Four people were killed and five others were injured on Saturday in an explosion at a motel in eastern South Korea.
The explosion occurred on the second floor of the motel where seven guests were using a gas stove to grill meat, said Kim Dong-woo, an official from the fire department in the coastal city of Donghae.
He said four people inside the room were killed and the other three were seriously injured. The explosion also caused minor injuries to two other guests who were in different rooms.
Kim said officials were investigating the cause of the explosion. The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said the explosion could have been caused by gas leakage.
Officials did not provide the personal details of those who were killed or injured.
Philippine authorities on Sunday lowered the alert level at Taal Volcano, two weeks after it began spewing ash, steam and rocks, a move that will allow many of the more than 376,000 displaced villagers to return home.
A popular tourist destination just south of Manila because of its picturesque setting in the middle of a lake, Taal erupted on Jan. 12. It caused no known deaths but delivered an early crisis this year for one of the world's most disaster-prone nations.
"Taal volcano's condition in the two weeks ... has generally declined into less frequent volcanic earthquake activity, decelerated ground deformation ... and weak steam and gas emissions at the main crater," the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.
The government's agency lowered the alert level from 4 to 3, which means there's a "decreased tendency toward a hazardous eruption." The highest level-5 alert indicates a major and much more dangerous eruption.
The agency also reduced to half the danger zone where residents have to be evacuated, from the 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) radius around the volcano. Taal had last erupted 43 years ago.
"We have to be careful of Taal because of the danger it may still bring, so at the lower level, there should be heightened preparedness. People should brace for rapid evacuation," Renato Solidum, the head of the institute, said in a televised news conference.
Mayor Daniel Reyes of Agoncillo, a town along the western shores of Taal Lake overlooking the island where the volcano lies, said he was relieved but remained concerned. Residents of Agoncillo and nearby Lemery could still not return home because of the towns' proximity to the volcano.
"It's somehow a relief but we're still under a total lockdown," Reyes told The Associated Press, adding all the 44,000 villagers of his town will remain in evacuation centers.
More than 376,000 people fled to safety from ash-blanketed towns and cities in hard-hit Batangas province. Nearly half of them sought accommodation in some 500 state-run emergency shelters, mostly school and government buildings. The eruption had shut Manila's main international airport for a night due to volcanic ash, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
A thriving tourism industry in Batangas and in upland Tagaytay city, where hundreds of hotels, venues, spas and parks have benefited from its vantage view of one of the world's smallest volcanoes, came to a halt for days.
Resort towns around Taal Lake resembled ash-covered ghost towns. Police set up barricades and checkpoints to prevent residents from sneaking back to the danger zone to check their homes, rescue pets or retrieve food, documents and belongings, sparking arguments.
The 1,020-foot (311-meter) Taal is the second-most restive of about two dozen active Philippine volcanoes and precariously lies near densely populated areas. On the small island where the volcano lies, more than 5,000 villagers, many of them working as tourist guides, fled as the ground shook and the volcano belched a tall plume of dark-gray ash and steam into the sky. Hundreds of horses, cows and other animals were left behind.
The Philippine archipelago lies in the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire," a seismically fragile region around the ocean basin, where most of the world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
The U.S. Consulate in the epidemic-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a charter flight Tuesday.
A notice Sunday from the embassy in Beijing said there would be limited capacity to transport U.S. citizens on the flight that will proceed directly to San Francisco.
It said that in the event there are not enough seats, priority will be given to to individuals "at greater risk from coronavirus," a new respiratory disease that has sickened 1,975 people and killed 56, almost all in Wuhan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out in anger Saturday at an NPR reporter who accused him of shouting expletives at her after she asked him in an interview about Ukraine. In a direct and personal attack, America's chief diplomat said the journalist had "lied" to him and he called her conduct "shameful."
NPR said it stood by Mary Louise Kelly's reporting.
Pompeo claimed in a statement that the incident was "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt" President Donald Trump and his administration. Pompeo, a former CIA director and Republican congressman from Kansas who is one of Trump's closest allies in the Cabinet, asserted, "It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity."
It is extraordinary for a secretary of state to make such a personal attack on a journalist, but he is following the lead of Trump, who has repeatedly derided what he calls "fake news" and ridiculed individual reporters. In one of the more memorable instances, Trump mocked a New York Times reporter with a physical disability.
In Friday's interview, Pompeo responded testily when Kelly asked him about Ukraine and specifically whether he defended or should have defended Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv whose ouster figured in Trump's impeachment.
"I have defended every State Department official," he said. "We've built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world ... I've defended every single person on this team. I've done what's right for every single person on this team."
This has been a sensitive point for Pompeo. As a Trump loyalist, he has been publicly silent as the president and his allies have disparaged the nonpartisan career diplomats, including Yovanovitch, who have testified in the impeachment hearings. Those diplomats told Congress that Trump risked undermining Ukraine, a critical U.S. ally, by pressuring for an investigation of Democrat Joe Biden, a Trump political rival.
Yovanovitch, who was seen by Trump allies as a roadblock to those efforts, was told in May to leave Ukraine and return to Washington immediately for her own safety. After documents released this month from an associate of Trump's personal attorney suggested she was being watched and possibly under threat, Pompeo took three days to address the matter and did so only after coming under harsh criticism from lawmakers and current and former diplomats.
Pompeo was rebuked Saturday by four Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who said his "insulting and contemptuous comments" were beneath the office of the secretary of state.
"Instead of calling journalists 'liars' and insulting their intelligence when they ask you hard questions you would rather not answer, your oath of office places on you a duty and obligation to engage respectfully and transparently," the letter to Pompeo said. It was signed by Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the committee, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
After the NPR interview, Kelly said she was taken to Pompeo's private living room, where he shouted at her "for about the same amount of time as the interview itself," using the "F-word" repeatedly. She said he was not happy to have been questioned about Ukraine.
Pompeo, in his statement, did not deny shouting at Kelly and did not apologize. Instead, he accused her of lying to him when setting up the interview, which he apparently expected would be limited to questions about Iran, and for supposedly agreeing not to discuss the post-interview meeting.
Kelly said Pompeo asked whether she thought Americans cared about Ukraine and if she could find the country on a map.
"I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing," she said in discussing the encounter on "All Things Considered." "I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, 'people will hear about this.'"
Pompeo ended Saturday's statement by saying, "It is worth nothing that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine."
Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president of news, said in a statement that "Kelly has always conducted herself with the utmost integrity, and we stand behind this report.''
U.S. troops at military outposts ín eastern Syria asked variations of the same question to their top commander Saturday: What is our future here? What are the goals we need to think about?
Gen. Frank McKenzie, the U.S Middle East commander, knows the future is not certain. But at least for today, he said, "this is an area where we made a commitment. I think we're going to be here for a while."
In an unannounced tour of five military bases in Syria stretching from the northeastern part of the country to the Middle Euphrates River Valley, McKenzie offered reassurances that the U.S. remains committed to its mission in Syria. And he said that operations against Islamic State militants are on the rise again, after the U.S. cut back due to the increased tensions with Iran and the need to concentrate on increasing security.
But these are uncertain times. And America's mission to train and partner with Syrian Democratic Forces in the fight against the Islamic State group has been tested.
Just last year President Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria - part of his vow to bring forces home and halt the endless wars. Over time, his military commanders, members of Congress and other leaders convinced Trump to keep a scaled-back force in Syria to protect an expanse of Kurdish-controlled oil fields and facilities from falling into IS hands.
So while some troops did leave Syria, the Pentagon ordered others to move into the east, with armored vehicles and security forces to help the SDF guard the oil.
McKenzie, who met with the SDF's commander, Mazloum Abdi, at an undisclosed military base in eastern Syria Saturday morning, said the Kurdish leader wanted assurances that the U.S. would continue to help his fighters.
His answer, McKenzie said, was that the U.S will continue to conduct anti-IS missions, partner with the rebel forces and help protect the oil fields. But, he said, he did not put a deadline on it.
"He knows, and I agree, that we're not going to be here for 100 years," McKenzie said during a stop at Green Village military outpost, east of Deir el-Zour. "I frankly don't know how long we're going to be here and I have no instructions other than to continue to work with our partner here."
McKenzie criss-crossed the east, flying by helicopter over long stretches of desert flecked with intermittent patches of green and scattered villages. It was his first trip to the five bases.
The U.S. declared an end to the Islamic State's physical caliphate last March. But in recent months there have been growing concerns that the insurgents are regrouping, particularly in the west where U.S. forces are not present.
Operations against IS, however, were interrupted in recent weeks, in the aftermath of the U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Iraq. Fearing reprisals by Iran and Iranian-backed proxy forces, the U.S. paused or slowed operations to beef up security in Iraq and Syria. Iran, after several days, launched ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed. Several dozen were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, but no one was killed in the attacks.
According to officials, US operations against the Islamic State group in Syria were reduced by half over that time. But as McKenzie took stock of the situation during his day-long sprint across eastern Syria he said that has now changed.
"Certainly, the pace of operations went down earlier in the year, based on events in Iraq" McKenzie told two reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post traveling with him into Syria. "We're now back up to, I think, probably three or four operations a week with our partners here — so that pace is beginning to pick up and we are very pleased with that."
Maj. Gen. Eric Hill, commander of the special operations forces in Iraq and Syria, was with McKenzie for most of the day. He said his forces continue to train and conduct operations with the SDF to root out IS insurgents who are "hiding in the valleys, in the caves, in the desserts, trying to regroup."
Hill spoke to reporters at the military base located at the Conoco gas field near Deir el-Zour, where military trucks and aircraft sit alongside looming plant buildings and old homes that have been turned into high-tech operations centers and barracks.
According to officials, there are now about 750 U.S. troops in eastern Syria, spread across a swath of land that stretches more than 90 miles (150 kilometers) from Deir el-Zour to the border region east of al-Hassakeh.
The U.S.-Syrian Kurdish relationship, which dates back to 2014, was strained after Trump last month ordered American troops out of northern Syria, making way for a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-held towns and villages along a stretch of the border.
Kurdish and American forces are now operating in a region that is more complicated and crowded with troops since the Turks began their attack on northeast Syria in early October, aimed at pushing the Kurdish fighters away from the border.
While talking to troops on Saturday, McKenzie warned that Iranian proxy forces in Syria continue to be a significant risk to them.
He said that while Iran appears to be deterred right now from launching another attack against the U.S, "you always worry about their ability to command and control their proxy elements which they have equipped very well."