Three more people have died as a result of a fierce storm that has battered Spain for the past three days, authorities said Wednesday, raising the death toll to seven.
Fears increased that heavy rains expected later Wednesday could lead to several swollen rivers breaking their banks, among them the Onyar river that flows through the northeastern city of Gerona .
The body of a missing man was found Wednesday in a flooded area near the town of Callosa, in southeastern Spain, the local Valencia regional government said.
It added that a woman was killed when her apartment building partially collapsed in the town of Alcoy, following heavy rains.
In the southeastern town of Nijar, a farmer was found dead in a plastic greenhouse that had been hit by a hail storm, according to the private Spanish news agency Europa Press.
Four other people died between Sunday and Tuesday.
Searches continued for several missing people.
Since Sunday, the storm has hit mostly eastern areas of Spain with hail, heavy snow and high winds, while huge waves smashed into towns on the Mediterranean coast and the nearby islands of Mallorca and Menorca.
Weather forecasts said the worst of the storm had passed by Wednesday.
Transport authorities said the bad weather forced the closure of more than 200 roads. Schools canceled classes for more than 5,700 pupils.
Officials in Barcelona said the city's beaches lost much of their sand due to the high, powerful surf.
Rubén del Campo, spokesman for national weather service AEMET, said he expected that once all data was collected the storm will have been one of the strongest on record. Some areas saw their heaviest rainfall in more than 70 years.
The head of Italy's 5-Star Movement stepped down as party leader Wednesday, following a string of parliamentary defections, falling poll numbers and questions about the movement's future.
Luigi Di Maio said he had finished his work, that an era had ended, and that he would trust his successor to lead the party going forward.
"It's time for the 5-Star Movement to be refounded," he told a gathering of party faithful in Rome, ending days of speculation that he would step down as party leader while remaining Italy's foreign minister.
The 5-Stars have been in crisis for months, most acutely since the movement flipped coalition partners in September. But even earlier, it was beset by infighting and has seen the defections or expulsions of 31 lawmakers since the party won 33% of the vote in the 2018 election.
It was the 5-Stars' biggest victory nationally since its birth as a grassroots, anti-establishment protest movement led by comic Beppe Grillo.
Analysts have long said the party has struggled to pivot into an effective governing force, hobbled by its uneasy governing alliances first with the right-wing League party and, since September, with the center-left Democratic Party. In the process, it has alienated voters by defying some of its core values.
The conflict came to a head a few days before a regional election this weekend that is likely to see Matteo Salvini's League party score well in the traditional leftist stronghold of Emilia Romagna.
Latest polls showed the League and the Democratic candidate running close.
Analyst Massimiliano Panarari, writing Wednesday in the La Stampa newspaper, said a decision by Di Maio to step aside now as party leader would spare him blame should the candidate closest to the ruling coalition, Democrat Stefano Bonaccini, lose.
Panarari said Di Maio is the "natural scapegoat," because he has collected so many jobs — deputy premier, labor minister and minister of economic development in the first 5-Star government, and now foreign minister.
The 5-Stars' support has now shrunk to polling nationally only around 15-16%.
Premier Giuseppe Conte said he respected Di Maio's decision, while dismissing suggestions that his resignation as party leader could destabilize the government.
"Certainly, I would be sorry on a personal level," he told RTL102 radio.
Emiliana De Blasio, a communications sociologist at Rome's Luiss University, said Di Maio's downfall is linked to the fact that he rose in party ranks representing the movement's right-wing, and as such could work with Salvini when the League was in the government.
"The rapid fall is probably best represented by the fact that the government in this moment is made up of an alliance with the Democratic Party, so the whole 5-Star Movement seems to have moved towards the center-left," she said.
De Blasio noted that Di Maio never finished university and had no relevant work experience before being selected to head the party, a prime example of the fluid, non-traditional leadership ethos that guides the 5-Stars.
While he is capable and clever, "the 5-Star Movement is made up of many personalities, and Di Maio is only one of the personalities," she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday gave a lukewarm reception to an Israeli request to criticize the International Criminal Court, saying he would study the matter.
Macron's response dealt a setback to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hopes for a strong backlash against the ICC by world leaders gathering in Jerusalem for a memorial service marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
The court's chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a "reasonable basis" to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in Gaza as well as settlement construction in the West Bank. She has asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said he was urging the world to take "concrete actions" against the ICC.
He called the investigation a "full frontal attack" on Israel's right to defend itself and what he said is the right of Jews to live in their "ancestral homeland." The international community considers the West Bank, captured by Israel in 1967, to be occupied territory.
Speaking to reporters outside a Jerusalem church, Macron said the Israeli side had made a "very strong request" during meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin earlier in the day.
Macron said he understands the Israeli arguments but needed time to formulate a response.
"I will give them my response when I have better knowledge on the file," he said.
The District of Columbia is suing President Donald Trump's inaugural committee and two companies that control the Trump International Hotel in the nation's capital, accusing them of throwing parties for the Trump family with nonprofit funds, and overpaying for event space at the hotel.
The district's attorney general, Karl Racine, said the inaugural committee had been "blatantly and unlawfully abusing nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family." The lawsuit, announced Wednesday, alleges that the committee abused nonprofit funds and coordinated with the Trump family to "grossly overpay for event space" in the hotel.
The committee has maintained that its finances were independently audited, and that all money was spent in accordance with the law.
It was the latest allegation that Trump and his family have used public and nonprofit funds spent at Trump-owned properties to enrich themselves — part of the peril of Trump not fully withdrawing from his businesses while he is president. Trump has maintained ownership but turned the reins over to his adult sons, who have bristled at the charge that they are profiting off their father's presidency.
The suit alleges the committee coordinated with the hotel's management and members of Trump's family to arrange the events and that committee staffers knew they were paying prices that were "grossly above market rate" but didn't consider less expensive alternatives.
The committee raised an unprecedented $107 million to host events celebrating Trump's inauguration in January 2017. But the committee's spending has drawn mounting scrutiny.
"District law requires nonprofits to use their funds for their stated public purpose, not to benefit private individuals or companies," Racine said. "In this case, we are seeking to recover the nonprofit funds that were improperly funneled directly to the Trump family business."
Prosecutors found that Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who flipped on the president during the special counsel's Russia investigation, personally managed discussions with the hotel about using the space, including ballrooms and meeting rooms. One of the event's planners raised concerns about pricing with Trump, Gates and Ivanka Trump, according to the lawsuit. Ivanka Trump is the president's daughter and a senior White House adviser.
Those concerns included a written warning that the price proposal was at least twice the market rate. But Gates went through with it anyway, at a cost of $1.03 million, the suit says.
In one instance, Gates contacted Ivanka Trump and told her that he was "a bit worried about the optics" of the committee paying such a high fee, Racine said.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to first lady Melania Trump who played a leading role organizing the inaugural parties, had also told Trump, when he was president-elect, and Ivanka Trump that she was uneasy with the offer, Racine said. Winston Wolkoff later followed up with an email to Gates and Ivanka Trump warning that the hotel's proposal was at least twice the market rate, Racine said.
Prosecutors say the committee could have hosted inaugural events at other venues either for free or for reduced costs but didn't consider those options.
Gates pleaded guilty to charges tied to his lucrative political consulting work in Ukraine and was sentenced last month to 45 days in prison, a punishment that a judge said reflected the extensive cooperation Gates had provided to the Justice Department. Racine's office said investigators did not directly speak with Gates in as they pursued the suit.
A lawyer who represented Gates for the criminal proceedings didn't immediately return a message seeking comment. The White House didn't immediately return a message nor did the Trump Organization.
The suit contends that the hotel went against industry practice and refused to discount the space, and double-booked its largest ballroom with a different organization that was still affiliated with the inauguration, the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Breakfast. Both organizations were nonprofits, but the breakfast paid $5,000 for the ballroom. The committee, however, paid $175,000, the suit claims.
Prosecutors say the committee also used nonprofit funds to throw a private party on Jan. 17, 2017, the night off the inauguration, for Trump's family — a $300,000 affair. The reception was for three of Trump's children — Donald, Jr., Ivanka and Eric.
"There will be an after party at the OPO (Trump Hotel) following the inaugural balls on Friday. DJT is not expected to attend but was more for you, Don and Eric," Gates wrote in an email to Ivanka Trump, according to the suit. DJT is a reference to Donald J. Trump.
Event staff within the inaugural committee recognized this would not be a proper use of committee funds and had tried to cancel this event, according to the suit, but Gates and the Trump family went ahead anyway.
Racine said his office focused on the inaugural committee and the companies that profited because investigators believe that's the best option for them to possibly recover the funds.
Racine had been sending subpoenas for months related to the investigation. The inaugural committee was also being investigated by New York and state authorities in New Jersey, who are looking into, among other things, whether foreigners illegally contributed to the inaugural events.
Venezuela's opposition leader said Wednesday that he wants the European Union to broaden sanctions against members of the Venezuelan government as a way to push toward free presidential elections in the country.
Speaking in Brussels during a global tour that defied a year-long travel ban at home and sought allies' support to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Juan Guaidó also told The Associated Press that he is seeking a meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington.
"We are making all efforts to align as many agendas as possible," he said in an interview. "We don't rule it out. We are looking for a space."
Guaidó just missed an opportunity to meet the U.S. president in Europe. Trump was at the economic forum in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos on Tuesday and Wednesday, where the Venezuelan politician has a scheduled appearance on Thursday before he continues what he called an "intense agenda" that could also take him to France and Spain.
A year ago, Trump's administration rushed to throw its support behind Guaidó, the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, recognizing him as the country's legitimate president.
About 60 nations have also backed him, contending that Maduro's 2018 re-election was invalid and marred by fraud. Guaidó, however, has been unable to remove the Venezuelan president from power. Maduro controls key government institutions, the Supreme Court, the electoral board and the military.
Despite the setbacks, including a failed call for a military uprising last April, the Venezuelan opposition has continued to increase pressure on Maduro. This week, Guaidó's team is pushing hard to secure appearances with foreign heads of government, like he did on Tuesday with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Spain's new, left-wing government has said that Guaidó is welcome to visit the country, which hosts a large community of Venezuelans, but that he would be received by the foreign minister, not Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.
That has been read as the influence that the anti-austerity Podemos party wields in Sánchez's new coalition cabinet. Podemos' founder Pablo Iglesias, now a deputy prime minister, once criticized the Spanish government for backing Guaidó, saying that the Venezuelan opposition leader sought a coup d'etat with U.S. intervention and a "blood bath" in the Latin American country.
Asked about the influence of Podemos in a country key in shaping the EU's Venezuelan policy, Guaidó said he trusted Sánchez's "determination and love for the values of freedom, democracy and the support that Venezuela and the region need."
"This is not a problem of right or left. In Venezuela, the problem is about the dictatorship and the citizens who keep fighting for their democracy and their dignity," Guaidó said. "It's important not to see this with an ideological bias, but to understand clearly our demand for free elections."
The 36-year-old opposition leader also wants Europe to ban the trading of Venezuelan gold mined from the country's southern jungles, what he calls "blood gold" responsible for damages in the environment and local communities. The metal has increasingly become a source of revenue there.
And after the EU pledged last year to stiffen the bloc's sanctions against Venezuelan individuals if the now defunct talks hosted by Norway to reach a negotiated solution to the country's 7-year-long crisis failed, Guaidó said the moment had arrived.
"Dictatorships and dictators need to know that there are sanctions, that there is a responsibility and that they can't laugh at the world," he said.
After his meeting with the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, the European Foreign Affairs Office issued a statement saying that the bloc is committed "to support a genuine process toward a peaceful and democratic resolution of the crisis, based on credible and transparent presidential and legislative elections."
Guaidó also lamented the raid of his Caracas office on Tuesday night by Venezuela's powerful intelligence police unit, as well as the disappearance of Ismael León, a deputy in the National Assembly who the opposition said was taken by security forces.
He said those "attacks" were "unmasking the true nature of the dictatorship" but that he was nevertheless committed to returning to Venezuela.
"Without any doubt, I'm going back," he answered when asked whether he feared reprisals or detention. "I am the interim president of Venezuela and we are going to work from Caracas, despite the risk that it carries."