World Inside

South Africa floods declared national disaster

Publish: 12:47 PM, 19 Apr, 2022


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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday declared a national state of disaster over the deadly floods on the east coast, warning that rebuilding even basic services will take time.

"This is a humanitarian disaster that calls for a massive and urgent relief effort," he said in a televised address. "The lives, health and well-being of thousands of people are still at risk."

"The Port of Durban -- which is one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals on the continent and which is vital to our country's economy – has been severely affected," he said.

At least 443 people have died, with 48 still missing, around the east coast city of Durban, the president said.

Some badly damaged areas remain inaccessible, he added, including 16 schools that are completely cut off.

The state of disaster, similar to measures imposed to fight the Covid pandemic, unlocks additional resources to help rebuild.

To ease concerns around corruption which plagued Covid efforts, Ramaphosa said the government would create a special oversight body that will include the auditor-general, business and religious groups, as well as professional associations of engineers and accountants.

Earlier Monday, the military said 10,000 troops were deployed to help restore power and water and search for the missing.

But hopes for finding the missing were fading.

Clyde Naicker said his brother Ronald had been missing for a week, since he disappeared while trying to get to his job as a hospital radiographer.

"Apparently from what we heard, his vehicle got flooded and then he tried to go to safety," Naicker said. The family has been searching every day, but police only joined their effort on Monday.

For the hundreds of bodies that have been found, damaged roads and waterlogged cemeteries made burials difficult.

"There are so many deceased, and the mortuaries can't keep up because they have been so inundated," said Pieter van der Westhuizen, general manager for funeral services at the Avbob insurance company.

"So it is taking a little longer to get the deceased out for burial."

KZN Funeral Directors Association representative Nasan Chetty said the continuous rain had made it "very difficult to do burials".

"If we dig the graves and then come back to do the burial a few hours later it is water-logged," he told AFP.

- Water problem -

Swathes of eThekwini, the municipality that includes Durban, remain without electricity or water. Local government estimated that 80 percent of the city's waterworks were down.

Water tankers were being deployed across the region, but the authorities were struggling to fill them.

Some of the troops include plumbers and electricians, joining the mammoth task of trying to get life back to normal.

Many streets remain slathered with mud. In areas where repair crews have yetto reach, the homeless cleared roads to make way for water tankers to pass, an AFP correspondent observed.

Residents complained the water tankers came unannounced, with little discipline as families raced to fill receptacles.

"There is also a lot of pushing there. People are desperate -- they don't care about the next person," said Philakahle Khumalo, a 30-year-old mother of two.

The deadliest storm on record dumped apocalyptic levels of rain on Durban and the surrounding area.

Some 40,000 people were left homeless and more than 600 schools and 66 health care facilities have been damaged, Ramaphosa said.

Many children are due to return to class on Tuesday after the Easter break, but authorities warned that 271,000 students may not be able to attend due to damaged schools.

The government has announced an immediate one billion rand ($68 million) in emergency relief.

Nearly three dozen search teams were deployed across the region Monday, said coordinator Dave Steyn.

"The rescue operations have stopped. It's now more of a search and recovery," he told AFP.

- Shock -

The normally azure waters at Durban's famed beaches have been turned a muddy brown by the mountains of earth and debris washed to the shore.

The intensity of the floods took South Africa, the most advanced African economy, by surprise.

The country is still struggling to recover from the Covid pandemic and deadly riots last year that killed more than 350 people, mostly in the now flood- struck southeastern region.


South Africa   Flood   National Disaster  


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World Inside

Assam Flood Hit In10 Districts : 6 Lakh Affected

Publish: 01:57 PM, 02 Jun, 2024


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The flood situation in Assam persisted, affecting over 6 lakh people across 10 districts, officials said on Sunday. 

Heavy rainfall across the state caused rivers such as Kopili, Barak, and Kushiyara to surpass their danger levels, which forcing prompte evacuations to affected people in many areas for safety, they said. 

Among the affected districts are Hailakandi, Hojai, Morigaon, Karimganj, Nagaon, Cachar, Dibrugarh, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong West, and Dima Hasao, with a total of 6,01,642 people impacted by the floods.

The death toll from floods and storms since May 28 stands at 15. Nagaon remains the most severely affected district, with over 2.79 lakh people affected, followed by Hojai with 1,26,813 and Cachar with 1,12,265. Over 40,000 displaced individuals are seeking refuge in relief camps across various districts. Multiple agencies, including NDRF, SDRF, local administration, and volunteers, are conducting rescue and relief operations.

Furthermore, road and rail communications are disrupted in several parts of the state. Due to track damage and waterlogging, ten trains scheduled to depart from Saturday to Monday have been canceled, according to a spokesperson from Northeast Frontier Railway's Lumding division.


Assam   Flood  


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World Inside

US, UK launch new wave of strikes against Yemen's Huthis

Publish: 10:17 AM, 25 Feb, 2024


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American and British forces carried out a fresh wave of strikes Saturday against 18 Huthi targets in Yemen, following weeks of unrelenting attacks on Red Sea shipping by the Iran-backed rebels.

The strikes "specifically targeted 18 Huthi targets across eight locations in Yemen" including weapons storage facilities, attack drones, air defense systems, radars, and a helicopter, a joint statement said.

It was co-signed by Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand, who gave unspecified "support" to the new round of strikes, the second this month and fourth since the rebels began their attacks on ships in the region.

"The Huthis' now more than 45 attacks on commercial and naval vessels since mid-November constitute a threat to the global economy, as well as regional security and stability, and demand an international response," the statement said.

Huthi-run Al-Masirah television reported "a series of raids on the capital Sanaa," while AFP correspondents in the rebel-controlled city in western Yemen said they heard several loud bangs.

"The United States will not hesitate to take action, as needed, to defend lives and the free flow of commerce in one of the world's most critical waterways," Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a separate statement after the strikes.


"We will continue to make clear to the Huthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage, and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries."

Huthi military spokesman Yahya Saree was defiant, vowing in a social media statement that the rebels would "confront the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab Seas."

The UK Ministry of Defence said four Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s targeted "several very long-range drones, used by the Houthis for both reconnaissance and attack missions," on Saturday, at a site north-east of Sanaa.

Saturday's operation comes after several merchant vessels were struck this week in the region, including the fertilizer-filled Rubymar, whose crew had to abandon ship after it was hit Sunday and began taking on water.

Apart from the joint operations with Britain, the United States has also carried out unilateral strikes against Huthi positions and weaponry in Yemen, and downed dozens of missiles and drones in the Red Sea.

- Anti-ship missile downed -

Earlier on Saturday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) announced that an American Navy ship had shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile "launched into the Gulf of Aden from Iranian-backed Huthi controlled areas of Yemen."

The missile "was likely targeting MV Torm Thor, a US-Flagged, owned, and operated chemical/oil tanker," CENTCOM said on X, formerly Twitter.

US forces on Friday also shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles on land, CENTCOM said.

The Huthis say they are targeting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

Following previous US and UK strikes, the Huthis declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

The Huthis will "persist in upholding their religious, moral and humanitarian duties towards the Palestinian people, and their military operations will not stop unless the aggression stops and the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is lifted," military spokesman Saree said.

Anger over Israel's devastating campaign in Gaza -- which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 -- has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.



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World Inside

Israel strikes Gaza's Rafah as truce talks under way

Publish: 01:54 PM, 22 Feb, 2024


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Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza's Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.

Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.

International concern has spiralled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack against Israel.

More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.

International concern has in recent weeks centred on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.

The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighbouring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.

Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month's start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.

- 'My daughter' -

The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel's operation in Rafah would begin "after the evacuation of the population", although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.

In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighbourhood.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.

Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.

"I found my wife lying in the street," he told AFP. "Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran towards him and.... picked her up, realising she was really my daughter."

He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.

- 'Possibility of progress' -

Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday -- his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.

Hamas's chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.

Israel's Gantz said there were efforts to "promote a new plan for the return of the hostages".

"We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction."

Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an "agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance", but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.

Israel's parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden's administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.

Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas's October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.

The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls -- which Israel rejected as "despicable and unfounded claims".

Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack -- something Hamas has denied.

- 'Waiting for death' -

Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis -- a city just north of Rafah -- medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.

Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the "strongest possible terms".

When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had "fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring", adding that it "regrets" harm to civilians.

In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by "artillery shelling".

Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases -- claims that Hamas has denied.


Israel Strikes   Gaza's Rafah  


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World Inside

PM for doing business with India thro Tk, Rupee

Publish: 08:31 AM, 18 Feb, 2024


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today stressed the need for expanding business between Bangladesh and India using their own currencies.

"We can do our business through exchanges of Bangladeshi Taka and Indian Rupee. It has already started, but we have to expand it further so that we can increase our businesses," she said while Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar paid a call on the Prime Minister.

The meeting was held at Hotel Bayerischer Hof, the conference venue, here on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2024, this morning.

Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud briefed newsmen about the outcome of the meeting upon its completion.

The Foreign Minister said the Bangladesh Premier and Jaishankar attached importance to doing business between the two friendly countries through their own currencies to reduce dependency on other currencies like the US dollar.

He said Bangladesh and India have excellent bilateral relations and it has elevated to another height under the leadership of the prime ministers of the two countries.

"The relations between the countries are getting stronger day by day," he said, adding that the two leaders discussed the issues during the meeting.

Quoting Jaishankar, Hasan said, "Our relations will further be closer in the days ahead." 

Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and PM's Deputy Press Secretary Md. Noorelahi Mina were present during the briefing.

Bangladesh Prime Minister arrived in Munich on February 15 evening on a three-day official visit to join the Munich Security Conference 2024.

Upon completion of the tour, Sheikh Hasina will leave Munich tomorrow night and is scheduled to reach Dhaka on February 19.


(BSS)



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World Inside

PM calls for stopping Russia-Ukraine war as she talks with Zelenskyy

Publish: 08:27 AM, 18 Feb, 2024


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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon all concerned to find ways to stop Russia-Ukraine war while holding a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy here.

"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina always says we are against all kinds of war. Today, she discussed time and again about how the war can be stopped while holding talks with Zelenskyy," said Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud at a news briefing after the meeting.

The meeting between the two leaders was held at Hotel Bayerischer Hof here on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2024, this morning.

Hasan also said that they also discussed how the attacks on innocent men and women in Gaza can be stopped.

The Premier reminded all that war can't bring wellbeing for any one.

"Others can be benefitted from the war. But the war cannot bring welfare for the countries  involved in war and their people have to be affected by the war," said Sheikh Hasina.

In this connection, the Prime Minister recollected her memories about the sufferings of  the countrymen and she herself faced during the Great War of Liberation in 1971.

She recalled her inhuman sufferings and the birth of her only son Sajeeb Wazed Joy under the captivity of the Pakistani occupation forces during the War.

"Bangladesh's foreign policy - 'Friendship to all, malice to none’ - prominently came up in the discussion between Prime Minister and Zelenskyy," the foreign minister said.

Replying to a query, Hasan said the friendly relations between Bangladesh and Russia which got foundation during the Liberation war , will not hamper at all.

"Our relationship with Russia is very wonderful. Russia stood beside us during the Liberation War and played a pivotal role in rebuilding Bangladesh after the war," he said.

He said they only discussed how to stop the war.

Bangladesh Ambassador to Germany Md Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and PM's Deputy Press Secretary Md. Noorelahi Mina were present during the briefing.

Bangladesh Prime Minister arrived in Munich on February 15 evening on a three-day official visit to join the Munich Security Conference 2024.

Upon completion of the tour, Sheikh Hasina will leave Munich tomorrow night and is scheduled to reach Dhaka on February 19.


(BSS)



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