Flash flood sends tourists to high ground near Grand Canyon

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A rainbow shines over a waterfall on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona amid flooding that has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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Flooding from a waterfall has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US, on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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Flooding from a waterfall has forced the evacuation of about 200 tourists on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US, on July 11, 2018. (Benji Xie via AP)
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A helicopter lands to rescue people from flooding on the Havasupai reservation in Supai, Arizona, US. (Benji Xie via AP)
Updated 13 July 2018
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Flash flood sends tourists to high ground near Grand Canyon

  • Rescue workers evacuated most of the 200 tourists after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.
  • During monsoon season, rain can fall heavy and fast. Flood waters often rush unexpectedly through normally dry canyons and washes, sometimes with tragic consequences.

FLAGSTAFF, Arizona: Torrents of water rushed Thursday through an Arizona canyon famous for its towering blue-green waterfalls, sending tourists scrambling to benches, trees and caves as they sought higher ground.
Rescue workers evacuated most of the 200 tourists after two rounds of flooding hit the Havasupai reservation, deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon.
All the tourists were accounted for and no one was seriously injured when heavy rain began falling Wednesday evening and before dawn Thursday, swelling a shallow creek that runs through a reservation campground, said tribal spokeswoman Abbie Fink.
Tourist Benji Xie said people were swimming at the base of waterfalls when the flash flooding struck. He and his friends ran up to a bathroom with other campers to wait out the rain.
“The sky opened up. Winds started blowing, sand was blowing everywhere and rain was coming down in sheets,” he told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Water sloshed up around people’s tents, and Xie said he his friends warned other campers to flee. Some were stranded on islands that formed in the water, while others climbed trees, stood on benches or took shelter in caves, he said.
The tribe used ATVs, rope and manpower to get dozens of tourists from the campground below the village of Supai to a school, where they spent the night Wednesday and were given food and supplies.
A single helicopter flew about five tourists at a time out of the village to a parking lot at the head of an eight-mile trail to Supai, Fink said. Several were still waiting their turn early Thursday evening, she said.
Officials will start assessing the damage Friday to determine when it’s safe for tourists to return. Fink said the reservation will be closed to visitors for at least a week.
Posts on social media showed muddy water roaring through the canyon that is prone to flooding.
During monsoon season, rain can fall heavy and fast. Flood waters often rush unexpectedly through normally dry canyons and washes, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Ten members of an Arizona family were killed last July when a torrent of rain water rushed through a swimming hole in a canyon northeast of Phoenix. In another incident, seven people died at Utah’s Zion National Park in September 2015 when they were trapped in a flash flood while hiking at a popular slot canyon.
On Thursday, rather than panicking, Xie said most of the campers were in a state of disbelief about what had happened. Still, he said he would not hesitate to return to the pristine waterfalls.
Tourism is the lifeblood of the tribe’s economy, with many residents making a living by working in the area’s lodge, cafe and small store, or packing camping gear onto the backs of mules headed up and down an eight-mile trail. Spots in the campground sell out quickly every year.
The canyon is accessible only by foot, helicopter or mule ride, making it crucial to have as much of a heads-up as possible when floods are approaching so people can seek higher ground.
Brian Klimowski of the National Weather Service in Flagstaff said the agency contacted the tribe around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday with a flood advisory for the area.
The hard rain hit about 45 minutes later and a stream gauge noted a four-foot rise in Havasu Creek, he said. Another gauge downstream of the Colorado River showed an eight-foot rise in water levels, he said. The creek rose again at 2 a.m. Thursday.
In both cases, water receded within two hours, he said.
“That’s a steep-walled canyon with a relatively flat bottom on it,” he said. “When the water rises, it can engulf a significant part of the canyon area, and that’s what happened down in the campground.”
 


Trump arrives to go 1-on-1 with Putin at Helsinki summit

Updated 25 min 38 sec ago
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Trump arrives to go 1-on-1 with Putin at Helsinki summit

  • The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances
  • The summit was being closely watched by rattled world capitals

HELSINKI: President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin arrived Monday at Helsinki’s presidential palace for a long-awaited summit, hours after Trump blamed the United States, and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea, for a low-point in US-Russia relations
The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow’s aggression may go unchallenged.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse,” Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming “many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!“
The summit, which was being closely watched by rattled world capitals, was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the US indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Trump’s presidential campaign. Undeterred, the American president was set to go face to face with Putin, the authoritarian leader for whom he has expressed admiration.
Trump was greeted at the palace by Finland’s president. The summit was starting later than scheduled because Putin arrived in Helsinki about a half hour late in another display of the Russian’s leader famous lack of punctuality. Trump seemed to return the favor by waiting until Putin had arrived at the palace before leaving his hotel. Putin has been late for past meetings with the pope and British Queen, among many others.
Trump and his aides have repeatedly tried to lower expectations about what the summit will achieve. He told CBS News that he didn’t “expect anything” from Putin, while his national security adviser said the US wasn’t looking for any “concrete deliverables.” Trump told reporters during a breakfast Monday with Finland’s president that he thought the summit would go “fine.”
The meeting comes as questions swirl about whether Trump will sharply and publicly rebuke his Russian counterpart for the election meddling that prompted a special counsel probe that Trump has repeatedly labeled a “witch hunt.”
In his tweets, Trump continued to undermine the investigation and blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to stop Russia’s efforts to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. He claimed Obama “was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it.”
The Obama administration did, in fact, take action, including confronting Putin in person as well as expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats the US said were actually intelligence operatives and imposing new sanctions.
While Trump was eager for a made-for-TV moment that will dominate headlines like his sit-down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month, the Kremlin’s primary mission was simply to have the summit happen. Putin hopes the meeting, mere hours after he presided over the World Cup finals, will help him forge good personal ties with Trump and focus on areas where Moscow and Washington may be able to find common ground, such as Syria.
The two leaders first meet one on one in the Finnish presidential palace’s opulent Gothic Hall, then continue their discussions with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors, once the emperor’s throne room. The leaders will conclude by taking questions at a joint news conference.
Observers have raised concerns about the fact that the leaders will be alone during their first meeting, but for a pair of interpreters, meaning there will be no corroborating witnesses to accurately represent what was said during the conversation.
Putin will likely not be shooting for official recognition of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea or easing of the crippling US sanctions, aware that the US Congress would never allow such action. But he would welcome a symbolic end to Western protests over Crimea and Moscow’s attempts to destabilize elections and traditional Western alliances and norms.
Trump unleashed his own attacks on those very institutions before arriving in Finland.
In an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday, Trump described the European Union, a bloc of nations that includes many of America’s closest allies, as a “foe.”
That attack on the alliance came on the heels of Trump’s jarring appearance at a NATO summit in Brussels, where he harshly criticized traditional allies over “delinquent” defense spending only to later confirm his commitment to the military alliance that has long been a bulwark against Russian aggression.
“NATO is now strong & rich!” Trump wrote in a celebratory tweet Monday morning. During his breakfast, he said NATO had “never been more together” and said the summit had been “a little bit tough at the beginning, but it turned out to be love.”
Prior to meeting Putin, who has cracked down on the free press, Trump unleashed fresh attacks on the news media, including from aboard Air Force One as it descended into Helsinki.
“Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!” Trump tweeted. “Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct!“
“Russia has done nothing to deserve us meeting them in this way,” said Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute who specializes in Russia, Ukraine and disinformation. For Putin, she added, “not only is this a P.R. coup no matter what happens, Trump could say nothing and it would help to legitimize his regime.”
Hovering over Helsinki is the specter of the 2016 election interference and ongoing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia.
Trump said in Britain last week — another chaotic stop on his European tour — that he would raise the issue of election meddling with Putin even as he played down its impact.
“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,’” said Trump, invoking a television detective. “There won’t be a Perry Mason here, I don’t think. But you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question.”
Trump also said in the CBS interview that he had given no thought to asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets.
But after being asked about that by his interviewer, Trump said “certainly I’ll be asking about it” although extradition is highly unlikely. The US doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Moscow and can’t force the Russians to hand over citizens. Russia’s constitution also prohibits turning over citizens to foreign governments.
Putin is likely to strongly reaffirm his denial of any meddling and cast the US charges as unfounded.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected last week’s indictment as part of a “shameful comedy” staged by those in the US who try to prevent the normalization of Russia-US ties, arguing that it doesn’t contain evidence to back the accusations.
On Syria, a possible deal could see Moscow helping mediate the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their Hezbollah proxies from the areas alongside Syria’s border with Israel — a diplomatic coup that would reflect Russia’s carefully cultivated ties with both Israel and Iran.
While both Putin and Trump spoke about the need to discuss arms control issues, they are unlikely to make any quick deals. They may underline the importance of continuing the discussions, setting the stage for discussions on expert level.