iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has received over 1,000 applications for assistance so far, after the devastating flooding that slammed West Virginia.
Those numbers reflect applications from only three counties FEMA has designated eligible for federal funding -- Greenbrier, Kanawha, and Nicholas counties -- so the number of applications may increase if additional counties are added to the eligibility list.
"As of [Monday] morning, more than 1,000 individuals and households in these counties have applied for federal funding," a FEMA spokesman told ABC News. "We will be conducting PDAs in several other affected counties over the next few days in order to determine their eligibility for federal funding."
The preliminary damage assessments conducted by FEMA in the aforementioned trio of counties resulted in President Obama issuing a major disaster declaration for the state of West Virginia on June 25, the spokesman said.
"This declaration has released federal funding for individuals and communities affected by the severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides that began on June 22nd, 2016 and are ongoing," the spokesman said.
The federal agency said it has also deployed over 250 staff to the state to assist in response and recovery.
And there are 470 West Virginia National Guard troops on the ground, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during a press conference Monday.
FEMA also said in a statement Monday that the first Disaster Recovery Center "is planned to be open soon, where survivors can go to get assistance and information."
Twenty-three people died as a result of the flooding, the worst the state has seen in three decades.
iStock/Thinkstock(PANHANDLE, Texas) -- Texas authorities said Tuesday that three train workers remained missing as emergency crews continued to fight a fire caused by an explosive train crash in Texas this morning.
Joe Faust, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, said that two of its mixed-freight trains were involved in the accident at 8:40 a.m. in Panhandle, Texas.
"BNSF has confirmed that the lead locomotives on two intermodal trains collided near Panhandle, TX, this morning, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at approximately 8:40 a.m. CT. Four BNSF employees were involved in the incident. Local first responders and BNSF personnel were deployed to the scene. By 9:02 a.m., one employee was transported to a local hospital and is being treated. Rescue efforts are underway at the scene with respect to the three other railroad employees involved in the incident," Faust said in a statement.
Images from the scene showed derailed box cars on fire and piled atop each other. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of six to investigate.
Faust said that each train had two crew members -- an engineer and conductor -- on board.
The Department of Public Safety Amarillo said it was not known whether the three missing crew members were still alive. Authorities said due to fire conditions at the crash site, it would take time before emergency crews could reach the compartments where the members were working.
Sgt. Dan Buesing of the Department of Public Safety said that the freight cars were not carrying hazardous materials but that authorities could not verify the contents of the cars.
ABC affiliate KVII-TV said the city of Panhandle had asked residents to reduce their water usage so that firefighters could effectively fight the blaze.
Evacuations that had been put in place for the east side of Panhandle because of shifting winds were lifted. One area highway remained shut down near the area of the fire.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Inclusion on so-called terrorist watch lists, which currently draw from a database of about 1.5 million names, is being touted as a possible criterion for limiting guns sales in the U.S., prompting concern over errors that have seen innocent people flagged under the system.
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday found that 86 percent of those surveyed favored a ban on firearm purchases by people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. A majority of respondents also favored increased surveillance of suspected terrorists, even if such action would intrude on a person's privacy.
The possibility of basing further gun control measures on the database has prompted concern by civil liberties advocates and pro-gun lobbyists alike. The lists have been known to flag civilians with no ties to terrorist organizations, and it can be difficult for people to be removed after an error has been made -- giving credence to critics who worry that restricting gun rights on the basis of the lists would violate the civil liberties of innocent parties. Nonetheless, since a shooter killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a number of bills aimed at tighter gun control have called for people on the databases to be barred from purchasing guns.
A part of the problem, say critics of the latest bills, is the secretive environment in which the lists are compiled. There isn’t one list but a collection of indexes, beginning with the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), run by the National Counterterrorism Center. As of June 2016, some 1.5 million people were on that list, according to an official fact sheet on the program, including 15,000 U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The no-fly list -- a subset of the TIDE database -- has tens of thousands of names on it, having grown from just 16 names after 9/11, according to a former counterterrorism official who spoke to ABC News but asked for anonymity, due to the sensitive nature of the lists.
How “suspected terrorist” is defined is critical in understanding how many people without ties to terrorist organizations have been included on the lists, according to the former official. He insisted that the no-fly list is likely to contain fewer innocent names. “If a person meets the criteria where we restrict the rights of him or her to board an airplane, I think it’s reasonable to also keep that person from purchasing a gun,” the former official said.
It is a view shared by a number of members of Congress. Last week Democrats in the House staged a 24-hour sit-in over the lack of progress of gun control bills. One of the bills being discussed, the Terrorist Firearms Prevention Act 2016, would deny firearm sales to “individuals who appear on the no-fly list or the selectee list,” another subset of the TIDE list.
In response to the proposals, the NRA released a statement last Wednesday saying that it “believes that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms, period,” but also that “protections should be put in place that allow law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a watch list to be removed.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has also aired concerns, saying, “American citizens who are wrongly placed on the federal terrorist watch lists must be afforded the constitutional right to due process and the ability to effectively challenge inappropriate watch list designations.”
But sometimes, just having the same name as someone else on the list can prevent an air traveler from boarding a plane. In 2008, The New York Times reported that this has happened to children as young as 6. Alex Harris, who was born in 2000, was kept in a holding room with his family upon arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport from London in 2006 because his name matched a name on the list, the Times reported. He was allegedly detained again when he was 7, according to The Times.
Dave Joly, who serves as the congressional and public affairs coordinator for the Terrorist Screening Center at the FBI, confirmed to ABC News that errors due to “name similarities” occur with the government’s consolidated terrorist watch list but that they can be “quickly rectified” when law enforcement agencies or encountering authorities contact his unit to vet the individuals.
But the process of removing your name from the lists can be lengthy and daunting.
It took Rahinah Ibrahim, a Malaysian architect with a doctorate from Stanford, almost a decade. She exposed errors on the no-fly list in January 2014 when she won a critical case against the Department of Homeland Security, according to court documents, demonstrating that the U.S. government violated her right to due process by putting her on the no-fly list without telling her why.
Elizabeth Pipkin, a San Jose, California, attorney who represents Ibrahim, told ABC News that Ibrahim approached her in 2005 after not being permitted to board a plane to Hawaii to deliver an academic paper. Pipkin said that attempts to bring the case to trial were delayed by the government, which, she said, tried to get the case dismissed multiple times.
When the case finally went to trial, the decision, written by U.S. District Judge William Alsup, addressed mistakes made by the government in putting Ibrahim’s name on the list.
“In order for the district court to grant relief on a claim that a plaintiff has been wrongly listed in a government terrorist [watch list], that listing must first result in concrete, reviewable adverse government action against the plaintiff, such as refusal of permission to board a plane,” he wrote.
He continued, "In light of the confusion caused by the government’s mistake, such cleansing-certification relief is ordered in this case."
Pipkin said that an FBI agent “checked the wrong box” when attempting to place her client on one or more terrorist watch lists, mistakenly adding her name to the no-fly list.
She added that Ibrahim's daughter, who is in her 20s, encountered difficulties flying as recently as 2014 because of her relation to Ibrahim.
Pipkin described Ibrahim as being a nonviolent person who “views America as her second home” and does not support terrorism. Pipkin noted that her client, whom she called “a strong believer in women's equality,” has broken barriers as a woman in working a male-dominated field and said she has sought to build bridges between her country and ours.
“Dr. Ibrahim is one of the thinkers America needs,” Pipkin said. “And we said that she’s a terrorist and refused to allow her to participate in our academic discourse.”
Once a person's name goes on a list, his or her information can be shared with the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, foreign partners and state, local and tribal police, according to documents first obtained by The Intercept.
People who believe they have been wrongfully added to a watch list can file a complaint through a redress program, which launches an internal review not subject to oversight by any court or entity outside the counterterrorism community, according to the documents. The review can result in the removal of an individual’s name, but the person won’t necessarily be notified of the result, because the government maintains a general policy to “neither confirm nor deny an individual’s watch list status,” the documents state.
Individuals may even be kept on the list after being acquitted of a terrorism charge if authorities still have reasonable suspicion.
Despite perceived problems with the terrorist watch list system, it looks as though the databases are here to stay. Both major parties’ presumptive presidential nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have recommended expanding terrorist watch lists in the wake of the Pulse massacre.
iStock/Thinkstock(RICHWOOD, W.V.) -- It's been almost one week since devastating flash floods tore through Richwood, West Virginia, turning a beautiful small town into what looks like a "war zone," according to one resident. But now a local Facebook campaign to rebuild has gained so much momentum it has more members than the town population.
The Facebook group “I am Richwood” was created by local resident Jeromy Rose as a way to coordinate relief efforts locally, and has over 2,800 members as of this afternoon. Richwood is in Nicholas County, one of the West Virginia counties receiving federal assistance in the wake of the flooding.
For Stacy Raffo, one of Richwood's roughly 2,000 residents, the social media campaign offers a glimmer of hope in hard times.
“Richwood looks like a war zone," Raffo told ABC News. "But everywhere you look, you see people helping out."
Raffo grew up in Richwood and is the executive director of a local charity leading fundraising efforts, the Nicholas County Community Foundation.
“You can’t see its beauty now through the mud, but a week ago you would’ve come into Richwood and been overwhelmed by the natural beauty and the beauty of the people,” she said. “We’ve had lots of contacts from churches and other organizations who want to help, and they’ve all learned about it through the social media campaign."
Now days after the deadly flooding that wreaked havoc and left at least 23 dead across the state, the Nicholas County Community Foundation raised nearly $59,000. The foundation aims to raise $500,000.
The donations will go almost entirely toward rebuilding Richwood, said Raffo, with other portions going to help the West Virginia town of Birch River.
Some funds will be earmarked for the Richwood High School band -- the Lumberjack Express -- which is "truly the heart of Richwood,” Raffo said. The flood left four to five feet of water in the music room and damaged uniforms and instruments.
Donations were also raised locally. Two local high school basketball teams hosted a car wash, raising $4,000. They were then shocked to learn an anonymous donor agreed to match that, raising a total of $8,000, according to team volunteer Jack Winthrow. All those proceeds will go toward four schools damaged by the flooding, said Withrow.
Beyond the outpouring of donations, physical assistance is the most prevalent offer on the “I am Richwood” group.
Raffo said a U-Haul full of supplies arrived in town from Kanawha Valley in Virginia -- coordinated by law students at West Virginia University.
Then there was the truckload of bedding delivered overnight from a Holiday Inn Express in Charlotte, North Carolina.
When a representative of the nearby Summersville Public Library posted about dropping off supplies to Richwood, the response was so strong it took 35 truckloads more than two days to deliver all the goods, Raffo said.
To help those who need immediate assistance, local construction services used the Facebook group to offer free services to residents who can’t get to or from their homes. John Bounds, owner of Bounds Construction in Mount Nebo, West Virginia, garnered more than 250 shares on a post offering free excavation equipment and services.
For Richwood residents, the Facebook response has been overwhelming.
“It’s really mind blowing for us, being such a small town," said lifelong Richwood resident Tiffany Russell. "Anything you think of, you just put it on [Facebook] or you speak of it and within minutes or hours, you have help."
"We have hope, we have each other," Raffo said, "And we know that we’ll bounce back."
iStock/Thinkstock(PANHANDLE, Texas) — Emergency crews are still responding to a fiery train crash in Texas that occurred Tuesday morning, resulting in the derailment of multiple freight cars and billows of black smoke.
According to Joe Faust, a spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, two of its mixed-freight trains were involved in the accident at 8:40 a.m. in Panhandle, Texas. Images from the scene showed box cars on fire and piled atop each other.
Faust said four employees were involved in the crash.
Carson County Sheriff Loren Brand said that there were an unknown number of injuries and that one person had been taken to a hospital. Brand said crews still did not know what the freight cars were carrying.
According to ABC affliate KVII, the city of Panhandle had asked residents to reduce their water usage so that firefighters could effectively fight the blaze.
Evacuations had been ordered for the east side of Panhandle because the winds had shifted, blowing smoke toward homes and putting residents at risk.
Monroe County Jail (BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) — The prosecutors who sought a felony charge against the former Indiana University student accused of two separate incidents of rape said Monday they were "frustrated" that there was not sufficient evidence to prove their case.
John Enochs, 22, was charged in September 2015 with two counts of rape, but those counts were dropped last week when he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of battery with moderate bodily injury. The charge was initially amended to a "level 6 felony battery," but the court entered judgment as a "class A misdemeanor," which it has the discretion to do when a defendant pleads guilty, the prosecutor's office said.
Enochs was sentenced by the court to one year of probation. He will not go to jail for the misdemeanor.
Enochs was accused of raping a woman he knew in her dorm room in October 2013 the night of a Greek life event, according to an affidavit from police. The second case was from April 2015, when a woman told Indiana University police she was raped at a fraternity party by an unknown man, who was later identified as Enochs, according to the affidavit.
Prosecutors said the case's two unrelated accusations presented a "very unusual set of circumstances."
"Although we filed the cases together, they were severed for purposes of trial. We could only do one at a time. The jury in one would not be permitted to know about the other. This was something we anticipated from the outset," the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office said.
Regarding the 2013 case, "the complaining witness had no specific recollection of the events" and "the few witnesses could not recall important details due to the passage of time and the consumption of alcohol," according to prosecutors. Moreover, "the complaining witness’s decision to prosecute came two years after the event which severely hindered the investigation," the prosecutors said.
As for the 2015 case, "there is video evidence of activities of the complaining witness, before and after the alleged assault, which does not support the assertion of a forcible rape, which was the charge in this instance," the prosecutors noted. "There is also DNA evidence that is problematic, and made it impossible for us to prove that the defendant was the cause of her injury."
Enochs' attorney Katharine Liell said in a statement that her client "did not rape anyone and he should never have been charged with these offenses."
"Due to the misconduct of the lead investigator who presented false and misleading evidence in her public probable cause affidavit — and failed to provide the Court with exculpatory evidence — John Enochs was charged with crimes he did not commit. After John Enochs presented evidence to demonstrate his innocence of the sensationalized and false charges, the prosecutor's office, on their own motion, dismissed both rape charges," the statement continued.
Indiana University did not comment on the case but said in a statement it "continues to utilize robust processes that are designed to support victims, while at the same time affording due process to those accused of misconduct. In instances where a student is found responsible for committing an act of sexual violence, the penalty is suspension or expulsion."
"The university’s goals are both to prevent sexual assault whenever possible and to support the victims to the fullest extent possible," according to the statement.
iStock/Thinkstock(PASCAGOULA, Miss.) — An explosion and fire broke out at a BP natural gas plant along Mississippi's Gulf Coast late Monday night, but police said there were no injuries.
Vibrations from the explosion were felt nearly 10 miles away, according to ABC's Biloxi affiliate, WLOX.
The plant is located in the city of Pascagoula, about 30 miles east of Biloxi. The facility takes in offshore natural gas and processes it to be shipped via a pipeline.
Jackson County Emergency Services manager Earl Etheridge told ABC News that crews hope to have the fire extinguished by dawn.
Etheridge said the explosion and fire began at approximately 11:30 p.m. He said two employees were on duty at the time, but they were not injured.
Local fire departments responded to the scene, and were working with plant employees to control and extinguish the fire. Emergency crews also blocked off the plant to secure the scene.
Although there were no mandatory evacuation orders, Jackson County Emergency Services initially asked residents who live near the plant to leave their homes as a precaution. Etheridge said residents returned to their homes soon afterwards.
In statement posted on its Facebook page around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, the Pascagoula Police Department said, "We would like to let our citizens know that there has been an explosion at the BP Gas Plant, located at 6800 Stennis Blvd. It is contained to the building. We are working with state and local officials regarding this. There will be no evacuations at this time and there are no injuries. We will update you as more details become available."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court Monday struck down a Texas law that imposed significant restrictions on abortion clinics — a major victory for abortion rights activists and a blow to the campaign to limit the procedures.
In a 5-to-3 decision, the justices struck down a law that set strict regulations governing how abortion clinics operate. The Texas law, enacted in 2013, mainly required clinics providing abortion services to beef up their facilities to match walk-in surgical centers and mandated physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Hundreds of activists on both sides of the debate gathered outside the Supreme Court in anticipation of the ruling. Monday is the last day that the court will issue decisions for this term, which began in October.
Texas has defended the restrictions, and the number of clinics providing abortion services in the state has dropped since the law was enacted. The Supreme Court said Texas put an undue burden on a woman's legal right to get an abortion.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, criticized the ruling.
"The decision erodes states' lawmaking authority to safeguard the health and safety of women and subjects more innocent life to being lost," he said in a statement. "Texas' goal is to protect innocent life while ensuring the highest health and safety standards for women."
The court is down one justice, from nine to eight, because of the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February. He routinely sided with anti-abortion advocates.
The court is now evenly divided, with four conservative justices and four liberals. The majority opinion for the court, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, held that the regulations are medically unnecessary and unconstitutionally limit a woman's right to an abortion.
"We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes," Breyer wrote of the “admitting-privileges requirement" and the “surgical center requirement. "Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the federal Constitution."
Breyer was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.
In a concurring opinion, Ginsburg wrote, “Given those realities, it is beyond rational belief that [the Texas law] could genuinely protect the health of women and certain that the law "would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions."
In his dissent, Thomas argued that the court shouldn't have decided the case at all for technical and procedural reasons. But he also argues that the court's abortion jurisprudence is fundamentally misguided, and the court today "radically rewrites the undue burden test" by "requiring courts to consider the burdens a law imposes on abortion access together with the benefits those laws confer."
The last time the high court decided a major abortion case was nine years ago when they ruled to uphold a law banning late-term abortion procedures.
"Today women lost," Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, said outside the court after the ruling. "Today the Supreme Court put politics over the health and safety of women in our country."
iStock/Thinkstock(SALEM, Ore.) -- A suspect is in custody after 2 people were killed and 2 others were injured in a shooting in Marion County, Oregon, about 70 miles south of Portland, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said Monday.
Law enforcement launched a manhunt for the suspect after the shooting, and the sheriff's office later announced that a suspect was stopped by Oregon State Police east of Portland.
Additional details were not immediately available.
This story is developing. Check back for more updates.
iStock/Thinkstock(KERN COUNTY, Calif.) — Many residents in Kern County, California, have lost their homes in a deadly fire still burning through the area, while others have been denied access to their houses amid the catastrophic destruction left behind.
Two people have died and at least 200 homes have been destroyed in the Erskine fire, which has spread to over 45,000 acres. Officials continue to search through the charred rubble using a team of cadaver dogs, which they expect to extend for about three more days. On Saturday, some animal remains were found.
The fast-moving fire is 40 percent contained as of this morning, according to the spokesperson for Cal Fire, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Daniel Berlant. More than 2,000 people are helping to fight the blaze.
Chief Brian Marshall of the Kern County Fire Department described the blaze as mother nature and a spark colliding.
Brandi Pettit, an evacuee who said she learned from a neighbor that her home didn't make it, said, "Losing a house at age 29, it's hard," through tears. "I don't wish this on [anybody]."
Another woman told ABC News she feels "homeless and helpless."
Eighty-one evacuees are in shelters; residents whose homes were not affected will be allowed to return home Monday.
WPVI-TV(PHILADELPHIA) -- A 25-year-old police officer was released from a Philadelphia hospital Monday just days after he survived being shot 7 times in the line of duty. As the young officer, Christopher Dorman, was wheeled out of the hospital this afternoon, he was greeted by a line of applauding police officers.
After his release Monday, Dorman thanked his supporters and fellow officers, telling reporters he feels "good" and is "ready to get back to work."
Dorman was shot while responding to reports of a man selling drugs in Folcroft, Pennsylvania, about 13 miles south of Philadelphia, on Friday, officials said. The suspected gunman, Dante Brooks Island, was taken into custody that day, police said.
Dorman was struck four times in the chest, once in the face, once in the groin and once in the leg, officials said.
Doctors said Dorman was lucky that he had his police vest on, according to Folcroft Chief of Police Robert Ruskowski.
"The doctors said that any one of those rounds on his vest could have been fatal," Ruskowski said.
"It's unbelievable that he's alive," Ruskowski added. "We just thank God that he had his vest on."
Dorman's story even got the attention of a country music star. Dorman, who was planning to attend a Kenny Chesney concert in Philadelphia Saturday night, said in a video from his hospital bed: "Hey Kenny, don't forget me."
Chesney gave Dorman a shout-out at the concert but mistakenly announced to the crowd that Dorman had died. The star later called Dorman to apologize and wish him the best.
Island, who allegedly tried to shoot a second officer during the incident, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault and related offenses. He has not entered a plea. It was not immediately clear whether he has a lawyer.
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As West Virginia residents brace for more rain Monday in the wake of the state's historic flooding, ABC News spoke to one man who rescued his neighbors after flooding tore through their block.
At least 23 are dead from the flooding last week, and many devastated residents have been forced from their homes.
When high waters rushed through Michael Mitchem's West Virginia home, destroying his belongings, he immediately went to save his neighbors.
"I wasn't really thinking of myself," he told ABC News. "After I got my family up here I waded in this water down to this woman's house who was trapped in there, her and her daughter. And we called the National Guard, we called the fire department, we called everybody."
He and another man then went house to house rescuing neighbors on the block, picking up the stranded in a boat.
"That's all we did all night long, was grab people, grab people," Mitchem said.
He said the water was sometimes chest-high and even above his head.
"Our protocol was not to worry about ourselves. Nobody left behind," Mitchem, an army veteran, said.
"I got nine kids that have to look at me as a father figure and a hero," he said. "My daughter thinks that I'm better than Superman."
A cold front moving though West Virginia Monday is expected to bring more rain to the already rain-soaked state. The forecast shows an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain. Due to the record rainfall last week, any rain is likely to cause flash flooding.
conductorjason/Twitter(DALLAS) -- Passengers aboard a flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport were forced evacuate their plane after a smoky landing Monday morning, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Everything aboard American Eagle Flight 3492 from Mobile, Alabama, operated by Envoy Air, was business as usual Monday morning until the plane was already on the ground, according to the airline. Upon landing, the aircraft's brakes became hot and began to produce smoke, according to American Airlines spokesperson Ross Feinstein.
The airport and American Airlines told ABC News the plane landed safely and no one suffered any serious injuries.
The pilots of the Embraer E145 reported some smoke in the cockpit after landing, FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford told ABC News, adding that a flame may have appeared out of a wheel well.
It's the crew's decision whether to have passengers evacuate rather than the routine exit at a gate.
The 40 passengers and three crew members on board the flight were helped down from the plane to the tarmac by those on the ground. The FAA does not allow slides on small planes like the Embraer E145 in this incident.
Photos on social media show the airport's emergency response vehicles coming to the aid of the aircraft while the passengers watched the scene unfold on the tarmac.