Harvey moves into Louisiana, with at least 25 dead, 17 missing

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A car gets towed while men walk in the flooded waters of Telephone Rd. in Houston Houston, Texas on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Michael Roberts, who came from northeast Louisiana, looks for residents to rescue in flood waters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 31 August 2017

Harvey moves into Louisiana, with at least 25 dead, 17 missing

LAKE CHARLES, Louisiana/HOUSTON: Tropical Storm Harvey spun across southeastern Texas into Louisiana on Wednesday, sending more people fleeing for shelter after swamping Houston with record rains and flooding that killed at least 25 and drove tens of thousands from their homes.
The slow-moving storm has forced 32,000 people to seek shelter since coming ashore on Friday near Corpus Christi, Texas, as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than half a century. On Wednesday, it pummeled a stretch of coast from Port Arthur, Texas, to Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Among the latest deaths reported were two people who drowned while driving through high water near Simonton, Texas, 40 miles (64 km) west of Houston, Major Chad Norvell of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.
Houston’s KHOU-TV reported that an infant girl was swept away by floodwaters as her parents were driving from Houston toward Louisiana on Highway 150. Police in Harris County, home to Houston, said 17 people remained missing.
Busloads of people fleeing floodwaters around Port Arthur arrived in Lake Charles, joining local residents who had already packed into shelters to escape waterlogged homes.
Harvey was forecast to drop a further 3 to 6 inches (7.5-15 cm) of rain on Wednesday, with a storm surge of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) along the western part of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. The floods shut the nation’s largest oil refinery in Port Arthur in the latest hit to US energy infrastructure that has sent gasoline prices climbing and disrupted global fuel supplies.

’WORST NOT YET OVER’
Moody’s Analytics is estimating the economic cost from Harvey for southeast Texas at $51 billion to $75 billion, ranking it among the costliest storms in US history.
“The worst is not yet over for southeast Texas as far as the rain is concerned,” Governor Greg Abbott said.
He warned residents of storm-hit areas to expect floodwaters to linger for up to a week and said the area affected was larger than that hit by 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,800 people in New Orleans, and 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which killed 132 around New York and New Jersey.
The population of Houston’s metropolitan area is about 6.5 million, far greater than New Orleans’ at the time of Katrina. Abbott asked that the federal government spend more on rebuilding Texas’ Gulf Coast than it did after the earlier storms.
US President Donald Trump opened a speech on tax reform in Springfield, Missouri, on Wednesday with a pledge to stand by the people of Texas and Louisiana. He visited Texas on Tuesday to survey damage from the first major natural disaster of his presidency.
“We are here with you today ... and we will be with you every single day after to restore, recover and rebuild,” he said on Wednesday.
The storm made it less likely Trump would act on his threat to shut the federal government over funding for a border wall with Mexico, Goldman Sachs economists said on Wednesday. They now estimate the probability of a shutdown at 35 percent, down from 50 percent previously.
Clear skies in Houston on Wednesday brought relief to the energy hub and fourth-largest US city after five days of catastrophic downpours. Houston airports were to begin limited operations on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
Disruptions lingered as even some of the people helping evacuees in Houston said they had lost their homes.

’TRYING TO FIND MY FAMILY’
Even those who safely evacuated their homes found further suffering as floodwaters inundated part of Port Arthur’s Bob Bowers Civic Center, forcing the residents who had sought shelter there into the bleachers, according to photos posted to social media.
A shelter in Lake Charles was bracing for about 1,500 people rescued from floods by the US Coast Guard, said Angela Jouett, who is running the shelter. A line of buses began arriving in the early afternoon.
Among them was Jacelyn Alexander, 41, who woke up at 4 a.m. when her neighbor in an Orange, Texas, apartment complex warned her the building was flooding. She flagged a rescue boat and escaped.
“I can’t move. I’m wet and tired. I’m trying to find my family,” said Alexander, who last spoke with her parents early in the morning when her father told her by phone he had declined a rescue.
Harvey made landfall for a third time early on Wednesday, and was about 50 miles (80 km) north of Lake Charles, near the Texas border at 4 p.m. CDT (2100 GMT), the US National Hurricane Center said. The winds were expected to drop below tropical storm force by Wednesday night, according to the NHC.
Texas officials said close to 49,000 homes had suffered flood damage, with more than 1,000 destroyed. Some 195,000 people have begun the process of seeking federal help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.
The state is investigating hundreds of complaints of price gouging involving loaves of bread offered for $15, fuel for $100 a gallon and hotels raising room rates.
The nation’s largest refinery, Valero Energy Corp’s facility in Port Arthur was shut, said sources familiar with plant operations.
The storm has shut about one-quarter of US fuel production, sending gasoline futures surging to a two-year high on Wednesday.
Royal Dutch Shell sent staff back to the Perdido oil and gas platform in the US Gulf of Mexico to begin to restart production.

 


EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

Updated 18 October 2019

EU leaders split over $1.2 trillion post-Brexit budget

  • Under a proposal prepared by Finland, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU GNI, a measure of output
  • After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders discussed a new budget plan on Friday that could allow the EU to spend up to 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) in the 2021-2027 period, but deep divisions among governments may block a deal for months.
Under a proposal prepared by Finland, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, the next long-term budget should have a financial capacity between 1.03% and 1.08% of the EU gross national income (GNI), a measure of output.
That would allow the EU to spend 1 trillion to 1.1 trillion euros for seven years in its first budget after the departure of Britain, one of the top contributors to EU coffers.
After the meeting, some EU leaders and officials described the talks as difficult.
The Finnish document, seen by Reuters, is less ambitious than proposals put forward by the European Commission, the EU executive, which is seeking a budget worth 1.1% of GNI. The EU parliament called for an even bigger budget, 1.3% of GNI.
But the Finnish proposal moves beyond a 1% cap set by Germany, the largest EU economy. And it has displeased most of the 27 EU states, EU officials said, suggesting long negotiations before a compromise can be reached.
Talks on budgets are usually among the most divisive in an EU increasingly prone to quarrels. The member states are deeply split over economic policies, financial reforms and how to handle migrants.

DEEP SPLIT
The Finnish proposal, which cuts spending on farmers and poorer regions, has managed to unite the divided EU leaders in their criticism.
“The text has caused nearly unanimous dissatisfaction,” a diplomat involved in the talks said.
New, expensive policies, such as protecting its borders and increasing social security, have been enacted, but states are reluctant to pay more.
Germany and other Nordic supporters of a smaller budget argue that because of Brexit, they would pay more into the EU even with a 1% cap because they would need to compensate for the loss of Britain.
Eastern and southern states, who benefit from EU funds on poorer regions and agriculture, want a bigger budget and are not happy with Finland’s proposed cuts on these sectors.
Under the proposal, subsidies to poor regions would drop to less than 30% of the budget from 34% now. Aid to farmers would fall to slightly more than 30% from over 35% of the total.
To complicate matters, the new budget should also include rules that would suspend funding to member states with rule-of-law shortcomings, such as limits on media freedom or curbs on the independence of judges.
This is irking states like Poland and Hungary, which Brussels has accused of breaches in the rule of law after judiciary and media reforms adopted by their right-wing governments.
Friday’s meeting was not supposed to find a compromise, but divisions are so deep that many officials fear a deal may not be reached by a self-imposed December deadline. A later deal would delay the launch of spending programs.
The Finns remained confident, however, and insist their suggested spending range would eventually be backed by EU states. “The fact that almost everybody is against our text shows we have put forward a fair proposal,” one diplomat said.