Ex-student arrested after 17 shot dead at Florida high school

Students are evacuated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, U.S. February 14, 2018 in a still image from video. WSVN.com via REUTERS

By Bernie Woodall

PARKLAND, Fla. (Reuters) – A 19-year-old gunman returned to the Florida high school where he had once been expelled for disciplinary problems and opened fire with an assault-style rifle on Wednesday, killing 17 people and injuring more than a dozen others before he was arrested, authorities said.

The violence erupted shortly before dismissal at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a placid, middle-class community about 45 miles (72 km) north of Miami. Television footage showed images, increasingly familiar in America, of bewildered students streaming out of the building with hands raised in the air, as dozens of police and emergency services personnel swarmed the area.

Florida’s two U.S. senators, briefed by federal law enforcement officials, said the assailant wore a gas mask as he stalked into the school carrying a rifle, ammunition cartridges and smoke grenades, then pulled a fire alarm, prompting students and staff to pour from their classrooms into hallways.

“There the carnage began,” Senator Bill Nelson told CNN. Senator Marco Rubio gave a similar account on Twitter.

A chilling cell phone video clip broadcast by CBS News showed a brief scene of what the network said was the shooting in progress from inside a classroom, where several students were seen huddled or lying on the floor surrounded by mostly empty desks. A rapid series of loud gunshots are heard amid hysterical screaming and someone yelling, “Oh my God.”

The gunman was arrested later outside, some distance from the school in an adjacent community. CNN, citing law enforcement sources, said the gunman tried to blend in with students who were fleeing the school but was spotted and taken into custody.

A man placed in handcuffs is led by police near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018 in a still image from video. WSVN.com via REUTERS

A man placed in handcuffs is led by police near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School following a shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, February 14, 2018 in a still image from video. WSVN.com via REUTERS

He was identified as Nikolas Cruz, who previously attended the high school and was expelled for unspecified disciplinary reasons, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said at a news briefing hours later. Officials spelled his first name differently earlier in the day before correcting themselves.

As a high school freshman, Cruz was part of the U.S. military-sponsored Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program at the school, according to Jillian Davis, 19, a recent graduate and former fellow JROTC member at Stoneman Douglas High.

SUSPECT RECOUNTED AS TROUBLED YOUTH

In an interview with Reuters, she recalled his “strange talking sometimes about knives and guns,” adding, “no one ever took him seriously.”

Chad Williams, 18, a senior at Stoneman Douglas, described Cruz as “kind of an outcast” who was known for unruly behavior at school, including a penchant for pulling false fire alarms, and was “crazy about guns.”

The gunman surrendered to police without a struggle, Israel said. He was armed with an AR-15-style rifle and had multiple magazines of ammunition.

“It’s catastrophic,” Israel said. “There really are no words.” Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie called it “a horrific situation,”

Twelve of the dead were killed inside the school, two others just outside, one more on the street and two other victims died of their injuries at a hospital, Israel said. He said the victims comprised a mixture of students and adults.

Authorities at two nearby hospitals said they were treating 13 survivors for bullet wounds and other injuries, five of whom were listed in critical condition.

The Valentine’s Day bloodshed in the Miami suburb of gated communities with palm- and shrub-lined streets was the latest outbreak of gun violence that has become a regular occurrence at schools and college campuses across the United States over the past several years.

It was the 18th shooting in a U.S. school so far this year, according to gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. That tally includes suicides and incidents when no one was injured, as well as the January shooting in which a 15-year-old gunman killed two fellow students at a Benton, Kentucky, high school.

Staff and students told local media that a fire alarm went off around the time the shooting started, sparking chaos as some 3,300 students at the school first headed into hallways before teachers herded them back into classrooms, to seek shelter in closets.

One survivor, Kyle Yeoward, 16, a junior, told Reuters he and about 15 fellow students and a teacher hid in a closet for nearly two hours before police arrived. Yeoward said most of the shooting occurred in the building for the school’s freshman class.

Anguished parents checked on their children.

“It is just absolutely horrifying. I can’t believe this is happening,” Lissette Rozenblat, whose daughter goes to the school, told CNN. Her daughter called her to say she was safe but the student also told her mother she heard the cries of a person who was shot.

Televised images showed dozens of students, their arms in the air, weaving their way between law enforcement officers with heavy weapons and helmets, and large numbers of emergency vehicles including police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.

The school had recently held a meeting to discuss what to do in such an attack, Ryan Gott, a 15-year-old freshman told CNN.

“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting,” U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter. “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman, Dan Whitcomb and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Letitia Stein in Detroit and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)

Cyclone wreaks havoc in Tonga’s capital, parliament flattened, homes wrecked

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Twitter Virginie Dourlet/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

By John Mair

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Tonga’s neighbors scrambled to deliver emergency relief on Tuesday after Cyclone Gita tore across the Pacific island nation in the middle of the night, flattening the parliament, tearing roofs off homes and causing widespread flooding.

There were no confirmed reports of deaths from the Category 4 storm that bought winds of around 200 km (125 miles) per hour, but there were a lot of injured people, some seriously, said Graham Kenna, an Australian government adviser at Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office.

Photos posted on social media showed a wrecked Parliament House building in the capital, as well as extensive flooding and downed power lines. Access to areas outside the capital were hindered by the storm damage and debris.

“The full extent of damage caused by Cyclone Gita is still being assessed but there is an immediate need for assistance on the ground,” NZ Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said in a statement.

“About 5,700 people sought shelter in evacuation centres overnight, and it is expected these numbers will increase substantially tonight.”

New Zealand is donating NZ$750,000 ($545,000) in aid, and a NZ Air Force Hercules aircraft was due to fly emergency relief supplies into Tonga on Tuesday.

Australia is donating A$350,000 ($275,000) worth of emergency shelter, kitchen and hygiene kits, while the country’s foreign minister said the Australian Defence Force personnel would assist with clean-up efforts.

The cyclone was heading towards Fiji’s southern islands on Tuesday, with some forecasts reporting it intensifying towards a Category 5 storm. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned residents to “heed warnings and prepare”, although the storm is expected to bypass heavily populated areas.

Gita had pummeled Samoa and American Samoa, about 900 km (560 miles) to the northeast, over the weekend, flooding the Samoan capital, Apia.

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Facebook Noazky Langi/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

The aftermath of cyclone Gita is seen in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, February 13, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Facebook Noazky Langi/via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

POWER DOWN

Tonga’s clean-up began in the early hours of Tuesday as the tail of the cyclone was still over the capital, Nuku’alofa.

“Every second power pole has been knocked over and the lines are just everywhere,” Kenna said, saying it would likely be days before power could be restored. Water supplies and radio networks were also disrupted.

“They turned the power off very early before the cyclone came, knowing that the power lines would be blown down, which was a good move.”

The worst of the cyclone hit around a low tide, so there were no reports of storm surges worsening the impact of the wind and rains.

Kenna estimated around 40 percent of houses in the capital had suffered some damage, many with roofs blown off.

“A lot of the older houses, especially some of the older heritage houses, have been badly damaged or destroyed, which is very sad, they’re quite historical,” he said. “They’ve been through cyclones before, but this is the biggest cyclone this island has had for at least 60 odd years.”

($1 = 1.3776 New Zealand dollars)

($1 = 1.2718 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by John Mair in Wellington.; Additional reporting by Colin Packham in Sydney; Editing by Jane Wardell and SImon Cameron-Moore)

Earthquake-hit Taiwan city still on edge as rescuers hunt survivors

A rescuer speaks on the radio as he searches for survivors at collapsed building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 8, 2018.

By Yimou Lee

HUALIEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Scores of aftershocks hampered rescue efforts on Thursday as emergency personnel combed through collapsed buildings in search of survivors after a powerful earthquake killed at least 10 people near Taiwan’s tourist city of Hualien.

The coastal city was hit on Tuesday by a magnitude 6.4 quake just before midnight (11.00 a.m ET) that injured 270 people. Four buildings collapsed, officials said, and seven people were still missing.

Volunteers pray outside a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 8, 2018.

Volunteers pray outside a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Rescuers stepped up efforts at one of the worst-hit structures, a 12-storey building that housed apartments and a small hotel, where authorities believe most of those still missing to have been, including several foreigners.

Thick steel girders propped up the heavily leaning structure to keep it from collapsing further, with the lower floors having already caved in.

“Everyone was surprised,” said Huang Chang Po, the 58-year-old owner of a unit in the building, built in 1994.

“We have strong earthquakes all the time in Hualien and it’s really bizarre that our building collapsed,” he told Reuters.

Up to 100 soldiers, rescuers, police, aid workers and volunteers scrambled in the cold and rain outside to find survivors, as excavators cleared away debris.

At an emergency meeting on Thursday, other residents and owners raised concerns about possible recent modifications and demanded a structural check by engineers to determine the cause of the collapse.

It was too early to ascertain the cause, however, said Chang Cheng Chen, an engineer from a regional architects’ association.

“It requires a thorough technical inspection, which may take two to three months,” he said, adding that factors such as the nature of the soil and how quake waves passed through the building could have played a part.

More than 220 aftershocks followed the main quake, including a 5.7 quake late on Wednesday. A Reuters witness said people rushed out of a residential building and rescue workers looked up from piles of debris after one such quiver.

Authorities “would not give up” on disaster relief efforts, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said during her second visit to the quake-hit area on Thursday.

“I didn’t really dare stay at home,” said Hualien resident Yang Yantin. “The area around my house is actually not that bad, the houses are all OK but, because of the aftershocks, I don’t really want to stay there.”

A damaged building is seen after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 8, 2018.

A damaged building is seen after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Lin Tzu Wei, an official at the Central Weather Bureau, said continued vigilance of seismic activity was needed.

“We have not seen a sign of a slowdown yet,” he told Reuters by telephone. “We need to continue to monitor the situation for one to two days…this is quite a rare event.”

As many as 150 people were initially feared missing in the rubble.

More than 600 soldiers and 1,300 police spread out to help the rescue effort, along with a team from Japan. The government said three mainland Chinese were among the dead.

Chen Deming, president of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, said the mainland was willing to help with relief efforts, such as sending teams to the island. Taiwan authorities declined, however.

More than 800 people sought refuge in shelters overnight, many too scared to stay home as aftershocks fueled panic.

Hualien, whose rugged Pacific coastline and picturesque Taroko Gorge National Park are a major tourist draw, is home to about 100,000 people. Its streets were buckled by the quake, leaving large cracks in major roads.

“I’ve never experienced an earthquake but I’d heard people say there were often earthquakes here, so at first I didn’t react,” said tourist Zhang Hongcong.

“But later when all the lights started smashing – the floor was covered in glass – that is when I realized it was serious.”

Taiwan, a self-ruled island that China considers its own, lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1struck nearby on Sunday.

More than 100 people were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and in 1999, a quake of magnitude 7.6 killed more than 2,000 people.

(Additional reporting by Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI, and Natalie Thomas in HUALIEN; John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by James Pomfret and Clarence Fernandez)

Locked switch blamed in fatal Amtrak crash

Emergency responders are at the scene after an Amtrak passenger train collided with a freight train and derailed in Cayce, South Carolina, U.S., February 4, 2018.

(Reuters) – A locked switch is being blamed for the collision between an Amtrak passenger train and a freight train that killed two people and injured more than 100 others in South Carolina early on Sunday.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board said a switch on the tracks, which the freight hauler CSX Corp. owns and operates, was padlocked in a position that steered the Amtrak train onto a siding near Columbia, S.C., where it crashed into a parked, unoccupied CSX train.

“Key to this investigation is learning why the switch was lined that way,” Robert Sumwalt, the chairman of the NTSB, told reporters at a news conference on Sunday. NTSB officials were not immediately available to elaborate.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Richard Anderson told reporters Sunday that CSX was responsible for the wreck because of the locked switch. CSX officials were not available for comment.

Officials from both companies expressed condolences to the families of the two people killed, an Amtrak engineer and a conductor.

Two of the 116 people injured remained in critical condition overnight, officials said. Specifics were not available.

A team from the NTSB is expected to be on the scene for five to seven days. No probable cause will be issued at that time, the agency told media outlets.

 

(Reporting by Rich McKay, editing by Larry King)

Warning level raised on another Japanese volcano a week after fatal eruption

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on January 23, 2018,

OKYO (Reuters) – Japan raised the warning level on another volcano on Tuesday, exactly a week after an dramatic eruption at another peak killed one man, injured nearly a dozen others and stranded scores of skiers – including foreign tourists – for several hours.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency lifted the warning on Zao, a cluster of volcanoes in northern Japan whose highest point is 1,841 meters (6,040 ft), to 2 from 1, meaning that people should avoid going near the crater.

“There is a possibility of a small-scale eruption,” the agency said in a statement, noting that a number of small earth movements were detected on Tuesday, along with a slight bulging of the ground in one area.

It also warned of the possibility that volcanic rocks could be thrown as far as 1.2 km in any eruption.

The announcement came a week after a member of Japan’s military was struck and killed when rocks from the sudden eruption of the Kusatsu-Shirane volcano rained down on skiers at a mountain resort in central Japan.

Video footage taken by skiers on the mountain, including some from Taiwan, showed black ash boiling up into the sky as stones plummeted down, some punching holes in the metal roof of a ski gondola. Eleven people were injured and around 100 skiers took refuge in a mountain hut for several hours until rescued.

Zao, like Kusatsu-Shirane, is a popular resort area famed for its “snow monsters,” created by water vapor freezing on trees in winter. Its slopes are packed with skiers in winter and hikers in other seasons.

Japan has 110 active volcanoes and monitors 47 of them around the clock. In September 2014, 63 people were killed on Mount Ontake, the worst volcanic disaster in Japan for nearly 90 years.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Michael Perry)

South Korean hospital blaze kills at least 37, fleeing patients brave flames

Smoke rises from a burning hospital in Miryang, South Korea, January 26, 2018.

By Christine Kim

MIRYANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Once famous for an award-winning film of the same name, the South Korean city of Miryang became a scene of horror on Friday as flames and toxic smoke swept through a hospital, killing at least 37 people and injuring more than 140.

South Korea’s deadliest fire in almost a decade followed one last month that killed 29 people, reviving concern over safety standards, as the hospital director said current law did not require the building to have a sprinkler system.

“So many lives were sacrificed and the people of our city, as well as those throughout the country, have fallen into deep grief,” the city’s mayor, Park Il-ho, told reporters, appearing visibly distressed.

Many patients “walked though fire and smoke” to escape from the Sejong Hospital as the main exit was on the first floor, which was ablaze, a city official told Reuters.

Those on upper floors used ladders and plastic escape slides to flee, while firefighters carried some who could not walk.

“I saw the elderly patients scrambling out through the windows and had to help,” said Woo Young-min, 25, as he stood in his pyjamas outside the hospital.

The presidential Blue House initially said the number of dead was at least 41, but deferred to a toll of 37 from the fire chief of Miryang, which is about 270 km (170 miles) southeast of Seoul, the capital, and home to about 108,000 people.

Fire officials posted a list of at least 26 victims outside the hospital, their ages ranging from 34 to 96 years, with at least a score over 70.

Families crowded round a handwritten list of names and hospital rooms that officials had scrawled on a wall at a nearby funeral home.

The fire broke out around 7.30 a.m. (2230 GMT) at the rear of the emergency room on the hospital’s first floor, fire official Choi Man-woo told a televised news briefing.

The street outside the hospital featured in the 2007 South Korean drama “Miryang,” or “Secret Sunshine,” which garnered awards at Cannes and other film festivals.

But on Friday, witnesses described scenes of chaos in the sub-freezing temperatures, as nearby residents rushed to take portable hotpacks to shivering victims.

Woo said he was walking home after working a graveyard shift when he saw the fire and patients trying to escape the blaze.

“The firefighters were shouting at us not to go inside the building, so I stayed and helped others bring the patients down the slides.”

Television broadcast images of black smoke billowing from the windows and entrance of the hospital as flames flickered.

At least 177 patients – most of them elderly – were at the hospital and an adjacent nursing home when the fire broke out, hospital director Song Byeong-cheol told reporters.

Song said three of the nine hospital staff on duty at the time died, including at least one doctor, a nurse, and a nurse’s aide, all killed on the second floor.

Most of those who died were on the first and second floors, said Choi, but added that there were no deaths from burns.

Seven people were critically injured, while 126 had less serious wounds, officials told a Friday evening briefing.

The injured were treated at 14 regional hospitals.

By Friday afternoon, police had cordoned off the burnt-out hospital, as forensic investigators combed the smoke-blackened building. Charred debris and shattered glass littered the ground outside.

NO SPRINKLER SYSTEM

Asia’s fourth-largest economy, with one of the world’s fastest ageing populations, South Korea has faced criticism in recent years over inadequate safety standards.

Song said the six-storey hospital did not have a sprinkler system and was not large enough to require one under the law.

The nursing home annexe, where no patients died, is covered by a new law, however, and Song said the hospital had planned to begin installing a sprinkler system there next week.

Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said the government would consider changing the law.

Interior ministry guidelines published in December 2016 suggest sprinklers for all buildings of six or more storeys.

Officials said they were still investigating the cause of the fire, but were looking at a possible short circuit in the emergency room’s heating and cooling system.

“According to an initial eyewitness, fire broke out where there are two air-conditioning and heating devices in the emergency room,” Song said.

“Others said an electric spark occurred on the ceiling of the emergency room and then fire spread quickly.”

The hospital had regular safety inspections and was built to government standards, with fire exits and extinguishers, many of which were used during the fire, he added.

President Moon Jae-in held an emergency meeting with top aides and urged “all necessary measures” to help survivors.

Interior Minister Kim Boo-kyum, who visited Miryang to apologise for the fire, promised government help for victims, Yonhap news agency said.

In December, 29 people were killed in a blaze at an eight-storey fitness centre in Jecheon City, most of them women trapped in a sauna by toxic fumes. The event fed anger over reports of shoddy construction, among other shortcomings.

In 2014, a fire at a rural hospital killed 21 people, while a 2008 warehouse fire outside Seoul killed 40.

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting Yuna Park, Dahee Kim and Hyonhee Shin; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez)

Gunmen storm Save the Children aid group office in Afghanistan

Afghan police officers take position during a blast and gun fire in Jalalabad, Afghanistan January 24,

By Rafiq Sherzad and Ahmad Sultan

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Gunmen stormed an office of the Save the Children aid agency in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday and at least five people were killed and 25 wounded in a daylong battle with security forces before the attack was finally suppressed.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault, which began with a suicide car bomb outside the office in the morning and continued as gunmen entered the compound where they resisted Afghan security forces for about 10 hours.

Black smoke funneled into the sky from the area as gunmen battled special forces through the afternoon. Up to 45 people who had taken refuge in a fortified “safe room” in the compound were rescued by late afternoon, but fighting continued past nightfall when officials said the last attacker was killed.

“The fight is over,” the provincial governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told reporters.

Authorities said three Save the Children employees had been killed, including one guard, as well as a member of the Afghan security forces and a shopkeeper.

In addition to the suicide bomber who blew himself up, four other gunmen were shot by security forces. Witnesses said at least some of them were in police uniform, a commonly used tactic.

The raid began with a huge blast at around 9 a.m. that rocked the neighborhood, where other aid groups and government buildings are based. A neighboring building of another aid group caught fire but all staff were evacuated.

“Right after that children and people started running away,” said Ghulam Nabi, who was nearby when the bomb exploded. “I saw a vehicle catch fire and then a gunfight started.”

Islamic State, in a statement on its Amaq news agency, said the attack targeted British, Swedish and Afghan government institutions. Save the Children was founded in Britain, and a Swedish aid group office and a building of the Afghan Department of Women’s Affairs are near the compound.

The attack underlines how difficult operating in Afghanistan has become for humanitarian aid groups, which have faced heavy pressure from armed groups and kidnappers. In 2017, a total of 17 aid workers were killed and 32 injured in the country.

“OUTRAGEOUS”

Save the Children, which says it reaches almost 1.4 million children in Afghanistan, said that for the moment it had closed its offices in Afghanistan. It has operated in Afghanistan since 1976, working in eight provinces as well as in three others through partnership agreements.

“We are shocked and appalled at the violence carried out against our staff in Afghanistan, who are dedicated humanitarians, committed to improving the lives and wellbeing of millions of children across the country,” Save the Children International CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt said in a statement.

“We have temporarily suspended our operations across the country following today’s events. However, we remain fully committed to helping the most deprived children of Afghanistan.”

In October, the Red Cross said it was drastically reducing operations in Afghanistan following attacks that killed seven of its staff.

“An attack against an organization that helps children is outrageous. Civilians and aid workers must not be targeted,” said Monica Zanarelli, head of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan, in response to Wednesday’s attack.

“Increased violence has made operating in Afghanistan increasingly difficult for many organizations.”

President Ashraf Ghani, whose government has been under heavy pressure to improve security, also condemned the attack in a statement in which he called on neighboring countries not to help militant groups.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province on the porous border with Pakistan. Nangarhar has become a bastion of Islamic State, which has grown into one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous militant groups since it appeared around the beginning of 2015.

Backed by intensive U.S. air strikes, Afghan forces have claimed growing success against the Taliban and other militant groups, including Islamic State. But militant attacks on civilian targets have continued, causing heavy casualties.

The attack in Jalalabad occurred just days after Taliban militants raided the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including 13 foreigners.

(Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni and James Mackenzie in KABUL, Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in GENEVA and Eric Knecht in CAIRO; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Strong earthquake in southern Peru leaves one dead, scores injured

A man observes a damage building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018.

By Marco Aquino

LIMA (Reuters) – A strong magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru on Sunday morning, killing one person, injuring scores and causing homes and roads to collapse.

The quake hit offshore at 4:18 a.m. local time (0918 GMT) at a depth of around 36 km (22.4 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean 40 km from the town of Acari.

Arequipa Governor Yamila Osorio said on Twitter that a 55-year-old man died in the town of Yauca after being crushed by rocks. Jorge Chavez, chief of Peru’s Civil Defense Institute, told local radio station RPP that 65 people were injured.

Several municipalities lost electricity, and many roads and adobe houses collapsed, Osorio said. Many residents of Lomas, a coastal town, were evacuated after feeling an aftershock.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski traveled to the towns of Chala and Acari, two of the areas most affected by the quake, to assess the damages and coordinate the response. He said some 100 houses had collapsed.

A man and a child stand at debris of a building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018.

A man and a child stand at debris of a building after a strong magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru, in Acari, Arequipa , Peru, January 14, 2018. REUTERS/Diego Ramos

“We are going to send everything that is needed, such as tents for people whose homes were destroyed,” Kuczynski told reporters in Chala.

Earthquakes are common in Peru, but many homes are built with precarious materials that cannot withstand the tremors.

In 2007 an earthquake killed hundreds in the region of Ica.

Prime Minister Mercedes Araoz said at a news conference in Lima that the government would declare a state of emergency in the affected zones to allow for faster reconstruction of roads and homes. Devastating floods last year resulted in $8 billion in rebuilding costs.

Peruvian maritime authorities said the quake did not produce a tsunami on the coast. In the morning, officials said a second person had died and that 17 people were missing in a mine, but later withdrew the reports.

Peru is the world’s No. 2 copper producer, although many mines in the south are located far inland from the quake’s epicenter. A Southern Copper Corp representative said there were no reports of damage at its Cuajone and Toquepala mines.

Jesus Revilla, a union leader at the Cerro Verde copper mine in Arequipa, said there were no reports that operations had been affected.

The quake was also felt in northern Chile, Peru’s southern neighbor, but authorities said there was no tsunami risk.

(Reporting by Marco Aquino and Luc Cohen; Additional reporting by Antonio de la Jara in Santiago; Editing by Louise Heavens, Lisa Von Ahn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Fire engulfs casino shuttle boat off Florida coast, 15 injured

A fire breaks out on a SunCruz casino boat at Port Richey, Florida, U,S, January 14, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media.

By Renita D. Young

NEW YORK (Reuters) – At least 15 people were injured when a fire engulfed a boat off the coast of Florida on Sunday, causing the 50 people aboard to jump into the Gulf of Mexico and swim to shore, local officials said.

A preliminary investigation showed the fire broke out at about 4:17 p.m. EST from an apparent engine issue, said Shawn Whited, division chief with Pasco Fire Rescue.

“The captain of the boat said there was an issue with the engine. He said he noticed smoke coming form the engine room and turned the boat around,” Whited said.

The 60-foot shuttle boat was on its way to the Sun Cruz Casino boat, a little more than three miles away in international waters. It had only made it about 100 yards from where it originated in Port Richey, about 30 miles north of downtown Tampa.

After seeing the smoke, the captain prompted the 50 people aboard the boat to abandon ship and swim to shore. Some of the injuries were from being in cold water and from smoke inhalation, said Whited.

The boat was “fully engulfed” in flames, said Dan Dede, a dispatch supervisor at Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and Pasco Fire.

An official investigation will start soon, according to Whited. Several agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the City of Port Richey Fire Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, responded to the incident.

(Reporting by Renita D. Young; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Toyota expands U.S. Takata air bag recall to 600,000 extra vehicles

The Toyota logo is shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 30, 2017.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Toyota Motor Corp said on Tuesday it was expanding its safety recall involving Takata Corp front passenger air bag inflators to cover about 601,300 additional vehicles in the United States.

Takata and its U.S. entity TK Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy in June after it said it was recalling more than 100 million of its air bag inflators worldwide through the end of 2019 because they could inflate with too much force and spray metal fragments.

Air bags with the inflators have been linked to at least 180 injuries and 20 deaths, mostly in the United States including one in Louisiana that was identified last month.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Saturday posted a notice from Takata that said the company would recall another 3.3 million inflators for vehicles from automakers including Toyota, Honda Motor Co, BMW AG, Daimler AG, General Motors Co, Tata Motors Jaguar Land Rover unit and Subaru Corp.

NHTSA said in November that 19 automakers had recalled 46 million inflators in 34 million U.S. vehicles — and by 2019 as many as 70 million U.S. inflators will have been recalled. In June, the agency said only about 35 percent of vehicles recalled have been repaired to date.

In January 2016, Takata agreed to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing and pay $1 billion to resolve a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the inflator ruptures.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Tom Brown)