Live Coverage

Today's News: Oct. 30, 2016

A powerful earthquake struck central Italy, transportation officials investigating an airplane fire in Chicago, and more from the United States and around the world.

Remo Casilli / Reuters

—A 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck in Italy Sunday morning. About a dozen people were injured, but there have been no reported deaths.

—What happened to the American Airlines plane that caught fire in Chicago right before takeoff? Investigators have released new information about this weeks’ incident.

—Moldova is holding a presidential election by popular vote for the first time in 20 years.

—We’re live-blogging the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).


This live blog has concluded

Alaska Opens First Pot Shop

Marijuana samples at an event to celebrate the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Portland, Oregon, in 2015 (Steve Dipaola / Reuters)

Alaska’s first pot shop is open for business.

Herbal Outfitters opened to the public on Saturday, nearly two years after Alaskans voted to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. The store is located in Valdez, a tiny coastal town of about 4,000 people.

Customers lined up outside the store for hours before the grand opening at noon. The Alaska Dispatch-News interviewed the first customer to make a purchase, a 63-year-old man named Michael Holcombe:

He perused the 10 strains available, smelling the buds and asking about products on the shelves.

He walked out with five different strains: 2 grams of G-13 crossed with Cheese, 1 gram of Jack the Ripper, 1 gram of Bubba Kush, 1 gram of Blue Dream and 2 grams of Deep Sleep, for $145.65.

Holcombe is retired, and said he didn't have any big plans after he makes his purchase.

"I'll probably just go on my day, go home and smoke a bowl later," Holcombe said.

The store, owned by Rick Ballow, sells marijuana from two growers in the state’s Kenai Peninsula.

Alaskan residents approved in November 2014 a measure that allowed people age 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and legalized the manufacture and sale of the drug. The measure went into effect in February 2015. Officials in charge of regulating the new industry spent months figuring out the rules, and this February began accepting applications for marijuana business licenses.

Herbal Outfitters is the first of several pot stores to open this year. Alaska Dispatch-News reports Frozen Buds and Pakalolo Supply Co, both located in Fairbanks, will open later this week. Arctic Herbery will open early next month in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.  

Recreational marijuana use is also legal in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Moldova's First Presidential Election by Popular Vote in 20 Years

Local residents stand in line to receive ballot papers before casting their votes for the presidential election at a hospital in the village of Kozhushna in Moldova, on October 30, 2016. (Gleb Garanich / Reuters)

Voters in Moldova are casting their ballots in the country's first presidential election by popular vote in 20 years on Sunday.

Since 1996, presidents of the former Soviet republic have been chosen by parliament. In March, Moldova's highest court ruled that the process was unconstitutional, and established that future leaders would be elected by a national vote.

The main candidates in the election have campaigned on two very different directions for Moldova's future. The favorite to win, Igor Dodon, is a pro-Moscow Socialist candidate who seeks to maintain close ties with Russia. His opponent, Maia Sandu, is a member of the pro-Western, center-right opposition that wants integration with the European Union.

Poll close at 9 p.m. local time.

Why Did the Plane in Chicago Catch Fire Before Takeoff?

Soot covers the fuselage of an American Airlines plane that caught fire on a runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on October 28, 2016. (Jim Young / Reuters)

The American Airlines plane that caught fire in Chicago just before takeoff Friday experienced an engine failure that turned some of the engine’s components into “shrapnel,” hurling them from the aircraft, officials said.

The Boeing 767 began spewing flames as it prepared to take off from O’Hare International Airport, prompting the evacuation of 161 passengers and nine crew members. At least 20 people were treated at hospitals for injuries they received as they escaped the plane on inflatable slide chutes. The plane had been bound for Miami.

National Transportation Safety Board officials on Saturday called the engine failure “rare and serious.” Here’s more on what happened, from the Chicago Tribune:

Examination of the engine revealed that the stage two disk of a high-pressure turbine failed, Lorenda Ward, a senior investigator for the NTSB, said in a news conference late Saturday afternoon at O'Hare.

The fire started when "as a result of the uncontrolled engine failure, a fuel pool fire erupted under the right wing," Ward said.

The danger of such a rare and serious failure is that engine pieces effectively become shrapnel — as happened Friday — and can cause extensive damage to the aircraft.

Officials say they have found 90 percent of the disk that exploded. One piece was found in a warehouse half a mile from the plane on the runway.

The incident was captured on video, which showed flames billowing upward from the aircraft and passengers streaming out:

Officials say the disk pieces will be tested. The failed engine will be removed and sent to its manufacturer, General Electric, to be dismantled.

The Damage From Italy's Powerful Earthquake

A 6.6.-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy Sunday, the strongest to hit the country in nearly 36 years.

The quake damaged buildings and sent people into the streets, but no deaths have been reported. At least a dozen people were injured, according to Italian officials.

The earthquake struck at about 7:40 a.m. local time near the town of Norcia. The Basilica of St. Benedict, parts of which date back to the 14th century, was destroyed. The monastery’s monks tweeted on Sunday a photo of the flattened church:

The small number of injuries in the quake may be attributed to the lack of people who were there when it hit. About 3,600 people were relocated from the area on Wednesday after two powerful quakes struck within hours of each other, knocking out power and destroying historic buildings. In August, a 6.-2 magnitude earthquake struck in the same region, killing more than 300 people.