In Turkey and Syria thousands of buildings have collapsed, death toll rising and bad weather is hampering rescue efforts after largest earthquake in 100 years

Matthew 24:7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Important Takeaways:

  • Powerful quake leaves thousands dead in Turkey and Syria
  • More than 5,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands injured after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Turkey and Syria
  • Thousands of buildings collapsed in both countries and aid agencies are particularly worried about northwestern Syria, where more than 4 million people were already relying on humanitarian assistance.
  • Freezing weather conditions are further endangering survivors and complicating rescue efforts, as more than 100 aftershocks have struck the region.
  • The quake, one of the strongest to hit the region in more than 100 years, struck 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles), the United States Geological Survey said.
  • The WHO warned on Monday that the toll could hit 20,000, and on Tuesday said 23 million people – including 1.4 million children – could be affected.

Read the original article by clicking here.

A months’ worth of rain has brought flooding and mudslides to Petropolis Brazil

Important Takeaways:

  • Death toll in Brazil’s Petropolis mudslides, floods hits 176; more than 110 missing
  • Downpours in the colonial-era city exceeded the average for the entire month of February causing mudslides that flooded streets, destroyed houses, washed away cars and buses, and left gashes hundreds of yards wide on the region’s mountainsides.
  • rainfall was the heaviest registered since 1932 in Petropolis, a tourist destination in the hills of Rio de Janeiro state, popularly known as the “Imperial City”
  • Responding to the disaster, several Brazilian states sent reinforcements to help searching for missing people and cleaning up the debris alongside Rio’s fire department.

Read the original article by clicking here.

Biden visits tornado-stricken Kentucky bringing federal aid, empathy

By Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden flew to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey the areas hardest hit by one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in recent U.S. history, a system that killed at least 74 people in the state and at least 14 elsewhere.

Biden, no stranger to tragic personal losses, will reprise his familiar role as consoler in chief, while promising to bring the might of the federal government to rebuild devastated communities that suffered billions of dollars in damage.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear offered a grim update on Tuesday, saying the dead included a dozen children, the youngest of whom was a 2-month-old infant. He added that he expected the death toll to rise in the coming days, with more than 100 still missing.

Biden will visit the Army installation at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a briefing on the storm before continuing on to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, two towns separated by roughly 70 miles (112 km) that were largely flattened by the twisters.

The president will be “surveying storm damage firsthand, (and) making sure that we’re doing everything to deliver assistance as quickly as possible in impacted areas to support recovery efforts,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent search-and-rescue and emergency response teams to Kentucky, along with teams to help survivors register for assistance, Psaki said.

FEMA has also sent dozens of generators into the state, along with 135,000 gallons (511,000 litres) of water, 74,000 meals and thousands of cots, blankets, infant toddler kits and pandemic shelter kits.

Biden has approved federal disaster declarations for Kentucky and the neighboring states of Tennessee and Illinois, offering residents and local officials increased federal aid.

Credit ratings agency DBRS Morningstar said the tornadoes were likely the most severe in the United States since 2011. Insurers are sufficiently prepared to cover claims without significant capital impact, it said in a report.

The trip marks one of the few that Biden, a Democrat, has taken to areas that tilt heavily toward the Republican Party, many of whose voters and leaders have embraced Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims that he won the 2020 election. The White House has been careful not to bring politics into the disaster relief efforts, including not focusing on what role, if any, climate change may have played in the tragic events.

“He looks at them as human beings, not as people who have partisan affiliations,” Psaki said. “And in his heart, he has empathy for everything that they’re going through.”

“The message he will send to them directly and clearly tomorrow is: ‘We’re here to help, we want to rebuild, we are going to stand by your side and we’re going to help your leaders do exactly that,'” she added.

Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a 1972 car crash, and his older son, Beau, died in 2015 after a fight with brain cancer.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, additional reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Heather Timmons, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)

Death toll now 74 from weekend tornadoes, expected to rise -Kentucky governor

(Reuters) – The death toll from a string of tornadoes that tore through six states rose to 74 with at least 109 people still missing, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said on Monday. He said the number of fatalities would likely rise in the coming days.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Chris Reese

 

By Gabriella Borter

MAYFIELD, Ky. (Reuters) – At least 64 people, including six children, lost their lives in Kentucky after a raft of tornadoes tore through six states, with power still out for thousands and strangers welcoming survivors who lost everything into their homes.

While the toll from the deadly twisters was lower than initially feared, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he expects it to increase as searchers continue to sift through a flattened landscape of twisted metal, downed trees and homes reduced to rubble.

“It may be weeks before we have counts on both deaths and levels of destruction,” Beshear told reporters, adding that the victims ranged in age from 5 months to 86 years old, and that 105 people were still unaccounted for.

On Monday, Beshear said officials were working to confirm that eight people had perished when a candle factory in Mayfield, a town of about 10,000 in the southwestern corner of Kentucky, was hit in the storm.

Out of the 110 workers who had been toiling at the Mayfield Consumer Products LLC factory, 94 were believed to have made it out alive, according to the owners of the business, the governor said.

“We feared much, much worse,” he said. “I pray that it is accurate.”

In the hard-hit small town, the tornado destroyed not only the candle factory but also the police and fire stations. Homes were flattened or missing roofs, giant trees uprooted and street signs mangled.

Kentucky’s emergency management director, Michael Dossett also at the briefing, said 28,000 homes and businesses remained without power.

More than 300 National Guard personnel and scores of state workers were distributing supplies and working to clear roads so that mountains of debris can be removed in the aftermath of the disaster, the governor said.

He added that authorities were coordinating an “unprecedented amount of goods and volunteers,” and President Joe Biden was expected to visit the state but no date had been set.

Beshear, at times chocking up, said the search, rescue and recovery process in the swath of destruction has been an emotional roller coaster for all those involved, including him.

“You go from grief to shock to being resolute for a span of 10 minutes and then you go back,” he said.

Biden on Sunday declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky, paving the way for additional federal aid, the White House said.

While Kentucky was hardest hit, six workers were killed at an Amazon.com Inc warehouse in Illinois after the plant buckled under the force of the tornado, including one cargo driver who died in the bathroom, where many workers told Reuters they had been directed to shelter.

A nursing home was struck in Arkansas, causing one of that state’s two deaths. Four were reported dead in Tennessee and two in Missouri.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Mayfield, Kentucky; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Maria Caspani; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lisa Shumaker)

Indonesia bolsters recovery efforts after volcano kills 34

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo promised on Tuesday to bolster evacuation efforts and repair damaged homes after visiting the site of a volcanic eruption on Java that has killed at least 34 people.

The 3,676-metre Mt. Semeru volcano erupted on Saturday sending a cloud of ash into the sky and dangerous pyroclastic flows into villages below.

Thousands of people have been displaced and 22 remain missing, according to the disaster mitigation agency.

After visiting evacuation centers and surveying the area by helicopter – getting an aerial view of villages submerged in molten ash – the president said recovery efforts would be bolstered now and in the months ahead.

“I came to the site to ensure that we have the forces to locate the victims,” said the president, speaking from Sumberwuluh, one of the worst-hit areas.

“We hope that after everything has subsided, that everything can start – fixing infrastructure or even relocating those from the places we predict are too dangerous to return to.”

At least 2,000 homes would need to be relocated to safer areas, he said.

Search and rescue efforts continued on Tuesday but have been hampered by wind and rain, and limited equipment in some areas.

Mt. Semeru erupted three times on Tuesday. Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said on Monday there was potential for further flows of hot gas, ash and rocks.

Mt. Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, in an area of high seismic activity atop multiple tectonic plates known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire.”

(Reporting by Stanley Widianto and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa and Janet Lawrence)

Indonesia volcano erupts again as death toll rises to 22

By Willy Kurniawan and Tommy Adriansyah

SUMBERWULUH, Indonesia (Reuters) – An Indonesian volcano was active again on Monday, spewing out hot clouds of ash, two days after a powerful eruption killed at least 22 people and left dozens missing.

Mt. Semeru, the tallest mountain on the island of Java, erupted dramatically on Saturday, shooting a towering column of ash into the sky that blanketed surrounding villages.

Aerial footage showed roofs jutting out of an ashen landscape, while on the ground, military officers, police and residents dug through mud with their hands to pull out victims.

The death toll had risen to 22 by Monday, while 27 were missing, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said.

The volcano erupted again on Monday, Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation confirmed via its Twitter account, warning of continued seismic activity.

“Semeru is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Before and after the December 4 eruption, it will continue to be active,” Liswanto, the head of the Semeru Volcano Observatory, told Reuters.

Some residents returned to their homes to check on belongings and livestock, but Liswanto urged people to keep a safe distance.

“People need to be more vigilant because the potential threat is still there,” he added.

In the Sumberwuluh area, rescue teams battled poor weather to retrieve victims from the rubble.

“The main obstacle is the weather… Hopefully the weather going forward will be good enough to make it easier for us to search,” Wuryanto, operations director of the national search and rescue agency (Basarnas), told reporters.

People have posted photos of missing loved ones on Facebook, with pleas for any information about their whereabouts.

Complicating logistics and rescue efforts, lava flows from Saturday’s eruption destroyed a bridge connecting two areas in the district of Lumajang with the city of Malang.

Public kitchens and health facilities have been set up for more than 1,700 people who have been displaced.

Semeru is one of more than 100 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a country that straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of high seismic activity that rests atop multiple tectonic plates.

(Additional reporting by Prasto Wardoyo and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kate Lamb and Fathin Ungku; Editing by Karishma Singh, Gerry Doyle and Nick Macfie)

Rescuers search for survivors after Lagos building collapse kills six

By Nneka Chile

LAGOS (Reuters) -Rescuers on Tuesday dug through rubble searching for survivors a day after a luxurious high-rise building collapsed while under construction in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, as officials put the death toll at six and scores were reported missing.

Emergency services used earth moving equipment to lift chunks of masonry at the site in the affluent neighborhood of Ikoyi after torrential rains pounded Lagos overnight and briefly stopped the search. Large trailers were brought in to help move debris, blocking one of Ikoyi’s main roads.

Building collapses are frequent in Africa’s most populous country, where regulations are poorly enforced and construction materials often substandard.

“Currently all responders are on the ground as search and rescue is ongoing,” Lagos state official Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu said, adding that the death toll stood at six.

Seven people have so far been rescued alive as excavators sifted rubble from the heaps of shattered concrete and twisted metal that engulfed the site where the building once stood.

Witnesses say up to 100 people were missing after the luxury residential structure crumbled, trapping workers under a pile of rubble.

President Muhammadu Buhari has called for rescue efforts to be stepped up.

Agitated families whose relatives and loved ones were missing refused to speak to media, although they could be heard accusing emergency services of lacking urgency after rescue efforts were briefly halted due to the rains.

New high-end apartments have been springing up in Ikoyi, and the collapsed building was part of three towers being built by private developer Fourscore Homes, where the cheapest unit was selling for $1.2 million.

The project developer and owner of Fourscore Homes, Olufemi Osibona told a local news channel in August that he had developed buildings in Peckham and Hackney in Britain and that the Ikoyi apartments were the start of bigger projects he planned in Nigeria.

Osibona could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Some local media reports said he may have been among those trapped.

A narrator in a promotional video on Fourscore Homes Instagram page says the complex “bestrides the Ikoyi landscape like a colossus,” and showed the buildings as each having rooftop pools and being kitted out with luxury fittings.

Telephone calls to numbers listed for Fourscore Homes and the main building contractor did not ring through on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Libby George in Lagos and Chijioke Ohuocha in Abuja, Editing by Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean)

Cyclone Kompasu strikes Philippines, kills 9

MANILA (Reuters) – Nine people have been killed in the Philippines and 11 were missing on Tuesday due to floods and landslides caused by heavy rain from tropical cyclone Kompasu, the national disaster agency said.

Kompasu, with maximum sustained winds of 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour, had absorbed remnants of an earlier cyclone before making landfall in the Philippines on Monday evening. Nearly 1,600 people were evacuated.

The disaster agency said it was verifying information from its regional units that reported four people killed in landslides in northern Benguet province and five killed in flash floods in Palawan, an island province in the country’s southwest.

Authorities were conducting search and rescue operations for 11 people missing mostly after landslides.

The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands is hit by about 20 storms or typhoons annually, bringing heavy rains that trigger deadly landslides.

President Rodrigo Duterte was monitoring the government’s disaster response, his spokesperson, Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

Rescue personnel were at the scene, while power and water restoration and road clearing was ongoing, he added.

Kompasu, the 13th tropical storm to enter the Philippines, is expected to leave its territory on Tuesday, the state weather agency said.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

Colombia’s cemeteries may hold answers for families of disappeared

By Julia Symmes Cobb

LA DORADA, Colombia (Reuters) – When her 17-year-old son Jose Andres was kidnapped by paramilitaries at the height of Colombia’s civil conflict, Gloria Ines Urueña vowed she would not leave the sweltering riverside town of La Dorada until she found him.

She has been true to her word for more than two decades – searching for her son’s body despite threats from the group that killed him.

An estimated 120,000 people have gone missing during Colombia’s nearly 60 years of conflict. A 2016 peace deal between the government and the Marxist FARC rebels brought some respite, but another left-wing insurgency and armed criminal gangs – many descended from right-wing paramilitaries – persist.

Now a national plan to identify victims buried anonymously in cemeteries has renewed the hope Urueña and thousands like her hold of finding their loved ones’ remains.

The Search Unit for Disappeared People, founded under the 2016 deal to fulfill one of its key promises, is investigating cemeteries across Colombia, hoping to untangle years of chaotic record-keeping and neglect, identify remains, and return them to families.

“Back then, I spent a month looking near the river, near the dump, farms, all that, and I was alone,” said Urueña, as a forensic team examined human remains at La Dorada’s cemetery.

“I’ve always said I don’t just want to find my son: I want to find all of the disappeared.”

Many of Colombia’s disappeared were killed by leftist rebels, right-wing paramilitaries or the military. Others were kidnapped, forcibly recruited, or willingly joined armed groups.

Most are likely dead, buried in clandestine graves high in the windswept Andes or deep in thick jungle, dumped in rivers or ravines.

But some ended up in graveyards. Found by the roadside or pulled from waterways, remains were buried anonymously by locals risking the wrath of armed groups, their graves marked with NN for ‘no name’.

The strategy may be unique: the recovery of potentially tens of thousands of bodies from cemeteries has likely not been tried before, especially during an ongoing conflict.

Some remains have been moved or mixed together, exhumed multiple times during efforts to identify them or saved in trash bags in storage rooms.

Some remains have been assigned multiple case numbers, while others were buried in cemeteries but never autopsied and so have no case number at all.

Other remains have case numbers, but cannot be located.

“It’s not just a recovery of bodies, but also of information,” said unit head Luz Marina Monzon. “It’s a jigsaw puzzle.”

PIECING IT TOGETHER

The unit has no estimate of how many disappeared people may be in Colombia’s cemeteries. Many graveyards have had no consistent management or resources, or are run by religious organizations with their own records and rules.

DNA from nearly 5,200 unidentified bodies is stored in a database at the government’s National Institute of Legal Medicine, along with nearly 44,400 samples from families of the disappeared to cross-check genetic material with newly-discovered remains.

The institute also holds a separate database of reports of missing people. So far, the unit has uncovered some 15,000 reports of disappeared persons that were not previously in it.

Threats to families and ex-combatants providing information to the unit can stymie its work, Monzon said.

“The persistence of the armed conflict is a huge challenge to accessing information, to accessing locations and to guaranteeing the participation of victims in the search,” Monzon said.

This scale of cemetery exhumations is unusual, largely because many people disappeared in countries like Argentina, Chile, Bosnia, Guatemala and Kosovo were buried in clandestine graves. Scattered graveyard exhumations have been conducted in some places.

But Colombia’s effort may hold particular lessons for Mexico, which is facing perhaps the world’s most active disappearance crisis and where the unidentified are sometimes buried in cemeteries but rarely exhumed.

“Mexico needs to start looking at what the Colombians are doing,” said Dr. Arely Cruz-Santiago of the University of Exeter, who researches citizen forensics in Mexico and Colombia. “Especially because they are very similar countries in the sense of the scale more or less of the conflict.”

BONES IN BAGS

Beads of sweat bloomed at the temples of forensic anthropologist Carlos Ariza as he cradled a cranium in one hand, using his finger to indicate the bullet’s likely trajectory.

This skull belonged to a man, about 40. Later during the examination in a stifling tent in La Dorada’s cemetery, Ariza discovered a second bullet hole in the cranium, hidden under caked mud.

“NN Mar. 17 2003,” read the label on the plastic trash bag which had held the remains in a dark storage room.

Over a few days, forensic staff opened the bags, delicately removing each bone, fragment of fabric or tuft of hair. They packed 27 sets of remains off to a regional lab for DNA testing.

La Dorada lies in the southernmost point of the Magdalena Medio region east of Medellin, once a hotbed of violence where hundreds of thousands of people were murdered, disappeared, raped and displaced.

Paramilitary groups were frequent perpetrators. They demobilized between 2003 and 2006 under a peace deal, though many members later formed crime gangs.

HOW MUCH LONGER?

About a month after Urueña’s son was taken in 2001, two men showed up at her house in La Dorada on a motorcycle and told her to stop looking.

“‘He was my son and I will not move from this house until I know what’s become of him. And if your boss wants to kill me that’s my answer’,” she said she responded. “I told him ‘do it now if you want and that way you’ll end my suffering too.'”

Jose used to bring his mother flowers on his way home. When his sister became pregnant as a teenager, he helped support the baby.

“If he were here it would be different, as much for the family as for me, because the family fell apart,” Urueña said.

Her older son fled town in the face of paramilitary threats, not returning for 11 years. Her older daughter left to find work, leaving Urueña to raise her grandchildren.

Her granddaughter, now 18, has promised Urueña she will continue the search for Jose even after Urueña’s death.

“We ask how much longer we have to wait,” Urueña said. “Even though the years pass, I am still full of hope.”

“And though you don’t want to cry, the tears come.”

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Nicolas Misculin in Buenos Aires, Gabriela Donoso in Santiago, Sofia Menchu in Guatemala City and Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

Tennessee flooding was more destructive than first estimated

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) -The weekend flooding in Tennessee that killed at least 21 people was more destructive than originally estimated, with about 120 homes washed off foundations, destroyed or simply “gone,” officials said Tuesday.

The scope of the damage came into sharper focus in hardest hit Humphreys County, as rescue teams continue to search house-to-house with trained dogs for dozens believed still missing.

“Our damage is much more massive than what we thought,” Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis told NPR in an interview Tuesday.

It was already believed that hundreds of homes were water-damaged and uninhabitable, officials said after the storm brought 17 inches of rain in just three hours.

Davis and other officials surveyed the damage from a helicopter late Monday, focusing largely on the hardest hit town of Waverly, about 55 miles west of Nashville.

“Yesterday we thought it was 20-something houses that had been removed from the foundations,” Davis said. “That’s not even close. Well over 100 – 120 houses have been moved, or are gone, no longer exist.”

Displaced residents found shelter with relatives, local churches and with housing provided by the American Red Cross, the sheriff said.

Officials who had been seeking federal aid were granted it late Monday as President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in the state of Tennessee and ordered federal aid, the White House said in a statement.

Local officials said that those killed in the flooding ranged in age from babies to the elderly. The Washington Post, citing family members, reported that 7-month-old twins died after they were swept away from their parents’ arms.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill and Chizu Nomiyama)