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Spain floods: Torrential rain inundates towns, cutting electricity and rail services

Hurricane Ida: New Orleans braces for possible direct hit; Currently over Western Cuba

The mayor of New Orleans has called for residents to evacuate unprotected city neighbourhoods as Hurricane Ida bears down on the Louisiana coastline.

“Now is the time,” said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a Friday news conference, calling for those living outside the city levee system to flee.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Ida is likely to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane by Sunday.

It has already brought heavy rain and high winds to western Cuba.

The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but we know that increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above and make more energy available to drive hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall.

Forecasters say the hurricane will be at category 3 strength by the time it reaches the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.

The NHC says a category 3 storm will cause devastating damage to well-built houses, with trees uprooted. Electricity and water will be unavailable for at least several days after the storm passes.

Ida passed over western Cuba on Friday, hitting the Isle of Youth with maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h).

Coincidentally, Sunday marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a category 3 hurricane which devastated New Orleans in 2005. Katrina flooded 80% of the city and killed more than 1,800 people.

Dangerous storm surges are also forecast both in Cuba and the US. Experts say that if they hit at a time that coincides with high tides, sea water could flood over the New Orleans levee system and into the city.

The levees are a system of flood walls, built to protect low-lying New Orleans, and strengthened after the devastation of 2005.

Warm waters across the Gulf of Mexico are fuelling the storm’s rapid intensification, the agency said, adding that flooding could also affect the neighbouring states of Mississippi and Alabama.

“Steady to rapid strengthening is expected when Ida moves over the south-eastern and central Gulf of Mexico over the weekend, and Ida is expected to be a major hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf coast,” said the NHC bulletin issued on Friday afternoon.

Governor Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency and called for anyone along the state’s coastline to shelter in place starting on Saturday evening. The White House has said that the federal government is also making emergency aid plans.

Courtesy of BBC News

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Deadly flash floods sweep through Turkey’s Black Sea region

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At least 17 people have been killed in flash floods in Turkey’s Black Sea region that have sent water and debris cascading through streets, damaged bridges, and ripped up roads in the second natural disaster to strike the country this month.

The floodwaters brought chaos to northern provinces just as authorities were declaring that some of the wildfires that had raged through southern coastal regions for two weeks had been brought under control.

The floods and the fires, which killed eight people and devastated tens of thousands of hectares of forest, struck in the same week that a UN panel said global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control.

Fifteen people were killed in the floods in Kastamonu province and two people died in Sinop, authorities said, adding that search and rescue operations were continuing.

More than 1,400 people were evacuated from the areas affected, some with the help of helicopters and boats, and about 740 people were being housed in student dormitories, the Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) said.

Helicopters lowered coastguard personnel onto the roofs of buildings to rescue people who were stranded as floodwaters swept through the streets, footage shared by the Ministry of Interior showed.

The deluge damaged power infrastructure, leaving about 330 villages without electricity. Five bridges had collapsed and many others were damaged, leading to road closures, AFAD added. Parts of the roads were also swept away.

Television footage showed the floods dragging dozens of cars and heaps of debris along the streets. The heavy rainfall in the region was expected to ease on Thursday evening, AFAD said.

Flooding inundated much of Bozkurt in Kastamonu Province. One building collapsed and a second building was damaged in the town, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. In Bartin province, at least 13 people were injured when a section of a bridge caved in.

Many of the affected areas were left without power and village roads were blocked.

The disaster struck as firefighters in southwest Turkey worked to extinguish a wildfire in Mugla province, an area popular with tourists that runs along the Aegean Sea.

The blaze, which was brought under control on Thursday, was one of more than 200 wildfires in Turkey since July 28. At least eight people and countless animals died and thousands of residents have had to flee fierce blazes.

Authorities said that 299 forest fires, which had burned across southwestern provinces for the last two weeks, had been brought under control.

Courtesy of aljazeera.com

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China shuts down ports, cancels flights as Typhoon In-Fa nears

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China has shut down railways and ports, with cargo ships ordered out of the sea and flights cancelled, before Typhoon In-Fa’s expected landfall.

The storm is projected to hit the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang near Shanghai late on Sunday, just as other parts of the country struggle to recover from devastating floods earlier this week.

In-Fa had sustained winds of 155km per hour (95 miles per hour) with gusts up to 191kmph (120mph) as it moved northwest away from Taiwan, where it caused high waves and heavy rain but there were no reports of deaths or injuries.

Schools, markets and businesses in Zhejiang were ordered to close, the official Xinhua news agency said, adding that road traffic would be suspended when necessary.

Authorities have issued a level III alert – the third-highest – for In-Fa, while more than 100 trains travelling through the region have been cancelled, according to China Railway.

Shanghai authorities closed some public parks and museums and warned residents on Saturday to “stop large-scale outdoor gatherings” and to stay indoors.

The airport in the provincial capital of Hangzhou, southwest of Shanghai, cancelled 90 percent of flights on Sunday and was expected to cancel more on Monday, the newspaper Zhejiang Daily reported on its website.

Meanwhile, all container ship docks were shut down from Yangshan Port south of Shanghai and 150 vessels including passenger ships and cargo vessels were evacuated from the area.

Courtesy of aljazeera.com

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Heavy rain in India triggers floods, landslides; at least 125 dead

Rescue teams in India struggled through thick sludge and debris on Saturday to reach dozens of submerged homes as the death toll from landslides and accidents caused by torrential monsoon rain rose to 125.

Maharashtra state is being hit by the heaviest rain in July in four decades, experts say. Downpours lasting several days have severely affected the lives of hundreds of thousands, while major rivers are in danger of bursting their banks.

In Taliye, about 180 km (110 miles) southeast of the financial capital of Mumbai, the death toll rose to 42 with the recovery of four more bodies after landslides flattened most homes in the village, a senior Maharashtra government official said.

“About 40 people are still trapped. The possibility of rescuing them alive is thin as they’ve been trapped in mud for more than 36 hours,” said the official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to talk to the media.

Harsh weather has hit several parts of the world in recent weeks, with floods in China and Western Europe and heat waves in North America, raising new fears about the impact of climate change.

Parts of India’s west coast have received up to 594 mm (23 inches) of rain, forcing authorities to move people out of vulnerable areas as they released water from dams about to overflow. The hill station of Mahabaleshwar recorded its highest ever rainfall – 60 cm in 24 hours.

Rescuers were searching for victims of landslides in four other places in the state, the official said.

“Around 90,000 people were rescued from flood affected areas,” the Maharashtra government said in a statement, as authorities released water from overflowing dams.

Thousands of trucks were stuck for more than 24 hours on a highway linking Mumbai with the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, with the road submerged in some places.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was in anguish over the loss of lives.

“The situation in Maharashtra due to heavy rains is being closely monitored and assistance is being provided to the affected,” Modi said on Twitter on Friday.

In the southern state of Telangana, heavy rain caused flooding in the state capital of Hyderabad and other low-lying areas.

Indian environmentalists have warned that climate change and indiscriminate construction in fragile coastal regions could lead to more disasters.

“The rain fury that lashed Mahabaleshwar … is a strong warning against any more tampering with the ecologically fragile Western Ghats,” environment economist Devendra Sharma said on Twitter referring to the range of hills along India’s west coast.

Courtesy of reuters.com

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Heavy flooding hits central China, affecting tens of millions

Unusually heavy rains and massive flooding have hit China’s Henan province, bursting the banks of rivers, overwhelming the public transport system and upending lives of tens of millions.

At least three people have been killed in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, where more than 20cm (7.8in) of rain fell in one hour on Tuesday. The rainfall shut the city’s subway system, leaving passengers trapped in waist-high water.

More than 10,000 residents of the central province have been moved to shelters, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The heavy rain across Henan began on 17 July. On Tuesday, weather authorities issued the highest warning level for the province and Chinese weather forecasts expected further severe downpours.

From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan, one of China’s most populous provinces with 94 million people, reported rainfall exceeding 5cm. Among the stations 1,614 registered levels above 10cm and 151 above 25cm, the authorities said.

Footage on China’s social media show the world-renowned Shaolin Temple, known for martial arts, as well as other cultural sites, badly affected. Hundreds of trapped residents in Henan called for help online as flooding cut electricity to their homes.

Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but their impact has worsened over the decades, due in part to China’s rapid urbanisation and the global climate crisis.

Extreme weather events have occurred in many parts of China this summer. Hundreds of thousands of residents in Sichuan province had to be relocated this month due to floods and landslides.

In June, Hotan city, in the far-west region of Xinjiang, had record-breaking rainfall, causing one resident to comment on social media that “the rainfall [this month] is equivalent to the combined rainfall of the past two years”.

Greenpeace said the risk of extreme weather was now highest in China in the densely populated city centres but that it was also growing fast for the outskirts of large cities because of rapid urbanisation.

Liu Junyan, of Greenpeace International, told Chinese media: “Because of the highly concentrated population, infrastructure and economic activity, the exposure and vulnerability of climate hazards are higher in urban areas. Cities are an important sector of global greenhouse gas emissions, which account for about 70% of the total emissions.”

Courtesy of theguardian.com

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