An investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico has revealed that nearly 1,000 more people died in the 40-day period after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico compared to that same time period last year. These findings sharply contradict the storm’s “official” death toll of 62. The government allowed 911 bodies to be cremated without being physically examined by a government medical officer to determine if they should be included in the official death toll from the storm. Each cause of death was listed as being of “natural causes.”
The revelation of the new data also coincides with accounts from relatives’ reports of victims that point to problems with essential health services such as dialysis, ventilators, oxygen, and other critical circumstances caused by the lack of electricity in homes and hospitals throughout Puerto Rico.
The majority of the deaths were men and women over 50 who died in hospitals and nursing homes from conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, kidney disease, hypertension, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. When compared to the same time period from 2016, there was a significant increase in deaths, especially in hospitals and nursing homes.
Some have said they considered heart attacks and people who died of lack of oxygen because of lack of power as hurricane-related deaths, while others said they considered those “natural causes.” Accurate information about the death toll is important because it allows victims’ families to claim federal relief aid. It has also been used as a measure of how effective relief efforts have been. The official death toll likely fails to take account of all those who died as a result of the deadly hurricane.
Demographer José A. López, the only person at the registry in charge of analyzing this data, has said that the increase in deaths in the first two post-Maria months is significant and the government’s inability to link more deaths to the hurricane shows that the current process of documenting causes of death in a disaster is not working and must be reformed. López and the Department of Health appeared before Puerto Rico’s Senate to request that a dialogue begin about the issue and that they lead to changing the system.
Currently, linking a death to a disaster depends almost exclusively on a physician making an annotation related to the hurricane in the death certificate and listing the clinical cause of death, but both doctors and hospitals maintain that their responsibility and knowledge are strictly tied to the clinical cause of death. In most cases, the doctor who certifies the death may not be the same doctor who was in charge of the patient. Because of this, most death certificates do not include additional information about the other circumstances that could lead to death — such as the stress caused by an emergency; lack of power, transportation services or medications; lack of access to health services; changes in diet; and increases in ambient temperatures, among others.
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, its first missile launch in two months. North Korea media claims the successfully tested missile topped with a “super-large heavy warhead,” is capable of striking the US mainland. The country’s state media made the announcement hours after leader Kim Jong Un ordered the 3 a.m. launch of the Hwasong-15 missile, which reached the highest altitude ever recorded by a North Korean missile.
North Korea news agencies called its new missile “the most powerful ICBM” and said it “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development. After the launch, Kim said North Korea had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.” North Korea has been working on its’ missile “re-entry” technology to one day have a warhead able to survive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. This ICBM would be able to hit any city within the U.S. if a warhead is able to survive re-entry.
The missile reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, before landing in the Sea of Japan. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said it was the furthest missile launch by North Korea to date and demonstrates that North Korea has the ability to hit “everywhere in the world.” Defense Secretary Mattis added “North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world as it continues to endanger world peace, regional peace and certainly the United States.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry said “With each launch, North Korean officials are advancing their capability and they are making it clear that they can hold the entire U.S. at risk. They are steadily moving on and we’re not responding in kind.” He added, “It is incredibly serious partly because Kim Jong Un is very serious about what he says and what he says is that he wants to hold the entire United States at risk with his missiles, with nuclear weapons, and we have seen him actually deliver on what he says he wants to do.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and ambassadors from Japan and South Korea, requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. security council following the launch. Haley said if war comes as a result of further acts of “aggression” like the latest launch “make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed”. Haley says the Trump administration warned North Korea that its future is in the hands of its leaders and the choice was theirs. With Tuesday’s launch, she said, Kim’s regime made a choice “and with this choice comes a critical choice for the rest of the world”. She called on all countries to cut all ties to North Korea.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that US President Trump was briefed on the launch while it was still in the air. President Trump told reporters that the missile launch “is a situation that we will handle,” and added the U.S. will “take care of it.” Trump later said in a tweet that he had spoken with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, about “the provocative actions of North Korea”, and promised: “Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”
As nuclear tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continue to escalate, Hawaii is preparing to test its early warning system aimed at warning residents about a nuclear attack. The test, slated for Friday, will be the first time Hawaii has deployed the warning system since the 1990s, after the Cold War ended.
The White House requested Congress approve $44 billion in disaster relief in what would be the largest single round of disaster aid to address the widespread damage inflicted by hurricanes and wildfires over the last three months. It is the third request since hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria slammed the Gulf Coast and Caribbean. The new request would add another $24 billion to the disaster relief this fall and bring the total close to $100 billion. It would also establish a new $12 billion grant program for flood risk mitigation projects. Smaller amounts would go to small business loans and to aid farmers suffering crop losses.
The White House is proposing the increased funding be offset by cuts to federal programs in hopes to deter members from Congress who might not vote for a disaster assistance package that adds to the deficit. Two previous disaster relief bills totaling nearly $51.8 billion that Congress approved earlier this year had no such offsets.
And that’s before most of the money to rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated housing stock and electric grid is added in. Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked the federal government for $94.3 billion in disaster relief funds to help repair critical infrastructure and rebuild housing following Hurricane Maria. He said the sum will help the U.S. territory adequately recover from Hurricane Maria. Over half of Puerto Rico is still without power almost two months after Hurricane Maria made landfall. More than 10 percent of the island is still without running water.
The largest chunk of Rosselló’s request, $31 billion, goes to housing assistance with $17.7 billion to rebuild the island’s power grid and $14.9 billion for health care. “This is a critical step forward in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico where we’re not only looking to rebuild as was before but we want to make it much stronger and much more resilient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” Rosselló said. Ricardo Rosello also urged Congress to adopt a tax overhaul plan that addresses the territory’s specific needs to avoid an exodus of the companies that currently generate 42% of the island’s gross domestic product.
The relief request is over $30 billion more than a $61 billion relief request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of metro Houston and East Texas. The Florida congressional delegation has asked for $27 billion. It is likely that Congress will pare down the amount as they did after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
An investigation by The New York Times exposed allegations of sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact by Harvey Weinstein that stretched nearly three decades. The scandal was uncovered through interviews with current or former employees and film industry workers as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company. Among other victims, the Times piece revealed that Rose McGowan had reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after an encounter in a hotel room during Sundance Film Festival in 1997. Later, the actress revealed Weinstein had raped her.
Shortly after, The New Yorker published another expose that alleges the producer raped three women. The New Yorker article contains on-the-record accounts from 13 actresses who reported Weinstein forcibly received or performed sexual acts on the women. A slew of women have sine come forward to accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment, assault and rape. Among his accusers are some of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses including Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rosanna Arquette, Kate Beckinsale and Heather Graham.
Many of the instances occurred during meetings that agents, studios and assistants set up for Weinstein under the guise of a potential movie role. The common theme in the accusations is that the harassment took place early in their careers and they kept quiet out of fear that they would destroy their budding careers. Other lesser known actresses and models have come forward as well. Weinstein’s lewd behavior seemed to be an open secret in Hollywood for decades. Fear of Harvey Weinstein’s influence helped keep his treatment of women shrouded for years with a network of aggressive publicists and lawyers helping.
New revelations have surfaced showing his studio, Weinstein Company, knew for at least two years that he had been paying off women who accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was fired from the company shortly after the New York Times article was published. Police in the US and outside the country are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving Harvey Weinstein as the scandal surrounding the disgraced Hollywood movie mogul mounts.
A spokeswoman for Weinstein denied the rape allegations in a statement. “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” the statement read. “Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances.” Weinstein sent an official statement to The New York Time in response to the accusations saying “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know I have a long way to go. That is my commitment.”
Shortly after The New Yorker piece came out, Harvey Weinstein’s wife of a decade, Georgina Chapman, announced she was She said in a statement, “My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the statement read. “I have chosen to leave my husband. Caring for my young children is my first priority and I ask the media for privacy at this time.”
Thousands of people have been evacuated on the Indonesian island of Bali and on Ambae island in Vanuatu as two volcanoes threaten to erupt. The entire population of Ambae, around 11,000 people, is being moved from the path of the “increasingly active” Manaro volcano while more than 144,000 people from Bali have been taken to shelters as authorities warn that Mount Agung could erupt at any time. The National Disaster Management Agency has said that 447 temporary shelters have been set up outside the exclusion zone around the volcano. Thousands of evacuees sleep on floors and wait for something to happen.
Seismic activity continues in the volcano and the alert level for an eruption is at the highest on the scale. A statement from Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department said “Ambae volcano is in an ongoing moderate eruption state, people in local villages could experience the danger of flying rocks, volcanic gases and acid rain.”
Experts explain that there are very good indications that an eruption is imminent. Seismic tremors beneath the volcano are increasing in number, intensity, and the reduction in their depth in the last week is a very good indication that magma is moving up to the surface. Another signs of an eminent eruption include gas emissions from the summit as a sign that pressure underground has become to great and bulging on the volcano’s surface.
On September 25, the area experienced 844 volcanic earthquakes and by mid-afternoon on September 26, had experienced another 300-400 earthquakes. Seismologists say the force and frequency are alarming and it has taken much less for similar volcanoes to erupt.
Mount Agung last erupted in 1963 when more than 1,700 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Lava flowed for 4.7 miles from the crater for over 20 days ash reached the capital, Jakarta, about 620 miles away. The most devastating effect of an eruption is the pyroclastic flows which are waves of superheated gas, ash and rock that can travel hundreds of miles an hour.
In the 1963 eruption, these flows devastated numerous villages, killing an estimated 1,300 people. Cold lahars caused by heavy rainfall after the eruption killed an additional 200. A second eruption months later, led to pyroclastic flows that killed another 200 people. Minor eruptions and flows followed for almost a year. During the 1963 eruption, there was no evacuation plan and people had seconds to minutes to escape the pyroclastic flows which led to a devastating death toll.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no one should be within 6 miles of the crater and within 7.5 miles to the north, northeast, southeast and south-southwest where lava flows, lahars (a type of mudflow) or rapidly-moving white-hot ash clouds from where an eruption could reach.
Indonesia, the country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. Mount Agung is 1 of more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricane to strike the island in nearly a century. It destroyed the island’s entire electrical grid and caused severe flooding and widespread damage to homes and infrastructure. Still recovering from Hurricane Irma two weeks prior, approximately 80,000 remained without power as Maria approached.
Immediately after Maria passed, the entire island was without power and 70,000 people were ordered to evacuate the areas around the Guajataca Dam after storm damage put it at risk of collapsing. More than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory remain without adequate food, water and fuel. Flights in and out of Puerto Rico are still severely restricted. Hospitals struggling to provide care are running on generators with limited access to electricity, no running water and dwindling supplies. At least 24 people have been confirmed dead.
Six days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Governor Ricardo Roselló pleaded for more government aid in order to avert a total humanitarian catastrophe. Officials said 1,360 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were down, and 85% of above-ground and underground phone and internet cables were knocked out.
Thousands of tourists and residents who have been stranded in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation were evacuated on cruise ships headed towards Fort Lauderdale. Royal Caribbean cancelled voyages on its Adventure of the Seas ship to free it up for rescue missions. Around 1,700 evacuees were picked up from San Juan before it headed to St Croix and St Thomas to pick up another 2,000 before making its way to Florida. Norwegian Cruises has done the same as well as transporting supplies to affected islands.
Large amounts of federal aid began moving into Puerto Rico but distribution has stalled efforts. Many of the island’s roads remain impassable because of debri. There is also a shortage of drivers to help distribute food and supplies to some of the hardest-hit remote regions. Port of San Juan held 9,500 shipping containers filled with supplies but with only 20% of the island’s truckers reporting back to work since Maria hit and a diesel fuel shortage- distribution has left many without any relief since the storm hit.
The Pentagon, which has troops working on disaster relief in Texas and Florida, promised to boost the number of troops in Puerto Rico from the current 2,500 to as many as 5,000 in the next several days. The United States currently has 16 Navy and Coast Guard ships operating near Puerto Rico and 10 more are on the way, said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long. One of those vessels is USS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship.
Three powerful earthquakes that have hit Mexico in the month of September have killed nearly 400 people. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers work around the clock to search for survivors who may be trapped in the rubble. Homes and structures already damaged by the first earthquake, have collapsed after the 2nd and 3rd quake, leaving more devastation.
The first earth quake, a magnitude 8.1, struck off Mexico’s southern coast on Thursday, September 7th. It was the most powerful to hit the country in a century and was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City by an estimated 50 million people. The quake’s epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles southeast of Mexico’s capital and 74 miles off the coast. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported multiple aftershocks, including at least six with tremors measuring above 5.0 in magnitude. Ninety people were confirmed dead after the quake and the death toll was expected to rise as searchers dug through rubble for survivors.
Eleven days later, on Tuesday September 19th, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck central Mexico. Dozens of buildings in Mexico City collapsed and over 200 people were reported dead and almost 2,000 injured. The disaster caused extensive damage across Mexico, leveling at least 44 buildings in the capital alone, including homes, schools and office buildings. Its epicenter was located 74 miles south-east of Mexico City at a depth of 31 miles and roughly 400 miles from the first quake. Experts say the second earthquake was not an aftershock but a separate quake entirely. Exactly 32 years ago, on 19 September 1985, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake devastated Mexico City and killed 10,000 people.
The third quake, on September 23rd, which was one of hundreds of aftershocks from the second quake, had a 6.1 magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey. It was centered about 11 miles south-southeast of Matias Romero in Oaxaca state, a region worst hit by the first earthquake this month.
The quakes were sparked by heightened tension between the Cocos tectonic plate, which borders the western coast of Mexico, and the North American tectonic plate. As the Cocos plate slid underneath the North American plate, it fractured in two different places, known as faults. The two fractures were several hundred miles apart -both caused by bending and tension in the Cocos plate, but in different ways.
The depth of the subduction zone – where the Cocos plate is thrusting under the North American plate – makes it difficult to assess how the strain is building up but the fear is that it will cause another sequence of aftershocks that will cause additional deaths and damage. Mexico qualifies as highly active because the country sits at the boundary of three tectonic plates which are pieces of the Earth’s crust that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Unlike most natural disasters, there’s no way to predict earthquakes, making preparations extremely important, whether it’s through building codes or earthquake drills-planning ahead is still the only defense for earthquakes.
A homemade bomb exploded in a rush-hour subway car injuring 29 people in London on Friday. Most of those injured suffered flash burns while others were hurt when the blast triggered a stampede. Police and ambulances were on the scene within minutes and emergency services said none of the injuries were serious or life-threatening. Britain raised its terrorism threat level to critical — meaning another attack is expected shortly. The British government is investigating the explosion as a terrorist incident and a manhunt for the perpetrators ensued in what police said was the fourth terrorist attack in the British capital this year.
The bomb went off around 8:20 a.m. as the train was at Parsons Green station in the southwest of the city. The bomb was hidden in a plastic bucket inside a supermarket freezer bag but it only partially exploded, sparing the city much worse carnage. Prime Minister Theresa May said the device “was intended to cause significant harm.” Witnesses describe a loud bang and a massive flash of flames that went up the side of the train, followed by a chemical smell. As the flames shot up the side of the train chaos ensued as hundreds of people poured from the train. Others describe a scene of “every man for himself” as people pushed to get out the doors. Photos taken inside the train showed a white plastic bucket inside a foil-lined shopping bag, with flames and what appeared to be wires emerging from the top.
Trains were suspended along a stretch of the Underground’s District Line, and several homes were evacuated as police set up a 150 foot area around the scene while they secured the device and launched a search for those who planted it. Hundreds of police investigators, along with agents of MI5 were pouring over surveillance camera footage, carrying out forensic work and interviewing witnesses.
The next day, two suspects were detained over the bombing, an 18-year-old refugee from Iraq and a 21-year old from Syria. Police searched three addresses, including the house of Penelope and Ronald Jones, of Sunbury. The couple has been honored by Queen Elizabeth II for fostering more than 200 children, including refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts. Both of the suspects were fostered by the British couple.
The 18-year-old was detained Saturday at the southeast England port of Dover, a departure point for ferries to France. Later the same day, the 21-year-old man, identified as Yahyah Farroukh, was detained as he left his work shift at a restaurant in Hounslow, West London. Surveillance footage shows a man near the Sunbury address Friday morning carrying a bag from Lidl supermarket. Images posted on social media following the attack appeared to show wires protruding from a flaming bucket contained in a Lidl bag on the floor of the train carriage.
The threat level was lowered to severe by Sunday and police said the investigation was making rapid progress. Both men are being held under the Terrorism Act 2000 but neither has been charged. British authorities say they have foiled 6 terror plots since the since the van and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and Parliament in March, which killed five people. Police and MI5 say that at any given time they are running about 500 counterterrorism investigations involving 3,000 individuals.
Hurricane Irma made its first landfall in the northeast Caribbean early Wednesday after growing into one of the most powerful storms ever recorded over the Atlantic Ocean. The storm is one of three (Irma, Jose and Katia) hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, the first time since 2010 that three active hurricanes have been in the Atlantic. Jose, in the open Atlantic far to the southeast of Irma, became a hurricane. Katia, in the Gulf of Mexico, also became a hurricane.
Irma has maintained intensity above 180 mph longer than any storm in Atlantic basin history. Late Wednesday night, Irma’s core was spinning about 85 miles northwest of San Juan, with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph. In the US Virgin Islands, Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp ordered a 36-hour curfew.
Irma’s core slammed the tiny island of Barbuda before moving over St. Martin and Anguilla and parts of the British Virgin Islands. Its maximum sustained winds of 185 mph were well above the 157 mph threshold of a Category 5 storm. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne said that the telecommunications system in Barbuda, where 1,800 people live, was wiped out and cell towers were knocked over. Both of the island’s hotels were demolished, he added. There is also no way to land airplanes on the islands, Browne said from Antigua, whose 80,000 people comprise most of the two-island nation’s population.
French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Irma destroyed four of the most solid government buildings on the French-administered portion of nearby St. Martin, an island of about 75,000 people. Puerto Rico and Storm surge is a concern for the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Central Bahamas (up to 20 feet), as is heavy rain (up to 20 inches in the Virgin Islands, and up to 20 in parts of Puerto Rico).
Computer models show that on Thursday the storm will move very near or over the Turks and Caicos, with catastrophic damage likely. The storm will also pass just north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, bringing hurricane force winds to northern sections of the island, with flooding and mudslides probable.
In the Bahamas, emergency evacuations have been ordered for six southern islands — Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay and Ragged Island. “This is the largest such evacuation in the history of the country,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said.
It’s too early to tell whether it will make landfall on the US mainland but models show it could hit near Florida’s east coast by late Sunday, and forecasters warn the core still could hit the Florida peninsula.
Emergency management officials are requiring visitors to the Florida Keys to begin evacuations by sunrise Wednesday due to incoming Hurricane Irma; resident evacuations begin 7 p.m. Wednesday. Floridians should heed any evacuation order, Gov. Rick Scott said. “A storm surge could cover your house. We can rebuild homes — we cannot rebuild your family,” he said.
Prosecutors have asked the FBI to assist in an investigation into the rough arrest of a Utah nurse after video of her being dragged screaming from a hospital drew widespread condemnation. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill is overseeing a criminal investigation into officers involved in the handcuffing of nurse Alex Wubbels. He is asking for FBI help in part because his office can’t prosecute possible civil rights violations like wrongful arrest.
The incident happened on July 26 but bodycam footage that was released last week sparked national outcry. That night, a man named William Gray was taken to the hospital after suffering severe injuries from a car crash. Gray, a reserve police officer with the police department in Rigby, Idaho-who works as a truck driver, had been injured after being in the fiery head on car crash with a truck that was fleeing from Utah State Highway Patrol.
In the video, Salt Lake City Detective Jeff Payne is seen squaring off against Utah nurse Alex Wubbels, the charge nurse working the night shift on the burn unit at Utah University Hospital. Wubbels was following hospital protocol and the law when she calmly refused to allow a blood draw on an unconscious patient without consent or a warrant. She presented the officers with a printout of hospital policy on drawing blood and said their request did not meet the criteria.
Hospital policy specified police needed either a judge’s order or the patient’s consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest, before obtaining a blood sample. “I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do. That’s all,” Wubbels tells the officers, according to the body camera video. She put her supervisor on speakerphone who told Payne “You’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.” “No, we’re done,” Payne said. “We’re done. You’re under arrest.”
Salt Lake City police detective Jeff Payne insisted on drawing the blood, maintaining in his report that he wanted the sample to protect the man rather than prosecute him. He was supported by his supervisor, Lt. James Tracy, who said the nurse could be arrested if she didn’t agree. The dispute ended with Payne handcuffing Wubbels and dragging her outside while she screamed that she’d done nothing wrong. She was detained for 20 minutes and later released without charge.
Payne, who has worked for the department for over 20 years, and a second unidentified officer were put on full paid administrative leave by Salt Lake City police after the video emerged. Lt. James Tracy’s actions are also under review. Payne has also been fired from his part-time job as a paramedic following comments he made on the video about taking transient patients to the hospital as retaliation.
The Rigby Police Department said they hope the incident will be investigated thoroughly and “appropriate action” will be taken. “The Rigby Police Department would like to thank the nurse involved and hospital staff for standing firm and protecting Officer Gray’s rights as a patient and victim,” “Protecting the rights of others is truly a heroic act.” “It is important to remember that Officer Gray is the victim in this horrible event, and that at no time was he under any suspicion of wrongdoing,” the statement said, adding that Gray “continues to heal.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help William Gray and his wife with expenses while he recovers at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. https://www.gofundme.com/BillGray