Death toll from Turkey’s flash floods rises to nine

Death toll from Turkey’s flash floods rises to nine
A man looks on as flood waters sweep by in Bozkurt town of Kastamonu province of Turkey on Thursday. Floods triggered by torrential rains battered the Black Sea coastal provinces while helicopters scrambled to rescue people stranded on rooftops. (AP)
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Updated 12 August 2021

Death toll from Turkey’s flash floods rises to nine

Death toll from Turkey’s flash floods rises to nine
  • Turkey has been grappling with drought and a rapid succession of natural disasters
  • Heavy rains late Tuesday produced flash floods that turned streets into running rivers and sparked mudslides

ISTANBUL: Turkish rescuers distributed food and relocated thousands of people into student dormitories Thursday as the death toll from flash floods that swept across several Black Sea regions rose to nine.
Heavy storms descended on Turkey’s northern stretches just as rescuers reported bringing hundreds of wildfires that have killed eight people since late July under near total control in the south.
Turkey has been grappling with drought and a rapid succession of natural disasters that world scientists believe are becoming more frequent and violent because of climate change.
Heavy rains late Tuesday produced flash floods that turned streets into running rivers and sparked mudslides that buckled roads in three northern regions.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli warned on Wednesday that the area was facing “a disaster that we had not seen in 50 or 100 years.”
Rescuers were forced to evacuate a regional hospital holding 45 patients — four of them in intensive care — in the region around the coastal city of Sinop on Wednesday.
Images on television and social media showed water rising to the level of street signs in some towns.
They showed stranded villagers being plucked off rooftops by helicopter and bridges collapsing under the force of the rushing water below.
Turkey’s disaster response authority said nine people had lost their lives in the northern Kastamonu province while the search for a person who disappeared in the northern city of Bartin continued.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said he held a phone call with the heads of the affected regions Thursday and promised to provide all state assistance available.
The emergencies authority said more than 1,000 rescuers were working in the region while Turkish Red Crescent teams were distributing food packages and hot meals.
Officials said more than 5,000 spaces had been allocated in student dormitories to shelter those displaced by the floods.
Three villages suffered power cuts and mobile phone services was down in parts of the affected towns.
The disaster struck less than a month after six people died in floods caused by heavy rains in the northeast Rize province.
Turkey’s mountainous Black Sea regions frequently experience heavy rains that produce flash floods and mudslides in the summer months.
Officials said that all but three of the nearly 300 fires that had been ravaging Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts since July 28 have been brought under control.


Sudanese rally against UN bid to resolve crisis

Sudanese rally against UN bid to resolve crisis
Updated 26 January 2022

Sudanese rally against UN bid to resolve crisis

Sudanese rally against UN bid to resolve crisis
  • An 18-year-old protester died on Wednesday after suffering a bullet wound to the head during protests last month

KHARTOUM: Thousands of Sudanese pro-military protesters rallied on Wednesday against a UN bid to resolve a political crisis in the country three months after a coup.

The demonstrators gathered outside the Khartoum office of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, or UNITAMS, which launched talks with Sudanese factions this month.

They held up banners that read, “Down, down UN,” and others that urged UN special representative Volker Perthes to “Go back home.”

“We don’t want external intervention in our country,” protester Hamed Al-Bashir said.

On Jan. 10, Perthes said the consultations aimed “to support the Sudanese to reach an agreement on a way out of the current crisis.” But he added that “the UN is not coming up with any project, draft or vision for a solution.”

On Wednesday, UNITAMS said protesters had gathered outside the mission’s office demanding to expel the mission.

“We defend freedom of assembly & expression and offered to receive a delegation in our premises which they refused,” it said on Twitter.

Sudan has been rocked by a deadly crackdown against protests calling for civilian rule since an October 25 military coup led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.

The country’s latest military takeover derailed a power-sharing transition between the army and civilians that had been painstakingly negotiated after the 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar  Bashir.

The ruling Sovereign Council — formed by Al-Burhan after the coup with himself as chairman — has welcomed the UN-led dialogue, as have the US, Britain, neighboring Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Forces for Freedom and Change, Sudan’s main civilian bloc, has also said it would join consultations “to restore the democratic transition.”

In a Wednesday press conference, FFC leader Omar Al-Degeir called on the international community to stand by “the Sudanese people to achieve its demands to reverse the coup.”

Stephanie Khoury, UNITAMS director of political affairs, said earlier: “Our role at this stage of consultations for a political process for #Sudan is to hear Sudanese stakeholders; ensure we actively listen to their views, document their visions & suggestions.”

An 18-year-old protester died on Wednesday after suffering a bullet wound to the head during protests last month, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors.

His death brought the number of people killed in the crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations to 77, including others who were also shot in the head, it said.


UK hosts Quint meeting on Yemen, condemns Houthi attacks

UK hosts Quint meeting on Yemen, condemns Houthi attacks
Updated 27 January 2022

UK hosts Quint meeting on Yemen, condemns Houthi attacks

UK hosts Quint meeting on Yemen, condemns Houthi attacks
  • The joint statement expressed full support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE and their legitimate national security concern
  • The Quint called for urgent and comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni conflict

LONDON: Senior representatives of the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, the UK, and the US, along with UN special envoy, Hans Grundberg, met in London on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Yemen.
“The Quint strongly condemned the Houthis’ repeated attacks against civilians within Yemen, including US local staff in Sanaa, and their continued heinous terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia and more recently the UAE,” they said in a joint statement.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia have stepped up cross-border attacks against populated areas in Saudi Arabia and have attempted to strike the UAE capital twice in the last two weeks. The Houthis have also continued their brutal offensive on the Yemeni province of Marib, which has served as a safe haven for millions of internally displaced persons who have been fleeing the fighting since the conflict began in 2014.
The Quint said “such actions are obstructing peace efforts and exacerbating suffering,” and stressed that “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” and the need to hold perpetrators accountable and brought to justice.
The joint statement expressed full support for Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and their legitimate national security concerns and called for an immediate end to attacks by the Iran-backed militia.
“The Quint acknowledged the legitimate right of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to defend themselves against terrorist attacks in accordance with international (and) humanitarian law, including taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian harm,” it said.
The meeting also condemned the Houthis’ seizure of the UAE flagged Rwabee vessel off the coast of Yemen, and called for the need to find an urgent solution to the abandoned SAFER tanker, urging the Houthis to allow UN access to the vessel.
They said these highlight the Houthis’ significant risk to the maritime security of vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.
“The Quint discussed the illicit Iranian provision of missiles and advanced weaponry to the Houthis in violation” of UN Security Council resolutions, the statement added.
The Quint called for urgent and comprehensive political solution to the conflict and re-affirmed their support for the UN special envoy’s efforts.
It also called for additional economic support from the international community to stabilize Yemen’s economy, coupled with essential reforms to improve financial transparency.
They agreed to meet on a regular basis to coordinate a response to the Yemen crisis and support the UN envoy.


Algerian minister calls for vaccination amid virus surge

Algerian minister calls for vaccination amid virus surge
Updated 27 January 2022

Algerian minister calls for vaccination amid virus surge

Algerian minister calls for vaccination amid virus surge

ALGIERS: Algeria’s health minister on Tuesday urged people to get vaccinated and save hospitals from collapse as the North African nation faces a surge of COVID-19 infections.

Algeria is battling infections from both the delta variant and the highly contagious omicron variant, which now accounts for 60 percent of COVID-19 infections.

On Monday, health officials reported a daily record of 2,215 cases and 13 deaths.

“I urge you to get vaccinated and break the chain of infections which risk bringing our health institutions to their knees,” Health Minister Abderahmane Benbouzid said at a media conference in the capital, Algiers. “For now, the hospitals’ staff are managing. The question is, how long can they hold on?”

Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant, according to studies. omicron spreads even more easily than other coronavirus strains, and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus.

The inoculation rate in Algeria remains low. Less than a quarter of the population has had even one vaccine dose despite the government’s robust vaccination campaign in state media and on social networks that includes pro-vaccine posts from famous Algerian actors, singers, athletes and influencers.

Algeria has a stock of vaccines that can largely ensure coverage of vaccination needs for two years, the minister said. Overall, only 13 percent of Algeria’s 45 million inhabitants, have been inoculated, the minister said. Of eligible adults, only 29 percent have received two vaccine doses, he said.

In December, Algeria started requiring a vaccine passport to enter many public venues, seeking to overcome vaccine hesitancy that has left millions of vaccines unused.

The pass is also required for anyone entering or leaving Algeria, as well as for entering sports facilities, cinemas, theaters, museums, town halls and other sites like hammams — bath houses that are popular across the region.

Official figures show Algeria has seen 6,508 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic began, but even members of the government’s scientific committee admit the real figure is much higher. Out of fears of being blamed for getting the virus, some Algerians keep their infections secret, which then puts others at risk.


Vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter Abu Dhabi: Authorities

Vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter Abu Dhabi: Authorities
Updated 26 January 2022

Vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter Abu Dhabi: Authorities

Vaccinated tourists need no boosters to enter Abu Dhabi: Authorities
  • The emirate has clarified that all citizens and residents seeking entry must now show proof of a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated

DUBAI: Authorities in the UAE have published new information about the capital’s entry requirements, saying that unlike residents and citizens, vaccinated tourists do not need to show proof of a booster shot to cross into Abu Dhabi.

The tourism-specific change comes as confusion swirls around entry rules for Abu Dhabi, which has taken a more stringent approach to containing the coronavirus than its freewheeling neighbor, Dubai.

The pandemic has prompted Abu Dhabi to erect a hard border with Dubai, forcing all drivers to come to a halt for vaccination and virus checks on what once had been a wide, empty highway before the pandemic struck.

The emirate has clarified that all citizens and residents seeking entry must now show proof of a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated and maintain a “green status” on the government health app.


Iraq’s top court upholds reelection of parliament speaker

Iraq’s top court upholds reelection of parliament speaker
Updated 26 January 2022

Iraq’s top court upholds reelection of parliament speaker

Iraq’s top court upholds reelection of parliament speaker
  • Hours later, rockets fall some 500 meters from Al-Halbussi’s home in an attack ‘that sought to target him’

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s top court has confirmed the reelection of Mohammed Al-Halbussi as parliament speaker, following appeals against its conduct, paving the way toward the formation of a new government.

Hours later, rockets fell some 500 meters from Al-Halbussi’s home in the Gurma district of Anbar province, in what a security source told AFP was an attack that sought to target him.

Two lawmakers had appealed Al-Halbussi’s reelection as speaker, a position historically reserved for Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority, during parliament’s opening session earlier in January which was overshadowed by disputes between rival blocs from the Shiite majority.

“The Federal Supreme Court rejected the appeal of two MPs who demanded the annulment of the inaugural session of parliament on Jan. 9,” in which Al-Halbussi was reelected, said presiding judge Jassim Mohammed Aboud.

The ruling will allow the resumption of parliament sessions, and along with them deliberations over the selection of a new president, who will in turn choose the next prime minister, to be approved by the legislature.

Lawmakers have until Feb. 8 to elect a president — a post historically allocated to a Kurd.

But negotiations between parties and coalitions seeking to form a parliamentary majority have been marked by tensions, particularly between key Shiite currents seeking to exert their influence.

Both the Coordination Framework and another bloc formed by firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr claim to have the majority needed to elect a president.

The legislature opened earlier this month to furious arguments between the rival factions.

Amid the debate, Mahmud Al-Mashhadani — the oldest member of parliament who was therefore chairing the opening session — was taken ill and rushed to hospital.

When the session resumed an hour later, lawmakers reelected Al-Halbussi of the Sunni Taqadom party as speaker.

Appeals against the speaker’s reelection were filed by Mashhadani and another MP, Bassem Khachan.

After Wednesday’s rocket attack, two wounded children were “taken to hospital in Gurma,” Iraqi police said in a statement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Several grenade attacks have in recent days targeted political figures from parties that could team up with Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr to form a parliamentary coalition in the wake of Iraq’s October legislative elections.

Sadr, whose bloc took the largest share of seats, is seeking to build a coalition bringing together Taqadom — Al-Halbussi’s party — a second Sunni party and a Kurdish grouping.