United States: Death toll rises as tornadoes strike
CHICAGO • Rare December tornadoes knocked cars off a highway and flattened homes in Texas, bringing the death toll to 25 in days of storms tearing across the southern United States.
The extreme weather, fuelled by unseasonably warm air, is likely to continue for the next few days, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported, snarling holiday travel across a large section of the nation.
The late Saturday deaths in Texas came as millions of residents in the southern US struggled to recover from fierce storms and heavy flooding, with more rain forecast.
South America: Severe flooding hits 4 countries
ASUNCION/BUENOS AIRES • More than 100,000 people have had to evacuate from their homes in the bordering areas of Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina due to severe flooding in the wake of heavy rains brought on by El Nino, the authorities said.
In the worst-affected country, Paraguay, around 90,000 people in the area around the capital Asuncion have been evacuated, the municipal Emergencies Office said on Saturday. Many are poor families living in precarious housing along the banks of the River Paraguay.
The Paraguayan government has declared a state of emergency in Asuncion and seven regions of the country to free up funds to help those affected. Several people have been killed by trees falling in the storms that caused the flooding, local media reported.
England: Floods force hundreds to evacuate
LONDON • Britain's government held emergency talks yesterday as what it called "unprecedented" flooding in northern England forced hundreds of people to leave their homes, including in the historic tourist destination of York.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he hosted a conference call of the Cobra emergency committee on the floods which caused chaos for families during the Christmas holiday season.
More than 250 flood warnings and alerts were in place around the country, with 24 of them severe, signalling a risk to life. The army has been deployed to help tackle the floods in some areas.
California: Firefighters gaining control of huge blaze
VENTURA • Firefighters have gained the upper hand on a wildfire north-west of Los Angeles that burned about 400ha of land, forced the closure of parts of a major highway and led to evacuations.
Hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze in the Solimar Beach area of Ventura County in California and were able to draw containment lines around 60 per cent of the conflagration by Saturday evening, county fire officials said.
The flames triggered the closure of parts of Highway 101, though both north-bound and south-bound lanes of the major US roadway had reopened to traffic by late afternoon, officials said.
Australia: More than 100 homes destroyed in bush fire
MELBOURNE • Residents returned to charred homes after a Christmas Day bush fire in southern Australia destroyed more than 100 properties, with firefighters bracing themselves for a heatwave in the lead-up to the new year.
Some 116 homes south-west of Melbourne in the wooded coastal area along the Great Ocean Road tourist drive were razed as about 500 firefighters battled to put out the inferno. Scenes of burnt-out homes, blackened cars, fallen trees and downed power lines greeted residents allowed back into the zone yesterday to inspect their properties.
One of the lucky survivors was a koala bear, which was found unconscious by firefighters on a road as they fought the flames at the seaside towns. It was nursed back to health and hand-fed water and gum leaves by Victoria Police officers, and has reportedly since been nicknamed Constable K. Bear.