Fatalities mount as storms, heatwave and wildf ires hit US
VIOLENT storms that swept eastern America claimed at least five lives, authorities said yesterday, while more than two million people were without power overnight on one of the hottest days on record.
Two people were killed in Virginia by falling trees, including a 90-year-old woman asleep in bed when a tree toppled onto her home. Two young cousins in New Jersey were killed when a tree fell on their tent while camping.
Police in Maryland said a man died when a tree fell on his car.
Hundreds of thousands in Washington DC and other areas were still largely without power – and air conditioning – yesterday as temperatures were expected to reach above 40C across the region. On Friday, the US capital topped a record of 38C set in 1934. Electricity provider Pepco reported 406,000 power failures in the District of Columbia and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland yesterday.
“We have more than half our system down,” said Pepco spokeswoman Myra Oppel. “This is definitely going to be a multi-day ‘outage’.”
Meanwhile, around 10,000 people remained displaced by the largest wildfire in Colorado history yesterday, after President Barack Obama visited the scene and called it a “major disaster.” Two burned bodies have been found so far, and police say fewer than ten people are unaccounted for.
The Waldo Canyon fire at the edge of Colorado Springs – home of the US Olympic Committee training centre – was 30 per cent contained. It had kept investigators from visiting the area where the fire broke out on 23 June to determine the cause.
More than 30,000 people initially were evacuated, and more than 350 homes have been burned. The two bodies were found in the ruins of one house. The victims’ names have not been released.
“It looks like hell. I would imagine it felt like a nuclear bomb went off. There was fire everywhere,” said firefighter Rich Rexach, who had been working 12-hour days since Tuesday.
Obama’s visit on Friday was seen as a partly political one, as the western state will be one of the top battlegrounds in November’s presidential election. Polls show the race is close between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
“Whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together,” Obama said after touring a neighbourhood where the fire left some homes standing.
He met a handful of evacuees but spent most of his time talking to firefighters or state and local officials.
Colorado, with huge swathes of independent-minded voters, holds significant political weight. In a tight election, its nine electoral votes could make the difference between a win or a loss in the state-by-state fight for the White House. Obama won Colorado in 2008.
Every decision Obama makes to visit a disaster zone is done under the shadow of former president George W Bush’s botched response to the disaster in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, which irrevocably damaged his presidency.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South