Congress considers nearly doubling the disaster relief package requested by the White House to $81 billion
Republican lawmakers have proposed almost doubling the disaster aid funds requested by President Trump in November to $81 billion to cover hurricane damage in Texas, Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, as well as devastating fires across the west. "This proposal would be the biggest single package for disaster relief in U.S. history," Axios writes.
The package arises as Congress is in the midst of wrestling with government funding, with several bills on the table in the House — "one with the relatively popular stuff (keeping government open and children's health insurance) and another one, which will include a six-month patch of a key surveillance law," Politico writes. "It's not yet clear how they'll handle the disaster supplemental."
But as fires continue to rage in Southern California, the urgency is felt. "This legislation is the next step in helping our fellow Americans recover from multiple, back-to-back, devastating disasters, including some of the largest major hurricanes, wildfires, and agriculture losses this country has ever seen," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).
If the bill is passed, 2017 could total more than $130 billion in emergency aid spending, which exceeds even what Hurricane Katrina cost taxpayers. In addition to billions for FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the $81 billion package also contains money for "education programs, highway rebuilding, small business loans, and military construction projects," Politico writes. The House could vote as early as Wednesday. Jeva Lange
Adm. William F. Moran, vice chief of U.S. naval operations, told reporters Thursday that about a dozen sailors who were aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it collided with a container ship June 17 off the coast of Japan will face disciplinary action, including the top two officers and top enlisted sailor. Seven crew members were killed in the disaster.
Moran said most of the punishments will be meted out on Friday, and the ship's leaders — Cmdr. Bryce Benson, who was captain at the time; his second-in-command, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt; and senior enlisted sailor for the ship, Command Master Chief Brice A. Baldwin — will be permanently stripped of command. He also said the sailors who were on watch on the Fitzgerald's bridge, who "at some point ... lost situational awareness," are among those facing discipline. The investigation into whether the Fitzgerald crew is solely responsible for the crash is ongoing.
Moran said investigators are still trying to determine exactly what took place right before the collision, when the container ship ripped a huge hole into the smaller Fitzgerald early in the morning. Most of the sailors were asleep when the accident occurred, and a majority of those who died were sleeping closest to where the water came rushing in, The Washington Post reports. Survivors said they had to try to escape as items like mattresses and lockers floated by in the water, and several sailors, trying to keep the ship from sinking, were forced to seal a door with other sailors still inside. Catherine Garcia
Seven U.S. sailors remain missing after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan early Saturday morning. The ship has returned to port in Yokosuka, Japan, as of 7 p.m. local time, substantially damaged after crashing into a container ship four times its size.
Aerial footage of the badly damaged USS Fitzgerald pic.twitter.com/LvmoZunvrA
— Strategic Sentinel (@StratSentinel) June 16, 2017
The impact affected "Fitzgerald's forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding" in multiple areas, said a statement from the U.S. 7th Fleet. Three sailors and two other personnel have been hospitalized with injuries, including the destroyer's commander.
Several Japanese Maritime Self Defense force ships, another U.S. warship, and aircraft from both countries continue to search for the missing sailors at the site of the collision. Bonnie Kristian
The Chinese Ministry of Land Resources is blaming a landslide that buried 33 buildings in a Shenzhen industrial park on a mountain of waste construction mud.
At least 91 people are missing, and hundreds of rescuers are looking for survivors. State media reports that mud is covering more than 72,000 square yards and is nearly 20 feet deep in some areas. The buildings destroyed include 14 factories and three dormitories, Reuters reports, and more than 900 people have been evacuated from the area. By Sunday evening 14 people had been rescued. Catherine Garcia
Authorities fear at least 15 people are dead after a dam burst at an iron-ore mine in southeastern Brazil Thursday, causing major mudslides and flooding.
— MYnews 24|7 (@MYnewsofficial) November 6, 2015
The village of Bento Rodrigues, four miles below where the dam burst, flooded, and thick mud covered homes and cars. Authorities say they have evacuated 600 people from the area, and flooding reached another village further down the road, Paracatu de Baixo. Officials in Minas Gerais state say 45 people are still missing, and at least one person is confirmed dead.
The Germano mine is operated by Samarco, a joint venture between the mining giant BHP Billiton and Vale, a Brazilian company. The purpose of the dam was to keep water and toxic residue from the mine away from the villages, and when the dam burst, it let out water that possibly contained toxic elements, The Guardian reports. In a statement, Samarco said it does not yet know why the dam burst or the extent of the damage. Catherine Garcia
Hot winds are fueling the Sockeye Fire in Alaska, which now covers more than 6,500 acres, authorities said.
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) June 15, 2015
The fire was reported near Willow, 80 miles north of Anchorage, on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. when it was just at 2 acres. By 3 p.m. it grew to cover 80 acres, and by 6 p.m., 1,077 acres. On Monday afternoon, authorities said the fire was at 0 percent containment, and as many as 45 structures, mostly primary and secondary homes, were destroyed. Investigators do not yet know what caused the fire.
Vern Halter, who represents Willow on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly, told NBC's affiliate in Anchorage that the "weather is going to control" the fire. Halter visited the scene on Sunday, and said when he saw the flames jump over the highway, "I can honestly say I was scared, because there were flames on both sides and in the ditches." Fire crews and helicopters from across Alaska and British Columbia, federal reinforcements, and 10 hotshot crews from other states are battling the blaze. Catherine Garcia
Late Monday, a chartered cruise ship carrying 458 passengers and crew up China's Yangtze River capsized in a storm, and as of Tuesday morning, only between 10 and 20 have been rescued, according to Chinese media. Rescue efforts were hampered at first by strong wind and rains, and then darkness. But by daylight Tuesday, hundreds of police officers, military personnel, and divers were on hand for the rescue and recovery operation.
According to the English language version of Chinese state news site Xinhua, the captain and chief engineer were among those rescued, and "both claimed the ship sank quickly after being caught in a cyclone." Search crews reported hearing noises from within the upturned boat 12 hours after it capsized, China's CCTV reports, and are trying to determine if the sounds are coming from people trapped inside. The four-deck boat, built in 1994, sank in a part of the river about 50 feet deep. For more information, watch the Reuters report below. Peter Weber
On Wednesday morning, a passenger from Amtrak's train derailment in north Philadelphia died at Temple University Hospital, the hospital said, bringing the death toll from Tuesday night's crash to six. Six more passengers are critically injured and another 140 were treated at hospitals. All seven cars of New York-bound train 188 came off the track. Train service between Philadelphia and New York has been suspended indefinitely.
"It is an absolute disastrous mess," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The engine and the other six cars are in "various stages of disarray," he said, adding that some were "completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart." Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration have sent investigators to the scene and will conduct investigations. The train was rounding a big curve when the incident occurred.
Paul Cheung, an Associated Press manager, was watching Netflix on the train when it stopped suddenly, "like someone had slammed the brake," he told AP. The front of the train "is really mangled," he added. "It's a complete wreck. The whole thing is like a pile of metal." Watch Cheung describe the accident below. —Peter Weber