Syrian activists say explosion near Turkish border kills 5

Syrian citizens and civil defense workers gathering next of burning car at the explosion scene, in Azaz town, north Syria, Wednesday, May 3, 2017. (Azaz Media Office via AP)
Updated 03 May 2017
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Syrian activists say explosion near Turkish border kills 5

BEIRUT: A large explosion shook a rebel-held Syrian town along the border with Turkey on Wednesday, killing at least five people and wounding others.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a car bomb went off in the town of Azaz close to the offices of the Syrian interim government, which represents the opposition in rebel-held areas. The Observatory and the activist-run Azaz Media Center confirmed the toll, which was likely to rise.
The blast came as the Syrian government and the opposition resumed cease-fire talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, that are sponsored by Russia, a close ally of President Bashar Assad.
The United States is sending a senior State Department official to the talks, and President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signaled greater cooperation on Syria in a phone call on Tuesday. The White House said the two discussed setting up safe zones in the country, where a civil war has been raging for more than six years.
Syrian TV said the Astana talks began with a meeting between delegations from Russia and Iran, another close ally of Assad.
Azaz is on a key opposition supply route, and is a hub for fighters and opposition activists. It also hosts people displaced from fighting elsewhere in the country. The town has been the scene of several attacks, some claimed by the Daesh group. A huge explosion in January killed at least 50 people in Azaz.
A video of the aftermath of Wednesday’s explosion posted online by the Azaz Media Center showed burnt-out cars and firefighters struggling to put out a blaze. Gunfire rang out as people gathered at the scene and ambulances arrived.
The Turkish Dogan news agency said some of the wounded were taken to the state hospital in the Turkish border town of Kilis for treatment.


In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

Updated 7 min 19 sec ago
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In Jordan’s ancient Petra, sirens warn of flash floods

  • Earlier this month, sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site
  • The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters

PETRA, Jordan: In ancient times, Arab tribesmen dug diversion tunnels to protect their low-lying trading post of Petra against desert flash floods. More than two millennia later, an alarm system warns visitors if flood water rushes toward what has become Jordan’s main tourist attraction.
Earlier this month, the alarms were activated for the first time, said Hussein Al-Hasanat of the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority. Sirens blared minutes before a torrent fed by heavy rains approached the UNESCO World Heritage site carved into rose-hued rock face.
Hundreds of tourists were able to seek higher ground and were later evacuated, he said.
Amateur video posted online at the time showed visitors running through a steep, narrow canyon leading to the Treasury, Petra’s main draw, as guides urged them to hurry. Later, visitors were seen standing on a higher patch near the Treasury as knee-high water poured through the canyon.
Elsewhere in Jordan, such alarms are still missing. Thirty-four people were killed in flash floods in late September and early November.
The last fatal flash flood struck Petra in 1963 when 22 French tourists and a local guide were killed by rapidly rising waters. In response, Jordan’s Department of Antiquities built a dam to keep water from entering the canyon leading to the Treasury.
In 2014, the alarm system was installed as added protection, with sirens set to go off when flood water rises above four meters (yards).
On Nov. 9, the system was triggered for the first time, through a computer in the Petra Authority’s control room. The computer is connected to eight rain forecast systems and two water detection stations placed in the area, within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of Petra.
The network generates instant data allowing officials to measure possible danger and warn people by the time the water reaches Petra.
Omar Dajani, a meteorologist at the Arabia Weather company, said alarms should be installed in all vulnerable areas in Jordan.
He said urban sprawl has exacerbated the flood risk, which is particularly high in dry areas.
“Now towns have spread so much and many of them were not built with respect for the geography of the region, such as valleys for example, where the water has naturally caused floods for millions of years,” Dajani said.