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At least four dead in US tornadoes and storms; roof collapse at Amazon

Three people died in severe weather in Tennessee, one person died and several were injured in an apparent tornado at an Arkansas nursing home, and emergency crews in southern Illinois were responding to reports of workers trapped inside an Amazon warehouse after its roof collapsed from storm damage.

At least one fatality was also reported in Missouri as severe storms, some believed to be tornadoes, swept across the Midwest and parts of the South late Friday and into Saturday morning.

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In Tennessee, two storm-related fatalities were reported in Obion County in the state’s northwestern corner, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Flener said he had no details on the deaths.

A tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home in Arkansas on Friday night, killing one person and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press. Officials had earlier reported at least two fatalities.

Within two hours, the building had been cleared and everyone initially believed to have been inside had been accounted for, Day said.

“It looks like it’s pretty much destroyed,” Day said of the building. “… It happens quick but apparently there was a little bit of time with tornado sirens going off.” Some residents were found in the basement “and were prepared for this,” he said.

Five people had serious injuries, and a few others had minor ones, he said. The nursing home has 86 beds.

Day said another nursing home about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Truman was badly damaged but no injuries were reported. The residents were being evacuated because the building is unsafe.

At least 100 emergency vehicles descended upon the Amazon warehouse near Edwardsville, Illinois, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of St. Louis, where a wall that was about the length of a football field collapsed, as did the roof above it.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were hurt, but one person was flown by helicopter to a hospital.

Edwardsville Police Chief Mike Fillback said several people who were in the building were taken by bus to the police station in nearby Pontoon Beach for evaluation. By early Saturday, rescue crews were still sorting through the rubble to determine if anyone was trapped inside. Fillback said the process would last for several more hours. Cranes and backhoes were brought in to help move debris.

“Please be patient with us. Our fire personnel are doing everything they can to reunite everyone with their loved ones,” Fillback said on KMOV-TV.

The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the Amazon fulfillment center in Edwardsville opened with two warehouses in 2016, with 1.5 million square feet of space. The warehouses are used to store items until they are shipped to mail-order customers.

“The safety and well-being of our employees and partners is our top priority right now,” Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement Friday night. “We’re assessing the situation and will share additional information when it’s available.”

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said on Twitter that Illinois State Police and disaster officials were coordinating with local officials in Edwardsville, and he was monitoring the situation.

“My prayers are with the people of Edwardsville tonight, and I’ve reached out to the mayor to provide any needed state resources,” Pritzker said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the damage was caused by straight-line storms or a tornado, but the National Weather Service office near St. Louis reported “radar-confirmed tornadoes” in the Edwardsville area at around the time of the collapse.

In fact, workers at the weather service office themselves had to take shelter as another tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of St. Louis. One person died and two others were injured in building collapses near the towns of Defiance and New Melle, both just a few miles from the weather service office.

The storms in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas were among several places in the Midwest that reported tornadoes spotted or on the ground.

The storms caused additional damage as they tracked through Tennessee and into Kentucky. Several buildings collapsed in the southwestern Kentucky community of Mayfield, said Sarah Burgess, a trooper with the Kentucky State Police in Mayfield.

She said several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory in Mayfield and that a shift was ongoing when the storm hit.

“The entire building is essentially leveled,” she said.

Although no deaths were immediately reported in Mayfield, coroners were summoned to the community, Burgess said. “We do expect loss of life,” she said.

Photos posted to social media from Mayfield showed uprooted trees, a courthouse steeple sheered off and business windows blown out in the storms.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early Saturday for what he said was major tornado damage in several western counties. Beshear said the National Guard has been summoned to respond to the region.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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