|Residents mourn dead after tornadoes kill 38 in US
Published on Mar 4, 2012
Melody Zollman (left) gets a hug from her sister Michelle Browning as they stand in what was Zollman's home after it was destroyed by a tornado on Mar 3, 2012 in Henryville, Indiana. -- PHOTO: AFP
CHICAGO (AFP) - Residents of Midwestern states mourned their dead on Sunday after a string of killer tornadoes tore through the United States (US) heartland, killing at least 38 people, injuring hundreds and virtually wiping out entire communities.
Church services were to be held throughout the stricken region as stunned Americans grappled with the magnitude of the destruction brought by Friday's twisters.
President Barack Obama called the governors of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio to offer condolences for the dead and said the federal emergency management agency stood ready to help, the White House said.
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Deaths were reported in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama and Georgia as the storm system moved eastward.
'The scope and magnitude of devastation in some of our communities is unlike anything I have ever seen,' said Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, whose office confirmed 19 fatalities from over a dozen tornadoes that had roared across the state.
Trucks and trees were upended as deadly funnel clouds ravaged parts of eight states in the US Midwest and South.
The devastating images included a school bus smashed through the wall of a house, trucks thrown into lakes, solid brick homes reduced to rubble and wooden ones smashed into kindling, as well as mobile homes flipped like tin cans.
About 300 injuries have been reported in Kentucky, according to Mr Beshear, who surveyed the damage in the devastated town of West Liberty. There was damage in 40 counties with power supplies to tens of thousands knocked out.
Amateur video aired on Cable News Network (CNN) showed a gargantuan grey twister churning over West Liberty on Friday, as a woman loudly prayed 'Oh God, take it away from us Lord!' At least 14 people were killed in Indiana, according to Governor Mitch Daniels, who inspected the devastation in Henryville.
'We're not unfamiliar with Mother Nature's wrath out here in Indiana, but this is about as serious as I've seen it in my years in this job,' an emotional Gov Daniels told reporters.
'Lucky it wasn't worse,' he said, adding that while early warning systems likely saved lives, it was a 'heartbreaking' loss for families.
The high school in Henryville suffered damage, but luckily all the children were evacuated safely and only minor injuries - some cuts and scrapes - were reported, said sheriff department spokesman Chuck Adams.
Officials in Clark County, Indiana were scrambling to deal with widespread damage after roads were blocked by fallen trees and debris, and power and phone lines were knocked out.
The hardest hit was Marysville, where the small town has nearly ceased to exist, officials said.
'That's the information we have, that Marysville is no longer,' US Senator Dan Coats of Indiana told CNN.
The only good news amid all this death and devastation was a report that a two-year-old girl survived a terrifying tornado that killed her parents and siblings.
The unidentified toddler was found lying among the bodies of her family in a field near a flattened home in New Pekin, Indiana, said hospital staff.
'She continues to remain in critical condition,' Ms Cis Gruebbel, a nurse at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, in neighboring Kentucky, told local media.
Indiana activated 250 members of its National Guard, who used Black Hawk helicopters to reach hard-hit regions. Indiana and Kentucky declared states of emergency.
There were three deaths in neighbouring Ohio, including a city councilmanfrom the town of Moscow, an Emergency Management Agency official said.
The Gulf Coast state of Alabama reported one death after tornadoes trapped people in rubble, destroyed houses and uprooted trees.
For Brandy Robbins, whose home in Harvest, Alabama was destroyed in devastating tornadoes last year, it was a sickening case of deja vu.
'I realised lightning does strike twice,' she told Fox News, standing outside the home she recently rebuilt, only to have it badly damaged once more.
'Unfortunately my kids and I are going to have to rebuild again.'
In Georgia, a woman was killed in the city of Alpharetta, north of Atlanta, and tornadoes inflicted severe damage on at least 40 homes and a regional airport west of the city in Paulding County, a spokesman for the state's emergency management agency said.
The latest wave of storms comes as people were picking through rubble left behind by a string of twisters across six states that killed 13 people earlier in the week.
The National Weather Service (NWS) received 83 reports of tornadoes in eight states by Friday evening, bringing the week's total to 133.
More could be on their way as a 'particularly dangerous' tornado watch continued into Saturday in four states in a massive storm that also carried golf-ball sized hail.
Some 545 people were killed by tornadoes in 2011, the deadliest season since 1936 and the third worst on record.
This year tornadoes have come early with the mild winter creating the conditions for cold fronts to slam into warmer air.
'We knew it was going to be bad,' said Ms Angie Lese, a meteorologist with NWS.
'All the ingredients came together for a significant outbreak.'
Learn Morse code to help disaster victims, radio enthusiasts told
Published on Mar 4, 2012
JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Amateur radio enthusiasts should learn Morse code so that they can respond to emergencies better.
South Johor Amateur Bandwidth Radio Association patron Tunku Abdul Jalil Tunku Osman said such a skill was useful, especially during natural disasters.
'During the 2004 tsunami, the emergency response teams that were deployed to Aceh used Morse code to find victims as phone lines were damaged.
'In the major flood that hit Kota Tinggi and several other districts in the state, our members used two-way radios to help,' he said after attending the association's annual general meeting here on Saturday.
There are two categories for the amateur radio operator's certificate: Class A and Class B from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
A ham radio operator needs a Class B licence to keep and operate a wireless radio.
'The Class A licence requires that the holder learns Morse code,' he said, adding that a higher frequency bandwidth which covers more areas is used.
First casualty as floods swamp parts of Australia
Published on Mar 4, 2012
A man (centre) shelters under an umbrella as he walks across a pavement at Circular Quay in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as heavy rain falls on March 2, 2012. Thousands of Australians were on Saturday ordered to evacuate their homes in Sydney's north-west and elsewhere in New South Wales state as heavy rainfall flooded rivers and waterways. -- PHOTO: AFP
SYDNEY (AFP) - A man who was swept down a swollen creek became the first casualty on Sunday from floods inundating Australia's New South Wales state as hundreds more people were evacuated due to heavy rainfall.
Swathes of the state have been battling flooding for several days although the rainband that has dumped up to 200mm (eight inches) of water was forecast to ease by Monday.
'People have been asked to leave their homes overnight as intense rainfall fell in southern and south-eastern parts of the state,' State Emergency Service commissioner Murray Kear told reporters.
'But just as we're standing under sunny skies (on the outskirts of Sydney), they will be under sunny skies tomorrow.' The body of a 43-year-old man was recovered after he and two friends became trapped when attempting to cross a creek late on Saturday, police said.
When they tried to get out of the car they were washed away. One man was rescued as he clung to a tree and another was found further downstream suffering hypothermia.
Major highways and thousands of kilometres (miles) of local roads have been closed by floodwaters across New South Wales with the State Emergency Services carrying out 29 rescues overnight.
Heavy downpours continued to swamp the Riverina area in the state's south, causing major flooding, with hundreds more properties evacuated.
But there was better news for some 2,000 residents of the Hawkesbury-Nepean region on Sydney's semi-rural north-western outskirts who were set to return home after evacuation orders were cancelled.
Salvation Army emergency services coordinator Norm Archer said he had rarely seen anything like it.
'The sheer size of these floods is something I haven't seen in NSW for many years,' he said. 'It's an enormous area that's affected.' The southern state of Victoria has also been hit by wild weather with record rainfall reported in some towns.
In Numerkah township in the state's north, a hospital and a care centre were both evacuated due to rising floodwaters.