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China braces for another powerful tropical storm
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 3, 2011

Drone to be used to forecast hurricanes
Miami (UPI) Oct 1, 2011 - The National Hurricane Center will fly a small unmanned aircraft into hurricanes next year to improve tropical storm forecasting.

The aircraft, called GALE, is shot into a storm where it gathers wind speed and other atmospheric data, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Friday.

"It gives us a better understanding of how the ocean is interacting with the atmosphere," said Joe Cione, project leader with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Right now, the models are guessing at what's going on down there."

The drone is 3 feet long, weighs 8 pounds and costs $30,000.

GALE flies at about 55 miles per hour and can stay in the air for about 1.5 hours before falling into the ocean.

"We're basically hoping this thing will last as long as it can. The wind forces will take over and cause it to rotate. But that's exactly what we want," said Massood Towhidnejad, a professor of software engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

The first flight test of the drone will happen in the coming weeks. Two will be flown into separate hurricanes next year.

Thousands of fishing boats have been called back to port in southern China as authorities brace for the arrival of tropical storm Nalgae, which has already wreaked havoc in the Philippines.

Some parts of southern China are still reeling from the damage caused by tropical storm Nesat, which killed at least four people, forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents, triggered floods and toppled houses.

Authorities in the island resort of Hainan said Monday they had ordered more than 27,000 boats back to harbour, the official Xinhua news agency said.

A statement on the provincial government's website said Nalgae, which has weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm, was currently at sea and moving towards the island, packing winds of up to 108 kilometres (67 miles) an hour.

The storm could make landfall in Hainan on Tuesday, it added, just days after Nesat hit the island as a typhoon before weakening to a tropical storm.

Nesat caused damage in Hainan, but wreaked more havoc in the southern region of Guangxi where it triggered widespread flooding, killing four people and causing direct economic losses of at least 1.6 billion yuan ($251 million).

Both Nesat and Nalgae have devastated the Philippines, which deployed helicopters, inflatable boats and amphibious vehicles in attempts to evacuate tens of thousands stuck in rising flood waters.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council in Manila has recorded three fatalities from Nalgae, and said Nesat left at least 55 people dead after it unleashed strong winds and devastating floods.

Another 28 remain missing while 360,000 people are either in evacuation centres or stranded in the flooded areas and in need of relief, according to the civil defence office in Manila.

earlier related report
Second typhoon slams Philippines
Pulilan, Philippines (AFP) Oct 1, 2011 - Typhoon Nalgae lashed the Philippines on Saturday, killing one person and bringing fresh misery for more than a million people trapped by earlier storm floods, officials said.

The weather service said Nalgae swept out into the South China Sea after a six-hour daytime rampage on the main island of Luzon, but disaster management chief Benito Ramos said millions of people remained in danger.

"The fight is not over yet," he told AFP, explaining that the rain-soaked Cordillera mountains on the typhoon's direct path, which have a total population of about three million, now faced the threat of landslides.

Meanwhile, he said up to eight million people in the central Luzon plains, located between Cordillera and Manila, faced much worse floods than the earlier destruction caused by typhoon Nesat, which had followed the same path.

"I hope the (Nesat) floods will wash out to Manila Bay before the (Nalgae) runoff hits the area," Ramos said, a scenario that he said could play out before dawn on Sunday.

"If the latter catches up to the former, there won't be any rooftops left to see above the floodwaters," he said, while repeating an earlier appeal for people to leave all inundated areas now.

The weather service's flood forecasting section said water levels on the tributaries of major central Luzon rivers were rising fast on Saturday afternoon.

These could bring floods to the 150-kilometre (93-mile) long central Luzon floodplain, it added.

Ramos said there was now less danger from the equally vast Cagayan river basin in the northeast because residents of vulnerable areas had left ahead of Nalgae's approach, though he said he did not have the exact number of evacuees.

His agency listed 180,000 evacuees overall, mostly victims displaced by Nesat.

The only death so far caused by Nalgae was from a landslide that struck a van near the northern mountain town of Bontoc, Ramos said.

He said it was still too dangerous for his people to go out to assess the extent of the damage in other areas. "I don't want them getting hit with flying roofing sheets," he added.

Packing gusts of up to 195 kilometres (121 miles) an hour, Nalgae also caused widespread disruption to domestic shipping, aviation, and power supply, the disaster agency said.

Meanwhile, the death toll from Nesat had risen to 52, with 31 fishermen still missing, Ramos said.

Among the flood holdouts was Ida de la Cruz, a 37-year-old farmer's wife, who sought refuge on her rooftop in Pulilan, a town of 70,000 people an hour's drive north of Manila.

"We can't leave our 15 ducks as most of our income comes from the eggs that they lay," she told AFP while washing clothes using the murky brown floodwaters.

Nearby, dozens of families huddled in heavy rain under tarpaulin tents pitched on the side of the highway, an isolated part of Pulilan not engulfed by water.

Robert Pagdanganan, a former minister in the previous government, said the flooding that swept through four other nearby towns -- including his house -- was the worst he could remember.

"The problem is, there's really nowhere to go," he told AFP.

"They (local officials) are trying their best, but the evacuation centres are also flooded."

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Storms kill 10, leave hundreds homeless in Algeria
Algiers (AFP) Oct 3, 2011 - Storms have killed 10 people and left 150 families homeless in southern Algeria, according to the latest official toll, while a district adminstrator said Monday that damage amounted to $80 million.

"The damage has been provisionally evaluated at six billion dinars ($80 million, 60 million euros), not counting homes. The damage to homes will be assessed," Selim Semmoudi, the administrator of the El Bayadh region 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Algiers, said on state radio.

The families affected since the storms began late last week have been given shelter on old factory premises which have been swiftly fitted out to accomodate flood victims.

Senmoundi added that five bridges had collapsed and there was serious damage to the drinking water cleaning system.

Heavy rain in the region has raised the water level in one desert wadi to 13 metres (43 feet), leaving many bridges under water, according to the civil protection service. One agent of the protection service has gone missing.

Almost 120 civil protection agents from neighbouring regions have been sent to help at El-Bayadh.

The region was battered by heavy rain between Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, the national meteorological office issued a special bulletin warning of violent storms Sunday with high winds in five southern regions. The office issued a second warning on Sunday for Monday.

In October 2008, tempestuous weather claimed 43 lives in the Ghardaia region, 650 kilometres south of Algiers, while 706 people lost their lives to floods in November 2001 in the working class Bab El Oued district of Algiers.


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Hurricane Ophelia leaps to category 3
Miami (AFP) Sept 30, 2011
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