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Landslides, floods kill at least 41 in Indonesia, displace thousands

Landslides and flash floods from torrential rains in eastern Indonesia killed at least 41 people and displaced thousands, the country’s disaster relief agency said Sunday. More than two dozen others were still missing.

Mud tumbled down from surrounding hills onto dozens of homes in Lamenele village shortly after midnight on Adonara island in East Nusa Tenggara province. Rescuers recovered 35 bodies and at least five injured, said Lenny Ola, who heads the local disaster agency.

Flash flooding killed at least six people elsewhere, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency. Relief efforts were hampered by power cuts, blocked roads covered in thick mud and debris as well as the remoteness of the area surrounded by choppy seas and high waves, said the agency’s spokesperson, Raditya Jati.

Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods, killing dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Indonesia’s disaster agency lowered the death toll late Sunday to 41 — down from 44 — after search and rescue team reverified victims’ data. At least 27 people were still missing.

The bodies of three people were recovered after being swept away by floods in Oyang Bayang village, where 40 houses were also destroyed, Ola said. Hundreds of people fled submerged homes, some of which were carried off by the floodwaters.

In another village, Waiburak, three people were killed and seven remained missing when overnight rains caused rivers to burst their banks, sending muddy water into large areas of East Flores district, Ola said. Four injured people were being treated at a local health clinic.


People inspect damaged buildings at a village hit by flash flooding in East Flores. (Ola Adonara/The Associated Press)

Hundreds of people were involved in rescue efforts, but distribution of aid and relief was hampered by power cuts, blocked roads and the remoteness of the area that’s surrounded by choppy waters and high waves, said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson, Raditya Jati.

Authorities were still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas, Jati said.

Photos released by the agency showed rescuers and police and military personnel taking residents to shelters, bridges cut while roads were covered by thick mud and debris.

Severe flooding also has been reported in Bima, a town in the neighbouring province of West Nusa Tenggara, forcing nearly 10,000 people to flee, Jati said.

In January, 40 people died in two landslides in West Java province.

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8 people killed, including at least 4 women, in shootings at Atlanta-area massage parlours

Shootings at two massage parlours in Atlanta and one in the suburbs Tuesday evening left eight people dead, many of them women of Asian descent, authorities said. A 21-year-old man suspected in the shootings was taken into custody in southwest Georgia hours later after a manhunt, police said.

The attacks began around 5 p.m., when five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in a strip mall near a rural area in Acworth, about 50 kilometres north of Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Capt. Jay Baker said. Two people died at the scene and three were transported to a hospital where two of them also died, Baker said.

No one was arrested at the scene.

Around 5:50 p.m., police in the Buckhead neighbourhood of Atlanta, responding to a call of a robbery in progress, found three women dead from apparent gunshot wounds at Gold Spa. While they were at that scene, they learned of a call reporting shots fired at another spa across the street, Aromatherapy Spa, and found a woman who appeared to have been shot dead inside the business.

“It appears that they may be Asian,” Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said.


Crime scene tape is seen outside Aromatherapy Spa after shootings at a massage parlour and two day spas in the Atlanta area. (Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in statement Wednesday that its diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed from police that four of the victims who died were women of Korean descent. The ministry said the office of its Consulate General in Atlanta is trying to confirm the nationality of the women.

Suspect taken into custody

The killings came amid a recent wave of attacks against Asian Americans that coincided with the spread of the coronavirus across the United States.

“Our entire family is praying for the victims of these horrific acts of violence,” Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday evening on Twitter.

A man suspected in the Acworth shooting was captured by surveillance video pulling up to the business around 4:50 p.m. Tuesday, minutes before the attack, authorities said. Baker said the suspect, Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, was taken into custody in Crisp County, about 240 kilometres south of Atlanta.


This undated photo provided by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office shows Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, Ga., who was arrested following the three shootings. (Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office/The Associated Press)

Baker said they believe Long is also the suspect in the Atlanta shootings.

Police said video footage showed the suspect’s vehicle in the area of the Atlanta spas about the time of those attacks as well. That, as well as other video evidence, “suggests it is extremely likely our suspect is the same as Cherokee County’s, who is in custody,” Atlanta police said in a statement. Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities were working to confirm the cases are related.

FBI spokesperson Kevin Rowson said the agency was assisting Atlanta and Cherokee County authorities in the investigation.

Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock said in a video posted on Facebook that his deputies and state troopers were notified around 8 p.m. that a murder suspect out of north Georgia was headed toward their county. Deputies and troopers set up along the interstate and “made contact with the suspect,” who was driving a 2007 black Hyundai Tucson, around 8:30 p.m., he said.

A state trooper performed a PIT, or pursuit intervention technique, manoeuvre, “which caused the vehicle to spin out of control,” Hancock said. Long was then taken into custody “without incident” and was being held in the Crisp County jail for Cherokee County authorities, who were expected to arrive soon to continue their investigation.

Due to the shootings, Atlanta police said they dispatched officers to check nearby similar businesses and increased patrols in the area.

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Myanmar security forces shoot and kill at least 8 pro-democracy demonstrators

Myanmar security forces shot and killed at least eight people Wednesday, according to accounts on social media and local news reports, as authorities extended their lethal crackdown on protests against last month’s coup.

Videos from various locations showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators, chasing them down and even beating an ambulance crew.

Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse.

“It’s horrific. It’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in the country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule — and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

14-year-old boy among the dead

On Sunday, security forces killed at least 18 protesters, according to the UN Human Rights Office. On Wednesday, there were reports of eight more deaths in four different cities, including that of a 14-year-old boy, though one human rights group put Wednesday’s death toll as high as 18 people.

Security forces have also arrested hundreds of people at protests, including journalists. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, were detained. A video shows he had moved out of the way as police charged down a street at protesters, but then was seized by police officers, who handcuffed him and held him briefly in a chokehold before marching him away.


This undated family photo provided on Wednesday shows Associated Press journalist Thein Zaw in Yangon. Authorities there charged Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years. The six were arrested while covering protests against the coup. (Thein Zaw family/The Associated Press)

He has been charged with violating a public safety law that could see him imprisoned for up to three years.

UN Security Council to discuss crisis Friday

The escalation of the crackdown has led to increased diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis — but there appear to be few viable options.

The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation on Friday, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the give the information before the official announcement. The United Kingdom requested the meeting, they said.


A member of a South Korean civic group holds a sign as she attends a rally against Myanmar’s military coup in Seoul on Wednesday. Demonstrations in support of democracy in Myanmar are taking place in many countries, including South Korea and India. (Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press)

Still, any kind of co-ordinated action at the United Nations will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it. Some countries have imposed or are considering imposing their own sanctions.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, held a teleconference meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

But there, too, action is unlikely. The regional group of 10 nations has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. A statement by the chair after the meeting merely called for an end to violence and for talks on how to reach a peaceful settlement.

Ignoring that appeal, Myanmar’s security forces on Wednesday continued to attack peaceful protesters.

Details of the crackdowns and casualties are difficult to independently confirm, especially those occurring outside the bigger cities. But the accounts of most assaults have been consistent in social media and from local news outlets, and usually have videos and photos supporting them. It is also likely that many attacks in remote areas go unreported.

Medical workers believed to be targets

In Yangon, the country’s largest city, which has has seen some of the biggest protests, three people were killed, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, an independent television and online news service. The deaths were also mentioned on Twitter, where some photos of bodies were posted.

“I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground. They shot a lot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters.

In addition, a widely circulated video taken from a security camera showed police in the city brutally beating members of an ambulance crew — apparently after they were arrested. Police can be seen kicking the three crew members and thrashing them with rifle butts.

Security forces are believed to single out medical workers for arrest and mistreatment because members of the medical profession launched the country’s civil disobedience movement to resist the junta.


In Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, two people were reportedly shot dead. Photos posted on social media showed a university student peacefully taking part in the protest, and later showed her apparently lifeless with a head wound. Accounts on social media said a man was also killed.

Riot police in the city, backed by soldiers, broke up a rally and chased around 1,000 teachers and students from a street with tear gas as gunshots could be heard.

Video from The Associated Press showed a squad of police firing slingshots in the apparent direction of demonstrators as they dispersed.

In the central city of Monywa, which has turned out huge crowds, three people were shot Wednesday, including one in the head, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported. Reports on social media said two died.


In Myingyan, in the same central region, multiple social media posts reported the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy. Photos that posters said were of his body showed his head and chest soaked with blood as he was carried by fellow protesters.

Live fire also was reported to have caused injuries in Magwe, also in central Myanmar; in the town of Hpakant in the northern state of Kachin; and in Pyinoolwin, a town in central Myanmar better known to many by its British colonial name, Maymyo.

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At least 30 dead, several million still without power in U.S. after days of extreme weather

Utility crews raced Wednesday to restore power to nearly 3.4 million customers around the U.S. who were still without electricity or heat in the aftermath of a deadly winter storm, and another blast of ice and snow threatened to sow more chaos.

The latest storm front was expected to bring more hardship, especially to states that are unaccustomed to such frigid weather — parts of Texas, Arkansas and the Lower Mississippi Valley.

“There’s really no letup to some of the misery people are feeling across that area,” said Bob Oravec, lead forecaster with the U.S. National Weather Service, referring to Texas.

The system was forecast to move into the Northeast on Thursday. More than 100 million people live in areas covered by some type of winter weather warning, watch or advisory, the weather service said.

At least 30 people have died in the extreme weather this week, some while struggling to find warmth inside their homes. In the Houston area, one family succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust in their garage. Another perished as they used a fireplace to keep warm.

Record low temperatures were reported in city after city. Scientists say the polar vortex, a weather pattern that usually keeps to the Arctic, is increasingly spilling into lower latitudes and staying there longer, and global warming is partly responsible.

Rolling blackouts

Utilities from Minnesota to Texas and Mississippi have implemented rolling blackouts to ease the burden on power grids straining to meet extreme demand for heat and electricity. In Mexico, rolling blackouts Tuesday covered more than one-third of the country after the storms in Texas cut the supply of imported natural gas.

WATCH | Millions without power as much of U.S. recovers from major winter storm:

There is a scramble in Texas to stay warm and restore power to millions after a major winter storm hit. Several other states are also cleaning up after flooding and a tornado. 1:59

The worst U.S. power outages by far have been in Texas, where three million homes and businesses remained without power as of midday Wednesday. The state’s power grid manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said electricity had been restored to 600,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday night. Officials did not know when power would be restored, but council president Bill Magness said he hoped many customers would see at least partial service restored by later Wednesday or Thursday.

Magness also defended the decision to force outages “to prevent an event that would have been even more catastrophic than the terrible events we’ve seen this week.” 

Dashawn Walker, 33, was thrilled to find the power back on in his Dallas apartment Wednesday. He stayed at a suburban hotel Tuesday night after being without power since Sunday but said he was charged $ 474 US for one night.

“It’s crazy,” Walker said. “I mean why would y’all go up on the hotels in the middle of a crisis?”

Widespread power loss

More than 200,000 additional customers were in the dark in four Appalachian states, and nearly that many in the Pacific Northwest, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility outage reports.

Oklahoma’s largest electric utility reported no outages Wednesday, a day after rolling blackouts in and around Oklahoma City stopped electric-powered space heaters, furnaces and lights in –8 C weather. But Oklahoma Gas & Electric warned customers of the potential for more short-term service interruptions due to the extreme cold and high demand for natural gas.


People wait in line to fill propane tanks Wednesday in Houston. Customers had to wait over an hour in the freezing rain to fill their tanks. Millions in Texas still had no power after a historic snowfall and single-digit temperatures created a surge of demand for electricity to warm up homes unaccustomed to such extreme lows, buckling the state’s power grid and causing widespread blackouts. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

Nebraska also avoided another round of rolling power outages as subzero temperatures started to ease.

Entergy imposed rolling blackouts Tuesday night in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Southeast Texas at the direction of its grid manager, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, according to a statement from the New Orleans-based utility.

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities covering 14 states, said the blackouts were “a last resort to preserve the reliability of the electric system as a whole.”

The weather also caused major disruptions to water systems in several southern U.S. cities, including in Shreveport, Louisiana, where city fire trucks delivered water to several hospitals, and bottled water was being brought in for patients and staff, Shreveport television station KSLA reported.

Carbon monoxide poisoning incidents

In Austin, Houston and other cities, residents were asked to stop letting water drip from pipes, a practice to prevent freezing, because of a major drop in water pressure. Houston residents also were told to boil their water — if they had power — because the pressure drop was allowing bacteria to seep into the pipes.

In the southwest Louisiana city of Lake Charles, Mayor Nic Hunter said Wednesday that water reserves remained low even after power was restored, and that local hospitals were faced with the possibility they might have to transfer patients to other areas because of low water pressure.


Ehsan M. rides a snowboard behind a friend’s SUV in a parking lot in Texas after a heavy snow on Monday. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman/The Associated Press)

Travel remains ill-advised in much of the United States, with roadways treacherous and thousands of flights cancelled. Many school systems delayed or cancelled face-to-face classes.

But even staying home can be hazardous in places without power.

Authorities said a fire that killed three young children and their grandmother in the Houston area likely was caused by the fireplace they were using to keep warm. In Oregon, authorities confirmed Tuesday that four people died in the Portland area of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At least 13 children were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and one parent died of the toxic fumes, hospital officials said.

Fears of more snow

Stories of kindness emerged from the crisis.

In Clinton, Mississippi, Army veteran Evelyn Fletcher has been cooking and delivering meals to sidelined truck drivers, travelers and people staying at hotels after losing power at home.

“They’re stranded, they’re isolated — people are in need of support right now,” Fletcher said.


Lia Ubidia, right, and her son, Andrew Velarde, carry groceries as they walk home through the snow Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Houston. (David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

On Monday, Fletcher made 85 meals. On Tuesday, she made 30 plates, while a local restaurant, T’Beaux’s Crawfish and Catering, cooked 75 plates of shrimp and gumbo that she and other volunteers delivered. And on Wednesday, Fletcher was cooking a pot of turkey noodle soup, hoping to deliver another 70 meals.

“People are worried about more snow,” she said. “We are going to keep people fed and keep them feeling hopeful.”

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Study offers ‘promising’ evidence that at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine may curb virus transmission

Real-world findings are starting to back expectations for the level of protection provided by several leading coronavirus vaccines, but there’s still a burning question among scientists: Could the shots actually reduce virus transmission as well?

New research out of Israel offers early clues that at least one vaccine — the mRNA-based option from Pfizer-BioNTech, which is also being used here in Canada — may lead to lower viral loads, suggesting it might be harder for someone to spread the virus if they get infected post-vaccination.

In a study released publicly on Monday as an unpublished, non-peer-reviewed preprint, a team of researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and Maccabi Healthcare Services found the viral load was reduced four-fold for infections that occur 12 to 28 days after a first dose of the vaccine.

“These reduced viral loads hint to lower infectiousness, further contributing to vaccine impact on virus spread,” the researchers wrote.

Virologist Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor in the department of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba, said it’s been a waiting game to figure out whether the protection from illness offered by mRNA vaccines might also curb transmission — a key tool for winding down the pandemic.

“So the data from this, I think, is important,” he said. “It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it starts to tell us that there actually might be some added benefit to these vaccines beyond just reducing severe disease.”

Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, agreed these early findings — which still require peer-review — aren’t a scientific “home run,” but do offer hope in the fight against COVID-19.

“This would point in the direction that people who have been vaccinated, who are still infected, may be less likely to transmit starting at about 12 days after their vaccine,” he said.

‘Significantly reduced’ viral loads

Israel is among the world leaders for COVID-19 vaccination rates, with Maccabi Healthcare Services vaccinating more than 650,000 people by Jan. 25, the paper noted, giving the researchers a large pool of data compared to what exists so far in many other countries. 

The team analyzed COVID-19 test results from roughly 2,900 people between the ages of 16 and 89, comparing the cycle threshold values of post-vaccination infections after a first dose with those of positive tests from unvaccinated patients.

So, what are cycle threshold values, and how does that potentially tie to viral loads and virus transmission?

Standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19 identify the viral infection by amplifying the virus’s RNA until it hits a level where it can be detected by the test. Multiple rounds of amplification may be required — and the cycle threshold value refers to the number of rounds needed to spot the virus.


Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, agrees these early findings — which still require peer-review — offer some hope in the fight against COVID-19. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

“If you can detect the virus with very few cycles, there’s probably a lot of virus there,” Bogoch explained. “If you need to keep looking and looking and looking and looking for it, it might be there — it’s just a lot harder to find evidence of the virus genetic material.”

A higher cycle threshold, then, usually means there’s less virus genetic material present, which usually translates to people being less contagious, he said.

Based on an analysis comparing post-vaccination test results up to Day 11 to the unvaccinated control group, the Israeli researchers found “no significant difference” in the distribution of cycle threshold values for several viral genes.

That changed by 12 days after vaccination, with the team finding a “significant” increase in cycle thresholds up to 28 days later.


A team of researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and Maccabi Healthcare Services found the viral load was reduced four-fold for infections happening 12 to 28 days after a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine. The findings have yet to be peer-reviewed and published in a medical journal. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

The result suggests infections occurring 12 days or longer following just one vaccine dose have “significantly reduced viral loads, potentially affecting viral shedding and contagiousness as well as severity of the disease,” the team concluded.

It’s a finding that appears to mimic the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in its clinical trials, which offered some early protection starting 12 days after the first dose and fully kicks in a week after the second shot, with a reported efficacy of around 95 per cent.

More research needed, experts say

The observational study was not a randomized controlled trial — meaning researchers couldn’t conclude a direct cause-and-effect relationship — and has not yet been published in a scientific journal. The research also has notable limitations, its authors acknowledged. 

For one, the group of vaccinated individuals may differ in key ways from the demographically matched control group, such as their general health. The study also didn’t account for variants of the virus that may be associated with different viral loads, the team wrote.

Indeed, those variants are already proving to be roadblocks in the fight against COVID-19, with concerns ranging from higher transmissibility to reduced vaccine efficacy, including concern in South Africa and beyond after a small and yet-to-be-published study suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offered minimal protection against mild infection from the country’s now-dominant B1351 variant. 

With those concerns in mind, experts who spoke with CBC News about the Israeli study stressed that more research is needed to back up the results on a broader scale, and among diverse populations, before being used to fuel policy changes or current approaches to vaccination efforts.

“The data needs to be reviewed by experts and confirmed that it stands up to the quality that we would want to make a conclusion,” said vaccinologist Alyson Kelvin, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax who works with Canadian vaccine developer VIDO-InterVac in Saskatoon.

WATCH | The impact of variants on the race to vaccinate: 

South Africa has halted its rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine after a study showed it offered minimal protection against mild infection from a variant spreading there. While experts say it’s cause for concern, they say vaccines can be reconfigured to protect against mutations. 2:01

Even so, Kelvin said the data appeared to be treated with the necessary caution, and offers “promising evidence,” while Kindrachuk remains optimistic as well that the findings could prove a useful starting point.

“While we still have to have people using masks, and while we still have to have people distanced, the vaccines may actually also be able to reduce transmission,” he said. 

“So, those trends that we’re hoping to see, in regards to trying to curb community transmission for SARS-CoV-2, may be accelerated with a vaccine — and that will hopefully help us get out of this a little bit sooner.”


The Current21:46Vaccine concerns in South Africa

South Africa is facing another hurdle in its fight against COVID-19 after a new study suggested the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is largely ineffective against the dominant variant spreading in that country. Dr. Rinesh Chetty, who works on the front lines of the pandemic in Durban, South Africa, weighs in on the findings. And Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease specialist at Queen’s University and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, tells us what it means for Canada’s vaccination efforts. 21:46

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At least 2 killed, dozens of homes destroyed after powerful Cyclone Yasa slams Fiji

A powerful cyclone hit Fiji overnight, killing at least two people and destroying dozens of homes in the Pacific island nation, authorities said Friday.

While Cyclone Yasa proved terrifying for those in its path, there was a sense of relief in other parts of the country that the devastation wasn’t as widespread as many had initially feared.

Vasiti Soko, the director of the National Disaster Management Office, told reporters the cyclone hit with wind gusts of up to 345 km/h.

“We will continue to assess the scale of damage in the coming days,” she said. “But we are likely looking at hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Soko said they would provide more details on those who had died later.


Fiji National Disaster Management Office Director Vasiti Soko, left, speaks at a news conference in Suva on Wednesday. (Lice Movono/AFP via Getty Images)

FBC News reported one of those who died was 46-year-old farmer Ramesh Chand, who was sheltering from the cyclone in his home in the town of Lovelove on the island of Vanua Levu when part of his house fell on him, also injuring his eldest son.

The man’s wife, who wasn’t named, told FBC she grabbed her younger son and ran to a nearby home to seek help: “We called my husband. Wake up! Wake up! But he didn’t wake up.”

The storm destroyed many other homes on the island, which is Fiji’s second largest.

The eye of the storm moved through Vanua Levu from about 6 p.m. local time on Thursday. It missed the capital city Suva and the major tourist hub of Nadi on Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu.

“It’s a nightmare,” Labasa resident Banuve Lasaqa Lusi told Radio New Zealand. “The thunderous sound of the wind and what is flying around is what’s frightening.”


A fallen electric pole is seen in in Savusavu, Fiji, on Friday. (Fiji Roads Authority via Reuters)

She said many people’s houses had been flattened, with some sheltering under their beds or escaping with just the clothes on their backs.

Authorities said the cyclone was weakening Friday as it moved southeast over some of Fiji’s outer islands.

However, they warned of danger from flooding. Fiji’s government said that the Rewa River was rising, with rain continuing intermittently. The Rewa skirts Suva and runs through Nausori, where Suva’s airport is located.


A flooded road crossing is seen in Savusavu on Thursday. (Fiji Roads Authority/via Reuters)

Many had worried the storm could rival the destruction caused by Cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people and caused widespread damage when it hit in 2016.

The Fiji Times newspaper reported the cyclone had destroyed about 20 homes and a community hall in the village of Tiliva and that homes in other villages had also been damaged or destroyed.

Authorities had warned the cyclone would hit with sustained winds of up to 250 km/h. But by Friday, the cyclone’s winds had dropped to about half that speed.


The storm prompted more than 20,000 people to move into government evacuation centres. It also downed power lines, cut communications, and caused flash flooding and road closures.

Before the cyclone hit, authorities had imposed an overnight curfew throughout the nation and declared a state of natural disaster.

Located about one-third of the way from New Zealand to Hawaii, Fiji has a population of about 930,000.

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As COVID-19 cases rise, N.L. and P.E.I. exit Atlantic bubble for at least 2 weeks

The Atlantic bubble is no more.

Both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I are exiting the Atlantic bubble for at least two weeks as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the region.

Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey said the province will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in the other Atlantic provinces to see if the two-week break needs to be extended. Travel to and from Newfoundland and Labrador will only be for essential reasons, he said.

“The Atlantic Bubble has been a source of pride … but the situation has changed,” Furey said at a news conference.

P.E.I. Premier Dennis King delivered a similar message during a nearly simultaneous news conference, saying his government would re-evaluate over the next two weeks.

King said the changing epidemiology in the region was concerning, “and it forces us to use what I believe are the tools in our limited toolbox to do everything we can to avoid an outbreak here in P.E.I.”

He said that given the province’s small size, it wouldn’t take much for its health-care system to become overwhelmed.

Atlantic bubble established July 3

Newfoundland’s heightened travel restrictions will come into effect on Wednesday, and P.E.I.’s come into effect Monday at midnight.

Since July 3, residents of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I and Newfoundland and Labrador were able to travel relatively freely across each other’s borders without quarantining.

COVID-19 case numbers in all the Atlantic provinces were low throughout the summer and fall, but that began to change last week in parts of the region.

New Brunswick tightened restrictions in Moncton and Saint John last week as cases rose, and the province reported its highest ever single-day case count on Saturday with 23 new cases. As of Sunday, that province had a total of 77 active cases. 

Nova Scotia also started recording a spike in cases last week and public health confirmed there is community spread, with most transmission happening in the Halifax area. As of Sunday’s reporting, the province had a total of 44 known active cases.

Newfoundland and Labrador is currently reporting 23 active cases — including two new cases announced Monday — and P.E.I has two, with the latest one reported at Monday’s news conference.

No plans to burst N.S.-N.B. bubble

In a news conference Monday afternoon, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the change will not affect New Brunswick’s rules.

He said he and the other Atlantic premiers held a teleconference last night when they discussed the decision.

“We certainly understand the situation that Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. are in, and their concerns with our current situation in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” he said.

Still, Higgs said he and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil have decided not to burst the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick bubble for now.

He said most cases in Nova Scotia are in the Halifax region. He said there has been a focus on testing there, and people in the Halifax area are being encouraged to not travel outside of the region.


The Atlantic bubble was lauded as a success throughout the summer and fall when COVID-19 case numbers were low. Numbers started rising again last week in parts of the region, causing Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. to pull out of the bubble. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Higgs said enforcing an isolation requirement for Nova Scotia would not be a good use of resources.

“We want to keep our resources deployed along our northern borders between New Brunswick and Quebec, and to enhance our activity along the border between Maine and New Brunswick,” he said.

“We’re aligned in containing this in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick independently, and I think we’re best served to ensure that we each follow our own protocols.”

He said any New Brunswickers travelling to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador, including for work, should contact the government in the two provinces to see how the changes will affect them.

Higgs also said the change does not affect New Brunswickers coming home after working in P.E.I. or Newfoundland and Labrador.

While the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border remains open, Higgs still urged New Brunswickers to avoid non-essential travel. That message was also in a news release from the Council of Atlantic Premiers on Monday morning, which advised caution while travelling within the Atlantic bubble.

The office of Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Monday that travellers from all other Atlantic provinces can still enter Nova Scotia without quarantining.  

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Vietnam braces for Typhoon Vamco, at least 67 dead in the Philippines

Vietnam was bracing for Typhoon Vamco to make landfall in the country’s central coast early on Sunday, as the death toll in the Philippines rose to 67 from that country’s deadliest storm this year.

Packing winds of up to 165 km/h, Vamco is forecast to hit a swathe of Vietnam’s coast from Ha Tinh to Quang Ngai province, the government’s weather agency said on Saturday.

“This is a very strong typhoon,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, warning provinces in Vamco’s projected path to prepare for its impact.

The provinces plan to evacuate 468,000 people by the end of Saturday, state media cited the government’s disaster management authority as saying.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. Vamco will be the 13th storm that affects the Southeast Asian country this year, where more than 160 people have been killed in natural disasters triggered by a series of storms since early October.

“There has been no respite for more than eight million people living in central Vietnam,” said Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, Vietnam Red Cross Society President. “Each time they start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, they are pummeled by yet another storm.”

In the Philippines, coast guard and disaster agencies scrambled on Saturday to rescue thousands in a northern province after the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday and early Thursday.

Vamco has killed at least 67 people, with 12 people still missing, the Philippines’ national disaster management agency said on Sunday.

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Super-typhoon weakens after slamming into Philippines; at least 10 dead

A powerful super-typhoon slammed into the eastern Philippines with ferocious winds Sunday, killing at least 10 people and causing volcanic mudflows to bury houses before weakening as it blew toward Manila, where the capital’s main airport was shut down, officials said.

Typhoon Goni hit the island province of Catanduanes at dawn with sustained winds of 225 km/h and gusts of 280 km/h. It was barrelling west toward densely populated regions, including Manila, and rain-soaked provinces still recovering from a typhoon that hit a week ago and left at least 22 people dead.

Gov. Al Francis Bichara said at least four people were killed in his hard-hit province of Albay, including a father and son who were in a rural community that was hit by mudflows and boulders swept down from Mayon Volcano by heavy rains. Villagers fled to safety as the typhoon approached, but the two apparently stayed put, he said.

“The child was found 15 kilometres away,” Bichara told DZMM radio, noting that the child was swept away by mudflows and floodwaters.

Three other villagers, including one pinned down by a tree, were killed in Albay, the Office of Civil Defence said.


Residents try to repair their damaged house and salvage belongings on Sunday after the storm hit Camarines Norte province in the Philippines. (Jes Aznar/Getty Images)

More than 300 houses were buried under volcanic rocks and mud flows from Mayon Volcano, a lawmaker said.

Ricardo Jalad, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency, said the typhoon’s destructive force was capable of causing major damage. “There are so many people who are really in vulnerable areas,” he said.

The Philippine weather agency reinforced those concerns, saying that within 12 hours after the typhoon blasted onto shore, people would experience “catastrophic, violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall.”

Residents were warned of likely landslides, massive flooding, storm surges of up to five metres and powerful winds that can blow away shanties. But as in past storms, some refused to heed the warnings.

Some stayed behind as storm hit

In Quezon province, villager Diane Joco scrambled with her husband, parents, siblings and cousin out of their flimsy houses on stilts on the shore of Calauag town, but stayed close by in a neighbour’s sturdier house near the coast to guard their own homes.

“We should be nearby to be able to repair any damage to our house quickly. Otherwise it will fall apart and be blown away. We have no other house,” Joco said by phone. She suddenly yelled as she spoke, saying that a part of the tin roof of her neighbour’s house was nearly ripped off by a frightening gust.

One of the most powerful typhoons in the world this year, Goni has evoked memories of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than five million in the central Philippines in November 2013.

Goni weakened before nightfall, with sustained winds of 165 km/h and gusts of up to 230 km/h, but remained dangerously strong, forecasters said.

Nearly 1 million people moved to shelters

Jalad, the disaster-response official, said nearly a million people were pre-emptively moved into emergency shelters.

Forecasters said the typhoon’s eye may pass about 70 kilometres south of metropolitan Manila, the sprawling capital region of more than 13 million people, around nightfall on Sunday.

Manila’s main airport was ordered shut down for 24 hours from Sunday to Monday, and airlines cancelled dozens of international and domestic flights. The military and national police, along with the coast guard, were put on full alert.


Government workers chop down a toppled tree due to strong winds from Typhoon Goni in Manila on Sunday. (Aaron Favila/The Associated Press)

In a Manila gymnasium that was turned into an emergency shelter, displaced residents worried about COVID-19 outbreaks. The Philippines has had more than 383,000 cases of the virus, the second-most in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia.

“We are scared — our fears are doubled,” said Jaqueline Almocera, a 44-year-old street vendor who took cover at the shelter. “The people here are mixed, unlike when you’re at home, safe and we don’t go out. Here you interact with other evacuees.”

Hundreds of COVID-19 patients were moved to hospitals and hotels from tent quarantine centres as the typhoon blew closer to the country, Jalad said.

The Philippines is lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms each year. It’s also located on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.

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At least 6 killed as 7.0 magnitude quake in Aegean Sea shakes Turkish coast, Greek island of Samos

A strong earthquake struck Friday in the Aegean Sea between the west coast of Turkey and the Greek island of Samos, collapsing buildings in the city of Izmir in western Turkey, and officials said at least six people were killed and scores were injured.

A small tsunami struck the Seferisar district of Izmir, said Haluk Ozener, director of the Istanbul-based Kandilli Observatory and Earthquake Research Institute. At least four people were slightly injured on Samos, where a tsunami warning was issued.

Six people were killed in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, including one who drowned, and 202 were injured, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD. 

Izmir Gov. Yavuz Selim Kosger said at least 70 people had been rescued from the wreckage. He said four buildings were destroyed and more than 10 collapsed, while others also were damaged.


Rescue workers and locals check for residents trapped in the debris of a collapsed building in Izmir. (Ismail Gokmen/The Associated Press)

Search and rescue efforts were continuing in at least 12 buildings, AFAD said.

Turkish media showed wreckage of a multiple-storey building, with people climbing it to start rescue efforts. Smoke rose from several spots.

Videos on Twitter showed flooding in the Seferhisar district, and Turkish officials and broadcasters called on people to stay off the streets after reports of traffic congestion.

AFAD said Friday’s earthquake was centred in the Aegean at a depth of 16.5 kilometres and registered at a 6.6 magnitude. The emergency authority said it sent search and rescue teams to Izmir.


(CBC News)

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.9, with an epicentre 13 kilometres north northeast of the Greek island of Samos.

The United States Geological Survey put the magnitude at 7.0. It is common for preliminary magnitudes to differ in the early hours and days after a quake.

Turkish media said the earthquake was felt across the regions of Aegean and Marmara, including Istanbul. Istanbul’s governor said there were no reports of damage in the city.

Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Dozens were killed in an earthquake in January, mostly in Elazig province. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.


Locals and officials search for survivors at a collapsed building in Izmir on Friday afternoon. (Tuncay Dersinlioglu/Reuters)

Greek island residents flee

The quake was felt across the eastern Greek islands and even in the Greek capital Athens. Greek media said the residents of Samos and other islands fled their homes, while some rockfalls were reported. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Turkey and Greece reported aftershocks. The quake was also felt in Bulgaria.


A car is seen destroyed in the aftermath of Friday’s earthquake in Samos, Greece. (Eurokinissi/AFP/Getty Images)

Greek seismologist Efthymios Lekkas told Greek state television ERT that it was still too early to say whether this was the main earthquake, although he said it likely was.

“It is an event that is evolving,” Lekkas said, adding that some damage had been reported in parts of Samos.

A tsunami warning was issued, with residents of the Samos area told to stay away from the coastline. Water rose above the dock in the main harbour of Samos and flooded the street.

The regional governor of the Samos region, Yiannis Stamoulis, said no injuries had been reported on the island. Residents have also been told to stay away from buildings, as aftershocks continued to rattle the area.

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