Aya Hachem, student killed in UK shooting, to be buried in Lebanon

Hachem in a photo released by the Lancashire Police.
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Updated 23 May 2020

Aya Hachem, student killed in UK shooting, to be buried in Lebanon

  • She is not believed to have been the intended target of the drive-by shooting

BEIRUT: The burial of Aya Hachem, the 19-year-old law student killed in a drive-by shooting in Blackburn in the north of England on Sunday, May 17, is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 23 in her family’s hometown of Qlaileh, near Tyre in Lebanon.

Hachem’s father, mother, two brothers and sister have returned to Lebanon from Blackburn — where they currently live — with her body on a flight operated by national airline MEA.

Hachem — who was in her second year as a law student at the University of Salford — was hit in the chest by one of several bullets fired from a vehicle as she walked to a supermarket near her home. She is not believed to have been the intended target of the drive-by.

Hachem’s uncle, Hassan, told Arab News that his brother Ismail, Hachem’s father, decided to emigrate to the UK and seek asylum after retiring from his position as a first sergeant in the Lebanese army. Another of their brothers was already living in England at the time.

“(Ismail) loved the country and submitted an application in which he requested asylum for the … security reasons prevailing in Lebanon. His request was approved and he is unemployed till now,” Hassan said, adding that family members are “heartbroken.”

“Her father left Lebanon to protect his family, but he lost his eldest daughter,” he said. “My brother called me on the day of the crime to say ‘Aya is gone,
my brother.’”

India faces worst locust crisis in decades

Updated 05 June 2020

India faces worst locust crisis in decades

  • Indo-Pak border a breeding ground for bug; worst attack in over 20 years, says expert

NEW DELHI: Suresh Kumar was sipping tea on the balcony of his Jaipur house on Friday when the sun suddenly disappeared. Thinking it was probably a black cloud that was filtering out the daylight, he looked up and saw swarms of locusts covering the sky of the capital city of the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Within a few minutes, short-horned grasshoppers were everywhere —walls, balconies and nearby trees — as they forced people to take refuge in their houses.

“It was unprecedented,” Kumar, who lives in Jaipur’s walled city area, told Arab News on Thursday. “Never before have I witnessed such a scene. Suddenly millions of aliens invaded our locality. Some residents of the neighborhood tried to bang some steel plates to shoo them off, but the jarring sound did not make much of an impact. However, the swarms left the area within an hour or so.”

More than a thousand kilometers away, in the Balaghat district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, farmer Dev Singh had a similar experience, although the bugs not only occupied his farmhouse, they destroyed the budding leaves of different kinds of pulses which he had sown in his field.

“Only a few weeks ago I harvested the wheat crop,” he told Arab News. “In a way, I’m lucky that the locusts have come now … otherwise the damage would have been much greater,” but he added that “with the pulse plant damaged in good measure, the yield will not be great this year.”

His area has been cleared of the locusts after the intervention of local authorities, which sprayed chemicals to kill the bugs and blared out sirens to shoo them off.

India is already grappling with an alarming surge of coronavirus cases and struggling to cope with the devastation caused by a recent cyclone. The country is also dealing with rising unemployment figures after more than 100 million people went jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is facing security issues, too, in the form of a seething border dispute with China. The locust invasion has added to beleaguered India’s laundry list of woes.

Scientists said it was a serious crisis.

“This is the worst locust attack in more than two decades,” Dr. K. L. Gurjar, of the Faridabad-based Locust Warning Organization, told Arab News. “Compared to the past, these locusts are younger and have traveled a longer distance. This should be a cause of concern. The states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will be badly impacted. We are controlling and containing the situation on a daily basis.”

According to media reports, around 50,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed by desert locusts in the two states during the last four weeks.

“The problem will persist until the invasion of swarms continues from across the border in Pakistan and Iran. The Indo-Pak border has become the breeding ground for the bug,” Gurjar added.

But he remained hopeful that the country would get rid of the menace through its measures, despite the present danger.

“There is a danger of locusts remaining alive for a longer period, though we are hopeful to ultimately sort them out.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Agriculture University (JNAU) of Jabalpur has also been monitoring the situation in Madhya Pradesh, noting that locusts damage the crop completely wherever they go.

“Desert locusts stay immobile throughout the night and their movement begins again in the morning and they fly along the direction of the wind,” JNAU’s Dr. Om Gupta told Arab News. “Wherever they find shelter, they damage the crops in totality. In some areas, locusts have created havoc.”

She added that spray was generally used in the evening or early morning to kill the bugs. “They breed very fast and we focus on killing their eggs. What we are dealing with is nothing short of a catastrophe, and we are not going to get respite from this anytime soon.”