Floods and landslides kill 54, leave 39 missing in Vietnam

Floods and landslides have killed at least 54 people in Vietnam and left another 39 missing since a tropical depression hit the country earlier this week, in one of its worst natural disasters in years, officials said Friday.

The heavy rain in the central and northern regions disrupted transportation in some areas, hampering efforts to rescue the missing.

The storm, which hit central Vietnam on Tuesday, also injured 31 people, submerged more than 30,000 houses, and damaged infrastructure and crops, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said in a statement Friday.

Disaster official Nguyen Thi Lien from northern Yen Bai province, where six people died from the floods, said 580 soldiers and police and more than 2,000 residents have been mobilized to search for 16 others still missing in the province.

“Transportation to and from the southern district of Tram Tau was cut off by landslides and floods, making it impossible to send additional search forces to look for six people still missing there,” Lien said, adding that the search operations in the district are relying on local military, police and villagers.

Another tropical depression has been upgraded to a tropical storm, Khanun, which swept through the Philippines’ northern island of Luzon early Friday and is moving in the South China Sea toward Vietnam, according to national weather forecasters.

The storm could bring more rain and misery to the central and northern regions already soaked by rain and floodwaters.

Vietnam is ranked the seventh most disaster-prone country in the world, and disasters over the past two decades have caused more than 13,000 deaths and property damage in excess of $ 6.4 billion, according to Achim Fock, acting country director for the World Bank in Vietnam.

Speaking at a conference in Hanoi on Friday marking International Day for Disaster Reduction, Fock said it is time for Vietnam to prepare seriously to reduce its climatic vulnerability.

“If Vietnam does not invest in disaster resilience today, it misses an opportunity for social, economic and environmental progress that will have impacts for years to come,” he said, according to a copy of the speech provided by the World Bank.

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Vegas shooting survivor sues hotel, festival organizer, 'bump stock' maker

Paige Gasper came close to becoming one of gunman Stephen Paddock’s victims when he shot into a crowd of 22,000 at a Las Vegas country music festival headlined by Jason Aldean last week.

Fifty-eight people were killed in the massacre, and hundreds, like Gasper, were wounded.

Luckily, the 21-year-old Sonoma State University student beat death in the nation’s worst mass shooting in modern history with the aid of Good Samaritans who pulled her incapacitated body into a pickup truck and transported her to a hospital.

Now, Gasper, of Wheatland, California, is suing the hotel, the concert organizers, bump stock manufacturers and retailers as well as the “Estate of Stephen Paddock” for “negligence” in failing to prevent Paddock’s 11-minute terrorizing rampage.

She filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County, Nevada.

Gasper’s lawsuit alleges MGM Resorts International and its subsidiary Mandalay Corp., which own the hotel, and failed to properly monitor Paddock’s activities and responded too late to the shooting of a hotel security officer. According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Paddock fired at the security officer six minutes before opening fire on the crowd below.

The lawsuit also accuses Live Nation Entertainment, Inc., the festival organizer, and unnamed event promotion companies of negligence for failing to provide adequate exits for festival-goers. The lawsuit also alleges Live Nation was negligent for improperly training staff for an emergency.

Another defendant named in the suit is Slide Fire Solutions, the maker of bump stock devices that Las Vegas officials claims were used by Paddock, of negligence, design and manufacturing defects.

At a press conference Wednesday, one of Gasper’s attorneys, Michelle Tuegel, said the lawsuit was filed in order get “action and answers.”

Also present was Gasper’s mother Heather Selken who explained the impetus for the lawsuit: “[We] want things put in place so this won’t happen to you or your family,” she said.

MGM Resorts spokeswoman Debra DeShong responded to the lawsuit in a statement to ABC News, and said, “As our company and city work through the healing process, our primary focus and concern is taking actions to support the victims and their families, our guests and employees and cooperating with law enforcement … Out of respect for the victims we are not going to try this case in the public domain and we will give our response through the appropriate legal channels.”

A Live Nation rep said in a statement to ABC News that the company is “heartbroken” for the victims and their families and it is working with the FBI but it is “unable to comment specifically on pending litigation.”

Messages left by ABC News for Slide Fire were not immediately returned.

And messages left by ABC News for an attorney representing Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, have also not been returned.

It is unclear if Paddock’s family has retained an attorney.

As Paddock, the 64-year-old retired accountant and video poker playing high-roller was in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino making preparations for the shooting on the night of Oct. 1, Gasper was taking in the third day of the Route 91 Harvest Festival in the Las Vegas Village.

For 11 minutes, Paddock, after busting through two windows, showered the staging grounds with volleys of bullets, police have confirmed.

One bullet, according to the lawsuit, “believed to be from the weapon of Paddock” struck Gasper by entering her right underarm then “traversed right breast tissue, shattered ribs and lacerated her liver before exiting out her right side.”

After suffering the bullet wound, Gasper, the lawsuit adds, “was rendered physically incapacitated as a result of her injuries” and inadvertently trampled by friends and escaping crowds of people “as they tried to flee the concert venue.”

Fortunately, Gasper was aided to safety by numerous Good Samaritans.

One, the lawsuit notes, “helped her take cover behind a metal trash dumpster.” Another was led into the street to get out of the staging grounds and a third lifted Gasper amongst other injured concertgoers into the truck where she was delivered to the Spring Valley Hospital.

Tragically, Gasper was the only person in the pickup truck to pull through, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit claims that Moran, Texas-based Slide Fire Solutions LP and other unnamed bump stock dealers and makers, referred to in Gasper’s lawsuit as “Doe Manufacturers” and “Roe Retailers,” had a hand in the murderous act committed by Paddock.

Officials say the Las Vegas gunman had two “bump-stocks” that could have converted semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic ones.

The lawsuit claims that bump stock or bump fire devices “contributed to Paddock’s commission of the mass shooting.”

MGM and Mandalay Corp., the parent companies of the hotel where Paddock stayed, were accused of failing to train their personnel or supervise them “adequately.” In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the companies failed to monitor the hotel premises for the shooter’s delivery of guns and ammunition to his hotel room or monitor closed circuit television (CCTV) while Paddock planted video devices.

The police have confirmed that Paddock planted one video device in his hotel room peephole, and a second device was concealed in a Mandalay Bay food service cart left by Paddock in the hallway outside his room.

The cameras, according to the lawsuit, were used “to keep an eye on and to attempt to thwart law enforcement.”

That echoed Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo’s previous comments to reporters that the cameras were there to who could see “anybody coming to take him into custody.”

The lawsuit also accused the hotel security of “failing to timely respond or otherwise act upon Paddock’s shooting of Mandalay Bay Security Officers Jesus Campos…”

Campos, the lawsuit suggests, “was shot six minutes prior to Paddock’s commencement of shooting towards the concert venue.”

Sheriff Lombardo revised the timeline of the shooting during a press conference Monday, telling reporters, “What we have learned is Mr. Campos was encountered by the suspect prior to his shooting to the outside world.”

The lawsuit comes days after LVMPD Police Chief came out supporting the hotel security’s handling of the shooting.

“The Mandalay Bay security was fantastic,” Sheriff Lombardo last Tuesday. “I don’t want anyone to think that it’s not safe to stay at one of our hotels.”

Attempts by ABC News to get a response from the LVMPD were unsuccessful.

The lawsuit claims that Live Nation “breached their duty” by “failing to design, build and mark adequate exits in case of emergency.” The lawsuit also accuses the concert promoters of “failing to properly train and supervise employees in an appropriate plan of action in case of emergency.”

The company refused to comment about pending litigation.

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North Korea's hacking abilities 'beyond imagination,' defector says

North Korea’s hacking capabilities are “beyond imagination,” one former computer expert for the North told ABC News in the wake of Tuesday’s report that the nation had stolen secret intelligence documents, including the U.S.-South Korean war strategy.

Secret intelligence documents and photos unilaterally collected by the U.S. military were among the stolen cache of South Korea’s classified documents by North Korean hackers, but the totality of what was stolen remains unknown, according to South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Cheol-hee.

Malware contamination of the intranet server of the cyber command that occurred in September last year was confirmed by the South Korea’s Defense Ministry in May but this is the first glimpse of the scope of the damage.

The stolen trove totals about 235 gigabytes of data, equivalent to 15 million pages of documents. About 80 percent of the stolen materials have yet to be identified. But among them, Lee said, were U.S.-South Korean plans for a decapitation strike against North Korea to remove Kim Jong Un, as well as classified reconnaissance information collected by the U.S. military shared with the South Koreans.

“The way it got hacked was preposterous,” Lee told ABC News. “It wasn’t because North Koreans had advanced hacking skills, but was due to negligence on the South Korean part.”

Although there are strict security restrictions in using computers within the military, Lee says huge “holes” have been exposed at times when the intranet and the extranet were connected. North Korean hackers were able to steal data through malicious virus codes that they had implanted inside a software vaccine company that provide exclusive services as a subcontractor to the South Korean military, according to Lee.

The North has previously been accused of hacking into other South Korean government agencies, banks and media outlets as well, but Pyongyang has denied allegations of cyber crime involvement.

“I alerted this to push the new administration and the Defense Ministry to quickly find remedies so that this kind of loss doesn’t happen again,” Lee said.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry would not comment to ABC News, citing national security concerns. The Pentagon says it’s closely working with international partners to identify, track and counter cyber threats.

“Although I will not comment on intelligence matters or specific incidents related to cyber-intrusion, I can assure you that we are confident in the security of our operations plans and our ability to deal with any threat from North Korea,” said Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman.

But many cybersecurity experts believe the North’s advancement in hacking skills has already gone past the level of concern to a “highly damageable” stage.

“It is beyond imagination what they have already done inside South Korea,” said Jang Se-Yul, a former North Korean computer expert who defected to the South in 2004. “The North has prepared for a massive cyber attack since the early ’90s. They are more than ready to destroy the South’s infrastructure anytime Kim Jong Un gives a green light.”

Jang, who runs an NGO helping defectors, claims he has been in touch with his former North Korean colleagues working out of Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning Province in northern China, as recently as last year. He says they were part of the cyber attack units dispatched from Pyongyang to operate out of China, disguised as freelance programmers, but with the aim to hack national security-related information from Seoul and Washington.

“My old college friends who are now heading cyber teams there laugh at the South’s cyber security. They say hacking into South Korean institutions is like a piece of cake,” Jang said. “They sounded confident, and they are ready. For them, attacking South Korea with missiles and nuclear weapons are just waste of resources. All they need to bring down South Korea to complete chaos is to activate these malware viruses they have already prepared.”

Jang is a graduate of Mirim Military University in Pyongyang, now known as Kim Il Military University. He majored in “wargame programming,” where he learned to develop simulation software for the military.

Other majors included “enemy-system penetration programming” — in other words, hacking education.

Only the “brightest of the best” are handpicked in each province to major in computer science from as early as 13 years old, according to Jang.

A total of 8,700 North Korean hackers are estimated to be active, according to recent research by the South’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

ABC News’ Jae-Sang Lee and Yejin Jang contributed to this report.

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American hostage mom and family freed 5 years after being kidnapped by Taliban

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three young children — all of whom were born in captivity — were rescued on Wednesday, five years to the day since the couple was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan, ABC News has learned.

Caitlan Coleman, 31, and her husband Joshua Boyle, 34, who were abducted while hiking in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province in 2012, were secured in an exchange between Pakistani military and U.S. commandos late Wednesday in a secret operation to bring them home after one of the longest — and strangest — American hostage ordeals in recent history, counterterrorism officials revealed.

The captor network was believed by intelligence and counterterrorism officials to have been part of the al-Qaeda-aligned Afghan Haqqani Network — which also held Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prisoner for five years until May 2014 — but no one ever asked the families to pay ransom. The Haqqanis also have close ties to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

Only days ago, the family was shown in a video filmed by their captors and sent to their families last January. The Boyle family provided it to the Toronto Star and to ABC News.

It shows the couple’s four-year old son is shown sitting on his father’s lap, dressed in the same filthy clothing as in a video posted on YouTube last December. Caitlan is shown cradling their second child, still an infant. A third child has since been born as well, sources told ABC News.

In the video, Joshua Boyle light-heartedly cracked jokes about letters received in reply from their parents in record time and said the conditions of their captivity had improved around the beginning of the year.

The young mother, who grew up in Stewartsttown, Pa., tells her father, Jim Coleman, that her personality in captivity has changed from being like one Disney heroine to another.

“I would also like to say to my father specifically, that I think you would like to know that my time in—married, and my time as a mother, and my time in prison that I’ve become more of a Belle than an Ariel,” Caitlan Coleman, known as “Caity” to her parents, explains.

Her father told ABC News earlier this week that his daughter was trying to contrast one animated Disney character, Ariel of “The Little Mermaid,” who was rebellious and defied her father, with Belle of “Beauty and The Beast,” who tried to protect her father from evil.

“She is telling me, ‘Dad, I wish had listened to you more and not been Ariel and more a Belle,” the elder Coleman said. “It’s a lot of humility and self-analysis of why she is in this situation.”

A senior official involved in hostage recovery told an ABC News reporter in January 2016 that the hostage family was to be freed in a deal following the successful recovery of Colin Rutherford, another Canadian in Haqqani hands. He was soon freed but Coleman was not.

It soon emerged that the Taliban were upset over reports that Anas Haqqani, brother of the No. 2 Afghan Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, had been prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to death in secret proceedings in Kabul.

In August 2016, the Haqqani Taliban snatched two professors from American University of Kabul, one American and one Australian, in retaliation for Anas Haqqani’s death sentence. A few months later, in December, the Colemans appeared in a new video — seen for the first time with their children, who were born as hostages — warning that their survival depended on a reprieve for Taliban prisoners.

The families were soon told privately by Afghan officials that Anas Haqqani had been spared execution but that his release was politically impossible, U.S. and Afghan officials told ABC News earlier this year.

In the waning days — and even the last hours — of the Obama administration, diplomats tried hard to broker a deal for Coleman’s release, to no avail, according to several Obama aides who discussed the previously unreported hostage recovery efforts.

It was unclear Thursday morning whether the Boyle-Coleman family’s freedom came as the result of a new deal.

Caitlan’s husband seemed more optimistic than in the ominous videos the Taliban released in December, which appeared to have been made at the same time as the private January video addressed to their families.

“Things here are going about as can be expected,” Boyle says in the January video. “But we were buoyed to receive your letter, and for the first time we have hope that things might wrap up soon, God willing.”

In a private letter to his family, who provided it to ABC News, Boyle made it clear that the years of captivity in the most austere of conditions had taken a toll on their sense of hope.

President Trump in a tax speech he made in Pennsylvania on Wednesday made a cryptic reference to a country he did not name where “something happened,” and that Americans would “probably be hearing about it over the next few days.”

One counterterrorism official said they believed it was a reference to Pakistan’s assistance in freeing Coleman and her family.

“America is being respected again. Something happened today, where a country that totally disrespected us called with some very, very important news,” Trump told the crowd. “And one of my generals came in, they said, ‘You know, I have to tell you, a year ago they would’ve never done that.’ It was a great sign of respect. You’ll probably be hearing about it over the next few days. But this is a country that did not respect us. This is a country that respects us now. The world is starting to respect us again, believe me.”

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Sao Paulo struggles to end 'Crackland' drug market

Every day, the addicts who occupy “Crackland,” a square in the center of Sao Paulo where drugs are sold and smoked in broad daylight, pick up their blankets and tents and move across the street to let city sanitation workers clean the area.

And then every day, the group returns. All the while, police look on.

This daily ballet persists four months after authorities launched a major operation to end Crackland for good, arresting scores of dealers and sealing off abandoned buildings they had occupied — sometimes using rubber bullets and tear gas in clashes in the area.

For the two decades that this city within a city has existed, politicians have been trying to get rid of it: first by brute force and more recently with a program that offered addicts housing and cash handouts in hopes of helping them kick their addiction and leave Crackland.

Mayor Joao Doria, a media magnate and political newcomer who took office in January, changed course again, with a program that focuses on offering drug users in-patient treatment coupled with the police raid in May in which he declared Crackland was “finished” and “would not come back.” Yet it persists, and experts say there is no simple way to get rid of it.

“Any mayor or any president or anyone can say that the situation will be solved overnight, but this is not true,” said Francisco Inacio Bastos, a researcher at the Fiocruz institute who led the last national crack study. “Without sustained action, everything will come back again.”

Brazil is likely the world’s largest market for crack cocaine, according to the U.S. State Department. Its largest city, Sao Paulo is home to intense poverty and homelessness and to the nation’s biggest criminal organization, which plays a vital role in moving cocaine from the Andes producer countries to the streets of Europe. Those factors provide Crackland with both its supply of the drug and ample demand for it among Sao Paulo’s downtrodden and homeless.

The first thing visitors to Crackland notice is the smell — of urine and body odor — which wafts as far as a block from its edge. From afar, it appears foreboding. However, Crackland is also a vibrant community, where people sell food and used clothing, catch up with friends and joke with social workers.

This feeling of inclusion may contribute to Crackland’s durability. In the wake of the May police action, Crackland has moved twice and is now near its original location. Roberta Costa, an activist and a master’s degree candidate at the University of Sao Paulo who studies Crackland, said police operations may have reduced its size — estimated at more than 1,800 people before the May action. But addicts are starting to come back, since it is rare for them to find anything resembling community.

Doria, who is considering a run for president, has walked back his declaration that Crackland is gone, and his administration has since tried a more varied approach. It is expanding centers for out-patient support and offers basic social services in Crackland itself.

Critics say Doria’s focus on Crackland is symbolic of a larger campaign to “sanitize” the city: to slap a coat of paint over social problems like poverty and homelessness while pursuing a revitalization of the dilapidated city center that could push working-class families out.

Filipe Sabara, the city’s social development secretary, rejects that characterization, saying the previous mayor’s policy stashed addicts in filthy hotel rooms and didn’t offer enough to help them thrive. He said police actions in Crackland have made it safer and thus more accessible to city services — a claim Costa disputes.

Carlos Weis, the coordinator of the human rights unit of the state’s public defender’s office, said the new program hasn’t hired enough therapists or social workers or opened enough out-patient centers to sufficiently address the social issues surrounding drug addiction.

“The idea of the mayor’s office, which we think is fine, is to pull the person out the place where they’re using drugs, detox them, but you have to put them on the path of opportunity for a new life,” said Weis.

In response to that criticism, Sabara points to the New Work program that pairs homeless people with jobs in companies. Since January, more than 1,200 homeless people have found formal jobs through the program, including 19 who came from Crackland itself. About 90 percent have held onto their posts.

Several addicts interviewed appeared to be unaware that the city was offering any path out of Crackland outside of in-patient treatment.

Faced with the choice between hospitalization and staying on the street, Denise, a 48-year-old mother of three who would not give her last name, said she chose Crackland.

“I can’t be jailed again in a clinic — that’s a prison,” said Denise, who served a five-year sentence for drug trafficking. “It’s hospitalization or staying, so….”

In June and July, the city set up three tents where anyone can take a shower, get a meal or sleep for the night, replicating some of the services Doria’s administration initially eschewed.

For some, the tents are a bridge between Crackland and life beyond. Roberlei dos Reis, a former taxi driver, began using crack four years ago, and his addiction eventually forced him onto the streets. The 42-year-old now spends his days in the shade of Tent 2, and his nights in a bunk bed in a shipping container there. The newfound stability helped him stop using drugs two months ago, and he is looking for work.

But just over the fence that surrounds Tent 2, Crackland rumbles on.

———

Follow Sarah DiLorenzo on Twitter: twitter.com/sdilorenzo

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Missing woman found by TV crew covering her disappearance

A missing Australian woman was found today by a TV crew that was reporting on her disappearance.

Heather Rae Ellis got lost as she walked her dogs near Scott River in Western Australia. The 65-year-old was in the forest for 25 hours, she told local station 9NEWS, and her three golden retrievers helped keep her warm during the night.

“Unfortunately, I’d made a bed with covering and all the rest of it and no sooner had I laid down than a helicopter came over,” she recalled. “I was trying to attract its attention so I ran, and of course, lost where I had done the bed.”

The 9NEWS crew found Ellis as she made it out to the road after hearing the sound of the crew’s car.

“Early this morning, I heard the traffic, but I got into some really thick forest and lost the sound of it,” she said. “And so I just kept stopping until I really got my bearings and just followed the sound of the traffic.”

Ellis sprained her leg and has also been treated for dehydration, according to 9NEWS.

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