Briefs 0211


Travel improves in Northeast after powerful blizzard, but many remain without power

NEWPORT, R.I. — Travel eased and life slowly returned to normal for most New Englanders after a massive blizzard, but many remained without power in cold and darkened homes and a forecast of rain brought a new worry: Weight piling up dangerously on roofs already burdened by heavy snow.

The storm that slammed into the region with up to 3 feet of snow was blamed for at least 14 deaths in the Northeast and Canada, and brought some of the highest accumulations ever recorded. Still, coastal areas were largely spared catastrophic damage despite being lashed by strong waves and hurricane-force wind gusts at the height of the storm.

Hundreds of people, their homes without heat or electricity, were forced to take refuge in emergency shelters set up in schools or other places.

“For all the complaining everyone does, people really came through,” said Rich Dinsmore, 65, of Newport, R.I., who was staying at a Red Cross shelter set up in a middle school in Middletown after the power went out in his home on Friday.

Dinsmore, who has emphysema, was first brought by ambulance to a hospital after the medical equipment he relies on failed when the power went out and he had difficulty breathing.

Officials: Storms do significant damage in South

NEW ORLEANS — Emergency officials say an apparent tornado has caused significant damage in Hattiesburg, Miss., after passing along a main road.

Forrest County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown says there is major damage in Hattiesburg and Petal, including on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. He couldn’t confirm injuries.

He said the damage was still being evaluated, but that the storm passed along a main Hattiesburg thoroughfare.

National Weather Service meteorologist Joanne Culin says there have also been reports of injuries in Marion County.

Nasty weather has settled in on much of Louisiana and Mississippi, including tornado or flash flood watches.

Islamic extremists stage surprise attack on key Malian city, combat gov’t troops

GAO, Mali — Black-robed Islamic extremists armed with AK-47 automatic rifles invaded Gao in wooden boats Sunday to launch a surprise attack on the most populous city in northern Mali, two weeks after French and Malian troops ousted the jihadists.

Gunfire echoed for hours across the city of mud-walled buildings. The combat started at about 2 p.m. in downtown Gao and the fighting was continuing as night fell. Later the sound of gunfire was replaced by the clattering of French military helicopters overhead.

The attack in Gao shows the Islamic fighters, many of them well-armed and with combat experience, are determined and daring and it foreshadows a protracted campaign by France and other nations to restore government control in this vast Saharan nation in northwest Africa.

The Islamic radicals fought against the Malian army throughout the afternoon and were seen roaming the narrow streets blanketed in sand and on rooftops in the center of Gao, which had a population of 90,000 before the conflict caused thousands to flee.

Families hid in their homes. One family handed plastic cups of water through the locked iron gate to others hiding on their patio. Piles of onions lay unattended where market women fled when the Islamists arrived. There were no signs of civilian casualties.

By wire sources