Fiji cyclone damage overwhelming, leader says

SUVA, Fiji — The South Pacific island nation of Fiji has suffered overwhelming damage from a powerful cyclone that battered its shores for more than three days, the prime minister said Wednesday as relief operations were launched in the country’s northern regions.

Fiji sent naval patrol boats laden with supplies and support staff sailing for the northern islands that bore the full brunt of the storm, while Australian and New Zealand air force planes began airlifting emergency supplies to the island group and carrying out surveillance over affected northern areas.

Only one death has been reported, but the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined because communications to the hardest hit areas were cut off for days.

“It is evident that wherever (Cyclone) Tomas has struck, the damage has been overwhelming,” Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and military chief, said Wednesday as the first reports began to roll in.

Cyclone Tomas, packing winds of up to 130 mph (205 kph) at its center and gusts of up to 175 mph (280 kph), started hitting Fiji late Friday. It blasted through the northern Lau and Lomaiviti island groups and the northern coast of the second biggest island, Vanua Levu, before losing strength as it moved out to sea Wednesday, the nation’s weather office said.

Matt Boterhoven, senior forecaster at Fiji’s Tropical Cyclone Center, said “the good news is it’s accelerating away from Fiji … and weakening in the cooler waters.”

All storm and strong wind warnings for Fiji have been canceled, he said. Earlier, sea surges of up to 23 feet (7 meters) were reported in the Lau island group, which was hit head-on by the cyclone, he said.

A nationwide curfew was lifted Wednesday, but a state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days in the country’s northern and eastern divisions.

On the northern island of Koro, seven of the 14 villages have been badly damaged, said Julian Hennings, a spokesman for the island’s Dere Bay Resort.

“Some of the houses have blown away. A lot of trees have been uprooted, some of the roads have been blocked off because the waves have picked up rocks and coral and have dumped it on the road,” he said. One of four landing jetties was also severely damaged.

Tiny Cikobia Island, home to about 400 people, suffered four days of hammering from the cyclone, which smashed houses, uprooted trees, washed away all local boats and scattered debris across the island, Fiji Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday.

It received a brief phone call from an unnamed man at Vuninuku village on the island who said damage was so massive that it would take two days to clear the way to the only school near the village.

Before it could get the villager’s name, the phone line to the island went dead again, the state-owned station said. A surveillance flight will check the island later Wednesday and a navy patrol boat is expected to reach there Thursday.

National Disaster Management Office spokesman Pajiliai Dobui said aerial surveillance was already under way over some northern islands “and we hope to tell from the air how serious the damage has been.”

Offshore islands remained out of all contact “so we have still not got any word about casualties,” he said.

Power, water, sewage and communications were still disrupted in many northern areas, but a key airport at Labasa in northern Vanua Levu had reopened for emergency supply flights.

Troops have been deployed to provide relief, including food, water and basic supplies.

Anthony Blake, relief coordinator at the Disaster Management Office, said shelter was top priority after preliminary reports indicated Tomas had caused “extensive damage” to the Lau group and the northern island of Cikobia.

“The people are living in caves at the moment,” he said.

A New Zealand air force Hercules airplane that surveyed some northern areas found that “quite a few villages look like they have been hit pretty hard,” Squadron Leader Kavae Tamariki told New Zealand’s Stuff news Web site.

Many homes had lost their roofs and some houses were destroyed, he said, adding that not many people were seen. “We think they have fled to safety inland,” Tamariki said.

Fiji’s commissioner for its northern region, Col. Inia Seruratu, who was on board the flight, said he was confident most people were safe since they had received plenty of warning.

——–Associated Press

Chile quake toll rises to 708


A collapsed bridge over the Claro river is seen near the town of Camarico, Chile on Saturday. An 8.8-magnitude quake and a resulting tsunami killed more than 300 people in Chile.

The toll in the devastating earthquake in Chile has risen to 708, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said.

The country was facing “a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude” and will need enormous efforts to recover, he said at a press conference Sunday, adding the fatalities may increase as the rescue efforts are continuing, Xinhua reported.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale rocked Chile last Saturday, causing widespread destruction.

More than 300 dead in massive Chilean earthquake

A collapsed bridge over the Claro river is seen near the town of Camarico, Chile on Saturday. An 8.8-magnitude quake and a resulting tsunami killed more than 300 people in Chile

Chilean authorities were assessing the damage from a massive earthquake that killed more than 300 people, as Asian nations braced Sunday for the resulting tsunami that was still racing across the Pacific Ocean.
Hundreds of people were missing and feared trapped under the rubble of buildings that buckled under the force of the 8.8 magnitude quake, the strongest to hit the South American nation since 1960.
The earthquake occurred at 3:34 am (0634 GMT) Saturday, some 90 kilometres north—east of Concepcion, a city of 630,000 in Chile’s central coastal region.
Significant damage was reported in the capital Santiago, 320 kilometres north of the epicentre, affecting buildings, roads and closing the international airport.
Waves of 1.5 metres or less were reported in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. Comprehensive coastal warnings were issued in Japan, where the Chilean tsunami was expected Sunday afternoon with a height of up to 3 metres, and coastal residents on the Philippines Pacific shores fled for high ground in fear of the waves.
Some coastal areas of Chile were quickly struck by a post—quake wave, devastating some communities.
A wall of water swept across the Chilean island of Robinson Crusoe, 670 kilometres off the coast. Three people were reported missing on the island.
President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of disaster in the worst—hit regions south of Santiago. “I have no doubt that we will make it through this,” she said in a nationally televised address.
Sebastian Pinera, who takes over from her as head of state on March 11, appealed for solidarity.
The death toll rose throughout Saturday, reaching more than 300 by sundown. Authorities warned that more fatalities were likely.
In Conception, 150 people were feared trapped in a fallen, 14— storey apartment block.
“From the street we can hear the screaming of those who were caught under the new, 14—floor building,” one man said looking at the pile of rubble.
There were reports of unrest in one Santiago neighbourhood over shortages of water and power outages.
Santiago’s international airport was ordered closed to incoming and outgoing flights for at least three days, with a collapse reported in the terminal building. The city’s underground rail network was also closed.
Overturned cars littered motorway flyovers, which buckled and crumbled during the quake.
Power lines were down, water supplies were cut and burst gas pipes raised fears of explosions. Internet communications were disrupted and mobile phone networks badly damaged.
In Concepcion, damage was widespread. The offices of the region government were reported to have been destroyed, and the walls of the city’s prison collapsed, with hundreds of convicts reported to have escaped.
Chilean television showed footage of collapsed hospitals, burning buildings and wrecked bridges.Modern, high—rise buildings in Santiago were relatively unscathed by the quake and the scores of aftershocks.
With Chile’s prosperity and seismic history, the country has for decades required new construction to conform to earthquake-zone engineering standards.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered “rapid assistance” if sought by Chile. In Washington, President Barack Obama offered to deploy US resources “should the Chilean people need our help.” The quake was 50 times more powerful than the one that claimed more than 200,000 lives on January 12 Haiti, said the head of the University of Santiago’s Seismological Institute, Sergio Barrientos.
The worst earthquake to hit Chile occurred in 1960, when a 9.5—magnitude quake and tsunami claimed 6,000 lives.

Chile Earth Quake Photos/Images/Pictures—Image Gallery(A Collection)

Second flood warning issued in the Vaigai


UNUSUAL FURY: Copious water in the Vaigai after days of rains. However, the unusual water levels pose a threat to hundreds living in low-lying areas

 A second flood warning was issued as water levels in the Vaigai dam crossed 68.5 feet on Friday morning. People living in low lying areas along the banks of the river have been asked to move to safer places.

The Public Works Department will issue a third warning if the level crosses 69 feet. There was bright sunshine almost throughout the day and water, which was flowing over the causeways along the Vaigai in the city, receded. A high-level team of PWD officials, led by the Principal Chief Engineer, Jayaraman, inspected the work of removing weeds and strengthening of bunds in the Vaigai. The inspection follows a directive from the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, M. K. Alagiri, who visited the rain-hit areas in the city on Thursday, asking the officials to remove the weeds for smooth flow of water.

Body found

The body of a final year engineering student, M. Dhanasekarapandian (21) of K. Pudur, who accidentally fell into the river while crossing a causeway on Tuesday night, was found in the middle of the Vaigai near the ‘mayya mandapam’ in the morning. Teams of Fire and Rescue Services Department were deployed to search for the body.

Water level

Water level in the Periyar dam stood at 132.9 feet (full level 136 feet). It had an inflow of 2649 cusecs and discharge of 1418 cusecs. Water stood at 68.67 feet (71 feet) in the Vaigai dam on Thursday evening, with the reservoir registering an inflow of 2285 cusecs and discharge of 1260 cusecs. The combined Periyar-Vaigai credit was put at 7382 mcft by the PWD officials.Madurai recorded the highest rainfall of 66.4 mm in the region, followed by Edayapatti 50.6, Chittampatti 28.8, Kallandiri 16.8, Andipatti 6, Shanmuganadhi 3, Periyar dam 2, Pulipatti 2, Sathiyar dam 1.5, Thaniyamangalam 1.5, Peranai and Melur 1 each.A flood control room has been started at the Collectorate here to expedite relief and rescue operations in case of floods. Public can dial (0452) 2527239 to pass on information about flooding or seek help.

A meeting of officials of various departments was held at the Collectorate to take stock of the rain situation in Madurai district. The District Revenue Officer, Dinesh Oliver Ponraj, who chaired the meeting, asked the revenue officials to take up strengthening work wherever the bunds of water bodies were found to be weak. Revenue inspectors and village administrative officers were asked to report the rainfall situation and floods to the respective tahsildars who would file daily reports. All possible steps should be taken to prevent loss of lives in the event of floods. Officials were asked to coordinate with the police and fire and rescue service personnel while undertaking rescue and relief operations. Madurai Corporation officials were informed that they should keep schools and marriage halls free to accommodate people affected by rains. Health officials should undertake measures to prevent the outbreak of diseases.

The Government Rajaji Hospital would stock essential drugs in adequate quantity. The highways department staff was directed to undertake road repair and remove trees that fell on roads. Tamil Nadu Electricity Board employees should ensure that no loss of life was reported when live wires snapped, according to an official press release

Cyclonic storm to hit Gujarat, North Maharashtra this evening


Cyclonic storm ‘Phyan’ will hit South Gujarat and North Maharashtra by late this evening following a deep depression in the South East and adjoining Central Arabian Sea and fishermen have been warned against venturing into the sea, the weather office said.

The Depression, which developed yesterday, intensified into a cyclone early this morning and the system is likely to move North northeastwards and cross South Gujarat and North Maharashtra coast between Alibag (Maharashtra) and Valsad (Gujarat) by late this evening or night, the latest bulletin from the weather office said.

The sea will be very rough along and off Maharashtra and South Gujarat Coast and fishermen have been warned against venturing along the Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat coasts, it said.

Cyclonic storm over East Central Arabian Sea moved Northwards and lay centred at 0530 hours today over same area near latitude 16.0 degree North and longitude 71.5 degree East about 250 kilometers West northwest of Goa and 350 kms South southwest of Mumbai and 620 kms South southwest of Surat in Gujarat.

Sqaully winds reaching 55-65 kmph gusting to 75 kmph are likely along and off Maharashtra and South Gujarat coast during, Met Office said

Rain-related casualty in Tamil Nadu goes up to 71


Girls use a thermocol raft to reach their home at a flooded street in Chennai on Monday

The rain-related casualty in the State went up to 71 with the Nilgiris accounting for the death of 42 persons in the landslides.

Tirunelveli and Villupuram districts recorded the death of six persons each. The overall figure took into account those who died since October 1, a senior official of the Revenue department said.

An official release stated that the Nilgiris District Collector was directed to pay Rs. One lakh each to the families of the deceased. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi asked Ministers Veerapandi S. Arumugam and Pongalur N. Palanisamy to rush to the Nilgiris. Commissioner of Revenue Administration and Principal Secretary N. Sundaradevan and Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) K. Radhakrishnan also left for the rain-hit district.

The services of the National Disaster Response Force had also been pressed in. The Chief Minister advised the officials to dispatch adequate strength of personnel from other departments such as Fire and Rescue Services, Health and Police, the official release said.