By Zachary Fagenson

MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas (Reuters) – Rescue workers wearing white hazard suits carried out a grim search for bodies and survivors in the hurricane-ravaged Bahamas on Monday, as relief agencies worked to deliver food and supplies over flooded roads and piles of debris.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force said at least 45 people died after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas on Sept. 1, tossing cars and planes around like toys. The death toll is likely to climb.

Dorian was one of the most powerful Caribbean storms on record, a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 200 miles per hour (320 kph). It rampaged over the Bahamas for nearly two days, becoming the worst disaster in the nation’s history.

Large swaths of Greater Abaco Island were destroyed. Reuters journalists saw search crews using geotagging technology to mark the locations of bodies in the hard-hit Mudd section of Marsh Harbour on that island.

One Bahamian rescue worker said it is becoming hard to keep composed when surrounded by death.

“If you’re not in touch with yourself then you lose it. You have to be mentally stable because when you’re seeing these things, and when people who lost loved ones are crying on your shoulder you can’t break down on them,” said one hazmat-suited Bahamian police officer who could not give his name. “These families need this, they need someone to talk to.”

Bahamian officials said 4,800 people had been evacuated from the archipelago’s several islands, most from Abaco. Free flights will continue to evacuate people who choose to leave the Bahamas, but there are no mandatory evacuations, officials said.

“The plan is not to move everyone out,” said Carl Smith, a spokesman National Emergency Management Agency, during a news conference on Monday.

Thousands of people poured into the capital, Nassau, where a week after the storm shelters were straining to house evacuees from worse-hit areas. Hundreds more have fled to the United States in search of safety and resources.

Shelters are housing about 1,100 people, the agency said; more are staying with friends and relatives. The agency was asking residents whose homes were intact to open them up to people displaced by the storm.

Some 90% of the homes, buildings and infrastructure in Marsh Harbour were damaged, the World Food Programme said. Thousands of people were living in a government building, a medical center and an Anglican church that survived the storms, it said, but had little or no access to water, power and sanitary facilities.

Some 70,000 people were in need of food and shelter, the WFP estimated. Private forecasters estimated that some $3 billion in insured property was destroyed or damaged in the Caribbean.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet opened a Human Rights Council session in Geneva on Monday with a minute of silence for hurricane victims.

“Small island nations are among those suffering the most catastrophic effects of climate change, although they contribute very little to fuelling the problem,” Bachelet said. “Just this past week, yet another devastating hurricane hit the Bahamas, taking a terrible toll in human life and destroying precious development gains.”

(Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

Toll of dead, missing rises in wildfire-ravaged California town

Pictures of people missing in the aftermath of the Camp Fire are posted at an evacuation center in Chico, California, U.S., November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – Teams of rescue workers continued to sift through burned homes and vehicles on Friday for the remains of victims in the northern California town of Paradise, as the number of those missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire spiked to 630 people.

Karen Atkinson, of Marin, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, Echo, in a van destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Karen Atkinson, of Marin, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, Echo, in a van destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

At least 63 people were killed in and around Paradise, which was virtually destroyed by the Camp Fire that erupted a week ago in the Sierra foothills 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco. The fire is among the deadliest to have hit the United States over the last century.

Authorities attribute the death toll partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town of 27,000, driven by wind and fueled by desiccated scrub and trees.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said on Thursday the remains of seven further victims had been located since Wednesday’s tally of 56. Nearly 300 people reported missing have been found alive and the list of missing would fluctuate, he said.

Many of those listed as missing during the course of the last week are over the age of 65. Local officials and realtors had long sold Paradise as an ideal place to retire.

Relatives of retired U.S. Navy veteran David Marbury, 66, are waiting to hear from him. No one has managed to speak with him since the wildfire began, and relatives’ phone calls have gone directly to his voicemail.

On Thursday, Marbury’s landlord confirmed to relatives that his duplex in Paradise had burned down. Sheriff’s officials told them his car was still in the garage.

“I really hope he’s still alive and we’re going to be able to see him,” Marbury’s niece Sadia Quint, 30, told Reuters by phone. “We just hope that he’s still with us.”

Nearly 12,000 homes and buildings burned hours after the blaze erupted, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

Thousands of additional structures remain threatened as firefighters, many from distant states, labor to contain and suppress the flames.

Cal Fire firefighter Stewart Morrow inspects a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Cal Fire firefighter Stewart Morrow inspects a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

DNA SAMPLES

Sheriff Honea has asked relatives of the missing to submit DNA samples to hasten identification of the dead. But he said some of those unaccounted for may never be identified.

There have been other smaller blazes in southern California, including the Woolsey Fire that is linked to three fatalities and has destroyed at least 500 structures near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.

Scientists say two seasons of devastating wildfires in California are linked to drought that is symptomatic of climate change.

Two electric utilities say they sustained equipment problems close to the origins of the blazes around the time they were reported.

Republican U.S. President Donald Trump is due to visit the fire zones on Saturday to meet displaced residents. Critics say Trump politicized the fires by blaming them, without supporting evidence, on forest mismanagement by California, a largely Democratic state.

Trish Moutard (C), of Sacramento, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, I.C., in a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Trish Moutard (C), of Sacramento, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, I.C., in a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Cal Fire said 40 percent of the Camp Fire’s perimeter was contained, up from 35 percent, even as the blaze footprint grew 2,000 acres to 141,000 acres (57,000 hectares). The Woolsey fire was 57 percent contained.

Smoke from the Camp Fire has spread far and wide. Public schools in Sacramento 90 miles (145 km) to the south, and as far away as San Francisco and Oakland, canceled classes for Friday due to poor air quality.

Many of those who survived the flames but lost homes stayed with friends or relatives or at American Red Cross shelters.

Some of Paradise’s older residents who had lost their homes were concerned about where they would live.

“I’m just very hopeful I can work something out for the future,” Norris Godsey, 82, told the San Francisco Chronicle interview at a church evacuation center in Chico. “If that’s not possible, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Jonathan Allen in New York; Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Writing by Nick Carey; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bernadette Baum)

Death toll rises as searches continue after Florida hurricane

Aerial footage taken by a drone shows the damage after Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 14, 2018 in this still image taken from social media video. Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office via REUTERS

By Brian Snyder

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – Another 10 people in Florida have been confirmed dead in the wake of Hurricane Michael, bringing the number of storm-related deaths to at least 29 as rescue workers try to reach hundreds more people whose whereabouts are unknown.

Michael, which made landfall on Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms on record to hit the continental United States, has killed 20 people in the Florida Panhandle, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia, according to official tallies.

Teams from volunteer rescue organization CrowdSource Rescue were steadily making contact with people flagged by friends and relatives in the Panhandle disaster zone, according to Matthew Marchetti, co-founder of the Houston-based group. Volunteers still had not reached more than 1,135 people on Tuesday morning.

As cell phone service returned, the number of people unaccounted for in Mexico Beach, one of the hardest-hit towns, dropped to three, said Rex Putnal, a city councilor. A day earlier, it was more than 30.

“Hopefully, they left and we’ll find them safe somewhere,” he said, before heading to a clean-up effort where workers awaited the arrival of some overdue portable toilets.

“This type of living wears on you,” Putnal said. “This is about my fifth day and I’m just not used to washing clothes in a tub with no washer and dryer and eating only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

The town of 1,200 residents had reported two fatalities as of Monday. Rescue workers were using dogs to find any bodies that might be buried under the debris.

More than 200,000 people remained without power in the U.S. Southeast, with residents of battered coastal towns forced to cook on fires and barbecue grills.

At least 80 percent of customers in three mainly rural Panhandle counties were without electricity on Tuesday. Officials said it could be weeks before power returns to some.

Chris Bailey holds hot food prepared by Operation BBQ Relief and distributed by 50 Star Search and Rescue following Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Chris Bailey holds hot food prepared by Operation BBQ Relief and distributed by 50 Star Search and Rescue following Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

CAMPING IN TENTS

Countless residents in the region’s backcountry have struggled for days without running water or sanitation, awaiting help from authorities. Some have been camping in tents with the belongings they were able to salvage.

“I’m staying out here to try to keep away looters, to try to save what I can save,” said Bernard Sutton, a 64-year-old cancer patient, who has been living out of a tent and broken-down minivan.

Downed trees hampered access to those stranded by the storm.

The state government is distributing ice, water, and about 3 million ready-to-eat meals, according to Governor Rick Scott’s office.

Water supply was restored to some residents in Panama City on Monday but Bay County officials said it was not yet safe to drink.

Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle last week with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour).

The winds and storm surge caused $6 billion to $10 billion in insured losses, risk modeler AIR Worldwide said. Those figures exclude uninsured property or losses paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program, AIR Worldwide said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the storm-affected areas on Monday, distributing bottles of water at an aid center in Lynn Haven, a city of about 18,500 people near Panama City.

(Reporting by Brian Snyder; Additional reporting by Terray Sylvester and Bernie Woodall in Florida, Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Andrew Hay in New Mexico, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, David Gregorio and Rosalba O’Brien)

Rescuers search for 1,000 missing in Florida Panhandle after hurricane

Bernard Sutton, 64, picks through the remains of his home destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Fountain, Florida, U.S., October 15, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Steve Holland

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (Reuters) – Rescue workers and volunteers searched for more than 1,000 people still missing in the Florida Panhandle and tens of thousands of residents remained without power on Tuesday after the area was devastated by Hurricane Michael last week.

At least 19 deaths in four states have been blamed on Michael which made landfall on Wednesday as one of the most powerful storms on record to hit the continental United States.

Volunteer rescue organization CrowdSource Rescue said its teams were trying to find 1,300 people still missing in the disaster zone in the Panhandle, according to Matthew Marchetti, co-founder of the Houston-based group.

About 30 to 40 people remained unaccounted for in Mexico Beach, according to a city councilor, Rex Putnal.

The mayor of the town of about 1,200 residents, which took a direct hit from the hurricane, has said that at least one person was killed, while CNN reported that another person was found dead on Monday.

With most Mexico Beach homes already searched for survivors, rescue workers were using dogs to find any bodies that might be buried under the debris.

More than 200,000 people were still without power in the U.S. Southeast, with residents of battered coastal towns such as Port St. Joe, Florida forced to cook on fires and barbecue grills.

At least 80 percent of customers in three mainly rural Panhandle counties were without electricity on Tuesday. Officials said it could be weeks before power returns to the areas that sustained the most damage.

CAMPING IN TENTS

Countless residents in the region’s backcountry have struggled for days without electricity, running water or sanitation as they await help from authorities. Some have been camping in tents with whatever belongings they were able to salvage.

“I’m staying out here to try to keep away looters, to try to save what I can save,” said Bernard Sutton, a 64-year-old cancer patient, who has been living out of a tent and broken-down minivan.

“This is everything we own right here,” he said, standing over a heap of clothes, books, furniture and other belongings.

Access to those stranded by the storm was hampered by downed oak trees across highways and dirt roads.

“Everyone needs help. We’re devastated out here. We’re wiped off the map,” said Gabriel Schaw, 40, gesturing to a handful of neighbors surrounding his own demolished mobile home in Fountain, Florida.

The state government is distributing ice, water and about 3 million ready-to-eat meals, according to Governor Rick Scott’s office.

With top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour), Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale on Wednesday.

The winds and storm surge caused insured losses worth between an estimated $6 billion and $10 billion, risk modeler AIR Worldwide said. Those figures do not include losses paid out by the National Flood Insurance Program or uninsured property, AIR Worldwide said.

Water supply was restored to some residents in Panama City on Monday but Bay County officials said it was not yet safe to drink.

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the storm-affected areas on Monday, arriving by helicopter from Eglin Air Force Base about 100 miles (160 km) to the west.

They distributed bottles of water at an aid center in Lynn Haven, a city of about 18,500 people near Panama City in northwestern Florida.

“To see this personally is very tough – total devastation,” said Trump, who later traveled to neighboring Georgia to see the storm damage there.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Terray Sylvester in Florida, Bernie Woodall in Florida, Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Andrew Hay in New Mexico, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bernadette Baum)

Rescue teams searching rubble after flyover collapses in Kolkata

Firefighters and rescue workers search for victims at the site of a bridge that collapsed in Kolkata, India September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

By Subrata Nagchoudhury

KOLKATA (Reuters) – Rescue workers were working to see if anyone was trapped in the debris after a bridge collapsed on Tuesday in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, government officials said.

Cars were seen among the rubble and a large portion of the bridge was destroyed, but as yet it was not known if there were casualties.

“We are trying to assess if there are people trapped beneath the debris,” Sovan Chatterjee, the mayor of Kolkata, who visited the accident site, told Reuters.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, said in a televised address: “We are still assessing the gravity of the situation and we cannot talk about the deaths right now.”

All India Trinamool Congress, the West Bengal state’s ruling party, said on Twitter the bridge was 40 years old.

There were no more immediate details of the cause of the collapse.

In March 2016, another bridge collapsed in the city, killing more than two dozen people.

(Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Alison Williams)

Mexico races to save 12-year-old girl as quake toll hits 237

Rescue workers and Mexican soldiers take part in a rescue operation at a collapsed building after an earthquake at the Obrera neighborhood in Mexico City, Mexico September 20, 2017.

By Daniel Trotta and Adriana Barrera

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Rescuers labored against the odds as dawn broke on Thursday to save a 12-year-old schoolgirl and other possible survivors trapped beneath crumpled buildings in central Mexico following the country’s deadliest earthquake in 32 years.

More than 50 survivors have been plucked from several disaster sites in Mexico City since Tuesday afternoon’s 7.1-magnitude quake, leading to impassioned choruses of “Yes we can!” from the first responders, volunteers and spectators gathered around the ruins.

At least 237 others have died and 1,900 were injured.

As the chance of survival diminished with each passing hour, officials vowed to continue with search-and-rescue efforts such as the one at a collapsed school in the south of the capital. At the site, Navy-led rescuers have communicated with the 12-year-old girl, but were still unable to dig her free.

Eleven other children were rescued from the Enrique Rebsamen School, where students are aged roughly six to 15. Twenty-one children and four adults there were killed.

Rescuers had earlier seen a hand protruding from the debris and the girl wiggled her fingers when asked if she was still alive, according to broadcaster Televisa, whose cameras had special access to the scene to provide nonstop live coverage.

But some 15 hours into the effort, Admiral Jose Luis Vergara said rescuers could not pinpoint the location of the girl, identified only as Frida Sofia.

“There’s a girl alive in there, we’re pretty sure of that, but we still don’t know how to get to her,” Vergara told Televisa.

“The hours that have passed complicate the chances of finding alive or in good health the person who might be trapped,” he said.

 

RESCUE EFFORT

As Vergara spoke, a human chain of hard-hatted rescuers removed a large chunk of concrete from the floodlit scene.

Rescuers periodically demanded silence from bystanders to allow them to hear any calls for help.

As with other disaster sites throughout central Mexico, officials have not employed heavy-lifting equipment for fear of crushing survivors. Some 52 buildings collapsed in Mexico City alone and more in the surrounding states.

Throughout the capital, crews were joined by volunteers and bystanders who used dogs, cameras, motion detectors and heat-seeking equipment to detect victims who may still be alive.

Thousands of people have donated food, water, medicine, blankets and other basic items to help relief efforts. Companies provided free services and restaurants delivered food to shelters where thousands of people have sought refuge after their homes were damaged.

“Faced with the force of nature, we are all vulnerable and that is why we all unite when it comes to saving a life or helping a victim,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has declared three days of national mourning. “If anything distinguishes Mexicans, it is our generosity and fraternity.”

Pena Nieto said the priority was to reestablish basic services, conduct a census of damaged structures and rebuild.

The extensive damage to many buildings, some of them relatively new, has raised questions over construction standards that were supposed to have improved in the wake of a devastating 1985 quake.

Members of a rescue team hold a fellow rescuer from the Topos volunteer search and rescue group by his feet during the search for students at the Enrique Rebsamen school after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico, September 21, 2017.

Members of a rescue team hold a fellow rescuer from the Topos volunteer search and rescue group by his feet during the search for students at the Enrique Rebsamen school after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico, September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

AID ARRIVES

The quake killed 102 people in Mexico City and the remaining 135 from five surrounding states, officials said on Wednesday.

At least nine Latin American countries pledged search-and-rescue teams or technical assistance, as did the United States, Spain, Japan and Israel, and crews from Panama and El Salvador were already on the job.

The Panamanian team of 32 rescue workers dressed in orange jumpsuits and helmets and two dogs arrived with seven days’ worth of food, water and supplies and prepared to work around the clock, said Cesar Lange, leader of the Panamanian Civil Protection unit.

Leading the volunteer rescue efforts were Mexico City’s own ‘mole’ rescue workers, a search group formed in the wake of the 1985 quake and renowned for their fearless tunneling into damaged buildings to save survivors in disasters around the globe.

Tuesday’s temblor came on the anniversary of the 1985 quake that killed thousands and still resonates in Mexico. Annual Sept. 19 earthquake drills were being held a few hours before the nation got rocked once again.

The quake struck around 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, shattering glass, shearing off the sides of buildings and leaving others in dusty piles of destruction.

Its epicenter was a mere 31 km (32 miles) beneath the surface, sending major shockwaves through the metropolitan area of some 20 million people. Much of the capital is built on an ancient lake bed that trembles like jelly during a quake.

People accompany caskets, holding the bodies of victims who died in an earthquake, through the streets in Atzala, on the outskirts of Puebla, Mexico September 20, 2017.

People accompany caskets, holding the bodies of victims who died in an earthquake, through the streets in Atzala, on the outskirts of Puebla, Mexico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Imelda Medina

Some residents and volunteers voiced anger that emergency services and military were slow to arrive to poorer southern neighborhoods of the city, and that wealthier districts appeared prioritized.

Mexico was still recovering from another powerful quake less than two weeks ago that killed nearly 100 people in the south of the country.

Both Mexican earthquakes occurred along the Cocos tectonic plate, which skirts the western coast of Mexico and is slowly sliding beneath the North American plate.

 

 

 

(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Bernadette Baum)

 

Texas crews search for survivors in wake of Harvey’s floods

A Marine Corp vehicle patrols a flooded street as a result of Tropical Storm Harvey in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S., August 31, 2017.

By Emily Flitter and Andy Sullivan

PORT ARTHUR, Texas/HOUSTON (Reuters) – A week after Hurricane Harvey came ashore in Texas, rescuers kept up a marathon search for survivors on Friday as large pockets of land remained under water after one of the costliest natural disasters to hit the United States.

The storm has displaced more than 1 million people with 44 feared dead from flooding that paralyzed Houston, swelled river levels to record highs and knocked out the drinking water supply in Beaumont, Texas, a city of about 120,000 people.

Chemicals maker Arkema SA and public health officials warned of the risk of more explosions and fires at a plant owned by the company. On Thursday blasts rocked the facility, about 25 miles east of Houston and zoned off inside a 1.5-mile (2.4-km) exclusion zone, after it was engulfed by floodwater.

With the presence of water-borne contaminants a growing concern, the National Weather Service issued flood watches from Arkansas into Ohio on Friday as the remnants of the storm made their way through the U.S. heartland.

The Neches River, which flows into Beaumont and nearby Port Arthur, was forecast for a record crest from Friday well above flood levels. The flooding and loss of drinking water forced the evacuation of a hospital on Thursday.

Two of the last people remaining in their flooded home near the river, Kent Kirk, 58, and Hersey Kirk, 59, were pulled to safety late Thursday.

“They were the last holdouts, the last house,” said Dennis Landy, a neighbor who had spent the day in his airboat ferrying people from a small, remote group of houses near Rose City, Texas, close to the Neches’ banks, to safety.

It took an hour of coaxing by a rescuer but Hersey Kirk finally let herself be carried from her wheelchair to the airboat and then to a Utah Air National Guard helicopter.

“I’m losing everything again,” she said. “We got flooded in Ike, in Rita. My husband just got a new car – well it was new to him anyway. It’s sitting in 5 feet of water.”

Harvey roared ashore late last Friday as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in half a century. It dumped unprecedented quantities of rain and left devastation across more than 300 miles (482 km) in the southeast corner of the state.

 

COST OF UP TO $75 BILLION

Moody’s Analytics estimated the economic cost from Harvey for southeastern Texas at $51 billion to $75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in U.S. history. Much of the damage has been to Houston, the U.S. energy hub.

At least 44 people were dead or feared dead in six counties including and around Houston, officials said. Another 19 remained missing.

Some 779,000 Texans have been told to leave their homes and another 980,000 fled voluntarily amid dangers of new flooding from swollen rivers and reservoirs, according to federal estimates.

Tens of thousands crowded in evacuation centers across the region.

Evacuees affected by Tropical Storm Harvey take shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, Texas, U.S.  August 31, 2017

Evacuees affected by Tropical Storm Harvey take shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A new hurricane, Irma, had strengthened into a Category 3 storm, the midpoint of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, on Friday. It remained hundreds of miles from land but was forecast to possibly hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and neighboring Haiti by the middle of next week.

Seventy percent of Harris County, which encompasses Houston and has a population of about 4.6 million people, was covered with 18 inches (45 cm) or more of water, county officials said.

As signs of normal life returned to Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, there were concerns about health risks from bacteria and pollutants in floodwater.

The Houston Astros baseball team, forced to play away from the city due to the floods, will return and play at its home field on Saturday. It has invited shelter residents to attend its double header against the New York Mets, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on his Twitter feed.

Flooding has shut some of the nation’s largest oil refineries and hit U.S. energy infrastructure, which is centered along the Gulf Coast. It has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies. [O/R]

The national average for a regular gallon of gasoline rose to $2.519 as of Friday morning, the highest since August 2015, up 17 cents since before the storm hit, according to motorists advocacy group AAA.

The storm knocked out about a quarter of U.S. oil refining capacity and the signs of restarts were tentative.

In major Texas cities including Dallas, there were long lines at gas stations, prompting state regulators to tell people they were sparking a panic and saying there were ample fuel supplies.

Power outages had decreased from peaks of over 300,000 to about 160,000 homes and business in Texas and Louisiana as of Friday morning, data from utilities showed.

 

(Additional reporting by Richard Valdmanis, Marianna Parraga, Ernest Scheyder, Ruthy Munoz, Peter Henderson and Andy Sullivan in Houston, David Gaffen in New York, Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)

 

Bereaved families scuffle with rescue workers at Ethiopian landslide site

Rescue workers watch as excavators dig into a pile of garbage in search of missing people following a landslide when a mound of trash collapsed on an informal settlement at the Koshe garbage dump in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Bereaved families tussled with rescue workers on Tuesday at the site of an Ethiopian rubbish dump where a landslide killed 65 people this weekend.

Relatives pushed and shoved the handful of emergency workers, angrily accusing them of delays and saying dozens of people were still missing after Saturday’s disaster at the Reppi dump in the capital of Addis Ababa.

Hundreds of people live on the 50-year-old dump, the city’s only landfill site, scavenging for food and items they can sell such as recyclable metal. The landslide destroyed 49 homes.

“Nobody is helping us. We are doing all the digging ourselves. It is shameful,” Kaleab Tsegaye, a relative of one victim told Reuters.

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered at the scene, weeping and praying. Some accuse the government of negligence.

Ethiopia is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, but the drive to industrialize has also stoked discontent among those who feel left behind.

In October, the government imposed a national state of emergency after more than 500 people were killed in protests in Oromiya region as anger over a development scheme sparked broader anti-government demonstrations.

(Reporting by Aaron Masho; Editing by Clement Uwiringiyimana and Louise Ireland)