Cuba surveys toppled houses, flooded cities in wake of Irma

World in Brief - Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

People move through flooded streets in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The powerful storm ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline after cutting a trail of destruction across the Caribbean. Cuban officials warned residents to watch for even more flooding over the next few days. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

People move through flooded streets in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma, in Cuba, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. The powerful storm ripped roofs off houses, collapsed buildings and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline after cutting a trail of destruction across the Caribbean. Cuban officials warned residents to watch for even more flooding over the next few days. (Ramon Espinosa/AP)

CAIBARIEN, Cuba (AP) — Hurricane Irma ripped roofs off houses and flooded hundreds of miles of coastline as it raked Cuba’s northern coast after devastating islands the length of the Caribbean in a trail of destruction that has left 22 people dead so far.

As Irma left Cuba late Saturday and directed its 120 mph winds toward Florida, authorities on the island were assessing the damage and warning of staggering damage to keys off the northern coast studded with all-inclusive resorts and cities, as well as farmland in central Cuba.

There were no immediate reports of deaths in Cuba - a country that prides itself on its disaster preparedness - but authorities were trying to restore power, clear roads and warning that people should stay off the streets of Havana because flooding could continue into Monday.

Residents of “the capital should know that the flooding is going to last more than 36 hours, in other words, it is going to persist,” Civil Defense Col. Luis Angel Macareno said late Saturday, adding that the waters had reach at about 2,000 feet into Havana.

As Irma rolled in, Cuban soldiers went through coastal towns to force residents to evacuate, taking people to shelters at government buildings and schools — and even caves.

They’ve been warned: Some insist on riding out Irma at home

REDINGTON SHORES, Fla. (AP) — Carl Roberts has Chinese food, a case of water and a million-dollar view in his 17th floor Gulf front condo — all he needs, he says, to weather the massive storm coming straight at him.

Authorities have beseeched more than 6 million people in Florida and Georgia to evacuate before Hurricane Irma’s storm surge and fierce winds make it impossible to flee or be rescued. Many are staying nevertheless, even boasting about surviving Camille, Andrew, Katrina and other storms.

“No. 1, I don’t have anywhere to go,” said Roberts, an attorney. “And I’m on the 17th floor. I have security shutters, so I should be quite safe here.”

Mandatory evacuation orders apply to all barrier islands around South Florida, including Redington Shores, where Roberts’ condo complex towers over a narrow reach of sand. The entire Florida Keys were supposed to be emptied. Firefighters went door to door in mobile home parks, urging residents to get out.

People who refused to evacuate were not being arrested, but were told they wouldn’t be rescued once the storm arrives.

Storm surge warnings: Life-threatening, will cover a house

MIAMI (AP) — The storm surge is called dangerous and life-threatening, but what exactly is it?

It’s not a wall of water or a tsunami. Simply put, hurricane winds push water toward shore. It can happen quickly and far from a storm’s center, inundating areas that don’t typically flood.

Storm surge doesn’t just come from the ocean. It can come from sounds, bays and lakes, sometimes well inland.

Large hurricanes tend to create greater storm surge over a broader area, and coastal features such as bays can act like funnels and back water up into rivers and canals, said Jamie Rhome, head of the U.S. National Hurricane Center’s storm surge unit.

“This is going to sneak up on people,” Rhome said.

Irma turns Caribbean island paradises into nightmares

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua (AP) — Strung like beads along the northeast edge of the Caribbean, the Leeward Islands are tiny, remote and beautiful, with azure waters and ocean breezes drawing tourists from around the world.

The wild isolation that made St. Barts, St. Martin, Anguilla and the Virgin Islands vacation paradises has turned them into cutoff, chaotic nightmares in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which left 22 people dead, mostly in the Leeward Islands. Looting and lawlessness were reported Saturday by both French and Dutch authorities, who were sending in extra troops to restore order.

The Category 5 storm snapped the islands’ fragile links to the outside world with a direct hit early Wednesday, pounding their small airports, decapitating cellphone towers, filling harbors with overturned, crushed boats and leaving thousands of tourists and locals desperate to escape.

The situation worsened Saturday with the passage of Category 4 Hurricane Jose, which shuttered airports and halted emergency boat traffic through the weekend.

Looting, gunshots and a lack of clean drinking water were reported on the French Caribbean territory of St. Martin, home to five-star resorts and a multimillion estate owned by President Donald Trump.

Recovery efforts pick up in earthquake-damaged Mexican town

JUCHITAN, Mexico (AP) — Relief supplies and cleanup crews began arriving in earnest in this city in southern Mexico, two days after a devastating earthquake killed 37 here - more than half the nationwide total.

Government cargo planes delivered much-needed supplies and the military began distributing boxes of food, though many residents of this city in a region of Oaxaca state known as the Isthmus complained that progress was slow and they hadn’t yet received assistance.

Teams of soldiers and federal police armed with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighborhoods to assist in demolition of damaged buildings. Dump trucks choked some narrow streets as they began hauling away the many tons of rubble. Maria de Lourdes Quintana Lopez said she couldn’t wait for the government’s assistance as she oversaw the demolition of her family candy business’ warehouse.

“We have to work so that we’re not overcome with sadness,” Quintana said. “We’re not going to wait for the government to do what it has to do.”

Trump makes nice with Dems, leaving his party confused

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was in the mood to celebrate after cutting a big deal with opposition Democrats.

Joshing with Northeastern officials in the Cabinet Room, Trump hailed New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo as “my governor” and traded banter with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, another fellow New Yorker. “If you just dropped in from outer space, you wouldn’t know what the last eight months have been like,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., recalling the friendly exchanges between Trump and Schumer during the meeting with New York and New Jersey lawmakers.

That would be the same Schumer whom the president had previously slammed as a “clown” and “Cryin’ Chuck.”

Tank failures in Harvey reveal vulnerabilities in storm

More than two dozen storage tanks holding crude oil, gasoline and other contaminants ruptured or otherwise failed when Harvey slammed into the Texas coast, spilling at least 145,000 gallons of fuel and spewing toxic pollutants into the air, according to an Associated Press analysis of pollution reports submitted to state and federal regulators.

The tank failures follow years of warnings that the Houston area’s petrochemical industry was ill-prepared for a major storm, with about one-third of the 4,500 storage tanks along the Houston Ship Channel located in areas susceptible to flooding, according to researchers.

More of the massive storage tanks could be put to the test in coming days as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida. The tanks are prone to float and break during floods, and Harvey’s unprecedented rainfalls revealed a new vulnerability when the roofs of some storage tanks sank under the weight of so much water.

Federal and state rules require companies to be prepared for spills, but mandate no specific measures to secure storage tanks at refineries, chemical plants and oil production sites.

Although Florida has no oil refineries, it has more than 20 petroleum product storage terminals in coastal communities and about 30 chemical companies with a presence in the state, including a significant number of facilities in the Tampa Bay area, according to the American Chemistry Council and U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rohingya rebels declare truce as desperation hits camps

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Rohingya insurgents, whose attack on Myanmar security forces last month triggered savage military reprisals, declared a monthlong truce Sunday as refugees continued to flood across the border into Bangladesh only to face scant basic resources, hunger and illness.

The Muslim insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army issued the truce statement on its Twitter account and urged Myanmar’s government to reciprocate in order to assist all victims regardless of their background.

The government did not comment immediately.

The rebels, who say they’re fighting to protect their minority members against government-sponsored persecution, launched their first known attacks last October and again on Aug. 25. According to Rohingya refugees, the military responded with indiscriminate killings, burning entire villages and forcing tens of thousands to flee. The government said most of the 400 dead were “terrorists.”

The U.N. said Saturday that an estimated 290,000 Rohingya Muslims have arrived in the border district of Cox’s Bazar in just the last two weeks, joining at least 100,000 who were already there after fleeing earlier riots or persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. The number was expected to swell further, with thousands crossing the border each day.