NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Building toward hurricane strength, Tropical Storm Barry began hitting Louisiana with wind and rain Friday as it closed in for what forecasters said will be a long, slow — and epic — drenching that could trigger flooding in and around New Orleans.
With the storm expected to blow ashore by early Saturday, National Guard troops and rescue crews were stationed around the state with boats and high-water vehicles, helicopters were on standby, drinking water and blankets were made ready for distribution, and utility crews with bucket trucks moved into the region.
The storm could give New Orleans its worst drenching in decades, possibly eclipsing the city’s wettest day on record — 12.24 inches (32 centimeters)— on May 8, 1995, forecasters said. It could also shatter Baton Rouge’s one-day record rainfall of 11.99 inches (30 centimeters) from April 14, 1967.
The downpours are expected to pose a severe test of the improvements made in New Orleans’ flood defenses since the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -- South Africa will shortly deploy a battalion of soldiers to help police quell a surge in violence in gang-infested parts of Cape Town, a step normally only taken over the Christmas and New Year period when crime spikes in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.
Recent bloodshed in mainly poor black and colored mixed-race areas was likened to a "war zone” by a provincial official this week, with some 2,000 people killed since January.
Communities in those districts often bear the brunt of violence in a vast area called the Cape Flats, where high rates of unemployment and drug abuse have fueled gang activity.
The deployment of several hundred soldiers to unidentified crime hotspots will happen from July to October. It follows a visit by Police Minister Bheki Cele to the Philippi shanty town on the Cape Flats after several murders last week.
In a crime last Friday which made national headlines, six women between the ages of 18 and 26 were murdered when unknown gunmen entered a home and opened fire.
The next day another five men, aged 18 to 39, were shot dead and one was injured in two separate shooting incidents in Philippi.
MADRID (Reuters) -- The leader of the Spanish region of Catalonia, Quim Torra, will be tried for disobedience after he failed to obey an order to remove separatist propaganda from public offices during election campaigning, the regional court said on Friday.
During campaigning for national and local elections in April and May regional leaders were required to remove partisan messages from public offices. But Torra continued to display yellow ribbons - a protest against the jailing of Catalan independence leaders - from government buildings.
He could be removed from office for up to two years for failing to comply with the order. The court announced its intention to try him in a tweet.
Torra has said he disobeyed because the order was at odds with a resolution adopted by the Catalan parliament and the character of the yellow ribbons was open to subjective interpretation.
Many of the politicians and civil leaders involved in a failed push for secession for the wealthy region two years ago were subsequently arrested, and are now awaiting the decision of the courts, or fled the country and live in self-imposed exile.
PARIS (Reuters) -- France’s widely lampooned environment minister denied having a taste for the high life and said on Friday he would not resign over accusations he squandered taxpayer money, in a scandal that risks upsetting the government’s reform drive.
Investigative website Mediapart reported Francois De Rugy and his wife, a gossip magazine journalist, hosted lavish dinners, mostly for friends, at his official residence in Paris while he was speaker of parliament from June 2017-October 2018.
The episode has reinforced perceptions of an out-of-touch government at a time President Emmanuel Macron, shaken by the "yellow vest” revolt over inequality, is already fighting a "president of the rich” tag for his pro-business policies.
Mediapart published images of plump lobsters and 500 euro ($562) wines at one dinner hosted by De Rugy, sparking indignation and calls for him to quit.
De Rugy, visibly angry and choking with emotion, told BFM TV he still had Macron’s support. He acknowledged hosting the luxury meals but said that was normal for the National Assembly’s speaker.
TUNIS (Reuters) -- The death toll from a ship packed with migrants that sank off the Tunisian coast last week has risen to 72, the Tunisian Red Crescent said on Friday.
The organization believes that the eventual toll could be higher than 80, which would make it one of the worst migrant boat disasters to date. The boat capsized after setting off for Europe from neighboring Libya.
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) -- South Korea called on Friday for an international investigation of what it said were accusations by Japanese officials that it had passed some high-tech materials imported from Japan on to North Korea in violation of UN sanctions.
The call is the latest twist in a dispute between the U.S. allies that could disrupt supplies of chips and displays from South Korea’s tech giants Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which count Apple Inc and other smartphone makers as customers.