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Rescuers search for survivors in Italy quake that killed 247

Frances D'Emilio and Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

Rescue crews raced against time Thursday looking for survivors from the earthquake that levelled three towns in central Italy, but the death toll rose to 247 and Italy once again anguished over trying to secure its medieval communities built on seismic lands.

Dawn broke over the rolling hills of central Lazio and Le Marche regions after a night of uninterrupted search efforts. Aided by sniffer dogs and audio equipment, firefighters and rescue crews using their bare hands pulled chunks of cement, rock and metal apart from mounds of rubble where homes once stood searching for signs of life.

One area of focus was the Hotel Roma in Amatrice, famous for the Amatriciana bacon and tomato pasta sauce that brings food lovers to this medieval hilltop town each August for its food festival.

Firefighters search amid the rubble of a collapsed building in Amatrice, Italy, after a powerful earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Alessandra Tarantino
Firefighters search amid the rubble of a collapsed building in Amatrice, Italy, after a powerful earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Alessandra Tarantino


Amatrice’s mayor had initially said 70 guests were in the crumbled hotel ahead of this weekend’s festival, but rescue workers later halved that estimate after the owner said most guests managed to escape.

Firefighters’ spokesman Luca Cari said that one body had been pulled out of the hotel rubble just before dawn but that the search continued there and elsewhere, even as 460 aftershocks rattled the area after the magnitude 6 temblor struck at 3:36 a.m. on Wednesday.

“We’re still in a phase that allows us to hope we’ll find people alive,” Cari said, noting that in the 2009 earthquake in nearby L’Aquila a survivor was pulled out after 72 hours.

Worst affected by the quake were the tiny towns of Amatrice and Accumoli near Rieti, 100 kilometres northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto, 25 kilometres further east.

This aerial photo shows the historical part of the town of Amatrice, central Italy, after an earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gregorio Borgia
This aerial photo shows the historical part of the town of Amatrice, central Italy, after an earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Gregorio Borgia


Italy’s civil protection agency reported the death toll had risen to 247 early Thursday with at least 264 others hospitalized. Most of the 190 dead were in Amatrice and Accumuli and their nearby hamlets.

“From here everyone survived,” said Sister Mariana, one of three nuns and an elderly woman who survived the quake that pancaked half of her Amatrice convent.

“They saved each other, they took their hands even while it was falling apart, and they ran, and they survived.”

She said that others from another part of the convent apparently didn’t make it: Three other nuns and four elderly women.

The civil protection agency set up tent cities around the affected towns to accommodate the homeless, 1,200 of whom took advantage of the offer to spend the night, civil protection officials said Thursday. In Amatrice, some 50 elderly and children spent the night inside a local sports facility.

“It’s not easy for them,” said civil protection volunteer Tiziano De Carolis, helping to care for about 350 homeless in Amatrice.

“They have lost everything, the work of an entire life, like those who have a business, a shop, a pharmacy, a grocery store and from one day to another they discovered everything they had was destroyed.”

As the search effort continued, the soul-searching began once again as Italy confronted the effects of having the highest seismic hazard in Western Europe, some of its most picturesque medieval villages, and anti-seismic building codes that aren’t applied to old buildings and often aren’t respected when new ones are built.

Rescuers search through debris following an earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Andrew Medichini
Rescuers search through debris following an earthquake in Pescara Del Tronto, Italy, on Aug. 24, 2016. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Andrew Medichini


“In a country where in the past 40 years there have been at least eight devastating earthquakes … the only lesson we have learned is to save lives after the fact,” columnist Sergio Rizzo wrote in Thursday’s Corriere della Sera. “We are far behind in the other lessons.”

Experts estimate that 70 per cent of Italy’s buildings aren’t built to anti-seismic standards. After every major quake, proposals are made to improve, but they often languish in Italy’s thick bureaucracy, funding shortages and the huge scope of trying to secure thousands of ancient towns and newer structures built before codes were passed or after the codes were in effect but in violation of them.

In recent quakes, some of these more modern buildings have been the deadliest: the university dormitory that collapsed in the 2009 L’Aquila quake, killing 11 students; the elementary school that crumbled in San Giuliano di Puglia in 2002, killing 26 children – the town’s entire first-grade class. In some cases, the anti-seismic building standards have been part of the problem, including using reinforced cement for roofs that are then too heavy for weak walls when quakes strike.

Premier Matteo Renzi, visiting the quake-affected zone Wednesday, promised to rebuild “and guarantee a reconstruction that will allow residents to live in these communities, to relaunch these beautiful towns that have a wonderful past that will never end.”

While the government is already looking ahead to reconstruction, rescue workers on the ground still had days and weeks of work ahead of them. In hard-hit Pescara del Tronto, firefighter Franco Mantovan said early Thursday that crews knew of three residents still under the rubble, but in a hard-to-reach area.

In the evening there, about 17 hours after the quake struck, firefighters pulled a 10-year-old girl alive from a crumbled home.

“You can hear something under here. Quiet, quiet,” one rescue worker said, before soon urging her on: “Come on, Giulia, come on, Giulia.” Cheers broke out when she was pulled out.

But there were wails when bodies emerged.

“Unfortunately, 90 per cent we pull out are dead, but some make it, that’s why we are here,” said Christian Bianchetti, a volunteer from Rieti who was working in devastated Amatrice.

The Associated Press’ Nicole Winfield reported from Rome; Trisha Thomas in Pescara del Tronto contributed to this report.

Possible tornado in Windsor area injures three, damages homes

The Canadian Press and News staff | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

More than a dozen homes were damaged and at least three people injured Wednesday evening amid multiple reports of a possible tornado touching down in southwestern Ontario.

Environment Canada said an eyewitness saw a tornado near LaSalle, a bedroom community near Windsor, at about 7:10 p.m. ET.

The national weather agency had issued a tornado warning for Windsor, Leamington and Essex County around 7:28 p.m.

Environment Canada described the storm and possible tornado as a “dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation” before lifting its tornado warning at about 8 p.m.

Geno Olivastri said he walked outside his home and noticed some debris stirring about and the next thing he knew, a funnel cloud was forming.

“I was totally shocked at what I was seeing,” he told CityNews. “It was pretty incredible to see something like that in this area. I don’t recall the last time a tornado has been through the LaSalle area, so I was pretty scary.”

A funnel cloud in the Windsor area on Aug. 24, 2016. Courtesy of Geno Olivastri.
A funnel cloud in the Windsor area on Aug. 24, 2016. Courtesy of Geno Olivastri.

Mark Robinson, a storm chaser with stormhunter.ca, posted images of the damage in Windsor from his Twitter account.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said about 15 homes had been damaged in the storm and that the Red Cross and city agencies were trying to determine how to best help the affected residents.

“We’re just trying to assess what needs to be done to make sure those folks are taken care of by the way of accommodation for this evening.”

Dilkens also told a late night news briefing at a city fire station that three people suffered non-life threatening injuries.

“There were three people transported to hospital … the injuries were reported as not life-threatening, not critical injuries, but they were taken to hospital as a precaution.”

Windsor police were warning residents to avoid the Deziel Dr. area because of damage.

They also reported that hydro poles had been knocked down and there were some live wires as a result.

Lasalle resident Tom Greer said he was on his back porch with his girlfriend watching the storm when he saw funnel clouds forming in the distance.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Greer, adding that he saw tree branches and other debris swirling around.

He said the area with the most damage was just a kilometre from his home.

“We went for a drive afterward and some houses had the roofs torn off,” Greer said of the homes on Victory Street — the area that he said sustained the most damage.

A spokeswoman for Environment Canada said a team would be in the area early Thursday to assess the damage and confirm whether a tornado had touched down.

Tornadoes touch down in U.S.

South of the border, multiple tornadoes touched down in central Indiana, tearing the roofs off apartment buildings, sending air conditioners falling onto parked cars and cutting power to thousands of people.

The National Weather Service reported a “confirmed large and destructive tornado” hit about 10 miles east of Kokomo, or about 64 kilometres north of Indianapolis.

Police officers in Indianapolis spotted at least two funnel clouds close to the ground in the city just south of Interstate 70, but the department had received no reports of damage, according to Officer Jim Gillespie of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

Local emergency dispatchers said only minor injuries had been reported. Television station WTHR showed images of downed trees and a toppled Starbucks in the area.

With files from The Associated Press

Justin Bieber’s dad denies involvement with Bowmanville Zoo fundraiser

CityNews | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

Justin Bieber’s dad is denying media and zoo reports that the family is involved in a fundraiser at the Bowmanville Zoo.

“My family is in no way affiliated or supports any zoo. Nor are we [a part] of or the host of any fundraiser,” Jeremy Bieber wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

The Bowmanville Zoo was selling tickets – at $295 each – for an event called the Bieber Family Fun Day. Initially scheduled for Sunday, it was meant to raise money to relocate the zoo’s animals before the zoo shuts down at the end of the 2016 season. However, the link to purchase tickets now goes to a blank page, with only the Bowmanville Zoo logo to be seen.

Tickets that have already been purchased will be refunded, the Zoo wrote on Facebook.

The Durham Region newspaper said a zoo spokesperson told them that Justin Bieber would be attending, but later recanted.

Both the zoo and Bieber have come under harsh criticism for their treatment of animals. Bieber posed with a tiger at a party and held a lion cub at a concert. Both animals were allegedly provided by the Bowmanville Zoo.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charged zoo owner Michael Hackenberger with four counts of causing an animal distress and one of failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care for an animal. Hackenberger has since stepped down.

Related stories:

Justin Bieber gets warning from Toronto after appearing with lions in city

Justin Bieber under fire from PETA for posing with Bowmanville tiger

Bowmanville Zoo will close down at the end of 2016 season

Close to 6,000 strollers being recalled due to safety issue

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

Health Canada has recalled almost 6,000 strollers sold under the brand name Safety 1st.

The Step n Go Travel Systems strollers were manufactured in China and distributed by Mississauga-based Dorel Juvenile Canada.

The federal agency says a tray folding mechanism can partially disengage on one side when an infant car seat is attached, posing a fall hazard.

Health Canada says about 5,787 of the affected strollers were sold in Canada between May 2015 and June 2016. Dorel Juvenile Canada has eight consumer reports about the trays disengaging but there are no reports of any injuries.

Health Canada says anyone who owns one of these strollers should stop using it with a car seat attached and contact the company for a free repair kit.

Three models are affected, identified as 01451CCYA, 01451CDGI and 01451CDGJ. The numbers are on a sewn-in label at the back of the stroller.

The recall also covers some 20,000 units which were sold in the United States.

For me, the burkini’s only offence is that it’s a fashion crime

Ginella Massa | posted Thursday, Aug 25th, 2016

Four years ago, one of my friends asked me to be her maid of honour at her destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. The first thing that went through my mind was how excited and honoured I was. The second thing was, “Crap, what am I going to wear?”

I wear the hijab, and along with it cover my arms and legs in public. I wasn’t just worried about my bridesmaid dress. (That had its own set of modifications, like finding a matching dress below knee-length, a bolero with long sleeves to go on top, and a scarf just the right shade of blue.) I was also worried about what I would wear at a beachside resort during a week that was likely to be filled with lots of fun water activities. Frankly, even if I wasn’t observant, I wouldn’t be very comfortable baring all my flabby bits in an itty-bitty bikini.

When I told a friend about the trip, she told me she had ordered a “burkini” online. The name is a play on the words burka and bikini, which is a bit of a deceiving label for what essentially looks like a diving suit that covers the arms and legs. I told her I thought most of the burkini designs were hideous, and that I would never be caught dead wearing one.

I ended up spending most of that trip wearing T-shirts and cycling tights over a bathing suit, and a swimming cap over my hair. At first, I felt a bit self-conscious being the only one fully covered, while everyone else was in bikinis, but after a while I realized no one really cared. So, I stopped worrying and concentrated on enjoying myself. We played beach volleyball, swam in the ocean, and took a day trip on a catamaran where we even got to touch starfish. It was an amazing trip and the most time I’d spent in the water in years.

These past few weeks I kept thinking about that trip as I read headlines about a number of French tourist towns banning the burkini. The more I read, the angrier I felt. The mayor of Cannes has said burkinis fail to “respect good morals and secularism” and are “manifesting religious affiliation in an ostentatious way.” I became absolutely enraged when I saw pictures of French police literally forcing a woman out of her clothing on a Nice beach while her children watched in horror, and issuing her a fine. She wasn’t even wearing a burkini — She was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, tights, and a scarf wrapped around her head.

I could only imagine how I would have felt on that trip to the Dominican, where I was there to celebrate my friend’s marriage and enjoy a week on the water, if a police officer approached me, threatened me with pepper spray, and told me to strip or get off the beach.

I may think burkinis are kind of ugly, but to me the idea that they are an affront to freedom is absolutely ridiculous. I believe the only thing burkinis reject is the notion that the beach is a place for bikini-clad bodies only. When I walked onto the beach in Punta Cana wearing what I felt comfortable in, I was saying to the world that only I decide what I do with my body.

There are so many reasons why woman may want to cover.

When I was in high school, I had Christian friends who didn’t wear bikinis at the pool. They always covered their bathing suits with T-shirts in an attempt to be more modest. A friend who doesn’t wear the hijab told me she bought a burkini-style swimsuit because she doesn’t feel comfortable baring her midriff after having kids. There are countless others with skin conditions or those who are sensitive to the sun — Will they be banned from France’s beaches?

The problem is, it seems to me, that this ban is in essence a ban on freedom and choice — the very thing France claims to be fighting for. They are criminalizing the acting of being clothed. Officials are effectively saying, “Here, we only value women by their sexuality. Undress or get out.”

Burkinis or bathing suits — No one should tell women what to wear. Forcing women out of their clothing makes French officials just as bad as the extremists who force women to cover up.

Maybe I’ll consider getting myself a burkini after all.

Strong quake rocks central Italy, at least 37 reported dead


A devastating earthquake rocked central Italy early Wednesday, collapsing homes on top of residents as they slept. At least 37 people were killed in hard-hit towns where rescue crews raced to dig survivors out of the rubble, but the toll was likely to rise as crews reached homes in more remote hamlets.

“The town isn’t here anymore,” said Sergio Pirozzi, the mayor of Amatrice.

The magnitude 6-quake struck at 3:36 a.m. local time and was felt across a broad swath of central Italy, including Rome, where residents felt a long swaying followed by aftershocks. The temblor was felt from the Lazio region into Umbria and Le Marche on the Adriatic coast.

The hardest-hit towns were Amatrice, Accumoli near near Rieti, some 100 kilometres northeast of Rome, and Pescara del Tronto further east. Italy’s civil protection agency said the preliminary toll was 37 dead, several hundred injured and thousands in need of temporary housing, though it stressed the numbers were fluid.

The centre of Amatrice was devastated, with entire buildings razed and the air thick with dust and smelling strongly of gas.

Rocks and metal tumbled onto the streets and dazed residents huddled in piazzas as some 39 aftershocks jolted the region into the early morning hours, some as strong as 5.1.

“The whole ceiling fell but did not hit me,” marveled resident Maria Gianni. “I just managed to put a pillow on my head and I wasn’t hit luckily, just slightly injured my leg.”

Another woman, sitting in front of her destroyed home with a blanket over her shoulders, said she didn’t know what had become of her loved ones.

“It was one of the most beautiful towns of Italy and now there’s nothing left,” she said, too distraught to give her name. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”

As daylight dawned, residents, civil protection workers and even priests began digging out with shovels, bulldozers and their bare hands, trying to reach survivors. There was relief as a woman was pulled out alive from one building, followed by a dog.

“We need chain saws, shears to cut iron bars, and jacks to remove beams: everything, we need everything,” civil protection worker Andrea Gentili told The Associated Press. Italy’s national blood drive association appealed for donations to Rieti’s hospital.

The devastation harked back to the 2009 quake that killed more than 300 people in and around L’Aquila, about 90 kilometres south of the latest quake. The town sent emergency teams Wednesday to help with the rescue.

“I don’t know what to say. We are living this immense tragedy,” said the Rev. Savino D’Amelio, a parish priest in Amatrice. “We are only hoping there will be the least number of victims possible and that we all have the courage to move on.”

Another hard-hit town was Pescara del Tronto, in the Le Marche region, where the main road was covered in debris. The ANSA news agency reported 10 dead there without citing the source, but there was no confirmation.

Residents were digging their neighbours out by hand since emergency crews hadn’t yet arrived in force. Photos taken from the air by regional firefighters showed the town essentially flattened.

“There are broken liquor bottles all over the place,” lamented Gino Petrucci, owner of a bar in nearby Arquata Del Tronto where he was beginning the long cleanup.

The Italian geological service put the magnitude at 6.0; the U.S. Geological Survey reported 6.2 with the epicenter at Norcia, about 170 kilometres northeast of Rome, and with a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres.

“Quakes with this magnitude at this depth in our territory in general create building collapses, which can result in deaths,” said the head of Italy’s civil protection service, Fabrizio Curcio. He added that the region is popular with tourists escaping the heat of Rome, with more residents than at other times of the year, and that a single building collapse could raise the toll significantly.

The mayor of Accumoli, Stefano Petrucci, said six people had died there, including a family of four, and two others. He wept as he noted that the tiny hamlet of 700 swells to 2,000 in the summer months, and that he feared for the future of the town.

“I hope they don’t forget us,” he told Sky TG24.

In Amatrice, the Rev. Fabio Gammarota, priest of a nearby parish, said he had blessed seven bodies extracted so far. “One was a friend of mine,” he said.

Pirozzi estimated dozens of residents were buried under collapsed buildings and that heavy equipment was needed to clear streets clogged with debris.

Premier Matteo Renzi’s office tweeted that heavy equipment was arriving.

A 1997 quake killed a dozen people in the area and severely damaged one of the jewels of Umbria, the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, filled with Giotto frescoes. The Franciscan friars who are the custodians of the basilica reported no immediate damage from Wednesday’s temblor.

Pope Francis skipped his traditional catechism for his Wednesday general audience and instead invited pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to recite the rosary with him.

Teen in hospital after Hamilton gorge fall

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Aug 23rd, 2016

An 18-year-old man is in critical condition after falling hundreds of feet at the Spencer Gorge Wilderness Area in Hamilton.

Firefighters were able to use ropes to rescue him. He was then rushed to hospital, where he remains.

He fell around 11:30 p.m. on Monday, and was pulled to safety around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

He had friends with him when he fell, some of whom went with him to hospital.

Horses escape harm in Oakville barn fire

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Aug 23rd, 2016

An Oakville barn was destroyed in a fire on Tuesday morning but no horses were injured.

The horses were in the field as the fire erupted at Bertin Stables on Dundas Street East just west of Bronte Road around 1:30 a.m.

There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire or the cost of the damage.

A section of Dundas is closed for the investigation.

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