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French villagers bid to stop Tory donor Aquind laying cable under Channel

Channel

French villagers bid to stop Tory donor Aquind laying cable under Channel

French mayors and residents along the Normandy coast are campaigning to block a project for a cross-Channel electricity cable backed by a Ukrainian-born businessman who has donated hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Conservative party.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Britain’s business secretary, is due to decide this week on whether to give the go-ahead to a £1.2bn project for the 148-mile cable between Normandy and Hampshire. The firm says the link, which will run through Portsmouth, could supply up to 5% of Britain’s electricity needs.

Opposition MPs have highlighted more than £1m in donations given to the Conservatives by the company, Aquind, and one of its directors, Alexander Temerko, a British industrialist born in Ukraine.

Labour says the project is “mired by cronyism”. That allegation is strongly denied by the firm, which says the scheme can play a vital role in helping to secure Britain’s energy supply.

The project faces strong opposition in Portsmouth from the council and campaigners, who say it will have a detrimental impact on the city and cause widespread disruption.

The proposal is to run the cable from the village of Lovedean in east Hampshire to Portsmouth, across the Channel to the French coast and to its end point at the small settlement of Barnabos in Normandy.

An alliance of the French mayors on or near the route has now been formed to oppose the project.

“The company is very aggressive,” said Jean-Marie Tabesse, mayor of Biville-la-Baignarde, one of the villages along the proposed route of the cable to the connecting station in Barnabos, where it will link to the French national grid. “They never take no for an answer. They never listen.”

The shoreline where the cable will make landfall is known as the alabaster coast because of its chalky white cliffs. It was a favourite place of the painter Claude Monet. The cable would reach the French coast at a car park and mini-golf course at Hautot-sur-Mer, a popular spot for tourists.

In June last year, Aquind submitted an “occupation rights” application to the mayor of Hautot-sur-Mer for construction and excavation works on the town’s seafront.

It was rejected by the mayor, Jean-Jacques Brument, who says he will never give permission. “Nothing obliges us to cede this plot to them,” Brument told a French newspaper. “They are as stubborn as fools.”

Jean Nicolas, a founder of Non à Aquind, a pressure group in the Dieppe area, said high-voltage transmission cables should not be routed through populated areas.

He said: “We don’t want a high-power electric cable near our villages, and we don’t want the disruption. It’s a crazy idea.”

Aquind made its application to the Planning Inspectorate for a development consent order in England in November 2019. The proposal was included on a list of projects of common interest by the EU in November 2017, which allows schemes to be fast-tracked. It was, however, removed from the list in October 2019.

The scheme was rejected by Pierre-André Durand, the prefect of Normandy, in January. Aquind is challenging the decision and considers that it will not stand in the way of getting the required planning consent.

Head and shoulders photograph of Temerko in a blue suit and tie
Alexander Temerko has donated more than £700,000 to the Conservatives. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images
Campaigners from Let’s Stop Aquind in Portsmouth say the power cables would involve construction through and under parks, allotments and wild open spaces. Viola Langley from the campaign group, said: “This would cause absolute chaos in Portsmouth and beyond. We don’t want it here.”

Aquind is the subsidiary of a Luxembourg-based company, Aquind Energy. Company filings say the company’s “persons of significant control” are the Russian-born oil businessman Viktor Fedotov and Temerko, a prominent Conservative supporter. The UK firm has donated more than £430,000 to the party. Temerko, a director of the company, has donated more than £700,000.

Lord Callanan, the minister for business, energy and corporate responsibility, is a former director of Aquind, standing down in June 2017. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says he will have no role in the decision over the project.

Stephen Morgan, MP for Portsmouth South, said: “Aquind would cause devastating disruption to Portsmouth, the most densely populated city after London. Roads, parks and the precious natural environment would be ripped up. Residents will face noise, dust and huge traffic problems. This national infrastructure project has been mired by cronyism.”

Aquind says all its donations to the Conservatives were properly made and have been legally declared. It does not consider the removal of the project from the European list of projects of common interest is an obstacle to securing the relevant permissions.

The company said in a statement: “The French planning process is ongoing, and the project continues to engage with all relevant parties and authorities.

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Environment

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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Environment

Flooding: 18,406 Persons Displaced In Borno

Heavy flooding across 14 local government areas of Borno State has displaced 18,406 persons and destroyed properties worth millions of naira.

The victims, comprising women, children as well as elderly, have been forced to relocate from their homes since the commencement of the rainy season.

This was disclosed by the Director-General, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Yabawa Kolo in a television interview on Tuesday.

He said varying degrees of damages have been reported after heavy storms wreaked havoc on houses and infrastructures in Shani, Kwaya Kusar, Biu, Damboa, Askira Uba, Chibok, all in Southern Borno and Kaga, Dikwa, MMC, Jere, Mobbar, Gwoza, Monguno and Kala Balge local government areas in northern and Central Borno.

According to her, Kala Balge, Jere and Monguno are mostly affected by the flood due to the downpour that occurred between August 15 and 29 and displaced the residents in the areas with serious damages to shelter infrastructures and farmlands.

Kolo stated that the damage assessment carried out indicated that Monguno suffered more from the flooding affecting 1,735 displaced populations and destroying 681 shelters in GGSS IDP, NRC and Gana Ali camps.

The SEMA boss added that the flood also damaged 81 toilets and 31 bathing facilities.

“Accordingly, reports from International Partners in different field locations and local government areas indicate that a total of 4,989 houses were damaged by the flood leaving a total of 16,393 victims affected which prompted the State Emergency Management Agency to conduct a rapid independent assessment to ascertain actual level of damage,” she said.

“Most of the displaced are seeking shelter in primary schools in neighbouring communities. They are now in need of Shelter kits, mats, blankets and food items.

Kolo further stated that the Government Flood Response Committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Usman Kadafur, has been working to avert further destructions as well as compensate victims affected by the disaster.

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Environment

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Cuba en route to Florida

Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Cuba en route to Florida

A strengthening Hurricane Ian’s rain and winds lashed Cuba’s western tip, where authorities have evacuated 50,000 people, as it became a major Category 3 storm early Tuesday and roared on a path that could see it hit Florida’s west coast as a Category 4 hurricane.

The storm made landfall early Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the island’s west coast could see as much as 14 feet (4.3 meters) of storm surge.

Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane-force winds, also life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” hurricane center senior specialist Daniel Brown told The Associated Press.

After passing over Cuba, Ian was forecast to strengthen further over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before reaching Florida as early as Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h).

A strengthening Hurricane Ian’s rain and winds lashed Cuba’s western tip, where authorities have evacuated 50,000 people, as it became a major Category 3 storm early Tuesday and roared on a path that could see it hit Florida’s west coast as a Category 4 hurricane.

The storm made landfall early Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in Cuba’s main tobacco-growing region. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said the island’s west coast could see as much as 14 feet (4.3 meters) of storm surge.

“Cuba is expecting extreme hurricane-force winds, also life-threatening storm surge and heavy rainfall,” hurricane center senior specialist Daniel Brown told The Associated Press.

After passing over Cuba, Ian was forecast to strengthen further over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before reaching Florida as early as Wednesday as a Category 4 storm with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h).

In Havana on Monday, fishermen were taking their boats out of the water along the famous Malecon seaside boulevard, and city workers were unclogging storm drains ahead of the expected rain.

Havana resident Adyz Ladron said the potential for rising water from the storm worries him.

“I am very scared because my house gets completely flooded, with water up to here,” he said, pointing to his chest.

In Havana’s El Fanguito, a poor neighborhood near the Almendares River, residents were packing up what they could to leave their homes.

“I hope we escape this one because it would be the end of us. We already have so little,” health worker Abel Rodrigues said.

The Hurricane Center said in a 4:30 a.m. EDT (0830 GMT) update that Ian made landfall in Cuba as it continued to strengthen, with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h). In an update about a half-hour later, the center said Ian was located about 5 miles (10 km) south of the city of Pinar del Rio, moving north at 12 mph (19 km/h).

The center defines a major hurricane as a Category 3 storm or higher, meaning maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph (178 km/h), and Ian became a Category 3 hurricane earlier Tuesday.

The center said “significant wind and storm surge impacts” were occurring Tuesday morning in western Cuba.

Ian won’t linger over Cuba but will slow down over the Gulf of Mexico, growing wider and stronger, “which will have the potential to produce significant wind and storm surge impacts along the west coast of Florida,” the hurricane center said.

A surge of up to 10 feet (3 meters) of ocean water and 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain was predicted across the Tampa Bay area, with as much as 15 inches (38 centimeters) inches in isolated areas. That’s enough water to inundate coastal communities.

As many as 300,000 people may be evacuated from low-lying areas in Hillsborough County alone, county administrator Bonnie Wise said. Some of those evacuations were beginning Monday afternoon in the most vulnerable areas, with schools and other locations opening as shelters.

“We must do everything we can to protect our residents. Time is of the essence,” Wise said.

Floridians lined up for hours in Tampa to collect bags of sand and cleared store shelves of bottled water. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a statewide emergency and warned that Ian could lash large areas of the state, knocking out power and interrupting fuel supplies as it swirls northward off the state’s Gulf Coast.

“You have a significant storm that may end up being a Category 4 hurricane,” DeSantis said at a news conference. “That’s going to cause a huge amount of storm surge. You’re going to have flood events. You’re going to have a lot of different impacts.”

DeSantis said the state has suspended tolls around the Tampa Bay area and mobilized 5,000 Florida state national guard troops, with another 2,000 on standby in neighboring states.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief and provide assistance to protect lives and property. The president postponed a scheduled Tuesday trip to Florida because of the storm.

Playing it safe, NASA planned to slowly roll its moon rocket from the launch pad to its Kennedy Space Center hangar, adding weeks of delay to the test flight.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Monday night that the football team was relocating football operations to the Miami area in preparation for next weekend’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Buccaneers said the team will leave Tampa on Tuesday.

Flash flooding was predicted for much of the Florida peninsula, and heavy rainfall was possible for the southeast United States later this week. With tropical storm force winds extending 115 miles (185 kilometers) from Ian’s center, watches covered the Florida Keys to Lake Okeechobee.

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