AP News in Brief 09-07-19

  • Haitian Burris Filburt, right, and another man stand on the extensive damage and destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is seen in The Mudd, Great Abaco, Bahamas, Thursday. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

Dorian’s floodwaters trap people in attics in North Carolina

ATLANTIC BEACH, N.C. — A weakened Hurricane Dorian flooded homes on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday with a fury that took even storm-hardened residents by surprise, forcing people to climb into their attics. Hundreds were feared trapped by high water, and neighbors used boats to rescue one another.

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Medics and other rescuers rushed to Ocracoke Island — accessible only by boat or air — to reach those who made the mistake of defying mandatory evacuation orders along the 200-mile ribbon of low-lying islands.

“We are flooding like crazy,” Ocracoke Island bookshop owner Leslie Lanier texted. “I have been here 32 years and not seen this.”

Its winds down to 90 mph, Dorian howled over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the brute that wreaked havoc on the Bahamas at the start of the week. Just when it looked as if its run up the Southeast coast was coming to a relatively quiet end, the Category 1 hurricane sent seawater surging over neighborhoods, flooding the first floors of many homes, even ones on stilts.

‘Only animals can live here’: Storm victims await evacuation

ABACO, Bahamas — Carrying their meager possessions in duffel bags and shopping carts, hundreds of desperate storm victims gathered at the port in Grand Abaco on Friday in hopes of getting off the hurricane-devastated island, amid signs of rising frustration over the pace of the disaster-relief effort.

“It’s chaos here,” said Gee Rolle, a 44-year-old construction worker who waited with his wife for a boat that could take them to the capital, Nassau. “The government is trying their best, but at the same time, I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job to evacuate the people. It ain’t livable for nobody. Only animals can live here.”

The Bahamian Health Ministry said helicopters and boats were on the way, but officials warned of delays because of severe flooding.

The search for victims and survivors went on, meanwhile, five days after Dorian slammed the Bahamas with 185 mph (295 kph) winds that obliterated countless homes. Officials said 30 people have been confirmed dead, but the toll is sure to rise.

Satellite images show Iran oil tanker sought by US off Syria

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A once-detained Iranian oil tanker pursued by the U.S. appears to be off the coast of Syria, where Tehran reportedly promised the vessel would not go when authorities in Gibraltar agreed to release it several weeks ago, according to satellite images obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.

The appearance of the Adrian Darya-1 in waters near Tartus comes as Iran was prepared to Saturday to announce what further steps it had taken to move away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, more than a year after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord.

Both events have raised tensions between Iran and the U.S. over recent months that have seen mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East.

The tanker Adrian Darya-1, formerly known as the Grace-1, turned off its Automatic Identification System late Monday, leading to speculation it would be heading to Syria. Other Iranian oil tankers have similarly turned off their tracking beacons in the area, with analysts saying they believe crude oil ends up in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad’s government.

Images obtained by The Associated Press early Saturday from Maxar Technologies appeared to show the vessel off Syria’s coast, some 2 nautical miles off shore under intermittent cloud cover.

N. Carolina election tests Trump clout, suburbs’ GOP flight

MINT HILL, N.C. — A tossup special election in North Carolina is shaping up as a pre-2020 test of President Donald Trump’s pull on voters and whether the suburbs are continuing the flight from Republicans that fueled the party’s 2018 House election losses.

Both parties are pouring resources into the state, hoping to claim a morale-boosting win to juice candidate recruitment and fundraising. But the real X-factor is Trump himself, who parachutes into Fayetteville on Monday for an election-eve rally in hopes of securing a district he won by 11 points in 2016 and that Republicans have held since 1963. With Vice President Mike Pence also campaigning for Bishop on Monday, the race is testing Trump’s influence on voters and whether Democrats can sustain the momentum that powered their midterm election wins.

From wire sources

“This is a pretty Republican district. This is not a seat you’ll be able to explain away very well” if Bishop loses, said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once chaired the House GOP campaign committee. A defeat would mean “Republicans are in trouble in the suburbs,” he said.

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AP Interview: Gorsuch rues loss of civility but mum on Trump

WASHINGTON — Justice Neil Gorsuch is following the path of Supreme Court colleagues-turned-authors in a new book in which he laments the loss of civility in public discourse.

The 52-year-old justice wrote “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” because Americans should remember that their political opponents “love this country as much as we do,” Gorsuch said in an interview with The Associated Press in his Supreme Court office. The book is being published Tuesday.

But Gorsuch had little to say about President Donald Trump, who appointed him to the Supreme Court and who routinely brands his opponents dopes, losers, liars and worse.

“If you’re asking me about politics, I’m not going to touch that,” Gorsuch said.

All Gorsuch would say about Trump is that during the nomination process in 2017, the president “was very gracious to my family.”

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Agency reverses course on Trump’s Alabama hurricane claim

WASHINGTON — A federal agency reversed course Friday on the question of whether President Donald Trump tweeted stale information about Hurricane Dorian potentially hitting Alabama, upsetting meteorologists around the country.

On Sunday, Trump had warned that Alabama, along with the Carolinas and Georgia, was “most likely to be hit (much) harder than anticipated.”

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted later: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorian will be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

But the president has been adamant throughout the week that he was correct, and the White House has deployed government resources and staff to back him.

The latest defense came out Friday evening, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a statement from an unidentified spokesman stating that information provided by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center to the president had demonstrated that “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” The advisories were dated from last Wednesday, Aug. 28, through Monday, the statement read.

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Smoke, not fire, blamed for 34 deaths in dive boat disaster

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Dozens of people trapped on a scuba diving boat that caught fire off the Southern California coast appear to have died from smoke inhalation, not burns, authorities said Friday.

The 34 people who died were sleeping in a cramped bunkroom below the main deck of the Conception when the fire broke out before dawn Monday and quickly engulfed the boat.

Preliminary findings on the causes of death, announced by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, raise the possibility the victims inhaled highly toxic smoke and died in their sleep before being scorched by flames that burned their bodies beyond recognition.

“The indicators are from the preliminary examination of the bodies that the victims died prior to being burned,” Brown said.

The revelation came as investigators searched for the cause of the deadly blaze and divers looked for the body of the one missing victim. The Coast Guard said safety concerns over the weather halted efforts to salvage the boat Friday.

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Mugabe dies; liberated Zimbabwe, then held it for 37 years

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla chief who took power when the African country shook off white minority rule and presided for decades while economic turmoil and human rights violations eroded its early promise, has died in Singapore. He was 95.

Mugabe enjoyed strong support from Zimbabwe’s people soon after he became the first post-colonial leader of what had been British-controlled Rhodesia.

Often violent farm seizures from whites who owned huge tracts of land made him a hated figure in the West and a hero in Africa.

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His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, tweeted word Friday that an “icon of liberation” had died. Mnangagwa, a long-time loyalist until Mugabe dismissed him from his Cabinet, named Mugabe as a national hero, Zimbabwe’s highest posthumous honor.

He said the nation would observe an official mourning period for its late leader, “a great teacher and mentor” and a “remarkable statesman of our century.” No date or other details were given.

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