US readies for ‘big one’ as Hurricane Florence approaches Carolinas

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Members of the media report from from the Wrightsville Beach Pier ahead of the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence on September 12, 2018 in Wrightsville Beach, United States. (AFP)
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The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort departs from Naval Station Norfolk ahead of Hurricane Florence in Norfolk, Virginia, U.S September 11, 2018. Picture taken September 11, 2018. (Reuters)
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Chris and Nicole Roland walk down a beach in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. The couple boarded up their uncle's condominium and are leaving soon as Hurricane Florence approaches. (AP)
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A surfer catches a wave a day before the arrival of Hurricane Florence at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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US readies for ‘big one’ as Hurricane Florence approaches Carolinas

  • Trump, warning residents to get out of the way, said the federal government was “ready for the big one that is coming”
  • Flash floods and storm surges are expected to send water gushing over miles of vulnerable coastal areas

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, USA: People fleeing North and South Carolina clogged coastal highways early Wednesday as Hurricane Florence, a monster Category 4 storm, bore down on the US east coast for a direct hit in a low-lying region dense with beachfront vacation homes.
President Donald Trump, warning residents to get out of the way, said the federal government was “ready for the big one that is coming.”
While coastal residents frantically boarded up homes and businesses and hit the road, others chose to ride out a storm that is forecast to dump up to three feet (almost a meter) of rain in some areas.
Flash floods and storm surges — in some cases up to 13 feet high — are expected to send water gushing over miles of vulnerable coastal areas and river banks further inland.


North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned that staying put would be a grave mistake. He urged people to leave immediately rather than face the wrath of the “once in a lifetime” storm.
Up to 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia have been given voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, according to emergency management officials, as the storm churned across the Atlantic Ocean toward the coast.
The eastbound lanes of several major highways have been shut down to allow traffic to flow inland, but the exodus was slow along roads jammed with outward-bound vehicles.
“We are already experiencing heavily impacted traffic on some of the evacuation routes,” said Jeff Byard, the associate administrator for response and recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Forecasters are predicting that Florence will make landfall in the Carolinas late Thursday or early Friday as a slightly weakened but still dangerous Category 3 hurricane.
As of 8:00 am (1200 GMT), it was packing sustained winds of 130 miles (210 kilometers) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
The eye was about 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour.
“Get out of its way, don’t play games with it, it’s a big one, maybe as big as they’ve seen, and tremendous amounts of water,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter.
“We’ll handle it. We’re ready, we’re able, we’ve got the finest people I think anywhere in the world.”
FEMA Administrator Brock Long urged people to prepare for a “very devastating storm,” with possibly weeks-long power outages.
Byard, the FEMA official, said “this storm is not going to be a glancing blow.”
“This storm is going to be a direct hit,” he added.
“Hurricane Florence is the strongest storm to target the Carolinas and this part of our country in decades.”
Predictions now have the storm stalling and making a slight southward turn after it makes landfall.
A state of emergency has been declared in Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington amid concern over potential torrential rain and flooding.
In Charleston, South Carolina, streets were quiet with schools and many offices and businesses closed.
Michael Kennedy, an engineer at Boeing, said he planned to leave for his parents’ home in Atlanta, Georgia.
But his partner, Emily Whisler, said she will stay at the university where she is a resident in the psychiatry program.
“They told me to bring a pillow and blanket,” Whisler said. “I’ll be living there for a few days.”
Charleston resident William Belli said he would not be among those joining the exodus.
“Been through it!” Belli said, referring to Hurricane Hugo, which caused widespread damage in South Carolina in 1989. “Not worried in the least.”
Walking his dog along empty streets, Belli said he’s well stocked with food and water.
“I will enjoy the quiet,” he said.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents. Schools in 26 of the state’s 46 counties were ordered closed.
Authorities in neighboring North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination, and parts of coastal Dare County.
In Virginia, 245,000 coastal residents were ordered to evacuate, including from the Eastern Shore, another popular beachfront destination.
In neighboring Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan said his state was readying for potentially “historic and catastrophic rainfall, life-threatening flooding, and high winds.”
By Saturday, total rainfall could accumulate to 30 inches (76 centimeters) — or even 40 inches in places — in parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, the NHC said.
The Virginia National Guard is planning to initially bring up to 1,500 soldiers and airmen to offer help in the state’s response operations.
Some 7,000 guard members are ready to mobilize in North Carolina, while 1,100 will be activated in South Carolina.
At this height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two other storms, Hurricane Helene and Tropical Storm Isaac, but neither packs the deadly punch of Florence.


India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

Updated 23 September 2018
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India launches world’s biggest health care scheme, dubbed as ‘Modicare’ 

  •  “Modicare” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to half a billion people
  • The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a mega health care scheme, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme, on Sunday in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. 

The National Health Protection Scheme, popularly known as “Modicare,” plans to provide around $7,000 of medical coverage to 100 million families or 500 million people, accounting for around 41 percent of people who fall below the poverty line.

 “The aim is to provide medical care to the people standing at the very margin of society. It has been a dream to provide health care to the needy and that dream is coming true today,” Modi said in a speech after inaugurating the scheme.

 “This is the first time in the world that a health care program is being launched where an individual will have an insurance cover of 5 lakh rupees ($7,000).”

The program has been launched in 400 districts out of 640 in India.

The intervention is meant to take the burden off the government hospitals and bring the expensive private hospitals within the reach of poor people.

For Ganesh Yadav, a daily wage earner, the “Ayushman Bharat Yojna,” as the program is officially called, is “a good move by the government if it really works.

 “Last year I spent more than 50,000 rupees ($720) in getting a kidney stone removed in a private hospital and I am still struggling to pay back the debt that I incurred. If the Modicare really works then poor people like me will not have to worry about the expenses in health care,” said Yadav, who lives in Noida, a satellite town of Delhi.

But one doctor raises doubts about the success of the program.

“An earlier health scheme also had the provision for insurance cover but the out-of-cost expenses of the poor people could not come down. There is a lack of clarity on this issue in the new scheme as well,” says Dr. Shakil, a cardiologist based in Patna, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
 
Talking to Arab News, he asks: “How will you identify the real beneficiaries? Besides, the scheme will not build public health infrastructure but give benefit to the private players, which I think is the real drawback of this policy.
 
“The government is in a hurry to launch the scheme and not many preparations have gone into it before inaugurating it.”

Economist Venkat Narayana questions the budgetary provisions for the scheme. “Under the scheme 60 percent of expenses would be borne by the central government and 40 percent by the state government. But the poorer states cannot afford the huge sums involved in the expenditure,” says Narayana, who also runs NGOs for poor people in Warangal district in the South Indian state of Telangana.

“My experience suggests that such a program does not address the real health care needs of the people living in villages and smaller cities. The money that the government plans to spend on insurance can be spent in expanding and enriching the medical infrastructure across the country.”

But Nirala, a political activist associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, feels that “this is a visionary intervention in the health care system of the country.

“Modi has tried to address the gap that exists in medical system of the country by bringing private hospitals within the reach of the poor masses,” he told Arab News.

Political analyst Pawan Pratyay, however, feels that Prime Minister Modi "has played a big political gamble in the election year by launching this attractive looking and sounding health care policy.

“The government has been cutting the health budget year after year. By bringing this pro-poor scheme Modi wants to change the pro-rich image that he has acquired over the years and attract the voters from the economically marginalized demography.”