Midday Roundup: Fire engulfs Manhattan church on Orthodox Easter Sunday
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/02/16, 11:25 am
Easter inferno. Fire destroyed a historic cathedral in Manhattan on Sunday evening, just hours after its Orthodox congregation celebrated Easter. The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Sava was built as an Episcopal church in the 1850s. Flames burst through stained glass windows and smoke cascaded from the roof as firefighters worked to contain the fire throughout the night. No one was seriously injured in the blaze, which firefighters said broke out on the first floor around 7 p.m. The cause of the fire is unknown.
School’s out. A teachers’ “sick out” shuttered the indebted Detroit Public School system today. Schools were forced to close for the day when thousands of teachers stayed home from work to protest threats to their salaries over the summer. The district, more than $3 billion in debt, only has enough money to make it to June 30—unless the state passes another emergency funding bill. Teachers in Michigan are not allowed to strike, but they have used coordinated sick leave in recent months to protest the lack of funding and deteriorating conditions in school buildings. The district serves more than 40,000 students.
Unease in Iraq. At least 30 people were killed and dozens more wounded Sunday in a series of car bombings in Samawah, Iraq, a mostly Shia-populated city about 250 miles south of Baghdad. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombings in an area that so far hasn’t seen much of that kind of violence. Meanwhile in Baghdad, Shiite protesters this weekend stormed past the gates into the heavily secured Green Zone, where the Iraqi Parliament and foreign embassies are located. Iraqi security forces did not engage the demonstrators, who are followers of outspoken Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. They want Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to fire his political cronies in the cabinet and replace them with technocrats. The protesters disbanded Sunday, but not before ransacking the parliament building.
Bon voyage. A U.S.-based cruise ship docked in Havana for the first time in nearly 40 years today, reopening commercial travel across the Florida Straits between the United States and Cuba. Carnival Cruise Line’s Adonia is the first of what Cuban officials hope will be many American ships to bring tourists and a potential $80 million per year in revenue to the island. Cruise operators pay the Cuban government about $500,000 per docking, and passengers spend an estimated $100 per person in each city they visit. U.S. law still bans pleasure tours to Cuba, but the Adonia is set up to conduct an educational trip, which is allowed.
Rising waters. The death toll in East Texas flooding has climbed to six. In the city of Palestine, a 64-year old woman and her four great-grandchildren were killed when they were swept away by raging flood waters. Residents had little warning of the danger as torrential rains dumped more than 7 inches of water in just 30 minutes. “There were 4 or 5 feet of standing water in areas where they’ve never seen flooding before,” city official Nate Smith said. Authorities later found the body of a sixth victim.
WORLD Radio’s Jim Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.