Macedonia storms kill 20

WRONG TURN: A man takes a photo of damaged vehicles following floods in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2016
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Macedonia storms kill 20

SKOPJE: Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia’s capital of Skopje, the health minister said Sunday.
The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 km an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents.
Weather officials said the average rainfall for the whole of August fell on Skopje in the space of just two hours. “Unfortunately, 20 people have died,” said Health Minister Nikola Todorov, who is coordinating rescue operations.
Local media reported that about 100 others suffered injuries, most of them minor, while a hospital source told AFP that an eight-year-old girl was among the dead.
An emergency was declared in Skopje and certain parts of the northwestern city of Tetovo, where heavy storms caused property damage but no casualties.
“This is a disaster, we have never experienced such a thing,” said Skopje’s Mayor Koce Trajanovski. Rain began falling at 5:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) on Saturday and stopped only around 9:30 on Sunday morning, with the peak of the storm in the middle of the night, around 3:30 am.
Reports said the water level reached as high as five feet in some of the affected areas, which were being combed by Macedonia’s police and army for survivors and other victims.
Especially badly hit were villages on the outskirts of the capital including Smilkovci, Singelic, Stajkovci and Aracinovo.
“Everything was a mess. Televisions, the fridge, the sofa, everything was floating... it was a nightmare,” said Baze Spriovski, a 43-year-old in Singelic, who remained without electricity.
Macedonia’s weather service said 93 liters per square meter fell in two hours on Skopje, equivalent to the average for an entire month of August.
Meteorologists said more than 800 lightning strikes were recorded in the first two hours of the storm, which went on for about five hours in total.
“There were thunderbolts with lightning almost every second. It was really horrific,” said Biljana Joneska, 62, in Skopje.
Municipal authorities urged people to avoid going out in the streets, especially driving, with several roads of the capital still flooded and traffic interrupted on the city’s ring road.
Severe thunderstorms also affected the holiday spot of Lake Ohrid in the southwest.
Skopje previously suffered disastrous flooding in 1962, a year before a huge earthquake that almost destroyed the city.
In the spring of 2014, the Balkans region was hit by its worst floods in more than a century, which left 47 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia.
A total of 1.6 million people were affected.
The forecast for Sunday showed unsettled weather in landlocked Macedonia, with possible new showers and strong winds.


Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

Updated 20 April 2019
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Macron sparks Turkish anger by meeting Syrian Kurds

  • Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants
  • Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups”

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday hosted representatives of the Kurdish-led force that defeated Daesh extremists in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Turkey’s foreign ministry.
Macron assured the Kurdish envoys of French support in their fight against the remaining militants, but Ankara accused the French leader of “seeking to confer artificial legitimacy on a faction of terrorist groups.”
“We condemn the reception by French President Emmanuel Macron of a delegation of so-called ‘Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF),” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in the statement.
In late March the US-backed SDF flushed out Daesh fighters from their last bastion in Syria but Kurdish-led force still warns that the militants remain a threat in places.
The SDF is an umbrella Kurdish-Arab force dominated by Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG). It is regarded with huge distrust by neighboring Turkey which sees the YPG as a terror group.
Macron assured the visiting SDF representatives, who were not named, of the “active support of France in the fight against Daesh which continues to be a menace for collective security,” the presidency said in a statement, using an Arabic acronym for Daesh.
Particularly important is the support in the “handling of terrorist fighters held as prisoners along with their families.”
European capitals are keeping a careful eye on the Daesh prisoners held by the SDF after the defeat of the militants, given many are dual nationals.
Macron also vowed that financial support would be allocated to “respond to the humanitarian needs and the socio-economic stabilization of civilian populations in Syria.”
The SDF were the West’s key ally in defeating Daesh and waged the bulk of the fighting on the ground.
But they fear being abandoned by their patrons now Daesh has been beaten, after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria.
France’s past contacts with the SDF’s Syrian Kurds had already angered Turkey which regards the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a 35-year insurrection against the Turkish state.
Macron on Friday made clear of the importance to Paris of “the security of Turkey and a de-escalation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the French presidency said.
But Aksoy said Macron’s move did not sit well with the French-Turkish alliance, and warned that “Turkey will not hesitate to take measures deemed necessary to protect its national security.”