Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

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Cars sit in floodwater from the Pecatonica River on March 18, 2019 in Freeport, Illinois. (AFP)
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The Rock River crested its banks and floods Shore Drive, seen here on Saturday, March 16, 2019, from the Bauer Parkway bridge in Machesney Park, Ill. (AP)
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Homes are surrounded by floodwater from the Pecatonica River on March 18, 2019 in Freeport, Illinois. (AFP)
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Horses that were being boarded in Inglewood, Neb., are moved through floodwaters to higher ground in Fremont Neb., Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Three dead, one missing in devastating floods across US Midwest

  • Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents

CHICAGO: At least one person was missing on Monday after devastating floods across the US Midwest that killed three others and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in what Nebraska’s governor called a disaster of historic proportions.
As floodwaters began to recede in much of the area inundated by the aftermath of a storm dubbed a “bomb cyclone,” Nebraska officials were taking in the damage in a state where 64 of the 93 counties have declared emergencies.
“This is clearly the most widespread disaster we have had in our state’s history,” in terms of sheer size, Governor Pete Ricketts told reporters on an afternoon briefing call.
State officials said on the call that 290 people had been rescued by the Nebraska State Patrol, National Guard troops, and urban search and rescue teams.
Damage to the state’s livestock sector was estimated at about $400 million, while the full impact on the spring planting season was not yet clear, said Steve Wellman, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
The state’s highway system suffered hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, said Kyle Schneweis, director of the state Department of Transportation, with more than 200 miles of roadways needing repair or replacement. Some 540 miles of highways remained closed, he said, down from 1,500 at the peak of flooding.
The three known fatalities included an 80-year-old woman who perished at her Columbus, Nebraska, home, despite attempts to rescue her from rising floodwaters, said Col. John Bolduc of the Nebraska State Patrol.
Bolduc said a young man from Norfolk, Nebraska, was swept away and killed after driving his car into moving water, and a Columbus man died when the tractor he was using to help free a stranded driver overturned.
One person was missing and presumed dead following the collapse of the Spencer Dam along Niobrara River in southwest Nebraska, Buldoc said.

VICE PRESIDENT TO VISIT
The Missouri River, the longest in North America, has flooded much of Nebraska between Omaha and Kansas City at the Missouri state line.
The river was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.48 m) on Tuesday, breaking the previous record, set in 2011, by more than a foot, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency said in the latest bulletin on its web page.
Ricketts said he had requested emergency assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and been in contact with the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence would travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter. Ricketts and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds have both declared states of emergency
The Missouri River’s overflowing banks cut off roads leading to the Cooper nuclear plant, near Brownville, Nebraska, forcing operators to fly in staff and supplies by helicopter. The plant continued to operate safely, its operator said.
Water also covered one-third of that state’s Offutt Air Force Base, near Bellevue, home to the US Strategic Command.
At least 30 buildings were flooded by up to eight feet of water and 30 more structures damaged on the base, the Omaha World-Herald reported, citing a base spokeswoman.
The National Weather Service reported some of the region’s larger rivers were running at record high levels, causing levee breaks. Some small towns and communities have been cut off by floods while others were short of fresh drinking water.
Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska’s capital, were barely visible as high water surrounded homes, cars and trees, according to photos released to Reuters by state authorities. Elsewhere in the state, one highway near Waterloo was submerged, and piles of debris and damaged roads were visible in Niobrara.
Floodwater climbed up the sides of buildings at Camp Ashland, an Army National Guard facility in Ashland, Nebraska.
Warmer temperatures will speed the pace of snow melt across the region and add to already swollen rivers, the NWS said, possibly forcing more evacuations in communities along the Missouri River on the Nebraska and Iowa border, as well as along the Elkhorn and Platte rivers in Nebraska.
“There could be issues across portions of Nebraska and Kansas for the next seven days,” NWS meteorologist Jim Hayes said. 


UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

Updated 14 min 40 sec ago
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UN: Pro-government forces kill more Afghans than insurgents

  • The report says 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months
  • This is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghan and international forces had killed more civilians than insurgents in the first three months of the year, the UN announced Wednesday, the first time the deaths caused by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Still it was insurgents who were responsible for the majority of dead and wounded civilians combined, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s report, which was released in Kabul.
The report said 1,773 civilians were hurt or died in the first three months, which is a significant drop from the same period last year when 2,305 civilians were killed or wounded. Last year, many brutal suicide bombings were blamed for the high casualties.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31, the report said 581 civilians were killed and 1,192 were hurt. While insurgents caused a significant majority of the injuries, it was pro-government forces, including NATO, whch killed the majority of civilians. They were responsible for 305 civilian deaths, nearly half of them in airstrikes. The other heavy death toll took place during searches, according to the report.
At the same time, the government and international forces injured 303 civilians, compared to insurgent attacks that injured 736, the report said.
It’s the first time since 2009, when the UN began compiling statistics on civilian casualties, that the deaths as a result of actions by the government and its allies exceeded their enemies.
Most of the deaths were the result of aerial attacks, which were most often carried out by international forces. While the report does not identify the United States, it is the US that carries out airstrikes when called in to assist Afghan forces. It also follows a trend reported in last year’s UN annual report on civilian casualties, which showed a dramatic hike in civilian deaths by pro-government forces including more than 1,000 civilian casualties from airstrikes, the highest since the UN began keeping track 10 years ago.
In September last year, Masih Rahman’s entire family of 11 __ his wife, four daughters, three sons and four nephews __ were killed when a bomb flattened their home in Mullah Hafiz village in the Jaghatu district of Afghanistan’s central Maidan Wardak province.
“It’s not just my family, there are dozens of families just like mine who have been lost in bombings,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Rahman was working in Iran when he was told his entire family had been killed in an airstrike on his village, which is controlled by the Taliban. Rahman has sought redress from the United Nations. He has taken his case to Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, which put out its own report on civilian casualties on Tuesday.
In that report, the commission said 11,212 civilians were hurt or wounded between March 31, 2018, and March 31 this year. In just the last 10 years of Afghanistan’s 17-year war, the commission said 75,316 Afghan civilians had died.
“A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
He said that anti-government elements need to stop deliberately targeting civilians and using improvised bombs, which cause indiscriminate harm, while pro-government forces are called upon “to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations.”