Powerful tornadoes kill more than 80 in five US states

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Updated 12 December 2021

Powerful tornadoes kill more than 80 in five US states

Powerful tornadoes kill more than 80 in five US states

MAYFIELD, United States: Dozens of devastating tornadoes roared through five US states overnight, leaving more than 80 people dead Saturday in what President Joe Biden said was “one of the largest” storm outbreaks in history.
“It’s a tragedy,” a shaken Biden said in televised comments. “And we still don’t know how many lives are lost and the full extent of the damage.”
As darkness fell Saturday scores of search and rescue officials were helping stunned citizens across the US heartland sift through the rubble of their homes and businesses searching for any more survivors.
More than 70 people are believed to have been killed in Kentucky alone, many of them workers at a candle factory, while at least six died in an Amazon warehouse in Illinois where they were on the night shift processing orders ahead of Christmas.
“This event is the worst, most devastating, most deadly tornado event in Kentucky’s history,” said Kentucky governor Andy Beshear, adding he fears “we will have lost more than 100 people.”
“The devastation is unlike anything I have seen in my life, and I have trouble putting it into words,” the governor told reporters.
The western Kentucky town of Mayfield was reduced to “matchsticks,” its mayor said.
The small town of 10,000 people was described as “ground zero” by officials, and appeared post-apocalyptic: city blocks leveled; historic homes and buildings beaten down to their slabs; tree trunks stripped of their branches; cars overturned in fields.
Beshear said there were some 110 people working at the candle factory when the storm hit, causing the roof to collapse.
Forty people have been rescued, but it would be “a miracle if anybody else is found alive,” he said.
CNN played a heart-rending plea posted on Facebook by one of the factory’s employees.
“We are trapped, please, y’all, get us some help,” a woman says, her voice quavering as a co-worker can be heard moaning in the background. “We are at the candle factory in Mayfield. ... Please, y’all. Pray for us.”
The woman, Kyanna Parsons-Perez, was rescued after being pinned under a water fountain.

“When I walked out of City Hall this morning, it — it looked like matchsticks,” Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan told CNN.
“Our downtown churches have been destroyed, our courthouse... is destroyed, our water system is not functioning at this time, there is no power.”
“It looks like a bomb has exploded,” 31-year-old Mayfield resident Alex Goodman told AFP.
David Norseworthy, a 69-year-old builder in Mayfield, said the storm blew off his roof and front porch while the family hid in a shelter.
“We never had anything like that here,” he told AFP.
In a parking lot in downtown Mayfield, volunteers were collecting warm clothes, diapers and water for residents.
The tornado that smashed through Mayfield had rumbled along the ground for over 200 miles in Kentucky and for 227 miles overall, Beshear said.
Previously, the longest a US tornado has ever tracked along the ground was a 219-mile storm in Missouri in 1925. It claimed 695 lives.
In one demonstration of the storms’ awesome power on Saturday, when winds derailed a 27-car train near Earlington, Kentucky, one car was blown 75 yards up a hill and another landed on a house. No one was hurt.

Reports put the total number of tornadoes across the region at around 30.
At least 13 people were killed in other storm-hit states, including at the Amazon warehouse in Illinois, bringing the total toll to 83.
In Arkansas, at least one person died when a tornado “pretty much destroyed” a nursing home in Monette, a county official said. Another person died elsewhere in the state.
Four people died in Tennessee, while one died in Missouri.
Biden promised the full assistance of the federal government and said he planned to travel to the affected areas.
Scientists have warned that climate change is making storms more powerful and frequent. Biden said that while the impact on these particular storms was not yet clear, “We all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming, everything.”
The American Red Cross said it was working to provide relief across all five states.
Beshear declared a state of emergency in Kentucky and said scores of search and rescue officials had been deployed along with the national guard.
More than half a million homes in several states were left without power, according to PowerOutage.com.

When another tornado hit an Amazon warehouse in the southern Illinois city of Edwardsville around 100 workers were trapped inside.
Hundreds of workers scrambled to rescue the trapped employees.
“We identified 45 personnel who made it out of the building safely, one who had to be airlifted to a regional hospital for treatment, and six fatalities,” Edwardsville, Illinois fire chief James Whiteford told a press conference.
Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said its workers’ safety was the company’s “top priority.”


Half a million Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain

Half a million Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain
Updated 7 sec ago

Half a million Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain

Half a million Indians flee floods in northeast brought by rain
  • One of the world’s largest rivers, the Brahmaputra, burst its banks in Assam over the last three days, inundating more than 1,500 villages
GUWAHATI, India: More than 500,000 people have fled their homes in India’s northeastern state of Assam to escape heavy floods triggered by pre-monsoon rains that drowned seven, authorities said on Wednesday, as they warned the situation could worsen.
One of the world’s largest rivers, the Brahmaputra, which flows into India and neighboring Bangladesh from Tibet, burst its banks in Assam over the last three days, inundating more than 1,500 villages.
Torrential rains lashed most of the rugged state, and the downpour continued on Wednesday, with more forecast over the next two days.
“More than 500,000 people have been affected, with the flood situation turning critical by the hour,” Assam’s water resources minister, Pijush Hazarika said, adding that the seven drowned in separate incidents during the last three days.
Soldiers of the Indian army retrieved more than 2,000 people trapped in the district of Hojai in a rescue effort that continues, the state’s health minister, Keshab Mahanta, said.
Water levels in the Brahmaputra were expected to rise further, national authorities said.
“The situation remains extremely grave in the worst-hit Dima Hasao district, with both rail and road links snapped due to flooding and landslides,” said Assam’s revenue minister, Jogen Mohan, who is overseeing relief efforts there.
Cities elsewhere in India, notably the capital, New Delhi, are broiling in a heat wave.

Australian election polls show race tightening in final campaign stretch

Australian election polls show race tightening in final campaign stretch
Updated 51 min 3 sec ago

Australian election polls show race tightening in final campaign stretch

Australian election polls show race tightening in final campaign stretch
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison describes the pre-polling trends as ‘really encouraging’
  • Opposition leader Anthony Albanese blames government mismanagement for the slow rise in wages and inflation shock

SYDNEY: Australia’s national election has become too close to call, polls out on Wednesday showed, as the ruling conservative coalition narrowed the gap with the main opposition Labour Party, three days before the country decides on a new government.
Center-left Labor’s lead over the Liberal-National coalition has shrunk to 51-49 percent on a two-party preferred basis from 54-46 percent two weeks ago, a poll done for the Sydney Morning Herald showed. A Guardian poll indicated Labor’s lead had dipped to 48-46 percent from 49 percent-45 percent two weeks ago.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the pre-polling trends as “really encouraging,” while Labor acknowledged the election would be “incredibly close.”
With Australia going to the polls on Saturday, rising living costs have dominated the final stretches of the campaign with voters rating it as the most critical issue in some polls.
Australian wage growth ticked up by only a fraction last quarter, data out on Wednesday showed, even as a tightening labor market and record vacancies heightened competition for workers.
But consumer price inflation has risen twice as fast as wages, keeping real income in the red.
“I have been very candid with Australians about the economic challenges we’re facing ... Labor has no magic bullet on this, they have no magic pen or magic wand,” Morrison told reporters from the marginal Labor-held seat of Corangamite in Victoria.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese blamed government mismanagement for the slow rise in wages and inflation shock.
“Australian workers are paying the price for a decade of bad policy and economic failures while Scott Morrison says he should be rewarded with another three years because he is just getting started,” Albanese said.
Nearly 6 million voters out of an electorate of 17 million have already cast their ballots through postal votes or early in-person voting, official data showed.
An additional 1.1 million postal votes have been received so far versus the 2019 election. The Electoral Commission has flagged a clear winner may not emerge on election night if it is a close contest due to time required to count all postal votes.


Global pollution kills 9 million people a year, study finds

Smoke rises from the Duvha coal-based power station owned by state power utility Eskom, in Mpumalanga province, South Africa.
Smoke rises from the Duvha coal-based power station owned by state power utility Eskom, in Mpumalanga province, South Africa.
Updated 18 May 2022

Global pollution kills 9 million people a year, study finds

Smoke rises from the Duvha coal-based power station owned by state power utility Eskom, in Mpumalanga province, South Africa.
  • Pollution kills about the same number of people a year around the world as cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke combined, the study said

NEW DELHI: A new study blames pollution of all types for 9 million deaths a year globally, with the death toll attributed to dirty air from cars, trucks and industry rising 55 percent since 2000.
That increase is offset by fewer pollution deaths from primitive indoor stoves and water contaminated with human and animal waste, so overall pollution deaths in 2019 are about the same as 2015.
The United States is the only fully industrialized country in the top 10 nations for total pollution deaths, ranking 7th with 142,883 deaths blamed on pollution in 2019, sandwiched between Bangladesh and Ethiopia, according to a new study in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health. Tuesday’s pre-pandemic study is based on calculations derived from the Global Burden of Disease database and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. India and China lead the world in pollution deaths with nearly 2.4 million and almost 2.2 million deaths a year, but the two nations also have the world’s largest populations.
When deaths are put on a per population rate, the United States ranks 31st from the bottom at 43.6 pollution deaths per 100,000. Chad and the Central African Republic rank the highest with rates about 300 pollution deaths per 100,000, more than half of them due to tainted water, while Brunei, Qatar and Iceland have the lowest pollution death rates ranging from 15 to 23. The global average is 117 pollution deaths per 100,000 people.
Pollution kills about the same number of people a year around the world as cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke combined, the study said.
“9 million deaths is a lot of deaths,” said Philip Landrigan, director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Pollution Observatory at Boston College.
“The bad news is that it’s not decreasing,” Landrigan said. “We’re making gains in the easy stuff and we’re seeing the more difficult stuff, which is the ambient (outdoor industrial) air pollution and the chemical pollution, still going up.”
It doesn’t have to be this way, researchers said.
“They are preventable deaths. Each and every one of them is a death that is unnecessary,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health, who wasn’t part of the study. She said the calculations made sense and if anything. was so conservative about what it attributed to pollution, that the real death toll is likely higher.
The certificates for these deaths don’t say pollution. They list heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, other lung issues and diabetes that are “tightly correlated” with pollution by numerous epidemiological studies, Landrigan said. To then put these together with actual deaths, researchers look at the number of deaths by cause, exposure to pollution weighted for various factors, and then complicated exposure response calculations derived by large epidemiological studies based on thousands of people over decades of study, he said. It’s the same way scientists can say cigarettes cause cancer and heart disease deaths.
“That cannon of information constitutes causality,” Landrigan said. “That’s how we do it.”
Five outside experts in public health and air pollution, including Goldman, told The Associated Press the study follows mainstream scientific thought. Dr. Renee Salas, an emergency room doctor and Harvard professor who wasn’t part of the study, said “the American Heart Association determined over a decade ago that exposure to (tiny pollution particles) like that generated from the burning of fossil fuels is causal for heart disease and death.”
“While people focus on decreasing their blood pressure and cholesterol, few recognize that the removal of air pollution is an important prescription to improve their heart health,” Salas said.
Three-quarters of the overall pollution deaths came from air pollution and the overwhelming part of that is “a combination of pollution from stationary sources like coal-fired power plants and steel mills on one hand and mobile sources like cars, trucks and buses. And it’s just a big global problem,” said Landrigan, a public health physician. “And it’s getting worse around the world as countries develop and cities grow.”
In New Delhi, India, air pollution peaks in the winter months and last year the city saw just two days when the air wasn’t considered polluted. It was the first time in four years that the city experienced a clean air day during the winter months.
That air pollution remains the leading cause of death in South Asia reconfirms what is already known, but the increase in these deaths means that toxic emissions from vehicles and energy generation is increasing, said Anumita Roychowdhury, a director at the advocacy group Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi.
“This data is a reminder of what is going wrong but also that it is an opportunity to fix it,” Roychowdhury said.
Pollution deaths are soaring in the poorest areas, experts said.
“This problem is worst in areas of the world where population is most dense (e.g. Asia) and where financial and government resources to address the pollution problem are limited and stretched thin to address a host of challenges including health care availability and diet as well as pollution,” said Dan Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, who wasn’t part of the study.
In 2000, industrial air pollution killed about 2.9 million people a year globally. By 2015 it was up to 4.2 million and in 2019 it was 4.5 million, the study said. Toss in household air pollution, mostly from inefficient primitive stoves, and air pollution killed 6.7 million people in 2019, the study found.
Lead pollution — some from lead additive which has been banned from gasoline in every country in the world and also from old paint, recycling batteries and other manufacturing — kills 900,000 people a year, while water pollution is responsible for 1.4 million deaths a year. Occupational health pollution adds another 870,000 deaths, the study said.
In the United States, about 20,000 people a year die from lead pollution-induced hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease, mostly as occupational hazards, Landrigan said. Lead and asbestos are America’s big chemical occupational hazards, and they kill about 65,000 people a year from pollution, he said. The study said the number of air pollution deaths in the United States in 2019 was 60,229, far more than deaths on American roads, which hit a 16-year peak of nearly 43,000 last year.
Modern types of pollution are rising in most countries, especially developing ones, but fell from 2000 to 2019 in the United States, the European Union and Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s numbers can’t quite be explained and may be a reporting issue, said study co-author Richard Fuller, founder of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution and president of Pure Earth, a non-profit that works on pollution clean-up programs in about a dozen countries.
The study authors came up with eight recommendations to reduce pollution deaths, highlighting the need for better monitoring, better reporting and stronger government systems regulating industry and cars.
“We absolutely know how to solve each one of those problems,” Fuller said. “What’s missing is political will.”


Sweden, Finland to submit NATO membership bid Wednesday

Sweden, Finland to submit NATO membership bid Wednesday
Updated 18 May 2022

Sweden, Finland to submit NATO membership bid Wednesday

Sweden, Finland to submit NATO membership bid Wednesday
  • Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden have been rattled by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine

STOCKHOLM: Finland and Sweden announced they will submit their bids to join NATO together Wednesday, despite Turkey’s threat to block the military alliance’s expansion.
“I’m happy we have taken the same path and we can do it together,” Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.
Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, and Sweden have been rattled by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Their applications will jettison decades of military non-alignment to join the alliance as a defense against feared aggression from Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday warned NATO’s expansion may trigger a response from Moscow.
But the main obstacle to Finland and Sweden’s membership comes from within the alliance, despite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeatedly insisting the two countries would be welcomed “with open arms.”
Turkey has accused Sweden and Finland of acting as a hotbed for terrorist groups and its president insists Ankara will not approve expansion.
Any membership bid must be unanimously approved by NATO’s 30 members.
Niinisto said Tuesday he was “optimistic” Finland and Sweden would be able to secure Turkey’s support.
And in Washington, State Department Spokesman Ned Price likwise expressed confidence that Ankara would not block their entrance into the alliance.
“We are confident that we will be able to preserve the consensus within the alliance of strong support for a potential application of Finland and Sweden,” he said.
Andersson and Niinisto are to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington Thursday to discuss their historic bids.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the bloc offered the bids its “full support” after a meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels.
“This will increase the number of member states that are also members of NATO. And this will strengthen and increase the cooperation and the security in Europe,” he said, noting it was “an important geopolitical change.”

After a marathon debate lasting a day and a half, 188 out of 200 Finnish lawmakers voted in favor of NATO membership, a dramatic reversal of Finland’s military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years.
“Our security environment has fundamentally changed,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament at the start of the debate.
“The only country that threatens European security, and is now openly waging a war of aggression, is Russia,” she said.
Finland spent more than a century as part of the Russian empire until it gained independence in 1917. It was then invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939.
According to public opinion polls, more than three-quarters of Finns want to join the alliance, almost three times as many as before the war in Ukraine began on February 24.
Swedish public support has also risen dramatically, but remains at around 50 percent.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the application letter Tuesday.
The turnaround is also dramatic in Sweden, which remained neutral throughout World War II and has stayed out of military alliances for more than 200 years.

Ankara has thrown a spanner in the works with its last-minute objections.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Helsinki and Stockholm of harboring militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Sweden also suspended arms sales to Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military operation in neighboring Syria.
“We will not say ‘yes’ to those who apply sanctions to Turkey to join NATO,” Erdogan said Monday, adding that “neither of the countries has a clear stance against terror organizations.”
Diplomatic sources told AFP that Turkey blocked a NATO declaration Monday in favor of Sweden and Finland’s membership.
Sweden and Finland have sent delegations to Turkey to meet with Turkish officials.
“Sweden is delighted to work with Turkey in NATO and this cooperation can be part of our bilateral relations,” Sweden’s Andersson said, emphasising that Stockholm “is committed to fighting against all types of terrorism.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in New York on Wednesday.
“Our assessment of the sentiment among our NATO allies and within the NATO alliance has not changed,” said Price, the State Department spokesman.


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Cannes Film Festival

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Cannes Film Festival
Updated 17 May 2022

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Cannes Film Festival

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Cannes Film Festival
  • Volodymyr Zelensky referred to the power of cinema during World War II, including the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film ‘The Great Dictator’ which mocked Nazi leader Adolf Hitler
  • Zelensky: ‘We need a new Chaplin to prove today that cinema is not mute. Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? Can cinema stay outside of this?’

CANNES, France: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise video address at the opening ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday.
“Hundreds of people are dying every day. They won’t get up again after the clapping at the end,” he told the audience, which had reacted with surprise when the pre-recorded message was introduced.
“Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?” Zelensky added.
Zelensky referred to the power of cinema during World War II, including the 1940 Charlie Chaplin film “The Great Dictator” which mocked Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
“Chaplin’s dictator did not destroy the real dictator, but thanks to cinema, thanks to this film, cinema did not stay quiet,” Zelensky said.
“We need a new Chaplin to prove today that cinema is not mute. Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? Can cinema stay outside of this?”
His speech received a standing ovation from the crowd in the southern French resort town’s Palais des Festivals.
The war is a dominant theme for the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, with a special day dedicated to Ukraine’s filmmakers at the industry marketplace.
“Mariupolis 2,” a documentary about the conflict by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was reportedly killed by Russian forces in Ukraine last month, will get a special screening.
Zelensky similarly addressed the Grammy awards ceremony in Las Vegas last month, telling the crowd: “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals.”
The opening ceremony in Cannes had introduced the jury and handed an honorary Palme d’Or to actor and peace activist Forest Whitaker.
“The torments of the world, which is bleeding, suffering, burning... they rack my conscience,” French actor and jury president Vincent Lindon said in his speech.