Tag Archive: health insurance for everyone


 

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Twelve people are dead after a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.  Police identified the gunman as 28-year-old Ian David Long, a Marine veteran who had deployed to Afghanistan and had a history of mental health issues.  Long was found dead inside the kitchen area of the bar when the SWAT team entered the building.  Most of the victims were college students attending country music night.  Authorities said as many as 22 people had been injured and taken to the hospital.  Nine men and three women were killed in the shooting including a 27-year-old Navy veteran who survived the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting during the Route 91 Harvest festival.

Police say that at around 11:20 p.m., Long shot security guard Sean Adler, 48, just outside the bar with a legally purchased .45-caliber Glock 21 semi-automatic pistol with a banned high-capacity magazine.  Long entered the bar and began throwing smoke bombs before firing approximately 30 rounds into the crowd of more than 150 people.  Patrons dropped to the ground, dashed under tables, hid in the bathroom and ran for exits, stepping over bodies sprawled across the floor.

Three minutes after the first 911 calls, 54 year old Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer arrived at the scene.  The officers heard gunshots coming from the building.  Helus ran inside and was immediately shot by the gunman.   The Highway Patrol Officer dragged Helus outside to safety but died from his injuries hours later.  The other victims included Cody Coffman, 22; Alaina Housley, 18; Justin Meek, 23; Daniel Manrique, 33; Noel Sparks, 21; Jake Dunham, 21; Blake Dingman, 21; Kristina Morisette, 20; Marky Meza Jr., 20 and Telemachus Orfanos, 27.  Orfanos’s family said he had survived the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival that left 58 people dead.

In fact, many regular patrons of the Borderline Bar & Grill were survivors of the Route 91 mass shooting.    A regular patron, Brendan Kelly, 22, was among those who survived both the Vegas massacre and the shooting at the Borderline.  “It was our home for the probably 30 or 45 of us who are from the greater Ventura County area who were in Vegas. That was our safe place where we went to the following week, three nights in a row just so we could be with each other.”

Police say that Long frequented the Borderline Bar & Grill and had previous run-ins with the law, including a disturbance in April at Long’s home where he lived with his mother.  Police say he was irate and acting irrationally.  He was evaluated by mental health professionals but was cleared by the specialists.  Long served in the Marine Corps and was on active duty from August 2008 to March 2013, according to Defense Department records.  Long had been married in 2009 in Honolulu, Hawaii, but was divorced in April 2013 in Ventura County, California.

Friends of Long described him as a loner but said he was stable and didn’t show any signs of aggression.  Neighbors tell a different story, with some saying they’d frequently heard him arguing with his mother at all hours and others keeping their distance because he seemed troubled.  Police have not disclosed a motive in the shooting.

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A 24-year-old woman is facing 3 counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of disregarding a stop sign and causing injury after the pickup truck she was driving struck and killed three siblings who were crossing the road to get to their school bus in rural Rochester, Indiana.  Six-year-old twin brothers Xzavier Ingle and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, died at the scene Tuesday morning.  The children’s classmate and neighbor, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was also hit.  He was airlifted to the hospital and remains hospitalized in critical condition.  The children were crossing State Route 25 to get to their school bus when they were hit at about 7:15 a.m. in front of the Meiser mobile home park where they lived.

The Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. bus had stopped on the two lane road, lowered its stop-arm and had the emergency lighting activated just before the northbound Toyota Tacoma pickup truck slammed into the children as they crossed the southbound lane.  Alyssa L. Shepherd, of Rochester, was arrested at her workplace, was charged and released on a $15,000 bond.  Shepard told an Indiana State Police detective that she saw flashing emergency lights on the rural highway but didn’t realize it was a school bus picking up the children until it was too late.  By the time she realized a bus was stopped, the children were already in front of her vehicle.  Their father rushed out of their home and identified them after police arrived to investigate, officials said.  State Police Detective Michelle Jumper testified at a probable cause hearing into charges against Alyssa Shepherd, the bus driver told investigators he saw the oncoming truck’s headlights. The bus driver stated that because the truck was far back and had plenty of time to slow, the driver waved to the children, telling them to cross.  The bus driver honked the horn when it was clear the truck wasn’t stopping.  Jumper testified that Shepherd told her she typically did not drive on the route where the crash occurred and that she had three children in the back seat of her truck when she allegedly struck and killed the three siblings.

A witness driving behind Shepherd said she and Shepherd were traveling 45 mph. The witness said the truck’s headlights illuminated the children as they were crossing the road and she said she started to freak out as she realized ‘I’m slowing down, but that truck in front of me is not slowing.”  Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash, cooperating with investigators. She was given a blood test as is standard in all fatal crashes, but police said they do not think alcohol or drugs were a factor.  Shepard who works as children’s director at Faith Outreach, a Foursquare Gospel Church in Rochester then went to work to pray.

Parents who live in the mobile home park had previously asked the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation to change the bus route so the children didn’t have to cross State Route 25 to catch the bus. Parents complained that it was dangerous for children to cross a highway where vehicles routinely travel at 50 to 60 mph.  Elgin Ingle, the uncle of the children who died said “There’s plenty of room for the school bus to pull into the mobile home park and pick up these kids.  This school has been warned that this is an issue.  My brother is torn apart, he didn’t lose one kid, he lost all his kids,” Ingle said. “How do you tell your little brother it’ll get better? You can’t. My brother, the most loving man in the world and the best father I’ve ever known, now is a father to no one.”  Blaine Conley, superintendent of the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, released a statement that stating that the bus stop will be relocated from State Road 25 into the mobile home park where the children lived.

 

 

 

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A Kentucky man was charged with two counts of murder and 10 counts of wanton endangerment for killing two African-American customers at a Kroger grocery store. He is being held in jail with bail set at $5 million. Police say 51-year-old Gregory Bush was captured on a surveillance camera trying to force open the doors of the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown for several minutes, before turning his attention to a nearby Kroger supermarket. He was charged with killing Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, at the supermarket in Jeffersontown, Ky., a suburb of Louisville.

Bush allegedly walked into the Kroger, pulled a gun and shot Stallard in the back of the head, then shot him several more times. Then he went outside and killed Jones, who also died from multiple gunshot wounds.  Bush exchanged gunfire in the parking lot with an armed bystander who saw him shoot Jones.  Another armed bystander, Louisville resident Ed Harrell told reporters that as he crouched in the Kroger parking lot clutching his own revolver, the gunman walked by him and said, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

Prosecutors are investigating the murders as a “possible hate crime” because Bush had no known connection to either victim, or to the store, and had tried and failed to enter a nearby black church moments earlier.  Any charges related to hate crimes would be federal charges and separate from the state charges against Bush.  Officials have said they believe the crimes may fit that definition. Hate crimes are defined by the FBI as a traditional criminal offense but with an added element of bias.

Gregory Bush has a history of mental illness and of making racist slurs.  He also has a long rap sheet of misdemeanor charges, including domestic violence, for punching his father in the face and lifting his mother by her neck.   Records show he attempted suicide in 2001 and convictions for menacing and making terroristic threats.  In 2009, a judge ordered Bush to surrender his guns and undergo mental health treatment, after his parents claimed Bush threatened to shoot them in the head. Bush’s father said his son “carries a gun wherever he goes.” It’s not clear whether Bush’s guns were returned when the court order expired in 2011.

Jeffersontown residents gathered to honor the victims of the senseless shooting.  Maurice Stallard had served in the Air Force and married his high school sweetheart.  He worked in the security department of GE Appliances.  He is survived by his wife, a son and daughter and four grandchildren.

Vickie Lee Jones was a regular churchgoer and breast cancer survivor who had retired from a veteran’s administration hospital to help care for her ailing mother.   She is survived by her mother, four children, 11 grandchildren and 5 siblings.

 

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Federal authorities have made an arrest in the pipe bomb mailings four days after the investigation began.  Cesar Sayoc, a 56 year old DJ and former stripper, is accused of sending 13 pipe bombs through the mail to a range of Democrats and critics of the president.  Authorities say Sayoc left a trail of forensic and digital evidence behind that authorities used to track him down and arrest him.  Prosecutors charged Sayoc with five federal crimes and he faces more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Sayoc, who has a long criminal history, was arrested in Florida after investigators linking DNA found on two bomb packages to a sample that was previously collected by the state of Florida.  They also matched his fingerprints to one from a separate pipe bomb mailing he sent.  Authorities say  he had previously filed for bankruptcy and appeared to be living in his van, showering on the beach or at a local fitness center.

Authorities launched an investigation after packages containing homemade pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats.  The packages were sent to Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Soros, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Congress member Maxine Waters and former CIA Director John Brennan.  Investigators say the devices may have originated in southern Florida and were sent through the U.S. Postal Service. The 10 packages being examined had a return address for Democratic Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and on some of the packages, her last name was misspelled.

CNN had to evacuate its New York office in Manhattan after it received what police described as a “live explosive device.”  The package was delivered by courier to CNN’s offices at the Time Warner Center in New York and was addressed to the former CIA director John Brennan.  The package also contained an envelope containing white powder.   Police are also investigating a suspicious package found early this morning that was mailed to actor Robert De Niro’s restaurant in New York. De Niro has frequently publicly criticized the president.  Two additional packages were intercepted Thursday, headed for former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware.  Authorities discovered the two packages at post offices in Delaware addressed to the former vice president.  At least one of them had been misaddressed and returned to sender.  No one was hurt in any of the cases.

Authorities say the devices sent to Soros, Brennan and the Democratic officials appeared to be pipe bombs that were rudimentary but functional.  All the explosive devices had similar construction, had timer devices and at least one contained projectiles, including shards of glass.  Sources say the bombs were unstable and could have been set off by handling.  The FBI said all the packages were in manila envelopes with bubble-wrap interior and had six American flag Forever stamps on the envelopes.

Investigators are analyzing the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply cause fear before the Midterm Election.  Law enforcement officials said that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged to explode upon opening. They are uncertain whether the devices were just poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.

 

 

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Turkish officials believe Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.  Khashoggi, a writer for The Washington Post who has written columns critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, entered the Saudi consulate around 1pm on Oct. 2nd and has not been seen since. Khashoggi was there to pick up paperwork he needed for his upcoming wedding to Hatice Cengiz that he had requested the week before.  Centgiz says she watched him enter the consulate but did not see him re-emerge.  Saudi officials have claimed he left the consulate shortly after visiting.

Khashoggi, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists and a leading critic of Saudi Arabia’s current leadership, wrote columns for The Washington Post and has been a thorn in the side of the crown prince, for some time.  He had been living in self-imposed exile in Virginia after leaving Saudi Arabia last year.  He told friends and reporters that the space for freedom of speech under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was shrinking and he feared for his safety.

A half an hour before Khashoggi arrived for his appointment, Turkish national staff working in the building were told to take the rest of the day off.  Since mobile phones are not allowed inside the diplomatic building, Khashoggi left his iPhone with his fiancée, who was to wait for him outside, and told her to raise the alarm if he did not emerge after more than four hours. He kept his Apple watch on him which was synced to his phone.  Cengiz waited outside until about 1am for Khashoggi to return before contacting Turkish authorities.

During the initial investigation into his disappearance, U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted Saudi communications regarding a plot to detain Khashoggi and that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was directly involved – ordering an operation to “lure” Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there.  CNN later reported that they saw a cleaning crew enter the main consulate building a day before Turkish officials, including a forensics team, arrived to begin their investigation.

Attention has been focused on what officials believe was a hit squad, a 15 person team of Saudi special forces officers, intelligence officials, national guards and a forensics expert that flew in and out of Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared.  The details of the alleged hit squad were listed on flight manifests leaked to the press.  The Saudi team is said to have arrived at Atatürk airport on Tuesday last week on two planes, one of which landed in the pre-dawn hours and the second in the early afternoon. The officials checked in to two hotels near the Saudi consulate.

Turkish intelligence believe that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered inside the consulate on Oct. 2nd.  News sources say Turkish officials have an audio recording of the alleged killing from the Apple Watch he wore when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.  The audio recording is described as showing there had been an assault and a struggle inside the consulate as well as the moment that Khashoggi was killed.  Authorities recovered the audio from Khashoggi’s iPhone and his iCloud account.  News sources also alleged Saudi officials tried to delete the recordings by incorrectly guessing Khashoggi’s PIN on the watch.

 

 

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In Cincinnati, a gunman opened fire at a downtown bank, killing three people and injuring two others before he was shot and killed by police. Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said the gunman, who they believe acted alone, fired more than a dozen shots from a legally purchased 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol.  Authorities have identified the gunman as Omar Perez, though a motive for the shooting is still under investigation.  The gun used in the shooting was recovered at the scene along with multiple magazines and around 200 rounds of ammunition.

Police say Perez, 29, of Northbend, Ohio, has no known connection to the bank and it is unclear how he got to Fountain Square but that he entered multiple businesses before going to the bank. He opened fire in the building’s loading dock before continuing into the lobby area and firing more shots.  Officers responded to a 911 call around 9:10 a.m. local time about an “active shooter” at the bank.  Multiple officers then “engaged” the suspect, who was fatally shot multiple times.

Five people were shot, some multiple times, including three who died from their injuries.  One person died at the scene and two victims died at the hospital.  Those killed in the shooting were a grandfather, a father and a son.  Richard Newcomer, 64, a father of 3 and grandfather of 8, who was supervising a construction project on the building’s third floor was shot as he entered the building.  Luis Calderón, 48, a father to a 13 year old and 16 year old, was also killed as he arrived to work.  He had moved to Cincinnati last year to work for the bank and provide a better life for his children.  The third victim was identified as Prudhvi Raj Kandepi, 25, a programmer and consultant for Fifth Third who was described by family as someone who would give everything he could to friends and family.

Police have released security footage of the gunman “firing shots at anyone he sees” while inside the lobby of the building.  The security footage shows Omar Enrique Santa Perez walking in the lobby with his gun held up and carrying a briefcase containing hundreds of rounds of ammunition over his shoulder. A security officer was seen helping people get to a safe location as the gunman was randomly firing shots at anyone he sees. Perez then turns toward the windows and fires shots at approaching officers.   The body camera footage shows officers approaching the gunman and shooting through the glass of the lobby.  The officers on the scene engaged the shooter within three and a half minutes of the first 911 call and fired 11 shots, taking out the gunman.  Police later found that Perez’s gun had jammed during the four-minute rampage.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley praised the officers for ending the shooting quickly.  “You could see in the video … the guy is shooting at the cops, you can see them not being afraid and engaging and ending it.”  “If he had gotten on the elevator, gone up to a floor, if he had been there earlier or a little bit longer, many more people would have been killed.”

Fifth Third Bank is headquartered in Cincinnati but has locations across 10 states.  The company released a statement via Twitter.  “Earlier today, an active shooter entered our headquarters building in downtown Cincinnati. The situation is contained and the shooter is no longer a threat. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone caught up in this terrible event. We continue to work with law enforcement as we ensure the safety of our employees and customers. We are grateful for the support and concerns from our neighbors throughout Cincinnati and the country.”

 

 

 

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Former Balch Springs, TX police officer Roy Oliver, 38, was found guilty of murder in the shooting of Jordan Edwards, an unarmed teen who was a passenger in a car that had left a party.  Oliver was fired by the Balch Springs Police Department just days after the shooting for violating several departmental policies.  A Texas jury sentenced Oliver to 15 years in prison and imposed a $10,000 fine for the murder of the 15-year-old honor student.  The jury found Oliver not guilty on two counts of aggravated assault.

During the trial Oliver claimed that he fired at the car after seeing it move toward his partner, Officer Tyler Gross, and thought Gross’s life was in danger.  Officer Gross testified that he did not fear for his life and didn’t feel the need to fire his own weapon.  Oliver faced up to life in prison on the murder conviction.  Prosecutors were pushing for at least 60 years in prison, while defense argued for 20 years or less.  Oliver’s mother and wife asked for a lenient prison sentence.  His wife, Ingrid Llerena, testified that she’s concerned about their 3-year-old son, who is autistic, and the boy’s future without his father at home.

In April 2017, the police were responding to a call about a house party when they encountered Jordan, his brothers and his friends in their car, attempting to leave. The officers first claimed that the boys were “backing down the street toward officers in an aggressive manner,” before later retracting that statement and acknowledging that the teens had been driving away.

Police body cam video shows Oliver fired his assault rifle into the car carrying the five teenagers as they drove away from the officer, hitting Jordan in the head.  One of the car’s passengers says the officer never even ordered the boys to stop driving before opening fire. Edwards, was shot in the head as he was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car, along with his two brothers and two friends.

Jordan’s father Odell, said that his son Vidal, continued driving away so that no one else would be shot.  He stopped the car two blocks from the party and called his father while his two friends in the back seat called their parents.  “All I could hear was screaming and crying and the boys saying that police had just shot and killed Jordan.   Jordan Edwards was a freshman at Mesquite High School and a straight A student with a 4.0 GPA who played quarterback and receiver on the football team.  He lived in an upper middle class neighborhood in Balch Springs with his parents, two older brothers and younger sister.

Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson described Oliver as a “killer in blue” who violated his oath to protect citizens. Johnson said she wished Oliver’s sentence was much longer, but she respected the jury’s decision and realizes a guilty verdict for an officer is rare in police shootings. Charmaine Edwards said she would have preferred a sentence of 25 to 30 years for the killer of the stepson she raised.  “That was my exact thought: They gave a year for his age,” Edwards, said outside a Dallas County courtroom after the sentence was handed down.  “He can actually see life again after 15 years, and that’s not enough because Jordan can’t see life again.”

 

 

 

 

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Michigan’s state health director Nick Lyons is facing trial for involuntary manslaughter over the deaths of two men amid an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint after the city switched its water supply to the Flint River in an attempt to save money.  The Flint region’s 2014-2015 Legionnaires’ disease outbreak that killed 12 people and sickened another 79 people.  Michigan has admitted 12 people died in the outbreak, but a recent report by PBS “Frontline” has found the death toll from the water crisis in Flint may be higher than Michigan officials have acknowledged.

Judge David Goggins issued a ruling sending Nick Lyon’s criminal case to a full trial, meaning the judge believes there is enough valid evidence for a jury to consider.  The ruling came at the end of a 10-month preliminary hearing that started in September and wrapped up in early July after more than 25 days of testimony.  Lyons is the highest-ranking state official to face charges so far over Flint’s water-poisoning crisis.  He’s also being charged with willful neglect of duty and misconduct in office for the deaths of John Snyder and Robert Skidmore.  The involuntary manslaughter charge is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Lyon’s felony misconduct in office charge is for allegedly obstructing academic researchers from studying the outbreak, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Both men allegedly died from Legionnaires’ disease caused by Flint switching its drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.  They did not ensure that the water was properly treated to prevent corrosion in old plumbing. This caused lead and other metals to leach into the water, exposing residents and risking permanent neurological damage to local children.  The improper water treatment also interfered with disinfectants and caused the release of iron and other bacterial nutrients into the water, which can spur the spread and growth of Legionella bacteria. When those germs are aerosolized and inhaled from sources such as hot showers, humidifiers, and water coolers, they can cause a deadly form of pneumonia called Legionnaire’s disease.

Flint experienced a surge in Legionnaire’s disease after the water switch, with cases totaling around 100 and leading to at least 12 deaths, including Skidmore and Snyder’s. Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetically linked the bacteria infecting patients to those found in the city’s water.  Prosecutors argued Lyon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director, waited too long to alert the public to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint during the water crisis. He allegedly knew about the outbreak in early 2015 but waited nearly a full year before alerting the public.  Both men were said to be healthy and active prior to their hospitalizations.   Lyon’s defense attorneys argued he was not negligent in the men’s deaths and that prosecuting a public official who did his best amid a wide-ranging crisis would have a chilling effect on other public employees doing their duties.  They pointed out Skidmore and Snyder “would have received the same medical treatment” even if Lyon had made an announcement sooner.

In a statement issued after the ruling, Governor Rick Snyder praised Lyon’s work during the Flint water crisis and said Lyon would remain on the job as Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director during the trial.  An additional 14 current or former state and local officials have been criminally charged in connection with the water issues.

State officials now say that the city’s water meets federal standards for lead and other contaminants but the water can still pick up toxic ingredients from contaminated pipes. For now, residents need to continue drinking bottled or filtered water until the city’s plumbing is replaced, which the city is working to do by 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Genoa, Italy, 43 people were killed when a bridge collapsed, sending dozens of vehicles tumbling 150 feet. A 656 foot section of the Morandi Bridge suddenly fell, along with dozens of vehicles in busy traffic.  The cause of the collapse is not yet known, but many residents are calling on the head of the company that operated the bridge to resign.

The Morandi Bridge is a main road in and out of Genoa, linking it to the A10 motorway and the road to France.  Shortly before noon on August 14th, the section collapsed amid extremely heavy rainfall.  The bridge was having work done to shore up its foundations at the time.  Video of the moment the stretch of a bridge collapsed has been released by officials.  It shows large chunks of debris crashing down onto traffic, falling about 150 feet below to the ground. A person is seen scrambling from the rubble seconds after the

The Morandi Bridge was the fifth bridge to collapse in Italy in five years.  The government has set up a commission to examine the causes of the disaster.  The company that operated the bridge has set up a fund for victims’ families.  Giovanni Castelluci, the boss of operating company Autostrade per l’Italia, said millions of euros for victims’ families would be available.  He also said the firm would provide funding to help relocate hundreds of people who had to be moved out of their homes after the bridge collapsed.  He added that reports carried out ahead of the disaster had described the bridge as being in good condition, but a full inquiry was “the first priority”.

Controversy is swirling over the deadly incident, with reports that there had been warnings about the bridge’s structure.  The engineer who designed the bridge warned four decades ago that it would require constant maintenance to remove rust.  Italian news outlets have reported that engineering experts warned in February that corrosion of the metal cables supporting the Genoa highway bridge had reduced the bridge’s strength by 20 per cent.  Italian news outlet, Espresso wrote that “neither the ministry, nor the highway company, ever considered it necessary to limit traffic, divert heavy trucks, reduce the roadway from two to one lane or reduce the speed” of vehicles on the key artery for the northern port city.

The bridge, named for its designer, Riccardo Morandi, is a cable-stayed type, in which sections of roadway are cantilevered from towers like diving boards and supported by stays. This type of design, more common now than it was 50 years ago, is often used when the gap to be spanned is too long for the structure to be supported at both ends, but not so long that a suspension bridge would be a better solution.  The stays are critical elements of this kind of design because without them, the cantilevered sections would have to be so massive as to make the bridge too costly or otherwise impractical.  The stays are constructed of concrete with steel rods, called tendons, inside them, which enables the concrete to handle the pull of the roadway. More modern cable-stayed bridges use steel cables instead.

A fact investigators are sure to analyze is that the Morandi Bridge only had two stays — one on each side — for each cantilevered roadway section.  Most modern bridges are built with far more stays.  The new replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River north of New York City, for example, has 24 cables for each section, 12 on each side.

 

 

 

 

 

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Aid groups say the toll from the collapse of a billion-dollar hydroelectric dam in Lao’s is far higher than the official figure of 27 dead and 131 missing. Despite a government ban on foreign media covering the disaster, the BBC reports the death toll could be closer to 300. Another 3,000 people are still stranded in homes surrounded by floodwaters and over 6,000 people have been displaced.  The dam collapse occurred around 8 p.m. on July 23rd and caused immediate flash flooding through the villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Ban Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, all in Sanamxay district.  Homes, roads and bridges were swept away.

The disaster has revived the debate about plans by the Laos government to boost the economy by building dozens of dams to export hydroelectricity to neighboring countries.  The South Korean company that is the main builder of the hydroelectric project has admitted that it knew the dam was deteriorating a day before it failed but the reason for the collapse remains unclear.  There are conflicting reports on when damages to the dam were first noticed, raising more questions on whether the order to evacuate villagers from their homes should have been issued earlier.  The portion of the dam that collapsed was reported to be a saddle dam—its official name was “Saddle ‘D’, an auxiliary structure used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam”.

Emergency teams in southern Laos are continuing to search for survivors following the collapse of a dam, which released five billion cubic meters of water.  As floodwaters in began to recede, official sources said eight bodies had been recovered, while an official has suggested more than 1,100 people may still be unaccounted for.  Homes were swept away and farmland submerged when an auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric project collapsed.

An overwhelming amount of mud left behind is hampering search operations.  Some areas are inaccessible by boat, with helicopter flights being the only way to reach some communities.  Rescue efforts are further complicated by the fact that the area is densely forested with no mobile-phone coverage.  Roads that previously existed were washed away in the floods and thousands of people who fled their homes are packed into makeshift shelters.

Officials in northern Cambodia have ordered the evacuation of 25,000 people downriver of the collapsed dam, due to heavy flooding and rising water levels.  The Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, suspended his immediate meetings and travelled in person to the site.  Sisoulith also called in both the police and the army, declaring the area a disaster zone.  The local government requested emergency aid from neighboring communities.  The neighboring countries of China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have offered to provide any assistance needed by Laos.