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Disaster

Hurricane Irma marches on major Florida cities

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Miami  – Hurricane Irma prowled toward the Florida mainland on Sunday, where anxious residents waited in dread to be “punched in the face” by the monster storm after it whipped the Keys island chain with fearsome wind gusts.

Six million people — one third of the state’s population — have been ordered to flee the path of the hurricane, which weakened slightly to a Category Three storm as it churned past the Keys, packing maximum winds of 120 miles (195 kilometers) per hour.

Heavy winds and rain whipped Miami, Florida on Sunday as Hurricane Irma approached the US mainland

“It’s going to be horrible,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said on NBC. “Now we have to hunker down and watch out for each other.”

Bob Buckhorn, the mayor the low-lying city of Tampa, was more blunt: “We are about to get punched in the face by this storm.”

“We know we are ground zero for this storm. We have avoided it for 90 years but our time has come to be ready,” he said on Twitter.

One of the mightiest hurricanes ever to slam storm-prone Florida, Irma is threatening dangerous storm surges of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters), enough to cover a house, as it collides with the state after sowing devastation through the Caribbean.

Rough surf damaged the docks at Whale Harbor in the Florida Keys as winds and rain from the outer bands of Hurricane Irma arrive in Islamorada

In Miami, the storm brought crashing down at least two construction cranes, while the glitzy Brickell neighborhood was flooded. Steven Schlacknam, a 51-year-old visual artist staying in a 37th floor apartment, said the waters were “coming over the sea walls.”

“The wooden pier is basically gone,” he told AFP.

At least 30 deaths are attributable to the storm, including three in Florida. The US victims included a sheriff’s deputy who was killed in a head-on collision early Sunday as she drove home to get supplies after working in a shelter all night.

Although Irma had yet to make landfall on the continental United States, moving slowly at nine miles per hour (15 kilometers per hour), its high winds and rains were impacting all of south Florida by Sunday afternoon, forecasters said.

The storm is currently headed toward the southwestern tip of the state, then up along the coast to Naples, Fort Myers and the densely populated peninsulas of Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast.

Streets were flooded by the passage of Hurricane Irma in the town of Caibarien in Cuba’s Villa Clara province

– Key West damage –

Irma closed in on the Florida coast after ripping boats from their moorings, flattening palm trees and tearing down power lines across the Key West island chain popular for fishing and scuba diving.

“There’s absolutely no way anybody can be outside right now,” Maggy Howes, a first responder on Key Haven, said on CNN earlier Sunday. “You would not be able to stand or walk.”

Irma smacked the Keys 57 years to the day that Hurricane Donna hit the same area in 1960, destroying nearly 75 percent of the island chain’s buildings.

Houses in Codrington, Antigua and Barbuda, devastated by Hurricane Irma

A shelter of last resort set up in the Middle Keys city of Marathon was reported to be without power or running water, and surrounded by surging waters.

“Everything is underwater, I mean everything,” Larry Kahn, an editor for local news website FlKeysNews.com, reported from inside.

– Mother delivers baby alone –

On the mainland, emergency services in Miami were sheltering in place, and a dispatcher talked a woman through delivering her own baby on Sunday morning, Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia told the Miami Herald.

At least two towering construction cranes had collapsed downtown, according to residents and details on social media.

Miami, lined with glittering skyscrapers, has about 25 cranes on construction sites of 50 floors or higher, city manager Daniel Alfonso said.

More than one million Florida homes and businesses were without power, according to utility company Florida Power and Light, which said it had “safely shut down” one of two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point power plant.

The National Weather Service urged Floridians to keep their shoes on, to take shelter in interior rooms — far from windows — and use helmets, mattresses, pillows or blankets for protection.

Before reaching the United States, Irma smashed through a string of Caribbean islands from tiny Barbuda on Wednesday, to the tropical paradises of St Barts and St Martin, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos.

Terrified Cubans who rode out Irma in coastal towns — after it made landfall Friday on the Camaguey archipelago as a maximum-strength Category Five storm — reported “deafening” winds, uprooted trees and power lines, and blown rooftops.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Cuba but it caused “significant damage,” and enormous waves lashed the Malecon, Havana’s emblematic seafront, causing seawaters to penetrate deep into the capital, AFP journalists reported.

– Storm surge, tornado risk –

Irma is so wide that authorities were bracing for destructive storm surges on both coasts of Florida and the Keys as Irma follows a path north toward Georgia.

The NHC also warned of tornado risks through Sunday night, with the greatest threat in areas east of the storm’s path.

Businesses on both Florida coasts were shuttered.

MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, the military installation home to US Central Command, issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the storm’s passage early Monday, while the Kennedy Space Center on the east coast was also closed.

In Naples, the city’s chic coastal neighborhoods stood deserted as torrential rain beat down on streets littered with leaves ripped from palm trees.

But Viviana Sierra, who sought refuge at a shelter outside the city together with her dog, parents and brother, was sanguine about the prospect of finding her home destroyed.

“You can replace material things but your life is very important, so I think it’s better that we stay here,” she said.

Surce : AFP

Disaster

Super Typhoon Mangkhut lands on south China coast

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Super Typhoon ‘Mangkhut

Beijing, Sep 17 : Super Typhoon Mangkhut landed at 5 p.m. on Sunday on the coast of Jiangmen City, south China’s Guangdong Province, packing winds up to 162 km per hour, according to the provincial meteorological station.

More than 2.52 million people have been relocated, and over 48,000 fishing boats called back to port in the province as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

Work has been suspended at more than 29,000 construction sites and 640 tourist spots were closed.

All flights were cancelled in airports of Guangzhou and Shenzhen and will be resumed starting 8 a.m. on Monday. All high-speed train services and some normal-speed rail services have been suspended in Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

According to the National Meteorological Center, Mangkhut has entered Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, moving northwestward at a speed of 30 km per hour as of 11 p.m on Sunday.

About 228,000 people have been relocated in the region, and 98 flights were cancelled in Nanning, the region’s capital city, as of 7 p.m. on Sunday. All rail services between Guangxi and Guangdong were suspended on Sunday.

In the region’s coastal cities of Beihai, Qinzhou and Fangchenggang, over 8,000 fishing boats have returned to port, and schools will close on Monday.

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Analysis

Planet sending a clear message to act now: UN Environment’s Eric Solheim

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United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim

San Francisco, Sep 12 : The planet is sending a clear message — to act and that too within a short time-frame or lose the ability to turn things around, says United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Typhoons and floods are not new, but we are seeing a broader pattern of more severe and more frequent extreme weather events,” Solheim told IANS in an interview here.

His concerns came ahead of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that began on Wednesday with the participation of 4,000 plus business and political leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world in this California city.

“That’s (natural calamities) what the scientists predicted, and it’s what we’re seeing play out now right in front of our eyes. Our planet is sending us a clear message. We have to act, and we’re a short time-frame to do so before we lose the ability to turn things around.”

He was replying to a question on his thoughts for the people of Kerala in India and Osaka in Japan that have been recently affected by floods and a typhoon.

Solheim, who is also attending the summit, which aims to “take ambition to the next level” and persuade the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster to reduce emissions, said: “The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum.”

On India playing a leading role in driving down global emissions, he said “absolutely”.

“I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has shown incredible leadership in driving the shift to renewables and steering India towards being a greener, cleaner economy. The innovation that we’re seeing, not just in terms of renewables deployment but also the wider shift to a more circular economic model, is really encouraging.”

From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the Global Climate Action Summit’s Co-Chairs.

In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on how many companies that have adopted Science-Based Targets — aligning their pollution reduction plans with the Paris agreement.

Solheim saw business value in companies adopting science-based climate targets.

“We’re seeing more and more examples of businesses wanting to do this, and dozens of global giants on that path.

“For me it’s important for two reasons: Firstly, companies are showing how sustainability can be a core part of business, rather than an on-the-side CSR (corporate social responsibility) exercise. They’re moving beyond PR (public relations),” he said.

“Secondly, the companies doing this are seeing strong support from shareholders and investors. They’re seeing that these targets are also about efficiency and innovation. That makes a business less exposed to environmental risk, which is good for business.”

One recent example he has seen is the company IKEA, which is aiming to be climate positive by 2030 and this requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions, the UN Environment head said: “It’s a sound move as the company will have a head start in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“In India I was also really impressed when I visited the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. They have clear targets on waste, cooling, power consumption and overall efficiency, which make them not only commendable from the environmental perspective, but also a compelling investment.”

Favouring electric vehicles that will play a role in decarbonising of the economy, Solheim said: “We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport-sharing solutions.”

He said the developed countries need to look at the shift not as a constraint or an obligation, but as an opportunity for greater energy security, a more inclusive economy and the lower healthcare burden that comes from tackling the causes of pollution.

“India isn’t making the change because it wants to shoulder the burden of climate action, but because it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. That’s how more countries need to see it,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of the Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Cities

Moderate intensity quake hits Jammu Kashmir

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Earthquake
Representative Image

Srinagar, Sep 12: An earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale occurred in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, a disaster management department official said. No damage to life or property has been reported.

The moderate intensity quake was felt at 5.15 a.m. and the epicentre was located 199 km north of Kargil town in the Ladakh region, he said.

A major quake measuring 7.6 had killed over 40,000 people on both sides of the Line of Control on October 8, 2005.

IANS

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