Macedonia storms kill 20

WRONG TURN: A man takes a photo of damaged vehicles following floods in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2016
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Macedonia storms kill 20

SKOPJE: Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia’s capital of Skopje, the health minister said Sunday.
The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 km an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents.
Weather officials said the average rainfall for the whole of August fell on Skopje in the space of just two hours. “Unfortunately, 20 people have died,” said Health Minister Nikola Todorov, who is coordinating rescue operations.
Local media reported that about 100 others suffered injuries, most of them minor, while a hospital source told AFP that an eight-year-old girl was among the dead.
An emergency was declared in Skopje and certain parts of the northwestern city of Tetovo, where heavy storms caused property damage but no casualties.
“This is a disaster, we have never experienced such a thing,” said Skopje’s Mayor Koce Trajanovski. Rain began falling at 5:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) on Saturday and stopped only around 9:30 on Sunday morning, with the peak of the storm in the middle of the night, around 3:30 am.
Reports said the water level reached as high as five feet in some of the affected areas, which were being combed by Macedonia’s police and army for survivors and other victims.
Especially badly hit were villages on the outskirts of the capital including Smilkovci, Singelic, Stajkovci and Aracinovo.
“Everything was a mess. Televisions, the fridge, the sofa, everything was floating... it was a nightmare,” said Baze Spriovski, a 43-year-old in Singelic, who remained without electricity.
Macedonia’s weather service said 93 liters per square meter fell in two hours on Skopje, equivalent to the average for an entire month of August.
Meteorologists said more than 800 lightning strikes were recorded in the first two hours of the storm, which went on for about five hours in total.
“There were thunderbolts with lightning almost every second. It was really horrific,” said Biljana Joneska, 62, in Skopje.
Municipal authorities urged people to avoid going out in the streets, especially driving, with several roads of the capital still flooded and traffic interrupted on the city’s ring road.
Severe thunderstorms also affected the holiday spot of Lake Ohrid in the southwest.
Skopje previously suffered disastrous flooding in 1962, a year before a huge earthquake that almost destroyed the city.
In the spring of 2014, the Balkans region was hit by its worst floods in more than a century, which left 47 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia.
A total of 1.6 million people were affected.
The forecast for Sunday showed unsettled weather in landlocked Macedonia, with possible new showers and strong winds.


US Coast Guard seizes $500 million worth of cocaine

Updated 37 min 14 sec ago
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US Coast Guard seizes $500 million worth of cocaine

  • Officers arrested 49 suspects on the boats that were being used to transport the drugs
  • Officials say there are indications that the use of cocaine is on the increase

US authorities seized about 18.5 tons of cocaine with a street value of $500 million in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the US Coast Guard said on Friday.
The cocaine was taken off the Coast Guard cutter James in the Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday after it was confiscated from 15 drug smuggling vessels in the international waters, the Coast Guard said.
Multiple US Coast Guard cutters helped seize the drugs of Mexico, Central and South America, it said.
Some 49 suspects were also arrested and will be prosecuted in southern Florida, the Miami Herald reported.
Cocaine remains one of the most popular illegal drugs in the United States, where most of the world’s cocaine is consumed, according to federal officials.
“There are troubling early signs that cocaine use and availability is on the rise in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade,” the US State Department said in a global narcotics trade report in 2017.
Potential global cocaine output reached 1,410 tons in 2016, the highest level ever estimated, the United Nations said in a report on drugs and crime in 2018.