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SHAKE AND BLOW
Bangladesh navy rescues cyclone survivors
By Shafiqul ALAM
Dhaka (AFP) June 1, 2017


Raft capsizes in flood-hit Sri Lanka, kills three
Colombo (AFP) June 1, 2017 - Three people drowned Thursday when their makeshift raft capsized in Sri Lanka, which has been hit by its worst flooding in 14 years.

Police said the victims, who included a mother and her 14-year-old son, had ignored official warnings not to venture outdoors because they had a funeral to attend.

The drownings in Nagoda in the country's south follow the deaths of 203 people from Friday's heavy rains, most of them buried under landslides.

"We have appealed to the people not to go out to check their flooded homes without proper safety gear," navy spokesman Chaminda Walakuluge said.

"These are avoidable deaths."

Among the 203 people killed on Friday were 45 school children, officials said. Another 95 are still listed as missing.

The Disaster Management Centre said the situation across the country was improving and thousands of security personnel were working on relief and recovery operations.

Sri Lanka announced on Wednesday that it will tighten construction laws, saying many landslide victims would have survived had their homes not been built on slopes.

Decades of illegal construction had worsened the flooding by blocking drains and eliminating natural rainwater stores, including marshland.

The flooding is the worst since May 2003 when 250 people were killed and 10,000 homes destroyed after a similarly powerful monsoon, officials said.

Monsoon rains last year also caused flooding and landslides, killing more than 100 people.

The Bangladesh navy said Thursday it has rescued 23 fishermen from the Bay of Bengal and is searching for scores more missing since a cyclone hit two days ago.

Most were plucked from a sinking boat which had broken down, leaving them stranded at sea when Cyclone Mora hit on Tuesday, killing seven people and destroying thousands of homes.

The navy said its ships were conducting an "extensive search" of the area after the storm left a trail of devastation along the coast.

They are also carrying food, emergency relief and two medical teams to Kutubdia and Saint Martin's, two coastal islands that were hit hard by the cyclone.

"At least 15 ships have been deployed to search for survivors in the Bay of Bengal after the storm," a senior Navy official said.

"They are still in the sea and have rescued 23 fishermen from the water."

A navy helicopter and a maritime patrol aircraft are also conducting aerial searches for survivors, it said.

As the cyclone advanced on Bangladesh, local authorities increased the maritime threat to its highest level and ordered all fishing vessels to remain at port.

However Mushtaq Ahmed, a fishing industry representative in Cox's Bazar, said eight boats carrying around 150 fishermen had failed to return.

"We heard some 60 fishermen were rescued by Bangladeshi and Indian navy ships. If they're our men, we think some 90 fishermen are still missing," he told AFP.

"They could be moored on a island or adrift at sea. In the past we have seen that most of the fishermen return to their fishing ports within a week or two. We hope this time they will also be back in good health."

Bangladesh suffers frequent cyclones and fishermen are often reported missing only to be found in their villages after the storm has subsided.

- Extensive search -

Ahmed said it was the first time the navy had conducted such an extensive search for missing fishermen after a cyclone.

The rescues brought the total number of people plucked from the sea since Tuesday to 56.

An Indian navy ship rescued 33 Bangladeshi survivors on Wednesday and handed them over to the local authorities, senior government official Zillur Rahman Chowdhury told AFP.

"All 33 are fishermen," Chowdhury said, adding they were tossed into the sea after their boats were caught in the cyclone.

Meanwhile, aid workers said emergency food and aid had reached tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees living in camps in Cox's Bazar, which bore the brunt of the storm.

The World Food Programme said it was handing out 100 tonnes of high-energy biscuits to nearly 20,000 refugee families after the cyclone destroyed or damaged thousands of homes.

"After a day of going hungry with my kids, this is amazing," said Rohingya refugee Abdul Khalek after he received 30 packs of biscuits for his family of eight.

Thousands of Rohingya have been sleeping in the open since the storm hit, despite continuing rain.

Cyclone Mora came after heavy rains in Sri Lanka caused the worst flooding the island has seen in well over a decade, killing more than 200 people.

South Asia is frequently hit by flooding in the summer with the arrival of the annual monsoon rains.

SHAKE AND BLOW
Expect above-average Atlantic hurricane season, US forecasters say
Miami (AFP) May 25, 2017
The Atlantic ocean could see another above-average hurricane season this year, with 11-17 big storms and as many as nine hurricanes, US forecasters said Thursday. The expected absence of El Nino, an ocean warming trend that tends to reduce the likelihood of hurricanes, is a major reason for the expected rise in number of storms. Other factors include above-average sea surface temperature ... read more

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