TPM News

HONG KONG (AP) — Typhoon Mangkhut barreled into southern China on Sunday after lashing the northern Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left at least 64 people dead and dozens more feared buried in a landslide.

More than 2.4 million people had been evacuated in southern China’s Guangdong province by Sunday evening to flee the massive typhoon and nearly 50,000 fishing boats were called back to port, state media reported.

The gambling enclave of Macau closed casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour landmark, where storm surges battered the sandbag-reinforced waterfront.

Hong Kong’s RTHK broadcaster cited experts as saying Mangkhut was expected to be the strongest typhoon to hit the city in decades. The Hong Kong Observatory issued its strongest storm warning for 10 hours on Sunday, just slightly shorter than the record time of 11 hours set by Typhoon York in 1999, the South China Morning Post reported.

The storm made landfall in the Guangdong city of Taishan at 5 p.m., packing wind speeds of 162 kilometers (100 miles) per hour. State television broadcaster CGTN reported that surging waves flooded a seaside hotel in the city of Shenzhen.

Groceries flew off the shelves of supermarkets in the provincial capital of Guangzhou as residents stocked up in anticipation of being confined at home by the typhoon, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said.

Authorities in southern China issued a red alert, the most severe warning, as the national meteorological center said the densely populated region would face a “severe test caused by wind and rain” and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.

Hundreds of flights were canceled. All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.

In Hong Kong, a video posted online by residents showed the top corner of an old building break and fall off, while in another video, a tall building swayed as strong winds blew.

The storm also broke windows, felled trees, tore bamboo scaffolding off buildings under construction and flooded areas with sometimes waist-high waters, according to the South China Morning Post.

The paper said the heavy rains brought storm surges of 3 meters (10 feet) around Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.

“Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past,” Lee said. “Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst.”

Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific said all of its flights would be canceled between 2:30 a.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday. The city of Shenzhen also canceled all flights between Sunday and early Monday morning. Hainan Airlines canceled 234 flights in the cities of Haikou, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai scheduled over the weekend.

In Macau, next door to Hong Kong, casinos were ordered to close from 11 p.m. Saturday, the first time such action was taken in the city, the South China Morning Post reported. Macau suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last year, leading to accusations of corruption and incompetence at its meteorological office.

In Macau’s inner harbor district, the water level reached 1.5 meters (5 feet) on Sunday and was expected to rise further. The district was one of the most affected by floods from Typhoon Hato, which left 10 people dead.

In the northern Philippines, Mangkhut made landfall Saturday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island with sustained winds of 205 kilometers (127 miles) per hour and gusts of 255 kph (158 mph).

Dozens of people, mostly small-scale miners and their families, were feared to have been trapped by a landslide in the far-flung village of Ucab in Itogon town in the northern Philippines’ Benguet province, Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said by phone.

Palangdan said three villagers who nearly got buried by the huge pile of mud and rocks told authorities they saw residents rush into an old three-story building, a former mining bunkhouse that has been transformed into a chapel, at the height of the typhoon’s onslaught Saturday afternoon.

“That was not an authorized evacuation center,” Palangdan said, but expressed sadness that the villagers, many of them poor miners, had few options to survive in a region where big corporations have profited immensely from gold mines.

Police Superintendent Pelita Tacio said 34 villagers had died and 36 remained missing in the landslides in Ucab and another village in Itogon town. Rescuers were scrambling to pull out the body of a victim from the mound of mud and rocks in Ucab before Tacio left the area Sunday.

“It’s very sad. I could hear villagers wailing in their homes near the site of the accident,” Tacio said by phone.

Rescuers were hampered by rain and mud, and the search and rescue operation was suspended at nightfall and will resume at daybreak Monday, Palangdan said. Police and their vehicles could not immediately reach the landside-hit area because the ground was unstable and soaked from the heavy rains, regional police chief Rolando Nana told the ABS-CBN TV network.

Overall, at least 64 people have died in typhoon incidents in the northern Philippines, mostly from landslides and collapsed houses, according to the national police. Forty-five other people were missing and 33 were injured in the storm.

The hardest-hit province was Benguet, where 38 people died, mostly in two landslides, and 37 are missing, the police said.

Still, the Philippines appeared to have been spared the high number of casualties many had feared. In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines. A massive evacuation ahead of Mangkhut helped lessen potential casualties, with about 87,000 people evacuating from high-risk areas, officials said.

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde told The Associated Press that 20 people died in the Cordillera mountain region, four in nearby Nueva Vizcaya province and another outside of the two regions. Three more deaths were reported in northeastern Cagayan province, where the typhoon made landfall.

The typhoon struck at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in the Philippines’ northern breadbasket, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said.


Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines. Associated Press writers Aaron Favila and Joeal Calupitan in Tuguegarao, Philippines, and Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.

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BERLIN (AP) — Pyotr Verzilov (pictured above, storming the World Cup finals in Moscow earlier this year), a member of Russian protest group Pussy Riot, was flown Berlin for treatment late Saturday after falling severely ill. Fellow activists say he was poisoned.

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NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — As the death toll from Florence mounted and hundreds of people were pulled from flooded homes, North Carolina is bracing for what could be the next stage of a still-unfolding disaster: catastrophic, widespread river flooding.

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HOUSTON (AP) — Texas authorities charged a U.S. Border Patrol supervisor with murder following what they described as the serial killing of four female sex workers and a possible attempt on the life of a fifth woman who escaped at a gas station and found help.

Juan David Ortiz, 35, an intel supervisor for the Border Patrol, was charged with four counts of murder and aggravated assault and unlawful restraint, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said in a tweet.

Ortiz was arrested after the fifth woman managed to flee. State troopers found Ortiz hiding in a truck in a hotel parking lot in Laredo at around 2 a.m. Saturday. The border city about 145 miles (235 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio.

“We do consider this to be a serial killer,” Alaniz said.

Alaniz said that after the suspect picked up the fifth woman she quickly realized that she was in danger.

“When she tried to escape from him at a gas station that’s when she ran into a (state) trooper,” Alaniz said.

He said that authorities believe Ortiz had killed all four women since Sept. 3. The names of the victims were not immediately released. Alaniz said two of them were U.S. citizens but the nationalities of the other two were not yet known. All of them were working as prostitutes and one was a transgender woman, he said.

“The manner in which they were killed is similar in all the cases from the evidence,” said Alaniz.

He declined to discuss the evidence or say how the women were killed.

Alaniz said investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the killings. Authorities said they believe Ortiz acted alone.

“It’s interesting that he would be observing and watching as law enforcement was looking for the killer, that he would be reporting to work every day like normal,” Alaniz said.

Ortiz was a 10-year veteran of the Border Patrol. U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement saying that it was fully cooperating with the investigation.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the victims’ family and friends. While it is CBP policy to not comment on the details of an ongoing investigation, criminal action by our employees is not, and will not be tolerated,” the agency said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety, whose Texas Rangers are investigating, did not return several messages seeking comment.

This post has been updated.

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The relationship between President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis has deteriorated to the point where Trump is worried that Mattis is secretly a Democrat, according to a Saturday New York Times story.

While Trump still publicly stands by his defense secretary, the Times paints a picture of a president who is increasingly resentful of Mattis’ apolitical stance and the perception that Mattis is the only adult in the room.

For his part, Mattis is reportedly getting tired of having to be that adult. He clashed with Trump over NATO and war games with South Korea, and the hiring of national security advisor deputy Mira Ricardel has further strained his relationship with the White House.

Mattis’ friends tell the Times that the defense secretary doesn’t want the military to be seen as a political tool. He avoids interviews so he won’t be seen publicly disagreeing with Trump, but he’s not willing to lavish Trump with praise.

That seems to be a problem for Trump, who’s made it clear that loyalty is crucial in his administration.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A warmer world makes for nastier hurricanes. Scientists say they are wetter, possess more energy and intensify faster.

Their storm surges are more destructive because climate change has already made the seas rise. And lately, the storms seem to be stalling more often and thus dumping more rain.

Study after study shows that climate change in general makes hurricanes worse. But determining the role of global warming in a specific storm such as Hurricane Florence or Typhoon Mangkhut is not so simple — at least not without detailed statistical and computer analyses.

The Associated Press consulted with 17 meteorologists and scientists who study climate change, hurricanes or both. A few experts remain cautious about attributing global warming to a single event, but most of the scientists clearly see the hand of humans in Florence.

Global warming didn’t cause Florence, they say. But it makes the system a bigger danger.

“Florence is yet another poster child for the human-supercharged storms that are becoming more common and destructive as the planet warms,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the environment school at University of Michigan. He said the risk extends beyond the Atlantic Ocean, such as Typhoon Mangkhut, which hit the Philippines on Friday.

For years, when asked about climate change and specific weather events, scientists would refrain from drawing clear connections. But over the past few years, the new field of attribution studies has allowed researchers to use statistics and computer models to try to calculate how events would be different in a world without human-caused climate change.

A couple of months after Hurricane Harvey, studies found that global warming significantly increased the odds for Harvey’s record heavy rains.

“It’s a bit like a plot line out of ‘Back to the Future,’ where you travel back in time to some alternate reality” that is plausible but without humans changing the climate, said University of Exeter climate scientist Peter Stott, one of the pioneers of the field.

A National Academy of Sciences report finds these studies generally credible. One team of scientists tried to do a similar analysis for Florence, but outside experts were wary because it was based on forecasts, not observations, and did not use enough computer simulations.

As the world warms and science advances, scientists get more specific, even without attribution studies. They cite basic physics, the most recent research about storms and past studies and put them together for something like Florence.

“I think we can say that the storm is stronger, wetter and more impactful from a coastal flooding standpoint than it would have been BECAUSE of human-caused warming,” Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann wrote in an email. “And we don’t need an attribution study to tell us that in my view. We just need the laws of thermodynamics.”

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb looks not just at basic physics but all the peer-reviewed studies that especially link climate change to wetter storms.

“We have solid data across decades of rainfall records to nail the attribution — climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall events,” Cobb said.

Several factors make scientists more confident in pointing the climate-change finger at Florence.

For every degree the air warms, it can hold nearly 4 percent more water (7 percent per degree Celsius) and offer measurably more energy to goose the storm, scientists said.

“The amount of water that comes out of hurricanes is certainly the most robust connection that we have,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist Jim Kossin said.

And to look at Florence specifically, “it’s very likely that climate change has warmed the ocean such that the hurricane’s intense rainfall is more destructive than without global warming,” said Weather Underground Meteorology Director Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter.

The warmer air and water also makes storms more intense or stronger, Stott said.
A Kossin study this year showed that tropical cyclones — a category that includes hurricanes and typhoons — are moving slower and even stalling. Kossin said “it’s happening a lot more than it used to.” Several studies agree that climate change is to blame but differ slightly in their conclusions.

With the emergence of Florence, some place in the U.S. has been drenched because of a stalled hurricane for four years in a row, storm surge expert Hal Needham said.

Kossin and Overpeck also pointed to studies that show storms are intensifying more rapidly than they used to.

Just like in Superstorm Sandy, scientists said it is clear that hurricane storm surge is worsened by sea level rise because the power of 6 to 10 feet of water comes on top of seas that were considerably lower decades ago. An extra 8 inches or so can mean the difference between staying dry or getting damaged, Masters said.

In the Carolinas, natural and temporary climate factors added to the “march upwards” from global warning. Because of that, the seas have risen nearly 5 inches in five years, said Andrea Dutton of the University of Florida.

Meteorologist Ryan Maue of cautioned that observers should “stick to overall trends around the world and not individual cases.”

University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy said there are too many ever-changing factors that make it hard to blame climate change specifically.

“If you are trying to make climate policy,” Maue said Friday, “you don’t want to make it on a storm-by-storm basis.”


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears . His work can be found here .

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
For the latest on Hurricane Florence, visit .

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