Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 July 2004



(2004), "Weather", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited



23 December 2003 – Bolivia

Bolivia’s government has declared an emergency after rising flood waters hit the centre of the country causing at least six deaths and widespread material damage to houses, roads and a bridge, officials said. The heavy floods struck as flood waters rose along the Chapare river destroying houses and the 300 metre Chapare bridge. A police vehicle, a bus and a heavy truck were swept away by the torrent, according to witnesses, and authorities were searching for two missing people. Heavy rains were expected to continue pounding the region until around midday, according to weather forecasts. Floods also damaged a principal highway that passes through the region and which carries a majority of Bolivia’s road traffic. Public Works minister Jorge Urquidi said it is likely to take six months to rebuild the damaged Chapare bridge at a cost of some one million dollars. The adverse weather has also damaged crops and killed livestock.

24 December 2003 At least 20 people have been killed in flooding following torrential rains in central Bolivia. Police say 30 other people are missing after rising flood waters destroyed a bridge over the Chapare river. Bolivian television said the bodies of 20 people had been recovered before rescue operations were suspended for the night. The heavy floods have also damaged a main highway that passes through the region and which carries much of Bolivia’s road traffic.

26 December 2003 – California, United States

A mudslide swept over a Greek Orthodox youth camp north of San Bernardino, Calif, yesterday, trapping up to 30 people as heavy rains triggered flooding in areas ravaged by wildfires last month, authorities said. Nine to 12 of those victims were rescued from the Saint Sophia Camp in Waterman Canyon, authorities said. Two rescue teams were headed to the camp last night in search of more people – one hiking up the canyon and the other hiking down because the road was washed out. Authorities were not certain how many other people were trapped under mud and debris – if any. Victims said more people had been at the camp than had been rescued but it was not known whether they had made it out on their own, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said. Up to 18 people could still be at the camp, said Sgt Dave Caddel of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Two cabins at the camp were destroyed, he said. Boulders, logs, trees and branches, propelled by one to three inches of rain, tumbled down the San Bernardino Mountains, making rescue efforts treacherous and threatening homes and forcing road closures in several areas. Television reports showed a surging stream of water in Waterman Canyon, which looked like a sea of grey mud. The mudslide occurred exactly two months after the start of a wildfire that ravaged much of the canyon, consuming just over 91,000 acres, destroying nearly 1,000 homes and killing four people. Wildfires make Southern California’s mountains much more prone to mudslides because they burn off vegetation that normally would help shore up steep terrain. The fires that hit the region in October and November were the most severe in state history, burning nearly one million acres. Authorities evacuated residents and closed off the road leading to the Waterman Canyon. Flood waters became worse late yesterday, forcing officials to pull back some emergency personnel, county fire officials said. Caddel said sheriff’s search-and-rescue teams would continue to look for possible victims through the night.

27 December 2003 Seven bodies have been found and nine remain missing in two separate mudslides that struck the rugged canyon area east of Los Angeles on 25 December. Five bodies were discovered in a mudslide in Old Waterman Canyon, about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, and two more were found dead at a slide at a campground in nearby Devore. The five Waterman Canyon bodies were believed to be family and friends of the caretaker at St. Sophia Camp, a retreat run by the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles. The caretaker, identified by church officials as Jorge Manzon, was believed to be among the nine missing – some of them children as young as eight months old. Father John Bakas, the dean of St. Sophia Cathedral in Los Angeles, said the camp had been closed for clean-up and repairs from wildfires that charred the area two months ago. Bakas said church officials last heard from Manzon at about 14.00 on Thursday (25 December). Authorities said the bodies of a man and woman were recovered yesterday from a campground in nearby Devore, where a wall of mud destroyed 32 trailers. Rescue teams led 52 others at the campground to safety on Thursday. Search and rescue operations concluded late yesterday at Devore, but were expected to continue throughout the night in Waterman Canyon, officials said. Late last night, authorities began to concede that the odds of finding more survivors were diminishing. Work crews brought in lights and generators to aid rescue teams who had had contend with mud and debris up to 12 feet deep in some places. Fire fighters used helicopters to evacuate two men who became trapped in canyon homes on a sludge-covered road but planned no other evacuations yesterday, despite forecasts for more rain today. Heavy rains falling on wildfire-charred mountainsides sent walls of mud crashing through the Waterman Canyon campground shortly after noon on Thursday, crushing buildings and snapping 40-foot trees. The Devore slide occurred hours later. Fourteen adults and children were rescued on Thursday afternoon from the Waterman Canyon mudslide area and were treated at local hospitals. Those still missing at the St. Sophia Camp may have been trapped in a cabin when it was hit by a wall of mud, a county fire spokeswoman said. Thursday’s torrential rainstorm dumped well over two inches of rain on the greater Los Angeles area and more than three inches in the canyon area. The rains caused the collapse of hillsides denuded two months earlier by the worst wildfires in California history.

29 December 2003 Authorities found the bodies of five more people caught in a mudslide that engulfed a church camp at Christmas. The discoveries brought the total number of bodies recovered from the Greek Orthodox camp to 12.

29 December 2003 Rescuers searching the scene of mudslides that engulfed two holiday camps in California on 25 December found five more bodies today. At least 14 people are now known to have died when heavy rain unleashed a torrent of mud, rocks and tree trunks on the camps east of Los Angeles. Hopes were fading that two children still missing would be found alive. Authorities warned local people to be prepared for more heavy rains and possible flooding. “It’s been several days and our hopes are not high of finding people alive”, said Chip Patterson, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. More than 20 people were celebrating Christmas when mudslides and flash floods struck a church camp in Waterman Canyon, killing at least 12 people. Fourteen others were rescued. Two other people died as a landslide hit a camp site about 8km away. It was the most severe seasonal downpour in the region for 20 years. The authorities warned of more heavy rain over the next few days and fire stations have been handing out sandbags in preparation. The region was previously hit by devastating wildfires in October and November that scorched thousands of acres across southern California. Authorities said they were considering evacuating areas stripped bare by the wildfires because of the risk of more mudslides.

24 December 2003 – India

At least 31 people were killed, mostly in road accidents, as dense fog engulfed northern India and a cold wave tightened its grip across the populous region, reports said. The Press Trust of India said 19 motorists were killed in separate fog-related highway accidents in the state of Uttar Pradesh during the past 24 hours, adding that three homeless people also died in the region due to the bitter cold. Poor visibility grounded Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam’s helicopter in fog-bound New Delhi, forcing him to abandon plans to visit the Uttar Pradesh town of Etawah today to attend a local festival, airport officials here said. Meerut district police chief RK Tiwari on Wednesday ordered trucks and cars to move in orderly queues to prevent highway pile-ups. The blinding fog has also claimed nine lives in road crashes in the northern state of Haryana since last Friday (19 December). Swirling fog held up international and domestic flights for hours to and from New Delhi, where visibility dropped to less than 60 metres on Tuesday night, officials here said. Hundreds of international tourists and domestic travellers were stranded at hotels and the airport in the desert city of Jaipur as aircraft could neither land nor take off early today because of the blinding fog, civil aviation officials said.

25 December 2003 – Philippines

Officials today said they were losing hope of finding survivors among at least 19 people reported missing from landslides and flash floods in the central Philippines. Last weekend’s disaster struck the central Philippines province of Southern Leyte and the main southern island of Mindanao, killing 171 people. Southern Leyte Gov. Rosette Lerias said volunteer rescuers, including miners, have left the province after failing to find at least 19 people still missing. Government soldiers and some rescue workers remained on the job today in the province, where landslides caused by six days of incessant rains killed 135 people. Another 36 people were killed and seven are missing in the main southern Philippine island of Mindanao, the Office of Civil Defense said. The United Nations and countries such as the USA, Japan, China and Germany have offered to provide food and shelter to the more than 24,000 evacuees, most of them in Mindanao. The USA has supplied food and medical supplies, while Japan has provided portable water purification systems, electric generators, mats and tents. In a separate disaster, dozens remained missing from ferry Piary that sank with 75 people aboard in rough seas south-west of Manila on Sunday. The body of one passenger has been recovered, navy spokesman Commander Geronimo Malabanan said today. At least 24 people have been rescued, and Malabanan said today that officials were trying to confirm reports that 32 more have been rescued by Malaysian fishermen. The ferry sank near the Malaysian islands, about 1,000 kilometres southwest of Manila.

25 December 2003 Malaysian fishermen rescued seven more passengers from wooden ferry Piary that sank in bad weather off the Philippine island of Palawan four days ago, coast guard officials said today. Commodore Arthur Gosingan, Philippine Coast Guard commandant, said the seven survivors were plucked from sea in two separate areas near the Philippine-Malaysia border. The survivors were found floating at sea this morning, Gosingan said. Four of the survivors were picked up by fishermen near Bangui island, off Sabah, and were turned over to the Royal Malaysian Navy. Philippine naval and coastguard vessels are still searching the area for more survivors. Meanwhile, on the central island of Leyte and the southern island of Mindanao, rescue and relief activities continued for thousands of people displaced or left missing by flash floods and landslides last weekend. The toll of dead and missing from landslides and flash floods in Leyte and Mindanao has risen to 156, the authorities said. More than 24,000 people are still housed in evacuation centres with damage to crops and infrastructure estimated at over US$5 million.

3 January 2004 – Bangladesh

The death toll from a cold wave sweeping Bangladesh has risen to 50 and could increase as poor weather conditions were expected to last another three to four days, Dhaka newspapers reported today. They said at least 30 more people, mostly poor and homeless, had died in the past 24 hours in the country’s north-western districts, where temperatures fell to nine degrees celsius. More than 200 people had been hospitalised, officials and newspapers said. A thick fog enveloped much of the country, including the capital, Dhaka, and the port city of Chittagong today, disrupting flights and the movement of ships and ferries, transport operators said. Buses and trains were moving with caution, they said. Weather officials said the cold spell would last for three to four more days.

27 January 2004 – Brazil

At least 56 people have died and one is missing in heavy rains that have doused Brazil over the past month, leaving some 6,803 people homeless, public safety officials said today. People in 190 cities and towns throughout Brazil were affected by the heavy rains, officials said, with the north-eastern states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceara and Sergipe and the south-eastern states of Espirito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo among the hardest hit.

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