Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In this photo provided by South Korea's Ongjin County, South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue a capsized fishing boat which collided with a refueling vessel in the waters off Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.(South Korea Ongjin County via AP=Newsis)
In this photo provided by South Korea’s Ongjin County, South Korean Coast Guard officers try to rescue a capsized fishing boat which collided with a refueling vessel in the waters off Incheon, South Korea, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.(South Korea Ongjin County via AP=Newsis)
At least 13 people were dead and two missing on Sunday after a South Korean fishing boat collided with a refueling vessel and capsized, the coast guard said.

An official from the Korea Coast Guard said seven people were rescued and the two missing included the boat’s captain. He said 22 people were aboard the 9.8-ton fishing boat that capsized after colliding with the 336-ton refueling vessel in waters off the port city of Incheon.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing office rules. The refueling vessel did not suffer damage.
President Moon Jae-in ordered authorities to deploy as many helicopters and other aircraft as possible to search for the missing, according to his office.

The coast guard official said 19 coast guard and naval vessels and five aircraft including helicopters were dispatched to the site. Authorities were questioning the crew of the refueling vessel to determine the cause of the collision.

South Korea has seen its share of significant maritime accidents in recent years, including the 2014 sinking of a ferry that killed more than 300 people, mostly schoolchildren. More than 50 fishermen died or went missing months later after their vessel sank in the Bering Sea. (AP=Newsis)

 A damaged building is seen in Pohang, South Korea, on Nov. 15, 2017. An earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck an area in southeast South Korea, the country's weather agency said on Wednesday. (Xinhua=NEWSIS) (swt)
A damaged building is seen in Pohang, South Korea, on Nov. 15, 2017. An earthquake of 5.4 magnitude struck an area in southeast South Korea, the country’s weather agency said on Wednesday. (Xinhua=NEWSIS) (swt)

South Korea was hit by the country’s second biggest ever earthquake of 5.4- magnitude, with no serious casualty being reported yet, the weather service said Wednesday.

The 5.4-magnitude tremor struck an area, 9 km north of the southeast coastal city of Pohang in North Gyeongsang province at about 2:29 p.m. local time (0529 GMT), according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The seismic intensity was the second biggest in the country’s history after the biggest ever quake of 5.8-magnitude hit the Gyeongju city, just south of the Pohang city, in September last year.

No serious casualty was reported yet. As of 3:00 p.m. local time, four minor injuries were reported, according to the firefighting agency.

The weather service revised the magnitude from an initial 5.5 to 5.4 after a rigorous analysis.

The epicenter, with a depth of 9 km, was at 36.10 degrees north latitude and 129.37 degrees east longitude.

Before the main tremor, earthquakes of magnitude- 2.2 and 2.6 struck areas near the Pohang city. An aftershock of 3.6-magnitude took place in an area 7 km north of the coastal city, followed by third and fourth shocks.

According to local TV footage, some of the buildings saw external wall damaged and window broken. Electric lamp hanging from the ceiling was shaken, with books falling from a bookshelf.

Some passenger cars were seen broken as external walls fell on roof. Students were evacuated from school buildings and people stood on the streets after dashing out of office buildings and apartments.

The quake was sensed across the country, including the capital Seoul, some 270 km away from the Pohang city, as well as the southern resort island of Jeju, according to local media reports.

Nuclear power plants were being normally operated, according to the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, an operator of the country’s nuclear reactors. Most of South Korea’s atomic power plants are located along the southeast coastal area.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was briefed on the quake on his flight to Seoul after ending a weeklong trip to Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. Moon convened an emergency meeting with his secretaries. (AP=Xinhua)

FILE - In this March 22, 2007, file photo, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, bottom, anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea. The United States and South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File=Newsis)
FILE – In this March 22, 2007, file photo, the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, bottom, anchors as U.S. Aegis Ship passes after they arrive at Busan port for joint military exercises in Busan, South Korea. The United States and South Korea on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, File=Newsis)

The United States and South Korea on Saturday started joint naval exercises that will involve three U.S. aircraft carriers in what military officials describe as a clear warning to North Korea.

The four-day drills that began in waters off South Korea’s eastern coast come as President Donald Trump continues a visit to Asia that has been dominated by discussions over the North Korean nuclear threat.

The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The three carriers will be likely together in the drills around Monday, according to a South Korean military official, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.

The exercises will also involve 11 U.S. Aegis ships and seven South Korean naval vessels, including two Aegis ships. The Aegis technology refers to missile tracking and guidance.

They will aim to enhance combined operation and aerial strike capabilities and also display “strong will and firm military readiness to defeat any provocation by North Korea with dominant force in the event of crisis,” Seoul’s military said in a statement.

It’s the first time since a 2007 exercise near Guam that three U.S. carrier strike groups are operating together in the Western Pacific, according to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. The U.S. carriers will also participate in separate exercises with three Japanese destroyers on Sunday, according to Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The United States has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

Trump continued his tough talk against Pyongyang on Friday in a speech to business leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Danang, Vietnam, saying that the region’s future “must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump had also delivered a sharp warning to North Korea in a speech at South Korea’s parliament on Wednesday, telling the country: “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us.”(AP=Newsis)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. European Union leaders gathered Friday to weigh progress in negotiations on Britain's departure from their club as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert=Newsis)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, speaks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017. European Union leaders gathered Friday to weigh progress in negotiations on Britain’s departure from their club as they look for new ways to speed up the painfully slow moving process. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert=Newsis)

Exit talks between Britain and the European Union will resume next week, the two sides announced Tuesday, as U.K. Brexit chief David Davis said the divorce settlement is likely to favor the EU financially.

The EU and Britain’s Brexit department said in a joint statement that the two sides will meet Nov. 9 and 10 for a sixth round of negotiations.

Five previous rounds overseen by Davis and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier have failed to resolve big differences on key issues, including the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial obligations to the 28-nation bloc. Britain has suggested a figure of about 20 billion euros ($23 billion), while the EU side puts it at 60 billion euros ($70 billion) or more.

The U.K. is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the stagnating talks have raised fears it could crash out without a deal, with huge economic and legal consequences.

Britain hopes EU leaders will declare at a meeting in December that talks have made enough progress on divorce terms to move onto future relations and trade.

Davis insisted Tuesday he is confident Britain is “on timetable” to get a good outcome by March 2019.

In a hint that Britain is preparing to raise its offer on the Brexit bill, Davis told a parliamentary committee that “the withdrawal agreement, on balance, will probably favor the Union in terms of things like money and so on.”
He added that “the future relationship will favor both sides and will be important to both of us.”

He also rebuffed allegations that Britain is unprepared for Brexit, saying the tax and customs department would recruit as many as 5,000 new staff next year to deal with expected changes.

The government also says it has committed more than 1.3 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) to cover Brexit costs until 2022.

Britain voted by 52 percent to 48 percent in June 2016 to leave the EU, and the country remains deeply divided over the issue.

On Tuesday the U.K. statistics agency said one of the chief claims by Brexit advocates during the referendum was wide of the mark.

The Office for National Statistics said Britain’s net transfer to the EU in 2016 was 9.4 billion pounds ($12.4 billion). That’s about 180 million pounds per week, around half the 350 million pounds the Vote Leave campaign said could be saved in case of Brexit and spent on health care.

That claim is seen to have boosted support for the campaign for Britain to leave the EU.

Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently "turned a corner" against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)
Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)

With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home.

While the danger from the deadliest, most destructive cluster of blazes in California history was far from over, the smoky skies started to clear in some places.

“A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived,” Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said.

People were being allowed to go back home in areas no longer in harm’s way, and the number of those under evacuation orders was down to 75,000 from nearly 100,000 the day before.

Fire crews were able to gain ground because the winds that had fanned the flames did not kick up overnight as much as feared.

“Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who noted that some of the fires were 50 percent or more contained. “It’s probably a sign we’ve turned a corner on these fires.”

The blazes were blamed for at least 40 deaths and destroyed some 5,700 homes and other structures. The death toll could climb as searchers dig through the ruins for people listed as missing. Hundreds were unaccounted for, though authorities said many of them are probably safe but haven’t let anyone know.

In hard-hit Sonoma County, Sheriff Rob Giordano said authorities have located 1,560 of the more than 1,700 once listed as missing. Many of those names were put on the list after people called from out of state to say they couldn’t reach a friend or relative.

Sonoma County officials said they will not let people return home until it is safe and utilities are restored. Crews have been working around the clock to connect water and power, in some cases putting up new poles next to smoldering trees, the sheriff said.

Many evacuees grew increasingly impatient to go home – or at least find out whether their homes were spared. Others were reluctant to go back or to look for another place to live.

Juan Hernandez, who escaped with his family from his apartment Oct. 9 before it burned down, still had his car packed and ready to go in case the fires flared up again and threatened his sister’s house, where they have been staying in Santa Rosa.

“Every day we keep hearing sirens at night, alarms,” Hernandez said. “We’re scared. When you see the fire close to your house, you’re scared.”

Evacuation orders were lifted for the city of Calistoga, the Napa Valley city of 5,000 known for its mud baths, mineral spas and wine tastings. The city was cleared out Wednesday as winds shifted, but homes and businesses were spared.

At the Sonoma fairgrounds, evacuees watched the San Francisco 49ers play the Redskins on television, received treatment from a chiropractor and got free haircuts.

Michael Estrada, who owns a barber shop in neighboring Marin County but grew up in one of the Santa Rosa neighborhoods hit hard by the blazes, brought his combs, clippers and scissors and displayed his barbering license in case anyone doubted his credentials.

“I’m not saving lives,” he said. “I’m just here to make somebody’s day feel better, make them feel normal.”

Lois Krier, 86, said it was hard to sleep on a cot in the shelter with people snoring and dogs barking through the night.

She and her husband, William Krier, 89, were anxious to get home, but after being evacuated for a second time in a week Saturday, they didn’t want to risk having to leave again.

“We’re cautious,” she said. “We want to be safe.”

Nearly 11,000 firefighters were still battling 15 fires burning across a 100-mile swath of the state.

In the wooded mountains east of Santa Rosa, where a mandatory evacuation remained in place, a large plume of white smoke rose high in the sky as firefighters tried to prevent the fire from burning into a retirement community and advancing onto the floor of Sonoma Valley, known for its wineries.

Houses that had benefited from repeated helicopter water drops were still standing as smoke blew across surrounding ridges. A deer crossed the highway from a burned-out area and wandered into a vineyard not reached by the flames.

Those who were allowed back into gutted neighborhoods returned to assess the damage and, perhaps, see if anything was salvageable.

Jack Daniels had recently completed a year-long remodel of his Napa house near the Silverado Country Club and watched it go up in flames last week as he, his wife, 7-year-old grandson and two pugs backed out of the driveway.

His neighbors, Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, were the oldest victims identified so far in the wildfires.

Daniels, 74, a wine importer and exporter, said he lost everything left behind, including his wife’s jewelry and 3,000 bottles of wine in his cellar.

“It’s heartbreaking,” the 74-year-old said. “This was going to be our last house. I guess we’ve got one more move. But we’re fortunate. We got away. Most things can be replaced. The bank didn’t burn down.” (Ap=Newsis)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.  Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)

A coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Speaking Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s drive to curb global climate change.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt declared, adding that no federal agency should ever use its authority to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

It was not immediately clear if Pruitt would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval, which Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for doing. Pruitt’s rule wouldn’t become final for months, and is then highly likely to face a raft of legal challenges.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among those who said they will sue.

“The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” said Schneiderman, a Democrat.

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two dozen attorney generals who sued to stop Obama’s 2014 push to limit carbon emissions, stymieing the limits from ever taking effect.

Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Kentucky, a company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states. Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which are also being squeezed by low cost natural gas and renewable power. In the absence of stricter federal regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many states have issued their own mandates promoting energy conservation.

The withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting levels of toxic pollution in smokestack emissions and wastewater discharges from coal-burning power plants.

On Thursday, Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt’s top deputy at EPA – one of several recent political appointees at the agency with direct ties to the fossil fuel interests.

The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

Despite the rhetoric about saving coal, government statistics show that coal mines currently employ only about 52,000 workers nationally – a modest 4-percent uptick since Trump became president. Those numbers are dwarfed by the jobs created by building such clean power infrastructure as wind turbines and solar arrays.

Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided Pruitt’s decision as short sighted.

“Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. (AP=Newsis)

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)
FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)

A powerful Republican senator cast the president of his own party as a man-child who could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” as the two engaged in an intense and vitriolic back-and-forth bashing, a remarkable airing of their party’s profound rifts.

In political discourse that might once have seemed inconceivable, Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, felt compelled to answer his president’s barbs on Sunday by tweeting: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.“

In an interview Sunday with The New York Times, Corker said Trump could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” with threats toward other countries. Corker also said Trump acted as if he was on his old reality-TV show and that he concerned the senator, adding: “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.“

Corker also said his concerns about Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican, the paper reported.

In a series of stinging tweets earlier in the day, Trump contended Corker:

_Was “largely responsible for the horrendous” Iran nuclear deal, which the Democratic Obama administration negotiated and Corker considered badly flawed. The senator also tried to require that President Barack Obama submit the accord to Congress for approval.

_Intended to obstruct the White House agenda, though he offered no evidence for saying he expected Corker “to be a negative voice.“

_”Begged” for Trump’s endorsement in his 2018 re-election, then opted against seeking a third term when Trump declined, showing the senator “didn’t have the guts to run.” The Associated Press reported that Trump, in a private meeting in September, had urged Corker to run. Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Sunday that Trump called Corker last Monday to ask that he reconsider his decision to leave the Senate. Trump “reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” the aide said.

_Wanted to be secretary of state, and “I said `NO THANKS,”‘ said Trump, who picked Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson for that Cabinet post. Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was mentioned as a possible pick after the election.

Trump added another tweet Sunday evening: “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!“

Corker always had been one to speak his mind, and even before Sunday’s verbal volleys, his new free agent status promised to make Trump and the party nervous. Already, there was the prospect of even more elbow room to say what he wants and to vote how he pleases over the next 15 months as Trump and the party’s leaders on Capitol Hill struggle to get their agenda on track.

Corker’s comments drew a rebuke Monday from White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said on “Fox & Friends” that she finds “tweets like this to be incredibly irresponsible.” She added that the president’s door is always open to speak with lawmakers privately.

The top Republican in the Senate, who has been the target of Trump’s ire, deflected questions about the escalating fight between Corker and Trump.

“Sen. Corker is a valuable member of the Senate Republican caucus and he’s also on the Budget committee and a particularly important player as we move to the floor on the budget next week and he’s an important part of our team,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday during a stop in Hazard, Kentucky.

Not long before Trump’s tweeting, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “it’s going to be fun to work” with Corker, “especially now that he’s not running for re-election, because I think it sort of unleashes him to do whatever – and say whatever – he wants to say.“

In his interview with the Times, Corker said: “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.“

Corker delivered a rebuke of the Trump White House after the president’s tweets scoffing at Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis with North Korea. Corker said Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, are “those people that help separate our country from chaos.“

And Corker will be at the center of what may be a stormy debate over the future of the Iran agreement. Trump’s hostility toward the deal has stoked concerns he’s aiming to dismantle the international accord despite Europe’s objections. Corker is opposed to scrapping the agreement outright.

“You can only tear these things up one time,” Corker said. “It might feel good for a second. But one of the things that’s important for us is to keep our allies with us, especially our Western allies.“

Corker is the latest Republican to face Trump’s wrath. The president in recent months has lit into McConnell over the failure of the GOP to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law, and specifically targeted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for their opposition to GOP health legislation.

Corker, 65, announced last month that his second, six-year term would be his last. (AP=Newsis)

Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors on a collapsed building the Del Valle neighborhood in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 100 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. (AP=Newsis)
Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors on a collapsed building the Del Valle neighborhood in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 100 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. (AP=Newsis)

A powerful earthquake shook central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings in plumes of dust and killing at least 139 people. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

Dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed sickeningly.

Hours after the magnitude 7.1 quake, rescue workers were still clawing through the wreckage of a primary school that partly collapsed in the city’s south looking for any children who might be trapped. Some relatives said they had received Whatsapp message from two girls inside.

The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country’s south.

Luis Felipe Puente, head of the national Civil Defense agency, reported Tuesday night that the confirmed death toll had been raised to 149.

His tweet said 55 people died in Morelos state, just south of Mexico City, while 49 died in the capital and 32 were killed in nearby Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Ten people died in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, and three were killed in Guerrero state, he said.

The count did not include one death that officials in the southern state of Oaxaca reported earlier as quake-related.

The federal government declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, freeing up emergency funds. President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had ordered all hospitals to open their doors to the injured.

Mancera, the Mexico City mayor, said 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by citizens and emergency workers in the capital. Authorities said at least 70 people in the capital had been hospitalized for injuries.

The federal interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said authorities had reports of people possibly still being trapped in collapsed buildings. He said search efforts were slow because of the fragility of rubble.

“It has to be done very carefully,” he said. And “time is against us.”

At one site, reporters saw onlookers cheer as a woman was pulled from the rubble. Rescuers immediately called for silence so they could listen for others who might be trapped.

Mariana Morales, a 26-year-old nutritionist, was one of many who spontaneously participated in rescue efforts.

She wore a paper face mask and her hands were still dusty from having joined a rescue brigade to clear rubble from a building that fell in a cloud of dust before her eyes, about 15 minutes after the quake.

Morales said she was in a taxi when the quake struck, and she got out and sat on a sidewalk to try to recover from the scare. Then, just a few yards away, the three-story building fell.

A dust-covered Carlos Mendoza, 30, said that he and other volunteers had been able to pull two people alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building after three hours of effort.

“We saw this and came to help,” he said. “It’s ugly, very ugly.”

Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth floor apartment in the Roma neighborhood when the quake pancaked the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out – until neighbors set up a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window.

Gala Dluzhynska was taking a class with 11 other women on the second floor of a building on trendy Alvaro Obregon street when the quake struck and window and ceiling panels fell as the building began to tear apart.

She said she fell in the stairs and people began to walk over her, before someone finally pulled her up.

“There were no stairs anymore. There were rocks,” she said.

They reached the bottom only to find it barred. A security guard finally came and unlocked it.

The quake sent people throughout the city fleeing from homes and offices, and many people remained in the streets for hours, fearful of returning to the structures.

Alarms blared and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument on the iconic Reforma Avenue.

Electricity and cellphone service was interrupted in many areas and traffic was snarled as signal lights went dark.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1:14 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT) and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.

Puebla Gov. Tony Gali tweeted there were damaged buildings in the city of Cholula, including collapsed church steeples.

In Jojutla, a town in neighboring Morelos state, the town hall, a church and other buildings tumbled down, and 12 people were reported killed.

The Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed in Jojutla, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill that the school held in the morning was a boon when the real thing hit just two hours later.

“I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the shaking began, children and teachers filed out rapidly and no one was hurt, she said. “It fell and everything inside was damaged.”

Earlier in the day, workplaces across Mexico City held earthquake readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake that killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of the capital.

In that tragedy, too, ordinary citizens played a crucial role in rescue efforts that overwhelmed officials.

Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck Tuesday. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.

Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city’s normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.

Mexico City’s international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for damage.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.

The new quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept. 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were 400 miles (650 kilometers) apart and said most aftershocks are within (60 miles) 100 kilometers.

There have been 19 earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or larger within 150 miles (250 kilometers) of Tuesday’s quake over the past century, Earle said.

Earth usually has about 15 to 20 earthquakes this size or larger each year, Earle said.

Initial calculations showed that more than 30 million people would have felt moderate shaking from Tuesday’s quake. (AP=Newsis)

In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo,  Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim man, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Teknaf, Bangladesh. After a series of attacks by Muslim militants in August, security forces and allied mobs retaliated by burning down thousands of homes in the enclaves of the predominantly Buddhist nation where the Rohingya live. (AP Newsis)
In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim man, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Teknaf, Bangladesh. After a series of attacks by Muslim militants in August, security forces and allied mobs retaliated by burning down thousands of homes in the enclaves of the predominantly Buddhist nation where the Rohingya live. (AP=Newsis)

International opinion hardened against Myanmar on Monday as the U.S., Britain and other powers renewed calls for an end to violence against Rohingya Muslims, whose plight is overshadowing the Southeast Asian nation’s historic transition to democracy.

A year ago at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Myanmar was being lauded for staging elections and shifting peacefully from decades of oppressive military rule.

At this year’s U.N. session, Myanmar, also known as Burma, appeared in danger of being an international outlier again.

Outrage is growing over a military crackdown that has triggered an exodus of more than 400,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh in less than a month in what the U.N. has described as “ethnic cleansing. ”

Last week, the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, condemned the violence in its first statement on Myanmar in nine years.

On Monday, Britain presided at a meeting of several Western and Muslim-majority governments that urged senior Myanmar officials to stop abuses against the Muslim minority and restore humanitarian access.

Myanmar’s government has blamed the crisis on Rohingya insurgents who attacked security posts in Rakhine State in late August.

But the military’s heavy response has severely affected civilians. Human rights groups, which are demanding punitive sanctions against Myanmar, say satellite imagery shows dozens of settlements have been set on fire. Many fleeing Rohingya say their homes were burned by Myanmar troops or Buddhist mobs.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the violence a “stain” on Myanmar’s reputation.

He urged action from the nation’s democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out in defense of the Rohingya. The minority group is widely loathed by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar and viewed as outsiders despite the fact many have lived in the country for generations.

“It is vital that Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government make clear these abuses must stop,” Johnson said in a statement.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who spent nearly 15 years in house arrest under Myanmar’s former ruling junta, is skipping the U.N. gathering and will address her nation Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday’s meeting, attended by Myanmar’s national security adviser and deputy foreign minister, was productive but the situation remains dire. She urged the government to end military operations, grant humanitarian access and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes.

“People are still at risk of being attacked or killed, humanitarian aid is not reaching the people who need it, and innocent civilians are still fleeing across the border to Bangladesh,” Haley said.

Ministers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Denmark also attended the closed meeting Monday. The British statement said the meeting urged Myanmar to implement recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan calling for economic development and social justice to counter deadly violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya.

Also Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said one-third of the Rohingya community has been forced into exile and it requires a collective response by the international community to ensure their protection.

“We are waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi to give a strong answer and a real dialogue,” he told reporters. (AP=Newsis)

A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. The signs read "Need sanctions on North Korea."(AP=Newsis)
A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. The signs read “Need sanctions on North Korea.”(AP=Newsis)

President Donald Trump on Sunday mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea as “Rocket Man” while White House advisers said the isolated nation would face destruction unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.

Trump’s chief diplomat held out hope the North would return to the bargaining table, though the president’s envoy to the United Nations said the Security Council had “pretty much exhausted” all its options.

Kim Jong Un has pledged to continue the North’s programs, saying his country is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the United States.

North Korea will be high on the agenda for world leaders this coming week at the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump’s biggest moment on the world stage since his inauguration in January.

Trump is scheduled to address the world body, which he has criticized as weak and incompetent, on Tuesday.

Trump, who spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club, tweeted that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea during their latest telephone conversation Saturday.

Asked about Trump’s description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Rocket Man” was “a new one and I think maybe for the president.” But, he said, “that’s where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all.”

McMcaster said Kim is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon.”

Asked if that meant Trump would launch a military strike, McMaster said “he’s been very clear about that, that all options are on the table.”

Some doubt that Kim would ever agree to surrender his arsenal.

“I think that North Korea is not going to give up its program with nothing on the table,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kim has threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and has fired missiles over Japan, a U.S. ally. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful bomb.

The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously twice in recent weeks to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea, including targeting shipments of oil and other fuel used in missile testing. Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said North Korea was starting to “feel the pinch.”

Trump, in a tweet, asserted that long lines for gas were forming in North Korea, and he said that was “too bad.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was waiting for the North to express interest in “constructive, productive talks.”

“All they need to do to let us know they’re ready to talk is to just stop these tests, stop these provocative actions, and let’s lower the threat level and the rhetoric,” he said.

But Haley warned of a tougher U.S. response to future North Korean provocations, and said she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “because he has plenty of military options.”

Mattis said after Kim tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month that the U.S. would answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”

Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the North continued with its threats. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but she declined to describe the president’s intentions.

“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said. “None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States, but to all their allies, so something is going to have to be done.” (AP=Newsis)