iStock/Thinkstock(FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Seven people were transported to a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after an Allegiant Air jet hit turbulence returning from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, first responders told ABC News. The flight was bound for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Allegiant Air's Flight 7001, a charter operated on behalf of Apple Vacations, encountered “unreported moderate clear air turbulence” Thursday afternoon and was diverted to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International airport, according to the company.
When the Airbus A319 landed, emergency personnel assisted four flight attendants and three passengers who had suffered multiple injuries, from bruises and lacerations to head injuries -- none life-threatening.
According to airline spokesperson Jessica Wheeler, a nurse aboard the flight assisted crew members following the turbulence, and all passengers were “ambulatory” by the time they were transported to Broward Health Medical Center.
iStock/Thinkstock(ALBERTA, Canada) -- Evacuation orders are now in effect for four Alberta communities as a wildfire rages out of control, a representative with the Alberta Wildfire Prevention and Enforcement told ABC News Thursday.
Some 88,000 residents have fled their homes as the fire gains new ground, now covering 85,000 hectares -- about 10 times the size of Manhattan -- senior manager Chad Morrison said. More than 350 firefighters are on scene, accompanied by 16 air tankers and 10 helicopters. A thousand more firefighters are on standby, as officials monitor the situation, described as unpredictable.
"The fire behavior is so extreme and conditions are so volatile, we want to make sure we are bringing in resources when it's safe to do so," Morrison said.
The burgeoning blaze has reportedly created its own weather system, including lighting. Fire crews must also contend with 40 mph wind gusts.
"Firefighters being able to work safely is a challenge," Morrison said, adding that the main priority right now is human safety, and the protection of homes and critical infrastructure.
Fears are also mounting that the fire could possibly reach nearby oil sands, prompting oil prices to surge today.
"We don't believe that [the oil fields] are threatened at this time, but, of course, that's a concern," Morrison said.
The wildfire is expected to continue on its path for the next three days. Morrison said he is hoping a much-needed shower of rain will put it out, or at least slow it down. Firefighters, however, are beginning to make progress, he said.
iStock/Thinkstock(PALMYRA, Syria) -- An orchestra from one of Russia’s most famous theaters Thursday played a concert in a Roman amphitheater in the ancient city of Palmyra to triumph its recapture by Syrian government forces.
Syrian troops retook Palmyra from ISIS militants in late-March under the cover of Russian airstrikes and artillery.
Thursday, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater Orchestra performed on Palmyra’s 2,000-year-old Roman stage in a surreal scene among the desert ruins, which ISIS had used as an execution site. The orchestra played Bach and a symphony by Sergei Prokofiev to a crowd of Russian and Syrian soldiers and civilians, beneath a facade where the Roman Emperor Nero had once ordered a statue of himself placed.
The face of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin appeared on a screen inside the amphitheater by video-link to address them. “Thank you for this surprising humanitarian action,” Putin told the crowd.
The concert, titled “A Prayer for Palmyra,” was broadcast live by Russian state television. The concert’s conductor, Valery Gergiev, told the audience the concert was protesting “against barbarians who have destroyed monuments of world culture.”
Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the sprawling well-preserved remains of an ancient city that was once Syria’s most popular tourist attraction. ISIS forces seized the city last May and began dynamiting some of its architectural sites that the terror group believes were idolatrous, causing extensive damage.
After Palmyra was retaken, the Russian military de-mined the ruins, removing thousands of ISIS booby traps, according to the country’s defense ministry.
Moscow and the Syrian government have trumpeted Palmyra’s recapture as a symbol of how their campaign is rescuing civilization in Syria after five years of savage warfare. Thursday's concert seemed intended to underscore that idea.
Putin said the concert was meant as as sign of hope “for the deliverance of modern civilization from this terrible plague, from international terrorism.”
But even as the Russian orchestra played, fighting continued across Syria, with reports that an airstrike had struck a refugee camp, killing dozens. Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pledged that his forces would eventually achieve victory over rebels in Aleppo, despite a 48-hour truce brokered by the United States there Wednesday. The comments suggested Assad had little intention of engaging seriously in peace negotiations with rebels that had all but collapsed last month.
Monitoring groups estimate over 400,000 people have been killed in Syria since 2011, the great majority by forces loyal to Assad, many through indiscriminate barrel bombing and airstrikes. Leaked documents acquired by international rights groups have shown tens of thousands have been brutally tortured by Assad’s security services, beaten, suffocated, electrocuted, some with limbs drilled, their eyes gouged out.
Russia has been supporting Assad’s government with a ferocious air campaign targeting rebels, as well as with advisers on the ground. Russian aircraft in Syria have been accused by rights groups of indiscriminately bombing hospitals in rebel areas and causing hundreds of civilian casualties. Rebel groups last week blamed Russia for airstrikes on a hospital in Aleppo that killed at least 27 people.
Staging musical concerts on the sites of its military successes is becoming a signature move for the Kremlin. Valery Gergiev, the conductor at Palmyra known for his outspoken support of Putin, also led the orchestra when it played in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia after Russian troops routed Georgian troops in a 2008 war there.
Popular Russian singers have also held concerts in Crimea and eastern Ukraine after pro-Russian rule was established there.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- "Severe and unexpected" turbulence injured 31 passengers on a flight to Jakarta Wednesday, sending nine to the hospital, Etihad Airways confirms.
The Airbus A330, en route from Abu Dhabi to Jakarta, encountered bumpy air about 45 minutes prior to its arrival at Soekarno Hatta International Airport.
Photos show debris strewn throughout the aisles and a possible crack in the cabin ceiling.
The oxygen masks reportedly deployed mid-flight, and one passenger even said she saw another passenger hit his head on the ceiling, suffering a severe head injury.
Medical assistance teams met passengers on the tarmac. Twenty-two were treated by paramedics on site, and nine were hospitalized. According to Etihad, which says it's covering passengers' medical expenses, most will be discharged by the end of the day.
“Our pilots and cabin crew are to be commended for the calm and professional manner in which they dealt with this exceptional event, and the care they showed the passengers, despite several being injured themselves," Etihad Aiways President and CEO James Hogan said in a statement. "It is testament to the high standard of our crew training that the effects of the turbulence were minimised. At no time was the safety of the aircraft, passengers or crew compromised.”
TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- A woman has been rescued after being trapped for six days in the rubble of a collapsed building in Nairobi, Kenya, the Red Cross confirmed to ABC News.
A rescue team made contact with the woman around 11 a.m. local time Thursday, Anthony Mwangi, head of corporate affairs for the Kenya Red Cross Society, told ABC News.
"Emergency responders were able to give her oxygen and intravenously administer water and glucose to stabilize her. She was successfully evacuated around 3 p.m. local time," Mwangi said. "They did a really great job at pulling her out."
The woman's rescue was broadcast on Kenyan TV and crowds applauded as she was taken to an ambulance headed for a nearby hospital.
"She was not in a position to speak so we do not know yet who she is," Mwangi said, adding that while she had visible injuries, it was unclear how badly she had been hurt.
The search and rescue response is still on-going, the Red Cross said in a statement, adding that half of the rubble has been cleared.
"Working space poses the major challenge," the Kenyan Red Cross Society said, "as the collapsed building is sandwiched between buildings on two sides while the third side is a river front. There are currently two excavators at the rescue operation site which has helped to speed up the recovery efforts."
Seventy people are still missing but Mwangi said he remains hopeful that others will be found.
A 6-month-old baby, rescued on Wednesday after 80 hours in the rubble, is now in stable condition. A total of 24 bodies have so far been recovered from the debris.
U.S. Navy photo/Released(WASHINGTON) -- New video released by The Guardian shows the intense battle between American, Kurdish and ISIS forces that killed U.S. Navy Seal Charles Keating IV.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that a U.S. service member had died in northern Iraq after ISIS penetrated the front lines of Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
The footage shows a convoy of U.S. vehicles under attack by ISIS fighters. Members of a SEAL quick reaction force rush in to rescue a small team of American advisers and their Kurdish allies. About a dozen U.S. special operations forces are seen in the video.
The team was assaulted by more than 100 ISIS fighters who penetrated the front lines with truck bombs and bulldozers. Keating, 31, was directly hit.
A medevac helicopter, under heavy gunfire, was able to evacuate Keating to a combat hospital in Erbil where he was pronounced dead.
The U.S. military said this fight, lasting for 14 hours and killing 60 ISIS fighters, was the largest ISIS assault in months. U.S. troops were only present for the first few hours of the battle.
Only two other Americans have suffered combat deaths in Iraq since the U.S. returned to the country in June 2014.
In late March, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 27, was killed by ISIS rocket fire on his artillery support base near Makhmour, in northern Iraq.
Last October, Army Master Sgt. Josh Wheeler, 39, was killed in a raid in northern Iraq, which rescued 70 Iraqi hostages taken by ISIS.
Speaking in Stuttgart, Germany, Carter highlighted the combat risks facing the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
"It shows you it's a serious fight that we have to wage in Iraq," he said.
MatthewBrosseau/iStock/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. Embassy in Kabul sent out an emergency message to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan after an attempted kidnapping earlier this week.
According to the message, the kidnapping attempt targeted "several expatriates including a U.S. citizen" and took place on Monday. American citizens are urged to take security precautions and avoid "predictable travel patterns."
The embassy didn't put out any additional information about the kidnapping attempt, including targets, timing or methods.
paulync/iStock/Thinkstock(ANZAC, Alberta) -- As wildfires continue to rage in Alberta, Canada, the provincial government has declared a state of emergency as two more communities prepared to evacuate overnight Wednesday.
Just after midnight, some of the 80,000 residents who fled Fort McMurray to Anzac after a mandatory evacuation notice, were told they would have to move again urgently.
"Buses are being assembled," local authorities said in a statement, adding they were "going door-to-door," and urging people to "remain calm." Six reception centers are currently operating within the province, the Government of Alberta said at a news conference.
More than 250 firefighters, helicopters and air tankers are currently fighting the fires which have extended over more than 10,000 hectares, the Government of Alberta said and Premier Rachel Notley announced that a "Memorandum of Understanding" has been signed with the Canadian Forces for air support to assist with transportation as needed.
Residents were advised by the Rural Municipality of Wood Buffalo to clear out Anzac, Gregoire Estates and Fort McMurray First Nation due to changing weather patterns.
In the latest official estimates for Fort McMurray, Beacon Hill neighborhood has lost 70 percent of homes, Abasand 50 percent, Waterways lost 90 percent and around 30 houses were lost in Wood Buffalo. No injuries or fatalities have yet been reported.
"At this point the fire is still under investigation,” Chad Morrison, Alberta Wildfire said at a news conference. “At this point we're working with investigators to determine if it's either lighting or human-caused fire and we won't know that for a couple of days.”
The fires were exacerbated by high temperatures - nearly 90 degrees - and low relative humidity, Bernie Schmitte, wildfire manager at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, told reporters.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his personal condolences, pledging the "total support" of the federal government in containing and combating the remaining wildfires.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Thursday is Cinco de Mayo, the day bars and college campuses across America get packed with revelers eager to feast on guacamole and down tequila.
Partyers in the U.S. brought in $658 million in booze revenue in 2013 alone. But few among them may know the true story behind the popular holiday -- some might even believe it's Mexico's Independence day, an embarrassingly common misconception.
To clear the air, ABC News' George Stephanopolous brings you a brief history of Cinco de Mayo and the 1862 Battle of Puebla. Watch the video below:
AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in 36 years, North Korea's ruling Workers' Party will hold a congress, scheduled to begin on Friday. The event will likely include high-office candidate nominations and celebrate the communist regime of current leader, Kim Jong-un – but no one is sure why now.
North Korea has held only seven party congresses in its history. During the last one, in 1980, Kim’s father – Kim Jong-il – was confirmed as the successor to the state’s founder, Kim Il-sung.
“It is roughly the equivalent of a political party convention that we have in the United States,” Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.
It’s unclear why Kim Jong-un is calling for a party congress this year, but the Workers’ Party is expected to present a unified image of strength.
“North Korea doesn’t have a large party event like this unless they have their ducks in a row,” Madden said.
He added that it’s unlikely major shifts in leadership – including any change in Kim Jong-un’s ruling status — will be announced. Madden expects demographic changes to the Workers' Party could be on the agenda, including adding more women and millennial-aged people to leadership positions.
The country is inviting international attention to the event, without lifting its veil of secrecy. Kim Jong-un is expected to speak, boasting his successes and perhaps revealing major new policies, especially economic.
The Workers’ Party initiated a "70-day speed campaign" in February to prepare for the party congress, according to North Korea’s state media. They have commissioned work like painting buildings in bright colors and hanging red Workers’ Party flags on street lamps.
According to the North Korea Leadership Watch web site, the 70-day campaign has been a characteristic of the Kim family since the 1970s. During the span of time leading up to the Party Congress, the Workers’ Party increases ideological indoctrination, tightens social controls, and mobilizes the population to complete infrastructure projects and increase industrial and commercial output.
Kim may also conduct some sort of a missile test to show off the country’s military prowess, despite the country’s increasing isolation from the rest of the world as a result of its pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistics. The United Nations Security Council tightened its sanctions on North Korea in March, as a response to the country’s January nuclear test.
“If a nuclear or missile test occurs during the Party Congress, the purpose will be to highlight North Korea's technological prowess and the leadership of Kim Jong-un,” said Joel Wit, founder of North Korea website, 38North.
“But such a test will also serve other purposes, namely to show other countries that North Korea would be willing to use nuclear weapons to defend itself and to gather additional technical information that will contribute to the further development of its nuclear arsenal and missile force,” he said.
Security has been strengthened in the capital city, with increased inspections and property searches, including forbidding free movement in and out of the capital, according to a source in South Pyongyang Province cited by the Daily NK, an online newspaper based in Seoul, South Korea.
North Korea has also invited foreign media to cover the party congress, but journalists will be monitored closely. Cell phone access will be restricted for most of the event, and much of the country and its people will remain off-limits.
Madden says the entire event will be very controlled, with an “information black-out” of sorts. North Korea’s state media will release information through a regimented process.
The last party congress in 1980 lasted about four days, but it’s unclear how long the event will last this time around. “Everyone is positively clueless,” Madden says. “It could last a day but I don’t suspect it will.”
Raphye Alexius/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Navy SEAL killed in northern Iraq Tuesday was part of a reaction force sent to rescue a small team of American advisers who had joined in the fight to help Kurdish Peshmerga forces push back a large surprise ISIS assault to take the small town of Tel Skuf, north of Mosul.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Charles Keating IV, 31, of San Diego, was identified on Tuesday evening as the SEAL killed in the attack launched by 125 ISIS fighters.
Army Col. Steve Warren, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday that the attack was the largest such ISIS assault in recent months. Thirty-one airstrikes called in to help repel the attack killed 58 ISIS fighters and destroyed more than 20 vehicles and trucks. Warren labeled Tuesday's fight as one of the most complex battlefield operations launched by ISIS since last December.
Warren said the attack on Tel Skuf fits the ISIS pattern of launching high-profile attacks to gain attention in the wake of a series of battlefield losses, as has happened recently with the Iraqi military pushing ISIS out of the towns of Hit, Bashir and Makhmur.
"When this enemy is on its heels, when it's suffered several setbacks, they're likely to try and lash out, you know, through terror attacks, perhaps in Baghdad, perhaps elsewhere in Syria, perhaps elsewhere in the world," Warren said. "It's part of the way this enemy operates, it's something that we know and it's something that we deal with.”
How the Attack Began
A small team of American advisers was on a mission to meet with local Kurdish Peshmerga forces at Tel Skuf, a village located just two miles north of the frontlines with ISIS. At 7:30 a.m. local time, a force of 125 ISIS fighters in more than 20 vehicles crossed the Kurdish frontlines and headed towards Tel Skuf. They used two bulldozers to get past a checkpoint and then used a truck bomb to attack the Peshmerga outpost that the American advisers were visiting.
Twenty minutes after the ISIS forces had crossed the frontline, the Americans began fighting alongside the Pesh forces to repel the attack. They also called for a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that was standing by to come and take them away from the fighting. “There was a big fight," said Warren. "They couldn't get away. So the QRF came to help ensure that they were able to get away."
Navy SEAL Charlie Keating was a member of the quick reaction force that responded. He was struck by direct fire at 9:32 a.m. Though he was medevaced to a medical facility in Erbil, he did not survive his wounds.
There were no other American injuries, and it is unclear how many Pesh forces were injured. In another sign of how violent the firefight was, both Black Hawk medevac helicopters that arrived to evacuate Keating were damaged by small arms fire.
Eleven American fighters and bombers, including F-15s, F-16s, A-10s, and B-52s, as well as two drones, were quickly scrambled to push back the ISIS attack. Altogether, 31 airstrikes killed 58 ISIS fighters and destroyed 20 vehicles, two more truck bombs, three mortars, and a bulldozer.
The Americans were engaged in the fighting for a few hours, but the battle between Kurdish and ISIS forces continued until 9:30 p.m.
“I think the important thing to keep in mind here is that the systems that we have in place worked," said Warren. "The Quick Reaction Force sprang into action, the medevac did its duty of evacuating the wounded service member from the battlefield and got him back to the hospital within that very important one-hour time frame where we've determined that it makes a significant difference.” American Advisers in Iraq
The 3,670 U.S. troops currently inside Iraq are there in what is called a training, advise and assist mission. But less than a thousand are actually involved in the training, advising and assistance portion of the mission.
Warren said the actual number of American advisers who work with Iraqi military and Kurdish forces numbers several hundred. "It's a handful of teams that go and advise and assist," said Warren. Additional personnel involved in training and equipment brings that number to less than 1,000.
The majority of American troops in Iraq are there to provide protection, security, staffing and logistics support to the trainers and advisers. President Obama has recently authorized a troop cap of 4,087 for American forces in Iraq, though there are probably an additional 1,000 not part of the official count because they are on temporary assignments in Iraq lasting less than 120 days.
The small teams of American advisers operate from higher Iraq and Kurdish headquarters, providing commanders with help in military planning or logistical support. Since the start of the mission two years ago, they have moved about freely to interact with commanders in the field as long as they remain well behind frontlines. In the case of the firefight at Tel Skuf, the advisers happened to be at an outpost behind the frontlines that had been targeted by the large ISIS force.
Adviser Visits Are Well Planned and Coordinated
Col. Warren told reporters that every visit by American advisers with local forces in the field involves a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination and planning to ensure their safety. Each adviser visit has a Quick Reaction Force dedicated to it that is placed at a distance where they can arrive quickly to extract the advisers if they come under attack.
Each mission also has dedicated medevac teams for emergency medical treatment and overhead drones that provide surveillance of the area before each visit.
“So when the fire erupted, the Quick Reaction Force quickly reacted and came to the battle and provided the additional firepower and maneuver that was required to extract the remainder of our personnel," said Warren.
According to Warren, the Quick Reaction Force is not sent to fight ISIS. “Our guys got out of there relatively rapidly within the first couple of hours. So they didn't stay there to fight, that's not their mission. If that was their mission, believe me, they would've stayed, but their mission is not to stay there. So they departed, but they needed the assistance of the QRF to get out.”
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Young Syrians don’t necessarily join extremist groups like ISIS because they believe in their radical ideas, a study finds.
Many Syrian boys and young men may be pushed into extremism because they need to make a living, are missing a sense of purpose and because they want to avenge the death of loved ones, according to a new study by International Alert, an NGO that advises governments, organizations and companies on how to support peace.
"ISIS promises that you are going to be part of this new project of building a state and that you will be part of a family," Rebecca Crozier, head of International Alert’s Middle East and North Africa program, told ABC News. She said their ideology promises, "There’s no corruption here and everybody has a voice."
"That is very attractive to someone living in a society where they don’t have a voice and where they feel like they have no prospect and future," she added.
Boys and young men between the ages of 12 and 24 are most at risk of joining extremist groups, along with displaced persons and refugees without supportive family, according to the study which surveyed 311 young Syrians, their families and community members in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.
Crozier said that some Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Turkey choose to return to Syria to fight with extremists because they face stigmas and unemployment in their new homes.
"I feel like a loser who has given up on his dreams,” one young Syrian man in Lebanon told International Alert, the report states. "I’m dead here as much as I’m dead there. I’d prefer to die in Syria."
The report also shows that the collapse of the education system in Syria, with some two million children out of school, has made young people much more likely to join violent, extremist groups.
iStock/Thinkstock(FORT MCMURRAY, Alberta) -- Hundreds are offering lodging and assistance to people stranded in Alberta, Canada, after more than 80,000 people were asked to evacuate from their homes and workplaces in 12 northern communities Tuesday because of wildfires.
Beaconhill is the hardest hit neighborhood of Fort McMurray so far, with 80 percent of homes destroyed, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo confirmed on its website, adding that areas of Waterways and Abasand have also sustained “serious loss.”
"There's been very significant destruction: about 1,600 structures in Fort McMurray," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said at a news conference today, adding, "Our hearts are with the families who have had to leave their homes.
"We expect the fire conditions to be worse today than yesterday," Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen said, speaking after the premier at the same news conference. "We expect it to pick up at 1:00 and challenge firefighters until the evening."
Municipal authorities are constantly updating their Facebook and Twitter pages, advising people to avoid any non-essential uses of water and asking hotels with space to donate beds to first responders. They’ve also advised people stranded on Highway 63, which is being used by those who were asked to evacuate, to stay put as police patrol with emergency gas cans.
Facebook activated its safety check feature and the Canadian Red Cross has set up a toll-free number for evacuees, to help reconnect family members and enable response agencies to mobilize resources.
“Our teams are currently mobilizing to support affected people, families and communities in any way that help is needed," Jean-Philippe Tizi, vice president of Emergency Management for the Canadian Red Cross, told ABC News in a written statement.
The fires were exacerbated by high temperatures - nearly 90 degrees - and low relative humidity, Bernie Schmitte, wildfire manager at Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, said Tuesday night during a news conference.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his personal condolences, pledging the "total support" of the federal government in containing and combating the remaining wildfires.
Speaking from Germany, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters that the Canadian Armed Forces will be made available and provide whatever is needed.
Hundreds had already been evacuated last May because of wildfires in Alberta.