Hurricane Florence to hit US coast, hundreds of thousands evacuated from homes
Time is running short to get out of the way of Hurricane Florence, a monster of a storm that has a region of more than 10 million people in its potentially devastating sights as it zeroes in on the Southeastern coast in US.
Authorities warned Florence has an enormous wind field that has been growing larger, raising the risk of the ocean surging on to land and making Florence extremely dangerous.
"Do you want to get hit with a train or do you want to get hit with a cement truck?" said Jeff Byard, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
About 5.25 million people live in areas under hurricane warnings or watches, and 4.9 million live in places covered by tropical storm warnings or watches, the National Weather Service said.
Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters said Florence eventually could strike as merely a Category 1 hurricane with winds less than 160 kph, but that's still enough to cause at least $1 billion ($1,525,765,000) in damage. Water kills more people in hurricanes than wind, and he said it will still be an extremely dangerous storm for rain and storm surge.
The hurricane center is forecasting the storm to hover near the coast Saturday (US time) with winds of around 130 kph before landfall, but with rainfall in the 50 to 75 centimetre range and up to nearly 4 metre of storm surge.
President Donald Trump both touted the government's readiness and urged people to get out of the way. "Don't play games with it. It's a big one," he said at the White House.
It's unclear exactly how many people fled, but more than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to clear out. Airlines had canceled nearly 1,000 flights and counting.
Power company Duke Energy, said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm's aftermath, it said.
In Virginia, where about 245,000 residents were ordered to evacuate low-lying areas, officials urged people to remain away from home despite forecast changes showing Florence's path largely missing the state.
Melody Rawson evacuated her first-floor apartment in Myrtle Beach and arrived at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia, to camp for free with three other adults, her disabled son, two dogs and a pet bird.
"We hope to have something left when we get home," she said. Three other Southern raceways also opened campgrounds to evacuees.
XXXX and Bondi Beach – what Australia’s anthem should really be about
Yesterday a nine-year-old Australian girl re-opened a bitter debate by refusing to stand for the national anthem at school assembly.
Harper Nielsen thinks the line "for we are young and free" ignores the thousands of years indigenous people lived on the land.
Seven Sharp's Tamati Rimene-Sproat has a go at re-mixing the Aussie anthem with a more inclusive version in the video above.
1080 drop over Northland forest to go ahead in next few days
Conservationists are elated at the prospect of a long-awaited 1080 drop on Northland's imperilled Russell State Forest, but others in the community are feeling nervous.
DOC contractors have been dropping non-toxic bait over the forest this week to get pests used to the cereal pellets.
Forest and Bird's Northland advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer was smiling from ear to ear when RNZ caught up with him, high in the Puhipuhi hills on Wednesday.
It was a sight he'd wondered if he'd ever see: one he said signalled a last-minute reprieve for a condemned forest.
Overhead, two choppers clattered back and forth, swinging green bait buckets beneath them, while ground staff tracked their progress by GPS from a laptop in the back of a ute.
"This is step one: the pre-feed to teach the rats and possums to eat the baits, then in a few days they'll get the poison ones and hopefully we'll knock them down," he said.
Dean Baigent-Mercer's campaign to save the ngahere began in earnest three years ago when he released graphic drone footage of the grey and dying canopy.
The video went viral and the long process of securing funding and community buy-in began.
When a forest this big and rugged was this close to death, a 1080 drop was the only practical way to pull it back from the brink, Mr Baigent-Mercer said.
"We already knew that between 1979 and 1993, 80 percent of the kereru or kukupa as they're called up here, had disappeared from this forest so it's been crying out for help for such a long time."
Nine marae surround the Russell State Forest, and over the past 18 months, the hapu involved have thrashed out a 20 year plan to restore it to health.
When kaumatua Kara George was a boy it teemed with life.
"Our old people knew all the plants and they knew how to use them. There were no possums back then. There were flocks of kukupa... the old people knew all the manu (birds) and they would tell us when it was ok to take from the forest and when not to," he said.
"That matauranga (specialist knowledge) is not used now because we can't use the forest the way we used to and we older ones need to pass it on before we go. "
DOC staff who spent a week in Russell forest monitoring pest numbers in the lead-up to the 1080 drop, heard one tui, and one grey warbler in that time.
But they saw lots of pigs, and residual trap catches, used to gauge possum numbers, were at an unheard of 100 percent. For rats, it was 80 percent.
Kara George said anti-1080 sentiment stopped a poison drop on the forest 20 years ago, and even now it had not been easy convincing people that drastic action was needed.
"They feel they need the pigs left in the forest so they can go chase them so I have said 'Are you pig-farming or are we saving a forest?' And then they want the ranger work, which they think could be a drawn-out possum operation so I have said 'Well, are you possum-farming? Because the possums will just catch you up.'"
Some whanau were worried about the risk to dogs from poisoned possum carcasses floating downstream, hapu members said.
'Aunty' Thelma Connor said what worried a lot of people was the prospect of 1080 pellets washing into waterways.
"We had a meeting with DOC, Ngāti Hau did, and we reluctantly had to say yes to them. As long as we didn't have to deliver the 1080; they have to take responsibility if anything happens in the future," she said.
But DOC and NIWA say in years of monitoring, 1080 has never been found in drinking water and scientists have only ever found minute traces, briefly, in a stream.
Mr Baigent-Mercer said despite the recent clamour of protest about 1080 he had no concerns about the toxin, which was bio-degradable
"I've used 1080 myself and I found it really hard to use because as soon as it comes into contact with water it starts to lose toxicity. So you really need three clear days and nights for those animals to eat the baits and get it into them, " he said.
Dr Belinda Cridge who lectures in toxicology at Otago University says the 1080 toxin fluoroacetate was found in nature, in some plants.
In soil or water it broke down into fluoride and glycolic acid, which was not unlike vinegar, she said.
"The 1080 molecule is toxic when the fluoride molecule is attached to what we call the carbon structure. Once you break that apart, it's not got the power to do any damage anymore."
Dr Cridge said she would feel quite comfortable for her family to drink from a stream after a 1080 drop.
"It would take large amounts of bait going into a stream to be even detectable and in four to eight hours it would all be gone anyway," she said.
DOC said operators were maintaining buffer zones around waterways and the coastline.
It expected the 1080 drop over Russell forest to go ahead sometime in the next few days - weather permitting.
The Northland Regional Council said private landowners around the forest had been largely supportive of the drop, and some had asked for tracts of bush on their farms to be treated at the same time.
The surrounding farmlands would be part of the ongoing trapping operations to prevent re-invasion of the forest, a council spokesman said.
- By Lois Williams
Queensland businessman who performed depraved sex acts on children jailed for over a decade
A Queensland businessman has been jailed for a decade over a series of depraved sex attacks involving children, including acts of bestiality.
The man, who is aged in his 60s and cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced today in the Brisbane District Court for sustained, predatory abuse of a young girl and a young boy.
The court heard the man filmed some of the acts, which included bestiality involving a dog, and forcing one of the victims to self-harm.
Justice Brad Farr described his behaviour over the six-year period as extraordinary, depraved and degrading for his young victims.
"During the entire offending period you threatened the primary complainant by telling her that you had people who could get her even when she was asleep," he said.
The man's abuse also included instructing the girl to play act during sex as an even younger child.
Police found photos of the victim's bruised body at his home when they raided it.
Justice Farr said the girl, who was assaulted from age 11 until she was 16, was also made to perform sex acts on the other child, who was aged four, more than a dozen times.
"Your behaviour was designed for one reason only, to satisfy your perverse sexual needs and wants," he said.
"With no regard whatsoever to the harm you were doing to the child."
The man, who did not initially co-operate with investigators, also videoed himself taking part in some of the bestiality acts.
He said the man had inflicted emotional, physical, psychological, social and financial harm on his victims and their extended families.
Defence lawyer Alastair McDougall said the man had also been the victim of sexual abuse as a child.
He will be required to serve 80 per cent of his 10-year sentence behind bars before he can apply for parole.