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Sunday
Sep102017

Americans on St. Maarten tell of Irma's devastation, lawlessness; 1,200 evacuated 

Lionel Chamoiseau/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- American citizens evacuated from St. Maarten by U.S. military aircraft are telling desperate stories of survival as Hurricane Irma ravaged the island and left a precarious security situation in its wake.

More than 1,200 American citizens have been evacuated from St. Maarten at the U.S. State Department's request. An estimated 5,000 American citizens were believed to be trapped on the island that is jointly administered by France and the Netherlands.

Evacuees told stories about hiding in their hotel bathtubs fearing for their lives as the storm raged. They also told of a bank robbery and a gang of men with "long swords" who reportedly showed up at a hotel.

"The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is our top priority," said Heather Nauert, the State Department spokesperson. "Over the last 24 hours, Department of State has worked in close coordination with the Department of Defense to assist over 1,200 American citizens with air evacuations from St. Maarten, beginning with those needing urgent medical care."

A defense official said that evacuation flights resumed Sunday morning, shortly before 11 a.m. ET after being suspended Saturday due to high winds associated with Hurricane Jose.

Six C-130 aircraft from the Puerto Rico, New York and Kentucky Air National Guard are providing the flights, which take 45 minutes each way to Puerto Rico. Two HH-60 Guard helicopters are also assisting.

The evacuation flights began Friday evening as the C-130s began taking those needing the most urgent medical care.

According to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, 1,268 American citizens were evacuated on 11 flights Saturday and Friday.

Below is a video that the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York National Air Guard shot on board one of their C-130 flights.

The United States does not have a consulate on St. Maarten, making it difficult to gather information about Americans still on the island.

Several Americans interviewed by ABC News upon their arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico, described a desperate situation on St. Maarten during and after the storm. Some described how they moved couches and beds to block the ocean-facing windows in their hotel rooms as Irma raged outside.

Maureen Puckerin told ABC News the monster storm sounded like someone banging on a door accompanied by a deafening whistle that she said was "something I never want to hear again."

Puckerin said she rode out the storm in her hotel room's bathtub thinking she might die. She and others emerged from their hotel rooms for 40 minutes as the eye of the hurricane passed overhead and saw devastation everywhere with windows blown out and buildings without roofs.

After the storm she said hotel guests banded together in the rooms that had suffered the least damage. Without running water they shared toilets, drank bottled water and ate food they had stocked up on before the storm. And without power they used their phones sparingly to send daily messages to family members and quickly turning them off to conserve power.

The storm's wake has also left a breakdown of security on the island and some of the Americans felt they had been abandoned by hotel staff. Puckerin said a group of men armed with what she called "long swords" had stormed her hotel and beaten up a tourist.

Others described looters stealing purses from hotel guests and how the Dutch military had arrived at their hotel in search of men who had just robbed a bank.

The Department of State is operating a 24-hour task force to coordinate the U.S. government response to Irma and Jose. "We are coordinating with all parts of the U.S. government to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens," said Nauert. "We are also tracking requests for assistance for citizens of other countries."

Before Irma made landfall, the State Department helped the departure of U.S. citizens through commercial and charter transportation.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep102017

Photos show Irma's staggering destruction that left Cubans in a daze

YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images(HAVANA) -- As Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sunday morning, Cubans came out to assess the damage on their island and found power out and roads blocked, as well as flooding that could continue into Monday.

Thousands of people rode out the storm in shelters, including cave-like, underground military bunkers.

Flooding persists in Havana, where power is out and internet is mostly down, according to an ABC News producer in Havana.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep102017

Pope Francis injured after hitting head against popemobile

Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images(COLOMBIA) -- Pope Francis sustained minor injuries Sunday after hitting his head against the vehicle in which he was traveling in Cartagena, Colombia.

A spokesman for the pope confirmed the injuries, which were captured on video, saying he has a wound on his cheekbone and eyebrow but is "fine." He is receiving "ice treatment,” the spokesman added.

The incident occurred while Francis, 80, was traveling in the popemobile, a customized vehicle outfitted with bulletproof glass designed to protect the pope while he greets crowds. He appeared to be leaning outside a glass panel in front of him when the vehicle stopped and his face made contact with the barrier.

Pope Francis has been visiting Colombia since Wednesday, making stops in the cities of Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep092017

Two American students accuse Italian police officers of rape

iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Authorities in Florence, Italy, are investigating after two American students accused two Italian police officers of raping them.

The two women said they met the two Carabinieri paramilitary police officers on Thursday when they were called in to break up a fight at a Florence nightclub, according to Italian media reports.

The students said the two men offered them a ride back to their residence and then allegedly raped them in their apartment hallway. Surveillance video captured the two women getting into the police car.

Both women were examined in a hospital on Thursday, according to Italian media reports.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep092017

Mexico earthquake toll rises to at least 61 

iStock/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- The death toll from a powerful, 8.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico rose to at least 61 -- and damage was extensive, with hundreds of buildings toppled in several states.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called the quake, which happened off the southern Pacific coast just before midnight on Thursday, the strongest the country has seen in a century.

Hardest-hit was Juchitan, Oaxaca, where 36 people died and a third of the city's homes collapsed or were uninhabitable, Nieto said late Friday in an interview with the Televisa news network.

In downtown Juchitan, the remains of brick walls and clay tile roofs cluttered streets as families dragged mattresses onto sidewalks to spend a second anxious night sleeping outdoors. Some were newly homeless, while others feared further aftershocks could topple their cracked adobe dwellings.

Peña Nieto said in a series of tweets on Friday that more than 200 people had been injured and more than 260 aftershocks had hit the country since the initial quake.

Rescuers searched for survivors Friday with sniffer dogs and used heavy machinery at the main square to pull rubble away from city hall, where a missing police officer was believed to be inside.

The city's civil defense coordinator, Jose Antonio Marin Lopez, said similar searches had been going on all over the area.

Teams found bodies in the rubble, but the highlight was pulling four people, including two children, alive from the completely collapsed Hotel Del Rio where one woman died.

"The priority continues to be the people," Marin said.

Peña Nieto said authorities were working to re-establish supplies of water and food, and provide medical attention to those who need it. He vowed the government would help rebuild.

"The power of this earthquake was devastating, but we are certain that the power of unity, the power of solidarity and the power of shared responsibility will be greater," Peña Nieto said.

Power was cut at least briefly to more than 1.8 million people, and authorities closed schools in at least 11 states to check them for safety.

The Interior Department reported that 428 homes were destroyed and 1,700 were damaged just in Chiapas, the state closest to the epicenter.

"Homes made of clay tiles and wood collapsed," said Nataniel Hernandez, a human rights worker living in Tonala, Chiapas, who worried that inclement weather threatened to bring more structures down.

"Right now it is raining very hard in Tonala, and with the rains, it gets much more complicated because the homes were left very weak, with cracks," Hernandez said by phone.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep092017

After being slammed by Irma, Caribbean islands brace for Hurricane Jose

NASA/NOAA GOES Project via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Less than a week after being walloped by Hurricane Irma, tiny Caribbean islands are bracing for a new threat: Hurricane Jose.

Jose, which was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane on Friday and remained so on Saturday morning with 150 mph winds, is following Irma's path and is forecast to come close to, but not directly hit, the Leeward Islands, including St. Martin and Barbuda. Jose is not currently a threat to the U.S.

As of 5 a.m. Saturday, Jose was 190 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands. Hurricane warnings were in effect for St. Martin, St. Barts, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Kitts. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the British Virgin Islands.

Thousands of Americans are believed to be stranded on St. Martin, according to official reports. Damage to the island was extensive, with many homes left destroyed and power completely cut off. The damage on St. Martin is so bad that some large resort companies, including Sonesta, have canceled reservations for the rest of 2017. And with a second hurricane nearing, it will be several more days before the island receives any aid.

On Thursday, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne urged residents of Barbuda, where an estimated 95 percent of structures and vehicles were destroyed by Irma, to evacuate to nearby Antigua as Jose approached. By Friday, the government said it had brought all 1,800 or so of its residents to its sister island to weather the impending storm.

Browne described the damage to Barbuda from Irma as "horrible," saying the storm ripped into the island with the force of a "bomb" going off.

Meanwhile, Irma is advancing on the U.S. mainland and is now forecast to hit the Florida Keys as a Category 5 storm. Meteorologists expect Irma to make landfall in the Keys between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET on Sunday. Overnight projections of Irma's path showed less of a threat to the Carolinas as the monster storm appeared likely to move directly up the middle of Florida and curve inland.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep092017

Hurricane Katia makes landfall as a Category 1 storm in Mexico

iStock/Thinkstock(TECOLUTLA, Mexico) -- Shortly before Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cuba late Friday night as a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Katia made landfall as a Category 1 storm north of Tecolutla, Mexico, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At the time Katia made landfall, it had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Only 26 minutes separated the announcements of Irma and Katia making landfall. The National Hurricane Center tweeted about Katia's landfall at 10:34 p.m. ET, followed by a tweet about Irma's landfall at 11 p.m.

Forecasters expect Katia to weaken quickly over the next 24 hours.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep092017

Trudeau channels his inner cowboy amidst rodeo controversy

Twitter/@FP_Champagne(SAINT-TITE, Quebec) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slapped on a Stetson hat Friday and channeled his inner cowboy at the Festival western de Saint-Tite in Saint-Tite, Quebec.

The annual two-week event, which kicked off in 1967, hosts a major rodeo competition and other cultural events. This year's installment was significant since it marked its 50th anniversary.

Trudeau tweeted photos documenting his visit.

He was joined by Canada's minister of international trade, François-Philippe Champagne, who also tweeted about the event.

Trudeau's visit Friday was not without controversy, though. There's a debate currently raging in Quebec about the welfare of rodeo animals. But Trudeau has said that most animals are treated well.

He told reporters at the festival of the debate, "It has to be done the right way. I understand that some people have concerns, but I think the vast majority of people understand that it's done with respect and care for animal health and safety."

The Canadian leader is no stranger to Western attire. As ABC News reported in July, he attended the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, where he got into the spirit of the annual rodeo and wore cowboy boots, blue jeans, a checked shirt -- and, of course, a Stetson hat.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep082017

Space station captures Hurricanes Irma, Jose churning in the Atlantic

NASA(NEW YORK) -- A number of hurricanes are churning in the Atlantic currently, including Hurricanes Irma and Jose.

Irma weakened from a Category 5 to a still-frightening Category 4 on Friday with sustained winds of 155 mph. The storm is forecast to hit the Florida peninsula early Sunday morning. It has already caused widespread damage to many Caribbean islands and has now set its sights on the continental United States.

On Friday, Jose became a dangerous Category 4 hurricane, threatening Caribbean islands already devastated by Irma. Jose has sustained winds of 150 mph.

The International Space Station flew over both Irma and Jose on Friday morning, capturing the storms in detail.

As seen in the video, the ISS passed 250 miles over Jose. While orbiting Earth later, the ISS went over Irma.

The footage showed the sheer scale of the fearsome storms.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep082017

British parents create hilarious letter from tooth fairy urging son to brush his teeth

Henry and Emma Warren(LONDON) -- Two creative parents came up with a novel way to tell their son the importance of brushing his teeth.

Henry Warren said he and his wife of nearly 10 years Emma encourage their two oldest children -- 8-year-old Sam and 5-year-old Alexa-Mae -- to practice good dental hygiene. But they've run into a few bristles.

So when Sam lost his tooth last Saturday, he placed it under his pillow expecting a bit of money.

Instead, what he found was a £1 coin with a letter "from the desk of Barry T. Tooth Fairy."

Henry and Emma Warren

It read in part, "Dr. Mr. Warren, this letter is to inform you that I have now taken receipt of your tooth and it is being duly processed in our system."

"You will have noticed there has been a delay in your payment for the tooth," it continued. "Mr. Warren, I have to inform you that this is due to the condition in which we found said tooth."

The letter said it's likely "due to the lack of care and attention" Sam has paid to brushing his teeth.

"We have detected more than trace amounts of Fanta and residual amounts of both cereal and chocolate, which have not been removed by appropriate brushing technique," the letter said.

The hilarious letter was posted by father of three Henry Warren on Twitter, where it quickly went viral with more than 5,000 retweets and more than 14,000 likes.

Henry Warren told ABC News his son wasn't "upset, but he was a little bit worried that Barry had written such a stern letter."

And although the parents admit they've received a bit of flack online for the note, they feel "one can never be too young to be made aware of good dental hygiene and the power of petty bureaucracy."

Henry Warren added that people should really spare the tooth fairy any judgment.

"He has a lot to put up with," he quipped.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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