Texas power grid passes test, more to come as heat wave lingers

(Reuters) – The Texas power grid passed the first of what could be many tests over the next week by meeting very high demand on Monday without problems as homes and businesses cranked up their air conditioners to escape the latest heat wave.

The United States has been beset by extreme weather events this year, including February’s freeze in Texas that knocked out power to millions, and record heat in the Pacific Northwest earlier this summer.

High temperatures over the next week were expected to reach the mid 90s Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) in Houston and the low 100s in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, according to AccuWeather.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid in most of the state, said power use hit a preliminary 72,856 megawatts (MW) on Monday and would reach 72,925 MW on July 30, 73,275 MW on Aug. 1 and 74,160 MW on Aug. 2.

Those peaks were lower than ERCOT forecast on Monday and would remain below July’s 74,244-MW record and the all-time high of 74,820 MW in August 2019. One megawatt can power around 200 homes in the summer.

Officials at ERCOT were not immediately available to say if Monday’s peak was the highest this year.

ERCOT has already broken monthly records, including 70,219 MW in June and 69,692 MW in February when millions of Texans were left without power, water and heat for days during a deadly storm as ERCOT scrambled to prevent an uncontrolled collapse of the grid after an unusually large amount of generation shut.

Despite Monday’s high demand, real-time prices remained below $100 per megawatt hour (MWh).

That compares with an average of $208/MWh at the ERCOT North so far in 2021 due primarily to price spikes over $8,000 during the February freeze. The 2020 average was just $26.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Israel to sell Jordan additional water this year, minister says

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel will this year double its supply of water to Jordan, Israeli officials said on Thursday after a meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers, adding that Amman’s exports to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank could also increase.

Jordan is a key security partner for Israel but relations have suffered in recent years over Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Yair Lapid, foreign minister in a cross-partisan coalition that ousted conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government a month ago, said Israel would sell Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water this year.

An Israeli official said that would effectively double the supply for the year – measured between May 2021 and May 2022 – as around 50 million cubic meters was already being sold or given to Jordan. A Jordanian official said Israel gives the kingdom 30 million cubic meters annually under their 1994 peace treaty.

In a statement issued after he held a first meeting in Jordan with its foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, Lapid said the countries also agreed to explore increasing Jordan’s exports to the West Bank to $700 million a year, from $160 million now.

“The Kingdom of Jordan is an important neighbor and partner,” Lapid said. “We will broaden economic cooperation for the good of the two countries.”

(Writing by Dan Williams and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Rare tornado rips through southern Czech Republic, killing five

By Jason Hovet

HRUSKY, Czech Republic (Reuters) -Emergency workers and residents combed through wreckage in southern Czech Republic on Friday after a tornado ripped roofs off buildings and sent cars flying through the air, killing at least five people and injuring hundreds.

The tornado, which hit towns and villages around Hodonin along the Slovak and Austrian borders on Thursday evening, may have reached windspeeds above 332 kph (206 mph), a Czech Television meteorologist said.

“It was terrible what we went through,” said Lenka Petrasova in Hrusky who recounted taking shelter with her 11-year old-son after spotting the tornado minutes before it hit. “It was unbelievable. I saw a car fly, and dogs flying.”

Firefighters searched the rubble on Friday while the army sent in a team with heavy engineering equipment to deal with the aftermath of the strongest storm in the central European nation’s modern history and its first tornado since 2018.

In the village of Hrusky with a population of 1,600, a deputy mayor estimated that a third of the houses were destroyed and many needed inspections before people could safely return.

“Part of the village is levelled, only the perimeter walls without roofs, without windows remain,” Marek Babisz told news site iDNES.

“The church has no roof, it has no tower, cars were hurled at family houses, people had nowhere to hide. The village from the church down practically ceased to exist,” he said.

South Moravia regional administration chief Jan Grolich said that five people had died in the storm, and regional hospitals treated some 150 injured while others were sent elsewhere.

Emergency crews from neighboring Poland, Austria and Slovakia fanned out across the region, 270 km (167 miles) southeast of Prague, to assist.

Officials said thousands of homes had been destroyed and appealed to people not to drive to the affected areas so rescue services could work, urging them to send donations instead.

More than 100 residents of a home for the elderly in Hodonin had to be evacuated.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis cut short his attendance at the European Council summit in Brussels to visit the area where electricity and water remained shut off in a number of villages.

Speaking on his return, Babis said the government’s priority was to tap the European Union’s solidarity fund in which around 1.3 billion euros are put aside for such situations in member countries.

“The footage I saw is absolutely catastrophic,” said Babis, who also toured damaged homes in Hrusky. “We have offers of help from across Europe and many prime ministers have approached me to offer assistance.”

Czech TV reported as many as seven small towns were “massively” damaged, citing an emergency services spokesperson.

Residents on Friday surveyed the damage.

“There used to be two rooms above this,” Mikulcice resident Pavel Netopilik said pointing to the rubble surrounding his house where the upstairs floors collapsed. “Now they are not here. The ceiling collapsed.”

(Additional reporting by Robert Muller in Prague, Writing by Michael Kahn; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Philippa Fletcher)

Little food and water for Congolese fleeing volcano

By Djaffar Al Katanty

SAKE, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) -Families fleeing a volcano eruption in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said on Friday they were struggling to find enough food and water as the United Nations called for aid and warned about the risk of cholera.

At least 31 people died when Mount Nyiragongo sent a wall of lava spreading towards Goma on Saturday last week, destroying 3,000 homes along the way and cutting a major road used to bring aid to the strife-torn region.

The lava stopped just short of the city limits, but thousands more people fled early on Thursday when the government warned that the volcano, one of the world’s most active, could erupt again.

Many escaped to Sake, a town 13 miles (20 km) northwest of Goma that is prone to cholera outbreaks, UNICEF said.

People slept wherever they could – on the side of the road and inside classrooms and a church. Kabuo Asifiwe Muliwavyo, 36, told Reuters she and her seven children had not eaten since arriving on Thursday.

“They told us that there will be a second eruption and that there will be a big gas explosion,” she said as she cradled her crying one-year-old. “But since we moved, there is nothing here … We are starving.”

Around 400,000 people need support or protection, the U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) said in a statement.

“With an increased risk of a cholera outbreak, we are appealing for urgent international assistance to avert what could be a catastrophe for children,” UNICEF’s representative in Congo, Edouard Beigbeder, said.

UNDER THE STARS

Danga Tungulo and his four children slept next to the road in Sake. Some local residents brought them water, but they had not eaten since they left Goma the previous day, he said.

“They told everyone that assistance would be organized, that money would be disbursed by the government,” said Hassan Kanga, a lawyer who fled after the eruption. “And yet, you find us under the stars.”

The evacuation order was issued around 1 a.m. local time on Thursday after radar images showed molten rock flowing under Goma.

The movement of magma caused cracks in the ground and hundreds of earthquakes, which could allow it to burst through to the surface in a fresh eruption, the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) said.

The frequency and intensity of the ground tremors had lessened in the last 24 hours, suggesting the risk of a fresh eruption was subsiding, Celestin Kasareka Mahinda of the OVG said on Friday.

“I don’t think we will have a second eruption. The problem is the risk of fractures, but the risk is small, around 20%,” he told Reuters.

Some people who had fled to Sake crowded into trucks later on Friday to return to Goma. Dozens of people who had fled in the opposite direction to neighboring Rwanda also crossed back into Congo, photos shared by the Rwandan government showed.

Congolese authorities, meanwhile, reopened the main road which was split in two by lava, the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Thursday.

Goma is major humanitarian hub supplying aid to a region hit by decades of unrest.

(Reporting by Djaffar Al Katanty, Aaron Ross and Hereward Holland; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aaron Ross and Andrew Heavens)

Rescuers hunt for survivors after cyclone kills 119 in Indonesia

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Rescuers searched for dozens missing in the remote islands of southeast Indonesia on Tuesday, as reinforcements arrived to help in the aftermath of a tropical cyclone that killed at least 119 people.

Helicopters were deployed to aid the search, and ships carrying food, water, blankets and medicine reached ports previously blocked by high waves whipped up by tropical cyclone Seroja, which brought heavy rain and triggered deadly floods and landslides on Sunday.

Indonesia’s disaster agency BNPB revised upwards the death toll from the cyclone in the East Nusa Tenggara islands, after earlier saying 86 had died. Seventy-six people were still missing.

“The rescue team is moving on the ground. The weather is good,” BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati told a news briefing.

Search and rescue personnel, however, had trouble transporting heavy equipment for use in the search.

“Search for victims is constrained, the existing heavy equipment cannot be sent to their destination, especially in Adonara and Alor,” the head of BNPB, Doni Monardo, said.

The Adonara and Alor islands were among the islands worst hit by the cyclone, with 62 and 21 people dead respectively.

Aerial images from Adonara on Tuesday showed brown mud and flood water covering a vast area, burying houses, roads and trees.

The military and volunteers arrived on the islands on Tuesday and were setting up public kitchens, while medical workers were brought in.

Video taken by a local official in Tanjung Batu village on Lembata, home to the Ile Lewotolok volcano, showed felled trees and large rocks of cold lava that had crushed homes after being dislodged by the cyclone.

Thousands of people have been displaced, nearly 2,000 buildings including a hospital were impacted, and more than 100 homes heavily damaged by the cyclone.

Two people died in nearby West Nusa Tenggara province.

There were also concerns about possible COVID-19 infections in crowded evacuation centers.

In neighboring East Timor, at least 33 were killed in floods and landslides and by falling trees. Civil defense authorities were using heavy equipment to search for survivors.

“The number of victims could still increase because many victims have not been found,” the main director of civil protection, Ismael da Costa Babo, told Reuters.

“They were buried by landslides and carried away by floods.”

Some residents of Lembata island may have also been washed away by mud into the sea.

A volcano that erupted on Lembata last month wiped out vegetation atop the mountain, which allowed hardened lava to slide towards 300 houses when the cyclone struck, a senior district official said, hoping help was on the way.

“We were only able to search on the seashore, not in the deeper area, because of lack of equipment yesterday,” Thomas Ola Langoday told Reuters by phone.

He feared many bodies were still buried under large rocks.

President Joko Widodo urged his cabinet to speed up evacuation and relief efforts and to restore power.

Weather agency head Dwikorita Karnawati said once-rare tropical cyclones were happening more often in Indonesia and climate change could be to blame.

“Seroja is the first time we’re seeing tremendous impact because it hit the land. It’s not common,” she said.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Stanley Widianto and Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta and Nelson Da Cruz in Dili; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Martin Petty, Tom Hogue and Bernadette Baum)

G7 countries urge independent probe into alleged rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Tigray

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States, Germany, France and other G7 countries called on Friday for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged human rights abuses during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Ethiopia’s federal army ousted the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), from the capital Mekelle in November.

Thousands of people died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region. The government says most fighting has ceased but there are still isolated incidents of shooting.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week Eritrea has agreed to withdraw troops it had sent during the fighting into Ethiopian territory along their mutual border, amid mounting reports of human rights abuses. Eritrea has denied its forces joined the conflict.

The G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell expressed their concerns in a joint statement.

“All parties must exercise utmost restraint, ensure the protection of civilians and respect human rights and international law,” they said.

“It is essential that there is an independent, transparent and impartial investigation into the crimes reported and that those responsible for these human rights abuses are held to account,” the ministers said.

They said the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from Tigray must be swift, unconditional and verifiable and that a political process acceptable to all Ethiopians should be set up that leads to credible elections and a national reconciliation process.

Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in March it was ready to work with international human rights experts to conduct investigations on allegations of abuses.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Peter Graff)

Coronavirus crisis in Latin America made worse by poverty, inequality, U.N. agency says

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Latin America and the Caribbean countries in the throes of the coronavirus crisis will only see their problems made worse by festering inequality, poverty and an ailing social safety net, a United Nations agency said on Thursday.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said social unrest was on the rise across the region, a sign that immediate action was necessary to aid hard-hit countries struggling long before the pandemic hit.

“The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have spread to all areas of human life, altering the way we interact, paralyzing economies and generating profound changes in societies,” the report said.

Persistently high levels of inequality, the agency said, combined with a sprawling informal labor market that leaves workers without protection and a lack of effective health care coverage have made those problems worse.

Urban slums on the fringes of many of the region’s cities often lack access to basic services, mean many citizens found themselves unable to access food, water and healthcare necessary to confront the crisis.

Poverty meanwhile, has crept upward, while advances in reducing inequality have stagnated, exacerbating trends seen in the five years prior to the crisis.

During that period, Latin America and Caribbean economies grew an average of just 0.3% per year overall, while extreme poverty increased from 7.8% to 11.3% of the population and poverty, from 27.8% to 30.5%.

The report also said the prolonged closure of schools in the region could constitute a “generational catastrophe” that will only deepen inequality.

The pandemic has also brought a rise in mortality that could push down life expectancy in the region depending how long the crisis endures, the agency said.

There have been at least 21,699,000 reported infections and 687,000 reported deaths caused by the novel coronavirus in Latin America and the Caribbean so far.

​ Of every 100 infections last reported around the world, about 24 were reported from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Power restored to most in Texas after ‘tragic few days’

By Adrees Latif

GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas are coping without heat for a fourth day on Thursday after utilities made some progress restoring power, as the state’s leaders came under mounting criticism for their response to the winter storm.

The crisis facing the country’s second-largest state looked set to continue, with millions of people still without access to water, many struggling to find food, and freezing temperatures expected to last through Saturday.

Judge Lina Hidalgo, the top elected official in Harris County, which encompasses Houston, said the number of homes without power in her county had fallen to 33,000 from 1.4 million a few nights ago.

“It’s definitely a big positive that the power is back on for most of the residents,” Hidalgo said in an interview. “It’s been a miserable few days, a really tragic few days.”

Hidalgo warned that a “hard freeze” Thursday night could cause setbacks and encouraged donations to food banks with some residents struggling to secure food and water. She noted reports of senior centers and other vulnerable communities lacking basic supplies.

At present some 447,000 Texas households were without power, down from around 2.7 million on Wednesday, according to poweroutage.com, a website that tracks outages.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a cooperative responsible for 90% of the state’s electricity, said on Thursday it made “significant progress” in restoring power. It did not provide detailed figures.

Angry residents have trained much of their ire on ERCOT, which critics say did not heed warnings after a cold-weather meltdown in 2011 to ensure that Texas’ energy infrastructure, which relies primarily on natural gas, was winterized.

Critics have also raised questions about the leadership of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has called for an investigation of ERCOT. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz too came under fire for flying to the Mexican resort city of Cancun with his family, despite the storm’s fallout. The Republican lawmaker cut his trip short after his travels were reported, saying he would return to Texas and “get to the bottom of what happened” in his state.

Gary Southern, a 68-year-old real estate broker from Mineral Wells, Texas, said his power was restored on Wednesday afternoon, enabling him to have his first solid night of sleep since he lost electricity in the early hours of Monday.

“It was one of the worst things we’ve ever had to go through,” the lifelong Texan said, adding that he was frustrated at being told there would be rolling blackouts, only to go days without power at all. “I know a lot of people in our community still don’t have it (power) and are frustrated.”

The lack of power has cut off water supplies for millions, further strained hospitals’ ability to treat patients amid a pandemic, and isolated vulnerable communities with frozen roads still impassable in parts of the state.

As of Thursday morning, 154 of the 254 counties in Texas have reported disruptions in water service, affecting 13.2 million people, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Many of those affected have been told they need to boil their water.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said historically low temperatures were hindering efforts to inoculate people against COVID-19, with more than 2,000 vaccine sites in areas with power outages. In addition to aiding Texas, FEMA said on Thursday it would provide assistance to the neighboring state of Oklahoma due to the weather’s impact on its power grid.

Nearly two dozen deaths have been attributed to the cold snap. Officials say they suspect many more people have died – but their bodies have not been discovered yet.

In Galveston on the Gulf Coast of Texas, a pop-up shelter with heat but no running water had allowed about three dozen people to huddle overnight before they were ushered back out into the cold on Thursday morning to let cleaning crews get it ready to do it all over again on Thursday night.

“When you go to the bathroom, grab a bucket of water to clear the toilet – we’re going old school!” Cesar Garcia, director of Galveston’s Parks and Recreation Department, called out as he oversaw scrubbing of the shelter set up in the McGuire-Dent Recreation Center.

Garcia said he was bracing for a potentially bigger crowd tonight, perhaps closer to the 100 who sought shelter on Monday night, sleeping on bleachers or a gymnasium floor with blankets and whatever they brought with them from home.

“Tonight being the coldest night, we don’t know what to expect,” Garcia said.

While the icy conditions should gradually improve, record low temperatures will likely persist in the South Central region of the United States through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service said, which said the storm was moving northeastward, dropping snow on a swath of states in its path.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Barbara Goldberg in Maplewood, New Jersey; Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

Himalayan helicopter flies flood-hit villagers home to mourn

By Alasdair Pal

RAINI CHAK LATA, India (Reuters) – For three days, Sushama Rana waited at a makeshift dirt helipad in the Indian Himalayas to return to her village and look for her missing brother-in-law.

Yashpal Rana was herding goats when a flash flood swept down a remote valley on Sunday, smashing everything in its path including two hydroelectric power stations.

More than 200 people are feared killed, although most of those are still missing.

The wall of water also swept several bridges into the valley, home to more than a thousand people spread over 13 villages.

An eight-seater Airbus helicopter more often used to carry tourists has begun ferrying supplies to the villages, some of which are suffering from intermittent power and water.

But it is also carrying people back to their home villages to mourn.

Yashpal married his wife a year ago, and is the father of a four-month-old son.

His family has given up hope of finding him alive.

“We just want to find his body and perform his last rites,” Sushama said.

The valley is home to a key paramilitary post by the Chinese border, and many of the troops, known as the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), are helping in the relief work from a command post at a primary school in Lata, one of the affected villages.

Some can now only be accessed via a 5km trek on foot, Deputy Commandant Raj, the officer in charge of the operation said. Dozens of solar powered lamps are being sent up towards the border to those without power.

The Indian military’s Mi-17 and Chinook helicopters are useless when trying to access the villages, perched on steep hills with little flat ground.

Instead, the relief operation is relying on a commercial craft – normally used for pleasure rides at a nearby ski resort – to land on a narrow strip of concrete perched by the Dauliganga river.

Jagged, snow-capped peaks loom over the valley, which is covered in forests of pine and fir.

In contrast to the mud and tangled metal remnants downstream, the crystalline Dauliganga – a tributary of the Ganges river worshipped as a god by many Indians – sparkles in the sun.

Reuters travelled on one of the relief missions into the valley, with returning locals in the passenger seats and sacks of rice and lentils in the helicopter’s small hold.

But in Raini Chak Lata, the first village in the valley to be cut off, the most pressing issue is not food, but processing the events of Sunday’s disaster, the causes of which are still be to be conclusively determined.

“Nobody wants to eat when family members are not able to come,” Yashpal’s brother Rajpal said.

Yashpal had two postgraduate business degrees, according to Rajpal, but was not able to find a job. He had returned to Raini Chak Lata, and was down at the river bank with the family’s goats when the torrent of water, mud and dust came roaring down the valley.

“He is probably somewhere there,” he said.

When Sushama saw the first helicopter of the day on Friday, she wept and ran towards it, before being held back by workers as the blades swept up a cloud of dust.

Authorities have transported more than 300 people since the disaster, but the list of people wanting to ride is long.

Finally, she was able to board the final flight of the day, which swept over destroyed dams.

She clutched her shawl as she disembarked.

“Somehow, after waiting for three days, I have finally arrived,” she said, walking the mile to the village on foot.

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

No water! No fear! Kenya’s community leaders step up to coronavirus challenge

By Katharine Houreld

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Few residents in Nairobi’s sprawling informal settlement of Kibera have access to running water to wash their hands – but most have heard of a deadly new disease killing off people in China and Europe.

Although the disease was slow to hit Africa, more than 30 countries now have cases of the coronavirus – Kenya has seven. So concerned residents in neighbourhoods neglected by Kenya’s notoriously corrupt government are setting up handwashing stations and organising teams of volunteers to educate people about the disease.

“We can’t sit pretty in our houses knowing that tomorrow we may have a crisis beyond our control,” said Ed Gachuna, the chief finance officer of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), an organisation set up by Kennedy Odede, who was born and brought up in Kibera.

Community-led initiatives like SHOFCO’s coronavirus drive are far more likely to win compliance from residents than edicts from a government noted only for its neglect – an important lesson learned from the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa in 2014 and in Congo last year.

Kibera, home to more than half a million people, has little government presence bar an occasional policeman. There are no formal water connections. Residents illegally tap government lines using rubber hoses that leak into open sewers. Police cut them when they find them, said Gachuna, leaving the area waterless for days at a time.

But SHOFCO runs schools, clinics and a network of drinking water points linked by aerial pipes suspended far above the rubbish-strewn alleys, keeping the water clean. SHOFCO’s purification plant provides Kibera residents drinking water at heavily subsidised rates – 2 shillings (2 cents) for 20 litres.

On Wednesday, crowds of volunteers – some wearing T-shirts emblazoned “Fighting Coronavirus” – gathered at the SHOFCO offices, listening to a talk about symptoms and prevention before disappearing down the narrow alleys.

A friend of one volunteer approached, hand out to greet her, but the woman recoiled dramatically, shouting “Nooooooo – coroonaaaaaavirrrrrrus!” to peals of laughter from both women and appreciative cheers from children. The women put their hands on their hearts instead.

Behind them, young men tied large plastic drums and boxes of soap onto perilously tilting motorbikes to set up the first wave of 24 SHOFCO handwashing stations. Keeping the disease at bay is their only hope.

Many families here cluster into single-room shacks; few here have the space to isolate, or the luxury of working from home. Few can stockpile food either – most work daily jobs that earn a couple of dollars a day. The markets are busy and greetings enthusiastic.

“Africans love greetings and physical contact,” explained auditor Emmanuel Olima, shaking drops of water from his hands and one of the new handwashing stations. “So even if you hide your hands, you might not avoid a handshake.”

The stations are staffed by volunteers like 24-year-old Judy Adhiambo, whose dimpled smile greets each passerby as she tells them the symptoms of the disease and how to prevent it. Children squeal with delight at the water and suds, but the adults listen.

“Rub between the fingers very well,” Adhiambo advises a young boy washing his hands with his mother.

“Asante,” the woman says quietly as they leave – thank you.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)