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Tuesday
Feb122019

WWII aircraft carrier discovered intact on the ocean floor

This file image shows wreckage from the USS Lexington during a discovery mission by the Petrel research vessel. DOUGLAS CURRAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Deep in the South Pacific Ocean, researchers have located the final resting place of the USS Hornet, the World War II aircraft carrier sunk in a 1942 battle with the Japanese Navy.

Overhead sonar images show the carrier lying eerily upright and nearly intact on the deep and desolate ocean floor.

The aircraft carrier was located in late January by the research vessel R/V Petrel in waters nearly 17,500 feet deep around the Solomon Islands.

Because of the ocean depth where it was located, the entire ship shows little sign of deterioration or buildup from ocean life.

Close-up underwater images capture the moment in time shortly after the carrier sank the night of Oct. 26, 1942, during the two-day Battle of Santa Cruz Island.

One image shows an aircraft tug with its black rubber tires still gripping the carrier’s deck where it would have moved aircraft into position. A sign with the tug's maker, "International Harvester," is clearly visible atop its engine.

Also visible are the anti-aircraft weapons used to fend off the intense bombardment from Japanese aircraft.

In the end, the resulting fires and damage to the ship from the bombs dropped by Japanese planes were too much and the Hornet’s 2,000-strong crew was forced to abandon ship.

After U.S. Navy ships tried without success to scuttle the ship, the carrier was finally sunk by four torpedoes fired by two Japanese destroyers.

111 sailors from the Hornet’s crew lost their lives in the battle.

The carrier was best known for its role in the famous Doolittle Raid in April 1942, when 16 B-25 bombers took off from the ship’s deck for a surprise bombing raid on Tokyo.

Later that summer, the ship participated in the Battle of Midway, the pivotal aircraft carrier battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

The carrier was best known for its role in the famous Doolittle Raid in April 1942, when 16 B-25 bombers took off from the ship’s deck for a surprise bombing raid on Tokyo.

Later that summer, the ship participated in the Battle of Midway, the pivotal aircraft carrier battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb122019

Venezuelan opposition leader vows to get humanitarian aid at border in to the country, in defiance of president Nicolas Maduro

Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido said Tuesday that he will authorize several tons of humanitarian aid to enter the country on Feb. 23, in defiance of the country’s sitting president, Nicolas Maduro.

The remarks by Guaido came at massive anti-government protests in Venezuela's capital Caracas, where tens of thousands filled the streets to hear the lawmaker announce plans for the coming days.

Guaido and Maduro have been locked in a political power struggle since Jan. 23, when Guaido declared himself the country’s legitimate president using a constitutional article that allows him to do so as the legislature head. Guaido and dozens of countries have labeled Maduro’s reelection a fraud.

“This humanitarian aid is getting in no matter what,” Guaido shouted to the crowd Tuesday. “This order is for the military: allow this aid to enter.”

Guaido didn’t clarify how he would force the truckloads of aid across the border without Maduro’s authorization. Maduro has called the effort a pretext for a military invasion of the country and so far the armed forces have followed his orders to block the supplies at the border.

“We need humanitarian aid now,” read a sign held by Miguel Seijas, 54, on Tuesday. Many in the crowd expressed confidence that Guaido had successfully cornered Maduro and that change was imminent.

“This costume represents hope because we’re about to escape this nightmare finally,” Gustavo Misles, a 74-year-old retired university professor, told ABC News. Misles wore a clown wig and was holding a sign that said “we’re going hungry,” adorned with legal Venezuelan bills. The country’s paper currency has become worthless as some economists project inflation could reach 10 million percent this year. Other protesters used the currency as confetti.

As Guaido addressed the crowd, Venezuela’s vice president Delcy Rodriguez took to state television to reject his plans.

“What’s behind this cheap show is a military intervention in Venezuela, and an invasion,” she said.

This year’s protests and the power struggle mark the latest bout of unrest for the restless South American country, currently in the midst of the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in its history. Anti-government protests also rocked Venezuela in 2014 and 2017.

"I'm following the path of my son, I’m still fighting and protesting," Elvira Pernalete, 49, told ABC News at Tuesday's demonstration. Her 20-year-old son Juan Pernalete died in 2017 protests when a tear gas canister hit him in the chest at close range.

Maduro also organized thousands of his supporters on Tuesday in response to Guaido’s march and state TV broadcast images of the official protests throughout the day.

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Tuesday
Feb122019

Mike Pence expected to send message to Iran, discuss Venezuela during Europe trip

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Mike Pence is expected to send a strong message to Iran and discuss the rising tension in Venezuela as he travels to Europe this week for two conferences focused on the Middle East and international relations.

At a conference hosted by the U.S. and Poland in Warsaw, which seeks to address instability in the region, Pence will give the keynote remarks. His speech at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East is expected to send a strong message to Iran, according to a senior White House official.

The administration has drawn a hard line with Iran. Despite concerns from other world leaders, President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's landmark 2015 nuclear accord with world powers and restored economic sanctions. And, in a recent interview with CBS News' Face the Nation, Trump said the U.S. has an "incredible base" in Iraq that he intends to keep "because I want to be able to watch Iran."

Ahead of Pence's trip, the president tweeted on Monday that "the long-suffering Iranian people deserve a much brighter future," referencing the 40th anniversary of the country's Islamic revolution.

Pence also will stop in Germany for the Munich Security Conference and is expected to address the ongoing tension in Venezuela.

Earlier this month, Pence held a roundtable discussion with exiles from Venezuela in South Florida, vowing to stand with them "until the suffering is over and freedom is restored" and reinforcing the White House's support for opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

As he makes a public call for international peace, Pence also will hold private meetings with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The vice president will "reaffirm the Administration's commitment to international peace and stability, recognizing the value of strategic partnerships in the Middle East, as well as our shared global security responsibilities," Alyssa Farah, Pence's press secretary, said in a statement.

Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with Netanyahu in 2017, will be traveling with Pence.

During the trip, Pence also will participate in a U.S.-Poland engagement at Warsaw Chopin Airport and speak to U.S. and Polish troops stationed around the region. While in Poland, he will tour Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former concentration camp operated by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb122019

Duchess of York calls for end to toxic trolling pitting royals against each other

Cooper Neill/Getty Images for UNICEF USA(LONDON) -- Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle have become the targets of a toxic social media culture pitting them against one another, and now, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson is weighing in, comparing the online baiting to what the media did with her and Princess Diana.

Ferguson wrote a candid letter in Hello! magazine on Monday, taking aim at what she calls the “sewer” of social media.

“It’s time to confront head on the fact that much of social media has become a sewer,” she wrote. “Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users. Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace -- it seems that online, anything goes."

“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she continued.

Many royal watchers read York’s pointed essay as a not-so-veiled reference to a media-driven divide playing out between the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex.

"She absolutely is referring to the treatment of Meghan and Kate," royal contributor Imogen Lloyd Webber told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Certainly there are parallels between the relationship that Kate and Meghan have and Diana and Fergie had.”

"It’s safe to say that when the Duchess of York and the Princess of Wales were around, social media didn’t exist and this was always being played out in the newspapers," Hello! magazine’s royal correspondent, Emily Nash, told Good Morning America. "Nowadays we are seeing something very similar online with their fans pitted against each other."

The British media reported last month about rumored rivalries between the royal sisters-in-law and difficulties Meghan is facing as she adjusts to her new life as a member of England's royal family.

“This is something that we all need to look at and deal with,” Weber said. “Kensington Palace has been deleting multiple comments about Meghan and Kate for some time now and this online discourse has gotten very bitter.”

Kensington Palace aides devote hours each week to moderating and deleting violent, sexist and racist comments directed at Markle and Middleton and the palace has even turned to Instagram for help, according to a report in Hello! magazine.

"A lot of it is very petty -- a lot of body shaming and criticizing how they walk, how they look -- and a lot of this is coming from women," Nash said of the criticisms directed at the royals. "Meghan is a newcomer so there is a lot more scrutiny on her."

"It feels like it has reached a tipping point now and it can’t go on like this," she added.

Ferguson's pointed essay was an endorsement of the magazine's #HellotoKindness campaign, an effort launched last month to "champion positivity online" and quell toxic bullying and negative comments.

The campaign asks readers to ask themselves three questions before posting a comment online: Is it friendly? Is it kind? Would you say it in real life?

"Let's all try to think before we post. Let's all try to treat each other a little more gently," she wrote, calling for compassion.

Ferguson called on tech firms, news website and social media companies to do much more “to take a stand against online abuse, rather than shrugging their shoulders.”

“I believe that it's time to take a stand,” she wrote. “This isn’t about free speech. The truth is, it's not acceptable to pit women against one another all the time. It's not acceptable to troll other people viciously online.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Feb122019

Why the US Navy sails past disputed artificial islands claimed by China

VM_Studio/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Two U.S. Navy destroyers sailed within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed artificial islands in the South China Sea on Monday, and, as expected, the operation drew swift condemnation from China.

A defense official said Monday's transit did not involve any unprofessional or unsafe actions on the part of Chinese military ships in the area. But that was not the case last October, when the destroyer USS Decatur had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid colliding with a Chinese warship that came within 45 yards of its bow.

Why does the U.S. Navy carry out these missions in the South China Sea? And why has China built artificial islands in the South China Sea?

ABC News takes a look at the importance of this little-known but vital waterway.

What's going on in the South China Sea?

The South China Sea makes up the body of water that lies east of Vietnam, west of the Philippines and west of the island of Borneo.

It's a vital waterway with a third of the world's global shipping passing through it every year, much of it going through the strategic Strait of Malacca.

Since China is one of the world's great economies, it sees stability in the South China Sea as key to maintaining economic security.

China is one of five countries in the region staking claim to some of the more than 70 reefs and islets in the South China Sea.

In recent years, China has projected itself militarily into the South China Sea by building up facilities on the Paracel and Spratly island chains.

The Paracels are a group of islands east of Vietnam administered by China that are also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

The Spratly Islands are a collection of several dozen low-lying islands and reefs close to Borneo. In 2014 China began massive dredging operations to build artificial islands around seven reefs that they claimed as their territory.

The artificial islands have been transformed into significant military facilities including three runways that have been used for the deployment of Chinese fighter jets.

China's new military presence and territorial claims are an attempt to project its power into the region and provide stability to the waterway.

But the United States and other countries in the region view things differently, seeing China's territorial claims and military projection as destabilizing and attempts at intimidation.

Despite a 2016 ruling by an international body that China was violating the Law of the Sea Convention with some of its maritime claims, China has continued building up its infrastructure in the South China Sea.

What are Freedom of Navigation Operations?

Every year, the U.S. Navy carries out Freedom of Navigation Operations worldwide to challenge excessive maritime claims. But the FONOPs of China's claims in the South China Sea always draw the most attention.

U.S. officials have said that the FONOPs directed at China are intended to reinforce international frameworks that China has sought to erode by pushing into the South China Sea.

According to International Law, a country's territorial water limits extend 12 nautical miles from its coastline. The same standard applies to territorial airspace.

Both U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft will sometimes fly above the disputed island groups in the South China Sea to make the point that they are flying through international airspace.

Any country that makes a new claim of air or water sovereignty over internationally recognized waters can experience a FONOP. The Pentagon's annual FONOP report for 2017 includes challenges of maritime claims made by countries as far ranging as Albania and Sri Lanka.

The United States is not the only country carrying out FONOPs in the South China Sea. Last August, the Royal Navy's HMS Albion sailed past the Paracel Islands.

While conducting FONOPs, U.S. Navy ships sail within the 12-mile limit to make the point that the waters are international.

To stress the point even further, some of the operations include "man overboard" drills to demonstrate the Navy's ability to operate in international waters.

China routinely condemns U.S. FONOP operations as violations of its sovereignty.

U.S. Navy ships carrying out FONOPs in the Paracel or Spratly Islands are usually shadowed by Chinese ships. During those operations, they receive constant radio messages from Chinese authorities that they are violating Chinese territory, and, in return, the American ships send back messages, read from a prepared script, that they are transiting through international waters.

Most transits have been uneventful, but last October's FONOP by the USS Decatur off of Gaven Reef in the Spratlys drew international attention.

As with previous transits, the Navy destroyer was shadowed by a Chinese Navy ship that sailed at a good distance on its port side. But then the Decatur's crew had to take evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision when the Chinese vessel came within 45 yards of the ship's bow.

That incident remains the closest call yet between American and Chinese vessels in the South China Sea -- a reminder that normal operations can quickly become international incidents.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb112019

Hungary's prime minister promises subsidies to families who have multiple children

ronniechua/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The prime minister of Hungary introduced new legislation on Sunday that would provide financial incentives for families to have more children in an effort to combat the country’s longstanding low birth rate while maintaining a hard line against immigration.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has asked Parliament for health care investments worth $2.5 billion, and a program of loans to newlyweds worth $35,250 per couple. The loans would be partially paid off if the couple had two kids, and written off entirely after the birth of a third child.

Hungarian women who have four children or more will be exempt from income tax for life.

Other motivators include a state subsidy for people buying seven-seater family cars, better mortgage rates for families with multiple kids, saved places for childcare and work-leave for grandparents who take care of their grandchildren.

The prime minister’s proposals still need parliamentary approval, but as Orban's party has a two-thirds majority in Parliament, their passage is likely. For decades, Germany and Hungary have had among the lowest birth rates in the world, both ranking in the bottom 10 percent of countries worldwide.

A series of post-World War II un-generations has left both countries with severe labor shortages.

Those shortages, and an excess of jobs to fill, were factors in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision to open up the country to more than a million mostly-Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees.

Orban chose a different path, building walls with razor wire in border areas with Serbia and Croatia to keep the refugees out. Permitting migration resulted in “mixed population countries,” Orban said in his State of the Nation speech on Sunday, in which he suggested that Christians would eventually become a minority. “Those who ride that train will go to the last station and there's no return ticket,” he added.

He drew condemnation in 2015 after saying that barring entrance to Muslim refugees would save Hungary's Christians from the same fate of close to a half million Hungarian Jews killed during the Holocaust.

In 2015, Hungary’s population was around 9.9 million. By 2050, the population is expected to be 8.3 million, according to the World Population Prospects report published by the United Nations.

The country’s low birth rate is combined with a brain and body drain as more and more Hungarian youth choose to leave the country for better life -- and more freedoms -- elsewhere.

Orban says his solution to incentivize child bearing, in the words of a familiar campaign slogan, will put “Hungary First.”

“There are fewer and fewer children born in Europe. For the West, the answer is immigration," said Orban.“But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children.”

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Monday
Feb112019

Russian region declares state of emergency after mass invasion of polar bears

SeppFriedhuber/iStock(MOSCOW) -- Authorities in a remote Russian arctic region have declared a state of emergency after dozens of hungry polar bears overran villages, besieging residents.

A team of specialists is being flown into Novaya Zemlya, an archipelago with a population of less than 3,000 people, to assist in removing the bears, which have been gathering in populated areas in increasingly large numbers since December, according to local authorities.

Fifty-two bears have been spotted close to the archipelago’s main population center, Belushya Guba, with six to 10 of them constantly inside the village, Alexander Minaev, the deputy head of the local municipal administration told Russian state news agency, TASS. Videos have appeared of dozens of the animals rooting through a nearby garbage dump and CCTV footage shown on Russia state television revealed a bear wandering through the hallway of a building.

“I have been on Novaya Zemlya since 1983, but there has never been such an invasion of polar bears before,” Zhiganshi Musin, the head of Novaya Zemlya’s administration told TASS. “They are literally chasing people and going into the entranceways of housing buildings.”

The local administration declared a state of emergency on Saturday, warning that the bears were behaving aggressively and that people were afraid to leave their homes.

Russian state media reported that the usual methods of scaring the bears away using police sirens, car horns and dogs are no longer effective, because the animals have become so used to them. Authorities have sent out anti-bear patrols, and now special barriers have been erected around schools, and special transport has been arranged for children and workers, to help them get around town without encountering the bears.

Wildlife experts have warned the polar bears’ incursion is the result of shrinking sea-ice, as rising Arctic temperatures due to global warming cause the ice to melt, reducing the bears' normal hunting grounds. Unable to hunt on the ice as usual, the bears are forced to venture inland to human settlements in search of food.

“Everyone understood that this could happen,” Mikhail Stishov, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)’s project coordinator on Arctic biodiversity told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. “Now the bears are increasingly on the shores on account of the absence of ice for long periods. They come onto shore, where they get used to human housing, especially if the system of garbage disposal isn’t very well set up.”

Russia classifies polar bears as an endangered species and shooting them is illegal.

The specialists being flown in hope to remove the bears without resorting to guns, TASS reported, but environmental officials have warned that it may be necessary if all other efforts fail.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb112019

Acting defense secretary says no orders to reduce forces in Afghanistan

MivPiv/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- En route to Afghanistan on an unannounced trip, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Monday he has not received orders from President Donald Trump to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by half, a Taliban demand made at recent peace talks with U.S. negotiators.

During his first visit to Afghanistan, Shanahan stressed the importance of including the Afghan government in the talks, something the Taliban has not been willing to do.

"I have not been directed to step down our forces in Afghanistan," Shanahan told reporters.

ABC News has previously reported that the Trump administration has been planning to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by half sometime this year. U.S. military planners had been tasked with a possible troop reduction after internal discussions began late last year, according to U.S. officials.

Last week, Trump tied troop reductions to "progress" in the U.S. talks with the Taliban.

"As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism. We do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace," the president said.

A recent round of U.S. talks with the Taliban resulted in a tentative framework arrangement, but a key stumbling block for future talks has been the Taliban refusal to meet with Afghanistan's leaders.

Shanahan stressed the importance of including the Afghan government in future talks.

"The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like," said Shanahan. "It's not about the U.S., it's about Afghanistan."

As part of his visit to Afghanistan Shanahan met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and General Scott Miller, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan.

The acting Defense Secretary said he is a part of the ongoing U.S. peace talks with the Taliban but describes lead U.S. negotiator Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as "the quarterback".

The most recent round of talks resulted in a tentative framework arrangement that Khalilzad hopes can result in a final U.S.-Taliban deal before Afghanistan's presidential election in mid-July.

But Khalilzad cautioned last week that the talks were at "the early stages of a protracted process".

"We have a long way to go," Khalilzad said at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Friday.

On Sunday, Khalilzad left on a long trip that will include a stop in Afghanistan to continue consultations with the Afghan government about how their possible inclusion in "intra-Afghan" talks.

A top Taliban official had said last week that as part of the talks the United States had agreed to pull out half its troops from Afghanistan by the end of May.

The State Department later said his claim was not true. Asked if the departure of half the U.S. troops is being discussed in the talks with the Taliban, Shanahan responded, "no". Shanahan said any future U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will emerge from the talks.

"I think the U.S. military has strong security interests in the region," he said. "Its presence will evolve out of those discussions of where, what, concentration, how."

"All of that is extremely important, but we are going to leave it to the teams to start to look at what mix of combinations makes more sense," he added.

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Monday
Feb112019

Berlin Film Festival offers opportunities for women, building on #MeToo momentum

Michael Tran/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- As a young, female movie producer working in Hollywood in the 1980s, Gale Anne Hurd struggled for her talents to be recognized by her male peers.

Although she'd already produced and co-wrote her first feature film, The Terminator, which was a blockbuster hit, some potential employers accused her of receiving credit for work she hadn't done.

"I was asked at one point, how can a little girl like you produce a big movie like this?" she recalled, speaking at a Berlin Film Festival event on Friday.

Now a bonafide hotshot in the business, having produced Aliens, The Walking Dead and receiving a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame, Hurd is a role model for women struggling to make it in the male-dominated industry that many believe is becoming more progressive as the #MeToo movement gains momentum.

"There is still a sense that there are things 'women can’t do,'" she told the audience. "There are socio-cultural biases that people aren't even aware of, and that's something we can all work proactively to change.”

Representing Women in Film L.A., Hurd was in Berlin to celebrate the launch of the new Alliance of Women's Networks, as well as the financial initiative 10% for 50/50 -- a program that offers discounts for productions on which an equal number of men and women work. Such initiatives are aimed at promoting a greater inclusion of women in the industry. Only 4 percent of the 100 top-grossing films of 2018 were directed by women, according to the Center for The Study of Women in Television and Film.

The Berlin Film festival, now in its 69th year, also is stepping up to gender equality. In an event organized by Women in Film and Television on Friday, Berlin Film Festival director Dieter Kosslick signed a pledge for gender parity, promising that the festival work toward having an equal gender ratio in various areas of the festival's leadership and publishing gender statistics on films submitted to the festival. The pledge was launched in Cannes in 2018 by French organization 5050x2020 and has already been signed onto by a number of other international festivals in Venice and Sarajevo.

However, the Berlin Film Festival is already ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting women in leadership roles. According to the festival's annual gender survey, 63 percent of the leadership positions in the festival's 15 sections are women.

"During the two last decades the female representation has completely changed at Berlinale and I am happy it has gone up," Kosslick told ABC in a statement.

In this year's main competition category, seven out of 17 films were from female filmmakers, compared to three by women at Cannes last year and just one in Venice.

Next year, Berlinale will change leadership, and its new head is tipped to be Mariette Rissenbeek, who would be the first woman to lead a major film festival.

"What's changed is that we have changed," said Kissy Dugan, Italy's representative for the new Alliance of Women's Networks. "We have gotten together, crossed cultures and borders and boundaries to take responsibility for gender parity."

With more women producing, directing and writing, Hurd said she feels there's momentum sweeping the industry.

"The point is that it's not a wave you let carry you forward and recede back into the ocean," she said. "We need to keep pushing to take back this initial progress and make it something that's not just a temporary solution to a temporary problem and make it the face of the industry."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Feb112019

Nearly 100 children dead as world's second-largest Ebola outbreak surpasses 800 cases

Manjurul/iStock(LONDON) -- The second-largest, second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history has claimed the lives of nearly 100 children.

At least 97 children, 65 of whom were younger than 5 years old, have died from Ebola virus disease in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo since the outbreak was declared there Aug. 1, according to a press release from Save the Children, a charity supporting the fight against the current epidemic.

"We are at a crossroads," Heather Kerr, Save the Children's country director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said in a statement Sunday. "If we don't take urgent steps to contain this, the outbreak might last another six months, if not the whole year."

A total of 811 people have reported symptoms of hemorrhagic fever in the country's northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri. Among those cases, 750 have tested positive for Ebola, which causes an often-fatal type of hemorrhagic fever, according to Sunday night's bulletin from the country's health ministry.

The growing outbreak has a case fatality rate of nearly 63 percent. There have been 510 deaths thus far, including 449 people who died from confirmed cases of Ebola. The other deaths are from probable cases, the ministry said.

The number of new cases spiked in January, from about 20 a week to more than 40, according to Save the Children.

"It is paramount to convince communities that Ebola is an urgent and real concern," Kerr said. "People have disrupted funerals because they didn't believe the deceased had succumbed to the virus. Aid workers were threatened because it was believed they spread Ebola. We have to scale up our efforts to reach out to the vocal youth and community leaders to build trust and to help us turn this tide. Treating the people who are sick is essential, but stopping Ebola from spreading further is just as important."

Global health organizations have raised alarm over the high number of children infected in the ongoing outbreak. Children, who are at greater risk than adults of dying from the virus, account for about 30 percent of all cases, including 116 who were younger than 5, according to a Feb. 7 report from the World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations, which has deemed the risk of transmission "very high" at the national and regional levels, while the risk globally remains low.

This is the 10th outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the most severe that the Central African nation has seen since 1976, when scientists first identified the virus near the eponymous Ebola River. It's also one of the world's worst, second only to the 2014-2016 outbreak in multiple West African nations that infected 28,652 people and killed 11,325, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's the first Ebola outbreak in history to occur in an active war zone. North Kivu and Ituri, the two provinces where people have been infected, are awash with conflict and insecurity. Health and frontline workers are facing sporadic attacks from armed groups operating near the country's mineral-rich, volatile borderland with Uganda.

"The DRC is a country suffering from violence and conflict and an extreme hunger crisis -- some 4.6 million children are acutely malnourished," Kerr said. "The main concerns for many people are safety and making sure they have enough to eat. But Ebola has to be a priority too."

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