Storm Harvey threatens Texas with ‘catastrophic’ floods, one dead

A dead dog lies out of the passenger window of an overturned pickup truck after Hurricane Harvey landed in the Coast Bend area in Port Aransas, Texas, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 27 August 2017

Storm Harvey threatens Texas with ‘catastrophic’ floods, one dead

ROCKPORT, Texas: The most powerful storm to hit Texas in more than 50 years has killed at least one person and is now threatening catastrophic flooding as search and rescue teams deploy to the hardest-hit zones, authorities said on Saturday.
Harvey slammed into Texas, the heart of the US oil and gas industry, late Friday as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 miles per hour (209 km per hour), making it the strongest storm to strike the state since 1961.
It ripped off roofs, snapped trees, and triggered tornadoes and flash floods, and cut power to nearly a quarter of a million people. It also curtailed a large portion of America’s oil and fuel production, prompting price hikes at the pumps.
Harvey has since weakened to a tropical storm, but is expected to lash Texas for days as it lumbers inland, bringing as much as 40 inches (102 cm) of rain to some areas, and affecting heavily populated.
Houston could receive as much as 2 to 3 inches of rain per hour overnight, Mayor Sylvester Turner said late on Saturday. The National Hurricane Center described the rain forecast for the state as potentially “catastrophic.”
“Rainfall measured in feet rather than inches can certainly create a catastrophic flood,” spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.
One person died in a house fire in the town of Rockport, 30 miles (48 km) north of the city of Corpus Christi, as Harvey roared ashore overnight, Mayor Charles Wax said in a news conference on Saturday, marking the first confirmed fatality from the storm. Another dozen people in the area suffered injuries like broken bones, another official said.
The town took a direct hit from the storm and had streets flooded and strewn with power lines and debris on Saturday afternoon. At a recreational vehicle sales lot, a dozen vehicles were flipped over and one had been blown into the middle of the street. By Saturday evening, a convoy of military vehicles had arrived in the Rockport area with people and equipment to help in the recovery efforts, and town officials announced an overnight curfew for residents.
“It was terrible,” resident Joel Valdez, 57, told Reuters. The storm ripped part of the roof from his trailer home at around 4 a.m., he said as he sat in a Jeep with windows smashed by the storm. “I could feel the whole house move.”
Before the storm hit, Rockport’s mayor told anyone staying behind to write their names on their arms for identification in case of death or injury. A high school, hotel, senior housing complex and other buildings suffered structural damage, according to emergency officials and local media. Some were being used as shelters.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Saturday said he was activating 1,800 members of the military to help with the statewide cleanup, while 1,000 people would conduct search-and-rescue operations.
The streets of Corpus Christi, which has around 320,000 residents, were deserted on Saturday, with billboards twisted and strong winds still blowing. City authorities asked residents to reduce use of toilets and faucets because power outages left waste water plants unable to treat sewage.
Elsewhere, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said it was forced to evacuate some 4,500 inmates from three state prisons near the Brazos River because of rising water. Texas utility companies, meanwhile, said 220,000 customers were without power for an indefinite period of time.
The US Coast Guard said it had rescued 20 people from distressed vessels on Saturday, and was also monitoring two Carnival Corp. cruise ships carrying thousands of people stranded in the US Gulf of Mexico due to the effects of the storm.
Harvey was a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale when it hit the coast, the second-highest category, and the most powerful storm in over a decade to come ashore anywhere in the mainland United States.

HEADING INLAND, STORM WEAKENS
Harvey weakened to tropical storm from hurricane strength on Saturday, the US National Hurricane Center said. The center of the storm was barely moving and was less than 150 miles (240 km) from Houston with sustained winds of 60 mph.
Houston, the fourth most populous city in the United States and home to a third of the 6 million people that could be impacted by Harvey, has gotten about 16 inches of rain so far, and will receive 2 to 3 more feet in the coming days, Mayor Sylvester Turner said Saturday afternoon.
“This is serious,” Turner said in a televised interview as Harvey turned into a tropical storm expected to linger over the mid Texas coast. “It is important that people stay off the roads.” Turner said the city, which has faced flooding in recent years during smaller storms, is prepared for what he described as a “major water event.”
Other authorities warned of the potentially life-threatening impact of heavy rains between Houston and Corpus Christi over the next several days.
The latest forecast storm track has Harvey looping back toward the Gulf of Mexico coast before turning north again on Tuesday.
“This rain will lead to a prolonged, dangerous, and potentially catastrophic flooding event well into next week,” the National Weather Service said.
The size and strength of Harvey dredged up memories of Katrina, the 2005 hurricane that made a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 3 storm, causing levees and flood walls to fail in dozens of places. About 1,800 died in the disaster made worse by a slow government emergency response.
US President Donald Trump, facing the first big natural disaster of his term, signed a disaster proclamation on Friday.
He met with his cabinet and staff on Saturday to discuss the federal reaction to the storm, according to a White House statement.
“President Trump emphasized his expectations that all departments and agencies stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives,” according to the statement.

Utilities American Electric Power Company Inc. and CenterPoint Energy Inc. reported a combined total of around 240,000 customers without power.
Several refiners shut down plants ahead of the storm, disrupting supplies and pushing prices higher. Many fuel stations ran out of gasoline before the storm hit, and the US Environmental Protection Agency loosened gasoline specifications late on Friday to reduce shortages.
The American Automobiles Association said pump prices rose 4 cents in four days in Texas to reach $2.17 a gallon on Friday.
Disruptions to fuel supply drove benchmark gasoline futures to their highest price in four months.
More than 45 percent of the country’s refining capacity is along the US Gulf Coast, and nearly a fifth of the nation’s crude is produced offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just under 25 percent of Gulf output, or 429,000 barrels per day (bpd) had been shut in by the storm, the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said on Saturday.


Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

Updated 11 December 2019

Italy has nothing to fear from ESM reform, PM Conte says

  • Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt
  • During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte dismissed criticisms of planned reforms to the euro zone bailout fund on Wednesday, saying the proposals, which have been heavily attacked by right-wing opposition parties, posed no threat to Italy.

Critics of the planned changes to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) say they would make it more likely that Italy will have to restructure its debt, the highest in the euro area as a proportion of national output after Greece’s.

“Italy has nothing to fear ... its debt is fully sustainable, as the main international institutions, including the (EU) Commission have said,” Conte told parliament ahead of a European Council meeting this week to discuss the reform.

He repeated that Rome would not agree to any restrictions on banks holding sovereign debt.

During his speech to parliament, Conte sharply rejected criticisms by the right-wing League and Brothers of Italy parties, saying they appeared aimed at undermining Italy’s membership of the single currency.

“Some of the positions that have emerged during the public debate have unveiled the ill-concealed hope of bringing our country out of the euro zone or even from the European Union,” Conte said.

The League and Brothers of Italy have attacked the planned reforms to the ESM, which they say will open the door for a forced restructuring of Italy’s public debt that would hit Italian banks and savers who invest in government bonds.

Some members of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement have made similar criticisms, adding to tensions with their partner in the ruling coalition, the center-left Democratic Party.

Lawmakers from 5 Star and the Democratic Party appeared to have smoothed over their differences on Wednesday, however, agreeing to drop demands for a veto on measures that could make it easier to reach a debt restructuring accord.

In a final resolution, they scrapped calls for a veto on so-called single limb collective action clauses (CACS), that limit the ability of individual investors to delay any restructuring agreement by holding out for better terms.

Under the new system, restructuring would go ahead after a single, aggregate vote by bondholders regarding all affected bonds while the clauses currently in place require an aggregate vote as well as an individual bond-by-bond vote.

Italy has asked to clarify that the new clauses will not rule out the so-called sub-aggregation, allowing separate votes for different groups of bond issuances to protect small investors, a government official told Reuters.