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Environmental and political storms


The past week saw catastrophic flooding in Western Europe and a strong storm hit the top of the South Island, rounding off what might be described as a week of storms both environmental and political.

In Germany and Belgium the death toll from the floods has climbed above 180, which is surprising in highly-developed nations with strong infrastructure. Experts are saying more torrential rain events like it can be expected because of global warming that has seen average temperatures worldwide rise about 1C since the industrial era began.

Here in New Zealand hundreds of people were evacuated in Marlborough and Buller, and Picton was cut off, in what is being described as the worst flood ever in Marlborough. State Highway 2 was closed near Wellington.

In this district Matawai was cut off after a tree crashed down, while the weekend began with a district-wide power outage at 2am on Saturday.

In South Africa there was a storm of a different kind as protests erupted sparked by the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.

The South African government has deployed 25,000 troops, one of the largest deployments since the end of white minority rule in 1994. Television coverage suggests the troops have shown remarkable restraint, appearing to stand back from rioting crowds.

It is also apparent that hundreds if not thousands are taking advantage of the situation to engage in widespread looting and destruction of private property. People have been wheeling whitewear down streets and bringing their vehicles to take the loot away.

Another political storm erupted in Cuba where thousands took to the streets to protest at the state of the economy. The protests spread to Florida's Miami which has a large Cuban community, creating a problem for President Joe Biden who has to decide whether to keep Trump era sanctions in place.

Biden has another Caribbean problem in Haiti where riots began after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The US president says he will not be sending marines into that perennially unstable country, the poorest in the western hemisphere.

There was troubling news when a resident of the Olympic Games village in Tokyo tested positive. The person is not an athlete.

Meanwhile in Britain, new Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid-19 just days before England opens up despite fast-rising case numbers.