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Daily News - Friday, 02 November 2007

DR1 breaks for Constitution holiday
DR1 Daily News will not be updated on Monday, 5 November as the day commemorates Constitution Day. Constitution Day falls on Tuesday, 6 November but is celebrated on the previous Monday. Weather forecasts are for sunny days over the long weekend, which is excellent news for the thousands that were booked for resorts around the country and will be headed to beach and mountain resort areas. The DR1 Forums remain open 24/7 for any breaking news and commentaries.
See www.dr1.com/forums

Leonel's promises
President Leonel Fernandez has warned that the increased cost of petroleum and the damage caused by Noel could combine to create a serious situation for the DR. He said that the government is finalizing a plan of action to deal with these issues. Fernandez was on a tour of affected areas in Barahona yesterday and promised that everyone who lost their homes in Tropical Storm Noel would have what he called "dignified homes" built for them. Fernandez that some people's homes would be repaired while others would have their houses replaced. Fernandez said that, "we can't repeat the mistakes of putting people in barracks, letting time pass and leaving them there." During his visit to the southwestern region, one of the most affected areas, Fernandez asked God to help resolve the problems caused by Noel.

Government creates fund
Treasury Minister Vicente Bengoa says that the government has a RD$1 billion fund at its disposal to tackle the problems caused by Hurricane Noel.
In mid-September this year, the government approved a supplement to the National Budget, authorizing RD$2 billion for a fund for national disasters. The funds were set aside from a surplus in tax revenues generated by the tax reform that was implemented in January 2007 and gave the government a windfall of resources.
Bengoa said that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has donated US$200,000 and has opened a US$20 million line of credit for the DR. These funds will be used immediately. Bengoa said that another mission would be visiting the country to assess the possibility of disbursing additional funds. Bengoa added that the country is in a state of emergency and that a set of bills to secure the funds will be sent to Congress.
On Wednesday, President Leonel Fernandez gave the green light to centralized and decentralized government departments to make purchases over US$200 million without fulfilling tender requirements. A clause within the procurement law effectively allows the government to shed tender requirements in the case of national disasters. The facility will remain in effect for 30 days, according to Decree 627-07, issued yesterday.

US$2,500 cap on Xmas imports
In the wake of Tropical Storm Noel, the Customs Department (DGA) moved up to 1 November the start of the annual Christmas time tax exemption for returning Dominicans to bring gifts for their families and friends. The measure will be effective from 1 November 2007 through 7 January 2008 and this time around applies to all expatriates who visit, regardless of the date of their previous visit. In previous years, the cap was set at US$1,500 on condition of not having visited in the past six months. The DGA made the announcement so that relatives and friends could help restock the appliances in homes that had been flooded.

International help arrives
The first relief airplane has arrived in the DR. A Panamanian Red Cross plane landed in the DR yesterday carrying 100,000 pounds of supplies to help the victims of TS Noel. The shipment has a total value of US$150,000 and consists of cooking tools, disposable diapers, powdered milk, meats, medicines, mattresses, mosquito nets and blankets. Caritas Espanola has donated EUR500,000 towards the relief efforts in Santo Domingo, Peravia and Barahona. Japan promised US$112,300 in water purifiers and mattresses, as well as other items. Diario Libre is also reporting that the French embassy launched 7,000 food rations from two small planes in Monte Plata, Santo Domingo and Bayaguana. This was done as a joint effort between Carrefour, the UN and Civil Aviation. Aid from US states Florida, New York, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia is being coordinated along with aid from Puerto Rico, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Agro Action Germany has allocated US$50,000 towards helping the DR and Haiti.

Venezuelan engineers arrive tomorrow
Venezuelan ambassador Francisco Belisario Landis said that five Venezuelan engineers, with experience in road and bridge building would be arriving in the DR tomorrow to help Dominican authorities in repair efforts. The ambassador said that the engineers would assess the situation with officials from the Ministry of Public Works. The officials were expected to arrive today but weather concerns delayed their plans.

Unions help efforts
Adding to the relief efforts, four of the nation's transport unions, Conatra, Mochatran, CNTU and Fenatrado, made their way to the Presidential Palace to meet with President Leonel Fernandez and offered logistical support in the shape of 5,000 trucks and 100,000 cars and minibuses to help those in need.

Fuel supplies
Industry and Commerce Minister Melanio Paredes has guaranteed that there are enough propane and diesel fuel stocks for the next fifteen days, even though Noel has damaged installations at the Dominican refinery in Nizao. Paredes explained that there is a tank containing 120,000 barrels of regular diesel and 50,000 barrels of premium diesel and 12 million barrels of liquid gas. He said this should be enough for businesses and transport. Paredes did warn however that it might be impossible to process crude oil in the next few days, and this will need to be imported. Paredes also said that a helicopter has been hired to fly around and determine if there is damage to fuel pipelines. Paredes also said that four ships carrying fuel would be arriving in the DR between 4 and 28 November.

Food costs more; water shortage
As a result of crop damage, the prices of some basic food products have increased. Diario Libre reports that in some cases the price of cassava or plantains is up by about 30%. Supermarkets did not advertise their usual midweek fresh fruit and vegetables specials as delivery trucks have only just begun to arrive from the least affected areas.
Agriculture Minister Salvador Jimenez said that imports of the main food items will not be necessary because there are large areas of the country where rain damage was minimal. He mentioned that while the storm ruined 200,000 tareas of plantains in Barahona, the plantations in the Cibao would be able to supply the market. He also assured that there were sufficient stocks of potato, cassava and sweet potato. He urged speculators not to take advantage of the situation, as reported in Hoy.
Tankered and potable water is also in short supply and the Santo Domingo water authority (CAASD) says that it hopes to correct the problem in the next 24 to 36 hours.

Phone service is back
Phone services are bank in all parts of the DR, according to Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) head Jose Rafael Vargas. Vargas said that service was restored to the southern provinces, which were among the regions worst affected by Noel. Vargas said that the leading telecommunications company Codetel had erected a temporary phone tower, since the one in Barahona was brought down by the storm.

UASD closed until Tuesday
The state university UASD will remain closed until Tuesday. Hoy writes that in cooperation with the Center for Emergency Operations, the UASD is one of nine universities whose students and professors from around the country will help in relief efforts in the aftermath of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Noel. The universities will help in the areas of infrastructure construction, psychological and medical help. Officials said they would begin immunization programs, especially in rural areas. The UASD is also using some of its facilities for relief purposes and has donated 13,000 food rations.

Death toll rises
The total number of deaths as a result of TS Noel has now risen to 73, while 43 people are reported missing and 62 communities are still cut off. In all 64,096 people have been evacuated from their homes, while 16,024 homes have been affected and of those 686 have been completely destroyed. Of those who have sought temporary shelter elsewhere, 41,388 are with friends or relatives and 22,758 are staying in 121 government shelters.
And due to the storm, 35 rivers and roads have been affected by Noel. Center for Emergency Operations director Juan Manuel Mendez said that four more foreign helicopters would be arriving in the DR today for relief operations, in addition to the four that arrived yesterday.

DR Volleyball takes on world challenge
The Dominican women's volleyball team is in Japan competing for one of three slots to participate in the Beijing Olympics open to 12 teams taking part in the FIVB Volley World Cup 2007 under way in the capital, Tokyo. The Dominican team played in the opening match against Japan. The Asian champions Japan delighted a packed house by defeating the DR team 3-0. The match numbers show it was not an easy win. The results were 25-23, 25-18, 25-20. The DR has yet to go against Italy, on 3 November and Thailand on 4 November. Other teams in Group A are Korea and Serbia. In Group B, teams are Cuba, Kenya, Brazil, Peru, Poland and the USA.
In a press conference in Tokyo, team coach Beato Cruz told FIVB:
"Our team is supposed to be quite well balanced with a mixture of experienced and young players, but there is more youth than experience. From the head coach's point of view I think we can perform well. This is the second time for us to play in the World Cup. The last time we were 10th and our goal this time is to make a better finish, meaning ninth or higher. I think we can win three or four matches. Our first match will be against Japan, which will be very difficult. This will be the third game between the two teams recently; we lost the first time in five sets and the second time 3-0, so now we are looking forward to this third meeting. Japan has good speed, a good attack and combinations, so it will be a great challenge for us. As always, though, we will be positive."
The DR competed in the Athens Olympics where it made history defeating the USA team.

DR Jazz Festival
Puerto Plata and Santiago are hosting the Dominican Republic Jazz Festival this long weekend in its 8th edition. From 2-4 November 2007, the event will take place in Santiago and Cabarete venues. On Friday, 2 November, there will be a performance b y Prodigio (Dom Rep), Irakere with Chucho Valdez and nine musicians (Cuba) at the Gran Teatro del Cibao in Santiago. Tickets RD$500/$350.
On Saturday, 3 November, Ambar Jazz Group (Dom Rep), Michelle Marie (USA), Eddie Gomez Trio, Daduka de Fonseca and Stefan Karlsson (PR, USA, Brazil) will be at Cabarete Beach in Puerto Plata, with a free performance at 8pm.
And on Sunday, 4 November, Grupo Maniel (RD), and Efrain Toro, Eric Figueroa, Ramon Vazquez and Richie Flores (PR and Cuba) and John Benitez will close the festival with a free performance at 8 pm at Cabarete Beach.
For more on events, see http://www.dr1.com/calendar
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