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Rescuers hampered by damaged roads, more rain in Indonesia

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Rescuers hampered by damaged roads, more rain in Indonesia

LEMBATA, Indonesia — Rescuers were hampered by damaged bridges and roads and a lack of heavy equipment Monday after torrential rains caused multiple disasters on remote eastern Indonesian islands as well as in East Timor.

At least 133 people died and dozens were missing in Indonesia, and 27 deaths were reported in East Timor. A tropical cyclone causing the damage is expected to continue affecting the Southeast Asian nations for days while moving south toward Australia.

Mud tumbled down from surrounding hills onto dozens of homes in Lamenele village shortly after midnight Sunday on Adonara island in East Nusa Tenggara province. Rescuers recovered 49 bodies and 28 people were seriously injured, East Nusa Tenggara Vice Governor Josef Nae Soi said at a joint news conference late Monday.

Flash floods killed at least 84 people elsewhere and 71 were still missing in the province, local leaders said at the virtual news conference. Severe flooding also was reported in Bima, a town in the neighboring province of West Nusa Tenggara, killing two people and submerging nearly 10,000 houses.

Relief efforts were hampered by power outages, blocked roads covered in thick mud and debris, as well as the remoteness of the area on an island that can only be reached by sea which is now surrounded by high waves, said the agency’s spokesperson, Raditya Jati.

Photos released by the agency showed rescuers taking residents to shelters.

The bodies of 13 people were recovered after being swept away by floods in Alor district, where dozens houses were destroyed, Soi said. Hundreds of people fled their submerged homes, some of which were swept away by the floodwaters.

In another district, Ende, two people were killed after overnight rains caused rivers to burst their banks, sending muddy water into large areas of East Flores district, Soi said.

The rains also caused solidified lava to tumble down the slopes of Ili Lewotolok volcano and hit several villages. That disaster on Lembata island killed at least 67 people buried under tons of solid lava, Lembata district chief Eliaser Yentji Sunur said at the same news conference. The lava was left after the volcano erupted in November.

Hundreds of people were involved in the rescue efforts on Monday. Ten districts and the provincial capital of Kupang were affected by flash floods and a landslide that damaged five bridges and several public facilities in East Nusa Tenggara province, Jati said.

He said more than 950 houses were damaged, including dozens that were flattened or swept away by floods and mud, forcing 2,655 people to flee to government shelters.

President Joko Widodo said he ordered his Cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the military, police and disaster agency to carry out emergency response measures as quickly as possible.

“I can feel the grief of our brothers and sisters there caused by these disasters,” Widodo said in a televised address, offering deep condolences to the victims.

In East Timor, 13 people were killed in the capital, Dili, and at least 14 bodies were recovered elsewhere in the tiny nation as rains caused landslides and dams to overflow. “We are still searching for the areas impacted by the natural disasters” and the toll could rise, said Joaquim José Gusmão dos Reis Martins, the nation’s secretary of state for civil protection.

East Timor President Francisco Guterres Lu Olo offered his condolences to the victims and asked government officials to coordinate the response.

At least eight people were reportedly still missing and about 8,000 displaced people were evacuated to temporary shelters run by the country’s Red Cross, said government spokesperson Fidelis Leite Magalhaes. He urged shops and markets to immediately reopen and people to return to their normal activities.

Tropical Cyclone Seroja has produced high waves, strong winds and heavy rains for the past three days and its effects are expected to last until Friday, said Dwikorita Karnawati, head of Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency.

She warned that the cyclone could trigger waves up to 4 meters (more than 13 feet) on Sumba, Flores and Rote islands in East Nusa Tenggara province and up to 6 meters (19.6 feet) in the southern part of the province and in the Banda Sea and Indian Ocean.

Authorities were still collecting information about the full scale of casualties and damage in the affected areas, Jati said.

Seasonal rains frequently cause flooding and landslides in Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.

Australian forecasters have warned residents in Western Australia state’s far north that the tropical cyclone was intensifying and moving toward them.

Seroja, or lotus flower, formed early Monday morning in Indonesian waters and was moving southwest, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said. It’s not expected to affect Australian communities for the next 48 hours, but residents were urged to monitor forecasts.

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School raising funds for beloved service dog’s surgeries

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School raising funds for beloved service dog's surgeries

A Maine elementary school is rallying to give a beloved service dog a new leash on life.

Ory, a 16-month-old professional pup who works in the Willard School’s special education department, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, degenerative hips, and torn ACLs in both knees, according to WMTW.

Ory works with special needs students at the school, helping to calm them during moments of emotional turmoil.

Now the Sanford community is pitching in to help fund the three surgeries that are needed to get her back in the classroom.

“Ory has had a rough go of it as she has already had ectopic ureter surgery in the fall and has recovered well from it,” a GoFundMe page aiming to raise $20,000 for the dog reads.

“The [hip] surgery] will ensure Ory [lives] a long, healthy and fulfilling life free from pain,” Jess Jones, an Ed Tech at the Willard School, wrote.

By Thursday night, more than three quarters of the funds had been raised, and a paw-fect ending was in sight.

“Ory will be meeting with her surgeon on Monday for a consultation,” an update from the grateful organizer read.

“She’s only 16 months and she deserves that opportunity to have a great life. The vet said her life will be amazing once this is done and dealt with,” Christen Suratt, a teacher who works with Ory, told the local station.

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all US airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear face masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kansas State University estimated how far airborne virus particles travel inside a plane. They used mannequins that emitted aerosol to measure the flow of virus particles through airline cabin mock-ups.

The study, however, did not take into account the wearing of face masks because it was based on a previous study done in 2017, before the pandemic.

Nor did it consider whether passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC says vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, although the agency still recommends against nonessential travel.

Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest US carriers, said airlines use several layers of measures to prevent the spread of the virus on planes, including face masks, asking passengers about their health and stepped-up cleaning of cabins. The group cited a Harvard University report funded by the airline industry as showing that the risk of transmitting the coronavirus on planes is very low.

Airlines were divided last year over filling middle seats. While Delta, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue limited seating on planes, United Airlines never did and American Airlines only blocked seats for a short time. It was mostly an academic question, because relatively few flights last year were crowded. That is changing.

More than 1 million travelers have gone through US airports each day for the past month. While that is still down more than one-third from the same period in 2019, more flights now are crowded. Around Easter weekend, Delta temporarily filled middle seats to accommodate passengers whose original flights were canceled because of staffing shortages.

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

So close, and yet so far. 

As various factors finally make homeownership attainable for frequently maligned millennials, a new hurdle has appeared: Not enough houses to go around. 

According to recent findings by investment bank Jefferies, younger millennials between ages 25 and 29 are increasingly buying their first pads, and 30- to 34-year-olds are doing so at even higher rates, Insider reported. 

The only problem is there aren’t enough starter homes available, an issue that’s existed since before the coronavirus pandemic and is a result of profit-seeking real-estate investors buying the pads, increasingly expensive construction costs and more restrictive zoning rules. 

Despite being much less economically well-off than previous generations were at their age, millennials in fact led home-buying in 2020, significantly motivated by the pandemic. According to an Apartment List’s Homeownership report, 40 percent of the age group now own homes, while a Clever Real Estate survey notes that 30 percent started house-hunting earlier than planned due to COVID-19. 

But unless contractors can somehow quickly construct 2.5 million homes — the amount America is short on, according to Jefferies — in the next year, millennials may be left holding yet another form of unfortunate financial cards. 

In another recent real estate boom significantly inspired by the pandemic, sales of homes built more than 100 years ago rose by 16 percent in 2020 in the tri-state area compared to last year, with a median sale price of $236,000, The Post reported earlier this month. 

Not booming during that same period, however, were New York City pads, which saw a 6 percent overall sales decline. That trend has a few notable exceptions, however, including Brooklyn townhouses — for which demand is relatively sky-high.

“I have seen more demand for brownstones, too, especially in Brooklyn, where the market seems to be on fire. There is more demand for properties with outdoor space, and bigger apartments where buyers can carve out home office space as well,” Melissa Cohn, an executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage, told The Post this month.

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