HARI SREENIVASAN: In the day’s other news: A chartered plane carrying a top Brazilian soccer team crashed overnight in Colombia, killing 71 people on board. The plane went down in the mountains near Medellin, as the athletes and a group of journalists covering them were en route to a major tournament. Three of the team’s players were among the six survivors. Both of the plane’s flight recorders have been located, and should help determine what caused the crash.
They were ready to play in the biggest game in the history of the upstart soccer club. This was the Brazilian soccer club, Chapecoense, moments before they boarded the fated flight to the South American Cup tournament in Colombia; 21 journalists were also on board to cover the game.
The charter flight was only five minutes from landing when it crashed into a mountainside. First-responders combed through the wreckage in the middle of the night and during a torrential downpour, looking for anyone left alive. The few survivors, including players, flight crew members and one journalist, were rushed to the nearest hospital. Daylight revealed the scope of the devastation.
CARLOS IVAN MARQUEZ: Director, National Rescue Services (through translator): Today, we will officially begin the task of identifying the dead, and, unfortunately, moving the bodies.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The cause is under investigation, and Colombia’s aviation agency said signs pointed to a possible electrical failure. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he was coordinating emergency response efforts with Brazilian leader Michel Temer.
PRESIDENT MICHEL TEMER, Brazil (through translator): Sadly, all we can do, beyond crying for those who have left us, is to take measures that support the families who are in mourning.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The relatives, in the team’s home city of Chapeco, in Southern Brazil, gathered at the club’s headquarters. This afternoon, local fans held a vigil at the club’s stadium. And on soccer pitches around the world, there were moments of silence for the victims.
The Islamic State has now claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack by a Somali-born student at Ohio State University in Columbus. That comes as the Associated Press reported the attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, had complained on Facebook about American interference in Muslim countries. But he wasn’t on the FBI’s radar. Three of yesterday’s 11 victims remain hospitalized.
Weeks of severe drought across the Southeast gave way to fast-growing wildfires in eastern Tennessee overnight. At least three people have died, and more than a dozen were hospitalized, including some with burns.
William Brangham has the story.
MAN: Huge fire, blowing out of control right now with the gusts.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The air around the Great Smoky Mountains was filled with flames and acrid smoke. The fast-moving blazes damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and other buildings, including an entire resort. Tens of thousands of residents and tourists were forced to evacuate Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and other parts of Sevier County, near the Smoky Mountains.
MAN: We were aware of the fires in the area, but we didn’t know that they were anywhere close to where we were. With the wind blowing like it was, we needed to leave.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said close to 200 firefighters battled through near-impossible conditions.
GREG MILLER, Chief, Gatlinburg Fire Department: There were times last night that we had wind gusts in excess of 87 miles an hour. That is hurricane-force. That is nowhere to be when trying to fight a fire. This is a fire for the history books, because it is unlike anything most have ever seen.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The Tennessee National Guard was also deployed, but Miller said the worst is — quote — “definitely over.” The fires also closed Dollywood, country music star Dolly Parton’s theme park.
And in Gatlinburg, the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies remained untouched and its more than 10,000 animals were safe. Wind speeds dropped to about 15 miles per hour today, and rain is in the forecast for some of the hardest-hit areas.
For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m William Brangham.
HARI SREENIVASAN: South Korea’s embattled President Park Geun-hye offered a conditional resignation today, in a bid to stave off impeachment. Park has been embroiled in a corruption scandal in which she has been accused of providing special favors to a childhood friend. That touched off massive demonstrations demanding her ouster.
In a national address today in Seoul, Park said she’s ready to step down if Parliament arranges the technical details.
PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE, South Korea (through translator): I will leave everything, including the shortening of my presidential term, to the Parliament’s decision. I will resign, along with a schedule and procedure that is decided by political parties that can minimize any confusion arising from the unexpected transfer of power.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Opposition parties immediately called the offer a stall tactic to avoid impeachment before her term ends in early 2018. South Korea’s National Assembly could vote on a motion to impeach her as early as Friday.
Back in the U.S., thousands of low-wage workers staged protests and sit-ins today in hundreds of cities, demanding a $15 minimum wage. They included employees of fast food restaurants, Uber drivers, child care providers, and airport workers. At Chicago’s O’Hare, hundreds of protesters gathered outside terminals, chanting and waving signs.
At a press conference later, striking employees voiced their frustrations.
KISHA RIVERA, Airport Employee: We are not asking for special treatment. We are asking for decent treatment. We are asking for decent wages. We’re asking — no, we’re not asking. We’re demanding respect.
MAN: That’s right!
HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, police arrested several protesters picketing a McDonald’s for blocking traffic. All told, dozens of people were arrested across the country.
And stocks rose on Wall Street today, led by a rally in the health care sector. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 23 points to close at 19121. The Nasdaq rose 11 points, and the S&P 500 added nearly three.