Five dead in Carolinas as Florence brings ‘epic’ floods

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A downed tree and water from the Neuse river are seen on a flooded street during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, US, September 14, 2018. (Reuters)
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People move a wood and metal structure off a roadway after winds from Hurricane Florence blew it off a sales lot in Florence, SC, Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. (AP)
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A vehicle makes its way on US Highway 17 South during Hurricane Florence in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, September 14, 2018. (Reuters)
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Volunteers from all over North Carolina help rescue residents and their pets from their flooded homes during Hurricane Florence September 14, 2018 in New Bern, North Carolina. (AFP)
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A fallen tree lies atop the crushed roof of a fast food restaurant after the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Wilmington, North Carolina, September 14, 2018. (Reuters)
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Leaves, branches and other debris surround and cover a car during the passing of Hurricane Florence in the town of New Bern, North Carolina, US on September 14, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Five dead in Carolinas as Florence brings ‘epic’ floods

  • Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore
  • More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed part of the roof

WILMINGTON, N.C.: Florence barreled into the Carolina coast and moved inland on Friday, knocking down trees, overflowing rivers, dumping sheets of rain and leading to the death of five people before it was downgraded to a tropical storm still capable of wreaking havoc.
A mother and her baby died when a tree fell on their home in Wilmington, North Carolina. The child’s injured father was taken to a hospital. In the state’s Pender County, a woman died of a heart attack; paramedics trying to reach her were blocked by debris.
Two people died in Lenoir County. A 78-year-old man was electrocuted attempting to connect extension cords while another man perished when he was blown down by high winds while checking on his hunting dogs, a county spokesman said.
“We knew this was going to be a big storm, but it is going to be of epic proportions,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference in Raleigh.
Cooper cited a National Weather Service forecast that said nearly the entire state could be covered in several feet of water.
Florence had been a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale with 120-mph winds as of Thursday, but dropped to a Category 1 hurricane before coming ashore.
The National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon, but warned that life-threatening storm surges — in which water is pushed by a storm over land that would normally be dry — and catastrophic freshwater flooding were still expected.
The center of the hurricane’s eye came ashore at about 7:15 a.m. EDT (1115 GMT) near Wrightsville Beach close to Wilmington, with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 kph), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
By Friday evening, the center of the storm had moved to eastern South Carolina, about 15 miles northeast of Myrtle Beach, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

NEW BERN OVERWHELMED
In New Bern, North Carolina, the storm surge “overwhelmed” the town, located at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers, Cooper said.
Officials in the town of 30,000, which dates to the early 18th century, said over 100 people were rescued from floods and the downtown was under water by Friday afternoon. Calls for help multiplied as the wind picked up and the tide rolled in.
“These are folks who decided to stay and ride out the storm for whatever reason, despite having a mandatory evacuation,” city public information officer Colleen Roberts said. “These are folks who are maybe in one-story buildings and they’re seeing the floodwaters rise.”
New Bern resident Dan Eudy said he and his brother were awakened on Thursday night by the sound of a boat ramming against his front porch. They ventured out in life jackets into the waste-deep water to tie the boat and another floating by to a tree.
Eudy and his family stayed home in New Bern in part to protect their house. “And we had no belief it would be as significant an event as it was,” he said. “This is a 500- or 1,000-year event.”
Eudy’s family has lived in New Bern since the 1850s, he said. His mom remembers Hurricane Hazel, when the water did not rise as high as his fifth step, where it was Thursday night.

30 INCHES OF RAIN
Parts of North and South Carolina were forecast to get as much as 40 inches of rain (1 meter).
More than 60 people, including many children, were evacuated from a hotel in Jacksonville, North Carolina, after strong winds collapsed part of the roof. Many of the evacuees took their pets.
Atlantic Beach, located on the state’s Outer Banks barrier islands, had received 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, the US Geological Survey said.
The White House said on Friday President Donald Trump had spoken with state and local officials, assuring them the federal government was prepared to help. Trump planned a visit to the region next week.
Nearly 900,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Carolinas early on Friday, utility officials said. Utility companies said millions were expected to lose power and restoration could take weeks.
The storm was expected to move across parts of southeastern North Carolina and eastern South Carolina on Friday and Saturday, then head north over the western Carolinas and central Appalachian Mountains early next week, the NHC said. Significant weakening was expected over the weekend.
About 10 million people could be affected by the storm.
Florence was one of two major storms threatening millions of people on opposite sides of the world. Super Typhoon Mangkhut was expected to hit an area in the Philippines on Saturday that would affect 5.2 million people.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”