South Asia floods claim more than 750 lives

Women carry children as they make their way through a flooded area in Bogra, Bangladesh,on Sunday. (Reuters)
Updated 21 August 2017
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South Asia floods claim more than 750 lives

NEW DELHI: More than 750 people have died in floods across South Asia, officials said Monday, with monsoon rains also causing the deaths of hundreds of animals, including rhinos and a tiger.
The human toll is steadily rising across India, Nepal and Bangladesh following the latest in a series of deluges since Aug. 10, as the annual monsoon hits the north and east of the region.
Nearly 50 bodies were found overnight in Bihar, in India’s east, taking the number of dead there to 253, a state disaster official told AFP.
In Nepal, 143 people have died and 30 remain missing after flooding that has destroyed close to 80,000 homes.
The heavy rain has also taken a toll on India’s wildlife, with rescue teams pulling stranded animals from raging waters in Kaziranga National Park.
The sanctuary in northeastern Assam state, home to the world’s largest population of rare one-horned rhinos and other endangered species, has been especially hard hit.
“Our teams have recovered 225 dead animals since Aug. 12. Of those, 15 were rhinos,” Kaziranga Director Satyendra Singh told AFP.
“A Bengal tiger also died in a fight with a herd of elephants. He was left injured and later could not walk or swim. It is possible that due to floods, there was a space crunch and it led to a territorial conflict.”
Nearly 200 deer, four elephant calves, four wild boars, two water buffaloes and one porcupine were among the other animals found dead in Kaziranga, which is still 20 percent under water, said Singh.
“The toll could rise further,” he added.
The mighty Brahmaputra River, which runs through Assam, often breaks its banks during the monsoon leaving marooned animals scrambling to higher, dryer ground.
Conservationists worry that poachers, hunting for lucrative rhino horn, will try and capitalize on the exodus of wildlife from the protection of the jungle.
Singh said his teams had already taken precautions, erecting barricades and increasing patrols.
The park, a tourist magnet home to about 2,500 rhinos, was given a huge publicity boost last year when Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate visited during their tour of India. But like other parts of the region, it is prone to flooding during the monsoon.
Across Assam and West Bengal, 122 people have died while 69 people have perished in Uttar Pradesh state.
In the Himalaya region in India’s northwest, landslides caused by heavy rain have claimed 54 lives, the vast majority in one huge avalanche of mud that swept two buses off a mountainside.
Across the border in Bangladesh, 115 people have died and 5.7 million are affected by raging downpours.


UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

Updated 27 sec ago
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UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government had begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan, pressing on with a proposal criticized by both wings of her Conservative Party.
After narrowly escaping defeat in parliament over her plans for leaving the EU, May signalled she would not drop a proposal on Britain’s future relationship with bloc — the biggest shift in its foreign and trade policy for almost half a century.
But by sticking to her plan for a “business-friendly” departure, May has thrown down the gauntlet to Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers in her party who are at war with each other, and — for some — with the prime minister herself.
Boris Johnson, her former foreign minister who quit over what is called the Chequers plan, was one of the first to renew his call for government to rethink its strategy, saying “it is not too late to save Brexit.”
But at an earlier session of parliament, May stood firm after being challenged by one pro-Brexit lawmaker in her party to explain when she had decided to change her catchphrase from “Brexit means Brexit,” to “Brexit means Remain.”
“Brexit continues to mean Brexit,” May said to cheers from her Conservative supporters.
May also said talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document last week after her divided government had thrashed out a deal at her Chequers country residence.
The prime minister insisted she was confident Britain had enough time to negotiate a deal with the EU before leaving in March next year.
While May’s party is in disarray over the plan, EU member Ireland also said it was focusing on the white paper, unwilling to be diverted over the changes to her Brexit plans forced through in parliament this week.
“If we get distracted by individual amendments to individual pieces of legislation ... then I think we get dragged into an unnecessary debate that wastes a lot of time and energy,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.

“WE CAN CHANGE“
May’s vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her majority in an ill-judged election last year, was laid bare on Monday and Tuesday when she faced rebellions from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.
She won the votes on a customs and a trade bill, but suffered an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment, which means her government must now seek continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
But the government’s approach to securing victory in parliament has not only deepened divisions in her party, but also raised the issue of trust.
One Conservative lawmaker told Reuters the party whips, whose job it is to enforce discipline in parliament, had threatened to call a confidence vote in May if she lost — a move that could bring down the government.
Johnson, figurehead of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, led those calls in his resignation speech to parliament. He criticized the government for handing an advantage to the EU by agreeing in the talks to a divorce bill before agreeing a future relationship.
“We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can change again,” he said. “It is as though a fog of self-doubt has descended,” Johnson said. “We should not and need not be stampeded by anyone.”