'Incredibly grateful to the Kiwi soldiers who gave their lives' -1 NEWS reporter on Belgium honouring WWI heroes

"Belgium is grateful" – the words spoken by the Princess Astride – the Princess of Belgium, followed by a poignant pause, surmising the heartfelt thanks from her country to ours.

That's one thing that has really stood out to me from being at the commemorations here in Passchendaele, is just how incredibly grateful the people here are to the Kiwi soldiers who gave their lives for their freedom.

He spoke passionately about the devastating impact the military offensive had on New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

As the Duke of Cambridge Prince William so aptly put "there was nothing ordinary about their service or sacrifice".

In fact, the sacrifice was immense. 960 Kiwis were killed or mortally wounded in a single day -October 12 1917. All told, the Battle of Passchendaele stole nearly 2000 young Kiwi lives.

On October 12, 1917, 960 Kiwi soldiers were killed at Passchendaele, Belgium, in the greatest single-day loss of life for NZ in modern history. Source: 1 NEWS

For such a small nation – it was a massive toll.

Forty two per cent of men of military age signed up to serve in the Great War. One in 5 of them didn't come home, those who did return were scarred for life either internally or externally.

A price not lost on those here in Belgium.

One man who grew up in Passchendaele told me he still to this day cannot comprehend why men would come from the uttermost ends of the earth to fight in a war and protect a people they've never met.

The pair spoke briefly at the resting place of 512 Kiwis who lost their lives in the battle. Source: 1 NEWS

His eyes well up. Several generations later, he expresses real emotion has he says "we cannot show our gratitude enough – it's enormous" going on to explain "if all these boys from around the world did not come here to fight for our freedom, we probably would've been Germans now, and that is not something we wanted, we wanted to keep our identity as Belgium people".

He has a point – the men gave their today so they could have a tomorrow. As such, the Kiwis are held in such high regard here.

Ironically the locals know far more about our history at Passchendaele than most Kiwis do.

The graves and memorial walls are kept in immaculate condition. Not a blade of grass out of place, not an unwanted mark on a headstone. The respect to our fallen is inspiring.

What once was a muddy hell, a killing field, is now beautiful rolling farmland – something those that lie beneath the mud would be heartened to see.

When farmers come across remains, or war remnants, efforts are made to repatriate them with where the soldier came from – and a new headstone is put in a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery simply saying 'A Soldier of the Great War'.

Passchendaele is a place now littered with cemeteries, each one is respected. It's become a place dedicated to Remembrance, and a name which has become a byword for the horror of the Great War.

A place that sees its duty to remember those who fought for its freedom.

Source: 1 NEWS

Flooding begins as Hurricane Florence hits coastal regions of North Carolina

The National Hurricane Center said "catastrophic" freshwater flooding was expected over portions of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence inches closer to the US East Coast.

Areas of coastal North Carolina began to experience flooding today.

The now Category 1 storm's intensity diminished as it neared land, with winds dropping to 135 kph by nightfall. But that, combined with the storm's slowing forward movement and heavy rains, had Governor Roy Cooper warning of an impending disaster.

As of 2 am EDT (0600 GMT), Florence was centered about 55 kilometres east of Wilmington, North Carolina. Its forward movement increased slightly to 9 kph.

Hurricane-force winds extended 150 kilometres from its centre, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 315 kilometres.

Forecasters said the combination of a life-threatening storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The National Hurricane Center said this ‘catastrophic’ freshwater flooding was expected. Source: Associated Press

'We haven't given up hope' - orca whale declared dead but US feds refuse to stop search

Efforts to find a sick young orca from a critically endangered population of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest came up empty, and a scientist who tracks the animals declared her dead — though federal authorities said they'd keep looking.

The grim news means scientists believe just 74 whales remain in a group that has failed to reproduce successfully in the past three years. The orcas have struggled with pollution, boat noise and, most severely, a dearth of their preferred prey, chinook salmon, because of dams, habitat loss and overfishing.

"We're watching a population marching toward extinction," said Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research. "Unless we do something about salmon recovery, we're just not going to have these whales in the future."

The whales are in such bad shape that experts prepared last-ditch efforts to save the emaciated nearly 4-year-old known as J50. A sharpshooting veterinarian fired an antibiotic-filled dart into her, crews dropped live salmon in front of her to try to get her to eat, and scientists even mulled capturing her so they could diagnose and treat her.

J50 has not been seen since last Friday. As teams scrambled to find her today, she failed to appear with her pod once again, despite favorable sighting conditions. Balcomb, who tracks the whales for the US government, declared her dead late this afternoon.

Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries, said the agency gives great weight to Balcomb's assessment of the whales, given his long experience monitoring them. But, he said the US and Canadian governments plan to continue searching Friday on the chance she's still alive.

"We want to make the most of it to make sure that if J50 is there, we haven't missed her," Milstein said. "We haven't given up hope."

Crews in a US Coast Guard helicopter, 10 vessels, whale watch crews and other resources on both sides of the border were involved in the search. Authorities also alerted a network of people who respond when marine mammals wash ashore.

Whale experts feared the orca was dead earlier this month when J50 lagged behind her family and went missing. But she later turned up and was seen with her family.

The distinctive black-and-white orcas, known as southern resident killer whales, have struggled since they were listed as an endangered species in the US and Canada well over a decade ago.

The orcas' numbers are now at their lowest in more than three decades.

Another whale in the same pod, known as J35, triggered international sympathy this summer when she kept the body of her dead calf afloat in waters for more than two weeks.

The message, the Center for Whale Research said in a website post, is that extinction is looming "while the humans convene task forces and conference calls that result in nothing, or worse than nothing, diverting attention and resources from solving the underlying ecological problems."

Scientist began to be concerned about J50 in July. Teams dropped live salmon from a boat as J50 and her pod swam behind — a test to see whether fish could be used as a means of delivering medication.

Drone images taken earlier this month showed J50 much thinner than she was last year. Her mother, J16, has also declined in condition in the past month.

Orca whale
Orca whale. Source: Getty


NSW woman who killed new boyfriend with carving knife on suspicion he killed her cat jailed for 12 years

A NSW woman who suspected her new boyfriend had killed her cat has been jailed for at least 12 years for fatally stabbing him in the back with a large carving knife.

Rachel Impson, 42, was found guilty in April of murdering Michael "Mick" Insley one night in October 2014 on an isolated and dark island in the Lake Illawarra region, after he turned up outside her tent, uninvited and without notice.

In jailing her in the NSW Supreme Court today, Justice Michael Walton found there had been "a degree of provocation" by Mr Insley towards Impson, who was in a "heightened emotional state", not only due to the death of her cat Angel but also because of her mental health disorders.


Super Typhoon Mangkhut retains ferocious strength, changes path toward more populated area of Philippines

Super Typhoon Mangkhut has retained its ferocious strength and slightly shifted toward more densely populated coastal provinces as it barrels closer to the northeastern Philippines, where a massive evacuation is underway.

More than 4 million people are at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

Forecaster Chris Perez says the typhoon was initially expected to hit the northern tip of Cagayan province but it's now likely to make landfall farther south. He says the shift won't cause much difference because of the typhoon's massive size.

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts it will plow into the Chinese mainland with sustained winds of 175 kilometres per hour.

Filipino forecaster Meno Mendoza illustrates the path of Typhoon Mangkhut, locally named "Typhoon Ompong" as it approaches the Philippines with sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour (127 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), at the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. Philippine officials say they plan to evacuate thousands of villagers, shut down schools and offices and scramble to harvest rice and corn as the most powerful typhoon so far this year menacingly roars toward the country's north. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Typhoon Mangkhut. Source: Associated Press