Thousands feared dead in Haiti quake


Around 200 people are thought to be trapped under the rubble of the Hotel Montana, near to the United Nations headquarters. Many UN employees are also reported missing. Haitian President René Préval is alive and well, according to Haiti’s ambassador in Mexico; the presidential palace however lies in ruins. An emergency number for those wanting more information has been set up: +33-1-43-17-53-53.

Continue reading


Floods, landslides kill 144 in El Salvador

Children sleep as they remain in a temporary shelter at the Polideportivo in San Vicente some 80 km east of San Salvador. Rescue workers in El Salvador on Tuesday tried to reach dozens of towns cut off by torrents of mud and debris unleashed by devastating late-season storms that killed at least 144 people.

Children sleep as they remain in a temporary shelter at the Polideportivo in San Vicente some 80 km east of San Salvador. Rescue workers in El Salvador on Tuesday tried to reach dozens of towns cut off by torrents of mud and debris unleashed by devastating late-season storms that killed at least 144 people.

The City & My Life|AFPRescue workers in El Salvador on Tuesday tried to reach dozens of towns cut off by torrents of mud and debris unleashed by devastating late-season storms that killed at least 144 people.

The total number of dead rose to 144, civil protection authorities said after landslides and overflowing rivers swept away homes, while a raging torrent ripped through part of the town of Verapaz, where bodies — covered in mud-caked sheets — were stored in a local chapel, waiting to be identified.

Rescue efforts focused on the eastern San Vicente department, where 72 people were still missing after three days of driving rain, 60 of them in Verapaz alone, officials said late Monday.

“The problem here in finding bodies is removing all these rocks and trees,” Carlos Arce, 27, told AFP in what remained of his town of 6,800 after the storm.

“The floods took away people, houses and destroyed the crops,” said Javier Martinez, a local farmer.

The number of people seeking emergency shelter dropped slightly to 12,930, a civil protection official said, while 1,800 homes were damaged or destroyed and 18 bridges and many roads were washed away by the floods.

The devastation was initially blamed on Hurricane Ida, which did not hit the country of some seven million people directly but brought heavy rain that affected the entire region.

Meterologists on Tuesday said however that Ida was not solely to blame. Ida not directly behind deadly Salvador floods: experts

As Ida was slamming Nicaragua and Honduras “there was another system coming from the eastern Pacific” spreading “very heavy rains over the western El Salvador,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman with the Miami-based National Hurricane Center.

“Hurricane Ida was not directly responsible for the grave situation in El Salvador,” Feltgen said.

In El Salvador, meteorologist Walter Vanegas also blamed the Pacific system, but did not fully absolve Ida.

“The rain… was caused by a low pressure system that was semi-parked southwest of El Salvador over the Pacific,” said Vanegas.

“But the remnants of clouds left by Hurricane Ida in the region influenced the situation by adding humidity,” Vanegas said.

President Mauricio Funes visited Verapaz, where he vowed that “this time, the government will not leave the people alone.”

He has requested the national assembly reallocate 150 million dollars from an international loan of 300 million designed for anti-crisis measures.

The National Assembly has declared a “public catastrophe and national disaster” and decreed three days of national mourning for the flood victims.

“There is no doubt that this is a town that has been severely hit by a natural disaster, but it also shows the lack of preventive measures and risk mitigation that could have been carried out years ago,” said Funes.

“We must overcome the tragedy … I know that those lives lost simply cannot be replaced.”

Help for the flood victims was coming from across the Americas: the United States has donated 100,000 dollars in aid, Brazil 80,000 dollars, and Guatemala has sent rescue workers to help the recovery effort.

The UN World Food Program warned that over the next few days around 10,000 people in El Salvador will need emergency food assistance.

Teams would shortly begin the challenging work in this hilly and mountainous land of evaluating the flood damage, according to Interior Minister Humberto Centeno.

Ida, now weakened to a tropical depression, made landfall in Alabama early Tuesday, lashing the southeastern United States from Louisiana to Florida with winds and rain.

Torrential rains have also hit neighboring Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala.

No victims or major damage have been reported either in Honduras or Mexico, but about 100 homes have been damaged by flooding in Guatemala, prompting the evacuation of at least 200 people there.

Ida also struck neighboring Nicaragua last week, destroying around 930 homes and leaving some 13,000 people homeless.

Scores feared dead in Pacific tsunami

More than 100 people are feared dead after a series of tsunami waves hit the Pacific island nations of American and Western Samoa.

Waves reported to be over four metres high are said to have demolished houses and swept cars out to sea.

Fishing boats raced for open water, not all of them made it.

A Pacific-wide tsunami warning was issued after a huge 8.0 magnitude undersea quake off American Samoa.

Schools in the French Polynesian capital Papeete were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

Fourteen people are believed to have been killed in American Samoa, a US territory. An unknown number of people have been killed in Western Samoa according to officals at the island’s disaster management centre but as many as 100 are believed dead they say.

As far away as New Zealand people made for high ground following the tsunami alert which was later cancelled.

But on the Samoan islands the search for bodies goes on. The southern side of Samoa’s main island Upolu is said to be worst hit with reports of entire villages being “over-run” by the sea.

Spain and France hit by flash floods

Overnight flash flooding in France and Spain has caused widespread damage.

While there were no reports of casualties, fire fighters were forced to evacuate dozens of people when rivers burst there banks in the south-east of France near the Cote d’Azur.

Local residents described their shock at the sudden rise in water.

‘‘A wave came crashing in on us. I was up to my neck in water. It was the first time I saw anything like that. We’ve lost everything, no IDs, no money, nothing,’‘ one man said.

The French Basque country was also badly affected by the deluge.

Several highspeed TGV rail lines were cut after the equivalent of 2 months of rain fell in 24 hours, however authorities said things were slowly getting back to normal on Saturday morning.

Across the border in Spain, the extreme weather inundated several towns and brought down power lines and telephone cables.

Some 20 litres of rain per square metre reportedly fell in 20 minutes at one point and despite a lull in the storm, the north of the country remains on high alert.

As many as four people have died this week in Spain due to the violent storms, but fortunately Friday night’s downpour only caused material damage.

Turkish authorities under fire after floods

After this week’s deadly floods dubbed the “disaster of the century” in Turkey, a wave of anger has now hit the country.

Istanbul’s municipality stands accused of allowing shoddy construction and negligence in letting major roads, offices and flats be built on a river basin.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also under fire for blaming illegal construction. Critics say he was mayor of Istanbul when it was carried out.

Turkey’s biggest city was hit hard by the flash floods which killed more than 30 people.

Returning to what remains of their homes in the northwestern town of Kumbag, residents spoke about their ordeal.

“I asked my neighbour what was going on,” said elderly woman Muazzez Ozyurt. “And he told me a flood was coming. I ran into the house, then suddenly the water came in so quickly. We were so afraid.”

As flood victims pick up the pieces of their lives, fresh downpours have hit Turkey. It is the latest onslaught in what is described as the heaviest rain there in the last 80 years.

More victims in Turkish flash floods

At least 23 people are now known to have died as freak storms batter northwestern Turkey. Istanbul, the biggest city, was worst-hit: flash floods cut a major highway out to the airport, stranding hundreds of rush-hour drivers as a wall of water surged down the road. Amid the panic, people scrambled to escape the rising water; among the dead are seven women trapped in a minibus as they headed to work.

It had been raining for hours, but the sudden jump in water level caught many by surprise. The emergency services were almost powerless to help: even getting to stranded drivers proved all-but impossible. The drama started late on Monday as the storm unleashed torrential rain. Nine people were reported killed on Tuesday, eight others were simply swept away.

Western Turkey suffered most, but there are reports of similar scenes in neighbouring Bulgaria.

For the survivors, the shock is overwhelming. Some of the worst flooding came in low-lying working class parts of western Istanbul, where drainage is poor. The storm and its floods are the worst to hit the city for 80 years. The scars will take a long time to heal.

Death toll mounts after Indonesia earthquake

The rescue effort continues in Indonesia to find more survivors of yesterday’s powerful earthquake.

So far at least 57 people are confirmed dead but with more corpses being pulled from collapsed buildings, that figure could rise considerably.

Some remote areas remain inaccessible and out of contact.

Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has visited the village of Cikangkareng, where the earthquake caused a landslide under which up to 30 people are thought to remain trapped.

Across the disaster zone an estimated 24,000 buildings have been damaged, up to half of them seriously.

The Red Cross has handed out tents, blankets and clean water but more help is needed.

The epicentre of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake was located just off the south coast of West Java. Tremors shook buildings in the country’s capital, Jakarta, 200 kilometers further north.

After more than 24 hours, the chances of finding any of the dozens of people still missing alive are becoming slimmer.