Emergency crews tried on Thursday to reach stranded Florida residents as a resurgent Hurricane Ian veered toward the Carolinas after cutting a path of destruction across Florida, leaving behind deadly floodwaters, downed power lines and widespread damage.
Ian, one of the strongest storms ever to hit the U.S. mainland, flooded Gulf Coast communities and knocked out power to millions before plowing across the peninsula to the Atlantic Ocean, where it regained strength ahead of another anticipated landfall in South Carolina on Friday afternoon, Reuters reported.
Florida’s death toll remained uncertain amid scattered reports of casualties. At an evening news briefing, Governor Ron DeSantis acknowledged some people had perished but warned against speculating before official confirmation.
“We fully expect to have mortality from this hurricane,” he said.
President Joe Biden, speaking earlier at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Washington, said Ian could prove to be the deadliest in state history.
“The numbers are still unclear, but we’re hearing early reports of what may be substantial loss of life,” Biden said.
In hard-hit Charlotte County, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department confirmed multiple deaths but did not have a firm figure. Authorities in Sarasota County were investigating two possible storm-related deaths, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.
A 72-year-old man in Deltona in central Florida died after he went outside during the storm to drain his pool, authorities said.
More than 2.3 million homes and businesses in Florida remained without power, according to tracking website PowerOutage.us.
Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were bracing for impact as Ian – which weakened to a tropical storm during its trek across Florida – returned to hurricane strength by 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT) after moving into the Atlantic Ocean, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 75 miles per hour (120 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm was forecast to make landfall again about 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) on Friday north of Charleston. A hurricane warning was in effect for hundreds of miles of coastline from the South Carolina-Georgia border north to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Ian was expected to bring potential life-threatening storm surges and possible tornadoes to the region on Friday, the National Weather Service said.
In South Carolina, Mercedes Benz (MBGn.DE), Boeing Co (BA.N), and the seaports that support manufacturers will suspend operations on Friday.
Charleston is particularly at risk, according to a city-commissioned report released in November 2020, which found about 90% of all residential properties were vulnerable to storm surge flooding.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged residents to “take necessary precautions,” warning of possible flooding, landslides and tornadoes.
“This storm is still dangerous,” Cooper said.
Ian blasted ashore in Florida at the barrier island of Cayo Costa on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (241 kph).
The storm transformed Florida’s southwestern shoreline, dotted with sandy beaches, coastal towns and mobile home parks, into a disaster zone as Ian swept seawater into waterfront homes.
There had been at least 700 confirmed rescues as of Thursday evening, DeSantis said. Most schools will reopen on Friday or Monday.
COP27 reaches breakthrough agreement on new ‘loss and damage’ fund
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) closed Sunday with a breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.
“This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”
Set against a difficult geopolitical backdrop, COP27 resulted in countries delivering a package of decisions that reaffirmed their commitment to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The package also strengthened action by countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as boosting the support of finance, technology and capacity building needed by developing countries.
Creating a specific fund for loss and damage marked an important point of progress, with the issue added to the official agenda and adopted for the first time at COP27, the UN said in a statement.
Governments took the ground-breaking decision to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage.
Governments also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalize both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year. The first meeting of the transitional committee is expected to take place before the end of March 2023.
Parties also agreed on the institutional arrangements to operationalize the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to catalyze technical assistance to developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
New pledges, totaling more than $230 million, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP27. These pledges will help many more vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions.
COP27 President Sameh Shoukry announced the Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, enhancing resilience for people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.
The cover decision, known as the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4 to $6 trillion a year.
COP27 brought together more than 45,000 participants to share ideas, solutions, and build partnerships and coalitions. Indigenous peoples, local communities, cities and civil society, including youth and children, showcased how they are addressing climate change and shared how it impacts their lives.
Tuesday’s total lunar eclipse the last until 2025
A rare spectacle of a ‘Beaver Blood Moon’ is all set to take over the night skies of East Asia to North America on Tuesday.
This will be the last time the Earth, moon and sun align to produce a total lunar eclipse till 2025.
The full beaver moon will be visible across North America, the Pacific, Australia and East Asia, while it may also be visible for a short duration in Indian cities including Kolkata and Guwahati.
Unlike solar eclipses, one does not need special eye protection to watch a lunar eclipse, NASA has said. However, a pair of binoculars or a telescope can help one observe the lunar eclipse more clearly.
According to US space agency NASA, total lunar eclipses occur about once every year and a half, on an average but it can vary. The current year, for instance, witnessed two blood moons and the next one is not expected until over two years later.
The total eclipse will be visible to the naked eye in a clear sky across eastern Asia, Australia, the Pacific and North America. In Asia and Australia, skywatchers will enjoy the spectacle during the evening moonrise, whereas the lunar event will play out for those in North America in the early morning hours before the moon sets.
Pakistan’s PM tells EU chief unity is essential to combating climate change effects
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met with European Union Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen on the sidelines of COP27 on Monday where he discussed the effects of climate change on developing countries.
Pakistan is already feeling the brunt of climate change having recently experienced torrential monsoon rains that triggered the most severe flooding in the country’s recent history.
Floods washed away villages, destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes as well as public health facilities and water systems.
Unicef said last week that the floods also left almost 10 million children in need of immediate, lifesaving support, and at increased risk of waterborne diseases, drowning and malnutrition.
In his discussion with von der Leyen, Sharif noted the EU’s assistance to flood victims and said that Pakistan and the European Union were important partners in achieving common goals.
According to a statement issued by his office, Sharif said: “Unity is essential to combat the effects of climate change.”
He also said that the effects of climate change that developing countries were facing today, the whole world would have to suffer tomorrow.
Afghanistan meanwhile has also been forced to deal with climate shocks, and is ranked as sixth most affected in the world.
Rains in Afghanistan have decreased by 40% in the country, and the World Food Programme classifies both rainfall-related drought and snowmelt-related drought as current threats – to both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On Monday, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and the UN in Afghanistan both called for urgent collective action to stop the destructive impact of climate change in the country.
The IEA said in a statement that it considers the holding of the 27th Climate Change Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt as the first step towards finding a solution to the current climate challenges in the world.
“Since the effects of climate change do not recognize political borders, its solutions should be independent of political considerations, and countries like Afghanistan, which have not had any negative contribution to climate change, but are struggling with its negative effects, should not be ignored,” the statement read.
The IEA also stated that this year alone, Afghanistan has suffered losses worth more than $2 billion due to the negative effects of climate change.
“In addition to compensating for this loss, reducing other possible losses and increasing the resistance of threatened communities to restore economic stability in the country, development assistance from the international community is necessary in the light of our national priorities.”
The UN in Afghanistan also issued a statement and pointed out that the country is already prone to frequent natural disasters.
The UN stated that these existing threats coupled with Afghans’ high dependence on agricultural livelihoods, Afghanistan’s fragile ecosystem, acute environmental degradation, poor socio-economic development and the impact of more than four decades of war have laid the foundation for extreme climate vulnerability.
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