Death toll from Italy storms surges past 30

The governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, 2nd from right, checks the devastation left behind after a week of bad weather in the Veneto region, northeastern Italy, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018. (AP)
Updated 04 November 2018
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Death toll from Italy storms surges past 30

  • The bodies of nine people were found in their house in Casteldaccia in the Palermo region
  • Italy has dealt with a series of deadly storms for a week now, especially in the north and around Venice

ROME: Floods have killed 12 people on the southern island of Sicily, nine of them from the same family, rescue services said Sunday, taking the week’s toll across Italy past 30.
Six Italian regions remain on high alert for storms.
The bodies of nine people were found in their house in Casteldaccia in the Palermo region, next to a small river which had burst its banks, rescue services said.
The victims included children aged one, three, and 15.
Three other members of the family managed to escape, one by climbing a tree, the Agi news agency reported.
“I lost everything, I have nothing left, just my daughter,” one of the survivors, Giuseppe Giordano, told journalists.
His wife, two other children, his parents, brother, and sister all died, he said.
After flying over Casteldaccia Sunday, Sicilian prosecutor Ambrogio Cartosio described a “total disaster.”
Officials have opened an investigation to determine whether houses built near the river met legal safety norms.
In a separate incident, a 44-year-old man was found dead in his car near Vicari, also in the Palermo region.
He had been trying to reach a service station to help a colleague trapped there. A passenger in the car is still missing.
Rescue workers are also searching for a doctor forced by the storms to abandon his car near the town of Corleone after trying to drive to work at the hospital there.
Two other people, a man and a woman, died after their car was caught in the floods in the region of Agrigente, a little further south on the island.
Troops were deployed to check the condition of the main roads on the Mediterranean island Sunday.
Earlier this week, floods in Sicily closed many roads and mayors ordered schools, public parks, and underpasses shut.
Italy has dealt with a series of deadly storms for a week now, especially in the north and around Venice.
The severe weather has caused massive damage and disruption. Trees in mountainside forests in the northeast of the country were flattened like matchsticks.
“It’s like after an earthquake,” said the governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia. “Thousands of hectares of forest were razed to the ground, as if by a giant electric saw.”
On Sunday, after flying over the region with Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, Zaia said the storms had destroyed 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of pine forest in all.
Salvini posted photos of the devastation in a series of tweets Sunday after flying over the Alpine town of Belluno.
“We need 40 billion euros ($45.5 billion) to secure the national territory,” he said.
He pledged to collect and spend that sum but, in a barbed aside to the European Union, said he hoped his plans would not provoke overspending complaints from Brussels.
Europe has objected to Italy’s proposed budget, which it says will worsen the country’s already huge deficit.
The canal city of Venice, on Italy’s northeast coast, has also experienced some of its worst flooding ever, and withstood winds of up to 180 kilometers an hour (110 miles an hour).
The picturesque fishing village of Portofino near Genoa, a famed holiday resort on the Italian riviera, was only reachable by sea after the main road collapsed.
An emergency path opened to let residents out was deemed too dangerous.
Italy’s civil protection agency has described the weather lashing the country this week as “one of the most complex meteorological situations of the past 50 to 60 years.”


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 19 April 2019
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”