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News Wrap: Yemeni Troops, Opposition Clash, Leaving at Least 18 Dead

October 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street plunged today amid resurgent fears about Europe’s debt crisis. Doubts re-emerged after German leaders said expectations of a quick fix were too optimistic. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 247 points to close at 11,397. The Nasdaq fell nearly 53 points to close below 2,615.

In Yemen, government officials reported at least 18 people were killed overnight in fighting between troops and opposition forces. At least 30 others were wounded. The fighting in the capital city, Sana’a, was the most intense in weeks, and it followed a weekend of violent confrontations. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council has taken up a resolution urging President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years in power.

Central America struggled today to recover from a week of downpours that have left 80 people dead. Flooding and landslides ravaged parts of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Officials issued evacuation orders, as rain was forecast to continue through Wednesday.

Barriers around Bangkok, Thailand, mostly held back rising floodwaters over the weekend. But nationwide, the death toll there grew to more than 300.

We have a report from John Irvine of Independent Television News.

JOHN IRVINE: It’s known as the River of Kings. And in Bangkok, it’s higher than it’s ever been.

But while the Chao Phraya has been breaking records, it hasn’t been breaking its banks, not in the Thai capital at least. But what about elsewhere? We were heading upstream to see what the river had wrought in the more rural districts that have borne the brunt of this crisis.

Not far from Bangkok, and the river has no visible banks. It’s taken over as far as the eye can see. Further on, and this is what passes for two-way traffic in the historic city of Ayutthaya. Its ancient temples make this place a UNESCO world heritage site. It was the capital of Siam. It’s now the capital of Thailand’s vast flood zone.

This is the heart of the water world that central Thailand became about two weeks ago. It’s anyone’s guess how much longer it will be like this. It’s at least 50 miles in every direction to dry land.

Many of the victims of the flood have sought refuge here because the authorities are now present in force. We were on a raft delivering food and water. Its arrival was always eagerly anticipated. Later, the police chief explained that, for everyone, the flood came as a total shock. Neither his force nor anybody else saw it coming. And when it did, it was too late.

It came in two hours?

MAN: Yes, two hours, the water comes.

JOHN IRVINE: An estimated two-and-a-half million people have been affected. Many lives are now on hold until the waters recede. In one small town, I asked an enterprising shop owner how people were coping. She said she was sold out of alcohol and cigarettes.

If they could get to their temples to pray for this to be over, they would. But in a sense, it’s the heavens that are prolonging their misery, for they keep opening.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Late today, the governor of Bangkok warned, the city is still in danger. He said there’s an urgent need to build a wall of sandbags three-and-a-half miles long within 48 hours. Earlier statements by other officials suggested the worst had passed.

The presidential election in Liberia is going to a runoff. Incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf failed to earn a majority in last week’s first-round vote. She got 44 percent. On Nov. 8, she will face Winston Tubman. He and other opposition candidates have claimed the election was rigged. Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president. She also shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with two other women.

Tributes poured in today for IndyCar racing star Dan Wheldon. He died in a fiery crash on Sunday during the early stages of the Las Vegas Indy 300. Three other drivers were hurt in the 15-car pileup. Wheldon had won the Indianapolis 500 twice in his career, including this year’s race. He was born in England and came to the U.S. in 1999. Dan Wheldon was 33 years old.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.