Samoan family heartbroken after losing two babies to rare genetic condition following MMR jabs

Alana-Rae and Jamie Ray Laulu are thought to have had a life-threatening immunodeficiency that affects one in a million children. Source: 1 NEWS



'Prepare for the worst' - Typhoon Mangkhut makes it way to Hong Kong after killing 28 in Philippines

 Hong Kong and southern China hunkered down under red alert as strong winds and heavy rain from Typhoon Mangkhut lashed the densely populated coast, a day after the biggest storm of the year left at least 28 dead from landslides and drownings in the northern Philippines.

Nearly half a million people had been evacuated from seven cities in Guangdong province, the gambling enclave of Macau closed down casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour landmark, where storm surges battered the waterfront reinforced with sandbags. Mangkhut is due to make landfall in Guangdong later today.

The national meteorological center said southern China "will face a severe test caused by wind and rain" and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.

The typhoon packed sustained winds of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 190 kph (118 mph). The Hong Kong Observatory said although Mangkhut had weakened slightly, its extensive, intense rainbands were bringing heavy downfall and frequent squalls.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled. All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted Sunday, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.

In Fujian province and elsewhere, tens of thousands of fishing boats returned to port and construction work came to a stop.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde told The Associated Press that 20 people had died in the Cordillera mountain region, four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province and another outside of the two regions. Three more deaths have been reported in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon made landfall before dawn Saturday (local time).

Among the fatalities were an infant and a 2-year-old child who died with their parents after the couple refused to immediately evacuate from their high-risk community in a Nueva Vizcaya mountain town, said Francis Tolentino, an adviser to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan said at least three people died and six others were missing in his mountain city of Baguio after strong winds and rain destroyed several houses and set off landslides, which also blocked roads to the popular vacation destination. 

About 87,000 people had evacuated from high-risk areas of the Philippines. Tolentino and other officials advised them not to return home until the lingering danger had passed.

In Cagayan's capital, Tuguegarao, where the typhoon hit land, Associated Press journalists saw a severely damaged public market, its roof ripped apart and wooden stalls and tarpaulin canopies in disarray. Outside a popular shopping mall, debris was scattered everywhere and government workers cleared roads of fallen trees.

In Hong Kong, Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.

"Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past," Lee said. "Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst."

A resident walks beside toppled structures as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines early Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. The typhoon slammed into the Philippines northeastern coast early Saturday, it's ferocious winds and blinding rain ripping off tin roof sheets and knocking out power, and plowed through the agricultural region at the start of the onslaught. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A resident walks beside toppled structures as Typhoon Mangkhut barreled across Tuguegarao city in Cagayan province, northeastern Philippines. Source: Associated Press


Weekend's most read: Pregnant women refusing prenatal care after children taken by social services

This story was first published on Sunday September 16.

More than 6000 children are in the care of Oranga Tamaraki – a 22 per cent increase from six years ago. Source: 1 NEWS

Health professionals say women whose children have been taken by social services are refusing to seek prenatal care when they fall pregnant for fear of having their newborns taken, too.

One Kaitaia couple, Mary and Warren, had their first child taken into care by social services because of domestic violence and mental health problems.

Mary believes social services' decision to remove their child from their care was fair at the time, but she claims they "also said that I'd be able to get him back and that I'd get a house in six months".

When Mary became pregnant for a second time, it was six months before she sought prenatal care.

Mary and Warren's fears were realised when their second child was taken from them at birth, with Oranga Tamariki saying their baby was at risk.

"I just cried and wouldn't give her to them. The nurse actually had to take her off me," she said.

The couple's children are among more than 6000 New Zealand kids under the care of Oranga Tamariki this year – a 22 per cent increase on the number of children in care six years ago.

The agency says it only takes such drastic action when there are concerns of a serious nature, and only when all other options have been explored.

However, Northland midwife Colleen Brown is concerned the move is putting pregnant mothers off seeking help.

"There is no way, unless you are gonna go bush and have your pepe (baby), that you are gonna keep that pepe," Ms Brown said.

1 NEWS has spoken to several pregnant mothers who are considered at risk.

Some are expecting mothers who would like help with their drug and alcohol abuse but have not reached out for help out of fear of losing their children. Some have children who have already been removed from their care.

But Oranga Tamariki says those who do not seek help are putting their babies at further risk.

Deanne 'Dee' McManus-Emery, the regional manager for Oranga Tamariki South Auckland, says, "We are hearing stories from our families that we do know, but we're also hearing it from our community organisations, colleagues and also our health providers".

"What we're trying to do is work in partnership with those providers, ensuring that there is a jointed approach to ensure the right support services are wrapped around them," Ms McManus-Emery explained.

"We certainly would want families to be accessing their prenatal care because that gives children the best start in life."

Ms Brown is urging mothers with fears of losing their child "to take ownership of it" and get the help they need.

"They need to come forward because there is help available for them," she said.

Mary and Warren visit their children twice a week and are working with social agencies to get them back permanently.

"I'd like our kids back. I’d like to be given a chance," Warren said.

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Two storms, Florence and Mangkhut, different as water and wind

Nature expresses its fury in sundry ways. Two deadly storms — Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut — roared ashore on the same day, half a world apart, but the way they spread devastation was as different as water and wind.

Storms in the western Pacific generally hit with much higher winds and the people who live in their way are often poorer and more vulnerable, Princeton University hurricane and climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi said Saturday. That will likely determine the type of destruction.

Mangkhut made landfall Friday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island in the Philippines with top-of-the-scale Category 5 winds of 165 mph. Florence had weakened to a Category 1 storm with 90 mph winds by the time it arrived at North Carolina's coast.

Yet a day after landfall the faster-moving Mangkhut was back out over open water — weakened, but headed across the South China Sea toward China. Florence, meanwhile, was still plodding across South Carolina at a pace slower than a normal person walks. By Saturday morning, it had already dumped more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain, a record for North Carolina.

Experts say Mangkhut may well end up being the deadlier storm.

As of Saturday afternoon (local time), the death count in the Philippines was a bit higher, although still far below that of other storms that have hit the disaster-prone island nation.

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

And with Mangkhut now headed toward the densely populated southeast coast of China, it is likely to cause more death and destruction.

But watery Florence's insured loses total will eventually be higher, Ernst Rauch, head of climate research for the world's largest reinsurer Munich Re, told German media.

That's because of a combination of geography, climatic conditions and human factors.

The western Pacific has two-and-a-half times more storms that reach the minimum hurricane strength of 74 mph. It has three-and-a-half times more storms that reach major hurricane strength of 111 mph, and three times more accumulated energy out of those hurricanes, an index that measures not just strength and number of storms but how long they last, according to more than 65 years of storm data.

It's feared the US state could be in for its most destructive flooding in its history. Source: Associated Press

So far this year there have been 23 named storms in the western Pacific and 10 in the Atlantic, both regions more than 30 percent busier than average years. Hurricanes and typhoons are the same type of storm; both are tropical cyclones, but those that occur in the Pacific west of the International Date Line are called typhoons.

The water in the western Pacific is warmer, and warm water fuels storms. There are also only a few pieces of land to get in the way and weaken them, said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy.

"If we are ever going to have a Category 6 (a speculated-on level that's above current measurement tools), the western Pacific is where it's going to be," said meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com.

The Philippines tends to get hit nearly every year, the Carolinas far less frequently though with lots of close calls, Maue said. That shows another big difference in the storms. Mangkhut formed further south and stayed south — over warmer water. Florence was out of the tropics when it hit land.

Because of that, Florence was weakened by the dry air and upper level winds of the higher latitudes. Not so the more southerly Mangkhut, which Maue said, "essentially had a perfect environment to intensify to a Category 5 and stay there."

"Mangkhut and Florence are certainly different animals," said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. Because Florence is moving so slowly, he said, it will dump more rain than Mangkhut, which is named for the Thai word for the mangosteen fruit.

Both storms have lasted a long time, especially Florence which formed all the way over near Africa 15 days before landfall, McNoldy said. Both storms cover a large area, but Mangkut still dwarfs Florence. Mangkhut's tropical storm force winds stretched more than 325 miles from the center, while Florence's spread about 195 miles, Klotzbach said.

"It was very dark, all you could see was water and wind, you couldn't really figure out what was going on out there," a neighbour said. Source: Associated Press

Economics also play a role in a storm's impact. As a developing country, the Philippines is much poorer than the southeastern United States, which means houses tend to be less sturdy and first responders less well equipped, among other factors. This is one reason why, when disaster does strike, the effects can be devastating. In 2013, one of the most powerful storms on record, Typhoon Haiyan , killed 7,300 people and displaced more than 5 million when it swept across the islands of the central Philippines.

Straddling the famous Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is also bedeviled by volcanoes and earthquakes, and while there are considerable patches of poverty in North and South Carolina, it is not the same as the rural area where Mangkhut hit.

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

Munich Re's Rauch said about 30 to 50 percent of storm damage is usually insured in the United States but often less than 10 percent in developing countries, meaning nine-tenths of the people hit will end up shouldering a bigger economic burden.

In the United States, "you can't move houses, but people can move out of the way," reflecting mounting damages from storms and often lower losses in life, Vecchi said.

As the world warms from the burning of fossil fuels, the globe will see both more extremely intense storms like Mangkhut and wetter storms like Florence, Vecchi said.

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


US Border Patrol agent suspected of being 'serial killer' after allegedly killing four women in two weeks

Texas state troopers arrested a US Border Patrol supervisor today who they say went on a two-week serial killing spree that left four female sex workers dead and ended only when a fifth woman escaped from him at a gas station and found help.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, fled from state troopers and was found hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2am today, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said at a news conference in the border city about 235 kilometres southwest of San Antonio.

Sheriff Cuellar said investigators have "very strong evidence" that he is responsible for the deaths of the four women working as prostitutes.

One of the victims was a transgender woman, said Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz.

"We do consider this to be a serial killer," Mr Alaniz said.

Mr Alaniz told The Texas Tribune that after the suspect picked up the fifth woman she quickly realised that she was in danger.

"When she tried to escape from him at a gas station that's when she ran into a [state] trooper," Mr Alaniz said.

Ortiz will be charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated kidnapping, Mr Alaniz said.

He said that authorities believe Ortiz had killed all four women since September 3. The names of the victims were not immediately released.

Mr Alaniz said two of them were US citizens but the nationalities of the other two were not yet known.

"The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence," said Mr Alaniz.

But both Mr Alaniz and Sheriff Cuellar declined to discuss the evidence or say how the women were killed.

Mr Alaniz said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the killings. Sheriff Cuellar said investigators believe Ortiz acted alone.

"It's interesting that he would be observing and watching as law enforcement was looking for the killer, that he would be reporting to work every day like normal," Mr Alaniz said.

Ortiz was a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol. US Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying that it was fully cooperating with the investigation.

"Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims' family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated," the agency said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are investigating, did not return several messages seeking comment.

San Diego, California, USA - July 4, 2016: International Border fence between USA -San Diego, and Mexico - Tijuana,  with border patrol car driving along the road.
International Border fence between USA -San Diego, and Mexico (file picture). Source: istock.com