Multiple deaths reported after stampede at Italian nightclub

Multiple deaths reported after stampede at Italian nightclub

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Six people were killed and dozens injured in a stampede at a nightclub on Italy’s Adriatic coast Saturday, authorities said.

An Italian fire brigades official told NBC News that it is believed the stampede was the result of a panic sparked by someone using pepper spray at the venue in the town of Corinaldo. Some 800 people were at the event.

A police official said a popular Italian rapper, Sfera Ebbasta, was performing at the Lanterna Azzurra nightclub Saturday night.

The dead included three girls, two boys and a woman who had accompanied her daughter to the venue, police said. At least 12 people were in serious condition, police said, while another 40 sustained less serious injuries.

Firefighters gave first aid to survivors, stretched out on the road outside the club, in the aftermath.

A teenager told the ANSA news agency that at least one of the emergency exits was locked when he tried to flee.

Ancona Firefighters Cmdr. Dino Poggiali told Italian media that it was too early to know if any safety violations at the club played a role in the incident but an investigation will be conducted.

The bodies of the trampled victims were all found near a low wall inside the disco, he added.

“It was a mess. The bouncers were getting the persons out,” an unidentified witness told RAI state radio. “I went out the main door. People fell, one after the other, on top of each other. Absurd.”

Another witness told RAI they smelled something acidic inside the club moments before running out. Police said the case is “complex” and it’s unclear what, if any, substance was sprayed.

Performer Sfera Ebbasta wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply pained” by the tragedy, thanked rescuers and offered his “affection and support” to the families of the dead and the injured. Out of respect to them, he cancelled some promotional appearances.

The rapper added he wanted everyone to “to stop and think how dangerous and stupid it is to use pepper spray in a discotheque.”

Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted that a moment of silence would be held Saturday at the Piazza del Popolo in Rome to honor those who died. “One can’t die this way,” he said, adding that those responsible for the incident will be held accountable.

The country’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella, demanded “full light be shone on what happened, ascertaining any responsibility and negligence.”

“Citizens have the right to safety wherever they are, in workplaces as well as places of entertainment,” Mattarella said in a statement. “Safety must be assured with special commitment in places where crowds gather, through rigorous inspection and checks. One cannot die this way.”

At the Vatican, Pope Francis bowed his head in silent prayer after he told some 30,000 pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square that he was praying “for the young people and the mamma” as well as for the many injured.

Italian high schools are usually open on Saturdays, but schools were closed this weekend for the Dec. 8 national holiday of the Immaculate Conception. That could have made it more likely that young teenagers were at the disco.

Paris braces for new riots as 'Yellow Jacket' protests sweep France

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PARIS — Paris shut down Saturday as the city braced itself for what many fear will be the most violent protests in weeks of forceful anti-government demonstrations that have swept the country.

Protests that began earlier this month against planned tax hikes on gas have since morphed into a wider rebuke of Emmanuel Macron’s presidency and an expression of anger at his attempts to reform France’s long-ailing economy.

Almost eight in ten people in France support the protests, according to a poll published last week by the Figaro newspaper and public radio broadcaster Franceinfo.

The French capital was largely deserted on Saturday morning as riot police waited on street corners and the first streams of protesters walked toward the Champs-Elysees, chanting the country’s iconic national anthem and waving the tricolor flag as they passed the presidential palace.

Yellow Vests protesters walk down the Champs Elysees on Saturday.IAN LANGSDON / EPA

Store fronts along the world-famous street — the scene of last week’s clashes between demonstrators and police — were barricaded behind plywood sheets in preparation for yet more violence.

Elsewhere hundreds of people were already in police custody, authorities said.

French authorities said they planned to deploy 8,000 police across the capital Saturday, as the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned “ultra-violent people” would try to descend into Paris’s boulevards.

“According to the information we have, some radicalized and rebellious people will try to get mobilized tomorrow,” Castaner told a press conference Friday.

Across town, Paris’s glittering museums and galleries — including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower — said they would not open their doors to the usual troop of holiday season tourists.

Soccer matches have also been called off across the country.

As Parisians prepared for what looked to be another weekend of destruction, the vast majority who spoke to NBC News on Friday said they supported the grievances of the so-called Yellow Jackets.

While many said they were perturbed by the protests’ escalating violence, they also said they shared the demonstrators’ frustrations. Namely, the high-cost of living in France and Macron’s appetite for reform.

“There is great anger in France at the moment,” said André Rubinot, a retired baker whose old boulangerie stands in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. “The president has too many reforms and he is going about them too quickly without asking anyone — quick, quick, quick,” he said.

Like others, Rubinot, lamented that life had become too expensive as he ticked off different household goods that had gone up in price. “A baguette is now one euro 20 cents,” ($1.36) said the 68-year-old in disbelief.

The protests gained even more momentum this week after French farmers and trade unions vowed to join the fray. Students have also been protesting across France in a series of demonstrations against education reform, some have said they are protesting in solidarity with the “Yellow Jackets.”

Dec. 7, 201800:48

Joseph Downing, an expert in French politics at the London School of Economics, agreed that the protests were about “much more” than taxes on gas.

“It’s this entire idea of the squeezed middle or the squeezed upper working-class person who feels an entitlement to an ever-increasing standard of living but is something that no politician can deliver,” he said.

As different grievances on the palette of discontent begin to merge, many people in Paris said they thought it would become increasingly difficult for Macron to put an end to the unrest.

Several people who spoke to NBC News said the strength of the “Yellow Jackets” lies in the fact that the protest isn’t specifically linked to any political party or union and therefore united swathes of the population.

“The politicians are afraid because they don’t know how to stop it,” said Julian Guillo, a 23-year-old property student who drank on the terrace of a bar which was in the process of being shuttered up. “It’s not one organization, it’s the people.”

In a last-ditch attempt to quell the uproar, Macron agreed Wednesday to abandon the gas tax increases which he had previously defended as necessary to help reduce France’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Dec. 4, 201800:28

However, his concessions appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Many on the streets of Paris Friday accused Macron of not listening to the people and several of those that acknowledged his concession said it amounted to too little too late.

“The government should do more, it should have reacted better,” said Abdul Asis, a 28-year-old construction worker who described himself as “100 percent behind the Yellow Jackets.”

Several people directed their frustration directly at Macron who they described as out of touch.

“He’s the president of the rich,” said Louis Boyard, a student leader at the high-school student protest Friday. “The youth are angry, we are against Emmanuel Macron.”

Among the many grievances listed at the protest were changes in university admissions procedures and fees, which students and teachers said would make admission more selective and limit access to higher education.

High school students hold banners during a demonstration march from place Stalingrad to place de la Republique in Paris on Dec. 7, 2018 to protest against the different education reforms including the overhauls and stricter university entrance requirements.Philippe Lopez / AFP – Getty Images

“We have to get rid of Macron to get to a fairer society,” said Homa Javadi, 18, who said she supported the cause of the so-called Yellow Jackets.

It’s not just the students who lay the blame at Macron’s door. Rubinot, the baker, said the president talked down to the people and portrayed himself as “king-like.”

The fact that Macron has largely kept a low-profile since surveying the damage wrought on the Arc de Triomphe after protests last weekend, has further angered those looking for greater concessions from the presidential palace.

“He’s not saying anything and the country’s on fire — he’s mocking the people,” said Meredith Saban, 38, a director of a human resources firm said who was having a cigarette on the Champs-Elysee.

But while the anger is widespread, the appetite for violence and destruction is not.

“Vandalising the Arc de Triomphe is unacceptable,” said Lea Chauvet, a high school graduate who was chatting with a friend outside the Pantheon, a mausoleum to the distinguished citizens of the republic.

“I wouldn’t want to associate myself with people who destroy everything,” she added, explaining one reason she would not go to the protest.

Those working on the Champs-Elysees, where damage from last week’s riot is still visible, were particularly emphatic.

“I agree with the cause of the movement but not the ways it’s carried out, not with the violence” said Said Bouchouack, a security guard at the cosmetics store Sephora on the Champs-Elysees.

“I was here last weekend and I thought to myself ‘this is war,’” he said.

Multiple deaths reported at Italian nightclub

Multiple deaths reported at Italian nightclub

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Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

Six people were killed and as many as 60 were injured in a stampede at a nightclub on Italy’s Adriatic coast Saturday, authorities said.

An Italian fire brigades official told NBC News that it is believed the stampede was the result of a panic sparked by someone using pepper spray at the venue in the town of Corinaldo.

Dec. 8, 201800:42

A police official said an Italian rapper, Sfera Ebbasta, was performing at the Lanterna Azzurra nightclub Saturday night.

The dead included three girls, two boys and a woman who had accompanied her daughter to the venue, police said. At least 12 people were in serious condition, police said.

A teenager told the ANSA news agency at least one of the emergency exits was locked when he tried to flee. Authorities were investigating.

China launches historic mission to the moon's far side

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China launched the world’s first mission to the far side of the moon today.

The Chang’e 4 robotic spacecraft lifted off Friday at around 1:23 p.m. ET (2:23 a.m. in China, on Saturday, Dec. 8), the New York Times reported.

The spacecraft launched atop a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Plans call for Chang’e 4, which carries both a lander and a lunar rover, to touch down on the moon in early January.

“Anything we land on the moon is significant, but this one is especially so,” David Paige, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said of the mission.

It is a successor to China’s Chang’e 3 mission, which successfully placed a lander and rover on the moon’s Earth-facing side in 2013.

Chang’e 4’s planned landing site lies within the South Pole-Aitken basin. The sprawling basin, which is 8 miles deep and more than 1,500 miles across, is one of the moon’s largest and oldest impact craters.

Dec. 7, 201800:45

“This crater has the potential to tell us something about the creation of the Earth and moon system — how the moon formed, as well as how the early solar system evolved,” Paige said. “Understanding exactly when this basin formed and how it relates to other lunar impact basins is key.”

The lander and rover are each equipped with cameras. The rover also sports a ground-penetrating radar instrument designed to help scientists gain an understanding of the moon’s geological history as well as a spectrometer to study its chemical composition.

Chang’e 4 won’t be returning any moon rocks to Earth, but a successor mission planned for 2019, Chang’e 5, will. This would be the first time that materials from the moon have been brought back to Earth since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

This TV grab taken by CCTV (China Central Television) on Dec. 15, 2013, shows China’s first moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, taken by the camera on the Chang’e 3 moon lander.Zhang bo / Zhang bo – Imaginechina file

“These missions are taking place in rapid succession, and that also demonstrates the resolve of this program to move forward toward the eventual goal of putting Chinese astronauts on the lunar surface,” Bradley Jolliff, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, told NBC News MACH in an email.

China has also announced plans to launch a rover to Mars in 2020, as well as additional crewed missions to low-Earth orbit.

China had been constructing its own space station, Tiangong-2. But a rocket glitch in July 2017 derailed the effort, and China is now planning to de-orbit the 8.6-ton space lab next summer, Space News reported. In April, China’s defunct Tiangong-1 space station plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean.

China, the U.S. and Russia are the only nations to have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon.

Want more stories about the moon?

China launches historic mission to the moon's far side

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 / Updated 

China launched the world’s first mission to the far side of the moon today.

The Chang’e 4 robotic spacecraft lifted off Friday at around 1:23 p.m. ET (2:23 a.m. in China, on Saturday, Dec. 8), the New York Times reported.

The spacecraft launched atop a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan. Plans call for Chang’e 4, which carries both a lander and a lunar rover, to touch down on the moon in early January.

“Anything we land on the moon is significant, but this one is especially so,” David Paige, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said of the mission.

It is a successor to China’s Chang’e 3 mission, which successfully placed a lander and rover on the moon’s Earth-facing side in 2013.

Chang’e 4’s planned landing site lies within the South Pole-Aitken basin. The sprawling basin, which is 8 miles deep and more than 1,500 miles across, is one of the moon’s largest and oldest impact craters.

Dec. 7, 201800:45

“This crater has the potential to tell us something about the creation of the Earth and moon system — how the moon formed, as well as how the early solar system evolved,” Paige said. “Understanding exactly when this basin formed and how it relates to other lunar impact basins is key.”

The lander and rover are each equipped with cameras. The rover also sports a ground-penetrating radar instrument designed to help scientists gain an understanding of the moon’s geological history as well as a spectrometer to study its chemical composition.

Chang’e 4 won’t be returning any moon rocks to Earth, but a successor mission planned for 2019, Chang’e 5, will. This would be the first time that materials from the moon have been brought back to Earth since the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 mission in 1976.

This TV grab taken by CCTV (China Central Television) on Dec. 15, 2013, shows China’s first moon rover Yutu, or Jade Rabbit, taken by the camera on the Chang’e 3 moon lander.Zhang bo / Zhang bo – Imaginechina file

“These missions are taking place in rapid succession, and that also demonstrates the resolve of this program to move forward toward the eventual goal of putting Chinese astronauts on the lunar surface,” Bradley Jolliff, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, told NBC News MACH in an email.

China has also announced plans to launch a rover to Mars in 2020, as well as additional crewed missions to low-Earth orbit.

China had been constructing its own space station, Tiangong-2. But a rocket glitch in July 2017 derailed the effort, and China is now planning to de-orbit the 8.6-ton space lab next summer, Space News reported. In April, China’s defunct Tiangong-1 space station plummeted through Earth’s atmosphere and burned up over the Pacific Ocean.

China, the U.S. and Russia are the only nations to have successfully landed spacecraft on the moon.

Want more stories about the moon?

Ebola spreads to major Congo city

Ebola spreads to major Congo city

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DAKAR, Senegal — The second-largest Ebola outbreak in history has spread to a major city in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as health experts worry whether the stock of an experimental vaccine will stand up to the demands of an epidemic with no end in sight.

Butembo, with more than 1 million residents, is now reporting cases of the deadly hemorrhagic fever. That complicates Ebola containment work already challenged by rebel attacks elsewhere that have made tracking the virus almost impossible in some isolated villages.

“We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area,” said John Johnson, project coordinator with Médecins Sans Frontières in the city. New cases are increasing quickly in the eastern suburbs and in outlying isolated districts, the medical charity said.

The outbreak declared on Aug. 1 is now second only to the devastating West Africa outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people a few years ago. There are currently 471 Ebola cases, of which 423 are confirmed, including 225 confirmed deaths, Congo’s health ministry said late Thursday.

Without the teams that have vaccinated more than 41,000 people so far, this outbreak could have already resulted in more than 10,000 Ebola cases, the health ministry said .

This is by far the largest deployment of the promising but still experimental Ebola vaccine, which is owned by Merck. The company keeps a stockpile of 300,000 doses, and preparing them takes months.

“We are extremely concerned about the size of the vaccine stockpile,” Dr. Peter Salama, emergencies director for the World Health Organization, told the Stat media outlet in an interview this week, saying 300,000 doses is not sufficient as urban Ebola outbreaks become more common.

Health workers, contacts of Ebola victims and their contacts have received the vaccine in a “ring vaccination” approach, but in some cases all residents of hard-to-reach communities have been offered it. The prospect of a mass vaccination in a major city like Butembo has raised concerns. Salama called the approach “extremely impractical.”

A WHO spokesman said shipments of doses arrive almost every week to ensure a sufficient supply for the ring vaccination. “No interruptions of vaccine supply have occurred to date,” Tarik Jasarevic said in an email to The Associated Press. “Merck is actively working to ensure sufficient number of doses continue to be available to meet the potential demand.”

This Ebola outbreak is like no other, with deadly attacks by rebel groups forcing containment work to pause for days at a time. Some wary locals have resisted vaccinations or safe burials of Ebola victims as health workers battle misinformation in a region that has never encountered the virus before.

A “fringe population” has regularly destroyed medical equipment and attacked workers, Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, Congo’s health minister, told reporters on Wednesday.

The Ebola virus is spread via bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.

The outbreak “remains serious and unpredictable,” WHO said in an assessment released Wednesday. Nine health zones have reported new cases in the last week, and some have been unrelated to known victims, meaning that gaps in tracking remain in a region with a dense, highly mobile population.

Thousands of people have been organized by Red Cross societies and others to go house-to-house dispelling rumors and checking on possible contacts of victims.

Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Africa regional director for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, joined one awareness campaign in the outbreak’s epicenter, Beni, this week.

The head of one family thanked her for the face-to-face contact, saying he didn’t even have a radio and didn’t understand what was happening. “Ignorance is the enemy,” another resident said.

Given the years of conflict in eastern Congo, it’s essential that households trust why the health workers are there, Nafo-Traoré told the AP.