Quake-hit Taiwan city winds down rescue efforts, five still missing

A body of a Hong Kong Canadian is carried out from a collapsed building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018.

By Fabian Hamacher and Natalie Thomas

HUALIEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Rescue operations in Taiwan started to wind down on Friday after a devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked the tourist area of Hualien this week, taking a toll of 12 dead and five missing.

More than 270 people were injured when Tuesday’s quake hit the eastern coastal city just before midnight, toppling four buildings, ripping large fissures in roads and unleashing panic among the roughly 100,000 residents.

More than 200 aftershocks followed, hampering a round-the-clock rescue effort in which emergency personnel battled rain and cold to comb rubble in a search for survivors.

Efforts on Friday narrowed to finding five Chinese nationals still missing after rescuers pulled two bodies, identified as Canadian citizens from Hong Kong, out of a 12-storey residential building that had been left tilting at a 45-degree angle.

An excavator demolishes collapsed Marshal hotel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018.

An excavator demolishes collapsed Marshal hotel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Authorities said they would focus their search on the single building where the five missing were believed to be.

“The military will continue to prioritize today rescuing the missing people in the Yun Men Tsui Ti residential building,” it said in a statement.

The building’s extreme displacement made the search tough, the government said in a statement, adding, “The space for our operations is small, so the progress of search and rescue can be slow.”

Power was restored to all affected areas in Hualien, although 8,500 homes are still without water.

The military will work with local government officials to develop a plan to demolish a hotel, a residential building and other dangerous buildings, it said in its statement.

The government vowed to redouble efforts to revise building regulations, aiming to limit damage in any future episodes.

Taiwan revised its building act on Jan. 30 to strengthen investigations of the structures of existing buildings and inspection of completed projects, the interior ministry said on Friday.

The revision, expected to be discussed by a cabinet meeting at the end of February, would also seek third-party views in building assessments, it said.

The government added that it would hasten reconstruction of old buildings to make them earthquake-resistant and work to boost the safety of other structures in affected areas.

“At every stage, the central government will fully assist local governments,” it added.

 

(Additional reporting by Tyrone Siu; Writing by Jess Macy Yu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Clarence Fernandez)

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)

At least seven killed, 67 missing after quake rocks Taiwan tourist area

Rescue workers are seen by a damaged building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 7, 2018.

By Fabian Hamacher and Tyrone Siu

HUALIEN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Rescuers combed through the rubble of collapsed buildings on Wednesday, in a search for 67 people missing after a strong earthquake which killed at least seven near Taiwan’s popular tourist city of Hualien.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, which hit near the coastal city just before midnight (1600 GMT) on Tuesday, injured 260 people and caused four buildings to collapse, officials said.

Hualien Mayor Fu Kun-chi said the number of people missing was now close to 60, although an exact figure was not provided. As many as 150 were initially feared missing.

Many of the missing were believed to be still trapped inside buildings, some of which tilted precariously, after the quake struck about 22 km (14 miles) northeast of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast.

At the city’s Marshal Hotel, rescuers trying to free two trapped Taiwanese pulled one out alive, but the other person was declared dead, the government said.

Mainland Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Singaporean and South Korean nationals were among the injured.

“This is the worst earthquake in the history of Hualien, or at least over the past 40 years that I’ve been alive,” said volunteer Yang Hsi Hua.

“We’ve never had anything like this, we’ve never had a building topple over. Also, it was constantly shaking, so everyone was really scared, we ran to empty open spaces to avoid it.”

Rescue personnel search a collapses building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 7, 2018.

Rescue personnel search a collapses building after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Aftershocks with a magnitude of at least 5.0 could rock the island in the next two weeks, the government said. Smaller tremors rattled nervous residents throughout the day.

Residents waited and watched anxiously as emergency workers dressed in fluorescent orange and red suits and wearing helmets searched for residents trapped in apartment blocks.

Hualien is home to about 100,000 people. Its streets were buckled by the force of the quake, with around 40,000 homes left without water and around 1,900 without power. Water supply had returned to nearly 5,000 homes by noon (0400 GMT), while power was restored to around 1,700 households.

DAMAGE, PANIC

Emergency workers surrounded a badly damaged 12-storey residential building, a major focus of the rescue effort. Windows had collapsed and the building was wedged into the ground at a roughly 40-degree angle.

Rescuers worked their way around and through the building while residents looked on from behind cordoned-off roads. Others spoke of the panic when the earthquake struck.

“We were still open when it happened,” said Lin Ching-wen, who operates a restaurant near a damaged military hospital.

“I grabbed my wife and children and we ran out and tried to rescue people,” he said.

A Reuters video showed large cracks in the road, while police and emergency services tried to help anxious people roaming the streets. A car sat submerged in rubble as rescue workers combed through the ruins of a nearby building.

President Tsai Ing-wen went to the scene of the quake early on Wednesday to help direct rescue operations.

“The president has asked the cabinet and related ministries to immediately launch the ‘disaster mechanism’ and to work at the fastest rate on disaster relief work,” Tsai’s office said in a statement.

A body of employee of collapsed Marshal Hotel is carried by a rescue personnel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 7, 2018.

A body of employee of collapsed Marshal Hotel is carried by a rescue personnel after an earthquake hit Hualien, Taiwan February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the world’s largest contract chipmaker and major Apple supplier, said initial assessments indicated no impact from the earthquake.

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

More than 100 people were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, and some Taiwanese remain scarred by a 7.6 magnitude quake that was felt across the island and killed more than 2,000 people in 1999.

(For graphic on Taiwan earthquake, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2BJCdQ2)

(Additional reporting by Jeanny Kao and Jess Macy Yu in TAIPEI and Natalie Thomas in Hualien; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Paul Tait and Richard Balmforth)

Twenty now dead in California mudslides, major highway closed

Rescue workers scour through cars for missing persons after a mudslide in Montecito.

By Caroline Anderson

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The death toll from Southern California mudslides that swallowed dozens of homes and forced the closure of a major highway along the picturesque Santa Barbara County coast rose to 20 on Sunday, with four other people still reported missing.

Emergency officials said chances of finding more survivors in the ravaged landscape of hardened muck, boulders and other debris had waned considerably since heavy rains unleashed torrents of mud down hillsides before dawn last Tuesday.

Still, the 20 fatalities confirmed in and around the affluent community of Montecito, 85 miles (137 km) northwest of Los Angeles in the coastal slopes adjacent to Santa Barbara, ranks as the greatest loss of life from a California mudslide in at least 13 years.

The official death toll early on Saturday had stood at 19, with seven people listed as missing. Four remained unaccounted for on Sunday, including the 2-year-old daughter of the latest victim whose remains have been positively identified.

Ten people perished in January 2005 when a hillside saturated by weeks of torrential rains collapsed in the seaside hamlet of La Conchita, just 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Montecito, burying more than a dozen homes in seconds.

Unlike the La Conchita tragedy, the stage was set for Montecito’s slides by a massive wildfire last month — the largest on record in California — that stripped hillsides bare of any vegetation to hold soils in place following a day of drenching showers.

Another 900 emergency personnel arrived this weekend to join the relief effort conducted by more than 2,100 personnel from local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy and the American Red Cross.

But authorities said on Sunday that the search-and-rescue mission had shifted into a “search-and-recovery” effort, reflecting the diminished likelihood of finding anyone else alive.

The destruction covered 30 square miles (78 square km), leaving 65 single-family homes demolished and more than 450 others damaged. Nearly 30 commercial properties were damaged or destroyed, officials said.

The slides also forced a 10-mile (16-km) stretch of one of California’s most celebrated coastal roads, the heavily traveled Highway 101, to be closed indefinitely.

The shutdown has posed a major traffic disruption, forcing motorists to drive 100 miles out of their way on back roads to commute around the closure, said Jim Shivers, a spokesman for the state transportation department.

He said parts of Highway 101 were under 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) of water and mud. Cleanup crews were working around the clock in 12-hour shifts.

Seeking to ease the detour for commuters, ferry boats were making commuter runs twice a day between Santa Barbara and the town of Ventura to the south.

A community group formed in the aftermath of last month’s devastating Thomas Fire also began coordinating free airplane and helicopter rides for doctors and emergency personnel.

As a precaution against the possibility of further slides, officials have ordered residents in most of the southeastern corner of Montecito to leave their homes for what was likely to be one or two weeks.

(Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Sandra Maler)

Search for survivors of devastating California mudslide enters third day

Damaged properties are seen after a mudslide in Montecito, California, U.S. January 11, 2018.

By Alex Dobuzinskis

MONTECITO, Calif. (Reuters) – The search for survivors from a devastating Southern California mudslide that has killed at least 17 people moved into its third day on Friday, with some 700 rescue workers expecting to find more dead victims.

Triggered by heavy rains, the massive slide struck before dawn on Tuesday, when a wall of mud and debris cascaded down hillsides that were denuded last month by wildfires, including the Thomas Fire, the largest blaze in the state’s history.

“Realistically we suspect we are going to have the discovery of more people killed in this incident,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a Thursday news briefing, adding that he was hoping to find “miracle” survivors.

Brown said 43 people remain missing, although some may just be out of communication.

In one of the hardest hit areas, the affluent seaside community of Montecito, the devastation wrought by the slide and the gruesome undertaking faced by emergency crews was evident.

Neighborhoods were littered with uprooted trees and downed power lines, and front yards in homes filled with mud were strewn with boulders.

Elsewhere, cars carried away by the flow were perched on mounds of earth and mangled garage doors crushed by the mud rested at odd angles.

The cause of death for all 17 victims who perished will be listed as multiple traumatic injuries due to flash flood with mudslides, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

The dead victims range in age from three to 89.

Josephine Gower, 69, died when she opened the door to her home, her son, Hayden Gower, told NBC station KSBY. Her daughter-in-law Sarah Gower confirmed Gower’s death in a Facebook post. Her body was found that night, near a highway hit by the slide.

“I told her to stay on the second floor, but she went downstairs and opened the door and just got swept away,” Hayden Gower said. “I should have just told her to leave. You just don’t even think that this is possible.”

The sheriff’s office also expanded the evacuation zone in the Montecito area on Thursday, as traffic on the already-clogged roads is hindering efforts by rescue and repair crews to access the devastation.

Rescue workers in helicopters and high-wheeled military vehicles, some with search dogs, were deployed in the hunt for the missing in a disaster zone littered with the remnants of hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted a request on Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown for expanded financial aid that was first allocated for the Thomas Fire, the governor’s office said in a statement.

“This declaration ensures that federal funds are available for emergency response and eligible disaster recovery costs,” the governor’s statement said.

(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Chris Kenning in Chicago, Gina Cherelus and Peter Szekely in New York and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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)

Landslides kill 26 in storm-hit Philippine province

A general view shows search, retrieval, and relief operations ongoing at the flooded areas at Tzu Chi Village in Barangay Liloan, Phillipines, December 17, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. ORMOC CITY POLICE OFFICE/via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – At least 26 people were killed while several residents were missing in an island province in central Philippines after tropical storm Kai-tak brought heavy rains that triggered landslides, local authorities and media said on Sunday.

Kai-tak cut power supplies in many areas, forced the cancellation of several flights, stranded more than 15,000 people in various ports in the region and prompted nearly 88,000 people to seek shelter in evacuation centers.

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Biliran island said 26 residents had died, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has yet to make any official announcement about fatalities.

Biliran Governor Gerardo Espina Jr confirmed the deaths in an interview with DZMM radio, with 23 people still missing, he said.

“We received reports of three deaths coming from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) but these are for confirmation,” said NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan. “We are still trying to check the others.”

Many areas were flooded, damaging crops and infrastructure.

Kai-tak has weakened to a tropical depression after barrelling through the eastern region of Visayas on Saturday, hitting islands and coastal towns such as Tacloban City where supertyphoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives in 2013.

Locally known as Urduja, Kai-tak was packing winds of 55 kilometers (31 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 80 km/h, according to a weather bureau bulletin issued at 2000 GMT.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans)

Pakistani peace activist reported missing, police say

Demonstrators hold placards calling for the release of Raza Mehmood Khan, a member of Aghaz-i-Dosti (Start of Friendship), a group that works on peace building between Pakistan and India, during a protest in Lahore, Pakistan December 11, 2017.

By Syed Raza Hassan

Karachi, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani peace activist has been reported missing over the weekend from eastern city of Lahore, police and one of his friends said on Tuesday.

Raza Mehmood Khan, 40, a member of Aghaz-i-Dosti (Start of Friendship), a group that works on peace building between arch-rivals Pakistan and India, hasn’t been heard from since he left home on Sunday, said Rahim-ul-Haq, a friend and an associate.

He said the group has offices in both countries.

Police official Shehzad Raza said Khan’s family reported he had been missing since Saturday. No one has been accused in the report, he said. “We’re investigating.”

Several social media activists critical of the army and the country’s extremists and militant groups have gone missing in Pakistan in recent months.

Four of them were released nearly a month after they disappeared early this year. Two of them – Ahmad Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed _ later alleged in interviews with BBC and their social media posts that Pakistani intelligence abducted and tortured them in custody.

Pakistan’s army has denied the accusations.

Haq said Khan spoke at a discussion on Saturday on the topic of extremism. “Everyone discussed their views and, of course, Raza was very critical,” he said.

He said that Raza’s recent Facebook posts were critical of Pakistani military, especially in view of a recent sit-in protest by hard-liners that paralyzed Islamabad for over two weeks.

The extremists won almost all of their demands, including resignation of a minister they accused of blasphemy, in an agreement brokered by the army.

(Writintg by Asif Shahzad, editing by Larry King)

Water entered missing Argentine sub’s snorkel, causing short circuit

People stand next to a bouquet of flowers and banners in support of the 44 crew members of the missing at sea ARA San Juan submarine, outside an Argentine naval base in Mar del Plata, Argentina November 25, 2017.

By Hugh Bronstein

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Water entered the snorkel of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan, causing its battery to short-circuit before it went missing on Nov. 15, a navy spokesman said on Monday as hope dwindled among some families of the 44-member crew.

The San Juan had only a seven-day oxygen supply when it lost contact, and a sudden noise was detected that the navy says could have been the implosion of the vessel. Ships with rescue equipment from countries including the United States and Russia were nonetheless rushing to join the search.

Before its disappearance, the submarine had been ordered back to its Mar del Plata base after it reported water had entered the vessel through its snorkel, causing a battery short circuit, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told a news conference.

“They had to isolate the battery and continue to sail underwater toward Mar del Plata, using another battery,” Balbi said.

After contact with the San Juan was lost, the Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an international body that runs a global network of listening posts designed to check for secret atomic blasts, detected a noise the navy said could have been the submarine’s implosion.

The search for the 65-meter (213-foot) diesel-electric submarine is concentrated in an area some 430 km (267 miles) off Argentina’s southern coast. The effort includes ships and planes manned by 4,000 personnel from 13 countries, including Brazil, Chile and Great Britain.

Among the crew’s family members, fissures started appearing on Monday between those who refuse to give up hope and those who say it is time to accept that their loved ones will not come back alive.

Some relatives have said they are focusing on the lack of physical evidence of an implosion and the possibility that the submarine might have risen close enough to the ocean surface to replenish its oxygen supply after it went missing.

But Itati Leguizamon said she believed her husband, crew member German Suarez, had died.

“There is no way they are alive,” she told reporters, her voice shaking and eyes welling with tears. “It is not that I want this. I love him. I adore him. He left his mother and sister behind, but there is no sense in being stubborn.

“The other families are attacking me for what I am saying,” she said, “but why have they not found it yet? Why don’t they tell us the truth?”

 

(Additional reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

 

U.S. Navy plane crashes in Philippine Sea; three missing

U.S. Navy plane crashes in Philippine Sea; three missing

TOKYO (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy transport plane carrying 11 people crashed in the Philippine Sea south of Japan on Wednesday as it flew to the aircraft carrier the Ronald Reagan, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said.

Eight people had been rescued, with the remaining three unaccounted for, it said, adding that all of the rescued personnel were transferred to the Ronald Reagan for medical evaluation and were in good condition.

“Search and rescue efforts for three personnel continue with U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships and aircraft on scene,” the U.S. Seventh Fleet said in a news release.

“The incident will be investigated.”

The aircraft was conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to the carrier, which was operating in the Philippine Sea as part of an exercise with Japanese forces, it said.

Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera told reporters the U.S. Navy had informed him that the crash in the Philippine Sea may have been a result of engine trouble.

The propeller powered transport plane, a C-2 Greyhound, carries personnel, mail and other cargo from mainland bases to carriers operating at sea.

C-2 aircraft have been in operation for more than five decades and are due to be replaced by the long-range tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel)