Evacuations in California take place as storm approaches

Heavy equipment working to clear US Highway 101 following heavy rains in the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County, California. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
Updated 06 March 2019
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Evacuations in California take place as storm approaches

  • Up to 4 inches of rain is expected along the Central Coast
  • The weather service issued a flash-flood watch through Wednesday for all burn areas in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties

LOS ANGELES: A storm soaking California on Wednesday could trigger mudslides in wildfire burn areas where thousands of residents are under evacuation orders, authorities warned.
Up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain is expected along the Central Coast, and amounts could be higher in areas where thunderstorms develop, the National Weather Service said.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office ordered 3,000 residents to evacuate hillside neighborhoods scarred by fires — including parts of Montecito hit by a disastrous debris flow just over a year ago. Officials didn’t say how many people heeded the order.
Many customers pumping gas at Montecito’s Village Service Station on Tuesday said they’re not leaving, according to Ray Dunham, who works there.
“Nobody’s going into panic mode,” he said. “They think the threat is way over-exaggerated.”
Sheriff Bill Brown told a news conference earlier this week that the system is expected to be more intense than the last several storms. A map published by the county Office of Emergency Management indicates that much of Montecito is at risk.
“We do not take these evacuation orders lightly, and while we do know this is very inconvenient, if you are in an evacuation area, please know there is a high risk to life and property,” Brown said.
A January 2018 debris flow from the Thomas fire scar destroyed or damaged hundreds of Montecito structures, killed 21 people and left two others missing.
The weather service issued a flash-flood watch through Wednesday for all burn areas in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. However, the storm is expected to weaken slightly as it moves south toward greater Los Angeles, forecasters said.
To the north, heavy snowfall and high winds are predicted for the Sierra Nevada, where a series of blizzards has dumped mountains of snow. Motorists are warned that low visibility could impede travel on mountain passes.
The wettest winter in years has nearly eliminated drought conditions in the state. While frequently disrupting travel, the storms contributed a big part of the state’s water supply — the Sierra snowpack that melts and runs off into reservoirs during spring and summer.
The California Department of Water Resources reported last month that the Sierra snowpack was 153 percent of average to date.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.