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Parents say Austrian climber missing in Banff National Park ‘lived his dream’

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  • BERLIN — The parents of celebrated Austrian climber David Lama said Friday that he had “lived his dream,” as hopes he and two other top climbers survived an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies faded.

    Lama, fellow Austrian Hansjorg Auer and American climber Jess Roskelley have been missing in Alberta’s Banff National Park since Wednesday. Their sponsor, outdoor apparel company The North Face, said the three members of its Global Athlete Team are presumed dead following an avalanche.

    “David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family,” Claudia and Rinzi Lama said in a statement posted on their son’s website. “He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.”

    The family expressed gratitude for the support it received “from near and far” and asked that their son be remembered “for his zest for life, his enthusiasm.”

    Earlier, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Lama and Auer had “shaped the international climbing and alpinist scene in recent years with many achievements.”

    Lama, 28, was feted for achieving the first free ascent in 2012 of the Compressor Route of the Cerro Torre, one of the most striking peaks in the Andes. The feat was captured in the 2013 documentary “Cerro Torre – A Snowball’s Chance in Hell.”

    The son of a Nepalese mountain guide and an Austrian nurse, Lama had also won numerous climbing competitions in his younger years before devoting himself full-time to mountaineering in 2011.

    Auer, 35, became the first person to free solo climb Italy’s Marmolada peak via the south face in 2007.

    Parks Canada said the three men were attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak on the Icefields Parkway on Wednesday.

    Officials said safety specialists immediately responded by air and observed signs of multiple avalanches and debris containing climbing equipment.

    Roskelley climbed Mount Everest in 2003 at age 20. At the time he was the youngest American to climb the world’s highest peak.

    His father, John Roskelley, told The Spokesman-Review that the route his son and the other climbers were attempting was first done in 2000.

    In the 2013 documentary, Lama addressed the constant peril extreme climbers are exposed to, insisting that the risks were carefully calculated — more like a game of poker than Russian roulette.

    “I think it’s important to be aware of the risks, but in the end there will always be things that are out of our hands,” he said.

    Frank Jordans, The Associated Press

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    Canada-China relations hit ‘rock bottom’ and at ‘freezing point’: Chinese envoy

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  • OTTAWA — China’s ambassador to Canada says the bilateral relationship is now at “rock bottom” compared to any time since diplomatic ties were first established decades ago.

    In prepared text for a speech Thursday, Lu Shaye said he’s saddened Canada-China relations are at what he called a “freezing point.”

    Lu’s remarks come at a time of heightened tensions following the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request by the United States.

    The Huawei executive’s arrest has enraged China, which has since detained two Canadians on allegations of endangering Chinese national security, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments.

    Lu did not mention Meng’s arrest — but he said the China-Canada relationship is now facing serious difficulties.

    He said China has long valued its relationship with Canada, particularly since it was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Asian country.

    “For clear reasons, the current China-Canada relations are facing serious difficulties and are situated at the rock bottom since the two countries have established diplomatic relations,” said a copy of Lu’s speech, which was posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website.

    “It saddens us that the current China-Canada relations are ‘at a freezing point’ and face huge difficulties. The knots shall be untied by those who got them tied.”

    He continued by urging Canada to view China’s development in a “fair and objective” manner and to respect its concerns. Lu also warned Canada to “stop the moves that undermine the interests of China.”

    In recent months, Beijing’s envoy has used strong words when talking about the relationship. In January, he told Canadian journalists that Meng’s arrest was the “backstabbing” of a friend and said it was evidence of white supremacism.

    Lu also warned of repercussions if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a Canadian 5G wireless network.

    He made the remarks in Toronto at an event hosted by the Globe and Mail. The document said former prime minister Jean Chretien was in attendance as was Darryl White, chief executive of BMO.

    The Canadian Press

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    Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster

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  • HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.

    Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.

    However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.

    And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.

    The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.

    “What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.

    Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.

    “People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.

    “For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”

    The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.

    The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.

    Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.

    More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.

    The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.

    Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.

    The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.

    In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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