PETALUMA, Calif./SAN FRANCISCO - At the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds north of San Francisco, Spanish is the language that dominates many conversations about shelters, work and how to survive the California wine country wildfires, one of the deadliest fire events to strike the Golden State.
Volunteers and evacuees who work in the region's tourism and wine industries, sift through clothing at a shelter in Petaluma, California, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Noel Randewich
The workers that tend vines, ferment wine, build homes and feed tourists in world-famous Napa and Sonoma counties are heavily Latino; Latinos count for more than a quarter of Sonoma’s population.
They also are among the worst hit by the fires that have killed more than 30 people, scorched over 190,000 acres (77,000 hectares) and destroyed more than a dozen wineries.
Flames bore down on a vineyard where Sofia Rivera, 50, was picking grapes at about 2 a.m. on Monday. She sped home, grabbed her five kids, and fled. On Friday, she piled donated diapers onto a stroller at the fairgrounds shelter in Petaluma, calculating her money will last only a week.
“There’s no work, and we don’t know if there will be work,” said Rivera, a widow and native of Michoacan, Mexico.
The Latino population of Sonoma and Napa counties grew by more than 60 percent each between 2000 and 2015, outpacing a 38 percent growth in the Bay Area as a whole, according to U.S. Census data provided by Sonoma County. And it still is rising.
Many of those are workers who have come to the country illegally and are particularly vulnerable now, said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins. Her district includes some wine-making country and the Sonoma coast, whose beaches have been claimed by evacuees, including immigrants who feared immigration authorities would target them at shelters, she said.
”What we saw in my district was a huge flood of Latino evacuees to the coast,“ she said. ”Folks just went right past those shelters and they tried to get, I think, as far away from the fire as possible, but also beyond institutional help, on purpose.”
The less affluent would be hardest hit as wine country rebuilds, with owners of destroyed homes and an influx of construction workers competing for temporary housing and driving up prices, she said.
”We already had completely unaffordable housing costs for both rental and purchases, and those are only going to increase in the wake of this disaster,” Hopkins said. Some mobile homes were listed for sale in Santa Rosa for more than $150,000.
County officials have put out the word that immigration officials will not be chasing evacuees, but there is a clear sense of fear, said Ana Lugo, president of the North Bay Organizing Project. The group is organizing a fund for those evacuees in the country illegally, who are not likely to get federal aid.
She also is concerned that affluent communities burned down by the fire may get more local help than those less well off, a tale of two cities that Supervisor Hopkins hopes to avoid.
Armando Flores is likely to be one of those swinging hammers in the rebuilding of homes and entire communities.
A carpenter who came to California from Mexico four decades ago at the age of 16, and now a U.S. citizen, Flores left his valuable tools at a house he was working on. He fled to a shelter after getting a text message alert on Wednesday night.
He fears those tools may have been lost to flames. “But I left Mexico with nothing,” he said. “And I can start again with nothing.”
A decades-old investigation in the U.S. state of Georgia into the murder of a black man in 1983 culminated in the arrest of five white people on Friday, including two law enforcement officers charged with hindering the probe, officials said.
The body of Timothy Coggins, 23, was found on Oct. 9, 1983, in a grassy area near power lines in the community of Sunnyside, about 30 miles (48 km) south of downtown Atlanta.
He had been “brutally murdered” and his body had signs of trauma, the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Investigators spoke to people who knew Coggins, but the investigation went cold, Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix said at a news conference.
This past March, new evidence led investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Spalding County to re-examine the case.
Dix did not provide details on the nature of the evidence, saying more tips were received after authorities, over the summer, announced to the media the case was re-opened.
Some witnesses confessed they lived with knowledge about the case for years, but were afraid to come forward, Dix said.
“It has been an emotional roller coaster for everybody that was involved,” Dix said.
Police arrested five people on Friday in connection with the slaying. Frankie Gebhardt, 59, and Bill Moore Sr, 58, were each charged with murder, aggravated assault and other crimes.
Authorities did not immediately say where Gebhardt and Moore lived.
Gregory Huffman, 47, was charged with obstruction and violation of oath of office, Dix said. Huffman was a detention officer with the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office but his employment was terminated after he was arrested.
Lamar Bunn, a police officer in the town of Milner, which is south of Spalding County, was also arrested and charged with obstruction, as was Sandra Bunn, 58. She is Lamar’s mother, according to Atlanta television station WXIA.
Investigators are convinced the murder was racially motivated, Dix said.
“There is no doubt in the minds of all investigators involved that the crime was racially motivated and that if the crime happened today it would be prosecuted as a hate crime,” the Sheriff’s Office said.
Several members of Coggins’ family appeared at the news conference where authorities announced the arrests.
The family held out for justice all this time, said Heather Coggins, a niece of the victim.
“Even on my grandmother’s death bed, she knew that justice would one day be served,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if any of the five arrested people had an attorney, and they could not be reached for comment.
Dix promised more arrests in the case, as the investigation continues.
YANGON - Hungry, destitute and scared, thousands of new Rohingya refugees crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar early on Monday, Reuters witnesses said, fleeing attacks by Buddhist mobs and hunger that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
A Rohingya refugee girl who fled from Myanmar cries because she lost her mother, as they make their way after crossing the border in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 16, 2017. REUTERS/ Zohra Bensemra
Wading through waste-deep water with children strapped to their sides, the Rohingya told us at Reuters how they had walked through bushes and forded monsoon-swollen streams for days from Myanmar’s Buthidaung region before reaching the border.
A seemingly never-ending line entered Bangladesh near the village of Palongkhali. Many were injured, with the elderly on makeshift stretchers, and women balanced family belongings - pots, rice sacks, clothing - on their heads.
“We couldn’t step out of the house for the last month because the military were looting people. They started firing on the village. So we escaped into another village,” said Mohammad Shoaib, 29.
He wore a yellow vest and was balancing his jute bags, carrying some food and aluminum pots, on a bamboo pole.
“Day by day things kept getting worse, so we started moving towards Bangladesh. Before we left, I went back near my village to see my house, and the entire village was burnt down,” Shoaib said.
They walked to join some 536,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, when coordinated Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape.
Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar make their way after crossing the border in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and has labeled the militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who launched the initial attacks as terrorists who have killed civilians and burnt villages.
FOOD, AID RESTRICTED
The refugees who arrived in Bangladesh on Monday said they were driven out by hunger because food markets in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state have been shut down and aid deliveries restricted. They also reported attacks by the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs.
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Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya had already been in Bangladesh after fleeing previous spasms of violence in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced restrictions on their movements and access to basic services.
Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has pledged accountability for human rights abuses and says the country will accept back refugees who can prove they were residents of Myanmar.
The United States and the European Union have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, diplomats and officials have told us at Reuters, although they are wary of action that could destabilize the country’s transition to democracy.
EU foreign ministers will discuss Myanmar on Monday, and their draft joint statement said the bloc “will suspend invitations to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar/Burma armed forces and other senior military officers”.
The powerful army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, told the United States ambassador in Myanmar last week that the exodus of Rohingya, who he said were non-native “Bengalis”, was exaggerated.
A BBC Somali reporter at the scene of the main blast said the Safari Hotel had collapsed, with people trapped under the rubble.
An eyewitness, local resident Muhidin Ali, told AFP it was "the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area".
Meanwhile, the director of the Madina Hospital, Mohamed Yusuf Hassan, said he was shocked by the scale of the attack.
"Seventy-two wounded people were admitted to the hospital and 25 of them are in very serious condition. Others lost their hands and legs at the scene.
"What happened yesterday was incredible, I have never seen such a thing before, and countless people lost their lives. Corpses were burned beyond recognition."
The international community has been quick to condemn the attack:
African Union Commission's president Moussa Faki Mahamat said the body would continue supporting Somalia in efforts "to achieve sustainable peace and security"
Turkey said it would send planes with medical supplies, and fly wounded people to Turkey for treatment
In a statement, the US Mission to Somalia called it "cowardly" and said it reinvigorated US commitments to help African countries fight terrorism
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said his thoughts were with victims' families and the government and people of Somalia. "Those responsible have shown no regard for human life or the suffering of the Somali people," he continued
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted that he was "sickened" by the attacks and urged "unity in the face of terrorism and violent extremism"
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted that France stands by Somalia's side