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Siberian air mass sweeps across Spain

by UNTV   |   Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2018

People make their way through snow in Canary Wharf, London, Britain, February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Tom Jacobs

Freezing weather dubbed as the “Beast from the East” swept in from Siberia, forcing some schools to close and snarling the travel plans of thousands across Europe.

Parts of eastern Britain have seen up to 10 cm of snow this week, Britain’s weather service said, with Kent, North Wales and the northeast of England as the worst-affected areas.

Cars stood still on the M20 motorway in Kent and hundreds of train services and some flights were canceled and schools were closed.

“I felt it wasn’t safe to open. You know I’m here but obviously, I can’t look after 420 children so that was why I made the decision. It’s still snowing now. The roads aren’t safe and I just didn’t want staff being put at risk,” Mulbarton Primary School headteacher  Bev Theobald said.

Meanwhile, yellow and orange alerts were issued nationwide in Spain. This, as rain, wind, rough seas, snow and low temperatures are expected to extend at least until Sunday, according to forecast.

The western Croatian town of Delnice in Croatia saw 182 cm of snow blanketing the area and temperatures hit a low of minus 20 degrees Celsius.

“Too much of it fell in a short period of time, that’s why this is such a problem,” said Bruno Kovac, a Delnice locale resident.

Boats in the Bakar Bay Marina on the Adriatic coast were covered with a thick layer of ice after sleet froze in sub-zero temperatures. Some sunk under the heavy weight of ice.

Meanwhile, videos and photographs posted on social media showed Corsica. France’s capital Ajaccio, blanketed with snow from Monday evening, as well as surrounding mountainous villages.

The cold snap triggered a jump in power prices in France, a country still largely reliant on electric heating. Nonetheless, state utility EDF said it was delaying planned maintenance outages at two nuclear reactors by a week. — Reuters

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London sky turns yellow as storm blows in Saharan dust, wildfires smoke

by UNTV   |   Posted on Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

The sky over London turned an unusual shade of yellow on Monday as storm Ophelia brought dust from the Sahara and smoke from wildfires in southern Europe that filtered out certain wavelengths of sunlight.

Downgraded from a hurricane overnight, Ophelia caused two deaths in Ireland on Monday, where it was the worst storm in half a century.

While winds were moderate in the British capital, the yellow sky surprised Londoners, many of whom posted pictures on social media.

“It is crazy. I’ve lived here for a while and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Dan Copping, a Londoner.

“The storm is blowing up more sand. It seems cool, but it is kind of scary,” said Greg, a local resident.

At least 35 people have been killed in wildfires raging through parched farmlands and forests in Portugal and neighboring Spain on Sunday and Monday.

Firefighters are battling 50 blazes in Portugal and a similar number in northwestern Spain.

Portugal’s government asked for international help and declared a state of emergency in territory north of the Tagus River — about half of its landmass.

Officials in Portugal and Spain said arsonists had started some of the blazes.

Spanish Interior Ministry said some of those responsible had already been identified. They could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted, police said. — Reuters




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Catalonia independence bid signed but on hold

by UNTV   |   Posted on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other regional leaders have signed a declaration of independence from Spain, following the disputed referendum. The document calls for Catalonia to be recognized as an “independent and sovereign state”.

However, they say the move will not be implemented for several weeks to allow talks with the government in Madrid.

The move was immediately dismissed by the Spanish central government in Madrid as the October referendum in the north-eastern province was declared invalid.

“The government cannot recognize as valid the Catalan law for the referendum because it is banned by the constitutional court. The Generalitat can’t take the results of the October 1st referendum because it was an illegal action,” said Spain Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

The referendum resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence, Catalan officials say. But anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot – which had a reported turnout of 43% – and there were several reports of irregularities.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government said Puigdemont should come back to the path of the law if he wants talks to take place and he has no right to impose a mediation with the government.

“Neither Mr. Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim to impose mediation. Any dialogue between Democrats has to take place within the law,” said the deputy prime minister.

The Spanish government will meet on Wednesday in Spain to decide on its response to this declaration. — Reuters



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Single new case can reignite Ebola outbreak if vigilance lost, says MSF

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Protective suits are left to dry after an Ebola training session held by Spain’s Red Cross in Madrid October 29, 2014.

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A decline in Ebola cases in West Africa must not result in a loss of vigilance because a single new case is enough to reignite an outbreak, international medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Monday.

The downward trend of new cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone should be used as an opportunity to focus efforts on addressing weaknesses in the response, otherwise progress made in stemming the deadly virus would be jeopardized, it said.

“We are on the right track, but reaching zero cases will be difficult unless significant improvements are made in alerting new cases and tracing those who have been in contact with them,” Brice de la Vingne, MSF head of operations, said in a statement.

“A single new case is enough to reignite an outbreak.”

In the past week fewer than 150 cases of disease were reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Sierra Leone remains hardest-hit, accounting for 117 of the 145 new confirmed cases, against 184 there the previous week and 248 the week before that, the WHO said on Thursday.

MSF said that there was almost no information sharing between the three worst-affected countries about tracing people who might have been in contact with Ebola patients.

“With people moving frequently across borders, it is essential that the surveillance teams based in each country collaborate immediately so that new cases are not imported into areas considered Ebola-free,” said de la Vingne.

MSF said that there were now just over 50 patients in its Ebola management centers across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

It said although cases were decreasing, hot spots persisted, for example in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

On Sunday WHO said it would create a contingency fund and an emergency workforce to respond quickly to crises after criticism of the agency’s response to the Ebola epidemic.

(Reporting By Magdalena Mis; Editing by Ros Russell)

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