New Delhi, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — A cyclone hit the coast of southern India on Friday, killing at least 13 people, damaging homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 80,000 residents.
Cyclone Gaja blew ashore in Tamil Nadu state with heavy rains and winds of 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour, said Narendra Kumar, a National Disaster Response Force official. The storm weakened after coming onshore.
People living in low-lying areas had been taken to more than 470 relief centers in six districts, and fishermen were warned to stay away from the sea.
The state's top elected official, K. Palaniswami, told reporters the storm had killed 13 people in the state.
Initial reports indicate the deaths were caused by wall collapses and electrocution, said National Disaster Response Force official Umesh, who uses one name.
The storm felled trees and power lines, and authorities preventively disconnected the electricity supply to the worst-hit areas to prevent electrocutions. Schools were closed in places, and vehicles remained off the roads in most parts of Nagapattinam and Karaikal districts, the Press Trust of India news agency said.
Heavy rains damaged rice fields and roads, and strong winds uprooted banana and papaya trees along the coastline.
Nagapattinam district bore the brunt of the cyclone with a rainfall of 15 centimetres (6 inches), the local weather office said.
The storm heavily damaged a 16th century Roman Catholic Shrine Basilica at Velankanni, a small town in Nagapattinam district, Press Trust of India said.
The cyclone destroyed or partially damaged nearly 1,600 mud huts and uprooted more than 5,000 trees in the area, state authorities said.
State-owned Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation said more than 13,000 electricity poles, 13 distribution transformers and 1,000 cables were damaged by strong winds and rains.
Tamil Nadu state is prone to cyclones that develop in the Bay of Bengal. In 1999, a cyclone killed more than 15,000 people in eastern Orissa.
Chico, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — With the confirmed death toll at 71 and the list of unaccounted for people more than 1,000, authorities in Northern California on Friday searched for those who perished and those who survived the fiercest of wildfires ahead of a planned visit by President Donald Trump.
The president on Saturday is expected to get a look at the grief and damage caused by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, and he could face resentment from locals for blaming the inferno on poor forest management in California.
In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on "Fox News Sunday," Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, "This should have been all raked out."
Deputies found eight more bodies Friday, bringing the death toll to 71.
The number of people unaccounted for grew from 631 on Thursday night to more than 1,000 on Friday, but Sheriff Kory Honea said the list was dynamic and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.
He said the roster probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they've been reported missing.
Some on the list have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media. Others have been located and are safe, but authorities haven't gotten around to marking them as found.
Tamara Conry said she should never have been on the list.
"My husband and I are not missing and never were!" Conry wrote Thursday night on Facebook. "We have no family looking for us. ... I called and left a message to take our names off."
Authorities compiled the list by going back to listen to all the dispatch calls they received since the fire started, to make sure they didn't miss anyone.
In last year's catastrophic wildfires in California wine country, Sonoma County authorities at one point listed more than 2,000 people as missing. But they slowly whittled down the number. In the end, 44 people died in several counties.
The wildfire this time all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow on Nov. 8, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.
Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles (575 square kilometers). It was 45 percent contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas. Crews managed to stop it from spreading toward Oroville, population 19,000.
This patch of California, a former Gold Rush region in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is to some extent Trump country, with Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Butte County by 4 percentage points in 2016.
But some survivors resent that Trump took to Twitter two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.
"If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you're going to be accepted? You're not going to have a parade," Maggie Crowder of Magalia said Thursday outside an informal shelter at a Walmart parking lot in Chico.
But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close: "I think by maybe seeing it he's going to be like 'Oh, my goodness,' and it might start opening people's eyes."
In his Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said, "Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management."
Nick Shawkey, a captain with the state fire agency, said the president's tweet blaming poor forest management was based on a "misunderstanding." The federal government manages 46 percent of land in California.
"The thing he's tweeting about is his property," Shawkey said.
California's outgoing and incoming governors said they would join Trump on Saturday.
Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom said they welcomed the president's visit and "now is a time to pull together for the people of California." Brown and Newsom have been vocal critics of Trump.
There were also worries the presidential visit would be disruptive.
"It's already a zoo here and I don't care who the president is. He needs to wait because the traffic's already horrendous," said Charlotte Harkness, whose home in Paradise burned down. "He could just tweet something nice — three words: 'I am sorry,' and that's fine."
More than 450 searchers continued looking for human remains in the ashes.
Around 52,000 people have been driven out and have gone to shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives. With winter coming on, many are seeking answers on what assistance will be provided.
At the Chico Mall where the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others set up an assistance center, 68-year-old Richard Wilson sought information about lodging. His wife is nearly bedridden from lupus and fibromyalgia.
"We're having to stay at a Marriott, which is like $100 a night, and we're running out of money," Wilson said as he stood outside in rubber sandals and no socks — the only footwear he had when he fled the flames that destroyed his home.
In Southern California , meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a blaze torched an area the size of Denver and destroyed more than 600 homes and other structures. The blaze was 69 percent contained, authorities said.
At least three deaths were reported.
Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco's world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.
United Nations, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — A key U.N. committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday strongly condemning the continuing "gross human rights violations and abuses" against Rohingya Muslims who are treated as outsiders in Myanmar and were victims of a brutal campaign by the country's military.
The General Assembly's human rights committee approved the resolution by a vote of 142-10, with 26 abstentions. It is virtually certain to be formally adopted by the 193-member world body in December.
Among those voting against the resolution were Myanmar neighbors China, Cambodia and Laos along with Russia. Bangladesh, which hosts 1.1 million Rohingya refugees, voted in favor.
The resolution expresses deep concern that violence by Myanmar's military against the Rohingya has forced over 723,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since August 2017.
It urgently calls on Myanmar's government to end discrimination and provide a path to citizenship for the embattled minority.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis" from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
The latest crisis began with attacks by an underground Rohingya insurgent group on Myanmar security personnel in August 2017 in northern Rakhine State. Myanmar's military responded with a brutal campaign and is accused of mass rape, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.
The resolution, sponsored by the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the European Union and Canada, reiterates "deep distress" at reports that unarmed Rohingya are still being subjected to excessive use of force and rights violations by Myanmar's military and security forces, including killings and rapes.
The resolution expresses "grave concern" at the findings of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, which concluded that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya.
It strongly condemns all rights abuses set out in the commission's report and calls for "a full and independent investigation" of human rights abuses against the Rohingya and other minorities.
Turkish Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu, speaking on behalf of the OIC, called the commission's findings "devastating."
He said "people have been trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and forced displacement" for years in Myanmar and the events of August 2017 against the Rohingya are "only the latest episode of this cycle."
"Without a comprehensive strategy, reaching an enduring solution to this crisis is impossible," Sinirlioglu said.
He said the OIC believes the only solution is the voluntary return of the Rohingya to their homes with their basic rights "guaranteed" — but he said this will not be possible "without holding the perpetrators responsible for their crimes."
Myanmar's U.N. ambassador, Hau Do Suan, called the resolution "politically motivated and one-sided and discriminatory." He accused the global media and human rights champions of concentrating on Myanmar and Rakhine state — where the remaining Rohingya live — when money could be better spend helping starving people in Yemen and elsewhere.
"Adoption of this and other ill-intentioned, selective and politically motivated resolutions will not help at all our efforts to solving the issue of Rakhine state, but would rather lead to further polarization and escalation of tensions among different religious communities in the country," Hau said. "It will only aggravate distrust between the people of Myanmar and the international community."
Washington, Nov 16 (AP/UNB) — A federal judge ordered the Trump administration on Friday to immediately return the White House press credentials of CNN reporter Jim Acosta, saying Acosta suffered "irreparable harm" from the decision to bar him.
US District Court Judge Timothy Kelly, an appointee of President Donald Trump, announced his decision following a hearing. The judge said Acosta's credentials would be returned immediately and reactivated to allow him access to the White House.
CNN had asked the judge to force the White House to return the credentials that give Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent, access to the White House complex for press briefings and other events.
The judge granted CNN's request for a temporary restraining order. A lawsuit that CNN brought against the Trump administration over the issue is continuing.
The White House revoked Acosta's credentials after he and Trump tangled during a press conference last week.
The judge said the government could not say who initially decided to revoke Acosta's hard pass. The White House had spelled out its reasons for revoking his credentials in a tweet from White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and in a statement after CNN filed its lawsuit. But the judge said those "belated efforts were hardly sufficient to satisfy due process."
The judge also found that Acosta suffered "irreparable harm," dismissing the government's argument that CNN could simply send other reporters to cover the White House in Acosta's place.
The suit by CNN alleges that Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights were violated by suspending his hard pass. While the judge didn't rule on the underlying case, he signaled they were likely to prevail in their claims.
The judge told attorneys to file additional court papers in the case by Monday.
"Let's go back to work!" Acosta said outside the courthouse after the ruling.
Trump has made his dislike of CNN clear since before he took office and continuing into his presidency. He has described the network as "fake news" both on Twitter and in public comments.
At last week's press conference, which followed the midterm elections, Trump was taking questions from reporters and called on Acosta, who asked about Trump's statements about a caravan of migrants making its way to the U.S.-Mexico border. After a terse exchange, Trump told Acosta, "That's enough," several times while calling on another reporter.
Acosta attempted to ask another question about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and initially declined to give up a hand-held microphone to a White House intern. Trump responded to Acosta by saying he wasn't concerned about the investigation, calling it a "hoax," and then criticized Acosta, calling him a "rude, terrible person."
The White House pulled Acosta's credentials hours later.
The White House explanations for why it seized Acosta's credentials have shifted over the last week.
Sanders initially explained the decision by accusing Acosta of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone.
But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta's account that he was just trying to keep the microphone, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was. On Tuesday, Sanders accused Acosta of being unprofessional by trying to dominate the questioning at the news conference.
Harare, Nov 16 (AP/UNB) — Fire swept through a passenger bus in Zimbabwe, and police said Friday that more than 40 people died and at least 20 were injured, some with severe burns.
Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she did not have details about the cause of the accident on Thursday night.
A photograph posted on Twitter by the Zimbabwe Red Cross shows the remains of a bus that was completely incinerated. The Red Cross said its teams responded to a "horrific accident" involving a bus heading to neighboring South Africa at around midnight.
The accident happened in Gwanda district, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) south of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital.
Last week, a collision between two buses in Zimbabwe killed 50 people and injured about 80.