1 dead as Harvey spins deeper into Texas; full scope of damage is unknown

Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday after the once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline in a blow that killed at least one person and injured up to 14.

Throughout the region between Corpus Christi and Houston, many people feared that toll was only the beginning. Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places. And they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come from a storm that could linger for days and unload more than 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain on cities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth-largest.

In the island community of Port Aransas, population 3,800, officials were unable to fully survey the town because of "massive" damage. Police and heavy equipment had only made it into the northernmost street.

"I can tell you I have a very bad feeling and that's about it," said Mayor Charles Bujan, who had called for a mandatory evacuation but did not know how many heeded the order.

Some of the worst damage appeared to be in Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm's path. The mayor said his community took a blow "right on the nose" that left "widespread devastation," including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Rockport's roads were a mess of toppled power poles. A trailer blocked much of one major intersection. Wood framing from ripped-apart houses was strewn along Route 35 on the town's southern end.

Harvey's relentless wind tore the metal sides off the high school gym and twisted the steel door frame of its auditorium.

"We're still in the very infancy stage of getting this recovery started," said Aransas County spokesman Larry Sinclair.

Rockport Mayor Charles "C.J." Wax told The Weather Channel that the city's emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

A day earlier, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling people who chose not to evacuate to mark their arms with Sharpie pens, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

As many as 14 people suffered minor injuries, including slips and falls, scrapes and a broken leg, Aransas County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills Jr. said. The lone fatality confirmed so far was a person caught in a fire at home during the storm, Mills said. He did not identify the victim.

About 300,000 customers were without power statewide. Gov. Greg Abbott said it would probably be several days before electricity is restored.

Meanwhile, the storm slowed to a crawl of only 2 mph (3 kph). Rainfall totals varied across the region, with Corpus Christi and Galveston receiving around 3 inches (8 centimeters), Houston 7 (18 centimeters) and Aransas 10 (25 centimeters). Tiny Austwell got 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Elsewhere in the storm's immediate aftermath, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 18 people from boats and barges in distress, said Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of the Corpus Christi sector.

The Corpus Christi port was closed with extensive damage. Because the city is the third-largest petrochemical port in the nation, the agency will be on the lookout for spills, Hahn said.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 130 mph (209 kph) winds.

Harvey weakened to a tropical storm by midday Saturday. At 6 p.m., its maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 60 mph (96 kph). The storm was centered about 70 miles (113 km) southeast of San Antonio, the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump's administration.

Trump met with his Cabinet and other senior administration officials to discuss the federal response to the damage and flooding, the White House said Saturday in a statement.

The president held a video conference from Camp David in which he instructed departments and agencies to "stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives," the statement said.

Trump, who on Friday signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties, also reminded department heads that the full impact of the storm will not be apparent for days. On Twitter, he commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the disaster.

In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm's center, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.

Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. Along Interstate 45 leaving Galveston, the rain was so intense that drivers stopped under bridges because they could not see in front of them.

Rain fell on Houston at nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) an hour, leaving some streets and underpasses underwater. The many drainage channels known as bayous that carry excess water to the Gulf were flowing freely and rising.

"Flooding is a minor issue so far," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the chief administrator of the county that includes Houston, said. "Most of the watersheds are well within banks, but we're not out of this."

Francisco Sanchez, with the Harris County Emergency Management Office, said the storm would be around for a while.

"Someone is going to get those very high rainfall totals," he said. "Hopefully it's not us, but we're in that possibility area."

South of the city, about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

The turbulent weather extended into southern Louisiana, where motorists were cautioned about the potential for high water, road hazards, high winds and tornadoes.

Harvey came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

The storm's approach sent tens of thousands of people fleeing inland.

Just hours before landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.

The governor urged more people to flee, but Houston officials recommended no widespread evacuations, citing greater danger in having people on roads that could flood and the fact that the hurricane was not taking direct aim at the city.

The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida.

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Cuban Doctors Reinforce Hospital Staff for Care of Peruvian Victims

Specialists from the Cuban medical brigade working in solidarity in this northern Peruvian city, affected by major floods, began today to reinforce the field hospital installed to take care of the victims.

The head of the brigade, Rolando Piloto, told Prensa Latina that three general practitioners, a pediatrician, an intensivist clinician and five graduates in nursing were assigned that mission.

The rest of the brigade and epidemiological staff, he said, have been regrouped and distributed in three of the five shelters that house thousands of victims.

The ones who are in shelters are families left homeless by floods and Cuban health professionals provide health care in these camps.

Piloto said that the three groups are located in shelters called 980, San Pablo and El Pedregal, which concentrate the largest number of evacuees and where sanitary conditions are at risk.

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Chile arrests 43 people suspected of stoking some of the forest fires

Authorities in Chile have detained 43 people suspected of stoking some of the deadly forest fires that have killed 11 people and destroyed large swaths of land, according to President Michelle Bachelet.

For nearly two weeks, fires have raged across seven regions in south and central Chile, devastating more than 400,000 hectares, Ms Bachelet said in her latest update on the tragedy. She added that 43 people had been detained “for their possible responsibility in the forest fires.”

Most of the suspects were apprehended in the hardest-hit regions of O'Higgins, Maule and Biobio. They could face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

Of the 130 active forest fires, 50 are under control while 66 others are still being battled, officials said.

The Chilean government is distributing aid to those affected by the blaze, most of whom are farmers and ranchers whose homes, animals and land has been destroyed.

More than 11,000 people are working to extinguish the fires, including members of the military, police, public officials and residents.

Of these, more than a half have come from abroad to help with what Chile has called the largest emergency operation in its history.

Fires are common in Chile's parched forests during the southern hemisphere's summer. Most are caused by human activity. But this year it has been worse than usual because of a drought attributed by environmentalists to climate change.

The fires have also turned into a competition between US and Russia's fire combat brigades with air tankers, considered the largest in the world. The US have sent the Global Supertanker, a converted Jumbo 747 with a water capacity of 72.600 liters and a refill time of 35 minutes. The Supertanker needs an airstrip of 2.450 meters to take off.

Dieter Linneberg, representative of the Global Supertanker said that on Saturday the aircraft broke two records for a day: the five loads water dropped in critical areas and the miles flown.

Russia likewise turned up with an Ilyushin II-76 with a 49.000 liters capacity, a refill time of 12 minutes and a takeoff distance of 1.600 meters. No report had been released on Sunday on the Russian tanker.

Meanwhile it was announced that Brazil was sending two Air Force Hercules C130 with 28 fire experts that will be operating from Santiago.

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Massive Wildfires in Chile Devastate Entire Town, Kill 6

The death toll has reached six, with the fires displacing thousands of people in a government-declared state of emergency.

More than a thousand houses were reduced to ashes in the town of Santa Olga, Chile, as forest fires continue consuming a large part of the central zone of the South American country.

PHOTOS: Chileans Battle Horrific Fire in UNESCO World Heritage Site

“Nobody can imagine what happened in Santa Olga. What we have experienced here is literally like Dante's Inferno,” said Mayor of Constitucion, Carlos Valenzuela. “We were recovering after the last earthquake, but this tragedy has messed up everything.”

The death toll has reached six. As the fires displace thousands of people, the government has declared a state of emergency and has allocated personnel and resources to handle the situation.

The National Forestry Corporation said in a statement dozens of growing wildfires have so far destroyed some 238,000 hectares of forests in central and southern Chile, forcing the evacuation of at least 4,000 people.

"From the beginning we have dedicated all our efforts and resources," said President Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday. She also highlighted that the priority is "to save the lives of our compatriots."

RELATED: 100,000 Hectares of Chilean Forest Lost as Wildfire Rages On

Bachelet, who spoke in a press conference, thanked the international aid that has reached Chile so far, especially specialized rescuers sent from Mexico, Colombia, Peru and France.

"There are 99 fires, of which 30 have been controlled, and our civil protection corps are now struggling to control the rest," the president said and announced that she’ll meet with intelligence agents in coming hours "to determine the causes of these fires," since it has not been ruled out that the fires were provoked due to the abundance of them.

All affected areas are under a state of emergency, while several cities, including capital Santiago, are shrouded in smoke. Thousands of emergency workers and firefighters are trying to curb and extinguish the flames amid strong winds and a heat wave. These natural disasters often occur in parched woods during the summer and many of them are sparked as a result of human activity.

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Irish in avalanche-hit province urged to 'make contact with family' as up to 30 people believed dead

Up to 30 people are believed to have been killed in an avalanche in Italy, according to media reports.

An Italian rescue official said that the avalanche was supposedly triggered after a quake which hit the Abruzzo region in Central Italy on Wednesday.

(19gen-8:30) , Drago54 sta calando ora squadre soccorso con verricello su obiettivo

Rescuers battled extreme conditions overnight to reach the hotel which is located close to the Gran Sasso mountain.

Several Italian news websites are quoting the president of the province's statement on social media in which he said the Hotel Rigopiano was buried in snow.

http://cdn-02.independent.ie/incoming/article35380080.ece/cad38/AUTOCROP/w620/italy003.jpgA car drives along the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLAROANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

"There seem to be victims, but it all needs to be confirmed. There were 20 guests in the hotel," provincial President Antonio Di Marco said at the time.

More than 12 hours after the wall of snow smashed into the hotel, only two survivors had been accounted for.

Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, said; "There are many dead."

Emergency workers now fear the hotel will collapse.

 "We haven't been able to do too much. The structure has collapsed. It's more like a pile of rubble than a hotel," said Antonio Crocetta, a member of the Alpine Rescue squad who was on the scene.

"What is left of the hotel is in danger of collapse. The hotel is almost completely destroyed. We've called out but we've heard no replies, no voices. We're digging and looking for people," he told Reuters speaking by telephone.

http://cdn-01.independent.ie/incoming/article35380106.ece/79af3/AUTOCROP/w620/ITALYD.JPGThe ski resort is located approximately 180km east of Rome

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Independent.ie that they are aware of an avalanche in Abruzzo, Italy but there are no indications of any Irish people being involved.

"There are no indications of any Irish citizens being involved," a spokesperson said.

"Irish citizens in the area should make contact with their family and follow the advice of local authorities.

"Anyone with serious concerns for Irish citizens in the area can call +39 06 585 2381/+353 1 408 2527."

The resort is located approximately 180km east of Rome.

Video footage showed rescuers with shovels digging through a wall of snow, and at least one man being led through the cleared path.

An ambulance was blocked several miles from the hotel, according to Sky News.

Earthquakes hit the region on Wednesday, including one with a 5.7 magnitude, but it was not immediately clear if they triggered the avalanche.

 

 

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FARC-EP Optimistic About Final Pact with Colombian Government

Bogota, Nov 11 (Prensa Latina) FARC-EP''s chief spokesperson, Iván Márquez affirmed today that the extraordinary effort made at the dialogue table with the Colombian government will soon be awarded with a definitive peace agreement.

Through his Twitter account, the commander of the guerrilla movement confirmed that both parties are working almost tirelessly to make adjustments to the pact signed last September 26th in Cartagena de Indias, which was then rejected in a referendum on October 2nd.

Both President Juan Manuel Santos and the highest representative of government negotiators, Humberto de la Calle, have admitted that the current phase of talks has not been free of tensions and difficult moments, but reiterated their confidence that the two teams will achieve a conclusive consensus to unlock the very advanced peace process.

After the 'no' result in the referendum, the president opened a national debate with those who had rejected the agreement with a view to modifying the historical document.

One of the thorniest issues is that of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), under which courts would be required to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible for the war, with the premises of zero impunity for crimes against humanity and benefits such as pardons and amnesties in cases of political and related crimes.

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