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Nearly 150 New York City police officers violated department rules during 2020 George Floyd protests: Report

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(NEW YORK) -- Nearly 150 New York City police officers violated department rules during 2020 protests over the death of George Floyd, according to a new report issued Monday by the Civilian Complaint Review Board.

The Board substantiated misconduct against 146 officers. Most of the violations involved excessive force, including improper use of batons and pepper spray. Other violations involved discourtesy or offensive language.

The report said there were hundreds more allegations the CCRB could not investigate because officers wore bands over their badge numbers or refused to be interviewed remotely.

“The Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in the summer of 2020 were massive in scale, but not unprecedented in nature,” said interim CCRB chairwoman Arva Rice. “Given what is happening across the country regarding reproductive rights, immigration, affordable housing, and police brutality, people will continue to protest for their rights. It is key for New York to know how to best respond to protests, especially protests against police misconduct.”

The NYPD said the substantiated allegations amount to less than 15% of complaints.

The department also objected to the way the CCRB characterized its response to the protests, including a failure to acknowledge that officers were working under sustained, dangerous conditions.

“At the peak of the protests, there were more than 22,000 NYPD officers deployed in a single day, attempting to facilitate people’s rights to peaceful expression all while addressing acts of lawlessness including wide-scale rioting, mass chaos, violence, and destruction,” the NYPD said.

The department continued, adding, “Officers were faced with perpetrators who were looting, setting fires, and destroying property. During this period, more than 400 uniformed members of the NYPD were injured, with over 250 of them hospitalized, and nearly 300 NYPD vehicles were vandalized, including several that were destroyed by arson from the throwing of Molotov cocktails.”

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Ohio train derailment: Urgent evacuation call as officials scramble to avoid rail car explosion

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(EAST PALESTINE, Ohio) -- Officials are making an urgent call for evacuations as they plan to burn off the chemicals from a derailed Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio, in order to avoid a major explosion.

Residents in a 1-mile by 2-mile area surrounding East Palestine -- which includes parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania -- must evacuate immediately, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said.

"The vinyl chloride contents of five rail cars are currently unstable and could potentially explode, causing deadly disbursement of shrapnel and toxic fumes," the governor's office said in a statement. "To alleviate the risk of uncontrollable shrapnel from an explosion, Norfolk Southern Railroad is planning a controlled release of the vinyl chloride at approximately 3:30 p.m. today."

Officials released a map showing a red zone and a yellow zone, downwind from the burn, with Norfolk Southern saying anyone who remains in the red area will be exposed to deadly toxins and anyone in the yellow area could suffer "skin burns and serious lung damage."

The train, traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania, derailed around 9 p.m. Friday, ignited and prompted a response from more than 50 fire departments across three states, according to East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway.

Janet Meek, who lives about one block from the railroad tracks, said she heard a "loud boom" around 9 p.m. Friday. Her husband reported seeing a "billowing ball of fire" while walking their dogs.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday that two videos show preliminary indications of mechanical issues on one of the rail car's axle. The train's emergency brake was activated after crews said an alarm went off, according to the NTSB. There were no injuries, the agency said.

Fire chief Keith Drabick told reporters Saturday that the train was carrying hazardous substances but could not confirm if the fire impacted the train cars carrying the hazardous goods. Drabick said the odor permeating East Palestine was not harmful at current levels, but representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency were monitoring the situation.

East Palestine is a small village on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio with roughly 4,700 residents.

Efforts to contain the fire stalled Saturday night when firefighters withdrew from the blaze due to concerns about air quality and explosions.

Conaway said firefighters withdrew from the fire Friday night due to concerns about air quality, with a plan to reengage once they get a "better grasp of what exactly is what chemical is burning." At Saturday's press conference, Drabick said there had been multiple explosions overnight, which posed a risk to firefighters.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

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Suspects arrested in plot to attack power stations, destroy Baltimore: Prosecutors

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(NEW YORK) -- A Florida man and a Maryland woman have been arrested on federal charges of plotting to attack multiple energy substations with the goal of destroying Baltimore, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

The suspects, Sarah Clendaniel of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Russell of Orlando, Florida, were allegedly fueled by a racist extremist ideology as they "conspired to inflict maximum harm" on the power grid with the aim to "completely destroy" Baltimore, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron and a top FBI official said at a Monday morning press conference.

Russell is quoted in court documents saying that attacking power transformers is "the greatest thing somebody can do." He is accused of providing instructions and location information for the substations he and Clendaniel allegedly sought to target as part of their plot, federal prosecutors said.

Clendaniel allegedly told an FBI confidential source she was "determined" to carry out the attacks aimed at Baltimore's infrastructure, saying, "It would lay this city to waste."

"Their actions threatened the electricity and heat of our homes, hospitals and businesses," said Thomas Sobocinski, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Baltimore field office. "The FBI believes this was a real threat."

Sobocinski said the two suspects "had extremist views" and believed that by conducting the attack, they would bring further light to their views. Sobocinski declined to go into specifics when pressed by reporters.

The arrests come after a series of attacks on energy substations nationwide, including one in December in North Carolina that left 45,000 utility customers without electricity for days and prompted local officials to declare a state of emergency.

The Department of Homeland Security has warned about similar attacks recently. A "National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin" issued on Nov. 30 said individuals and groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances "continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the Homeland."

In January, two men were arrested in Tacoma, Washington, and charged with conspiracy to damage energy facilities and possession of an unregistered firearm. Prosecutors said the suspects attacked four substations in the Tacoma area, causing more than $3 million in damage.

In February 2022, three men -- Christopher Brenner Cook, 20, Jonathan Allen Frost, 24, and Jackson Matthew Sawall, 22 -- pleaded guilty in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, to crimes related to a scheme to attack power grids in the United States in furtherance of white supremacist ideology. As part of the conspiracy, each man was assigned a substation in a different region of the United States to attack with rifles, believing their plan would cost the government millions of dollars, cause unrest for Americans and even prompt a race war, federal prosecutors said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Antisemitic fliers left in driveways of some Atlanta suburbs: Police

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(ATLANTA) -- Police in two Atlanta suburbs are on the hunt for a suspect or suspects that left antisemitic fliers on some residents' driveways on Sunday, authorities said.

Both the Dunwoody and Sandy Springs police departments said they are investigating the incidents.

"The Dunwoody Police Department is aware that a number of residents of all faiths received anti-Semitic flyers in their driveways overnight. We are actively investigating this incident and working closely with the Sandy Springs Police Department, as their community was victimized as well," Dunwoody Chief of Police Billy Grogan said in a statement Sunday.

Georgia State Rep. Esther Panitch tweeted that she received a flyer in her driveway.

"Welcome to being a Jew in Georgia-my driveway this morning. @SandySprings_PD came & took for testing. Govern yourselves accordingly, GDL and Anti-Semites who seek to harm/intimidate Jews in Georgia," Panitch's tweet said. "I'm coming for you with the weight of the State behind me."

The flyers were left in plastic bags in the driveways of "many" Jewish families in Fulton and DeKalb counties, Panitch said.

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said the purpose of flyers was to cause fear and division.

"I want to assure everyone that hateful, divisive, and anti-Semitic rhetoric has no place here. Dunwoody is a community that values our diversity and is home to people of all faiths, races, ethnicities, and more," Deutsch said in a statement. "I stand with our Jewish community and all who face intolerance. I believe that love always conquers hate. Please be good to each other."

"Sandy Springs is aware that a number of residents received disturbing, antisemitic fliers earlier this morning," the police department said in a statement Sunday. "The Sandy Springs Police Department is actively investigating and encourages any citizen receiving such a message or who has any additional information to contact 911."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp denounced the antisemitic flyers.

"This kind of hate has no place in our state and the individuals responsible do not share Georgia's values," Kemp tweeted. "If needed, state law enforcement stands ready to assist Sandy Springs Police and Dunwoody Police in their investigations. We will always condemn acts of antisemitism."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Thousands of Texas residents could be waiting days for power to be restored after last week's freeze

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(NEW YORK) -- It may feel like spring in Texas, but some of the state's most populated regions are still reeling from last week's freezing temperatures.

Some of the most populated regions of Texas could be in the dark for several more days as crews work to restore the power grids that failed as a result of freezing weather in the state that lasted for several days last week.

More than 350,000 customers were without power in Texas on Friday due to the massive ice storm that brought freezing rain and sleet to much of the South, which weighed down power lines and trees. The destruction caused by the inclement weather prompted Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott to issue a disaster declaration in seven counties on Saturday.

By Monday, as temperatures soared back into the 60s in some of the hardest-hit regions, most of those outages had been restored. However, more than 34,000 customers remained without power, mostly in Travis County, which includes the City of Austin, according to Poweroutage.us.

Some customers may not have power restored until Super Bowl Sunday, especially as incoming wind and rain pose additional challenges, Austin Energy announced.

Despite the isolated outages in places like Austin, power failures were nowhere near as widespread as in 2021, when back-to-back winter storms caused a statewide energy catastrophe, killing more than 100 people, experts told ABC News.

But, this past freeze was not a true stress test of the grid, as temperatures were "much less intense" in terms of temperature and temperament, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, told ABC News last week.

Power plants in Texas have installed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of updates to better winterize their facilities since 2021, Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, told ABC News.

Despite "record amounts" of demand on the grid, no widespread outages have occurred.

High winds have also allowed wind production to make up for any failures in coal and gas production this winter season, Cohan said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kidnapped children from Missouri found at Florida supermarket one year later: Police

High Springs Police Dept.

(HIGH SPRINGS, Fla.) -- Two Missouri children were found inside a supermarket in Florida nearly a year after they were abducted, according to law enforcement officials.

Brooke Gilley and Adrian Gilley were found on Wednesday at a Florida Winn-Dixie with their non-custodial mother, Kristi Nicole Gilley, the High Springs Police Department said on Thursday.

Gilley, 36, was arrested for kidnapping on a warrant out of Clay County, Missouri, according to police. She was discovered with the children after police checked the tags on her vehicle and found she was a fugitive.

High Springs Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

According to High Springs PD, Adrian and Brooke, who had been missing since March 5, 2022, were turned over to the Florida Department of Children and Families Services and will be reunited with their family.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New winter storm brings heavy snow and rain to West Coast, East Coast warms up

On Monday morning, 7am ET, snow will still be falling in the Rockies as the system from the west coast continues its trek east. - ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A new winter storm is brought heavy rain and snow along the West Coast over the weekend.

A foot of snow fell in the mountains around Lake Tahoe, with nine inches reported further south at Mammoth Mountain in California, with snow steadily falling on Sunday afternoon, according to meteorologists.

As for rain, about half an inch fell in San Francisco.

Heavy snow will continue over mountain ranges in the West.

The Cascades Mountain range will see two to four feet of heavy snow early in the week. The Rocky Mountains are expected to get between six and 12 inches of snow between Sunday and Wednesday morning as the storm makes its way east.

The storm system will redevelop over the Plains bringing rain from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes by Tuesday evening.

Overnight and into Tuesday, intense storms may form in Texas between Austin to Houston, potentially bringing damaging winds and possible tornados.

From Dallas to Nashville, there may be a minor threat of floods by Wednesday, where moderate to heavy rain may occur and lead to either areal or flash flooding.

As the rain moves into the Northeast Thursday morning and afternoon, it will mainly be rain because temperatures will be well above average this week, following a weekend of blistering cold weather that invaded the region, leaving 25 million Americans under wind chill alerts.

The coldest wind chill in U.S. history was recorded Saturday morning in Mount Washington, New Hampshire, at minus 108 degrees.

Temperatures in the Northeast will be between five to 15 degrees above average throughout the week with highs in the 40s and 50s.

On Monday, temperatures in Boston, Massachusetts, will reach 48 degrees. The city recorded its lowest temperature on Saturday, reaching minus 9 degrees, dropping below its previous record of minus 5 degrees in 1881. Wind chills made it feel like minus 35 degrees in Boston.

Temperatures in Portland, Maine, reached minus 45 degrees Friday night, with the city hitting a record-breaking windchill of minus 41 degrees. On Monday, temperatures will reach 41 degrees.

New York City and Philadelphia will reach temperatures of 53 degrees and 55 degrees, respectively, on Wednesday, after a weekend of extreme cold.

Heading into the Valentine’s Day holiday, temperatures will remain above average for the East Coast and below average for the West Coast.

ABC News' Emily Shapiro, Max Golembo, Melissa Griffin, and Nadine El-Bawab contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


3.8 magnitude earthquake rattles Buffalo, New York, suburbs

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(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- A 3.8 magnitude earthquake struck the suburbs of Buffalo, New York, early Monday morning, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The center of the quake was near West Seneca, officials said. Shaking was felt as far north as Niagara Falls and as far sound as south to Orchard Park, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said on Twitter.

"It felt like a car hit my house in Buffalo. I jumped out of bed," he said.

The quake struck about 2 km east-northeast of West Seneca at 6:15 a.m., according to preliminary date from USGS officials.

There were no immediate reports of damage, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

"My team is in touch with local officials and we will provide any support needed," she said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

ABC News' Michael Kreisel and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

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Man rescued from sinking yacht in Oregon allegedly left dead fish at "Goonies" house days earlier

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(ASTORIA, Ore.) -- A man saved from a sinking yacht was later identified as a wanted suspect who allegedly left a fish on the porch of the house from The Goonies in Oregon, police said.

The yacht had been stolen and the man, identified as Jericho Labonte, 35, was arrested after the rescue, police in Astoria, Oregon, said.

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Northwest district on Friday released a video of a yacht in danger in high waves at the mouth of the Colombia River.

“The surf made rescue by boat dangerous, so the aircrew decided to lower the rescue swimmer and have the owner enter the water for rescue,” the Coast Guard said. “As he entered the water the vessel capsized but the rescue swimmer was able to safely recover the individual.”

After the Coast Guard posted the video, police in Astoria, Oregon, said they began receiving calls about both the rescued man and the vessel.

“On February 3, 2023, we received a call from Port Security Chief Matt Hansen informing us that the vessel involved in the Coast Guard rescue earlier in the day was stolen from the Port of Astoria,” the department said in a news release. “He recognized the vessel on the video, contacted the owner, and confirmed that it had been stolen.”

Calls also began coming in about the man who had been rescued, with locals identifying him as Labonte, police said. Police in Victoria, British Columbia, had been searching for Labonte since at least Jan. 19, when they issued a province-wide arrest warrant for him for five unendorsed warrants for charges of criminal harassment, mischief and three counts of failure to comply.

Police in Oregon said Labonte was released from the hospital on Friday before they realized who he was.

“He had been transported to Columbia Memorial Hospital after the rescue as a precaution and was discharged before being identified as the suspect,” Astoria police officials said.

Astoria Police said they had added their own charges against Labonte, saying in a press release that he was wanted on charges including theft, endangering another person, unauthorized use of a vehicle and criminal mischief.

They said they had received a call on Feb. 1 saying that Labonte “had posted a video of himself on Facebook placing a dead fish on the front porch of the Goonies’ house.”

Labonte was arrested on Friday evening at the Seaside Warming Center, a shelter in Astoria, police said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Houston airport fire grounds United Airlines flights

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(HOUSTON) -- A fire Sunday morning in a laundry room at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a 90-minute ground stop on all United Airlines flights to Houston, officials said.

The FAA issued the ground stop shortly before 5:30 a.m. local time and lifted it about 7 a.m., officials told ABC Houston station KTRK.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. in the airport's Terminal C in an employee laundry room, airport officials said on Twitter. The FAA issued the ground at the request of United Airlines, the agency said in a statement.

All United Airlines flights to Houston, a major hub for the airline were held at their departure cities due to the fire, authorities said.

Houston Fire Department firefighters quickly responded to the laundry room blaze, evacuated all employees and put out the fire.

"There's a whole lot of damage from the smoke and the heat. There's not a whole lot of fire damage because it seemed like a small fire that spread over time," Brian Cresswell, a spokesman for the Houston Fire Department.

No one was injured in the fire and no damage was reported to Terminal C, officials said.

"There still might be a lingering smell of smoke. United Airlines passengers might be delayed as ops return to normal this morning," airport officials said in a statement posted on Twitter at 8:23 a.m. local time.

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Timeline: Where the Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted before being shot down

ABC News Illustration/Google Earth

(NEW YORK) -- Government officials closely tracked a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China as it traveled across the U.S. for several days.

The white balloon, which China's foreign ministry has claimed to be used for meteorological purposes, traveled at an altitude of around 60,000 feet with a vessel described as the size of three buses, officials said. It was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean Saturday afternoon.

Here is a timeline of where the balloon was spotted in the U.S.:

Jan. 28
The balloon entered U.S. airspace on Jan. 28 north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, according to a senior military official.

Jan. 30
It then entered Canadian airspace over the Northwest Territories on Jan. 30, the senior military official said.

Jan. 31
The balloon then traveled south and reentered U.S. airspace over northern Idaho on Jan. 31, according to a senior military official.

Feb. 1
4:21 p.m. ET:
One of the earliest sightings confirmed by ABC News was Wednesday in Reed Point, Montana.

6:46 p.m. ET: More than two hours later, it was filmed east of Reed Point, in Billings, Montana. Other footage captured it over Billings over the next hour, as civilians wondered what the object was.

From Montana, the balloon traveled southeast through South Dakota and Nebraska, according to U.S. officials.

Feb. 3
9:41 a.m. ET:
Social media sightings popped up as the balloon moved southeastwardly across the continental U.S. ABC News confirmed another sighting of the balloon around 9:41 a.m. ET on Friday, when it was filmed over Sabetha, Kansas.

11 a.m. ET: Over an hour later, it appeared farther east over Saint Joseph, Missouri, where it was filmed.

Between 11:56 a.m. and 12:28 p.m. ET: Video footage captured the balloon farther east, over Cameron, Missouri.

About 30 minutes later: It was seen farther south within the Kansas City metro area, in Lee's Summit, Missouri.

The balloon appeared to be heading toward North Carolina, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the situation.

Feb. 4
ABC News confirmed several sightings of the balloon in North Carolina by Saturday morning.

8:40 a.m. ET: The balloon was filmed over Biltmore Park in Asheville, North Carolina.

10:22 a.m. ET: The balloon continued to move southeastwardly, with sightings over the Hendersonville and Saluda areas, before being captured over the Eagle Lake neighborhood in Charlotte.

11:15 a.m. ET: The balloon was captured over South Carolina, in Lancaster, as it continued moving southeastward toward the coast.

1:30 p.m. ET: The balloon was seen over the coastal city of Myrtle, along with U.S. fighter aircraft close by.

2:39 p.m. ET: Its voyage came to an end. Footage captured the balloon being shot down over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Carolina.

The balloon was ultimately downed in U.S. airspace over U.S. territorial waters by fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command, according to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

The balloon was struck by an F-22 firing a missile roughly six nautical miles off the South Carolina coast, according to a senior U.S. defense official.

ABC News' Victoria Beaule, Layla Ferris, Cheryl Gendron, Julia Jacobo, Kerem Inal, Chris Looft, Josh Margolin and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chinese balloon live updates: Moving eastward, over central US, Pentagon says

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(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials say a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China and seen above Montana is being tracked as it flies over the continental United States.

"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday. "NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely."

China's foreign ministry has claimed it is a civilian balloon used for meteorological purposes, but U.S. politicians, many on the right, are already demanding President Joe Biden shoot it down.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 05, 10:08 AM EST
'The whole house just shook': Witness tells of balloon take down

A South Carolina woman had a front row seat to the military missile strike on a suspected Chinese spy balloon, describing a "loud boom" that rattled her home.

"It literally just flew right over our development, our house," the witness, Liane Munier of Myrtle Beach, told ABC News. "As soon as I walked outside, I literally looked straight up in the sky and it was right above my head."

Munier said it appeared the balloon traveled just offshore when several military fighter jets swooped in and shot it down.

"I was outside, I was watching it. You saw all the fighter jets flying around it and circling it, you saw all the air streams. I think there were about five of them. I went back inside for a second and all of a sudden the whole house just shook that it was like a loud boom," said Munier, who recorded video of the midair episode on her cell phone.

Munier said she initially thought a TV fell off the wall in her daughter's upstairs bedroom, but when she went back outside, she saw smoke in the sky and "you saw the whole thing deflated."

"I knew they were planning on shooting it down, but I didn't think it would be this soon and this close to land," Munier said.

She said it was a relief to her and many of her neighbors to see the balloon shot out of the sky.

"It was nerve-wracking seeing it fly over," Munier said. "I'm sure the whole country felt like that, not knowing what it was."

Feb 04, 9:53 PM EST
US pushes back against China’s weather balloon claims

A senior U.S official has pushed back against China's claim that their balloon was simply for the weather and that it was indeed intended for surveillance.

"Its route over the United States near many potentially sensitive sites contradicts the PRC government explanation that it is a weather balloon," a senior administration official said.

The official noted that the suspected spy balloon was also not only operating in the U.S. but spotted over five continents.

"Both balloons also carry surveillance equipment not usually associated with standard meteorological activities or civilian research. Collection pod equipment and solar panels located on the metal truss suspended below the balloon are a prominent feature of both balloons," the official said.

-ABC News' MaryAlice Parks

Feb 04, 9:31 PM EST
China expresses 'strong discontent and protest' after balloon downing

The Chinese foreign ministry criticized the United States for downing its balloon.

"China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and protest against the U.S. using force to attack civilian unmanned airships," the statement said.

The ministry asserted that they told the U.S. that the suspected spy balloon was an airship "for civilian use and entered the US due to force majeure, which was completely accidental. China clearly requires the US to handle it properly in a calm, professional and restrained manner."

China noted that the U.S. Department of Defense stated that the balloon did not pose a military or personal threat.

"In these circumstances, for the United States to insist on using armed force is clearly an excessive reaction that seriously violates international convention," the statement said. "China will resolutely defend the legitimate rights and interests of the enterprise involved, and retains the right to respond further."

Feb 04, 8:52 PM EST
Mayor of Myrtle Beach criticizes balloon downing

The mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has criticized the government for its handling of downing the suspected spy balloon.

Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote "While this was done in a manner that ensured the safety of our citizens, I do have concerns about how the federal government can allow a foreign adversary to fly uninterrupted from Montana to our doorstep."

Bethune added that she wanted the government to be more forthcoming about the circumstances surrounding the balloon.

"I hope we hear from our federal government how this happened and how they will prevent this, or anything like it, from happening again," she wrote.

Feb 04, 5:35 PM EST
China has fleet of surveillance balloons, senior defense official says

China has a fleet of these types of surveillance balloons, according to a senior defense official, including the one that was spotted flying over Venezuela and Colombia this week.

"These balloons are all part of a [People's Republic of China] fleet of balloons developed to conduct surveillance operations, which have also violated the sovereignty of other countries. These kinds of activities are often undertaken at the direction of the People's Liberation Army or PLA," the official said. "Over the past several years, Chinese balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents, including in East Asia, South Asia and Europe.”

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Feb 04, 5:20 PM EST
Residents warned not to touch balloon debris

Authorities in the Myrtle Beach area are advising residents not to touch debris if it washes up on shore and to contact police dispatch if they see any.

"Debris should not be touched, moved, or removed," the Horry County Police Department said on social media.

The North Myrtle Beach Police Department also advised residents to contact law enforcement if they see any "stray pieces" of the balloon wash ashore.

-ABC News' Matt Foster

Feb 04, 4:27 PM EST
Navy, Coast Guard searching for debris off Carolina coast

A senior military official said multiple Navy and Coast Guard vessels are in the area now establishing a security perimeter and searching for debris on the water "to ensure the safety of U.S. civilians."

A Navy salvage vessel will be on scene within a couple of days, according to the official.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Feb 04, 4:05 PM EST
Balloon had 'intelligence value,' official says

A senior U.S. defense official gave more details about the takedown, stating the balloon was hit at approximately 2:39 p.m. by a single F-22 fighter jet firing a single AIM-9X air-to-air missile.

"Fighter aircraft from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia fired a single missile into the balloon, causing it to crash into the ocean," the official said.

The defense official said there was value in waiting to shoot down the balloon aside from just the safety of people on the ground, and indicated it had intelligence value to the U.S.

"The surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us. I can't go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable," the official said.

-ABC News' Matt Seyler

Feb 04, 3:52 PM EST
Fighter aircraft brought down balloon off Carolina coast: Defense secretary

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed the Chinese surveillance balloon was taken down by a fighter aircraft as it drifted off the Carolina coast.

"This afternoon, at the direction of President Biden, U.S. fighter aircraft assigned to U.S. Northern Command successfully brought down the high altitude surveillance balloon launched by and belonging to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) over the water off the coast of South Carolina in U.S. airspace," Austin said in a statement. "The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters."

Austin said military commanders determined downing the balloon while it flew over land "posed an undue risk to people across a wide area due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload."

"Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first while responding effectively to the PRC’s unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," Austin said.

Feb 04, 3:33 PM EST
'I told them to shoot it down,' Biden says

President Joe Biden briefly spoke to reporters after the balloon was "successfully" shot down by the U.S. military.

"I ordered the Pentagon to shoot it down on Wednesday as soon as possible. They decided -- without doing damage to anyone on the ground – they decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water outside within a 12 mile limit."

"They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it, and we’ll have more to report on this a little later," he said.

"I told them to shoot it down," Biden repeated when asked if the recommendation came from his national security team. "They said to me, 'Let's wait for the safest place to do it.'"

Feb 04, 2:52 PM EST
Balloon shot down in US airspace: Official

The Chinese surveillance balloon has been shot down in U.S. airspace, according to a senior U.S. official.

It is expected to land in U.S.territorial waters, the official said, adding that airspace will be reopened once it's in the water.

-ABC News' Josh Margolin

Feb 04, 2:33 PM EST
FAA airspace restrictions extended until 3:30 p.m.

The Federal Aviation Administration has closed additional airspace to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort. The agency also paused departures from and arrivals to Wilmington, Myrtle Beach International and Charleston International airports.

The Temporary Flight Restriction is now in effect until 3:30 p.m.

-ABC News' Amanda Maile

Feb 04, 1:22 PM EST
FAA issues air space closure for parts of Carolinas

The Federal Aviation Administration has closed airspace in parts of North Carolina and South Carolina. All operations at Charleston, Myrtle Beach and Wilmington airports have been paused for national security initiatives.

The alerts are in effect until 2:45 p.m.

The balloon was spotted Saturday over parts of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Northern Greenville county in South Carolina.

-ABC News' Sam Sweeney

Feb 04, 11:48 AM EST
Biden on Chinese spy ballon: 'We're going to take care of it'

President Joe Biden on Saturday made his first public comments on the Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the continental U.S.

Biden, who is traveling to New York, was asked by a reporter if there were plans to shoot the balloon down.

"We're going to take care of it," he responded.

Feb 04, 9:57 AM EST
Blinken speaks with Chinese counterpart

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Friday with Wang Yi, the former foreign minister who has recently been elevated as China's highest ranking foreign affairs official within the party.

Xinhua News Agency posted a very brief readout of Blinken's phone call to his direct counterpart Wang Yi which appears to have taken place before Blinken postponed his trip to China.

Wang Yi said that China is a responsible country and has always strictly abided by international law and the two sides need to maintain their determination, communicate and avoid misjudgment.

The readout does not address the postponement of Blinken's trip because the Chinese government maintains that the trip was never officially announced.

"As a matter of fact, neither China nor the U.S. has announced any visits,” China said previously when addressing Blinken’s postponed trip. “It is the U.S.'s own business to release relevant information, and we respect that.”

Feb 03, 10:14 PM EST
China slams those who 'took advantage of the issue'

The Chinese Foreign Ministry posted a new statement in a form of a Q&A on their website early Saturday and slammed those taking advantage of the massive surveillance balloon.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed his upcoming trip to China, but the ministry claimed the visit had never been announced.

"As a matter of fact, neither China nor the US has announced any visits. It is the US's own business to release relevant information, and we respect that," the statement read.

They also reiterated their denial that the surveillance balloon was being used to spy on the U.S., insisting that China has always abided by international law and that the balloon deviated from its scheduled route.

"This was completely an accident caused by force majeure, and the facts are very clear," the statement continued.

The United States, elected officials and the media were also accused by the ministry of taking advantage of the incident.

"Some politicians and media in the United States took advantage of the issue to attack and discredit China. China firmly opposes it," the statement read.

-ABC News' Karson Yiu and Britt Clennett

Feb 03, 9:32 PM EST
City of Billings denies claims of ‘massive explosion’

The city of Billings, Montana, is aware of a video being shared on social media Friday that claimed an explosion over the city but officials said that there have not been any incidents.

“We are aware of the video shared on Twitter and claims of a “massive explosion” over Billings. However, our PD, Fire & airport have NOT been called to any incidents related to this video and there haven’t been any plane crashes picked up on radar #ChineseSpyBalloon #spyballoon,” the tweet read.

Feb 03, 9:06 PM EST
Second Chinese surveillance balloon flying over South America: US

The Pentagon is now confirming that there is a second Chinese surveillance balloon flying over South America. There were reports earlier Friday of a balloon flying over Colombia and Venezuela, but there was no information until now.

“We are seeing reports of a balloon transiting Latin America. We now assess it is another Chinese surveillance balloon,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement Friday.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Feb 03, 5:49 PM EST
Previous balloon incidents near Hawaii, Guam in 2022: US officials

U.S. officials confirmed that previous balloon incidents involving China occurred near Hawaii and Guam last year.

In February 2022, a balloon appeared to be stationary in international waters northwest of Kauai, Hawaii, the officials said.

The Hawaii incident came shortly after a similar incident that year near Guam, according to one of the officials.

Both incidents in the Pacific involved high-altitude balloons that came from China, the officials said.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

Feb 03, 5:30 PM EST
'Gang of 8' to be briefed on surveillance balloon next week

The so-called "Gang of 8" will receive a briefing from the administration on the Chinese surveillance balloon next week, according to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The "Gang of 8" includes congressional leadership and the top Democrat and Republican members of the House and Senate intelligence committees: Schumer, Sen. Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Mark Warner, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. Mike Turner.

The exact date and time of the briefing is not yet known.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Feb 03, 4:44 PM EST
US may wait to shoot balloon down over the Atlantic: US official

As the balloon appears to be heading toward North Carolina, the current thinking is to wait until it is over the Atlantic Ocean to then try to shoot it down and retrieve it, according to a senior U.S. official familiar with the situation.

There is too great a risk to try to shoot it down over the continental U.S., the official said. Since the U.S. wants to keep the balloon to study it, and there are otherwise risks of an international incident, U.S. officials are working on plans to shoot it down so that it also lands in U.S. territorial waters, the official said.

A substantial localized airspace shutdown will likely be required in order to protect civilians while the U.S. tries to down the balloon, which is likely being navigated via Chinese spy satellites, the official said.

-ABC News' Josh Margolin

Feb 03, 4:28 PM EST
’Job One’ is getting balloon out of US airspace: Blinken

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, taking questions about the Chinese surveillance balloon, said the first step should be getting it out of U.S. skies.

"Job One is getting it out of our airspace," he said.

Blinken said they've made it clear to China the action is "clearly unacceptable" and addressed further his decision to delay traveling to Beijing until conditions allow for a visit.

"Any country that has its airspace violated in this way, I think would respond similarly," he said. "And I can only imagine what the reaction would be in China if they were on the other end."

Feb 03, 4:02 PM EST
Blinken calls Chinese balloon an 'irresponsible act' on eve of his planned trip

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the surveillance balloon an "irresponsible act" by the People's Republic of China.

Blinken said he made clear to Wang Yi, the director of China's Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, that the balloon's presence is "a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty and international law ... and that the PRC's decision to take this action on the eve of my planned visit is detrimental to the substantive discussions that we were prepared to have."

Blinken postponed his first official trip to China amid the controversy.

The secretary of state said his team had been engaging "for some time" with their counterparts in Beijing to prepare but have now "concluded that conditions were not conducive for a constructive visit at this time."

The remarks were made Friday during a joint press availability with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin at the State Department.

Feb 03, 2:16 PM EST
Biden first briefed Tuesday, took military’s recommendation on balloon: WH

President Joe Biden was first briefed about the Chinese surveillance balloon on Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, two days before the news was publicly confirmed by U.S. officials.

"He asked the military to present options," she told reporters in a gaggle on Air Force One. "It was the strong recommendation by Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, the commander of Northern Command, not to take kinetic action because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground. President Biden took that recommendation from the military seriously."

"The president will always put the safety of the security of the American people first," she said.

Jean-Pierre said Biden continues to receive regular briefings from national security team, and that he "agreed" with Secretary of State Blinken's decision to delay his trip to China.

"We are tracking closely and keeping all options on the table," the press secretary said.

Feb 03, 1:41 PM EST
Biden again ignores questions on Chinese balloon

President Joe Biden didn’t answer questions reporters shouted about the Chinese surveillance balloon as he left the White House and boarded Marine One shortly after 1 p.m. Friday.

Biden has yet to publicly comment on the balloon since it was confirmed to be flying over the continental U.S. by officials on Thursday.

Biden is heading to Philadelphia, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris will appear at an infrastructure event in the afternoon and then later will speak at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.

Feb 03, 1:27 PM EST
'Gang of 8' staff received classified briefing on Chinese surveillance balloon

Staff to the so-called "Gang of 8" received a classified briefing on the balloon by the administration Thursday afternoon, according to multiple congressional officials.

The "Gang of 8" refers to the group of congressional leaders who are briefed on classified intelligence matters. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., requested a meeting with the group on Thursday.

"China's brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent," McCarthy said.

It's unclear if the classified briefing for the staff is a precursor to their bosses being briefed. No meeting appears to be on the books so far.

-ABC News' Trish Turner

Feb 03, 12:50 PM EST
Surveillance balloon is 'maneuverable,' Pentagon says

After saying the Chinese surveillance ballon was headed eastward, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the balloon is "maneuverable."

"So, the balloon is maneuverable. Clearly, it's violated U.S. air space, and again we've communicated that fact to the PRC," Ryder said.

"The balloon has changed its course, which is why we are monitoring it. That is as specific as I can get," he said, not giving further details on how it could be maneuvered.

"We continue to assess and make appropriate decisions based on how we are going to address what we perceive as a potential threat," Ryder added. "The safety and security of the American people is paramount. At this time we assess it does not pose a physical threat to people on the ground."

Feb 03, 10:26 AM EST
Pentagon to hold press briefing at noon

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder will conduct an on-camera press briefing at noon on Friday as the Biden administration faces questions about what U.S. officials call a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S.

Ryder said in a statement Thursday that the government was tracking the balloon and that it didn't present a military threat.

"Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information," Ryder said.

Feb 03, 9:36 AM EST
Secretary of state delays visit

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is postponing his visit to China after the balloon was tracked soaring across the country.

Blinken will delay his upcoming trip to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week. The official noted that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his visit, but also does not want the balloon to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials.

Feb 03, 9:29 AM EST
China claims balloon is civilian in nature

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is saying the balloon is civilian in nature and used for scientific research, "mainly meteorological."

"The airship is from China," the foreign ministry said. "Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

It continued, "The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure."

"Force majeure" refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DOJ to conduct review of Memphis Police Department after Tyre Nichols' death

Lucy Garrett/Getty Images

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The Department of Justice will help conduct a review of the Memphis Police Department following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols, city officials said.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced Friday that the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, along with the International Association of Police Chiefs, will conduct an "independent, external review" that will include assessing the department's special units and use-of-force policies "to honor Tyre and help make sure this type of tragedy does not happen again."

"While we no doubt have a long way to go on the road to healing, hopefully through our actions, citizens will see we are working to be better and that we are heading down the right path," Strickland said in a bulletin.

Nichols, 29, died on Jan. 10, three days after he was beaten by police after he ran from a traffic stop in Memphis. Graphic footage of the violent confrontation released by the city showed officers appearing to kick, punch and pepper spray Nichols.

Five officers at the scene of the beating were fired and charged with second-degree murder in connection with Nichols' death. The special task force they all had been assigned to was subsequently disbanded.

A sixth officer who responded to the initial traffic stop has been fired for violating "multiple department policies," Memphis Police said on Friday. The violations included personal conduct, truthfulness and a violation for not using a Taser in compliance with regulations, the department said.

Another unidentified officer involved in the traffic stop has been placed on administrative leave.

"Multiple" officers are also under investigation for policy violations related to Nichols' arrest and death, the department said Friday.

It is unclear how long the independent review of the Memphis Police Department will take. ABC News has reached out to the DOJ's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Memphis mayor's office for more information on the timeline.

The International Association of Police Chiefs, a professional association for police leaders, called Nichols' death "appalling and indefensible" in a statement last week.

"As police leaders we remain committed to emphasizing dignity and respect for all and instilling within our agencies a fundamental commitment to the preservation of human life. But we must, and will, do more," the association said. "We must remain committed to working together in partnership with community members, advocacy organizations, elected officials, and others to build a future that ensures dignity, security, and justice for all."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Robb Elementary School to be demolished, Uvalde contends with conflicting emotions

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(UVALDE, Texas) -- Jerry Mata, whose 10-year-old daughter Tess was killed in the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting last year, still returns to the campus of Robb Elementary to honor his child.

"I've been coming at nighttime, every once in a while," Mata told ABC News. "This was her last place, where she took her last breath. I have to come until it's demolished."

Mata and other victims' families are waiting for the buildings to be torn down, while the community grapples with mixed emotions over plans to demolish the school and replace it with a new one elsewhere in Uvalde.

Robb Elementary is the site of the second-deadliest elementary school shooting in American history, where 19 children and two teachers were killed on May 24, 2022.

Ten days after the massacre, the local school district announced plans to demolish the school.

It was not a straightforward decision, given both the events of May 24 and the cultural and historical significance Robb Elementary holds in the small community located 60 miles from the Mexican border.

Irene Stone, the director of development at Uvalde's El Progreso Library, and whose family helped construct the school back in 1955, said the school's past should not be erased.

"I'd love to see all this history that we have researched put in that memorial," Stone told ABC News, "so that we can honor the men like my grandfather and my great uncle and my dad who built the school."

Robb Elementary played a key role in the fight for equal rights by Chicano and Mexican-American students, who at one point were barred from speaking Spanish within the school's walls, according to Stone, in a community where the population has long held steady at 80% Hispanic or Latino.

In the spring of 1970, 650 students staged a walkout after the firing of one of the school's only Latino and bilingual instructors. The protest led to a lawsuit that found the district was in violation of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling 16 years prior and resulted in an order to the district to desegregate in 1976.

That decree was later challenged by the school district in 2007, but an agreement was reached with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights nonprofit which took up the case, in 2017.

District leadership has spent the months since the Robb massacre seemingly at odds with many of the victims' families, with some parents organizing a two-week sit-in protest at the district office, culminating in the controversial resignation of longtime Schools Superintendent Hal Harrell.

Gary Patterson, a career administrator named interim superintendent in Harrell's place, said he supports the decision to demolish the school, but acknowledged questions about how to honor Robb's legacy are complicated.

"I don't think that the history of Robb Elementary or the significance… have to go away. Because to take the building down, I mean, it's more than just the building," Patterson told ABC News. "It's the history and the culture. So, what we need to do is find a way as a community to memorialize the history of that area as well as the students who lost their lives."

When asked about a proposed memorial on school grounds, Patterson said nothing's been decided yet.

"We're not at that point where those decisions are--the school district's not going to rule that out at all. If the district feels and the community feels that's the appropriate place, then I think yes," he said.

"I don't think Uvalde will ever outlive the tragedy, and I'm not sure they should," Patterson said. "I think it's become a part of our fabric, and we need to see how we can move together while we don't diminish anything that happened there."

Mercedes Salas, a teacher at Robb Elementary who survived the massacre and whose own children attended the school, said the school evokes complicated emotions for her and her family.

"Prior to that day I had a lot of great memories with my coworkers, with my students, you know?" Salas told ABC News. "My personal children attended… and they have nothing but great memories. So, I just have mixed emotions because my last day was a horrible day, you know, a day full of fear."

Others, like Mata, whose family has attended the school for generations, are ready to see the building go.

"Robb Elementary should be a thing of the past," Mata said.

There is currently no scheduled date or budget for the demolition of the school, but the district and Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin have assured residents that plans are forthcoming.

Construction is set to begin on a new school adjacent to one of the community's existing elementary schools in August for students to attend as early as 2025. The district has set a fundraising goal of $50 million, which will be the sole source of funding for the school.

Uvalde:365 is a continuing ABC News series reported from Uvalde and focused on the Texas community and how it forges on in the shadow of tragedy.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Train derails, goes up in flames in Ohio, causes half of town to evacuate

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images/STOCK

(EAST PALESTINE, Ohio) -- Local officials in East Palestine, Ohio, have ordered roughly 2,000 residents, about half the town's population, to evacuate their homes after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and caught fire.

A Norfolk Southern train traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania derailed around 9 p.m. Friday, ignited, and prompted a response from over 50 fire departments across three states, according to East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway.

In an interview with ABC News early Saturday morning, Conaway said residents living in a one-mile radius of the fire have been asked to evacuate or shelter in place voluntarily. At a Saturday morning press conference, Conaway said the evacuation is mandatory, though the town "can't physically make people leave their homes."

Janet Meek, a 55-year-old resident in the evacuation zone, said she decided not to evacuate due to concerns about her pets, though she reported feeling the impacts of the blaze when she went outside.

"It's like burning our eyes, and it was burning our throats," she said. "We don't ... didn't feel real good."

Fire chief Keith Drabick said at the press conference Saturday morning that the train was carrying hazardous substances but could not confirm if the fire impacted the train cars carrying the hazardous goods. Drabick said the odor permeating East Palestine is not harmful at current levels, but representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency are monitoring the situation.

East Palestine is a small village on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio with roughly 4,700 residents.

A spokesperson from Norfolk Southern said they are "coordinating closely with local first responders while mobilizing our own teams."

“If you have to come to East Palestine, don’t,” Drabick said. “Stay out of the area until we can get this mitigated.”

Efforts to contain the fire stalled Saturday night when firefighters withdrew from the blaze due to concerns about air quality and explosions.

Conaway said firefighters withdrew from the fire Friday night due to concerns about air quality, with a plan to reengage once they get a "better grasp of what exactly is what chemical is burning." At Saturday's press conference, Drabick added that there had been multiple explosions overnight, which posed a risk to firefighters.

Early Saturday morning, Conway described the fire as "contained" but "ongoing." Drabick said daybreak would show the extent of the damage and long-term potential for the blaze.

The call to evaluate comes as East Palestine is hit with some of the coldest weather this year, dropping to 6 F on Friday night.

Living a block from the railroad tracks, Meek said she heard a "loud boom" around 9 p.m. after coming home from a local basketball game.

After her husband reported seeing a "billowing ball of fire" while walking their dogs, she went outside to witness the fire, only to return inside after feeling some of the effects of the fumes. Meek said she has seen over 100 fire trucks respond to the fire, which she said appeared uncontained.

"There was no actually stopping it…," she said. "It just looked like mushroom clouds, and everything was exploding, like you could just hear these explosions."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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