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Fire at Cuban Oil Facility Leaves Dozens Injured, Hundreds Evacuated

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HAVANA — Lightning struck a crude oil storage facility on the northern coast of Cuba, igniting a fire that on Saturday had left dozens of people injured, 17 firefighters missing and prompted the evacuation of some 800 people, according to the authorities.

Images of the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, in Matanzas Province, 60 miles east of Havana, the capital, were shared by the Cuban Energy Ministry on social media and show enormous flames rising from the facility, with plumes of smoke blackening the sky.

Military helicopters were seen trying to douse the inferno as dozens of firefighters rushed to the scene.

The fire began at one oil tank during a thunderstorm on Friday evening, according to state news media, and spread to a second tank early on Saturday morning. That tank was estimated to hold some 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil, or over 13 million gallons.

As of Saturday afternoon, there were no reported deaths but 77 people had been hospitalized, according to Matanzas government officials. The 17 firefighters reportedly went missing Saturday morning just as the second tank exploded around 5 a.m.

The base, which stores oil for energy production, is near one of Cuba’s primary power plants. Already, the Caribbean island struggles with widespread power blackouts as a result of chronic fuel shortages and an ailing infrastructure in dire need of maintenance.

While the lights are mostly kept on in the capital, in the Cuban provinces where nine of the country’s 11 million people live, hourslong power cuts have become a grueling part of daily life in recent months. And diesel shortages have motorists waiting in line for days.

“It’s a structural problem with Cuba’s electric power system, which has been operating for over 40 years with no scheduled capital maintenance,” said Jorge Piñon, an energy expert at the University of Texas, Austin. “That puts at risk a total collapse of the system with no short term solution.”

The country’s largest protests in decades were prompted last year in part by power outages, as well as a lack of food and medicine in the country, whose economy has been hard hit by both the pandemic and American sanctions.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba visited the affected area on Saturday along with the country’s prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, touring hospitals and meeting with the wounded.

“The dawn will be long and filled with anguish, as it was last night,” Mr. Díaz-Canel said on Twitter. “There is no precedent for a fire of this magnitude at the Supertanker Base.”

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California man who fatally stabbed Las Vegas showgirl found unfit to stand trial

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The knife-wielding madman accused of fatally stabbing two people on the Last Vegas Strip — including a showgirl — was found mentally unfit to stand trial, The Post has confirmed.

A Las Vegas judge on Friday ruled Yoni Barrios, 32, must remain at a state psychiatric facility until a court-appointed psychiatrist can determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial, according to court records.

Barrios was charged with two counts of open murder with a deadly weapon and six counts of attempted murder in the senseless broad-daylight attack on October 6.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said Barrios stabbed showgirl Maris Digiovanni in the heart and bystander Brent Hallet with a kitchen knife near the Wynn hotel.

Yoni Barrios appears in court at the Regional Justice Center, on Oct. 11, 2022, in Las Vegas.
AP

Barrios also allegedly stabbed six others, including showgirls Anna Westby and Victoria Cayetano.

According to a police report obtained by The Post, Barrios went into the Wynn looking for a job. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed Barrios, a Guatemalan national, was in the country illegally.

Las Vegas showgirl Anna Westby was rushed to the hospital after Yoni Barrios allegedly stabbed her in the back.
A Las Vegas showgirl was rushed to the hospital after Yoni Barrios’ attack.
Pierre Fandrich

Police said Barrios spoke to a security guard at the Wynn and said he wanted to sell the knives he had in his possession so he could obtain some money to go back to his country.

The guard told him to “jump in front of a train,” according to the police report.

Yoni Barrios shown in a mug shot.
Yoni Barrios shown in a mug shot.
AP

An enraged Barrios then approached the showgirls, later telling police they laughed and made fun of his clothing.

“Barrios said he became angry and stabbed one of the women [Digiovanni] in the chest after which he began stabbing the other women in the group as they ran away,” the police report said.

“Barrios started running and looking for groups of people so he could ‘let the anger out.’”

If the court determines Barrios is competent, the criminal case will proceed.

Barrios had been living in the streets in Los Angeles before he decided to go to Las Vegas. A friend of Barrios told The Post the 32-year old was a former stripper who mooched off men and women who had romantic interests in him.

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As Ukraine Presses Its Offensive, a Call for Evacuations From a Russian-Controlled Area

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KYIV, Ukraine — Less than a month after driving Russian forces from the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro River, the Ukrainian authorities on Saturday issued an urgent call for civilians to evacuate from Russian-occupied areas on the eastern bank, suggesting that Kyiv’s military might press its offensive and try to establish a foothold across the waterway.

“The evacuation is necessary due to the possible intensification of hostilities in this area,” Yaroslav Yanushevych, the head of the Kherson regional military administration, in Ukraine’s south, said in an announcement to residents.

It was not clear how many people would be able to make it across the river on private boats and other vessels because all of the main crossings have been destroyed. The public call for evacuations was also most likely intended to signal to the Russians that an assault might be coming, though Ukraine has in the past used deception to focus Russian attention in one direction while preparing for an offensive somewhere else.

Ukrainian forces are pushing on into the winter after two sweeping offensives in the northeast and south in the fall. They are once again stepping up strikes on Russian supply routes, command centers and ammunition depots from new forward positions.

The Russian withdrawal from Kherson was both an embarrassment for the Kremlin, which had only recently declared the region to be a part of Russia, and a strategic setback as it put the Ukrainians in a better position to threaten supply lines from Crimea with long-range precision weapons provided by its Western allies.

After being driven across the Dnipro River in Kherson, Russian forces set about fortifying defensive positions about 10 to 20 miles from the eastern bank, according to the Ukrainian military and satellite imagery. But the river divides Ukrainian and Russian forces along a route that stretches more than 200 miles, and Russian forces are spread thin.

“Russian forces clearly do not expect to be able to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting across the river, nor are the Russians prioritizing defensive positions to stop such a crossing,” the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said earlier this week after analyzing publicly available satellite photos of the Russian defensive positions.

A ban on river crossings would be lifted from Saturday to Monday to facilitate the evacuations, Mr. Yanushevych said, noting that only one dock would be opened. All those fleeing Russian-occupied territories must bring documents certifying their identity and confirming their Ukrainian citizenship, he said.

Farther to the northeast, where the river widens into a vast reservoir held back by a vital dam in Nova Kakhovka, Ukrainian officials and residents said that the Russian civilian administration this week had begun to flee farther east.

The Ukrainian military has noted that it was seeing a decrease in the number of Russian troops in the towns and villages along the river. “A minimal number of occupiers remain in the cities,” the military said last month.

The account was supported by local residents reached by telephone in recent days.

North of the dam, speculation continued to swirl around Russian intentions at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since early in the war and where Ukrainian intelligence has estimated at least 500 soldiers are garrisoned.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a news conference in Rome on Friday that the agency was “almost there” in brokering a deal for Russian troops to pull out of the plant and to create a demilitarized zone around the facility, which has been at the center of frequent shelling.

“We have a proposal on the table which simply put is aiming to stop the folly of bombing the largest nuclear power plant in Europe,” he said.

Although the Kremlin has pushed back on Ukrainian suggestions that its forces were preparing to leave the nuclear plant, Alexei Likhachev, the head of the Russian nuclear energy agency, confirmed negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog group, were continuing.

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Georgia fugitive gets himself arrested after commenting on ‘most wanted’ post

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This is not a list most would ask to be on.

A Georgia man assisted law enforcement in his arrest after he commented on the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office’s Facebook page.

When the sheriff’s department, located east of Atlanta, released their “Most Wanted List” for November, Christopher Spaulding appeared offended by the omission.

“How about me” Spaulding asked through his personal Facebook account.

The department was happy to reply on Thursday, saying, “you are correct you have two warrants, we are on the way.” 

Later on Thursday, Rockdale police shared an update to the bizarre exchange. Spaulding, wearing a red Georgia Bulldogs hoodie and hat, was apprehended and handcuffed.

The 40-year-old had two warrants for Felony Violation of Probation, according to police.

The Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office was happy to add Spaulding to the list.
Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office / Facebook

“We appreciate you for your assistance in your capture!” the department said in the post.

After Spaulding was taken into custody, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office reminded wanted fugitives that being left off the “Most Wanted List” isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card.

“Our Top 10 is compiled based off of the severity of the charges only. By not being on this list does not mean our Fugitive Unit is not looking for you if you have an active warrant.”

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