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Karl claims two lives, dissipates over Mexico

A dog watches the fallen Chontla bridge, in Emiliano Zapata, Veracruz, Mexico, on September 18, 2010, after Hurricane Karl. Hurricane Karl roared towards Mexico's gulf coast Friday, forcing the evacuation of oil rigs and the shutdown of a nuclear plant, while another giant storm, Igor, targeted Bermuda. Photo courtesy AFP.

Taiwan, China on alert as powerful typhoon nears
Taipei (AFP) Sept 18, 2010 - Forecasters in Taiwan and China issued alerts on Saturday as the most powerful typhoon so far this year headed their way, churning through subtropical Pacific islands belonging to Japan. Typhoon Fanapi was 320 kilometres (200 miles) east of Taiwan as of 5:00 pm (0900 GMT), packing gusts of up to 191 kilometres per hour, Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau reported on its website. "Large waves have been observed along the east coast, and we advise people to avoid approaching the coastline," the bureau said. It also warned of a risk of mudslides in the island's mountainous areas. Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou led a video conference with local officials, urging that measures be taken to prevent major damage from the typhoon.

Thousands of villagers were made homeless when Typhoon Morakot ravaged Taiwan last year, leaving more than 700 people dead or missing in one of the island's worst natural disasters. "Fanapi", which means "small atoll islands" in Micronesian, is the 11th typhoon to hit so far this year. "It's likely to have made landfall by Sunday at noon," said Hsieh Ming-chang, an official with the bureau. As the typhoon gathered speed, the bureau issued both sea and land warnings, urging residents to take precautions. Counties along Taiwan's east coast, including Taitung, Yilan and Hualien, had decided to close all schools beginning from Saturday evening, the TVBS cable network reported.

Taiwan was set to experience the most serious impact on Sunday, TVBS reported, but the typhoon could linger until early Monday. There was a possibility that all domestic flights would be cancelled Sunday, depending on the impact of the storm, said the United Evening News, a Taipei-based newspaper. Taiwan's defence forces were deploying armed personnel carriers for duty in case of floods and other emergencies, television footage showed. Fishermen from the island sought safety in ports along the coast, tying their vessels together with heavy ropes to try to withstand powerful winds and waves.

Taiwan's population is accustomed to several typhoons each year, and many people went to shops and open-air markets Saturday -- in accordance with routine -- to buy enough food for at least a couple of days. Meanwhile, authorities in Japan warned of heavy rain, strong winds and high waves for the southern Japanese Miyako island chain, with a number of flights cancelled, although there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The typhoon was forecast to make landfall on the Chinese mainland on Sunday night or Monday morning, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said.
by Staff Writers
Vega De Alatorre, Mexico (AFP) Sept 18, 2010
Rescue teams scoured eastern Mexico in search for victims Saturday after Hurricane Karl hit the area, claiming two lives and battering it with heavy winds and rains.

But even though it came ashore as a powerful category three hurricane, it quickly dissipated over local mountain ranges.

The storm arrived as Mexico reeled under one of its wettest seasons on record, forcing oil rigs to be evacuated and a nuclear plant to be shut down.

"There is absolutely no risk" at Mexico's only nuclear generator in Laguna Verde since all security measures were taken, said Laura Gurza, national civil protection director.

Karl hit on Friday afternoon, just north of the port of Veracruz, striking land just four miles (seven kilometers) from the nuclear power station.

As officials opened hostels with room for thousands of people, many hunkered down in their homes, sticking adhesive tape on windows and blocking doors with furniture.

A 61-year-old woman and a two-year-old girl were killed in Puebla state after the roof of their house collapsed on them, authorities said.

Filemon Calderon said his wooden house collapsed in Las Higueras village overnight, after he had tried to reinforce it with old mattresses. "It fell on us. The beds and our furniture were soaked," the 59-year-old said.

Still reeling from major flooding earlier this month that left 25 people dead and affected nearly one million more, Mexican officials posted storm warnings for the Gulf coast and central states.

"It's the first time in at least 30 years that we're experiencing such a powerful phenomenon," the head of Veracruz state weather services, Federico Acevedo, told journalists.

Roads were closed in the north of Veracruz and the international airport suspended flights.

Mexican state oil giant Pemex Thursday evacuated Gulf oil platforms and stopped production in 14 wells.

After reaching Mexico's mountains, Karl weakened substantially and was downgraded by the Miami-based US National Hurricane Center to a weather "system" not worthy of further monitoring.

"Winds will gradually diminish as the system weakens further today," the service said, adding that it was discontinuing its advisories about Karl.

The storm hit during an especially active hurricane season in the region.

In the Atlantic, the very large category two Hurricane Igor weakened slightly, still packing winds of 110 miles (175 kilometer) per hour as it churned toward Bermuda.

Igor is so big that hurricane force winds extend some 105 miles (165 kilometers). Tropical storm force winds were also radiating up to 345 miles (555 kilometers) from its center, the NHC said.

Concern lay primarily with Bermuda, where authorities of the British overseas territory, home to some 67,000 people, were warning of potential devastation if the eye of the storm passed close by as forecast.

A meteorologist for the Bermuda Weather Service said the island should prepare for a direct hit, with 37 hours of gale force winds starting Sunday, according to Bermuda's Royal Gazette.

Huge swells from Igor could also cause dangerous surf from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands up the US east coast, the NHC said.

Lined up behind Igor was Julia, which has weakened to a tropical storm out in the Atlantic with no current threats to land.

The last time so many major storms churned in the Atlantic basin at the same time was in September 1998, when there were four hurricanes, including Georges, which killed more than 600 people and caused nearly six billion dollars in damage.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted an especially stormy 2010, with 14 to 23 named storms for this season, including eight to 14 hurricanes.

On average, there are 11 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, in the six-month season which ends on November 30.

Hurricane Earl battered Canada's Nova Scotia province earlier this month when it made landfall as a category one storm. But it swiftly lost power, weakening down to a tropical storm.

earlier related report
New Zealanders powerless as storm buffets nation
Wellington (AFP) Sept 18, 2010 - A storm the size of Australia whipped New Zealand Saturday leaving tens of thousands of people without power and sending a stadium roof crashing down.

The second natural disaster to hit the country in a fortnight lifted roofs and uprooted trees as hurricane-force winds swept across the country and lightning strikes ignited fires.

The South Island city of Christchurch escaped the worst of the storm but continued to be rocked up a series of aftershocks up to magnitude 4.5 two weeks after a 7.0 earthquake caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

The storm, described by the independent website as "one of the largest storms on the planet" and covering an area the size of Australia stretched emergency services as it wreaked havoc across the country

"Most of the calls were about fallen trees across roads or property, and roofs lifting," said Steve Smith of the Fire Service northern communications centre.

Nearly 100,000 people lost electricity supplies overnight Friday and by Saturday afternoon 17,000 were still waiting to be reconnected.

Winds reached hurricane force on the coast west of the main city of Auckland, said weatherwatch head analyst Philip Duncan as gusts up to 154 kilometres (96 miles) per hour swept in from the Tasman Sea.

In the lower North Island, there were more than 100 lightning, sparking fires in at least one building and several trees.

In the Manawatu district north of Wellington flooding made roads impassable.

"There's been quite a weather bomb go through there, and it's caused havoc," Inspector Ken Climo, of police central communications said.

Snow was the biggest threat in the South Island where police advised people to stay off the roads.

In the southern city of Invercargill the roof of a stadium which houses a velodrome and indoor sports arena collapsed under the weight of snow and police described roads in the areas as "treacherous".

There have been no reported casualties.

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Hurricane Karl menaces Mexico, Igor eyes Bermuda
Veracruz, Mexico (AFP) Sept 16, 2010
A rare trio of hurricanes swirled in the Atlantic basin Thursday, including Karl which menaced Mexico's Gulf coast, and Igor, a monster storm threatening a direct hit on Bermuda. Karl, the 11th named storm of a season, has already drenched Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and lashed the country's main offshore oil platforms. It intensified from a tropical storm to a hurricane Thursday over the ... read more

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