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NSW village endures ‘apocalyptic’ fire

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Residents thought they were going to die huddled in their small NSW community’s fire station during an “apocalyptic” bushfire that sounded like a freight train and rained down embers and soot.

The Northern Tablelands village of Torrington, population 81, lost a dozen homes on Friday as the worst fire in living memory engulfed the town.

While some residents fled early on Friday, Linda Birch was among those to take refuge in the town’s metal fire station.

Smoke soon crept under the doors of the shed as embers bombarded the vents.

“It wasn’t a bushfire, it was a firestorm,” she told AAP.

“The ferocity of this storm was that immense that we needed to put masks on within the shed as well.”

Ms Birch admitted she thought she was going to die, describing the situation as “apocalyptic”.

Outside, the volunteer firefighters who were barely able to see a few feet ahead of themselves watered down the shed and hoped it survived.

“The sound was like a freight train, we couldn’t hear ourselves, we couldn’t talk, we just reacted,” Ms Birch said.

“We weren’t sure if anyone survived outside. My husband and Leigh’s husband were outside.”

Jennette Styles said Victorian firefighters managed to save the community hall – “the hub of our village” – but homes dating back to the early 20th century and their contents had been lost.

“Our heritage, our history is just disappearing,” she told AAP.

“It’s an amazing village because we have beautiful people here and we care about each other.

“We pull together, but we need someone to come out and talk to these people who have lost houses.There are people who aren’t insured or don’t own the property or who have lost $85,000 sheds.”

The volunteer firefighters continued fighting the blaze over the weekend, saving Geoff Hilton’s home and shed just in time.

“How close do you want it to be?” he says, looking at scorched earth forming a ring around his shed.

Torrington RFS captain Greg Kneipp and his deputy, his dad Bob, have been battling the blaze since it began two weeks ago, with a few days rest in between.

They were thankful for the support of out-of-town and interstate crews, aerial water bombing and those carting water to the station to fill the trucks.

“This would be the worst fire and I’m 47 years in the RFS. This would be it by far and only because of the dry conditions is it so bad,” Bob Kneipp told AAP.

He said the camaraderie of the fire crew was one of the reasons he stayed in the RFS but has noticed young people are less likely to sign up.

“We’re a big happy family,” he said.

“Even when the strike teams come in … within a couple of days, we know every one of them.”

NSW on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven days as bushfires continued to rage across the state.

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Armed children aged 6-15 in Mexico are recruited by vigilante group in wake of indigenous deaths

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Children as young as six have been armed with rifles and recruited as members of a vigilante group following the murders of 10 indigenous people in Mexico.  

Images show 19 children toting rifles in the municipality of Chilapa de Alvarez and Jose Joaquin de Herrera, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. 

They have been recruited as the newest members of a vigilante group protesting last week’s murders of 10 indigenous musicians and the wider violence in the area.

Guerrero has been wracked by violence in recent years, making it one of the country’s most bloody states. It is ideally located for the cartels, with trafficking routes linking it to the pacific and the rest of Mexico. 

There have been dozens of deaths recently in the violence-stricken state linked to the gang who murdered the musicians.

Children as young as five could be seen wearing bandanas and holding rifles almost as long as they were tall. At least 19 of the children were paraded like little soldiers through the southern Mexican state of Guerrero

Children as young as five could be seen wearing bandanas and holding rifles almost as long as they were tall. At least 19 of the children were paraded like little soldiers through the southern Mexican state of Guerrero

Children as young as five could be seen wearing bandanas and holding rifles almost as long as they were tall. At least 19 of the children were paraded like little soldiers through the southern Mexican state of Guerrero 

Locals say the children were new 'community police officers' that they had recruited in protest of growing violence in the region and to draw politicians attention to their cause

Locals say the children were new 'community police officers' that they had recruited in protest of growing violence in the region and to draw politicians attention to their cause

Locals say the children were new ‘community police officers’ that they had recruited in protest of growing violence in the region and to draw politicians attention to their cause 

The 19 children were presented as ‘community police officers’ and members of the Regional Coordinator of Communitary Authorities at a recent press conference. 

Local media said the children, who had acted like soldiers, posing with rifles and aiming them at the ground, were being trained to fight against violence in the region.  

The recruits were also paraded through the Alcozacan community where roads have been blocked after the ten members of the band ‘Sensacion’ were murdered.

Prosecutor Jorge Zuriel de los Santos Barrila alleged the musicians had been attacked by a criminal gang called ‘Los Ardillos’ whilst travelling in two vans to Alcozacan.

Reports state when the band saw they were being attacked they sped up but one van was hit by a grenade, killing five men, while the other band members had their throats slit. 

A 15-year-old boy was among the victims.

One of the leaders of the vigilante group said it was only children aged between 12 and 15 who would be used to guard the village. Those under 12 were only being trained, but not put to work

One of the leaders of the vigilante group said it was only children aged between 12 and 15 who would be used to guard the village. Those under 12 were only being trained, but not put to work

One of the leaders of the vigilante group said it was only children aged between 12 and 15 who would be used to guard the village. Those under 12 were only being trained, but not put to work 

The state government encouraged the community to respect the human rights of the children. However, the local leaders say officials are not doing enough to reduce the levels of violence in the area

The state government encouraged the community to respect the human rights of the children. However, the local leaders say officials are not doing enough to reduce the levels of violence in the area

The state government encouraged the community to respect the human rights of the children. However, the local leaders say officials are not doing enough to reduce the levels of violence in the area

Bernardino Sanchez Luna, one of the leaders of the community police, told local media ‘they have seen the government has no skill or interest in defending indigenous people from criminal gangs’.

He said the children had been recruited to encourage politicians to visit the community and attend to their requests.

Mr Luna said the children under 12 are only being trained but those aged between 12 and 15 would be armed and guard the villagers. 

He also said the children, 66 of whom had been orphaned in the recent violence, needed weapons to prevent them from being kidnapped by gangs. 

Currently, Mr Luna said, children in the area only attended primary school as they were too scared to leave their communities to attend secondary school. 

The government of the state told local media ‘we are calling the community police to respect, according to the law, the human rights of the children’.

During 2019, it’s estimated that 90 people died each day in Mexico from cartel-related homicides.  

 

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Princess Eugenie shares unseen photo of her engagement to Jack Brooksbank two years ago

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Princess Eugenie has shared an unseen photo of her engagement to Jack Brooksbank, from January 2018. 

The royal, 29, who hasn’t posted for two months amid the controversy over her father Prince Andrew‘s Jeffrey Epstein connections, broke her silence to pay tribute to Jack, 34, who she married in October 2019 at Windsor Castle.

Sharing a picture of her engagement on the 22 January 2018, taken in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace, writing: ‘On this day two years ago…Jack and I announced we were engaged.’

Jack and Eugenie can be seen beaming, with Eugenie dressed in the floral frock by Erdem she previously wore for a photo shoot with Harper’s Bazaar in 2016, teamed with Jimmy Choo shoes. 

The post is the first photo Eugenie has shared since November, when Prince Andrew was sacked by the Queen for ‘damaging the monarchy over the Epstein scandal’.

Princess Eugenie has shared an unseen photo of her engagement to Jack Brooksbank, from January 2018, taken in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace

Princess Eugenie has shared an unseen photo of her engagement to Jack Brooksbank, from January 2018, taken in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace

Princess Eugenie has shared an unseen photo of her engagement to Jack Brooksbank, from January 2018, taken in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace

She wrote: 'On this day two years ago...Jack and I announced we were engaged.'

She wrote: 'On this day two years ago...Jack and I announced we were engaged.'

She wrote: ‘On this day two years ago…Jack and I announced we were engaged.’

The picture quickly racked up almost 130,000 likes on Instagram. 

Welcoming Eugenie back to social media, one fan wrote: ‘Aww. Welcome back to Instagram. I hope you and Jack are doing well. You are an amazing person, philanthropist and Princess.’

Another added: ‘So sweet. Good to see you on here again. You’ve been missed!’.

Elsewhere one said: ‘Love this. And hopefully marriage is just as beautiful as you hoped’.

And commenting on the wedding gown Eugenie wore, a fan gushed: ‘Your dress was one of my favorites!’.

The royal, 29, who hasn't posted for two months amid the controversy over her father Prince Andrew's Jeffrey Epstein connections, broke her silence to pay tribute to Jack, 34, who she married in October 2019 at Windsor Castle, seen

The royal, 29, who hasn't posted for two months amid the controversy over her father Prince Andrew's Jeffrey Epstein connections, broke her silence to pay tribute to Jack, 34, who she married in October 2019 at Windsor Castle, seen

The royal, 29, who hasn’t posted for two months amid the controversy over her father Prince Andrew’s Jeffrey Epstein connections, broke her silence to pay tribute to Jack, 34, who she married in October 2019 at Windsor Castle, seen

Welcoming Eugenie back to Instagram, one fan wrote: 'Aww. Welcome back to Instagram. I hope you and Jack are doing well. You are an amazing person, philanthropist and Princess.'

Welcoming Eugenie back to Instagram, one fan wrote: 'Aww. Welcome back to Instagram. I hope you and Jack are doing well. You are an amazing person, philanthropist and Princess.'

Welcoming Eugenie back to Instagram, one fan wrote: ‘Aww. Welcome back to Instagram. I hope you and Jack are doing well. You are an amazing person, philanthropist and Princess.’

Eugenie wore a V-neck dress made from a jacquard of silk, cotton and viscose blend with a low back, designed to display the scars from her childhood operation for scoliosis, designed by London-based Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos for her wedding at St George’s Chapel in October 2018.

Eugenie was diagnosed with scoliosis and underwent corrective surgery aged just 12, with a pair of eight-inch titanium rods inserted alongside her spine to rebuild it as a result of a curvature.

The operation resulted in a prominent scar, which Eugenie wore with pride, opting for a backless gown for her wedding.

The doctor who performed her surgery was even in attendance at the ceremony, invited by Eugenie. 

Princess Eugenie, 29, who underwent spinal surgery to treat scoliosis aged 12, wore a wedding gown to show her scar at her wedding to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018

Princess Eugenie, 29, who underwent spinal surgery to treat scoliosis aged 12, wore a wedding gown to show her scar at her wedding to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018

Princess Eugenie, 29, who underwent spinal surgery to treat scoliosis aged 12, wore a wedding gown to show her scar at her wedding to Jack Brooksbank in October 2018

Eugenie's childhood operation resulted in a prominent scar, which Eugenie wore with pride, opting  for a backless gown for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank

Eugenie's childhood operation resulted in a prominent scar, which Eugenie wore with pride, opting  for a backless gown for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank

Eugenie’s childhood operation resulted in a prominent scar, which Eugenie wore with pride, opting  for a backless gown for her wedding to Jack Brooksbank 

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Uber driver took blind singer’s phone to give himself £20 tip and five-star rating

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Uber driver took blind singer's phone to give himself £20 tip and five-star rating
Cornel Mihai, 32, was convicted of fraud by false representation on Tuesday after manipulating Victoria Oruwari, 39 (Picture: BBC/Tony Palmer)

A blind singer was conned by an Uber driver who used her phone to give himself a £20 tip and five-star rating.

Cornel Mihai, 32, was convicted of fraud by false representation on Tuesday after tricking Victoria Oruwari, 39, into handing him her iPhone at the end of a £51 journey in south London.

Ms Oruwari, who has experienced sight loss since the age of six, told Croydon Court the incident had ‘reiterated the fact she is vulnerable’ but ‘to lead a full life I have to trust people’.

The soprano singer – who was a finalist on BBC’s All Together Now – was desperate to get home, but had to book a BMW Uber cab when there were no trains to East Croydon at 10pm on June 29.

She claimed Mihai had asked about her sight loss during the journey, saying she felt ‘irritated because it was none of his business, but as I was in his car, I thought it best to be polite’.

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As the journey came to a close, the driver told her he could not end the trip on his app and asked if he could use her phone to do so, she said.

Ms Oruwari believed the request was ‘a little odd’ but agreed as there ‘there was nothing in his behaviour to make me think I wasn’t safe’.

Uber driver took blind TV singer?s phone and gave himself a ?20 tip A celebrated blind singer was conned by an Uber driver who gave himself a five-star rating and a ?20 tip, a court heard. Victoria Oruwari, 39, was tricked into handing over her phone to driver Cornel Mihai at the end of a ?51 journey to her home in south London. Mihai, 32, claimed he needed to use her handset to end the journey, but then awarded himself a generous tip and a top rating, Croydon magistrates? court heard.
Ms Oruwari was a finalist on BBC’s ‘All Together Now’ and has performed with the Birmingham City Orchestra, Perth City Orchestra and the Royal Navy Brass Band (Picture: BBC)

She added: ‘I did not think anything fishy was going on, but I was handing him a lot of trust because of the information on the phone.’

Once inside her house, the Royal Opera House performer found she had been charged extra money.

She said: ‘I was shocked that I had been charged twice the fare, although I knew there would be a price surge, but also that the driver had been rated five-star and tipped twenty pounds.

‘The only time I did not have the phone was when I gave it to him and had to switch off the screenreader so couldn’t hear what was happening.’

She added: ‘It has reiterated the fact I am vulnerable and more susceptible to crime and being taken advantage of, but to lead a full life I have to trust people.

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‘That trust has been shaken, but I am determined to continue trusting in people.’

After the singer complained, Uber refunded the fare, removed Mihai from their approved drivers’ database and reported him to the police.

Uber driver took blind singer's phone to give himself £20 tip and five-star rating
Mihai denied using the singer’s phone (Picture: Tony Palmer)

In court, he denied using Ms Oruwari’s iPhone, saying: ‘I finished this journey on my phone. I want to work honestly.’

His lawyer Edward Seller said: ‘We are talking about twenty pounds and the loss of his livelihood. He has a lot more to lose than gain.’

However, he was convicted of fraud by false representation on Tuesday.

Magistrate Pat Heslop said they accepted the evidence of the complainant, who ‘gave a credible account of the events’.

She added: ‘Nothing has been suggested as to how this happened otherwise and we find it difficult to accept Mr. Mihai wouldn’t have known Ms Oruwari had issues with her sight.’

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Prosecutor Julie Idowu told the court: ‘The Crown’s case is that this defendant made a false representation that he needed to use the complainant’s phone to end the journey and this was in order to make a gain for himself.

‘The Crown also note the complainant is a vulnerable individual, is registered blind with a total loss of sight since the age of six.’

Mihai will be sentenced on February 4.

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Source: Metro News

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