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Daily Archives: August 6, 2008

Tropical storm Edouard strengthens as it heads for Texas coast

Tropical storm Edouard was forecast to reach near-hurricane strength as it headed towards the gulf coast of Texas, the National Hurricane Centre said yesterday.
Oil companies with exploration and refining facilities in the region had batten down and evacuated many of their offshore personnel ahead of the storm, which was expected to make landfall around midday yesterday.
At 1400 Macau time yesterday, Edouard's centre was located some 145 kilometres southeast of Port Arthur, Texas, and about 190 kilometres east of Galveston, Texas, the Miami-based centre reported.
"Edouard is forecast to strengthen, and it is expected to be near hurricane strength by the time it reaches the coastline later today," the Miami-based Hurricane Centre said.
"Some elevated oil rigs south of the Louisiana coast have been reporting wind busts of near hurricane force during the past hours," the Hurricane bulletin read.
The tropical storm is packing maximum sustained winds near 95 kilometres per hour, with higher gusts.
A storm surge of up to 1.2 meters (four feet) "above normal tide levels can be expected in the warning areas of onshore winds."
The report also warned of "isolated tornadoes" that are possible "over portions of southern Louisiana and the upper Texas coast."
The storm was heading in a west-northwesterly direction at around 17 kilometres  per hour and is expected to pick up speed over the next day or two.
"On the forecast track, the centre of Edouard is expected to be near or over the upper Texas or southwestern Louisiana coasts" by midday, or around 0100 Macau time today.
More than 5.4 million coastal inhabitants of both states could be affected by Edouard's winds and rain-induced flooding, especially those in the low-lying, poorer sections of Galveston Texas, said the US Census Bureau.
Oil industry operators in the area — a crucial hub of the US petroleum industry — said they were taking safety precautions as the storm neared.
Anglo-Dutch energy group Royal Dutch Shell said Monday it would evacuate about 40 staff from the Gulf of Mexico.
"No further evacuations are planned at this time and based on current information and forecast, we do not expect any impact on Shell-operated production in the Gulf of Mexico," the company said in a statement.
ExxonMobil, meanwhile, said it was monitoring the storm to see if evacuations would be necessary. The oil giant said its exploration and production facilities, as well as its Baytown refinery and chemical plants, were all operating normally.
"ExxonMobil is determining which of its facilities may potentially be in the path of the storm, preparing those structures for heavy wind and rain, and identifying personnel for possible evacuation to shore.
"Currently, there is no impact to production, and no personnel have been evacuated," the company said on its website.

SAfrican court says ruling next month as Zuma hearings conclude

The judge in South African ruling party chief Jacob Zuma's graft case said yesterday he will decide next month whether to throw out charges against him as two days of hearings concluded.
"Judgement will be given on 12 September," Judge Chris Nicholson told the court of the case involving the 66-year-old favourite to become South Africa's president next year.
He added that the case would in the meantime be adjourned until a "provisional date of 8 December."
Zuma left the courtroom soon after and was welcomed by thousands of cheering supporters who denounce the charges against him as a political vendetta designed to keep him from becoming president.
He had promised to address them yesterday after speaking briefly to a crowd of supporters after the previous day's hearing.
The ANC chief, who toppled South African President Thabo Mbeki as head of the party in December, is facing more than a dozen charges ranging from money-laundering to racketeering, brought against him as a result of a seven-year investigation.
The main charge against is that he allegedly received bribes for protecting French arms company Thint in an investigation into an arms deal.
Zuma had been accused of soliciting a bribe of 500,000 rand annually from the company, a subsidiary of Thales.
The ANC leader has said he would stand down if convicted but will not do so while the accusations are unproven.