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Five injured in bridge collapse in Washington

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Five people were injured Wednesday when a truck apparently hit a pedestrian bridge over Route 295 in Northeast Washington, causing the massive structure to come loose from its moorings and collapse, officials said.

None of the injuries were described as life-threatening. The people who were hurt, including the truck driver, were in vehicles on Route 295 — also known as the Anacostia Freeway — when the incident occurred near Kenilworth Avenue and Polk Street NE shortly before noon, snarling traffic for miles.

“We’re very lucky” to have avoided tragedy, Christopher Geldart, the city’s acting deputy mayor for public safety, told reporters at the scene.

The truck, which was heavily damaged, is called “a roll off truck,” and operates somewhat like a dump truck but with a flat, narrow bed for hauling containers. When the bed is lifted, part of it rises higher than the cab. Authorities said they were trying to determine whether the bed accidentally rose and struck the bridge while the truck was moving.

The clearance under the bridge was about 14 feet, Geldart said.

“The truck fits under the bridge,” he said, referring to the cab. “The back part may not have.”

In the hours after the crash, Geldart said the bridge was last inspected in February and that its moorings were judged to be sound. Wednesday night, Geldart released a statement saying he had “misstated the condition” of the bridge.

In the statement, Geldart said that after the February inspection, the bridge was given a rating of “poor,” a finding that “prompts the multiyear planning process to replace the bridge.” In 2019, it was given a rating of “fair,” the statement said.

The statement did not address the question of whether the bridge might have withstood the apparent collision if it were in better condition.

The District Department of Transportation on Wednesday did not respond to multiple requests about the condition of the bridge and any plans for repairs. It also did not respond to requests for information about the most recent inspection.

A man who answered the phone at Frank’s Scrap Metal & Salvage in Gaithersburg acknowledged that the company owns the truck. He said he could provide no details about the accident except that the driver, who was taken to a hospital, “is OK.”

The D.C. police major-crash unit is leading the investigation.

Meanwhile, engineers were inspecting other Anacostia Freeway bridges that the northbound truck passed under, looking for potential damage, Geldart said. He said it could take until late Thursday for workers to remove the tons of concrete and steel from the freeway and fully open it to traffic. The city estimated that the road would reopen at 10 p.m. Thursday.

“We’re hoping that estimate comes down, but that’s the estimate,” he said. He said he could not estimate how long it will take to replace the bridge, which connects the Kenilworth and Deanwood neighborhoods, near the Maryland border.

Police said access to the freeway from Maryland will be blocked “until further notice.” Southbound traffic on the freeway is being diverted at Eastern Avenue and northbound traffic at Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, police said.

The bridge is an important access point to the Deanwood Metro station from the northeast side of Kenilworth Avenue. D.C.’s Department of Transportation has for years studied replacing it and two other pedestrian bridges over Kenilworth Avenue.

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Myanmar: Catholic priest, catechist abducted by armed group

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An armed resistance group opposed to Myanmar’s military junta in the western state of Chin has seized a Catholic priest and a catechist travelling with him.

Members of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) seized Father Noel Hrang Tin Thang along with a catechist while they were travelling from Surkhua town to Chin state capital, Hakha on July 26, UCA News reported. Both belong to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Surkhua in Hakha Diocese.

Bishop’s appeal
Local Bishop Lucius Hre Kung of Hakha has called for their release, expressing concern for their safety and well-being nearly a week after their abduction.

“I call on the concerned leaders of the CDF to immediately release the pair,” Bishop Hre Kung said in a letter released on August 1. Local Catholics have also expressed concern and said prayers for the immediate release of the cleric and the catechist.

Father Tin Thang has been helping numerous of displaced people including the elderly, women and children who took refuge in the parish following clashes in early June, according to sources.

Allegations
Following the letter of Bishop Hre Kung, the CDF said the priest and catechist were in good health.

The group accused the priest of giving information to the military junta, getting medical support from the junta and urging locals to receive the junta’s support. The group said it had warned the clergy not to contact the military’s security force, and they had to arrest Father Tin Thang as he failed to comply. “We will release them only after our demands of transferring the priest from Surkhua to Hakha and signing letters of recommendation from two church leaders are fulfilled,” the group said.

However, according to the Italian news agency, AGI, the priest and the catechist were arrested in Hakha while buying medicines for the people of Surkhua. The local community denies Father Tin Thang had any involvement with the security force.

Father Paul Thla Kio, a priest of Hakha Diocese told the Vatican’s Fides news agency that the CDF has seen Father Tin Thang having contacts with a general of the army. Father Thla Kio explained that the general, who is a Catholic and attends Masses, often went to the priests’ residence. In fact, Father Tin Thang asked the general to avoid violence.

Civil resistance groups
The ousting of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government by the military on February 1, has thrown the nation into chaos with nationwide protests, strikes and a civil disobedience movement, demanding the restoration of the government and the release of their leader. There have been no signs of a letup in the bloody crackdown by Myanmar’s military on its opponents in a bid to consolidate its hold on power. The offensive has re-ignited the military’s old conflicts with some of the armed ethnic organizations as well as numerous independent civil resistance groups.

The CDF is one of these civil resistance groups fighting the military. Using homemade weapons, the CDF has inflicted heavy casualties among junta forces in a conflict that erupted in Chin state in May. Clashes are still raging and more than 18,000 people have been displaced in Chin state and neighboring Magway and Sagaing divisions, according to a United Nations report on July 30. During the conflict, priests have been targeted, with the military arresting eight priests from Chin and Kachin states and Mandalay division in May and June.

Ethnic Christians
Christians are a minority in the predominantly Buddhist country, accounting for 6.2 percent of its 54 million population. Myanmar Catholics represent about 1.5 percent of the population.

Areas occupied by the Kachin, Chin, Karen and Kayah ethnic groups, who have been facing oppression and persecution at the hands of the military for decades, are largely Christian.

Thousands of innocent civilians in have been displaced by the conflict. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Myanmar, over 220,000 people have been displaced by conflicts and insecurity since the coup.

Myanmar’s complex crises
The serious political, socio-economic, human rights and humanitarian crises generated by the coup, have been exacerbated by a raging third wave of Covid-19 infections, with an acute shortage of oxygen and near absence of the most basic healthcare.

Myanmar’s military ruler Min Aung Hlaing marked 6 months since the coup on Sunday by taking on a new title as prime minister of a newly formed caretaker government. The military-backed State Administration Council (SAC) that was formed after the Feb. 1 coup, has now been reformed as a caretaker government. The junta leader promised fresh multi-party elections in 2 years, saying he will cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on finding a political solution to the country.

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Israeli Archaeologists Find 3,100-Year-Old Alphabetic Inscription

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The ancient inscription was found inside a storage pit at Khirbat er-Ra‘I, an archaeological site some 3 km northwest of Tel Lachish in Israel.

It was written in ink on a jug, a small personal pottery vessel that holds approximately one liter, and may well have contained oil, perfume, or medicine.

It contains the letters yod (broken at the top), resh, bet, ayin, and lamed, and remnants of other letters.

“The name ‘Jerubbaal’ is familiar from Biblical tradition in the Book of Judges as an alternative name for the judge Gideon ben Yoash,” said Professor Yossef Garfinkel from the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University and Dr. Saar Ganor from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

“In Biblical tradition, he is then remembered as triumphing over the Midianites, who used to cross over the Jordan to plunder agricultural crops.”

“According to the Bible, Gideon organized a small army of 300 soldiers and attacked the Midianites by night near Ma‘ayan Harod.”

“In view of the geographical distance between the Shephelah and the Jezreel Valley, this inscription may refer to another Jerubbaal and not the Gideon of Biblical tradition, although the possibility cannot be ruled out that the jug belonged to the judge Gideon.”

“In any case, the name Jerubbaal was evidently in common usage at the time of the Biblical Judges.”

Inscriptions from the period of the Judges are extremely rare and almost unparalleled in Israeli archaeology.

“As we know, there is considerable debate as to whether Biblical tradition reflects reality and whether it is faithful to historical memories from the days of the Judges and the days of David,” the archaeologists said.

“The name ‘Jerubbaal’ only appears in the Bible in the period of the Judges, yet now it was also discovered in an archaeological context, in a stratum dating from this period.”

“In a similar manner, the name ‘Ishbaal,’ which is only mentioned in the Bible during the monarchy of King David, was found in strata dated to that period at the site of Khirbat Qeiyafa.”

“The fact that identical names are mentioned in the Bible and also found in inscriptions recovered from archaeological excavations shows that memories were preserved and passed down through the generations.”

 

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