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‘We’re hurting’: Alabama town mourns victims of deadly tornado

The youngest victim was six years old, the oldest 89. One extended family lost seven members . The coroner released the names of the 23 people killed in the deadliest tornado in nearly six years in the United States on Tuesday. They included six-year-old Armando Hernandez Jr, known as “AJ”, torn from his father’s arms two…

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‘We’re hurting’: Alabama town mourns victims of deadly tornado

The youngest victim was six years old, the oldest 89. One extended family lost seven members .

The coroner released the names of the 23 people killed in the deadliest tornado in nearly six years in the United States on Tuesday.

They included six-year-old Armando Hernandez Jr, known as “AJ”, torn from his father’s arms two days after singing in his first-grade class musical; 10-year-old Taylor Thornton, who loved horses and was visiting a friend’s home when the twister struck; and Jimmy Lee Jones, 89, who perished along with his wife of six decades, Mary Louise, and one of their sons.

“Just keep those families in your prayers,” Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said two days after the disaster.

The search for victims, pets and belongings in and around the devastated rural community of Beauregard continued amid the din of beeping heavy machinery and whining chainsaws. But Sheriff Jay Jones said the list of the missing had shrunk from dozens to just seven or eight.

“We’ve got piles of rubble that we are searching just to make sure,” said Opelika Fire Chief Byron Prather Jr “We don’t think we’ll find nobody there, but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

Carol Dean, (right), cries while embraced by Megan Anderson and her 18-month-old daughter Madilyn, as Dean sifts through the debris of the home she shared with her husband, David Wayne Dean, who died when a tornado destroyed the house in Beauregard [David Goldman/AP Photo]

Four children were killed, ages six, sight, nine and 10.

The youngest, Hernandez, had taken shelter in a closet with his father and older brother when the tornado hit, said Jack Crisp, the boy’s uncle. The punishing winds tore the family’s home apart, Crisp said, and pulled both boys from their father’s arms. 

“He had them squeezed tight, and he said when it came through, it just took them,” Crisp said. “It just demolished the house and took them.” 

Hernandez’s father and brother both survived.

Jackie Jones said she rushed with her siblings to her parents’ house after the storm passed and nobody answered the phone. “They usually answer on the first ring,” she said.

The siblings found the home reduced to its foundation. One of their two brothers who lived at the house survived and was taken to a hospital. But Jimmy Lee and Mary Louise Jones, married for more than 60 years, had died along with their 53-year-old son Emmanuel.

A wedding photo of Carol Dean and David Wayne Dean sits in a pile of personal items Carol Dean recovered while sifting through the debris after a tornado destroyed their home a day earlier killing her husband in Beauregard [David Goldman/AP Photo]

The body of David Wayne Dean, 53, was found by his son in a neighbour’s yard after the twister demolished his mobile home. He was known as “Roaddog” because of his love for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

“He was done and gone before we got to him,” said his sobbing widow, Carol Dean, who was at work at Walmart when the storm hit. “My life is gone. He was the reason I lived, the reason that I got up.”

‘The community is torn up’

The tornado was an EF4 with winds estimated at 170mph (274kph) and carved a path of destruction up to nine-tenths of a mile- (1.4km) wide in Alabama, scraping up the earth in a phenomenon known as “ground rowing”, the National Weather Service said. It travelled a remarkable 70 miles (112km) or so through Alabama and Georgia, where it caused more damage.

Ninety people were injured in the Beauregard area, authorities said. Most have been released from the hospital.

President Donald Trump said he would visit Alabama on Friday to see the damage. “It’s been a tragic situation, but a lot of good work is being done,” he said at the White House.

Richard Tate retrieves personal items from what’s left of his home where he survived a tornado with his wife in Beauregard [David Goldman/AP Photo]

Along the two-lane country road where some of the victims died, firefighters used heavy machinery to overturn pieces of houses that were blown into a gulley. A car sat atop the remains of one house. A red-brick foundation was all that was left at another lot.

The search took its toll around Beauregard, an unincorporated area of roughly 10,000 people near the Georgia line. Church chaplain Ike Mathews walked down a road lined with broken trees and debris as he went to check on members of his congregation and emergency workers.

“Yesterday I talked to some team members who had found bodies. They’re hurting. The community is torn up. They started crying talking about it,” said Mathews, an associate pastor at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church.

Many of the people living in the area are senior citizens who moved to the country after retiring from textile mills or an old magnetic-tape manufacturing plant that closed years ago, Mathews said.

“They start with a mobile home and hope they can build a house someday. They invest in their homes, and they have a sense of legacy. It’s something to leave their kids and grandkids,” he said.

‘It was God’

It was the deadliest tornado to hit the US since May 2013, when an EF5 twister killed 24 people in Moore, Oklahoma.

Government teams surveying storm damage confirmed that at least 20 tornadoes struck on Sunday in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Granadas Baker (left) and son Granadas Jr ,18 (right), retrieve personal items from the damaged home where they survived a tornado a day earlier in Beauregard [David Goldman/AP Photo] 

Cindy Sanford said one of her neighbours in Beauregard died in the storm, and another neighbour remained missing on Tuesday.

“I pray to God that they find her,” Sanford said as picked through remains of her home, which tumbled in the wind and is now scattered across the neighbours’ land.

Sanford said she left home with her five-year-old grandson about five minutes before the storm struck after she got a feeling it was unsafe.

“It was God,” she said. “And then I heard the siren.”

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah. One of the facility’s tanks…

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Saudi Aramco says customers unaffected by Houthi attack on Jeddah

Monday’s attack knocked out a tank that contained 10 percent of all fuel stored a the Jeddah plant, Saudi Aramco official says.Oil giant Saudi Aramco says customers were unaffected by an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on a petroleum products distribution plant in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah.
One of the facility’s tanks was hit by a missile in early on Monday.
The attack knocked out 10 percent of all fuel that was stored at the plant, a Saudi Aramco official said on Tuesday, adding that the tank – one of 13 at the facility – is currently out of action.
The official described the site as a “critical facility” that distributes more than 120,000 barrels of products per day.
A fire caused by the attack was extinguished in about 40 minutes with no casualties, he said.
The attack was confirmed by a Saudi official who told the Saudi state news agency (SPA) it was a “terrorist attack with a projectile”.
The oil company’s production and export facilities are mostly in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province, more than 1,000km (621 miles) away from Jeddah, across the country.
Announcing the attack, a military spokesman for the Houthis warned that “operations will continue”.
Yahya Sarea said the attack was carried out with a Quds-2 type winged missile. He also posted a satellite image with the label: “North Jeddah bulk plant-Saudi Aramco”.
“The strike was very accurate, and ambulances and fire engines rushed to the target,” Sarea said.
That facility is just southeast of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, an important site that handles incoming Muslim pilgrims en route to nearby Mecca.
Renewed violence
Yemen has been mired in conflict since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore the Yemeni government, which had been removed from power in the capital Sanaa by Houthi forces in late 2014.
Cross-border attacks by Houthi forces have escalated since late May when a truce prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic expired. The Saudi-led coalition has responded with air raids on Houthi-held territory.
The Houthis control most of north Yemen and most large urban areas. They say they are fighting a corrupt system.
Sarea said the attack was carried out in response to the Saudi-led coalition’s actions in Yemen.
The claimed attack came just after a visit by outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia to see Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The kingdom also just hosted the annual G20 summit, which concluded on Sunday.

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations. James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a…

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US appoints first Venezuela ambassador in a decade amid tensions

The two nations have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations began to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.The United States has its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy amid a breakdown in relations.
James Story’s nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a US Senate voice vote.
The South Carolina native takes the job that he will carry out from the capital of neighbouring Colombia as Venezuela endures an historic economic and political crisis.
The US and Venezuela have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez.
The two nations totally broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s leader.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in helping guide US policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden.
Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
The critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to US competitors such as China, Russia and Iran, while making life harder on millions of residents of the South American nation.
The US leads a coalition of dozens of nations that rejected Maduro following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent.
The US has since heavily sanctioned Maduro, his inner circle and the state-run oil firm, attempting to isolate them.
The Trump administration offered a $15m reward for Maduro’s arrest after a US court indicted him on drug charges.

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says. Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former…

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‘UAE, Israel can stamp out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism’

People to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in change mindsets, Ban Ki-moon says.

Countries like the UAE and Israel who have signed the Abraham Accords should stamp out anti-semitism and Islamophobia and devise curriculums to educate their youth on the significance of the peace deal, said former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He said that one of the major achievements of the deal – considered a huge political and diplomatic win – is that it opens up a “cooperative space not only for leaders but also for citizens of all the participating countries”
“The architects of this important agreement must ensure that the Accords is not an agreement just for their countries but for their people. Abraham Accords should serve as a launchpad for the sustainable peace and prosperity in the region,” Ban Ki-moon said while addressing a virtual conference on ‘The Abraham Accords: Advancing UAE-Israel, Regional, and Muslim-Jewish Cooperation’ organised by UK-based Emirates Society.
Stressing on the important role of education in building secure, peaceful, resilient and prosperous societies in both a short and long term, the Secretary General said it is his “sincere hope that the UAE and Israel and others redouble their sustained effort to educate their students and citizens – both young and old – about the significance of this important agreement and each other.”
“Devising curriculum and expanding global citizenship education as well as being aggressive about stamping out instances of anti-Semitism and islamophobia are important steps to take in this regard, he added.
He said people to people contact, academic, civil society exchanges and cooperation will go a long way in helping to change mindset and begin a dynamic new era of cooperation.
Palestinian cause
The UAE is the first GCC country and the third Arab nation to establish diplomatic relations with Israel by signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords on September 15. Bahrain and Sudan also followed suit and have signed peace deals with Israel.
The deal is considered a game changer for peace and stability in the region, as in exchange, Israel has agreed to temporarily halt annexations in the West Bank.
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said the UAE continues to consider the issue of a Palestinian state as the most important one but without impeding opportunities for dialogue and open communication.
She said Abraham Accords was born from a “desire to change the business as usual approach” that has mired the countries of Middle East in conflict for long.
Even as the UAE continues to work for its own national agenda, Al Hashimi said the country is “really looking to learn from each other and also to explain to one another who we are and what matters to us”.
“And it does matter to the Arab and the Muslim world that a Palestinian state in its rightful place … exists.”
Ban Ki-Moon said it would be difficult to forge lasting peace without addressing the Palestinian question as well as issues like the final status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlement.
“To truly advance the vision of peace throughout the Middle East, we should not forget that the Palestinians must be involved in determining a future that is based on security and prosperity for all people in the region. I hope that Abraham Accords can function as a springboard for invigorated action on ensuring a negotiated two-state solution aligned with the relevant UN security council resolutions.”
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Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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