Two Dead, More Than 100 Hurt In South Carolina Train Crash

A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina.
PHOTO: Logan Cyrus / AFP

Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured Sunday when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a freight train in the US state of South Carolina, authorities said.

Amtrak train 91 — traveling between New York and Miami — derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT).

It was the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December, raising questions about the safety of the national railway service.

Amtrak said in a statement that the lead engine derailed along with some passenger cars. Eight crew members and 139 passengers were on board.

A total of 116 people were taken to area hospitals for treatment, many with “minor injuries,” Governor Henry McMaster told reporters. US media reported injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to broken bones.

He identified the dead as Amtrak personnel and said the freight train, which was stationary, appeared to be empty.

“It appears the Amtrak train was on the wrong track,” the governor said, while cautioning that a full investigation was needed to determine the exact cause.

“We need a conversation around the country” about rail safety, he added, after visiting passengers at a shelter set up by the local Red Cross in a school.

“As you and your loved ones gather at church and other houses of worship today, we ask that you pray for those affected and the families of those who have passed away,” he said on Twitter.

– Nobody was panicking –

US President Donald Trump, who was in Florida for the weekend, was briefed and was receiving updates, a White House spokeswoman said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was investigating the incident. CSX said its personnel were on site to assist law enforcement.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department confirmed all passengers had been evacuated.

Officials added that although 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled following the crash, the leak was contained and there was no danger to the public.

“The incident is very near the state farmers’ market and other residential areas but right now, everyone is safe,” said Derrec Becker, public information officer at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

Passenger Derek Pettaway told CNN he was travelling south from Philadelphia to Orlando in a sleeper cabin when he was awoken by the impact of the crash.

“Nobody was panicking,” he said. “I’m pretty sure everybody was asleep and I think people were in shock.”

Pettaway added Amtrak staff had evacuated passengers in a “really calm fashion.”

– Questions over safety –

The Lexington County Sheriff later said four buses had been made available to take Amtrak passengers to their final destinations.

“My prayers are with the families of those killed in the train crash in Lexington County this morning and hoping for the best for all those injured. South Carolina is with you all!” tweeted Tim Scott, one of the state’s two US senators.

Congressman Joe Wilson called the incident “heartbreaking.”

It comes just days after an Amtrak train carrying several dozen Republican lawmakers including House Speaker Paul Ryan hit a garbage truck in Virginia, killing one person and causing six others, including a congressman, to need hospital treatment.

In December, three people were killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Washington state near the city of Tacoma, sending cars flying off a bridge and onto a busy interstate highway.

Preliminary information obtained from an event data recorder in the rear locomotive showed that train, which was travelling on a new route for the first time, was speeding at 80 miles (128 kilometres) per hour in a 30 mph zone.

AFP

Supsected South Carolina Serial Killer Pleads Guilty To Seven Murders

An accused serial killer pleaded guilty to seven murders at a court in South Carolina on Friday and was given seven consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, avoiding the death penalty, local news reports said.

The defendant, Todd Kohlhepp, 46, admitted to chaining a woman inside a storage shed on his rural property for two months and to a 2003 massacre of four people at a motorbike store, among other crimes, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.

As a part of the plea deal, Kohlhepp agreed not to contest the validity of the conviction in state or federal court and gave up his right to appeal, the newspaper reported.

Lawyers for Kohlhepp and the Spartanburg County prosecutor were not immediately available for comment.

He pleaded guilty to all charges against him, which included the seven murders, kidnapping and sexual assault, the paper said.

The crimes date back to 2003 and the bodies of several of the people killed by Kohlhepp were found on his property.

Hurricane Matthew: Thousands Of Haitians Displaced

Haiti, Hurricane Matthew, Cuba, Bahamas, UNICEF
UNICEF says Haiti is facing the largest humanitarian event since the 2010 earthquake

As Haiti begins to count its losses in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, rescue workers are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by the deadly tropical storm.

Officials say the destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew has forced Haiti’s Presidential election scheduled for this weekend to be postponed.

Thousands of people have been displaced and at least 10 people have died. The storm knocked down communications and blocked roads, hindering emergency efforts.

The United Nations Children’s Fund says Haiti is facing the “largest humanitarian event” since the 2010 earthquake that hit the impoverish country.

It also warned that more than four million children could be affected in the aftermath of the hurricane damage, warning of a likely spread of waterborne diseases.

The hurricane which has been downgraded to a category three hurricane, may likely hit the US East Coast in coming days.

The storm has now moved off the North-Eastern coast of Cuba towards Florida, where warnings are in place.

South Carolina is to start evacuating more than a million people.

It is also nearing the Bahamas.

Clinton Wins Big Over Sanders In South Carolina Primary

electionHillary Clinton has secured a big win over Bernie Sanders in the South Carolina primary, the latest battleground in the race to be Democratic presidential nominee.

The victory for Mrs Clinton, which was widely expected, gives her momentum ahead of the “Super Tuesday” primaries in 11 states next week.

“Tomorrow this campaign goes national,” she told cheering supporters.

Mr Sanders has congratulated her but said the campaign was just beginning.

The BBC reporters that with almost all the votes counted Mrs Clinton leads Mr Sanders by an almost 50-point margin.

Eight out of 10 black voters backed Mrs Clinton, exit polls suggested, a key section of the Democratic electorate.

“No Barrier Too Big”

It is Mrs Clinton’s third victory in four contests, after wins in Iowa and Nevada. She lost to Mr Sanders in New Hampshire.

Eight years ago, she lost the South Carolina primary overwhelmingly to then Senator Barack Obama.

It was a different story this time. Soon after polls closed she told supporters: “You sent a message – in America when we stand together, there is no barrier too big to break.”

On the Republican side, billionaire Donald Trump leads a field that has dwindled to five from 12 a month ago.

He won the Nevada caucus on Wednesday by a wide margin – correspondents say he is beginning to look unstoppable.

US Election 2016: Trump Wins South Carolina, As Clinton Takes Nevada

" Donald Trump has won the South Carolina primary in the republican race for the US President.

In the democratic contest, Hillary Clinton also defeated Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, in a tight race in Nevada.

Both results would be key ahead of the “Super Tuesday” round on March 1, when a dozen more states would make their choice.

Trump’s victory claimed a major scalp when former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, dropped out of the race.

He finished a distant fourth, days after former President, George Bush, made a rare political appearance to boost his brother’s campaign.

Republican Senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, were locked in a battle for second place in the state.

For Republicans, Trump is the one boasting a winning streak. He had a second-place finish in Iowa and double-digit victories in New Hampshire and now in South Carolina.

Obama Says Trump Will Not Be President

TrumpRepublican presidential contender, Donald Trump, will not become the President of the United States because it is a “serious job”.

These are the words of President Barack Obama who said he has a lot of faith in the American people not to vote for Trump.

He said the electorate would not pick him, saying they recognised that being president is a serious job.

“It’s not hosting a talk show or a reality show, it’s not promotion, it’s not marketing, it’s hard.

“It’s not a matter of pandering and doing whatever will get you in the news on a given day,” President Obama said on BBC.

The Republican frontrunner, however, responded by saying it was a compliment to be criticised by a president who has done so much damage to the country.

Mr Trump, a billionaire businessman, is the frontrunner in the race to be his party’s choice for the White House.

He has won one state primary already, and leads the polls in South Carolina, where Republicans will vote on Saturday.

Trump Tangles With Rival In Republican Debate

Republican-debateThe Republican candidates for President traded sharp verbal blows over foreign policy and the future of the Supreme Court in an often unruly and chaotic debate.

After Iowa and New Hampshire, the race has now moved to South Carolina before the February 20 primary.

Front-runner, Donald Trump, repeatedly tangled with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, in a series of tense exchanges.

The lively audience repeatedly jeered and booed the candidates who were shouting down and interrupting each other.

Hillary Clinton And Bernie Sanders Clash Over Obama In Debate

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on ObamaWhite House hopeful, Hillary Clinton and her fellow democrat, Bernie Sanders, have locked horns over who will better defend the policies of incumbent President, Barack Obama.

In their first debate since the New Hampshire Primary, Mrs Clinton sought to cast herself as the protector of Barack Obama’s legacy, sharply attacking Mr Sanders for criticising the President.

Meanwhile, Mr Sanders took pains to tailor his message of economic fairness to address disparities in black communities.

Immigration reform was also a major topic of discussion. Both candidates supported creating a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US and they decried a recent uptick in deportations by the Obama administration.

Criticising the anti-immigrant positions of Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Mr Sanders said immigrants should not be scapegoats for economic uncertainty.

“We have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world, who are trying to divide us,” Mr Sanders said.

The CNN reports that Clinton accused Sanders of calling Obama “weak” and a “disappointment” in the past and she warned that “the kind of criticism that we heard from Senator Sanders about our President, I expect from Republicans. I do not expect (it) from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.” Sanders was furious: “Madam Secretary, that is a low blow”.

He insisted that Obama was his friend, but that did not mean that a senator had to agree with the President on everything.

“One of us ran against President Obama,” Sanders said, responding to Clinton’s 2008 showdown against the then-Illinois Senator. “I was not that candidate.”

Nevada and South Carolina, States with large minority populations would vote next.

U.S. Democratic Candidates Debate Gun Control, Healthcare Policies

SandersUS democratic presidential contenders, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have clashed on gun control and healthcare in a live television debate.

Clinton raised questions about the self-styled democratic socialist’s positions on Wall Street reform, healthcare and gun control.

Sanders pushed back painting Clinton as a defender of the status quo who accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees as a former secretary of state from Wall Street backers.

“I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs,” the U.S. senator from Vermont said, adding, “I have huge doubts when people receive money from Wall Street.”

Clinton accused Sanders of voting to deregulate the financial market in 2000 in a way that led to the central causes of the financial collapse of 2008 that pitched the U.S. economy into a deep recession.

Clinton tried to undercut Sanders’ support among supporters of Obama, who remains a popular figure in the Democratic Party.

“He’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street. And President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession,” she said.

“Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing, he even in 2011 publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.”

Before the debate in South Carolina, Mr Sanders unveiled a healthcare plan for all American citizens.

Mr Sanders’ universal healthcare plan, announced two hours before the debate started, would see citizens pay what he called “a 2.2% income-based premium”.

Towards healthcare, companies would pay an extra 6.2% of an employee’s income towards the plan.

But Mrs Clinton attacked him saying the move risks derailing healthcare legislation introduced under President Obama.

The debate was held across the street from the Charleston church where a white gunman killed nine black worshippers in June, and Clinton made reference to the incident while accusing Sanders of being weak on gun control.

She welcomed his decision on Saturday night to back a bill in Congress rescinding portions of a law giving gunmakers immunity from lawsuits, but said his record showed a more lenient attitude toward the demands of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby.

Sanders defended himself, saying he has a strong record on trying to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands and standing up to the NRA.

While Hillary Clinton leads the polls nationwide, she is facing a threat from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in key states.

Sanders cast himself as the outsider who would lead a political revolution, while Clinton touted her experience and embraced President Barack Obama’s legacy.

This was the final democratic debate before Iowa caucuses launch the nominating race on February 1.

The debate followed a week of rising tension between the two leading candidates.

Trump Urges Ban On Muslims Coming To US

Trump Urges Ban On Muslims Coming To USAs the United States tries to clamp down terrorism, republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has offered the government this advice: “Stop Muslims from coming into the country”.

In a campaign statement, he said a “total and complete” shutdown should remain until the US authorities “can figure out” Muslim attitudes towards them.

Mr Trump,  who is a New York businessman repeated the pledge at a rally in South Carolina and the crowd cheered him on.

‘Contrary To US Values’

However, criticism from the White House and other republicans was swift.

A statement from the Presidency said Mr Trump’s comments were ‘contrary to US values’ and its national security interests.

While republican contender, Jeb Bush, asked the New York businessman to go for a checkup last week, a Muslim couple believed to have been radicalised, opened fire and killed 14 people at a health centre in San Bernardino.

Charleston Shooting: Relatives ‘Forgive’ Suspect In court

charlestonRelatives of some of the nine churchgoers shot dead in South Carolina have addressed the suspected gunman in court saying they have forgiven him.

The suspect, Dylann Roof, who appeared in court in Charleston to face nine murder charges, showed no emotion as relatives of the victims addressed him directly.

One of the victim’s daughter said: “I forgive you,” fighting back tears.

Police are treating the killings at the African-American Church on Wednesday night as a hate crime.

The Justice Department says it is investigating whether it might have been an act of domestic terrorism.

It said in a statement, the shooting was “designed to strike fear and terror into this community”, and the department was considering all possibilities.

On Friday afternoon, the 21-year-old Mr Roof spoke to confirm his name, age and address and said he was unemployed.

According to reports, the Jugde, afterwards, gave relatives of the victims opportunity to speak.

A woman, who identified herself as the daughter of Ethel Lance said: “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul”.

Anthony Thompson, a relative of Myra Thompson, told Mr Roof to repent and turn to Jesus Christ.

“I forgive you and my family forgives you,” he said.

Charleston Shooting Suspect Charged

charlestonThe 21-year-old Dylann Roof, who is believed to have shot dead nine people at a historic African-American Church in Charleston, South Carolina, makes his first court appearance on Friday via video link.

Police said he has been charged with nine counts of murder and one weapons possession charge.

South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley, said the 21-year-old should face the death penalty if convicted.

Mr Roof was detained more than 200 miles away in North Carolina and flown back to Charleston.

Reports say the victims of the shooting included a state Senator.

America’s President, Barack Obama, while speaking on Thursday, described the event as yet another tragedy caused by guns in the society.

President Obama said Americans had to confront the fact that frequent incidents of gun violence do not occur in other advanced countries.

He also said that he and his wife, Michelle, knew Reverend Clementa Pinckney who was killed along with eight others on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the Police are treating the killings as a hate Crime.