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Venezuela moves flood-hit families into resort hotels

People evacuate after the flooding
© Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
People evacuate after the flooding of a river in Higuerote, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Caracas December 5, 2010.
Caracas - Venezuelan security forces have started housing families displaced by floods in tourist hotel rooms following an order by President Hugo Chavez to make use of vacant accommodation, local media said on Monday.

Heavy rains have killed at least 32 people and forced more than 100,000 from their homes in recent days. Emergencies have been declared in various states, and the country's Caribbean coast has been particularly hard hit by mudslides.

In a televised broadcast from one flooded area on Sunday, the president told the National Guard to begin moving families into vacant hotel accommodation.

"See how many buildings there are abandoned by tourists, and from today begin to occupy them with families," he said. "You will not pay anything," he told displaced people.

Bizarro Earth

Australia: Wagga Declared a Natural Disaster Zone

Wagga Disaster
© Daily Advertiser
At first hand: NSW Premier Kristina Keneally visits Wagga yesterday to see for herself the damage being done to Wagga by the rising floodwaters.
Wagga survived its worst flood crisis in 36 years when the Murrumbidgee River peaked at a height of 9.67 metres yesterday evening, but sighs of relief were brief as predictions of heavy rainfall from tomorrow night could mean an even higher river later in the week.

Premier Kristina Keneally inspected the water-besieged city in a State Emergency Service (SES) helicopter yesterday morning before announcing Wagga had been declared a natural disaster area, paving the way for a range of government financial assistance.

"It's quite humbling to see what nature can do to farms, people's properties and people's livelihoods," Ms Keneally said after landing near the SES headquarters on Fernleigh Road.

The river peaked yesterday evening just six millimetres above the 1991 flood level of 9.61 metres and well below the 10.75 metres recorded in 1974.

Emergency Services Minister, Steve Whan, said floodwaters had caused tens of millions of dollars damage around the state and ruined the best harvest in a decade.

"Up to half a billion dollars crop value has been lost," Mr Whan said.


India: Kashmir Valley Freezes, Drass Coldest at (-) 20 C

Srinagar - Severe cold conditions, coupled with power shortage, has affected normal life in the Kashmir valley, where Srinagar recorded coldest night after the minimum temperature dipped to minus 3.4 degree, 2.4 degree below normal.

Drass, the world's second coldest place after Siberia, remained coldest recording minimum temperature at minus 20 degree.

Taps, ponds and small nallahs were frozen this morning as people woke up. Water on roads could be seen frozen, However, it melted as the day progressed.

Because of an open sky during the night in the absence of any Western Disturbances (WD), the minimum temperature goes down, UNI quoted a weather office spokesman as saying.

He said the WD, originating from Arabian sea and entering the Kashmir through Afghanistan and Pakistan, are very weak resulting in dry weather conditions.


Russia: Snowstorm Shuts Down Tatar Capital

A snowbound scene from Tatarstan's capital, Kazan.
Kazan -- A heavy snowstorm has paralysed life in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, causing power outages, traffic jams, airport delays, and schools to close, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

A severe cold front brought gusty winds and wet snow to the Russian republic over the weekend, resulting in the loss of electricity for some 200,000 people in southeastern Tatarstan. Efforts to restore power continue, and more than 200 rescue teams are involved in operations to help people stranded by the inclement weather.

In Kazan, traffic jams and airport delays were reported, and school classes have been canceled.

Cloud Lightning

200 Feared Dead in Colombian Landslide

© Unknown
Colombian emergency workers and residents used spades and rescue dogs to find victims.
At least 200 people are feared to have been buried by a landslide in Colombia's second largest city as rescue workers scramble to save victims of the country's worst floods in decades.

According to Red Cross officials, torrential rains have caused a major landslide in the city of Medellin, leaving at least 200 people missing, state-run BBC reported on Sunday.

"The initial count is that there may be 150-200 people considered missing. So far we have rescued three alive," said Cesar Uruena, a Red Cross official, adding that "We are focused on moving rubble to see if we find survivors. We've never had this many people affected [in Colombia] by the rainy season."

Officials say that at least two million people have been affected by the torrential rains and that over 10,000 homes have been destroyed as the result of the disaster in the country.


Australia: Drought-crippled farmers devastated by flooding

NSW Floods
© ABC Local Radio : Laurissa Smith
In New South Wales alone an estimated half a million dollars has been wiped off the value of the winter crop
The State and Federal governments are under pressure from farming groups to continue drought funding while farmers recover from the floods.

Recent flooding has devastated farmers also who, after 10 years of drought, have now seen crops lost to rain.

The New South Wales Farmers Association's chairman Charlie Armstrong says farmers are devastated and struggling financially.

"We've got this enormous mental stress that is now following what was a buoyant boom expectations of a bumper crop, followed now by some pretty dire circumstances as to how to even get the next crop in the ground," he said.

In New South Wales alone an estimated half a million dollars has been wiped off the value of the winter crop.


Seven trapped in Yorkshire pub for last Eight days under 16 feet drifts


The Lion Inn pub in Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire, where seven people have been trapped for eight days
While thousands braved the cold to begin their Christmas shopping, seven people in North Yorkshire are praying for better weather after being snowed into a pub for eight days and counting.

Heavy snow showers and strong winds have left the group stuck in the Lion Inn pub in Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside since last Friday, with little chance of an escape.

Drifts of up to 16ft blocked the inn's doors and windows, with the surrounding roads impassable, and to make matters worse, the stranded seven's cars are buried under nine foot of snow.

The group's predicament in the fourth highest pub in England continues as forecasters warned Britons to expect icy conditions for at least another week, with temperatures falling as low as -10C in the South East of England overnight.

Katie Underwood, 18, who has been a waitress at the Lion Inn for four years, said: 'It was really novel at first, and quite exciting.

'The snow is immense. Most of the windows in here are blocked up, but we've got a door open at the back to get some air when we need to.'


European Winter Blast Blamed For 40 Deaths While Flooding Devastates Balkan Countries

© Phil Noble/Reuters
A motorist drives through heavy snow in Manchester, northern England, December 1, 2010. The snow and freezing temperatures continued to cause major problems for road, rail and air services on Wednesday
Unseasonably cold weather and heavy snow in parts of northern Europe have killed at least 40 people in several countries this week and caused major travel disruptions.

The frigid weather is expected to linger through the first half of next week, CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said.

"A 'blocking pattern' high-pressure system has set up over Greenland and Iceland, basically leading to an atmospheric traffic jam," Wagstaffe said. "This high is steering Atlantic warmth away from Europe and instead directing Arctic cold down from the North."

In Poland, officials said at least 12 people - many of them homeless - died overnight, bringing the death toll in Poland alone to 30 over the past three days. People have also died from the cold in Russia, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, local media reported.


Snowstorm churns across U.S. Plains, Midwest

A snowstorm forecast to bring up to half a foot of snow to the northern Plains and Midwest churned across North Dakota on Friday, while the eastern shore of Lake Erie was hit by more lake effect snow.

The heavy lake effect snow that shut down sections of the New York state Thruway on Thursday, stranding scores of motorists, had abated and the highway was open, a Thruway spokeswoman said. However, another three to five inches of lake effect snow will blanket sections of the snow belt around Buffalo, New York, the National Weather Service said.

Lake effect snow occurs when cold winds whip up storm clouds off warmer lake waters, and can dump heavy amounts of snow along the coastline.

Snow was falling across North Dakota and the Weather Service declared a winter storm warning in effect through Friday in southern Minnesota, southwest Wisconsin and northwest Iowa.


UK: Transport Inquiry Launched Amid Winter Chaos

© Agence France-Presse
Gatwick airport is expected to remain shut until at least 6am on Friday
Travel networks were paralysed on Thursday as severe weather conditions affected roads, railways and airports while an urgent review of the country's transport systems got under way.

Britain's second busiest airport, London Gatwick, was closed for the second consecutive day due to the hostile weather conditions and is expected to remain shut until tomorrow morning.

Edinburgh Airport was also closed again this morning and was expecting to reopen at 4:00 pm this afternoon.

Hundreds of rail commuters spent a freezing night aboard an abandoned train and many other trains were cancelled in southeast England. Southern trains suspended its services today while Southeastern was running an emergency timetable.

About half of Eurostar train services between London and Paris, and London and Brussels, were cancelled today because of bad weather, a spokeswoman said.

On the roads, there were closures on the M20 in Kent due to hazardous driving conditions, while police in Essex, Sussex and Surrey advised people to make only essential or emergency trips.

Yesterday motoring organisation AA attended more than 11,300 incidents.

In Crawley, West Sussex, a motorcyclist was killed in a crash involving a lorry at 5:10 am, and a woman died after falling into a freezing lake at Pontefract racecourse, West Yorkshire.

The government today started an urgent review of how transport systems were performing amid criticism of Britain's preparedness for the icy conditions and a lack of communication to commuters.