Bangladesh controls deadly depot fire after three days

Special Bangladesh controls deadly depot fire after three days
Fire raises fresh concerns over industrial safety standards in Bangladesh. (AP)
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Updated 07 June 2022

Bangladesh controls deadly depot fire after three days

Bangladesh controls deadly depot fire after three days
  • Fire broke out late on Saturday, triggering blasts and blazes at Chittagong port’s container depot
  • At least 43 people were killed, including nine firefighters who were trying to extinguish the flames

DHAKA: Bangladeshi firefighters contained a blaze near the country’s main seaport in Chittagong on Tuesday, three days after the fire killed at least 43 people, including nine firemen, and injured hundreds of others.

The fire broke out late on Saturday, triggering blasts and blazes at the southeastern port’s container depot in Sitakunda.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the disaster but said leakage from a container of hydrogen peroxide was likely to be the source of the initial blaze. An official report is expected to be released by next week.

“The situation is fully under control now,” Mohammad Manikuzzaman, assistant director at Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense, told Arab News.

Officials suspected that depot management had not followed safety guidelines.

“We have only noticed a few fire extinguishers inside the depot,” Manikuzzaman said. “Other than that, there was nothing visible in connection with fire situation preparedness.”

He added that the bodies of the nine firefighters who lost their lives while trying to extinguish the blaze had been identified and that three men remained missing.

“The total number of deaths in connection with depot fire stood at 43 as of Tuesday afternoon,” Dr. Aung Swi Prue Marma, deputy director of Chattogram Medical College Hospital, where the fire’s victims were hospitalized, told Arab News. “A total of 155 fire injured persons got admitted in our hospital while another 230 received primary treatment.”

Twelve people were severely injured and some of them had to be airlifted to receive specialist treatment at the Sheikh Hasina Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute in Dhaka.

“Among the 12 injured patients, three were admitted in the intensive care unit. One of them is in a very critical stage at this moment. Another one was also infected with COVID-19,” Dr. Samanta Lal Sen, national coordinator for all burn centers in Bangladesh, told Arab News.

“Patients with burn injuries are always very vulnerable. They might get infected at any stage.”

The depot fire was one of the worst accidents in Bangladesh, which already has a devastating track record of industrial disasters, including factories catching on fire with workers trapped inside.

Bangladesh's deadliest fire was in 2012 when a blaze swept through a garment factory in Dhaka and killed 112 workers.

Last year, a huge blaze engulfed a food and beverage factory in the capital killing at least 52 people.

In 2013, more than 1,100 people were killed when the Rana Plaza garment factory in Dhaka collapsed.

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US
Updated 7 sec ago

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US
  • Biden said that despite the contribution made to the nation, many Arabs continue to face racism and discrimination
  • For many years, Arabs in only a few states celebrated Arab American Heritage Month individually and during different months of the year

Chicago: US President Joe Biden this week issued a lengthy statement recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month, noting on Friday that “the Arab American story is the American story” and should be recognized formally by all Americans.

Biden said that Arab Americans, like all of the nation’s ethnic groups, had contributed to defining America as a country welcoming of immigrants and the cultures they brought with them, serving in the US military and in every profession.

However, Biden said that despite the contribution made to the nation, many Arabs continue to face racism and discrimination.

“This month, we join together to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of Arab Americans to our nation and recommit ourselves to the timeless work of making sure that all people have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Biden said during a briefing on March 31.

“Sadly, we also recognize that, even as Arab Americans enrich our nation, many continue to face prejudice, bigotry, and violence — a stain on our collective conscience. Hate must have no safe harbor in this country. We must affirm that sentiment again and again. That is why, on my first day in office, I issued the proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States, which harmed the Arab American community. I also signed an executive order charging the federal government with advancing equity for historically underserved communities, including Arab Americans. I was proud to host a first-of-its-kind United We Stand Summit at the White House and announce new measures to help communities prevent and respond to hate-based threats, bullying and harassment.”

Biden established an interagency group to “coordinate” the federal government’s efforts to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia, and is exploring ways to include Arabs in the 2030 US Census drive, leaning toward adding to the census questionnaire the phrase “MENA” (Middle East and North Africa) rather than the word “Arab.”

For many years, Arabs in only a few states such as Michigan, Illinois, California, Washington D.C., Arizona and Texas celebrated Arab American Heritage Month individually and during different months of the year.

That changed in 2017 when Arab American leaders launched a coordinated effort to designate one month, April, as Arab American Heritage Month. In 2018, Illinois became the first state to pass a law officially recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month.

Since then, 44 other states have approved proclamations recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month and Arab contributions to American society.

In 2022, the recognition of April as Arab American Heritage Month received a major boost when Biden became the first US president to recognize it as an official national commemoration.

“We have seen a steady progression, first to bring Arab Americans together to recognize one month to celebrate our rich cultural heritage, and we have seen many Americans and elected officials support this important designation,” said American Arab Chamber of Commerce of Illinois President Hassan Nijem who was instrumental in getting the law passed in 2018.

“Last year, President Biden recognized April nationally as Arab Heritage Month and it has been followed by proclamations and declarations from members of Congress, state governors and legislatures in 45 states. We still have a way to go, but the recognition of the contributions of Arab Americans to the richness of this country is undeniable.”

Several Biden administration officials and department heads issued statements affirming April as Arab American Heritage Month. On April 1, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking for the Biden administration, issued a proclamation honoring Arab American Heritage Month.

Last year, President Biden became the first US president to declare April as National Arab American Heritage Month, in recognition of the contributions of Arab Americans to the United States that are as old as America itself. Americans of Arab heritage have advanced the nation’s achievements in diplomacy, science, technology, as well as in art and culture,” Blinken said.

“Arab Americans have also been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights and social justice. We mark National Arab American Heritage Month by celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Arab Americans and honoring the contributions to this country, including proudly here at the Department of State.”

The Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison joined the DNC’s Ethnic Council Chairman James Zogby, also the president of the Arab American Institute, in issuing a statement saluting Arab culture during April Arab American Heritage month.

“This Arab American Heritage Month, we celebrate the culture, contributions, and achievements of Arab Americans across our country. This vibrant and diverse community, with roots in 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and numerous cultural and religious traditions, represents the best of who we are,” a statement released on Saturday by the DNC read.

“President Biden understands that, and it is why the Biden-Harris administration recognized April as National Arab American Heritage Month for the first time nationally in 2021. On behalf of the Democratic Party, we’re proud to celebrate and support Arab Americans for the tremendous impact they have on our party and country.”

From schools to government agencies and public organizations, Americans are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month. The New York City Public Schools, for example, listed a variety of ways in which classrooms and students can learn more about Arab American history.

The Arab American National Museum located in Dearborn, Michigan, is offering a “virtual tour” of Arab American history.

Google Classrooms and “1001 Inventions” have partnered to provide digital access to interactive stories about lesser-known pioneer men and women, primarily from the Arab world, to help spark young people’s interest in science while promoting diversity and inclusion in their own online exhibition.

Several Arab American leaders said that the celebrations were muted slightly in deference to the observance of Ramadan, the important Islamic religious commemoration observed by Muslims during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar by fasting from sunrise to sunset, and in prayer and through community reflection.

In a show of unity with Muslims, many Christian-owned restaurants limit their business hours until after the sunset iftar, and temper public celebrations.

“In Illinois, we will be hosting events at the end of the month of April Arab American Heritage Month as an act of respect,” Nijem said, noting that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who annually recognizes the achievements of the region’s ethnic groups, will host a special Arab American Heritage gathering on May 1 at her offices in Chicago.

The Arab Chamber also has several events planned for the last week of April after Ramadan concludes, Nijem said.

War has killed 262 Ukrainian athletes, sports minister says

War has killed 262 Ukrainian athletes, sports minister says
Updated 02 April 2023

War has killed 262 Ukrainian athletes, sports minister says

War has killed 262 Ukrainian athletes, sports minister says
  • Ukraine has said its athletes won’t be allowed to compete in qualifying events for the 2024 Olympic Games if they have to compete against Russians

Russia’s war against Ukraine has claimed the lives of 262 Ukrainian athletes and destroyed 363 sports facilities, the country’s sports minister, Vadym Guttsait, said on Saturday.
Meeting the visiting president of the International Federation of Gymnastics, Morinari Watanabe, Guttsait said no athletes from Russia should be allowed at the Olympics or other sports competitions.
“They all support this war and attend events held in support of this war,” Huttsait said, according to a transcript on President Volodymyr Zelensky’s website.
The International Olympic Committee has recommended the gradual return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition as neutrals. It has not decided on their participation in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Ukraine said on Friday its athletes will not be allowed to take part in qualifying events for the 2024 Games if they have to compete against Russians, a decision the IOC has criticized.
Reuters could not independently verify the number of Ukrainian athletes killed or how many facilities have been destroyed.
In the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine in February 2022, a number of Ukrainian national-level athletes have taken up arms voluntarily to defend their country.
Among those killed this year alone have been figure skater Dmytro Sharpar, who died in combat near Bakhmut, and Volodymyr Androshchuk, a 22-year-old decathlon champion and future Olympic hopeful.

Finns vote as far right aims to unseat PM Sanna Marin

Finns vote as far right aims to unseat PM Sanna Marin
Updated 02 April 2023

Finns vote as far right aims to unseat PM Sanna Marin

Finns vote as far right aims to unseat PM Sanna Marin
  • Marin's Social Democratic Party (SDP) was in third place with 18.7 percent, behind center-right National Coalition (19.8 %), and the nationalist euroskeptic Finns Party (19.5 %)

HELSINKI: Finland votes Sunday in legislative elections that could see the country take a dramatic turn to the right, as center-right and anti-immigration parties vie to unseat Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
After the breakthrough by nationalists in neighboring Sweden and the far right’s victory in Italy last year, Finland could become the latest country to join the nationalist wave in Europe.
The vote comes just days ahead of Finland’s formal accession to the NATO defense alliance, made possible after Turkiye ratified the country’s membership bid on Thursday.
“The polls show that the more right-wing political trend in Finland is gaining strength,” Juho Rahkonen from the E2 research institute told AFP.
Traditionally, the biggest of the eight main parties in parliament gets the first chance to build a government, and since the 1990s that party has always claimed the prime minister’s office.
“We are aiming to win this election and continue our work for a more sustainable future,” Marin told reporters at the sidelines of her final campaign event in Helsinki.
The latest survey published Thursday by public broadcaster Yle showed the center-right National Coalition holding a thin lead at 19.8 percent, with the nationalist euroskeptic Finns Party in second place at 19.5 percent.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by Marin, who took office in 2019 as the world’s youngest prime minister at age 34, was in third place with 18.7 percent.
“We have had a great campaign. We have the best candidates all over Finland and we are first in the polls, so I’m optimistic,” National Coalition leader Petteri Orpo told AFP at a campaign rally on Saturday.
While Marin ranks as Finland’s most popular prime minister this century in polls, she is struggling to convert her popularity into SDP seats in parliament.
“Although she is exceptionally popular, she also arouses opposition. The political divide has been reinforced,” Rahkonen said.
While some view her as a strong leader who deftly navigated the Covid-19 pandemic and the NATO membership process, others see the rising public debt on her watch and scandals over video clips of her partying as signs of her inexperience.
Finland’s debt-to-GDP ratio has risen from 64 percent in 2019 to 73 percent, which Orpo’s National Coalition wants to address by cutting spending by six billion euros ($6.5 billion).
Marin has defended her track record and accused the National Coalition of wanting to “take from the poor to give to the rich.”

A top spot for the far-right Finns Party, and a far-right prime minister, would be a first in Finland, with its leader Riikka Purra poised to top her party’s record score.
Her euroskeptic party wants a hard line on immigration, pointing to neighboring Sweden’s problems with gang violence as a cautionary tale.
“The biggest issue at the moment is the growing juvenile delinquency,” she told AFP on Saturday, claiming that “most of these street gangs and young criminals in the streets are migrants.”
Support for the populist party has surged since last summer, spurred by the “rise in energy prices and the general decline in purchasing power” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Rahkonen said.
While the party served in a center-right government in 2015, it later split into two factions, one hard-line and the other moderate, with only the hard-liners still in parliament.
The Finns Party sees an EU exit as its long-term goal and wants to postpone Finland’s target of carbon neutrality for 2035.

Negotiations to build a government are expected to be thorny.
Marin has ruled out forming a government with what she calls the “openly racist” Finns Party, while Orpo has said he will keep his options open, despite clashing with the Finns Party on immigration, the EU and climate policy.
This gives him a central role in forming the next government, as both the Finns Party and the SDP would likely need him to obtain a majority.
Voting stations open at 9:00 am (0600 GMT) and close at 8:00 p.m. (1700 GMT), when the results of advance voting will be published. About 40 percent of voters have cast their ballots in advance.

At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South

At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South
Updated 49 min 31 sec ago

At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South

At least 26 dead after tornadoes rake US Midwest, South
  • Debris and memories of regular life lay scattered inside the shells of homes and on lawns: clothing, insulation, roofing paper, toys, splintered furniture, a pickup truck with its windows shattered

WYNNE, Arkansas: Storms that dropped possibly dozens of tornadoes killed at least 26 people in small towns and big cities across the South and Midwest, tearing a path through the Arkansas capital, collapsing the roof of a packed concert venue in Illinois and stunning people throughout the region Saturday with the damage’s scope.
Confirmed or suspected tornadoes in at least eight states destroyed homes and businesses, splintered trees and laid waste to neighborhoods across a broad swath of the country. The dead included at least nine in one Tennessee county, four in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, three in Sullivan, Indiana, and four in Illinois.
Other deaths from the storms that hit Friday night into Saturday were reported in Alabama and Mississippi, along with one near Little Rock, Arkansas, where city officials said more than 2,600 buildings were in a tornado’s path.
Residents of Wynne, a community of about 8,000 people 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of Memphis, Tennessee, woke Saturday to find the high school’s roof shredded and its windows blown out. Huge trees lay on the ground, their stumps reduced to nubs. Broken walls, windows and roofs pocked homes and businesses.
Debris lay scattered inside the shells of homes and on lawns: clothing, insulation, toys, splintered furniture, a pickup truck with its windows shattered.
Ashley Macmillan said she, her husband and their children huddled with their dogs in a small bathroom as a tornado passed, “praying and saying goodbye to each other, because we thought we were dead.” A falling tree seriously damaged their home, but they were unhurt.
“We could feel the house shaking, we could hear loud noises, dishes rattling. And then it just got calm,” she said.
Recovery was already underway, with workers using chainsaws and bulldozers to clear the area and utility crews restoring power.
Nine people died in Tennessee’s McNairy County, east of Memphis, according to Patrick Sheehan, director the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
“The majority of the damage has been done to homes and residential areas,” said David Leckner, the mayor of Adamsville.
Gov. Bill Lee drove to the county Saturday to tour the destruction and comfort residents. He said the storm capped the “worst” week of his time as governor, coming days after a school shooting in Nashville that killed six people including a family friend whose funeral he and his wife, Maria, attended earlier in the day.
“It’s terrible what has happened in this community, this county, this state,” Lee said. “But it looks like your community has done what Tennessean communities do, and that is rally and respond.”
Jeffrey Day said he called his daughter after seeing on the news that their community of Adamsville was being hit. Huddled in a closet with her 2-year-old son as the storm passed over, she answered the phone screaming.
“She kept asking me, ‘What do I do, daddy?’” Day said, tearing up. “I didn’t know what to say.”
After the storm passed, his daughter crawled out of her destroyed home and over barbed wire and drove to nearby family. On Saturday evening, baby clothes were still strewn about the site.
In Memphis, police spokesman Christopher Williams said via email late Saturday that there were three deaths believed to be weather-related: two children and an adult who died when a tree fell on a house.
Tennessee officials warned that the same weather conditions from Friday night are expected to return Tuesday.
In Belvidere, Illinois, part of the roof of the Apollo Theatre collapsed as about 260 people were attending a heavy metal concert. A 50-year-old man was pulled from the rubble.
“I sat with him and I held his hand and I was (telling him), ‘It’s going to be OK.’ I didn’t really know much else what to do,” concertgoer Gabrielle Lewellyn told WTVO-TV.
The man was dead by the time emergency workers arrived. Officials said 40 others were hurt, including two with life-threatening injuries.
Crews cleaned up around the Apollo on Saturday, with forklifts pulling away loose bricks. Business owners picked up glass shards and covered shattered windows.
In Crawford County, Illinois, three people were killed and eight injured when a tornado hit around New Hebron, said Bill Burke, the county board chair.
Sheriff Bill Rutan said 60 to 100 families were displaced.
“We’ve had emergency crews digging people out of their basements because the house is collapsed on top of them, but luckily they had that safe space to go to,” Rutan said at a news conference.
That tornado was not far from where three people died in Indiana’s Sullivan County, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of Indianapolis.
Sullivan Mayor Clint Lamb said at a news conference that an area south of the county seat of about 4,000 “is essentially unrecognizable right now” and several people were rescued overnight. There were reports of as many as 12 people injured, he said.
“I’m really, really shocked there isn’t more as far as human issues,” he said, adding that recovery “is going to be a very long process.”
In the Little Rock area, at least one person was killed and more than 50 were hurt, some critically.
The National Weather Service said that tornado was a high-end EF3 twister with wind speeds up to 165 mph (265 kph) and a path as long as 25 miles (40 kilometers).
Masoud Shahed-Ghaznavi was lunching at home when it roared through his neighborhood, causing him to hide in the laundry room as sheetrock fell and windows shattered. When he emerged, the house was mostly rubble.
“Everything around me is sky,” Shahed-Ghaznavi recalled Saturday. He barely slept Friday night.
“When I closed my eyes, I couldn’t sleep, imagined I was here,” he said Saturday outside his home.
Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. On Saturday, Sanders requested a major disaster declaration from President Joe Biden to support recovery efforts with federal resources.
Another suspected tornado killed a woman in northern Alabama’s Madison County, officials said, and in northern Mississippi’s Pontotoc County, authorities confirmed one death and four injuries.
Tornadoes also caused damage in eastern Iowa and broke windows northeast of Peoria, Illinois.
The storms struck just hours after Biden visited Rolling Fork, Mississippi, where tornadoes last week destroyed parts of town.
It could take days to determine the exact number of tornadoes from the latest event, said Bill Bunting, chief of forecast operations at the Storm Prediction Center. There were also hundreds of reports of large hail and damaging winds, he said.
“That’s a quite active day,” he said. “But that’s not unprecedented.”
More than 530,000 homes and businesses were without power as of midday Saturday, over 200,000 of them in Ohio, according to
The sprawling storm system also brought wildfires to the southern Plains, with authorities in Oklahoma reporting nearly 100 of them Friday. At least 32 people were said to be injured, and more than 40 homes destroyed.
The storms also caused blizzard conditions in the Upper Midwest.
A threat of tornadoes and hail remained for the Northeast including in parts of Pennsylvania and New York.

Three British men being held in Afghanistan: UK non-profit group

Three British men being held in Afghanistan: UK non-profit group
Updated 02 April 2023

Three British men being held in Afghanistan: UK non-profit group

Three British men being held in Afghanistan: UK non-profit group
  • Britain’s foreign ministry said the five “had no role in the UK government’s work in Afghanistan and traveled to Afghanistan against the UK government’s travel advice”

LONDON: Three British men have been detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan, UK non-profit group the Presidium Network said on Saturday.
The group said on Twitter it had been “working closely with two of the families.”
“We are working hard to secure consular contact with British nationals detained in Afghanistan and we are supporting families,” the UK’s foreign ministry added in a statement.
Scott Richards of the Presidium Network told Sky News: “We believe they are in good health and being well treated.
“We have no reason to believe they’ve been subject to any negative treatment such as torture and we’re told that they are as good as can be expected in such circumstances.”
There had been “no meaningful contact” between authorities and the two men Presidium is assisting, he added.
These two men are believed to have been held by the Taliban since January.
It is not known how long the third man has been held for.

Media reports named the men as charity medic Kevin Cornwell, 53, an unnamed manager of a hotel for aid workers and YouTube star Miles Routledge.
Presidium on Twitter urged the Taliban to be “considerate of what we believe is a misunderstanding and release these men.”
Last year the Taliban freed a veteran television cameraman and four other British nationals it had held for six months.
Peter Jouvenal was one of a “number” of Britons that the government in London said had been held by the hard-line Islamists.
Britain’s foreign ministry said the five “had no role in the UK government’s work in Afghanistan and traveled to Afghanistan against the UK government’s travel advice.”
“This was a mistake,” it added.
At the time, Afghanistan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the Britons of “carrying out activities against the country’s laws and traditions of the people of Afghanistan.”
“After consecutive meetings between the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) and Britain the said persons were released... and handed over to their home country,” he said.
“They promised to abide by the laws of Afghanistan, its traditions and culture of the people and not to violate them again,” he added.
The Taliban returned to power in August 2021 and has since sparked global outrage with its policies in particular toward women and girls.