Canberra, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — An airline says four passengers remain hospitalized after one of its planes crashed into a Pacific lagoon in Micronesia last week.
Air Niugini said in a statement Monday that the four are in stable condition at a Chuuk island hospital and would soon be taken to Guam for further treatment.
The Papua New Guinea national carrier says the four were among 47 passengers and crew who were evacuated from a sinking Boeing 737 on Friday after Flight PX73 crashed into a lagoon near the Chuuk International Airport runway.
The airline revealed Saturday that one of the passengers hadn't been accounted for.
An Air Niugini spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for an update on the search for the passenger and for details including his nationality.
Stockholm, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — This year's Nobel Prize recipients will be revealed starting Monday with the prize for medicine or physiology.
The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute — 50 professors at the Stockholm facility — chooses the winner or winners of the prize honoring research into the microscopic mechanisms of life and ways to fend off invaders that cut it short. A maximum of three laureates are selected.
Last year's prize went to three Americans for work in identifying genes and proteins that work in the body's biological clock, which affects functions such as sleep patterns, blood pressure and eating habits.
The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday. No literature prize is being given this year.
Allentown, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — A car explosion that rocked downtown Allentown left three males dead, including the likely "perpetrator," officials said Sunday as federal authorities who are leading the investigation looked ahead to autopsies.
"We know there's been a criminal incident," District Attorney James Martin told reporters at a news conference Sunday. "We have a high degree of confidence that the perpetrator was probably killed in the incident."
Authorities released no information about the possible cause of Saturday night's blast, including whether it was a bomb, but Martin said, "Loads of us in law enforcement" are confident "this was A. an isolated incident and B. there's no continuing threat."
Authorities are seeking the public's help in getting clues and asked anyone with information to call the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is leading the investigation.
The blast occurred a block from the PPL Center sports arena and two blocks from the popular Hamilton Street dining area in Allentown, a city of about 120,000 about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. The block where it occurred is a mixture of residences and small businesses, including a restaurant and a bar.
The FBI, state police, and city and county authorities are investigating along with the ATF.
Resident Carlos Perodin told The Morning Call of Allentown that he was watching a movie with his wife when he heard a thunderous explosion and went to the scene.
"The fire was crazy," he said. "The car was pretty much split in half."
Another witness to the aftermath of the explosion, Stephanie Connelly, told The Morning Call that she saw body parts strewn across the street.
"This is real life and I'm shaking and freaking out while I'm running," she said.
Autopsies were planned Monday on the three males found dead after the 9:30 p.m. explosion, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said Sunday afternoon. Grim said he would probably be able to release the names Monday once their identities are confirmed and their families are notified.
Authorities swarmed the area after the explosion. A bus station was turned into a makeshift command center with armored vehicles, dozens of police cruisers, mobile command units and even portable bathrooms, the paper reported. Several portable tents were also erected for evidence processing.
Residents were asked to avoid the area, and people who live nearby were asked to shelter in place. A shelter was set up at an elementary school.
The FBI had earlier said it was working with other agencies and "to assess the situation and determine the cause, with public safety the bureau's highest priority." Officials asked anyone who witnessed the blast or had information about it to contact investigators.
Palu, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — A mass burial of earthquake and tsunami victims was being prepared in a hard-hit city Monday as the need for heavy equipment to dig for survivors of the disaster that struck a central Indonesian island three days ago grows desperate.
The toll of more than 800 dead is largely from the city of Palu and is expected to rise as areas cut off by the damage are reached. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk Friday and spawned a tsunami said to have been as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in places.
The grave being dug in Palu for 300 victims will be 10 meters by 100 meters (33 feet by 330 feet) in size and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
"This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons," he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Military and commercial aircraft were delivering some aid and supplies to the region. But there was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors buried in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble. A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket.
At least 832 people were confirmed dead as of Sunday evening, Indonesia's disaster agency said, with nearly all of those from Palu. The regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong — with a combined population of 1.2 million — had yet to be fully assessed.
"The death toll is believed to be still increasing, since many bodies were still under the wreckage, while many have not been reached," said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
The cries from beneath the Roa-Roa Hotel, which appeared to have toppled over with its walls splintered like pickup sticks, went silent by Sunday afternoon. Officials had estimated about 50 people could be inside.
"We are trying our best. Time is so important here to save people," said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue team. "Heavy equipment is on the way."
Metro TV showed about a dozen rescuers in orange jumpsuits climbing over debris with a stretcher carrying the body of a victim from the modest business hotel.
Other rescuers worked to free a 15-year-old girl trapped under concrete in her house in Palu after it collapsed on her family during the earthquake. Unable to move her legs under the rubble, Nurul Istikharah was trapped beside her dead mother and niece. Rescuers also tried to control water from a leaking pipe, fearing she would drown.
Istikharah was unconscious during part of the effort to free her, but rescuers kept talking to her to try to keep her awake. Others offered her food and water.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo toured Palu on Sunday and said rescuers were having difficulty reaching victims because of a shortage of heavy equipment.
"There are many challenges," Jokowi said. "We have to do many things soon, but conditions do not allow us to do so."
He said authorities were deploying more heavy machinery so emergency workers can help recover more victims Monday.
The stricken areas also needed medical supplies, fuel, fresh water and experts.
It was the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
In Donggala, the site closest to the earthquake's epicenter, aerial footage on Metro TV showed the sugary blond sands of beaches swept out to sea, along with some buildings. Some buildings in the town were severely damaged, with plywood walls shredded and chunks of concrete scattered on the pavement. Much of the damage, however, appeared limited to the waterfront.
Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from the earthquake and tsunami. A heavily damaged mosque was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge with yellow arches had collapsed.
The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami as the waves raced into the tight inlet. Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman, said waves were reported as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in some places.
Looters hit a badly damaged shopping mall, apparently unconcerned for their safety amid ongoing aftershocks and the structure's questionable stability.
In one devastated area in Palu, residents said dozens of people could still be buried in their homes.
"The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell. Many people were trapped and buried under collapsed houses. I could do nothing to help," resident Nur Indah said, crying. "In the evening, some of them turned on their cellphones just to give a sign that they were there. But the lights were off later and the next day."
With hundreds injured, earthquake-damaged hospitals were overwhelmed.
Nugroho said 61 foreigners were in Palu at the time of the disaster. Most were accounted for, but one South Korean was believed to be trapped in the Roa-Roa Hotel, while three others from France and one from Malaysia were missing. The survivors were to be evacuated to the Sulawesi city of Makassar in the island's far south.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that span a distance that would stretch from New York to London. It is home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
The disaster agency has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu's airport, though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway was cracked and the control tower damaged.
Sulawesi has a history of religious tensions between Muslims and Christians, with violent riots erupting in the town of Poso, not far from Palu, two decades ago. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.
Washington, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) -Stricter Trump administration immigration policies have stymied Pentagon plans to restart a program that allowed thousands of people with critical medical or Asian and African language skills to join the military and become American citizens, according to several U.S. officials.
The decade-old program has been on hold since 2016 amid concerns that immigrant recruits were not being screened well enough, and security threats were slipping through the system. Defense officials shored up the vetting process, and planned to relaunch the program earlier this month.
But there was an unexpected barrier when Homeland Security officials said they would not be able to protect new immigrant recruits from being deported when their temporary visas expired after they signed a contract to join the military, the U.S. officials said. They were not authorized to publicly describe internal discussions and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The program is called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI. The plan to restart it was backed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who believes that noncitizens can bring key skills, language abilities, and cultural knowledge to the military.
Mattis, a combat veteran of multiple war tours, has fought with and commanded foreign nationals, and he believes their service adds to the lethality of America's fighting force, according to the officials.
The Pentagon chief told reporters late last month that the program is designed to enlist immigrants with needed skills. "We need and want every qualified patriot willing to serve and able to serve," Mattis said. At the time, he said the department was working diligently to address the security screening problems.
When asked about the latest developments, Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said, "the unique skill sets these individuals bring is one of the reasons the U.S. military is the world's premier fighting force." She had no comment on the internal discussions to relaunch the program.
The officials familiar with the discussions said Homeland Security told the Pentagon that it would not be able sign any agreement blocking the deportation of the immigrant recruits brought in under the program.
In previous years, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service used an informal process to give MAVNI recruits protection when their temporary or student visas expired because they were entering military service. In addition, Congress included new restrictions in the 2019 defense bill that limit each military service to 1,000 such recruits per year.
President Donald Trump has made tighter controls on immigration, both legal and illegal, an important element of his administration.
Asked about the issue, a Homeland Security official said recruits without legal immigration status would be subject to deportation, but each case is reviewed individually. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Over the past 10 years, the military services have recruited more than 10,000 immigrants through the program.
In recent years, however, the program has been mired in controversy amid growing concerns about security threats and struggles to develop a proper screening process.
According to court documents, more than 20 people in the program have been the subject of FBI or Pentagon counterintelligence or criminal investigations since 2013.
Gleason said the Defense Department suspended the program in 2016 after several classified assessments concluded that it "was vulnerable to an unacceptable level of risk from insider threats such as espionage, terrorism, and other criminal activity."
Army Secretary Mark Esper, another advocate of the program, said recently that about of 80 percent of MAVNI recruits who have gone through screening were approved and enlisted into the service. But he added that the Army must "exercise due diligence, to make sure we understand who is coming into our ranks and just do that. The process is never quick enough, certainly for them, and for me as well."
Since the program's suspension in 2016, hundreds of immigrants have been stalled in the intake process, waiting a year or more to get through the updated screening.
Dozens of the immigrant recruits were discharged or had their contracts canceled as the background checks dragged on, leading to complaints and lawsuits. Defense officials said the delays were likely because the remaining applicants required more complicated security checks that take longer to complete.
In response to the suits, the Army stopped processing discharges last month and reinstated at least three dozen recruits who had been thrown out of the service.
Officials said the Pentagon is exploring other ways to adjust or replace the program in order to bring immigrants with those skills into the military. But the officials said it will be difficult and that it probably will take a good deal of time.
The struggle with the program comes as the administration has imposed more stringent rules for immigration, aimed largely at the country's border with Mexico.
Those moves reflect Trump's calculation that his promise to end illegal immigration and build a wall along that border fueled his election, and that stressing the same issues will drive voters to the polls and help the GOP retain its majorities in the Senate and House.
The MAVNI program, however, is not targeted at Spanish speakers, because the military has a large number of those. Instead, according to the Pentagon, the top languages spoken by recruits brought in through the program are Korean, Chinese Mandarin, Nepalese, Hindi, Swahili, Tagalog, French, Yoruba, Russian and Portuguese Brazilian.