How Latin America’s anti-Zionist Jews are standing against Israel’s war in Palestine

In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community, Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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How Latin America’s anti-Zionist Jews are standing against Israel’s war in Palestine

  • Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina have the largest Jewish populations in Latin America
  • Israel’s heavy-handed tactics have severely divided Latin America’s Jewish community

SAO PAULO: The war in Gaza has generated unprecedented reactions in Latin America, with the consolidation of broad pro-Palestine coalitions.

As part of such movements, countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Mexico have seen the emergence of anti-Zionist Jewish groups, formed by activists who reject their Zionist upbringing.

In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community — estimated at 200,000 at least — Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict.




In Argentina, the Latin American country with the largest Jewish community, Judies X Palestina (Jews for Palestine) has been active since 2021 but gained momentum during the current conflict. (Supplied)

“There are few anti-Zionist voices in Argentina. Most journalists who used to criticize Israel have been silenced by the Zionist lobby in the media,” group member Ivan Zeta told Arab News, adding that the power of Zionist institutions is high in Argentina so many pro-Palestine Jews are obliged to use aliases to avoid persecution, as he has done.

“The current government (led by right-wing President Javier Milei) is totally aligned with Israel.”

Although he was born and raised as a Roman Catholic, Milei has been studying the Torah, and declared on several occasions his intention to convert to Judaism. His first international trip as Argentina’s president was to Israel.




Argentina's President Javier Milei (R) embraces Israel's President Isaac Herzog during a tour around Kibbutz Nir Oz — one the places targeted by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip during the October 7, 2023 attacks — in southern Israel on February 8, 2024. (AFP)

Zeta said the 2001 economic crisis led many Argentinian Jews to move to Israel. That process further strengthened ties between Argentina’s Jewish community and Israel.

“We know people who used to criticize Israel’s stance on the Palestinians, but due to the fact that they have relatives there, they feared for their families on Oct. 7 (when Hamas attacked Israel) and have partially accepted the idea that Israelis are the victims now,” said Zeta, who has family members who live in Israel.

A distant cousin of his is among the Israelis kidnapped by Hamas.

“That doesn’t affect me in a direct way because I don’t know her, but part of my family supports a stronger Israeli offensive against Gazans because of her kidnap, and I had conflicts with them,” Zeta said.

INNUMBERS

• 60,000 Jews living in Mexico.

• 200,000+ Jews living in Argentina.

• 120,000+ Jews living in Brazil.

Family quarrels are common for most members of Judies X Palestina. Some of them even had to cut ties with all their relatives after taking a pro-Palestinian stance.

Their colleagues try to help them and give them psychological support, Zeta said, adding that verbal abuse is common on social media as well.




Demonstrators take part in a rally in support for the Palestinian people in front of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, on October 9, 2023, after Israel imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The group — formed by more than 50 activists, mostly from Buenos Aires — has been enthusiastically welcomed by other pro-Palestine movements, most of them composed of people of Arab descent and left-wingers.

“They’re grateful for our presence. With us there, marching side by side with them, there are less accusations of antisemitism against them,” Zeta said.

In Brazil, a group called Vozes Judaicas por Libertacao (Jewish Voices for Liberation), formed in 2014, has been galvanized since the start of the current conflict.




Protesters carry posters from Coletivo Vozes Judaicas pela Libertação at the last pro-Palestine event in São Paulo, Brazil. (X: @ajuliaarara)

“Those initial members met again during pro-Palestine marches at the end of 2023. We’re now well-organized, with weekly meetings and several activities,” member Daniela Fajer told Arab News.

About 30 Brazilian Jews are directly involved in the network, mostly in Sao Paulo. In Rio de Janeiro, there is another anti-Zionist Jewish movement.

“Since we released a statement in defense of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (who was condemned by Zionists after he criticized Israel’s military operations and compared the mass killing of Palestinians to the Holocaust), more and more people have been interested in joining us,” Fajer said.




Palestinians check the destruction in the aftermath of an Israeli strike the previous night in the Jabalia camp for Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, on November 1, 2023. (AFP/File)

Vozes Judaicas is part of Sao Paulo’s Front in Defense of the Palestinian People, and helps the committee organize pro-Palestine marches and public activities.

“Most members had a Zionist education and visited Israel during school. Most had to break up with Zionist relatives. I only talk to half of my family nowadays,” she told Arab News.

Some activists worked as teachers in Jewish schools and lost their jobs due to their criticism of Israel.

The Jewish community has been continuously attacking the group on social media. “They insult us and call us traitors. It’s like we can’t be Jews and anti-Zionist,” Fajer said.




Activists calling for a "Free Palestine" demonstrate in Cali, Colombia, on October 13, 2023, in support of Palestinians amid Israeli air strikes on Gaza in reprisal for a surprise Hamas attack on October 7, 2023. (AFP)

Brazilian journalist Breno Altman knows well how strong Zionist pressure can be. The son of a leftwing anti-Zionist, he saw when his late father’s car was set on fire in 1982 during a protest against the Sabra and Shatila massacres of Palestinian refugees.

“My father was leading a demonstration when that attack happened. The criminals were never identified, but we suspected they were far-right Zionists,” Altman told Arab News.

Since October, he has been continuously denouncing Israel’s atrocities in Gaza. The website he founded years ago, Opera Mundi, is hosted by a major Brazilian news portal and disseminates critical views about the Israeli operation — something that the South American country’s press generally fails to do.


READ MORE:

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Are Latin American countries forming a pro-Palestinian bloc?

How Latin America’s Indigenous groups are showing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza


Altman has been subjected to a hate campaign, and is being sued by a Jewish institution in Brazil for his comments. He has also received threats on social media, including death threats.

“I filed a police report about a threat discovered by a news website. They said they wanted to cut off my fingers and break my teeth,” Altman said.




Journalist Breno Altman (4th from right) is pictured with members of the Articulação Judaica de Esquerda  (Jewish Left Articulation) during an event on April 6 at the Sarau Palestine in Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The event also featured the participation of congresswoman Jandira Feghali. (X: @AJEOficial)

Nevertheless, he thinks that more and more people, including Jews, are aware of the “genocide perpetrated in Gaza and of the problems of Zionism.”

He added: “The groups of anti-Zionist Jews are still a minority, but they’ve been able to successfully express their dissenting stances on social media.”

Altman recently published a book called “Contra o Sionismo: Retrato de uma Doutrina Colonial e Racista” (“Against Zionism: A Portrait of a Colonial and Racist Doctrine”), and has been traveling to launch it in a number of cities.

“Many students are attending the events. Some Jews told me things like, ‘I used to be a Zionist, but I changed my mind after seeing your comments,’” he said.




Demonstrators carry the Venezuelan and Palestinian flags during a rally in support of Palestinians in Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela, on October 13, 2023. (AFP)

In Mexico, where around 60,000 Jews live, the Zionist movement is not as strong as it is in Brazil and Argentina, Enrique Rajchenberg, a member of Jews for Palestine in Mexico, told Arab News. Nonetheless, he said, he and his colleagues face insults and threats.

Many anti-Zionist Jews are part of pro-Palestine collectives in Mexican universities, and academic movements have been very active in promoting marches, conferences and cultural activities, Rajchenberg said, adding: “We organize talks with students and labor unions.”

Jews for Palestine demands that all university presidents in the country cut ties with academic institutions in Israel




Mexican citizens take part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City on October 12, 2023, to show their support to Palestinians and against Israel's military operations in Gaza. (AFP)

The group is also asking Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and other progressive counterparts in Latin America, to cancel any military collaboration with Israel.

“Lopez Obrador is among the Latin American progressive leaders with the weakest stances on the genocide in Gaza,” Rajchenberg said.

“Mexico has strong economic ties with the US, and strong condemnation of Israel would certainly create problems for him.”

The new Jewish anti-Zionist movements in Latin America have been seeking and establishing connections with each other and with similar groups worldwide. “Our goal now is to create a Latin American network of anti-Zionist organizations,” Zeta said.
 

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Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country

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Doctors treat hundreds of victims of heatstroke in Pakistan after heatwave hits the country

  • People started arriving at hospitals on Wednesday after a heatwave began
  • Authorities on Thursday urged people to stay indoors, stay hydrated and avoid travel
ISLAMABAD: Doctors treated hundreds of victims of heatstroke at hospitals across Pakistan on Thursday after an intense heatwave sent temperatures above normal levels due to climate change, officials said.
Temperatures soared as high as 49 degrees Celsius the previous day in Mohenjo Daro. The city, known for its archaeological sites, is in southern Sindh province, which was badly hit by climate-induced monsoon rains and devastating floods in 2022. The heatwave is forecast to continue for at least a week.
Authorities have urged people to stay indoors, hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel. But laborers say they don’t have a choice because they need to work to feed their families.
“Pakistan is the fifth most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change. We have witnessed above normal rains, floods,” Rubina Khursheed Alam, the prime minister’s coordinator on climate, said at a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.
Doctors say they treated hundreds of patients in the eastern city of Lahore, while scores of people were brought to hospitals in Hyderabad, Larkana and Jacobabad districts in the southern Sindh province.
“The situation has been getting worse since yesterday, when people affected by heat started coming to hospitals in the Punjab province,” said Ghulam Farid, a senior health official. Pakistan has set up emergency response centers at hospitals to treat patients affected by the heat.
The state-run ambulance service is now carrying bottled water and ice to provide emergency treatment to victims of the heat, health officials said.
Heatstroke is a serious illness that occurs when one’s body temperature rises too quickly, potentially causing some to fall unconscious. Severe heatstroke can cause disability or death.
This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall. Last month’s heavy rains killed scores of people while destroyed property and farmland.
Daytime temperatures are soaring 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) above May’s temperatures, raising fears of flooding in the northwest because of glacial melting.
The 2022 floods caused extensive damage in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces, as 1,739 people were killed across the country.
Currently, Pakistan’s southwest and northwestern areas are also experiencing the heatwave.
Authorities have shut schools for a week in Punjab. In the city of Lahore people were seen swimming in the roadside canals. Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters.
Alam said recent erratic changes in weather patterns were the result of man-made climate change.

France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay

Updated 23 May 2024
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France arrests person planning ‘violent action’ during Olympic torch relay

PARIS: French law enforcement officers arrested someone who was planning a violent action during the Paris 2024 Olympic torch relay in Bordeaux, the Interior ministry said on Thursday.
“Thanks to the police officers and, more broadly, to all the Ministry’s agents who are providing security for this popular celebration with remarkable professionalism and commitment,” Interior minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X.
The torch relay started in the morning and is scheduled to end around 1930 local time (1730GMT). The Olympics will be held from July 26-Aug 11.


Bosnian Serb leader reiterates threat to secede from Bosnia ahead of UN vote on genocide

Updated 23 May 2024
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Bosnian Serb leader reiterates threat to secede from Bosnia ahead of UN vote on genocide

  • The proposed UN resolution sponsored by Germany and Rwanda has been supported by the Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim

SREBRENICA: The leader of Bosnia’s Serb-controlled territory reiterated a threat to secede from the Balkan country Wednesday, a day ahead of a UN vote on establishing an annual day to commemorate the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.
Relatives of the victims, meanwhile, said that the vote would mark a historic day in ensuring that the deaths cannot be denied or forgotten.
The proposed UN resolution sponsored by Germany and Rwanda has been supported by the Bosniaks, who are mostly Muslim, but has sparked protests and a lobbying campaign against the measure by the Bosnian Serb president, Milorad Dodik, and the populist president of neighboring Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic.
The two leaders say the resolution would brand all Serbs as genocidal, although the draft does not explicitly mention Serbs as culprits. Both Serbia and Bosnian Serbs have denied that genocide happened in Srebrenica although this has been established by two UN courts.
For the women who lost their loved ones in the massacre, any denial of the scope of the crime has meant more grief. This is why the UN vote “means a lot” for victims, truth and justice, said Munira Subasic, from the prominent Mothers of Srebrenica group.
“People who live in lies, who don’t know the truth, they will need this UN resolution more than we do,” Subasic said, adding that she was referring to “genocide deniers” among Bosnian Serbs and in Serbia. “They will not be able to glorify war criminals any more.”
“We expect a fair decision tomorrow, a decision that will tell us, the families, that there is justice in the world, that there is humanity,” added Nura Begovic, who also lost several family members in Srebrenica.
On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran a UN-protected safe area in Srebrenica. They separated at least 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys from their wives, mothers and sisters and slaughtered them.
The 193-member UN General Assembly plans to debate the resolution Thursday to be followed by a vote. Serbs have the support of their allies Russia and China, while the resolution is supported by the US and most other Western states.
Dodik, who is president of Republika Srpska, which comprises about half of Bosnia, said on the social media platform X that the UN resolution is being forced on the country by supporters of Muslim Bosniaks and that it will split up the country. He said his government could formally propose a separation on Thursday
“Bosnia and Herzegovina has reached its end, or to be more precise, it was brought to an end by those who swore to it,” Dodik said on X. “All that remains is for us all to make an effort to be good neighbors and to part in peace.”
Dodik has made several such threats in the past to have the Serb-controlled territories secede from Bosnia and join with neighboring Serbia. He and some other Bosnian Serb officials are under US and British sanctions partly for jeopardizing a US peace plan that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
The Srebrenica killings were the bloody culmination of the war, which came after the breakup of Yugoslavia unleashed nationalist passions and territorial ambitions that set Bosnian Serbs against the country’s two other main ethnic populations, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.
The International Court of Justice, the UN’s highest tribunal, determined in 2007 that the acts committed in Srebrenica constituted genocide, and the court’s determination is included in the draft resolution. It was Europe’s first genocide since the Nazi Holocaust in World War II.
Serbia’s President Vucic and his government have been campaigning both at the UN and among developing countries to win support for a “no” vote. Approval requires a majority of those voting.
In a massive campaign in both Serbia and the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, organizers have put up billboards and video beams reading “Serbs are not genocidal people.”
Vucic and Dodik, both pro-Russian politicians, also have argued against the resolution by saying it raises the possibility of having to pay war damages. Local analysts say Serb leaders, including Vucic, also fear they could be put on trial for active participation in the Bosnian bloodshed.
The draft resolution condemns “without reservation any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event.” It also “condemns without reservation actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by international courts, including those responsible for the Srebrenica genocide.”
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, were both convicted of genocide in Srebrenica by a special UN war crimes tribunal. In all, the tribunal and courts in the Balkans have sentenced close to 50 Bosnian Serb wartime officials to lengthy prison terms.
Most Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials still celebrate Karadzic and Mladic as national heroes. They continue to downplay or even deny the Srebrenica killings, which has deeply offended relatives of the massacre victims and survivors.
“I can never bring my three sons back … also my husband and my grandson, five men from my house alone,” said Mejra Dzogaz as she looked at a vast memorial center in Srebrenica comprising thousands of white tomb stones for the victims found and buried so far.
“What are we supposed to show to prove (genocide?) asked Dzogaz. “What? Look at this memorial center here.”


Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins

Updated 23 May 2024
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Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins

  • Both party leaders are expected to hit the campaign trail, seeking to seize the early initiative by meeting voters

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Labour Party rival Keir Starmer will kick off their election campaigns in earnest on Thursday, a day after Sunak surprised the nation by calling a vote for July 4.
Sunak, whose Conservative Party trails Labour by around 20 percentage points in opinion polls, ended months of speculation centered on an election in October or November, and instead used a rain-soaked address to the electorate to kick off what is likely to be six weeks of frenetic campaigning.
Both party leaders are expected to hit the campaign trail, seeking to seize the early initiative by meeting voters and delivering the messages they hope will earn them enough seats in parliament to form a majority government on July 5.
At stake is control of the world’s sixth largest economy which has endured years of low growth and high inflation, is still battling to make a success of its 2016 decision to exit the European Union, and is slowly recovering from twin shocks of COVID-19 and an energy price spike caused by the war in Ukraine.
That backdrop makes the economy one of the most important electoral battlegrounds.
Sunak, 44, announced the election on the day inflation returned close to target, and his early message to voters has been that his plan for the economy is working, and only he can turn that stability into a recovery that benefits all.
“Who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country?” he told a rally late on Wednesday, casting Labour as a party without a plan.
“We’re working for a Britain where we have renewed confidence in ourselves and our communities. A country where hard work will be met with fair rewards and where the opportunities enjoyed by the previous generations will be there for future ones.”
Starmer, a 61-year-old former lawyer who has pulled Labour’s politics back to the center ground after a spell of electorally unsuccessful left-wing leadership, has pitched his party as one that will bring change for a disgruntled electorate.
“Labour will stop the chaos, turn the page and get Britain’s future back,” he said in an early campaign message to party members, describing the election as “the fight of our lives.”
“This is the moment we’ve been working toward. We must come together to beat the Tories and deliver a Labour government to change Britain for the better.”
If Labour win the election, it would end 14 years of Conservative government and Britain, once known for its political stability, will have had six prime ministers in eight years for the first time since the 1830s.
While the electioneering gets underway, activity in parliament is expected to pick up too as the government works out which of the pieces of legislation currently in process will be rushed through, and which will fall by the wayside.
Laws currently under discussion include Sunak’s plan to impose some of the world’s strictest anti-smoking rules by banning anyone aged 15 and under from ever buying cigarettes.


Tornadoes pummel US Midwest, killing at least 5 in Iowa

Updated 23 May 2024
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Tornadoes pummel US Midwest, killing at least 5 in Iowa

  • The storms also knocked out power to tens of thousands of people in Illinois and Wisconsin, officials said
  • The tornadoes came at a time when climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world

GREENFIELD, Iowa: Five people died and at least 35 were hurt as powerful tornadoes ripped through Iowa, with one carving a path of destruction through the small city of Greenfield, officials said Wednesday.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Tuesday’s tornadoes killed four people in the Greenfield area, and local officials said a fifth person — a woman whose car was swept away in the wind — was killed by a twister about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away. Officials did not release the names of the victims because they were still notifying relatives.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Wednesday it’s believed that the number of people injured is likely higher.
The Greenfield tornado left a wide swath of obliterated homes, splintered trees and crumpled cars in the town of 2,000 about 55 miles (88.5 kilometers) southwest of Des Moines. The twister also ripped apart and crumpled massive power-producing wind turbines several miles outside the city.

A wind turbine lies toppled in the aftermath of tornadoes which ripped through the area yesterday on May 22, 2024 near Prescott, Iowa. (Getty Images/AFP)

Greenfield resident Kimberly Ergish, 33, and her husband dug through the debris field Wednesday that used to be their home, looking for family photos and other salvageable items. There wasn’t much left, she acknowledged.
“Most of it we can’t save,” she said. “But we’re going to get what we can.”
The reality of having her house destroyed in seconds hasn’t really set in, she said.
“If it weren’t for all the bumps and bruises and the achy bones, I would think that it didn’t happen,” she said.
Tuesday’s storms also pummeled parts of Illinois and Wisconsin, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers in the two states. The severe weather turned south on Wednesday, and the National Weather Service was issuing tornado and flash flood warnings in Texas as parts of the state — including Dallas — were under a tornado watch.
The National Weather Service said initial surveys indicated at least an EF-3 tornado in Greenfield, but additional damage assessment could lead to a more powerful ranking.
The tornado appeared to have been on the ground for more than 40 miles (64 kilometers), AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said. A satellite photo taken by a BlackSky Technology shows where the twister gouged a nearly straight path of destruction through the town, just south of Greenfield’s center square.
The deadly twister was spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes in the US, at a time when climate change is heightening the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.
Through Tuesday, there have been 859 confirmed tornadoes this year, 27 percent more than the US sees on average, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. So far, Iowa’s had the most, with 81 confirmed twisters.
On Tuesday alone, the National Weather Service said it received 23 tornado reports, with most in Iowa and one each in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The tornado that decimated parts of Greenfield brought to life the worst case scenario in Iowa that weather forecasters had feared, Porter said.
“Debris was lifted thousands of feet in the air and ended up falling to the ground several counties away from Greenfield. That’s evidence of just how intense and deadly this tornado was,” Porter said.
People as far as 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from Greenfield posted photos on Facebook of ripped family photos, yearbook pages and other items that were lifted into the sky by the tornado.

Residents go through the damage after a tornado tore through town yesterday afternoon on May 22, 2024 in Greenfield, Iowa. (Getty Images/AFP)

About 90 miles away, in Ames, Iowa, Nicole Banner found a yellowed page declaring “This Book is the Property of the Greenfield Community School District” stuck to her garage door like a Post-It note after the storm passed.
“We just couldn’t believe it had traveled that far,” she said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said FEMA’s administrator would head to Iowa on Thursday and that the White House was in touch with state and local officials. She said they were “praying for those who tragically lost their lives” and wished those injured a “speedy recovery.”
Greenfield’s 25-bed hospital was among the buildings damaged, and at least a dozen people who were hurt had to be taken to facilities elsewhere. Hospital officials said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the hospital will remain closed until it can be further assessed and that full repairs could take weeks or months. The hospital, with the help of other providers, set up an urgent care clinic at an elementary school with primary care services to start there Thursday, the post said.
Residential streets that on Monday were lined with old-growth trees and neatly-appointed ranch-style homes were a chaotic jumble of splintered and smashed remnants by Wednesday. Many of the homes’ basements where residents sheltered lay exposed and front yards were littered with belongings from furniture to children’s toys and Christmas decorations.
Dwight Lahey, a 70-year-old retired truck driver, drove from suburban Des Moines to Greenfield to help his 98-year-old mother. She had taken refuge from the twister in her basement, then walked out through her destroyed garage to a nearby convenience store, Lahey said.
“I don’t know how she got through that mess,” he said. His mom was staying in a hotel, uncertain about where she’ll end up with her home gone, he said.
Roseann Freeland, 67, waited until the last minute to rush with her husband to a concrete room in her basement. Seconds later, her husband opened the door “and you could just see daylight,” Freeland said. “I just lost it. I just totally lost it.”
Tuesday’s destructive weather also saw flooding and power outages in Nebraska, damage from tornadoes in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and dust storms in Illinois that forced two interstates to be closed.
The devastation in Iowa followed days of extreme weather that ravaged much of the middle section of the country, including Oklahoma and Kansas. Last week, deadly storms hit the Houston area, killing at least eight and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands.