Storm watch

Ominous storm clouds gathering even as emergency crews reached the site where a house was destroyed by a tornado. The place is near where seven people were killed outside Adel in Georgia on Sunday. Officials reported that 14 people had been killed in
Ominous storm clouds gathering even as emergency crews reached the site where a house was destroyed by a tornado. The place is near where seven people were killed outside Adel in Georgia on Sunday. Officials reported that 14 people had been killed in Georgia during a severe weather outbreak in the US South.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

From the US to New Zealand to Thailand, severe weather - from heavy rain to vicious tornadoes - has uprooted homes, power lines and the ordinary lives of people, with deaths reported in some places

United States

18 dead as tornadoes lash the South

TAMPA (Florida) • A dangerous weekend weather system has killed at least 18 people in the US South, with Georgia officials reporting more than a dozen deaths after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes buffeted several states.

Seven people died in Cook County, Georgia, on Sunday, state emergency managers said, with a mobile home park particularly hard hit, according to reports. Photos showed collapsed buildings, destroyed rooftops, toppled trees and debris-littered fields.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared an emergency for seven counties in the south-central part of the state, warning that dangerous conditions persisted as wind and flood warnings remained in effect for much of the state early yesterday. "I urge all Georgians to exercise caution and vigilance in order to remain safe and prevent further loss of life or injuries," he said in a news release.

The storms in Georgia, which killed 14 people, followed a pre-dawn tornado in Mississippi on Saturday that killed four. Five were still missing in Georgia, according to Adel Mayor Buddy Duke, amid a scene of flattened houses and trees and cars thrown in a heap like toys.

Severe weather also injured more than 50 others and damaged about 480 homes in Mississippi.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Sunday he had offered his condolences to Mr Deal, calling the storms "vicious and powerful and strong".

A few storms continued to threaten coastal areas in Georgia on Sunday night, said Mr Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Rome and Calhoun until 3.30am, advising residents to move to higher ground.

The system prompted forecasters to issue a rare "high risk" warning of severe storms threatening parts of southern Georgia, north and central Florida and Alabama on Sunday, the first such warning since 2014.

South Carolina could also see severe weather.

In Alabama, some 29,000 power outages were reported as of Sunday afternoon, Alabama Power said.

The adverse conditions were expected to last through Sunday night.

As the weather system churned up the East Coast, emergency management officials warned New York City residents to brace for winds of up to 112.6kmh and drenching rain through yesterday night.

Flood advisories and watches were issued for four of the city's five boroughs.

On the West Coast, heavy rain from a separate system drenched parts of southern California, with forecasters warning that the storm could be the most devastating in several years.



More floods likely in south

Villagers making their way to higher ground on a boat as a boy pushes it through a flooded street in Yala province, southern Thailand, on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK • More flooding is expected in southern Thailand, with experts warning that a monsoon trough is still in the region and will cause rain till next month.

Eighty-five people have been killed and four are missing in the flooding since Dec 1, according to the country's Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, reported the Bangkok Post.

The National Disaster Warning Centre warned yesterday that southern Thailand would be hit by heavy rain tomorrow due to a high-pressure system from the north-east and low pressure in the Andaman Sea.

Some places may be hit by rainfall of more than 100mm, reported The Nation.

The director of the centre, Mr Chayasarn Tonanon, said heavy rain in the south was normal at this time of the year, even though the rainfall was very high.

However, he added: "It should be noted that this is the third time that the south was flooded in this (wet) season, which is more frequent compared to the last two years."

Interior Ministry deputy permanent secretary Chayaphon Thitisak said two provinces, Surat Thani and Phatthalung, were still suffering from severe flooding.

Four provinces - Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Songkhla and Chumphon - were on a flood watch list. However, the flood situation in Ranong, Narathiwat, Pattani, Krabi and Trang had eased.

French Polynesia

Flooding cuts power, forces evacuation

SYDNEY • Heavy flooding in French Polynesia has forced many residents to evacuate, cut off power to thousands of homes and closed Tahiti's international airport.

The French Polynesia High Commission said three people were injured, one seriously, while more than 100 homes were destroyed. Major roads were damaged by landslides.

The floods were most severe on the islands of Tahiti and Moorea. An Air France flight was diverted to the Cook Islands because the runway was flooded, and international flights were cancelled.

"The weather forecast predicts rain until Tuesday," Mr Frederic Poisot, Cabinet director of the French Polynesia Haut Commissariat, told Reuters, adding that the authorities had not decided when to re-open the airport.

Mr Poisot said more than 6,000 households had been without electricity, although power has now been restored to most of them.

He said the army was helping to clear roads and repair damaged facilities.

Tahiti is the largest island in French Polynesia with a population of around 276,000 and 180,000 tourist arrivals a year.



Wet start to Chinese New Year predicted

KUALA LUMPUR • The weatherman has forecast a wet start to Chinese New Year in Malaysia, with rain expected in several states on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days of the Year of the Rooster.

The rain would be brought by north-easterly winds with speeds of up to 20kmh to 30kmh, reported Bernama.

"Rain is expected in several places in the East Coast states, western Sarawak and eastern Sabah in the morning and evening," the Meteorological Department of Malaysia said in a statement.

Thunderstorms are expected in Sabah - in the interior, west coast and Tawau divisions - and in Bintulu, Miri, Limbang and Kapit in Sarawak, it added.

Rain is also on the cards in one or two places in Kedah, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Labuan, it said.

Meanwhile, the number of people displaced by floods in Sabah increased to 824 yesterday, reported Bernama.

This came even as the number of flood-displaced people in Kelantan dropped yesterday.

As of noon, 4,440 people were taking shelter at 34 flood relief centres in four districts, compared to about 7,600 the previous night.

There was also a reduction in the number of residents displaced by floods in Terengganu, with the tally at relief centres dipping to 904 yesterday from 1,155 the previous night.

New Zealand

Stormy weather leaves thousands without power

AUCKLAND (New Zealand) - Thousands of people were left without power in New Zealand yesterday morning after stormy weather wreaked havoc over the weekend.

As many as 15,000 homes in Auckland were without power at the peak of the storm, with some families facing darkness for the second straight day.

The New Zealand Fire Service was kept busy dealing with reports of roofs that lifted in the wind and trees that had toppled onto roads and properties, as well as flooded garages, reported the New Zealand Herald.

Firefighters dealt with more than 100 weatherrelated calls across the country on Sunday. Most of the calls were made in the North Island in the wake of the storm on Saturday night and patches of wild weather.

Meteorologists forecast a brief reprieve yesterday before more foul weather hit many parts of the country from today, reported the Herald.

A front with rain and gales was set to strike the bottom of the South Island before moving north tomorrow, they said.

Two people were taken to hospital after a tree fell on their car on the Southern Motorway on Saturday night, but they were reportedly in a stable condition yesterday morning. Seven people were in the car at the time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'Storm watch'. Print Edition | Subscribe