Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage and some injuries

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Roy Schweinebart, of Marshalltown, Iowa, shovels bricks from a tornado-damaged building near Main Street, Thursday, July 19, 2018, in Marshalltown, Iowa. (AP)
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Damage to production plants at Vermeer Corp., a farm and construction equipment manufacturer in Pella, Iowa, is seen in an aerial view, Thursday, July 19, 2018, after a tornado went through the area. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Tornadoes sweep through Iowa; major damage and some injuries

  • The Marshalltown hospital’s emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm
  • The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined after further analysis

DES MOINES, Iowa: A flurry of tornadoes swept through central Iowa Thursday afternoon, injuring at least 17 people, flattening buildings in three cities and forcing the evacuation of a hospital.
The tornadoes formed unexpectedly and hit the cities of Marshalltown, Pella and Bondurant as surprised residents ran for cover. The storms injured 10 people in Marshalltown and seven at a factory near Pella, but no deaths have been reported.
Hardest hit appeared to be Marshalltown , a city of 27,000 people about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Des Moines, where brick walls collapsed in the streets, roofs were blown off buildings and the cupola of the historic courthouse tumbled 175 feet (53 meters) to the ground.
UnityPoint Health hospital in Marshalltown was damaged, spokeswoman Amy Varcoe said.
Varcoe said all 40 of its patients were being transferred to the health system’s hospitals in Waterloo and Grundy Center.
The Marshalltown hospital’s emergency room remained open to treat patients injured in the storm, Varcoe said. Ten people injured in the storm had been treated by 7 p.m. Thursday, she said. She did not know how serious those patients’ injuries were.
Marshalltown resident Stephanie Moz said she, her husband and 2-month-old baby were in the downtown clothing store she owns when tornado sirens went off. The family sought shelter in the building’s basement and heard “cracking and booms and explosions” as the tornado passed.
The storm broke out a window, ruining clothing and hats on display there, and destroyed her husband’s vehicle, but she said she’s relieved.
“We went through a tornado and survived,” Moz said. “I’m happy.”
Weather forecasters said the tornadoes formed suddenly and took them by surprise.
Alex Krull, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said forecasting models produced Thursday morning showed only a slight chance of strong thunderstorms later in the day.
“This morning, it didn’t look like tornadic supercells were possible,” Krull said. “If anything, we were expecting we could get some large hail, if strong storms developed.”
Additional funnels were reported as the storm moved east of Des Moines past Altoona, Prairie City and Colfax.
Iowa State Rep. Mark Smith, who lives in Marshalltown, told Des Moines station KCCI-TV that the area likely will be declared a disaster area. Smith said his house and neighborhood were not damaged, but much of downtown and surrounding homes have been.
“There are houses with windows out, houses without roofs,” he said. “It’s just an absolute mess.”
Another tornado hit agricultural machinery maker Vermeer Manufacturing, where some people were still working, in the town of Pella, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines. It scattered huge sheets of metal through a parking lot and left one building with a huge hole in it.
Pella Regional Health Center spokeswoman Billie Rhamy said seven people injured at the Vermeer plant were treated at the hospital. All had minor injuries and were released after treatment, Rhamy said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donavon said two primary storms spawned the series of damaging tornadoes. One developed in the Marshalltown area, causing damage there, while the other started east of Des Moines and traveled through Bondurant and into Pella.
The exact number of tornadoes and their strength will be determined after further analysis.


Thailand’s infamous ‘jet-set monk’ convicted of raping a minor

Updated 22 min 29 sec ago
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Thailand’s infamous ‘jet-set monk’ convicted of raping a minor

  • Wiraphon Sukphon 16-year sentence will be added to the 20-year prison term he received in August after being found guilty of multiple counts of fraud
  • The monk was extradited back to Thailand from the US last year, accused of the rape and duping donors to a supposedly religious project
BANGKOK: Thailand’s infamous “jet-set monk” was convicted of raping an underage girl Wednesday, a court official said, in a case that has rocked an already scandal-mired Buddhist clergy.
Wiraphon Sukphon, 39, earned his evocative moniker after footage emerged of him wearing designer sunglasses with a Louis Vuitton bag on a private jet.
He was extradited back to Thailand from the US last year, accused of the rape and duping donors who had given him money to build what he said would be the world’s largest emerald image of Buddha.
The girl was under the age of 15 and Wiraphon is said to have later fathered a child with her.
In Wednesday’s ruling, which found him guilty of rape and separating the girl from her parents, the court said he had given the Buddhist faith a “bad reputation.”
“He used his monkhood, which Thai people respect,” the court official told AFP.
Wiraphon’s 16-year custodial sentence punishment will be added to the 20-year prison term he received in August after being found guilty of multiple counts of fraud.
The military junta that seized power in 2014 has taken a hard-line against monks acting outside the law and authorities have considered introducing digitised ID cards that could track members of the community with criminal histories.
Thailand is mostly Buddhist and the religion is woven into everyday life, but drug, sex and financial scandals have weighed on the Buddhist leadership and forced some high-profile collisions with law enforcement.
In May the abbot of the tourist-heavy “Golden Mount” temple in Bangkok was arrested after $4 million was found in bank accounts in his name.
Police are also investigating allegations of financial wrongdoing within the National Office of Buddhism.
And early last year, soldiers raided the temple of the mega-rich Dhammakaya sect on the outskirts of Bangkok to detain its controversial abbot on accusations of massive fraud. He eluded capture and remains at large.