24 million affected by South Asia floods: Red Cross

Tue, 2017-08-22 13:55

GENEVA: More than 24 million people have been affected by some of the worst flooding to hit South Asia in decades, with large areas of land submerged in water, the Red Cross Tuesday.
Authorities in Bangladesh, India and Nepal have put the death toll at more than 750 since August 10, when a series of deluges began spreading with the annual monsoon season.
“The situation is going from bad to worse,” Red Cross under secretary-general Jagan Chapagain said in a statement, confirming the death toll given by regional authorities.
“Almost one third of Nepal has been flooded. One third of Bangladesh is flooded,” he told reporters.
“This is the worst flooding that parts of South Asia have seen in decades.”
Flood waters in the three countries have left hundreds of people stranded and entire communities cut off from road access, according to the Red Cross.
Many villages are now only accessible by boat and “are running out of food” with clean water also in short supply, the organization added.
“The number of people affected is rising by the hour as waters rush south,” Chapagain said.
He added the devastating flooding has been triggered in part by the monsoons but is “also a result of the lack of proper water management,” in all three countries.
The organization has launched a 3.5 million Swiss francs ($3.6 million, 3.1 million euros) international appeal to help authorities in Nepal.
Chapagain said a similar global appeal to help Bangladesh deal with the disaster could be launched soon, while India is seen as having the resources needed to respond without foreign help.
The heavy rain has also taken a toll on wildlife, with rescue teams pulling stranded animals from raging waters in India’s Kaziranga National Park, including rare one-horned rhinos and other endangered species.

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2 children pulled from rubble on quake-hit Italian island

Tue, 2017-08-22 03:00

MILAN: Firefighters in Italy freed a 7-month-old baby and his older brother from rubble early Tuesday following a 4.0-magnitude quake on the resort island of Ischia off Naples, and rescuers were working on helping a third brother who remained trapped.
At least one person — an elderly woman who was inside a church that collapsed — was killed in the quake that struck just before 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) Monday. Another 39 were injured and some 2,600 were left homeless.
Video released from the firefighting service showed rescuers passing the baby, who was wearing a white onesie and appearing alert, out of the collapsed structure in hardest-hit Casamicciola at around 4 a.m. The news agency ANSA said cries of joy went up in the crowd and the boys’ mother ran to take him.
One of the baby’s brothers was rescued some seven hours later, and quickly loaded onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.
A firefighter photo showed the boy, identified as Mattias, being pulled out of the rubble in just his underwear covered with cement dust. Firefighters said on Twitter that they had reached the other boy, named Ciro, and were working on extracting him.
The children’s father told RAI state television that boys were in a bedroom when the quake struck, while he and his wife were elsewhere in the house. The mother, who Italian media say is heavily pregnant, managed to escape through a window while rescuers helped the father.
Firefighter spokesman Luca Cari said they maintained voice contact with the two boys during the complex rescue operation to create an opening through the collapsed ceiling. The boys had been given bottles of water and a flashlight.
“We are in touch with both of the boys. We hear their voices and we are making ours heard to keep them calm,” Cari was quoted by ANSA as saying.
The quake hit during the height of the tourist season, and Italian television showed many visitors taking refuge in parks following the quake. Authorities began organizing ferries to bring tourists back to the mainland early Tuesday.
Together with the nearby island of Capri, Ischia is a favorite island getaway for the European jet set, famed in particular for its thermal waters. Casamicciola was the epicenter of an 1883 earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.
Images from the quake zone show many buildings collapsed into rubble, while others showed signs of structural damage with deep cracks in exterior walls. Cars were overturned.
The extent of the damage for a relatively light quake raised questions about the quality of construction on the island in the seismically active area off Naples and the active volcano, and the prevalence of illegally built structures.
Fabrizio Pistolesi, the head of Italy’s national architecture advisory board, told SKY that many buildings on the island were built before seismic codes were adopted. He also cited the high incidence of illegal construction on Ischia and generally in the Campagna region that includes both the resort island and Naples.
“We know well that in Campagna, more than 200,000 homes were illegally constructed, we are talking about homes constructed in absolute scorn of seismic norms,” he told Sky TG24.
Former Naples prosecutor Aldo De Chiara told Corriere della Sera that most of the recently constructed buildings on Ischia were built without necessary permits, and many with poor quality cement. “We warned about the risk of collapses also in the case of not particularly serious temblors,” De Chiara said. “Unfortunately, what we had denounced, happened last night.”
The head of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, told reporters that 2,000 people had been left homeless in Casamicciola and another 600 in Lacco Ameno. He said authorities were checking the stability of hotels to see if they could be used as temporary housing.
The quake came just two days shy of the one-year anniversary of a powerful 6.2-magnitude earthquake that devastated several towns in central Italy. The quake on Aug. 24, 2016 killed more than 250 people in Amatrice and beyond and set off a months-long series of powerful aftershocks that emptied many towns and hamlets of their people.

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Combating the PA’s manipulation of humanitarian aid

The Palestinian Authority’s penchant for divisive politics plumbed to new lows after Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki announced the delivery of three truckloads of medical supplies to Venezuela. Social media reacted harshly as the PA exploited the suffering of the people in Venezuela and Gaza, pointing out — rightly so — the inconsistency of aiding one nation while driving Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave toward an even more catastrophic humanitarian disaster. For several weeks, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has proclaimed that Gaza will face further cuts if Hamas does not adhere to the authority’s political impositions and step back from the governance of the enclave. Sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela at a time when Palestinians in Gaza have been deprived […]

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Algeria gives money to Africa to win support, says Moroccan King

The Moroccan King Mohammed VI made a speech on the 64th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People in which he said, “Morocco’s commitment to – and interest in – Africa are by no means a coincidence; nor are they the result of transient considerations. They reflect a sense of loyalty to a shared history and illustrate our firm belief that ours is a common destiny.” King Mohammed VI overlooked the disappointments and failures suffered by his kingdom and instead promoted the “unprecedented successes achieved in the past few months in the African continent”. The Moroccan King claimed that his country’s policy towards Africa is linked to “a firm approach adopted by Morocco in this regard since […]

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Abbas: I do not understand Trump’s peace plan

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has told Israeli politicians that he cannot understand US President Donald Trump’s proposed peace plan, despite having met US envoys some 20 times. In a meeting with the left-wing party Meretz on Sunday in Ramallah, Abbas expressed confusion at the Trump administration’s alleged support for PA demands behind closed doors, but their unwillingness to go against the Israeli government, according to Haaretz. “I can’t understand how they are conducting themselves with us,” he said, according to one participant’s notes. “Every time they [US envoys] repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say […]

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Palestinian refugees in Syria ask UNRWA to deliver aid to opposition areas

Palestinian refugees who fled Damascus have called on the UN Refugee Agency (UNRWA) to deliver assistance to them at their current residences in the areas controlled by the opposition, Anadolu reported on Monday. The Task Group for Palestinian Refugees in Syria published messages sent by the refugees to UNRWA pointing out the suffering and danger they would face if they returned to Damascus or areas controlled by the Syrian regime to receive their assistance. In these messages the Palestinian refugees expressed their grief and sadness that they are deprived of their assistance, including medical care, education, food and cash payments as they are living far away from their homes. Read: The forgotten Palestinians in the Syrian hell Most young people […]

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Sixth Indonesian province declares emergency as fires spread

Associated Press
Tue, 2017-08-22 03:00

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency says the number of dry season fires has jumped to more than 500 and a sixth province has declared a state of emergency.
Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said Tuesday that satellite images show 538 fires across 23 provinces, up from about 160 early in the month.
Plantation companies and villagers often set fires deliberately to clear land for planting. They spread easily because a widespread practice in Indonesia of draining swampy peatlands for palm oil and pulp wood plantations has made swathes of land highly combustible.
Nugroho said Central Kalimantan was the latest province to declare a state of emergency.
In 2015, record fires burned 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) and blanketed Sumatra, Borneo, Singapore, Malaysia and southern Thailand in health-damaging haze.

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