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Rescue efforts continue in US amid hurricane Michael devastation

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Hurricane Michael

Miami, Oct 14 (IANS) Amid the devastation caused by hurricane Michael, rescue operations in the southeastern US have focused on Mexico Beach and Panama City, two Florida towns that were nearly flattened and that could raise the death toll from the storm, which has taken at least 17 lives.

Florida Governor Rick Scott accompanied the National Guard on Saturday to survey the devastation by air, centering on the counties of Franklin, Holmes, Washington and Gadsden, in the northwestern part of the state, where Michael made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane, reports Efe news.

The search for victims has been slow because numerous roads and highways have been blocked by rubble or destroyed, while cell phone service outages have prevented authorities and family members from locating missing people.

The destruction has been especially severe in Mexico Beach, where the water, sewage and communications systems were destroyed, which could take months to repair.

“Not one single store is left,” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told the media.

Cathey himself had been unable to communicate with state authorities and has relied on satellite phones brought by media outlets.

Authorities have been inspecting every house and boat – or what is left of them – with the help of search and rescue dogs to find people who are unaccounted for.

Some 30 km west of Mexico Beach, the school gym of Panama City has become the symbol of the devastation caused by Michael in this Florida town, where residents began to return on Saturday to search for their belongings among the rubble.

So far, eight people have been reported dead in Florida, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one person was killed in Georgia.

Authorities, however, have not been able to identify any of the victims yet.

The death toll from Hurricane Michael is expected to increase, especially as rescue operations continue in Mexico Beach, one the hardest-hit towns.

Meanwhile, 750,000 homes and businesses continue to be without power in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, which authorises the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate rescue efforts and make federal funding available to address the situation.

Disaster

Boris Johnson says UK at ‘critical moment’ in Covid-19 fight

Addressing a briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson struck a sombre note as he called for “collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices” in order to avert another nationwide lockdown, even as he warned that he would not hesitate to impose further restrictions if needed.

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Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said the UK is at a “critical moment” in its fight to control the spread of coronavirus, as a further 71 deaths took the country’s death toll from the deadly virus to 42,143.

Addressing a briefing from 10 Downing Street in London, Johnson struck a sombre note as he called for “collective forbearance, common sense and willingness to make sacrifices” in order to avert another nationwide lockdown, even as he warned that he would not hesitate to impose further restrictions if needed.

His warning of a high number of infections and “tragic increase” in deaths came as this week marked the biggest rise in daily cases since the pandemic began, with a further 7,108 infections recorded on Wednesday and the number of patients with Covid-19 on ventilators hitting 312.

“These figures show why our plan is so essential. We have to stick to it together and we should stick to it with confidence,” said Johnson.

“I know some people think we should give up and let the virus take its course despite the huge loss of life that may entail. I profoundly disagree. I don’t think the British people want to throw in the sponge, they want to fight and defeat this virus,” he said, adding that the UK will “get through this”.

He was joined by his scientific and medical experts who reiterated that the coronavirus cases were “heading in the wrong direction”.

Johnson’s briefing came as the House of Commons passed by 330 votes to 24 an extension to the Coronavirus Act, the emergency legislation which needs parliamentary approval every six months.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock pledged to the members of the Parliament that they would be given votes “wherever possible” on any new coronavirus rules before they come into force in future. The assurance comes amid growing disquiet within Johnson’s own Conservative Party over some of the tough and hard to interpret localised lockdown measures being imposed in large parts of the country.

In a rare intervention, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle delivered a harsh rebuke on the government for its failure to seek parliamentary approval for these measures.

“The way in which the government has exercised its powers to make secondary legislation during this crisis has been totally unsatisfactory,” he said. Hoyle warned that he was “now looking to the government to rebuild trust with the House and not treat it with the contempt it has shown”.

As a result, any further tough lockdown moves are likely to be first tabled for a vote in Commons.

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Cities

10,453 new cases take K’taka’s Covid tally to 5,92,911

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Coronavirus India

Bengaluru, Sep 29 : A whopping 10,453 new Covid-19 cases were registered across Karnataka till Monday midnight, taking the state’s tally to 5,92,911 till date, including 1,07,737 active cases, the state health bulletin said on Tuesday.

“As many as 6,628 people were discharged on Tuesday, taking the total number of recoveries to 4,76,378, while 8,777 have succumbed to the virus so far, including 19 a day ago,” said the bulletin.

The epicentre of the pandemic, Bengaluru, registered 4,868 fresh cases, taking its Covid tally to 2,28,437, including 46,610 active cases, while 2,373 were discharged till Monday midnight, taking the city’s total number of recoveries to 17,89,143 since March 8.

With 67 succumbing to the virus on Monday, the city’s death toll rose to 2,912.

Of the 815 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) across the southern state, 261 are in Bengaluru, followed by Dharwad (93), Ballari (80), Hassan (62) and Kalaburagi (40).

Among the districts, Hassan reported 475 cases on Monday, followed by Mysuru (414), Dakshina Kannada (362), Shivamogga (347), Udupi (319) and Ballari (313).

Among the districts with high discharges, Tumakuru reported 519, followed by Mysuru (350), Koppala (324), Bengaluru Rural (304), Ballari (295) and Dakishna Kannada (232).

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Disaster

Official COVID-19 death toll probably underestimates true total – WHO

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World Health Organisation

GENEVA: The official global toll of deaths from COVID-19 probably underestimates the true total – suggesting it could be over a million already, a World Health Organization official said on Monday.

“If anything, the numbers currently reported probably represent an underestimate of those individuals who have either contracted COVID-19 or died as a cause of it,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, told a briefing in Geneva.

“When you count anything, you can’t count it perfectly but I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID,” he said.

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