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

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.

Mindanao martial law extended until Dec. 2019

Updated 12 December 2018

Mindanao martial law extended until Dec. 2019

  • Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, after Daesh fighters seized the city of Marawi

MANILA: Martial law will be extended in the Philippine island of Mindanao until Dec. 31, 2019, after Congress on Wednesday approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s request.

Duterte first imposed martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, after Daesh-inspired fighters seized the city of Marawi. After a 60-day grace period, he asked for and was granted a five-month extension.

The president in his latest request cited a security assessment by the military, and the police indicating that terrorism remained a problem on the island. He wrote to Congress saying the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Daulah Islamiyah (DI) and other militant groups continued to defy the government by carrying out hostile activities.

Congress voted overwhelmingly in favor of his request, with 235 for and 28 against.

“A further extension of the implementation of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao will enable the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),  the PNP (Philippine National Police) and all other law enforcement agencies to finally put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and continue to prevent the same from escalating in other parts of the country,” Duterte said in his letter.

“We cannot afford to give the rebels further breathing room to regroup and strengthen their forces. Public safety indubitably requires such further extension in order to avoid the further loss of lives and physical harm, not only to our soldiers and the police, but also to our civilians.”

Some of those who voted against the extension said there was no constitutional basis for it or anything that looked like an uprising. 

There was also concern about further unrest in Mindanao.

"Prolonged martial rule in a large area affecting the lives of millions of our citizens is authoritarian and contrary to our constitutional democracy. Worse, it will not improve the economic welfare of our citizens," said opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Other lawmakers said there was not enough evidence that the whole of Mindanao was under threat.

Frederick Siao, from Mindanao, asked the government to produce clear and verifiable results but backed the president’s request.

"99 percent of my constituents in Iligan City are in favor of martial law extension in the whole of Mindanao. I ask the government to slash away security threats by at least 30 percent, decimate lawless groups in one year. There is no forever martial law in Mindanao."