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Polar vortex blamed for at least eight deaths as deep freeze grips US Midwest

Polar vortex blamed for at least eight deaths as deep freeze grips US MidwestA blast of icy polar air brought dangerously low temperatures to the US Midwest on Wednesday, causing at least three more deaths while halting mail deliveries and forcing residents who pride themselves on their winter hardiness to huddle indoors. Classes were cancelled for Wednesday and Thursday for students across the Midwest, including Chicago, home of the nation's third-largest school system, and police warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways. Michigan said all state offices would remain closed through Thursday. In a rare move, the US Postal Service appeared to set aside its credo that "neither snow nor rain … nor gloom of night" would stop its work as it halted deliveries from parts of the Dakotas through Ohio. At least eight deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday in Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to officials and media reports. Illinois State Police officers rescued 21 people who were stranded in a charter bus that broke down in sub-zero temperatures along Interstate 55 near Auburn after the vehicle's diesel fuel turned to gel in its engine, according to the agency. Cold front: Temperatures held at below -20C in Chicago, Illinois. The city's record low, -33C, was registered in 1985 Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images In Detroit, a 70-year-old man was found dead on Wednesday on a residential street, a Detroit police spokeswoman said. About 15 miles (24 km) south in the community of Ecorse, a former city councilman in his 70s and dressed only in sleepwear was also found dead on Wednesday, police there said. A University of Iowa student was found dead outside a building at the campus early on Wednesday, the school said in a statement. The death of Gerald Belz, a pre-med student, was believed to be weather-related. Streets in Chicago were nearly empty, with few people walking outside in the painfully cold air as temperatures hovered around minus 28 Celsius. "It's terrible!" Pasquale Cappellano, a 68-year-old waiter, said as he smoked a cigarette while waiting outside for a bus on Chicago's North Side. "I gotta pick up my medication at Walgreens or else I wouldn't be out the door." US weather: Polar vortex threatens record low temperatures, in pictures In Minneapolis, chilled to minus 26 Celsius, Brian Pierce ventured out to "embrace the elements" and found himself watching cars slipping on the roads. "The roads sound really weird, it seems there’s a lack of grip," he said. "And my teeth hurt." Wind-chill temperatures in parts of the Northern Plains and Great Lakes plunged as low as minus 41 Celsius  in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and minus  35 Celsius  in Fargo, North Dakota, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). The frigid winds were headed for the US East Coast later on Wednesday. Normally, the #PolarVortex �� swirls around the Arctic, trapping cold air near the Pole. Recently, this pressure system has been less stable, spilling colder air south & bringing record-low temperatures �� to parts of the continental U.S. t.co/PS83gEo5u0pic.twitter.com/zQP4sYS2Kh— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) January 30, 2019 More than a thousand flights, close to two-thirds of those scheduled, were canceled on Wednesday into or out of Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway international airports, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. Amtrak canceled all trains in and out of Chicago on Wednesday. At the Morning Joy Farm in Mercer, North Dakota, Annie Carlson said her horses and sheep were doing fine. "They can go into the barn if they wish," she said. "They're snuggled in, warm and toasty." Her chickens, ducks and guinea hens were enjoying the 21 Celsius climate inside their greenhouse-like hoop house, she said. Andrew Orrison, a meteorologist with the NWS, said some of the coldest wind chills were recorded in International Falls, Minnesota, at minus 48 Celsius. Even the South Pole in Antarctica was warmer, with an expected low of minus 31 Celsius with wind chill. Out in the cold: goggles weather for Minneapolis residents Jen and Aaron Brackman Credit: STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images Temperatures in Chicago will drop again "quite precipitously" on Wednesday night, Orrison said, potentially breaking the record low of minus 33 Celsius on January 21, 1985, the day of Ronald Reagan's second presidential inauguration. Banks and stores closed for business. Waste Management Inc , a major trash collection company, said it cancelled pickups in counties across the Midwest on Wednesday and Thursday. The bitter cold was caused by a displacement of the polar vortex, a stream of air that normally spins around the stratosphere over the North Pole, but whose current was disrupted and was now pushing south. Officials opened warming centres across the Midwest, and in Chicago, police stations were open to anyone seeking refuge. Five city buses were also deployed to serve as mobile warming centres for homeless people, while city police handed out hats, jackets and blankets. In Ontario, Canada, steam rises from the frozen Niagara Falls Credit: LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images The Chicago Police Department said it could encourage people to get out of the cold. "But we will never force someone," police officer Michael Carroll said. US homes and businesses will likely use record amounts of natural gas for heating on Wednesday, according to energy analysts. Some residents just to the north and northwest of the Twin Cities in Minnesota were asked by Xcel Energy to dial down their thermostats 16C because of the strains on its natural gas supply system. The Michigan Agency for Energy said the state's utility companies had agreed not to shut off gas or electric supplies to delinquent customers for the rest of the week.



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Eight days of turmoil in Venezuela

Eight days of turmoil in VenezuelaCrisis-hit Venezuela has been plunged into new turmoil since January 21, with the US and other countries backing an opposition leader’s claim to have replaced President Nicolas Maduro. On January 21 a small group of soldiers takes control of a command post north of Caracas, releasing a video rejecting Maduro’s regime and calling on people to take to the streets. The rebellion is over quickly and 27 soldiers are arrested, but there are demonstrations of support in Caracas.



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Venezuela crisis: UK, France, Germany and Spain demand president Maduro calls election within eight days

Venezuela crisis: UK, France, Germany and Spain demand president Maduro calls election within eight daysThe UK has joined together with France, Germany and Spain in a bid to force new elections in Venezuala, where president Nicolas Maduro is clinging on to power. Britain backed the European demand with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt saying it is now clear that Maduro is “not the legitimate leader” of the South American country. The UK has already thrown its wieght behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, who Downing Street recognised earlier this week as the leader of the country’s “democratically elected” assembly.



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Death toll rises to eight in Danish train accident

Death toll rises to eight in Danish train accidentThe death toll from a train accident in Denmark, when a truck trailer appeared to blow off a cargo train in strong winds and hit a passenger train, has risen from six to eight, police said Thursday. Investigators said Wednesday the passenger train appeared to have struck an empty truck trailer that had blown off a cargo train travelling in the opposite direction on a different track. Debris could be seen lying across the front of the passenger train.



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Vehicle plows into New Year's crowd in Tokyo, injures eight people

Vehicle plows into New Year's crowd in Tokyo, injures eight peopleAt least eight people were injured, one seriously, when a vehicle plowed into crowds celebrating New Year’s Day in Tokyo early on Tuesday. A police spokesman said the driver had been detained and national broadcaster NHK said the man had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. NHK said the suspect had initially described the incident as an “act of terror” but later said the attack was in retaliation for capital punishment.



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Family charged with murders of eight people on marijuana farm

Family charged with murders of eight people on marijuana farmFour members of one family have been arrested in connection the massacre of another family on an Ohio marijuana farm. The eight victims, who ranged in age from 16 to 44, were found dead in four separate homes on their farm in Pike County in 2016. Parents George “Billy” Wagner III, 47, and Angela Wagner, 48, were arrested alongside their two sons George Wagner IV, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26.



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Ohio family arrested for killing eight people

Ohio family arrested for killing eight peoplePolice in the US state of Ohio arrested a husband and wife and their two sons Tuesday over the “meticulously planned” murder of eight people — seven members of the same family and a fiancee. George Wagner III, Angela Wagner and their sons George Wagner IV and Edward Wagner are accused of carrying out the April 2016 massacre in Peebles, a rural village 80 miles (130 kilometers) east of Cincinnati. “Members of one family conspired, planned, carried out and then allegedly covered up their violent act to wipe out members of another family,” Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader told a news conference.



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Arizona head-on crash kills eight, including four illegal immigrants

Arizona head-on crash kills eight, including four illegal immigrantsA sport utility vehicle carrying seven suspected illegal immigrants was hit head-on by another car on an Arizona highway, killing eight people, state police said on Thursday. Three other people were seriously injured in the collision on Wednesday when a Chevrolet Suburban, containing seven immigrants and two U.S. citizens, was hit by a Buick passenger vehicle near Florence, Arizona, about 125 miles (200 km) from the border, a police spokesman said. The state Department of Public Safety earlier had reported nine people were killed in the accident.



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Japan earthquake: Eight dead and dozens missing in landslides as lights go out on Hokkaido

Japan earthquake: Eight dead and dozens missing in landslides as lights go out on HokkaidoAt least eight people were killed and 32 were missing, Japanese media reported, after a powerful earthquake paralysed the northern island of Hokkaido on Thursday, triggering landslides and knocking out power to its 5.3 million residents. Aerial footage showed dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near the town of Atsuma in southern Hokkaido, with mounds of reddish earth and fallen trees piled up at the edge of green fields. The collapsed remains of what appeared to be houses or barns were scattered about. Houses were buried by multiple landslides after a powerful earthquake in Atsuma, Hokkaido Credit: Getty Six of the deaths were in the village of Atsuma, National broadcaster NHK reported. With swathes of the country further south recovering from Typhoon Jebi, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that 25,000 troops and other personnel were being dispatched to the area to help with rescue operations. NHK showed the moment the quake struck the city of Muroran, with its camera violently shaking and all city lights going black moments later. In Sapporo, a mudslide on a road left several cars half buried. Akira Fukui, from the main city of Sapporo, told AFP: "I woke up around 3am with a vertical jolt. I put the light on but it went out shortly afterwards. All the traffic lights are out and there's no power at work." A strong earthquake rocked Japan's northern island of Hokkaido shortly after 3 AM on Thursday. Police are checking on the extent of the damage. NHK WORLD-JAPAN is LIVE streaming the Hokkaido earthquake updates. t.co/QbGNxwoMjtpic.twitter.com/AX72kCYbEO— NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) September 5, 2018 Another Sapporo resident told NHK: "I was scared… I felt the tremor, which lasted for about 30 seconds. I was on the sixth floor, it was really scary." The entire island was without power after Hokkaido Electric Power Co said it conducted an emergency shutdown of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants following the quake. The utility said it wasn't clear when electricity would be restored to 2.95 million households. The trade and industry ministry told the utility to restart the coal-fired Tomato-Atsuma power plant within a few hours, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said. All trains across the island were also halted. Residents watch a road damaged by an earthquake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan Credit: AP Roof tiles and water could be seen on the floor at Hokkaido's main airport, New Chitose Airport, which would be closed for at least Thursday. New Chitose is a major tourist gateway to the island, known for its mountains, lakes and abundant farmland and seafood, and more than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers would be affected, Kyodo News Agency said. The closure comes just a couple days after Kansai Airport, an important hub near Osaka, in western Japan, was shut after it was hit by Typhoon Jebi. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said officials hoped to reopen Kansai Airport for domestic flights on Friday. The quake, which hit at 3.08am, posed no tsunami risk, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The US Geological Survey said it struck some 42 miles southeast of Sapporo, Hokkaido's main city. It registered a strong 6 on Japan's 7-point earthquake scale. Mr Abe arrived at his office before 6 am and told reporters his government had set up a command centre to co-ordinate relief and rescue. Sounding haggard, Mr Abe said saving lives was his government's top priority. A house damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake is seen in Atsuma town in Hokkaido prefecture Credit: AFP The Tomari Nuclear Power Station, which has been shut since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, suffered a power outage but was cooling its fuel rods safely with emergency power, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Operator Hokkaido Electric reported no radiation irregularities at the plant, Suga told a news conference. Farming and tourism are two of the island's biggest economic drivers, but there is some industry. Kirin Beer and Sapporo Beer both said factories were shut by the power outage, although they said no structural damage was found. A fire broke out at a Mitsubishi Steel Mfg Co plant in the city of Muroran after the quake but was mostly extinguished with no injuries, a company official said. A series of smaller shocks, including one with a magnitude of 5.4, followed the initial quake, Japan's Meteorological Agency said. Agency official Toshiyuki Matsumori warned residents to take precautions for potential major aftershocks in coming days. "Large quakes often occur, especially within two to three days (of a big one)," said Toshiyuki Matsumori, in charge of monitoring earthquakes and tsunamis at the meteorological agency. He added the risk of housing collapses and landslides had increased in the area hit by the quake, saying: "We urge residents to pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall and not to go into dangerous areas." The 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan destroyed both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns. The earthquake also affected telephone service and television broadcasting in Sapporo. 



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Eight shot at apartment complex in San Bernardino, California

Eight shot at apartment complex in San Bernardino, CaliforniaEight people were shot at a San Bernardino, California apartment complex, including a 17-year-old boy who was in critical condition.



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