At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South

Family and neighbors look through debris on Ed Whestine’s farm southwest of Wellman, Iowa on Saturday, April 1, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 02 April 2023
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At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South

  • Debris and memories of regular life lay scattered inside the shells of homes and on lawns: clothing, insulation, roofing paper, toys, splintered furniture, a pickup truck with its windows shattered

WYNNE, Arkansas: Storms that dropped possibly dozens of tornadoes killed at least 26 people in small towns and big cities across the South and Midwest, tearing a path through the Arkansas capital, collapsing the roof of a packed concert venue in Illinois and stunning people throughout the region Saturday with the damage’s scope.
Confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states destroyed homes and businesses, splintered trees and laid waste to neighborhoods across a broad swath of the country. The dead included at least nine in one Tennessee county, four in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, three in Sullivan, Indiana, and four in Illinois.
Other deaths from the storms that hit Friday night into Saturday were reported in Alabama and Mississippi, along with one near Little Rock, Arkansas, where city officials said more than 2,600 buildings were in a tornado’s path.
Residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke Saturday to find the high school’s roof shredded and its windows blown out. Huge trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to nubs. Broken walls, windows and roofs pocked homes and businesses.
Debris lay scattered inside the shells of homes and on lawns: clothing, insulation, toys, splintered furniture, a pickup truck with its windows shattered.
Ashley Macmillan said she, her husband and their children huddled with their dogs in a small bathroom as a tornado passed, “praying and saying goodbye to each other, because we thought we were dead.” A falling tree seriously damaged their home, but they were unhurt.
“We could feel the house shaking, we could hear loud noises, dishes rattling. And then it just got calm,” she said.
Recovery was already underway, with workers using chainsaws and bulldozers to clear the area and utility crews restoring power.
Nine people died in Tennessee’s McNairy County, east of Memphis, according to Patrick Sheehan, director the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
“The majority of the damage has been done to homes and residential areas,” said David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville.
Gov. Bill Lee drove to the county Saturday to tour the destruction and comfort residents. He said the storm capped the “worst” week of his time as governor, coming days after a school shooting in Nashville that killed six people including a family friend whose funeral he and his wife, Maria, attended earlier in the day.
“It’s terrible what has happened in this community, this county, this state,” Lee said. “But it looks like your community has done what Tennessean communities do, and that is rally and respond.”
Jeffrey Day said he called his daughter after seeing on the news that their community of Adamsville was being hit. Huddled in a closet with her 2-year-old son as the storm passed over, she answered the phone screaming.
“She kept asking me, ‘What do I do, daddy?’” Day said, tearing up. “I didn’t know what to say.”
After the storm passed, his daughter crawled out of her destroyed home and over barbed wire and drove to nearby family. On Saturday evening, baby clothes were still strewn about the site.
In Memphis, police spokesman Christopher Williams said via email late Saturday that there were three deaths believed to be weather-related: two children and an adult who died when a tree fell on a house.
Tennessee officials warned that the same weather conditions from Friday night are expected to return Tuesday.
In Belvidere, Illinois, part of the roof of the Apollo Theatre collapsed as about 260 people were attending a heavy metal concert. A 50-year-old man was pulled from the rubble.
“I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him), ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do,” concertgoer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO-TV.
The man was dead by the time emergency workers arrived. Officials said 40 others were hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries.
Crews cleaned up around the Apollo on Saturday, with forklifts pulling away loose bricks. Business owners picked up glass shards and covered shattered windows.
In Crawford County, Illinois, three people were killed and eight injured when a tornado hit around New Hebron, said Bill Burke, the county board chair.
Sheriff Bill Rutan said 60 to 100 families were displaced.
“We’ve had emergency crews digging people out of their basements because the house is collapsed on top of them, but luckily they had that safe space to go to,” Rutan said at a news conference.
That tornado was not far from where three people died in Indiana’s Sullivan County, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Indianapolis.
Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb said at a news conference that an area south of the county seat of about 4,000 “is essentially unrecognizable right now” and several people were rescued overnight. There were reports of as many as 12 people injured, he said.
“I’m really, really shocked there isn’t more as far as human issues,” he said, adding that recovery “is going to be a very long process.”
In the Little Rock area, at least one person was killed and more than 50 were hurt, some critically.
The National Weather Service said that tornado was a high-end EF3 twister with wind speeds up to 165 mph (265 kph) and a path as long as 25 miles (40 kilometers).
Masoud Shahed-Ghaznavi was lunching at home when it roared through his neighborhood, causing him to hide in the laundry room as sheetrock fell and windows shattered. When he emerged, the house was mostly rubble.
“Everything around me is sky,” Shahed-Ghaznavi recalled Saturday. He barely slept Friday night.
“When I closed my eyes, I couldn’t sleep, imagined I was here,” he said Saturday outside his home.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. On Saturday, Sanders requested a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden to support recovery efforts with federal resources.
Another suspected tornado killed a woman in northern Alabama’s Madison County, officials said, and in northern Mississippi’s Pontotoc County, authorities confirmed one death and four injuries.
Tornadoes also caused damage in eastern Iowa and broke windows northeast of Peoria, Illinois.
The storms struck just hours after Biden visited Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where tornadoes last week destroyed parts of town.
It could take days to determine the exact number of tornadoes from the latest event, said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the Storm Prediction Center. There were also hundreds of reports of large hail and damaging winds, he said.
“That’s a quite active day,” he said. “But that’s not unprecedented.”
More than 530,000 homes and businesses were without power as of midday Saturday, over 200,000 of them in Ohio, according to PowerOutage.us.
The sprawling storm system also brought wildfires to the southern Plains, with authorities in Oklahoma reporting nearly 100 of them Friday. At least 32 people were said to be injured, and more than 40 homes destroyed.
The storms also caused blizzard conditions in the Upper Midwest.
A threat of tornadoes and hail remained for the Northeast including in parts of Pennsylvania and New York.


Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Updated 3 sec ago
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Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

The man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland

GENEVA: Swiss prosecutors said Saturday they were investigating a Russian diplomat and suspected agent alongside two others reported to have tried to procure weapons and other potentially dangerous material.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had been conducting an investigation into the two accused people without diplomatic immunity, suspected of violating laws including Switzerland’s War Material Act and Embargo Act.
It confirmed to AFP that its request to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) for authorization to also look into the third man in the case had been granted.
“A national arrest warrant” had been issued, it said.
The Tages-Anzeiger daily reported that the man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence.
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland, the paper said.
After the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the man’s diplomatic immunity was lifted when he left the country, and following searches of “several houses,” “the FDJP has now granted ... authorization to prosecute,” the OAG said.
It added that the accused enjoyed the presumption of innocence.
The case comes amid concern over swelling numbers of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Swiss lawmakers in May demanded that the government take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country — a center of international activity considered a hub for espionage.
That came after Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.
FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested then that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives.

Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago
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Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

  • Man punched in head multiple times as group of officers stage arrest
  • Ex-Labour Party staffer condemns ‘level of violence’ seen in footage

LONDON: A video has surfaced online appearing to show a pro-Palestine campaigner being violently arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police.

The clip, which was met with angered reaction across social media, follows a series of policing controversies in the UK capital amid weekly pro-Palestine rallies.

In the video, a man is seen protesting his arrest as he stands next to a convertible bearing a large Palestinian flag and a sign saying: “Free Palestine. Stop Gaza genocide.”

A group of officers drag the man to the ground, punching him in the head as he shouts: “I haven’t done nothing. I haven’t done nothing.”

The clip was filmed in the borough of Tower Hamlets, home to a large Muslim community.

Halima Khan, a former Labour Party staffer who ran as a parliamentary candidate in the UK general election last week, condemned the violence seen in the footage.

“The level of violence by the hands of the London Metropolitan Police in East London, for just waving the flag of Palestine. Are we Britain or are we Israel,” she wrote on X.

Other users responded to Khan’s post, criticizing the Met officers for their conduct. One said: “I am tired of answering that question. Is our police force trained in Israel? The Itamar Ben-Gvir school of policing.”

Another said: “There should be charges against that officer — you can clearly see his rage. That man didn’t do anything.”

The officer in question, who is seen in the clip throwing multiple punches at the activist’s head, was accused by another X user of wanting to cause “maximum damage” as part of a “premeditated” attack.

The Met Police, in an online statement, denied that the man was arrested for having a Palestinian flag.

Superintendent Brittany Clarke said: “We’re aware of the video and commentary online following an incident that took place in Whitechapel Road ... A PCSO (police community support officer) requested urgent assistance from officer colleagues. A man was arrested for assault on police and is in custody at this time.”

Clarke added that the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards is reviewing the footage and body-worn camera videos from the officers involved.

“I can assure local people that we are understanding of their concerns and that we will be working to establish the circumstances,” she said.

The controversy is the latest to beset the Met Police, after the force was accused of using heavy-handed tactics to clamp down on the weekly pro-Palestine rallies that have taken place in London since last October.


Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

Updated 14 min 27 sec ago
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Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

  • District official Khimananda Bhusal said: “It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way“
  • Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river

BHARATPUR, Nepal: Nepali rescue teams on Saturday recovered the first body from around 50 people missing after monsoon rains triggered a landslide that swept two buses off a highway and into a river.
The force of Friday’s landslide in central Chitwan district pushed the vehicles over concrete crash barriers and down a steep embankment, at least 30 meters (100 feet) from the road.
“One body has been found about 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the accident site,” police spokesman Kumar Neupane told AFP.
District official Khimananda Bhusal told AFP that roughly 50 people remained unaccounted for, revising down the number of missing from the 63 reported by authorities on Friday.
“It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way,” he said.
Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river with rafts, sensor equipment and dive teams to find any trace of the passengers or the vehicles.
Teams on Saturday also moved downstream in hope of locating the missing passengers.
Fierce currents made worse by this week’s torrential downpours have hampered their efforts so far.
Chitwan district chief Indra Dev Yadav said that all authorities in the area have been instructed to stay on alert for any signs of the missing.
“The river is narrow here and very deep,” he told AFP. “The water level is high, its speed is high and its turbidity is also high.”
The accident happened before dawn on Friday along the Narayanghat-Mugling highway, around 100 kilometers west of Katmandu.
One bus was heading from the capital to Gaur in Rautahat district in southern Nepal, and the other was en route to Katmandu from southern Birgunj.
A driver was killed in a separate accident on the same road after a boulder hit his bus. He died as he was being treated at a hospital.
Deadly crashes are common in the Himalayan republic because of poorly constructed roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
Nearly 2,400 people lost their lives on Nepal’s roads in the 12 months to April, according to government figures.
Twelve people were killed and 24 injured in an accident in January when a bus heading to Katmandu from Nepalgunj fell into a river.
Road travel becomes deadlier during the annual monsoon season as rains trigger landslides and floods across the mountainous country.
Monsoon rains across South Asia from June to September offer respite from the summer heat and are crucial to replenishing water supplies, but also bring widespread death and destruction.
The rainfall is hard to forecast and varies considerably, but scientists say climate change is making the monsoon stronger and more erratic.
Floods, landslides and lightning strikes have killed 88 people across the country since the monsoon began in June, according to police figures.


Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

Updated 33 min 25 sec ago
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Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

  • Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region
  • In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District was set ablaze on Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack

KYIV: Russian shelling of Ukraine’s Kherson region killed two people, local officials said, as the two countries exchanged drone attacks overnight into Saturday.
Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region.
In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District, deep inside the region, was set ablaze in the early hours of Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack — the latest long-range strike by Kyiv’s forces on a border region.
Ukraine has in recent months stepped up aerial assaults on Russian soil, targeting refineries and oil terminals in an effort to slow down the Kremlin’s war machine. Moscow’s army is pressing hard along the front line in eastern Ukraine, where a shortage of troops and ammunition in the third year of war has made defenders vulnerable.
Rostov regional Gov. Vasily Golubev said the drone attack had caused a fire spanning 200 square meters (2,100 square feet), but there were no casualties. Some five hours after he reported the fire on Telegram, Golubev said the fire had been extinguished.
In addition to two drones being intercepted over the Rostov region, Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed two drones over the country’s western Kursk and Belgorod regions, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Saturday.
Ukraine’s air defenses, meanwhile, intercepted four of the five drones launched by Russia overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said Saturday morning. Mykola Oleschuk, commander of Ukraine’s Air Forces, said the fifth drone left Ukrainian airspace in the direction of Belarus.
In other developments, Vadym Filashkin, the Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied eastern Donetsk region, said Saturday that Russian attacks on Friday had killed six people and wounded a further 22.


‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

Updated 54 min 26 sec ago
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‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

  • “We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters

SHANNON, Ireland: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his UScounterpart Joe Biden accidentally referring to him as Russian President Vladimir Putin was a mistake that could be forgotten about given all the support the US has provided to Ukraine.
Biden mistakenly referred to Zelensky as Putin at a NATO summit in Washington on Thursday before correcting himself two seconds later.
“It’s a mistake. I think United States gave a lot of support for Ukrainians. We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters on Saturday at Ireland’s Shannon airport where he was meeting Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris.