More than 100 killed in passenger plane crash in Cuba

Firefighters work in the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area of Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, shortly after taking off from Havana's main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

By Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) – More than 100 people were killed in a fiery crash of a Boeing 737 passenger plane in Cuba on Friday, with just three seriously injured survivors in hospital after being pulled from the wreckage, officials and state media said.

The aircraft, on a domestic flight to Holguin in eastern Cuba, crashed shortly after taking off from Havana at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT). There were either 104 or 105 passengers, including five children, plus nine crew members, various state media said.

“We should expect that the news will not be good, as there are a high number of people who appear to have been killed,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in broadcast comments.

Rescue team members work in the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area of Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, shortly after taking off from Havana's main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Rescue team members work in the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area of Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, shortly after taking off from Havana’s main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The fire from the crash had been put out and authorities were identifying bodies, the president said. The cause of the crash was not immediately known and Diaz-Canel said authorities were investigating.

The Boeing 737-201 aircraft was built in 1979 and leased by Cuban airline Cubana from a small Mexican firm called Damojh, according to the Mexican government. That would make it significantly older than most planes in service.

Damojh in Mexico said it did not immediately have any more information. Cubana declined to comment.

Cubana has been the subject of complaints over service and delays in recent months, according to state media.

Wreckage of Flight CU972 was strewn over the crash site area 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, a Reuters witness said, and blackened parts of the fuselage were visible. Its destination Holguin is the capital of a province that is popular with tourists for its pristine beaches.

“We heard an explosion and then saw a big cloud of smoke go up,” said Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the crash site in the agricultural area of Boyeros.

Carlos Alberto Martinez, the director of Havana’s Calixto Garcia hospital, told Reuters that four victims of the accident had been brought there. One had died and three others, all women, were in a serious condition, he said.

“She is alive but very burnt and swollen,” said a distressed relative of one of the survivors at the hospital.

The reason for the plane going down was unclear. “During take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground,” the Mexican transport department said on its website.

Most aircraft accidents take months of investigation to explain and are typically caused by a cocktail of different factors, according to aviation experts.

People look on near of the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area in Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, on Friday shortly after taking off from Havana's main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

People look on near of the wreckage of a Boeing 737 plane that crashed in the agricultural area in Boyeros, around 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, on Friday shortly after taking off from Havana’s main airport in Cuba, May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

CUBANA COMPLAINTS

Boeing Co said in a Twitter post: “We are aware of news reports out of Cuba and are closely monitoring the situation.”

Boeing 737 aircraft use engines made by CFM International, the supplier of the world’s most-used engines, built by a joint venture of GE and France’s Safran.

On Thursday, Cuba’s First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa had met with Cubana bosses to discuss public complaints about its service, according to state-run media. Problems included the cancellation of numerous domestic flights this year, and long delays which the company said were caused by technical problems with its aircraft.

Earlier this month, the company was ordered to suspend flights by its six Russian built AN-158 aircraft, of which most had reportedly already been grounded.

The last fatal crash in Cuba was in 2017, the Aviation Safety Network said. It was a military flight that killed all eight on board. In 2010, a commercial Aero Caribbean plane crashed in central Cuba. All 68 people on board were killed.

The latest available information on Cuba from U.N. safety aviation agency ICAO, dating back to 2008, ranks it above the global average, though that preceded the latest three crashes.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Nelson Acosta and Marc Frank in Havana; additional reporting by Anthony Esposito, Julia Love, Dave Graham and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico, Writing by Rosalba O’Brien; editing by Grant McCool)

Wind-fanned wildfires threaten to spread in parched Oklahoma

The sun sets through smoke from the Rhea fire on a wind farm near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

By Nick Oxford

TALOGA, Okla. (Reuters) – Wildfires which have killed two people in western Oklahoma could spread and more could ignite as wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour whip an area where scant rain has fallen in five months, fire and forestry officials said on Tuesday.

Several wildfires have begun in the past week, and the largest, dubbed the Rhea Fire, began on Thursday. By Tuesday it covered nearly 250,000 acres, in western Oklahoma, and was only 3 percent contained, said Shawna Hartman, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Forestry Services.

That fire last week consumed the home, barn and half of the small herd of cattle of Larry Lynes, 66, and his wife, Arlinda, 64, who live near Taloga, Oklahoma.

Larry Lynes sifts through the ashes of his bedroom at his home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxfor

Larry Lynes sifts through the ashes of his bedroom at his home that was destroyed by the Rhea fire near Taloga, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

“We didn’t have any time at all,” Arlinda Lynes said on Tuesday. “So I went in there and got photo albums from when the children were little and som

e papers off the desk.”

Arlinda Lynes said the couple will rebuild, and their small herd is growing again.

“We got a new baby (calf) this morning, which we are going to name Smokey,” she said.

The Rhea fire burns into the night near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

The Rhea fire burns into the night near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

 

 

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for 52 of the state’s 77 counties because of the wildfires and critical conditions for more fires to start.

Western Oklahoma has had no significant rainfall in more than 150 days, while the relative humidity is extremely low, said Hartman.

“This presents unprecedented conditions for this part of Oklahoma for sure,” Hartman said in a phone call.

 

There was a “100 percent chance” that a spark would ignite if it flew into the state’s dry grasslands, she said, and any fire would spread rapidly because of the high winds.

Later on Tuesday, new flames sprung up south of the western Oklahoma town of Seiling, Hartman said.

Ryan Barnes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, Oklahoma, said relief was several days away, with the heaviest rains forecast from Friday night into Saturday morning.

The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

The Rhea fire burns through a grove of red cedar trees near Seiling, Oklahoma, U.S. April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

A woman who was trying to evacuate from her residence was killed when flames from the Rhea fire burned the car she was driving, Hartman said. Local media reports said her body was found on Saturday.

A separate fire in western Oklahoma killed a 61-year-old man last Thursday, Oklahoma fire officials said.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by James Dalgleish and Cynthia Osterman)

2 Dead as Fire sweeps across Western Oklahoma

aerial view of fires burning in Oklahoma.

By Kami Klein

With winds gusting at 30mph, low humidity and very dry conditions, fire officials in Oklahoma say that as bad as it is now, things are looking worse for the week. So far there have been two deaths reported and several counties are ordering evacuations as the flames burn mostly out of control in the Northwest areas of Oklahoma.  

According to KOCO News 5 the fires have burned more than 400,000 acre in western Oklahoma, and dry, windy weather has severely hindered firefighting efforts.  Today the counties of Dewey, and the towns of Selling, Talogo and Putnam have been order to evacuate.

In a news release late Sunday night Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Keli Cain stated that  61-year-old Jack Osben died Thursday in Roger Mills County. He was driving a motor grader to help firefighters put out the fire that began southeast of Leedey,about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. Cain said a woman also died as a result of a fire near Seiling, about 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The woman had been visiting at a residence, near Seiling, Okla., when the fire caused the people there to evacuate the area.The residents made it away from the area and reported to the authorities that the woman was missing. A search was made in the area well within the burn area where a Jeep Cherokee was found with the woman inside.

Because the fire began during the governor’s burn ban and if it should be proven the fire was intentionally set, the person who set the fire could be charged in the woman’s death.

Oklahoma News 4 reported that some volunteer fire departments are asking for donations to help, as fire heads toward many farming and rural towns.  “The wind’s horrible,” Weatherford Fire Chief Mike Karlin said. “We had wind all through the night. Typically, in the night, we get higher humidities, we get lower winds. The only thing that we’ve had is cooler temperatures, and that hasn’t affected the fire conditions at all.”

Weather conditions will be feeding the fire this week as dozens of fire departments attempt to gain control of the flames.  Warnings are out in 19 counties of Oklahoma for severely hazardous fire conditions, prohibiting fires and asking that people be vigilant throughout the state.    

 

Death toll from Indonesia tainted liquor rises to 82 in Indonesia

Suspects arrested over the production and sale of illegal alcohol which claimed the lives of more than 80 people this week in Jakarta and nearby West Java province, are seen during a police a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Eighty-two Indonesians have died and many more have been hospitalized after drinking tainted bootleg liquor last week, police said on Wednesday.

The deaths occurred in the capital Jakarta and neighboring province of West Java and at least a dozen men had been detained on suspicion of making and distributing the drink, police said.

“This is a crazy phenomenon that has caused tremendous loss for the public in the past week,” said deputy national police chief Syafruddin.

“We must trace it to the roots, who the masterminds are and the distributors.”

Laboratory tests showed that nearly pure alcohol had been mixed with herbal drinks and energy drinks with high caffeine. Police had previously said at least one suspected bootlegger had added mosquito repellent to the mix.

Police raided street stalls and homes across several cities towns and found large steel and rubber tanks used to mix the drinks. Thousands of bottles and small plastic bags of the drinks, which police said could sell for as little as 20,000 rupiah ($1.45) per bag, were seized.

Muslim-majority Indonesia imposes high rates of tax on alcohol, which sometimes leads to people turning to cheap home brews.

Deaths from such consumption are reported frequently, but the latest toll is among the highest in recent years. In 2016, 36 people died after drinking locally made liquor, according to media.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

PNG declares state of emergency after deadly quake strikes rugged highlands

A local stands next to a damaged house near a landslide in the town of Tari after an earthquake struck Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands in this image taken February 27, 2018 obtained from social media. Francis Ambrose/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT?

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Papua New Guinea has declared a state of emergency across its remote and rugged highlands, releasing government relief funds four days after a deadly quake flattened provincial towns and buried hamlets under landslides, killing at least 31 people.

Stymied by forbidding terrain and weather, as well as damaged roads and runways, aid has not yet arrived in several large towns where it’s most needed, local officials told Reuters.

“The only means of rescue is through helicopters and they are hardly coming,” Hela province’s administrator, William Bando, said on the phone from his office in a shipping container at Tari, about 40 km (25 miles) from the epicenter.

“Our people live in scattered hamlets and people are dying slowly…A lot of people are asking for tents, water and medical supplies.”

The emergency declaration, made late on Thursday by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill cleared the way for 450 million kina ($135 million) in government aid to flow, as well as help from the military.

“This is an unprecedented disaster and the appropriate response is underway by the national government,” O’Neill said in a statement, which also announced a restoration authority would direct recovery efforts for the next four years.

At least 13 people died when landslides covered remote hamlets close to where the quake struck, some 560 km (350 miles) northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, an official who put the total death toll at 31, told Reuters on Thursday.

While the region has no major urban centers, around 670,000 people live within 100 km (62 miles) of the epicenter according to the Red Cross.

Most of the other confirmed fatalities were in or around Tari township and provincial capital of Mendi, where at least 14 people died and aftershocks continue to frighten residents.

“People have started to dig out and to recover dead bodies still in the ground,” Mendi policeman Naring Bongi said from his station, where desktop computers were smashed when the quake hit.

“There is no help except for those who are here going around and collecting information on casualties and such things,” he said.

“Our state of mind is not great. We are confused as to what is to be done to us in this case…the earth is still moving – it really frightens us, so we don’t know whatever to do, all the services in Mendi have closed.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it released $221,000 in funds to help relief efforts and would send first aid, water, mosquito nets and shelters, to the region.

Australia has also promised A$200,000 in aid, sent a C-130 military plane to help with aerial surveys, and a spokeswoman at the foreign ministry told Reuters more help was on standby, should PNG request it.

Miners and oil and gas companies were also assessing damage to their infrastructure, and an industry source said ExxonMobil Corp has declared force majeure on exports from its Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which has been shut since the quake hit.

The company declined to comment on the declaration, but said it would “take time” for a full survey of damage, given the quake ruined roads and other infrastructure.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Editing by G Crosse and Michael Perry)

Big Mexico quake cuts power and damages homes; two dead in crash

People stand on the street after an earthquake shook buildings in Mexico City, Mexico February 16, 2018.

By Lizbeth Diaz and Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A prolonged 7.2 magnitude quake that rocked Mexico on Friday left nearly a million homes and businesses without power in the capital and south but the only reported deaths came when a military helicopter crashed after surveying the aftermath.

At least 50 homes suffered damage in the southern state of Oaxaca, which, along with Mexico City, is still reeling from earthquakes that caused widespread damage in September.

The epicenter was about 90 miles (145 km) from Pacific coast surfer resort Puerto Escondido in the southern state of Oaxaca and had a depth of 15.3 miles (24.6 km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least two people died when a helicopter carrying Mexico’s interior minister and the governor of Oaxaca crashed while trying to land after a tour of damage from the earthquake, officials said. The senior officials survived.

The powerful, sustained shaking on Friday gave way to 225 aftershocks, the national seismology service said, and caused widespread panic.

In Mexico City, the seismic alarm sounded 72 seconds before tremors were felt, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said, giving residents time to flee to the streets.

Patricia Gutierrez, a 66-year-old English teacher, was taking a nap with her 11-month-old granddaughter, Juliet, when she heard the distinctive siren.

“She recognized the sound. When I opened my eyes, I saw her eyes in terror. Her eyes were wide, like plates. She didn’t say anything,” Gutierrez said of her granddaughter.

Gutierrez managed to leave her ground floor apartment before the quake began. “I left the phone and everything except for my shoes and the baby,” she said.

Authorities said no deaths directly linked to the quake had been reported nationally.

BRICKS AND RUBBLE

The Oaxacan town of Jamiltepec appeared to sustain the heaviest impact in the southern region, with 50 homes damaged along with a church and government building, the state’s civil protection agency said.

Patients were evacuated from a hospital there and from another in the nearby town of Putla Villa de Guerrero. On a local highway, a fire ignited when two high-tension electric cables struck each other.

In the town of Pinotepa Nacional close to the quake’s epicenter, a photo obtained from Oaxaca’s civil protection agency showed a single-story building where a portion of the brick facade had crumbled into the street. A hospital was also damaged, and a collapsed structure blocked a major highway.

About 100,000 people in Oaxaca had lost power, the state’s governor said.

National oil firm Pemex said its installations were in order, including its biggest refinery 240 miles (386 km) from the epicenter. A hotel operator in Puerto Escondido said his property had no damage.

Tremors were felt as far away as Guatemala to the south.

Images in the media appeared to show bricks and rubble fallen from buildings, and products tumbling off shelves in a supermarket.

In Mexico City, tall buildings swayed for more than a minute as seismic alarms sounded, with older structures in the chic Condesa neighborhood knocking into each other, and some cracks appearing in plaster and paintwork.

The Popocatepetl volcano south of the capital sent a kilometer-high column of ash into the sky, said Mexico’s disaster prevention agency.

Two young men standing by a building that collapsed in a Sept. 19 earthquake were still hugging minutes after the tremor. People crowded in the streets, one lady in her pajamas.

Trees, overhead cables and cars swayed, and a fire truck raced down the street.

Guadalupe Martinez, a 64-year-old retiree, said she was still shaking from shock. But the quake was a far cry from the tremors that struck Mexico in September, Martinez said.

“This time it was strong, but it did not jump up and down,” she said.

(Reporting by Julia Love, Christine Murray, Michael O’Boyle, David Alire Garcia, Anthony Esposito and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Lisa Shumaker and Tom Hogue)

Philippines says anti-dengue vaccine may be connected to three deaths

Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo (R), Undersecretary of the Department of Health (DOH), with Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), answer questions during a news conference at the DOH headquarter in metro Manila, Philippines February 2, 2018.

By Manuel Mogato

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines said on Friday the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia may be connected to three deaths in the country, according to a government-ordered inquiry, and that the drug is not ready for mass immunisation.

French drug maker Sanofi said in November that Dengvaxia – the world’s first dengue vaccine – might increase the risk of severe disease in people who had never been exposed to the virus.

The news prompted an uproar in the Philippines, where more than 800,000 school-age children had been vaccinated in 2016.

“We sympathise with all the families who have suffered the loss of a child. Sanofi Pasteur’s mission is to reduce or eliminate suffering for millions around the world through vaccination, including in the Philippines,” a spokesman for Sanofi said in an emailed statement.

“Dengue fever is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the Philippines today. Sanofi Pasteur remains committed to working with the Philippines government and all organisations to address this urgent public health challenge.”

The Philippine Health Ministry halted Dengvaxia immunisations in November. It formed a 10-member panel of experts to determine if the drug was directly connected to the deaths of 14 children after they were given the vaccine.

It found it may have been connected to the deaths of three.

“Three cases were found to have causal association. They died of dengue even (though) they were given Dengvaxia. Two of them may have died because of vaccine failure,” Health Undersecretary Enrique Domingo told a news conference.

“These findings strengthen the decision of the Department of Health to stop the vaccine. It has failed in some children. Dengvaxia is not ready for mass vaccinations and we would need three to five more years to watch and monitor if there would be other adverse reactions from the vaccine.”

Mosquito-borne dengue is the world’s fastest-growing infectious disease, afflicting up to 100 million people worldwide, causing half a million life-threatening infections and killing about 20,000 people, mostly children, each year.

Domingo said the panel’s findings would be shared with the justice department, which is considering cases against those responsible for the mass immunisation programme.

Paediatrician and panel member Juliet Sio-Aguilar, from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, said the team was recommending further studies as it was difficult to directly connect the three deaths to Dengvaxia.

No vaccine has a 100 percent success rate, she said. The dengue death rate in the Philippines was 60 times higher than global rate, Sio-Aguilar said.

The Philippines spent 3.5 billion pesos ($68 million) on the Dengvaxia programme to reduce the 200,000 dengue cases reported every year.

The Philippines has already fined Sanofi a symbolic $2,000, citing violations in product registration and marketing.

(Additional reporting by Ben Hirshler in London, Matthias Blamont in Paris; Editing by Nick Macfie and David Evans)

Ford urges 2,900 pickup owners to stop driving after new Takata death

A recalled Takata airbag inflator is shown in Miami, Florida in this June 25, 2015 file photo.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Thursday it had confirmed a second death in an older pickup truck caused by a defective airbag inflator of Takata Corp and urged 2,900 owners in North America to stop driving immediately until they can get replacement parts.

The second largest U.S. automaker said it confirmed in late December that a July 2017 crash death in West Virginia in a 2006 Ford Ranger was caused by a defective Takata inflator. It previously reported a similar death in South Carolina that occurred in December 2015.

Ford said both Takata deaths occurred with inflators built on the same day installed in 2006 Ranger pickups. At least 21 deaths worldwide are linked to the Takata inflators that can rupture and send deadly metal fragments inside vehicles. The faulty inflators have led to the largest automotive recall in history. The other 19 deaths have occurred in Honda Motor Co vehicles, most of which were in the United States.

Ford issued a new recall for automobiles that had been previously recalled in 2016.

Of the 391,000-plus 2004-2006 Ranger vehicles recalled at the time, the new recall announced on Thursday affects 2,900 vehicles. These include 2,700 in the United States and nearly 200 in Canada. The new recall will allow for identification of the 2,900 owners in the highest risk pool.

A Mazda Motor Corp spokeswoman said on Thursday the company would conduct a similar recall and stop-drive warning for some 2006 Mazda B-Series trucks, which were built by Ford and are similar to the Ranger.

Japanese auto supplier Takata plans to sell its viable operations to Key Safety Systems, an affiliate of China’s Ningo Joyson Electric Corp, for $1.6 billion.

A Takata spokesman said the company will make all attempts to ensure it can deliver replacement inflators as soon as possible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged owners to heed Ford’s warning. “It is extremely important that all high-risk air bags are tracked down and replaced immediately,” NHTSA spokeswoman Karen Aldana said.

‘FAILED RECALL’

Ford said it would pay to have vehicles towed to dealerships or send mobile repair teams to owners’ homes and provide free loaner vehicles if needed.

Takata said in June that it has recalled, or expected to recall, about 125 million vehicles worldwide by 2019, including more than 60 million in the United States. Some 19 automakers worldwide are impacted.

Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks and have injured more than 200. The defect led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection in June.

In 2017, prosecutors in Detroit charged three former senior Takata executives with falsifying test results to conceal the inflator defect. None have come to the United States to face charges.

Last year, Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud and was subject to pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties in a U.S. court in connection with the recalls.

Automakers have struggled to get enough replacement parts for the massive recalls. A November NHTSA report said about two-thirds of U.S. vehicles recalled have not yet been repaired.

Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday the latest death is evidence of “the very definition of a failed recall” pointing to the earlier Ford death in 2015. NHTSA must do more, he said, to make the recall a priority.

In November, NHTSA rejected a petition from Ford to delay recalling 3 million vehicles with potentially defective airbag inflators to conduct additional testing.

In June 2016, NHTSA warned airbag inflators on more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled 2001-2003 model year Honda vehicles showed a substantial risk of rupturing, and urged owners to stop driving them until getting them fixed. NHTSA said they have as high as a 50 percent chance of a rupture in a crash.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Minami Funakoshi in TOKYO; Editing by Diane Craft and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Child playing with stove may have started deadly N.Y. fire, mayor says

Fire Department of New York (FDNY) personnel work on the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 28, 2017.

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayor Bi A child playing with a stove may have caused the fire in a New York City apartment building that killed 12 people, including four children, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday.

People react near the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 29, 2017.

People react near the scene of an apartment fire in Bronx, New York, U.S., December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The fire, the deadliest in the city in a quarter of a century, broke out a little before 7 p.m. EST (midnight GMT) on Thursday on the first floor of a brick building and quickly spread upstairs, killing people on multiple floors, the New York City Fire Department said.

A crowd gathers as New York Fire Department personnel fight a fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, in this still image taken from a December 28, 2017 social media video.

A crowd gathers as New York Fire Department personnel fight a fire in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, in this still image taken from a December 28, 2017 social media video. Francesca Rosales/via REUTERS

“What we think at this point is that unfortunately it emanated from an accident, a young child playing with a stove on the first floor of the building,” de Blasio said in an interview with WNYC radio.

Children ages 1, 2 and 7 died along with four men and four women, local media reported. An unidentified boy also died.

Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building and four people were in the hospital in critical condition. More than 160 firefighters responded to the four-alarm blaze.

The building, with 26 apartments, has at least six open building code violations, according to city records. One violation was for a broken smoke detector in an apartment on the first floor, reported in August. It was not clear if the detector had been fixed or replaced or whether it had played any role in the fire.

“I know there were concerns raised about the building itself,” de Blasio told WNYC. “Based on the research we have at this moment, it does not appear there was anything problematic about the building or the fire safety in the building.”

The building is in the Belmont section of the Bronx, a primarily residential, close-knit neighborhood known as the “Little Italy” of the borough, near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo.

It was the deadliest fire in the city since an arsonist torched a Bronx nightclub in 1990, killing 87 people inside the venue that did not have fire exits, alarms or sprinklers, the New York Times reported.

In 2007 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen, Stephanie Kelly and Dan Trotta in New York, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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)