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31 January 2004 – BrazilUnusually heavy rainfall across large parts of Brazil has left 66 people dead and 15,000 homeless this month as houses and cars have been swept away in floods and crushed by mudslides. Brazilians trapped indoors by torrential rain have watched TV in horror as emergency services failed to catch others caught in torrents that destroyed more than 2,000 houses, leaving 90 injured and 21 missing, civil defence services say. The Northeastern city of Fortaleza registered its highest level of rainfall since 1910 on Thursday, with more than 265 mm of precipitation in 24 hours, reported the Ceara state weather service. Other areas of Brazil have had their heaviest rainfall on record, meteorologists said. Meteorologists said rainfall has been satisfactory for most coffee and soy crops. While areas like the usually parched Northeast have received high rainfall, Southern soy farms have had little in recent weeks and face losses in productivity. The rains have been caused by cold fronts that raced into the North, Northeast, Southeast and Central Western regions of Brazil in December and have remained stuck there since. Towns in the Northern state of Bahia are in search of federal funds to rebuild after rains left 3,500 homeless. To the South, Sao Paulo state has been hard hit, accounting for 25 of the dead and 800 homeless. Shanty towns lacking sewers have been submerged. Brazilian National Civil Defence units have been put on high alert to prevent the death toll rising. The federal government has so far given 32 million reals for disaster relief.
3 February 2004 – Mudslides and floods have forced more than 40,000 Brazilians to leave their homes and killed 84 since heavy rains began in late December, civil defence authorities said today. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to visit areas of Brazil’s usually parched Northeast tomorrow, where entire communities have been submerged by rains which have caused 18 deaths nationwide since Friday (January 30). Wealthy Sao Paulo state has also been hit hard, 29 people being killed by the weather and 16 bridges destroyed. Motorists have been swept away after highways turned into rivers. Brazil depends on summer rains to grow coffee, oranges and sugar but this year’s rainfall has been unusually high due to cold fronts that swept into the country and failed to budge. Torrential rains have hammered the entire coastal and Central Western regions of Brazil and turned areas of the parched Northeast into lakes. Rains are expected to continue. The government is scrambling to rescue people trapped in towns that have become islands, house people in schools and shelters and tend to dozens of injured.
5 February 2004 – Brazil’s president has visited Northern states hit by severe flooding in a month of heavy rains. At least 91 people have died and up to 117,000 have been forced out of their homes in the poor Northeastern states of Pernambuco, Bahia and Piaui. Luis Inacio Lula da Silva said he was shocked by the scale of the damage in a region more used to water shortages. He promised emergency food and shelter for the homeless and pledged funds to rebuild some 4,000 destroyed homes. With more rain forecast, the worst affected states say they have not been given enough emergency funds to deal with the immediate aftermath. Emergency workers have been scrambling to rescue people trapped in towns that have become islands, provide temporary accommodation in schools and shelters and tend to dozens of injured. Most of the victims either drowned or were crushed to death when mudslides caused their homes to collapse. About 4,200 houses have now been destroyed and a further 112,800 damaged since late December. “We will do all that we can to minimise your immediate suffering and then, in a second phase, improve conditions so that you will not be victimised by floods again,” the President told people in Piaui. Yesterday, a Brazilian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft was distributing 18 tonnes of food around the region. But governors of the states affected have complained that the 32 million reals ($11m) of funding they have received from two ministries was not enough. “It’s a small amount, and it’s coming slowly,” said Jarbas Vasconcelos, Governor of Pernambuco, according to Globo news. “We don’t question that there’s good will, and the intention to help, but the process is slow and bureaucratic,” he said. The wealthier, Southern state of Sao Paulo has also been badly hit, with 16 bridges washed away and motorists swept off roads that turned into rivers, according to Reuters news agency. It said 29 people had died there.
13 February 2004 – The death toll from devastating rains that have drenched Brazil for weeks has risen to 161 people, while 230,000 have been forced to leave their homes, the Government said today. At the beginning of this week the death toll stood at 119. The growing damage from the rains prompted the Government to release $116 million in disaster relief yesterday. National Integration Minister Ciro Gomes said the funds would be used to rebuild roads and houses. Gomes said rain levels were likely to remain heavy. Since early January, Brazil has been hit by the heaviest rains in more than a decade, causing wide-scale damage in the poor north as well as the cities of the south. Gomes said 17 of Brazil’s 26 states have been hit to one degree or another. Towns have had mudslides, been cut off when bridges and roads collapsed or have been flooded by rivers which burst their banks. The Government has also said the rains could bring epidemics and has moved to resupply medicine stocks.
30 January 2004 – IndonesiaAt least 29 people are believed to have been killed by landslides that hit an area in Indonesia’s Central Java Province early today after heavy rainfall overnight, police said. “Fifteen people have been found dead and nine others have gone missing, but we believe they have also been killed by the landslides,” said Soni Betamek, a Purworejo Regency police officer.
1 February 2004 – After days of heat, a violent storm lashed Jakarta on Friday (January 30), flooding streets and uprooting trees, causing massive traffic jams throughout the city and disrupting rail services. The storm toppled nearly 200 trees in the capital, 150 of them in South Jakarta. Trees fell on houses in Kebayoran Baru, including the house of the late Yoga Sugama, former chief of the National Intelligence Agency. The family estimated that falling trees caused Rp 200 million in damage to their house and a Mercedes Benz E320. Jakarta Park Agency head Sarwo Handhayani said the agency would likely offer compensation for the damage caused by the toppled trees. She also said the agency would plant new trees as soon as possible to replace those destroyed in the storm. Toppled trees in Kebayoran Baru and Pondok Indah caused massive traffic jams in the two areas and on the surrounding streets. Residents trying to make their way around the city today told of being stuck in traffic for hours. Four sections of railroad – Tanah Abang-Karet, Tanah Abang-Palmerah, Kebayoran Lama-Pondok Ranji and Manggarai-Tanah Abang – were blocked by falling trees, preventing ten electric commuter trains from operating between 14.30 and 16.05 hours. Besides the heavy rain, a ten-minute hail storm also pounded down on parts of the capital, including Senayan and Bintaro. The head of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency’s forecast division, Ahmad Zakir, said it was the heaviest downpour in the city since early 2002, when Jakarta was paralysed by flooding.
5 February 2004 – Severe storms set off by Australia’s Gusty Storm hit many parts of Java and the province of West Nusa Tenggara on Tuesday and yesterday, claiming at least two lives, damaging hundreds of houses and disrupting land and water transportation. The worst cases occurred in the province of East Java, where at least one toddler was killed as of yesterday afternoon. The storm also damaged 16 bridges, flooded dozens of castles and hundreds of homes, and swept away ten houses after heavy rains and strong winds hit many parts of the province, including Mojokerto, Pasuruan, Probolinggo, Malang, Batu and Jember regencies. The storms and ensuing floodwaters also cut major roads connecting Jombang and Mojokerto, as well as several other regencies. Local residents have been forced to seek refuge in safer areas, and some 150 residents from Suko district, Mojokerto, have camped out at the regental administration’s offices. The floods cut traffic between the Central Java capital of Semarang and neighboring Grobogan regency. Heavy rains also caused a landslide in Gubug district, Grobogan, cutting the railway route between Semarang and East Java capital Surabaya. In West Nusa Tenggara province, a storm halted maritime traffic between Lembar Seaport, Lombok Island, and Padang Bay Seaport, Bali, for 12 hours. At least eight vessels were delayed and hundreds of passengers were stranded by the storm. Sutrisno, head of the local Meteorology and Geophysics Office in Selaparang, predicted that the storms across the eastern part of the archipelago would continue for another five to ten days.
15 February 2004 – New ZealandHeavy rain and gale-force winds yesterday forced the cancellation of sailings in the Cook Strait, tore off roofs, toppled trees and cut power. A man was missing after a night fishing trip in Wellington harbour. All sailings, including late-night freight runs, were cancelled. Hundreds of people stranded by the cancellations were accommodated on later sailings wherever possible. The Coast Guard had a busy weekend. Its launch was called to help a Wellington yacht after its motor failed in big swells off Somes/Matiu Island yesterday afternoon. The yacht was already aground when the rescue crew arrived, Coast Guard president Chris Seaton said. Conditions were too rough to salvage the yacht yesterday. The Coast Guard also rescued a fisherman in swells of four to five metres off Moa Point yesterday and helped to secure a yacht that broke its mooring at Greta Point yesterday. MetService lead forecaster Andy Downs said Wellington missed the worst gales, which brought down trees and power lines in Taranaki yesterday.
16 February 2004 – High winds and heavy rain lashed the North Island and Marlborough Sounds overnight, closing roads and schools, disrupting ferry and air travel and forcing the evacuation of about 200 people from their homes. One man was missing after a 40 ft boat ran into trouble in heavy seas in the Marlborough Sounds last night. Three of the four people on the boat were rescued. The massive storm, which brought winds of up to 150 km/h, felled trees, tore off roofs and cut power across the North Island late yesterday and overnight. In the Manawatu towns of Marton and Fielding, local officials declared a state of civil emergency as flooding forced up to 200 residents to be evacuated. Yesterday, ten-metre swells in Cook Strait caused the inter-island ferry Arahura to pitch violently, tipping a truck on the vehicle deck on to its side, damaging a van and three other vehicles. In Auckland, high winds forced two flights to turn back to Wellington airport minutes before they were due to land. The storm closed several highways and rail links across the North Island, including State Highway 1 near Waiouru. In the Wellington region several main roads were closed as flooding and fallen trees wreaked havoc. High seas and rising streams caused a handful of houses to be evacuated. Several houses were without electricity during the night. Manawatu District Council declared a civil defence emergency at 05.00 hours after a large part of Central and Southwest Fielding, 20 km Northwest of Palmerston North, was flooded overnight. Hundreds were evacuated from their homes – including a local rest home – as the town’s Makino Stream burst out of its bed. Scores of homes have had water through them. This morning more than 150 evacuees were camping in the Manfield racecourse grandstand. Evacuations began at 2300 last night. While waters that had extended into the town centre started to recede from that time, the Makino itself was still up to 150 m beyond its normal banks at dawn. The Oroua River burst out of its stop banks at Kopane flooding farmland overnight. All schools in Marton and Fielding have been closed and other residents in the towns have been urged to stay at home. Some 300 mm of water was reportedly flowing down Marton’s main street. A number of bridges were washed out and a milk train derailed at Oringi. The cancellation of ferry services from late yesterday left hundreds of people stranded.
16 February 2004 – Damage caused by the extreme winds and heavy rain across the North Island could cost as much as $50 million to fix, the Insurance Council says. The massive storm which has caused floods in the Hutt Valley, north of Wellington and in the Rangitikei District, had probably caused the biggest flood damage in 25 years, the council said today. Flooding in the Rangitikei district forced the evacuation of about 500 people in the towns of Fielding, Marton and Tangimoana. Local officials, who declared a state of emergency, said the flooding across the district was at a level that occurred only once every 50-100 years. Insurance Council Chief Executive Chris Ryan said today staff estimated damage to the lower half of the North Island from the current floods was as high as $50 million. Extensive flood damage claims were already coming into insurance companies from the Wellington region, particularly in central Wellington and Lower Hutt.
17 February 2004 – The vicious storm that pummelled the lower North Island has left reeling communities with a $50 million clean-up bill. Thirty hours of torrential rain and devastating winds of up to 120 km/h claimed two lives, forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, derailed a milk tanker train, closed scores of roads, ripped down trees and cut power to hundreds of homes. Civil defence emergencies were declared in the Manawatu and Rangitikei districts after the Makino Stream and Rangitikei River breached their banks, isolating the towns of Fielding and Marton. Severe flooding prompted the evacuation of about 780 people from the districts, including 20 residents from the Woodfall Lodge Rest Home in Fielding and 300 from the seaside settlement of Tangimoana. Flooding also knocked out Fielding’s ability to produce drinking water. It was expected to run out today. Lower Hutt was also badly hit by the torrential rain, with about 170 mm falling over 24 hours. About 600 people had to abandon their homes in Eastbourne, Waiwhetu, Hutt Park and Wainuiomata. Up to 500 holidaymakers at the Top 10 Holiday Park in Hutt Park Road were taken from the sodden camp site by army personnel in Unimog vehicles and then bussed to Petone Working Men’s Club. Non-urgent surgery and services were cancelled at some hospitals around the Wellington region as widespread road closures forced staff to stay at home. Up to 100 schools in Manawatu, Wairarapa and Wellington closed yesterday. Thousands of students spent the day at home. Staff were also absent as trains ground to a halt, roads closed and some school bus services were cancelled. Washouts, fallen trees and slips disrupted railway services linking Wellington to Palmerston North, the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Paraparaumu. The Capital Connection train had to turn back to Palmerston North early yesterday, only to get stuck at Shannon. Interislander, Bluebridge and Lynx ferry sailings across Cook Strait were cancelled because of waves up to ten metres high. Air travel was also disrupted, with about eight flights at Wellington International Airport cancelled and several others delayed. A seven-wagon milk train derailed at Oringi, near Dannevirke. No one was hurt. Gas supply to about 6,000 customers in Hawke’s Bay and Northern Wairarapa was threatened after floodwaters destroyed the Pohangina road bridge, which the pipeline was attached to, near Ashhurst. The Fire Service handled 1,150 emergency calls between noon on Sunday (February 15) and 13.00 yesterday for the lower North Island.
17 February 2004 – Commuters and ferry passengers were stranded as flooding, slips and trees blocked roads and railway tracks and winds whipped up stomach-churning sailing conditions. Wild weather caused major disruptions to Wellington bus services yesterday, with some coaches used to evacuate people from Lower Hutt. Eastbourne, Wainuiomata, Stokes Valley and Upper and Lower Hutt bus services were disrupted or cancelled because roads were closed. Cityline manager Warwick Williams said it was the most widespread disruption he had encountered in at least four years. In Wellington, trolley buses were taken off the road because of strong winds and replaced with diesel buses. Stagecoach Wellington operations manager John Hodgson said most school buses were cancelled, but 90 per cent of its normal services ran. Waves of up to 11 metres forced the cancellation of The Interislander, Bluebridge and Lynx ferries. Interisland Line operations and customer services general manager Caroline Haley said, “The Interislander set sail at 14.00 yesterday after 24 hours of cancellations. It was the longest disruption for a couple of years and about 1,800 passengers on either side of the Cook Strait missed scheduled sailings, but at least 30 flew across Cook Strait instead.”. Trains between Wellington and Johnsonville, Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, and Paraparaumu were stopped by washouts, slips, trees and power cuts. A fallen tree forced the Capital Connection train bound for Wellington to return to Palmerston North this morning. It got stuck in Shannon because of a washout, and passengers were bussed back. Tranz Scenic was working on getting buses to Taihape to rescue about 65 Northerner passengers stranded in the town. About 15 people spent Sunday night (February 15) at Wellington International Airport with Qantas flights delayed up to four and a half hours. Airlines spent yesterday catching up, and Origin Pacific ran extra flights between Wellington and Blenheim. A spokeswoman for Wellington International Airport said about eight flights had been cancelled since Sunday night. The Interisland Line has defended its decision to allow the Arahura to sail from Picton on Sunday afternoon as a Southerly storm led to mountainous waves in Cook Strait. Spokesman Peter Monk said the vessel’s master had 30 years’ experience crossing the strait and in assessing its changeable weather. “We were confident we could sail and we did so,” Mr Monk said. “We didn’t sail just because passengers wanted us to. In no case would we have sailed if the master had considered the conditions were dangerous”. Mr Monk said two gaming machines had tipped over during the rough crossing. The Interisland Line was looking how they could be better secured. However, he said that initial reports overstated damage to vehicles. The only three vehicles to suffer damage belonged to the vessel and were used for moving freight.
17 February 2004 – Up to 1,000 people are being evacuated from their homes in Picton with authorities fearing two dams above the town will collapse. A civil defence emergency was declared in the town at 13.30 hours as a result of the unstable dams. This followed several hours of torrential rain this morning which swept away camper vans, flooded houses and caused havoc for emergency services. Blenheim Police spokesman Russell Smith said 200 houses in the expected flood path needed to be evacuated, which meant homes had to be found for 500-1,000 people. Engineers were travelling to the dams to determine whether they would hold but an earlier inspection had already shown water to be lapping over the top of the Humphreys and Barnes Dams. Marlborough district civil defence spokesman Steve Jones said that one of the dams, the Barnes Dam, had been overflowing all morning. Mr Jones said the dams had been inspected from the air this morning and the state of civil emergency declared as a result of their concerns.
17 February 2004 – New Zealand remains on guard after unseasonable summer storms lashed across a central swathe of the country. Two men are believed to have died in the storms, which brought heavy rainfall and winds reaching 167 km/h (100 mph). The cost of the damage is thought to exceed NZ$100m (US$71m), a record. Floodwaters have begun slowly to recede, but large areas up to 200 km north of the capital Wellington remain submerged. In the Horowhenua area, authorities remained on high alert after the Manawatu river burst its banks, prompting the evacuation of 50 people. In the farming areas of Manawatu and Rangitikei, states of emergency remain in place after rivers burst their banks, sending mud, water and gravel through hundreds of houses. Up to 1,000 people were evacuated in Picton after 40 mm (1.6 in) of torrential rains fell in 40 minutes today, sparking fears that two dams above the town could collapse. Most have now been allowed to return after engineers declared the dams safe. Chris Ryan, chief executive of the Insurance Council, said damage estimates could exceed the previous record of NZ$100m, set after storms hit in 1984. He said most damage was to homes and cars, with many homes suffering at least NZ$30,000 worth of damage. Most of the wild weather is thought to have passed, but more showers are forecast across the country.
18 February 2004 – Yesterday was the third day of widespread destruction across central New Zealand, with the damage bill now estimated at $100 million and rising. Storm clouds dumped up to 40 mm on already sodden areas in Wellington, Horowhenua, Wairarapa, Manawatu and Wanganui, while a sudden deluge in Marlborough caused a flash flood. Worst affected was Picton, where 1,000 people were evacuated over fears that a dam could burst, sending millions of tonnes of water into the town. Most were allowed to return home last night after engineers checked the dam. A civil defence emergency was declared in the town at 13.30. This followed several hours of torrential rain: in one 40-minute period 40 mm fell, which swept away camper vans, flooded houses and caused havoc for emergency services. There were also civil defence emergencies in Rangitikei, Manawatu and South Taranaki. Farmers alongside the Manawatu River were forced to flee as the river burst stop-banks, while livestock was trapped. The Horowhenua towns of Shannon, Whirokino, Foxton Beach, Foxton and Sanson were evacuated yesterday as floodwaters rose, adding to the destruction in Tangimoana, Fielding and Marton. The floods have also cut water supplies to several towns, and residents in other areas have been warned to boil drinking water. Water is being trucked in to some areas. Road and rail travel was severely affected for the third day running as bridges and roads were washed out by floodwaters and slips. Several state highways, including State Highway 1, were closed in several places last night, as were other major roads in Wanganui, Manawatu and Horowhenua. Police urged motorists to keep off the roads. The main trunk line between Auckland and Wellington will be closed for at least three days because of track damage. There was concern that sewage and dead stock washed down flooded rivers would pose a serious health risk, along with contaminated water supplies. There had been breakdowns in the sewage systems in Ohakune, Taihape and Bulls. Most of the sewage was going into fast-moving swollen rivers. While power was restored to thousands of homes in Wellington, Hutt Valley, Horowhenua and Manawatu, fresh problems caused more outages elsewhere. About 2,000 homes were still without power last night. Miramar bore the brunt of rain in the capital yesterday, with the Eastern suburb recording 30 mm in an hour. This caused surface flooding and residents were put on standby to evacuate, but the floodwaters receded and evacuation proved unnecessary. Farmers have been asked to dump milk because road closures and gas supply cuts have stopped milk company Fonterra collecting milk. The company says up to 1,650 farms in the lower half of the North Island have been affected. Telecom said it had not restored full phone services in Manawatu, Rangitikei and Horowhenua, and about 5,000-6,000 phone lines remained affected. Insurers have doubled their estimate of the damage caused by this week’s storm to $100 million, but farming leaders say it could be more. Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan said the destruction was greater than first thought. The cost equals the Southland floods in 1984 and is double the bill for Cyclone Bola in 1988.
18 February 2004 – Dozens of homes remain under water in New Zealand after some of the worst flooding in a century. More heavy rain is expected across the Tasman over the next few days. States of emergency are still in place in several parts of the lower North Island. Many main roads are cut and hundreds of homes are still without power and water. It is the worst flooding some locals have ever seen. The main gas line to the east of the North Island has also been cut, affecting 6,000 people.
15 February 2004 – Collapse of swimming-pool roof, Moscow, RussiaA glass roof at a popular Moscow swimming complex collapsed under the weight of snow late yesterday, killing at least 15 people and injuring nearly 100 others as shards of glass crashed down onto the bathers. Itar-Tass news agency said early today that rescue workers were still hearing cries for help from under the wreckage of the giant aqua park, popular with children and their families. An Emergencies Ministry spokesman said the death toll early this morning had reached 15, including three children, with 97 hurt, Tass reported. “The rescuers are guided by people’s voices and their calls for help sounding from these spots. Periodically, once in half an hour, ‘minutes of silence’ are observed in order to locate the victims under the wreckage,” the news agency quoted an official from an emergency crisis centre set up after the incident as saying. Swimmers rushed outside into freezing temperatures shortly after the glass dome caved in at 19.20 Moscow time. More than 420 people were in the area where the roof caved in and a total of 1,300 visitors were in the entire complex, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said. It was unclear how many people remained unaccounted for. “It has been definitely confirmed it was not an act of terror,” the mayor said outside the complex in Southwestern Moscow. “The moment when the roof caved in was recorded by video cameras.” A Moscow police spokesman said part of the roof collapsed under the weight of piles of snow which collected on top of the giant glass dome after days of heavy snowfall this week.
21 February 2004 – A woman injured in the Febraury 14 roof collapse at a Moscow water park has died in a hospital, bringing the death toll in the accident to 27, Russian news reports said today. Of the more than 100 people injured, 44 remained hospitalised today, the reports said. On Wednesday (February 18), rescuers found the body of a boy who died in the accident. The precise cause of the collapse of the glass and concrete dome over the Transvaal water park in Moscow’s Southern suburbs remains undetermined. A Government panel investigating the accident is focusing on the design and construction of the roof, the materials used, and the building’s maintenance.