April 2023

VW pledges commitment to electric mobility in China, urges extension of tax breaks

VW pledges commitment to electric mobility in China, urges extension of tax breaks© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Volkswagen logo is seen as it launches its ID.6 and ID.6 CROZZ SUV at a world premiere ahead of the Shanghai Auto Show, in Shanghai, China April 18, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – A senior Volkswagen AG (OTC:) China executive reiterated on Saturday the German automaker’s commitment to quickening the pace of electrification in the world’s second largest economy despite issues such as intensified competition and weak demand.

VW plans to increase the number of charging posts for electric vehicles in China to 17,000 by 2025, as it planned to invest 15 billion euros ($16.26 billion) in the country on electric mobility together with its three joint ventures by 2024, Stefan Mecha, chief executive of the Volkswagen (ETR:) brand in China, told China’s EV 100 forum in Beijing.

“The market is flush with new, highly competitive players but strong competition simply motivates us to constantly innovate and improve,” Mecha said.

He added that despite softer short term demand in China, the company is confident that there would be a recovery.

In February, Chinese electrified vehicle maker BYD outsold the Volkswagen-branded cars to be the best-selling passenger car brand in the world’s largest auto market for the second month in four.

Mecha also urged China to extend a purchase tax exemption on new energy vehicles (NEVs), which include both pure electric and plug-in hybrid cars, beyond this year as part of the policy support for the sector.

In September, China extended the tax exemption on such vehicles by a year to the end of 2023.

The government is studying policies to promote auto consumption and eliminate backward automakers as China’s NEV market faces challenges of weak domestic demand, Xin Guobin, vice minister at Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said at the same forum.

Xin also urged the industry to enhance capabilities in securing supplies of metals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel as it also faces threats of global trade protectionism.

($1 = 0.9226 euros)

AI experts disown Musk-backed campaign citing their research

AI experts disown Musk-backed campaign citing their research© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tesla founder Elon Musk attends Offshore Northern Seas 2022 in Stavanger, Norway August 29, 2022. NTB/Carina Johansen via REUTERS

By Martin Coulter

LONDON (Reuters) -Four artificial intelligence experts have expressed concern after their work was cited in an open letter – co-signed by Elon Musk – demanding an urgent pause in research.

The letter, dated March 22 and with more than 1,800 signatures by Friday, called for a six-month circuit-breaker in the development of systems “more powerful” than Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s new GPT-4, which can hold human-like conversation, compose songs and summarise lengthy documents.

Since GPT-4’s predecessor ChatGPT was released last year, rival companies have rushed to launch similar products.

The open letter says AI systems with “human-competitive intelligence” pose profound risks to humanity, citing 12 pieces of research from experts including university academics as well as current and former employees of OpenAI, Google (NASDAQ:) and its subsidiary DeepMind.

Civil society groups in the U.S. and EU have since pressed lawmakers to rein in OpenAI’s research. OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Critics have accused the Future of Life Institute (FLI), the organisation behind the letter which is primarily funded by the Musk Foundation, of prioritising imagined apocalyptic scenarios over more immediate concerns about AI, such as racist or sexist biases.

Among the research cited was “On the Dangers of Stochastic Parrots”, a paper co-authored by Margaret Mitchell, who previously oversaw ethical AI research at Google.

Mitchell, now chief ethical scientist at AI firm Hugging Face, criticised the letter, telling Reuters it was unclear what counted as “more powerful than GPT4”.

“By treating a lot of questionable ideas as a given, the letter asserts a set of priorities and a narrative on AI that benefits the supporters of FLI,” she said. “Ignoring active harms right now is a privilege that some of us don’t have.”

Mitchell and her co-authors — Timnit Gebru, Emily M. Bender, and Angelina McMillan-Major — subsequently published a response to the letter, accusing its authors of “fearmongering and AI hype”.

“It is dangerous to distract ourselves with a fantasized AI-enabled utopia or apocalypse which promises either a ‘flourishing’ or ‘potentially catastrophic’ future,” they wrote.

“Accountability properly lies not with the artefacts but with their builders.”

FLI president Max Tegmark told Reuters the campaign was not an attempt to hinder OpenAI’s corporate advantage.

“It’s quite hilarious. I’ve seen people say, ‘Elon Musk is trying to slow down the competition,'” he said, adding that Musk had no role in drafting the letter. “This is not about one company.”


Shiri Dori-Hacohen, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut, told Reuters she agreed with some points in the letter, but took issue with the way in which her work was cited.

She last year co-authored a research paper arguing the widespread use of AI already posed serious risks.

Her research argued the present-day use of AI systems could influence decision-making in relation to climate change, nuclear war, and other existential threats.

She said: “AI does not need to reach human-level intelligence to exacerbate those risks.

“There are non-existential risks that are really, really important, but don’t receive the same kind of Hollywood-level attention.”

Asked to comment on the criticism, FLI’s Tegmark said both short-term and long-term risks of AI should be taken seriously.

“If we cite someone, it just means we claim they’re endorsing that sentence. It doesn’t mean they’re endorsing the letter, or we endorse everything they think,” he told Reuters.

Dan Hendrycks, director of the California-based Center for AI Safety, who was also cited in the letter, stood by its contents, telling Reuters it was sensible to consider black swan events – those which appear unlikely, but would have devastating consequences.

The open letter also warned that generative AI tools could be used to flood the internet with “propaganda and untruth”.

Dori-Hacohen said it was “pretty rich” for Musk to have signed it, citing a reported rise in misinformation on Twitter following his acquisition of the platform, documented by civil society group Common Cause and others.

Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pakistan posts highest-ever annual inflation; stampedes for food kill 16

Pakistan posts highest-ever annual inflation; stampedes for food kill 16© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man checks the size of a jacket at a stall selling secondhand clothes, at the Landa Bazar in Karachi, Pakistan January 15, 2023. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Consumer price inflation in Pakistan jumped to a record 35.37% in March from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said on Saturday, as at least 16 people were killed in stampedes for food aid.

The March inflation number eclipsed February’s 31.5%, the bureau said, as food, beverage and transport prices surged up to 50% year-on-year.

Thousands of people have gathered at flour distribution centres set up across the country, some as part of a government-backed programme to ease the impact of inflation.

At least 16 people, including five women and three children, have been killed in stampedes at such centres in recent days, police and officials have said. Thousands of bags of flour have also been looted from trucks and distribution points, according to official records.

A spokesman at the statistics bureau said the inflation number was the highest ever year-on-year increase recorded by the bureau since monthly records began in the 1970s.

“This is the highest ever inflation recorded in the data we have,” he said.

The consumer price index was up 3.72% in March from the previous month, the bureau said.

Higher prices of food, cooking oil and electricity pushed up the index, it said.

Annual food inflation in March was at 47.1% and 50.2% for urban and rural areas respectively, the bureau said. Core inflation, which strips out food and energy, stood at 18.6% in urban areas and 23.1% in rural areas.

The South Asian nation has been in economic turmoil for months with an acute balance of payments crisis while talks with the IMF to secure $1.1 billion funding as part of $6.5 billion bailout agreed in 2019 have not yet yielded fruit.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have fallen to cover barely four weeks of imports.

A monthly economic outlook report issued by the finance ministry on Friday projected inflation would remain elevated.

The report cited market frictions caused by relative demand and supply gaps of essential items, exchange rate depreciation, and the recent upward adjustment in fuel prices as reasons behind higher inflation expectations.

EU Commissioner confident Italy will not miss out on recovery funds

Economic Indicators 2 hours ago (Apr 01, 2023 09:22AM ET)

EU Commissioner confident Italy will not miss out on recovery funds© Reuters. European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni leaves the convention centre at the G20 finance ministers’ meeting on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, February 25, 2023. REUTERS/Samuel Rajkumar

CERNOBBIO, Italy (Reuters) – The EU’s Economy Commissioner is confident that Italy will get the latest instalment of post-pandemic funds despite questions over the meeting of targets to unlock the money, he said on Saturday.

“I believe that the points that need to be clarified will be clarified, I see great goodwill on the part of the (Italian) government,” Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told the Ambrosetti business conference in northern Italy.

Gentiloni, himself a former Italian prime minister, said he believed there was room for Italy to renegotiate parts of the plan, noting changes had already been approved for Germany, Finland and Luxembourg.

The European Commission has frozen an overdue 19-billion-euro tranche of post-pandemic funds. Italy has until the end of April to persuade Brussels to release the funds, a government source has told Reuters.

Italy is the single-largest beneficiary of the EU post-COVID Recovery Fund, and meeting the goals agreed with Brussels is one of the main challenges for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s rightist government that took office in October.

Rome has so far secured almost 67 billion euros of the roughly 200 billion it is due to receive through 2026, dependent on it achieving Brussels’ policy prescriptions.

To gain some flexibility, Italy’s EU Affairs Minister Raffaele Fitto has said the government is in talks with Brussels to replace some projects from its original recovery plan, which it now realises it cannot complete by a 2026 deadline.

These would be replaced with less ambitious programmes that can be completed on time, while the original ones could be financed from separate European Union funds that can be spent until 2029.

Humans vs. machines: the fight to copyright AI art


Humans vs. machines: the fight to copyright AI art© Reuters. A sketch drawn by Kris Kashtanova (L) that the artist fed into AI program Stable Diffusion and transformed into the resulting image (R) using text prompts. Courtesy of Kris Kashtanova/Handout via REUTERS


By Tom Hals and Blake Brittain

(Reuters) – Last year, Kris Kashtanova typed instructions for a graphic novel into a new artificial-intelligence program and touched off a high-stakes debate over who created the artwork: a human or an algorithm.

“Zendaya leaving gates of Central Park,” Kashtanova entered into Midjourney, an AI program similar to ChatGPT that produces dazzling illustrations from written prompts. “Sci-fi scene future empty New York….”

From these inputs and hundreds more emerged “Zarya of the Dawn,” an 18-page story about a character resembling the actress Zendaya who roams a deserted Manhattan hundreds of years in the future. Kashtanova received a copyright in September, and declared on social media that it meant artists were entitled to legal protection for their AI art projects.

It didn’t last long. In February, the U.S. Copyright Office suddenly reversed itself, and Kashtanova became the first person in the country to be stripped of legal protection for AI art. The images in “Zarya,” the office said, were “not the product of human authorship.” The office allowed Kashtanova to keep a copyright in the arrangement and storyline.

Now, with the help of a high-powered legal team, the artist is testing the limits of the law once again. For a new book, Kashtanova has turned to a different AI program, Stable Diffusion, which lets users scan in their own drawings and refine them with text prompts. The artist believes that starting with original artwork will provide enough of a “human” element to sway the authorities.

“It would be very strange if it’s not copyrightable,” said the 37-year-old artist of the latest work, an autobiographical comic.

A spokesperson for the copyright office declined to comment. Midjourney also declined to comment, and Stability AI did not respond to requests for comment.


At a time when new AI programs like ChatGPT, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion seem poised to transform human expression as they smash records for user growth, the legal system still hasn’t figured out who owns the output — the users, the owners of the programs, or maybe no one at all.

Billions of dollars could hinge on the answer, legal experts said.

If users and owners of the new AI systems could get copyrights, they would stand to reap huge benefits, said Ryan Merkley, the former chief of Creative Commons, a U.S. organization that issues licenses to allow creators to share their work.

For example, companies could use AI to produce and own the rights to vast quantities of low-cost graphics, music, video and text for advertising, branding and entertainment. “Copyright governing bodies are going to be under enormous pressure to permit copyrights to be awarded to computer-generated works,” Merkley said.

In the U.S. and many other countries, anyone who engages in creative expression usually has immediate legal rights to it. A copyright registration creates a public record of the work and allows the owner to go to court to enforce their rights.

Courts including the U.S. Supreme Court have long held that an author has to be a human being. In rejecting legal protection for the “Zarya” images, the U.S. Copyright Office cited rulings denying legal protection for a selfie snapped by a curious monkey named Naruto and for a song that the copyright applicant said had been composed by “the Holy Spirit.”

One U.S. computer scientist, Stephen Thaler of Missouri, has maintained that his AI programs are sentient and should be legally recognized as the creators of artwork and inventions that they generated. He has sued the U.S. Copyright Office, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court and has a patent case before the U.K. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, many artists and companies that own creative content fiercely oppose granting copyrights to AI owners or users. They argue that because the new algorithms work by training themselves on vast quantities of material on the open web, some of which is copyrighted, the AI systems are gobbling up legally protected material without permission.

Stock photo provider Getty Images, a group of visual artists and owners of computer code have separately filed lawsuits against owners of AI programs including Midjourney, Stability AI and ChatGPT developer OpenAI for copyright infringement, which the companies deny. Getty and OpenAI declined to comment.

Sarah Andersen, one of the artists, said granting copyrights to AI works “would legitimize theft.”


Kashtanova is being represented for free by Morrison Foerster and its veteran copyright lawyer Joe Gratz, who is also defending OpenAI in a proposed class action brought on behalf of owners of copyrighted computer code. The firm took on Kashtanova’s case after an associate at the firm, Heather Whitney, spotted a LinkedIn post by the artist seeking legal help with a new application after the “Zarya” copyright was rejected.

“These are hard questions with significant consequences for all of us,” Gratz said.

The Copyright Office said it reviewed Kashtanova’s “Zarya” decision after discovering the artist had posted on Instagram that the images were created using AI, which it said was not clear in the original September application. On March 16, it issued public guidance instructing applicants to clearly disclose if their work was created with the help of AI.

The guidance said the most popular AI systems likely do not create copyrightable work, and “what matters is the extent to which the human had creative control.”


Kashtanova, who identifies as nonbinary and uses “they/them” pronouns, discovered Midjourney in August after the pandemic largely shut down their work as a photographer at yoga retreats and extreme-sports events.

“My mind was completely blown,” the artist said. Now, as AI technology develops at lightning speed, Kashtanova has turned to newer tools that allow users to input original work and give more specific commands to control the output.

To test how much human control will satisfy the copyright office, Kashtanova is planning to submit a series of copyright applications for individual images chosen from the new autobiographical comic, each one made with a different AI program, setting or method.

The artist, who now works at a start-up that uses AI to turn children’s drawings into comic books, created the first such image a few weeks ago, titled “Rose Enigma.”

Sitting at a computer in their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment, Kashtanova demonstrated their latest technique: they pulled up on the screen a simple pen-and-paper sketch they had scanned into Stable Diffusion, and began refining it by adjusting settings and using text prompts such as “young cyborg woman” and “flowers coming out of her head.” 

    The result was an otherworldly image, the lower half of a woman’s face with long-stemmed roses replacing the upper part of her head. Kashtanova submitted it for copyright protection on March 21.

The image will also appear in Kashtanova’s new book. It’s title: “For My A.I. Community.”

China’s Huawei partners with more automakers to produce Aito EVs

Stock Markets 9 hours ago (Apr 01, 2023 11:50AM ET)

China's Huawei partners with more automakers to produce Aito EVs© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Huawei logo is pictured on its headquarters building in Reading, Britain July 14, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Huawei Technologies is partnering with more legacy automakers to produce Aito-branded electric cars, the company’s senior executive said on Saturday, in a move to expand its presence in the auto industry.

Huawei will team up with Chery Automobile, BAIC Motor and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group in jointly developing and manufacturing Aito-branded vehicles, Richard Yu, Huawei’s Smart Car CEO, said at the China EV 100 forum in Beijing.

Huawei, which has already a partnership with Seres Group to make Aito cars, plans a series of models including SUVs, sedans and multipurpose vehicles under the Aito brand, Yu added.

“We’d like to fully use the automakers’ resources of production capacity,” Yu said.

Seres sold a total of 80,000 Aito cars featuring Huawei’s HarmonyOS system – developed by the company as an alternative to Android – in 2022, up more than six times from a year ago, according to company filings.

Huawei’s Chairman Eric Xu reiterated at a press conference on Friday that the company doesn’t make cars on its own but only helps other automakers make better vehicles.

Huawei has been hit by a series of export controls by Washington which says it is a security risk, which the company denies. The sanctions have blocked Huawei from buying key components as well as from using Google (NASDAQ:)’s Android operating system. 

The sanctions have also affected Huawei’s partnerships with global automakers, who have given up using Huawei’s vehicle connectivity technologies in the past two years, Yu said on Saturday.

Tension with the U.S. saw Meng detained for three years in Canada over alleged efforts to cover up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran in breach of U.S. sanctions.

Raisi says hijab is the law in Iran as unveiled women face ‘yoghurt attack’

Raisi says hijab is the law in Iran as unveiled women face 'yoghurt attack'© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Veiled Iranian women attend a conservatives campaign gathering for the upcoming parliamentary elections and the upcoming vote on the Assembly of Experts, in Tehran February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

(Reuters) – President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that the hijab was the law in Iran after a viral video showed a man throwing yoghurt at two unveiled women in a shop near a holy Shi’ite Muslim city.

Growing numbers of women have defied authorities by discarding their veils after nationwide protests that followed the death in September of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman in the custody of the morality police for allegedly violating hijab rules. Security forces violently put down the revolt.

Judicial authorities in a town near the northeastern city of Mashhad issued arrest warrants for the man seen pouring yoghurt over the heads of the two women, a mother and her daughter. They were also the subject of arrest warrants for flouting Iran’s strict female dress rules, state media reported.

Risking arrest for defying the obligatory dress code, women are still widely seen unveiled in malls, restaurants, shops and streets around the country. Videos of unveiled women resisting the morality police have flooded social media.

In live remarks on state television, Raisi said: “If some people say they don’t believe (in the hijab)… it’s good to use persuasion … But the important point is that there is a legal requirement … and the hijab is today a legal matter.”

Authorities said the owner of the dairy shop, who confronted the attacker, had been warned. Reports on social media showed his shop had been shut, although he was quoted by a local news agency as saying he had been allowed to reopen and was due to “give explanations” to a court.

Judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei earlier threatened to prosecute “without mercy” women who appear in public unveiled, Iranian media reported.

“Unveiling is tantamount to enmity of (our) values,” Ejei was quoted as saying by several news sites.

Under Iran’s Islamic sharia law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. Violators have faced public rebuke, fines or arrest.

Describing the veil as “one of the civilizational foundations of the Iranian nation” and “one of the practical principles of the Islamic Republic,” an Interior Ministry statement on Thursday said there would be no “retreat or tolerance” on the issue.

It urged citizens to confront unveiled women. Such directives have in past decades emboldened hardliners to attack women without impunity.

(dubai.newsroom@thomsonreuters.com; Editing by Frances Kerry and Giles Elgood)

Almost a third of Brazilians disapprove of Lula, poll shows

Stock Markets 5 hours ago (Apr 01, 2023 02:15PM ET)

Almost a third of Brazilians disapprove of Lula, poll shows© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva attends a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 21, 2023. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Almost a third of Brazilians disapprove of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, putting the leftist leader at about the same level of unpopularity as his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro during the first three months of his presidency, a poll cited by the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo showed on Saturday.

Lula, who took office in January after narrowly defeating Bolsonaro in an election last October, has the approval of 38% of Brazilians, with 29% disapproving of his performance, according to a Datafolha survey.

Bolsonaro, who served as president from 2019 to the end of 2022, never formally conceded defeat to Lula. On Jan. 8, barely a week after Lula began his third term as president, Bolsonaro supporters stormed government buildings in the federal capital Brasilia to protest the election result.

After about three months in self-imposed exile in the United States, Bolsonaro returned to Brazil this week.

Datafolha interviewed 2,028 people on Wednesday and Thursday in 126 cities. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus two percentage points.

High activity spotted at North Korea nuclear complex after Kim’s bomb-fuel order-report

High activity spotted at North Korea nuclear complex after Kim's bomb-fuel order-report© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the 7th enlarged plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea, March 1, 2023 in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Age

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Satellite images show a high level of activity at North Korea’s main nuclear site, a U.S. think tank reported on Saturday after the North Korean leader ordered an increase in production of bomb fuel to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Washington-based 38 North North Korea monitoring project said the activity it had spotted, based on images from March 3 and 17, could indicate that an Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) at the Yongbyon site was nearing completion and transition to operational status.

The report said the images showed that a 5 megawatt reactor at Yongbyon continued to operate and that construction had started on a support building around the ELWR. Further, water discharges had been detected from that reactor’s cooling system. New construction had also started around Yongbyon’s uranium enrichment plant, likely to expand its capabilities.

“These developments seem to reflect Kim Jong Un’s recent directive to increase the country’s fissile material production to expand its nuclear weapons arsenal,” the report added, referring to the North Korean leader.

On Tuesday, North Korea unveiled new, smaller nuclear warheads and vowed to produce more weapons-grade nuclear material to expand its arsenal, while denouncing stepped up military exercises by South Korea and the United States.

Its state media said Kim had ordered the production of weapons-grade materials in a “far-sighted way” to boost the country’s nuclear arsenal “exponentially.”

It is unclear whether North Korea has fully developed miniaturized nuclear warheads needed to fit on smaller weapons it has displayed and analysts say perfecting such warheads would most likely be a key goal if it resumes nuclear testing for the first time since 2017.

South Korea and the United States have warned since early 2022 that North Korea may resume nuclear testing at any time.

In a report last year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated North Korea had assembled up to 20 nuclear warheads, and probably possessed sufficient fissile material for approximately 45–55 nuclear devices.

Violent US storm kills more than 20 people

Violent US storm kills more than 20 people

By Liliana Salgado

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) – A violent storm packing high winds and heavy rains ripped through Southern and Midwestern sections of the United States as it headed east on Saturday, leaving at least 22 dead and scores injured, according to officials and media reports.

At least five people were killed in Arkansas, according to officials, as first responders sifted through debris for more possible victims after tornadoes sliced through the state on Friday.

Officials also reported four deaths in Illinois and three in Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Health confirmed seven weather-related deaths in McNairy County, at the Mississippi border. Tennessee Emergency Management Agency Director Patrick Sheehan said the number of people injured and damaged structures in several counties were not yet determined.

Just south of the Tennessee border in Madison County, Alabama, 90-year-old Ovie Lasater was killed when a tornado destroyed her home, county coroner Tyler Berryhill told Reuters.

Fox News reported another death in Pontotoc County in neighboring Mississippi.

In Illinois, three people were killed in Crawford County after the collapse of a residential structure, the state Emergency Management Agency said.

These were in addition to the 50-year-old man who died in Belvidere, a city in northern Illinois, after a roof collapsed at a theater with 260 people inside. Dan Zaccard, a senior emergency management official in Boone County, said on Saturday that the incident left 40 people injured.

The crowd at the city’s Apollo Theatre was attending a concert featuring the heavy-metal group Morbid Angel, which was on its “Tour of Terror.”

One person was killed in Sussex County, Delaware, after a line of powerful storms tore through the region on Saturday night, an ABC News affiliate reported.

The National Weather Service on Saturday warned of thunderstorms moving across the eastern third of the United States, likely resulting in power outages and downed trees from winds with gusts over 60 mph (100 kph).

The twisters sheared roofs and walls from many buildings in Arkansas, flipped over vehicles and downed trees and power lines in Little Rock and large areas east and northeast of the state capital, officials said.

The blast of extreme spring weather swept much of the United States on Friday, menacing the nation’s midsection from Texas to the Great Lakes with thunderstorms and tornados.

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Saturday said there were five confirmed dead in the state.

“Right now, we have five confirmed fatalities. We have a couple of others that have been reported, but we do not have confirmation from local law enforcement on the ground. And, so, awaiting that. But right now, statewide, we have five confirmed fatalities,” she said.

Four of the Arkansas fatalities were reported in Wynne, about 100 miles (160 km) east of Little Rock, Cross County Coroner Eli Long said.

One person was killed and more than 50 people were hospitalized in North Little Rock, Pulaski County spokeswoman Madeline Roberts told the Washington Post.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Huckabee Sanders and the mayors of Little Rock and Wynne, the White House said in a statement. He also spoke with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell.

Huckabee Sanders said Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, in phone calls on Saturday, offered federal government support.

“Anything that Arkansas needs, they have assured us that those resources will be here and on the ground,” she said at a news conference.

In Sullivan County, Indiana, three people were killed, Indiana State Police Sergeant Matt Ames said. A state of emergency was declared for the affected areas, Sheriff Jason Bobbitt said on Facebook (NASDAQ:).

The turbulent weather occurred one week after a swarm of thunderstorms unleashed a deadly tornado that devastated the Mississippi town of Rolling Fork, destroying many of the community’s 400 homes and killing 26 people.

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