Dolphins seen swimming in storm surge waters in the US

Dolphins were filmed battling in surge waters near Wilmington in North Carolina after tropical storm Florence made landfall.

The footage, posted by North Carolina’s WWAY TV, shows a pair of dolphins battling against the fast-moving water.

Florence, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, caused surges of 3.5m when it made landfall this morning (NZ time).

It blew ashore with howling 155 km/h winds, splintering buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast.

Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70km/h and it's at a near standstill, moving west at just 6 km/h.

A person filmed dolphins battling through storm surge water near Wilmington. Source: Facebook: WWAY TV



Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleads guilty, will cooperate with special counsel

President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort agreed today to cooperate with the special counsel's Trump-Russia investigation as he pleaded guilty to federal crimes and avoided a second trial that could have exposed him to more time in prison.

The deal gives special counsel Robert Mueller a key cooperator who steered the Trump election effort for a pivotal stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign. The result also ensures the investigation will extend far beyond the November congressional elections despite entreaties from the president's lawyers that Mueller bring it to a close.

It is unclear what information Manafort is prepared to offer investigators about the president or that could aid Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But his involvement in key episodes under scrutiny, and his leadership of the campaign at a time when prosecutors say Russian intelligence was working to sway the election, may make him an especially valuable witness.

The agreement makes Manafort the latest associate of Mr Trump, a president known to place a premium on loyalty among subordinates, to admit guilt and work with investigators in hopes of leniency.

Manafort had long resisted the idea of cooperating even as prosecutors stacked additional charges against him in Washington and Virginia. Mr Trump had saluted that stance, publicly praising him and suggesting Manafort had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone. Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had suggested a pardon might be a possibility after the investigation was concluded.

Then came today's extraordinary development when Manafort agreed to provide any information asked of him, testify whenever asked and even work undercover if necessary.

Mueller has already secured cooperation from a former national security adviser who lied to the FBI about discussing sanctions with a Russian ambassador, a campaign aide who broached the idea of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin; and another aide who was indicted alongside Manafort but ultimately turned on him. Mr Trump's former personal lawyer has separately pleaded guilty in New York.

Today's deal, to charges in Washington tied to Ukrainian political consulting work but unrelated to the campaign, was struck just days before Manafort was to stand trial for a second time.

He was convicted last month of eight financial crimes in a separate trial in Virginia and faces seven to 10 years in prison in that case.

The two conspiracy counts he admitted to today carry up to five years, though Manafort's sentence will ultimately depend on his cooperation.

"He wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life. He's accepted responsibility. This is for conduct that dates back many years and everybody should remember that," Manafort attorney Kevin Downing said outside court.

A courtroom sketch showing former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, centre, and his defence lawyer Richard Westling, left, before US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, seated upper right, at federal court today. Source: Associated Press

The agreement doesn't specify what if anything prosecutors hope to receive about Mr Trump, but Manafort could be well-positioned to provide key insight for investigators working to establish whether the campaign coordinated with Russia.

He was among the participants, for instance, in a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and Trump's oldest son and son-in-law that was arranged for the campaign to receive derogatory information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. He was also a close business associate of a man who US intelligence believes has ties to Russian intelligence. And while he was working on the campaign, emails show Manafort discussed providing private briefings for a wealthy Russian businessman close to Putin.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the Manafort case was unrelated to Mr Trump. Mr Giuliani said he spoke to Mr Trump today about Manafort's plea.

"The president was OK with it," he said. "In a way, it's another indication there is no evidence of collusion. All of these charges predate the time Paul spent with the president. And there's nothing in what he pleaded about collusion."

It's unclear how the deal might affect any Manafort pursuit of a pardon from Mr Trump, though Mr Giuliani told Politico before the deal that a plea without a cooperation agreement wouldn't foreclose the possibility of a pardon.

Under the terms of the deal, Manafort was allowed to plead guilty to just two counts, though the crimes he admitted largely cover the same conduct alleged in an indictment last year. He abandoned his right to appeal his conviction in Virginia and agreed to forfeit homes in New York, including a condo in Trump Tower.

But the guilty plea also spares Manafort the cost of a weekslong trial that could have added years to the prison time he's already facing following the Virginia guilty verdicts. A jury there found him guilty of tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. Jurors deadlocked on 10 other counts.

Prosecutors today presented new information about allegations they were prepared to present at trial, which was to have focused on Manafort's political consulting and lobbying work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions.

That case alleged that Manafort directed a large-scale US lobbying operation for Ukrainian interests but never registered as a foreign agent despite being required to do so under the law, and that he concealed millions of dollars in income from the IRS.

He also failed to disclose his involvement in lobbying efforts made through a group of former European politicians, known as the Hapsburg Group, who pushed policies beneficial to Ukraine, the allegations said.

In 2013, one of the politicians and his country's prime minister met with then-President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office. Manafort was later sent an email that the politicians had "delivered the message of not letting 'Russians Steal Ukraine from the West.'"

Another allegation revealed Friday concerns Manafort's efforts to peddle stories to discredit Yanukovych's opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Prosecutors said he spread stories and secretly coordinated with an Israeli government official to publicize the idea that a US Cabinet official was an anti-Semite for supporting Ms Tymoshenko, who had formed an alliance with a Ukrainian political party that had shared anti-Semitic views.

"I have someone pushing it on the NY Post. Bada bing bada boom," Manafort wrote to a colleague, court documents said.

Paul Manafort faces 11 other charges including money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent.
President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Source: 1 NEWS

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At least five people dead as tropical storm Florence spreads to South Carolina

Blowing ashore with howling 155 km/h winds, Florence splintered buildings, trapped hundreds of people and swamped entire communities along the Carolina coast Friday in what could be just the opening act in a watery, two-part, slow-motion disaster. At least five people were killed.

Forecasters warned that drenching rains of 30 centimetres to 1 metre as the hurricane-turned-tropical storm crawls westward across North and South Carolina could trigger epic flooding well inland over the next few days.

As 645-kilometre-wide Florence pounded away at the coast with torrential downpours and surging seas, rescue crews used boats to reach more than 360 people besieged by rising waters in New Bern, while many of their neighbours awaited help. More than 60 people had to be rescued in another town as a cinderblock motel collapsed at the height of the storm's fury.

Florence flattened trees, crumbled roads and the assault wasn't anywhere close to being over, with the siege in the Carolinas expected to last all weekend. The storm knocked out power to more than 890,000 homes and businesses, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks the US electrical grid.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called Florence an "uninvited brute" that could wipe out entire communities as it grinds across the state.

"The fact is this storm is deadly and we know we are days away from an ending," Cooper said. Parts of North Carolina had seen storm surges - the bulge of seawater pushed ashore by the hurricane - as high as 3 metres, he said.

A mother and baby were killed when a tree fell on a house, according to a tweet from Wilmington police. Also, a 77-year-old man was apparently knocked down by the wind and died after going out to check on his hunting dogs, Lenoir County authorities said, and the governor's office said a man was electrocuted while trying to connect extension cords in the rain.

Shaken after seeing waves crashing on the Neuse River just outside his house in New Bern, restaurant owner and hurricane veteran Tom Ballance wished he had evacuated.

"I feel like the dumbest human being who ever walked the face of the earth," he said.

After reaching a terrifying Category 4 peak of 225 km/h earlier in the week, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15am at Wrightsville Beach, a few kilometres east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line. It came ashore along a mostly boarded-up, emptied-out stretch of coastline.

By Friday evening, Florence was downgraded to a tropical storm, its winds weakened to 112 km/h as it moved forward at 6km/h about 25 kilometres north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

But it was clear that this was really about the water, not the wind. Several places already had more than 40 centimetres of rain, and Oriental, North Carolina got more than 50 centimetres in just a few hours.

Florence's forward movement during the day slowed to a near-standstill - sometimes it was going no faster than a human can walk - and that enabled it to pile on the rain.

The flooding soon spread into South Carolina. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami says the core of Florence was located at 11pm Friday about 20 kilometres west-northwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a resort area known for its white sands and multitude of golf courses.

Top sustained winds are now about 100 km/h and the storm is moving to the west-southwest at 7 km/h — a track that is expected to continue through early Saturday.

Forecasters say catastrophic freshwater flooding is expected over parts of North Carolina and South Carolina ahead.

As Florence moves further inland over the coming days, the storm is expected to gradually weaken. Forecasters say it could become a depression by Saturday night.

For people living inland in the Carolinas, however, the moment of maximum peril from flash flooding could arrive days later, because it takes time for rainwater to drain into rivers and for those streams to crest.

Preparing for the worst, about 9,700 National Guard troops and civilians were deployed with high-water vehicles, helicopters and boats.

Authorities warned, too, of the threat of mudslides and the risk of an environmental disaster from floodwaters washing over industrial waste sites and hog farms.

Florence was seen as a major test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which was heavily criticised as slow and unprepared last year for Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where the death toll was put at nearly 3,000.

The National Hurricane Centre said Florence will eventually break up over the southern Appalachians and make a right hook to the northeast, its rainy remnants moving into the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the middle of next week.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said Florence could dump a staggering 68 trillion litres of rain over a week on North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. That's enough to fill the Chesapeake Bay or cover the entire state of Texas with nearly 10 centimetres of water, he calculated.

North Carolina alone is forecast to get 36 trillion litres, enough to cover the Tar Heel state to a depth of about 25 centimetres.

On Friday, coastal streets in the Carolinas flowed with frothy ocean water, and pieces of torn-apart buildings flew through the air. The few cars out on a main street in Wilmington had to swerve to avoid fallen trees, metal debris and power lines.

A wind gust at the Wilmington airport was clocked at nearly 170km/h, the highest since Hurricane Helene in 1958. Nationwide, airlines cancelled more than 2,400 flights through Sunday.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, next to Camp Lejeune, firefighters and police fought wind and rain as they went door-to-door to pull dozens of people out of the Triangle Motor Inn after the structure began to crumble and the roof started to collapse.

In New Bern, population 29,000, flooding on the Neuse River left 500 people in peril.

"WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the city tweeted around 2am. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU."

Boat teams including volunteers rescued some 360 residents, including Sadie Marie Holt, 67, who first tried to row out of her neighbourhood during Florence's assault.

"The wind was so hard, the waters were so hard, that trying to get out we got thrown into trailers. We got thrown into mailboxes, houses, trees," said Holt, who had stayed at home because of a doctor's appointment that was later cancelled. She retreated and was eventually rescued by a boat crew; 140 more awaited assistance.

Ashley Warren and boyfriend Chris Smith managed to paddle away from their home in a boat with their two dogs, and the experience left her shaken.

"Honestly, I grew up in Wilmington. I love hurricanes. But this one has been an experience for me," she said. "We might leave."

The storm dropped 10 to 18 inches of rain along the North Carolina coast. Source: Associated Press

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'I gotta get out...whoa!'- CNN reporter films himself being buffeted by winds in tropical storm Florence

A weather reporter has filmed himself being buffeted with winds over 153km/h from a North Carolina beach as the eyewall of Hurricane Florence came onshore.

CNN’s Derek Van Dam Van Dam can be seen in the footage struggling to remain upright in the ferocious winds.

“Winds over 95 (mph, 153km/h)… I gotta get out… whoa,” he can be heard yelling.

Florence, which has been downgraded to a tropical storm, made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at 7.15 am at Wrightsville Beach, a few miles east of Wilmington and not far from the South Carolina line.

Its top sustained winds have dropped to 70km/h and it's at a near standstill, moving west at just 6 km/h.

CNN reporter Derek Van Dam was at a North Carolina Beach as the eyewall of Hurricane Florence came onshore. Source: Twitter: CNN


Clean-up begins after Typhoon Mangkhut slams into Philippines coast with wind gusts of up to 255km/h

Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the country's northeastern coast early Saturday, with witnesses saying the storm's ferocious wind and blinding rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power at the start of the onslaught.

The typhoon made landfall before dawn in the coastal town of Baggao in Cagayan province on the northern tip of Luzon island, an agricultural region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces often hit by landslides.

More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Centre categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the country's northeastern coast, with witnesses saying ferocious wind and blinding rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power. Source: Associated Press

There were no immediate reports of major damages or casualties in the region, where a massive evacuation from high-risk areas was carried out over two days.

Associated Press journalists in a hotel in Cagayan's capital city of Tuguegarao saw tin roof sheets and other debris hurtle through the air and store signs crash to the ground. Cars shook as wind gusts pummelled a parking lot.

With a huge raincloud band 900 kilometres wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon was expected to bring intense rain that could set off landslides and flash floods. Storm warnings have been raised in almost all the provinces across the Luzon, including the capital, Manila, restricting sea and air travel.

Before it hit the island, Mangkhut was tracked late Friday with sustained winds of 205 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 255km/h, forecasters said.

Even if the typhoon weakens slightly after slamming ashore, its winds will remain very destructive, government forecaster Rene Paciente said.

"It can lift cars, you can't stand, you can't even crawl against that wind," Paciente told reporters late Friday in Manila.

In Cagayan's capital city of Tuguegarao, residents braced for the typhoon's fury by reinforcing homes and buildings and stocking up on food.

"It was busy earlier in the hardware store and people were buying wood, nails, tin wire, plywood and umbrellas," said Benjamin Banez, who owns a three-story hotel where workers were busy hammering up wooden boards to protect glass panels.

A super typhoon wrought heavy damage to Banez's hotel and the rest of Cagayan in 2016.

Ninia Grace Abedes abandoned her bamboo hut and hauled her four children to a school building serving as an emergency shelter. The 33-year-old laundrywoman said the 2016 typhoon blew away their hut, which they abandoned before the storm hit.

"If we didn't, all of us would be dead," Abedes said.

More than 15,300 people had been evacuated in northern provinces by Friday afternoon, the Office of Civil Defence said.

Concerns over massive storm surges that could be whipped inland by the typhoon's winds prompted wardens to move 143 detainees from a jail in Cagayan's Aparri town to nearby towns, officials said.

The typhoon hit at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said. The threat to agriculture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice shortages.

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts Mangkhut will plough into the Chinese mainland early Monday south of Hong Kong and north of the island province of Hainan. Though it is likely to weaken from a super typhoon to a severe typhoon, it will still pack sustained winds of 175km/h, it said.

The observatory warned of rough seas and frequent heavy squalls, urging residents of the densely populated financial hub to "take suitable precautions and pay close attention to the latest information" on the storm.

The gambling enclave of Macau, near Hong Kong, suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last August that left 10 dead and led to accusations of corruption and incompetence at its meteorological office.

On the Chinese mainland, the three southern provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan are coordinating preparations, including suspending transport and moving people to shelter inland, the national meteorological agency reported.

Guangdong, China's manufacturing hub, has set up 3,777 shelters, while more than 100,000 residents and tourists have been moved to safety or sent home.

The province has recalled more than 36,000 fishing boats to port, while train services between the cities of Zhanjiang and Maoming have been suspended and all ferry services between Guangdong and Hainan have been put on hold. Fujian province to the north of Guangdong is also closing beaches and tourist sites, the agency reported.

Philippine forecasters said the shifting typhoon could possibly blow toward Vietnam after it exits late Saturday or early Sunday.

In an emergency meeting Thursday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte asked Cabinet officials from the north to help oversee disaster-response work and told reporters it was too early to consider seeking foreign aid.

"If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help," he said.

Mangkhut, the Thai word for mangosteen fruit, is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 a year and is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines in 2013.

Ferocious winds and rain tore off tin roof sheets and knocked out power through Baggao, in Cagayan province. Source: Associated Press