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Walmart employee kills six in US mass shooting

Photo: BBC

| By AFP | Michael Mathes |

A Walmart employee shot dead six people at a store bustling with Thanksgiving holiday shoppers, before turning the pistol on himself, police said Wednesday, in America’s second mass shooting in four days.

Four other people remained hospitalized in unknown condition following the Tuesday night rampage in Chesapeake, Virginia, police chief Mark Solesky said.

Solesky told a news conference the gunman was believed to have died of a “self-inflicted gunshot wound,” and that the motive behind the country’s latest deadly outburst of gun violence was not immediately known.

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President Joe Biden condemned “yet another horrific and senseless” attack, mourning the fact “there are now even more tables across the country that will have empty seats this Thanksgiving.”

He added: “There are now more families who know the worst kind of loss and pain imaginable.”

The assault two days before the quintessential American family holiday, marked this year on November 24, followed a weekend gun attack at an LGBTQ club in Colorado that killed five people.

It was also the second mass shooting in the state of Virginia this month: three students at the University of Virginia who played on its football team were killed November 13 by a classmate after a field trip.

Emergency calls were first made just after 10:00 pm Tuesday (0300 GMT Wednesday) while the store was still open.

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Officers arrived in a matter of two minutes and entered the Walmart two minutes later, Solesky said.

US media reported that the gunman opened fire in a room where employees take meal breaks but the police chief said he could not confirm this.

In the hours afterwards, news footage showed a major police presence around the Walmart, which is located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of the US capital Washington.

‘Senseless violence’

Gun attacks in grocery stores in America have become increasingly common in recent years. A teenage gunman killed 10 people, most of them Black, at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York in May.

Last year a shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado also left 10 dead. And in a particularly gruesome attack in 2019, a young gunman killed 23 and wounded 26 as he stalked shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

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An advocacy group called Guns Down America has reported that from January 1, 2020 to May 14 of this year there were 448 “gun incidents” and 137 deaths at 12 large national retailers.

In Chesapeake, local resident Edna Dunham told CBS news after the shooting, “That could have been me.”

“It could’ve been any of us because we go there so much. It could’ve been any of us,” Dunham said.

Walmart, the largest retailer in the United States, issued a statement early Wednesday saying: “We are shocked at this tragic event.” 

The company added that it was “praying for those impacted, the community and our associates. We’re working closely with law enforcement, and we are focused on supporting our associates.”

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Virginia state Senator Louise Lucas, who represents the Chesapeake region, said she was “heartbroken that America’s latest mass shooting took place… in my district.”

“I will not rest until we find the solutions to end this gun violence epidemic in our country that has taken so many lives,” she wrote on Twitter.

Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia tweeted: “Tragically, our community is suffering from yet another incident of senseless gun violence just as families are gathering for Thanksgiving.” 

The incident occurred three nights after a gunman opened fire inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and injuring at least 18, in what is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Authorities said that suspect, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, had used a long rifle at the club, where partygoers were marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which pays tribute to trans people targeted in violent attacks.

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So far in 2022, the Gun Violence Archive website has tracked more than 600 mass shootings in the United States — defined as an incident with four or more people shot or killed, not including the shooter. 

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International

Food prices send hunger soaring in Latin America: UN agencies

Photo: AP News

| By AFP |

Rising food prices in Latin America and the Caribbean caused the number of people going hungry in the region to rise by more than 13 million between 2019 and 2021, a United Nations report said Tuesday.

The report by three UN agencies said the region was particularly vulnerable to the global food crisis caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine due to a high reliance on wheat, maize and fertilizer imports.

“The number of people in the region suffering from hunger increased by 13.2 million to 56.5 million,” read the report, released at a press conference in Santiago, Chile.

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In addition, moderate or severe food insecurity affected 267.7 million people — 40.6 percent of the region’s population — in 2021. 

This is “far above the world average” of 29.3 percent, said the report.

“The rise in food inflation and extreme poverty is one of the factors behind the increase in food insecurity and hunger,” said the report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the FAO, food insecurity refers to a lack of regular access to healthy and nutritious food.

“The heavy reliance on imported fertilizers, and fluctuating food prices, have an unavoidable negative impact on livelihoods — mainly of the rural population — and access to healthy food,” said Mario Lubetkin, FAO Assistant Director-General.

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International

Colombia landslide kills 34

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

Heavy rains in northwest Colombia sent a wall of earth crashing onto a winding road, swallowing up a bus and other vehicles and killing 34 people, emergency services said Monday.

The landslide Sunday evening prompted a large rescue effort, with dozens of people in hard hats using backhoes and excavators to dig through the earth looking for victims.

The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management said the fatalities included eight minors and that nine other people were injured in the disaster in the remote town of Pueblo Rico.

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The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, and traveled 270 kilometers (170 miles) before being hit by the landslide as it passed through the Andes mountain region, civil defense officials said.

Colombian media reported that a child had survived and was pulled from the arms of its mother, who did not make it.

One survivor said the bus driver had at first managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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The country has declared a national disaster over the rains linked to the exceptionally long La Nina weather phenomenon, which cools surface temperatures and is currently causing drought and flooding around the globe.

Today, the landslide “puts this town in mourning, tomorrow it could be in another area, because we really have many unstable areas in the country, and the rainy season has not ended,” said Javier Pava of the UNGRD.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization said last week the La Nina conditions could last until February or March 2023.

In Colombia, the phenomenon has also caused crop damage, compromising food supplies and leading to soaring prices.

In July, three children were killed in northwestern Colombia when a landslide buried a rural school. In February, 14 people died in a mudslide triggered by heavy rains in central-western Risaralda province.

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International

At least 27 killed in Colombia landslide: president

Photo: AFP

| By AFP |

At least 27 people were killed when a landslide engulfed a road in northwest Colombia, trapping people in a bus and other vehicles, said President Gustavo Petro on Monday.

“It is with sadness that I must announce that, so far, 27 people, including three minors, have lost their lives in the tragedy” that struck on Sunday in a remote area of the Pueblo Rico municipality, Petro wrote on Twitter.

On Sunday evening, the president reported three dead, as dozens of rescue workers searched for survivors.

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One survivor said the driver of the bus managed to dodge the worst of the landslide.

“Part of it was coming down and the bus was a little bit back from that. The bus driver was backing up when it all came crashing down,” Andres Ibarguen told radio station Lloro Stereo.

The bus had set out from the city of Cali with 25 passengers, civil defense officials said.

The rainy season that began in August is Colombia’s worst in 40 years, according to the government, causing accidents that have left more than 270 people dead.

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