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Scores dead or missing in Australian floods

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:10 am

 Australia braced for a rapidly rising death toll Tuesday after flash floods killed eight and left 72 missing, as a quickly spreading flood disaster forced evacuations in central Brisbane.


A sombre Prime Minister Julia Gillard, dressed in black, warned the country to prepare for the worst after flash floods described as an “inland tsunami” smashed mountainside Toowoomba, sweeping away entire houses.


“Yesterday we saw some simply shocking events in Toowoomba and other communities in the Lockyer Valley, literally walls of water smashing into cars and into buildings,” Gillard said.


“We have seen very dramatic images of cars tossed around, people on roofs of houses and on the roofs of cars and people literally hanging on for dear life to trees and to signposts.”

Screengrab taken on January 10, 2010 from footage aired by Australia’s Channel 9 shows flood waters racing through the city of Toowoomba.

Queensland state premier Anna Bligh said the death toll would rise “potentially quite dramatically”, with families among those missing and rescue efforts hampered by heavy rain and washed-away roads.


“Mother Nature has delivered something terrible in the last 48 hours but there’s more to go and our emergency people are more than up to that task,” said Bligh.


“This is going to be I think a very grim day, particularly for the people in that region, and a desperate hour here in Queensland.”


TV images showed Toowoomba’s streets turned into churning rapids dotted with floating cars, some with people sitting on top, while elsewhere residents were forced onto roofs as waters lapped at awnings.


Four of the dead were children, some of them swept away in cars driven by their mothers. A man and a younger male died in Murphy’s Creek near Toowoomba, 125 kilometres (80 miles) west of Brisbane in the Great Dividing Range.


Nineteen people have now died in flooding across Australia’s northeastern coal-mining and farming zone after weeks of rain blamed on the La Nina weather system, which has also dumped heavy snow on the northern United States.


Meanwhile floods that have devastated an area the size of France and Germany combined threatened central Brisbane, the state capital, forcing evacuations in a riverside inner city area and warnings for a swathe of suburbs.


“All members of the community who live or are currently near the Brisbane River at West End are advised to move to higher ground,” Queensland police said in a statement.


Hundreds of people were air-lifted out of outlying towns as floods that have cost billions of dollars in damage spread yet further.


Disaster coordinator Ian Stewart said he had serious concerns for the small Queensland town of Grantham, where three of the flash-flooding victims died and where dozens of residents are thought to be stranded.


“Grantham is going to be, in my view, just a disaster in terms of the number of homes that have been damaged or destroyed and we’re waiting on confirmation of potential extra loss of life,” Stewart said.


Federal MP Ian MacFarlane described dramatic scenes in Toowoomba as the flash flood deluged the town before subsiding within three hours, leaving scenes of destruction and people dead in their cars.


“We’re just seeing building after building, the water rushing in and blowing the windows out,” MacFarlane told Sky News. “Cars that were parked in the car parks were just lifted up and went bobbing down the street.”


Toowoomba mayor Peter Taylor said the town was struck without warning after two normally innocuous waterways suddenly overflowed.

“Torrential rain over a very short period of time came down two major creeks through the middle of the city which are normal quiet drainage ways, and people had no warning at all,” Taylor told the Seven Network.

“It was just unprecedented. Some people are saying an inland tsunami, and I think that probably sums it up really.”

Four military helicopters were sent to join the emergency effort but rescuers were badly hampered by continuing heavy rains in the Lockyer Valley region.

Source: SGGP

Scores found alive in Indonesia tsunami zone

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 10:10 am

SOUTH PAGAI, Indonesia, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – Scores of people feared dead in Indonesia’s tsunami disaster zone were found alive Saturday as rescue workers spread out to remote island communities five days after the killer wave.


The discovery came as Indonesia struggled with disaster on two fronts following another powerful eruption of the archipelago’s most active volcano, which spread chaos and ash over a vast area of central Java.

Three-week-old tsunami survivor Indonesian baby is attended by a nurse at a hospital in Sikakap in North Pagai island, one of the Mentawai islands on October 30, 2010. AFP

On the tsunami-hit Mentawai island chain off the coast of Sumatra, rescue workers battling rough seas and monsoon rain found 135 people hiding on high ground, too scared of another wave to return to their shattered villages.


“We’re so grateful that we’ve found many of the missing people — we’d been working very hard to find them,” disaster management official Joskamatir said.


Officials had held little hope of finding many of the missing after flights over the area earlier in the week revealed dozens of unclaimed bodies strewn across beaches and wedged in rubble.


Many of the dead were also believed to have been sucked out to sea as the killer wave receded.


The number of missing was almost halved from 298 to 163 following Saturday’s discovery, while the death count remained at 413, according to an official tally.


Rescue workers were reaching some of the isolated coastal villages crushed by the three-metre (10-foot) wall of water which was triggered on Monday by a 7.7-magnitude earthquake, but monsoon weather was slowing the relief effort.


“Before help came I survived by eating whatever we could find, such as taro,” said Theopilus, 42, a farmer on the worst-hit island of South Pagai.


“We’re in dire need of more food, tents and blankets. I feel really cold at night as it rains all the time.”


In central Java, 1,300 kilometres (810 miles) to the southeast, terrified residents fled in panic when Mount Merapi erupted again just after midnight, fearing a repeat of explosions on Tuesday that claimed at least 36 lives.


No one was killed in the latest eruption, but hospital staff reported that two people had died in the chaotic rush to escape.


“I was sleeping on the veranda when loud booms like thunder woke me up,” local resident Kris Budianto, 51, told AFP. He suffered a broken arm and facial wounds when he crashed his motorbike in the melee.


Volcanic ash rained down on the Central Java provincial capital of Yogyakarta 26 kilometres away from the crater, shutting the airport for over an hour.


Government volcanologist Subandrio said more eruptions were likely and warned about 50,000 people who have been evacuated from the danger zone not to tempt fate by going home too soon.


“We will even have to evaluate whether we need to widen the exclusion zone because we should not downplay the threat — Mount Merapi is extremely dangerous,” he said.


Many displaced people return to the slopes of 2,914-metre Merapi, a sacred landmark in Javanese tradition whose name means “Mountain of Fire”, to tend to their precious livestock during the day.


On North Pagai, dazed and hungry survivors of Monday night’s tsunami were still roaming between devastated villages looking for food and lost loved ones.


A baby was born in a crammed medical clinic as a man died of his wounds just a few beds away.


Another ship bearing badly need supplies such as tents, medicine and food arrived at Sikakap on the protected side of North Pagai island, while helicopters dropped aid packages to cut-off villages.


Joskamatir said only five percent of the aid piling up at Sikakap had been delivered to those in need, citing bad weather and the “limited availability of transportation” such as boats and helicopters.


“There are three helicopters here already but we still need more speedboats. We need about 50 speedboats,” he said.


Australia and the United States have pledged aid worth a total of three million dollars while the European Commission released 1.5 million euros (two million dollars) for victims of both disasters.


Indonesia straddles a region known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, with scores of active volcanoes and major tectonic fault lines. Almost 170,000 Indonesians were killed in the 2004 Asian tsunami.


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited tsunami survivors on Thursday and said the “only long-term solution” was for people to move away from the most vulnerable coastal areas.


Mentawai fisherman Hari, 24, agreed.


“I plan to leave my village. I don’t want to live here anymore. I’m traumatised,” he said.

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Source: SGGP

12 dead, scores missing in Bangladesh ferry accident

In Uncategorized on June 8, 2010 at 10:35 am

DHAKA, June 8, 2010 (AFP) – At least 12 people, including 10 children, drowned and scores more were missing after a packed ferry capsized in northeastern Bangladesh on Tuesday, officials said.


The accident happened in Sunamganj district, about 140 kilometres (85 miles) north of the capital Dhaka, district administrator Kamrul Alam told AFP.


“The bodies of six schoolgirls, four small children and two women have been recovered so far,” Alam said, adding that the ferry was overloaded.


He said a search-and-rescue operation was under way, with many of the ferry’s 60 to 70 passengers still missing.


About 40 children on board the small passenger ferry were on their way to school, said district police chief Golam Kibria.


“Their relatives are gathering on the banks of the river now, they are very concerned,” he told AFP.


Some adult men on the small, single-deck vessel managed to swim to shore, he said.


Five people rescued from the boat had been sent to the local hospital after nearly drowning during the accident, he added.


Boat and ferry accidents due to lax safety standards and overloading are common in Bangladesh, which is criss-crossed by 230 rivers.


At least 16 people died last month in a boat accident after an overloaded ferry sank in Kishorganj district.

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Source: SGGP

US scores poorly on world motherhood rankings: charity

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:33 am

The United States has scored poorly on a campaign group’s list of the best countries in which to be a mother, managing only 28th place, and bettered by many smaller and poorer countries.


Norway topped the latest Save the Children “Mothers Index”, followed by a string of other developed nations, while Afghanistan came in at the bottom of the table, below several African states.


But the US showing put it behind countries such as the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and eastern and central European states such as Croatia and Slovenia.


Even debt-plagued Greece came in four places higher at 24.


Save the Children compiled the index after analyzing a range of factors affecting the health and well-being of women and children, including access to health care, education and economic opportunities.

A woman pushes a baby carriage through a park. The United States has scored poorly on a campaign group’s list of the best countries in which to be a mother, managing only 28th place, and bettered by many smaller and poorer countries

One factor that dragged the US ranking down was its maternal mortality rate, which at one in 4,800 is one of the highest in the developed world,” said the report.


“A woman in the Unites States is more than five times as likely as a woman in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece or Italy to die from pregnancy-related causes in her lifetime and her risk of maternal death is nearly 10-fold that of a woman in Ireland,” the report said.


It also scored poorly on under-five mortality, its rate of eight per 1,000 births putting it on a par with Slovakia and Montenegro.


“At this rate, a child in the US is more than twice as likely as a child in Finland, Iceland, Sweden or Singapore to die before his or her fifth birthday,” the report noted.


Only 61 percent of children were enrolled in preschool, which on this indicator made it the seventh-lowest country in the developed world, it said.


And it added: “The United States has the least generous maternity leave policy — both in terms of duration and percent of wages paid — of any wealthy nation.”


Norway headed the list of developed countries at the top of the list of best places to be a mother, followed by Australia, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.


At the bottom was Afghanistan, followed by Niger, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sudan, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea.


“While the situation in the United States needs to improve, mothers in the developing world are facing far greater risks to their own health and that of their children,” said Save the Children‘s Mary Beth Powers.


“The shortage of skilled birth attendants and challenges in accessing birth control means that women in countries at the bottom of the list face the most pregnancies and the most risky birth situations, resulting in newborn and maternal deaths,” she added.

Source: SGGP