Philippines starts massive evacuations as huge typhoon nears

Philippine authorities began evacuating thousands of people on Thursday (local time) from the path of the most powerful typhoon this year, closing schools, readying bulldozers for landslides and placing rescuers and troops on full alert in the country's north.

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

More than 4 million people live in areas at most risk from the storm, which the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii categorised as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts.

Typhoon Mangkhut could hit northeastern Cagayan province on Saturday. It was tracked on Thursday about 725 kilometres (450 miles) away in the Pacific with sustained winds of 205 kilometres (127 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph), Philippine forecasters said.

With a massive raincloud band 900 kilometres (560 miles) wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon could bring heavy to intense rains that could set off landslides and flash floods, the forecasters said. Storm warnings have been raised in 25 provinces across the main northern island of Luzon, restricting sea and air travel.

Office of Civil Defense chief Ricardo Jalad told an emergency meeting led by President Rodrigo Duterte that about 4.2 million people in Cagayan, nearby Isabela province and outlying provincial regions are vulnerable to the most destructive effects near the typhoon's 125-kilometre (77-mile) -wide eye. Nearly 48,000 houses in those high-risk areas are made of light materials and vulnerable to Mangkhut's ferocious winds.

Across the north on Thursday, residents covered glass windows with wooden boards, strengthened houses with rope and braces and moved fishing boats to safety.

Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said by telephone that evacuations of residents from risky coastal villages and island municipalities north of the rice-and corn-producing province of 1.2 million people have started and school classes at all levels have been canceled.

"The weather here is still good but we're moving them now because it's very important that when it comes, people will be away from peril," Mamba said.

A change in the typhoon's track prompted authorities to rapidly reassess where to redeploy emergency teams and supplies, Mamba said.

Duterte asked Cabinet officials from the north to help oversee disaster-response work if needed, and told reporters it was too early to consider seeking foreign aid.

"It would depend on the severity of the crisis," Duterte said. "If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help."

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

Officials said other northern provinces started evacuating residents Thursday from high-risk areas, including in northern mountain provinces prone to landslides.

Duterte canceled his appearance at a missile test firing aboard a navy ship off northern Bataan province due to the approaching typhoon.

On Guam, where Mangkhut already passed, residents dealt with flooded streets, downed trees and widespread power outages. Government agencies were conducting damage assessments and clearing roads, according to the Pacific Daily News.

About 80 percent of the U.S. territory was without power but it was restored by Thursday morning.

Mangkhut, a Thai word for the 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 and displaced over 5 million in the central Philippines in 2013.

Typhoon Mangkhut, a category five storm, could bring winds of more than 280km/h. Source: 1 NEWS


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Trump rejects Puerto Rico hurricane death toll, blames Democrats

President Donald Trump on Thursday (Friday NZ Time) rejected the widely accepted conclusion that nearly 3,000 died in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, arguing without evidence that the number was wrong and calling it a plot by Democrats to make him look bad.

The President has accused Jeff Zucker’s company of hatred and extreme bias towards him.
Source: 1 NEWS

As Hurricane Florence approached the Carolinas, the president picked a fresh fight over the administration's response in Puerto Rico, tweeting: "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000."

Trump added: "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico."

Puerto Rico's governor last month raised the U.S. territory's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found that the number of people who succumbed in the sweltering aftermath had been severely undercounted.

The estimate of nearly 3,000 dead in the six months after Maria devastated the island in September 2017 and knocked out the entire electrical grid was made by researchers with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. The study says the original estimates were so low because doctors on the island had not been trained to properly classify deaths after a natural disaster.

The elderly and impoverished were hardest hit by the hurricane.


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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. 

It’s predicted the fierce weather system will linger over the Carolina coast for days, not hours. Source: 1 NEWS

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.

Mary Edsall, 55, left, talks with her father, Korean war veteran Ed Coddington, 83, while waiting in a shelter for Hurricane Florence to pass after evacuating from Coddington's nearby home in Conway, S.C., Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Residents waiting in a shelter for Hurricane Florence to pass after evacuating from nearby home. Source: Associated Press

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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.

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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.

Source: istock.com