Irma powers toward Florida, leaving behind path of death, destruction

Haitian people walk through the wind and rain on a beach, in Cap-Haitien on September 7, 2017, as Hurricane Irma approaches. (AFP)
Updated 08 September 2017

Irma powers toward Florida, leaving behind path of death, destruction

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos: Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, drove toward Florida on Friday as it lashed the Caribbean with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and a swathe of catastrophic destruction.
Irma was about 55 miles (85 km) south of Great Inagua Island early on Friday, after soaking the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and pummeling the Turks and Caicos Islands.
A Category 5 hurricane, the highest designation by the National Hurricane Center, the storm has grown as large and France and packed winds as strong as 185 miles per hour (290 km per hour).
It was heading for the Bahamas, where it was expected to bring 20-foot (six-meter) storm surges before moving to Cuba and then slamming into southern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Sunday.
In Miami, hundreds lined up for bottled water and cars looped around city blocks to get gas on Thursday. Gasoline shortages in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area worsened on Thursday, with sales up to five times the norm.
In Palm Beach, the waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate owned by US President Donald Trump was ordered evacuated, media said. Trump also owns property on the French side of Saint Martin, an island devastated by the storm.
A mandatory evacuation on Georgia’s Atlantic coast was due to begin on Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal said.
Irma has ravaged a series of small islands in the northeast Caribbean, including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British and US Virgin Islands, ripping down trees and flattening homes and hospitals.
A Reuters witness described the roof and walls of a well-built house shaking hard as the storm rocked the island of Providenciales and caused a drop in pressure that could be felt in people’s chests.
Throughout the islands in its wake, shocked locals tried to comprehend the extent of the devastation — and simultaneously got ready for another major hurricane, Jose, now a Category 3 and due in the northeastern Caribbean on Saturday.

Deaths rise
Four people died in the US Virgin islands, a government spokesman said, and a major hospital was badly damaged by the wind. A US amphibious assault ship arrived in the US Virgin Islands on Thursday and sent helicopters for medical evacuations from the destroyed hospital.
A man was reported missing after trying to cross a river in Cerca La Source in Haiti’s Central Plateau region.
Barbuda, where one person died, was reduced “to rubble,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne said. In the British overseas territory of Anguilla, another person was killed and the hospital, airport and power and phone services were damaged, emergency service officials said.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said four bodies were recovered on the French-Dutch island of Saint Martin, which was hit hard.
Three people were killed in Puerto Rico and around two-thirds of the population lost electricity, Governor Ricardo Rossello said after the storm rolled by the US territory’s northern coast. A surfer was also reported killed in Barbados.
The storm passed just to the north of the island of Hispaniola, shared by Dominican Republic and Haiti, causing some damage to roofs, flooding and power outages as it approached the impoverished Haitian side, which is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and rain, although it did not make landfall .
Cuba started evacuating some of the 51,000 tourists visiting the island, particularly 36,000 people at resorts on the northern coast. In Caibarien, a coastal town in the hurricane’s predicted path, residents were heading farther inland.
Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and one of the five most forceful storms to hit the Atlantic basin in 82 years, according to the NHC.
The storm activity comes after Hurricane Harvey claimed about 60 lives and caused property damage estimated at as much as $180 billion in Texas and Louisiana.


Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

Updated 32 min 30 sec ago

Interpol warns of ‘alarming’ cybercrime rate during pandemic

  • Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions
  • There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware

LYON: Global police body Interpol warned Monday of an “alarming” rate of cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic, with criminals taking advantage of people working from home to target major institutions.
An assessment by the Lyon-based organization found a “significant target shift” by criminals from individuals and small businesses to major corporations, governments and critical infrastructure.
“Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19,” said Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock.
“The increased online dependency for people around the world is also creating new opportunities, with many businesses and individuals not ensuring their cyberdefenses are up to date,” he added.
The report said cybercriminals were sending COVID-19 themed phishing emails — which seek to obtain confidential data from users — often impersonating government and health authorities.
Cybercriminals are increasingly using disruptive malware against critical infrastructure and health care institutions, it added.
In the first two weeks of April 2020, there was a rise in ramsomware attacks, in which users have to pay money to get their computer to work again.
There was also an increase in the spread of fake news and misinformation which sometimes itself conceals malware, said Interpol.
From January to April, some 907,000 spam messages, 737 incidents related to malware and 48,000 malicious URLs — all related to COVID-19 were detected by one of Interpol’s private sector partners, it said.
The agency warned the trend was set to continue and a “further increase in cybercrime is highly likely in the near future.”
“Vulnerabilities related to working from home and the potential for increased financial benefit will see cybercriminals continue to ramp up their activities and develop more advanced and sophisticated” methods, it said.
Once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Interpol said, “it is highly probable that there will be another spike in phishing related to these medical products as well as network intrusion and cyberattacks to steal data.”