Franklin Clinic of Michigan City







‘End in sight’ in campaign to retake Raqqa from ISIS, says top diplomat

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — It began on the 73rd anniversary of D-Day — the U.S.-led Allied invasion of Normandy, France during World War II — and now, less than four months later in ISIS’s self-declared capital, “the end is now in sight,” according to a top U.S. diplomat.

The fight for Raqqa has been bloody and prolonged, but Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said Friday that the terror group is down to its last three neighborhoods in the north-central part of the city.

“It is a matter of time until the operation in Raqqa is finished,” McGurk added.

There are still a host of ISIS fighters holed up in the city, but the U.S. has shot down speculation that they may be promised safe passage out of the city — as they were in a deal with Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. That deal was vehemently opposed by Iraq and the U.S., leading to a standoff where American forces picked ISIS fighters off as they tried to escape.

A State Department official told ABC News they are not aware of any such arrangement or discussions and, “I can’t predict every situation, but it is pretty hard to imagine such a scenario given previous comments by [Defense Secretary James] Mattis that we are not going to let them get out.”

Enormous challenges remain even after Raqqa falls, though — illustrated, McGurk said, by one statistic Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shared with the Global Coalition this morning. Tillerson chaired a summit Friday of the group and its top diplomats on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At one water treatment facility outside the city, Tillerson told the assembled members, teams found 240 un-exploded ordinances left by ISIS — a “salt the earth tactic … when they know they’re going to lose,” McGurk said.

To address that, the State Department and its sister organization USAID have a small team of development experts in Syria — now on their third month there — who assist in “stabilization” efforts to restore basic necessities — de-mining, water treatment, rubble removal, aid logistics, restoring electricity and more.

Raqqa’s fall is crucial to disrupting the terror group’s network, especially their ability to plan and coordinate attacks abroad, according to McGurk. The city was where ISIS launched attacks on Istanbul, Paris and Brussels.

ISIS was planning “major, significant terrorist attacks, the type of Sept. 11-type events that they aspire to” from the city, McGurk said. That capability, in at least this one ISIS stronghold, is now gone.

After Raqqa, the coalition will turn its attention to Deir al Zour and smaller outposts in the Euphrates River Valley in eastern Syria. There, the Syrian Democratic Forces and their U.S. backers have faced a delicate dance with the Assad regime, its Iranian militia allies and its Russian backers as they also make a play to disrupt ISIS from the city. The bulk of ISIS’s foreign fighters and its leadership are believed to be holed up there.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Search for girl trapped beneath rubble in Mexico comes to puzzling end: She never existed

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

UlrikeStein/iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) — After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico City Tuesday, a frantic search ensued for a 12-year-old girl believed to be trapped beneath the rubble of her collapsed school. But in a bizarre turn of events, officials now say she never existed.

Throughout much of Wednesday and into Thursday, Mexico and the world were transfixed on a pancaked pile of cinderblock and rebar that once made up a wing of the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary school.

Rescue workers gingerly pulled out some survivors and recovered bodies from the pile of debris, but Mexicans officials believed at least one student was still buried alive there. For some 48 hours, rescuers tried to reach the girl, who reportedly told them her name and said there were others trapped nearby.

ABC News and other media outlets reported about the search for the girl, based on interviews with Mexican officials and rescue workers at the scene who thought the story was true.

Here’s a closer look at how it all unfolded:

Tuesday, Sept. 19

The earthquake hit central Mexico around 2:14 p.m. ET, just hours after the region engaged in earthquake drills on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that claimed thousands of lives in Mexico. Tuesday’s quake was centered near Raboso in Puebla state, some 75 miles southeast of Mexico City, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The natural disaster caused extensive damage to the capital, cracking roads and leveling at least 44 buildings, including homes, schools and office buildings, according to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who did a flyover of the city Tuesday afternoon.

Mexico’s education minister reported later Tuesday that 25 bodies — 21 children and four adults — had been recovered from the collapsed Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary school in Mexico City.

Wednesday, Sept. 20

Search and rescue efforts were well underway at the school Wednesday as reports of the trapped girl began to emerge.

Mexico’s education minister told ABC News on Wednesday morning that 11 people had been rescued so far. But three others — two children and one adult — were still missing.

Foro TV reported that rescue workers spotted a child amid the rubble and shouted to her to move her hand if she could hear them, and she wiggled her fingers. A search dog was sent in and confirmed she was alive, Foro TV reported.

On Wednesday night, the education minister said in an interview with Televisa that the girl’s name was Frida Sofia and she was 12 years old. The minister said the girl was under a granite table or another piece of sturdy furniture that rescue workers believed was protecting her from the collapsed concrete slabs.

The girl told rescue workers two others were trapped near her, saying she could feel them but wasn’t sure if they were alive. Rescue workers used a tube to pass the girl water and oxygen, the minister told Televisa.

Later, when the minister spoke to ABC News, he said he cannot confirm the girl’s name, age or condition.

“Now, what we know by certain is apparently there is a girl that the rescue team, I told you, they made contact with her, they talked with her, and apparently there are two other people apparently with life,” he told ABC News on camera. “But we don’t know, and we want to be very careful with information.”

Thursday, Sept. 21

Adding to the mystery and the confusion, ABC News spoke to at least two rescuers — medics caked with dust — who said they had tunneled their way to within feet of where it was believed the girl was trapped. They said they’d heard a girl’s voice and spoken to her. They also said they’d heard knocking. But that had faded by Thursday morning, they said.

That morning, the Mexican military earlier delivered an on-camera appeal to parents of children who are still missing to come to the school. Perplexed officials told ABC News no parents had reported their children missing.

Mexico’s education minister told Televisa rescuers found another dead teacher inside the collapsed school. He also confirmed that they were still in contact with the girl, Frida Sofia. He said it was unclear how many other children were also trapped.

Then, Mexico’s deputy minister of information told ABC News on Thursday afternoon it appeared no children remain trapped inside after cross-referencing all of the names of students and speaking with parents. He said 19 children and six teachers were killed inside the school when it buckled, while 11 others were hospitalized.

The deputy minister of information told ABC News the individual rescuers believed was the girl was possibly just a maintenance worker. But he couldn’t explain the discrepancy.

Later, when asked whether there was ever a girl amid the rubble, Mexico’s undersecretary of education told ABC News, “No, no, that’s for certain.”

Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department trained and equipped for urban search and rescue missions were deployed to Mexico City on Thursday by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They swept most of the collapsed school with canines and found no signs of life, though the team told ABC News that night they were only able to access about 75 percent of the debris.

“We want to emphasize that we have no knowledge about the report that emerged with the name of a girl,” Navy Assistant Secretary Angel Enrique Sarmiento said Thursday. “We never had any knowledge about that report, and we do not believe — we are sure — it was not a reality.”

Sarmiento told reporters a camera lowered into the debris showed blood tracks where an injured person apparently dragged himself or herself, and the only individual still listed as missing was a school employee.

Sarmiento later apologized for being so categorical, saying if a person remains trapped it could be a child or an adult.

“The information existing at this moment doesn’t allow us to say if it is an adult or a child,” he said. “As long as there is the slightest possibility of someone alive, we will continue searching with the same energy.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Death toll rising in Puerto Rico and Caribbean after Hurricane Maria barrels through

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Images_By_Kenny/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The death toll in storm-battered areas is rising as Hurricane Maria continued to barrel through the Caribbean on Friday, two days after its landfall in Puerto Rico left the U.S. territory battered and in the dark.

Maria remained a major Category 3 hurricane Friday as of 2 p.m. ET, with 125 mph maximum sustained winds. The storm’s eye at the time was located 90 north of Grand Turk Island in Turks and Caicos, moving toward the northwest at 8 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The death toll from the hurricane is at least 23, including 15 in Dominica, six in Puerto Rico and two in Guadeloupe.

Maria came ashore in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds — the first Category 4 to hit the island since 1932. The storm wiped out the island’s power grid and dumped 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing 40 inches locally.

There is potential for the death toll in Puerto Rico to rise, the island’s Secretary of the Department of Safety said Friday.

Although Maria has hurtled past the island, Puerto Rico will see heavy rainfall through Saturday from the storm’s trailing rain bands, likely an additional 3 to 6 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo departed for Puerto Rico on Friday to bring donated supplies to the island and assess the need, after Puerto Rico’s governor made a request for aid. Cuomo traveled with members of the National Guard as well as New York Congresswoman and Puerto Rico native Nydia Velázquez.

Residents of Puerto Rico’s hard-hit north coast were seen wading through floodwater inside what’s left of their homes.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan where trees and power lines were downed and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were apparently not built to any kind of code.

Guaynabo resident Ramon Caldero and his family hunkered down in their kitchen during the storm, which caused part of the ceiling to collapse in his sister’s room.

“I was worried,” Caldero told ABC News. “My sister was screaming.”

Christy Caban of Nashville, Tennessee, rode out the storm with her husband and 13-month-old baby in their hotel room just east of San Juan.

“We don’t have power, we don’t have water,” Caban told ABC News.

Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency confirmed that 100 percent of the island had lost power by Wednesday afternoon, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of the agency, told ABC News more than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are running on generators. Two hospitals — one in Caguas and one in Bayamon — were damaged in the storm.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor’s office confirmed to ABC News at least one person has died in the storm. The person was killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Meanwhile, telecommunications throughout the island have “collapsed,” Cortes said, describing the storm as unprecedented.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage, according to Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to start launching helicopters by this weekend to begin inspecting the lines.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has imposed a curfew on the island Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET through Saturday.

Puerto Rico narrowly missed landfall by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, with the Category 5 storm traveling just north of the U.S. territory. The island suffered heavy rain and wind, but nothing near the widespread damage incurred by Maria.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Thursday, President Donald Trump said Hurricane Maria “absolutely obliterated” the U.S. territory and “totally destroyed” its power grid, but that the recovery process will begin soon with “great gusto.”

Puerto Rico “got hit with winds, they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere,” Trump added.

On the forecast track

Maria is expected to turn toward the north-northwest later Friday, then turn toward the north by late Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center. That means the storm’s core will move away from Turks and Caicos on Friday and pass near the Southeast Bahamas through Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center on Friday warned a “dangerous storm surge” coupled with “large and destructive waves” will raise water levels by as much as 9 to 12 feet above normal tide levels in parts of Turks and Caicos and the Southeast Bahamas. And through Saturday, Maria is expected to produce up to 20 inches of rain in parts of Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.

But Maria is forecast to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours and beyond due to higher wind shear as the hurricane moves into the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The diminishing storm will move between Bermuda and the eastern coast of the United States before heading further east and out to sea sometime next week, according to the latest forecast models.

The storm’s path is still expected to steer clear of the U.S. mainland.

“At this point, I don’t think Maria will have any major impacts to the mainland besides the high surf and rip currents,” ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said Friday morning.

Other Caribbean islands devastated

Maria also did severe damage to other Caribbean islands without making landfall.

Dominica’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, told ABS Television on Thursday that at least 15 people have died and many homes are destroyed beyond repair. The death toll in the island nation is likely to rise and search and rescue missions are ongoing. At least 16 additional people are missing in some communities, he said.

“We have many deaths, but it is a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths in the country,” Skerrit told ABS Television.

According to Skerrit, the island has no electricity and only limited telecommunications have been restored since the storm. Some villages are now only accessible by sea or via helicopter

The prime minister told ABS Television that his home’s roof was ripped off during the storm and he had to take cover under a bed to protect himself from falling debris.

While wiping away tears during the emotional interview, Skerrit issued an urgent appeal for desperately needed aid, namely water, tarps and baby supplies.

“It’s going to take us a very long time to get back,” he said.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica’s prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that his country has suffered a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings” since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. Dominica’s main general hospital “took a beating” and “patient care has been compromised,” he said.

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water,” Henry said via a WhatsApp message. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced Wednesday on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

In Guadeloupe, officials announced Wednesday two people were killed and two others were missing in the storm’s wake.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe — around 40 percent of the population — were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rescuers continue search for life in Mexico City amid devastation of deadly earthquake

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) — Rescuers on Friday continued to search collapsed buildings in Mexico City, where people may still be buried alive following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who declared three days of national mourning, has said saving lives is the top priority and search and rescue efforts will be ongoing as long as survivors are believed to be beneath the rubble.

 On Thursday, Pena Nieto said search and rescue efforts in Mexico City were ongoing at 38 buildings damaged from the earthquake. But it was unclear Friday how many collapsed buildings may contain survivors.

The 7.1 magnitude quake struck Tuesday afternoon, just hours after the region engaged in earthquake drills on the 32nd anniversary of a 1985 earthquake that claimed thousands of lives in Mexico. Tuesday’s quake was centered near Raboso in Puebla state, some 75 miles southeast of Mexico City, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The natural disaster caused extensive damage across central Mexico, leveling at least 44 buildings, including homes, schools and office buildings, Pena Nieto said.

In Mexico City alone, more than 1,900 people have been treated in health facilities after the quake and most of them have been discharged, according to Pena Nieto.

The death toll is well over 200, with the majority in the capital, according to the Mexican interior ministry. The number of dead is on the rise as rescuers continue to pull bodies from the piles of debris.

Much of the rescue effort in Mexico City focused on the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary school, where officials offered conflicting information on the death toll and whether there were pupils trapped beneath the cinderblock and rebar that once made up a wing of the three-story building.

Rescuers spent days trying to tunnel inside the debris after Mexico’s education minister said multiple students there — including a 12-year-old girl — were still alive within the pancaked piles of concrete slabs.

Then, in a stunning turn of events, Mexico’s deputy minister of information told ABC News on Wednesday afternoon it appeared no children remain trapped inside after cross-referencing all of the names of students and speaking with parents. He couldn’t explain the discrepancy.

Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department trained and equipped for urban search and rescue missions were deployed to Mexico City on Thursday by the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

They swept most of the collapsed school with canines and found no signs of life, though the team told ABC News they were only able to access about 75 percent of the rubble.

On Wednesday night, Mexico’s president said 95 percent of electricity had been restored to the nearly 5 million customers in the country who lost power due to the massive earthquake.

Mexico has accepted technical and specialized assistance from many countries, including the United States, Spain, Israel, Japan and several Latin American countries.

“We are all one when it comes to saving a life or helping a victim,” Pena Nieto said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tillerson: If North Korea uses H-bomb, Trump to make ultimate decision on US response

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — If North Korea follows through on its latest threat of setting off a nuclear explosion over the Pacific Ocean, it will ultimately be up to President Trump whether the United States will respond with military action, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told ABC News on Friday.

ABC News Anchor David Muir asked Tillerson in an interview on Good Morning America about North Korea’s warning that it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific in response to Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week.

“If we see this detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific, what will the U.S. do?” Muir said. “Will there be military action?”

“That will be the president’s decision,” Tillerson said. “There is, assembled on a standing basis, a National Security Council that meets on each of these issues to advise the president. Ultimately, it will be his decision.”

The secretary of state defended Trump’s blunt rhetoric in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, in which the president threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States is “forced to defend itself or its allies,” prompting astonished gasps from some in the audience. Trump also mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the speech, dubbing him “Rocket Man.”

Kim responded in a statement Thursday saying Trump will “pay dearly” for his address to the U.N. and that North Korea is considering the strongest possible response to what he called the U.S. president’s provocation.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, said Thursday evening that his country could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, but also told reporters, “We have no idea about what actions could be taken, as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Trump responded to Kim’s threats on Twitter on Friday morning, calling him a “madman” who “will be tested like never before.”

“Does it work?” Muir asked Tillerson about the “escalating rhetoric.”

Tillerson said, “The president obviously takes the responsibility of the security of the American people very seriously.”

“But we’re not in this alone,” he added. “We have developed strong allies and strong alliances internationally.”

“We are engaging with North Korea’s most important supporters; economic supporters; their friends, China and Russia, to have them also engage with Kim Jong Un on this issue,” he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump tweets angry response after being called ‘dotard’ by Kim Jong Un

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The president responded to Kim’s talk of the U.S. "paying dearly" for sanctions.

Trump tweets angry response after being called ‘deranged’ and ‘dotard’ by Kim Jong Un

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump responded early Friday after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un said the United States would “pay dearly” for new sanctions on his country and called Trump a “dotard.”

Trump called the leader a “madman” and said he “would be tested like never before” in an early-morning tweet.

Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

“I will surely and definitely tame the deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim said on Thursday, according to reports. Dotard is a word used to describe an elderly person in a state of senile decay, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The latest war of words between the two leaders began when the United Nations passed new sanctions on North Korea unanimously earlier this week in response to the growing nuclear threat posed by the country.

In his address to the U.N. on Tuesday, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the president said in his address. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Responding to the speech, Kim released a statement saying that Trump will “pay dearly” for his address to the U.N. and that North Korea is considering the strongest possible response to what he calls Trump’s provocation.

“I’d like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world,” Kim said, according to reports.

North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, said Thursday evening that North Korea could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, but also told reporters, “We have no idea about what actions could be taken, as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Donald Trump tweets angry response to ‘madman’ Kim Jong Un

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The president responded to Kim’s talk of the U.S. "paying dearly" for sanctions.

The Note: Fake news gets real after Facebook CEO reveals Russian ads

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Zuckerberg is changing the conversation about Russian interference.

Puerto Rico faces weeks without electricity after Maria

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The eye of Hurricane Maria is nearing the Turks and Caicos early Friday as Puerto Rico tries to recover from the storm’s devastation

Kim Jong Un says Trump will ‘pay dearly’ for UN speech

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

STR/Getty Images(PYONGYANG) — North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un said President Donald Trump will “pay dearly” for his address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.

In the statement released Thursday, Kim also said North Korea is considering the strongest possible response to what he called Trump’s provocation.

On Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, referring to Kim as “Rocket Man.”

“No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”

Trump also called on all nations to isolate the Kim regime in light of its “reckless pursuit” of nuclear weapons and treatment of its citizens.

In his lengthy response, Kim slammed Trump as “mentally deranged” and said the American president had “made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history.”

“I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying” North Korea, Kim said.

Kim added: “Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.

“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Kim Jong Un says Trump will ‘pay dearly’ for UN speech

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

North Korea is considering the strongest possible response to the remarks.

Trump: Hurricane Maria ‘obliterated’ Puerto Rico, but recovery to start soon with ‘great gusto’

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — At least 15 people have died in the Caribbean island of Dominica and many homes are destroyed beyond repair after Hurricane Maria devastated the country this week, Dominica’s prime minister said Thursday.

In an emotional interview with ABS Television, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the death toll is likely to rise and search and rescue missions are ongoing. At least 16 others are missing in some communities, he said.

“We have many deaths, but it is a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths in the country,” Skerrit told ABS Television.

The storm has led to at least 18 deaths thus far, including 15 in Dominica, two in Guadeloupe and one in Puerto Rico.

After pummeling through the Caribbean, Maria restrengthened to a major hurricane early Thursday.

It had regained major hurricane status after moving back over warm, open waters in the Atlantic Ocean.

As of 2 p.m. ET, Maria’s maximum sustained wind had increased to 120 mph, making it a major Category 3 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm’s massive eye was located about 85 miles east-northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Maria was traveling northwest at 9 mph, with Turks and Caicos in its path.

Maria is forecast to strengthen even more as it moves north of the Dominican Republic and passes just east of Turks and Caicos by Friday morning.

From there, Maria will likely weaken over the weekend as it moves between Bermuda and the eastern coast of the United States. The diminishing storm should move further east of the U.S. and out to sea sometime next week.

The storm’s path is expected to steer clear of the U.S. mainland.

Maria leaves Puerto Rico in the dark

Even as Maria moved away from Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory was still being hit with strong wind and heavy rain. Storm surge was receding Thursday morning, but Puerto Rico was hit with 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing 35 inches locally. The hurricane came ashore there as a powerful Category 4 with 155 mph wind — the first Category 4 storm to hit the island since 1932.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor’s office confirmed one person has died in the storm. The person was killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that 100 percent of the island had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

Telecommunications throughout the island have “collapsed,” Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of Puerto Rico’s emergency management agency, told ABC News.

More than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are now running on generators, Cortes said. Two hospitals — one in Caguas and one in Bayamon — have been damaged.

Cortes described Maria as an unprecedented storm, adding that Puerto Rico had not seen a hurricane of that strength since 1928.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage from the storm, according Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to begin launching helicopters by this weekend to begin inspecting the transmission lines.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello imposed a curfew on the island Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET through Saturday.

A spokesperson for Rossello said early Thursday he was with a National Guard unit in Levittown, a coastal suburb of San Juan, where as many as 80 percent of homes suffered damage and residents there had retreated to rooftops due to flooding.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some 7 miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes there are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least 3 to 4 feet of water, according to Montalvo.

Christy Caban of Nashville, Tennessee, rode out the storm with her husband and 13-month-old baby in their hotel room just east of San Juan.

“We don’t have power, we don’t have water,” Caban told ABC News.

Meanwhile, ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan.

Trees and power lines were downed, and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were clearly not built to any kind of code.

Guaynabo resident Ramon Caldero and his family hunkered down in their kitchen during the storm, which caused part of the ceiling to collapse in his sister’s room.

“I was worried,” Caldero told ABC News. “My sister was screaming.”

Puerto Rico narrowly missed landfall by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, with the Category 5 storm traveling just north of the U.S. territory. The island suffered heavy rain and wind, but nothing near the widespread damage incurred by Maria.

Governor @RicardoRossello
We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe! #PRStrong

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2017

Thank you Mr. President @realDonaldTrump United, we stand! #USstrong #PRstrong https://t.co/csHEFx2B6j

— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) September 21, 2017

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Thursday, President Donald Trump said Hurricane Maria “absolutely obliterated” Puerto Rico and “totally destroyed” the U.S. territory’s power grid, but that the recovery process will begin soon with “great gusto.”

The island “got hit with winds, they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere,” Trump added.

Trump also tweeted a message of support for Puerto Rico late Wednesday, which was reciprocated by the island’s governor. Rossello also spoke to Vice President Mike Pence by phone Wednesday.

Other Caribbean islands devastated

Maria also did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica’s prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that his country has suffered a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings” since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. Dominica’s main general hospital “took a beating” and “patient care has been compromised,” he said.

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water,” Henry said via a WhatsApp message. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

In the interview with ABS Television on Thursday, Dominica’s prime minister said the island has no electricity and only limited telecommunications have been restored since the storm. Some villages are now only accessible by sea or via helicopter, he said.

“It’s going to take us a very long time to get back,” Skerrit.

The prime minister told ABS Television that his home’s roof was ripped off during the storm and he had to take cover under a bed to protect himself from falling debris.

While wiping away tears, Skerrit issued an urgent appeal for desperately needed relief aid, namely water, tarps and baby supplies.

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced Wednesday on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

In Guadeloupe, officials announced Wednesday two people were killed there and two others were missing due to the storm.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe — around 40 percent of the population — were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hurricane Maria leaves trail of death and destruction in the Caribbean

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

President Donald Trump said Thursday that Hurricane Maria “absolutely obliterated” Puerto Rico and “totally destroyed” the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Hurricane Maria ‘obliterated’ Puerto Rico but recovery will have ‘great gusto’: Trump

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

President Donald Trump said Thursday that Hurricane Maria “absolutely obliterated” Puerto Rico and “totally destroyed” the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Trump claims Chinese banks won’t do business with North Korea

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that China has ordered its banks to stop doing business with North Korea — the rogue regime’s principal trading partner.

“I’m very proud to tell you that, as you may have just heard moments ago, China, their central bank has told their other banks  — that’s a massive banking system — to immediately stop doing business with North Korea,” Trump said at the United Nations alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“Again, I want to just say and thank President Xi of China for the very bold move he made today. That was a somewhat unexpected move, and we appreciate it.”

The remarks came a short time after Trump signed an executive order aimed at companies and financial institutions that do business with North Korea.

“The brutal North Korean regime does not respect its own citizens or the sovereignty of other nations,” Trump said. “Our new executive order will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.”

The new sanctions from the Trump administration come two days after Trump told the United Nations that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if leader Kim Jong Un does harm to the U.S. or its allies.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said Tuesday in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said, using an epithet he has recently adopted to refer to Kim Jong Un.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump announces ‘new sanctions’ planned against North Korea

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The White House(NEW YORK) — President Trump is expected to announce new sanctions against North Korea on Thursday during his meeting with South Korea’s president at the United Nations.

“We will be putting more sanctions on North Korea,” President Trump said Thursday morning.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters on Thursday that Trump will use his meeting with President Moon Jae-in to make an “important announcement” on North Korea.

A senior administration official confirmed to ABC News that the declaration is expected to relate to sanctions.

The president’s expected announcement comes two days after he told the United Nations that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if leader Kim Jong Un does harm to the U.S. or its allies.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said Tuesday in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly.

“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” Trump said, using an epithet he has recently adopted to refer to Kim Jong Un.

The president’s expected statement on North Korea also comes 10 days after the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions against the country.

The Security Council voted on Sept. 11, a week after Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test to date. The new sanctions ban 90 percent of North Korea’s publicly reported exports and cap the amount of oil the country is allowed to import.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

More than 230 dead in Mexico quake as rescue teams try to free trapped children

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) — At least 230 people, including 21 schoolchildren, are dead after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked central Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, hitting on the 32nd anniversary of the biggest quake to strike the country’s capital.

Yesterday’s earthquake was centered about 75 miles southeast of Mexico City and caused extensive damage, leveling at least 44 buildings, including homes, schools and office buildings, according to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who did a flyover of the city Tuesday afternoon.

Among the dead are at least 22 people, including students and at least two adults, from a collapsed primary school in the south of the city. Peña Nieto visited the school late Tuesday. He said the 22 bodies have been recovered but that 30 children and eight adults are still missing.

Rescuers were clawing at the wreckage looking for survivors late Tuesday, pausing to listen for voices.

“Children are often the most vulnerable in emergencies such as this, and we are particularly concerned because schools across the region were in session and filled with students,” said Jorge Vidal, director of operations at Save the Children in Mexico.

Hanna Monsivais, programs coordinator at Save the Children in Mexico, said she has been out on the streets in Mexico City with hundreds of other people trying to help their neighbors. But entire street blocks have been cordoned off and numerous buildings are still too dangerous to enter because of the damage.

“Volunteers are bringing water, food, clothes and face masks so that they can help the official authorities move all the debris and rocks, because there are still people trapped under buildings,” Monsivais said. “Every once in a while, authorities ask for silence so they can hear the people who are still trapped. It’s amazing what people are doing for others, but some people are clearly still in complete shock.”

Many areas were still without power, and communications remained limited, Monsivais said.

“This night is going to be tough,” she said. “For sure, tomorrow the death toll will rise.”

Mexico City’s airport descended into chaos as the ground rippled and chunks of plaster fell from the walls when the earthquake hit, Dallas resident George Smallwood told ABC News.

“I felt the ground shaking, and I heard everyone screaming and starting to run,” he said, adding that he initially thought he was in the middle of a terror attack.

Smallwood had stopped in Mexico City for a long layover after a vacation in Medellin, Colombia, and had spent the day exploring the capital. He was getting ready to go through security at Mexico City International Airport for his 3:35 p.m. flight back to Dallas when the earthquake struck.

 Parts of the ceiling were “swinging back and forth,” and the panicked crowd took off “running in every different direction,” he said.

The tremors lasted for about six to seven minutes, he estimated. After the shaking subsided, first responders swooped in to help the injured, and a fleet of military and police helicopters buzzed overhead, he said.

Smallwood’s flight was rescheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, so he needed to find somewhere to stay for the night, he said.

Tuesday’s earthquake — which hit at about 2:14 p.m. ET near the town of Raboso in Puebla state, according to the United States Geological Survey — comes 11 days after a magnitude-8.1 quake struck off Mexico’s southern Pacific coast, killing dozens of people.

Thousands of people on the capital’s main boulevard streamed out of buildings and into the street in panic after the quake struck.

“I was just paying at the supermarket, and suddenly the floor went ‘boom, boom,’” Mexico City resident Lara Rodriguez told ABC News on Tuesday. “People were obviously panicking.”

Rodriguez added, “So I rushed out and I went to get my kid from school to make sure he was okay. Luckily, everything was fine, but on the way, there was a lot of debris. There were clouds of dust flowing up as if a bomb had hit or something.”

Dramatic images and footage depicted the destruction in Mexico City.

Video filmed inside an office building showed the overhead lights swinging violently as the ground shook.

Así el #Sismo en #CDMX, piso 8 en Lomas de Chapultepec. pic.twitter.com/IHNj3EwU01

— Alfonso Ruiz (@alfonsorup) September 19, 2017

Meanwhile, chaos broke out in the newsroom of Milenio, a Mexican news site.

Así se sintió el sismo en la redacción de https://t.co/yZhRO4eZHB pic.twitter.com/V4694bCDJT

— Milenio.com (@Milenio) September 19, 2017

Several cars were damaged by falling debris.

Mexico City, built on a former lake bed, is one of the worst possible places for an earthquake to strike because of its soil, which can amplify shaking by factors of 100 or more, California-based seismologist Lucy Jones told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV. By comparison, the worst condition seen in Los Angeles during an earthquake is shaking amplified by a factor of five, Jones said.

Earlier in the day, earthquake drills were held in Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the Michoacán earthquake of 1985, which caused widespread death and injuries as well as catastrophic damage in Mexico City.

Narciso Suarez of Mexico City said he was attending a meeting on the ninth floor of a high-rise building when he first felt the quake’s tremble. He said authorities in the building ordered those inside to shelter in place “at least until the shaking passed.”

Suarez, who was also in the area Sept. 7 when the last earthquake struck, said Tuesday’s tremble was “a lot worse.”

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon, “God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.”

God bless the people of Mexico City. We are with you and will be there for you.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2017

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence echoed the commander in chief’s comments.

Our hearts are with the people of Mexico City. We’re thinking of you and, as @POTUS said, we are with you. https://t.co/0Yt1YwbQAZ

— Vice President Pence (@VP) September 19, 2017

The U.S. State Department said in a statement, “We stand ready to provide assistance should our neighbors request our help. Our embassy in Mexico City has sent out public messages to U.S. citizens in Mexico, and the embassy stands ready to provide consular assistance to any U.S. citizens who may have been affected. We offer our condolences to any who were injured or lost loved ones.”

.@statedeptspox: Our thoughts & prayers are with the people of #Mexico affected by today’s 7.1-magnitude earthquake. https://t.co/AFmJr9tB5O

— Department of State (@StateDept) September 20, 2017

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What’s next for Angela Merkel and her party

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(BERLIN)  — German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears poised to coast to victory once again in Sunday’s national elections.

Her Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parties have maintained double-digit leads over their main rival, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), in opinion polling, with Merkel enjoying broad support among German voters. When the votes are tallied on Sunday, the parties will likely snag some 37 percent of the vote to the SPD’s 20 percent, the latest polling from Infratest dimap suggests.

But with Germany’s first female chancellor set to lock down a record fourth term at the helm of Europe’s biggest economy, observers say not to expect any major shifts in her policies or tone.

“Merkel didn’t run on a platform of change,” Karen Donfried, the president of the German Marshall Fund in Washington, told ABC News.

Donfried said Merkel touted herself as an experienced and reliable leader in an uncertain world during the campaign and didn’t promise voters radical shifts on important policy positions regarding trade, the economy or immigration. “Those areas will likely remain very similar to the way they are now, so we shouldn’t expect any major policy shifts when she starts her next term,” Donfried added.

But a lot also depends on whom Merkel’s party teams up with to form a government, Sudha David-Wilp, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin, told ABC News.

“That is likely to have the biggest impact on Germany’s political direction for the next four years and shape what Merkel can or can’t do politically,” David-Wilp added.

David-Wilp believes that while Merkel is likely to try and solidify her legacy during her next term, she will also take on domestic issues such as education reform, security and immigration integration in addition to her ongoing work to unify Europe.

“Things are better now than they were a year ago, but we’re still in the post-Brexit era so a unified Europe is still paramount for Merkel,” David-Wilp said.

One potential problem for Merkel: the rise of Germany’s controversial, right-wing, populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. The AfD is likely to receive enough votes to come in third in national elections, guaranteeing dozens of seats in parliament. Though the AfD is unlikely to be part of a coalition government with Merkel’s party, it will almost certainly look to capitalize on its new position and seek to align itself with other conservative members of parliament.

“Merkel has moved to the right on a lot of AfD’s core issues during the campaign,” Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam, told ABC News. “But now that the AfD has gained some power in parliament, it will try to move the government even further to the right on issues like immigration and security, and that will be a challenge for Merkel and her party.”

When she announced last year that she would seek a fourth term, Merkel acknowledged that she would enter a race that would be tougher than any of her three previous campaigns.

“We will face opposition from all sides,” Merkel said in a speech in Berlin when she announced her plans to run, citing both populist and left-wing opponents at home and abroad who “threaten our values and way of life in Germany.”

As for Merkel’s relationship with the U.S. and President Donald Trump, don’t expect any seismic shifts, Donfried said.

“Much like when President Trump was elected, Merkel will want to make clear that the U.S. has a partner in Germany,” she said. “So we shouldn’t expect any major changes in Germany’s relationship with the U.S.”

But the relationship with the U.S. has been strained at times with Merkel’s political opponents attacking her for what its leaders characterized as a failure to stand up to  Trump.

At a campaign event in May, Merkel made headlines when she said Europe can no longer completely rely on other countries. The remark underlined her frustrations with Trump following a meeting of world leaders at the annual G-7 Summit. Trump hinted then that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement and followed through on that promise just a few weeks later.

“The times in which we could rely on others completely, they are partly past,” Merkel said. “I experienced this in recent days. So I can only say: We Europeans must truly take our destiny in our own hands.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Young children pulled from rubble of collapsed Mexico City school

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Sarairis Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) — Students of the Mexico City school that collapsed after a powerful earthquake hit Tuesday afternoon were seen being pulled out of the rubble in dramatic video posted to social media.

When first responders and bystanders notice an opening in the building’s structure, they rush to it and begin pulling the facade from the exterior in an effort to enlarge the hole, the video shows.

Rubble from the building litters the streets as the rescuers crouch down to retrieve the survivors. First responders are seen attempting to reassure crying children as they are picked up and out of the destroyed building. Yelling from inside the building informs the search team that there are more survivors.

Hermano eres un héroe, estoy orgullosa de ti, salvaste la vida de varios niños en Colegio Rebsamen 🙏 pic.twitter.com/9JnJw0PA8u

— Isabel Miranda W (@WallaceIsabel) September 20, 2017

Search and rescue teams continued to frantically search for victims trapped under the rubble of the Enrique Rebsamen primary and secondary schools on Wednesday, more than 24 hours after the earthquake struck.

The bodies of 21 children and four adults have been discovered at the school, according to Mexico’s Education Minister Aurelio Nuño. Eleven people have been rescued, and three are still missing.

Rodrigo Heredia, a 13-year-old student, told a Televisa reporter in Spanish that he escaped the building because of an earthquake drill held earlier in the day on Tuesday.

Citywide earthquake drills were held to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the Michoacán earthquake of 1985, which killed thousands and caused catastrophic damage in Mexico City.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near the town of Raboso in Puebla state Tuesday afternoon, according to the United States Geological Survey. It marked the second powerful quake to hit Mexico in less than two weeks, after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the country’s Pacific coast 12 days earlier.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Hurricane Maria strengthens back to Category 3 after ravaging Puerto Rico

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Hurricane Maria restrengthened to a major hurricane early Thursday.

Hurricane Maria strengthens to Category 3 again after destroying Puerto Rico

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News (SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Hurricane Maria restrengthened to a major hurricane early Thursday after laying waste to Puerto Rico and leaving the island totally in the dark.

The latest update from the National Hurricane Center at 2 a.m. shows maximum sustained winds for Maria are now 115 mph. The storm returned to major hurricane status after moving back over open water before it is expected to slam Turks and Caicos Thursday night.

At least nine people have died in the storm, including two in Guadeloupe and one in Puerto Rico.

The storm is expected to strengthen over the next day or two as it moves north, the National Weather Service said.

Maria is not expected to threaten the United States mainland.

Maria was lashing the eastern end of the Dominican Republic with strong winds and heavy rain overnight. The eye was about 55 miles north of the resort town of Punta Cana at 2 a.m. and moving northwest at about 9 mph.

Even as the storm moved away from Puerto Rico, the island was still being hit with heavy rain bands Thursday. Storm surge was receding from Puerto Rico Thursday, but the U.S. territory was hit with 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing 35 inches locally. Maria came ashore as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds, the strongest to hit the island since 1932.

A spokesperson for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said early Thursday he was with a National Guard unit in Levittown, a coastal suburb of San Juan, where residents has retreated to rooftops due to flooding and as many as 80 percent of homes suffered damage.

The storm knocked out power to the entire island, and the executive director of emergency management on the island said telecommunications had “collapsed.”

Rossello imposed a curfew on the island from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Saturday.

President Donald Trump tweeted a message of support for the island late Wednesday, which was reciprocated by Rossello. The governor also spoke to Vice President Mike Pence by phone on Wednesday.

Governor @RicardoRossello
We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe! #PRStrong

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2017

 

 

Thank you Mr. President @realDonaldTrump United, we stand! #USstrong #PRstrong https://t.co/csHEFx2B6j

— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) September 21, 2017

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

 

Search and rescue work continues across Mexico City in wake of massive earthquake

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Sarairis Aguilar/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) — Search and rescue crews continued the grim task of digging out from Tuesday’s massive earthquake in Mexico City as they clung to hope of finding survivors in the rubble two days later.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said late Wednesday night the priority in the country’s capital was still on saving lives. Search and rescue crews are working across the city, with more than 50 people rescued from collapsed buildings, according to the president.

The death toll in the 7.1-magnitude earthquake was at least 245 people early Wednesday. Of those, 115 people died in Mexico City, according to Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.

More than 1,900 people have received medical attention, Pena Nieto said.

Mexico has accepted technical and specialized assistance from many countries, including the United States, Spain, Israel, Japan and several Latin American countries.

“We are all one when it comes to saving a life or helping a victim,” Pena Nieto said.

Much of the attention of rescuers in the city was focused on the Enrique Rebsamen school, an elementary and secondary school which collapsed during the quake. The bodies of 21 children and four adults were found in the wreckage of the school, where an ongoing rescue effort was underway overnight after a young girl was found alive — trapped in the rubble — Wednesday afternoon.

Rescuers were communicating with the girl and had dropped water bottles and oxygen to her as they worked to free her. The country’s minister of education told ABC News that officials believe two other children are located nearby the girl, but they have not heard any definitive signs of life from them.

Pena Nieto said 95 percent of electricity had been restored to the nearly 5 million customers who lost power due to the quake.

The president outlined a three-part plan Wednesday night for recovering from the quake. 1.) assisting those affected, 2.) an exhaustive assessment of the damage, and 3.) reconstruction starting with the removal of rubble and demolition of buildings.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sixth man arrested in connection with London Underground attack

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

gynane/iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) — London Metropolitan police arrested a sixth suspect in last week’s Underground train bombing in the early hours of Thursday morning.

After serving a warrant at an address in Thornton Heath, police arrested a 17-year-old male under section 41 of the Terrorism Act and began a search of the property.

The arrest follows less than a day after a 48-year-old man and a 30-year-old man were arrested in Newport, South Wales, when officers executed a warrant at the address where the two men were located.

A 25-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening, also in Newport, at a different address.

UK terror threat lowered after 2nd man arrested in London Underground attack

A 21-year-old man was arrested on Saturday in Hounslow, a borough in West London, by detectives with the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, and earlier Saturday police had evacuated a house in a London suburb as well as part of the Port of Dover after arresting an 18-year-old man that morning in the southeastern coastal city.

None of the six men who have been arrested in connection with the attack have been publicly identified. All remain in custody at a South London police station.

Thirty people were injured in September 15 attack on a train at Parsons Green Underground station in London. Police said an apparent bucket bomb exploded during the Friday morning commute, injuring 30 people. All of the injuries were considered minor. Authorities said the bomb did not fully explode, likely limiting the number of casualties.

The terror threat was lowered to severe from critical over the weekend, but police warned the public should remain vigilant.

“This continues to be a fast-moving investigation. A significant amount of activity has taken place since the attack on Friday,” said Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met Counter Terrorism Command.

“We urge the public to report any suspicious activity to the police by calling us, in confidence, on 0800 789 321, or in an emergency by dialling 999,” Haydon said in a public statement.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Commander of US Strategic Command says Iran is in compliance with nuclear agreement

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

LEE JIN-MAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Iran is in complicance with the international nuclear deal, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command said Wednesday, the same day that President Trump said he has “made a decision” on whether to certify Iran as compliant.

“The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements that we signed up for under the JCPOA,” Gen. John Hyten said at an event at the Hudson Instititue, a conservative think tank.

“But at the same time they are rapidly, rapidly deploying and developing a whole series of ballistic missiles and testing ballistic missiles at all ranges that provides significant concerns to not just the United States, but our allies,” Hyten noted. Still, he said, “we have an agreement that our nation has signed. And I believe that when the United States of America signs an agreement, it’s our job to live up to the terms of that agreement, our job to enforce that.”

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said that he has reached a decision on recertifying or scrapping the deal. “I have decided,” he told reporters after a bilateral meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “I’ll let you know what the decision is.”

The Trump administration has until October 15 to recertify Iran’s compliance.

On the campaign trail, Trump suggested renegotiating the deal, something that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says will not happen. “Either the JCPOA will remain as-is, in its entirety, or it will no longer exist,” Rouhani told reporters.

“There will be absolutely no changes, no alterations, nothing done to the current framework of the JCPOA.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico ‘destroyed’ by Hurricane Maria, officials say

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

All of Puerto Rico had lost power by Wednesday afternoon.

Hurricane Maria leaves all of Puerto Rico without power

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — All of Puerto Rico was without power by Wednesday afternoon, officials said, just hours after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island as a Category 4 storm.

Puerto Rico Office of Emergency Management Agency confirmed that 100 percent of the U.S. territory has lost power, noting that anyone with electricity is using a generator.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Maria has caused severe damage to infrastructure. A Category 4 storm has not hit the island since 1932.

Rossello told local newspaper El Nuevo Dia, which streamed the telephone interview live on Facebook, windows had shattered, rivers were overflowing and trees had fallen.

As of 2 p.m. ET, Maria had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds down to 155 mph as the storm moved over Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A weather station near Arecibo, some 43 miles from San Juan, reported a sustained wind of 71 mph and a wind gust of 91 mph on Wednesday morning.

“This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation,” the National Hurricane Center warned.

Hurricane Maria is 450 miles wide and hurricane-force winds extend up to 60 miles from its center.

Storm surge was predicted to be six to nine feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 35 inches in isolated areas.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some seven miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least three to four feet of water, according to Montalvo.

Puerto Rico will experience hurricane-force wind gusts through Wednesday afternoon, though the wind will weaken as the day goes on.

Maria is forecast to move off Puerto Rico’s northern shores and into open Atlantic waters Wednesday night, potentially allowing the storm to strengthen, according to ABC News meteorologists.

Maria is also forecast to approach the Dominican Republic on Wednesday night, but the Caribbean nation is not expected to get directly hit. Still, Punta Cana could experience hurricane conditions.

The latest forecast model shows Hurricane Maria missing the United States and moving out to sea.

By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of Turks and Caicos, where there’s a potential for hurricane-force winds and heavy rain but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.

From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast Bahamas Friday into Saturday.

“At this point, it looks like Maria will miss the United States and will move out to sea sometime later next week,” ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said. “But this will be a close call, so we will be watching carefully.”

Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore of Florida and the Carolinas.

Maria did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica’s prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that several people have died and the death toll “will rise” as officials continue to assess the widespread damage on the tiny island. Dominica has suffered a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings” since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. The island’s main general hospital “took a beating” and “patient care has been compromised,” he said.

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water,” Henry said via a WhatsApp message. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

Officials in Guadeloupe announced Wednesday that two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe — around 40 percent of the population — were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico in dark, curfew set after island ‘destroyed’ by Hurricane Maria, officials say

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The island of Puerto Rico has been “destroyed” after Hurricane Maria made landfall there as a Category 4 storm Wednesday morning, according to emergency officials.

Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management confirmed that 100 percent of the U.S. territory had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage from the storm, said Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to begin launching helicopters by this weekends to begin inspecting the transmission lines.

Telecommunications throughout the island have “collapsed,” Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of Puerto Rico’s office of emergency management and disaster administration agency, told ABC News.

As of 8 p.m. ET, Maria had weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained wind of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was located about 90 miles east-northeast of Punta Cana, a popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic.

Conditions on the eastern side of the Dominican Republic had started to deteriorate by Wednesday afternoon.

Some strengthening is possible now that the storm is back over the ocean, so Maria has potential to become a Category 3 hurricane again. Maria is forecast to churn past off the eastern shore of the Dominican Republic into Thursday before moving near Turks and Caicos and the southeast Bahamas Thursday night through Friday.

The latest track has Maria curving north and eventually north-northeast. Forecast models currently show the storm continuing to weaken next week as it travels far offshore, staying away from Florida and the Southeast coast. The only impacts the storm will have on the east coast at this point will be dangerous surf and rip currents.

Cortes described Maria as an unprecedented storm, adding that the island had not seen a storm of that strength since 1928.

A hurricane task force for the U.S. Department of State is monitoring Maria’s path in the Caribbean and will coordinate evacuations for U.S. citizens and provide aid on the ground, a State Department official told ABC News.

Puerto Rico was still experiencing tropical-storm force winds Wednesday afternoon, forcing emergency services and search and rescue teams to wait before heading out to assess the damage, Cortes said.

More than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are now running on generators, Cortes said. Two hospitals — one in Caguas and one in Bayamon — have been damaged.

No deaths have been reported so far, but catastrophic flooding is currently taking place on the island. Multiple rain gauges have reported between 18 and 24 inches of rain, with some approaching the 30-inch mark over the last 24 hours.

Flooding is the danger “that will take lives,” Cortes said, advising residents not to venture out of their homes until Thursday because “it is not safe to go out and observe.”

“We will rebuild our island with federal and state funds, hard work and the spirit of all Puerto Rican citizens,” Cortes said.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan.

Trees and power lines were downed, and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were clearly not built to any kind of code.

A Guaynabo resident who huddled in a bathroom with her family of six said told ABC News, “The winds took my home.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced via Twitter that a curfew was in effect starting at 6 p.m.

Storm surge was predicted to be 6 to 9 feet in coastal Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rainfall totals for Puerto Rico were projected at 12 to 18 inches, with as much as 35 inches in isolated areas.

Felix Delgado Montalvo, the mayor of Catano, some seven miles southwest of San Juan, told ABC News on Wednesday there are hundreds of people in shelters and over 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in the communities of Juana Matos, La Puntilla and Puente Blanco. Most of the homes are flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls, he said.

About 80 percent of residences in the Juana Matos community were destroyed from storm surge and flooding. Homes there are filled with at least 3 to 4 feet of water, according to Montalvo.

By Friday, Maria will pass to the east of Turks and Caicos, but the storm is not expected to make a direct hit.

From there, the hurricane is forecast to pass by the southeast islands of the Bahamas.

Maria did severe damage to multiple Caribbean islands over the past 36 hours, including Dominica, Guadeloupe and the Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica’s prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that several people have died and the death toll “will rise” as officials continue to assess the widespread damage on the tiny island. Dominica has suffered a “tremendous loss of housing and public buildings” since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. The island’s main general hospital “took a beating” and “patient care has been compromised,” he said.

“The country is in a daze — no electricity, no running water,” Henry said via a WhatsApp message. “In summary, the island has been devastated.”

Officials in Guadeloupe announced Wednesday that two people were killed and two others were missing due to the storm.

France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe — around 40 percent of the population — were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Iran president says Trump’s UN speech was full of ‘ugly, ignorant words’

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) —  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered a heated response Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s remarks to the United Nations General Assembly, during which Trump declared the Iran nuclear deal all but dead and called it an “embarrassment.”

“Ugly, ignorant words were spoken by the U.S. president against the Iranian nation,” said Rouhani in his own speech to the General Assembly, “full of hatred and baseless allegations.”

Rouhani continued by defending his country’s participation in the nuclear agreement and offered a threat directed towards the U.S., saying that Iran “will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party.”

Taking further aim at Trump, Rouhani said “destruction” of the nuclear agreement by what he called “rogue newcomers to the world of politics’” will not impede Iran’s course of progress and advancement.

“We never threaten anyone. But we don’t tolerate threats by anyone,” he said. “Our discourse is of mutual respect.”

Rouhani also addressed Israel in his remarks: “It’s disgraceful that the Zionist regime not committed to any international instrument or safeguard has the audacity to preach to peaceful nations.”

Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech to the U.N. that his country was firmly against the Iran nuclear deal.

“Change it or cancel,” Netanyahu urged.

Though Trump has signed temporary waivers on sanctions against Iran, the administration must decide by Oct. 15 whether to recertify Iran as compliant with the nuclear agreement. Trump has openly said if it were up to him, he would have already said the country has not complied. If Trump chooses to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, Congress would have up to 60 days to vote on any sanctions. Trump could also choose to stop signing waivers on sanctions or to begin enforcing the nuclear agreement with more vigor.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

More than 200 dead after magnitude 7.1 earthquake strikes Mexico

Posted on: September 20th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The earthquake caused extensive damage to Mexico City.