Hundreds die in India, Pakistan after heaviest rain in 50 years

admin   •   September 10, 2014   •   2431

A Pakistani man uses a rope while he wades through a flooded field beside his house following heavy rain in Pindi Bhattian, Punjab Province September 9, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ZOHRA BENSEMRA

(Reuters) – The death toll from the heaviest rain to fall on Kashmir in 50 years rose to more than 400 on Tuesday, with thousands still trapped on rooftops and residents criticizing Indian and Pakistani authorities for not doing enough to help them.

On the Indian side of the heavily militarized Line of Control that divides the Himalayan region, the city of Srinagar lay submerged along with more than 2,000 villages.

“The damage is shocking,” a senior official from India’s National Disaster Response Force said in New Delhi. “People have been stranded on the rooftops of their homes for the last three days in some parts of Kashmir.”

The official, who requested anonymity, said he would have deployed disaster-response teams earlier, but “we were all caught off guard because there was not a single warning issued by the weather office. The flash floods took us by surprise”.

India’s meteorological department had forecast heavy rain in Kashmir last week, but the Central Water Commission, which issues flood advisories, has been criticized by Indian media for not warning the state.

Some 47,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in India, where 217 were reported dead by Tuesday. The Indian Air Force has air-dropped more than 550 tonnes of relief material, and 80 medical teams have established emergency health services in government schools and state-run health care centers.

The flooding is the first major humanitarian emergency under India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, but also comes at a difficult time for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has faced weeks of street protests aimed at forcing him out.

In Pakistan, the death toll was comparable, with at least 231 people reported dead across the country, including Pakistan’s side of Kashmir.

“With the memory of the catastrophic floods of recent years still fresh, many are wondering why the present calamity was not better predicted, flood warnings were not issued with more urgency, and mitigation measures not undertaken speedily,” Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.

In Pakistan, people still remember 2010, when the worst floods in generations affected some 20 million people and damage to infrastructure ran into billions of dollars.

LARGE GARRISON

India has hundreds of thousands of soldiers stationed in Kashmir, manning the border and conducting counter-insurgency operations against separatist militants in a decades-old conflict that claimed thousands of lives at its peak but has cooled in recent years.

Soldiers rescued families using boats or airlifted them from rooftops by helicopter after the river Jhelum burst its banks in Srinagar, but many more remained stranded.

“Fortunately, it is not raining in Kashmir today and we are now getting a chance to send our teams across the region to help tens of thousands of people who have been displaced,” Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

In Pakistan, at least nine people died and six were injured when the roof of a mosque collapsed after days of heavy rain in the city of Lahore, said a spokesman for the rescue operation there. Sixteen people were still trapped under the debris, he said.

“Rescue workers are trying to recover them,” he said.

Saeed Qureshi, an official at Pakistan’s State Disaster Management Authority, said the volume of rainfall had rendered contingency plans useless.

“Nobody can fight with nature,” Qureshi said. “We had made a contingency plan, identifying vulnerable populations along the banks of rivers and torrents, but rains with unexpected density wreaked havoc on the hilly areas beyond our imagination.”

He said the district of Haveli, which straddles the de facto border between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, had got 400 millimeters (15.75 inches) of rain in a day, which had “no parallel in the past 50 years”.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said this year’s monsoon rains had killed more than 1,000 people in India alone.

When flash floods killed 5,000 people two years ago in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, including many Hindu pilgrims, relief authorities were also criticized for their slow response.

(Additonal reporting by Rupam Jain Nair in NEW DELHI and Mubasher Bukhari in LAHORE; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Maria Golovnina, Larry King)

Iraqis defy tear gas, upcoming curfew as protests stretch on

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

 Iraqi protesters react after police fired tear gas at them during a protest at al-Tahrir square, central Baghdad, Iraq, 28 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MURTAJA LATEEF

Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).

Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.

More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.

Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.

A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.

Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)

READ: DFA cautions Filipinos against travel to Iraq

(Production: Haider Kadhim, Mohammed Al-Ramahi, Mohammed Katfan, Hannah Ellison)

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US Military: No footage on Baghdadi’s death will be released

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

US President Donald J. Trump answers a reporter’s question as he participates in a briefing with senior military leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on 07 October 2019. At right is United States Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. EPA-EFE/Ron Sachs

Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s remains had been disposed of and there were no plans to share footage on his death, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley announced on Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that al-Baghdadi had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Syria.

Trump said earlier that part of the footage on the operation would be released, but military sources said that the footage might expose some confidential information about the U.S. military, adding that the footage should go through strict checks before it is published.

The Associated Press on Monday released footage taken by a witness when the U.S. military launched a raid in northwestern Syria — but the authenticity of the footage has not been verified.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday expressed “prudent welcome” to Baghdadi’s death, saying the U.S. has made a big contribution to fighting terrorism “if confirmed”.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it does not have reliable information about the U.S. operation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria that allegedly killed IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Monday stressed that the extremist ideology and the support for it still exist in the Middle East, and the death of Baghdadi was a “creature” killed by the U.S.

On the same day, Iranian government Spokesman Ali Rabiee said al-Baghdadi’s death is the end of a symbol of “destructive terrorism,” and the U.S. should end its interventions in the Middle East. (Reuters)

Tokyo 2020 gymnastics, boccia venue unveiled

Robie de Guzman   •   October 29, 2019

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Tuesday (October 29) unveiled the new Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will host Gymnastic and Boccia events during the Tokyo 2020 Games.

The 12,000-seat, 30-meter height venue, whose construction was completed on 25 October, has no pillar in the performance area.

The central element of the architecture is a 90-meter spanned, local larch wood roof that arches over the building’s core.

Timbers of Larch were all domestically sourced including from Hokkaido, Nagano and Miyazaki prefectures to name a few.

The venue, located in the Ariake district of the Japanese capital that will host many other Olympic events, will be also used as an exhibition center when the Games are over.

One of the Tokyo 2020 officials at a press viewing of the venue, Koichi Fukui, told reporters that wood materials would eventually be used as partitions at exhibitions and all the bench boards would be recycled into shoe shelves for schools.

The venue will host the 34th FIG Trampoline Gymnastics World Championships in November. (Reuters)

(Production: Akira Tomoshige, Yoko Kono)

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