Woman survives seven days on radiator water after California crash

Angela Hernandez is found at the bottom of a cliff in Monterey County, California, July 13, 2018, in picture obtained via social media. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Monterey County Sheriff's Office/via REUTER

(Reuters) – An Oregon woman who disappeared a week ago was rescued from the bottom of a California coastal cliff where she survived by drinking water from the radiator of her wrecked sports utility vehicle, authorities said on Saturday.

Angela Hernandez, 23, of Portland was found by a pair of hikers on Friday evening after they saw her wrecked Jeep Patriot SUV partially submerged at the bottom of a 200-foot cliff in the Big Sur area, said Monterey County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Thornburg.

Angela Hernandez is found at the bottom of a cliff in Monterey County, California, July 13, 2018, in picture obtained via social media. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Monterey County Sheriff's Office/via REUTERS

Angela Hernandez is found at the bottom of a cliff in Monterey County, California, July 13, 2018, in picture obtained via social media. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Monterey County Sheriff’s Office/via REUTERS

Her disappearance captured widespread attention after she and her vehicle were last seen on a surveillance camera video at a Carmel gas station on July 6, about 50 miles north of the stretch of

Highway 1 where she was found.

The hikers discovered Hernandez conscious, breathing and with a shoulder injury, Thornburg said.

Rescuers managed to get her up the cliff and to a helicopter which flew her to a nearby hospital. She was in fair and stable condition but appeared to have suffered a concussion during the collision, the California Highway Patrol said in a statement.

Hernandez told investigators she swerved to avoid hitting an animal on Highway 1 on July 6 and plunged over the cliff north of Nacimiento Fergusson Road.

She stayed alive “by drinking water from the radiator of her vehicle,” according to the Highway Patrol.

“It’s usually the fall that gets them, or the ocean that gets them, and she was lucky to survive both,” said Thornburg.

Angela Hernandez is found at the bottom of a cliff in Monterey County, California, July 13, 2018, in picture obtained via social media. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Monterey County Sheriff's Office/via REUTERS

Angela Hernandez is found at the bottom of a cliff in Monterey County, California, July 13, 2018, in picture obtained via social media. Picture taken July 13, 2018. Monterey County Sheriff’s Office/via REUTERS

Hernandez was on a road trip from her home in Portland to visit her sister Isabel in Lancaster, Los Angeles County, when she crashed.

“My sister survived 7 days alone 200ft down a cliff on HW1,” her sister Isabel Hernandez said in a Facebook post on Saturday. “This is very traumatic and will be a slow recovery process.”

(Reporting By Andrew Hay; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Thai soccer team planned to be inside the cave for only an hour

Boys from an under-16 soccer team and their coach wait to be rescued after they were trapped inside a flooded cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand, July 3. Thai Navy Seal Facebook/via REUTERS

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Twelve boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand planned to explore the cavern complex for only about an hour before treacherous flood waters rose to trap them for more than two weeks, one of the boys’ fathers said.

All 12 of the boys and their 25-year-old coach were brought to safety over the course of a three-day rescue, organised by Thai navy SEALs and an international team of diving and caving experts, that ended on Tuesday.

They had gone into the Tham Luang cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai on June 23, for a quick excursion after soccer practice, when a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels.

“He told me that as soon as they finished practice they went to play at the cave. They thought they’d only be an hour,” Banpot Korncam, father of the 13-year-old captain of the “Wild Boars” team, told media.

“While they were inside the cave it rained, water flowed in and everyone took off,” Banpot said.

Two British divers found the boys on July 2, squatting on a muddy mound in a flooded chamber several kiometres inside the complex, nine days after they went for their quick jaunt.

Then the problem became how to get them back out through the tunnels, some completely full of fast-flowing flood water.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, had to dive for part of their journey out before they were put on green plastic toboggan-like stretchers and carried, at times through steep, rocky tunnels, with ropes strung overhead.

Many people in Thailand have credited the coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, or Ek as he is known, for keeping the boys safe during the ordeal.

“They just sat quietly without doing anything because it was dark,” said Banpot, recounting what his son, who is still in hospital, had told him.

“When they were hungry Coach Ek would use a flashlight to shine on the stalactites above,” he said.

‘CALCULATING, CALM’

The group survived by drinking water that dripped off the stalactites and the cave walls, rescue officials said.

Initially isolated in hospital in Chiang Rai because of fears of infection, the boys have now been allowed to meet their families. They will stay in hospital at least a week.

“The boys’ health is improving … relatives can now visit them in close proximity,” said Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, a health ministry inspector.

The rescue gripped the world, with much praise focusing on the navy SEALs and international team of divers who helped them, toiling for days in dangerous conditions to get the boys out. A former Thai navy SEAL diver died during the mission.

John Volanthen, one of the two British divers who found the boys, played down the gallantry.

“We’re not heroes,” he told the BBC after arriving back in London.

“What we do is very calculating. It’s very calm, it’s quite the opposite … But it’s really the international team I would like to focus on and the Thai SEALs.”

Volanthen was the first person the boys heard after nine days trapped in the flooded cave. A video posted by the Thai SEALs captured the moment.

“How many of you?” he asked, a torch beam scanning the boys crowded on the bank.

“Thirteen? Brilliant.”

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Thursday international members of the rescue team would be given a “Thailand Elite” card worth 500,000 baht ($15,000) with benefits including a 5-year visa in thanks.

(Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by)

Japan PM visits flood disaster zone, promises help as new warnings issued

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets local residents staying at an evacuation center in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo July 11, 2018. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Issei Kato

KUMANO, Japan (Reuters) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited flood-stricken parts of Japan on Wednesday as the death toll from the worst weather disaster in 36 years reached 176 and health concerns rose amid scorching heat and the threat of new floods.

Torrential rain caused floods and triggered landslides in western Japan last week, bringing death and destruction to neighborhoods built decades ago near steep mountain slopes.

At least 176 people were killed, the government said, with dozens missing in Japan’s worst weather disaster since 1982.

Rescue workers and Japan Self-Defense Force soldiers search for missing people at a landslide site caused by a heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

In Kumano, a mountainside community in Hiroshima prefecture that was hit by a landslide last week, Ken Kirioka anxiously watched rescuers toiling through mud, sand and smashed houses to find the missing, including his 76-year-old father, Katsuharu.

“He is old and has a heart condition. I prepared myself for the worst when I heard about the landslide on Friday night,” he said, pointing at a pile of mud and rubble where he said his father was buried.

“He is an old-fashioned father who is hard-headed and does not talk much,” Kirioka said, adding he would stay until his father was found. “It would be too bad for him if a family member were not around”.

Rescuers working under a scorching sun combed through heaps of wood and thickly caked mud in a search for bodies, helped by sniffer dogs. In some cases only the foundation of homes remained as they cut through debris with chain saws.

With temperatures of 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher in the devastated areas in Okayama and Hiroshima prefectures, attention turned to preventing heat-stroke among rescue workers and in evacuation centers where thousands of people have sought shelter.

People sat on thin mats on a gymnasium floor in one center, plastic bags of belongings piled around them and bedding folded off to the side. Portable fans turned slowly as children cried.

A family member of missing people watches search and rescue operations at a landslide site caused by a heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A family member of missing people watches search and rescue operations at a landslide site caused by a heavy rain in Kumano Town, Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

ABE PLEDGES SUPPORT

Abe, who canceled an overseas trip to deal with the disaster, was criticized after a photograph posted on Twitter showed Abe and his defense minister at a party with lawmakers just as the rains intensified.

After observing the damage from a helicopter flying over Okayama, one of the hardest-hit areas, Abe visited a crowded evacuation center. He crouched down on the floor to speak with people, many of them elderly, and asked about their health. He clasped one man’s hands as they spoke.

Later he told reporters the government would do everything it could to help the survivors.

“We’ll cut through all the bureaucracy to secure the goods people need for their lives, to improve life in the evacuation centers – such as air conditioners as the hot days continue – and then secure temporary housing and the other things people need to rebuild their lives,” he said.

Abe is up for re-election as party leader in September and has seen his popularity ratings edge back up after taking a hit over a cronyism scandal earlier this year.

His government pledged an initial $4 billion toward recovery on Tuesday, and a later special budget if needed.

Officials turned to social media to warn of the additional danger of food-borne illnesses, urging people to wash their hands and take other measures against food poisoning.

Evacuation orders were issued for 25 households in the city of Fukuyama after cracks were found in a reservoir.

Water accumulating behind piles of debris blocking rivers also posed a danger after a swollen river rushed into a Fukuyama residential area on Monday, prompting more evacuation orders.

The intensifying heat was expected to trigger thunderstorms on Wednesday, with authorities warning new landslides could be set off on mountainsides saturated with water.

Japanese media on Wednesday focused on the timing of evacuation orders issued in the hard-hit Mabi district of Kurashiki city just minutes before a levee broke and water poured into the residential area.

A number of the dead in Mabi were found in their homes, suggesting they did not have enough time to flee, media reports said.

(Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Hideyuki Sano; Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait and Darren Schuettler)

Junior soccer team found alive in Thai cave after nine days

By Panu Wongcha-um

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) – Twelve boys and their assistant soccer coach have been found alive by rescuers inside a Thai cave complex nine days after they went missing, Chiang Rai province’s governor said on Monday.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, went missing with the 25-year-old after soccer practice on June 23 after they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex in a forest park near by the border with Myanmar.

A massive international rescue effort has been under way since, with rescue teams battling through thick mud and high water to try to reach the group in the cave network that stretches 10 km (6 miles) into a mountain.

“Thai Navy seals have found all 13 with signs of life,” Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters who have been following the increasingly desperate search that has gripped the country.

Relatives of the boys, who have been at a shelter near the cave hoping for a breakthrough, were seen cheering, smiling and receiving calls after being given the news. Rescuers shook hands and congratulated each other as occasional cheers broke out.

It remains unclear whether any of the group are injured or in need of medical attention, but they have been given energy gels to sustain them while a plan is worked out to bring them to safety.

As the days wore on with the group missing, distraught family members had placed fruit, desserts, sugary drinks and sweets on mats near the cave as an offering to the spirits which some people believe protect the cave and the forest.

Rescuers had been working on Monday to clear a constricted passageway for divers deep inside the flooded complex in a search operation that has been hampered by heavy rain.

MEDICAL TEAMS

Divers from Thailand’s elite navy SEAL unit had been focusing on an elevated mound inside the cave which cavers have named “Pattaya Beach”, which could have provided the boys with a refuge when rains flooded the cave.

“The SEALs reported that … they reached Pattaya Beach which was flooded. So they went 400 meters further where we found the 13 … who were safe,” Narongsak told the cheering group of reporters.

Captain Jessica Tait from the U.S. Air Force’s rescue support team said there were “lots of challenges” throughout the search but that the effort had brought the country together.

“When you consider it there were lots of challenges when it comes to the elements, when it comes to the elements, when it comes to different courses of actions,” Tait told reporters.

“But you know what I saw, I saw Thailand coming together,” she added.

The next challenge will be getting the group out of the cave, which some have dubbed a “labyrinth”.

Rescuers had discussed waiting until water levels subsided to get the boys out. Other options included teaching the group to use diving gear to navigate the flooded cave.

Medical teams were seen preparing first aid kits after news of the group’s discovery broke outside the cave’s entrance.

Narongsak said medical teams had been sent inside the cave and it would take them around four hours to assess the group’s health and how fit they are before coming up with a strategy to get them out.

The boys have been provided with energy gel to eat, the Thai navy SEAL unit said on its official Facebook page.

“Power gel and sustenance equipment has been brought … to the team … and we’ve sent people to keep them company until the transport plan can begin,” it said.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Chayut Setboonsarng; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Andrew Roche and Alison Williams)

Rescuers seek to drill hole in hunt for boys missing in Thai cave

Family members pray near the Tham Luang cave complex during a search for members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

By Chayut Setboonsarng

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) – Thai rescue workers will drill a narrow shaft into a cave where 12 schoolboys and their soccer coach are believed to be trapped by flood waters, Thailand’s interior minister said on Wednesday, the fourth day of a search that has been hampered by heavy rain.

The boys, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old assistant coach, went missing on Saturday after soccer practice when they set out to explore the Tham Luang cave complex, even though it is known to be prone to flooding in the rainy season.

Thai volunteers and military teams, including 45 navy SEAL unit members, have been deployed at the flooded cave complex, which runs 10 km (6 miles) under a mountain in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

“Tomorrow we can drill into the mountain but we won’t drill too deep. Just enough to allow people through,” interior minister Anupong Paochinda told reporters in Bangkok.

Soldiers take a rest in Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Soldiers take a rest in Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“We are trying every way to find the children,” he added.

While distraught relatives and friends gathered at the mouth of the cave, rescue workers pumped water out, but the persistent heavy rain has slowed their progress.

“Water is the biggest challenge. There is a lot of debris and sand that gets stuck while pumping,” Army officer Sergeant Kresada Wanaphum told Reuters.

“We have to switch out units because there is not enough air in there,” he added, before heading back down the cave.

According to messages the boys exchanged before setting off, they had taken flashlights and some food.

Apart from some footprints and marks left by their muddy hands near the cave entrance, nothing has been seen or heard of them since Saturday evening, and the race to find them has dominated Thai news cycles.

“I’m confident all are still alive,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters.

‘MASSIVE AMOUNTS’ OF WATER

Vern Unsworth, a British cave explorer based in Chiang Rai who has joined the search, said a lot of water was seeping into the cave from two directions.

“There is a watershed inside, which is unusual, it means there is water coming in from two directions,” Unsworth told Reuters.

Family members pass their time as they wait for their children near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tu

Family members pass their time as they wait for their children near Tham Luang caves during a search for 12 members of an under-16 soccer team and their coach, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, June 27, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“The biggest challenge is the water. Massive amounts.”

Three foreign divers coming from Britain were expected to reach Thailand on Wednesday evening to join the search, the interior minister said.

Thailand has asked the United States for survivor detection equipment, said Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat.

“We hope this equipment will allow us to locate the spots that we need to reach faster,” Weerasak told reporters.

A guide book described the Tham Luang cave as having an “impressive entrance chamber” leading to a marked path. It then describes the end of the path and the start of a series of chambers and boulders.

“This section of the cave has not been thoroughly explored. After a couple of hundred meters the cave reduces in size to a mud floored passage 2 meters wide and 3 meters high,” author Martin Ellis wrote in ‘The Caves of Thailand Volume 2’.

Nopparat Kantawong, the head coach of the team who did not attend practice on Saturday, said the boys had visited the caves several times, and was hopeful that the boys would stick together and stay strong.

“They won’t abandon each other,” Nopparat told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Aukkarapon Niyomyat, Panarat Thepgumpanat, Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Michael Perry & 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)

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)