Floods kill scores in India’s tea-growing Assam; nine rhinos drown

An Indian forest guard on a boat takes away the carcass of a wild buffalo calf through flood water at the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Pobitora, Morigaon district, Assam, India, Thursday, July 16, 2020. Floods and landslides triggered by heavy monsoon rains have killed dozens of people in this northeastern region. (AP)
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Updated 20 July 2020

Floods kill scores in India’s tea-growing Assam; nine rhinos drown

  • Rights groups accuse corrupt officials of siphoning off funds meant for flood projects
  • Rescue teams were facing a double challenge of rising flood waters amid the novel coronavirus

GUWAHATI,India: Intense rain and floods in the Indian state of Assam have killed at least 84 people and displaced more than 2.75 million since May, authorities said on Monday, as they tried to collect the bodies of nine rare rhinos drowned in the past 10 days.
Rescue teams were facing a double challenge of rising flood waters amid the novel coronavirus as villagers driven from their homes huddle in shelters.
“It’s hard to enforce social distancing when people are being ordered to move away from the rising waters,” said Sanghamitra Sanyal, a member of the northeastern state’s flood management force.
“We’re urging people to at least cover their mouth and nose with a piece of clean cloth.”
Officials warned that the water level in the Brahmaputra river was expected to rise by 11 cm (4.3 inches), two weeks after it burst its banks swamping more than 2,500 villages.
Assam, famous for its tea plantations, is hit by flooding every rainy season despite flood-control efforts.
Rights groups accuse corrupt officials of siphoning off funds meant for flood projects, resulting in shoddy construction of embankments which are often breached.
Floods have also inundated the Kaziranga National Park, home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros, with an estimated 2,500 out of a total population of some 3,000 of the animals.
“Nine rhinos have drowned and over 100 other animals have been killed,” Atul Bora, Assam’s agriculture minister who is Kaziranga’s member of the state parliament, told Reuters.
With the park waist-deep in water, rhinos, elephants and deer have been forced to seek refuge on roads and in human settlements.


Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

Updated 30 September 2020

Macron slams Turkey’s ‘bellicose’ talk on Karabakh conflict

  • Macron condemned Turkey’s statements backing Azerbaijan in its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh
  • Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh

RIGA: French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday condemned what he called Turkey’s “reckless and dangerous” statements backing Azerbaijan it its bid to take back the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.
Ankara said on Tuesday it was “fully ready” to help Azerbaijan recover Nagorny Karabakh, as armed conflict escalated with neighboring Armenia over the region.
“I have noted Turkey’s political statements which I think are reckless and dangerous,” Macron told reporters in Latvia’s capital Riga during a visit to the Baltic EU state.
“France remains extremely concerned about the bellicose comments that Turkey made in the last hours, which essentially remove any inhibitions from Azerbaijan in what would be a reconquest of northern Karabakh. That we will not accept,” he added.
He also appeared to voice support for Yerevan: “I say to Armenia and to the Armenians, France will play its role.”
But Macron also said it was too soon to speak of a regional conflict.
He said he would discuss the tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening and US President Donald Trump on Thursday before reporting on the situation to the European Council of EU leaders.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked for decades in a territorial dispute over Karabakh and have blamed each other for sparking fierce clashes that erupted on Sunday and have since caused nearly 100 confirmed deaths.
The two sides have so far defied calls for a cease-fire.
Ankara has backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and on Tuesday the Armenian defense ministry said a Turkish F-16 flying in support of Baku’s forces had downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane. Ankara fiercely denied the claim.
Direct Turkish military action against Armenia would mark a major escalation after three days of heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Karabakh.
And the UN Security Council called on both sides for an immediate end to the fighting.
Viewing Azerbaijan as its close ally and Armenia as its historic foe, Russia also called on Turkey to stop proclaiming support for Azerbaijan and to work toward a diplomatic solution to the escalation, the deadliest since 2016.
The European Union warned Monday regional powers not to interfere in fighting in Nagorny Karabakh, and condemned a “serious escalation” that threatens regional stability.