Nearly 2 million, mostly in Florida, without power in Irma’s wake

A house rests on the beach after collapsing off a cliff from Hurricane Irma in Vilano Beach, Fla., Friday. (AP)
Updated 15 September 2017
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Nearly 2 million, mostly in Florida, without power in Irma’s wake

MIAMI: About 1.9 million homes and businesses in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas remained without power from Hurricane Irma on Friday, five days after the deadly storm ripped through the US Southeast.
Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record before striking the US mainland as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 10, took at least 82 deaths. Several hard-hit Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, suffered more than half the fatalities.
About 1.8 million customers were without electricity in Florida, including 281,400 homes and businesses served by municipal power companies and electric cooperatives.
Among the state’s public utilities, Florida Power & Light, owned by NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE.N) and the state’s biggest electric company, reported about 1.1 million customers had no power. Duke Energy Corp. (DUK.N) said 375,400 customers were in the dark and Tampa Electric, a unit of Emera Inc. (EMA.TO), said about 36,600 were without electricity.
Another 116,900 customers in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina also remained in the dark on Friday.
At least 32 deaths have been reported in Florida and seven more combined in Georgia and South Carolina.
The death toll includes eight elderly people who died after being exposed to sweltering heat inside a nursing home north of Miami that had been left with little or no air conditioning after the hurricane struck.
The deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Wednesday stirred outrage over what many saw as a preventable tragedy and heightened concerns about the vulnerability of the state’s large elderly population amid widespread, lingering power outages.
“It was unnecessary,” Bendetta Craig, whose 87-year-old mother was among dozens of residents safely moved from the center, told reporters on Thursday.
“I don’t know what happened inside. I wasn’t there. I hope the truth comes out. It is just senseless,” she said.
Police obtained a search warrant on Thursday in their criminal investigation into the deaths, while Florida’s health care agency ordered the nursing home to be suspended from the state Medicaid program.
FPL, which serves nearly 5 million homes and businesses, said it expects to restore power to essentially all its users, in the eastern portion of Florida, by the end of the weekend and the harder-hit western portion of the state by Sept. 22.
Duke, which serves the northern and central parts of Florida, said on its website it expects to restore service to most customers by midnight on Sunday.
Irma rampaged through the Caribbean, devastating several islands and raking the northern shore of Cuba last week before barreling into the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 215 km per hour.
US President Donald Trump visited Florida Gulf Coast communities recovering from the hurricane on Thursday, praising first-responders for their role in limiting the loss of life.


Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

Updated 15 July 2018
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Thai boys rescued from cave mourn diver who died

  • The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal
  • Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday

CHIANG RAI, Thailand: The 12 boys and their coach rescued from a Thai cave mourned the death of an ex-Navy SEAL who died while taking part in the mission, the health ministry said Sunday.
The “Wild Boars” football team are recovering in hospital following 18 days spent inside the Tham Luang cave after entering on June 23 and getting trapped by monsoon floodwaters.
Doctors say they are in good health following a successful three-day operation which ended July 10 when teams of Thai Navy SEALs and international cave diving experts hauled the last five members of the team to safety.
But the lead-up to the final phase of the mission was met with tragedy when volunteer and former Navy SEAL diver Saman Kunan died on July 6 while installing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of the cave.
Saman was widely hailed as a hero but the boys, aged 11 to 16, were only told about his death on Saturday after a medical team said they were strong enough mentally to handle the news, though many wept after hearing it.
“All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lt. Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him,” Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry, said in the statement.
Photos released show the youngsters crowded around a sketch of Saman scrawling messages on it and bowing their heads in commemoration.
“They also thanked him and promised to be good boys,” the statement said.
Tributes from Thailand and around the world have poured in for Saman, a triathlete and diver who retired from the military in 2006 and worked at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport before volunteering to help with the rescue in northern Thailand.
Specialists who took part in the risky mission to bring the Wild Boars home have expressed shock and surprise that they were able to pull it off, with some fearing that there could have been more casualties.
The unprecedented and daring final push to bring the boys out saw them sedated and carried through waterlogged and partially dry corridors with the help of military stretchers and nearly 100 divers.
Health officials have conveyed a largely positive picture of the boys’ recovery. All are expected to leave hospital on Thursday.
The health ministry said the overall condition for the players and coach was normal, though many are still on a course of antibiotics.
Despite the positive assessments so far experts have said they would all need to be monitored closely for signs of psychological distress that could take months to manifest.
They spent nine days in the dark, dank cave before being located by two British divers.
The boys — and their parents — have been advised to spend time with friends and family and not to give media interviews as that could trigger post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
But the interest in their story is unlikely to evaporate overnight, as Hollywood producers are already jockeying to make a film version of the saga.