Deadly tornado all but wipes Nebraska village off the map – Reuters

A man talks on the phone in front of tornado-damaged buildings in Pilger, Nebraska

 

(Reuters) – Hundreds of residents driven from a Nebraska village leveled by a deadly tornado were expected to be allowed back into their community Tuesday to salvage the remains of their belongings.

“Pilger is gone,” said Sanford Goshorn, director of emergency management for Stanton County.

Just several blocks wide and home to roughly 350 people, Pilger took a direct hit from one of an estimated four tornadoes that the U.S. National Weather Service tracked across northeastern Nebraska on Monday afternoon.

At least one person, a 5-year-old child, was pronounced dead at an area hospital that also received more than a dozen others who were injured in Pilger, Stanton County Sheriff Michael Unger said in a press release. Another person in neighboring Cuming County also died. The circumstances of both deaths were not immediately known.

The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, based in Norman, Oklahoma, reported at least one and perhaps two cases in which a pair of twisters touched down simultaneously, a rare phenomenon according to meteorologists.

The tornadoes, spawned by a super-cell thunderstorm system, appeared to be class EF-2 or EF-3 twisters, meaning they packed cyclonic winds of up to 165 mph (265 kph), said Rich Thompson, the lead forecaster for the center.

Property damage and injuries were reported by state emergency management officials across a three-county area, but authorities said Pilger, located about 100 miles northwest of Omaha, was hardest hit.

“The tornado cut right through the center of town.” Electricity, water and sewage services were completely knocked out,” Goshorn said.

Pilger was evacuated after the storm struck. Unger told Reuters the evacuees would be permitted to return sometime after 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday to retrieve what they could find.

Most of the homes and other buildings that once stood in an area approximately six blocks wide by six blocks long were wiped out, with debris strewn across roadways and into a field east of Pilger. Crushed vehicles littered the landscape.

Brian Reeg, from the neighboring town of Winside, stood bewildered in a lot where nothing remained of his church but a pile of rubble. “I just came to see if I could help,” he said, surveying the wreckage. “This is where I was baptized, where I was married and went to church my whole life.”

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman declared a state of emergency for the stricken region. The state Emergency Management Agency said National Guard troops would be deployed to assist local authorities as cleanup efforts begin.

Storms also hit cities and communities in southern Wisconsin, smashing cars, windows, and trees, lifting a roof off a home, and cutting power to the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, officials and local media said on Tuesday.

The university said on its website that it would be closed on Tuesday due to extensive storm damage. “No major injuries have been reported, but some buildings sustained structural damage. Power is still out on campus and across much of the city.”

A tornado touched down around New Glarus outside of Madison, and part of a roof was lying in the middle of a highway, a preliminary report from the Green County Sheriff’s Office said.

(Additional reporting by Katie Schubert in Omaha, Neb., Mary Wisniewski in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jim Loney, Ken Wills, Clarence Fernandez, Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Suspected Benghazi attack ringleader in US custody – Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 10:55 PM

The U.S. military has captured a man believed to be one of the ringleaders of the deadly attacks on the American diplomatic compound and a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012, officials said Tuesday.

According to the Pentagon, Ahmed Abu Khatallah is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya.

Military officials said no civilians were injured in the raid and that all U.S. personnel involved have safely left the country.

The attack on the U.S diplomatic facility killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and another American. Two other Americans were slain the following morning by mortar fire on a nearby CIA post.

The incident has become highly political, sparking a long-running partisan battle. A report earlier this year by House Republicans blamed the Obama administration for failing to beef up security.

But the same report debunked persistent claims about the response to the incident: that the U.S. military was ordered to “stand down” instead of going to the aid Stevens and others.

“There was no ‘stand down’ order issued to U.S. military personnel in Tripoli,” the report said, blaming the claim on “confusion” about the facts arising from what it termed inadequate previous reviews.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was secretary of State at the time of the attack, has said repeatedly that she was responsible for the security of the diplomats in Benghazi.

On Sunday, questioned again about her role, she suggested that no additional explanation she offered would satisfy her critics.

“There’s a difference between unanswered questions and unlistened to answers,” Clinton told Jane Pauley in an interview on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

“There were a lot of confusing pieces of information flooding into us from the very first moment we heard about it,” Clinton said, referring to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. “We did our best to sort it out.”

“I did my best to fully cooperate with the Congress. I respect the Congress’ oversight responsibility,” she added, but suggested that Republican critics have seized on discrepancies that arose from “the fog of war” and have improperly tried to use them as evidence of a coverup.

Times staff writer Neela Banerjee contributed to this report

Follow @DavidCloudLAT for issues of national security
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

June 17, 9:17 a.m.: This post has been updated with additional background about the attack in Benghazi as well as comments from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This story was originally posted at 8:51 a.m.

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