Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 26, 2021

At least 3 killed after Amtrak train derails in Montana, Germans head to the polls with Merkel succession on the line, and more

1

At least 3 killed after Amtrak train derails in Montana

At least three people were killed when an Amtrak train derailed Saturday in Montana. An undisclosed number of people were injured in the accident, and it's unclear how serious those injuries are. The westbound Empire Builder, which departed from Chicago and was headed to Seattle and Portland, was carrying around 141 passengers and 16 crew members, Amtrak said. The National Transportation Safety Board is launching an investigation into the derailment. Following the incident, several other Empire Builder trains in the region were canceled or had their routes altered.

2

Germans head to the polls with Merkel succession on the line

Germans headed to the polls on Sunday to vote in the country's tightly-contested parliamentary elections, which will decide who takes over for long-serving Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pre-election polls showed the center-left Social Democrats holding on to a slim plurality with 25 percent of the vote, while Merkel's conservative alliance between the nationwide Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, were behind at 22 percent. The Green Party is expected to come in third after an earlier surge this year, but either way they could play a significant role in the next government. The main candidates for chancellor include the SPD's Olaf Scholz, the CDU's Armin Laschet, and The Green's Annalena Baerbock.

3

Port of entry reopens at Del Rio

The port of entry at Del Rio, Texas, reopened on Saturday afternoon for passenger and pedestrian traffic after it was closed for more than a week because thousands of migrants, largely from Haiti, had gathered below the international bridge crossing at the southern bordeer. The Biden administration responded to the situation by deporting many of the migrants to Haiti and elsewhere, while others are still being processed. There were reportedly no individuals under the bridge as of Friday afternoon. During the closure, traffic was rerouted to the port of entry at Eagle Pass. Del Rio is expected to reopen for commercial traffic on Monday.

4

Space reportedly dwindling at Idaho funeral homes amid virus surge

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen in Idaho, some funeral home directors say they're running out of space to store bodies, CNN and The Washington Post report. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Idaho has the third lowest vaccination rate in the country — it's 41.3 percent mark trails only West Virginia and neighboring Wyoming. The CDC has also found that COVID-19 has killed an average of 20 people per day in Idaho over the past week, and 90 percent of the intensive care unit beds in the state are occupied, more than half of them being used by COVID-19 patients.

5

Israeli security forces kill at least 4 Palestinians in arrest operation

Israeli security forces killed at least four Palestinians in shootouts on Sunday, the Israeli military said. The clashes occurred during a large-scale arrest operation in the West Bank where Israel is attempting to crack down on Hamas. An Israeli officer and soldier reportedly suffered serious injuries during the exchange and were airlifted for medical treatment. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the targeted Hamas fighters "were about to execute terror attacks in the very immediate future." In response, Hamas, praised those killed as "heroic martyrs" and said their deaths were the result of the "continuing coordination" between the Palestinian Authority, the group's internationally-recognized political rival, and the Israeli government. The Palestinian Authority condemned Israel's actions, however.

6

Taliban calls for international flights to resume from Kabul

The Taliban on Sunday requested that airlines resume international flights from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport. The group promised to cooperate with the companies and said that issues at the airport, which has seen limited traffic in the wake of the chaotic evacuation process last month, have been resolved. Technical teams from Qatar and Turkey have assisted with the reopening, and a small number of aid and passenger flights have operated from the Afghan capital over the last few weeks.

7

Xi congratulates new leader of Taiwan's main opposition party

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday sent a congratulatory letter to Eric Chu, the former mayor of New Taipei City who was elected as the new leader of Taiwan's main opposition party, Kuomintang, on Saturday. Chu has pledged to renew talks with Beijing, which claims Taiwan as Chinese territory and has been increasing military and political pressure on the island despite the fact that most Taiwanese people, including President Tsai Ing-wen, are not in favor of Chinese sovereignty. In the letter, Xi said the situation in the Taiwan Strait is "complex and grim," adding that "all the sons and daughters of the Chinese nation must work together with one heart and go forward together." Chu responded by saying he hopes to "seek common ground and … strengthen exchanges and cooperation so as to allow the continued peaceful development of cross-strait relations." 

8

Trump lashes out at Kemp during Georgia rally

Former President Donald Trump held a rally at the Georgia State Fairgrounds on Saturday during which he lashed out at Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom he has frequently criticized for not helping him advance his baseless claims of voter fraud in the state, which narrowly backed President Biden last year. Trump went so far as to suggest that he'd be content if Kemp's former Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams took over the role. "Of course, having her I think might be better than having your existing governor if you want to know the truth," Trump said. "Might very well be better."

9

New vent opens on Spanish island volcano

Another vent has opened up on Cumbre Vieja, the volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma that has been erupting for a week, scientists say. Huge bursts of lava could be seen shooting into the air. The development comes as the intensity of the eruption continues to increase, exposing more islanders to danger. Nearly 7,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes because of lava flows, and the island's airport shut down on Saturday because of the ash cloud formed by the eruptions. Aside from the lava flow, those who live on the island could be susceptible to earthquakes, toxic gases, and acid rain.

10

Sam strengthens into Category 4 hurricane

Hurricane Sam has strengthened into a Category 4 storm and is sporting 145 mile per hour sustained winds. The system has grown swiftly — on Friday, Sam was still a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mile per hour sustained winds, meaning it fits meteorologists' criteria for rapid intensification. Forecasters have warned there's a chance Sam could turn toward the United States next week, but it's still unclear whether it will make landfall at all. The storm will likely have at least some affect on several islands in the Caribbean, but just how directly it will hit them has yet to be determined. 

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