debts soared, including to China, and the country, whose very existence is threatened by sea level rise, pared back planned climate projects, according to research by the World Resources Institute.

The authors proposed what they called a climate-health-debt swap, where bilateral creditors, namely China, would forgive some of the debt in exchange for climate and health care investments. (China has said nothing publicly about the idea of debt swaps.)

sinking under huge debts, including secret loans that the government had not disclosed, when, in 2019, came back-to-back cyclones. They killed 1,000 people and left physical damages costing more than $870 million. Mozambique took on more loans to cope. Then came the pandemic. The I.M.F. says the country is in debt distress.

Six countries on the continent are in debt distress, and many more have seen their credit ratings downgraded by private ratings agencies. In March, finance ministers from across Africa said that many of their countries had spent a sizable chunk of their budgets already to deal with extreme weather events like droughts and floods, and some countries were spending a tenth of their budgets on climate adaptation efforts. “Our fiscal buffers are now truly depleted,” they wrote.

In developing countries, the share of government revenues that go into paying foreign debts nearly tripled to 17.4 percent between 2011 and 2020, an analysis by Eurodad, a debt relief advocacy group found.

Research suggests that climate risks have already made it more expensive for developing countries to borrow money. The problem is projected to get worse. A recent paper found climate change will raise the cost of borrowing for many more countries as early as 2030 unless efforts are made to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Alabama tornadoes kill five as homes are destroyed and thousands lose power

At least five people have been killed and multiple injuries reported after a string of up to seven deadly tornadoes tore through Alabama, toppling trees, demolishing homes and knocking out power to thousands.

The confirmed deaths were in Calhoun County, in the eastern part of the state, where one of multiple twisters sprang from a “super cell” of storms that later moved into Georgia, said John De Block, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

Search and rescue efforts were complicated by strong weather that continued to hit the region. Radar “debris signatures” showed a tornado that formed in southwest Alabama traveled roughly 100 miles (161 km) and stayed on the ground for about an hour and 20 minutes, De Block said. He said on-sight investigations would determine the strength of the storms, but based on the debris signatures, “we’re pretty confident we will find at least seven tornadoes” passed through the state on Thursday.

The twisters ripped through towns from west to east. In the western city of Centreville, south of Tuscaloosa, Cindy Smitherman and her family and neighbors huddled in their underground storm pit as the twister passed over their home.

A tree fell on the shelter door, trapping the eight of them inside for about 20 minutes until someone came with a chain saw to remove the tree, said Smitherman, 62. The twister downed trees, overturned cars and destroyed a workshop on the property.
“I’m just glad we’re alive,” she said.

Firefighters said a family was able to safely escape their toppled home in the Eagle Point subdivision, near Birmingham. In the nearby city of Pelham,in Shelby county, authorities posted video and photos showing large trees blocking roads and damaged utility poles leaning menacingly over streets littered with debris from badly damaged homes. More than 20,000 customers were without power in the state.

“We can confirm local residential structures have been completely destroyed,” the sheriff of Shelby county, John Samaniego, told the Associated Press.

Search and rescue efforts were complicated as strong weather continued to rake across the region.

The storm inflicted extensive damage, including to numerous homes and a civic center, police said. Utility lines had also been downed along several highways, police said, warning people to stay off the road and away from tornado-damaged areas.

A firefighter surveys damage to a house in Eagle Point. Photograph: Butch Dill/AP

Maj Clay Hammac, of the Shelby county sheriff’s department, said they “have been told to be prepared for another round of storms”. Up to 4in (10cm) of rain with higher amounts possible is expected in northern Alabama, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville.

The destruction was part of a broad swath of violent weather sweeping across the deep south. Forecasters had warned of dangerous thunderstorms, flash floods and possible twisters from eastern Mississippi into western Georgia, and northward into Tennessee and Kentucky. Flash flood warnings and watches extended to the western Carolinas.

Mississippi also had a storm-related death on Wednesday. Ester Jarrell, 62, died when a large tree toppled over onto her mobile home after heavy rain soaked the ground, a Wilkinson County official told the Associated Press.

Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, issued an emergency declaration for 46 counties as the severe weather approached, and officials opened shelters in and around Birmingham. Ivey said “significant and dangerous weather continues to impact portions of Alabama”, according to a statement on Twitter.

“Tragically, we are receiving reports of loss of life. Unfortunately the day is not over yet.”

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Hawaii: flooding forces evacuations as officials warn ‘this is climate change’

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Heavy rains triggered flooding on multiple Hawaiian islands this week, destroying homes and bridges and setting off mass evacuations. The downpour, officials and climate scientists say, is an example of the more intense rainstorms that are occurring more frequently as the planet warms.

The rainstorms this week first affected Maui, moved northward up the island chain to Oahu and Kauai, then circled around and hit the southernmost part of the Big Island.

On Oahu, flooding covered roads and yards in towns on the eastern coast. Rising waters in the Opaelua stream, which carries waters from the mountains down to the ocean, set off an evacuation order for the small town of Haleiwa, a mecca for big-wave surfers. Honolulu firefighters rescued a 27-year-old man after his truck was swept down a stream, and suspended the search for an individual a witness saw in a stream in Pearl City.

Meteorologists on Wednesday extended a flash flood watch for the entire state through Friday because of the potential for more rain and because the ground was already saturated.

“This is really an example of climate change in the present day,” Suzanne Case, the head of the department of land and natural resources, said in a statement. “We have a flood emergency because of the heavy rain bomb. And we’re seeing these more and more across the island chain – more frequent and more extreme events.”

The warming climate is affecting rainfall patterns in the state. A 2010 report from the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College Program said rainfall declined 15% over the prior 20 years. Yet the same report found between 1958 and 2007, rain events with the heaviest downpours increased 12%, underscoring that more intense rainstorms are growing in number.

Pao-Shin Chu, a University of Hawaii professor and the state’s climatologist, said theoretical studies suggest that for every one-degree Celsius increase in sea surface temperatures, there is likely to be a 7% increase in atmospheric moisture.

Hawaii is experiencing some of this increased moisture already. In 2018, Kauai set a national record for the amount of rain recorded in a 24-hour period when 49.69in (1.26 meters) fell from 14 April to 15 April. The same storm set off landslides and blocked the only highway connecting small Kauai north shore towns to the rest of the island.

The frequency of intense rains like that one and this week’s are an indication people should be prepared for such events more often, Chu said.

“Don’t think that this is like a once-in-a-hundred-years event that you’ll only see once in your lifetime. It is changing,” Chu said. Less time is lapsing between them, he added. “So it could be once every 30 years. Who knows?”

To better prepare for future disasters, he said it will be important for scientists to understand how weather was interacting with a warming climate to cause so much rain to fall in such a short period.

The Honolulu mayor, Rick Blangiardi, said the city will need to work with state partners to keep waterways clear of debris to help prevent flooding.

“We need to get used to climate events like this,” Blangiardi said. “A tremendous concentration of rain in a small amount of time in focused areas is going to result in flooding anywhere. If we have situations like that, then we need to really approach and attack.”

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Hawaii governor declares emergency after floods and landslides

Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, declared an emergency in the US state after heavy rains brought floods, landslides and fear of dam failures, and authorities ordered the evacuation of several thousand people from communities threatened by rising waters.

The move came after a dam overflowed on the island of Maui, forcing evacuations and destroying homes, with the dam’s “unsatisfactory” condition leading to it being scheduled for removal this year, the land department has said.

“The emergency proclamation makes state general funds available that can be used quickly and efficiently to help those impacted by the severe weather,” Ige said on Tuesday.

Poor weather was expected to run until Friday, he added, and flood advisories stayed in place for a second day.

The emergency declaration covers the counties of Hawai’i, Maui, Kalawao, O’ahu and Kaua’i, the governor’s office said in a statement, while the disaster relief period runs until 8 May.

The Honolulu department of emergency management directed people to leave Haleiwa, a community of a few thousand people, to the north of state capital, Honolulu. About 4,000 have left the area, according to KITV4. Rick Blangiardi, the mayor of Honolulu, warned the flooding near the city was “life-threatening”.

Hawaii News Now reported that two people were swept away in raging waters on Tuesday. One of them, a 27-year-old man, was rescued by authorities. A search for the other would resume on Wednesday, according to the report. There were no other immediate reports of injuries or casualties.

In Maui, heavy rains damaged roads, leaving them impassable, with one bridge completely washed out and another displaced, the governor’s office said.

A mudslide leaves Kamehameha Highway coated near Pokole Point on 9 March. Photograph: Craig T Kojima/AP

State emergency management officials had said the rains led to the cresting of the Kaupakalua dam in the northern region of Haiku, prompting authorities to open evacuation shelters and urge people not to return home. Six homes were heavily damaged or destroyed, said the Maui mayor, Michael Victorino.

The climate crisis is causing changes to Hawaii’s rainfall patterns, according to scientists, with overall levels falling but downpours becoming more extreme when they do arrive. The state is also vulnerable to rising sea levels and more intense storms, which bring flooding and saltwater inundation of freshwater supplies.

“Coastal flooding is a widely recognized threat to low-lying areas,” stated a US federal government climate assessment from 2018. This will pose a “clear threat to communities’ existence” in parts of Hawaii, it added.

Reuters contributed to this report

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