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Associated Press
Flames erupt from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early today. A series of blasts killed 20 and injured 270.
Nation/World

Propane explosions kill 20 in Taiwan

– A series of underground gas explosions killed 20 people and injured 270 others late Thursday in Taiwan’s second-largest city, authorities said.

The National Fire Agency said five firefighters were among the dead. Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that firefighters had been at the scene investigating reports of a gas leak when the explosions occurred.

Taiwan’s Premier Jiang Yi-huah said at least five blasts shook the streets of Kaohsiung, a southwestern port city of 2.8 million.

Video from Taiwanese broadcaster ETTV showed a row of large fires burning in the middle of a street in the southwestern city, with smoke rising into the night sky.

Chang Jia-juch, the director of the Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center, said the leaking gas had been identified as propane, meaning that the resulting fires could not be extinguished by water. He said emergency workers would have to wait until the gas is burnt away. The source of the leak was unknown.

Nation

Aunt convicted of snatching infant

A woman who admitted to taking her newborn nephew from a Wisconsin home and ditching him in freezing temperatures outside an Iowa gas station was convicted Thursday of kidnapping.

A federal jury in Madison deliberated for about three hours before finding Kristen Smith, 31, guilty. She faces 25 years to life in prison when she is sentenced Oct. 27.

Smith said she took her half-sister’s 4-day-old son, Kayden Powell, early Feb. 5 from a home in Beloit at the father’s request. She testified that the boy’s parents were planning to move in with her in Aurora, Colorado, in the next few days.

But prosecutors dismissed the explanation as ludicrous. They accused Smith of trying to steal a baby to pass off as her own.

Smith also admitted that she abandoned the boy at an Iowa gas station as police closed in on her, saying she did so in a moment of panic and that she planned to return the child to his parents after police searched her car. As investigators questioned her, she claimed not to know where the baby was. A police chief eventually found the boy alive and well after 29 hours in the cold.

Major coal producer laying off 1,100

One of the nation’s largest coal producers said Thursday it expects to lay off 1,100 workers at 11 southern West Virginia surface coal mines by mid-October, citing dismal markets and federal regulation.

The announcement by Alpha Natural Resources dealt another blow to Appalachia’s iconic, but dwindling, fossil fuel industry. The company said 2015 industry forecasts show Central Appalachian coal production will be less than half of its 2009 output.

It’s due to a combination of familiar factors, Alpha said: competition from cheaper natural gas, weak domestic and international markets and low coal prices. Prices of coal sent to Europe for power are at a four-year low, prices for steel producing coal have dipped more than 20 percent in less than a year, Alpha said.

World

Rescuers seek India mudslide survivors

Rescuers using earth-moving equipment and their bare hands dug through heavy mud and debris Thursday after a landslide engulfed an entire village in western India, killing at least 41 people and leaving about 100 missing and feared dead.

More than a day after the Wednesday morning landslide, authorities said the chances of survival were slim for anyone still trapped under the mud in Malin, a village of about 700 people in Pune district of Maharashtra state.

Suresh Jadhav, a district official, said around 40 homes were wiped out.

US warns against West Africa travel

The death toll from the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 in West Africa as security forces went house-to-house in Sierra Leone’s capital Thursday looking for patients and others exposed to the disease.

Fears grew as the United States warned against travel to the three infected countries – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and Sierra Leone’s soccer team was blocked from boarding a plane in Nairobi, Kenya, that was to take them to the Seychelles for a game on Saturday.

Airport authorities in Kenya said Seychelles immigration told them to prevent the team from traveling.

Investigators reach Ukraine crash site

As mortar fire landed nearby, an international team of investigators finally reached the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 wreckage site Thursday and got their first look at a scene experts fear has been badly compromised in the two weeks since the plane was blown out of the sky.

For the families of the 298 victims, it was an important start in locating and recovering bodies still out in the open and building a case against those who perpetrated the tragedy.

Up to 80 bodies are still at the site, said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. from Ukraine.

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