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Russia scrambles to contain record floods
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 20, 2013


A frame grab from handout video taken on August 19, 2013 from a helicopter and provided by the Russian Emergencies Ministry's department in Amur Region shows an aerial view of a flooded area in the Russia's Far Eastern Amur region. Floods in the Russian Far East broke today historic records as authorities evacuated over 19,000 people from affected areas and warned of a further rise in water levels. Levels in the Amur river which flows from Russia to China broke historic records in the city of Khabarovsk and rain continued to batter the region as authorities sent out bottled water and administered shelters for displaced residents. Photo courtesy AFP.

Taiwan battens down after warning about tropical storm
Taipei (AFP) Aug 20, 2013 - Taiwan evacuated more than 1,000 tourists from an island and deployed troops Tuesday in preparation for the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Trami .

The Central Weather Bureau said the storm, 710 kilometres (440 miles) east-southeast of Taipei at 0600 GMT, could bring heavy rain even if it did not make landfall.

The storm, with gusts up to 126 kilometres per hour, was moving west north-west at a speed of 22 kilometres per hour. Officials at the bureau said the impact may be felt mostly from Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

In reaction to the warning, ferries operating between the southeastern city of Taitung and Green Island evacuated 1,700 tourists.

Television images showed hundreds of fishing boats packing Suao, a fishing port in the northeast county of Ilan which is likely to bear the brunt of the storm.

Nearby, the military deployed 300 soldiers and four amphibious rescue vehicles.

In the capital Taipei, residents of some low-lying areas piled up sandbags.

Last month Typhoon Soulik battered Taiwan with torrential rain and powerful winds, leaving two people dead and at least 100 injured.

Roofs were ripped from homes, debris and fallen trees littered the streets and some areas were submerged by floods.

Heavy rain pummels flooded Philippines
Manila (AFP) Aug 20, 2013 - Torrential rain relentlessly battered the flood-soaked Philippine capital and surrounding farming areas on Tuesday, raising fears that the toll from monsoons which have killed three this week would climb higher.

Schools and government offices in Manila and many neighbouring regions were closed for a second consecutive day, as floods swelled high into urban as well as rural homes.

The state weather agency warned the rain would continue through Tuesday, issuing its top level red alert for Manila and neighbouring provinces.

The red alert means "serious flooding" is likely in low-lying areas, and more than three centimetres (1.8 inches) of rain is expected every hour.

Three people had already been confirmed killed and four others were missing due to the rains, according to the government's disaster agency's latest tally on Monday night.

Most of the victims were in the mountainous north of the main island of Luzon, more than 200 kilometres (120 miles) from Manila.

The heavy rains were due to the seasonal monsoon being exacerbated by Tropical Storm Trami, known locally as Maring, which was hovering to the north of the Philippines.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them deadly.

Russians in the Far East on Tuesday battled rising floodwaters as authorities evacuated more than 23,000 people and scrambled to prevent the outbreak of disease.

Heavy rains pounding Khabarovsk, a Far Eastern city located near the Chinese border, since July have swelled the local Amur River to nearly seven metres -- a level unseen since monitoring of the area began in 1895.

The floodwaters damaged property, infrastructure and crops, displaced tens of thousands and raised fresh questions about the Russian government's readiness to handle natural disasters.

There have been no reports of fatalities but more than 23,000 people have been evacuated so far, the office of the Kremlin's Far Eastern envoy Viktor Ishayev said in a statement.

Television footage showed locals making their way through a flooded area by boat and a cow wading through muddy waters, submerged nearly up to its neck.

Locals complained that faeces were finding their way into the water. "The saddest part is that we are being flooded in shit," a local man said in televised remarks.

The floods have affected the Yakutia, Primorsky Krai and Amur and Khabarovsk regions as well as the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.

On Tuesday, the Amur river, which serves as a natural border with China where it is known as the Heilongiang river, has risen to 676 centimetres.

It is expected to rise by another 30-40 centimetres over the next two days.

"According to estimates, the water levels near Khabarovsk can reach 730-780 centimetres on August 24-28," the Khabarovsk city administration said.

Yury Varakin, head of the situation centre at Russia's state weather service Rosgidromet, said the water levels around Khabarovsk reached a level unseen since regular monitoring began in 1895.

"The highest water level stood at 642 centimetres in 1897," he told AFP.

"In many areas the river spread out over tens of kilometres. The unfavourable situation will remain until the end of the month."

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin discussed ramping up relief efforts along the border with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yang.

Yang and Rogozin agreed at talks in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin to strengthen joint efforts to deal with flooding along the Chinese-Russian border, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The Russian military have been deployed to help erect flood defence bunds along the Amur river, with authorities saying they have prepared 10,000 sandbags to use in case the waters breached the defences.

Kremlin envoy Ishayev asked the General Prosecutor's office to look into how the authorities have been handling the emergency.

"Residents in a number of areas say: 'If you started a bit earlier then you'd have saved residential settlements.' And they are right," Ishayev said in televised remarks.

He indicated that some areas did not have proper infrastructure to help protect them against the floods.

Authorities said many in the affected areas had been left without access to money after Russia's biggest bank Sberbank shut its branches and ATMs.

Of the more than 29,000 people who needed to be vaccinated, only 2,000 received shots even though the local authorities had enough vaccines against hepatitis A, diphtheria and typhoid fever, Ishayev's office said.

The defence ministry sent an airlift carrying 20 tonnes of vaccines and medicine to the Far East, adding that t had vaccinated 2,000 servicemen involved in relief efforts.

On Tuesday the Magadan region also declared an emergency due to rising water levels.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said thousands of children will be unable to start school on time as some schools have been destroyed and others turned to shelters.

"What will the children be doing if they do not go to school?" he asked a government meeting.

The disaster comes a year after some 170 people perished in devastating floods that hit the town of Krymsk and its outlying areas in the southern Krasnodar region, with many people dying in their sleep.

Four officials including Krymsk's former mayor are now standing trial on charges of criminal negligence.

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