Nearly 2 million, mostly in Florida, without power in Irma’s wake

A house rests on the beach after collapsing off a cliff from Hurricane Irma in Vilano Beach, Fla., Friday. (AP)
Updated 15 September 2017

Nearly 2 million, mostly in Florida, without power in Irma’s wake

MIAMI: About 1.9 million homes and businesses in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas remained without power from Hurricane Irma on Friday, five days after the deadly storm ripped through the US Southeast.
Irma, which ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms on record before striking the US mainland as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 10, took at least 82 deaths. Several hard-hit Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, suffered more than half the fatalities.
About 1.8 million customers were without electricity in Florida, including 281,400 homes and businesses served by municipal power companies and electric cooperatives.
Among the state’s public utilities, Florida Power & Light, owned by NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE.N) and the state’s biggest electric company, reported about 1.1 million customers had no power. Duke Energy Corp. (DUK.N) said 375,400 customers were in the dark and Tampa Electric, a unit of Emera Inc. (EMA.TO), said about 36,600 were without electricity.
Another 116,900 customers in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina also remained in the dark on Friday.
At least 32 deaths have been reported in Florida and seven more combined in Georgia and South Carolina.
The death toll includes eight elderly people who died after being exposed to sweltering heat inside a nursing home north of Miami that had been left with little or no air conditioning after the hurricane struck.
The deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Wednesday stirred outrage over what many saw as a preventable tragedy and heightened concerns about the vulnerability of the state’s large elderly population amid widespread, lingering power outages.
“It was unnecessary,” Bendetta Craig, whose 87-year-old mother was among dozens of residents safely moved from the center, told reporters on Thursday.
“I don’t know what happened inside. I wasn’t there. I hope the truth comes out. It is just senseless,” she said.
Police obtained a search warrant on Thursday in their criminal investigation into the deaths, while Florida’s health care agency ordered the nursing home to be suspended from the state Medicaid program.
FPL, which serves nearly 5 million homes and businesses, said it expects to restore power to essentially all its users, in the eastern portion of Florida, by the end of the weekend and the harder-hit western portion of the state by Sept. 22.
Duke, which serves the northern and central parts of Florida, said on its website it expects to restore service to most customers by midnight on Sunday.
Irma rampaged through the Caribbean, devastating several islands and raking the northern shore of Cuba last week before barreling into the Florida Keys island chain on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 215 km per hour.
US President Donald Trump visited Florida Gulf Coast communities recovering from the hurricane on Thursday, praising first-responders for their role in limiting the loss of life.


Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

Updated 19 min 4 sec ago

Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

  • During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days
  • The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was shrouded in a toxic haze for the second straight day on Thursday, and visibility dropped due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds that let deadly pollutants hang in the air.
The air quality index crossed 400 on a scale of 500, indicative of “severe” conditions that pose a risk for healthy people and can seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The index measures the concentration of deadly pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can contribute to the risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Federal pollution control officials were tracking the air quality status, Prashant Gargava, member secretary at the Central Pollution Control Board, told Reuters.
The board falls under the federal environment ministry.
Under an emergency action plan, authorities shut down brick kilns and halted all construction activity during the day.
During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days, according to a record of official data compiled by Reuters.
The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month.
Air quality levels have crossed 400 for a second time this month despite farm fires from Delhi’s neighboring states — blamed by authorities as the primary cause for poor air quality in recent weeks — coming to an end with the onset of winter.
“Now fire counts are almost stopped except in a few routine incidences and hence no contribution to Delhi’s air quality is expected now onwards for the season,” government-run monitor SAFAR said.
The relentless focus on stamping out farm fires every year tends to deflect scrutiny from authorities that are falling behind on cleaning up industry or improving public transport, critics say.
Vehicular exhausts, along with emissions from industry, contribute more than 50% of Delhi’s air pollution on most days through the year, according to official estimates.
SAFAR forecast rain later on Thursday, but added that Delhi’s air quality was likely to deteriorate next week due to foggy conditions.