News Wrap: Violent Weather Eases in Midwest After More Powerful Storms
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The violent weather assault on the Midwest finally eased today, but only after another long night. Powerful storms did extensive damage in several states late Wednesday.
At daybreak, people near Bloomington, Ind., picked through the wreckage of trailer homes either ripped apart or blown over.
And 25 miles to the south, near the town of Bedford:
MAN: I was sitting here, and it actually lifted me up from the tub. Honest to God’s truth, it probably took me up that high. And my body was shaking. It felt like it was going to suck me out of the house. Scared me to death.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The tornado ripped off walls and roofs and left yards littered with household appliances and utility poles.
Hail the size of golf balls did even more damage, and some walls still standing were riddled with holes. More tornadoes ripped through Missouri as well. One storm at least a half-mile-wide ravaged trees, smashed homes and crumpled a trailer park.
MAN: One of our trailers, I guess, is up at the truck stop, what somebody is telling us.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Meanwhile, in Joplin, Mo., some people were pulling up stakes four days after the deadliest single tornado on record.
WOMAN: I don’t know where we’re going. My daughter says she is ready to leave, too. I have been to hell and back, and I don’t want to go back.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At least 125 people were killed in Joplin, but authorities lowered the tally of missing today from 1,500 down to 232.
ANDREA SPILLARS, Missouri Department of Public Safety: We need people to call in and help us locate those individuals. So, that 232 are reports that are made by family members. And our goal is to get that to zero.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Elsewhere, new images showed the fierce power of Tuesday’s storms in Oklahoma. A news helicopter captured a twister that chased down, then ripped apart a tractor-trailer on an interstate near Shawnee. The driver, miraculously, escaped with minor injuries.
MAN: Closed my eyes, pulled my hands over my face. I felt bouncing around in the cab. And, somehow or another, I’m pretty sure I went out the passenger-side window.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But Oklahoma’s death toll was raised today to 10, after authorities found the body of a 3-year-old boy. His brother had also been killed.
In all, 506 people have been killed in tornadoes across the U.S. this spring, just short of the record set in 1953.
Seven American troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan today. An eighth NATO soldier and two Afghan policemen also died. The attack in the Kandahar Province was the worst single Taliban bombing against NATO forces since 2009.
The news came as the U.S. House narrowly refused to speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The vote was 215-204. The pullout is to begin in July and end by 2014.
In Iraq, thousands of supporters of Shiite Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rallied in Baghdad against letting U.S. troops stay past the end of this year. The marchers waved flags and stomped across U.S. flags painted on the pavement. Al-Sadr didn’t appear, but the U.S. military estimated 20,000 protesters took part. The remaining 46,000 U.S. troops are due to leave by Dec. 31, but some Iraqi leaders have talked of having them stay longer.
Pakistan has been hit with another major attack. A suicide bombing in the northwest killed at least 32 people today. The bomber set off a pickup truck packed with explosives near government offices in the city of Hangu. More than 50 people were wounded. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.
Intense fighting spread across more of Yemen’s capital city today. At least 28 people were killed, as tribal militias battled troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. More than 100 have died since Monday, and the militias today warned Saleh to step down or face civil war.
Speaking in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said again, Saleh must go.
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: We continue to support the departure of President Saleh, who has consistently agreed that he would be stepping down from power and then consistently reneged on those agreements, turning his back on the commitments that he made and disregarding the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. and Britain also ordered nonessential diplomats and their families to leave Yemen.
Tensions over the bombing of Libya dominated the agenda, as world economic powers gathered in Deauville, France. President Obama and seven other leaders discussed — discussed the NATO campaign in Libya, something Russia has opposed.
But French President Nicolas Sarkozy insisted again that Moammar Gadhafi cannot remain in power.
NICOLAS SARKOZY, French president (through translator): We’re not saying that Gadhafi has to go into exile. That’s not our problem. We’re saying that a man who’s used artillery and aviation to shoot at innocent and unarmed people, after 40 years of dictatorship, cannot stay in power.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, Spain reported a message from the Libyan government calling for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. quickly dismissed the offer.
The U.S. Senate voted today to extend key provisions of the Patriot Act, and the House planned to follow suit. The extension covers the next four years. It includes roving wiretaps, surveillance of so-called lone wolf suspects, and searches of business records. The anti-terror laws was enacted after the 9/11 attacks.
The Mexican army has found 29 bodies amid rising drug violence along the country’s Pacific Coast. The victims were killed Wednesday in a battle between rival gangs. They were found dressed in fake military uniforms, along with a caravan of trucks and SUVs that were riddled with bullets.
Also today, officials in a nearby state reported more than 700 people have fled to shelters to escape the violence.
The U.S. economy is showing new signs of a sluggish recovery. Government reports today said first-quarter growth was relatively weak, and claims for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in three weeks.
Wall Street managed modest gains, despite the economic news. The Dow Jones industrial average gained eight points to close at 12,402. The Nasdaq rose 21 points to close near 2,783.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.