India flood crisis mounts as 324 confirmed dead

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Flood affected people are rescued in a tractor, right as volunteers go for rescue work in a truck, left, at Kainakary in Alappuzha district, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
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Indian volunteers and rescue personal evacuate local residents in a residential area at Aluva in Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 17, 2018. (AFP)
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People are airlifted by the Indian Navy soldiers during a rescue operation at a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
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People help a woman disembark from an Indian Navy helicopter at a relief camp after being rescued from a flooded area in the southern state of Kerala, India, August 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Indian navy and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian volunteers and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in a boat in a residential area at Kozhikode, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Fire and Rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam near Eloor in Kochi's Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Fire and Rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an inflatable boat from a flooded area at Muppathadam near Eloor in Kochi's Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 15, 2018. Indian authorities on August 15 suspended all flights at Kochi international airport for three days as severe monsoon flooding took a growing toll in Kerala state. (AFP)
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Indian fire and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian commuters travel in a truck to a safer place as flood waters ravaged the National Highway 47 in Ernakulam district of Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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An Indian man walks through the premises of a hospital that was flooded due to heavy rains in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala state, India, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. (AP)
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Submerged vehicles on a flooded street are pictured following monsoon rains in Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
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People wait to be rescued in a country boat in a flooded area at Kainakary in Alappuzha district, Kerala state, India, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. (AP)
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A boy swims through flood waters to crossover to his house on the outskirts of Kozhikode district, about 385 km north of Trivandrum, in the south Indian state of Kerala, on August 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Indian navy and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in an boat at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018
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India flood crisis mounts as 324 confirmed dead

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall ‘red-alert’ has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI, India: The death toll from floods that have triggered landslides and sent torrents sweeping through villages in the Indian state of Kerala trebled Friday to 324, authorities said, amid warnings of worse weather to come.
Hundreds of troops and local fishermen are staging desperate rescue attempts with helicopters and boats across the southern state, which draws international tourists to its tropical hills and beaches.
Kerala has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year and is “facing the worst floods in 100 years,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Twitter statement, adding that 324 lives had been lost so far.
With thousands still trapped, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, authorities warned of more trouble ahead and further deaths to come.
“We are deploying more boats and the army to ramp up rescue operations,” senior state government official P.H. Kurian told AFP.
More than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats are attempting rescues across Kerala.
Authorities said thousands of people have been taken to safety so far but 6,000 more are still waiting for rescue.
Helicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while special trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala.

According to India’s weather bureau, since the beginning of June more than 321 centimeters (126 inches) of rain has fallen on the hilly central Kerala district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state.
With no end in sight to the deluge, people all over the state of 33 million have made panic-stricken appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services.
“My family and neighboring families are in trouble,” wrote Ajo Varghese, a resident of the coastal city of Alappuzha, in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.
“No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable... Please help,” he added.

Other messages have been sent from people trapped inside temples and hospitals as well as their homes.
The Kerala government has said it faces an “extremely grave” crisis and state chief minister Vijayan warned of a further rainfall hitting the battered region over the weekend. Strong winds have also been predicted for Saturday and Sunday.
The gates of dozens of dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reach danger levels, inundating many other villages.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the stricken state on Friday night, Vijayan’s office tweeted, with media reports saying the premier would undertake an aerial survey of the worst affected areas on Saturday.
North and central Kerala have been worst-hit by the floods with the international airport in the main city of Kochi shut until at least August 26.
At least 310,000 people displaced from across the state are taking shelter in more than 2,000 relief camps.
On top of tourist cancelations, Kerala’s valuable rubber industry has been badly hit by the floods.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes.
Reports said electricity supplies to more than half the state have been cut. The state power company said that only one million people were affected, however.
The home ministry announced separately that 868 people have been reported dead in seven Indian states including Kerala since the start of the monsoon in June.

 


British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

Updated 16 June 2019
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British envoy denies Iran summons over tanker attacks claim

  • “I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’,” he said
  • Iran’s foreign ministry said the head of its European affairs Mahmoud Barimani met Macaire on Saturday

TEHRAN: Britain’s ambassador to Iran on Sunday denied he was summoned by the Iranian foreign ministry after London accused Tehran of “almost certainly” being responsible for tanker attacks in the Gulf.
“Interesting. And news to me,” ambassador Rob Macaire said in a tweet a day after the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement that it had summoned the envoy over his government’s accusations.
“I asked for an urgent meeting with the Foreign Ministry yesterday and it was granted. No ‘summons’. Of course if formally summoned I would always respond, as would all Ambassadors,” Macaire wrote.
Iran’s foreign ministry said the head of its European affairs Mahmoud Barimani met Macaire on Saturday and “strongly protested against the unacceptable and anti-Iranian positions of the British government.”
On Friday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London had concluded Iran was “almost certainly” responsible for Thursday’s tanker attacks.
He was echoing remarks by US President Donald Trump who said Thursday’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman had Iran “written all over it.”
Iran has denied any involvement in the twin attacks.
It dismissed Hunt’s accusations as “false” and chided London for its “blind and precipitous alignment” with US views, according to the foreign ministry.
The latest incident comes as ties between Tehran and London have been strained in recent months, namely over the fate of a British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran on sedition charges.
London has repeatedly called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their infant daughter to visit her family.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government, has begun a hunger strike in protest at her detention, her husband said on Saturday.
She previously went on hunger strike in January.
Richard Ratcliffe urged the Iranian authorities to immediately release his wife and to allow the British embassy to check on her health, and also asked they grant him a visa to visit her.
On Saturday he also stood outside Iran’s London embassy and said he would maintain his own hunger strike and vigil for as long as his wife refused food.