Cleanup and mourning continue after Ida soaks Northeast US

The cleanup — and mourning — continued Friday as the Northeast U.S. recovered from record-breaking rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

At least 46 people in five states died as storm water cascaded into people's homes and engulfed automobiles, overwhelming urban drainage systems never meant to handle so much rain in such a short time.

The toll was highest in New Jersey, where 23 people perished in heavy rains late Wednesday and early Thursday. A majority were people who drowned after their vehicles were caught in flash floods, some dying in their submerged cars, some getting swept away after exiting into fast-moving water.

Floodwaters and a falling tree also took lives in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. In New York City, 11 people died when they were unable to escape rising water in basement apartments.

Authorities said the work of searching for possible victims and identifying the dead wasn't over.


Ida's toll grows with deaths of 4 nursing home residents

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana officials launched an investigation into the deaths of four nursing home residents who had been evacuated to a warehouse ahead of Hurricane Ida, as state residents struggling in the wake of the storm sought financial relief and other help amid small signs of recovery.

The nursing home residents who died were among hundreds of people from seven nursing homes taken to the warehouse in Independence, where conditions became unhealthy and unsafe after the hurricane struck on Sunday, state health officials said. A coroner classified three of the deaths as storm-related.

Health officials received reports of people lying on mattresses on the floor, not being fed or changed and not being socially distanced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which is currently ravaging the state, Louisiana Department of Health spokesperson Aly Neel said. When a large team of state health inspectors showed up on Tuesday to investigate the warehouse, the owner of the nursing homes demanded that they leave immediately, Neel said.

Neel identified the owner as Bob Dean. Dean did not immediately respond Thursday to a telephone message left by The Associated Press at a number listed for him.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards promised a full investigation into whether the owner "failed to keep residents safe and whether he intentionally obstructed efforts to check in on them and determine what the conditions were in the shelter." And he vowed "aggressive legal action" if warranted.


Biden message to battered Gulf Coast: 'We are here for you'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is calling for greater public resolve to confront climate change and help the nation deal with the fierce storms, flooding and wildfires that have beset the country as he makes a sojourn to hurricane-battered Louisiana on Friday.

"My message to everyone affected is: We're all in this together," Biden said in a speech Thursday at the White House, where he addressed the multiple natural disasters that have unfolded this week. "The nation is here to help."

Trips to natural disaster scenes have long been a feature of the U.S. presidency. It's a moment to show compassion and deliver aid in ways that can shape the public's perception of White House leadership. 

Biden was scheduled to meet with Louisiana's Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, and other local officials and tour a neighborhood in LaPlace, a community between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain that was inundated by storm surge flooding that left people trapped in attics. He also planned a flyover tour of hard-hit communities including Lafitte, Grand Isle, Port Fourchon and Lafourche Parish, where Parish President Archie Chaisson said 25% of the homes in his community of 100,000 people were gone or had catastrophic damage.

Past presidents have been defined in part by how they handled such crises. Donald Trump casually lobbed paper towels to people in Puerto Rico after a hurricane, generating scorn from critics but little damage to his political standing. Barack Obama hugged New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie in 2012 after Superstorm Sandy, a brief respite from partisan tensions that had threatened the economy with a fiscal cliff. And George W. Bush fell out of public favor after a poor and unprepared response to Hurricane Katrina, which swamped New Orleans in 2006.


New Zealand police kill 'terrorist' after he stabs 6 people

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand authorities were so worried about an extremist inspired by the Islamic State group they were following him around-the-clock and were able to shoot and kill him within 60 seconds of him unleashing a frenzied knife attack that wounded six people Friday at an Auckland supermarket.

Three of the shoppers were taken to Auckland hospitals in critical condition, police said. Another was in serious condition, while two more were in moderate condition. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the incident was a terror attack. She said the man was a Sri Lankan national who was inspired by the Islamic State group and was well known to the nation's security agencies.

Ardern said she had been personally briefed on the man in the past but there had been no legal reason for him to be detained.

"Had he done something that would have allowed us to put him into prison, he would have been in prison," Ardern said.


Idaho hospitals nearly buckling in relentless COVID surge

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The intensive care rooms at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center are full, each a blinking jungle of tubes, wires and mechanical breathing machines. The patients nestled inside are a lot alike: All unvaccinated, mostly middle-aged, paralyzed and sedated, reliant on life support and locked in a silent struggle against COVID-19. 

But watch for a moment, and glimpses of who they were before the coronavirus become clear. 

Artfully inked tattoos cover the tanned forearm of a man in his 30s. An expectant mother's slightly swollen belly is briefly revealed as a nurse adjusts her position. The young woman is five months pregnant and hooked to a breathing machine. 

Down the hall, another pregnant woman, just 24 and hooked to a ventilator, is lying prone — on top of her developing fetus — to get more air into her ravaged lungs.

Idaho hit a grim COVID-19 trifecta this week, reaching record numbers of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and ICU patients. Medical experts say the deeply conservative state will likely see 30,000 new infections a week by mid-September. 


Excitement meets worry as European kids head back to school

LONDON (AP) — English educator Richard Sheriff watched this week as a group of energetic 11-year-olds entered their new secondary school for the first time — finding their classrooms, eating in the cafeteria, racing around the halls.

The familiar rituals of a school sparking back to life were especially poignant after a year and a half of disruption driven by the coronavirus pandemic, said Sheriff, head of the Red Kite Learning Trust, a group of primary and secondary schools in the Yorkshire region. But in addition to the usual excitement, he had a new feeling this year: "Trepidation."

The start of a new school year in many northern hemisphere nations comes as the highly infectious delta variant continues to drive a surge in coronavirus cases — especially among children, many of whom are not yet eligible for vaccination.

Still, many governments including Britain's are determined to get children back into classrooms after 18 stop-start months of lockdowns, remote learning and abandoned exams. U.K. schools, have closed for three-month stretches twice since early 2020, and major year-end exams have been canceled two years running, throwing university admissions into chaos. 

While most European countries are retaining some restrictions for schools, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government is pushing this year for something approximating pre-pandemic normality. It has removed social distancing and mask-wearing orders and no longer requires pupils to be grouped into "bubbles" to limit the spread of the virus.


Afghan media brace for what's next under Taliban rule

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Afghanistan's most popular private television network has voluntarily replaced its risque Turkish soap operas and music shows with tamer programs tailored to the country's new Taliban rulers, who have issued vague directives that media must not contradict Islamic laws or harm the national interest.

Still, independent Afghan news stations are keeping female presenters on the air and testing the limits of media freedom under the group, whose militants have killed journalists in the past but have promised an open, inclusive system since coming to power in August. 

As the world watches intently for clues on how the Taliban will govern, their treatment of the media will be a key indicator, along with their policies toward women. When they ruled Afghanistan between 1996-2001, they enforced a harsh interpretation of Islam, barring girls and women from schools and public life, and brutally suppressing dissent.

Since then, Afghanistan has seen a proliferation of media outlets, and women made some strides within the restrictions of the deeply conservative society.

In a first sign the Taliban are trying to soften their extremist reputation, one of its officials unexpectedly walked into the studios of the privately owned Tolo News just two days after taking control of Kabul in mid-August. He sat down for an interview with the female anchor, Behishta Arghand. 


20 years after 9/11: 'We will live with the scars' forever

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Twenty years later, Jack Grandcolas still remembers waking up at 7:03 that morning. He looked at the clock, then out the window where an image in the sky caught his eye — a fleeting vision that looked like an angel ascending. He didn't know it yet, but that was the moment his life changed. 

Across the country, it was 10:03 a.m. and United Flight 93 had just crashed into a Pennsylvania field. 

His wife, Lauren, was not supposed to be on that flight. So when he turned on the television and saw the chilling scenes of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolding, he was not worried for her. Then he saw the blinking light on the answering machine.

Lauren had left two messages that morning, as he slept with the phone ringer off in the bedroom. First, with good news that she was taking an earlier flight from New Jersey home to San Francisco. Then she called from the plane. There was "a little problem," his wife said, but she was "comfortable for now." She did not say she would call back, Grandcolas recalls. She said: "I love you more than anything, just know that. Please tell my family I love them too. Goodbye, honey."

"That moment I looked over at the television and there was a smoldering hole on the ground in Pennsylvania. They said it was United Flight 93," said Grandcolas, 58. "That's when I dropped to the ground." 


'We came here crying': Tigray forces also accused of abuses

DEBARK, Ethiopia (AP) — As they bring war to other parts of Ethiopia, resurgent Tigray fighters face growing allegations that they are retaliating for the abuses their people suffered back home.

In interviews with The Associated Press, more than a dozen witnesses offered the most widespread descriptions yet of Tigray forces striking communities and a religious site with artillery, killing civilians, looting health centers and schools and sending hundreds of thousands of people fleeing in the past two months.

In the town of Nefas Mewucha in the Amhara region, a hospital's medical equipment was smashed. The fighters looted medicines and other supplies, leaving more than a dozen patients to die.

"It is a lie that they are not targeting civilians and infrastructures," hospital manager Birhanu Mulu told the AP. He said his team had to transfer some 400 patients elsewhere for care. "Everyone can come and witness the destruction that they caused."

The war that began last November was confined at first to Ethiopia's sealed-off northern Tigray region. Accounts of atrocities often emerged long after they occurred: Tigrayans described gang-rapes, massacres and forced starvation by federal forces and their allies from Amhara and neighboring Eritrea.


First flames, then fees: Tahoe evacuees report price-gouging

STATELINE, Nev. (AP) — As fearful Lake Tahoe residents packed up belongings and fled a raging wildfire burning toward the California-Nevada border, some encountered an unexpected obstacle: price gouging.

A rideshare company quoted a fee of more than $1,500 to be transported from the smoke-choked ski resort at Heavenly Valley to the safety of Reno-Tahoe International Airport, about eight times the going rate. A Nevada hotel-casino outside the evacuation order zone advertised a two-night stay for $1,090.72, almost four times the midweek rate offered a day earlier.

Reports of price-gouging routinely emerge during natural disasters and won newfound attention early in the pandemic, when some businesses tried to capitalize on panic amid demand for toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

While there is no federal law that bans it during emergencies, at least a dozen statehouses have addressed price-gouging since last year, including Nevada and California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill banning the practice last September.

Unlike California though, a Nevada price-gouging prohibition signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak in June doesn't take effect until October. Its start date limits officials from policing the issue and taking action beyond promising to monitor it.

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