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)

Rain-related casualty in Tamil Nadu goes up to 71

Rain

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.

Dam breach in Kerala-Images

Moolathara--1

The flood waters released from Aliyar Dam gushing out of the breached right bank protection works of Moolathara Dam near Chittur on Sunday.

 Moolathara--2

The flood water gushing out of the opened shutters of Moolathara Dam on Sunday after its right bank protection works got breached in the flood water released from Aliyar Dam.

 Moolathara-3

The right bank protection works of Moolathara Dam washed out in the flood waters released from Aliyar Dam on Sunday.

 chittorpuzha

The flooding of Chitturpuzha due to the breach of the Moolathara right bank protection works due to the release of water from Aliyar Dam on Sunday.

 Nilampathi

The `Nilampathy bridge’ (Causeway) at Chittur that was submerged in the flood waters due to the breaching of the Moolatharam Dam right bank protection works on Sunday

124 dead, 60 missing in El Salvador flooding

 SALVADOR

Residents stand on a bridge that collapsed due to heavy rain in Zacatecoluca, El Salvador on Sunday, Nov. 8 , 2009

 Mud and boulders loosened by heavy rains swept down a volcano and partly buried a small town on Sunday, swallowing up homes as flooding and landslides across El Salvador killed at least 124 people

Mud and boulders loosened by heavy rains swept down a volcano and partly buried a small town on Sunday, swallowing up homes as flooding and landslides across El Salvador killed at least 124 people, authorities said.

Hundreds of soldiers, police and residents dug through rock and debris looking for another 60 missing from the mudslide, which struck before dawn Sunday while people were still in their beds.

Matias Mendoza, 26, was at home with his wife Claudia and their year-old son, Franklin, when the earth began moving.

“It was about two in the morning when the rain started coming down harder, and the earth started shaking,” Mendoza recalled. “I warned my wife and grabbed my son, and all of a sudden we heard a sound. The next thing I knew I was lying among parts of the walls of my house.”

“A few minutes later, I found my wife and my son in the middle of the rubble, and, thank God, we’re alive,” said Mendoza, who suffered cuts on his check that emergency workers stitched up.

Almost 7,000 people saw their homes damaged by landslides or cut off by floodwaters following three days of downpours from a low—pressure system indirectly related to Hurricane Ida, which brushed Mexico’s Cancun resort on Sunday before steaming into the Gulf of Mexico.

President Mauricio Funes declared a national emergency and said that he would work with the United Nations to evaluate the extent of the damage.

“The images that we have seen today are of a devastated country,” Funes said. “The damages are for the moment incalculable.”

Some of the worst damage was in the town of Verapaz, where mudslides covered cars and boulders two yards (meters) wide blocked streets.

The rain loosened a flow of mud and rocks that descended from the nearby Chichontepec volcano and buried homes and streets in Verapaz, a town of about 3,000 located 50 kms east of San Salvador, the capital.

“It was terrible. The rocks came down on top of the houses and split them in two, and split the pavement,” recalled Manuel Melendez, 61, who lived a few doors down from Mendoza. Both their homes were destroyed Sunday morning.

“I heard people screaming all around,” Melendez said.

There were 10 confirmed dead and about 60 missing in Verapaz, said Red Cross spokesman Carlos Lopez Mendoza said.

Amid a persistent drizzle, rescuers dug frantically for survivors with shovels and even their bare hands. But the search was made difficult by collapsed walls, boulders and downed power lines that blocked heavy machinery.

“What happened in Verapaz was something terrible,” said Interior Minister Humberto Centeno, who flew over the city Sunday to survey the damage. “It is a real tragedy there.”

At least 13 other people were killed in San Vicente province, where Verapaz is located.

Provincial Gov. Manuel Castellanos said workers were struggling to clear roadways and power and water service had been knocked out, and at least 300 houses were flooded after a river in Verapaz overflowed its banks, Lopez Mendoza said.

In San Salvador, authorities reported 61 dead. Lopez Mendoza said the toll included a family of four — two adults and two children — who were killed when a mudslide buried their home Sunday morning.

The remaining victims were buried by slides or carried away by raging rivers in other parts of the country, Vice Interior Minister Ernesto Zelayandia told The Associated Press.

The days of rain in El Salvador’s mountains were quickly funneled down into populated valleys.

Hurricane Ida’s presence in the western Caribbean may have played a role in drawing a Pacific low—pressure system toward El Salvador, causing the rains, said Dave Roberts, a Navy hurricane specialist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

He added, however, that “if there were deaths associated with this rainfall amount in El Salvador, I would not link it to Ida.”