Kuwait to host Iraq reconstruction summit

Destroyed buildings from clashes are seen in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq July 10, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 January 2018
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Kuwait to host Iraq reconstruction summit

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait will host an international conference in February on the reconstruction of war-torn Iraq, in cooperation with the World Bank and private companies, it said Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said that despite “past wounds” — a reference to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait — his country had a “moral, humanitarian and Arab” duty to support its neighbor.
“The stability of Iraq is the stability of Kuwait and the region,” he said.
Iraqi forces have regained swathes of territory from the Daesh group since the jihadists seized a third of Iraq and large parts of Syria in 2014.
In December, Baghdad declared victory over the group following three years of war.
The Kuwait conference, from February 12-14, will devote its second day to the role of the private sector and civil society organizations in reconstruction, Jarallah said.
Mehdi Al-Alaq, the secretary general of Iraq’s Council of Ministers, said Baghdad and the World Bank had estimated reconstruction would cost at least $100 billion (84 billion euros).
“ISIS displaced 5 million people,” he said, speaking alongside Jarallah in Kuwait City.
“We succeeded in returning half to their areas, but we need international support to return the rest of the displaced.”
The International Organization for Migration said last week that by the end of 2017, more than 3.2 million Iraqis had returned home, but 2.6 million remained displaced.
Nearly one third are reported to have returned to houses that have been significantly or completely damaged, it said.
Alaq said heavy damage had also affected oil, electricity, transport, communications and manufacturing infrastructure as well as basic services such as water and sanitation.
Some Iraqis have complained of delays by central authorities in launching reconstruction efforts.
Baghdad has argued that the world “owes” it a program similar to the United States’ multi-billion dollar post-war Marshall Plan for Europe.


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

Updated 6 min 17 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.