Hurricane Matthew batters Florida as Haiti death toll rises

The first major hurricane threatening a direct hit on the United States in more than 10 years lashed Florida on Friday with heavy rains and winds after killing at least 339 people in Haiti on its destructive march north through the Caribbean.

Hurricane Matthew
Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew packed gusts of 100 miles per hour (160 kph) as it tracked north-northwest along Florida’s east coast, the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory. The storm’s eye was 25 miles (40 km) east of Cape Canaveral, home to the nation’s chief space launch site.

“We are seriously ground zero here in Cape Canaveral — hunkered down, lights flickering, winds are crazy,” said resident Sandy Wilk on Twitter.

The storm downed power lines and trees and destroyed billboards in Cape Canaveral, reported Jeff Piotrowski, a 40-year-old storm chaser from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“The winds are ferocious right now,” he said. “It’s fierce.”

NASA and the U.S. Air Force, which operate the Cape Canaveral launch site, took steps to safeguard personnel and equipment. A team of 116 employees was bunkered down inside Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center to ride out the hurricane.

“We’ve had some close calls, but as far as I know it’s the first time we’ve had the threat of a direct hit,” NASA spokesman George Diller said by email from the hurricane bunker.

No significant damage or injuries were reported in West Palm Beach and other communities in south Florida where the storm downed trees and power lines earlier in the night, CNN and local media reported.

About 300,000 Florida households were without power, local media reported. In West Palm Beach, street lights and houses went dark and Interstate 95 was empty as the storm rolled through the community of 100,000 people.

Hurricane Matthew was carrying extremely dangerous winds of 120 mph (195 kph) on Friday, but is expected to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours, the hurricane center said.

Matthew’s winds had dropped on Thursday night and into Friday morning, downgrading it to a Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. It could either plow inland or tear along the Atlantic coast through Friday night, the Miami-based center said.

A dangerous storm surge was expected to reach up to 11 feet (3.35 meters) along the Florida coast, Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the Miami-based NHC, said on CNN.

“What we know is that most of the lives lost in hurricanes is due to storm surge,” he said.

Some 339 people were killed in Haiti, local officials said, and thousands were displaced after the storm flattened homes, uprooted trees and inundated neighborhoods earlier in the week. Four people were killed in the Dominican Republic, which neighbors Haiti.

Damage and potential casualties in the Bahamas were still unclear as the storm passed near the capital, Nassau, on Thursday and then out over the western end of Grand Bahama Island.

Qatar donates food items to Borno IDPs

The Government of Qatar on Tuesday donated food items valued at N6.5m to internally displaced persons in Borno State.

Presenting the food items at the Borno State Government House, Maiduguri, the Director of Qatar Charity, Sheikh Mohammed Ajur, said they were meant to complement “humanitarian assistance and intervention” of the United Nations and other donor agencies and to feed  internally displaced persons.

He said the food items comprised of 1,500 litres of palm oil and 1,500 bags of rice, beans, guinea corn, maize and millet.

Ajur explained the foundation, a charity organisation with activities worldwide, worked in collaboration with the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II; and Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn El Kanemi.

He thanked the royal fathers and state government for their cooperation and prayed for the quick return of peace to the state and the country at large, while urging the government to ensure judicious distribution of the relief materials.

FG starts deliberation on minimum wage, fuel price hike

FG starts deliberation on minimum wage, fuel price hike

The Federal Government on Thursday inaugurated the technical committee set up to look into Labour’s grievances arising from the increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).

After the committee’s inauguration by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), David Babachir Lawal, the committee headed by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, held its inaugural meeting.

Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, Ngige said the committee has been commissioned to look into three key areas.

According to him, the committee will look into a framework of a national committee that will discuss the issue of minimum wage and consider suggestions of all parties including government and the organised labour on how they can give amelioration to workers and Nigerians in general to cushion the effect of the fuel price hike.

He added: “Government has already provided N500 billion in the 2016 budget as palliatives and this will be subjected to a review by the committee.

“Another term of reference is the recommendation of the composition of the board of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).”

The organised labour, before embarking on its recent strike, had faulted the federal government’s rational for hiking the fuel price from N86.50 to N145 per litre when the board of the PPPRA was not in place.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had also requested that the federal government should include labour stakeholders in the N500 billion palliative measures it planned to use to cushion the effect of the fuel price hike.

The union also demanded for upward review of the minimum wage to N56,000.

But President Muhammadu Buhari had subsequently approved the appointment of Mohammed Buba as the Chairman of Board of PPPRA.

At the end of the inaugural meeting of the Committee, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said he concurred with the remark of Dr. Ngige.

One of the labour leaders, who spoke on a condition of anonymity after the inauguration, said the government has to look beyond the N500 billion as the sharing formula has already been completed.

“Government should think of other palliatives,” he said.

Fuel Scarcity – Refineries to Begin Operations April – NNPC

Nigeria’s refineries would resume refining crude oil for local consumption within the month of April to help address the current fuel scarcity, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said.

 Fuel Scarcity - Refineries to Begin Operations April - NNPC
Fuel Scarcity – Refineries to Begin Operations April – NNPC

Two of the refineries, Port Harcourt and Kaduna were shut simultaneously late January after the Bonny-Okrika crude supply line to Port Harcourt and the Escravos-Warri crude supply line to the Kaduna refinery suffered breaches.

But speaking to reporters after inspecting some petrol stations in Abuja Sunday, the Group Executive Director/ Chief Operating Officer (COO), NNPC (Downstream), Mr. Henry Ikem Obih said all of the refineries are at various stages of startup.

He said, “In terms of moving them closer to their optimal yield, there is a lot of work going on through the great work done by our engineers. We are hoping that within this month of April we would also have locally produced fuel as part of what people are buying at the pump.”

On what the Corporation has done in the last four days to improve the fuel situation, Obih said the Corporation has taken delivery of four vessels of refined petrol that are at various stages of distribution across the country.

On the other measures the NNPC has put in place to ensure there are no gaps in the supply chain in the second quarter of 2016, Obih said the NNPC is working with some of the best refining and trading companies around the world to help source fuel in a timely manner.

“We are working extremely hard to ensure that we eliminate the queues. What we have seen today is encouraging but we are still not there. We will be there when you go into a couple of filling stations and you are able to buy fuel and drive away,” he stated.

The inspection by the COO covered major and independent retail outlets within the centre of Abuja. At A.Y.M Shafa located at Apo, Gudu Market, the team queried the station for not discharging the product from the truck.


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