CIWARS CCI News covers climate change, conflict, and infrastructure news focus on water, food, extreme weather, sea level rise, migrants/refugees and destabilizing conflicts. Center for Infrastructural Warfare Studies including cyber infrastructure
Documentary features Louisiana "climate refugees" on the move
The phrase "climate refugee" likely brings to mind images of people fleeing a low-lying Pacific island or coastal Bangladesh, but as other leading media outlets have pointed out, individuals in the United States are also being displaced by a changing climate.
The documentary "Can't Stop the Water" takes viewers to southern Louisiana's Isle de Jean Charles, where storm surges exacerbated by climate change, coastal oil and gas development, and wetland degradation are combining to push the island under water.
As one of the resident's says in the trailer above, "Today we're just washing away, one day at a time."
Now after 170 years of living on the island, the Native American Cajun community — lead by Chief Albert Naquin — is banding together and searching for a new place to call home because, as the tribe knows, ultimately you can't stop the water.
Filmmakers Rebecca Marshall Ferris, Jason Ferri, and Kathleen Ledet created the documentary "Can't Stop the Water.. The three spent several years "immersed in the lives and daily dramas" of the people who call Isle de Jean Charles home while filming.
West Virginia Floods: 20 Killed, Including Toddler, as Thousands Left Without Power
Twenty people have been killed after powerful storms swamped West Virginia on Thursday night, forcing high water rescues across the state and leaving thousands of customers without power through Friday afternoon, officials said.
The threat of pop-up showers and overflowing rivers was still a concern Friday, and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said that search and rescue efforts remained a priority to help people trapped in flooded-out homes and cars. He said 200 National Guard members have been deployed in eight counties with about 300 more authorized to help with ongoing relief.
The storm system dumped 9 inches of rain on parts of West Virginia and trapped 500 people in a shopping center when a bridge washed out. Dozens of other people had to be plucked off rooftops or rescued as waters quickly rose during the deluge.
The heavy rainfall over six to eight hours prompted the National Weather Service to call it a "one-in-a-thousand-year event."
"Please continue to work together and support each other as West Virginians always do," Tomblin pleaded at a news conference where he announced the growing death toll and said about 100 homes have been damaged.
One search for a missing 4-year-old ended in heartbreak after officials said Friday they found his body. The boy — Edward McMillion — had vanished in the rising waters in Ravenswood, Jackson County, which sits along the Ohio River on the Ohio border.
At least three other deaths occurred in Kanawha County, while another death occurred in Ohio County in West Virginia's northern panhandle, the governor's office said earlier Friday.
Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill announced Friday afternoon that two males were also found dead, and called the situation "complete chaos."
Officials did not immediately identify the victims, although local reports said one of those killed in Ohio County was an 8-year-old who had slipped into a creek and was carried away. He later died at a hospital, The Intelligencer reported.
Meanwhile, an elderly man was killed in the floodwaters in Kanawha County, while a woman there was washed away in her vehicle in another incident, NBC affiliate WSAZ reported.
In one dramatic scene in White Sulphur Springs in the state's south, where up to 10 inches of rain fell Thursday, the flood waters pushed a burning home down the Howard Creek.
Natural gas service was shut off in White Sulphur Springs as a precaution, Tomblin said.
"We surely need your prayers because there's a lot of people hurting right now," added Jim Justice, owner of the luxury Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, told The Weather Channel.
Forty-four counties, primarily in the southeastern part of the state, were under a state of emergency Thursday night because of flood waters, emergency officials said. Electric utilities initially reported that almost 500,000 customers were without power, although that number dropped to 60,000 by Friday afternoon.
Rivers around the state were reaching historic levels Friday, officials said.
In Clay County, northeast of Charleston, the Elk River rose to over 33 feet, breaking the previous record of 32 feet set in 1888.
Kanawha County was especially inundated, and dozens of water rescues were under way in and around Clendenin, where numerous roads were closed by racing flood waters, WSAZ said.
"There's been a ton of areas that have been hit hard" by as much as 7 inches of rain, said Danielle Banks, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.
Mark Burgess, wife Lisa and parents-in-law Bill and Peggy Lucas were occupying the second floor of their home in Elkview when the waters started rising at around 1:30 am ET.
Mark Burgess told NBC News on Friday morning there was about four feet of water, "but it has stopped going up now."
He said it was the first time that residents have witnessed such flooding. "My mother-in-law has lived here for 80 years, and this never happened before," he said.
"There is nothing you can do," he added. "We can call for help if it's too deep, but it's OK right now."
FLOOD EMERGENCY: Clendenin,WV can only be accessed by helicopter. Worst flooding in almost 20 years. Ctsy: Sug Sams
— Bryan Hughes (@bryanweather)
In neighboring Virginia, thousands were also without power, utilities said.
Record floods were forecast overnight Thursday along the Jackson River in the areas of Covington and Alleghany County. The state Department of Emergency Management urged residents of those areas to be ready to evacuate on short notice.
"It's really bad. There's a raging river," Alleghany County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Matt Bowser said. "There's 500-gallon oil tanks and trash cans and gas cans and tree trunks floating down the river where people's backyards are. You can see people in the second-story windows waiting to be evacuated."
AREAS along Zimbabwe's border with Mozambique are under threat from the unrest rocking the neighbouring country following fresh clashes between the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) government and opposition Mozambique National Resistance (Renamo), the Financial Gazette can report.
Renamo, a rebel movement led by opposition leader Afonso Dhlakama, waged a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992 against Frelimo, which has been ruling Mozambique since independence in 1975.
The Dhlakama-led militant opposition went into a power-sharing arrangement with the Filipe Nyusi-led government, but later withdrew in 2013 citing an unfair governance system.
The rebel movement also refused to accept the Frelimo party's victory in 2014 elections and has taken up arms.
In an escalation of a simmering conflict between the old civil war foes, pockets of violent clashes have erupted in the neighbouring country.
Mozambique's Ministry of Education and Human Development has revealed that 97 schools have been closed in Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia provinces due to clashes between Renamo and government security forces.
The on-going clashes are posing a new security threat to Zimbabwe after Renamo rebels and Mozambican refugees were spotted in areas bordering Mozambique in the eastern province.
Early this year, Renamo rebel soldiers were spotted in Nyanga and Burma Valley where they lured unemployed youths to join their army.
In Chipinge District -- situated in the southern part of Manicaland -- Mozambicans have sought refuge.
Members of Parliament, traditional leaders and pressure groups have warned of an imminent threat posed by the conflict in Mozambique.
Nyanga North legislator, Hubert Nyanhongo, told a Parliamentary session in March this year that Renamo rebels were recruiting youths from his constituency.
A Burma Valley-based farmer recently confirmed similar incidents in the banana farming area.
"We are at risk of losing some of our farm workers here because Renamo soldiers have been coming here frequently and asking our workers to join their army. We are very worried about our safety and that of our livestock. Who knows maybe tomorrow they will be forcing everyone to join," said the resettled farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Chipinge resident and Platform for Youth Development founder, Claris Madhuku, said Mozambicans fleeing from the unrest were seeking refuge in Chipinge.
"It may be important for the public to know that the unrest in Mozambique is affecting areas along the border. There has been an influx of people from Mozambique to Zimbabwe, who are seeking refuge from Matsangaise (Renamo rebels)," he said.
Chief Mapungwana also confirmed that several Mozambicans have approached his traditional council asking for a place to seek refuge.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Luxson Chananda, however, said he was in the dark over the matter.
But Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, said their officers in Manicaland were on high alert.
"I have checked with officer commanding Manicaland and officer commanding Mashonaland West because they, both, police borders with Mozambique, but they haven't received anything official. They have also checked with refugee camps (Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge), but there are unconfirmed rumours. So they are going to verify these reports and see whether it's true or not," she said.
Provincial army spokesperson, Major Luke Mafere, referred questions to national army spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, who requested questions in writing.
These were e-mailed to him over a fortnight ago before he later requested this paper to send the questions to a Colonel Ndlovu at the Zimbabwe National Army headquarters.
Ndlovu had not responded to questions from this newspaper at the time of going to print.
Buhera South legislator, Joseph Chinotimba, recently raised concerns in Parliament over the army's state of preparedness in dealing with the Mozambican crisis.
Chinotimba said Zimbabweans living along border areas were not safe, including the country's investments such as the Beira Corridor which transports fuel from the Beira Port to Mutare.
Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeremayi, responded by saying government was closely following events in Mozambique and would react accordingly to any threats.
"The Mozambican government should be the first to deal with Renamo rebellion. When our interests are tempered with, we will definitely react and we will notify the government there," Sekeremayi told Parliament.
* Storm flattens power lines, overturns cars, rips off roofs
* Tornado accompanied storm that hit Jiangsu province
* "It was like the end of the world," survivor says
FUNING, China, June 24 (Reuters) - A violent storm in eastern China that packed gale-force winds and hail killed 98 people and injured hundreds as it flattened power lines, overturned cars and ripped roofs off houses in Jiangsu province.
The storm, which included a tornado, struck mid-afternoon on Thursday near Yancheng city, a few hours' drive north of China's commercial capital Shanghai, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Winds reached 125 kph (78 mph) and battered several townships in Funing county, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"I heard the gales and ran upstairs to shut the windows," Funing resident Xie Litian, 62, told Xinhua.
"I had hardly reached the top of the stairs when I heard a boom and saw the entire wall with the windows on it torn away."
When the storm subsided and Xie escaped, all the neighbouring houses were gone. "It was like the end of the world," Xie said.
The death toll stood at 98, with 800 people injured, state-run China National Radio said on its website on Friday.
Pictures online showed injured people lying amid destroyed houses, overturned cars and split tree trunks. One showed a man who had apparently tried to shield a woman from falling debris; both were dead in a pile of rubble.
The worst of the storm seemed to have hit only a limited area, however.
"It looks like the tornado only hit very specific places," said a Reuters reporter at the site. "Even nearby villages were fine."
A man broke down in sobs as his 35-year-old son was pulled dead from a pond in Shizhuang town on Friday.
In the nearby village of Dalou, tree trunks were snapped, with plates and household items scattered amid rubble, as survivors picked through the debris.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, visiting Uzbekistan, ordered China's cabinet to send a team to oversee relief efforts, Xinhua reported. Premier Li Keqiang urged authorities to speed search and rescue work.
GCL System Integration Technology Co Ltd, a $5-billion solar cell module maker, said a 40,000-sq-m. (430,000-sq-foot) factory it part-owned had collapsed, and it was assessing the damage.
Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said the storm caused the collapse of a GCL facility used to store hazardous chemicals, located near a drinking water plant and a river.
"The release of these chemicals could pose significant risk to public health and the local ecosystem," Greenpeace said in a statement.
China's summer often brings severe weather. Floods in the south this week killed at least 22 people and left 20 missing.
Last June, a storm caused a Yangtze River cruise ship to capsize, killing 442 people and leaving just 12 survivors, in one of China's worst such disasters in seven decades. (Reporting by Reuters television in YANCHENG and John Ruwitch and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez)
Nearly 300 people have been killed or injured and nearly 8,000 houses and schools damaged by natural disasters across the Kingdom in the first half of this year, according to the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM).
"The rain, lightning and storms damaged people's lives and public property. From January to June this year, 60 people were killed by lightning and 62 were injured. Rainstorms also killed nine people and injured 139," NCDM Senior Minister and first Vice-President Nhim Vanda said earlier this week, adding that these numbers are all up from those recorded during the first half of last year.
Storms have also destroyed nearly 1,300 structures – most of them houses – so far this year, with an additional 5,700 houses and schools damaged.
"This figure increased compared with the same period last year," Mr. Vanda said. Only 130 were killed and 200 injured in storms during 2015.
But as the Kingdom struggles with bad weather this year, it also had to contend with widespread drought. Although one of the worst droughts in the country's history is now easing as the rainy season begins, Mr. Vanda said his organization is already thinking ahead.
The NCDM has already dug more than 1,000 wells and more than 300 ponds to brace for next year's dry season, expected to increase in severity as the effects of climate change make conditions more severe.
Almost 8,000 houses and schools have been damaged by storms this year. Supplied
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a statement later that Mr. Abbas had spread a "blood libel" in the speech.
Mr. Abbas made the allegation in the context of calling for the revival of a long dormant committee of Israeli, Palestinian and American officials that was created to expose and denounce incitements from either side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "We are against incitement," he began in his speech.
"Just a week ago, a week, a group of rabbis in Israel announced, in a clear announcement, demanding their government, to poison, to poison, the water of the Palestinians," he said. "Is this not incitement? Is this not clear incitement, to the mass murder of the Palestinian people?"
Mr. Abbas was repeating a claim initially made on the website of an office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Anadolu, the Turkish state-run news agency, repeated the claim on Sunday. It was echoed in The Gulf News, a daily newspaper in Dubai. The Anadolu article said that a Rabbi Shlomo Mlma, whom it called the "chairman of the Council of Rabbis in the West Bank settlements," had issued an "advisory opinion in which he allowed Jewish settlers to poison water in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank."
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that news outlets had not been able to find a Rabbi Mlma or any listing for the council mentioned in the article.
Mr. Abbas's remarks were not included in the official Arabic transcript issued by his office, and his advisers and spokesmen were not available for comment on Thursday night. But the claims also appeared on the website of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Abbas, along with President Reuven Rivlin of Israel, had been invited to Brussels by European officials hoping to rekindle peace negotiations. Mr. Abbas, who did not meet with Mr. Rivlin in Brussels, received a standing ovation at the end of his 43-minute speech.
"In Brussels, Abu Mazen showed his true face," said the statement from Mr. Netanyahu's office, referring to Mr. Abbas by his nickname. "Someone who refuses to meet President Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu for direct negotiations and spreads a blood libel in the European Parliament falsely claims that his hand is extended in peace."
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Jewish groups quickly condemned Mr. Abbas's comments.
"It is unconscionable that a foreign leader proudly states a blood libel in the European Parliament and he receives a standing ovation," Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, said in a statement.
The Gulf News article reported that Breaking the Silence, an Israeli organization critical of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank, had made the claims. A spokesman for the organization told Haaretz that it had no knowledge of the affair.
Rumors that Jews had poisoned wells and other sources of water arose in the 14th century as the bubonic plague raged across much of Europe. The rumors led to the destruction of scores of Jewish communities. In Basel, Switzerland, and Strasbourg, France, hundreds of Jews were burned alive.
The latest accusations came amid a water shortage in some Palestinian communities in the West Bank, exacerbated by the summer heat. Advocacy groups and Palestinian officials charge that a discriminatory system allows Israelis to have more water than Palestinians. The United Nations also reported instances in which Jewish settlers have taken control of wells once used by Palestinians in the West Bank.
Mr. Abbas did not touch on those issues in his speech.
In October, he erroneously accused Israeli forces of killing a 13-year-old Palestinian boy who had taken part in the stabbing of two Israelis. The boy had actually been wounded and later recovered.
Seeking New Routes, Central American Migrants at Risk of Trafficking
BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Migrants from Central America making the overland journey through Mexico are seeking out new, hidden routes to evade deportation, putting them a greater risk of being trafficked, experts say.
Rampant gang violence, poverty and few jobs, drives tens of thousands of people every year from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala - countries with the world's highest murder rates - to seek refuge and a better life mainly in the United States.
"Migrants, particularly those coming from Central America, can easily fall into the hands of traffickers," said Christopher Gascon, head of the International Organization of Migration's (IOM) mission in Mexico.
As authorities in the United States and Mexico beef up security and police patrols along their shared border to stem the flow, increasing numbers of illegal migrants are being deported back to Central America, Gascon said.
Until recently, many migrants would board freight trains in Mexico known as "La Bestia" or The Beast heading to the U.S. border, following well-established migrant routes along the railway tracks.
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But the clampdown on migrants has meant they have sought out new, and more hidden, paths to cross through Mexico, putting them in greater risk of being trafficked.
"To avoid being deported, migrants are traveling more in new and less frequented routes, avoiding authorities, which means they are less visible and more vulnerable," Gascon said.
"Migrants are finding news routes we don't know about, traveling through forest and paths on foot and then on public transport. This is of great concern to us as we are unable to reach them and provide assistance."
It is common for Central American migrants to be approached by traffickers offering them false promises of work as they take a break in parks and squares during their journey across Mexico.
"Migrants are stopped and coerced befriended by traffickers, in many cases women," Gascon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Experts say women and girl migrants from Central America, particularly those from indigenous groups, are particularly at risk of being trafficked into sex work in brothels and bars along Mexico's border with Guatemala.
Mexico's state of Chiapas, a poor region on the country's southern border with Guatemala, is a trafficking hotspot.
The porous border sees a high and constant flow of migrants heading north.
"A lot can be done at the border with border patrols by spotting victims of human trafficking by how a person is acting, reacting and who they are traveling with," Gascon said.
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"We need to work more on the identification of victims. They slip through."
Mexico says it has made important steps to tackle human trafficking, including a 2012 anti-trafficking law that punishes those convicted of the crime to up to 30 years in prison, a special prosecutor's office in Mexico City and a free hotline.
Despite these efforts, prosecutions for human trafficking remain low in Mexico, as they do worldwide, in an industry the United Nation's International Labour Organization estimates is worth $150 billion a year.
Of the 621 preliminary cases of human trafficking brought forward in Mexico in 2014, only 156 resulted in a conviction, which means many trafficking victims do not get justice.
As part of efforts to boost conviction rates against human traffickers the IOM is providing training to Mexican judges across the country on the 2012 anti-trafficking law and cases.
So far the IOM has trained 200 judges and magistrates across Mexico, including those in the Chiapas state, and aims to reach 950 judicial officials by the end of the year, Gascon said.
"We are trying to get a common understanding across the county on how to approach human trafficking cases among all judges," he said. "There can be confusion about prostitution, exploitation and human trafficking."
A key challenge is also to ensure prosecutors are better prepared to investigate human trafficking cases, gather evidence and bring cases successfully forward to get convictions.
"There is a qualitative leap that needs to be made in order for prosecutors to know what is needed in terms of evidence to get convictions for human trafficking cases," Gascon said.
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney, editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
US Hopes for Talks Between Venezuela Government, Opposition
CARACAS, Venezuela — A top U.S. diplomat is calling his visit to Venezuela productive and says he hopes international players will be able to facilitate dialogue between the country's socialist government and its opposition.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon visited Venezuela this week as the South American nation sinks deeper into a social and economic crisis. Venezuela has been wracked by protests over food shortages, inflation is soaring, and the opposition is pushing for recall election to remove President Nicolas Maduro this year.
Shannon met with both Maduro and opposition leaders. In a Friday statement from Washington, Shannon said he thought the visit was a good "first step."
He says he hopes all sides will work together to address "some of the very significant crises that Venezuela faces now."
Haze Returns to Mexico City, Where Not Driving Is Hardly an Option
MEXICO CITY — Back in the late 1980s, the air got so dirty in Mexico City that birds would emit a final chirp before they tumbled from the trees onto the sidewalk, their small, still bodies a sad testament to some of the world's worst air pollution.
I heard this story a lot when I first arrived in the city a few years later. Nobody had actually seen it happen, of course, but the urban legend's black humor revealed a perverse pride in survival.
Then the smog began to lift. The government shut down a big oil refinery and pushed heavy industry out of the city. Regulations stripped the lead from gasoline and created incentives for people to buy cleaner new cars.
And the birdsong resumed.
Until now. The city has registered only 20 "clean" days so far this year. On all the other days, particulates and ozone rose above the government's limit.
What accounts for the backsliding? A central reason is that pollution simply dropped off the public's radar.
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"As long as people don't complain and it's not high visibility, the government doesn't put a high priority on it," said Mario J. Molina, a Nobel laureate in chemistry and the director of a Mexico City research institute that bears his name, who is advising the authorities about the next steps they should take.
Without a sense of urgency, antipollution measures that could have made a difference years ago have stalled. The federal government, for example, has dawdled over raising the emissions standards for new vehicles.
BAGO (Myanmar) — Scores of Buddhists ransacked a mosque in central Myanmar forcing Muslims to seek refuge overnight in a police station after a dispute between neighbours spilled into religious violence, officials and residents said Friday (June 24).
Bouts of anti-Muslim violence have left scores dead across the country since 2012 and the febrile atmosphere poses serious challenges for Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's new government.
The violence erupted on Thursday afternoon as a mob of around 200 Buddhists rampaged through a Muslim area of Thuye Tha Mein village in Bago province following an argument between neighbours over the building of a Muslim school.
"It started when a Muslim man and a Buddhist women started to argue and then people came to fight him," Mr Hla Tint, the village administrator, told AFP.
"Parts of the mosque were destroyed... they also destroyed the fence of the Muslim cemetery," he added.
Around 70 Muslims, including children, sought shelter in a police station overnight on Thursday, he said, adding there were no serious injuries and peace had been restored.
Police and the secretary of the mosque confirmed the damage, while a Muslim resident told AFP his community of around 150 people is now living in fear.
"We had to hide as some people were threatening to kill Muslims. The situation has never been like this before," said Mr Tin Shwe OO, 29, adding his family stayed at the small police station overnight.
"I do not dare to stay at my house. For the safety of my family, I want to stay somewhere else for about a week or so."
Outbreaks of deadly violence have roiled the country threatening to unpick democratic gains since the army began loosening its stranglehold on the country in 2011.
The worst violence struck central Myanmar and western Rakhine State which is home to the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, tens of thousands of whom still languish in displacement camps after rioting.
Buddhist nationalists vigorously oppose moves to recognise the Rohingya as an official minority group, instead labelling them "Bengali" — shorthand for illegal migrants from the border with Bangladesh.
Democracy champion Suu Kyi, who is currently visiting Thailand, has come under fire for failing to speak up for the Rohingya — although she recently caused surprise by using the incendiary term during a visit to Myanmar by America's top diplomat.
Religious tensions pose a unique challenge to the new government and to Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate once garlanded for her fight for rights for all.
Her party is dominated by ethnic Bamar Buddhists and did not field any Muslim MPs in the election last year that drove it to power.
Hardline monks — known as the Ma Ba Tha — are accused of stoking violence and tensions with hate speech. AFP