At least 8 confirmed dead, 26 missing from California boat fire

Robie de Guzman   •   September 3, 2019   •   430

Eight people were confirmed dead from a predawn fire that sank a boat off a Southern California island while 26 others who were on the scuba diving vessel are missing, a local sheriff said on Monday (September 2).

The fire broke out aboard the Conception, a 75-foot (23-metre) boat, at about 3:15 a.m. while it was moored just off the shore of Santa Cruz Island, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement.

“This isn’t a day that we wanted to wake to for Labor Day and it is a very tragic event and we will search all the way through the night into the morning but I think we all should be prepared to move into the worst outcome. But those are our efforts right now and they will continue through the night and into the morning,” Coast Guard Captain Monica Rochester told reporters

Passengers slept in the ship’s lower quarters, officials said, while five crew members who were above deck on the bridge escaped.

The Coast Guard searched the coastline of Santa Cruz Island for any other possible survivors but had not found anyone, officials said.

Four bodies were recovered from the area and rescue divers found another four bodies on the ocean floor near the sunken vessel, which lies upside down under more than 60 feet (18 meters) of water, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told reporters.

“The four victims that we have recovered as of now will need to be identified through DNA and that may take some time. The condition of the remains that are recovered subsequently will determine the speed at which we are able to identify any of the victims,” Brown said.

The Conception, which launched in 1981, embarked for California’s Channel Islands on Saturday (August 31) morning with 39 people on board. Excluding the five survivors and the eight people confirmed dead, search teams are looking for 26 people who were on the Conception, he said.

Authorities are trying to determine the best way to recover the sunken vessel, including the possibility of towing it to shore, he added.

The surviving crew members sought refuge on a fishing boat moored a few hundred feet away, banging on the side to wake up Bob Hansen and his wife who were sleeping onboard.

The diving boat was chartered by Worldwide Diving Adventures, a Santa Barbara, California, excursion firm. It said on its website that the Conception was on a three-day excursion to the Channel Islands, and was due back in Santa Barbara at 5 p.m. on Monday.

The boat’s owner, Truth Aquatics, referred queries about the accident to a joint media center. “This is still an ongoing search and rescue,” it said. (Reuters)

(Production: Mana Rabiee)

Apple to re-close more stores in seven states, bringing total to 77

UNTV News   •   July 2, 2020

REUTERS – Apple Inc said on Wednesday (July 1) that it would re-close more than two dozen stores in seven states, including its home state of California, bringing the total closures to 77 as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Starting Thursday (July 2), stores will close in Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

As of Wednesday, additional stores had already closed in Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Utah.

Apple has taken an city-by-city approach to opening and closing stores, evaluating data for each community.

In cities where stores remain open, Apple requires face coverings for employees and customers while also performing temperature checks and frequent cleaning, the company said.

Apple has said its retail employees will continue to be paid through the closures. (Production: Angela Moore)

Number of Californians with COVID-19 keeps rising; governor declares budget emergency

UNTV News   •   June 26, 2020

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday (June 25) declared a budget emergency in the most populous U.S. state, blaming expenses and the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Declaring a budget emergency allows the state to tap into its rainy day fund. California anticipates a $54.3-billion budget deficit due to costs and a drop in revenue linked to the pandemic.

The state’s budget crunch lies in the shadow of coronavirus cases that continue to mount.

Nearly 5,350 people tested positive for the coronavirus in California the past 24 hours, Newsom said. The increase was smaller than Wednesday’s (June 24) record of 7,149 new cases. But the number of Californians becoming very ill continued to rise, using about 34% of the available intensive care beds in the state, up from 29% on Wednesday.

A total of 4,240 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday in the state, using about 9% of total available beds, Newsom said.

The surging cases have prompted the state to put 11 counties, representing about half of California’s population, on a watch list of places that might be required to roll back recent efforts to reopen their economies. (Reuters)

(Production: Jane Ross)

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

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