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Markets recover as Tories take charge

Britain’s new Prime Minister David Cameron and his coalition government took charge Wednesday, boosted by a recovering London stock market and pound, although data showed unemployment claims at a 16-year high.


New finance minister George Osborne’s biggest task will be to bring down a record British deficit caused by the global economic crisis.

London’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares dipped 0.12 percent to stand at 5,327.55 points in morning trade, pulling back from recent sharp losses as Conservative leader Cameron began his new job as prime minister.

On Tuesday his party, which won the most votes and seats in last week’s general election but not a majority, struck a coalition deal with the third-placed Liberal Democrats that ended 13 years of Labour rule.

“Markets had feared a negative start, but as the dawn of a new political era takes place, there appears to be a collective sigh of relief that we have a clearer way forward,” ODL Securities trader Owen Ireland said on Wednesday.

In foreign exchange trade, the pound rose to 1.4997 dollars from 1.4956 late in New York on Tuesday. It also gained to 1.1819 euros from 1.1812.

“Sterling has strengthened against the US dollar and the euro on this stabilisation of the UK political situation,” said City Index analyst Joshua Raymond.

Later Wednesday, attention will turn to the Bank of England, set to publish its latest inflation and growth forecasts for Britain.

The BoE on Monday decided to freeze British interest rates awaiting the formation of a new government.

The bank’s policymakers voted to keep its key lending rate at a record-low 0.50 percent for the 14th month in a row as they sought to balance unexpectedly high inflation with the need to support Britain’s fragile economic recovery.

Britain’s economy grew by a weaker than expected 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

However this is expected to be revised upward to 0.3 percent following strong manufacturing data for March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) had said on Tuesday.

Britain emerged from a record-length recession in the final three months of 2009 with growth of 0.4 percent after six straight quarters of negative output.

In a stark reminder of what lies ahead for Britain, ONS data published on Wednesday showed the nation’s jobless total had increased by 53,000 in the three months to the end of March.

At 2.51 million people, the total jobless figure stands at the highest level since 1994. The country’s unemployment rate managed to hold steady at 8.0 percent in March, the ONS added.

Analysts though warned of further job losses ahead.

“Significant job cuts in the public sector are looming as part of the major squeeze that has to occur on government expenditure,” IHS Global Insight economist Howard Archer said Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, in the near term at least, many firms are likely to meet any increase in business through making greater use of the workers they have already, and they are likely to be reluctant to take on any more staff until they are really convinced that sustained improvement in business is likely.”

Britain borrowed a record 152.8 billion pounds in the 12 months to March.

That was 65.9 billion pounds higher than in the same period of 2008/09, as a record recession slammed the country’s tax revenues and the government was forced to prop up failing banks.

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Zsa Zsa Gabor in ‘critical condition’

“She is still in the hospital in critical condition,” her publicist John Blanchette said.


“Her husband talked to her doctors yesterday and they said that she is not responding and not communicating.”

However her daughter, Francesca Hilton, issued a statement shortly afterward insisting that her mother was indeed talking and adjusting to the “healing process” after undergoing surgery following a bad fall on July 17 when she broke her hip.

“My mother Zsa Zsa Gabor is in guarded condition, is not in a coma, is talking and is adjusting to the medications and healing process. There are no surprises and I am with her now,” she said.

Blanchette had said earlier this week that the surgery “was very successful,” and that Gabor would be out of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center within days.

Gabor — a serial marrier, cop slapper and Hollywood star of yore — fell from her bed at her posh Bel Air, California home last Saturday when she reached for a ringing phone while watching her favorite television show, “Jeopardy.”

The Hungarian-born actress and former beauty queen was left partially paralyzed and wheelchair-bound after a 2002 car accident. She also had a stroke in 2005.

Her lengthy film career includes spots in a dozen films and television series, including John Huston’s 1952 “Moulin Rouge” and the 1958 film noir “Touch of Evil” by Orson Welles. She lent her voice to several animated films and TV series.

But Gabor is especially known for her flamboyant lifestyle, legal troubles, nine marriages and a propensity to call just about everyone “darling” with her distinctive accent.

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Iran defiant over new nuclear plant

World leaders have demanded that UN nuclear inspectors be given access to a previously secret Iranian plant and have threatened to impose tough new sanctions on Tehran.


US President Barack Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced yesterday that Tehran has admitted to the UN nuclear watchdog that it has built a second uranium enrichment plant.

Following their declaration, Russia expressed its concern and China said it has taken note of the information and has urged Tehran to cooperate with any probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Western leaders made it clear they do not believe that the site has a civilian role, being what one US official said is “the right size” to produce weapons-grade uranium but of no use for nuclear fuel production.

“We expect the IAEA to immediately investigate this disturbing information and to report to the IAEA board of governors,” Obama said, branding the new plant a “direct challenge” to international non-proliferation rules.

Iran remains defiant

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters in New York that Iran had informed the UN’s international nuclear watchdog about the plant’s existence and “should be encouraged for that. It was perfectly legal.”

The head of Tehran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the mystery second plant had been built to ensure Iran could continue to refine uranium even in the event of foreign air raids on its other sites.

“Considering the threats, our organisation decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities,” he told Iranian television.

“So we decided to build new installations which will guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities which will never stop at any cost.”

French President calls for sanctions

Sarkozy backed Obama’s tough stance, and threatened rapid sanctions if Iran does not agree to talks on its nuclear program at talks with the international six-nation contact group on October 1.

“It was designed and built over the past several years in direct violation of resolutions from the Security Council and from the IAEA,” he said of the plant, during his joint appearance with Obama and Brown at the G20 summit.

“We already face a severe breakdown of trust. We are now faced with a challenge, a challenge to the entire international community,” he said, demanding that Iranian negotiators change their stance.

“In December, if there is not an in-depth change in Iranian leaders, sanctions will have to be taken,” he said.

British PM: international community shocked and angered

Brown said the scale of the Iranian “serial deception of many years” in hiding the plant for many years “will shock and anger the whole international community and it will harden our resolve”.

“The international community has no choice today but to draw a line in the sand,” he said, warning that Iran faces “further more stringent sanctions”.

At a later briefing with journalists, Brown said the plant “could not have been for a civil nuclear facility”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the revelation that Iran had been holding back information on the Qom plant will encourage countries that had been opposed to sanctions to toughen their position.

Russia adopts a softer tone

But Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, who earlier this week appeared to signal he was warming to the Western position, stopped short of dropping Moscow’s opposition to new sanctions, despite expressing concern.

“We call on Iran to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Medvedev said in a statement read out by his spokeswoman Natalya Timakova, also at the G20 summit.

“Russia maintains a commitment to serious dialogue with Iran with a view to reaching agreement on efficient ways to remove the concerns of the international community over this country’s nuclear program.”

China asks Iran to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog

China has been told of the second Iranian uranium enrichment plant and has asked Tehran to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog in any probe on the issue, Chinese government spokesman Ma Zhao Xu said.

“It is our hope that Iran will cooperate with the IAEA on this matter.”

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States has been holding intelligence information on the secret plant for “some time” and believes it houses 3,000 centrifuge machines.

But he added the plant will not be operational for at least a few months.

The IAEA earlier said Iran had sent a letter on September 21 to inform the watchdog “that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country”, agency spokesman Marc

Vidricaire said in a statement.

“The IAEA has requested Iran to provide specific information and access to the facility as soon as possible.”

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‘Change Australia Day date’

Australians have been urged to consider changing the national holiday because it commemorates the arrival of British settlers — a day of “pain and bewilderment” for Aboriginal people.


Celebrated author Thomas Keneally, who penned the book ‘Schindler’s Ark’ which was later made into the blockbuster movie ‘Schindler’s List,’ said marking Australia Day on January 26 was a “double-edged sword.”

“On Australia Day, I believe, most reasonable Australians now admit that the descent of European people upon Australia brought bewilderment and pain for the (Aboriginal) Eora people of the Sydney basin,” he said.

Keneally said it was “worth debating” moving Australia Day from January 26 — the date the first fleet of British convicts arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788 and termed “Invasion Day” by many indigenous Australians.

Prominent Aboriginal lawyer and activist Mick Dodson backed Keneally’s calls for a national discussion on Australia Day but said the date was not as important as the meaning of the celebration.

“What to me is important is, ‘What does the day mean?’ And if we get the meaning right and the date doesn’t become as relevant, then perhaps we can live with January 26,” he told ABC radio.

The Australian flag, which features Britain’s Union Jack in its top left corner, also came under scrutiny ahead of the national day along with the country’s old-fashioned anthem “Advance Australia Fair.”

But Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard defended the flag, saying it was an important national symbol and said she supported keeping Australia Day on January 26, despite injustices committed against Aborigines.

“When we talk about this nation’s history, we’ve got to be frank about the good things and also frank about the things that are to be regretted,” she said.

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Leaking oil well plugged, fire contained

An oil well that has been leaking into the Timor Sea for 10 weeks has been plugged and a fire raging on the oil rig is almost out, the operator says.


PTTEP Australasia finally suceeded in blocking the leaking oil well on its fifth attempt on Tuesday afternoon.

The company says it has also brought the main blaze on the Montara wellhead platform – which broke out at the weekend – under control.

Oil began leaking from the Montara oilfield near the West Atlas oil rig, more than 200km northwest of Western Australia’s Kimberley coastline, on August 21.

During an attempt to plug the oil well with heavy mud on Sunday a fire broke out at the wellhead platform and the West Atlas oil rig.

Fuel source ‘burning out’

“Some material on the topside of the West Atlas rig might still be on fire but it is expected to be extinguished as the fuel source burns out,” the company said in a statement.

Well control experts on the nearby West Triton relief rig reported they had pumped approximately 3,400 barrels of heavy mud down the same relief well that had successfully intercepted the leaking well on Sunday morning.

The operation began at 2.20pm (CST) and the main fire was contained at 3.48pm (CST), the company said, adding that the well kill was completed about 5.15pm (CST).

PTTEP said the online well data indicated the situation was stable and the well pressure was being maintained.

“The well continues to be monitored and a mixture of light mud and brine is continuing to be pumped into the relief well to maintain a stable situation,” it said.

‘Lots more work to do’

“The next phase of securing the well head platform will now be undertaken subject to strict safety considerations.”

Once the well platform has been secured the owners of the West Atlas drill rig, Atlas Drilling, a subsidiary of Sea Drill, may make an attempt to reboard the rig to assess the damage caused by the fire, PTTEP said.

“We are relieved and thankful that we have killed the well and stopped the fire,” PTTEP Australasia chief financial officer Jose Martins said.

“We still have a lot more work to do and our priorities are now to determine the best method of plugging the No1 well bore.

“We do not underestimate the significantly increased technical complexity, logistical challenges and hazards of the work now required in the wake of the damage caused by the fire to the well head platform, and the West Atlas Rig,” he said.

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Rome’s Colosseum needs a facelift

Rome’s Colosseum needs a facelift, officials said as they announced a plan to raise 25 million euros ($A36.


05 million) to restore the crumbling symbol of the Italian capital.

“We face a very big challenge that will be a national and international example of bringing together private and public funds,” Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno told a news conference.

He likened the plan to a multi-million dollar restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel completed in 1994 with the help of private funds.

The government will seek prospective sponsors in a six-week appeal to be launched next Wednesday, the organisers said.

Restoration work may begin as soon as October and last two years, according to Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, who said resorting to sponsors to help fund the work was necessary in “the difficult economic climate”.

Sponsors face limits to advertising their involvement in the project – no logos on the scaffolding, for example – and it must be “compatible with the value and decorum of the Colosseum, the culture ministry said in a statement.

The ancient Roman arena’s facade is weather worn and blackened by the fumes of some 2000 cars driving past it per hour.

The monument’s dilapidated state was dramatised in May when large chunks of mortar and lime fell from the walls.

The Colosseum will remain open to visitors during the phased overhaul, which will include restoration of the facade, modernising the electrical, surveillance and lighting systems, and the building of a new visitors’ centre.

New parts of the monument will be opened to the public including underground areas where gladiators and wild animals awaited their entrance into the arena.

The influx of visitors has surged from one million to six million per year over the past decade, partly due to the success of the 2000 film Gladiator by Ridley Scott.

The egg-shaped arena some 188 metres long, 156 metres wide and 48.5 metres high, completed in 80 AD under the Emperor Titus, was the Roman Empire’s largest amphitheatre.

With a capacity of up to 75,000 spectators, it was used for gladiator fights and other spectacles for nearly 500 years.

Today it is the symbol of a worldwide campaign against capital punishment.

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Aussie Goss sprints to Giro stage win

Australian rider Matthew Goss won a sprint finish to the ninth stage of the Tour of Italy, a 187 kilometres ride from Frosinone to Cava de’Tirreni, recording his country’s third success in the race this year.


Kazakh veteran Alexandre Vinokourov retained the overall lead, a minute 12 seconds clear of Australia’s road race world champion Cadel Evans in second place.

Goss, 23, and who finished second in the second stage of this year’s edition, beat home Italian champion Filippo Pozzato while American Tyler Farrar was third in a sprint finish that was unusually contested also by Evans and Vinokourov.

Russian rider Mikhail Ignatiev had tried to make a clean break 10km from the finish along with Canada’s Michael Barry before being swept up five kilometres later.

The peloton, while pursuing the duo, had been briefly cut in two 15km from the finish as Vinokourov’s Astana team upped the pace forcing Evans and another rival for the overall crown, Italian Ivan Basso, to chase them down.

Tuesday’s 10th stage takes the race to its southernmost point with the 230km ride from Avellino to Bitonto.

Aussie sprinter Cooke pulls out

Meanwhile Australian sprinter Baden Cooke has pulled out of the Tour of Italy because of tendinitis in his knee, his Saxo Bank team announced Monday.

A statement from team sports director Dan Frost said the support of Cooke, a former winner of the Tour de France green jersey for the points competition, will be missed by his teammates.

“We sure could have benefited from his strength this coming week but with the pain he is suffering now, it is just pointless to continue the race,” said Frost.

Saxo Bank came into the race with modest ambitions however their Danish climber Chris Anker Sorensen won the eighth stage on Sunday when the peloton raced through the fog to the first summit finish at Terminillo.

Another Australian, Tasmanian Richie Porte, is sitting sixth overall on his major Tour debut at 2min 26sec behind Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov of Astana.

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Quake death toll passes 500

The Indonesian government says at least 529 people are confirmed to have died in a huge earthquake that struck Sumatra island yesterday.


Health Ministry crisis centre head Rustam Pakaya earlier predicted thousands of casualties.

“Our prediction is that thousands have died,” Health Ministry crisis centre head Rustam Pakaya told newswire agency AFP.

But that number was likely to soar, officials said, as the first outside rescue teams from the Indonesian army and health ministry reached the city to reinforce overwhelmed police on the ground.

Second quake hits Sumatra

Earlier today, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia’s Sumatra island again.

The second quake hit on land at 8:52am (1152 AEST), 225 kilometres southeast of the quake-hit city of Padang.

The United States Geological Survey put the quake at 6.8-magnitude.

“There are several heavily populated towns (in the area) there but no immediate reports of casualties,” Indonesian geophysics and meteorology agency technical head Suharjono told AFP.

Race against time

Rescue workers are racing against time to assist victims.

Wednesday afternoon’s 7.6-magnitude quake caused buildings to crumble and fires to rage in Padang, home to nearly a million people on the coast of Sumatra island. Communications and power remained cut off overnight.

“It’s difficult to confirm the death toll as communications have been cut off,” Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said in Jakarta earlier today.

“We need heavy machinery to lift the rubble… we expect that to arrive at the location soon,” he added.

Late on Wednesday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said: “People are trapped, hotels have collapsed, schools have collapsed, houses have collapsed and electricity has been cut off.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, briefing reporters in Tokyo as he returned from the G20 summit in the United States, urged officials to “flood” the city with aid and medical relief.

Three military transport planes were preparing to deliver aid including tents, blankets and medicine, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

“The effects of the earthquake could be as big as the Yogyakarta quake,” he said, referring to a 2006 quake that killed 6,000.

British-based charity Oxfam said it had already earmarked STG200,000 ($A361,760) for relief efforts, including the distribution of emergency shelters, hygiene kits and clothing.

“We had aid ready because this area of Indonesia is susceptible to this type of tragedy,” said Jane Cocking, the organisation’s humanitarian director.

Local media reported that panicked residents rushed from their homes after the quake struck off Sumatra’s west coast at 5:16pm on Wednesday (2016 AEST), 47 kilometres northwest of Padang. Dozens of aftershocks followed.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii initially put out a tsunami watch but later withdrew it.

The tremor came not long after a massive quake measuring 8.0 in magnitude spawned a deadly tsunami in the Samoan islands of the South Pacific.

Like Indonesia, the islands sit on the volatile “Ring of Fire”, a massive zone of volcanic instability that encircles the Pacific.

The Padang quake was felt in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, 940 kilometres away, and sent frightened office workers streaming out of buildings in nearby Singapore and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

“The shaking was the worst I had ever felt,” Yuliarni, a resident of Pariaman district outside Padang told TVOne news channel.

“Houses have collapsed, the lights and electricity were cut off… People were fleeing to higher ground and some were hurt,” she said.

The quake caused a landslide that destroyed houses at Lake Maninjau, inland from Padang, local resident Hafiz told the channel, while the city airport was slightly damaged but was expected to reopen early Thursday.

Geologists said Padang, which lies near the colliding Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates, was vulnerable to more quakes and tsunamis.

“There are three big volcanoes in West Sumatra – Merapi, Talang and Tandikat. We fear that this quake might cause volcanic eruptions there,” Geological Disaster Mitigation and Volcanology Centre head Surono told AFP.

Padang lies on the same tectonic faultline that cracked off Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, in 2004 to trigger the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people.

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Aussie fans prepare for World Cup

With South Africa in the grip of World Cup anticipation, back home fans prepare for some early mornings supporting the Socceroos and some of their fiercest rivals in Group D.


Considered to be one of the World Cup’s toughest groups, Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana are all aiming to be among the top two teams to advance from the group.

Australian supporters will be out in force when the Socceroos kick off their World Cup campaign against Germany early Monday morning.

Elsewhere across Sydney, a small army of fans are preparing to throw their support behind the group’s other contenders.

German fans can cheer on the ‘Mannschaft’ from the Concordia Club in Tempe, where they will be keeping with traditions off field with German food and gluehwein, and hoping the players can do the same in South Africa adding to their stellar World Cup history.

“We will certainly be prepared for everyone who comes. We will have a breakfast on offer; we will have some gluehwein which is very traditional.” Manfred Koch told SBS reporter Adriana Gajin.

Whilst the Ghanaian team was rocked by the injury of star player Micheal Essien fans still feel the “Black Stars” can surprise.

“Hopefully Ghana and Australia can surprise a few countries out there and get out of the group.” said. Ghana supporter Eric Nyamek told SBS

Nyamek feels that the support for Ghana is high on passion for the game and their home continent.

“We watch it as if we were standing on the field playing with the boys because we love the game and we support it with our hearts. It’s going to be exciting. Not just for Ghana but the whole continent of Africa. “Nyamek said

For Serbian supporters, social media has made organising a whole lot easier this World Cup, with fans forming a Facebook group to watch the matches together.

“Last World Cup we didn’t get the chance for everybody to get together to watch the games, so for all the fans of Serbia or any of the guys who want to watch the World Cup, I thought it was a good idea to create a group for everyone to come together.” Serbian fan Milan Kovacevic told SBS

White Eagles fans are planning to make an island of red, blue and white amongst a sea of green and gold at Darling Harbour’s FIFA fan centre, but still hope both teams can go the distance.

“Hopefully they both make it out of the group stage and it’s a Serbia, Australia final.”

A sentiment supported by Eric Nyamek, with just a slight change to the final result.

“Hopefully Ghana and Australia can surprise a few countries out there and get out of the group.” he said.

Only two teams will go through to the round of 16, with many tipping Germany to top the group. It appears the three way fight for the second spot, will be as hotly contested at home as it will be in South Africa.

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Bermuda brace for Igor

Forecasters said Igor, an unusually large storm with an eye bigger than the Atlantic territory of 65,000, will hit sometime between Sunday afternoon and early Monday, battering Bermuda with heavy winds and rains for two days.


Large waves, caused by the hurricane’s swell, were already pounding the island’s south shore by Saturday afternoon.

The LF Wade International Airport canceled all flights to and from the island and planned to close until Tuesday morning.

A British Royal Navy ship and helicopter have been stationed offshore to assist in case of widespread damage from the hurricane, which saw its maximum sustained winds slightly decrease to 100 miles (160 kilometers) per hour.

Residents have been preparing for the worst all week, boarding up windows and stocking up on supplies in anticipation of long bouts without power.

The sheer size of the storm — which has a wind field of nearly 600 miles (965 kilometers) — means Bermuda is in for an extended battering.

Tropical storm force winds (40 miles, or 64 kilometers, per hour and higher) are expected for almost two days and hurricane force winds (above 74 miles, of 119 kilometers, per hour) are expected for about 10 hours.

At 2100 GMT, Igor was about 360 miles (580 kilometers) south of Bermuda, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. It was expected to produce a “dangerous” storm surge and flooding in coastal areas, forecasters said.

Igor was so large that hurricane force winds extended outward up to 90 miles (150 kilometers). Tropical storm force winds also were radiating up to 345 miles (555 kilometers) from its center, the NHC said.

Bermuda’s Minister of Labor, Home Affairs and Housing David Burch urged residents to “protect life and property” ahead of a storm he said could rival Hurricane Fabian, which claimed four lives and caused millions of dollars worth of damage when it struck Bermuda in 2003.

“This storm will be a long and punishing one and the potential for injury and physical damage is great,” he added in a statement.

A local high school has been converted into an emergency shelter for the entire island, which spans only 22 square miles (57 square kilometers).

There are no evacuation plans. Some tourists chose to leave earlier this week, while others are riding it out in their hotels.

While Bermuda’s stone buildings are well designed to withstand hurricanes, no one here is taking any unnecessary risks.

Clarabell White said she had her son board up the windows of her home in Pembroke on the island’s north shore.

“Living so close to the sea, I’m not taking any chances,” she said.

Local forecasters said the eye of Igor, a category two storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, would pass within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Bermuda.

Huge swells from Igor were also due to strike the US east coast through the weekend, while “life-threatening” surf and rip currents would gradually subside in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, portions of the Bahamas and the island of Hispaniola shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, rescue teams scoured eastern Mexico in search for victims after Hurricane Karl hit the area as a powerful category three storm on Friday. It quickly dissipated over local mountain ranges but the region was facing more winds and heavy downpours that could cause swollen rivers to overflow.

The storm came as Mexico reeled under one of its wettest seasons on record, forcing oil rigs to be evacuated and the country’s nuclear plant to shut down. Major flooding earlier this month killed 25 people and affected nearly a million more.

Downed power lines, fallen branches and trees uprooted by strong winds littered the streets. Heavy traffic was already crowding the roads leading to the port of Veracruz while electricity was gradually restored.

The death toll rose to three Saturday, with two persons still missing and 250,000 displaced, officials said. Authorities were looking for a 53-year-old woman and two children believed to be swept away by a wave in the coastal town of Cotaxtla.

The storm hit during an especially active hurricane season in the region.