Maria lashes US Virgin Islands as Puerto Rico prepares for impact

Winds lash the coastal city of Fajardo as Hurricane Maria approaches Puerto Rico, on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Maria lashes US Virgin Islands as Puerto Rico prepares for impact

St. John Island, United States: Hurricane Maria slammed into the US Virgin Islands Tuesday, lashing the archipelago with rain as Puerto Rico braced for the Category Five storm’s expected landfall on Wednesday.
On St. John Island, which was also battered by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, locals reported seeing trees dramatically swaying in swirling winds, with rain pouring “sideways.”
Judi Buckley, former senator for St. Croix Island, traveled to St. John from her South Carolina home to help with the Irma relief effort — only to get caught up in Maria.
“Rain is coming through sideways and the trees are swaying,” she told AFP.
“We have become the Irma relief hub and our brothers and sisters across the pond can’t afford for us to be crippled,” she said, referring to those on St. Croix.
Maria’s 160 mile (255 kilometer) per hour winds had already roared into the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica Tuesday, with official communications to the island completely cut off in the wake of the storm.
“We have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Dominica’s premier Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook.
But amateur radio operators on the island, home to 72,000 people, have been able to get word out about Maria’s impact — with some reporting downed trees and roofs of homes blown off.
Both a team of Trinidian authorities and a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency team had to abort rescue and rehabilitation operations to Dominica due to continued intense winds. Both teams hoped to fly out Wednesday instead.
The US National Hurricane Center warned of a “potentially catastrophic” impact as Maria churned northwest toward the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Tuesday — with Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello describing it as “the worst storm of the last century.”
US President Donald Trump vowed “help” to the island’s residents on Twitter, writing “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you- will be there to help!“


Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet is sworn in, Imran Khan pledges change

Updated 13 min ago
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Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet is sworn in, Imran Khan pledges change

  • President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to 16 federal ministers in Islamabad
  • Separately, Prime Minister Imran Khan has also appointed five advisers to his Cabinet

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s 21-member Cabinet was sworn in Monday, a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan pledged to cut government spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds.
President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath of office to 16 federal ministers in Islamabad. Separately, Khan has also appointed five advisers to his Cabinet.
Khan, whose populist party won most parliament seats in the July 25 elections but fell short of a majority, forcing it to form a coalition, took the oath of office on Saturday as Pakistan’s 22nd premier. He campaigned on promises of rooting out endemic corruption and breaking powerful landowners’ monopoly on political power.
“I want to see Pakistan a great country” with social services for the poor, Khan said.
Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, said after taking his oath of office that he is aware of foreign policy challenges ahead. Foreign policy, he said, will be revised and set on the correct path, in the “interest of Pakistan.”
Qureshi said he would reach out to counterparts in the region and focus on key issues of critical importance to Pakistan.
“Pakistan needs a peaceful and stabilized Afghanistan; our future is linked to peace in Afghanistan” Qureshi said. He said he wants to visit Kabul soon with a message that “we have to help and support each other and have to look for solutions of each other’s problems.”
Both neighboring India and Pakistan are nuclear powers and cannot afford any adventure, he said. “We have long standing, complex problems and have no option but to start a dialogue.”
He welcomed that Indian Prime Minister Modi in a congratulatory message to Khan expressed desire for talks.
As for ties with the United States, Qureshi said Pakistan wants bilateral relations based on respect and trust.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to make a stop in Islamabad on his way to India and Afghanistan in the first week of September.
“There is a trust deficit in our relations from both sides and we have to bridge it” Qureshi said of US and Pakistan. “In meetings with the US secretary of state, I will boldly apprise him of our aspirations.”