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Citizens In Work Mode After Hurricane Michael Hits Panama City

Even with a clear path out of town, some residents decided to stay and wait for the electricity and water to return.

Johnny Gonzalez saws through a downed tree in Panama City, Fla., some of the destruction left by Hurricane Michael.. VOA

Armed with a chain saw, Panama City resident Johnny Gonzalez was sawing through as many fallen trees as it takes to clear roadways and driveways.

Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction, downing trees and power lines. In the coastal town of Panama City, near where the hurricane made landfall, some residents were still trapped in their homes, surrounded by fallen trees.

Gonzalez knows the feeling of helplessness. He went to a church to seek shelter from the hurricane and thought it was safe, until the hurricane blew the roof off. He is just glad his children are safe.

‘By the grace of God’

“By the grace of God, we made it out of there somehow. I don’t know how we got lucky; they said we had tornadoes hit us. With the winds we couldn’t even tell. I remember hearing a whistling sound like a train was coming, and the roof was just sucked up from the church we were in,” Gonzalez said.

Fallen trees on homes are a common sight in Panama City, Fla., as part of the path of destruction left by Hurricane Michael.

He made it home with his family, but the situation was not good. He called his boss, Lee Nettles, for help. Nettles, the manager of a beach resort community about 80 miles away, heard Gonzalez’s voicemail.

“We got a call from him. Just a voicemail. All we heard is that ‘we were trapped and we need water. Help!’ Amanda said, ‘I’m going to get him,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m going with you.’ And we found him and his wife and his two kids,” Nettles said.

Nettles’ co-worker is Amanda Miles, director of security at the beach resort. Gonzalez is the assistant director.

“When I needed help they come and rescued me. They sacrificed their life for me and now I’m going to sacrifice mine for my town people,” Gonzalez said.

Helping their community

The team of three decided to hit the road and offer help to others in the community who did not evacuate. In many parts of town, there is no power or water. Debris, destroyed buildings, downed trees and power lines were everywhere.

Fallen trees on homes are a common sight in Panama City, Fla., as part of the path of destruction left by Hurricane Michael. VOA

“I don’t care how strong you are, this is tough to witness. Total destruction,” Nettles said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

The team of three first started by going from street to street offering water, “and then on the way, Amanda said, ‘Let’s pick up a chain saw,’ so what the heck, I’ve never used a chain saw until today,” Nettles said.

Even with a clear path out of town, some residents decided to stay and wait for the electricity and water to return. It may be weeks if not months before things get back to normal again, (VOA)

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France Hopes To Revive Efforts To Regulate Internet Cyberspace With ‘Paris Call’

Large U.S. tech companies including Facebook and Alphabet's Google would sign up too.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Paris Peace Forum at the Villette Conference Hall in Paris, France, VOA

France and U.S. technology giants including Microsoft on Monday urged world governments and companies to sign up to a new initiative to regulate the internet and fight threats such as cyberattacks, online censorship and hate speech.

With the launch of a declaration entitled the ‘Paris call for trust and security in cyberspace’, French President Emmanuel Macron is hoping to revive efforts to regulate cyberspace after the last round of United Nations negotiations failed in 2017.

In the document, which is supported by many European countries but, crucially, not China or Russia, the signatories urge governments to beef up protections against cyber meddling in elections and prevent the theft of trade secrets.

Cloudhopper, cyberattacks, internet
Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of the cybersecurity firm FireEye, gestures during a presentation about the APT33 hacking group, which his firm suspects are Iranian government-aligned hackers, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. VOA

The Paris call was initially pushed for by tech companies but was redrafted by French officials to include work done by U.N. experts in recent years.

“The internet is a space currently managed by a technical community of private players. But it’s not governed. So now that half of humanity is online, we need to find new ways to organize the internet,” an official from Macron’s office said.

“Otherwise, the internet as we know it today – free, open and secure– will be damaged by the new threats.”

By launching the initiative a day after a weekend of commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of World War I, Macron hopes to promote his push for stronger global cooperation in the face of rising nationalism.

Cloudhopper, cyberattacks, internet
The picture shows a warning sign for “cyber threats ahead”.

In another sign of the Trump administration’s reluctance to join international initiatives it sees as a bid to encroach on U.S. sovereignty, French officials said Washington might not become a signatory, though talks are continuing.

However, they said large U.S. tech companies including Facebook and Alphabet’s Google would sign up.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

“The American ecosystem is very involved. It doesn’t mean that in the end the U.S. federal government won’t join us, talks are continuing, but the U.S. will be involved under other forms,” another French official said. (VOA)