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story.lead_photo.caption Smoke can be seen from a forest fire in Yalongjiang township in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province on Monday.

China wildfire kills 30, mostly firefighters

BEIJING -- A fire high in the mountains of western China's Sichuan province has killed 30 firefighters and others, the government said Monday.

The deaths occurred after a change of wind Sunday as the firefighters were battling the blaze in a rugged area at an altitude of about 12,500 feet, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management and the military. Among the dead were 27 firefighters and three area residents recruited to help fight the blaze, the ministry said.

Nearly 700 people were battling the fire in Sichuan's Muli county that started Saturday, but contact was lost Sunday with the 30. Two helicopters carrying medical staff and military personnel helped in the search.

China has been battling forest fires in recent weeks in various parts of the vast country, including on the outskirts of Beijing, fed by dry weather and high winds across many northern areas.

Ukraine vote goes to runoff; actor leads

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine's president was holding off a long-time rival in a bid to claim the other spot in a runoff set for later this month, while a comic actor with no political experience was leading strongly in the election, according to results released Monday.

With nearly 97 percent of the polling stations counted, Volodymyr Zelenskiy had 30 percent support in Sunday's vote, while President Petro Poroshenko was a distant second with just under 16 percent of the vote. Ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko trailed in third with 13 percent support.

The strong showing for the 41-year-old Zelenskiy reflects the public longing for a fresh leader who has no links to Ukraine's corruption-ridden political elite and can offer a new approach to settling the grinding five-year conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has left 13,000 dead since 2014.

The top two candidates advance to a runoff on April 21.

The election was marred by allegations of widespread vote-buying. Police said they had received more than 2,100 complaints of violations on voting day alone in addition to hundreds of earlier voting fraud claims, including bribery attempts and removing ballots from polling stations. Election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe hailed Sunday's election as competitive and free, even though it criticized procedural violations and said there were indications that state resources were misused in the vote.

Group asserts Israel election meddling

JERUSALEM -- An Israeli watchdog group said Monday that it found a network of social media bots disseminating messages in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of next week's elections.

Noam Rotem and Yuval Adam, two researchers operating the Big Bots Project, said in a report that they uncovered hundreds of fake accounts spreading messages in support of Netanyahu's Likud party and smearing his opponents. Likud denied the allegations.

Adam said his project discovered a network that included a number of real people, along with hundreds of Twitter accounts that appeared to be fakes or duplicates. He said this appeared to be a violation of Twitter's terms of use. He said the findings had been forwarded to Twitter in hopes of deactivating the fake accounts. Twitter declined to comment.

Adam said the Big Bots Project was financed through a crowdfunding program. The project also includes researchers from Ben Gurion University's Cyber Research Center and Tel Aviv University.

Israelis head to the polls in eight days in a close race between Netanyahu and his main rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz. Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in office under the shadow of corruption charges.

At a press conference convened to address the issue, Netanyahu dismissed the report sarcastically as an April Fools' Day prank. He called it a "false libel" by the media based on a "fake investigation."

Nepal starts rescues, salvage after storm

BHARWALIA, Nepal -- Villagers who survived a powerful rainstorm that killed at least 28 people and injured hundreds in southern Nepal searched for food and shelter Monday as rescuers struggled to reach remote areas.

High winds during the storm Sunday night flipped cars and blew a bus carrying at least 40 people off a highway, killing some. Police said most of the deaths were caused by collapsing walls and falling bricks in homes as well as toppled trees and electrical poles.

Police officers and soldiers helped people injured by the rainstorm in an area about 75 miles south of the capital, Kathmandu. Villagers from neighboring districts also distributed food to the victims. The National Emergency Operation Center in Kathmandu said 612 people were injured and teams with tents and other materials were sent to the area.

Villagers salvaged what they could from what was left of their homes in Bharwalia village, where most people live in huts made of mud and bricks with straw and stone roofs.

"The storm took everything we had, including all the goods we had. We have no food to eat or any roof over our heads," said Jebeda Khatung, who was digging through the debris in hopes of finding some of her belongings. All four members of her family survived.


A woman sits in the middle of debris at a residential house damaged in rainstorm in Bara district, Nepal, on Monday.

A Section on 04/02/2019

Print Headline: China wildfire kills 30, mostly firefighters Nepal starts rescues, salvage after storm Ukraine vote goes to runoff; actor leads Group asserts Israel election meddling


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