Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat
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Pedestrians wave hand fans on the waterfront of Thessaloniki on June 23, 2022 amid a heatwave. (AFP)
Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat
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A man lies under a palm tree at the public beach of Paleo Faliro, in southern Athens, Greece, on June 23, 2022 as temperatures reach 40°Celsius. (AP)
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Updated 25 June 2022

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat
  • Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves
  • In the US, excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined

PHOENIX: Hundreds of blue, green and grey tents are pitched under the sun’s searing rays in downtown Phoenix, a jumble of flimsy canvas and plastic along dusty sidewalks. Here, in the hottest big city in America, thousands of homeless people swelter as the summer’s triple digit temperatures arrive.
The stifling tent city has ballooned amid pandemic-era evictions and surging rents that have dumped hundreds more people onto the sizzling streets that grow eerily quiet when temperatures peak in the midafternoon. A heat wave earlier this month brought temperatures of up to 114 degrees (45.5 Celsius) — and it’s only June. Highs reached 118 degrees (47.7 Celsius) last year.
“During the summer, it’s pretty hard to find a place at night that’s cool enough to sleep without the police running you off,” said Chris Medlock, a homeless Phoenix man known on the streets as “T-Bone” who carries everything he owns in a small backpack and often beds down in a park or a nearby desert preserve to avoid the crowds.
“If a kind soul could just offer a place on their couch indoors maybe more people would live,” Medlock said at a dining room where homeless people can get some shade and a free meal.
Excessive heat causes more weather-related deaths in the United States than hurricanes, flooding and tornadoes combined.

Around the country, heat contributes to some 1,500 deaths annually, and advocates estimate about half of those people are homeless.
Temperatures are rising nearly everywhere because of global warming, combining with brutal drought in some places to create more intense, frequent and longer heat waves. The past few summers have been some of the hottest on record.
Just in the county that includes Phoenix, at least 130 homeless people were among the 339 individuals who died from heat-associated causes in 2021.
“If 130 homeless people were dying in any other way it would be considered a mass casualty event,” said Kristie L. Ebi, a professor of global health at the University of Washington.
It’s a problem that stretches across the United States, and now, with rising global temperatures, heat is no longer a danger just in places like Phoenix.
This summer will likely bring above-normal temperatures over most land areas worldwide, according to the latest seasonal forecast map produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.
Last summer, a heat wave blasted the normally temperate US Northwest and had Seattle residents sleeping in their yards and on roofs, or fleeing to hotels with air conditioning. Across the state, several people presumed to be homeless died outdoors, including a man slumped behind a gas station.
In Oregon, officials opened 24-hour cooling centers for the first time. Volunteer teams fanned out with water and popsicles to homeless encampments on Portland’s outskirts.
A quick scientific analysis concluded last year’s Pacific Northwest heat wave was virtually impossible without human-caused climate change adding several degrees and toppling previous records.

A man takes a photo of a sign at El Arroyo restaurant in Austin, Texas, on a hot afternoon, on  June 23, 2022. (Austin American-Statesman via AP)/ 

Even Boston is exploring ways to protect diverse neighborhoods like its Chinatown, where population density and few shade trees help drive temperatures up to 106 degrees (41 Celsius) some summer days. The city plans strategies like increasing tree canopy and other kinds of shade, using cooler materials for roofs, and expanding its network of cooling centers during heat waves.
It’s not just a US problem. An Associated Press analysis last year of a dataset published by the Columbia University’s climate school found exposure to extreme heat has tripled and now affects about a quarter of the world’s population.
This spring, an extreme heat wave gripped much of Pakistan and India, where homelessness is widespread due to discrimination and insufficient housing. The high in Jacobabad, Pakistan near the border with India hit 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in May.
Dr. Dileep Mavalankar, who heads the Indian Institute of Public Health in the western Indian city Gandhinagar, said because of poor reporting it’s unknown how many die in the country from heat exposure.
Summertime cooling centers for homeless, elderly and other vulnerable populations have opened in several European countries each summer since a heat wave killed 70,000 people across Europe in 2003.
Emergency service workers on bicycles patrol Madrid’s streets, distributing ice packs and water in the hot months. Still, some 1,300 people, most of them elderly, continue to die in Spain each summer because of health complications exacerbated by excess heat.
Spain and southern France last week sweltered through unusually hot weather for mid-June, with temperatures hitting 104 degrees (40 Celsius) in some areas.
Climate scientist David Hondula, who heads Phoenix’s new office for heat mitigation, says that with such extreme weather now seen around the world, more solutions are needed to protect the vulnerable, especially homeless people who are about 200 times more likely than sheltered individuals to die from heat-associated causes.
“As temperatures continue to rise across the US and the world, cities like Seattle, Minneapolis, New York or Kansas City that don’t have the experience or infrastructure for dealing with heat have to adjust as well.”
In Phoenix, officials and advocates hope a vacant building recently converted into a 200-bed shelter for homeless people will help save lives this summer.
Mac Mais, 34, was among the first to move in.
“It can be rough. I stay in the shelters or anywhere I can find,” said Mais who has been homeless on and off since he was a teen. “Here, I can stay out actually rest, work on job applications, stay out of the heat.”
In Las Vegas, teams deliver bottled water to homeless people living in encampments around the county and inside a network of underground storm drains under the Las Vegas strip.

People crowd the registration counter at Tej Bahadur Sapru Hospital in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh state, India, on June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Ahmedabad, India, population 8.4 million, was the first South Asian city to design a heat action plan in 2013.
Through its warning system, nongovernmental groups reach out to vulnerable people and send text messages to mobile phones. Water tankers are dispatched to slums, while bus stops, temples and libraries become shelters for people to escape the blistering rays.
Still, the deaths pile up.
Kimberly Rae Haws, a 62-year-old homeless woman, was severely burned in October 2020 while sprawled for an unknown amount of time on a sizzling Phoenix blacktop. The cause of her subsequent death was never investigated.
A young man nicknamed Twitch died from heat exposure as he sat on a curb near a Phoenix soup kitchen in the hours before it opened one weekend in 2018.
“He was supposed to move into permanent housing the next Monday,” said Jim Baker, who oversees that dining room for the St. Vincent de Paul charity. “His mother was devastated.”
Many such deaths are never confirmed as heat related and aren’t always noticed because of the stigma of homelessness and lack of connection to family.
When a 62-year-old mentally ill woman named Shawna Wright died last summer in a hot alley in Salt Lake City, her death only became known when her family published an obituary saying the system failed to protect her during the hottest July on record, when temperatures reached the triple digits.
Her sister, Tricia Wright, said making it easier for homeless people to get permanent housing would go a long way toward protecting them from extreme summertime temperatures.
“We always thought she was tough, that she could get through it,” Tricia Wright said of her sister. “But no one is tough enough for that kind of heat.”

Human rights groups criticize UK schemes for Afghan refugees

Human rights groups criticize UK schemes for Afghan refugees
Updated 9 sec ago

Human rights groups criticize UK schemes for Afghan refugees

Human rights groups criticize UK schemes for Afghan refugees
  • One refugee says he is ‘heartbroken and ashamed’ at schemes’ failure
  • Poor mental health and lack of permanent homes among issues faced

LONDON: The failure of two UK schemes to resettle refugees from Afghanistan has forced many to take dangerous routes to try to reach safety, according to a new report.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme were meant to help tens of thousands of people reach the UK after Afghanistan was taken over by the Taliban a year ago.

But a briefing to Parliament featuring remarks from nine human rights groups described both as “unjustifiably restrictive,” which, it added, had left many stranded and led to an increase in people trying to enter Britain illegally.

The briefing, put together by groups including Human Rights Watch, said that interpreters and teachers were among those betrayed by the failure of the schemes.

“A year since the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the (ARAP) scheme is still not functioning properly and is marred by ongoing substantive and procedural problems,” the briefing said.

Adam Smith International had 250 staff in Afghanistan, helping implement aid projects, who applied through the ARAP scheme to relocate to the UK. Just 24 have received clearance — something the group’s director, Daniel Pimlott, said was “shameful.”

A group of 109 teachers who worked for the British Council in Afghanistan is still trapped in the country, despite being granted permission to apply for resettlement, with no way of escaping.

Joseph Seaton, former English manager and deputy director of the British Council Afghanistan, said: “The failure of the British Council and UK government to ensure the safety of their teachers has massively tarnished its great work in (the) country.”

One of the teachers, Mahmoud, said he had been sent death threats by the Taliban even before the takeover, adding: “I have moved 11 times. The Taliban whipped my then eight-year-old daughter to get her to say where I was.”

The briefing also highlighted the plight of many Afghans who had successfully made it to the UK but were now left in states of limbo, with around 10,500 currently being put up in hotels across the country, and many suffering serious mental health issues as a result.

One told the Observer newspaper: “We have been completely forgotten about.

“Having worked for many years for the British government in Afghanistan, I’m heartbroken and ashamed (that) their flagship resettlement policies have failed so badly.

“One year on, we have received no communications from the government on what happens next, and remain in a hotel. I often ask myself whether I would have been better off remaining in Afghanistan, and facing my destiny at the hands of the Taliban.”

A spokesperson for the UK Home Office told the Observer: “The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it and, through the new ACRS, up to 20,000 people in need will be welcomed to the UK.

The British Council said in a statement: “We know our former colleagues are living in increasingly desperate circumstances. We are incredibly concerned for them and for their families’ welfare and we continue to be in direct touch with them on a regular basis.

“The Afghanistan relocation schemes are run by the UK government. We have been pushing for progress with senior contacts within the UK government to ensure the earliest consideration of our former contractors’ relocation applications.”

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant
Updated 07 August 2022

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

Zelensky calls for tougher international response after shelling of nuclear plant

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Sunday for a stronger international response to what he described as Russian “nuclear terror” after shelling at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the biggest in Europe.
During a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel, Zelensky called for sanctions to be imposed on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel, the Ukrainian leader wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine’s state nuclear power company said earlier that a worker had been wounded when Russian forces shelled the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Saturday evening.

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence
Updated 07 August 2022

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence

Blinken kicks off Africa tour to counter Russian influence
  • Blinken will hold talks with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor and also make an announcement on the US government’s new Africa strategy

JOHANNESBURG: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in South Africa on Sunday to kick off a three-nation visit aimed at countering Russian influence on the continent.
The visit came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov undertook an extensive tour of Africa late last month.
South Africa, a leader in the developing world, has remained neutral in the Ukraine war, refusing to join Western calls to condemn Moscow, which had opposed apartheid before the end of white minority rule in 1994.
Blinken will hold talks on Monday with South African counterpart Naledi Pandor and also make an announcement on the US government’s new Africa strategy, Pretoria said in a statement.
They will “discuss ongoing and recent developments relating to the global geopolitical situation,” it said.
The State Department last month called African countries “geostrategic players and critical partners on the most pressing issues of our day, from promoting an open and stable international system, to tackling the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics to shaping our technological and economic futures.”
Blinken who is on his second trip to Africa since his appointment early last year, is due to proceed to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda later this week.
His visit to DR Congo is aimed at boosting support for sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country which battling to turn the page on decades of conflict.
He winds up the tour in Rwanda, which has seen a flare-up in tensions with DR Congo after it accused its neighbor to the east of backing M23 rebels, a charge Kigali denies.

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media
Updated 07 August 2022

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media

China to conduct ‘regular’ military drills east of Taiwan Strait median line: state media
  • China has deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles around Taiwan
  • Taiwan resumed flights through its airspace after Chinese military drills

BEIJING: The Chinese military will from now on conduct “regular” drills on the eastern side of the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state television reported on Sunday, citing a commentator.
The median line in the narrow strait between the island of Taiwan and mainland China is an unofficial line of control that military aircraft and battleships from either side normally do not cross.
The median line has never been legally recognized, and is an “imaginary” line drawn up by the US military for their combat requirements in the previous century, according to the state television commentator.

Earlier, China’s largest-ever military exercises surrounding Taiwan drew to a close on Sunday following a controversial visit last week to the self-ruled island by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing has raged at the trip by Pelosi — the second in the line of succession to the US presidency — ripping up a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington, most notably on climate change and defense.
It has also deployed fighter jets, warships and ballistic missiles around Taiwan in what analysts have described as practice for a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island.
Those exercises were set to end Sunday, though Beijing has announced fresh drills in the Yellow Sea — located between China and the Korean peninsula — to take place until August 15.
Taiwan’s transport ministry said six of the seven “temporary danger zones” China warned airlines to avoid ceased to be in effect as of noon on Sunday, signalling a drawdown of the drills.
It said the seventh zone, in waters east of Taiwan, would remain in effect until 10:00 am (0300 GMT) local time on Monday.
“Relevant flights and sailings can gradually resume,” the ministry said in a statement.
Taipei said some routes were still being affected in the seventh area, and authorities would continue to monitor ship movements there.
Earlier on Sunday, Beijing conducted “practical joint exercises in the sea and airspace surrounding Taiwan Island as planned,” the Chinese military’s Eastern Command said.
The drills were focused “on testing the joint firepower on the ground and long-range air strike capabilities,” it added.
Taipei’s defense ministry also confirmed that China had dispatched “planes, vessels and drones” around the Taiwan Strait, “simulating attacks on Taiwan’s main island and on ships in our waters.”
Beijing also sent drones over Taiwan’s outlying islands, it added.
In response, the democratic island said it mobilized a “joint intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance system to closely monitor the enemy situation” as well as sending planes and vessels.
China’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment about the expected conclusion of the drills on Sunday.
To show how close China’s forces have been getting to Taiwan’s shores, Beijing’s military released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
And the Eastern Command of the Chinese army shared a photo it said was taken of a warship patrolling seas near Taiwan with the island’s shoreline visible in the background.
The drills have also seen Beijing fire ballistic missiles over Taiwan’s capital, according to Chinese state media.
Taipei has remained defiant throughout China’s sabre-rattling, insisting it will not be cowed by its “evil neighbor.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry urged Beijing on Saturday to “immediately stop raising tensions and taking provocative actions to intimidate the Taiwanese people.”
But experts have warned the drills reveal an increasingly emboldened Chinese military capable of carrying out a gruelling blockade of the self-ruled island as well as obstructing US forces from coming to its aid.
“In some areas, the PLA might even surpass US capabilities,” Grant Newsham, a researcher at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and former US Navy officer, told AFP, referring to China’s military by its official name.
“If the battle is confined to the area right around Taiwan, today’s Chinese navy is a dangerous opponent — and if the Americans and Japanese do not intervene for some reason, things would be difficult for Taiwan.”
The scale and intensity of China’s drills — as well as Beijing’s withdrawal from key talks on climate and defense — have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting with his Philippine counterpart on Saturday, said Washington was “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a major global crisis.
China should not hold talks on issues of global concern such as climate change “hostage,” Blinken said, as it “doesn’t punish the United States, it punishes the world.”
The United Nations has also urged the two superpowers to continue to work together.
“For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine
Updated 07 August 2022

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine

Four more cargo ships sail from Ukraine
  • The four bulk carriers loaded with more than 160,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs
  • First ship delayed after it was set to dock in Lebanon on Sunday

KYIV: Four ships carrying Ukrainian foodstuffs sailed from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Sunday as part of a deal to unblock the country’s sea exports, Ukrainian and Turkish officials said.
The four bulk carriers were loaded with more than 160,000 tons of corn and other foodstuffs.
The resumption of grain exports is being overseen by a Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul where Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN personnel are working.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal last month after UN warnings of possible outbreaks of famine in parts of the world due to a halt in grain shipments from Ukraine that had squeezed supplies and sent prices soaring.
Before the invasion, Russia and Ukraine together accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.
The JCC said late on Saturday it had authorized the departure of a total of five new vessels through the Black Sea corridor: four vessels outbound from Chornomorsk and Odesa carrying 161,084 metric tons of foodstuffs, and one inbound.
The ships that have left Ukrainian ports included Glory, with a cargo of 66,000 tons of corn bound for Istanbul, and Riva Wind, loaded with 44,000 tons of corn, heading for Turkey’s Iskenderun, the Turkish defense ministry said.
It said the other two vessels to have left Ukraine were Star Helena, with a cargo of 45,000 tons of meal heading to China, and Mustafa Necati, carrying 6,000 tons of sunflower oil and heading for Italy.
The first four ships left Ukraine last week under the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon said the first grain ship that left Ukraine last week will not arrive in Lebanon on Sunday as planned.
The Razoni left Odesa on the Black Sea early last Monday carrying 26,527 tons of corn and was set to dock on Sunday in the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, according to Ukrainian officials and Lebanese port authorities.
But the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon said the ship was “having a delay” and “not arriving today,” with no details on a new arrival date or the cause of the postponement.
Shipping data on MarineTraffic.com showed the Razoni off the Turkish coast on Sunday morning.
Lebanon’s transport, agriculture and economy ministers told Reuters last week they did not know who was purchasing the grain aboard the Razoni.