Man taking selfie among seven dead in Iran storms

Torrential rain caused flooding across Iran. (Social Media)
Updated 18 February 2017

Man taking selfie among seven dead in Iran storms

TEHRAN: A man taking a selfie after an Iranian dam burst was among at least seven people killed as floods, avalanches and dust storms gripped the country, state media reported Saturday.
The 40-year-old was swept away while taking the photograph beside a river swollen by the breach of the earthen dam near the southeastern city of Jiroft, a Red Crescent official told the official IRNA news agency.
His body has yet to be recovered.
The dam burst flooded parts of Jiroft, damaging dozens of homes.
A second man was killed in a flash flood in the southwestern province of Bushehr.
The torrential rain caused flooding across the south, from Khuzestan province on the Iraqi border to Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border with Pakistan.
Thousands fled villages downstream from dams fearing collapses like that in Jiroft.
In the north, at least five people have been killed in avalanches over the past two weeks as up to two metres (more than six feet) of snow fell in the Zagros and Alborz mountains.
Hundreds of villages were cut off in the provinces of Kurdistan, East Azerbaijan and Gilan.
Even as downpours gripped much of the south, residents of some areas near the Iraqi border were praying for rain as some of the worst dust storms in years sent hundreds to hospital with respiratory problems.
Photographs shared on social media showed cars, kitchens and furniture caked in thick dust beneath an orange sky.
The dust level in the air was 18 times the normal levels, officials in Khuzestan province said.
Long power cuts hit the cities of Ahvaz, Khoramshahr and Abadan as the combination of the dust and up to 98 percent humidity played havoc with the electricity grid.
In Ahvaz, residents held demonstrations calling for government assistance. Several artists and celebrities launched a solidarity campaign on social media.
Some 50 members of parliament have also written to President Hassan Rouhani in support of the campaign.
Freak weather has swept though much of the Gulf, normally renowned for its deserts and searing heat. Snow fell in the hills of the United Arab Emirates as high winds forced the cancellation of a stage of cycling's Tour of Dubai.
This week torrential train disrupted every day of the Qatar Open women's tennis tournament.
The seasonal dust storms in southwest Iran have been intensifying for years as prolonged drought has triggered increasing desertification, not just in Iran but also in neighbouring Iraq and in Saudi Arabia beyond.
Khuzestan province hosts many of Iran's largest oil fields but its large ethnic Arab community has long complained that the government has not invested enough in infrastructure or measures to tackle chronic air pollution. 


Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 04, 2018, Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice (portrait L), who was abducted in Syria more than six years ago, speak at a press conference in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2020

Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

  • In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin’s release,” Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“President Trump wrote to Bashar Assad in March to propose direct dialogue.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.
Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.
In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power. At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

HIGHLIGHT

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.

“No one should doubt the president’s commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas,” Pompeo said Friday.
“Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice’s case.”
Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be “no need for another statement like this a year from now.”
“Austin Tice’s release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal,” he added.
A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.
His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had “credible information” to that effect, without elaborating.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.