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Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Florida: ‘Our worst fears realized’

Hurricane Michael has caused widespread damage across the Florida panhandle. The Category 4 monster was among the most powerful hurricanes in half a century to strike the mainland United States. Hurricane Michael churned through the Florida panhandle packing 155-mph (250-kph) winds on Wednesday afternoon, unleashing devastating damage along the Gulf coast as it moved inland into Georgia. It had the lowest barometric reading of a hurricane to make landfall since 1969, making it the most intense storm to hit the continental US in half a century. Michael was also the most powerful hurricane to hit the panhandle of Florida. The storm slammed ashore early afternoon near Mexico Beach as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson wind scale, uprooting trees and powerlines, dumping rain and unleashing severe flooding. "Michael saw our worst fears realized, of rapid intensification just before landfall on a part of a coastline that has never experienced a Category 4 hurricane," said University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy. Authorities said a man in the town of Greensboro was killed by a falling tree when it crashed through the roof of his home. Some 375,000 people had been urged to leave their homes for stronger shelters in Florida, but many residents were trapped after they were caught surprised by the storm doubling in strength as it approached land. By Wednesday night, more than 400,000 people in Florida, Georgia and Alabama were without power. Emergency alerts for Alabama, Georgia The storm's strength diminished to a Category 1 storm packing 75-mph (120-kph) winds as it moved into Georgia late Wednesday. It was projected to cut through the state and move into the Carolinas as a tropical storm on Thursday. The governors of North and South Carolina urged residents to prepare for heavy rain and winds, which come less than a month after Hurricane Florence battered the mid-Atlantic coast. President Donald Trump said he had spoken with Florida Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday, and federal emergency services were coordinating with regional agencies in the areas likely to be impacted. "It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!" the president tweeted to residents of Florida and Georgia. Climate change making more destructive storms In the past year, several massive storms battered the US coasts, including Irma, Maria and Harvey. Houston's metropolitan area suffered a record-equaling $125 billion (€108 billion) in damage. North and South Carolina are still reeling from Hurricane Florence last month. Climate scientists have long warned that the effects of global warming make storms more destructive and point to last year's string of hurricanes as visible evidence.

Hurricane Michael has caused widespread damage across the Florida panhandle. The Category 4 monster was among the most powerful hurricanes in half a century to strike the mainland United States. Hurricane Michael churned through the Florida panhandle packing 155-mph (250-kph) winds on Wednesday afternoon, unleashing devastating damage along the Gulf coast as it moved inland into Georgia. It had the ... Read More »

Hurricane Michael damage could be worst in decades, warns Florida governor

Hurricane Michael risks intensifying into a Category 4 storm as it speeds towards the Florida Panhandle. Tens of thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate. Hurricane Michael could cause "devastating damage" along the Florida Panhandle when it makes landfall later on Wednesday, the state's governor, Rick Scott, warned. With winds of up to 120 mph (195 kph), experts warned that Michael could strengthen into a massive Category 4 hurricane by the time it blows ashore. Scott said Michael could be the worst storm in decades to hit the state's northwest, also known as the Florida Panhandle. Rick Knabb, the former head of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), urged residents to evacuate immediately and avoid seeking shelter in high-rise buildings. "Evacuate as instructed today. Shelter where you'll sleep tonight and stay for duration of storm and aftermath," Knabb warned. "Shelter from hurricane winds like you would for a tornado. Do not stay in a high rise! Winds a category stronger on higher floors. Do not stay in mobile home!" As many as 180,000 residents were ordered to evacuate their homes. Most evacuations were ordered from Bay County in the panhandle, a low-lying area made up mostly of resorts and retirement communities. US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Florida and announced on Twitter that the government was freeing up federal funds for relief operations and providing assistance for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!" the president tweeted Tracking Michael's route Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall in the panhandle by Wednesday afternoon local time. According to the NHC, some parts of Florida could see up to storm surges of up to 13 feet (4 meters), and up to a foot of rain. Read more: Texas recovers under the long shadow of Hurricane Harvey The storm is expected to weaken as it moves up into the southeastern United States. Nevertheless, state officials have also issued a disaster declaration for Alabama and Georgia. The Carolinas, meanwhile, are still reeling from Hurricane Florence, which killed dozens and caused billions of dollars in damage last month However, when Florence barreled towards the Carolinas, residents had five day' notice from the time it had turned into a hurricane and the moment it hit. Michael's increasing strength effectively gave locals in Florida just two days' notice. Read more: Climate change and extreme weather: Science is proving the link Last year, saw an array of devastating storms batter the western Atlantic, including Irma, Maria and Harvey. Houston's metropolitan area suffered a record-equaling $125 billion (€108 billion) in damage. Climate scientists have long warned that the effects of global warming make storms more destructiveand point to last year's string of hurricanes as visible evidence.

Hurricane Michael risks intensifying into a Category 4 storm as it speeds towards the Florida Panhandle. Tens of thousands of residents have been ordered to evacuate. Hurricane Michael could cause “devastating damage” along the Florida Panhandle when it makes landfall later on Wednesday, the state’s governor, Rick Scott, warned. With winds of up to 120 mph (195 kph), experts warned ... Read More »

Hurricane Matthew nears Florida as Haiti weighs up devastation

Officials have urged hundreds of thousands in Florida and South Carolina to move inland as Hurricane Matthew approaches. The weather system is believed to have cause at least 10 deaths in Haiti alone. Tropical storm conditions were expected to reach the Florida coast by early Thursday, developing later into hurricane conditions, according to the National Hurricane Center. Evacuations, some mandatory, were being put in place in about a dozen of Florida's coastal counties. "People have less than 24 hours to prepare," Florida Governor Rick Scott said. "Having a plan could be the difference between life and death." Officials said the major hurricane had the potential to cause significant harm to life and property. The core of the hurricane was said to have remained intact and was likely to become stronger as it travelled over the ocean. "This is a serious storm," US President Barack Obama said Wednesday after he met officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Washington. "If there is an evacuation order in your community, you need to take it seriously." In advance of the hurricane making landfall, FEMA sent personnel to emergency centers in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Governors in all of those states have declared states of emergency, allowing them to mobilize the National Guard. The major Category 3 storm had sustained winds of about 115 miles per hour (185 km per hour) on Wednesday night. The National Hurricane Center said it was too early to say where it would make landfall and cause the most damage. Death and devastation on Haiti Rescue workers in Haiti tried to assess the extent of the damage cause by Matthew there, struggling to reach isolated towns. Some 16 deaths are attributed to the storms in the Caribbean in the past week, with 10 of them in Haiti. Haiti's Civil Protection Agency Director Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste confirmed the number of dead on Wednesday, although the number is thought likely to rise. A major bridge was washed out, cutting off southern Haiti, and roads were rendered impassable. "The storm ripped off roofs, teared down electricity posts, a lot of people were looking for shelter in churches and schools," Doris Wasmeier, a German visitor in Port au Prince, told the DPA news agency. "We don't know how the situation in the south is. Communication has broken down and the most important bridge came down. The region is totally cut off," said Wasmeier, who was an aid worker during the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After passing Haiti, Matthew barreled across part of Cuba before hitting the southern Bahamas.

Officials have urged hundreds of thousands in Florida and South Carolina to move inland as Hurricane Matthew approaches. The weather system is believed to have cause at least 10 deaths in Haiti alone. Tropical storm conditions were expected to reach the Florida coast by early Thursday, developing later into hurricane conditions, according to the National Hurricane Center. Evacuations, some mandatory, ... Read More »

Hurricane Matthew heads for Haiti; US on alert

One person has died and another is missing as the Category 4 storm moves towards the Americas' poorest nation. Towns and villages are braced for "catastrophic" floods and mudslides. Winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (139 miles per hour) threatened Haiti on Monday evening, as Matthew brought monstrous storm swells of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) to the impoverished island, forecasters said. Billed as the most menacing storm in nearly a decade, Matthew was feared to exacerbate the appalling conditions faced by thousands of Haitians following the country's 2010 earthquake, where many residents still live in tents. In the largest slum in the capital, Port-au-Prince, Mayor Frederic Hislain ordered 150,000 people to be bussed to safer places. But many residents were reluctant to leave their homes due to fears their belongings would be stolen, officials said. Ahead of Matthew's arrival, a fisherman drowned on Friday and another went missing Sunday, both off the southern coast, civil protection officials said. Authorities have also closed Haiti's main airport to wait for the storm to pass. Washington promises aid With the hurricane just a few hours from making landfall, the US said it would provide $400,000 in aid to Haiti and Jamaica to help them pay for relief supplies. Neighboring islands also prepared for the extreme weather, with flooding reported in some areas of Jamaica, while around 250,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Cuba. Matthew is now forecast to reach the Bahamas on Tuesday and Florida by Thursday. But forecasters hope it will weaken as it crosses the ocean. "It has the potential of being catastrophic," said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the Miami-based hurricane center.

One person has died and another is missing as the Category 4 storm moves towards the Americas’ poorest nation. Towns and villages are braced for “catastrophic” floods and mudslides. Winds of up to 225 kilometers per hour (139 miles per hour) threatened Haiti on Monday evening, as Matthew brought monstrous storm swells of up to 3.3 meters (11 feet) to ... Read More »

World grieves with LGBT community after ‘most deadly shooting in American history’

US President Barack Obama has described the deadly mass shooting in Orlando as an 'act of terror and an act of hate.' The gunman who killed 49 people at a gay night club was previously known to the FBI. Messages of solidarity with the LGBT community and condemnation of the attack continued to pour in from political and religious leaders from around the world into the early hours of Monday morning. US President Barack Obama led the reactions, saying that the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida was the "most deadly shooting in American history." A long-time campaigner for stricter gun laws, Obama added that the "brutal murder of dozens of innocent people" was yet another reminder of how easy it is to access a deadly weapon in the US. "We have to decide if that's the kind of country we want to be," he said. "To actively do nothing is a decision as well." Forty-nine killed and the shooter, 53 injured Omar Mateen, a US citizen with Afghan roots, opened fire at the gay nightclub early Sunday morning. At least 49 people were killed and 53 others injured. Seven of the victims have so far been named - Stanley Almodovar III, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Edward Sotomayor Jr, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Peter O Gonzalez-Cruz and Luis S Vielma. The 29-year-old gunman was killed at the scene in an exchange of fire with 11 police officers. A law enforcement official told the AP news agency that the gunman had made a call to the emergency services from the club, claiming allegiance to the leader of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. IS has made a claim of responsibility for the attack via a website. 'This is a hate crime' In light of the the suspected links to IS, the head of a prominent US Muslim advocacy group strongly condemned the massacre, calling IS members an "aberration." Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, also called for unity and urged politicians not to "exploit" Sunday's tragedy. "This is a hate crime. Plain and simple," Awad told a news conference, adding that it "violates our principles as Americans and as Muslims." "Let me be clear, we have no tolerance for extremism of any kind," he said. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also expressed his condolences to the victims of the attack. "I am shocked by the murderous attack in Orlando. We mourn the victims. Our thoughts are with our friends in the USA," Steinmeier said in a tweet. Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, expressed "the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation," while the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, said she and Prince Philip "have been shocked by the events." Hashtags including #LoveisLove and #GaysBreakTheInternet also began trending on Twitter, as social media users shared their grief and solidarity with the LGBT community. On the red carpet at the Tony Awards in New York City, several stars, including "The Walking Dead" actress Danai Gurira and ceremony presenter James Cordon, were seen sporting a silver ribbon in tribute to the victims. Vigils were also held in cities across the world, including Miami, Paris and outside the White House in Washington, DC. In New York, crowds gathered at the "Stonewall Inn," which is an important site in the history of the gay rights movement. Gunman's background More details also emerged late on Sunday regarding the background of the gunman. Mateen's ex-wife Sitora Yusufiy said he was an emotionally and mentally disturbed man with a violent temper. The FBI also confirmed that authorities had become aware of Mateen in 2013 after he made inflammatory comments to co-workers, indicating sympathy for Islamist militants. The FBI special agent in charge, Ron Hopper, said Mateen was investigated and interviewed twice but the intelligence service was "unable to verify the substance of his comments." 'Not a subtantive threat' At the time, Mateen worked as a security guard at G4S, a British-owned multinational company that is among the world's largest private security firms. He joined the company in September 2007 and carried a gun as part of his duties as an armed security officer, G4S said. In 2014, Mateen was investigated and interviewed for a second time over suspicions that he was connected to Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha - an American citizen who became a suicide bomber in Syria in 2014. Hopper said, however, that Mateen's contact with Abu-Sallah was minimal and it was deemed at the time that "he did not constitute a substantive threat." LA Gay Pride parade In a separate incident on Sunday, police in Los Angeles arrested a man who apparently intended to "harm" the Los Angeles Gay Pride parade. Santa Monica police chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said that a 20-year-old male was caught with multiple assault rifles, high-capacity magazines ammunition as well as some bomb-making materials in his car, which had Indiana license plates. Police sources said there was no known connection between the arrest in Santa Monica and the attack in Orlando.

US President Barack Obama has described the deadly mass shooting in Orlando as an ‘act of terror and an act of hate.’ The gunman who killed 49 people at a gay night club was previously known to the FBI. Messages of solidarity with the LGBT community and condemnation of the attack continued to pour in from political and religious leaders ... Read More »

Shooter deliberately targeted ‘The Voice’ star Christina Grimmie: police

Shooter deliberately targeted 'The Voice' star Christina Grimmie: police

Police have identified the gunman who shot and killed former “The Voice” star Christina Grimmie in Florida after a concert. The suspect appears to have targeted Grimmie, though didn’t seem to know her personally. Singer Christina Grimmie, 22, a former star of “The Voice” and a YouTube sensation, was shot Friday night as she signed autographs for fans at a ... Read More »

First US cruise liner in more than 50 years leaves Miami for Cuba

US passengers have set sail from Miami on a Cuba-bound ocean liner. It's the first cruise ship in decades to depart from a US port for the communist island nation since the thaw in US-Cuba relations. Carnival's Havana-bound cruise ship Adonia got underway at 4:24 p.m. (2024 UTC) Sunday, ferrying more than 700 passengers from Florida to Cuba. Restarting cruises ship connections is an important element of a bid by US President Barack Obama's administration's initiative to increase tourism to Cuba, after last year's historic decision to restore diplomatic relations and move toward normalization. "Times of change often bring out emotions and clearly the histories here are very emotional for a number of people," Carnival CEO Arnold Donald told reporters. "To be a part of truly making history and preparing for an even more positive future for everyone is one of the greatest honors any company can have," Donald added. The ship will visit three Cuban ports over the seven-day voyage. Carnival said the Adonia will cruise every other week from Miami to Cuba. US embargo still in place Uncertainty over whether the cruise would be allowed to happen was resolved last week when the Cuban government lifted restrictions for seaborne visits of Cuban nationals to and from the United States, opening the door for Cuban-Americans to board the ship. The cruise company initially refused to accept reservations from such people, because of Cuban restrictions first imposed when the island's Communist regime feared landings by anti-Castro militants. That prompted charges of discrimination amid a firestorm of criticism. But the world's leading tour ship operator eventually relented and began to allow reservations from Cuban-born customers. Among them was 61-year-old Isabel Buznego who as a youngster emigrated with her family from Cuba and was returning to the island for the first time. "My dad wanted to come because he had never been able to come, but he passed away," she told the AFP news agency. "So I'm coming in his name. That is why I have so many different emotions, but I am mostly happy." The Miami Herald newspaper reported that a boat carrying activists protesting the trip to Cuba was nearby in Florida waters before the ship's departure on Sunday. But the paper said the boat pulled away before the Adonia set sail, with an expected Monday arrival in Havana.

US passengers have set sail from Miami on a Cuba-bound ocean liner. It’s the first cruise ship in decades to depart from a US port for the communist island nation since the thaw in US-Cuba relations. Carnival’s Havana-bound cruise ship Adonia got underway at 4:24 p.m. (2024 UTC) Sunday, ferrying more than 700 passengers from Florida to Cuba. Restarting cruises ... Read More »

US officials to drop endangered tag for manatees

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has said it is proposing to reclassify the protection status of the West Indian manatee. The marine mammal could be instead classed as merely "threatened." Under US federal law, an "endangered" species is classified as one that is "currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range." The US Fish and Wildlife Service is now planning to alter the status of the manatees to "threatened," meaning that it is still likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. However, the public are to be consulted on the move. Some conservation groups oppose the change of status, saying that the underwater sea-grass-eating animal - which can reach 13 feet (4 meters) in length and weigh up to 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) - still face many threats. Florida population steadily growing In the eastern US state of Florida, however, where a subspecies of manatee has been listed as endangered since 1967, the population has rebounded particularly well. The chubby, grayish-brown creatures' numbers had been on the decline due to overhunting and collisions with boats. Officials said "significant improvements in its population and habitat conditions and reductions in direct threats" had helped raise Florida's manatee population five times higher over 25 years. In 1991, official aerial surveys detected 1,267 manatees in Florida, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said. Now there are more than 6,300 in Florida alone, with an estimated 13,000 manatees across the species' wider range, which includes the coastlines of the Caribbean islands, Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. "The manatee's recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many," said Cindy Dohner, southeast regional director to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Despite the manatee's ungainly appearance, sailors in past centuries who were starved of female company are believed to have sometimes mistaken them for mermaids. The creatures live for some 40 years in the wild.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has said it is proposing to reclassify the protection status of the West Indian manatee. The marine mammal could be instead classed as merely “threatened.” Under US federal law, an “endangered” species is classified as one that is “currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” The US ... Read More »

Florida man charged in alleged ‘Islamic State’ beach bomb plot

US authorities have charged a man, described by the FBI as an "Islamic State" (IS) sympathizer, with plotting to set off a nail-filled backpack bomb. Harlem Suarez allegedly praised the jihadi group on Facebook. The 23-year-old Floridian was first brought to the attention of American authorities after a Facebook user contacted police, claiming that Suarez had tried to recruit them to support IS. The FBI said Suarez listed his Facebook "likes" as "Jihadist," "Extraordinary Prayer for ISIS," and "Prayers for ISIS: Weapons of our Warfare." In April, Suarez allegedly posted, "be a warrior, learn how to cut your enemies head and then burn down the body learn how to be the new future of the world Caliphate" - a reference to IS' aim to build a regional fundamentalist entity. He later added a request "from any brother. How to make a bomb send me a video or something, what do I need to make it." Remote-controlled bomb Suarez allegedly later paid a cooperator to construct a telephone-controlled bomb which he intended to bury on Floridas Key West beach and detonate. "I can go to the beach at the night time, put the thing in the sand, cover it up, so the next day I just call and the thing is gonna, is gonna make, a real hard noise from nowhere," Suarez allegedly told an FBI source in a recorded call. The terror suspect was arrested Monday after taking possession of an inert explosive device provided by an FBI informant. During his first court appearance on Tuesday, Suarez' temporary attorney, Richard Della Fera, said in an email that he "may be a troubled and confused young man, but he is certainly not a terrorist." Allegations 'taken seriously' The FBI said Suarez also unsuccessfully attempted to order an AK-47 assault rifle on the Internet and sought to make an IS recruitment video which. According to the complaint, the footage was eventually recorded under FBI surveillance at a motel. "American soil is the past, we will destroy America and divide it in two, we will rais(e) our black flag on top of your white house and any president on duty (cut head)," Suarez said in a script he wrote himself for the video. According the FBI complaint, however, there was no evidence that Suarez ever actually made an explosive, nor that he had contact with any IS militants overseas. Miami's FBI special agent in charge, George Piro, said the allegations had to be taken seriously nonetheless.

US authorities have charged a man, described by the FBI as an “Islamic State” (IS) sympathizer, with plotting to set off a nail-filled backpack bomb. Harlem Suarez allegedly praised the jihadi group on Facebook. The 23-year-old Floridian was first brought to the attention of American authorities after a Facebook user contacted police, claiming that Suarez had tried to recruit them ... Read More »

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