JULY 2017




Frequent rounds of rainfall and heavy storms in southern China have resulted in widespread, deadly flooding this week, mainly from Guangxi to Zheijiang provinces on the 7th. Since 26 June, 558 mm of rain has fallen in the resort city of Guilin, in Guangxi Province. Overall, 56 people have reportedly been killed and 22 remain missing across central and southern China. According to China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, hailstorms, landslides and urban flooding have also wrought havoc on over 11 million people throughout southern China.


Persistent torrential rain triggered a building collapse in Jomda County, Qamdo Prefecture in south-west China's Tibet Autonomous Region on the 8th. All residents of the building had been evacuated before the collapse and no casualties have been reported. The collapse happened in the wake of the sharply increased water level of Ziqu river in the county. The water washed away the foundation of the building and eventually caused it to collapse and be carried away by the flood. According to local government, the rain that started to fall in June stopped on 10 July. But the long-period of rainfall had already destroyed 24 bridges and damaged 57.8 km of roads in total across 67 rural highways.


North Korea is facing severe food shortages after being hit by its worst drought since 2001, a report from the United Nations says (20th). Crop production in the country has been hampered by a prolonged dry period and food imports are now urgently required to fill the gap, the UN has warned. The most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, will be worst hit. In the 1990s, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to have died during a widespread famine. The latest drought is serious, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Thursday, because bilateral food aid to the country has dramatically fallen in recent years.


Incessant rain continued to lash Gujarat on Wednesday, worsening a grim situation in the stat’s northern region where tens of thousands of people were marooned by one of the worst floods in recent times (26th). Several flights were diverted from Ahmedabad on Wednesday with floods damaging parts of the runway, officials said. Gujarat and Rajasthan are reeling under massive floods, the latest states in the country to face monsoon fury in India where such natural disasters are common through the rainy season. At least 90 people have been killed in the two states, 82 of them in Gujarat alone, since the monsoon moved into western India in the early part of this month. Officials in Ahmedbad said rescue workers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and army personnel struggled to reach people in the worst-affected Banaskantha and Patan districts where more than 5000 houses in 800-odd villages are under water. So far, more than 50,000 people in the two districts have been rescued in the two districts.




A two-hour storm unleashed 54 mm of rain on Sunday night (9th) in Paris, the equivalent of 27 days of rainfall. Weather services say 49.2 mm fell in one hour, the French capital's heaviest July deluge on record. Flooding closed 20 metro stations and three were still shut as commuters made their way to work on Monday morning. Parts of Switzerland were hit by violent winds and hail storms that also caused flooding at the weekend. Heavy rain began in Paris at 1900 GMT on Sunday night and MĂ©teo France said the amount that fell was higher than the previous record of 47.4 mm set on 2 July 1995. Rain continued to fall heavily on Monday in Paris. Some areas of the west and around Paris had seen more than a month's average rainfall between Sunday afternoon and 0800 h on Monday, it said. While Montsouris Park on the southern edge of central Paris recorded 68 mm in 24 hours, the western French village of Civray saw 86 mm.


More than a million residents of Rome are facing water rationing for up to eight hours a day as the prolonged heatwave that has ravaged southern Europe takes its toll on the Italian capital (24th). Some businesses are already reporting sporadic disruption to their supply, while last month Mayor Virginia Raggi turned off thousands of the city’s public drinking fountains in an effort to save water as the drought set in. Officials from the Italian utility Acea, the Lazio region that contains Rome, and the environment ministry will meet this week to discuss the possibility of rationing the water supply to about half of the city’s 3 million residents. Lazio’s governor, Nicola Zingaretti, has ordered that a ban on drawing water from drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 40 km from the capital and supplies some of its water, will come into force on 28 July.


Flash flooding trapped people in their homes as storms and lightning streaked across the south of England (18-19th). Violent thunderstorms hit much of the South East and in Sussex a lightning strike sent a workshop up in flames. At the height of the storms - between 02:30 and 03:30 BST - fire crews in Tunbridge Wells were called out 60 times in 60 minutes. Residents reported up to a metre of water in some properties although no rescues were needed. In the worst-hit areas firefighters called on the Red Cross and local housing providers for extra assistance. Water pumps from other crews in the county were also used. The fire service was still being called out on Wednesday morning to flooding, one restaurant owner in Tunbridge Wells arrived at their business in Mount Pleasant Road to find it partially under water. The storms come as flash floods also hit parts of the South West with heavy rain sending a 4ft torrent of water through a Cornish village. In Herne Bay a house was struck by lightning, damaging the roof, and at 03:00 East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was called out to the Three Ponds Industrial Estate, on the outskirts of Newhaven, following another lightning strike which developed into a fire. There were no reports of anyone being hurt.


Dazed residents in a Cornish (UK) fishing village have begun a huge clean-up operation following a flash flood that saw a torrent of water more than a meter deep rip up roads and damage 50 properties. As forecasters warned of more potential flooding in parts of England and Wales on Wednesday, the scene at Coverack on the Lizard peninsula was described as devastating. Several people had to be rescued on Tuesday, including a couple in their seventies who were winched to safety as floodwater coursed through narrow lanes after torrential rain and thunderstorms. The cost of repairs and insurance in Coverack is already estimated at more than ÂŁ1m, with structural damage to roads and buildings in the area. Cornwall’s council leader, Adam Paynter, said there were financial reserves to deal with the emergency.


Summer wildfires are once again blazing across southern Europe, forcing the evacuation of 12,000 people on France’s Mediterranean cost and devouring swaths of forests as far afield as Corsica, Portugal, Italy and Albania (26th). Some of the 12,000 people displaced by the flames sheltered in gymnasiums, village halls and schools while others huddled on local beaches. On Tuesday, more than 4,000 firefighters and troops backed by 19 water-bombers had already been mobilized to extinguish the flames. At least 12 firefighters have been injured and 15 police officers affected by smoke inhalation since the fires broke out on Monday, according to the authorities. With strong winds and dry brush creating a dangerous mix, the government asked its European partners to send two extra firefighting planes – a request immediately fulfilled by Italy, according to the EU. The airport in Toulon, a city 40 km from Bormes-les-Mimosas, was briefly closed on Wednesday, as well the Fort de Bragan, which sits on a rock off the coast of Bormes. The wildfires began raging along France’s Mediterranean coast two days ago, forcing smaller, scattered evacuations, with flames reaching a corner of Saint-Tropez. Further south, flames ate through 2,000 hectares of forest on the northern end of Corsica. In Portugal, more than 2,000 firefighters were battling nine major wildfires on Wednesday, with drought conditions, high temperatures and strong winds fueling the flames. Another 1,000 firefighters were conducting mopping-up operations at 37 different Portuguese woodland blazes. Ash floated in the air and vast plumes of smoke covered areas of central Portugal, in the area around Serta, about 200 km north-east of Lisbon. The Civil Protection Agency said 24 water-dropping aircraft were in action. Serta is close to PedrĂłgĂŁo Grande, where 64 people died in a wildfire last month. No injuries have been reported in recent days as the blazes raced through thick eucalyptus and pine forests. Large wildfires are a common occurrence in summer in Portugal, where thousands of firefighters are on duty in the hottest months. In Italy, where fires have raged for weeks, firefighters responded to 26 requests for water and fire retardant air drops on Tuesday, throughout central and southern Italy, including Calabria, Sicily, Sardinia, Lazio and Puglia. The Coldiretti agriculture lobby said 50 billion bees were destroyed along with their hives in fires on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Coldiretti said another 20% of the bee population is estimated to have become disoriented and died as a result. Albania’s interior ministry said 130 firefighters were battling 18 fire spots around the country on Wednesday.


A severe summer storm in Istanbul has left at least three people injured, with heavy rain, hail and strong winds knocking down trees and a stone wall and flooding streets in the Turkish city (27th). The NTV television channel said part of a stone wall surrounding a cemetery for the Christian Armenian community had been demolished in Thursday’s storm, hurting two people. Winds also toppled a large crane that landed on oil barrels at a port, causing an explosion and a fire, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. At least one person was injured in the fire, which was later brought under control. A small depot also caught fire after being hit by lightning. Heavy rainfall disrupted the evening rush hour traffic, stranding vehicles in flooded streets. Delays were reported at Istanbul’s main airport and some planes were diverted to other airports. Huge hailstones (the size of golf balls) damaged windows and car windshields. It is the second time in 10 days that the metropolis has been hit by weather-related disruption.




Hundreds of tourists have been evacuated by boat from a beach resort in Sicily due to wildfires that are blazing across a huge swath of southern Italy (11-12th). More than 700 people were rescued last night as a precaution as additional military troops were being called in to help control the blazes. Tourists at the Calampiso resort in San Vito Lo Capo, near Trapani, were taken to a primary school for safety and were told it was not safe to return to their rooms. Temperatures have soared above 40 degrees Celsius in arid southern regions. On Tuesday, 23 fires were raging, prime minister Paolo Gentiloni said in a speech, adding the government was "actively following this difficult situation". Blazes on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius have sent vast clouds of smoke into the air near the port city of Naples, and environment minister Gian Luca Galletti said a man had been arrested on suspicion of arson.




An Arizona sheriff’s office said on Sunday at least nine people had died in flash flooding and others were missing after a wall of water swept through a popular swimming hole inside Tonto National Forest on Saturday (15th). Gila County sheriff J Adam Shepherd said crews were still searching the missing people. Earlier, Water Wheel fire and medical district fire chief Ron Sattelmaier fire chief said at least four people were dead and about a dozen more missing. More than a hundred people were in the Cold Springs swimming hole on Saturday afternoon when a severe thunderstorm pounded down on a nearby remote area that had been burned over by a recent wildfire. Thunderstorm hit about eight miles upstream of the swimming hole along Ellison Creek. That quickly flooded the narrow canyon where the swimmers were enjoying a cool dip a on a hot summer day.


A rare summer rainstorm triggered significant flooding from Pennsylvania and West Virginia to New Jersey spanning Friday to Saturday (28-29th). As early as late Friday morning, some suburbs around Washington, D.C., started experiencing flash flooding. Heavy and slow-moving storms caused flooded roadways in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to emergency managers, water rescues were needed for trapped vehicles in floodwaters. Several roads were also closed in Baltimore due to high water on Friday evening after a band of heavy rain moved over the city, a 911 call center reported. The Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor received over 100 mm of rain in 24 hours, with most of the rain falling during Friday evening and overnight.




When Santiago residents awoke on Saturday morning (15th, they were greeted by an unusual sight. The Chilean capital was blanketed in a layer of snow measuring up to two inches, reportedly the heaviest snowfall the city has experienced since 2007. The frosty conditions wreaked havoc in the city where snow rarely falls. More than 250,000 residents were left without power as falling trees and branches downed power lines. That left thousands of people in the dark and without heat on a day when temperatures dipped below freezing. One worker died while clearing ice and two people were injured after being electrocuted by a fallen power lines. The weather also caused some traffic troubles and several sporting events, including a number of Copa Chile soccer games, were postponed.




Heavy rain in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, caused substantial flooding on its roads and Metro network. Commuters attempting to get to work captured the scenes as rainwater invaded the city’s underground transport system, submerging rail tracks and rushing down flights of stairs.




A ferocious storm has buffeted the lower South Island of New Zealand overnight, with three states of emergency declared in Christchurch, Timaru and Otago and the city of Dunedin accessible only by air (22nd). The southern city of 120,000 people was cut off by road after major landslips blocked access. Small coastal communities on the Otago Penninsula are also cut off. More than 200 troops from the New Zealand army were deployed to assist with civil emergency efforts as the rain continued to hammer down. Livestock in Canterbury and Otago were urgently being moved to higher ground with numerous rivers rising to near historic levels and threatening to burst their banks. It is the second largest flood of the Taieri River in Otago on record. Overnight and on Saturday morning hundreds of people were evacuated from low-lying homes in Dunedin, Timaru and the wider Otago and Clutha region, with civil defence in Otago improvising ways to close roads after they ran out of flood warning signs. Nine people were rescued by the army overnight in Mosgiel after their cars became stuck in rapidly rising flood waters and hypothermia was beginning to set in when they were located. The Heathcote River in Christchurch burst its banks and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel declared a state of emergency just before midday, with the army sending more than 100 troops north from Oamaru to assist with possible evacuations. In Christchurch and Dunedin several wastewater pumping stations were unable to keep up with the deluge and contaminated wastewater flowed onto city streets. In the last 24 hours the Metservice recorded more than 220 mm of rain on the hills north of Dunedin, 162 mm in Oamaru and 104 mm in Ashburton.




Typhoon Nesat has affected the Philippines, leaving at least 16 people dead, with the capital Manila enduring waist-deep floods, blackouts and dramatic storm surges (27th). The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms annually, many of them deadly, but the government said Nesat was one of the strongest the country had faced this year, with its rain and wind path twice as big as average. "This storm is very intense, the rain is strong and winds are powerful ... we are hearing of rivers about to burst their banks, and there are evacuations ongoing in different areas," civil defense chief Benito Ramos told the AFP news agency on Tuesday. More than 100 other people were rescued, including fishermen whose boats capsized in rough seas after ignoring warnings not to set sail, he said. Nesat slammed into the main island of Luzon before dawn, bringing maximum sustained winds of up to 140 km/h and gusts of 170 km/h. It later weakened while slicing through Luzon, but dumped heavy rains throughout the day across the whole island that is home to about 48 million people.


Taiwan suffered flooding, widespread power outages and winds of over a hundred miles an hour as it was battered by its first typhoon of the year on Saturday (29th). Much of the island came to a standstill, with most train services suspended and as many as 249,230 households without electricity as Typhoon Nesat - packing gusts of up to 180 km/h - blasted across the country. The storm made landfall at 1110 GMT in the eastern Yilan county, whipping up massive waves of over 15 m. Taiwan's weather bureau warned of torrential rain in the eastern and southern counties, with the tropical storm expected to dump as much as 900 mm of rain.


Jim G. Munley, jr.

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