Tourists flee Indonesia’s Lombok island after earthquake kills 98

People crowd on the shore as they attempt to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this still image taken from a video. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

By Kanupriya Kapoor

PEMENANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Scenes of destruction greeted rescue workers across Indonesia’s resort island of Lombok on Monday, after an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 killed at least 98 people and prompted an exodus of tourists rattled by the second powerful quake in a week.

People recover a motorcycle from a damaged home near a mosque after a strong earthquake in Gunungsari, West Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

People recover a motorcycle from a damaged home near a mosque after a strong earthquake in Gunungsari, West Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13,000 flattened and damaged houses was cleared away.

Power and communications were severed in some areas, with landslides and a collapsed bridge blocking access to areas around the quake epicenter in the north. The military said it would send a ship with medical aid, supplies and logistics support.

In a message on social network Twitter, the Indonesian Red Cross said it helped a woman give birth after the quake at a health post. One of the names she gave the baby boy was ‘Gempa’, which means earthquake.

Lombok was hit on July 29 by a 6.4 magnitude quake that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) said more than 120 aftershocks were recorded after Sunday evening’s quake, whose magnitude the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) revised down to 6.9 from an initial 7.0. At that magnitude it released more than five times the energy of the quake a week earlier, the USGS website showed.

The dead included no foreigners and there were 236 people injured, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference.

Residents sit outside their home with their belongings following a strong earthquake in Pemenang, North Lombok, Indonesia August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

Residents sit outside their home with their belongings following a strong earthquake in Pemenang, North Lombok, Indonesia August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

HOSPITALS OVERFLOWING

The tremor was powerful enough to be felt on the neighboring island of Bali where, BNPB said, two people died. The first quake was also felt on Bali.

Indonesia sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Nugroho said more than 20,000 people had been displaced.

Among them were residents of a northern village called Mentigi, who fled to nearby hills. Blue tarpaulins dotted the landscape as people prepared to spend the nights outdoors because of aftershocks or because their homes were destroyed.

“We are getting some aid from volunteers, but we don’t have proper tents yet,” said a 50-year-old villager sheltering with his wife and children, who gave his name only as Marhun.

Ambulances with sirens blaring raced along the coast from north Lombok, but BNPB spokesman Nugroho said emergency units in its hospitals were overflowing and some patients were being treated in parking lots.

The main hospital in the town of Tanjung in the north was severely damaged, so staff set up about 30 beds in the shade of trees and in a tent on a field to tend to the injured.

A boy with a heavily bandaged leg wailed in pain, an elderly man wore a splint improvised from cardboard strips of cardboard on a broken arm, and some hurt by falling debris still had dried blood on their faces.

Chief Water Police of Lombok Dewa Wijaya takes a picture in front of hundreds of people attempting to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

Chief Water Police of Lombok Dewa Wijaya takes a picture in front of hundreds of people attempting to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

“THIS IS IT FOR ME INDONESIA”

Sengiggi, a seaside tourist strip on Lombok, wore an abandoned look. Amid collapsed homes, some hotels seemed to have shut, restaurants were empty and beaches deserted.

Long lines formed at the airport of Lombok’s main town, Mataram, as foreign visitors cut their holidays short. BNPB said 18 extra flights had been added for leaving tourists.

“I was at the rooftop of my hotel and the building started swaying very hard … I could not stand up,” said Gino Poggiali, a 43-year-old Frenchman, who was with his wife and two children at the airport.

His wife Maude, 44, said the family was on Bali for the first quake and Lombok for the second.

“This is it for me in Indonesia. Next time we will stay in France, or somewhere close,” she said.

Dutch tourist Marc Ganbuwalba injured his knee in a stampede of diners from a restaurant after the quake.

“We are cutting short our holiday because I can’t walk and we’re just not in the mood anymore,” said the 26-year-old, sitting on a trolley at the airport with his leg bandaged.

Officials said more than 2,000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where fears of a tsunami spread among tourists.

Michelle Thompson, an American holidaying on one of the Gilis, described a “scramble” to get on boats leaving for the main island during which her husband was injured.

“People were just throwing their suitcases on board and I had to struggle to get my husband on, because he was bleeding,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy, Gayatri Suroyo, Fanny Potkin, Agustinus Beo da Costa, Bernadette Christina Munthe, Tabita Diela, Cindy Silviana and Jessica Damiana in JAKARTA, Jamie Freed and Jack Kim in SINGAPORE, and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Neil Fullick and Clarence Fernandez)

After Indonesian earthquake terror, hundreds trek down from volcano

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) talks to earthquake victims inside a makeshift tent at Madayin village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 30, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

By Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Fergus Jensen

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Nearly 700 trekkers headed down Mount Rinjani on Indonesia’s tourist island of Lombok on Monday, a day after a powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.4 terrified the climbers as boulders tumbled down the slopes of the volcano.

Officials said the death toll from Sunday’s earthquake, which was centered on the northern part of Lombok, but was also felt on the resort island of Bali to the west, stood at 16. More than 335 people were injured, many by collapsing buildings.

“I thought I was going to die,” said John Robyn Buenavista, a 23-year-old American, who was at the summit when the quake hit. “I was clinging to the ground. It felt like it lasted forever. I saw people fall off, but it’s a blur.”

The national park authority said on Monday that a key route to the peak of the 3,726-meter (12,224-foot) volcano had been cleared, and a helicopter was dropping supplies to others still picking their way to safety.

An estimated 689 people were still on Rinjani, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of the national disaster mitigation agency.

“Hundreds of trekkers in the crater in climbing areas couldn’t come down when they wanted to, because the paths were covered by debris from landslides and there were fears of subsequent landslides,” Sutopo told a news conference.

As many as 820 people – most of them foreigners – were on Mount Rinjani when the quake struck, making two trails impassable, Sutopo said on Twitter late on Sunday.

Thais formed the largest group among the 637 foreigners who registered to climb the mountain on July 27 and 28, making up 337, with French, Dutch and Spanish the next-biggest contingents.

Mount Rinjani National Park said in a Twitter message on Monday that a key route, Senaru, had been reopened for people to come down.

Authorities expected 500 trekkers to arrive at the foot of the mountain by 5 p.m, said Agung Pramuja, a disaster mitigation official in Indonesia’s region of West Nusa Tenggara.

A landslide triggered by the quake trapped a group of six at the crater lake of Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, he added, with about 100 army, police and other rescuers working to get people down, while helicopters scoured for those still trapped.

A villager walks through the ruins of a collapsed house during a search for the equipment of Malaysian tourists who died during the earthquake at the Sembalun Selong village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

A villager walks through the ruins of a collapsed house during a search for the equipment of Malaysian tourists who died during the earthquake at the Sembalun Selong village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

“DON’T DIE, DON’T DIE”

Trekkers typically take two days and a night to get to the crater rim of Rinjani and back down again, the national park says on itswebsite.

Buenavista, the U.S. tourist, said he was about to take some dawn photographs at the crater edge when the earthquake struck, and his immediate thought was that the volcano had erupted.

“I started running to the trail,” he told Reuters by telephone from the Gili Islands, off Lombok’s northwest coast, where he headed after a seven-hour trek to the foot of the peak.

“At one point, I saw people with half of their bodies stuck in the rocks and I just couldn’t move. I felt paralyzed and stopped moving. The guides were screaming, ‘Don’t die, don’t die.’ One of the guides had to shake me and take me by the hand. He told me

that I had to go, and that they would be okay.”

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake is considered strong and is capable of causing severe damage.

Indonesian and foreign climbers are seen after walking down from Rinjani Mountain at Sembalun village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

Indonesian and foreign climbers are seen after walking down from Rinjani Mountain at Sembalun village in Lombok Timur, Indonesia, July 29, 2018. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/via REUTERS

The Lombok quake struck at 6:47 a.m. (2247 GMT on Saturday) at a shallow depth of 4.35 miles (7 km) that amplified its effect. Officials said 280 aftershocks followed the initial quake.

Earthquakes are common in Indonesia, which is located on the seismically active “Ring of Fire” on the rim of the Pacific Ocean.

(Additional reporting by Fanny Potkin, Cindy Silviana, Zahra Matarani and Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

UK PM May joins families to remember Manchester pop concert victims

Painted stones are left in tribute in St Anne's Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May will join Prince William at a memorial service in Manchester on Tuesday to remember the 22 victims of a suicide bombing on a pop concert a year ago, Britain’s deadliest attack for more than a decade.

Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, blew himself up at the end of a show by U.S. singer Ariana Grande at the Manchester Arena in northern England in the deadliest militant attack in Britain for 12 years.

People wearing Ariana Grande sweatshirts look at tributes left in St Anne's Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

People wearing Ariana Grande sweatshirts look at tributes left in St Anne’s Square on the first anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing, in Manchester, Britain, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

His victims included seven children, the youngest aged just eight, while more than 500 were injured.

On Tuesday, an hour-long service of commemoration will be held at Manchester Cathedral, including a nationwide one-minute silence at 1330 GMT, with William meeting some of the bereaved families privately afterwards.

“The targeting of the young and innocent as they enjoyed a care free night out in the Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, was an act of sickening cowardice,” May wrote in an article for the Manchester Evening News newspaper.

“It was designed to strike at the heart of our values and our way of life, in one of our most vibrant cities, with the aim of breaking our resolve and dividing us. It failed.”

In other events, singers from local choirs, including the Manchester Survivors Choir made up of those caught up in the attack, will join together in the city for a mass singalong titled “Manchester Together – With One Voice”.

It echoes a moment when crowds broke into an emotional chorus of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Manchester rock group Oasis after a minute of silent tribute days after the bombing.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks on science and the Industrial Strategy at Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield, Britain May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Pool/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks on science and the Industrial Strategy at Jodrell Bank in Macclesfield, Britain May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Pool/File Photo

“Thinking of you all today and every day. I love you with all of me and am sending you all of the light and warmth I have to offer on this challenging day,” Grande wrote on Twitter, including a bee emoticon, the symbol of Manchester.

Britain is seeking the extradition of Abedi’s brother Hashem from Libya over the attack, although the authorities do not believe a wider network was involved.

The Manchester bombing was the deadliest of five attacks in Britain last year blamed on militants which killed a total of 36 people.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton)

Many feared dead, injured 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) – A Boeing 737 plane crashed on Friday shortly after taking off from Havana’s main airport on a domestic flight, with a number of people feared dead or injured, Reuters witnesses and officials said.

There were at least three possible survivors among the 105 passengers plus nine crew, Cuban state-run media reported, adding that there were five children on board. Earlier reports on state media said there were 104 passengers.

The number of casualties was not immediately known, but Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, visiting the site of the crash, told Agence France Presse: “It appears there is a high number of victims.”

Wreckage was strewn over the area and ambulances and firefighters were at the scene, a Reuters witness said. The fire had been put out, and blackened parts of the fuselage could be seen.

“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, 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana.

A worker at Havana’s Calixto Garcia hospital told Reuters three victims of the accident had arrived so far. One had died from burns and other trauma and the other two were in a serious state.

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

The flight was destined for Holguin and was leased by airline Cubana from a small Mexican airline called Damojh or Global, Cuban state media said. Cubana declined to comment.

Holguin in eastern Cuba is home to some of the island’s most pristine beaches, and attracts tourists. The nationality of those on board was not immediately clear. State media said that the crew were foreign, but provided no further details.

Flight tracking websites indicated the flight was CU972, departing Havana at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).

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

A Damojh representative told Reuters in Mexico: “There is still no information, we are gathering what we can to give correct information. As the day progresses there will be more information.”

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

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

Gunman shouting anti-Trump slogans arrested at Miami resort

By Zachary Fagenson

DORAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A gunman railing against U.S. President Donald Trump opened fire in one of the Republican’s Florida golf resorts early on Friday, exchanging gunshots with Miami police who wounded and arrested him, officials said.

Neither Trump nor any of his immediate family members were at the Trump National Doral Miami at the time, according to the Secret Service. The golf club is about 70 miles (113 km) south of the Palm Beach resort that Trump has visited regularly during his term.

The man “was trying to lure our officers … into this gunfight. He did succeed, and he did lose. That’s the bottom line,” Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said at a news briefing, adding it was not clear what motivated his actions.

The man lowered a flag that was flying outside the Miami-area club, went into the lobby at about 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT) and draped it over the counter. He pointed a gun at people in the lobby, fired at the ceiling and a chandelier and waited to attack responding officers, Perez said.

The gunman, identified as Jonathan Oddi, 42, of Doral, was shouting anti-Trump remarks during the incident, Perez said. He said he did not know specifically what Oddi had said.

Police shot Oddi in the legs and took him into custody, and he was in hospital in stable condition.

Social media pages that appeared to be created by Oddi said that he owned a gemstone company, was a real estate investor and had been a volunteer Santa Claus at a Miami hospital in 2013.

Guests at the golf resort said they were awakened by the sound of gunshots and emergency vehicles. They were not apprised of any details of the incident by the hotel and only learned of it through news reports, they said.

“We’re staying near the lobby and my husband said he thought he heard shots,” said Ana Marta Fernandez, 49, who was visiting from Uruguay.

She said the hotel had said little more than that the golf courses were closed for the day.

“So far they’ve offered us nothing as compensation,” Fernandez said.

A resort representative was not immediately available to comment.

The U.S. Secret Service, which guards the president and his family, said in a statement that no one under its protection was in the Miami area at the time. The agency does not protect the club, but is working with police who are investigating the shooting, it said.

A Doral police officer suffered a broken arm that was not related to gunfire. Police have not said what kind of weapon the suspect had.

Authorities are trying to find out how Oddi gained entry to the 800-acre (323-hectare) Doral golf club.

Trump National Doral Golf Club is home to four championship golf courses. Trump bought the property for $150 million in 2012.

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami, additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

Serial bomber suspected in deadly Austin explosions: police

Police maintain a cordon near the site of an incident reported as an explosion in southwest Austin, Texas, U.S. March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Tamir Kalifa

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A serial bomber is suspected of planting four bombs detonated this month around Austin, Texas, that have killed two people and injured four others and unnerved residents of the Texas capital.

“We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point,” Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told a news conference on Monday. “We have seen similarities in the devices that exploded here last night and the other three devices.”

Two men were injured on Sunday by the latest bomb, which police said may have been activated by a trip wire across a sidewalk, a more advanced design than the previous bombs that were set off when victims handled packages left on doorsteps.

The men, 22 and 23 years old, were taken to a hospital with what police described as “substantial” but not life threatening injuries.

Manley said that more than 500 federal agents were involved in the investigation, including from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

On Sunday agents swept the relatively affluent neighborhood called Travis Country where Sunday’s bomb exploded and asked residents for home surveillance videos.

“It’s scary,” Thad Holt, a 76-year-old retiree, said in an interview, recalling that he and his wife had strolled near the bomb site about half an hour before the explosion. “It’s one of those things … that happens elsewhere.”

Austin, with a population of nearly 1 million people, is home to the University of Texas and a plethora of tech companies and has been one of the fastest growing major U.S. cities.

MOTIVE UNKNOWN

Investigators were trying to identify the person or persons responsible for three parcel bombs that exploded in three east side neighborhoods, killing a man and a teenage boy, both black and leaving a Hispanic woman fighting for her life.

Police said the fourth bomb had similarities to the three parcel bombs. They said whoever was responsible was trying to send a message and should contact authorities to explain.

Chief Manley has said police were also investigating the bombings as possible hate crimes, but cautioned on Monday that the theory may not hold up as Sunday’s attack did not appear to have targeted specific people and both victims were white.

The first parcel bomb on March 2 killed Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old black man. A bomb last Monday morning killed Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old African-American teenager and budding musician, and injured his mother, whose name was not made public. A few hours later, a third bomb injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman, who has not been identified.

Police have received more than 700 calls about suspicious packages since the three parcel bombs, but authorities have not found any that posed a security risk, Manley said.

A reward of $115,000 has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty, Toni Reinhold)

Rescuers race against time to find missing in California mudslides

A home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

By Rollo Ross and Alan Devall

SANTA BARBARA, Calif (Reuters) – Rescue crews in Southern California resumed on Thursday the arduous task of combing through tons of debris for survivors from deadly mudslides that struck along the state’s picturesque coastal communities.

Seventeen people are confirmed dead and another 17 people are missing after a wall of mud roared down hillsides in the scenic area between the Pacific Ocean and the Los Padres National Forest, according to authorities in Santa Barbara County.

“Right now, our assets are focused on determining if anyone is still alive in any of those structures that have been damaged,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told Los Angeles television station KCAL.

A kitchen in a home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

A kitchen in a home on Glen Oaks Road damaged by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018. Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via REUTERS

Some 500 rescuers using search dogs, military helicopters, and thermal imaging equipment are on scene.

Search and rescue efforts have been slow as crews have to navigate through waist-deep mud, fallen trees, boulders and other debris.

“Another tough day in Santa Barbara County as Search and Rescue, Fire and Law Enforcement personnel from across our county and our neighboring counties searched for survivors and evacuated people,” the sheriff’s office said on its Twitter feed late Wednesday night.

The devastating mudslides, which were triggered by heavy rains early on Tuesday, roared into valleys denuded by historic wildfires that struck the area last month.

The debris flow from the mudslides has destroyed 100 homes, damaged hundreds of other structures and injured 28 people, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Among the damaged properties were historic hotels and the homes of celebrities including television personality Oprah Winfrey and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, who both live in the upscale hillside community of Montecito.

DeGeneres said on her talk showing airing Thursday that the picturesque town of 9,000 is a “tight-knit” community.

“It’s not just a wealthy community, it’s filled with a lot of different types of people from all backgrounds,” she said. “And there are families missing, there are people who are missing family members…it’s catastrophic.”

A car sits tangled in debris after being destroyed by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018.

A car sits tangled in debris after being destroyed by mudslides in Montecito, California, U.S., January 10, 2018. Kenneth Song/Santa Barbara News-Press via REUTERS

Last month’s spate of wildfires, including the Thomas Fire – the largest in the state’s history – stripped hillsides of vegetation and left behind a slick film that prevented the ground from absorbing rainwater.

“First we got burned out at our ranch that caught on fire and now we’re flooding, so the last month has been pretty bad,” said Charles Stoops, as he stood in front of his house, which was surrounded in mud three feet (nearly a meter) deep.

(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Scott Malone and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tom Brown, Leslie Adler, William Maclean)

Northern California shooting death toll reaches five after wife’s body found

police sirens

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) – The death toll in a shooting spree in rural Northern California rose to five after police discovered the body of the gunman’s wife hidden in the couple’s house, an assistant sheriff said on Wednesday.

The body of the wife of the gunman, Kevin Neal, was discovered late on Tuesday, hidden under a hole in the floor, Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said.

Authorities believe Neal, 44, killed his wife on Monday, the day before he went on a rampage at multiple sites around the small community of Rancho Tehama, about 120 miles (193 km) north of Sacramento, killing four other people. Neal also opened fire at an elementary school before he was slain by police.

Johnston said many more people might have been killed if staff at the Rancho Tehama School had not locked Neal out. One child there was shot but survived, and others were hurt by flying glass and other debris from the hail of bullets.

“I really, truly believe that we would have had a horrific bloodbath in that school if that school hadn’t taken the action when they did,” Johnston told a news conference.

School employees locked the doors when they heard gunfire in the distance.

The employees ushered children inside from the playground, according to Sacramento television station KCRA, which cited details from the school district superintendent.

Neal, who was driving a pickup truck, rammed open a school gate, before a custodian leaned out from behind a building and distracted him, according to KCRA. Employees finished locking the doors seconds before Neal walked up and opened fire, the station reported.

Neal, frustrated at not being able to enter the school, drove off and was shot to death on the road by police, Johnston said.

Neal was armed with two rifles he illegally manufactured and two handguns registered to someone else, Johnston said, noting that he was prohibited from having firearms under a court-issued restraining order.

Authorities did not discover Neal’s wife had been killed until Tuesday, after Neal shot his neighbors and drove around Rancho Tehama, killing four adults during a 25-minute shooting spree, Johnston said.

Authorities did not provide a possible motive for the rampage and did not identify those killed, citing the need to notify relatives.

On Wednesday, one adult injured in the shooting was hospitalized in critical condition, and a child and three other adults were in stable condition, Johnston said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Gunman kills 26 in rural Texas church during Sunday service

By Lisa Maria Garza

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (Reuters) – A man with an assault rifle killed at least 26 people and wounded 20 in a rural Texas church during Sunday services, adding the name of Sutherland Springs to the litany of American communities shattered by mass shootings.

The massacre, which media reports say was carried out by a man thrown out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child, is likely to renew questions about why someone with a history of violence could amass an arsenal of lethal weaponry.

The lone gunman, dressed in black tactical gear and a ballistic vest, drove up to the white-steepled First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and started firing inside. He kept shooting once he entered, killing or wounding victims ranging in age from five to 72 years, police told a news conference.

The area around a site of a mass shooting is taped out in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media.

The area around a site of a mass shooting is taped out in Sutherland Springs, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017, in this picture obtained via social media. MAX MASSEY/ KSAT 12/via REUTERS

President Donald Trump told reporters the shooting was due to a “mental health problem” and wasn’t “a guns situation.” He was speaking during an official visit to Japan.

Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of church Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations. One couple, Joe and Claryce Holcombe, told the Washington Post they lost eight extended family members, including their pregnant granddaughter-in-law and three of her children.

The gunman was later found dead, apparently of a gunshot wound, after he fled the scene.

“We are dealing with the largest mass shooting in our state’s history,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a news conference. “The tragedy of course is worsened by the fact that it occurred in a church, a place of worship.”

About 40 miles (65 km) east of San Antonio in Wilson County, Sutherland Springs has fewer than 400 residents.

“This would never be expected in a little county like (this),” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told CNN.

A local resident with a rifle fired at the suspect as he left the church. The gunman dropped his Ruger assault weapon and fled in his vehicle, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

A man told San Antonio television station KSAT he was driving near the church when the resident who had opened fire on the gunman approached his truck and urged him to give chase.

“He said that we had to get him (the gunman), and so that’s what I did,” Johnnie Langendorff, the driver of the truck, told KSAT. He added they reached speeds of 95 miles (153 km/h) per hour during the chase, while he was on the phone with emergency dispatchers.

Soon afterward, the suspect crashed the vehicle near the border of a neighboring county and was found dead inside with a cache of weapons. It was not immediately clear if he killed himself or was hit when the resident fired at him outside the church, authorities said.

The suspect’s identity was not disclosed by authorities, but law enforcement officials who asked not to be named said he was Devin Patrick Kelley, described as a white, 26-year-old man, the New York Times and other media reported.

“We don’t think he had any connection to this church,” Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CNN. “We have no motive.”

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett gives an update during a news conference at the Stockdale Community Center following a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that left many dead and injured in Stockdale, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017.

Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackett gives an update during a news conference at the Stockdale Community Center following a shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs that left many dead and injured in Stockdale, Texas, U.S., November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Flores

‘I HIT THE DECK’

The massacre came weeks after a sniper killed 58 people in Las Vegas. It was the deadliest attack in modern U.S. history and rekindled a years-long national debate over whether easy access to firearms was contributing to the trend of mass shootings.

In rural areas like Sutherland Springs, gun ownership is a part of life and the state’s Republican leaders for years have balked at campaigns for gun control, arguing that more firearms among responsible owners make the state safer.

Jeff Forrest, a 36-year-old military veteran who lives a block away from the church, said what sounded like high-caliber, semi-automatic gunfire triggered memories of his four combat deployments with the Marine Corps.

“I was on the porch, I heard 10 rounds go off and then my ears just started ringing,” Forrest said. “I hit the deck and I just lay there.”

To honor the victims, Trump ordered flags on all federal buildings to be flown at half staff.

In Japan during the first leg of a 12-day Asian trip, the president said preliminary reports indicated the shooter was “deranged.”

“This isn’t a guns situation, I mean we could go into it, but it’s a little bit soon to go into it,” Trump said. “But fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise … it would have been much worse. But this is a mental health problem at the highest level.”

The First Baptist Church is one of two houses of worship in Sutherland Springs, which also has two gas stations and a Dollar General store.

The white-painted, one-story church features a small steeple and a single front door. On Sunday, the Lone Star flag of Texas was flying alongside the U.S. flag and a third, unidentified banner.

Inside, there is a small raised platform on which members sang worship songs to guitar music and the pastor delivered a weekly sermon, according to videos posted on YouTube. In one of the clips, a few dozen people, including young children, can be seen sitting in the wooden pews.

It was not clear how many worshipers were inside when Sunday’s shooting occurred.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE

Online records show a man named Devin Patrick Kelley lived in New Braunfels, Texas, about 35 miles (56 km) north of Sutherland Springs.

The U.S. Air Force said Kelley served in its Logistics Readiness unit at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge in 2014.

Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child, and given a bad-conduct discharge, confinement for 12 months and a reduction in rank, Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

Kelley’s Facebook page has been deleted, but cached photos show a profile picture where he appeared with two small children. He also posted a photo of what appeared to be an assault rifle, writing a post that read: “She’s a bad bitch.”

Sunday’s shooting occurred on the eighth anniversary of the Nov. 5, 2009, massacre of 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in central Texas. A U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist convicted of the killings is awaiting execution.

In 2015, a white gunman killed nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The gunman was sentenced to death for the racially motivated attack.

In September, a gunman killed a woman in the parking lot of a Tennessee church and wounded six worshipers inside.

 

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas, Phil Stewart in Washington, and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; writing by Frank McGurty; editing by Mark Heinrich)

 

New York City truck attack suspect followed Islamic State plans

Amaya Lopez-Silvero, 20, and Elliot Levy, 21, embrace by a makeshift memorial for victims of Tuesday's attack lay outside a police barricade on the bike path next to West Street a day after a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path alongside the Hudson River in New York City, New York, U.S.

By Gina Cherelus and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City by crashing a truck through a crowd on a bike path followed online plans from Islamic State and left a note saying the militant group would “endure forever,” police said on Wednesday.

Police said they had interviewed Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who is in hospital after an officer shot him, ending the riverfront rampage. They said he appeared to have been planning the attack for weeks and that investigators recovered notes and knives at the scene.

“The gist of the note was that the Islamic State would endure forever,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”

The attack was the deadliest on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people. A further 12 people were injured, some critically, in Tuesday’s attack.

Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.

Saipov allegedly used a pickup truck rented from a New Jersey Home Depot Inc store to run down pedestrians and bicyclists on the path before slamming into the side of a school bus.

He then exited the vehicle brandishing what turned out to be a paint-ball gun and a pellet gun before a police officer shot him in the abdomen.

Saipov reportedly lived in Paterson, New Jersey, a one-time industrial hub about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of lower Manhattan.

 

TRUMP: ‘SEND HIM TO GITMO’

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham urged authorities to treat Saipov as an enemy combatant, a move that would allow investigators to question the man without him having a lawyer present.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he would be open to transferring Saipov to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where other suspects including alleged Sept. 11 plotters are held.

“Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that,” Trump told reporters. “We also have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.”

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo said that Saipov had been radicalized while living in the United States.

The majority of the 18 Islamic State-inspired attacks carried out in the United States since September 2014 were the work of attackers who developed radical views while living in the United States, said Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, research director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 1, 2017.

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack is seen in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 1, 2017. New York PD/Handout via REUTERS

ARGENTINE FRIENDS AMONG DEAD

Six victims were pronounced dead at the scene and two more at a nearby hospital, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

Five of the dead were Argentine tourists, visiting New York as part of a group of friends celebrating the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation, the government there said. Belgium’s foreign minister said a Belgian citizen was also among those killed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said police will be out in force to protect the city’s marathon on Sunday, one of the world’s top road races, which draws some 51,000 runners and 2.5 million spectators from around the globe.

A pair of ethnic Chechen brothers killed three people and injured more than 260 with homemade bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon, memories that were stirred for some runners by Tuesday’s attack.

“It was unsettling to hear the news,” said Neil Gottlieb, 48, who crossed the finish line in Boston shortly before the blasts and plans to run the New York City race on Sunday. “You simply can’t stop a truck and that’s the issue in my mind and my wife’s mind.”

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said his government would do all it could to help investigate the “extremely brutal” attack.

Last week an Uzbekistan citizen living in Brooklyn was sentenced to 15 years in prison for conspiring to support Islamic State.

Saipov had not been the subject of any U.S. investigation, Miller said. He had been in contact with a person who was the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, a U.S. government source told Reuters on Wednesday.

Trump, who has pressed for a ban on travelers entering the United States from some predominantly Muslim countries, criticized the U.S. visa system, blaming Democrats including U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York for the diversity visa system that admitted Saipov. He said he wanted a “merit based” immigration program.

“We do not want chain migration, where somebody like him ultimately will be allowed to bring in many, many members of his family,” Trump told reporters.

Schumer shot back at Trump: “Instead of politicizing and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, (Trump) should be bringing us together and focusing on the real solution, anti-terrorism funding, which he proposed to cut in his most recent budget,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

 

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Melissa Fares in New York, Joseph Ax in Patterson, New Jersey and Mark Hosenball and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Paul Tait and Bill Rigby)