Years of recovery ahead for Rolling Fork, MS, after tornado – National & International News – MON 27Mar2023


Years of recovery ahead for Rolling Fork, MS.

Nashville: Trans shooter kills 3 staff, 3 children at Christian school.

Israel: Netanyahu pauses judicial reforms after massive protests.



Years of recovery ahead for Rolling Fork, MS

Three days after a tornado tore through their town, shock remains the prevailing feeling in Rolling Fork in Sharkey County, MS. The twister, believed to be an EF4, tracked across four counties: Issaquena, Sharkey, Humphreys, and Holmes. It left 17 dead, out of 21 from the outbreak of tornados across the state (down from 25 after a revised count).

In Rolling Fork, a town of 2000 known as the birthplace of Blues legend Muddy Waters, the twister flattened an entire neighborhood. The few structures still on their foundations are damaged and many are unsafe. The storm even brought down one of the water towers. Survivors continue to comb the wreckage where their homes once stood looking for anything salvageable: shoes, clothing, the odd memento. 

Even volunteer organizations that have since arrived on scene, accustomed to the destructive aftermath of storms, seemed at a lost to describe it. Jourdan Hartshorn, the Mississippi coordinator for the volunteer organization United Cajun Navy, said “It’s bad out here. It’s literally devastation. Ground Zero”. United Cajun Navy President Todd Terrell said the organization’s volunteers on the ground likened the devastation to “Joplin or worse,” referring the 2011 tornado in Missouri that killed 161 people.

Emergency response

Yesterday, President Biden pledged federal funds to assist in the recovery effort. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell visited the town on Sunday. Criswell said the FEMA’s immediate and greatest task was housing. Many of Rolling Fork’s inhabitants are staying in the homes of family nearby, while others have sought hotel rooms, the nearest of which are 30 miles away. The community was already experiencing a shortage of housing and high poverty. Sharkey County has a 35% poverty rate, compared to the 19% statewide average.

“We are going to have to rebuild this community,” Criswell said. “We are going to have to rebuild the homes – we want to make sure that people stay in this community. Everybody that I talked to said they want to live here, this is where home is. So we want to make sure that not just rebuilding the homes but making sure that these small businesses get back up and running, that we get the infrastructure back up and operational so people don’t leave.” 

Criswell said the recovery would be “definitely months and into years”.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has opened shelters in Rolling Fork, Belzoni and Amory, where another twister caused severe damage. The American Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations will be offering food.

How to help

In-state organization Volunteer Mississippi is urging private citizens not to self-deploy to Rolling Fork or other hardhit areas. The office will post opportunities to help at volunteermississippi.org “as needs become apparent.”

The United Cajun Navy is also calling for volunteers with trucks and trailers to pick up supplies at their hub in Baton Rouge, LA, to bring to Rolling Fork. Those wishing to volunteer, donate or request assistance, can visit UnitedCajunNavy.org.

Red Cross Mississippi says it currently has the supplies needed to support its response but will share information on collection sites on their Facebook page.

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Nashville: Trans shooter kills 3 staff members and 3 children at Christian school

This morning, a shooter entered Covenant Presbyterian Church School with two assault-style weapons and a handgun. Three children and three staff members were gunned down in what authorities believe was a “targeted” shooting.  The victims have been identified as students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all aged 9. The staff members were substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, custodian Mike Hill, 61, and the school’s head Katherine Koonce, 60. Police arrived and fatally shot the shooter on the second floor of the school.

Authorities have identified the suspect as 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale of Nashville. The reports are confusing at this early stage, but it appears Hale identified as transgender and used he/him pronouns on social media. However, people who knew Hale, including lifelong friends and neighbors, refer to Hale as a “sweet” girl who was “a little quiet”. It has been confirmed that Hale was a former student at the school, which serves about 209 children from pre-school age to 6th grade. 

Police searched Hale’s home and found maps of the school and what they described as a “manifesto”. Hale had apparently identified a second target, not a school, but had decided against it because of the security in place at that location. Authorities have said they have a working theory as to the motive for the shooting but aren’t ready to release that information yet.  

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Israel: Netanyahu halts judicial reforms after massive protests

In Israel, a massive protest movement has been gaining steam in opposition to a raft of proposed judicial reforms. Last week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the first of these reforms, designed to shield Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from corruption and bribery charges against him. Netanyahu’s religious right-wing coalition plans other reforms that would prevent the national courts from striking down laws passed by the Knesset that are too discriminatory or which violate human rights. 

A growing number of Israelis, as well as foreign allies, see the reform as jeopardizing Israel’s claim to democracy. The protest has also included members of Israel’s Defense Forces, many of whom have refused to report for duty. This worried Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who believed the unrest would make Israel vulnerable. Gallant called on the government to reject the reforms. Netanyahu responded by sacking him.

Today, Israel’s largest trade union groups called a general strike which brought the country to a standstill. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators blocked roads and clogged plazas but were largely peaceful. Their demonstration seems to have worked as Netanyahu announced he will be delaying the reforms until after Passover and offered dialogue with his opposition in the Knesset.

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