Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states

Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states
Seven deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma. (FILE/SHUTTERSTOCK)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states

Latest deadly weather in US kills at least 18 as storms carve path of ruin across multiple states
  • The storms inflicted their worst damage in a region spanning from north of Dallas to the northwest corner of Arkansas
  • In Texas, about 100 people were injured and more than 200 homes and structures destroyed

VALLEY VIEW, Texas: Powerful storms killed at least 18 people, injured hundreds and left a wide trail of destruction across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas after obliterating homes and destroying a truck stop where dozens sought shelter during the latest deadly weather to strike the central US
The storms inflicted their worst damage in a region spanning from north of Dallas to the northwest corner of Arkansas, and the system threatened to bring more violent weather to other parts of the Midwest. By Monday, forecasters said, the greatest risk would shift to the east, covering a broad swath of the country from Alabama to near New York City.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early Monday in a post on social media platform X, citing “multiple reports of wind damage and tornadoes.”
Seven deaths were reported in Cooke County, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, where a tornado Saturday night plowed through a rural area near a mobile home park, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said at a news conference Sunday. The dead included two children, ages 2 and 5. Three family members were found dead in one home, according to the county sheriff.
Storms also killed two people and destroyed houses in Oklahoma, where the injured included guests at an outdoor wedding, eight people in Arkansas and one person in Kentucky. Tens of thousands of residents were without power across the region.
In Texas, about 100 people were injured and more than 200 homes and structures destroyed, Abbott said, sitting in front of a ravaged truck stop near the small agricultural community of Valley View. The area was among the hardest hit, with winds reaching an estimated 135 mph (217 kph), officials said.
“The hopes and dreams of Texas families and small businesses have literally been crushed by storm after storm,” said Abbott, whose state has seen successive bouts of severe weather, including storms that killed eight people in Houston earlier this month.
Abbot signed an amended severe weather disaster declaration on Sunday to include Denton, Montague, Cooke and Collin on a list of counties already under a disaster declaration sparked by storms and flooding in late April.
Hugo Parra, who lives in Farmers Branch, north of Dallas, said he rode out the storm with 40 to 50 people in the bathroom of the truck stop. The storm sheared the roof and walls off the building, mangling metal beams and leaving battered cars in the parking lot.
“A firefighter came to check on us and he said, ‘You’re very lucky,’” Parra said. “The best way to describe this is the wind tried to rip us out of the bathrooms.”
Multiple people were transported to hospitals by ambulance and helicopter in Denton County, also north of Dallas.
No more deaths are expected and nobody was reported missing in Texas, Abbott said, though responders were doing one more round of searches just in case.
Eight people died statewide in Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed in a news conference Sunday evening. An emergency official said two of the deaths were attributed to the circumstances of the storm but not directly caused by weather, including a person who suffered a heart attack and another who was deprived of oxygen due to a loss of electricity.
The deaths included a 26-year-old woman who was found dead outside a destroyed home in Olvey, a small community in Boone County, according to Daniel Bolen of the county’s emergency management office. One person died in Benton County, and two more bodies were found in Marion County, officials said.
In Oklahoma, two people died in Mayes County, east of Tulsa, officials said.
In Kentucky, a man was killed Sunday in Louisville when a tree fell on him, police said. Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg confirmed on social media it was a storm-related death.
A deadly series of storms
The destruction continued a grim month of deadly severe weather in the nation’s midsection.
Tornadoes in Iowa last week left at least five people dead and dozens injured. The deadly twisters have spawned during a historically bad season for tornadoes, at a time when climate change contributes to the severity of storms around the world. April had the second-highest number of tornadoes on record in the country.
Meteorologists and authorities issued urgent warnings to seek cover as the storms marched across the region late Saturday and into Sunday. “If you are in the path of this storm take cover now!” the National Weather Service office in Norman, Oklahoma, posted on X.
Harold Brooks, a senior scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, said a persistent pattern of warm, moist air is to blame for the string of tornadoes over the past two months.
Homes destroyed, roads blocked
Residents awoke Sunday to overturned cars and collapsed garages. Some residents could be seen pacing and assessing the damage. Nearby, neighbors sat on the foundation of a wrecked home.
In Valley View, near the truck stop, the storms ripped the roofs off homes and blew out windows. Clothing, insulation, bits of plastic and other pieces of debris were wrapped around miles of barbed wire fence line surrounding grazing land in the rural area.
Kevin Dorantes, 20, was in nearby Carrollton when he learned the tornado was bearing down on the Valley View neighborhood where he lived with his father and brother. He called the two of them and told them to take cover in the windowless bathroom, where they rode out the storm and survived unharmed.
As Dorantes wandered through the neighborhood of downed power lines and devastated houses, he came upon a family whose home was reduced to a pile of splintered rubble. A father and son were trapped under debris and friends and neighbors raced to get them out, Dorantes said.
“They were conscious but severely injured,” Dorantes said.
Widespread power outages
The severe weather knocked out power for tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the path of the storms.
On Monday, more than 187,000 customers were without power in Kentucky, according to the tracking website poweroutage.us. Some 84,000 customers were without power in Alabama; 74,000, West Virginia; 70,000, Missouri; and 63,000, Arkansas.
Inaccessible roads and downed power lines in Oklahoma also led officials in the town of Claremore, near Tulsa, to announce on social media that the city was “shut down” due to the damage.
More severe weather forecast
The system causing the latest severe weather was expected to move east over the rest of the holiday weekend.
The Indianapolis 500 started four hours late after a strong storm pushed into the area, forcing Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to evacuate about 125,000 race fans.
More severe storms were predicted in Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The risk of severe weather moves into North Carolina and Virginia on Monday, forecasters said.
To follow the progress of the storm system, see The Associated Press Tornado Tracker.


Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
Updated 3 sec ago
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Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30

Nigeria warns over cholera outbreak that kills 30
  • Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water
  • In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14
LAGOS: Nigerian health officials are issuing warnings over a cholera outbreak that has killed at least 30 people, many of them in the commercial capital Lagos, since the start of the year.
Cholera is an acute intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. It typically causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and muscle cramps — and sometimes death.
Lagos State health officials reported 15 deaths so far and 350 suspected cases, according to a statement on X, formerly Twitter this week.
Lagos Water Corporation warned against consuming water from unreliable or untreated courses.
“According to the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the primary cause of the cholera outbreak has been linked to the consumption of contaminated water and inadequate sanitation,” it said in a statement.
Last week, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control and Prevention alerted the public of the increasing trend in cases of the disease across the country as the rainy season intensifies.
The agency said 30 people had died since the start of the year. An outbreak killed 128 people with more than 3,600 suspected cases across Africa’s most populous country last year compared to two deaths in 2022.
Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to cholera outbreaks.
In 2021, an epidemic killed more than 2,300 people, especially children under the age of 14, according to health authorities.

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
Updated 36 min 55 sec ago
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Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital

Deadly fire at army ammo depot in Chad’s capital
  • President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures

N’DJAMENA: A deadly fire erupted at a huge military ammunition depot in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, sending powerful explosions into the night sky and shaking buildings miles from the blast.
The explosions from the late Tuesday blaze turned the sky red and could be heard miles away as ordnance fired off in the flames at regular intervals, according to AFP journalists and witnesses on the scene.
President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno said people had been killed and wounded in the blaze, without giving precise figures.
“Peace to the souls of the victims, sincere condolences to the grieving families and a speedy recovery to the wounded,” Deby wrote on Facebook, promising to open an investigation into the fire.
The sky burst into flames above the Goudji area, where the army’s largest depot of ammunition is located, for several hours before tapering off and finally ceasing after midnight.
The explosions shook buildings as far as seven kilometers (four miles) away and the flames were visible for miles.
“The roof of our house was blown off by one of the explosions,” said resident Kadidja Dakou, who lives in the Amsinene area near Goudji.
The 36-year-old and her three children took refuge in the street alongside their neighbors, for fear their houses would collapse, she said by phone.
Authorities had cordoned off the area with a heavy security presence, where thick red smoke hung in the air long after the blasts stopped.
Foreign Minister Abderaman Koulamallah, who is also the government spokesman, said on Facebook that there were “huge explosions” at the site and urged the population to keep calm.
There are multiple homes in the neighborhood that is the site of the depot, which sits near the international airport and a base where French troops are stationed.
The blaze “caused explosions of ammunition of all calibres,” an official with the French forces said on condition of anonymity.
“For the moment, no French military personnel have been wounded,” he said.
Chad’s president officially won 61 percent of a May 6 vote that international NGOs said was neither credible nor free and which his main rival called a “masquerade.”
Deby was proclaimed transitional president in April 2021 by a junta of 15 generals after his father, president Idriss Deby Itno, was shot dead by rebels following 30 years in power.
Chad, one of the world’s poorest nations, is considered vital in the fight to stop the march of jihadists through the Sahel region.


Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
Updated 45 min 9 sec ago
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Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people

Pope offers prayers for ‘noble, courageous’ Chinese people
  • Relations with communist China have historically been fraught
  • The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Wednesday called for prayers for the Chinese people, in unscripted remarks coming amid the Vatican’s desire to upgrade its relations with Beijing.
Relations with communist China have historically been fraught, but Francis has made it a priority to normalize them, building on a landmark 2018 pact on appointing bishops.
“This also makes me think about the beloved Chinese people: let us always pray for this noble and very courageous people who have such a beautiful culture,” the pope said.
Francis spoke during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square, adding to pre-written remarks as he greeted an association that honors a late Vatican envoy to Beijing.
The Vatican’s overtures to China are controversial, as critics see them as a form of appeasement toward a country accused of trampling on religious freedom and human rights.
Beijing has been following a policy of “Sinicization” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.
There are an estimated 10 to 12 million Catholics in China. (Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Alex Richardson)


US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
Updated 55 min 44 sec ago
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US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China

US lawmakers meet with Dalai Lama in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China
  • Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait
  • The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture

DHARAMSHALA, India: A bipartisan United States congressional delegation met with the Dalai Lama Wednesday at his residence in India’s Dharamshala, sparking anger from China which views the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism as a dangerous separatist.
This comes as Washington and Beijing have recently restarted talks after several years of turmoil that began after the imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods under the Trump administration. Relations deteriorated even more following the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising military tensions in the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait.
The high-level delegation, led by Republican Rep. Michael McCaul and including Democratic former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, arrived Tuesday at the hillside town, which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has made his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. There, they met with officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile, which wants more autonomy for Tibet.
Beijing doesn’t recognize the exiled administration and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.
After meeting the spiritual leader on Wednesday, the seven US lawmakers addressed hundreds who had gathered at a monastery just outside the 88-year-old Dalai Lama’s residence, waving American and Tibetan flags.
They told the crowd that a key focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, and aims to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials with the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing. The bill should now be sent to the White House to be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
The bill is “a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and our understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet,” Pelosi said, eliciting applause.
McCaul, the Republican representative, said the bill reaffirms American support for the Tibetan right to self-determination. “Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here... but we did not let the CCP intimidate us for we are here today,” he said as people cheered.
However, the visit and newly passed bill have triggered swift backlash from Beijing.
Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, urged Washington on Tuesday not to support Tibetan independence and said the White House “must not sign the bill into law,” or China will take “resolute measures,” without elaborating on what these measures may be.
“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Lin added, urging the US side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”
The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has a history of engaging with US officials, including meeting American presidents — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — except for Donald Trump. He has yet to meet Biden since he took office in 2021.
The Dalai Lama is expected to travel to the US on Thursday for medical treatment on his knees, but it is unclear if he will meet any officials while there.
Meanwhile, Beijing has repeatedly asked the US not to interfere with Tibetan affairs and has argued that the people of Tibet have enjoyed social stability and economic growth under its rule.
While India considers Tibet to be part of China, it hosts Tibetan exiles.


Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive

Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive
Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive

Indian heatwaves, floods kill 11, with four buried alive
  • India battling extreme weather that caused severe heatwaves, landslides and floods
  • Billions across Asia are grappling with extreme heat this summer, in a trend worsened by climate change

GUWAHATI, India: India was battling on Wednesday extreme weather that caused severe heatwaves, landslides and floods, killing at least 11 people this week, among them a woman and her three daughters buried alive in a northeastern state, officials and media said.
The capital, New Delhi, sweltered through its hottest night in six years on Tuesday, with hospitals in the city of 20 million reporting at least five deaths from heatstroke this week, the Times of India newspaper said.
Floods and landslides triggered by incessant rain in the northeastern state of Assam killed at least six people on Tuesday night, officials said.
“A landslide buried a woman and her three daughters alive,” a state disaster management official, Siju Das, said by telephone.
“Their house was on a slope, and they died on the spot around midnight,” he said, adding that the bodies were retrieved after a three-hour search operation by rescuers.
“A three-year-old was killed too.”
Billions across Asia are grappling with extreme heat this summer, in a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.
Since March, temperatures have soared to 50 degrees C (122 degrees F) in Delhi and the nearby desert state of Rajasthan, while more than twice the usual number of heatwave days were recorded this season in the country’s northwest and east.
These conditions stemmed from fewer thundershowers, as well as warm winds blowing in from neighboring arid regions.
In Assam, more than 160,000 people were affected, with waters surpassing the danger level in the Kopili, one of the largest tributaries of the Brahmaputra, which ranks among India’s biggest rivers.
More than 30 people in the state have died since the end of May in floods and landslides brought by heavy rain, officials said.