Review Category : Top Stories

Authorities Working to ‘Positively Identify’ Seven Killed in Tennessee Wildfire

Brian Blanco/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Authorities said Thursday that they are still working on trying to “positively identify” the seven people killed by the massive wildfire in eastern Tennessee.

The blaze, which has injured at least 74 others, has burned more than 17,100 acres of land and devastated the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and other surrounding areas in Sevier County, according to officials.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has called the wildfire the state’s largest fire in 100 years.

“It is certainly a distressing time for all of us,” Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters said at a news conference Thursday. He added that he and the city are extending their thoughts and prayers to the families of the seven victims.

In addition to working on positively identifying the seven deceased, authorities said they are also trying to compile a list of missing persons in areas affected by the wildfire.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) established a hotline to coordinate reports of missing persons on Wednesday, Waters said. Those who wish to report missing individuals are urged contact 1-800-TBI-FIND, he added.

The hotline has received more than 100 calls in less than 24 hours, according to officials.

Firefighters and responders have made “significant process” in searching and clearing areas affected by the fire, Waters said.

The eastern part of the city of Gatlinburg has been opened and local officials are hoping to allow owners to access their properties “in a controlled process” by the beginning of next week, according to Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Ogle.

She added that officials are working on getting up a website that will contain a list of properties damaged by the fire. That website will be updated gradually as officials receive more information, Ogle noted.

A recent “significant amount of rainfall” has helped contain the wildfire, which continues to burn on Thursday, according to Cassius Cash, superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the fire started.

However, Cash said Thursday that people should not let the rain “give us a false sense of security.” He emphasized that it would take some time to completely put out the fire and recover from its devastation.

Despite the destruction the blaze has left, there has been an “overwhelming” outpouring of support and donations from across the country, officials said.

Dolly Parton has promised to donate $1,000 per month for six months to families that lost their homes, said David Dotson, president of The Dollywood Foundation.

Dotson said at the news conference Thursday that Parton was “heartbroken” and has set up a website where people around the world can donate. He said the website has not even been up for 24 hours yet, but “the world is responding in a big way.”

“We’re going to be strong,” added Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. “We’re going to be back better than ever.”

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Armed Man in Custody After Hostage Situation at Florida Bank

iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — An armed man was taken into custody after a hostage situation stemming from a bank robbery at a Jacksonville, Florida, bank, authorities said Thursday morning.

Eleven hostages were rescued, authorities said, adding that no one was injured.

Thursday morning’s incident began with a gunman taking hostages inside the Community First Credit Union. As the situation unfolded, the suspect released a couple of hostages, but continued to threaten people, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at news conference.

Williams said the suspect threatened to kill hostages multiple times and put a gun to the back of hostages’ heads a couple times.

At one point, two hostages tried to flee, which distracted the suspect, and that’s when SWAT team members stormed into the bank, taking the suspect into custody, Williams said.

While the situation was resolved peacefully, the victims — employees and bank customers — are “shaken up,” Williams said.

The suspect is not a bank employee, Williams added.

John Hirabayashi, CEO and president at Community First Credit Union, said in a statement, “We are so thankful that today’s hostage situation resolved itself in a safe way. Our hearts and prayers are with the families and membership.”

While the hostage situation was unfolding, the mother of a bank employee told local news station First Coast News that she hadn’t been able to reach her 45-year-old daughter, who she knew had left for work that morning.

“I don’t know what is going on,” the employee’s mother said, appearing emotional. “She just had a birthday.”

Directly across the street from the bank, staff members and children huddled inside a church/day care. One woman said they were trapped inside the day care and church building because of the police and fire trucks blocking the street. She told ABC News she wasn’t scared, saying, “We have God.”

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Cooper Tire Buys 65 Percent Stake In Chinese Rubber Company

12/1/16 – 7:27 A.M.

Cooper Tire and Rubber is expanding its presence in China. The company says it has bought a 65 percent stake in the Qingdao Ge Rui Da Rubber Company, also known as GRT. GRT makes truck and bus radial tires. Cooper says it will make tires for North American and Asian markets.

GRT’s plant in China is one-million-square-feet. Cooper says the factory has room for expansion.

A statement from Cooper CEO Brad Hughes says “Our partnership with GRT is an important step in Cooper’s strategic plan as it diversifies our TBR tire supply beyond a single source.”

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Suspect in Custody After Hostage Situation at Florida Bank

iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — A suspect was taken into custody after a hostage situation stemming from a bank robbery at a Jacksonville, Florida, bank, authorities said Thursday morning.

Eleven hostages are no longer inside, authorities said, adding that nobody was shot.

A bank robbery was in progress earlier Thursday morning when authorities arrived at the scene, and officials said a gunman was then holding hostages inside the bank. Authorities said multiple people were believed to be inside the Community First Credit Union, but the number of people was not clear.

It is unknown if there are any injuries, officials said.

While the hostage situation was unfolding, the mother of a bank employee told local news station First Coast News that she hadn’t been able to reach her 45-year-old daughter, who she knew had left for work that morning.

“I don’t know what is going on,” the employee’s mother said, appearing emotional. “She just had a birthday.”

Directly across the street from the bank is a daycare and church with staff members and children inside. One woman said they were trapped inside the day care and church building because of the police and fire trucks blocking the street. She told ABC News she wasn’t not scared, saying, “We have God.”

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Hostage Situation at Florida Bank: 11 People Out, Sheriff’s Office Says

iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Eleven hostages are no longer inside a Jacksonville, Florida, bank after a hostage situation stemming from a bank robbery, authorities said Thursday morning.

A bank robbery was in progress earlier Thursday morning when authorities arrived at the scene, and officials said a gunman was then holding hostages inside the bank.

Community First Credit Union – We have 11 hostages out. #JAX #Jacksonville

— Jax Sheriff’s Office (@JSOPIO) December 1, 2016

Authorities said multiple people were believed to be inside the Community First Credit Union, but the number of people was not clear.

Officials said a 911 call reported that shots were fired inside the bank and that someone may have been shot, but authorities warned at a news conference Thursday morning that they cannot confirm if someone was shot.

It is unknown if there are any injuries, officials said.

SWAT team members are also at the scene, officials said.

Directly across the street from the bank is a day care and church with staff members and children inside. One woman said they are trapped inside the day care and church building because of the police and fire trucks blocking the street. She told ABC News she’s not scared, saying, “We have God.”

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Hostage Situation Unfolding at Florida Bank, Police Say

iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Jacksonville police and hostage negotiators are on the scene of a reported hostage situation stemming from a bank robbery, police said.

Police said multiple people are believed to be inside the Community First Credit Union. It is unknown if there are any injuries, police said.

Community First Credit Union – #JSO is working a bank robbery with hostages at on W. Edgewood Avenue. #JAX #Jacksonville

— Jax Sheriff’s Office (@JSOPIO) December 1, 2016

SWAT team members are also at the scene, police said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Deadly Twisters Confirmed in South, Two States Assess Damages

iStock/ThinkstockIt took just two minutes for a powerful twister to cause death and devastation after it touched down in rural Jackson County, Alabama early Wednesday morning.

The EF-2 tornado packed 127-mph winds over a distance of just 200 yards, but that was enough to claim the lives of three people sheltering down in a mobile home in the community of Rosalie, officials said.

The deadly storm also flattened a strip mall and gas station as well as a church in Rosalie.

Jackson Co-Rosalie prelim tornado info: EF-2, Path Length: 1.7 miles, Max Path Width: 200 yards, Max Winds: 127 mph, 3 fatalities #HUNwx pic.twitter.com/anjPt96Wt0

— NWS Huntsville (@NWSHuntsville) December 1, 2016

It was the same deadly storm that touched down with even greater force in nearby Dekalb County, this time with an EF-3 twister packing 145 mph winds over a destructive 7.5-mile path.

In its wake a 24-hour daycare had been completely torn apart and seven people had been injured, including three children.

Officials say as many as 20 confirmed twisters hit northern part of the state.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency after the deadly storm system produced “severe thunderstorms, hail, straight line winds, and tornadoes,” in 12 counties.

Some 20 homes were destroyed in Jackson County and 45 others were damaged, according to an initial assessment.

“The people of Alabama have already suffered because of this week’s severe weather and we are experiencing more today,” Governor Bentley said on Wednesday afternoon. “This State of Emergency will activate state agencies to assist communities in whatever way necessary, to ensure our people get the help they need.”

Prior to Wednesday’s storms, the state had already been battling a severe drought and 11 large wildfires, the governor said.

In Tennessee, meteorologists confirmed three tornadoes on Wednesday that killed two people and injured dozens, the weather service said.

An EF-2 tornado struck McMinn County in the eastern part of the state around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, injuring 20 people and damaging to 30 structures.

But one bright spot did emerge, as a healthy baby was born amidst the terror of a powerful storm.

“In one of the hardest hit areas, at one of our hardest hit homes, a new child came into the world. A baby was born at the local hospital, and that family’s house had been destroyed,” McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said during a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, according to WTCV, a local ABC affiliate.

The mother was thrown from the home and the house destroyed, but emergency responders were able to get to the hospital just in time and she miraculously delivered a healthy baby.

“So we had 20 injured and one brand new life,” Gentry said.

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Last of Four Escaped California Inmates Captured

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — The last of four inmates who escaped from a California jail last week has been captured, police said late Wednesday night.

Rogelio Chavez, 33, managed to evade authorities since breaking out of the the Santa Clara County Jail on the night before Thanksgiving.

Sheriff’s officers conducted a probation search of a home in San Jose where a known associate of Chavez was staying and suspected someone was hiding in the attic. A SWAT team located the escaped convict and led him away in custody without further incident.

Rogelio Chavez is back in custody! #captured pic.twitter.com/ol4R6T97O2

— SantaClaraCoSheriff (@SCCoSheriff) December 1, 2016

A female resident was also arrested for being an accessory to his escape, among other charges.

On Tuesday night, police captured Laron Campbell, 26, who along with Chavez and two other prisoners escaped from the jail by sawing through the bars blocking their second-story window and then rappelling to the ground using bed sheets tied together as a rope.

Of the four who managed to escape from the jail on that same day, only Chavez remained on the loose until tonight. Two others were re-captured almost immediately.

On Monday, police arrested an alleged accomplice of Chavez who is accused of transporting him after he escaped from jail.

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Alabama Confirms Multiple Twisters, Assesses Damages

iStock/Thinkstock(ROSALIE, Ala.) — It took just two minutes for a powerful twister to cause death and devastation after it touched down in rural Jackson County, Alabama early Wednesday morning.

The EF-2 tornado packed 127-mph winds over a distance of just 200 yards, but that was enough to claim the lives of three people sheltering down in a mobile home in the community of Rosalie, officials said.

The deadly storm also flattened a strip mall and gas station as well as a church in Rosalie.

Jackson Co-Rosalie prelim tornado info: EF-2, Path Length: 1.7 miles, Max Path Width: 200 yards, Max Winds: 127 mph, 3 fatalities #HUNwx pic.twitter.com/anjPt96Wt0

— NWS Huntsville (@NWSHuntsville) December 1, 2016

It was the same deadly storm that touched down with even greater force in nearby Dekalb County, this time with an EF-3 twister packing 145 mph winds over a destructive 7.5-mile path.

In its wake a 24-hour daycare had been completely torn apart and seven people had been injured, including three children.

Officials say as many as 20 confirmed twisters hit northern part of the state.

10-20 Tornadoes confirmed north of I-59. Heaviest damage DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall Co’s. 3 confirmed fatalities.

— Gov. Robert Bentley (@GovernorBentley) November 30, 2016

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley issued a state of emergency after the deadly storm system produced “severe thunderstorms, hail, straight line winds, and tornadoes,” in 12 counties.

Some 20 homes were destroyed in Jackson County and 45 others were damaged, according to an initial assessment.

“The people of Alabama have already suffered because of this week’s severe weather and we are experiencing more today,” Governor Bentley said on Wednesday afternoon. “This State of Emergency will activate state agencies to assist communities in whatever way necessary, to ensure our people get the help they need.”

Prior to Wednesday’s storms, the state had already been battling a severe drought and 11 large wildfires, the governor said.

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