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.


Trump envoy urges Russia help free journalist Austin Tice held in Syria

Austin Tice. (Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Trump envoy urges Russia help free journalist Austin Tice held in Syria

  • Tice was 31 years old when he was abducted in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad

WASHINGTON: A Trump administration envoy on Tuesday urged Syria’s ally Russia to push for the release of Austin Tice, an American freelance journalist kidnapped in Syria six years ago.
Robert O’Brien, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy for hostage affairs, said Trump would take measures necessary to facilitate Tice’s freedom if it would help. He did not elaborate on the measures.
“We are continuing to call on the Russians to exert whatever influence they have in Syria to bring Austin home,” he said. The Syrian government says it is unaware of Tice’s whereabouts.
O’Brien came to Trump’s defense when asked why the president has made no public pronouncements on Tice but had spoken out in the cases of Americans held in Turkey, North Korea and Iran. He said Trump and his top aides are closely tracking the case.
O’Brien spoke at a news conference called to announce a National Press Club drive for private donations to match a $1 million FBI reward for information leading to Tice’s freedom.
Tice was 31 years old when he was abducted in August 2012 while reporting in Damascus on the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
He has not been heard from publicly since a video posted online weeks after he disappeared showed him in the custody of armed men. O’Brien said the United States believes Tice is alive but did not elaborate on the journalist’s condition.
Washington has declined to identify who it believes is holding Tice but has sought the help of Russia, Assad’s main foreign backer in the civil war, and other countries.
Tice’s father, Marc Tice, said that he and his wife will travel to Beirut later this year on at least their seventh trip to apply for visas to enter Syria to seek their son’s release.