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tv   NBC Nightly News  NBC  April 30, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT

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out there doing that or rebuilding together. there were a lot of people out there helping out. >> for a great cause. weather was quite comfortable to do that, too. >> it was cooperative. "nbc nightly news" is next and then more local news at 6:00. states of emergency. as the death toll jumps again in the south, a massive effort to care for those who lived through one of the worst storms in american history. plus, remarkable stories of survival. and bitter rivalries cast aside to make a difference for those in need. one step closer to sainthood. for pope john paul ii. as the faithful descend on rome. and the day after. the official wedding album and a royal escape as the newlyweds make their getaway to a secret royal escape as the newlyweds make their getaway to a secret location. captions paid for by nbc-universal television
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good evening. again, a mounting death toll from this week's historic tornado outbreak here in the south. rescuers acknowledge time is running out to find survivors. as we come on the air tonight, officials say at least 341 people are dead across seven states, making this the country's second deadliest tornado outbreak ever. thousands of others are injured. the sheer number of people left homeless by this disaster has created what the mayor of tuscaloosa has called a humanitarian crisis. and that has prompted a tremendous response. nbc's john yang joins me now to lead off our coverage. john, folks here are going through an awful lot right now. >> reporter: that's absolutely right, lester. you walk around this city, walk around this state, there are so many different emotions. relief at having survived, grief at having lost a loved one, desperation at not having a place to live right now. tonight this region is struggling to pick up and move forward.
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>> reporter: in hardest hit alabama today, volunteers scramble to deliver aid, distributing water, ice and medical supplies to people left homeless by the record rash of devastating tornadoes. in tuscaloosa, with nearly 40 dead, at least 570 missing, and more than 1,000 injured, a remarkable relief effort. people cleaned up what was left of their homes, and crews from out of state repaired power lines. >> we still remain that shining city on a hill because the world has seen our faith in god and our faith in each other. >> reporter: those who lost all their belongings are amazed they didn't lose their lives. >> guess that's the place to be, under the stairway. >> yeah. listen, it was for you and your wife. >> reporter: this is what's left of where two generations of the hicks family lived side by side. mike hicks and his wife survived by taking cover in a closet. his son nolan and daughter-in-law tessa, newlyweds, by hiding in a bathtub. >> went to sit in the bathtub and thought i'll look one more time out the window, and when i
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did those pine trees went -- and just snapped. >> reporter: in neighborhoods like these across the region it's not just the residents digging out. it's neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends, families helping families, and even total strangers coming up, doing what they can to help. the search for the missing ranged from the pages of the tuscaloosa newspaper and its website to search and rescue squads deploying in pleasant grove, alabama, hoping for the best -- >> potentially this is the last viable day. >> reporter: -- but fearing the worst. a psychologist specializing in disasters says the destruction will leave a mark. even on those whose jobs are to help. >> i get very concerned about our first responders. they're well trained. they know what they're doing. but in a situation like this the impact of what's going on can be overwhelming. >> reporter: a wide swath of the south remains without power. in alabama about 300,000 customers are still without electricity. outages also persist in mississippi, georgia, tennessee, and virginia. at the university of alabama,
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where the tornadoes canceled the rest of the school year, parents picked up their children, grateful that they're safe. >> we're just most thankful that he's okay. that's all we care about. you can replace everything else. >> reporter: the federal government is turning its full resources to the recovery effort. fema's bringing in mobile units and trailers for the homeless. and tomorrow, lester, five cabinet heads will be on the ground to survey the damage and assess the needs. >> all right. john yang. john, thanks very much. the major trauma hospital for this part of alabama is just blocks from where we are standing. i spent some time there today talking to both patients and staff about a day they will all remember as a day of miracles and unspeakable tragedy. from his tuscaloosa hospital room, reginald epps recounts what may be the worst and best day of his life. >> lights went out. and the winds got heavy. and the windows blew. >> reporter: only the foundation
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remains of his coaling, alabama home, destroyed on wednesday by a predawn tornado, the first of many that day. as it hit, he and his wife, danielle, rushed to grab their three sleeping children. >> she grabs the baby boy. i grab my middle boy. i said, "james, get up, buddy. get up." and when i go up to get r.j. off the top bunk, the walls and everything just go and my son go with it. >> at that moment did you think you'd lost him? >> yeah. i guess i did. >> reporter: but as reginald and his wife clutch their other children, praying out loud, 8-year-old r.j. suddenly walked into view. >> i could see the shadow of him coming across, and then finally it kind of cleared up and i could see him. >> when you look up in the midst of all this and you see r.j. walking back -- >> just happy. i just -- that's my boy. >> reporter: reginald epps suffered a punctured lung and was taken to the druid city medical center here in tuscaloosa just in time to witness his second tornado of the day, the much larger one
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that struck in the afternoon and destroyed this neighborhood and nearly the hospital itself. >> i was here, and then you could see the debris in that window. >> that window. >> yeah. that debris was just swirling. >> it was just coming right directly for the hospital and turned and went around the hospital, within a few blocks. >> reporter: spared a direct hit, within minutes the hospital's e.r. was overwhelmed with victims. >> this was the worst. this was the worst. >> reporter: over 800 patients were treated here wednesday. some didn't make it. the memories haunt dr. angelin ramsey. >> our first victims were babies, literally 18-month, 2-year-old babies that were dead on -- dead on arrival. and i had to go out and pronounce them in the ambulance bay. and that i was not ready for. >> reporter: as the number of dead rises, there is no accounting for the emotional casualties of this disaster.
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nor are there ready answers to the questions that haunt survivors. >> my neighbor called me the other day. he said, "i got your two-by-fours in my wall." and i'm thinking, wow. now, if i got two-by-fours in his wall, why didn't my son get thrown further away? why didn't we just get sucked up off the concrete? there's only a slab there. my house is folded up neatly in a pile to the side of the slab. >> it's gone. >> it's gone. >> reginald tells me his son r.j., who was blown from the house, suffered only a few bumps. amazing. the family says they're especially fortunate in that while they lost their home like a lot of folks, they have a number of friends and loved ones who have offered them places for them to stay. they say they are going to be just fine. there's yet more bad weather on the way. for the latest on where and when, the weather channel's jim cantore joins us from across town here in tuscaloosa. jim, good evening to you. >> reporter: good evening, lester. yeah, the national weather service in birmingham today,
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preliminarily rated this tornado ef4. 165-mile-per-hour winds, but more importantly, an 80-mile path length. that's one of the longest in alabama history. from west of tuscaloosa all the way to birmingham. as a matter of fact, it's amazing tonight if you look past these trees and all of this that's just been scaped out by the tornado. you can actually see where the path is. the difference of course being the brown trees or the ones that have been deleafed and the green ones to its side. some quarter to a half mile wide. thunderstorms already erupting again tonight back in the plains. dallas, texas, will soon go on a severe thunderstorm watch. and look what happens torrow. that severe weather threat does shift to the east. still west of alabama. but it starts to creep in in mississippi. and then as we get back into monday, once again, we will be back in that risk for severe thunderstorms. at least the good news is it will not be a huge tornado outbreak. nothing even close to what we had on wednesday. back to you. >> jim cantore here in tuscaloosa. thanks. we're going to go overseas now to rome, where thousands of
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people are gathering this evening to honor the late pope john paul ii on the eve of his beatification. that next to last step on the path to sainthood will be performed at a mass in st. peter's square by pope benedict xvi. nbc's anne thompson is covering it for us tonight. anne, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, lester. and take a look at this crowd. there are thousands of people here in the streets just waiting for a chance to attend that beatification mass tomorrow. to get to this live shot location i had to walk over nuns, priests, adults, children, all already sleeping in the streets. it is a very impressive testament of faith and patience to john paul ii. ♪ tonight at circus maximus, where romans once raced chariots, a celebration of pope john paul ii, on the fast track to sainthood. among the speakers, the french
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nun who says her prayers to the late pontiff cured her parkinson's disease. >> [ speaking french ]. >> reporter: the first of two miracles the pope needs to be made a saint. ♪ this weekend rome feels like a college town. john paul's charismatic face is everywhere and on everything, trying to rekindle the catholic spirit. flickering in europe after decades of declining mass attendance. >> europe's in a kind of spiritual and cultural funk right now. maybe this will break people out of it. >> reporter: a funk exacerbated by an avalanche of claims of sexual abuse by priests. the same scandal that rocked the american church almost ten years ago. it is why american survivors say the church should slow the pope's path to sainthood. >> all of this is just going too fast. and we don't yet know all of the implications of his inaction. >> reporter: in rome there are
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few dissenters. a million pilgrims are expected. many from john paul's native poland, bringing camping gear for a night on the streets so they can be in st. peter's square to honor a man who gave them faith and freedom by helping to end communism. john paul's nearly 27-year papacy documented by arturo mari, his personal photographer. >> is there a photograph that you think captures that spirit of god that you saw in john paul ii? mari says it is this photo near the end of the pope's life. too sick to attend, he watches the stations of the cross on tv, holding on to the cross, his source of strength even as he suffered. for washington cardinal donald wuehrl, he says john paul was and remains a beacon of hope. >> we need heroes. we need people we can look up to. we need people who achieve the very things that we're attempting to do.
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>> these pilgrims are in for a long night. they're not expected to be let into st. peter's square until 6:00 tomorrow morning, and then the mass that will beatify this still-popular pope begins at 10:00. lester? >> anne thompson in rome tonight. we'll look for your reports tomorrow, anne. thanks. when "nightly news" continues on this saturday, news from london on this day after the royal wedding. the future king and queen get out of town. and later, making a difference. putting aside a famous rivalry to help those in need here in alabama.
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they were catching their breath today in london, one day after putting on a royal wedding spectacular that was one of the most viewed events in history. as for the prince and his new princess, they emerged again today before taking off for parts unknown. nbc's michelle kosinski has the latest from london tonight. michelle, good evening. >> reporter: hi there, lester. today was a great day for london to recover from the royal wedding. for william and catherine, though, they took this opportunity to duck out of view, if only for a few days. so what does one do the day after the day that was made for history? more pageantry than many dreamed possible. followed by a night to remember for this quite possibly
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exhausted young couple. one grabs a little quiet. william and catherine walk hand in hand on the sunlit grounds of buckingham palace just before escaping by helicopter. to a long weekend, location unknown. somewhere in the uk. perhaps balmoral castle. but certain to be free of cheering crowds and camera crews. to keep everyone happy, the palace released the official wedding photographs. william and catherine with their families, the young bridesmaids and pages, and together, husband and wife. but no tropical honeymoon awaits, at least not yet. the pair has decided to wait. and the future king, believe it or not, will be back at work as an air force search and rescue pilot in wales on tuesday. >> i think after such a big wedding and, let's face it, it's the world's biggest wedding, maybe you do need a little time
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to reflect, sit back, catch your breath, and then actually enjoy each other's company. >> reporter: now london cleans up and the world devours every detail. the gown that remained a secret, crafted by a small army of laceworkers who themselves didn't know who designed it. of course, the fashion statements. and the frowning flower girl. now the latest internet sensation, she is only 3 years old. the middleton family was seen leaving their hotel, a bit tired maybe, but still smiling, and waving just a little royally. the proud father of the groom was congratulated out in town. but prince charles's more private words after the wedding about being lucky to have catherine may just resonate a long time. >> i think yesterday injected a huge rush of energy into the british monarchy. by his choice of bride prince william has ensured that the house of windsor is going to stay on the throne of britain
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for at least another half century. the sheer love and affection that you saw for princess catherine is such that no politician would dare put an anti-monarchist platform in any election manifesto. >> reporter: perhaps that is the legacy for now of this wedding that didn't shout but spoke. >> i pronounce that they be man and wife together. >> reporter: that britain is still mighty, tradition still magnificent, and that true, unabashed love is still good enough reason for the entire world to cheer. now, the royal wedding did some tangible good, too, not only to local businesses but also to small charities that the couple asked for donations to in lieu of gifts. lester? >> michelle kosinski in london tonight. michelle, thanks. we're back with more news after this.
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there is some breaking news tonight from libya. nbc's richard engel reports that the youngest son of colonel moammar gadhafi has been killed in a nato air strike. the son is identified as saif al arab. three of moammar gadhafi's grandchildren were also killed. the libyan leader was also in the house but was not hurt. these high gasoline prices we've been seeing here at home for some time show no signs of easing. aaa reported today that the average price of a gallon of regular is now at $3.93, up eight cents from one week ago. and gas prices are becoming a growing political issue. nbc's mike viqueira reports. >> you had enough of barack obama? >> reporter: from the campaign trail in new hampshire, tough talk from republican
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presidential hopefuls. seeking political gain from voter pain at the pump. >> we're going to have to hang the obama misery index around his neck. we're going to hang him with that -- so to speak, metaphorically, with -- you have to be careful these days. i learned that. >> reporter: today in his weekly address the president called for repeal of the $4 billion in subsidies oil companies get each year. >> these tax giveaways aren't right. they aren't smart. and we need to end them. >> reporter: mr. obama's push comes as the companies report near-record first quarter profits. exxon leading the way with a 69% gain over last year. with shell, chevron, and conoco phillips all showing big increases. >> when oil prices go up in america, oil profits go up. >> reporter: democrats call the profits excessive and portray republicans as wedded to oil interests. but today the gop rejected the president's call to end federal aid to the industry. >> his latest proposal, hiking taxes by billions of dollars, will not lower gas prices and
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would actually make the problem worse. >> reporter: with congress returning monday from a two-week break, experts say there is little that washington can do to lower the short-term price per gallon. in the end what may bring down the high price of gas is the high price of gas itself. >> consumers don't realize it, but we have a lot of power. last time when americans stopped driving because they didn't like the high price, that actually did bring down the price of oil over time. and we probably will see that again. >> reporter: and lester, the decibel level here in washington is only going to get louder in the coming days when the house and senate come back. in the senate they're going to try to force a vote to cut those oil subsidies. house republicans will try to force a vote for more democracy domestic drilling in the united states. and meanwhile, on monday attorney general eric holder convenes his first ever meeting of that probe into fraud and price manipulation possibly in oil markets. but lester, nothing is expected to bring down that price of gas between now and that summer driving season. lester?
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>> mike viqueira at the white house. mike, thanks. a program note. more on this morning -- on "meet the press." david gregory's guests will be former white house senior adviser david axelrod, new york city mayor michael bloomberg, and virginia governor bob mcdonnell. that's on "meet the press" tomorrow on nbc. up next, making a difference. bitter rivals reaching out during hard times here in the south.
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finally, from tuscaloosa, a story of two famous rivals. the university of alabama and auburn university.
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putting that rivalry aside in this time of great need. nbc's thanh truong on how they are making a difference. >> reporter: help is rolling into tornado-ravaged alabama. sporting a university of alabama cap and an auburn university shirt, many would say warren tidwell has an identity issue. but there's no confusion in his mission today. >> going to be a lot of sorting today. >> it's -- it's bad here. it's bad all over the place. >> reporter: through facebook the 32-year-old auburn diehard started toomer's for tuscaloosa. delivering truckloads of supplies to communities hit hard by this week's tornadoes, including tuscaloosa, home to auburn's nemesis the alabama crimson tide. the rivalry between the schools is legendary. it literally turned toxic earlier this year when a crimson tide fan poisoned the oak trees at the tigers' famed toomer's corner. but that bad blood for now is buried.
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>> just because a guy bleeds red and white and alabama and another guy bleeds orange and blue, auburn, that doesn't mean a thing in this. >> reporter: here in tuscaloosa entire neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble. damages throughout the region will likely be in the billions. many of those caught in the storm's path lost everything. >> we need all the help we can get. all of it. and we appreciate anything and everything that anybody can do for us. >> reporter: lisa miller is retrieving whatever she can, which isn't much. but she's grateful she still has her son george. >> i'm blessed with my life and my son's life. i am blessed with that. because it could have took us away like it took my girlfriend away down the street. >> reporter: the university of alabama was spared, but the city it calls home has never faced a disaster of this magnitude. and it won't face it alone. >> we're just human beings helping human beings. and that's what it comes down to. >> reporter: in tuscaloosa's greatest time of need, arch-enemies become allies, to make sure the tide keeps
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rolling. thanh truong, nbc news, tuscaloosa, alabama. and that's nbc "nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from tuscaloosa, alabama. i'll see you tomorrow morning on "today," then right back here tomorrow evening. "today," then right back here tomorrow evening. good night. -- captions by vitac -- good evening. i'm diane dwyer. tens of thousands of volunteers across the nation and the bay area spent this saturday helping


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