Australia and Oceania

Freak waves flood homes in Marshall Islands

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (AFP) — More than 200 people have been forced to flee their homes after they were inundated by freak waves in the Marshall Islands capital Majuro. Swells averaging five meters (16 feet) washed rocks and debris onto roads, temporarily cutting access to the international airport at the peak of the flooding on Wednesday. The Red Cross set up evacuation centers at two schools, with local churches and Majuro’s mosque also offering help […]

Bushfire threat spreads in Australia as smoke chokes Sydney

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — The fire danger was elevated across wider swathes of southern Australia on Thursday, with residents warned to avoid at-risk areas as smoke from bushfires choked Sydney and other major cities. Devastating fires along the country’s east coast have claimed six lives and destroyed more than 500 homes since mid-October, with climate change and unseasonably hot, dry conditions fuelling the unprecedented blazes. Now the fire danger has moved into states further south, […]

Death toll in Australia bushfires rises to four

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — The death toll from devastating bushfires in eastern Australia has risen to four after a man’s body was discovered in a scorched area of bushland, police said Thursday. Residents found the body outside the New South Wales town of Kempsey, one of several areas hit by bushfires in recent days. Police said formal identification was yet to take place but it was believed to be the body of a 58-year-old man […]

Helicopter crashes during Australia bushfire operation

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — A helicopter crashed while fighting a bushfire in northern Australia on Wednesday and the pilot managed to survive with only minor injuries, officials said. “The helicopter crashed during waterbombing operations at the Pechey fire today,” a Queensland Fire and Emergency Service spokesperson told AFP. A rescue helicopter was sent to the scene and the pilot was treated for minor injuries, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman told AFP. “We transported one male […]

Disgraced Catholic Cardinal Pell gets last chance to appeal sex abuse convictions

  CANBERRA, Australia (AFP) — Disgraced Catholic Cardinal George Pell was handed a final chance to clear his name Wednesday, when Australia’s top court agreed to allow his appeal against convictions for child abuse. The 78-year-old former Vatican treasurer is currently serving a six-year jail sentence for molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s, but continues to deny any wrongdoing. Justice Michelle Gordon — in a statement that took less than […]

Australia bushfire threat still high after narrow escape

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — Australia escaped the worst-feared impacts of bushfires during a day of “catastrophic” conditions but the threat remains high, with dozens of fires still blazing and expectations of a brutal summer ahead. More than 300 new fires — including 19 that reached emergency level — were sparked Tuesday during high temperatures, gusting winds and dry conditions that were described as the worst on record. Thousands of firefighters deployed to combat the fires […]

Australians trapped by bushfires told ‘too late to leave’

by Daniel DE CARTERET / with Holly Robertson in Winmalee HILLVILLE, Australia (AFP) — Dozens of fires fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland burned out of control in eastern Australia on Tuesday, as residents up and down the coast were warned it was now too late to leave. Thousands of firefighters had spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called “off the scale” fire risk and “catastrophic” conditions, […]

Australia readies for ‘catastrophic’ bushfires

by Holly ROBERTSON / with Daniel de Carteret in Taree, New South Wales WINMALEE, Australia (AFP) — Thousands of firefighters fanned out across eastern Australia Tuesday as gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland brought “catastrophic” fire conditions. Dozens of bushfires were already burning out of control as temperatures were expected to climb toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds were forecast to top 60 kilometers (40 miles) per hour in parts of New […]

Sydney region faces ‘catastrophic’ bushfire threat

SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — A state of emergency was declared on Monday and residents in the Sydney area were warned of “catastrophic” fire danger as Australia girded for a fresh wave of deadly bushfires that have ravaged the drought-stricken east of the country. For the first time, Australia’s largest city and the surrounding area faced the highest level of fire warning — with authorities cautioning that “lives and homes will be at risk”. “There is […]

Australia bushfires leave three dead, at least 150 homes lost

  by Daniel DE CARTERET Agence France Presse BOBIN, Australia (AFP) — Catastrophic bushfires in eastern Australia have killed at least three people and forced thousands from their homes, with the death toll expected to rise as firefighters struggle towards hard-to-reach communities. In the normally picturesque coastal town of Forster — one among dozens hit along the eastern seaboard — vast plumes of smoke shot out from multiple blazes as water bombers swooped in overhead. […]

Two dead, at least 100 homes lost in Australia bushfires

  by Andrew BEATTY Agence France Presse SYDNEY, Australia (AFP) — At least two people have died and 100 homes have been destroyed as an unprecedented number of bushfires tore through eastern Australia Saturday. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian also said seven people were unaccounted for, as firefighters tried to contain dozens of out-of-control blazes that have raged in the state since Friday. “I’m sorry to say that number can increase during the day,” […]

Volanic eruption creates new island in Tongan archipelago

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (AFP) — An undersea volcanic eruption in the Tongan archipelago has sunk one island and created another three times larger, according to a report by geologists released Thursday. Taaniela Kula, of the Tonga Geological Service, said the new Lateiki island is estimated to be about 100 meters (110 yards) wide and 400 meters long and is situated about 120 meters west of its submerged predecessor. It lies between Kao and Late in the […]