Storm kills 20 in eastern India; Kashmir floods toll rises to 16

Updated 31 March 2015
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Storm kills 20 in eastern India; Kashmir floods toll rises to 16

SRINAGAR: In eastern India, the Bihar state government said at least 20 people were killed when heavy downpours and lightning struck parts of the state late Monday. Strong winds uprooted trees and many houses collapsed in the state capital, Patna, and in Purnia and Katihar districts, it said in a statement.
In the Himalayan region of Kashmir, rescuers recovered 16 bodies Tuesday from two houses hit by rain-triggered landslides, following its second major floods in six months.
Elsewhere in India, fierce rain and lightning toppled houses and trees in Bihar state, killing 20 others.
Police and volunteers worked around the clock to clear the debris in Laden village in Kashmir’s Budgam district, police Superintendent Fayaz Ahmed said.
Floodwaters were receding in Kashmir, but residents of the main city of Srinagar were bracing for more trouble after predictions of additional rain in the next few days. Rains over the weekend were the worst since the region was hit by devastating floods last September that destroyed thousands of homes and $17 billion worth of infrastructure.
Many rivers in Kashmir were above their danger levels. Hundreds of people were staying in relief camps after the state government ordered them to leave low-lying areas.
Many faulted the government for failing to anticipate last year’s flooding and taking too long to respond. Prime Minister Narendra Modi dispatched a special team on Monday to assess the needs from the current floods and get relief efforts moving.
On the Pakistani side of the border, which was hit worse by last year’s flooding, authorities said the situation was improving, although the Neelum and Jhelum Rivers were perilously close to overflowing their banks.
“Both the rivers are still swollen,” said Akram Sohail, an official with the government disaster management department in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir.


British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

Updated 32 min 58 sec ago
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British PM May: 'I will not break up my country for EU Brexit deal'

  • Theresa May hits back with angry statement after EU leaders rejected May’s Chequers plan
  • Sterling plummets as both sides warn they are planning for a no-deal scenario

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday Brexit talks with the European Union had hit an impasse, defiantly challenging the bloc to come up with their own plans a day after the bloc’s leaders savaged her proposals.
At a summit in Austria on Thursday, EU leaders rejected May’s “Chequers” plan, saying she needed to give ground on trade and customs arrangements for the UK border with Ireland.
The British media said the response had left her proposals in tatters, and May angrily struck back in a televised address from her Downing Street office, saying neither side should expect the impossible from the other.
“Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect,” May said. “The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.”
Sterling extended its losses as May spoke, falling to as low as $1.3080, about 1.4 percent on the day, putting it on course for its biggest one-day drop this year, over growing fears Britain could leave the EU without any deal.
May has said the Chequers proposals for trade with the EU, which would resolve arguments over the border of Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic, were the only way forward. EU leaders in Salzburg repeated their view that the plans would undermine their cherished single market.
After the summit, EU leaders said they would push for an agreement next month, but both sides have warned they are planning for a no-deal scenario.
“It’s not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals,” May said. “So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are, what their alternative is, so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”
May, who commands a majority in parliament only with the support of a small pro-Brexit Northern Irish party, said she could not agree to any deal which treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The EU insists that there can be no hard border between the British province and the Irish Republic, with Northern Ireland remaining in the bloc’s customs union or effectively establishing a border in the Irish Sea if no alternative deal is reached.
“I will not overturn the result of the referendum nor will I break up my country,” she said. “We need serious engagement on resolving the two main problems in the negotiations and we stand ready.”
However, she said no matter what happened, the rights of three million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom would be protected.
Earlier, her Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said some EU leaders had shown unstatesmanlike behavior in Salzburg.
“We’ve already compromised hugely with the Chequers proposals,” Raab told BBC TV. “What we’re not going to do is be salami sliced throughout this negotiation in a typical style that the EU engages in without movement on the other side.”
For the British media, the message from Salzburg had been clear. “Your Brexit’s broken,” the Daily Mirror newspaper said.
Newspapers led their front pages with a Reuters picture showing May, dressed in a red jacket, standing apparently aloof and alone from a mass of suited male EU leaders.
May faces a fight with angry Conservative lawmakers at her party’s annual conference from Sept. 30.
Many have voiced opposition to her plans, which they said would bind Britain into much EU regulation in return for free trade, and some would prefer a no-deal “hard Brexit” in March, despite warnings that would ravage the British economy.
“Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy has been a disaster,” opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said. “The Tories have spent more time arguing among themselves than negotiating with the EU.
“The political games from both the EU and our government need to end because no deal is not an option.”
In response to May’s statement, the Confederation of British Industry and other business bodies said they wanted to see constructive dialogue, not rhetoric.
Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan added his voice to those including union and business leaders who said there should be a second Brexit referendum. Scotland’s top court ruled on Friday that the European Court of Justice should consider whether Britain could unilaterally change its mind on Brexit.
“The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone,” said May, who has repeatedly ruled out a second vote following the original 2016 referendum. “To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy.”