Extreme weather

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 March 2000



(2000), "Extreme weather", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 9 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm.2000.07309aac.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Extreme weather

Extreme weather

30 October 1998 - Hurricane "Mitch"

Five days of relentless rain, tremendous floods and landslides caused by hurricane "Mitch" have devastated Honduras, killing at least 30 people and driving half a million from their homes. High waters have cut off all roads to San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country. Coastal areas pounded by hurricane winds earlier in the week are completely cut off from aid, and mudslides in the southern mountains have engulfed one small village. Rescue workers said they saw bodies floating in the water after the River Ulua overran its banks in the northern Honduran city of El Progreso, and officials said they feared catastrophic flooding across northern Honduras would worsen. Mitch, downgraded yesterday to a tropical storm and its winds weakening to about 40mph, was expected to dump 15-25 inches more rain today and tomorrow. In neighbouring Nicaragua, 11 people died in mudslides yesterday, bringing the death toll in that country to 19, Red Cross officials said. Six others were reported missing. Heavy rains also forced thousands to be evacuated from their homes in Nicaragua and Guatemala, and left an estimated 4,000 homeless in Costa Rica, officials said. At 07.00, EST (12.00, UTC) the centre of the storm was still on Honduran territory, 50 miles south of the coastal city of La Ceiba, the Hurricane Centre said. The USA has promised Honduras $500,000 in aid, and presidents of other Central American nations have promised to send helicopters and other emergency help. Today, cities on the Honduran coast and towns on the islands remained completely cut off. Thick clouds and driving rain grounded aircraft, and bridges have collapsed along every highway on the coast. Two major rivers have overflowed in a large valley north of San Pedro Sula, bringing serious damage to the economy of this industrial city of 600,000, 100 miles north of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. Emergency shelters in San Pedro Sula were overflowing today and tens of thousands of refugees from nearby cities and towns set up huge tent camps along every highway.

30 October 1998 - Tropical storm "Mitch" continues to drift west-south-west over Honduras with top sustained winds of 60mph. The storm has battered Central America for four days and has resulted in at least three dozen deaths, leaving scores of people missing and thousands homeless. The National Weather Service in Miami had reported top winds of 40mph earlier in the day, but at 16.00, EST, said a report from Roatan off the coast of Honduras indicated the maximum attained winds were actually 60mph with higher gusts. Forecaster Miles Lawrence predicted the winds would weaken tonight and tomorrow. The storm was centred inland about 45 miles south of La Ceiba, Honduras, near latitude 15.1N, longitude 86.8W. It was drifting west-south-west at 70mph, a course expected to continue through tomorrow. It is covering a large area as tropical storm-force winds reach out 200 miles from the storm's centre, although the strongest winds remain over water. The Coast Guard in Miami said it is continuing to search the coast of Honduras for Windjammer Cruises' four-masted sailing schooner Fanrome (676 gt, built 1927) and her 31-member crew. They were last heard from Tuesday afternoon (27 October) as they tried to evade hurricane "Mitch". The Coast Guard began the search for the 25S-ft vessel yesterday after receiving a call from Windjammer Cruises reporting they lost contact with the vessel. Windjammer's Mike Burke says the crew reported they were experiencing 100-knot winds and 40° rolls when they last contacted him. The crew had dropped their passengers off in Belize and headed towards the leeward side of the Roatan Islands off Honduras. In another case, the motor vessel Atlantic Dauphin recovered two Swiss nationals from a liferaft after their 33ft yacht sank after encountering "Mitch" on Monday. Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico from Cabo Catoche south. A hurricane watch is in effect for coastal areas in Belize.

31 October 1998 - Tropical storm "Mitch" heaped more torrential rain on Central America today and officials said the death toll of 158 after its relentless seven-day rampage would probably increase. "Mitch" was packing winds of 50mph as it advanced on Tegucigalpa, where thousands fled their makeshift houses perched on hills around the city, adding to the plight of 500,000 made homeless in Honduras alone. Panic gripped the city's one million inhabitants as they watched rivers crossing the city threaten to engulf its six main bridges. Emergency workers in Honduras, which bore the brunt of "Mitch" when it was an unusually powerful hurricane earlier in the week, reported 60 dead. "The danger for the next 48 hours is still incredibly high. It hasn't stopped raining and all of the soil is already completely saturated", Lt.-Col. Guillermo Erazo of Honduras' disaster co-ordination committee, said. Mitch's tropical storm-force winds extended for hundreds of miles into neighbouring Nicaragua, where the body count leaped to 90 late yesterday, with an additional 120 people unaccounted for, the army's Civil Defence Committee said. "We know there have been more mudslides that have caused damage and injury", Lt. Hector Escoto said. In Mexico, four people drowned crossing a river swollen by the storm's torrential rains, which also killed one person each in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Panama earlier in the week. In Honduras water reached treetops in banana plantations and swollen rivers swept bridges, houses and corpses before them. In Honduras, the storm had destroyed an estimated 7,000 homes. Scores of towns and villages on the Honduran coast were flooded up to their roofs. Floods and mudslides completely cut off the major industrial city of San Pedro Sula, about 100 miles north of the capital, by road from the outside world, stranding Honduran President Carlos Flores as he toured the devastation. Flores declared a nation-wide emergency and the Congress ordered all basic food and fuel prices frozen. The Bay Islands of Roatan and Guanaja, 30 miles off Honduras' northern Caribbean coast, also remained completely cut off yesterday and officials said they did not have damage estimates for those areas, but they feared the worst after the eye of the storm hovered near the islands for nearly two days. Rescue workers said they saw bodies floating in the water after the Ulua river overran its banks in the town of El Progreso, near San Pedro Sula. The river rampaged through the town, pouring through banks and other buildings and spewing out of second story windows. Tens of thousands of refugees crowded emergency shelters in San Pedro Sula while others pitched huge tent camps along every highway or waded up to any high land they could find.

At least 130 people have died in floods and mudslides. At 04.00, EST, today, the National Weather Service in Miami reported that the storm's poorly defined centre was hovering inland over Honduras about 45 miles west of Tegucigalpa. The agency said "Mitch" was drifting west-south-west at 7mph, a course that was expected to continue. Maximum sustained winds had slowed to 40mph with higher gusts, and forecasters predicted little change in strength during the next 24 hours.

Raging floodwaters and landslides had killed at least 485 people in Central America and the Caribbean by today after a week of torrential rain, and the toll was likely to soar as bodies surfaced from a sea of mud, officials said. In Nicaragua, local radio reported that up to 1,000 people might have been buried alive in a huge landslide on the slopes of the Casita volcano, near the country's border with Honduras. However, Nicaraguan Red Cross spokeswoman Leonora Rivera said officials in Chinandega, some 55 miles north of Managua, had reported only 70 dead. Rivera added she believed reports were confusing the population of villages in the area with the death toll, while the Nicaragua head of aid agency Care International, Jan Chollaert, told the BBC most villages there had been evacuated earlier. Rivera said that, according to official figures, 137 corpses had been pulled from the floodwaters in Nicaragua, not including the 70 possible dead in the mudslide. In neighbouring Honduras, emergency workers said 201 people had died so far. In El Salvador, the body count reached 25 and in Guatemala 14. "These numbers are minimal in comparison with the disasters", Rivera said. "The number of dead will increase considerably once it stops raining and we can get into isolated areas". Tropical depression "Mitch", ranked earlier this week as the fourth most powerful Atlantic hurricane this century, swept past Tegucigalpa and headed into El Salvador and Guatemala with maximum winds of 35mph. The storm had been dumping 25 inches of rain per day on its rampage across Central America, sparking flash floods that ripped away shanty-towns, buried banana plantations to their tree tops and city streets to the tops of telephone poles. Bodies buried in mud littered the flooded streets of Tegucigalpa today as the rains began to recede and looters took advantage of the chaos to strip supermarket and shop shelves bare. Buildings have been badly damaged or simply swept away by the raging waters of the Choluteca River and other waterways that run down from nearby hills. Witnesses said landslides ripped whole shanty-towns off precarious hillsides into the muddy waters, swirling bodies, cars, tree trunks and telephone poles into the flooded streets. Buildings were flooded to their second floors. Many shops in the neighbourhood of La Concordia had been ransacked after their owners fled to safety elsewhere or perished in the floods. City authorities said they were sending police out into the streets to try to halt the crime spree. El Salvador's Interior Minister Mario Acosta said a state of national emergency had been declared as the storm began to spark deadly mud-slides there, killing 25 people. About 7,000 families were evacuated from their homes in the south-east of the country near the Honduran border. Guatemalan authorities said 14 people died there today, nine of them near the town of Coban, some 125 miles north of Guatemala City.

1 November 1998 - Floods blamed on "Mitch", now a tropical depression, swept hundreds to their deaths in Central America and hundreds more were missing today after floodwaters sent hills crashing down on villages, officials said. Guatemala braced for massive flooding as "Mitch", once the fourth most powerful hurricane this century, swept across its borders from neighbouring Honduras. At 04.00 hours the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said the centre of the storm was 70 miles west-north-west of Guatemala City and moving west-north-west at 9mph with little change expected over the next 24 hours. Its winds continued at 35mph, with higher gusts, and the hurricane centre predicted five to ten inches more rain today in parts of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and south-eastern Mexico. Its rainfall had slowed from a peak of 25 inches per day.

Thirty-one crew members on board four-masted schooner Fantome remained missing today five days after they were last heard from trying to evade hurricane "Mitch", officials said. The vessel last called in on Tuesday (27 October) from north of Honduras' central coast and reported being rocked by high winds and seas as "Mitch" approached, Despite a search of thousands of miles of the western Caribbean Sea, there has been no trace of the vessel since. "We have not found them", James Canty, vice president of corporate development at Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, said. US Coast Guard Lt. John Pierce said four Coast Guard Lockheed C-130 (Hercules) aircraft searched the Caribbean Sea north of Honduras for the missing vessel today, the fourth day of an intense search. The crew includes citizens of Panama, Belize and the West Indies. Pierce said he knew of no US citizens on board the missing vessel. British Navy frigate Sheffield, on patrol in the region, had also joined the search, Windjammer Cruises said. The frigate is equipped with advanced sonar and communications equipment. Company and Coast Guard officials said the Fantome might have lost her communications gear and taken refuge somewhere in the Caribbean. "It's not beyond possibility that the antennae were blown off and that she wasn't able to call in, and they just went somewhere else and haven't gotten there yet", Pierce said. "Otherwise, I would have expected to find something by now", he said. "A vessel that size doesn't sink without debris." On Tuesday, the Fantome was heading east to avoid hurricane "Mitch" amid seas of 10-15 feet and winds of about 75mph. The vessel had dropped off her 100 passengers in Belize on Monday before putting out to sea and attempting to skirt the bottom half of the hurricane.

Up to 1,500 people may have been killed in a wave of mud and rocks in Nicaragua after torrential rains brought the slopes of a volcano toppling down on their villages, a senior official said today. Defence Minister Pedro Joaquin Chamorro said that "between 1,000 and 1,500 people may have died" yesterday in the shadow of the Casita volcano, about 55 miles north-west of Managua. If the death toll from the mudslide is confirmed it would nearly triple the official figure of 880 dead throughout Central America and the Caribbean after a week of pounding from hurricane "Mitch", at one stage one of the most powerful Atlantic storms this century and finally dissipating late today. "We are dealing with a national tragedy which all of Nicaragua is mourning", Chamorro said, adding that only 120 of the 1,800 people living in two buried communities in the remote area had been rescued. Some survivors were today taken to the nearby town of Chinandega. Officials at Espa·a de Chinandega hospital, overflowing with wounded, said many survivors suffered severe sand and rock burns and would have to have limbs amputated. Damage to roads and bridges cut off the entire area and forced emergency workers to trek to the location on foot even as fresh rains fell. By late today, "Mitch" was finally coming apart over the border of Guatemala and Mexico. A week of furious rain and winds flooded cities to the tops of telephone poles and swept away whole shanty towns. Mud and floodwater buried entire villages in Honduras and Nicaragua, cutting off tens of thousands of people from the outside world. Officials reported that the death toll in Nicaragua had reached 471, and in Honduras, not including the latest estimate from Chamorro, 317. Those were the two countries hardest hit. There were also 70 dead in El Salvador, 15 in Guatemala, four in Mexico, and one each in Costa Rica and Panama. One person also died in Jamaica when the hurricane began its deadly rampage a week ago. The Guatemalan Fire Brigade said 12 people died when a small aircraft crashed into a mountain in thick fog today in the south-west of the country. At least four of the passengers were believed to be US citizens, possibly missionaries. In Honduras, bright sunshine today laid bare the destruction of the capital, Tegucigalpa, shining through roofs of wrecked homes and warming corpses as they surfaced from the mud. Looters ransacked supermarkets and stores. Officials warned the flood danger was not yet over, as a dam formed by driftwood and debris upriver from Tegucigalpa threatened to burst under the weight of thousands of cubic feet of rainwater. "If this huge lake which has formed bursts out abruptly, it's going to take out the Chile Bridge. And if the rocks hold back the water, then the capital will be flooded again", said Tegucigalpa mayor Cesar Castellanos. Castellanos died later today. The Army helicopter he was travelling in to survey damage from the storm crashed, said Rolando Leiva, Director of Civil Aviation in the country. In El Salvador the death toll started rising after the storm raged through late on Friday (30 October) and yesterday. In the small village of Chilanguera in the south-east of the country, 20 mud-caked corpses were laid out by the altar of a small church, practically the only structure left standing. Army Col. Ricardo Arango, commander of the III Infantry Brigade, said as many as 100 people might have died in Chilanguera alone and more than 60 people were missing.

2 November 1998 - The total confirmed toll, across the region, stood at about 1,300 late yesterday, after the tail end of hurricane "Mitch" dumped heavy rains on Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras last week. Officials from Honduras to El Salvador, struggling to cope with downed bridges, shredded roads and hundreds of thousands of homeless, appealed for international help. Mareos Cortez of the Nicaraguan Red Cross said at least 610 people had died on the Casita volcano alone. Red Cross officials said the total death toll in Nicaragua was 808, while thousands remain missing.

"Mitch" appeared to be dissipating early today, near the border between Mexico and Guatemala. In Honduras, Lt. Rene Cuevas of the national disaster committee said that 362 people were confirmed dead. Honduran police said they had arrested 250 people for looting wrecked supermarkets and stores in Tegucigalpa. They were also fighting to contain a bloody riot at a Tegucigalpa jail housing 3,500, including 2,500 inmates transferred from another jail after it became flooded. In El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, officials said 70 were dead. The fate of 31 crew on board a tall ship (schooner Fantome), missing in the Caribbean since 27 October, was still unknown today.

Honduran President Carlos Flores today issued a plea to the world to help rescue his nation where up to 5,000 people may have died in some of this century's worst floods. Hurricane "Mitch" wrought havoc in Central America, with Honduras and Nicaragua bearing the brunt of floods which may have claimed up to 7,000 lives. Flores said he was swallowing his national pride to appeal for help from rich nations after floods which submerged half the country and devastated its farm-based economy. In Nicaragua, where as many as 1,500 were feared buried alive from a massive mud-slide on the slopes of a volcano in the north-western part of the country, Defence Minister Pedro Joaquin Chamorro also made a strong appeal for help from abroad. Leonora Rivera, spokeswoman for the Nicaraguan Red Cross, said the toll in Nicaragua stood at 808 dead, including 610 who were engulfed by the volcano mudslide and about 2,000 missing. Rivera said rescue teams had rescued another 90 people from the disaster zone today, bringing the total number saved since the mudslide struck on Saturday (31 October) to 200. A top Honduran government official, meanwhile, announced that a curfew was being imposed to prevent looting in areas laid waste by the floods while all civil rights were being suspended for a fortnight. "The government is suspending from today and for 15 days the exercise of individual rights", said Gustavo Alfaro, minister of the Office of the Presidency. Earlier a top Honduran rescue official said the number of deaths in Honduras, which officially totals 363, could top 5,000. Some 148 have died in El Salvador and 69 in Guatemala. Abandoned homes and shops have been looted in Tegucigalpa and other cities in Honduras. The army and the police would enforce the curfew which will run from 20.00, local time to 06.00 hrs. Those caught breaking the curfew would be interned in refugee camps which have been set up for those left homeless by the floods, Alfaro said. The suspension of civil rights and the curfew could be extended subject to how the situation in the country develops. The government imposed restrictions on the sale of gasoline by limiting opening hours of filling stations to 12 hours a day.

US Coast Guard crews today found a field of debris from four-masted schooner Fantome, which vanished off Honduras last week with 31 crew members on board while trying to evade hurricane "Mitch". The vessel was last heard from on Tuesday afternoon (27 October) as the powerful storm approached Honduras's coast. After three days searching more than 120,000 square miles of the Caribbean Sea for the vessel, Coast Guard aircraft today located a field of debris, including two life-rafts, seven lifejackets and a wooden staircase believed to have once connected the vessel's two decks, near the island of Guanaja, north of Trujillo, Honduras. However, Company and Coast Guard officials said there was no way to know whether the vessel was destroyed in the storm. They also said they held out hope that the 31 crew members were alive on some of the vessel's 11 other life-rafts, which can hold 25 people, or in her three motorised escape boats. "Those life-rafts have food and water for two weeks", said Coast Guard spokesman Jeff Hall. "We haven't found any of the motorised boats yet". Search crews had thought a second debris field located 30 miles from Honduras's Isla de Roatan today might also be tied to Fantome, but it was later found to be unrelated debris from hurricane "Mitch". British frigate Sheffield was continuing to search tonight, and two Coast Guard aircraft were to resume the hunt at first light tomorrow, Hall said. Using serial numbers, crews confirmed that one of the rafts had come from the Fantome. The second, similar raft had not been confirmed as from the vessel, but the seven lifejackets were also from the vessel, Hall said. However, the Coast Guard said the life jackets were a type used by passengers, not crew members. They said it was likely they had been swept off the vessel as one was found yesterday on Guanaja.

3 November 1998 - Hurricane "Mitch" has caused considerable damage/loss of life in El Salvador. Initial estimates as follows: 174 dead, 106 missing, 54,000 homeless. Up to 75 per cent of crops, coffee, sugar and maize ruined at an approximate figure of $170,000,000. Ports and airport closed briefly on 31 October. Forecast is for rain for the remainder of today, clearing tomorrow.

The death toll in a week of catastrophic floods in Central America headed towards 9,000 today, making hurricane "Mitch" one of the deadliest Atlantic storms on record, while a volcanic eruption in Nicaragua compounded the misery there. Millions of people were stranded in the largely impoverished region, hundreds of thousands of homes had been swept away and up to 13,000 people were still missing by late today. In Honduras, its fragile economy and precious cash crops almost totally ruined by devastating floods the body count reached 7,000 as rescue workers spread out over the country of 5.8 million to dig corpses from the mud. "We currently estimate that the deaths have reached 7,000 and they could even surpass this figure", said Col. Rene Osorio of the Honduran national emergency commission. Another 1,350 people have been confirmed dead in neighbouring Nicaragua where problems were made worse by the eruption of the Cerro Negro volcano, just 20 miles from the Casita volcano where perhaps 2,000 were buried under an avalanche of mud and rocks. "Mitch" had moved to near Mexico's south-eastern city of Campeche by today, the US National Hurricane Center said in Miami. It had regained strength and was again a tropical storm. However, its 40mph gusts were a mere shadow of the 180mph winds it lashed Central America with last week and the tempest was expected to drift into the Gulf of Mexico tomorrow. In Nicaragua the 3,314 foot Cerro Negro volcano spewed lava gas and ash today, raising fears of a repeat of a 1995 eruption which spread tons of ash over 90 square miles of rich farming country. "There have been explosions with lava flows, emissions of gas and ash on the north side of the volcano in an unpopulated area", Martha Navarro, an expert with the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies, said. In Honduras, people were still waving desperately for help from rooftops, roads were ripped away by floods and banana fields had been flattened. Relief efforts have been complicated by the sheer number of victims spread over the country where roads and bridges were damaged or destroyed by the storm. In El Salvador, officials increased their death toll to 225 late today and in Guatemala, the estimated toll stood at 186. President Bill Clinton said the international community was likely to offer help to Central America to speed up aid and economic recovery.

The USA has already provided nearly $3.5 million to airlift food, emergency shelter supplies and water containers into the region, and sent military aircraft and helicopters.

Since last week, Guatemala has been affected by the aftermath of hurricane "Mitch" on the Atlantic coast and tropical storm "Newton" on the Pacific. The Atlantic coast has been badly affected, and the ports are closed at this time. Puerto Barrios has suffered to some degree but the majority of damage has occurred to surrounding areas. The farmlands have been flooded and large quantities of banana and other fruit crops destroyed. On the Pacific side, the town of San Jose is under 3-9ft of water and communications are currently out of order. Puerto Quetzal is apparently not under any serious threat but surrounding areas are being evacuated by launches. It is feared that water levels will continue to rise from the draining water from the central plateau. Both coasts are isolated due to collapsed bridges and swollen rivers and, from preliminary information received, at least three bridges collapsed on the Pacific highway and the same number on the Atlantic side. Guatemala City had also been badly affected and landslides continue to occur, especially in the outskirts of the city. Communications by road have been partially cut and emergency crews are working to repair bridges and clear landslides. Over 80 deaths have been confirmed at this time, the majority in the Guatemala City area, but reports from the interior have still not arrived or been confirmed. Initial figures suggest that 60,000 homes have been affected and that about 150,000 people are in danger. The president has declared a State of Emergency and ordered all Government and private commercial activities suspended yesterday and today, in order to have the streets free of traffic for the emergency and rescue teams.

4 November 1998 - Carriers plying the trade lanes to the Caribbean and Central America are making contingency plans following the damage wrought by hurricane "Mitch" and other violent weather systems. The hurricane destroyed much of Central America's export economy. Almost all segments of Honduras' export economy were damaged badly, said Antonio Young, executive vice-president of the export foundation. Some estimates suggest that 75 per cent of Honduras has been in some way damaged by "Mitch" and that two million of the nation's six million inhabitants have been displaced by the storm. Crop damage in most of Central America is expected to be extensive with initial loss estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars for banana plantations and palm oil production. This is expected to be a blow for the region and the carriers that serve it. Many of the top carriers to Central America - including Crowley American Transport, Sea-Land Service Inc., Seaboard Marine Ltd and Maersk - also have strong Caribbean services. Both the Caribbean and Central America trade will suffer through the fourth quarter of this year. Mark Miller, a spokesman for Crowley, said inland transportation had been greatly affected by the mudslides, rockslides and the flooding. Not only did "Mitch" cause direct damage and flooding to import manufacturing zones like San Pedro Sula in Honduras but access to coastal areas was cut off by floods and mudslides in the interior. That means goods moving to and from El Salvador and Nicaragua through Guatemala or Honduras essentially have been cut off. Meanwhile, the airport at San Pedro Sula remained closed, still waterlogged four days after "Mitch" departed and air cargo was brought to a halt. With hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, and regional highways impassable, there is likely to be weeks and months of disruption of trade. In the capital, Tegucigalpa, some areas were under water up to the third floor of buildings.

4 November 1998 - Central America's tally of death and ruin grew further today in the aftermath of hurricane "Mitch", a storm said to have set the region's fragile economies back two decades. "Mitch", which all but dissipated following its rampage through Central America, had re-gathered strength and posed a new threat to Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas, forecasters said. "That came as Central American countries were still picking up the pieces from one of the worst storms in the region's history with the death toll rising and the fate of even greater numbers of missing remaining in doubt. The hurricane struck Central America last week, killing some 9,000 people, most of them in Honduras and Nicaragua. As many as 13,000 people were still unaccounted for in remote areas which had been hit by flooding and mudslides from up to two feet of rain daily on the impoverished region. The United Nations World Food Programme declared that Mitch set back development in Central America by 20 years. Remnants of Mitch tacked into the Gulf of Mexico, growing into a tropical storm with winds increasing to 45mph, the National Hurricane Centre in Miami said. The tempest doused Florida with heavy rains, and tropical storm warnings were also up for western Cuba and north-west Bahamas as Mitch moved towards the north-east. Mexico launched one of the biggest airlifts in its history and lent badly needed helicopters while Europe announced it had approved $8 million in humanitarian aid, adding to some $2.6 million donated by Taiwan. The USA donated nearly $10 million from various sources. However, the aid was unlikely to be enough due to the sheer number of victims spread across countries where roads and bridges were damaged or destroyed by the storm. Health officials warned of the threat of cholera outbreaks posed by pools of polluted water. Malaria and dengue fever were also a danger as mosquitoes multiplied in the flood waters. In Honduras, its fragile economy and cash crops almost totally ruined, President Carlos Flores said there were 6,430 dead while other officials estimated the death toll would reach over 7,000. Another 1,452 people have been confirmed dead in neighbouring Nicaragua. There were 239 dead in El Salvador and 196 in Guatemala. Mexico, responding to appeals for help, said it sent 12 military aircraft, including two Boeing 727s and five Lockheed C-130 (Hercules) aircraft, and 28 helicopters in order to ferry some 1,360 tonnes of food and medicine in coming weeks. Nicaragua kept a close eye on an erupting volcano which added to its misery from the hurricane. The Cerro Negro volcano was spewing lava, hot gas and flaming rocks 30 miles from the site where as many as 2,000 people were believed to have been buried in the avalanche of mud triggered by the rains on the neighbouring Casita volcano.

Tropical storm "Mitch" doused Florida with heavy rain and high winds today as remnants of the hurricane which devastated much of Central America last week raced across the Gulf of Mexico. Tourists in the Florida Keys took refuge from sudden rain today, while county offices and schools on the string of islands on the state southern tip were closed early. Authorities in Monroe County said about 30 people had been injured at a Key Largo area trailer park when a tornado t ouched down in the area. Authorities said schools and offices in the Keys would remain closed tomorrow, and that three shelters were opened tonight. "Mitch" had weakened to a tropical depression but was upgraded to a tropical storm by early today.

Rain and thunderstorms doused western Cuba, and tornado and flood watches were up for parts of Florida. Forecasters also warned coastal residents to expect storm tides of three to five above normal. The National Hurricane Centre said the storm was not expected to intensify during the next 24 hours as it moved north-east across Florida to the Atlantic Ocean. At 23.00, EST, "Mitch"'s centre was over the Gulf of Mexico about 150 miles south-west of Florida. The storm was moving north-east at nearly 25mph and is expected to begin moving even more quickly during the next 24 hours. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the Florida Keys and for most of the Florida coast, south from Tarpon Springs, near Tampa on the west coast, and on the east coast south from New Smyrna Beach, which is south of Daytona Beach. Tropical storm warnings also were up for western Cuba from the province of Matanzas westward, including the Isle of Youth. The government of the Bahamas issued a tropical storm warning for the north-west Bahamas as "Mitch" moved to wards the north-east.

5 November 1998 - The storm is moving north-east at 23mph and is expected to continue to accelerate. It is not expected to grow in strength, however. NHC forecasters say residents can expect rainfall totals of 4-8 inches and tides 3-5 feet above normal in central and south Florida. Isolated tornadoes associated with the storm are possible over Florida. A shopping centre in Miramar, FL, was closed because heavy rains collapsed the roof of one of its stores.

Following received from the Meteorological Office: Tropical storm "Mitch": A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the Florida Keys and for the Florida peninsula southwards from Tarpon Springs on the west coast and southwards from New Smyrna Beach on the east coast. A tropical storm warning is also in effect for western Cuba from the province of Matanzas westwards, including the Isle of Youth, and for the north-west Bahamas.

5 November 1998 - The US Coast Guard has suspended its search, today, for schooner Fantome and her crew of 31, after a sea hunt that covered more than 145,000 square miles. The tall ship owned by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises of Miami was last heard from 27 October after she had dropped off her passengers in Belize and headed out to sea in an apparently unsuccessful effort to elude Hurricane "Mitch".

The world price of coffee has risen 32 per cent since hurricane "Mitch" struck the Central American republics of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. Analysts said losses of the coffee crop were heaviest in Nicaragua, where it was estimated up to 30 per cent of coffee production had been lost. As much as 25 per cent of the crop in Guatemala, the biggest producer, was at risk, while hundreds of thousands of bags of coffee were destroyed in Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. Estimates of the damage have been hampered by the destruction of transportation links, which has made it impossible for officials to reach the plantations to make assessments. The damage to roads has also put the remainder of the crop at risk. Continual rain has speeded up the ripening of the beans, which will rot if they cannot reach processing mills in time. In Guatemala, ruined bridges have cut off the main port for coffee exports, Santo Tomas de Castilla.

The remnants of hurricane "Mitch" made a last angry swipe at Florida and the Bahamas today before heading out into the Atlantic Ocean and away from land, the US National Hurricane Centre said. The clouds remaining from the storm which killed at least 11,000 people in Central America last week were this evening centred over open waters north-east of the Bahamas and moving towards the northern Atlantic. "`Mitch' is no longer a tropical storm", Hurricane Centre Deputy Director Max Mayfield said. "It's of main concern to the marine interests." The US Coast Guard today recovered the body of a man who drowned after his fishing vessel Carefree capsized when the storm swept through the Gulf of Mexico. A second man remained missing tonight. Tornadoes spawned by the tempest last night ripped off roofs, flipped over mobile homes and pulled down power lines in the Florida Keys, injuring at least 20 people. "We've damage to over 100 structures, mostly trailers and recreational vehicles - some houses", Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokesman Greg Artman said. The storm also hit much of south and central Florida. Up to 7.5 inches of rain flooded streets in Miami and other areas, tornadoes damaged at least a dozen houses and strong winds tore off tree limbs and scattered debris. This afternoon, "Mitch" moved across the Florida peninsula and through the northern Bahamas, where several islands were lashed with high winds and rain and hit by flooding. Schools closed on Grand Bahama, airlines cancelled flights, houses flooded and a tornado demolished a restaurant on Ahaco island. The Bahamas Air Sea Rescue reported at least one injury, a man who lost fingers in the rush to secure his vessel. At 16.00, EDT (21.00, UTC), when the National Hurricane Centre issued its last public advisory on "Mitch", all tropical storm warnings had been lifted. The storm was moving east-north-east at almost 32mph, and was expected to continue to head in that direction with a further increase in forward speed. Maximum sustained winds were near 60mph, and little change in strength was expected, forecasters said.

6 November 1998 - There have been approximately 200 deaths in Guatemala attributable to Hurricane "Mitch". The estimated cost of road re-construction is »15 million and approximately 10 per cent of agricultural land has been damaged. The damage to agricultural land is based on a country total, but the 10 per cent is concentrated mainly in the banana growing areas. There could be much more damage in the sugar growing areas if the water does not drain soon. The road construction in the last two to three years has been enormous in comparison to previous Governments and a large proportion of these constructions have been affected and has put the country back by at least the same amount of time. Large claims on new vehicles are currently being received and expected to be serious. Other imported cargoes are still in the ports and will not be moved for about two weeks, when we will have a better idea as to the quantity. However, the country has been fortunate in not losing more lives or sustaining more damage. It is still raining periodically in Guatemala City and there could be further damages if it continues. The ports are now having clear weather and the water is beginning to drain, but it is still several feet deep in places.

7 November 1998 - British warships sailed into Nicaraguan territory today in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue 900 people stranded for six days without food and water after the deadliest Atlantic hurricane in two centuries. New rainfall fed already swollen rivers elsewhere in Central America, still devastated from the former hurricane "Mitch", which killed an estimated 11,000 people and left 10,000 missing and feared dead. "Mitch" finally died but the new rains stymied the British rescue effort in north-eastern Nicaragua, and another attempt would be made tomorrow, British Ambassador Roy Osborne said. Elsewhere in the country, authorities evacuated storm-weary Nicaraguans as rivers burst their banks and new mudslides tumbled down the sides of volcanoes today. Relief workers clamoured for food, water and medicine as helicopter pilots and rescue teams from around the globe ferried supplies to three million people scattered throughout the countryside who were cut off from the outside world. The presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala were due to met in El Salvador on Monday (9 November) to map out a joint strategy for rebuilding after a disaster that one UN official said set regional development back 20 years. In remote north-eastern Nicaragua - where dense rain forest and isolation have preserved Miskito Indian culture - a British Lynx helicopter off the frigate HMS Sheffield searched for some 900 Miskitos, including 500 children, Osborne said. The victims, surrounded by surging waters, were stranded at a Moravian church in Siksayali on the Coco River along the Honduran border, about 95 miles inland from the Caribbean coast, but the rescue was thwarted by poor visibility, Osborne said. "They radioed a message today to say that we haven't been able to reach them yet, but we haven't given up", Osborne said. The British joined military forces from the USA, Mexico and France that have come to support beleaguered armies in Honduras and Nicaragua. They are all part of a massive foreign aid effort that has seen cash and supplies pour in from around the world. A Boeing 747 loaded with 100 tonnes of US rice was due to arrive in Managua today. It will be followed by separate jets full of corn and soybeans, embassy officials said. The grains will be welcomed by hungry refugees scattered throughout the impoverished region. Plans for the longer term were being made. "The World Food Programme will issue an emergency appeal to the international community next week for $40 million to feed around one million people for six months in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador", Abby Spring, spokeswoman for the UN programme, said in Managua. The death toll remained uncertain today after Honduran officials cast doubt on their own figures, saying they might be overstated at 6,420 dead. In Nicaragua the president's own estimate of 3,800 dead included the 1,848 dead and the 1,267 listed missing by the National Emergency Committee. The bulk of the remainder came from El Salvador and Guatemala, plus the 31 people who were on schooner Fantome, lost at sea. The economic damage includes $3 billion to infrastructure and crops in Honduras and Nicaragua. Today areas not previously hit by the storm were in danger. They included regions along the Rama River, which leads to the Caribbean Sea on Nicaragua's southern Atlantic Coast, and Ometepe Island, formed by two volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua, an inland freshwater sea that is the largest in Central America. "The Rama River is rising very fast. It caused alarm and led Civil Defence to take measures of evacuation", Lt. Hector Escoto of Civil Defence said. "(In Ometepe) they are evacuating people on the sides of the volcano. The slopes are coming down." In Honduras, a highway leading from a key port to the capital, Tegucigalpa, was reopened after being severed by the storm. The city came dangerously close to running out of fuel.

8 November 1998 - The British Navy launched a reconnaissance mission today to map a plan for rescuing 912 Nicaraguans stranded in a remote riverside outpost in the aftermath of hurricane "Mitch". Helicopter pilots flew above the raging Coco River on the Nicaraguan-Honduran border inland from the Caribbean Coast in a bid to confirm reports that some flood victims were clinging to trees and driftwood, British ambassador Roy Osborne said. "Mitch" killed an estimated 11,000 people in Central America and left thousands more homeless after crashing through the region a week ago. The storm has since disappeared but a massive international aid and rescue effort continued, mostly in Nicaragua and Honduras, the two nations hardest hit. US, Mexican and French military teams joined forces with hundreds of foreign aid workers and local volunteers in ferrying relief supplies to some three million affected people scattered through-out the region. Plane loads of food, water, medicine, clothes poured into the region from around the world. Helicopters lent by Mexico, the USA and other nations were still needed to distribute supplies as many roads and bridges were destroyed by the storm, which at its peak pounded the region with up to two feet of rain a day. Two British frigates and a logistical support ship were off the Caribbean Coast of Central America, each ready to act once the reconnaissance flights determined the best course. In Honduras, bodies of victims continued to wash up in rivers and reservoirs. Officials were reviewing a previous death toll of 6,420, saying it may have been overstated. Another 3,800 died in Nicaragua, President Arnoldo Aleman said.

8 November 1998 - Nicaragua's ambassador to the USA today estimated it would cost $1 billion to rebuild his country after hurricane "Mitch" and appealed for massive reconstruction assistance and debt relief measures. Ambassador Francisco Aguirre Sacasa said the hurricane killed 4,000 Nicaraguans and left 800,000 people - about 20 per cent of the country's population - homeless. Relief supplies were beginning to flow into the country, but the loss of some 100 bridges made it difficult to get the supplies to people stranded without food, water or medicine outside the nation's capital, Managua, Aguirre Sacasa said. Nearly 300 schools were destroyed by the storm, and the rest of the country's infrastructure was in a shambles, he said, estimating the total cost of rebuilding would amount to "around $1 billion".

9 November 1998 - Fresh Del Monte Produce, one of the world's largest producers of bananas, pineapples and melons, has said that hurricane "Mitch" caused an estimated $35 million in damage to its plant in Guatemala, affecting 10 per cent of its worldwide banana crop. The company is the second major fruit producer to estimate the impact of the storm on its Central American operations. On Tuesday (3 November), Dole Food said it would take $50 million to $70 million in charges for damage at its plants in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala, which affected 25 per cent of its worldwide banana production.

9 November 1998 - The European Union and its 15 individual member states have pledged or earmarked a total of around $82 million in aid so far for Central American countries hit by hurricane "Mitch", current EU president (Austria) said today. "Mitch" killed an estimated 11,000 people in Central America, with 13,000 more missing feared dead and thousands more homeless. Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel said the European Commission and member states "will deliver a package of more than 70 million Ecus for the humanitarian disaster and for the relief of the refugees and the destroyed infrastructure". Officials later said this was not a totally new aid package but the sum of what had already been pledged by the Commission and by EU member states on a bilateral basis, plus some pledges or estimates of more money to come. "A lot more will be needed. It doesn't stop this year", a spokesman for Schuessel said following a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. He said there had been no discussion of a French proposal for a moratorium on international debt owed by the disaster-hit countries, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

9 November 1998 - Following received from Coast Guard Miami, dated 6 November: In the wake of Tropical Storm Mitch, the Coast Guard responded to numerous cases. The most significant are as follows: Coast Guard units responded to a 39-foot capsized vessel Karefree with two fishermen on board in the vicinity of Dry Tortugas, FL, Thursday (5 November) morning. The vessel's emergency position indicating radio beacon and an unmanned life raft were identified as belonging to the Karefree. A Coast Guard helicopter located and hoisted one deceased male and is currently continuing their search for the second person. The US Army Special Forces dive team assisted by searching beneath the Karefree. A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued two US citizens, from a life raft, 33 miles north-west of Freeport, BF. The two people abandoned their 60-foot vessel Endless Summer when she began to take on water. The Coast Guard helicopter transferred the two survivors to Freeport. Emergency personnel were standing by to transport them to a local hospital. Coast guard cutters Sitkinak and Valiant assisted a disabled Belize mv Man O' War (l84 gt, built 1967), 120 miles south-east of Miami. Cutter Valiant took the Man O' War in tow, and is expected to arrive in Miami late tonight.

11 November 1998 - North Sea and Atlantic oil installations have taken a beating after the tail end of hurricane "Mitch" brought winds gusting to force 10 (storm) to the region. Yesterday, British Petroleum was forced to evacuate staff from m storage barge Schiehallion and Shell had to shut down its Brent C platform in the northern North Sea. Around 30 non-essential BP personnel were airlifted off the Schiehallion after a 15m high wave crashed into the vessel's bow, causing a rupture 50ft above the waterline. A coastguard helicopter from Sumburgh on Shetland was joined by a helicopter from RAF Lossiemouth in evacuating the staff to the Stena Dee drilling platform. Around 45 employees were left on board. Coastguard officials described the conditions as "awful". "There were winds of over 50mph; the real problem came from the swell around the vessel", a spokesman said. BP said the crewmen were evacuated as a precautionary measure. A spokesman for the company said there were three cracks in the vessel's superstructure in the bow area, "very far" from the double hulled oil storage tanks. In the northern North Sea, a wave, described by one crew member as "monstrous", caused movement in a Brent C process tank, triggering a shutdown of the 37,000-barrel per day oil platform. While the alert lasted only 30 minutes, it was around five hours before production was up and running again.

11 November 1998 - Thousands of Hondurans are cut off from emergency food supplies shipped in after hurricane "Mitch" and some are close to starvation, religious and political leaders said today. "In some towns they told me that they have not received help and they sent me an SOS because they are dying of hunger", Oscar Rodriguez, the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, said. Despite an international outpouring of help, the sheer destruction means many victims are still in need, Honduran officials said. "The people in my province are hungry, and the water is polluted", said congressman Salomon Martinez of northern Colon province. He said 47,000 people were cut off from a regular supply of food in Colon. "These people are in a serious situation", he said. "Even though they have money, they can't buy anything because the supermarkets and stores are out of supplies." Tipper Gore, wife of US Vice President Al Gore, said during a mercy mission in Nicaragua that the international community has pledged $40 million in aid on top of the $80 million set aside by the USA. "Our commitment is long-term", Gore said before touring a refugee camp on the outskirts of Managua. She spent last night in a refugee camp in Honduras. Today, the World Bank announced it was diverting $200 million from existing projects to Central American hurricane relief, Spain upped its aid to $192 million in cash and debt relief, and Switzerland came up with nearly $6.5 million in private and government donations. Even El Salvador, itself pummelled by "Mitch" offered 30,000 pounds of beans to Honduras and 20 tonnes of maize to Nicaragua. Other aid has come from some two dozen countries and at least seven multinational organisations. Yet those pledges are far outweighed by the economic damage, which is estimated at $3 billion in Honduras, an amount nearly equal to its annual gross domestic product, and $1 billion in Nicaragua, half its annual economic output. Planeloads of food, clothing and medicine continue to arrive from around the world to ease the misery caused by the hurricane. The USA has delivered more than 1,000 tonnes of food to Honduras alone, but roads to many towns are still cut off due to storm damage, meaning a limited fleet of helicopters is left to deliver aid. Honduras has enough grain to last 40 days, so the country has planned to boost imports of beans, rice and corn "to avoid a generalised starvation", said Miguel Bonilla, the deputy agriculture minister. "The situation is critical and there could be hunger and disease", Sergio de Mello, the UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, told a news conference.

12 November 1998 - A press report from New Amsterdam, Guyana, states: Families of sailors lost in hurricane "Mitch" are suing a Miami cruise company for $1 million apiece, accusing it of sending a crew on a suicide mission in an attempt to save the pride of its fleet. Windjammer Barefoot Cruises Inc. said it believed it did everything possible to save the crew and the 71 year-old schooner Fantome, a four-masted, 280-foot vessel. On 27 October, a day after rushing to deposit 100 passengers in Belize City, Fantome said in her last message that she was being buffeted by 115mph winds and 40-foot waves. Rescuers gave up their search 5 November after finding only some life vests, life rafts and part of a staircase. At least six lawsuits asking for $1 million per family have been filed by relatives in Honduras, Antigua, Guyana and Jamaica, "and there are probably going to be many, many more", Nelson Ayala, an investigator for the Miami law firm Huggett and Scornavacca, said Tuesday (10 November). "We believe Windjammer attempted to save their 10 or 15 million dollar vessel instead of worrying about the crew members. Low-income, low-paid Third Worlders were instructed to save the vessel no matter what", he said. "Basically, it was a suicide voyage." James Canty, vice president of corporate development for Windjammer, described the allegations as "false accusations from a self-serving personal-injury attorney". He said it was standard practice for ships to ride out storms, and said the company believed it had done everything correctly. As "Mitch" approached, Fantome was ordered from the Honduran port of Omoa north to Belize City. There, she dropped off her 100 passengers and ten non-essential crew. Another 31 crew stayed on board, planning to head north toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula to get away from "Mitch". But the storm changed course instead. Several Miami lawyers flew to countries of victims last week, about the same time Windjammer sent representatives to discuss compensation. British Captain Guyan March commanded a crew from Guyana, St Vincent, Jamaica, Honduras, Antigua, Nicaragua, Panama, St Lucia, Trinidad and Romania. Ayala said the company paid relatives two months' salary, amounting to $300 for kitchen helpers and $500 for an engineer. Canty said that Windjammer has set up a trust fund to help families of the sailors.

20 November 1998 - The International Coffee Organisation (ICO) said today that about 700,000 (46kg) bags of coffee had been destroyed in Honduras and Nicaragua by Hurricane "Mitch", creating a short-term deficit in world supply. ICO Executive Director Celsius Lodder, speaking on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the Colombian Coffee Exporters' Association, also said he sees damage to infrastructure from the hurricane affecting the long-term flow of coffee and other exports from the two Central American countries, where reconstruction could take anywhere from "five to ten years". Lodder said his estimates of damage to the Central American crops were based on estimates from leading coffee organisations, AnacafÅ in Honduras and CenicafÅ in Nicaragua, which reported losses of 500,000 bags and 200,000 bags respectively. In terms of the effect on world markets, Lodder said Hurricane "Mitch" had created "a small deficit" in near-term coffee supply compared to the "small surplus" that existed before the storm.

28 November 1998 - The nightmare of hurricane "Mitch" continued for Honduras today as renewed heavy rains and flooding forced the evacuation of at least 20,000 people, officials said. The hardest hit areas were along the Caribbean Coast, where more rain was expected throughout today, the National Meteorological Service said in a press release. "We are going to evacuate about 3,800 families in the low-lying areas of Choloma because the floods have returned", Vice President Billy Handal told reporters. "This zone is uninhabitable and people will have to move to other areas." "We have ordered the evacuation and a lot of people left yesterday for refuge shelters. The evacuation will continue", he said. The affected areas are near San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second city about 100 miles north of Tegucigalpa. "We have reports of new flooding in towns in the area of Chamelecon, Choloma, several neighbourhoods in San Pedro Sula and in the city of Puerto Cortes", said Dimas Alonso, chief of operations for the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO).

18 January 1999 - A global agricultural agency said today it had launched a $2.5 million programme aimed at restoring vital food crops in Honduras and Nicaragua following last year's devastation by hurricane "Mitch". Future Harvest, which runs educational farming projects around the globe, said the two-year programme was aimed at restoring critical seed stocks, lost in the furious storm just over two months ago, along ecologically friendly principles. Future Harvest said its agricultural experts estimated that Honduras and Nicaragua, the two countries hardest hit by "Mitch", had lost up to 70 per cent of their basic food crops, mainly beans and maize. The group said in the five-page report on the food crop situation that Nicaragua had lost 60 per cent of its bean crop and 40 per cent of its corn crop, while Honduras lost 75 per cent of its bean crop and about half of the maize crop. "Mitch" ruined 27 million banana plants in Honduras, 90 per cent of the industry's capacity, while between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the two countries' coffee crops were lost, it said. The hurricane wiped out about 80 per cent of the commercial crops grown in Honduras and Nicaragua for sale abroad. 5 January 1999 - Indonesia

Floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains in Indonesia's eastern island of Sulawesi killed seven people and swamped thousands of hectares of rice paddies, government officials said today. "As of today we have evacuated more than 13,000 people from their homes due to the floods", said Sitepu, a rescue official from south Sulawesi. Sitepu said five people were killed in floods yesterday after three days of relentless rains. He said at least 9,500 hectares of paddy fields were flooded and high waters as deep as two metres had cut off land transportation to the commodities trading city of Ujung Pandang, about 1,300km north-east of Jakarta. In neighbouring north Sulawesi two people were killed in landslides in the provincial city of Manado, about 2,160km north-east of Jakarta. "Hundreds of residents in the province have also been evacuated over fears of further landslides", Sumampouw, a north Sulawesi government official, said. There were also reports of floods on Indonesia's main island of Java where five people were killed last week in landslides and floods. In Surabaya, moderate floods disrupted urban transportation after five days of torrential rain and drizzle, residents said today. In west Java's industrial area Serang, 3,000 people had to evacuate their homes after floods of up to 1.5 metres, rescue officials said. Kompas newspaper reported floods had also hit some areas in western Kalimantan, damaging more rice fields. There was no report of any damage to rubber plantations in the area. 5 January 1999 - Mexico

At least 15 people died in northern Mexico after frigid weather spread south from the USA, local radio reported today. Mexico City's Formato 21 radio station said most of the 15 deaths occurred over the past few days in the northern border state of Chihuahua. Daniel Rodriguez of the National Weather Service said temperatures in Chihuahua sank to 9°F (-13°C), while in the northern state of Durango a low of 19°F (-7°C) was recorded. Reforma newspaper, quoting Civil Protection Service chief Guillermo Ruiz de Teresa, reported that at least 100 people had died because of cold weather since frigid conditions began a month ago. In Mexico City, thick fog closed the international airport in the early morning on Tuesday, while residents shivered in the uncharacteristic chill. In coffee-growing areas around the central city of Puebla, temperatures dipped to 39°F (4°C), not quite cold enough to threaten coffee beans, weather officials said. 30 January 1999 - South Africa

A Press report from Mount Ayliff, South Africa, dated 19 January, states: Rescue workers and police using sniffer dogs today searched for bodies under buildings wrecked in a storm which killed 31 people and injured 303 in eastern South Africa. The storm hit the villages of Mount Ayliff and Kokstad yesterday afternoon, flattening at least 50 houses. Ten children were among the 21 dead, police Supt. Nondumiso Jafta said. Weather officials could not confirm the storm was a tornado, but it carried winds strong enough to wrest trees from the earth, blow over a bus and pluck a truck from a road and hurl it into a field. The injured, some in critical condition, were taken to several hospitals. Some had been cut by corrugated tin from roofs. Among the dead was a woman who was killed when the wind flipped over her car. The army was supplying tents to some of the more than 300 people left homeless by the storm, and the Red Cross was working with other agencies to provide temporary shelter, food and clothing. 8 February 1999 - Philippines

Floods due to torrential rains killed 15 people and displaced more than 100,000 families living in low-lying areas in four provinces on southern Mindanao island, the military and a relief agency said today. The Southern Command of the Philippine Armed Forces said 15 people died in four days of floods, which swamped the rice and corn-growing provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. It said eight bodies were recovered. The National Disaster Co-ordinating Council listed 11 deaths, saying eight people were reported killed in Agusan del Sur, two in Agusan del Norte and one in Surigao del Sur. It said some pesos 123 million ($3.2 million) worth of crops and property were damaged in the four provinces. "This is the effect of continuous rain since 4 February", Franklin Castillo, director for operations of the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council, said. Officials said they had received reports of flood waters reaching up to 3m in Agusan del Norte. At least 100,000 families have been forced to seek shelter on higher ground, they said.

Philippine President Joseph Estrada declared a "state of calamity" in four provinces today after flash floods killed 20 people and displaced more than 110,000 families in the Caraga region on Mindanao island. The rains had not let up, although floods had started to recede in some parts of this southern region, officials said. "All departments and other government agencies concerned are hereby directed to implement and execute relief and rehabilitation work in accordance with existing operational plans, directives and orders issued in connection with calamities", Estrada said in his order. Such a declaration releases funds to local governments to repair damaged infrastructure and for residents to borrow money from state controlled pension funds. Landslides and collapsed bridges isolated some towns, and wide areas of Butuan City were without power, they added. The National Disaster Co-ordinating Council said damage totalled 123 million pesos in the four rice and corn-growing provinces that make up the region-Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. "This is the effect of continuous rain since 4 February", the operations director of the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council, Frank Castillo, told Reuters. "On 4 February, we had a 24 hour downpour. It was the worst flooding (in Agusan del Sur) since 1981", Dante Villacrusis, provincial administrator, said by telephone. "At its worst, all 14 towns (in the province) were affected", he said, adding that flood waters reached the rooftop of the two-storey house of one local mayor.

9 February 1999 - Philippines officials today blamed years of environmental neglect for floods that killed 23 people and left a trail of devastation on southern Mindanao island. "These floods are caused by decades of environmental degradation <$>\ldots<$> years of neglect", Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado told reporters as he handed out rice and noodles to affected families in Butuan City, about 775km south-east of Manila. Mercado was visiting the Caraga region of southern Mindanao island to assess the destruction, accompanied by food supplies and a medical team.

President Joseph Estrada declared a "state of calamity" in four provinces yesterday after the flash floods, caused by heavy rains, displaced more than 100,000 families in the rice and corn-growing Caraga region. The flood waters washed thousands of logs off mountainsides to drift down the Agusan river, which flows past Butuan to the sea. Five huts, lying on their sides, also drifted downstream. An aerial survey revealed hundreds of logs on riverbanks. Officials said the deforestation had also led to landslides after the heavy rains in recent weeks. Several bridges had also been submerged and some small towns remained cut off. The National Disaster Co-ordinating Council yesterday estimated damage to crops and infrastructure totalled 123 million pesos ($3.2 million) in the area's rice and corn-growing provinces - Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte. "On 5 February, water started rising after dark after many days of continuous rain", Butuan Mayor Democrito Plaza II said. "All 86 (villages) in Butuan were affected. In 16 (villages) we cannot see land, only rooftops". Butuan is the region's largest city. The city was limping back after the floods subsided, but some areas in the hinterland were still under water, Plaza said. At the worst point of the deluge the waters reached eight metres high, he said. Plaza estimated damage to crops and infrastructure at 128 million pesos in Butuan City alone.

10 February 1999 - Flash floods in the southern Philippines damaged some 110 million pesos ($3 million) worth of crops, fisheries and livestock in recent days, the Department of Agriculture said today. "Initial reports show that some 5,761 hectares planted to rice were damaged. This is 16 per cent of total rice plantings in Caraga", Acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a news conference. Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said the government is studying a plan to build a flood control system in Mindanao as part of a long-term solution to the recurring problem.

23 February 1999 - At least 39 people, many of them children, drowned and scores were missing in floods in the southern Philippines caused by illegal logging, officials said today. Thousands also fled their homes, officials said in listing the toll four days after floods caused by heavy rains swept through the towns of Kauswagan, Bacolod and Linamon in Lanao del Norte province on the southern island of Mindanao, 800km south of Manila. More than 200 houses were destroyed and about 4,000 people fled to evacuation centres. Local council man Gerlado Macas said influential politicians were behind illegal logging which has denuded two mountains near the flood-ravaged areas. Rescuers reported recovering 13 bodies. The 26 other fatalities were residents of coastal villages who were swept out to sea three days ago after a river overflowed, Red Cross disaster management chief James Sian said. The floods also destroyed two bridges, stranding hundreds of motorists. Officials estimated damage to crops and property at 47 million pesos ($1.2 million). Further south, on Basilan island, more than 1,200 people abandoned their homes after flash floods also caused by heavy rains inundated villages in Lamitan town, the Red Cross said.

24 February 1999 - Fleeing floods that swamped three towns in the southern Philippines, people climbed coconut trees only to watch in horror as children and houses were swept away. As survivors recounted today how they escaped the raging torrents, local officials blamed politicians engaged in illegal logging for the weekend floods that killed at least 39 people. Thousands more were forced to run from their homes in Lanao del Norte province on Mindanao island. The floods, as deep as 12 feet, either swept flimsy, wooden houses into the sea or smashed them. The stench of death, apparently from still unrecovered bodies, filled the air as a Reuters television and picture crew talked to villagers. Red Cross workers said they had recovered only 13 bodies and were searching for 26 others. More than 200 houses were destroyed and about 4,000 people fled to evacuation centres. 9 February 1999 - France

Four people were killed and four missing after a huge avalanche swept through two French Alpine villages today, local officials said. Rescuers dug out 20 people in the hamlets of Le Tour and Montroc near the resort of Chamonix in the Mont Blanc region, a spokesman at the local government office said. He said the dead were two men, a woman and a little girl of three or four years of age. Some 200 rescuers equipped with bulldozers and accompanied by dogs struggled in a heavy snowstorm to dig through the avalanche as night fell. The 200 metre-wide avalanche, touched off at about 14.35 hours (13.35, UTC), was the largest recorded in that part of the mountains since 1908, the spokesman said. The avalanche destroyed around 20 chalets, pushing some of them as far as 400m, residents said. Snow in some villages was piled more than 2m deep after recent storms which prompted authorities to issue the highest-level avalanche alerts. A spokeswoman for the Chamonix town hall said several hamlets had been evacuated because of the risk of further snow-slides, and about 200 people had been put up at schools. Another avalanche blocked a railway line to Switzerland, and snow sealed off the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy. Snow fell all day today, disrupting transport in a wider area. In the Besanµon region further north, the engine of a Paris-Venice train derailed. No one was injured and 760 passengers were taken away in buses. High-speed trains linking Paris and Berne were re-routed through Geneva. At Basle-Mulhouse airport, two-thirds of the flights were cancelled or diverted to other airports.

11 February 1999 - Rescuers today dug out an 11th body from a killer avalanche in the Mont Blanc region as more snow slides roared down Europe's highest mountain, the local government said. A spokesman said they found the body of a woman and were checking whether she was one of two people reported missing. Rescuers brought in heavy machinery to remove hundreds of tons of snow and rubble of destroyed chalets to try to find the two still missing in the French hamlet of Montroc, near Chamonix. Ten people, all French, were found dead yesterday after the avalanche hurtled 1,000m down the mountain, going some 100m up the opposite slope to smash 17 chalets in an area registered as safe for construction. Seventeen villagers were evacuated today after another major avalanche struck before dawn near the village of Les Bossons, about 1,100m high and located in a straight line under the 4,807m-high summit of Mont Blanc. Snow experts said the risk of avalanches was still very high although the return of good weather was gradually making the snow more stable and safer. While the weather improved, rail traffic between France and Switzerland in the Jura mountains was still cut by snowdrifts. Snow expert Bruno Gilles said dozens of avalanches had fallen in the Chamonix valley. Some were unusually powerful because the recent snowfall had been the heaviest in decades.

22 February 1999 - Avalanches tore through several chalets and killed at least two people in Switzerland as the heaviest snowfall in decades kept the country on heightened alert for snow slides, officials said today. Rescue crews pulled an injured girl and recovered two bodies from an avalanche that struck late yesterday near Evolene in the canton of Valais, police said. Swiss radio reported ten more people were still missing when the risk of more slides forced the search to halt early today. The snowfall has wrought havoc across the Swiss Alps, cutting off isolated areas and forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes in exposed areas. Hundreds of avalanches have been reported, even in areas where they are rare. Acute avalanche danger kept the Gotthard Tunnel closed, bottling up a key north-south transit corridor. Officials said it would probably not be open again until Thursday (25 February). The ski resorts of Grindelwald and Adelboden remained reachable only by helicopter. Rain at lower altitudes swelled creeks and rivers, triggering flooding in some low-lying areas. The Rhine river was closed to shipping around Basle, where water levels were four times greater than normal for this time of year.

23 February 1999 - Hopes of finding eight French tourists still missing after a weekend avalanche in the Swiss Alps were fading today as Switzerland remained on high alert for more snow slides. About 100 exhausted searchers suspended their hunt for the tourists overnight near Evolene in the south-eastern canton of Valais to wait for dawn. Fresh snowfalls of up to 50cm overnight in higher reaches of the Swiss Alps kept the danger of avalanches high and forced many roads to remain closed, but water levels on the swollen Rhine River receded. Alpine communities were cut off from electricity by snow which caused some telephone connections in the Zurich area to malfunction. The heaviest snowfall in decades has kept Switzerland on alert for several weeks, with avalanches reported even in areas where they are rare. Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in areas exposed to snow slides.

Snowstorms and floods in Eastern Europe have snarled traffic and put farmland under water in Romania, while authorities in neighbouring Hungary braced for heavy flooding, media reports and officials said today. Snow and floodwaters submerged roads and rail lines in northern and north-western Romania, with officials reporting long delays, mainly on secondary lines. Bucharest radio said flooding put lighting out of action at Timisoara airport, near the border with Yugoslavia and Hungary, and night flights were diverted for at least three days to Arad to the north. More than 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land were under water and 600 houses were damaged in areas near the Hungarian border. Estimates put the losses at several million dollars, the state agency Rompres said, adding that troops had been despatched to help local authorities, with orders to evacuate residents and their livestock if conditions worsened. An alert was ordered in two towns near the border, Cavnic and Borsa, after authorities said rapid melting of weekend snowfalls could trigger flash floods. Heavy snow further east in the Carpathian mountains, halted road traffic and cut power to 30 villages. In Budapest, the Hungarian Transportation, Communications and Water Ministry said local authorities feared melting could prompt "third degree" flooding, the highest state of alert, along 238km (150 miles) of the Crasna river, which flows from Romania into eastern Hungary. The ministry declared a similar alert on two other rivers also flowing into Hungary. Some 90,000 hectares of eastern Hungarian farmland were also threatened by flooding from melting snow, ministry spokesman Istvan Boros said. In Ukraine, further east, power supplies remained disrupted to more than 50 settlements in snowbound Carpathian mountain regions. Authorities were keeping close watch on river levels. Weather forecasters predicted new rain and snowfall.

24 February 1999 - Austria appealed abroad today for more rescue helicopters as the number of bodies recovered from an avalanche in the western ski resort of Galtuer rose to nine, APA news agency reported. Local firefighters and police joined dozens of volunteers in a frantic search for survivors after a 5m high wall of snow smashed through the village yesterday afternoon. A team of doctors, most of whom were in the area on holiday, treated the injured in a sports centre. Galtuer remained isolated from the outside world, with all roads to it impassable and a military rescue team equipped with dogs and specialist equipment unable to leave nearby Landeck by helicopter because of strong wind and snow. Electricity was unavailable in parts of the village and telephones were down. A smaller second avalanche hit the outskirts of the resort just after midnight but claimed no new victims. APA said. Around 20,000 tourists have been stranded in resorts across western Austria since last Wednesday (17 February). In a separate incident on Tuesday in the Salzburg ski resort of Sportgastein, a German woman was killed when an avalanche engulfed the house she was staying in. Elsewhere in Europe, the cost in lives and property damage from recent avalanches continued to mount. In Switzerland, the death toll rose to seven from a weekend avalanche near the southern village of Evolene when rescue teams pulled out the bodies of four adults and one child, police said. Three people remained missing. Tens of thousands of tourists were cut off in snowbound resorts in Austria and Switzerland. In France, blizzards hampered rescuers trying to find five French skiers and hikers missing in the Alps and Pyrenees.

24 February 1999 - A new avalanche struck an Austrian ski resort today, close to the village of Galtuer, where at least 16 people died yesterday, raising the total number of missing to at least 32. Army spokesman Major Thomas Schoenherr said the avalanche in Valzur, between Galtuer and Ischgl, had been about 200 metres (yards) wide and as many as 10m deep. It was another major avalanche. Three houses were destroyed, he said from Landeck, where the rescue operation was being co-ordinated. He said six people are missing and three had been rescued, apparently uninjured. Schoenherr said three helicopters had set off to try to reach Valzur. But it will be extremely difficult because it is snowing so heavily, he added. The death toll from the avalanche that smashed into Galtuer roughly 24 hours earlier rose to 16, including three children, with 26 people still missing. Tyrol provincial governor Wendelin Weingartner confirmed that no one had been found alive since specialist rescue teams entered the resort early today, from nearby Landeck. Galtuer, which has around 700 inhabitants and beds for 3,000 tourists, had been already cut off for days by snow before the avalanche and had to wait 15 hours for help to arrive. Officials said fresh heavy snowfalls this afternoon meant most helicopters had again been grounded. Ten US Black Hawk helicopters and a German helicopter sent to help had been unable to leave Innsbruck for the stricken region. It was not clear if Galtuer and adjoining resorts would be completely evacuated because of the continuing avalanche risk. By early afternoon some 400 tourists had been flown out of Galtuer and another 1,000 were waiting to leave.

25 February 1999 - The number of deaths in two killer avalanches this week in the Austrian Alps rose to 27 today and 11 people were still missing, army officials said. Rescue helicopters resumed flights between Landeck and the isolated ski resort of Galtuer to fly out around 700 holidaymakers who have been stranded since the first of two devastating avalanches hit the village on Tuesday (23 February). The officials said seven more dead bodies were recovered by rescuers digging through the night at Galtuer, bringing the death toll there to 25, including several children. The dead included an unspecified number of German holidaymakers, officials said. In nearby Valzur, at least two people died in an avalanche which struck yesterday. Six were still missing in Galtuer and five in Valzur, both of which have been sealed from the outside world for more than a week by the heaviest snowfall in nearly half a century. "There is always hope that someone survived in a hollow in a building", Gerhard Walter, a member of the crisis staff in Galtuer, said. "We simply continue searching." Eight seriously injured survivors were in hospital. The snowfall stopped in the morning and officials said they may try to clear the road to Galtuer tomorrow, an operation expected to take ten hours. The Austrian army helicopters flying in more rescuers and evacuating tourists were expected to be joined during the day by ten heavy US transport helicopters from Germany. It was not clear if Galtuer and adjoining resorts would be completely evacuated because of the continuing avalanche risk, which according to the Tyrolean warning service remained acute as temperatures were expected to rise tomorrow. Officials said they may evacuate five small villages near Galtuer because of the danger of new avalanches. The freak snow conditions have caused 53 deaths and trapped tens of thousands of skiers across Europe so far this month.

25 February 1999 - An avalanche hit the southern Swiss spa town of Leukerbad today and special teams have been able to rescue 30 people so far, Swiss radio reported. "Initial aid teams are on the scene and have rescued around 30 people, apparently unhurt", the radio reported. Avalanche danger across Switzerland remains acute after snow slides killed at least ten people since Sunday (21 February). The Swiss news agency PTS said the avalanche had hit one chalet, and that the 30 people had been safely evacuated. Crews were using sniffer dogs to search for possible victims buried beneath the snow. Two other people are still missing beneath the snow of earlier Swiss avalanches and are presumed dead. The heaviest snowfall in decades has also stranded an estimated 100,000 people unable to move because of disrupted road and rail links.

26 February 1999 - Sections of the River Rhine re-opened to shipping today, after a three-day closure due to high water levels, caused by heavy rains and melting snow, river police in Mainz said. The river between Mainz and Mannheim was now open to traffic. However, a section of the Rhine farther upstream from Mannheim to the Swiss border city of Basle remained closed, river policeman said. He said river traffic between Bingen, west of Mainz, and the Dutch port of Rotterdam also remained at a standstill, but the stretch between Bingen and Cologne was likely to open later in the day. Rising river levels had been attributed to melting snows in the Alps and other highland regions, plus heavy rainfall earlier in the week. But police said Rhine levels had fallen and the risk of flooding has receded.

26 February 1999 - Rescuers found the body of a child in the Austrian Alps early today and television reports said an adult's body had also been recovered, bringing the death toll to 35 from two massive avalanches this week. Both bodies were found in Galtuer, scene of the worst avalanche on Tuesday (23 February). No details were immediately available but the television reports said the number of people still thought to be missing in Galtuer and Valzur had fallen to two. After airlifting some 3,600 holidaymakers to safety yesterday, a fleet of helicopters from Austria, the USA, Germany and Switzerland resumed flights at dawn to resorts such as Ischgl which have been cut off for more than a week. Up to 4,000 people could be evacuated in the course of the day, rescue officials said. Around 1,000 tourists had opted to remain in Galtuer, either to complete their holiday or to wait until roads were reopened. Many tourists returned to the slopes in Ischgl and other resorts as ski lifts reopened amid assurances from local tourist offices that skiing was safe. "Ischgl was and is safe. People can ski without danger", said Alfons Parth, head of the Ischgl tourist authority. Nevertheless, officials said bright sunny weather could increase the risk of fresh avalanches in some parts of western Austria as snow began to melt. "Avalanche experts say the warmer conditions lead to a softening of the snow on the surface", said Erwin Koler, head of the local authority in Landeck, the co-ordination centre of the rescue operation. Rescuers worked by floodlight well into the night to find people still missing and feared dead. The bodies of the dead, including Germans, Austrians, Dutch and Danes, were likely to be flown to Innsbruck later today.

27 February 1999 - Rescue workers in the Austrian Alps today found the body of a young German girl, the 38th victim of a series of avalanches in the region. The body was found under rock-hard snow and ice in the cellar of a house in the ski resort of Galtuer after an all-night search by 200 rescue workers. The victim was later named as ten-year-old Carmen Schulz of Heiningen. APA news agency said both her parents and her sister had also been killed in Tuesday's (23 February) avalanche. Thirty-one people were killed in Galtuer and seven died in a separate snow-slide in nearby Valzur on Wednesday. The dead were from Germany, Austria, Denmark and The Netherlands. Journalists allowed into Galtuer for the first time since the disaster occurred found a scene of devastation in the centre of the village. Some houses had simply disappeared while others looked as if they had been bombed. Crushed cars, wrecked furniture and personal possessions were scattered amid vast piles of snow and ice. Local avalanche experts insisted there was no way they could have anticipated a snow-slide of such ferocity. The main road into Galtuer was reopened for the first time in over a week this morning but it was closed again a short time later by a minor avalanche. Avalanche warnings remained in force in some areas but tourist officials said skiing was safe in most resorts. Local officials said some 12,500 people had been ferried to safety on Thursday and Friday in the largest airlift in Austria's post-war history by a multinational helicopter fleet. A scaled-down helicopter mission today concentrated on bringing supplies into resorts still cut off. 26 February 1999 - Colombia

Six children drowned in a jungle-covered area of north-west Colombia today, as torrential rains lashing the country since last month continued to take a heavy toll. Government officials in Choco, a deeply impoverished province on Colombia's frontier with Panama, said the six boys, aged between five and seven, were swept away by waters of the rain-swollen Atrato River. The river jumped its banks eight months ago because of severe sedimentation in the area where it flows into the Caribbean. But flooding in and around Riosucio, the town where the boys drowned, has been aggravated by unusually heavy rains across at least 14 of Colombia's provinces since late January. The rains, which experts say were caused by cooling Pacific currents as a result of the so-called La Ni·a weather phenomenon, have killed at least 16 people in landslides or drowning incidents and made more than 20,000 people homeless in 80 towns. In Choco alone, according to the governor's office, at least 550 homes have been destroyed.

11 April 1999 - At least nine people died in two landslides in Colombia's central coffee-growing region today, pushing the death toll from heavy rains to 24 since Friday, local media said. Six people were reported to have been killed when a house in the village of Cienaga, in central Risaralda province, was flattened by an avalanche of rocks and mud. Three others, including a 20-month-old baby, died when flash-floods triggered another landslide near the town of Guatica, in the same province, the Radionet radio news network said. The government's national disaster relief agency said 15 people died on Friday (9 April) in western Choco, south-west Cauca and north-west Cordoba provinces after torrential rains caused rivers to flood and triggered landslides. An estimated 3,000 people have so far been left homeless by the unusually heavy rains. 8 March 1999 - Pakistan

A press report, dated today, states: A report from Dadu states: 14 people were killed as heavy rain paralysed normal life and destroyed property and crops in Dadu 6-7 March. The roofs of two houses collapsed in Carhi village, killing 14 people. Twenty-eight others were injured as their houses were destroyed by the rain. A hotel in the Saeedabad area was destroyed by the rain, leaving three employees and 12 customers injured. Crops of wheat, gram and sweet peas were also badly damaged by the rain. 13 March 1999 - Mozambique

A press report, dated 11 March, states: South African military aircraft rescued dozens of Mozambicans stranded by flooding today as the forces flew in nearly 32 tons of food aid. Twelve people have died and more than 200,000 have been stranded after three months of rain. Flooding has blocked Mozambique's main highway, isolating the coastal town of Inhassoro, 430 miles north of the capital Maputo. In all, about 400,000 people across the country have been affected by the flooding. In Mailelane, about 2,000 residents were evacuated from their flooded homes to shops along the main road, the South African military said. 11 April 1999 - Bangladesh

Bangladesh said today at least 12 people were killed and dozens were missing after a storm swept across the country cutting power supplies and triggering a water crisis. Government officials said 54 people were missing and more than 100 were injured after 100kmh (60mph) winds hit southern districts and other parts of the country yesterday. "The nor'westers blew at 106km (61 miles) per hour that uprooted electric poles and flattened trees and straw houses", said Moyezuddin Khan, District Commissioner of Bhola district on the southern coast. The officials said those killed were hit by flying debris or as houses collapsed. Half the deaths were reported from Bhola and neighbouring districts of Barisal and Patuakhil. "Water supply at different districts of the country was disrupted due to power failure leaving people in agony", said Mahfuzur Rahman, an official of Dhaka Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). "We were unable to pump water from the deep tube wells because of the power failure". WASA officials earlier said more than 30 per cent of the capital's nine million residents had no access to drinking water. Hundreds of Dhaka residents yesterday stopped trains, attacked a power supply office, barricaded roads and burned vehicles to protest over the water shortage. Opposition parties, which are campaigning to topple the government of Prime Minister Sheilkt Hasina, immediately called strikes at south-eastern Chittagong and southern Barguna towns today in protest over the power and drinking water shortages. Syed Enamal Huq, chairman of Dhaka Electric Supply Authority (DESA), said a grid station of the Power Development Board at Siddhirgonj, near Dhaka, and a sub-station at Rathkhola in the city had malfunctioned in the storm. "Our engineers already have repaired the Siddhirgonj grid station while they are working on the other", Huq said. They said WASA currently supplied at most 960 million litres (213.3 million gallons) of water a day against a requirement of 1.4 billion litres. 11 April 1999 - Colombia

Colombia's central coffee growing region today, pushing the death toll from heavy rains to 24 since Friday, local media said. Six people were reported to have been killed when a house in the village of Cienaga, in central Risaralda province, was flattened by an avalanche of rocks and mud. Three others, including a 20-month old baby girl, died when flash floods triggered another landslide near the town of Guatica, in the same province, the Radionet radio news network said. The government's national disaster relief agency said 15 people died on Friday (9 April) in western Choco, south-west Cauca and north-west Cordoba provinces after torrential rains caused rivers to flood and triggered landslides. An estimated 3,000 people have so far been left homeless by the unusually heavy rains. 2 April 1999 - Great Lakes

A press report, dated Detroit 1 April, states: A dramatic drop in water levels on the Great Lakes and Michigan's inland lakes this spring has pleasure boaters and commercial shippers worried. Lake levels are down as much as 22 inches from a year ago, with potentially serious results: Large cargo vessels will be forced to carry lighter loads, adding costs to the industries they serve. Many pleasure boaters are having a difficult time finding deep enough water to launch their boats, while marinas are stocking up with extra replacement propellers and parts, anticipating a surge in boat repairs. The shrinking water levels are the result of unusually dry Michigan winters in 1997 and 1998. Also, higher than normal temperatures last summer warmed up the lakes, causing a higher evaporation rate, as much as an 8-inch loss in Lake St Clair in one month last fall. The impact on the hundreds of inland lakes varies depending on whether or not they are fed by underground springs. Most are down, however, causing headaches for boat owners. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors the Great Lakes water levels, is receiving numerous calls from concerned boaters. "We have a different audience this year", said John Love, a physical scientist with the Corps in the Detroit office. "In 1997 and 1998, I travelled the state giving presentations on high water levels and what people can do about it. Now this group is complaining there isn't enough water". While Love said water levels are significantly down from a year or two, the average water levels are actually up slightly in Lake Erie and Lake St Clair. The other Great Lakes' water levels are down 4 to 8 inches from normal, based on monthly readings dating back to 1919. Lake Erie is down 22 inches compared to a year ago. Shipping on the Great Lakes always is affected by the drop in water levels. George Ryan, president of the Lake Carriers' Association in Cleveland, said the low water table means greater care must be taken navigating the approaches to many areas, particularly Clair River, the approaches to the Soo Locks and many marinas. An even bigger impact on freighter companies is the loss of cargo capacity. "That's money out of the pocket of the ship owners unless they can pass the costs along to the companies", Ryan said. "In these days with foreign competition, companies are unwilling or unable to take the pass along costs". Ryan said the freighter industry deals in inches when talking about water levels. "Every inch of water is important to us." For example, a 1,000-foot iron ore freighter must leave behind 270 tons of cargo for every inch the water level drops. Over a normal shipping season, a 12 inch drop in water could mean two extra trips for every vessel, costing millions of dollars. There are 60 US and 80 Canadian freighters that operate on the Great Lakes. Ocean vessels also are affected. For pleasure boat marinas, the lower water levels are a mixed blessing. While they expect repair business to skyrocket from boaters striking underwater objects, some are having trouble renting boat slips because of the shallow depths. "With the water level going down, we can't get as large a boat into the slips", said Don Vyverberg, who works at Bay Shore Marine Center in Traverse City. "At many of the marinas around here that provide overnight transient slips, those slips just won't be available because people won't be able to get their boats in." Local hotels and restaurants that depend on those arriving on private boats will suffer. Some of the marina operators are turning to the Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for permits to dredge out their marinas. But that's a lengthy process that could take weeks or months to complete. "If we don't get significant spring rain or rains through the summer, we're going to see a continuing problem", said Jim Hayes, who works on lake levels for the DNR.

19 April 1999 - Water levels in the Great Lakes are falling to levels not seen in 30 years, opening miles of newly exposed beaches but spelling trouble for commercial shipping. "We're down to levels that a majority of people who now use the Great Lakes have not seen in their lifetime", said Frank Quinn, senior hydrologist at the federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Michigan. The problem with commercial shipping is not the levels of the lakes themselves, he said, but the narrower and dredged channels that at points connect lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. 4 April 1999 - United States

Following appears in today's Vancouver Sun. A report from Benton, LA, states: A tornado tore through this north-western Louisiana town yesterday, flattening homes and trapping people inside when walls collapsed around them. At least nine people were killed. The twister swept through trailer parks just north of Shreveport. State police said six were killed at the Twin Point Trailer Park and three died at the Hay Meadow Trailer Park. At least 30 house trailers were destroyed in the Hay Meadow park. About 100 people were injured, said Trooper Chris Johnson of the Louisiana State Police. Hours after the afternoon twister hit, authorities were still looking for missing people, using police dogs and huge searchlights from nearby Barksdale Air Force Base. In Missouri, Gov. Mel Carnahan declared a state of emergency in southern and east-central Missouri late last night after severe storms caused flooding. The National Weather Service said the twister was 300 metres wide when it passed through north Shreveport on its way to Benton. About the same time, a separate tornado destroyed the First United Methodist Church in Logansport, a DeSoto Parish town south-west of Shreveport near the Texas border. And a tornado or severe winds also downed trees, damaged some homes and caused minor injuries in a Shreveport neighbourhood. In Missouri, severe storms brought floodwaters across the southern part of the state.

4 April 1999 - Rescuers began pulling out of an area of north-western Louisiana where a tornado killed six people after searches turned up no new victims today and as fresh thunder storms rolled through the region. Besides the six people confirmed dead, about 100 were injured and an estimated 500 were forced from homes damaged or destroyed by the tornado, which struck late yesterday afternoon, officials said. The huge twister left a four-mile trail of destruction, including dozens of smashed trailer homes, houses and vehicles after touching down yesterday near Benton. Five people remained in critical condition in area hospital intensive care units tonight, with two upgraded to guarded condition and two others in stable condition. Most of the injured were released after being treated for cuts and bruises, hospital officials said. Military personnel from the National Guard and Barksdale Air Force Base, along with dozens of volunteers, began pulling out in mid-afternoon as thunderstorms dumped heavy rains on the hardest hit areas. Two trailer parks bore the brunt of the damage. Segments of mobile homes, clothes and toys hung like Christmas ornaments from trees that the twister left standing.

5 April 1999 - Following appears in today's Vancouver Sun: A report from Benton, LA, states: Searchers spent this morning carefully moving debris from piles of wreckage, hoping to find more survivors of a tornado that sheared a 2km swathe through Bossier Parish and killed six people. Teams with dogs had searched through the night, looking for spots where survivors might be hidden. Their work was slowed because many power-lines were down, and there were several gas leaks in the areas flattened by the twister. By afternoon, no more bodies had been found. Six people were known dead, and hospitals had treated and released 100, the sheriff said. At least nine people were hospitalised in critical or guarded condition, hospital officials said. A separate tornado destroyed a church in Logansport, a DeSoto Parish town south-west of Shreveport near the Texas border. And a tornado or severe wind downed trees, damaged some homes and caused minor injuries in a Shreveport neighbourhood.

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