India braces for cyclone, puts navy on alert

A fisherman carries his tools as he leaves for a safer place after tying his boats along the shore ahead of Cyclone Fani in Peda Jalaripeta on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, India. (Reuters)
Updated 01 May 2019

India braces for cyclone, puts navy on alert

  • Tropical Cyclone Fani, located in the Bay of Bengal and packing wind speeds up to 205 kilometers per hour, is expected to make landfall at Odisha state Friday
  • Authorities have ordered the evacuation of thousands of people from coastal districts likely to bear the brunt of the storm

BHUBANESWAR, India: India deployed emergency personnel Wednesday and ordered the navy on standby as it braced for an extremely severe cyclonic storm barrelling toward the eastern coast.
Tropical Cyclone Fani, located in the Bay of Bengal and packing wind speeds up to 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour, is expected to make landfall at Odisha state Friday.
Authorities have also ordered the evacuation of thousands of people from coastal districts likely to bear the brunt of the storm.
The neighboring coastal states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have also been put on a high alert.
India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said sea conditions were “phenomenal” over the west-central Bay of Bengal area.
“Fishermen are advised not to venture into these areas,” NDMA warned on Twitter.
The office of the state’s special relief commissioner said local authorities had been told to identify “all vulnerable people... and shift them to multipurpose cyclone/flood shelters.”
“Arrangements have already been made for free kitchen, safe drinking water, lighting, health and sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Local media reports say there are over 850 shelters in the state that can accommodate around one million people.
H.R Biswas, director of the meteorological center in state capital Bhubaneshwar, said at least 11 districts would be affected by severe rainfall.
“We have suggested people to stay indoors,” he told reporters.
Coastal Puri town, some 62 km (40 miles) from Bhubaneshwar, has also been put a high alert.
Puri is home to Shree Jagannath, one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, which receives millions of pilgrims each year.
The government also advised the pilgrims to leave the holy town, if possible, and to reschedule any non-essential travel in the region.
India’s weather department, in an advisory, asked all fishermen in the state to return to shore by late Wednesday.
The department warned of “potential threat of flying objects ... Extensive uprooting of communication and power poles ...Disruption of rail, road.”
One local agency said that it had kept around 300 boats and crew on standby for rescue or relief work in the next 48 to 72 hours.
India’s election commission has eased its restrictions in Odisha’s coastal districts to allow the state authorities to carry out swift relief and rehabilitation work.
The rules, which apply during elections, suspend certain powers of the incumbent government to announce new schemes or take fresh administrative decisions.
Odisha, which has a population of around 46 million, has already voted in India’s ongoing election, which started on April 11.
The seventh and final phase of voting will be held on May 19, with counting and results due May 23.
Odisha had to evacuate some 300,000 people last October when its coastal districts were battered by cyclone Titli, with winds up to 150 km (95 miles) per hour and heavy rains.
At least two people were killed in the cyclone.
Storms regularly hit eastern and southeastern India between April and December. In 2017, Cyclone Ockhi left nearly 250 people dead in Tamil Nadu and Kerala states.
Odisha’s worst-ever cyclone, in 1999, killed over 8,000 people.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 10 August 2020

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”