Tourists, residents evacuated by boat in Greece as wildfires rage

By Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) -Scores of people on the Greek island of Evia fled to the shore to be evacuated by boat on Wednesday as a rapidly spreading wildfire tore through surrounding pine forests, leaving gutted buildings in its wake.

The fire, worsened by changing winds, has forced authorities on the island near Athens to evacuate several villages since late Tuesday.

Coast guard vessels picked up at least 50 people who had been evacuated from a beach close to the seaside village of Rovies on Wednesday and transferred them to a ferry, an official said.

“It was burning all night. The forest has been destroyed, villages were burned. We left behind our homes, we left our pets,” Christina Katsini, a Rovies resident, told Skai TV.

Tassos Baltas, a volunteer rescuer, said it was “raining ashes in Halkida”, Evia’s capital, some 100 km (62 miles) away.

Fires that had threatened houses on the northern outskirts of Athens on Tuesday eased slightly. But with Greece facing its most severe heatwave in 30 years, the risk remained high for the next few days in most parts of the country, authorities said.

Temperatures hovered above 40 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) for the third day.

“The weather conditions are extreme,” Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said in a televised address. “We should remain on alert. We should avoid any – but any – activity that could cause a fire.”

Reinforcements arrived from Cyprus, and firefighters from France and two aircraft from Sweden were expected by Thursday, a Civil Protection Authority spokesperson said.

Fires were also burning in Halkidiki in northern Greece, the Peloponnese, in the regions of Messinia and Mani, and in Ilia, close to Ancient Olympia, which was the site of the first Olympic Games and was ordered to be evacuated.

Europe has been experiencing extreme weather this summer, from heavy flooding in the north to severe heatwaves and fires in parts of the Mediterranean, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record.

Athens residents were told to stay indoors as a thick cloud of smoke hung over the city.

Fires near the town of Varympompi, north of the capital, damaged scores of buildings and destroyed more than 80 cars after breaking out on Tuesday.

“I saved my pets, that’s why I stayed,” said one Varympompi resident, Panagiotis, standing among burned cars and blackened pine trees. “I have goosebumps just talking about it; all the homes around me burned, nothing’s left.”

(Additional reporting by Giorgos Moutafis and Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by Karolina Tagaris)

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff go into quarantine after coronavirus hits Coast Guard

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff have gone into self-quarantine after the Coast Guard’s No. 2 tested positive for the novel coronavirus following a top-level meeting at the Pentagon last week, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the military’s top brass – with the exception of the Coast Guard vice commandant, Admiral Charles Ray – had all tested negative so far and were still carrying out their duties.

But the disclosure risks adding to a sense of uncertainty about operations at the highest levels of the U.S. government after President Donald Trump himself contracted the illness, along with senior White House staff and other Republican leaders.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that all potential close contacts from Ray’s meetings at the Pentagon were tested Tuesday morning and that none of them exhibited symptoms.

“We have no additional positive tests to report at this time,” Hoffman said in a statement.

“There is no change to the operational readiness or mission capability of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

Ray attended meetings late last week with the U.S. military’s top brass, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, Trump’s top military advisor.

U.S. officials told Reuters that Milley was self-isolating, as was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The Coast Guard disclosed earlier on Tuesday that Ray had tested positive on Monday for the virus after feeling mild symptoms over the weekend.

It said Ray will be quarantining from home.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Chris Reese and Grant McCool)

Deadly Missouri duck boat to be raised, most survivors leave hospital

July 22, 2018; Springfield, MO, USA; Family of victims of the duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake embrace after a community wide memorial service for the families, friends and victims at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri on Sunday, July 22, 2018. Nathan Papes/News-Leader via USA TODAY NETWORK

By Jon Herskovitz

(Reuters) – The duck boat that sank in a Missouri lake last week, killing 17 people, was set to be raised on Monday and taken to a secure facility as part of a federal investigation into one of deadliest U.S. tourist accidents for years.

The U.S. Coast Guard said on Sunday it will oversee the salvage operations for the amphibious vessel that was carrying 31 people when it went down on Thursday in a fierce and sudden storm on Table Rock Lake outside of the tourist destination of Branson.

Seven of the 14 survivors were taken to a local hospital, and all but one had been discharged as of Sunday. That person is in good condition, a spokeswoman for the Cox Medical Center Branson hospital said.

Two of the World War Two-style amphibious duck boat vehicles were out on the lake and headed back to shore when the storm struck, but only one made it. The dead were aged one to 70 and came from six U.S. states.

Readings near Branson when the boat went down showed winds of up to 73 miles per hour (117 kph), two miles (3.2 km) shy of hurricane force, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Saturday.

Tia Coleman, who lost nine family members including her husband and three children, told a news conference on Saturday from a Branson hospital that she does not know how she will recover from the loss.

“Going home is going to be completely difficult. I don’t know how I am going to do it. Since I have had a home, it has always been filled with little feet and laughter,” she said, choking back tears.

Coleman said the boat’s captain, who was among the survivors, pointed out the life jackets but told those aboard there was no need for them.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley was in Branson over the weekend talking with investigators. He has said the state is contemplating whether to bring criminal charges.

Jim Pattison, president of Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Branson “Ride The Ducks” tour company, told CBS This Morning on Friday that the strength of the storm was unexpected and the duck boats should not have been on the lake.

More than three dozen people have died in incidents involving duck boats on land and water in the United States over the past two decades.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Coast Guard to raise Missouri tourist boat after deadly sinking

Rescue personnel work after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard was preparing on Monday morning to recover the “duck boat” that sank beneath storm-whipped waves in a Missouri lake last week, drowning 17 people in one of the deadliest tourist accidents in the United States in years.

After raising the World War Two-style amphibious landing craft from Table Rock Lake outside the popular vacation town of Branson, the Coast Guard said, it will hand boat over to federal investigators.

Thirty-one people were aboard the Ride the Ducks boat last Thursday when a sudden, intense storm struck, with winds just shy of hurricane strength churning the lake’s waters. Less than half survived the accident and officials are looking into what the boat’s operators knew about the weather forecast before setting out.

FILE PHOTO: A duck boat is seen at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, U.S., July 19, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Ron Folsom/via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: A duck boat is seen at Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, U.S., July 19, 2018 in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Ron Folsom/via REUTERS

Among the dead were the boat’s driver and nine members of a single family. A memorial service was held in Branson on Sunday for the victims.

More than three dozen people have died in incidents involving duck boat vehicles in the United States over the past two decades, both on water and land.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has said the state is contemplating whether to bring criminal charges.

Ripley Entertainment, which owns the duck boat ride, has said the boats should not have been out in such bad weather and that the intensity of the storm was unexpected.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which will determine the causes of the accident, will look into what the boat operators knew about the weather forecast before taking the boat out.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

Philippines’ coast guard rescues 252 passengers from capsized ferry

Filipinos look for their missing relatives on a list of survivors after a Philippine vessel capsized because of bad weather in Real, Quezon in the Philippines, December 22, 2017.

By Erik De Castro and Ronn Bautista

REAL, Philippines (Reuters) – The Philippines’ coast guard said on Friday it had rescued 252 passengers and crew, including an Australian and his Filipino wife, and recovered five dead people from a ferry that capsized east of the capital Manila.

A Philippine vessel capsized on Thursday because of bad weather, highlighting frequent boat accidents in the Southeast Asian nation that is composed of more than 7,000 islands.

The Philippine Coast Guard has confirmed five deaths while 252 passengers including an Australian and his Filipino wife, were rescued, said spokesman Captain Arm and Balilo.

“All the passengers and crew are accounted for but as I have said we will re-evaluate based on the claims of the families of the missing passengers,” Balilo told Reuters. The vessel was carrying 257 passengers and crew.

The boat left the port around 9 a.m. and capsized an hour later due to strong winds and giant waves.

A survivor said the passengers panicked when the boat started to take in water and went to one side, causing the ferry to tilt and capsize.

“The others waited on top of the ship while it was sinking, but I didn’t do that because I know the ship will break down and I want to avoid getting hurt by that,” Rene Ebuenga, a rescued passenger told Reuters. “That’s dangerous and the big waves can slam debris to your body.”

The ferry capsized and sank about 5 miles off Quezon province, east of the capital on the main northern island of Luzon.

The Philippine Coast Guard said it will conduct an inquiry to determine the cause of the incident and to verify possible oil spills.

In 1987, nearly 5,000 people died in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro island in the central Philippines.

Tropical storm Tembin, packing center winds of 80 kmh (49 mph), made landfall on the southern island of Mindanao early Friday. It weakened after hitting the land mass, the weather bureau said on Friday.

But, the weather agency warned of extensive flooding and landslides until the storm exits the Philippines on Sunday.

(Reporting by Erik de Castro and Ronn Bautista; Writing by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Michael Perry)

Items from sailboat of missing family found off Florida coast

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – Crews searching waters off the Florida coast have found life vests and other items belonging to a man and his teenage children, who were reported missing after setting off on a sailboat three days ago, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday.

Ace Kimberly, 45, two sons aged 13 and 15, a 17-year-old daughter and their 29-foot-sailboat (9-meter) have not been located, Coast Guard Captain Gregory Case told reporters.

The Kimberly family was last seen on Sunday morning, when they set sail from Sarasota, Florida, and were headed to Fort Myers.

Later that day, Ace Kimberly phoned his brother from the boat and told him he was struggling with rough seas and thunderstorms off Englewood, a community about 30 miles south of Sarasota, Case said.

“That was the last that he heard from him,” Case said.

The family, who had lived on the vessel for about a year, was traveling to Fort Myers to have the boat repaired, the Coast Guard said.

At first light on Wednesday, the Coast Guard sent an HC-130 Hercules rescue aircrew to resume its search for the missing family.

The debris field spotted midday 33 miles offshore included six life vests, a basketball, propane tank, tennis shoes and several water bottles, which Kimberly’s brother identified as belonging to his relatives.

The brother said the group might have had an additional life vest and two kayaks that were not spotted by search crews, which has heartened searchers attempting to find the family alive, Case said.

“We’re always hopeful,” he said.

The search, which has also involved several state and local maritime emergency responders, will continue throughout the day.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Italy says migrant boat capsized, second in two days

Migrants are seen on a partially submerged boat before to be rescued by Spanish fregate Reina Sofia off the coast of Libya

ROME (Reuters) – A migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Thursday, an Italian coastguard spokesman said, and 88 people have been rescued while the number of possible dead is unknown.

It was the second shipwreck in two days, after five were confirmed to have died when a large fishing boat flipped over in the sea on Wednesday.

Boat arrivals in Italy have risen sharply this week amid warm weather and calm seas, and about 20 rescue operations are currently under way, the spokesman said.

Between 20 and 30 people are feared dead, Ansa news agency reported without saying where it got the information, while the coastguard declined to estimate how many may have died.

“We don’t know how many people were on board,” the coastguard spokesman said.

An aircraft from the European Union’s Sophia mission to fight people smuggling spotted the overturned vessel and called in the coastguard to assist in the rescue.

The coastguard has coordinated the rescue of around 900 migrants in seven different operations on Thursday. That brings the total of migrants who have been rescued since Monday to more than 7,000.

Through Tuesday, total sea arrivals in Italy had fallen by 9 percent this year, to 37,743, according to the Interior Ministry, but the country’s migrant shelters are already under pressure to house 115,507 migrants, about twice as many as two years ago.

Some 650 migrants are scheduled to arrive in the Sicilian city of Porto Empedocle later on Thursday, including the five dead bodies recovered by the Italian navy on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer, editing by Isla Binnie and Ralph Boulton)

Coast Guard calls off search for passenger missing from cruise ship off Texas

The large seawall that protects Galveston from major storms and the rising waters of the Gulf of Mexico is seen on Galveston Island

(Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard said on Sunday it had called off its search for a woman believed to have fallen overboard from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship off the coast of Galveston, Texas, two days earlier.

The cruise ship alerted the Coast Guard on Friday that Samantha Broberg, 33, was missing and might have fallen overboard about 195 miles (315 km) from the Texas coast.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that its 8th District command center had coordinated 20 hours of aerial searching with a combined search area of more than 4,300 square miles.

Earlier, it said the cruise ship had a video of a woman falling overboard early on Friday morning and had conducted a search for all passengers on board, with Broberg found to be missing.

The Carnival Liberty cruise ship departed Galveston, Texas, on a four-day Mexico cruise on Thursday.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Paul Tait)

Search for survivors after Marine helicopters crash off Hawaii

(Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard is leading a search for two Marine helicopters with a total of 12 people on board that collided near the island of Oahu in Hawaii, officials said on Friday.

The CH-53E helicopters, belonging to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay, were reported to have collided just before midnight local time, Coast Guard spokeswoman Sara Mooers said.

No survivors have been rescued from the crash more than seven hours after it occurred, said another Coast Guard spokeswoman, Petty Officer Second Class Melissa McKenzie.

“We remain hopeful,” McKenzie said.

Just after midnight, the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter spotted debris in the waters off the town of Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu, but did not find any of the passengers.

A Coast Guard cutter was on scene and another one was en route and expected to arrive shortly, McKenzie said.

Two U.S. Navy warships have also been sent to join the search, and local police and fire departments were assisting with helicopters, she said.

The initial effort was hampered by dark, cloudy conditions and waves of up to 15 feet, officials said.

The Marine Corps confirmed the search, but provided few additional details.

“Thoughts & prayers are with our Marines & their families in Hawaii as search efforts continue,” General Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, said in a message on Twitter.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Susan Heavey, David Alexander and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)