Burnout, stress lead more companies to try a four-day work week

FILE PHOTO: Office workers take their lunch at a food court in Sydney, Australia, May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN (Reuters) – Work four days a week, but get paid for five?

It sounds too good to be true, but companies around the world that have cut their work week have found that it leads to higher productivity, more motivated staff and less burnout.

“It is much healthier and we do a better job if we’re not working crazy hours,” said Jan Schulz-Hofen, founder of Berlin-based project management software company Planio, who introduced a four-day week to the company’s 10-member staff earlier this year.

In New Zealand, insurance company Perpetual Guardian reported a fall in stress and a jump in staff engagement after it tested a 32-hour week earlier this year.

Even in Japan, the government is encouraging companies to allow Monday mornings off, although other schemes in the workaholic country to persuade employees to take it easy have had little effect.

Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) is pushing for the whole country to move to a four-day week by the end of the century, a drive supported by the opposition Labour party.

The TUC argues that a shorter week is a way for workers to share in the wealth generated by new technologies like machine learning and robotics, just as they won the right to the weekend off during the industrial revolution.

“It would reduce the stress of juggling working and family life and could improve gender equality. Companies that have already tried it say it’s better for productivity and staff wellbeing,” said TUC economic head Kate Bell.

OVERWORKED

Lucie Greene, trends expert at consultancy J. Walter Thompson, said there was a growing backlash against overwork, underlined by a wave of criticism after Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”

“People are starting to take a step back from the 24-hour digital life we have now and realize the mental health issues from being constantly connected to work,” Greene said.

A recent survey of 3,000 employees in eight countries including the United States, Britain and Germany found that nearly half thought they could easily finish their tasks in five hours a day if they did not have interruptions, but many are exceeding 40 hours a week anyway – with the United States leading the way, where 49 percent said they worked overtime.

“There has been work creep. Because you always have the technology, you are always working, so people are getting burned out,” said Dan Schawbel, director of executive development firm Future Workplace, which conducted the survey with Kronos.

Schulz-Hofen, a 36-year-old software engineer, tested the four-day week on himself after realizing he needed to slow down following a decade of intense work launching Planio, whose tools allowed him to track his time in detail.

“I didn’t get less work done in four days than in five because in five days, you think you have more time, you take longer, you allow yourself to have more interruptions, you have your coffee a bit longer or chat with colleagues,” Schulz-Hofen said.

“I realized with four days, I have to be quick, I have to be focused if I want to have my free Friday.”

Schulz-Hofen and his team discussed various options before settling on everybody working Monday to Thursday. They rejected the idea of flexible hours because it adds administrative complexity, and were against a five-day week with shorter hours as it is too easy for overwork to creep back in.

Clients who call on a Friday hear a recorded message explaining why nobody is at the office.

“We got an unexpected reaction from customers. Most of our clients did not complain. They were just jealous,” Schulz-Hofen said.

Grey New York, an ad agency owned by WPP, launched a program in April to allow staff to work a four-day week for 85 percent of their full-time salary.

Schawbel expects the idea to catch on in more companies and countries, but probably not his own: “I think America will be the last country to give us Monday mornings off because we’re so used to this way of working.”

(This version of the story corrects paragraph 13 to reflect that the study was conducted by Kronos and Future Workplace)

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Lauren Young)

FBI arrests man in Florida suspected of sending parcel bombs

New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers stand outside a U.S. Postal Service facility after a suspicious package was discovered there in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., October 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Zachary Fagenson and Bernie Woodall

PLANTATION, Fl. (Reuters) – Federal authorities arrested a man in Florida on Friday suspected of sending at least a dozen parcel bombs to high-profile critics of U.S. President Donald Trump days ahead of congressional elections, officials said.

Two federal law enforcement officials named the suspect as Cesar Sayoc, born in 1962. He was taken into custody in the parking lot of an AutoZone store in Plantation, near Fort Lauderdale, where two witnesses told Reuters they heard a loud blast at the time of the arrest.

Local television stations showed investigators using a large blue tarp to cover a white van that was plastered with decals and stickers, before removing it on a truck.

A federal law enforcement official said more arrests could follow. Another law enforcement source said charges would likely be brought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The U.S. Justice Department was due to hold a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT. (1830 GMT), a spokeswoman said.

No one had claimed responsibility for parcel bombs, which were denounced by authorities as terrorism, and came less than two weeks ahead of U.S. congressional elections that could alter the balance of power in Washington.

Police found two of the suspicious packages on Friday addressed to U.S. Senator Cory Booker and James Clapper, the former U.S. director of national intelligence, officials said.

The 11th package was addressed to Booker, a Democratic senator from New Jersey, and was discovered at a mail sorting facility in Florida, the FBI said. A 12th package was addressed to Clapper at cable network CNN and was intercepted at a New York City post office, a federal law enforcement official said.

A thirteenth suspicious parcel was discovered addressed to Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, CNN said.

A federal law enforcement official said earlier on Friday that the focus had intensified on Florida as a key location for the investigation and possible point of origin of the packages.

Police closed roads around the AutoZone parking lot where Sayoc was arrested and helicopters flew overhead.

A man named Dre, a manager at a used car dealership next door to the AutoZone, said he heard a loud noise that sounded like an explosion shortly after 11 a.m.

“I heard like a bomb,” Dre, who declined to give his full name, said in a telephone interview. “I opened the door and saw the FBI there.”

Dre said they were told by FBI agents to stay inside as the area was on lockdown.

A woman who lives nearby and declined to give her name said she was in her yard weeding on Friday morning when she heard a loud bang, saw smoke and heard a lot of shouting.

‘SWIFT JUSTICE’

Florida Governor Rick Scott said he had been briefed on developments in the investigation.

“ANY attempt to harm others is disgusting and has no place in Florida or our country,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “I appreciate the hard work of law enforcement to bring swift justice to whoever is responsible for these cowardly acts.”

CNN reported that Sayoc has a criminal history and ties to New York. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.All the people targeted by the suspicious packages have often been maligned by right-wing critics. They included former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and billionaire Democratic Party donor George Soros.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that at least five of the packages bore a return address from the Florida office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

There has been an outcry from Trump’s critics, who charged that his inflammatory rhetoric against Democrats and the press has created a climate for politically motivated violence.

After first calling for unity and civil discourse on Wednesday, Trump lashed out on Thursday at the “hateful” media. His supporters accused Democrats of unfairly suggesting the president was to blame for the bomb scare.

On Friday, Trump said the incidents were distracting from successful efforts by Republican candidates.

“Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”

None of the devices detonated and no one has been hurt. They were believed to have been fashioned from bomb-making designs widely available on the internet, according to a federal law enforcement source. Still, investigators have treated the devices as “live” explosives, not a hoax, officials said.

Investigators have declined to say whether they were built to be functional. Bomb experts and security analysts say that based on their rudimentary construction it appeared the devices were more likely designed to sow fear rather than to kill.

But two federal officials involved in the investigation cautioned that it was too early to say whether the devices were incapable of firing or were deliberately designed to frighten rather than explode.

Two packages were sent both to U.S. Representative Maxine Waters and to former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Others targeted for parcel bombs included former Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA director John Brennan and actor Robert De Niro.

“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said in a statement. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!”

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson and Bernie Woodall; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely in New York, Mark Hosenball, Makini Brice, Susan Heavey and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Suspected explosive device found at George Soros’ New York home

FILE PHOTO: Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

(Reuters) – A package containing what appeared to be an explosive device was found in a mailbox outside the New York residence of billionaire financier George Soros on Monday, police said.

Soros, one of the world’s biggest donors to liberal groups and causes, has become a hate figure for right-wing campaigners in the United States and eastern Europe, and the target of a hostile media campaign by the nationalist government in his native Hungary.

An employee at the home in Katonah, New York, opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device. Soros was not home at the time, the New York Times reported.

Authorities were contacted at around 3:45 p.m., the Town of Bedford Police Department said in a statement.

Bomb squad technicians detonated the package in a nearby wooded area, police told the newspaper.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking into the incident, police said.

A Hungarian government spokesman said: “The matter falls under the jurisdiction of U.S. authorities. After all, the incident occurred there.” He declined to comment further.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; additional reporting by Gergely Szakacs in Budapest; Editing by John Stonestreet)

New York witches aim hex at Supreme Court’s Brett Kavanaugh despite death threats

A self-proclaimed witch performs a hex on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh effigy at Catland Books in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., October 20, 2018. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

By Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Melissa Madara was not surprised to receive death threats on Friday as her Brooklyn witchcraft store prepared to host a public hexing of newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh this weekend.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaks during his ceremonial public swearing-in, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaks during his ceremonial public swearing-in, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

The planned casting of an anti-Kavanaugh spell, one of the more striking instances of politically disgruntled Americans turning to the supernatural when frustrated by democracy, has drawn backlash from some Christian groups but support from like-minded witch covens.

“It gives the people who are seeking agency a little bit of chance to have that back,” Madara said. The ritual was scheduled to be live-streamed on Facebook and Instagram at 8 p.m. EDT on Saturday (1200 GMT Sunday).

Seated at a desk phone among bird skulls and crystal balls at Catland Books, the occult shop she co-owns, Madara said the Kavanaugh hex is expected to be the most popular event the store has hosted since its 2013 opening, including spells aimed at President Donald Trump. Madara declined to provide details of what the latest ritual will entail.

More than 15,000 people who have seen Catland Books promotions on Facebook have expressed interest in attending the event, vastly exceeding the shop’s 60-person capacity.

Not everyone is a witchcraft fan. Madara said she had fielded numerous irate calls from critics, with at least one threatening violence. “Every time we host something like this there’s always people who like to call in with death threats or read us scripture,” she said.

As far as supporters go, some are sexual assault survivors still angry that the U.S. Senate confirmed Kavanaugh’s lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court despite accusations that he had sexually assaulted multiple women.

Kavanaugh has denied the allegations, and an FBI investigation failed to corroborate his accusers’ accounts.

Democrats hope lingering outrage over Kavanaugh, particularly among women, will translate into election gains for them on Nov. 6. Republicans are likewise trying to seize on anger among conservatives at how they perceive Kavanaugh was mistreated.

Believers in mysticism on both sides of the political divide are taking matters into their own hands.

Plans for the Catland Books event have sparked “counter hexes” around the country by those seeking to undo the spell that the Brooklyn witches cast against Kavanaugh, Madara said.

Even mainstream clergy was joining the fray. Rev. Gary Thomas of the Diocese of San Jose in California said on Friday that he would include Kavanaugh in his prayers at Saturday mass.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Cynthia Osterman)

Storm Florence’s drenching rains kill 23 in the Carolinas

Members of the Coast Guard launch rescue boats into the neighborhood of Mayfair in the flood waters caused by Hurricane Florence in Lumberton, North Carolina, U.S. September 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

By Ernest Scheyder and Patrick Rucker

WILMINGTON/FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Reuters) – Deeper flooding loomed in the hours and days ahead from rivers in the Carolinas swollen by Tropical Depression Florence, which has killed 23 people, even if rain-weary residents got a brief glimpse of sunshine on Monday.

The slow-moving storm, a hurricane when it hit the North Carolina coast, has dumped up to 36 inches (91 cm) of rain on the state since Thursday, displacing thousands. The flooding could persist for several weeks in some areas.

The coastal city of Wilmington remained cut off by floodwaters from the Cape Fear River on Monday. Further inland, the same river, running through Fayetteville, a city of 200,000, was expected to reach major flood levels later on Monday, and would not crest until Tuesday.

Florence was headed through Virginia and toward New England and flash flood watches extended from Maryland through New York and southern New England.

In the Carolinas, the National Weather Service continued to warn people the floods were worsening.

“The worst is yet to come,” as river levels rise to historic levels, said Zach Taylor, an NWS meteorologist. “The soil is soaked and can’t absorb any more rain so that water has to go somewhere, unfortunately.”

Major rivers are expected to remain flooded for the next two to three weeks, said Steve Goldstein, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration liaison to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The death toll from Florence, which came ashore in North Carolina on Friday, rose to 23 on Monday.

The dead included a 1-year-old boy who was swept away from his mother as they tried to escape their car amid floodwaters. The woman had driven around barricades to get on a closed road, the sheriff’s office in Union County, near North Carolina’s border with South Carolina, said on Facebook.

North Carolina officials reported 1,200 road closures, including a stretch of Interstate 95, a major transportation artery running the length of the U.S. East Coast.

About 509,000 homes and businesses were without electricity on Monday in North and South Carolina and surrounding states.

POWER OUTAGES, BLOCKED ROADS

The sun appeared in some areas for the first time in days, allowing some people who had been forced to leave their homes to return home to assess damage.

Eric Tryggeseth, 59, found his home in Leland, North Carolina, without power and with a tree lying in his front yard. He had been evacuated a day before by troops in a truck.

“The floodwaters were rising so I figured I better get out of there,” he said. “I can’t thank the first responders enough.”

There were currently 2,000 federal workers working on storm response, supporting state efforts, said Tom Fargione, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, during a press conference.

Sean Adams, 29, a contractor from Leland, said his home suffered only minor damage but he had no idea when power might be restored.

With so many roads in and out of the region flooded, he could not access supplies to help start rebuilding.

“We really can’t get much done right now. It’s getting frustrating,” he said.

The storm killed 17 people in North Carolina, including a mother and child hit by a falling tree, state officials said. Six people died in South Carolina, including four in car accidents and two from carbon monoxide from a portable generator.

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker and Ernest Scheyder; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Miami; Jessica Resnick-Ault and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Anna Mehler Paperny in North Carolina; and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Frances Kerry)

For families of some 9/11 victims, new DNA tools reopen old wounds

Andrew Schweighardt holds a vial with a DNA sample at the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York during an event in New York City, New York, U.S., September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A breakthrough in DNA analysis is helping identify more victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, but the scientific advance is of little consolation for families of those whose remains may have been buried in a Staten Island landfill.

The official death toll in the attacks on lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center is 2,753, including the missing and presumed dead. Only 1,642 of them, or about 60 percent, have been positively identified.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office has worked for 17 years to identify the remaining 1,100 victims. Using advances in DNA extraction techniques over the past five years, it has made five more identifications.

The advances have been bittersweet for 9/11 families who unsuccessfully fought to stop the city from making a park out of Staten Island’s enormous Fresh Kills landfill, where 1.8 million tons of Twin Towers debris was dumped and buried.

“We are grateful that the identification continues, but there is more material that could have been part of that had the city not been so cavalier with us,” said Diane Horning, who led a failed court battle by a group called World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial that hoped block the park project.

Horning led the group, although her son Matthew was one of those identified early on. Matthew, 26, a database administrator for an insurance company, was working the 95th floor of the North Tower when the planes hit.

New York’s Second Circuit Court of Appeals found in 2009 that accusations that the city had mishandled the remains at Fresh Kills amounted to “lack of due care,” which was not sufficient to successfully sue the city.

New York officials said at the time that the city did not intend to be insensitive or offend victims’ families.

To create the park, Fresh Kills Landfill was covered with layers of soil and other materials to prevent the release of toxic gas from decomposing trash into the atmosphere, according to the Freshkills Park Alliance, New York City’s nonprofit partner in developing the park.

Charles Wolf lost his wife Katherine on September 11 and her remains have not been identified.

If they are in the sealed landfill, he considers it “God’s will” and he is “at peace” with it.

“What’s the remedy? Dig everything up and risk exposing all those toxins again to the environment?, Wolf said. “No, that’s not the answer, because all of a sudden now the cure is worse than the disease.”

SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH

The ability to identify more victims is the latest chapter in a saga of pain that began on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when two airliners crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Destruction of the Twin Towers was part of the coordinated hijackings of four airliners by al-Qaeda militants that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and western Pennsylvania, where one of the planes crashed in a farm field. The attacks triggered an escalation of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East that persists to this day.

A scientific breakthrough in the extraction of genetic material was made this year and announced by the New York City chief medical examiner last week, as the 17th anniversary of the attacks approached.

The new technique places bone fragments in a chamber containing liquid nitrogen to make them more fragile so they can be pulverized into fine powder. The more a bone is pulverized, the more likely it becomes to extract DNA.

It is the latest effort in the largest forensic investigation in U.S. history, involving a medical examiner’s team of 10 scientists working on remains once thought too degraded from jet fuel, heat and other conditions to undergo testing.

“We’re going back to the same remains that we’ve tried five, 10, 15 times,” Mark Desire, who heads the Medical Examiner’s crime lab, said in the briefing last week.

“We are making DNA profiles from remains we had no hopes of identifying in the past,” he added.

Wolf, who was not among those who opposed the Freshkills Park project, was gratified by the renewed effort.

“It warms my heart that possibly there will be remains found for people who still want them,” he said.

“I’ve gone through a lot of trauma with nothing to grieve over,” Wolf said, choking up in a telephone interview. “I remember watching Nancy Reagan touch her husband’s casket. I miss not having that.”

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Emirates plane quarantined in New York with sick passengers: airline

The emergency services are seen, after the passengers were taken ill on a flight from New York to Dubai, on JFK Airport, New York, U.S., September 05, 2018 in this still image obtained from from social media. Larry Coben/via REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Emirates airline flight from Dubai was quarantined at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday morning after passengers became ill during the flight, the airline and New York news media said.

Emirates flight 203, a double-deck Airbus A388 carrying about 500 passengers, landed shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT), according to an airlines spokeswoman.

The emergency services are seen, after the passengers were taken ill on a flight from New York to Dubai, on JFK Airport, New York, U.S., September 05, 2018 in this still image obtained from from social media. Larry Coben/via REUTERS

The emergency services are seen, after the passengers were taken ill on a flight from New York to Dubai, on JFK Airport, New York, U.S., September 05, 2018 in this still image obtained from from social media. Larry Coben/via REUTERS

The spokeswoman said 10 passengers fell ill on the flight from Dubai to New York. New York media outlets had earlier put the number at about 100 passengers.

“Emirates can confirm that about 10 passengers on board flight EK203 from Dubai to New York were taken ill,” the spokeswoman said. “On arrival at JFK, as a precaution, they were immediately checked by local health authorities and those needing medical attention will be attended to.” She said all other passengers would be allowed to leave the plane shortly.

Officials from the Port Authority Police Department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were on scene, according to news station WNBC, but did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The mayor’s office also did not respond to requests for comment.

Larry Cohen, who identified himself as one of the passengers aboard the plane, uploaded photos on Twitter showing dozens of police and emergency vehicles waiting outside the plane on the tarmac.

“All we have been told is that there are some sick passengers and that we need to remain on board,” Cohen told Reuters via Twitter messaging.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

State of emergency, Evacuations, rescues as ‘historic’ floods hit northeastern U.S.

A road is submereged in flood water after heavy rains in Spring Lake, New Jersey, U.S., August 13, 2018, in this still image taken from a veideo obtained from social media. @TheWeatherMstr/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – New Jersey declared a partial state of emergency on Tuesday as forecasts for further heavy rainfall posed new danger in parts of that state, New York, and Pennsylvania, where rescuers hauled people from waterways, flooded cars, and homes.

Following several days of torrential rain throughout the northeastern United States, the National Weather Service issued new warnings for flooding in areas around Binghamton, New York, near the Pennsylvania border, and in New Jersey.

A road is submereged in flood water after heavy rains in Spring Lake, New Jersey, U.S., August 13, 2018, in this still image taken from a veideo obtained from social media. @TheWeatherMstr/via REUTERS

A road is submereged in flood water after heavy rains in Spring Lake, New Jersey, U.S., August 13, 2018, in this still image taken from a veideo obtained from social media. @TheWeatherMstr/via REUTERS

Federal forecasters warned that areas in the region could see as much as 4 inches (10 cm) more rain on Tuesday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a statement five of the state’s 21 counties were under a state of emergency, where additional rainfall could further complicate flood cleanup.

“Parts of our state have received nothing less than historic amounts of rain, and some communities received an entire month’s worth in just a few hours,” said Murphy.

The police department in Brick, a town of 75,000 on the Atlantic coast, said on Facebook that residents were barred from returning to 105 homes without a security escort until township officials finished inspecting them.

In Seneca County, New York, emergency crews were evacuating some residents by boat and taking them to a nearby shelter, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

“Flooding is one of the primary killers with regards to weather. It’s not tornadoes. It’s not wind damage,” said Brett Rossio, an Accuweather meteorologist. “It doesn’t take much. Even just a foot of water can pull you away very easily.”

More than 8,000 people had lost power in areas drenched by the storms and the Red Cross said it was operating shelters. It was not immediately clear how many people were in them.

“It’s Mother Nature so it’s a fluid situation, watching where the rain falls and if there’s additional evacuations necessary,” said Jay Bonafede, the Red Cross spokesman.

Both Pennsylvania and New York have already activated their emergency response centers for the storms, which started over the weekend.

Molly Dougherty, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said some people affected by the flooding had been recovering from deluges three weeks ago.

“People are looking at losses of most of their belongings and, in some cases, we’re still concerned about the safety of folks and making sure they’re able to stabilize,” said Dougherty.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Scott Malone, Susan Thomas, and Bernadette Baum)

Water rescues, flooded roads as rains hammer U.S. mid-Atlantic

National Weather Service Rain forecast map for 7-25-18

(Reuters) – Rescuers pulled people from inundated cars on flooded streets near Baltimore on Wednesday as heavy rain soaked the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast for a fifth day, swelling rivers, closing roads and imperiling homes.

Heavy rains fell overnight from central New York state south through eastern North Carolina, where the National Weather Service forecast that a fresh round of downpours could cause more flooding. Eastern Virginia and Pennsylvania were also hard hit.

Emergency workers around Baltimore pulled people from at least three vehicles stuck in floodwater as deep as 3 feet (0.9 meter), Baltimore County’s Police and Fire Department said on Twitter.

“NEVER go into flood waters,” the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center said on Twitter. “It doesn’t take much water to sweep away a person or vehicle, and water can damage or wash away the underlying road — creating unseen hazards.”

Authorities closed highways and roads in parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia because of flooding.

“With the rainfall we have seen over the last week, the ground is very saturated, so any additional rainfall we receive, especially heavy, really has nowhere to go, resulting in flooding,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Fling.

Up to 14 inches (36 cm) of rain has fallen along the U.S. East Coast since Saturday, swelling waterways well above flood levels.

Local news video showed water streaming into homes and businesses in some places and reaching the tops of automobiles as rescue crews worked to save motorists.

“It just happened out of nowhere, and next thing my car was just shut off, and I’m like, ‘What do I do now?'” Zachary Reichert told NBC News after being rescued from his flooded Jeep in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. “I can’t swim in the first place, so I wasn’t jumping into those waters.”

Hersheypark, the Pennsylvania amusement park, said it would be closed on Wednesday after the town surrounding it issued a disaster declaration. It also was closed on Monday.

Airports in New York and Philadelphia reported delays of more than an hour, according to Federal Aviation Administration.

The downpours were expected to continue as at least a chance of rain was in the forecast for the area for several more days.

Separately, parts of northwestern Colorado were drenched with rain on Wednesday morning, where officials warned of flash flooding and debris in an area recently scarred by wildfires.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Will Dunham)

Two rare shark attacks reported along New York’s Fire Island beaches

A shark's tooth extracted from the leg of a 13-year old boy, who was attacked at Atlantique Beach in Islip, New York, U.S., is shown in this photo provided July 18, 2018. Courtesy Jason Hager/Ocean Beach Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two youngsters frolicking in the surf miles apart along the Fire Island National Seashore in New York suffered puncture wounds to their legs on Wednesday in apparent shark attacks that would mark the state’s first such incidents in 70 years, authorities said.

The victims – a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy – were discharged after emergency medical treatment for their separate mishaps, each with a bandaged right leg, and both were expected to fully recover.

What appeared to be a shark’s tooth was extracted from the boy’s leg and will be analyzed to determine the species of the creature he encountered while boogie-boarding at Atlantique Beach in the town of Islip, officials said.

The girl, a middle school student identified at a news conference with her parents afterward as Lola Pollina, said she was standing in waist-deep water at Sailors Haven beach in nearby Brookhaven, 2 miles (3 km) east of Islip, when she was bitten.

“I saw something, like, next to me, and I kind of felt pain, and looked and I saw a fin,” she said, recounting how she realized her leg was “all bloody” as she scurried from the water. The shark she saw appeared to be about 3 to 4 feet (91-122 cm) long, she said.

Shark attacks on humans are extremely rare in waters off Fire Island, east of New York City, or anywhere else in the state, according to Ian Levine, chief of the Ocean Beach Fire Department, whose paramedics aided the boy who was bitten.

Only about 10 cases of shark bites on people have ever been documented in New York state, the last one in 1948, Levine told Reuters by telephone, citing information he said was furnished by Islip town supervisors.

Neither incident on Wednesday had yet been officially confirmed as a shark attack, but Levine added, “The tooth we pulled out of the kid’s leg looks like a shark’s tooth.”

The boy, who was attending a day camp at the time, walked on and off the police boat that took him to the hospital. The girl later spoke to reporters seated in a wheelchair.

Fire Island beaches were closed afterward until further notice, National Park Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Rogers said.

The tooth specimen, which is “consistent with a large fish,” was being studied by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will report its findings to the Suffolk County Marine Bureau, Rogers said.

Bite marks on the girl also were “consistent with a large fish,” she said.

Separately, a 7-foot(2.2 meter)-long tiger shark was caught by a fisherman at Kismet, another beach town 2 miles (3.2 km)west of Islip, Levine said, adding he doubted either animal involved in Wednesday’s attacks was that large.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)