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News Wrap: Flooding may have triggered gas explosion at Florida jail

May 1, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: From Florida to Philadelphia, cleanup from heavy flooding began today. The Florida Panhandle was inundated by two feet of rain this week.

The storm system also brought downpours up much of the Eastern Seaboard. Swollen rivers overflowed in Virginia and Maryland, causing roads to collapse. And in the Philadelphia area, people had to be rescued from the rising water. The same weather front spawned tornadoes earlier in the week, killing almost 40 people.

Investigators in Pensacola, Florida, are asking whether storm flooding there helped trigger an apparent gas explosion at a jail late last night. It killed two inmates and injured some 150 others. The jail had housed 600 inmates, but it was almost completely destroyed. The injured were taken to local hospitals, while those unhurt were transferred to neighboring jails.

This was May Day, or International Workers’ Day, and in Russia, trade unions organized a parade through Moscow’s Red Square, the first since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The crowds came out with signs supporting President Vladimir Putin and celebrating the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. And they called for more.

SERGEY MIRONOV, “A Just Russia” Party Leader (through interpreter): We express solidarity with our brothers in Southern and Eastern Ukraine, with those that don’t want to live under the orders of Kiev’s pseudo-authorities, who don’t want to live under scenarios written overseas.

We are together with those who want to speak the native Russian language, with those who want to choose their own destiny.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, in Turkey, police fired tear gas, rubber pellets and water cannons as protesters in Istanbul threw fireworks and stones. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had banned any rallies as he tries to quell opposition to his rule.

Deadly new barrel bomb attacks have killed at least 33 people in Syria today. Opposition groups say a government helicopter dropped the bombs on a busy market in the city of Aleppo, which has been split between rebels and regime for nearly two years. The attacks have increased in the run-up to a presidential election next month.

The families waiting for news of that missing Malaysian airliner will soon have to wait at home. Malaysia Airlines announced, starting next week, it will no longer put them up in hotels. Meanwhile, the country’s government reported the plane disappeared from radar a full 17 minutes before ground controllers noticed. And it was another four hours before the search began.

A political storm swirled over Northern Ireland today, as the leader of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party was questioned for a second day in a 42-year-old murder case.

We have a report from Martin Geissler of Independent Television News.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The police in Northern Ireland use this station in Antrim to question the most serious terror suspects. Gerry Adams spent last night and today in custody here.

He had agreed to be interviewed about the murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who was kidnapped and killed by the IRA. He gave this statement before questioning began.

GERRY ADAMS, President, Sinn Fein: I will tell the PSNI that I’m innocent totally of any part in the abduction, the killing or the burial of Jean McConville.

MARTIN GEISSLER: Mrs. McConville was taken from her home in Belfast by an armed IRA gang in 1972. They suspected her of passing information to the British army. Thirty years later, her body was found buried under this beach in the Irish Republic.

The murder has long proved problematic for the leadership of Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams, seen here in the spectacles of an IRA funeral in 1970 has always denied any involvement in the killing or indeed ever being a member of the IRA.

But audiotapes recovered from this American university have cast doubt on both those claims. Former members of the organization gave up the secrets of the past to researchers here.

The Sinn Fein say Mr. Adam’s arrest is cynical and politically motivated.

MARTIN MCGUINNESS, Deputy First Minister, Northern Ireland: There was still a dark side within policing here in the North of Ireland. And I have — I think we have seen that dark side flex its muscles in the course of the last couple of days.

MARTIN GEISSLER: The prime minister flatly denied those claims this afternoon.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back in this country, the U.S. Education Department released the names of 55 colleges and universities being investigated for their handling of sexual abuse cases. It’s part of new efforts to shed more light on the problem. The schools range from Ohio State, to Harvard, to Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

Car buyers came out of their winter slumber and started buying again in April. Nissan was at the top of the pack, reporting a gain of more than 18 percent over last year. Chrysler led Detroit’s Big Three automakers with a 14 percent gain. General Motors posted a 7 percent increase amid sweeping safety recalls.

On Wall Street, stocks mostly marked time today, waiting for tomorrow’s release of the April jobs report. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 22 points to close near 16,559; the Nasdaq rose nearly 13 points to close at 4,127; and the S&P 500 slipped a fraction of a point to 1,883.