Tsunami hits Tonga, US West Coast on alert after volcano erupts

A grab taken from footage by Japan's Himawari-8 satellite shows the volcanic eruption that provoked a tsunami in Tonga. (AFP/National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan))
A grab taken from footage by Japan's Himawari-8 satellite shows the volcanic eruption that provoked a tsunami in Tonga. (AFP/National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan))
Short Url
Updated 16 January 2022

Tsunami hits Tonga, US West Coast on alert after volcano erupts

A grab taken from footage by Japan's Himawari-8 satellite shows the volcanic eruption that provoked a tsunami in Tonga. (AFP/National Institute of Information and Communications (Japan))
  • The explosion of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano was the latest in a series of spectacular eruptions

NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga: Frightened Tongans fled to higher ground Saturday after a massive volcanic eruption sent tsunami waves crashing onto the South Pacific island and triggered warnings as far as the US West Coast.
Dramatic images from space showed the moment the latest eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai sent a mushroom of smoke and ash into the air and a shockwave across the surrounding waters.
A tsunami wave measuring 1.2 meters (four feet) was observed in Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.
Local resident Mere Taufa said she was in her house getting ready for dinner when the undersea volcano erupted — sending water surging into her home.
“It was massive, the ground shook, our house was shaking. It came in waves. My younger brother thought bombs were exploding nearby,” Taufa told the Stuff news website.
She said water filled their home minutes later and she saw the wall of a neighboring house collapse.
“We just knew straight away it was a tsunami. Just water gushing into our home.
“You could just hear screams everywhere, people screaming for safety, for everyone to get to higher ground.”
Tonga’s King Tupou VI was reported to have been evacuated from the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa and taken by police convoy to a villa well away from the coastline.
The volcano’s eruption lasted at least eight minutes and sent plumes of gas, ash and smoke several kilometers into the air.
Residents in coastal areas were urged to head for higher ground following the eruption — which came just a few hours after a previous tsunami warning was lifted on the island.

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano sits on an uninhabited island about 65 kilometers north of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa.
Its latest eruption was so intense it was heard as “loud thunder sounds” in Fiji more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) away, according to officials in Suva City — where images shared on social media showed large waves hitting the coast.
Tsunami warnings were issued for American Samoa, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Chile and Australia — where authorities said a swathe of coastline, including Sydney, could be hit by tsunami waves.
People in surrounding New South Wales state were “advised to get out of the water and move away from the immediate water’s edge.”
A tsunami warning was issued for the entire US West Coast — from the bottom of California to the tip of Alaska’s Aleutian islands — while tsunami waves triggered “minor flooding” in Hawaii according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.
“Move off the beach and out of harbors and marinas in these areas,” advised the US National Weather Service, which predicted waves of up to two feet, strong rip currents and coastal flooding.
Fijian officials warned residents to cover water collection tanks in case of acidic rain fall.
Victorina Kioa of the Tonga Public Service Commission said Friday that people should “keep away from areas of warning which are low-lying coastal areas, reefs and beaches.”
The head of Tonga Geological Services, Taaniela Kula, urged people to stay indoors, wear a mask if they were outside and cover rainwater reservoirs and rainwater harvesting systems.


Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

A police officer examines a bullet hole on the car of the Saudi consulate employee who was shot dead in Karachi on May 16, 2011. (AP/File Photo)
A police officer examines a bullet hole on the car of the Saudi consulate employee who was shot dead in Karachi on May 16, 2011. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago

Saudi diplomat murder: Pakistan seeks Tehran assistance to arrest suspects from Iran

A police officer examines a bullet hole on the car of the Saudi consulate employee who was shot dead in Karachi on May 16, 2011. (AP/File Photo)
  • Hassan Al-Qahtani was killed by gunmen in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi in 2011
  • In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder

KARACHI: Pakistani police have asked for assistance from authorities in Tehran in apprehending the suspected killers of a Saudi diplomat who are believed to be hiding in Iran, a counterterrorism official has said.

Hassan Al-Qahtani, an employee of the Saudi consulate in Pakistan’s southern metropolis of Karachi, was killed in 2011 when gunmen opened fire on his car in the city’s Defence Housing Authority neighborhood.

In November last year, Pakistani authorities established a special team to investigate the murder after previous probes yielded no result. Counter Terrorism Department Deputy Inspector-General Omar Shahid Hamid told Arab News at the time that the team was working on “fruitful leads” from the country’s intelligence.

Investigation materials seen by Arab News include a November request to Iranian authorities for assistance in the case against three suspects in Al-Qahtani’s murder — Ali Mustehsan, Raza Imam, and Syed Waqar Ahmed — over their “involvement in target killing and terrorism activities in Pakistan.”

A policeman is reflected in a window of the Saudi consulate employee's car in Karachi shattered by bullets on May 16, 2011. (Reuters/File Photo)

“We have written for mutual legal assistance from Iran,” a Counter Terrorism Department official told Arab News on Friday evening on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“We believe that all three accused are absconding in Iran, and we cannot arrest them without the assistance of their law enforcement.”

He said red notices for Mustehsan and Ahmed have already been issued, while police have called for the Federal Investigation Agency to initiate the process of issuing one for Imam as well.

Imam, alias Manzar, has a 1-million-rupee ($13,400) bounty on his head and has already been sentenced to death in two different cases, according to the Sindh police wanted list.

He is a member of the banned Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan militant organization.

Mustehsan, alias Syed Waseem Ahsan Naqvi, belongs to the same organization.


Thousands protest in Sweden against vaccine pass

Thousands protest in Sweden against vaccine pass
Updated 22 January 2022

Thousands protest in Sweden against vaccine pass

Thousands protest in Sweden against vaccine pass
  • Security police Sapo had expressed concern that neo-Nazi groups and opponents could face off at the demonstration in Stockholm
  • Around 9,000 people marched through streets of Stockholm chanting "No to Vaccine Passes, Yes to Freedom"

STOCKHOLM: Thousands of protesters demonstrated in Sweden's two biggest cities on Saturday against the use of vaccine passes, in marches that unfolded calmly after police had warned of possible clashes.
Security police Sapo had expressed concern that neo-Nazi groups and opponents could face off at the demonstration in Stockholm.
Around 9,000 people marched through the streets of the capital Stockholm to the Sergels Torg square chanting "No to Vaccine Passes, Yes to Freedom", in a protest organised by a group calling itself the Freedom Movement.
One of the marchers, 30-year-old Julia Johansson, said vaccine passes "discriminate against a lot of people".
"We have to be able to decide ourselves what we want to do with our own bodies," she told AFP.
Aida Begovic, 35, agreed, saying they "force people to get medical procedures they don't want."
"No matter how much you say (vaccination) isn't a requirement, it is if you lose rights in society over it."
The Scandinavian country introduced vaccine passes on December 1.
They have been mandatory since January 12 for indoor events of more than 50 people, as the country battles an unprecedented surge of infections with around 40,000 cases reported per day in the past week.
More than 83 percent of Swedes over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated.
Some of the demonstrators wore the markings of violent extremist groups such as the neo-Nazi group NMR, and covered their faces to prevent identification.
Some also set off red flares that lit the sky a smoky red, but police said no clashes were reported.
A number of vaccination centres in the city had closed early on Saturday as a precaution.
In Sweden's second-biggest city Gothenburg, another demonstration gathered around 1,500 people.
Sweden made headlines in the early days of the pandemic when it, unlike most other countries, did not introduce any form of lockdown or school closures.
Instead, it adopted a softer approach, recommending social distancing, homeworking and only limited use of facemasks.
It did however ban visits to elderly care homes, limit public gatherings and restrict opening hours at bars and restaurants.
Sweden's death toll -- around 15,600 of the 10.3 million population -- is around the European average, but is significantly higher than in neighbouring Norway, Finland and Denmark.


UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea
Updated 22 January 2022

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea
  • Strategy aims to bypass international laws safeguarding asylum seekers
  •  Official: Ministers ‘absolutely convinced that tough deterrents are the way’

LONDON: Male migrants who try to cross the English Channel will be detained under a new UK government proposal, The Times reported on Saturday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tasked Home Secretary Priti Patel with drawing up new plans in the latest effort to deter Channel migrant crossings.
Under the plan, male migrants would be housed in immigration detention centers after being intercepted at sea or discovered on UK territory.
Government officials believe that the plan will deter migrants from making the hazardous journey across the Channel. 

Last year, a record 28,381 people successfully made the trip, many in small dinghies. That figure could double this year, according to government statistics.
Patel and the French government have claimed that about 70 percent of all migrants who cross the Channel are single men aged under 40.
Due to international laws, migrants who are intercepted in the Channel cannot be lawfully detained, as opposed to those who reach Britain, who are often temporarily housed in hotels.
Most migrants who cross the Channel are doing so lawfully because they are intercepted before reaching the UK coast. Only a fraction land on beaches, which is illegal under British law.
But the new government plans look to enable UK authorities to detain and subsequently deport or imprison migrants intercepted at sea.

Individuals will face a maximum prison sentence of four years under the new law. A government source said: “We’re working through what powers of detention are needed.”
Another official said: “Ministers are convinced this is the way to create a deterrent. Their thinking is ‘you make it worse and worse, more draconian and it’ll stop people coming.’ They’re absolutely convinced that tough deterrents are the way to fix it.”
The plan is part of a wider strategy to use the Royal Navy, as well as a relocation policy to third countries, in order to combat Channel crossings.
However, MPs from Johnson’s Conservative Party have questioned the new proposal. Senior MP Tim Loughton said: “The fear is that it’s substituting the current accommodation bill of a Holiday Inn with the higher bill of a prison facility or a secure facility.”
There are also concerns that detained migrants could claim other rights under the Human Rights Act and the UN Refugee Convention, making it difficult for the government to execute its strategy.
But Patel’s plan aims to classify migrants who enter the UK illegally, or who arrive through a “safe” third country — including France — as “inadmissible.” 


Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says
Updated 22 January 2022

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says
  • The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and triggered widespread hunger

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military is planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” rebellious forces, a top military official said late on Friday amid diplomatic efforts to end conflict in the country’s north.
The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with the federal military and its allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray.
This week two top US diplomats flew into Addis Ababa to push for a cease-fire, building on tentative signs of a thaw in relations between warring parties, including the release of political prisoners.
In an interview with state-affiliated media outlet Fana broadcast late on Friday, Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) deputy army chief, General Abebaw Tadesse said the country would not be at peace until the TPLF was eliminated.
“Tigray is part of Ethiopia and no force will stop us from entering. We will enter and we will eliminate the enemy. There shouldn’t be any confusion about this,” he said.
“The people of Ethiopia shouldn’t think that it is over, it is not over. The main thing here is we have stopped because we have to prepare ourselves. This enemy is still there, and it has to be absolutely eliminated. We will not negotiate with them.”
The TPLF’s spokesman, Getachew Reda, could not be reached for a comment on the military official’s remarks.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the country’s ethnically-based federal government system while Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to seize the national power it once held.
For months there has been an uneasy stalemate between the two sides, punctuated by sporadic fighting. TPLF forces control most of Tigray but are surrounded by hostile forces from neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara which are allied with the federal military.
The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and triggered widespread hunger.
In recent months there have been multiple diplomatic and political efforts to end it, including pressure from the United States pushing for rapprochement between the two sides.


Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
Updated 22 January 2022

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
  • Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens

KABUL: The Taliban’s first official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan will help to “transform the atmosphere of war” after a two-decade insurgency against NATO forces, the group’s top spokesman told AFP Saturday.
The hard-line Islamists stormed back to power in August as US and foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country following a stalemate on the battlefield.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban’s government — notorious for human rights abuses during a first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 when they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
“The Islamic Emirate has taken steps for meeting the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our relations through diplomacy with all the countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.
The Taliban want to “transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation.”
Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since the Taliban’s takeover. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.
Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The visit from Sunday to Tuesday will see meetings between the hard-line Islamists, Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries including Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, the Norwegian foreign ministry statement said.
The Taliban delegation is also expected to meet Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists, at a time when the freedoms of those living in Afghanistan are being increasingly curtailed.
“These meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Friday.
“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.”
The Taliban delegation, led by foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, was due to leave for Oslo on Saturday.
Ali Maisam Nazary, the foreign relations chief for the National Resistance Front (NRF) — an opposition group that bills itself as the last bastion against total Taliban control — condemned Norway over the talks.
“We all must raise our voices and prevent any country from normalizing a terrorist group as the representative of Afghanistan,” Nazary, who is based in Paris, tweeted on Friday.