Security agencies say about 75 Indians have joined the IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka.(Site Intelligence Group)
A pro-Islamic State media group has warned of attacks in India and published a graphic depicting the Taj Mahal as a possible target.The graphic by the Ahwaal Ummat Media Center was posted on a channel of Telegram, the encrypted communication app, on March 14, according to Site Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadi activity on the web.
The graphic features a fighter in combat fatigues and black headgear armed with an assault rifle and a rocket-propelled grenade standing near the 17th century monument to love in Agra.
An inset in the graphic features another image of the Taj Mahal within crosshairs with the words “New target” below it. There is also an image of a van with the Arabic text “Agra istishhadi” (Agra martyrdom-seeker) written in English, implying the threat of a suicide attack.
This is not the first time a pro-IS group has threatened attacks in India. After terror suspect Saifullah was killed by police in Lucknow on March 8, another pro-IS channel on Telegram had incited attacks in India.
That channel had also posted a photo of Saifullah and described him as a “soldier of the Khilafah from India”.
Indian security officials have said they are yet to procure proof that Saifullah was directly linked to the IS. They noted the photo of Saifullah posted on the Telegram channel was one released by Uttar Pradesh Police and not an image procured by the group before his death. They also said Saifullah was “self-radicalised”.
According to security agencies, some 75 Indians have so far joined IS. This includes 45 who went from India, mostly from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka, while the remainder were Indians living abroad. About 37 more were apprehended while they were making their way from India to territories controlled by IS.
Security agencies have stepped up efforts to prevent the radicalisation and recruitment of youngsters via the internet and communication apps, which are extensively used by the IS.
The US state department too has noted the threat to India from IS.
An advisory for American citizens issued last November said: “Recent Indian media reports indicate ISIL’s desire to attack targets in India.” The advisory warned Americans of “an increased threat in places in India frequented by Westerners”.
American Citizens: U.S. Border Agents Can Search Your Cellphone
byCYNTHIA MCFADDEN, E.D. CAUCHI, WILLIAM M. ARKINandKEVIN MONAHAN
When Buffalo, New York couple Akram Shibly and Kelly McCormick returned to the U.S. from a trip to Toronto on Jan. 1, 2017, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers held them for two hours, took their cellphones and demanded their passwords.
“It just felt like a gross violation of our rights,” said Shibly, a 23-year-old filmmaker born and raised in New York. But he and McCormick complied, and their phones were searched.
Three days later, they returned from another trip to Canada and were stopped again by CBP.
“One of the officers calls out to me and says, ‘Hey, give me your phone,'” recalled Shibly. “And I said, ‘No, because I already went through this.'”
The officer asked a second time.
Watch Cynthia McFadden on Nightly News for More
Within seconds, he was surrounded: one man held his legs, another squeezed his throat from behind. A third reached into his pocket, pulling out his phone. McCormick watched her boyfriend’s face turn red as the officer’s chokehold tightened.
Then they asked McCormick for her phone.
“I was not about to get tackled,” she said. She handed it over.
Shibly and McCormick’s experience is not unique. In 25 cases examined by NBC News, American citizens said that CBP officers at airports and border crossings demanded that they hand over their phones and their passwords, or unlock them.
The travelers came from across the nation, naturalized citizens and people born and raised on American soil. They traveled by plane and by car at different times through different states. Businessmen, couples, senior citizens, and families with young kids, questioned, searched, and detained for hours when they tried to enter or leave the U.S. None were on terror watchlists. One had a speeding ticket. Some were asked about their religion and their ethnic origins, and had the validity of their U.S. citizenship questioned
What most of them have in common — 23 of the 25 — is that they are Muslim, like Shibly, whose parents are from Syria.
Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.
According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015.
“That’s shocking,” said Mary Ellen Callahan, former chief privacy officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She wrote the rules and restrictions on how CBP should conduct electronic searches back in 2009. “That [increase] was clearly a conscious strategy, that’s not happenstance.”
“This really puts at risk both the security and liberty of the American people,” said Senator Ron Wyden, D-Oregon. “Law abiding Americans are being caught up in this digital dragnet.”
“This is just going to grow and grow and grow,” said Senator Wyden. “There’s tremendous potential for abuse here.”
What CBP agents call “detaining” cellphones didn’t start after Donald Trump’s election. The practice began a decade ago, late in the George W. Bush administration, but was highly focused on specific individuals.
The more aggressive tactics of the past two years, two senior intelligence officials told NBC News, were sparked by a string of domestic incidents in 2015 and 2016 in which the watch list system and the FBI failed to stop American citizens from conducting attacks. The searches also reflect new abilities to extract contact lists, travel patterns and other data from phones very quickly.
But the officials caution that rhetoric about a Muslim registry and ban during the presidential campaign also seems to have emboldened federal agents to act more forcefully.
“The shackles are off,” said Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “We see individual officers and perhaps supervisors as well pushing those limits, exceeding their authority and violating people’s rights.”
And multiple sources told NBC News that law enforcement and the Intelligence Community are exploiting a loophole to collect intelligence.
Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs at least reasonable suspicion if they want to search people or their possessions within the United States. But not at border crossings, and not at airport terminals.
“The Fourth Amendment, even for U.S. citizens, doesn’t apply at the border,” said Callahan. “That’s under case law that goes back 150 years.”
Customs and Border officers can search travelers without any level of suspicion. They have the legal authority to go through any object crossing the border within 100 miles, including smartphones and laptops. They have the right to take devices away from travelers for five days without providing justification. In the absence of probable cause, however, they have to give the devices back.
CBP also searches people on behalf of other federal law enforcement agencies, sending its findings back to partners in the DEA, FBI, Treasury and the National Counterterrorism Center, among others.
Callahan thinks that CBP’s spike in searches means it is exploiting the loophole “in order to get information they otherwise might hot have been able to.”
On January 31, an engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was pulled into additional screening upon his return to the U.S. after a two-week vacation in Chile. Despite being cleared by the Global Entry program, Sidd Bikkannavar received an “X” on his customs form. He is not Muslim, and he is not from any of the seven countries named in President Trump’s original “travel ban” executive order. Half his family comes from India but he was born and raised in California.
Bikkannavar was brought into a closed room and told to hand over his phone and passcode. He paid particular notice to the form CBP handed him which explained it had the right to copy the contents of the phone, and that the penalty for refusal was “detention.”
“I didn’t know if that meant detention of the phone or me and I didn’t want to find out,” said Bikkannavar. He tried to refuse but the officer repeatedly demanded the PIN. Eventually he acquiesced.
“Once they had that, they had everything,” Bikkannavar said. That access allowed CBP officers to review the backend of his social media accounts, work emails, call and text history, photos and other apps. He had expected security might physically search any travelers for potential weapons but accessing his digital data felt different. “Your whole digital life is on your phone.”
The officers disappeared with his phone and PIN. They returned 30 minutes later and let him go home.Sidd Bikkannavar poses for a portrait in 2014. Takashi Akaishi
CBP also regularly searches people leaving the country.
On February 9, Haisam Elsharkawi was stopped by security while trying to board his flight out of Los Angeles International Airport. He said that six Customs officers told him he was randomly selected. They demanded access to his phone and when he refused, Elsharkawi said they handcuffed him, locked him in the airport’s lower level and asked questions including how he became a citizen. Elsharkawi thought he knew his rights and demanded access to legal counsel.
“They said if I need a lawyer, then I must be guilty of something,” said Elsharkawi, and Egyptian-born Muslim and naturalized U.S. citizen. After four hours of questioning in detention, he unlocked his smartphone and, after a search, was eventually released. Elsharkawi said he intends to sue the Department of Homeland Security.
The current policy has not been updated since 2009. Jayson Ahern, who served in CBP under both Bush and Obama, signed off on the current policy. He said the electronic searches are supposed to be based on specific, articulable facts that raise security concerns. They are not meant to be random or routine or applied liberally to border crossers. “That’s reckless and that’s how you would lose the authority, never mind the policy.”
The Customs & Border Patrol policy manual says that electronic devices fall under the same extended search doctrine that allows them to scan bags in the typical security line.
“As the threat landscape changes, so does CBP,” a spokesperson told NBC News.
Since the policy was written in 2009, legal advocates argue, several court cases have set new precedents that could make some CBP electronic searches illegal.
Several former DHS officials pointed to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in Riley v California that determined law enforcement needed a warrant to search electronic devices when a person is being arrested. The court ruled unanimously, and Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.
“Modern cellphones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,'” wrote Roberts. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”
Because that case happened outside of the border context, however, CBP lawyers have repeatedly asserted in court that the ruling does not apply to border searches.
For now a Department of Justice internal bulletin has instructed that, unless border officers have a search warrant, they need to take protective measures to limit intrusions, and make sure their searches do not access travelers’ digital cloud data. The ‘cloud’ is all content not directly stored on a device, which includes anything requiring internet to access, like email and social media.
Former DHS officials who helped design and implement the search policy said they agreed with that guidance.
Wyden Pushes to Change the Policy
On February 20, Sen. Wyden wrote to DHS Secretary John Kelly demanding details on electronic search-practices used on U.S. citizens, and referred to the extent of electronic searches as government “overreach”. As of publication, he had yet to receive an answer.
Now Sen. Wyden says that as early as next week he plans to propose a bill that would require CBP to at least obtain a warrant to search electronics of U.S. citizens, and explicitly prevent officers from demanding passwords.
“The old rules … seem to be on the way to being tossed in the garbage can,” said Senator Wyden. “I think it is time to update the law.”
Asked about the Shibly case, a CBP spokesperson declined to comment, but said the Homeland Security Inspector General is investigating. The spokesperson said the agency can’t comment on open investigations or particular travelers, but that it “firmly denies any accusations of racially profiling travelers based on nationality, race, sex, religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs.”
Explaining the sharp increase in electronic searches, a department spokesperson told NBC News: “CBP has adapted and adjusted to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence.” A spokesman also noted that searches of citizens leaving the U.S. protect against the theft of American industrial and national security secrets.
After repeated communications, the Department of Homeland Security never responded to NBC News’ requests for comments. Nonetheless, the Homeland Security Inspector General is currently auditing CBP’s electronic search practices.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) also has filed two dozen complaints against CBP this year for issues profiling Muslim Americans. CAIR and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are considering legal action against the government for what they consider to be unconstitutional searches at the border.
A healthy debate is going on over social media and Saudi arenas mostly about objecting and welcoming a concept that is present in all countries all over the world, and has been absent in the kingdom for decades. It is entertainment, a concept absent from a state where 70% of its population is youth.
Naturally, any real change is equipped with enthusiastic supporters and conservative opposers, while a few await further developments to determine their position.
Vision 2030 admits implicitly that Saudi city life is boring and in routine and Saudi citizens constantly complain of lack of entertainment in their country.
Although the attendees’ queues, and many others who couldn’t attend events, prove the society’s excitement for entertainment, any rejection or discretion from others is a natural reaction for any real change in a society. Opposing any change is expected and should not be regarded as a strange thing.
I don’t think anyone can argue that entertainment as a concept is important for all societies, let alone that such trends are very profitable for neighboring countries, most of which are Saudi attendees.
The argument may be on the content of the events given that some think it is not suitable for the Saudi society. It is understandable as they are entitled to their own opinions regardless of what they are. Some prefer to attend such events in Bahrain, Dubai or Qatar. It is only a matter of time until those against such things will begin to accept the unavoidable truth.
Needless to say that there may occur mistakes and many events may get out of hand, which is also natural for an industry that is still young.
It is rather unfair to judge the entertainment committee and it has been a year since its establishment.
Industry of entertainment is crucial for Saudis not only for joy and amusement like many believe. There are many other purposes that no government should overlook, such as creating new job opportunities.
Entertainment, among other sectors, is expected to reduce unemployment from 11.6% to 7% which is close to the international rates and is the priority of the Saudi Vision 2030.
It would also boost tourism as part of the National Transform Program, knowing that in 2015, Saudis spent $26 billion on external tourism, and enhance both the private and public sectors to organize festivals.
It would also activate the role of public committees in contributing to establish and develop entertaining centers, encourage local and foreign investors to form partnerships with international companies, establish museums and libraries, and support talented authors and directors.
Not to forget the several cultural aspects that accompany such events and cater to everyone’s taste.
Is it possible to ignore all those social and economic benefits only because some don’t understand the truth about entertainment??
Development is not solely limited to the economic aspects; it is also about building a balanced healthy society capable of achieving a healthy relaxing environment.
Saudi Arabia is on its way to create a revolution in entertaining its citizens, improve the tourism sector, and enhance the infrastructure.
Those who are against this will eventually go on with the society’s desires no matter how long they object or how strong they criticize.
Massive lava stream exploding into ocean in Hawaii
5 of 5
This Jan. 28, 2017 photo, left, provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a crack that has developed near the site of a lava stream pouring out of a lava tube on the sea cliff at the Kamokuna ocean entry at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. The thermal image and graphic on the right shows the varying temperature of lava and rock within the crack, reaching as high as 428 degrees Fahrenheit 220 degrees Celsius). A USGS geologist with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory said Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017 that one of the biggest concerns is this large “hot crack” above the lava tube, running parallel to the sea cliff and makes the land susceptible to collapse.
A dramatic “firehose” stream of molten lava continued to shoot out of a sea cliff Wednesday on Hawaii Island, splashing into the Pacific Ocean below and exploding upon impact.
The massive Kilauea flow is coming from a lava tube at the Kamokuna ocean entry on the southeast side of the Big Island. The lava is gushing from a tube that was exposed when a huge, 26-acre lava delta collapsed into the ocean at the site on New Year’s Eve. The collapse of the newly formed land triggered massive explosions and giant waves in the area.
The lava stream, dubbed a “firehose” flow because it shoots lava outward from the source, started out as a drizzle coming down the sea cliffs after the New Year collapse, but has recently increased in intensity. The molten lava is now arching out and falling about 70 feet to the ocean below.
When the molten lava hits the cool seawater, it reacts, causing explosions that can throw large chunks of hot rock and debris inland, where people hike in to see the lava, and seaward, where tour boats cruise the shoreline.
One of the biggest concerns is a large “hot crack” above the lava tube. The crack runs parallel to the sea cliff and makes the land susceptible to collapse, said USGS geologist Janet Babb.
The National Park Service has restricted the areas that people can go to view the flow.
JNS.org – A preeminent Israeli archaeologist was censured by Islamic guards on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount for using the term “Temple Mount” while delivering a lecture to a group of students.
Dr. Gabriel Barkay, who gained international fame for his archaeological discoveries as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project, was delivering a lecture to a multi-faith group of students from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) on the Temple Mount Sunday when guards from the Islamic Waqf approached him, attempting to have Barkay ejected by Israeli police for repeatedly using the name “Temple Mount,” according to The Times of Israel.
Israeli police told the Islamic guards, who patrol the site for the Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf, that they had no grounds to eject Barkay, while also telling the Israeli archaeologist to refrain from using the term for the rest of the visit. Barkay proceeded to refer to the site by its initials “TM,” the report said.
The incident comes amid Palestinian attempts to erase Jewish connection to Jerusalem’s holy sites. In October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a series of Palestinian-backed resolutions that referred to the Temple Mount exclusively by its Muslim names – Haram al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque – while ignoring any Jewish or Christian ties to the holy site.
A Lonely Full Moon Rises Early on Lake Lanier, GA (c) 2016 Wil Robinson
Last summer, beneath a lonely full moon that cried out to me, “Chill Out, Dude,” I relaxed a little. I enjoyed the solitude, the sound of waves slapping the hull, and the breeze filling the sails. When finally the sun dropped behind the pine trees to the west, I stirred only to discover the battery was dead. That meant no lights. Darkness stole the evening and my peaceful sail. Then, naturally, the breeze dropped out and the sails lay ideal, and Cassandra, a heavy, full-keeled, twenty-five-foot sailboat, came to an abrupt halt.
Tens of thousands of people have escaped a deadly wildfire in East Tennessee. Here’s a look at the aftermath of the disaster. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)
Two juveniles have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with the East Tennessee wildfires that killed 14 people last week and left nearly 150 others injured, authorities said Wednesday.
During an investigation involving local, state and federal agents, “information was developed that two juveniles allegedly started the fire,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a news release.
Both were taken into custody Wednesday morning and are being held at the Sevier County Juvenile Detention Center.
The suspects are Tennessee residents, District Attorney General Jimmy B. Dunn said at a news conference in Sevierville. No additional information about the youths was made available, including their age and gender.
“I understand that you have a lot of questions,” Dunn told reporters. “However, the law does not allow for the disclosure of additional information at this time.”
He added that additional charges “are being considered” and said the juveniles could be tried as adults.
Officials say two juveniles are being held on arson charges and additional charges are being considered in connection with the deadly wildfires that broke out last month in Tennessee. (Reuters)
The “Chimney Tops 2” fire was first reported Nov. 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, according to the National Park Service. The wildfire exploded on Nov. 28, as massive walls of flames spread down the mountains into Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge with shocking speed, according to those who fled with little more than the clothes on their backs.
The fires that engulfed the two tourist towns outside the park and shut down one of the country’s most popular natural attractions left more than 1,750 structures damaged or destroyed, most of them single-family residences. Additionally, thousands of wooded acres burned in the most-visited national park in the United States.
Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller called the devastation “unfathomable.”
Lt. Steve Coker of the Sevierville Fire Dept. captured video of the wildfires burning in eastern Tennessee as his fire crew moved through the town of Gatlinburg on Nov. 28. (Twitter @alliecoker7)
Although wind gusts exceeding 60 mph caused the disaster to explode in Sevier County, fires had been brewing for months in this region. More than 150,000 acres have been charred in the Southeast by large fires, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and nearly 4,000 firefighters have been called into action to fight blazes that keep popping up.
The wind carried the flames from the nearby Chimney Tops fire across ground parched by a historic drought and into the surrounding towns. The fire moved too fast and too far to contain. “This is a fire for the history books,” Miller said last week. “The likes of this has never been seen here.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) called the fire the state’s worst in at least a century.
“To the residents of Sevier County: We stand with you and are committed to making sure justice is served in this case,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said at the news conference Wednesday.
He added: “Our promise is that we will do every effort to help bring closure to those who have lost so much.”
The investigation, Gwyn said, is ongoing.
Gatlinburg, with a population of about 4,000 about 43 miles south of Knoxville, is surrounded on three sides by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smokies, part of the Appalachian mountain range, straddle the border between eastern Tennessee and North Carolina.
Considered the gateway town to the Tennessee side of the park, Gatlinburg draws more than 11 million visitors a year, according to tourism officials. It is known for its mountain chalets and ski lodge — drawing honeymooners and other visitors all year-long.
Despite two days of heavy rains earlier this week, there are nearly 800 firefighters still battling the fires on the mountains. The fire is about 64 percent contained, authorities said Wednesday, and parts of the park remain closed.
But downtown Gatlinburg was spared, and property owners, business owners, renters and lease holders were allowed to return to full-time occupancy on Wednesday. The tourist destination is expected to reopen for business on Friday.
Angela Fritz and Peter Holley contributed to this post, which has been updated numerous times.
This morning I received a comment from one of the folks who follow this blog which made me think of the subject matter of this article. Their blog site is (thecomfortablecoop.wordpress.com). Their comment was about an article that I recently reblogged about the local and State standoff at Standing Rock North Dakota with the Indian folks there. It was their view on how people view other people and about people in general not caring about or thinking about other people that made an old memory of mine come alive. This memory is what this article is about. This memory is about a real, true fact, there is nothing ‘made up’ in the article, I hope you enjoy the read. In fact, I have decided to simply do a copy paste of my response to her comment as I doubt that I could write it any better if I tried to do it again.
K.D., think about this one for a moment. I hate to say it is in our “white mans” culture still today, but I don’t know what else to call it. Still today we take care to relocate old grave yards of white folks if a city, county, or State government decides they need to build on that land or to even put a road through it but we still give Native Americans no such respect. I have an example for you of a case that has always bothered me. Just west of Wilcox Arizona is a small family owned business that was bought ‘as is’ just after WW-2 that has a small, old Museum, but with many very cool items in it, except for the ‘Main Attraction’. The big advertisements about this location is called (The Thing). It only cost $1 per person to walk through this Museum and it is well worth the cost. But, in the very last building is ‘The Thing’ which is under glass so that people can’t mess with it. What is this ‘Thing’? This business is located just a little east of Benson Arizona, between them is a beautiful rocky area called ‘Texas Canyon’, this is suppose to be where the Apache Chief Geronimo had his ‘hideout’. This (Thing) is basically a Mummy, it is a very crude Mummy, but still a Mummy. Of what? It is obvious at least to me that it is of an Indian woman who is holding a very, very small baby, as in a new born. To me it is obvious that this ‘woman’ must have died in child birth along with her baby. She must have been someone important in the Tribe for them to try to ‘Mummify” her, who knows, maybe even the wife or daughter of Geronimo? But really, the ‘Thing’? Can you just imagine the outcry if this had been a white woman and her newborn baby? This response is just my way of saying, I agree with you K.D.
Well, that is my little history lesson for the day I guess, I hope you liked the information. Most of my adult life was spent behind the windshield of a semi-truck driving all over the lower 48 States and all of Canada. I always enjoyed the scenery on interstates 10-20 and 40. This location is on interstate 10 on the south-side of the highway. It is a place that I stopped at several times throughout the years because they had a good amount of ‘truck parking’. They also have an excellent store of many different items that are made by ‘Indian’ people in the region, and their prices were always fair. It is a good ‘rest area’ plus they have a Dairy Queen inside. The reason I brought this location up is because I have always felt bad about this poor ‘unknown’ lady and her stillborn baby. Personally I do not know how such things can be legal in 21st Century America yet they obviously are. But my question to you is, if this ‘Thing’ was a white woman and her baby, would it be legal then?
I close my note to you today by coming back to the title of this article today. If this was your Mom, Sister, or Wife, and your Baby, how would it make you feel? Would it matter to you? Would you wrap your family member in a blanket, say she is a Mummy and sell her to the highest bidder? Folks, I’m just asking…. What’s your thoughts on this matter? Do the people at Standing Rock matter less because ‘their just a bunch of Indians’? Is it really true that here in the good ole USA that only big companies and big money really mean anything, or is it just because they are only a ‘bunch of Indians’? I think it is way past time for a new movement called “Red Lives Matter Too”!
Search-and-rescue teams continued Wednesday to scour the charred hills and ridges around the mountain resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn., after wildfires fueled by severe winds roared through eastern Tennessee.
As the death toll climbed to seven Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, hot spots continued to blaze around the quaint Appalachian tourism center that attracts 11 million people a year. Residents and visitors remained under a mandatory evacuation order after more than 250 homes, vacation cabins, motels and businesses were reduced to rubble.
While overnight storms dropped long-awaited rain early Wednesday, helping to douse the parched, fire-ravaged landscape, they also brought a risk of flooding. On Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for Gatlinburg and surrounding Sevier County.
The storms also wreaked havoc on tiny, rural communities across the Southeast, killing five people and injuring dozens in Alabama and Tennessee.
Three people perished when a tornado demolished a mobile home in the small town of Rosalie, in northeastern Alabama. Five miles east, a daycare center in Ider, Ala., was destroyed, leaving four children in critical condition. A married couple was also killed in Polk County in southern Tennessee, the state Department of Health said.
“We don’t usually get tornadoes this time of year,” said Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen of Jackson County, Ala., where 50 buildings were damaged or destroyed. “But this has not been a normal weather year.”
Wildfires have been spreading for weeks in the Southeast, where severe drought persists. As many as 20 large fires are currently blazing across 142,000 acres, according to Adam Rondeau, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service, who described the unusually parched conditions as creating the “perfect storm” for active wildfires.
On Monday night, high winds swept eastern Tennessee, blowing burning embers from a wildfire on Chimney Tops mountain into Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Local officials and residents in the town were taken aback by how swiftly the fires spread as winds ignited new fire spots and knocked live power lines down onto dry autumn leaves. In a span of just 15 minutes, the fire chief said, emergency workers were alerted to almost 20 burning buildings.
“You know, it happened so fast, it was staggering,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner, who lost his two-story home as well as the condominium business he has managed for 31 years. “When you’ve got winds of up to 87 mph pushing fire, people were basically running for their lives.”
Michael Luciano, who lives in Chalet Village, west of downtown Gatlinburg, recorded on cellphone video his harrowing journey down a narrow mountain road in a pickup truck, past flaming orange trees and cabins. (Warning, video contains profanity.)
“Hit the gas,” he screamed at his brother, Anthony Fulton, as red flames engulfed both sides of the road and embers bounced off the windshield. Their frightened dog can be heard panting in the background
Smoke filled their truck as they hurtled past blazing, burnt-out structures. “No warning, nothing…” Luciano exclaimed. “Almost every cabin in Chalet Village is burning to the freakin’ ground!”
Dozens of guests and staff found themselves trapped inside the Park Vista, a modern, high-rise hotel perched on a ridge above downtown Gatlinburg. Some fled outside with their luggage, only to find the sole road to safety blocked by fallen trees and flames.
“Then the flames came up into the parking lot,” Logan Baker, a hotel guest, told WBIR-TV.
As Baker and his aunt frantically tried to help guests get back inside, he said, embers started flying through the doors and into the hotel. Firefighters barricaded the hotel and urged guests to huddle in the center of the smoke-filled lobby as they worked to beat the fire back from the building.
Across Gatlinburg and surrounding Sevier County, hundreds of structures were damaged and destroyed – from the Sleepy Bear Motel to Cupid’s Chapel of Love, a tiny wedding venue.
State Highway 441 into Gatlinburg remained closed, and more than 14,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated. At least 45 people were taken to the hospital.
“This is a fire for the history books,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said at a news conference Tuesday.
“A lot of us have heavy hearts about what’s happened here,” Gov. Bill Haslam said at another news press conference Tuesday evening, noting that it was “a little numbing” to take in the extent of the devastation. “This is the largest fire in the last 100 years in the state of Tennessee.”
Still, much of downtown and some major tourist attractions appeared to have been spared. More than 10,000 animals at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg remained safe, even though staff had been forced to evacuate Monday. In nearby Pigeon Forge, some cabins at the Dollywood theme park — co-owned by country singer Dolly Parton, who is from the area — were damaged or destroyed, yet the park remained unscathed after firefighters dug a fire line.
With more than 10,000 people without power, emergency workers cleared debris Wednesday morning and went door to door checking on residents.
“We have not been able to get in all of the areas,” Miller said. “We pray that we don’t experience any more fatalities.”
Jarvie is a special Los Angeles Times correspondent. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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welcome to the new world.its all about human values,philanthropy.nature gave you everything,now its your time to do something for people.let the live people.#poems #hindi #nation #inspirational #motivation #indian #human