Erdogan’s policies driving Turkey to the edge, challenger says

FILE PHOTO: The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks at Chatham House in central London, Britain May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

By Dominic Evans and Birsen Altayli

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan is driving Turkey “to the cliff” through ideological politics and a determination to control the central bank, the main opposition party’s presidential candidate said on Wednesday as the lira hit new record lows.

Muharrem Ince, who seeks to end Erdogan’s 15-year hold on power in next month’s elections, said the central bank and other economic institutions must be able to operate independently.

Erdogan said this week he plans to take greater control of the economy after the June 24 presidential and parliamentary polls, comments which drove the lira to fresh record lows. It is down 15 percent against the dollar this year.

“He’s taking the country to the cliff. The central bank needs to be independent, and the other economic bodies need to be autonomous. The rules need to operate,” Ince told Reuters in an interview.

The victor in next month’s election, held under a state of emergency imposed after a failed coup in 2016, will exercise sweeping new executive powers after Turks narrowly approved a constitutional overhaul in a referendum last year. The changes come into effect after the June vote.

Polls show Erdogan is comfortably the strongest candidate, though he could face a challenge if the presidential vote goes to a second round in July and his opponents rally around the other remaining candidate.

Ince, 54, a combative parliamentarian and former physics teacher, has energized his secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) since he started campaigning and may emerge as the leading opposition candidate – although he faces competition from former interior minister Meral Aksener.

Aksener’s nationalist Iyi (Good) Party and the CHP have joined with two other smaller parties in an opposition alliance for the parliamentary election. She and Ince are competing separately in the presidential vote.

“WIND OF CHANGE”

Ince said the president was driven by “ideological obsessions” and pushing Turkey in the wrong direction.

Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, wants lower borrowing costs to boost credit and new construction, and has said the central bank will not be able to ignore the president’s wishes. That has fueled concerns about the bank’s ability to fight double-digit inflation.

Since his Islamist-rooted AK Party swept to power in 2002, Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics. His power is reinforced by a near-monopoly of broadcast media coverage. Most TV channels show nearly all his campaign rallies, but rarely offer a platform to his opponents.

“The state of the media is heartbreaking. They have surrendered, they have kneeled,” Ince said, adding he had told broadcasters that unless they started to cover his speeches, he would hold a rally directly outside their offices to shame them.

If elected, Ince pledged to reverse some of the powers granted to the new presidency, saying it handed total control of the budget, judiciary and executive to one person.

Several European Union countries have expressed alarm that those changes are pushing Turkey deeper into authoritarian rule. Turkey is still a candidate for EU membership, though negotiations have stalled over rights concerns and other issues.

Erdogan says the increased powers are necessary to tackle security threats following the failed coup and conflict on Turkey’s southern borders with Syria and Iraq.

“No mortal should be given such authority,” Ince said. “It shouldn’t be given to me either.”

Against Erdogan, a skilled campaigner, the CHP has struggled to win support beyond its core base of secular-minded voters. In the last parliamentary election in November 2015 it took 25.3 percent of the vote.

Ince has pledged to be a non-partisan leader if elected, styling himself as “everyone’s president” and promising not to live in the 1,000-room palace built by Erdogan in Ankara.

“I see that a wind of change is blowing,” he said, pointing to what he described as a new atmosphere at his political rallies compared to last year’s referendum campaign.

“The momentum I have garnered is very different – there is a strong wind and people feel excitement,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen and Gulsen Solaker in Ankara; Editing by David Dolan and Gareth Jones)

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)

Wind-fanned wildfires threaten to spread in parched Oklahoma

The sun sets through smoke from the Rhea fire on a wind farm near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

By Nick Oxford

TALOGA, Okla. (Reuters) – Wildfires which have killed two people in western Oklahoma could spread and more could ignite as wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour whip an area where scant rain has fallen in five months, fire and forestry officials said on Tuesday.

Several wildfires have begun in the past week, and the largest, dubbed the Rhea Fire, began on Thursday. By Tuesday it covered nearly 250,000 acres, in western Oklahoma, and was only 3 percent contained, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Forestry Services.

That fire last week consumed the home, barn and half of the small herd of cattle of Larry Lynes, 66, and his wife, Arlinda, 64, who live near Taloga, Oklahoma.

Larry Lynes sifts through the ashes of his bedroom at his home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxfor

Larry Lynes sifts through the ashes of his bedroom at his home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

“We didn’t have any time at all,” Arlinda Lynes said on Tuesday. “So I went in there and got photo albums from when the children were little and som

e papers off the desk.”

Arlinda Lynes said the couple will rebuild, and their small herd is growing again.

“We got a new baby (calf) this morning, which we are going to name Smokey,” she said.

The Rhea fire burns into the night near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

The Rhea fire burns into the night near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

 

 

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 52 of the state’s 77 counties because of the wildfires and critical conditions for more fires to start.

Western Oklahoma has had no significant rainfall in more than 150 days, while the relative humidity is extremely low, said Hartman.

“This presents unprecedented conditions for this part of Oklahoma for sure,” Hartman said in a phone call.

 

There was a “100 percent chance” that a spark would ignite if it flew into the state’s dry grasslands, she said, and any fire would spread rapidly because of the high winds.

Later on Tuesday, new flames sprung up south of the western Oklahoma town of Seiling, Hartman said.

Ryan Barnes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, said relief was several days away, with the heaviest rains forecast from Friday night into Saturday morning.

The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

A woman who was trying to evacuate from her residence was killed when flames from the Rhea fire burned the car she was driving, Hartman said. Local media reports said her body was found on Saturday.

A separate fire in western Oklahoma killed a 61-year-old man last Thursday, Oklahoma fire officials said.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman)

Turkey’s Erdogan declares early elections on June 24

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, April 18, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

By Tuvan Gumrukcu and David Dolan

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called a snap presidential and parliamentary election on June 24, more than a year earlier than planned, saying the country urgently needed to make the switch to an executive presidency.

Bringing the elections forward means that they will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since a July 2016 attempted coup and was extended by parliament on Wednesday for another three months.

In 15 years of rule as prime minister and later president, Erdogan has transformed a poor country at the eastern edge of Europe into a major emerging market. Yet Turkey’s rapid economic growth has also come with increased authoritarianism, as Erdogan has accelerated a crackdown on dissent since the failed coup.

Erdogan and his ministers had previously dismissed the prospect of early polls. Last year he narrowly won a referendum to change the constitution and create an executive presidency, which will come into effect with the next presidential vote.

He said Turkey’s military operations in neighboring Syria “and the developments in our region of historic importance, have made it mandatory to remove the election issue from our agenda”.

In a speech broadcast live on television he said it was also “urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country’s future in a stronger way…We came to the agreement that we should approach this early election positively.”

He said he made the decision after speaking to the head of the nationalist MHP party, Devlet Bahceli, who a day earlier had floated the prospect of an early election. The elections had been slated for November 2019.

Bahceli’s small MHP party is expected to form an alliance with Erdogan’s AK Party in the parliamentary election.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

The main opposition CHP party called for an immediate end to the emergency, which allows Erdogan and the government to bypass parliament in passing new laws and allows them to suspend rights and freedoms.

“There cannot be an election under emergency rule,” CHP spokesman Bulent Tezcan said. “The country needs to brought out of the emergency rule regime starting today.”

The United Nations last month called for an end to the emergency and accused Ankara of mass arrests, arbitrary sacking and other abuses. Some 160,000 people have been detained and a similar number of civil servants dismissed since the failed putsch, it said.

Media outlets have been shut down and scores of journalists have also been jailed.

Parliament last month passed a law revamping electoral regulations that the opposition has said could open the door to fraud and jeopardize the fairness of voting. The law grants the High Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts.

LIRA FIRMS

Turkey’s lira firmed against the dollar on Wednesday and was at 4.0189 at 1500 GMT. The yield on Turkey’s benchmark bond fell some 10 basis points and the main stock index jumped more than 2 percent.

Some investors had already been factoring in the prospect of early elections, citing the difficulty of the government keeping the economy going at its current breakneck pace – it expanded at 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter – until late next year.

The economy is likely to expand 4.1 percent this year, well short of the government’s target of 5.5 percent, a Reuters poll showed. Such a slowdown could hurt Erdogan, who has built much of his reputation on his stewardship of the economy, above all his record of delivering roads, hospitals and public services to millions of pious poor and middle-class people.

Investor concerns about double-digit inflation and Erdogan’s pressure on the central bank to keep rates down have sent the lira to a series of record lows. The currency’s sell-off may have figured in the call for early elections, some investors said.

“A continued depreciation of the currency would likely negatively impact voter behavior and may jeopardize Erdogan’s plans for victory,” said Paul Greer, a portfolio manager at Fidelity International in London.

“We read the early election announcement as a recognition from the government of a need for a tighter monetary and fiscal adjustment sooner rather than later.”

(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, with additional reporting by Sujata Rao and Karin Strohecker in London; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich)

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)

PNG declares state of emergency after deadly quake strikes rugged highlands

A local stands next to a damaged house near a landslide in the town of Tari after an earthquake struck Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands in this image taken February 27, 2018 obtained from social media. Francis Ambrose/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT?

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Papua New Guinea has declared a state of emergency across its remote and rugged highlands, releasing government relief funds four days after a deadly quake flattened provincial towns and buried hamlets under landslides, killing at least 31 people.

Stymied by forbidding terrain and weather, as well as damaged roads and runways, aid has not yet arrived in several large towns where it’s most needed, local officials told Reuters.

“The only means of rescue is through helicopters and they are hardly coming,” Hela province’s administrator, William Bando, said on the phone from his office in a shipping container at Tari, about 40 km (25 miles) from the epicenter.

“Our people live in scattered hamlets and people are dying slowly…A lot of people are asking for tents, water and medical supplies.”

The emergency declaration, made late on Thursday by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill cleared the way for 450 million kina ($135 million) in government aid to flow, as well as help from the military.

“This is an unprecedented disaster and the appropriate response is underway by the national government,” O’Neill said in a statement, which also announced a restoration authority would direct recovery efforts for the next four years.

At least 13 people died when landslides covered remote hamlets close to where the quake struck, some 560 km (350 miles) northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, an official who put the total death toll at 31, told Reuters on Thursday.

While the region has no major urban centers, around 670,000 people live within 100 km (62 miles) of the epicenter according to the Red Cross.

Most of the other confirmed fatalities were in or around Tari township and provincial capital of Mendi, where at least 14 people died and aftershocks continue to frighten residents.

“People have started to dig out and to recover dead bodies still in the ground,” Mendi policeman Naring Bongi said from his station, where desktop computers were smashed when the quake hit.

“There is no help except for those who are here going around and collecting information on casualties and such things,” he said.

“Our state of mind is not great. We are confused as to what is to be done to us in this case…the earth is still moving – it really frightens us, so we don’t know whatever to do, all the services in Mendi have closed.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it released $221,000 in funds to help relief efforts and would send first aid, water, mosquito nets and shelters, to the region.

Australia has also promised A$200,000 in aid, sent a C-130 military plane to help with aerial surveys, and a spokeswoman at the foreign ministry told Reuters more help was on standby, should PNG request it.

Miners and oil and gas companies were also assessing damage to their infrastructure, and an industry source said ExxonMobil Corp has declared force majeure on exports from its Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which has been shut since the quake hit.

The company declined to comment on the declaration, but said it would “take time” for a full survey of damage, given the quake ruined roads and other infrastructure.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Editing by G Crosse and Michael Perry)

Commuters in U.S. South face tough trek after deadly storm

Snow cover in the U.S. 1-18-18 - National Weather Service

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Commuters in the U.S. South faced frigid temperatures and dangerously slick roads on Thursday after a winter storm, responsible for at least eight deaths, thrashed the region with heavy snow and winds that snapped power lines.

Schools in New Orleans, Charlotte and Atlanta and across the region canceled classes on Thursday as winter weather advisories from the National Weather Service (NWS) remained in effect from eastern Texas to Florida and north into southeast Virginia.

“Motorists are urged to use extreme caution, or avoid travel if possible,” the NWS said in an advisory, warning that freezing temperatures would keep roads icy.

Wind chill advisories were in effect as temperatures will feel like they have fallen below zero Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius) in parts of the Carolinas, Alabama and Virginia.

More than 14,000 households and businesses in North Carolina and Louisiana and in various parts of the South were without power early on Thursday, utility companies said online.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana declared states of emergency because of severe conditions that made traveling treacherous.

“We cannot stress it enough for everyone to stay off the roads unless you have no choice,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement, adding the storm had caused 1,600 traffic accidents.

More than 9 inches (23 cm) of snow have fallen in Durham, North Carolina since Monday, with 7 inches (18 cm) or more measured at various locations across southern Virginia, the NWS said.

The storm has caused at least eight deaths.

In Austin, Texas, a vehicle plunged more than 30 feet (9 meters) off a frozen overpass on Tuesday, killing a man in his 40s, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said on its Twitter feed.

An 82-year-old woman who suffered from dementia was found dead on Wednesday behind her Houston-area home, likely due to exposure to cold, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said. Another woman died from cold exposure in Memphis, police said on Twitter.

In Georgia, two people were fatally struck by a car that slid on an ice patch near Macon, local media reports said.

A man was killed when he was knocked off an elevated portion of Interstate 10 in New Orleans and an 8-month-old baby died in a car crash in suburban New Orleans, local news reports said.

A woman died in West Virginia in a car crash, local reports said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Edmund Blair and Bernadette Baum)

Flights canceled, schools closed across snowy U.S. South

Snow falls through a picture frame in the Boston Public Garden during a winter storm in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., January 17, 2018.

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) – A bitter winter storm gripped much of the South on Wednesday, prompting schools to close and causing thousands of flight delays and cancellations as snow, ice and record-breaking cold hit the region.

The storm led to a least one death when a vehicle in Austin, Texas, plunged more than 30 feet off a frozen overpass late on Tuesday, killing a man in his 40s, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service said on its Twitter feed.

Winter weather advisories were in effect from the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states and Southeast, as well as over the central Gulf Coast of Texas, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). Winter storm warnings were also in effect for portions of the Carolinas, southern Virginia and the New England area.

More than 360 outgoing flights at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport were canceled or delayed on Wednesday, according to Flightaware.com, and another 60-plus were canceled or delayed at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana declared states of emergency due to severe winter weather conditions, which caused multiple car accidents during rush-hour traffic, officials said.

NWS meteorologist Dan Petersen said snowfall in central and north Georgia had ended, and the arctic cold front would now bring snow, frigid temperatures and frozen roadways across central North Carolina on Wednesday.

“The rain in central North Carolina will eventually turn into snow later today and is predicted to dump 6 to 8 inches of snow over central North Carolina and about 1 to 3 inches over east North Carolina,” he said.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned at a news briefing that cold temperatures Wednesday night would make travel conditions even more hazardous.

“The snow is pretty, but don’t be fooled,” Cooper said.

In Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, most freeways were closed on Wednesday morning after icing over, the city’s Office of Emergency Management said.

“Not a good idea to be out on the roads. Conditions are still unsafe,” the Texas Department of Transportation Houston Division said on its Twitter feed.

New Orleans had record-breaking cold temperatures Wednesday morning with 20 degrees Fahrenheit in the area, beating its previous record 23 degrees set in 1977, according to the NWS. Hattiesburg, Mississippi, also broke temperature records with 12 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, beating its 14 degrees also set in 1977.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and David Gregorio)

Strong earthquake in southern Peru leaves one dead, scores injured

A man observes a damage building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018.

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – A strong magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru on Sunday morning, killing one person, injuring scores and causing homes and roads to collapse.

The quake hit offshore at 4:18 a.m. local time (0918 GMT) at a depth of around 36 km (22.4 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean 40 km from the town of Acari.

Arequipa Governor Yamila Osorio said on Twitter that a 55-year-old man died in the town of Yauca after being crushed by rocks. Jorge Chavez, chief of Peru’s Civil Defense Institute, told local radio station RPP that 65 people were injured.

Several municipalities lost electricity, and many roads and adobe houses collapsed, Osorio said. Many residents of Lomas, a coastal town, were evacuated after feeling an aftershock.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski traveled to the towns of Chala and Acari, two of the areas most affected by the quake, to assess the damages and coordinate the response. He said some 100 houses had collapsed.

A man and a child stand at debris of a building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018.

A man and a child stand at debris of a building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018. REUTERS/Diego Ramos

“We are going to send everything that is needed, such as tents for people whose homes were destroyed,” Kuczynski told reporters in Chala.

Earthquakes are common in Peru, but many homes are built with precarious materials that cannot withstand the tremors.

In 2007 an earthquake killed hundreds in the region of Ica.

Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz said at a news conference in Lima that the government would declare a state of emergency in the affected zones to allow for faster reconstruction of roads and homes. Devastating floods last year resulted in $8 billion in rebuilding costs.

Peruvian maritime authorities said the quake did not produce a tsunami on the coast. In the morning, officials said a second person had died and that 17 people were missing in a mine, but later withdrew the reports.

Peru is the world’s No. 2 copper producer, although many mines in the south are located far inland from the quake’s epicenter. A Southern Copper Corp representative said there were no reports of damage at its Cuajone and Toquepala mines.

Jesus Revilla, a union leader at the Cerro Verde copper mine in Arequipa, said there were no reports that operations had been affected.

The quake was also felt in northern Chile, Peru’s southern neighbor, but authorities said there was no tsunami risk.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Luc Cohen; Additional reporting by Antonio de la Jara in Santiago; Editing by Louise Heavens, Lisa Von Ahn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Storms slam U.S. Southeast as bitter cold drags on

A woman stops to photograph the frozen Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in New York, U.S., January 3, 2018.

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – Winter storms swept up the U.S Southeast toward New England on Wednesday as snow, freezing rain and strong winds added to record-shattering cold that had much of the eastern United States in its grip.

The wintry mix and low wind chills could cause widespread power outages and leave roads icy, making commuting treacherous for millions of Americans from northern Florida to southern Virginia, the National Weather Service said in a series of warnings.

Some schools and universities in those states were closed on Wednesday in anticipation of the storm. Many flights out of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia and Tallahassee Airport in Florida were canceled.

The weather service said its Tallahassee office measured a snow and sleet accumulation of 0.1 inch (2.5mm) on its roof early in the day, the first time Florida’s capital has had snow in nearly 30 years.

The service said travel in northeastern Florida was likely to be difficult and dangerous.

Two to 3 inches of snow was expected in northeastern Florida, coastal Georgia and South Carolina, according to early morning forecasts, said weather service meteorologist Bob Oravec.

Some Florida and Georgia residents shared images on social media of light snow accumulating.

“So a #SnowDay in #Florida. We know hurricanes. Snow? Not sure what to do here. How do you luge?,” wrote one Twitter user, @thejalexkelly.

On Tuesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott urged residents in the north of the state to brace themselves for the cold. He said cold weather shelters have either opened or would be opened in 22 of the state’s 67 counties.

Some coastal areas of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia could ultimately receive up to 6 inches (15 cm) of snow, along with an accumulation of ice, while parts of New England could see 12 to 15 inches (30-38 cm) of snow and wind gusts of 35 miles per hour (55 km per hour) by the end of week, the weather service said.

Late on Tuesday, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 28 of the state’s 159 counties.

As the storm bears down, an arctic air mass will remain entrenched over the eastern two-thirds of the country through the end of the week, forecasters said. The record-low temperatures were to blame for at least eight deaths in Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Dakota and Michigan over the past several days, officials said.

A large swath of the Midwest was under a wind chill warning on Wednesday as places like Cleveland and Indianapolis had temperatures in the wind of 5 to 20 degrees below zero in Fahrenheit (minus 20 to minus 29 degrees Celsius), while the Deep South faced deep-freeze temperatures that threatened crops and pipes, the weather service warned.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Jonathan Oatis)