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Daily Archives: May 13, 2008

Aid rushed in after tornadoes kill 23 across US

US authorities rushed aid to disaster areas yesterday after a series of tornadoes tore across the United States, killing at least 23 people and shattering homes and businesses.
US President George W. Bush called it a "sad day" for devastated communities in the states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Georgia and promised emergency federal aid.
A total of 14 people were reported dead in Missouri, seven in Oklahoma, and two in the southeastern state of Georgia. There were also scores of injured.
"We are still conducting some search and rescue today," Susie Stonner, a spokeswoman for Missouri's department of emergency management, said, adding that some of the injured were "in hospital in critical condition."
Numerous tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma late Saturday as the storms ripped across the state at 35-45 miles per hour (55-70 kmh), killing seven in the area near the town of Picher, the Oklahoma department of emergency management said. Some 150 people were injured there.
Fierce winds ripped roofs off houses, and other homes were thrashed to kindling as the storms downed power lines, utility poles and trees.
"In some cases, only a home's concrete slab remains," Oklahoma authorities said in a statement.
The American Red Cross has opened shelters for those affected by the storms in Oklahoma and Missouri.
Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry declared a state of emergency in the disaster area and planned to visit it later Sunday, while National Guard troops were called to shut off access to Picher.
"We will get through this pulling together and working together as Oklahomans, making sure our neighbors have what they need," Henry was quoted by the Oklahoman newspaper as saying.
The state said that about 6,300 homes and businesses were without electricity, including 3,000 near Tulsa.
Bush called it "a sad day for those who lost their lives in Oklahoma and Missouri and Georgia because of the tornadoes."
Speaking in Waco, Texas the day after his daughter Jenna's wedding on the family ranch, he said: "We send our prayers to those who lost their lives and the families of those who lost their lives, and the federal government will be moving hard to help."
Bush later called Henry as well as governors Sonny Perdue of Georgia and Matt Blunt of Missouri to offer whatever federal assistance they needed, according to White House officials.
The storms barreled eastward, killing two people and damaging hundreds of homes in the southeastern state of Georgia in the early morning hours of Sunday, the state's emergency management agency said.
Perdue declared a state of emergency for six counties hardest hit by severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes in central Georgia.
The small town of Kite, with some 1,000 residents, was devastated.
"From what I understand it has been completely destroyed," said agency spokeswoman Lisa Janak.
"Many roads are still blocked and impassable," she said. "They're having problems with trees in the road, so these are very preliminary estimates, but the town of Kite sustained significant, significant damage."
Some 18,000 residents were without power in the state, Georgia Power told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Meanwhile a severe storm and tornado swept through another southeastern state, North Carolina, on Sunday afternoon, dumping tennis ball-sized hail, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported, the Charlotte Observer newspaper said.
In February, a string of storms brought rare winter tornadoes to the Southern states of Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama, killing 55 and injuring hundreds.

Seeking coalition, pro-West Serbs tipped to woo former foes

by Katarina Subasic*

Serbia's pro-Europeans face a tough task to mould an unlikely government with their former foes from the party of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, analysts said yesterday.
"We are the ones who expect to be called," said Ivica Dacic, the leader of the Socialists whose founder Milosevic was ousted from power by the democratic forces at the heart of the pro-European alliance which won Sunday's elections.
"We don't want power at any cost. We want our principles to be respected, and these are to defend state and national interests and defending social justice," Dacic said.
In claiming victory on behalf of the pro-European camp led by his Democratic Party late on Sunday, President Boris Tadic said the Democrats would be "the key player in the future cabinet."
"I warn everyone not to play with electoral will of citizens and try to take Serbia back to the isolation of 1990s," Tadic told a nationally televised press conference, referring to the Milosevic regime.
"I warn them not even to try this, because we will prevent it with all democratic means."
The pro-European alliance — which estimates show won up to 39 percent of yesterday's vote — is a union of Tadic's Democrats, the reformist G17-Plus and former foreign minister Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO).
According to Democrat sources, the coalition is likely to form a government with the Socialists.
The same combination is being tipped by media pundits.
"Victory for Tadic's list, but government depends on Ivica (Dacic)," read the front-page headline in Politika, a newspaper close to caretaker Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS).
Politika said it was "practically impossible" for Tadic's party to form a government without the support of the Socialists.
Vuk Jeremic, foreign minister and a top Democratic Party official, said the pro-European camp would "talk to everybody" in a bid to form a government that would move Serbia towards the EU.
"Whoever wants to follow us on this great victorious path to the European future of Serbia, everybody is welcome," Jeremic told reporters late on Sunday.
The pro-government daily Vecernje Novosti agreed, saying the SPS was the Democrats' likely partner.
It said other possible coalitions were one bringing together the ultra-nationalist Radical Party, the Socialists and the DSS, while another was the DS and DSS, which Kostunica ruled out overnight.
On the eve of the polls, Bozidar Djelic, the deputy prime minister and senior DS official, had already moved to woo the Socialists by establishing workers' rights as a policy on which the new government is to be formed.
These included plans to reach a collective bargaining agreement between workers and employers, and to match salaries and pensions according to inflation.
The Socialists' negotiating position was "awkward because their voters are closer to DSS and SRS, but on the other hand they might have more to gain" by joining forces with the pro-European bloc, analyst Slobodan Antonic said.
Marko Blagojevic of the non-governmental Centre for Free Elections and Democracy agreed the SPS would reach more in a coalition with pro-European forces, however weird that might seem.
"In a coalition of nationalists, the Radicals would consume Socialist voters, as they could not compete with ultra-nationalists in the field of nationalism," Blagojevic said.
"On the other hand, in a pro-European coalition, the Socialist Party could be reformed and become a real left-oriented force whose main program is social justice," he added.
Although not openly, Socialist leader Dacic has for months been trying to shake off Milosevic's tarnished legacy.
He has insisted on the fight for better social conditions for the so-called losers of Serbia's delayed transition from the troubled 1990s, rather than on nationalist issues.
And Dacic's coalition partner from central Serbia, former hardline nationalist Dragan Markovic, has vowed that the country's future may only be in the European Union.