News & Current Affairs

September 7, 2008

New hurricane menaces Caribbean

New hurricane menaces Caribbean

Caribbean nations are bracing for another major storm, Hurricane Ike, coming just days after Tropical Storm Hanna passed through the region.

Ike has regained strength after weakening, with winds of up to 135mph (215km/h) as it nears the Turks and Caicos islands and the Bahamas.

Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for its eastern provinces.

Haitian officials have said that at least 500 people have been found dead as floodwater’s caused by Hanna recede.

That storm has hit the US south-east coast and is dropping torrential rain on North and South Carolina.

Storm warnings are in force along the Atlantic coast from Georgia to New Jersey.

‘Major hurricane’

Hurricane Ike gained strength to Category Four on the Saffir Simpson scale – an “extremely dangerous hurricane” – after weakening slightly earlier on Saturday, said the Florida-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

As of 2100 GMT, Ike was tracking west south-west, moving at 15mph about 90 miles (145km) east of Grand Turk Island.

SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE
Cat 1: Winds 74-95mph (119-153km/h). No real damage to buildings
Cat 2: Winds 96-110mph (154-177km/h). Storm surge 6-8 feet (1.8-2.8 metres) above normal
Cat 3: Winds 111-130mph (178-209km/h). Major hurricane. Coastal flooding destroys smaller structures
Cat 4: Winds 131-155mph (210-249km/h). Large storm surge and widespread damage to smaller buildings
Cat 5: Winds greater than 155mph (249km/h). Small buildings blown away, roofs on large buildings destroyed. All trees and signs knocked down. Widespread coastal flooding.
Source: US National Hurricane Center

The NHC said the storm was expected to pass near or over the Turks and Caicos islands and the south-eastern Bahamas late on Saturday or early Sunday.

After Hanna pummeled the low-lying Turks and Caicos, a British territory to the north of Haiti, earlier in the week, many residents and visitors decided to leave.

Authorities decided to close the airport in Providenciales at mid-day on Saturday.

Ike should hit the northern coast of eastern Cuba by late Sunday or early Monday, according to the NHC forecast.

If it stays on its projected course, Ike will cut across the island from east to west, putting the crumbling colonial buildings of the capital, Havana, at risk.

A storm surge of up to 12ft (3.6m) is expected along with “large and dangerous battering waves” and heavy rainfall, the NHC said.

The center of the hurricane is forecast to pass to the north of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

But Haiti, already reeling from three major storms in as many weeks, will not be spared, with up to 12in (30cm) of rain due to fall.

As floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Hanna receded, Haitian officials said more than 500 people had been killed.

Hurricane Gustav last week and Tropical Storm Fay two weeks ago killed about 120 people.

Hardest hit by Hanna was the city of Gonaives, which was flooded with up to 16ft of water that has only now begun to recede.

The devastation there has been described as catastrophic.

Police said 500 people were confirmed dead but that others are still missing and the number could rise higher.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced by the flooding.

The WFP has begun distributing food aid but a spokesperson said the scale of the disaster was putting their resources to the test.

Other aid workers say people’s spirits are running low after the successive storms.

“Food supplies and water are scarce and the price of the food that’s left is rising,” said Parnell Denis from Oxfam in Gonaives.

“The morale of people staying in the shelters is so very low; I am afraid to tell them that another storm is on its way.”

More bad weather will hamper the aid effort even further.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, there have been no reports of major damage.

However, preparations are under way for the arrival of Hurricane Ike.

“The ground is saturated and some of the dams in the south-east region are fairly close to their maximum capacity,” said meteorological official Gloria Ceballos.

Civil defense director Colonel Juan Manuel Mendez said Dominican troops had been put on alert.

Map of Hurricane Ike's predicted route


Are you in the Caribbean? Have you been affected by the storms? What preparations have you made to deal with the adverse weather? Send us your comments and experiences
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August 9, 2008

Aids conference ends with warning

Aids conference ends with warning

HIV particles

More than 30 million people around the world are infected with HIV

An international Aids conference has ended with a warning that commitments made by wealthy countries to fund access to HIV treatment may not be met.

The charity Oxfam said there had been an air of complacency from government and UN officials at the Mexico meeting.

In 2005, the G8 industrialised nations set a goal of providing HIV treatment to all who needed it by 2010.

But with less than two years to go, the G8 leaders have committed little more than a third of the promised resources.

Michel Kazatchkine, the head of the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, said that although lives were being saved on an unprecedented scale, he was deeply concerned at the lack of funds.

Three priorities

“We should be deeply concerned that with less than two years to go before our deadline for universal access, the G8 has committed little more than a third of the resources that it has promised to deliver by 2010,” said Mr Kazatchkine at the close of the six-day conference.

What we have is the sense of real slippage
Robert Fox
Oxfam

Millions of lives were at stake, said Robert Fox, the leader of Oxfam International’s delegation in Mexico City.

“What we have is the sense of real slippage, that well you know it may not be 2010 and it probably will be 2015, as if that doesn’t matter,” he said.

Twenty-four thousand people attended the conference, and the organisers said the voices of those who bore the brunt of the HIV-pandemic had been loud and clear.

Mr Kazatchkine highlighted three priorities to take the battle against Aids forward:

  • Defeating the discrimination against those with Aids virus flourished
  • Focussing research on more coordinated research
  • Strengthening health systems in developing nations

The Mexico City conference was the 17th of its kind since acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) emerged in 1981.

The next conference will be held in Vienna in 2010.

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