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Fire and water

First, the menacing floods and hurricanes...

South Florida Cleans Up After Katrina

MIAMI, Fla. - Utility crews scrambled to restore power to more than 1 million customers Friday as Hurricane Katrina, blamed for six deaths and miles of flooded streets in South Florida, threatened the state with an encore visit.

Katrina was churning in the Gulf of Mexico and on a path to make landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Louisiana as early as Monday, possibly as a Category 4 storm.

Rescuers evacuate submerged district in Swiss capital as floods ravage Europe

BERN, Switzerland (AP) - Rescue workers completed an airlift evacuation of a half-submerged riverside district of the Swiss capital Thursday as large parts of central and southern Europe were hit by flooding that killed at least 42 people.

Hardest hit was Romania with 31 victims, many of whom were trapped inside their homes and drowned as torrents of water rushed in. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland reported a total of 11 dead, but numbers were expected to climb as more bodies of the missing are recovered.

Across the Alps, military helicopters were ferrying in supplies to valleys cut off by flooding and evacuating stranded tourists - and even cows - isolated in mountain pastures by the rising waters.

Powerful Typhoon Menaces Tokyo

TOKYO - A powerful Pacific storm disrupted air and rail traffic as it slammed Japan with heavy winds and rains Friday, killing one person and injuring two others, authorities said.

Typhoon Mawar drenched Japan's capital before being downgraded to a still dangerous tropical storm, with winds of 67 mph, according to Japan's Meteorological Agency. Mawar was expected to sweep out to the Pacific Ocean later in the day.

A 55-year-old man in Shizuoka state died late Thursday after slipping off the roof of his home, police said. Two other people were injured in storm-related accidents.

Japan Airlines said it canceled a total 24 flights including seven for international destinations Friday morning. All Nippon Airways said canceled seven domestic flights.

East Japan Railway, a major operator in central and northern parts of the country, said 23 trains with Tokyo links were canceled Friday morning.

Japan was struck by a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms last year, leaving nearly 220 people dead or missing - the largest casualty toll in two decades.

Typhoon Tokage, which hit in October, was Japan's deadliest, killing 83 people.

Floodwaters recede in central Europe, fires still blaze in Iberia

BERLIN - Floods sweeping central Europe began to subside in the Alps and move eastwards after claiming 11 more lives, while across the continent firemen fought blazes in drought-ridden Portugal.

Ten, mostly elderly, people died as floodwaters coursed through central Romania, the interior ministry said, taking the total death toll from flooding to 28 in the past week in a country that has been plagued by torrential rains since July.

Six others were missing and families were forced to evacuate 2,000 flooded homes. [...]

The weather relented over the Swiss Alps, where flooding has claimed four lives and caused damage of up to two billion Swiss Francs (1.28 billion euros). A massive clean-up operation swung into action.

Lakes remained at alarming levels and at both the Aar and Reuss rivers rescue workers rushed to clear away trees uprooted and swept along in recent days that threatened to break bridges.

In the Czech Republic, where the memories of the 2002 floods that devastated Prague are still fresh, rain abated in southern Bohemia and states of emergency were lifted.

In western Hungary, the Kapos river dropped but hundreds of homes remained at risk. [...]

By contrast Portugal and Spain continued to suffer from the consequences of drought.

In Portugal, which is suffering its worst drought since 1945, a water-dropping plane dousing a forest fire in the centre of the country crashed, but the Spanish pilot escaped serious injury.

Some 1,500 firefighters and 600 soldiers were still battling blazes that broke out six days ago, but authorities said cooler weather was helping them contain more than a dozen fires though the risk of new ones remained high.

The number of fires out of control dropped Wednesday to five from 21.

The largest was raging in a forest near Coimbra, Portugal's third-largest city, and forced the evacuation of around 60 people from a village near the central town of Penela. But firefighters saw hope.

"The intensity of the fire is diminishing considerably. Let's see if we are a bit luckier today," the fire chief of Penela, Mario Lourenco, told radio TSF.

Neighbouring Spain, too, has this week battled blazes in the north that have so far destroyed more than 19,000 hectares (46,800 acres) this month.

The big blue marble is certainly burning folks.