Toxic gas, new rivers of molten lava endanger Spanish island

Toxic gas, new rivers of molten lava endanger Spanish island
Lava from a volcano eruption flows destroying houses on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Spain, on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 21 September 2021

Toxic gas, new rivers of molten lava endanger Spanish island

Toxic gas, new rivers of molten lava endanger Spanish island
  • Several small earthquakes shook the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean off northwest Africa on Tuesday
  • Authorities said the new fissure demonstrated that the area was unstable and unsafe, and kept people at least 2 kilometers away

EL PASO, Canary Islands: As a new volcanic vent blew open and unstoppable rivers of molten rock flowed toward the sea, authorities on a Spanish island warned Tuesday.
Also more dangers lie ahead for residents, including earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.
Several small earthquakes shook the island of La Palma in the Atlantic Ocean off northwest Africa on Tuesday, keeping nerves on edge after a volcanic eruption on Sunday. The island, with a population of 85,000, is part of the Canary Islands archipelago, a key tourist destination for Europeans.
Authorities said the new fissure demonstrated that the area was unstable and unsafe, and kept people at least 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) away.
The rivers of lava, up to six meters (nearly 20 feet) high, rolled down hillsides, burning and crushing everything in their path, as they gradually closed in on the island’s more densely populated coast. One was bearing down on Todoque, where more than 1,000 people live, and where emergency services were preparing evacuations.
So far, the eruption has destroyed around 190 houses and forced the evacuation of 6,000 people.
“The truth is that it’s a tragedy to see people losing their properties,” said municipal worker Fernando Díaz in the town of El Paso.
The lava’s advance has slowed to about 120 meters (400 feet) an hour, according to the head of the Canary Island Volcanic Emergency Plan, Miguel Ángel Morcuende, and wasn’t expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean before Wednesday.
Canary Islands government chief Ángel Víctor Torres said “when (the lava) reaches the sea, it will be a critical moment.”
The meeting of the lava, whose temperature exceeds 1,000 degrees Celsius (more than 1,800 F), with a body of water could cause explosions and produce clouds of toxic gas. Torres asked locals to remember the island’s last eruption in 1971, when one person died after inhaling the gas emitted as lava met the water.
A change in the wind direction blew the ashes from the volcano across a vast area on the western side of the island, with the black particles blanketing everything. Volcanic ash is an irritant for the eyes and lungs.
The volcano has also been spewing out between 8,000 and 10,500 tons of sulfur dioxide — which also affects the lungs — every day, the Volcanology Institute said.
Adding to the dangers, the emergence of new cracks in the earth spewing lava cannot be ruled out, said Nemesio Pérez, head of the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute, who noted there is “important superficial seismic activity in the area.”
The new fissure that appeared Monday night is 900 meters (3,000 feet) north of the Cumbre Vieja ridge, where the volcano first erupted Sunday after a week of thousands of small earthquakes. That earthquake swarm warned authorities that an eruption was likely and allowed many people to be evacuated, avoiding casualties.
The new fissure opened after what the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said was a 3.8-magnitude quake.
Scientists say the lava flows could last for weeks or months.
Torres described the lava-hit region as a “catastrophe zone” and said he would request money to rebuild roads, water pipes and create temporary accommodations for families who have lost their homes as well as their farmland.
Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are to visit the area on Thursday.


UN chief condemns military coup in Sudan and calls for release of PM

Antonio Guterres has called for the immediate release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following a coup in Sudan. (Reuters)
Antonio Guterres has called for the immediate release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following a coup in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 38 sec ago

UN chief condemns military coup in Sudan and calls for release of PM

Antonio Guterres has called for the immediate release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok following a coup in Sudan. (Reuters)
  • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to return to dialogue and not to undermine the transitional process and nation’s stability
  • The UN stands with people of Sudan ‘as they strive to fulfill their aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future,’ he added

NEW YORK: After the military seized power from the transitional government in Khartoum on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the coup and “all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability.”

He called for the immediate release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all others who have been arbitrarily detained, along with “the immediate reconstitution of the governing arrangements provided for under the constitutional document.”

He said: “The unlawful detention of the prime minister, government officials and politicians is unacceptable and contravenes the constitutional document and the partnership critical for the success of Sudan’s transition.”

Guterres urged all stakeholders to swiftly return to dialogue and “engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order and Sudan’s transitional process.”

He added: “The United Nations reiterates its unwavering commitment and support to the realization of Sudan’s political transition. Any attempts to undermine this transition process puts at risk Sudan’s security, stability and development.

“The United Nations will continue to stand with the people of Sudan as they strive to fulfill their aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.”


As Vienna talks falter, Washington is ‘prepared for anything,’ says envoy

Robert Malley, seen in his office in Washington D.C., has said that the US hopes Iran will return in earnest to talks. (AFP/File Photo)
Robert Malley, seen in his office in Washington D.C., has said that the US hopes Iran will return in earnest to talks. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 25 October 2021

As Vienna talks falter, Washington is ‘prepared for anything,’ says envoy

Robert Malley, seen in his office in Washington D.C., has said that the US hopes Iran will return in earnest to talks. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Robert Malley, the US Special Envoy for Iran, said the US wants Tehran to return to the JCPOA but is preparing for all other eventualities
  • ‘Technological, not chronological’ clock is ticking on window of opportunity for successful return to JCPOA

LONDON: Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley has said that the US hopes Iran will return in earnest to talks over curbs to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, but that Washington is making preparations for all other scenarios.

In an online press briefing attended by Arab News, Malley explained that Iran has two paths ahead of it: Returning to diplomacy and re-engaging with negotiations, or a total breakdown of negotiations by Iran delaying talks in perpetuity or making demands that exceed the parameters of the negotiations.

“Countries, whether they are in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) or E3 (France, Germany, Italy) see two paths clearly laid out ahead,” said Malley.

“One in which Iran, the United States and other parties in the P5+1 take their responsibilities seriously to find solutions to the remaining issues that were left open after the sixth round of talks in Vienna … so that Iran would live by the constraints on its nuclear program that it agreed to in Vienna in 2016.” He said that on this path the US would lift economic sanctions that are “inconsistent” with the 2016 agreement.

“Then there’s the other path,” Malley said, “that we need to at least be prepared for, which is that Iran chooses a different direction, and continues to either delay the resumption of talks or comes back with demands that clearly exceed the parameters of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. We are increasingly concerned that is the path Iran is on.

“It is in Iran’s hands to choose which one it wants to take.”

“If it chooses the second path President Biden and Secretary Blinken have both said if diplomacy fails we have other tools, and we will use other tools, to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Malley.

The envoy remained tight-lipped on the exact actions that Washington would take if Iran refused to return in earnest to negotations but said: “We have to be prepared for anything.”

He explained that the US would always be open to diplomacy with Iran to resolve the long-running diplomatic fissure between the two states.

However, he said, “the window for negotiations on a return to the JCPOA will not be open forever, but this is not a chronological clock — it’s a technological clock. At some point, the JCPOA will have been so eroded, because Iran will have made advances that cannot be reversed, in which case you can’t revive a dead corpse. But we’re not there yet.”


Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee
Updated 25 October 2021

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee

Assange looks ‘very unwell’ ahead of US appeal hearings: Fiancee
  • Stella Moris said, Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and ‘I was quite taken aback how thin he was’
  • Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns

LONDON: The fiancee of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday he was looking thin and unwell as the US appeals against a UK ruling blocking his extradition.
Stella Moris, who has two children with Assange, told a news conference that she last saw Assange on Saturday in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.
She said Assange was wearing a T-shirt exposing his arms for the first time in a long while and “I was quite taken aback how thin he was.”
“He was looking very unwell.”
The 50-year-old Australian was arrested in Britain in 2019 for jumping bail, after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, which were later dropped.
The US government is seeking his extradition to face trial for publishing military secrets.
A UK judge in January blocked the US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was a suicide risk.
The US is seeking to overturn the British judge’s ruling, arguing that other expert evidence indicated that Assange was not at risk of taking his own life.
Instead, it claimed the judge was “misled” by relying on evidence presented by Assange’s psychiatric expert Michael Kopelman.
“We hope that this will be the end of it,” Moris said of the two-day hearing starting Wednesday.
“The point was that Julian would not survive extradition, that was the conclusion of the judge.”
Moris said that being in prison was “an ongoing struggle” for Assange and “a person can only take so much.”
Rebecca Vincent, director of international programs at Reporters Without Borders, said that US President Joe Biden had missed an opportunity “to distance himself from his predecessors” on the case, urging the US to drop it.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said “it is unthinkable that the High Court will come to any conclusion other than to uphold” the original UK ruling.
Assange is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.


West braces for Turkey’s possible expulsion of 10 envoys

West braces for Turkey’s possible expulsion of 10 envoys
Updated 25 October 2021

West braces for Turkey’s possible expulsion of 10 envoys

West braces for Turkey’s possible expulsion of 10 envoys
  • The expulsions are a response to a joint statement calling on Erdogan to release a detained philanthropist
  • Erdogan’s rule has been punctuated by a series of crises and then rapprochements with the West

ANKARA: Turkey’s relations with Western allies edged Monday toward their deepest crisis of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 19-year rule, as world capitals braced for Ankara’s possible expulsion of ambassadors from the US and nine other countries.
The lira broke through historic lows ahead of a cabinet meeting that could prove fateful to Turkey’s economic and diplomatic standing for the coming months — and some analysts fear years.
The cabinet session will address Erdogan’s decision Saturday to declare the Western envoys “persona non grata” for their joint statement in support of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Expulsion orders are officially issued by foreign ministries and none of the Western capitals had reported receiving any by Monday.
Some analysts said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and a few other cabinet members were still trying to talk Erdogan out of following through on his threat and to change his mind.
But the Turkish lira — a gauge of both investor confidence and political stability — lost more than one percent in value on fears of an effective break in Ankara’s relations with its main allies and most important trading partners.
“Typically, the countries whose ambassadors have been kicked out retaliate with tit-for-tat expulsions, potentially in a coordinated manner,” Eurasia Group’s Europe director Emre Peker said.
“Restoring high-level diplomatic relations after such a spat would prove challenging.”
The crisis started when the embassies of the United States, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden issued a highly unusual statement last Monday calling for Kavala’s release.
The 64-year-old civil society leader and businessman has been in jail without a conviction for four years.
Supporters view Kavala as an innocent symbol of the growing intolerance of political dissent Erdogan developed after surviving a failed military putsch in 2016.
But Erdogan accuses Kavala of financing a wave of 2013 anti-government protests and then playing a role in the coup attempt.
The diplomatic escalation comes as Erdogan faces falling domestic approval numbers and a brewing economic crisis that has seen life turn more painful for ordinary Turks.
Main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu accused Erdogan of trying to artificially deflect attention from Turkey’s economic woes ahead of a general election due by June 2023.
“These actions are not to protect the national interests, it’s an attempt to create false justifications for the economy that he has destroyed,” Kilicdaroglu tweeted on Saturday.
Erdogan’s rule as prime minister and president has been punctuated by a series of crises and then rapprochements with the West.
But analysts believe his latest actions could open up the deepest and most lasting rift to date.
They could also cast a pall over a G20 meeting in Rome this weekend at which Erdogan had expected to discuss with US President Joe Biden his hopes of buying a large batch of US fighter planes.
Erdogan this month further threatened to launch a new military campaign in Syria and orchestrated changes at the central bank that infuriated investors and saw the lira accelerate its record slide.
A dollar now buys about 9.75 liras. The exchange rate stood at less than 7.4 liras at the start of the year — and at 3.5 liras in 2017.
“I am really sad for my country,” Istanbul law office worker Gulseren Pilat said as the country awaited Erdogan’s next move.
“I really hope that it will not be as bad as we fear,” said Pilat. “But I am convinced that even more difficult days await us.”


Turkey’s financial problems have been accompanied by an unusual spike in dissent from the country’s business community.
The Turkish Industry and Business Association issued a veiled swipe at Erdogan last week by urging the government to focus on stabilising the lira and bring the annual inflation rate — now at almost 20 percent — under control.
But some analysts pointed out that some European powers — including fellow NATO member Britain — refrained from joining the Western call for Kavala’s release.
“The conspicuous absence of the UK, Spain, and Italy... is telling, pointing at the emergence of a sub-group within the Western family of nations adept at skipping confrontation with Ankara,” political analyst Soner Cagaptay wrote.


Greenhouse gas levels reach new record high: UN

Greenhouse gas levels reach new record high: UN
Updated 25 October 2021

Greenhouse gas levels reach new record high: UN

Greenhouse gas levels reach new record high: UN
  • The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin said the annual rate of increase last year was above the annual average between 2011 and 2020

GENEVA: Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached new record levels last year, the United Nations said Monday in a stark warning to the COP26 summit about worsening global warming.
The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization, said the annual rate of increase last year was above the annual average between 2011 and 2020 — and the trend continued in 2021.