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Cemetery: ‘God is responsible’ for fixing flood-exposed graves

The operators of a South Carolina cemetery have come under fire after one worker reportedly said that “God is responsible” for repairing several graves exposed by recent record-breaking rainfall. 

The damaged graves, which included opened grave vaults and at least 10 exposed caskets, were discovered Sunday at Monrovia Union Cemetery in downtown Charleston, according to WCSC. The news station reported Monday that South Carolina law requires cemetery officials to report exposed graves to the coroner of the county where the graveyard is located. 

Monrovia officials had not done so at that time. 

>> Read more trending news

WCSC reporter Brooke Griffin called the cemetery office, where a man who would not give his name told her the rain was an act of God, so “God is responsible” for fixing the damage, Griffin said. 

“‘These families that are upset shouldn’t even care. The people they have in here are dead, they don’t have a voice, why does it matter if they have water in the grave?’ That’s what the man said when I called the Monrovia Cemetery contact number today,” Griffin wrote on Twitter

Family members of those laid to rest in the cemetery were aghast to discover the damage. 

“This is horrible, coming to see your family underwater and (the) casket lifted up over the grave like this,” Rosa Mais told WCSC

Jamaria Myers told the news station she wants to move her loved one from the cemetery.

“I asked if I can,” Myers said. “They said, ‘You would disturb her peace,’ but technically, she’s already out of the ground.”

Faith Doster told ABC News 4 in Mount Pleasant that she suspected her father’s grave was one of those disturbed by the flooding when she saw photos and thought she recognized his casket. 

“I went home and put on my boots and came back out, walked over there and sure enough, it’s him,” Doster told the station. “He’s literally up out the ground. I can actually see his casket, he’s not in the tomb anymore.”

Robin Marion told The Washington Post that she went Tuesday to the historically African-American cemetery, where she found distraught relatives trying to clean up their loved ones’ graves. Some visitors could not even find the graves they were looking for. 

“A lot of people were crying,” said Marion, who has a grandmother, great-grandmother and multiple cousins buried at Monrovia. “A young lady was a little distraught, standing on top of her mother’s vault, trying to put pressure on it to get it back down.

“It’s just sad. This is a disaster.”

South Carolina Rep. Wendell Gilliard, who represents Charleston, told the Post he also went to the cemetery Tuesday after receiving multiple calls about the issue, but found the gates locked.

“When I got out there, the first thing I was taken by was the fact that people were actually jumping over the fence to check (on their loved ones' graves) because somebody had actually put a lock on the entrance,” Gilliard told the newspaper. “I found that to be upsetting, so I got on the phone and I asked them to kindly remove the locks.”

A groundskeeper did so about 30 minutes later, at which point Gilliard joined distraught family members on the grounds. Again, he was taken aback. 

“People were actually on top of graves crying and kneeling. You had to see it to believe it,” Gilliard said

Several people, including Gilliard, have tried to get a meaningful response from the Monrovia Union Cemetery Association, the nonprofit board that The Post and Courier in Charleston reported owns the cemetery. The board member who serves as its agent, Bryan McNeal, had stopped taking calls about the cemetery flooding. 

The Washington Post reported that when a reporter called McNeal’s office Wednesday, a woman answered the phone, but a man’s voice could be heard in the background, saying, “Tell her the situation is not as bad as the media is making it.” 

The woman relayed that message and added that the flooding was “nothing that the cemetery did.”

“We’ve been there, too, and we’ve seen it,” the woman, who did not give her name, told the reporter, according to the Post. “We don’t know who you spoke to. It was handled in only the way it can be handled. We’re working on trying to fix the problem.”

The Post and Courier reported that groundskeepers at the cemetery installed pumps on Wednesday to clear water from the largest area of flooding. ABC News 4 reported that a cemetery spokesperson told one of its reporters that workers will do whatever they can to correct the problem once the water recedes. 

A more permanent solution will not be easy, the newspaper said. The cemetery is in a low-lying area alongside a drainage creek that feeds into the Ashley River. Heavy rains that flood the Ashley cause drainage water to rise throughout the area, including in the cemetery. 

There is also little the state can do to force the issue, since Monrovia Union Cemetery is not a perpetual care cemetery, both the Post and the Post and Courier reported. Because it is a private cemetery and does not receive caretaking funds from the families of the people buried in the more than 1,000 graves located there, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation does not license the site. 

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control also has no jurisdiction in the matter because the exposed graves do not pose a health risk, the Post and Courier said

Gilliard told the newspaper he questions what the next step should be. 

“It’s just disgusting what I saw here today,” the lawmaker said Tuesday. “It’s disgusting to the families, embarrassing to the city of Charleston and the state. 

“One of these agencies is going to have to come through for the people here. That’s the bottom line.”

Photos: California wildfires kill dozens, destroy entire town

Dozens of people are dead as wildfires blaze through northern and southern California. Officials say the entire town of Paradise was destroyed.

Florida man accused of defrauding FEMA of thousands of dollars after hurricanes, tropical storm

As people in Florida are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, a Jacksonville man is wanted on allegations of defrauding FEMA of thousands of dollars.

>> Watch the news report here

Lepoleon Spikes is accused of claiming damage to different homes in Jacksonville for three separate storms.

>> Visit ActionNewsJax.com for the latest on recovery efforts in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath

A grand jury indictment claims he provided FEMA with fraudulent lease agreements as proof of damage.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: 17 Florida DCF workers fired over emergency food stamp applications

Documents say Spikes was awarded thousands of dollars after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, as well as Tropical Storm Debby.

“You’re taking from people and families that really need the money,” said Scherlinda Bennett, who says her home was flooded during both Matthew and Irma.

>> Read more trending news 

ActionNewsJax went to one of the homes where Spikes supposedly lived, but learned that was years ago. The home’s current owner claims it never had storm damage.

Hurricane Michael: Videos, photos show devastation along Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael battered Florida's Panhandle on Wednesday, bringing with it destructive 155 mph winds and life-threatening storm surge.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

Its winds ripped apart homes, and feet of storm surge left homes underwater.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

Photos and video from the Panama City area show the path of destruction left behind by the near-Category 5 storm.

>> Read more trending news 

Check them out below:

Hurricane Michael: Trump likely to visit Florida, Georgia next week to survey storm damage

President Donald Trump is likely to visit storm-ravaged areas of Florida and Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael early next week, White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

The president spoke with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey during the flight to receive updates on the storm, which barreled into Florida on Wednesday and pounded parts of south and middle Georgia with rain and wind.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

The White House said Trump “offered any federal resources necessary and continues to receive regular updates.”

>> Read more trending news 

Read more here.

Historic Hurricane Michael: How it stacks up to other U.S., Florida storms

Even as the storm still rages, Hurricane Michael is already making its mark on history.

>> Watch the news report here

Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with winds of 155 miles per hour. A hurricane reaches Category 5 status when winds reach 157 miles per hour.

>> Hurricane Michael: Latest updates

Only a few storms have made landfall in the United States stronger than Hurricane Michael. Only three Category 5 storms have ever hit the continental United States; Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3, was not one of them.

Before meteorologists and weather experts named storms, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. That storm holds the record with winds of a staggering 185 miles per hour.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

The second-worst storm to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Camille, which hit far western Mississippi in 1969 as a Category 5 storm.

The third-worst storm on the list is one still fresh in the minds of many Floridians: Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in August 1992. The storm tore through Homestead as a Category 5 with winds peaking at 165 miles per hour.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

That brings us to the present with Hurricane Michael, which is now the fourth-strongest hurricane in U.S. history.

When it comes to hurricanes that hit Florida’s Panhandle, Michael’s wind speed at landfall surpassed Hurricane Opal, which was the previous record holder. Opal made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 3 in 1995.

Nine people died in Hurricane Opal, and the damage totaled more than $4.7 billion.

>> Read more trending news 

Michael is stronger still than Hurricane Irma when it slammed into the Keys in 2017 with winds of 130 miles per hour – and Michael’s winds are three times stronger than what Central Florida experienced from Irma.

One comparison that will resonate with people is to last year’s “M” hurricane, Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and killed thousands. Maria made landfall over southeast Puerto Rico with winds of 155 miles per hour – the same intensity as Michael when it hit Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, though the eye of Maria was slightly larger, which allowed for more widespread damage.

Hurricane Michael: Mike Pence cancels Atlanta trip as storm pounds Georgia

Vice President Mike Pence canceled his Thursday visit to Georgia to host a high-dollar GOP fundraiser as Hurricane Michael roared through the state. 

>> Hurricane Michael: Live updates

It was the second time the Republican was forced to scrap a visit to Georgia to boost Brian Kemp’s run for governor due to a major storm. He canceled a September visit because Hurricane Florence was barreling toward the Southeast.

>> On WSBTV.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Georgia here.

He was set to visit Delta’s TechOps maintenance facility before heading to the Grand Hyatt Buckhead for the Georgia GOP’s Victory Dinner. Democrats planned to greet him with a large rally outside the hotel featuring supporters of Democrat Stacey Abrams.

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Get the latest live updates on Hurricane Michael in Florida here.

He was likely to face a cascade of criticism if he went through the trip, similar to the pushback President Donald Trump faced for traveling to a political rally for a Pennsylvania lawmaker shortly after the hurricane made landfall. 

>> Read more trending news 

Trump said the decision to go was a “quandary” but that he did not want to disappoint the crowd expecting him. 

“I hear they have thousands of people lined up, so we are in a little bit of a quagmire," he said.

Haiti earthquake: At least 14 dead as aftershocks rock island nation

At least 14 people were killed and almost 200 injured when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck northern Haiti Saturday night, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Update 6:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 7: As the death toll in Haiti rises, a 5.2-magnitude aftershock rattled the northern part of the island nation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a day after more than a dozen people were killed by a strong earthquake.

Emergency response efforts were underway Sunday in the harder-hit areas of  Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne, the town of Chansolme and the northern island of Tortuga, according to a statement from Haiti’s civil protection agency, Reuters reported.

“The shock was felt across all departments of the country, giving rise to panic in several towns,” agency officials said.

Parts of Haiti are still recovering from a powerful 2010 earthquake that decimated the island and killed as many as 230,000 people.

Update 11:10 a.m. EDT Oct. 7: Haiti’s civil protection agency said in a statement that the hardest-hit areas are Port-de-Paix, Gros Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island, The Associated Press reported. The quake has left 135 people injured The AP reported.

Original report:

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake, which hit about 8:11 p.m. EDT, occurred 11.8 miles northwest of Port-de-Paix and about 7.3 miles under the surface. Police said at least seven people died near the epicenter of the quake, Reuters reported.

Haiti is “especially vulnerable to earthquakes,” The Associated Press reported. A 7.1-magnitude quake in 2010 killed hundreds of thousands of people there.

Hurricane Safety: 6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from floodwater

Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding. But did you know that treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses or even death?

Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.

Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath:

Diarrheal diseases

Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.

Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer. 

Wound infections

Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.

>> 10 tips to stay safe when returning home after a natural disaster

Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.

Other illnesses 

People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.

>> Read more trending news 

You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.

Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website

Hurricane Florence aftermath: Journalists rescue woman from car stuck in floodwaters

They were in the right place at the right time

>> Watch the news report here

>> On WSOCTV.com: Tracking Florence: Live updates from the Carolinas

Reporter Chris Jose and photojournalist Brandon Bryant with Atlanta's WSB-TV, which is owned by Cox Media Group, have been in South Carolina covering what is now tropical depression Florence. The two are making their way to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to cover the flooding and damage left by the storm there. 

>> On WSBTV.com: 3-month-old the latest death due to Florence. Here's what we know about the victims

They were driving up Interstate 95 when they found the roadway flooded over around Latta, South Carolina. 

Jose said they decided to take some of the back country roads to get around the flooding when they ran across a woman who was stuck inside her car, with floodwater rapidly rising up around it. 

>> On WSBTV.com: Convoy of Care: Here's how you can help Hurricane Florence victims

The two said the woman was yelling, "Help me! Help me!” The area was under a tornado warning, adding to the already dangerous situation. 

Knowing they had to do something, Jose said he drove their SUV as far as they could into the water without getting stuck and Bryant, wearing a pair of waders, got out into the water, which was about waist-deep.

When Bryant got to the woman’s car, he found Barbara Flanagan inside, praying. 

"It just pulled me in and I couldn’t stop it. I had my foot on the brake, but it wouldn’t stop," Flanagan said. 

>> On WSOCTV.com: Looters clean out Family Dollar amid storm damage

Bryant said he told Flanagan he was going to open the door and that water was going to come flooding in, be she was going to be alright. 

He got the door open and was able to grab the woman and help her out her car. 

"I couldn't leave you out there," Bryant told the woman. “My heart wouldn’t allow me.”

>> On WSBTV.com: Disaster relief organization offering help as Florence moves through

As they made their way through the floodwaters, Flanagan told Bryant she was from Georgia and was a worker with the USDA, who was responding to the area for storm relief. 

She said some of her coworkers had taken the same route shortly before her and the road was clear. 

>> Read more trending news 

"Looks can be deceiving," Flanagan told Jose. "Don’t go through the water."

A man in a pickup truck pulled up behind the WSB-TV crew’s SUV and offered to help get the woman’s car out of the floodwater. The woman’s car was still able to run, despite the high water. 

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