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Military flights sent to assess damage from Pacific volcano

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Pacific tsunami threat recedes, volcano ash hinders response

By NICK PERRY

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand and Australia were able to send military surveillance flights to Tonga on Monday to assess the damage a huge undersea volcanic eruption left in the Pacific island nation.

A towering ash cloud since Saturday’s eruption had prevented earlier flights. New Zealand hopes to send essential supplies, including much-needed drinking water, on a military transport plane later Monday.

Communications with Tonga remained extremely limited. The company that owns the single underwater communications cable that connects the island nation to the rest of the world said it likely was severed in the eruption and repairs could take weeks.

The loss of the cable leaves most Tongans unable to use the internet or make phone calls abroad. Those that have managed to get messages out described their country as looking like a moonscape as they began cleaning up from the tsunami waves and volcanic ash fall.

Tsunami waves of about 80 centimeters (2.7 feet) crashed into Tonga’s shoreline, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described damage to boats and coastal shops.

No casualties have been reported on Tonga, although there were still concerns about people on some of the smaller islands near the volcano. The tsunami waves crossed the Pacific, drowning two people in Peru and causing minor damage from New Zealand to Santa Cruz, California.

Scientists said they didn’t think the eruption would have a significant impact on the Earth’s climate.

Huge volcanic eruptions can sometimes cause temporary global cooling as sulfur dioxide is pumped into the stratosphere. But in the case of the Tonga eruption, initial satellite measurements indicated the amount of sulfur dioxide released would only have a tiny effect of perhaps 0.01 Celsius (0.02 Fahrenheit) global average cooling, said Alan Robock, a professor at Rutgers University.

Satellite images showed the spectacular undersea eruption Saturday evening, with a plume of ash, steam and gas rising like a giant mushroom above the South Pacific waters.

A sonic boom could be heard as far away as Alaska and sent pressure shockwaves around the planet twice, altering atmospheric pressure that may have briefly helped clear out the fog in Seattle, according to the National Weather Service. Large waves were detected as far as the Caribbean due to pressure changes generated by the eruption.

Samiuela Fonua, who chairs the board at Tonga Cable Ltd. which owns the single cable that connects Tonga to the outside world via Fiji, said the cable appeared to have been severed about 10 to 15 minutes after the eruption. He said the cable lies atop and within coral reef, which can be sharp.

Fonua said a ship would need to pull up the cable to assess the damage and then crews would need to fix it. A single break might take a week to repair, he said, while multiple breaks could take up to three weeks. He added that it was unclear yet when it would be safe for a ship to venture near the undersea volcano to undertake the work.

A second undersea cable that connects the islands within Tonga also appeared to have been severed, Fonua said. However, a local phone network was working, allowing Tongans to call each other. But he said the lingering ash cloud was continuing to make even satellite phone calls abroad difficult.

He said Tonga had been in discussions with New Zealand about getting a second outside communications cable to ensure a more robust network but the nation’s isolated location made any solution difficult.

Ardern said the capital, Nuku’alofa, was covered in a thick film of volcanic dust, contaminating water supplies and making fresh water a vital need.

Aid agencies said thick ash and smoke had prompted authorities to ask people to wear masks and drink bottled water.

In a video posted on Facebook, Nightingale Filihia was sheltering at her family’s home from a rain of volcanic ash and tiny pieces of rock that turned the sky pitch black.

“It’s really bad. They told us to stay indoors and cover our doors and windows because it’s dangerous,” she said. “I felt sorry for the people. Everyone just froze when the explosion happened. We rushed home.” Outside the house, people were seen carrying umbrellas for protection.

Ardern said New Zealand was unable to send a surveillance flight over Tonga on Sunday because the ash cloud was 63,000 feet (19,000 meters) high.

One complicating factor to any international aid effort is that Tonga has so far managed to avoid any outbreaks of COVID-19. Ardern said New Zealand’s military staff were all fully vaccinated and willing to follow any protocols established by Tonga.

Dave Snider, the tsunami warning coordinator for the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said it was very unusual for a volcanic eruption to affect an entire ocean basin, and the spectacle was both “humbling and scary.”

The U.S. Geological Survey estimated the eruption caused the equivalent of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake. Scientists said tsunamis generated by volcanoes rather than earthquakes are relatively rare.

Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau, who chairs the New Zealand Tonga Business Council, said she hoped the relatively low level of the tsunami waves would have allowed most people to get to safety, although she worried about those living on islands closest to the volcano. She said she hadn’t yet been able to contact her friends and family in Tonga.

“We are praying that the damage is just to infrastructure and people were able to get to higher land,” she said.

Tonga gets its internet via an undersea cable from Suva, Fiji. All internet connectivity with Tonga was lost at about 6:40 p.m. local time Saturday, said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis for the network intelligence firm Kentik.

On Tonga, which is home to about 105,000 people, video posted to social media showed large waves washing ashore in coastal areas and swirling around homes, a church and other buildings. A Twitter user identified as Dr. Faka’iloatonga Taumoefolau posted video showing waves crashing ashore.

“Can literally hear the volcano eruption, sounds pretty violent,” he wrote, adding in a later post: “Raining ash and tiny pebbles, darkness blanketing the sky.”

The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano, about 64 kilometers (40 miles) north of Nuku’alofa, was the latest in a series of dramatic eruptions. In late 2014 and early 2015, eruptions created a small new island and disrupted international air travel to the Pacific archipelago for several days.

Earth imaging company Planet Labs PBC had watched the island in recent days after a new volcanic vent began erupting in late December. Satellite images showed how drastically the volcano had shaped the area, creating a growing island off Tonga.

“The surface area of the island appears to have expanded by nearly 45% due to ashfall,” Planet Labs said days before the latest activity.

It’s too early to tell how much ash was produced by the eruption because the volcanic cloud included vapor resulting from sea water interacting with the hot magma, experts said.

The eruption in shallow water may be similar to a series of eruptions between 2016 and 2017 that shaped Bogoslof Island north of the Aleutian Islands, said Michelle Coombs, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory.

“When it erupts in shallow sea water, that interaction between hot magma and sea water adds extra energy to the explosion and creates taller and bigger ash clouds,” Coombs said.

The ash cloud was drifting westward and aircrafts will be likely diverted around its periphery as a precaution, said Scott Bachmeier, a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report from Kensington, Maryland.

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Amar’e Stoudemire clarifies comments on Kyrie Irving and leaving the Nets

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Amar’e Stoudemire clarifies comments on Kyrie Irving and leaving the Nets

Former Nets assistant Amar’e Stoudemire suggested there’s no bad blood between him, the Nets or Kyrie Irving, and that the media took his words in an appearance on ESPN’s First Take out of context.

Stoudemire, who broke the news of his departure from Steve Nash’s coaching staff in a May 12 nationally-televised conversation with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, posted a video with a caption that categorized the media as “misinformed” on Wednesday for the widespread reporting that he quit on the Nets after two failed seasons in Brooklyn without an NBA title – or a trip beyond the second round of the playoffs.

“I want to clarify something: I’m seeing articles right now popping up saying ‘Amar’e quits the Nets and criticized Kyrie on his way out,’” the former Phoenix Suns All-Star forward said in the video. “That’s not the case.”

In his discussion on ESPN, Stoudemire also admitted Irving’s decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 played a role in the Nets’ early season struggles that eventually led to them not being prepared or cohesive enough to secure a win against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.

New York City’s vaccine mandate rendered the All-Star guard ineligible for home games until late March, and the Nets moved in lockstep with the city mandate, ruling Irving ineligible for road games and home practices until making him eligible in mid-December with his debut coming in early January.

“Yeah, I think (not having Kyrie) hurt us,” Stoudemire said on May 12. “It definitely hurt us because we didn’t have the consistency with Kyrie enough to build chemistry for the group with the team. He plays only on away games depending on which city it is, can’t play in New York, therefore you have different lineups and different matchups depending on the game schedule.

“So it made it difficult for us coaches to figure out who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie. The chemistry is not where we would like it to be, so it was difficult for us to manage that.”

Stoudemire clarified those comments on Instagram on Wednesday after multiple local and national news outlets posted stories suggesting his comments were a dig at Irving on his way out the Nets’ doors.

“Why would I criticize someone who’s as similar as I am? I also fast during the NBA season for Yom Kippur,” he said. “I’m also a guy who has religious intake. I’m also a guy who’s an activist, who speaks about African-American communities. So why would I criticize someone who’s as similar as I am?

“The media will try to turn your words against your fellow friend or organization to provide more viewers or clicks to their article,” he continued. “I’m not gonna allow that to happen. You’re not gonna turn me against Kyrie, you’re not gonna turn me against the Nets, you’re not gonna turn me against anyone. So you can forget about it.”

The short-lived Nets player development coach also said he spoke to Steve Nash prior to going onto First Take and left his job because he didn’t feel it was a good fit from a scheduling standpoint.

Stoudemire converted to Judaism in August of 2020 and said his inability to work during Shabbat – from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday – made him feel he couldn’t grow in the coaching space.

“Not working on Friday night and Saturdays is difficult for anyone to grow in the coaching space because coaching is such a grind. It requires you to be there full-time,” he said. “And for me, I was unable to grow in that space, so I did not want to continue coaching, and on the flip side, the Nets organization wants people who can be there full-time, and I totally understand that. Therefore, it was a mutual organization between them and I.

“(The Nets are a) beautiful organization, Sean Marks and I are great friends, Steve Nash and I are good friends,” he continued. “I had a beautiful time, an amazing experience with the organization. There’s no hard feelings no way, no how. There’s no quitting on my side. I was there for 2 years sacrificing my time away from my family for those 2 year but still was able to hold down the fort and fulfill my obligation. So there’s no quitting from that standpoint.”

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Dolphins waive quarterback as Melvin Ingram signing made official

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Dolphins waive quarterback as Melvin Ingram signing made official

The Miami Dolphins officially announced the signing of edge rusher Melvin Ingram while waiving quarterback Chris Streveler on Wednesday.

Streveler spent the early phases of the Dolphins’ offseason workout program in Miami and was waived amid the team’s first week of organized team activities after originally being signed on Feb. 22.

Streveler has appeared in seven career games over the past two NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, completing 17-of25 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He was waived by the Cardinals last November and finished out the 2021 season on the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad.

Streveler has appeared in seven career games over the past two NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, completing 17-of-25 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. He was waived by the Cardinals last November and finished out the 2021 season on the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad.

The Dolphins agreed to terms with Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowl edge defender who is 33, on Sunday.

Coach Mike McDaniel declined to comment on the acquisition at Tuesday’s first media availability of organized team activities because Ingram had not yet signed, but linebacker Jerome Baker said: “He’s a playmaker. He goes hard every play. He has a high motor. I’m excited. He’s a veteran. He’s going to bring that to the young guys and we’re all going to learn from him.”

Ingram has 373 tackles, 51 sacks, three interceptions, 29 passes defensed, 14 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries in his 10 NFL seasons, nine with the Chargers. He split last season between the Steelers and Chiefs after being dealt at last season’s trade deadline.

In the second half of the 2021 season in Kansas City, Ingram started six games, making 15 tackles and a sack. He then started all three of the Chiefs’ playoff games, adding five tackles and two postseason sacks. He was touted for the number of quarterback pressures he provided during the stretch, in addition to the three total sacks.

With experience playing outside linebacker and defensive end, Ingram, at 6-foot-2, 247 pounds, figures to mostly play outside linebacker with Miami. The Dolphins, however, can switch between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, allowing him to exhibit his versatility, similar to Jaelan Phillips in his rookie year.

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Man who fled police, his passenger killed in Anoka crash, authorities say

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Man who fled police, his passenger killed in Anoka crash, authorities say

A driver who fled police and his passenger were killed after their car smashed into a pickup truck late Tuesday night in Anoka, according to authorities.

Just after 11:30 p.m., a Coon Rapids officer tried to make a traffic stop on 2000 Buick LeSabre on Hanson Boulevard near Gateway Drive Northwest, but the driver took off and a short pursuit began, the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said in a Wednesday statement.

The pursuit was called off by Coon Rapids police as the car entered Anoka, where about a mile down the road it crashed into a 2006 Dodge Ram on Main Street near Ferry Street, the sheriff’s office said. The driver of the fleeing vehicle died at the scene, while his passenger — also a man — was transported to a hospital, where he died of his injuries.

The driver of the pickup truck had minor injuries and was released at the scene.

The names of the men killed are being withheld by authorities pending notification of family.

The crash remains under investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol, Anoka and Coon Rapids police and the sheriff’s office.

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