Village life left in ruins after deadly Afghan quake

Village life left in ruins after deadly Afghan quake
A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through Afghanistan last Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring three times that many, and leaving tens of thousands homeless. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 June 2022

Village life left in ruins after deadly Afghan quake

Village life left in ruins after deadly Afghan quake
  • A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area last Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people
  • The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain region, will arrive in September

AKHTAR JAN, Afghanistan: Village life has always been tough for Afghans in the rugged mountains of the east, but compared to what they are enduring today it was paradise.
A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area last Wednesday, killing more than 1,000 people, injuring three times that many, and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
“If life before was not really good — because for years there was war — the earthquake has made it even harder for us,” says Malin Jan, who lost two daughters in the quake.
All 14 houses in his village of Akhtar Jan were flattened, and survivors — including some from outlying hamlets — are now living in tents among the ruins.
Two small makeshift camps have been set up in dusty gardens, with stunted grass grazed by three cows, a donkey, two goats and a flock of chickens.
In tents pitched in a circle, about 35 families — more than 300 people including many children — are trying to survive.
Living in such close proximity to non-relatives is anathema to Afghans — particularly in the conservative countryside where women rarely interact with strangers.
Sanitary conditions are likely to deteriorate rapidly — there are no toilets, and people have to draw water from a well to wash.
“Before the earthquake, life was nice and beautiful,” says villager Abdu Rahman Abid.
“We had our houses and God was good.”
He gives a gruesome count of those he lost in the rubble — his parents, his wife, three daughters, a son and a nephew.
“The earthquake killed eight members of my family and my house is destroyed,” he says, looking weary.
“There is a big difference now. Before we had our own houses and everything we needed. Now we have nothing and our families are living in tents.”
Neighbor Malin Jan is already looking ahead, fearful of what the future holds.
The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain region, will arrive in September.
“If our children stay in this situation their lives will be in danger because of the rain and snow,” he says.
Massoud Sakib, 37, who lost his wife and three daughters, also fears for the months ahead.
“Even living in a house is difficult during winter, so if our houses are not rebuilt by then our lives will be in danger,” he says.
On Saturday, the UN’s top official in the country, Ramiz Alakbarov, arrived from Kabul by helicopter to visit the region — including the village of Akhtar Jan — with representatives of each UN agency.
Alakbarov was moved to tears as he met a young girl and was offered tea by a survivor, praising the “resilience and courage” of the people.
But their tenacity only stretches so far.
Interviewed by AFP, the Afghan minister of health, Qalandar Edad, warned of the “mental and psychological” suffering of victims.
Malin Jan said the villagers were doing their best to help each other through the crisis.
“When a family is hit by a tragedy, the others naturally come to surround and support them,” he said.
“Everything is affected... we console each other.”
But they cannot do it alone, adds villager Abdul Rahman Abib.
“We ask the world to help us as long as we need it. It must share our pain.”


Nearly half of Ethiopia’s Tigray faces ‘severe’ lack of food: WFP

Nearly half of Ethiopia’s Tigray faces ‘severe’ lack of food: WFP
Updated 5 sec ago

Nearly half of Ethiopia’s Tigray faces ‘severe’ lack of food: WFP

Nearly half of Ethiopia’s Tigray faces ‘severe’ lack of food: WFP
  • Around 47 percent “of the surveyed households are classified as... severely food insecure,” the report said, compared to nearly 40 percent of the population according to a WFP assessment published in January this year

ADDIS ABABA: Nearly half of the population in Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray is suffering from a severe lack of food, with conditions “set to worsen as people enter peak hunger season,” the UN’s World Food Programme warned Friday.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has been locked in a conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group since November 2020, leaving Ethiopia’s northernmost region in the grip of a serious humanitarian crisis.
In its latest assessment covering November 2021 — June 2022, the WFP said that 89 percent of Tigray’s six million population was food-insecure or lacking consistent access to food.
Around 47 percent “of the surveyed households are classified as... severely food insecure,” the report said, compared to nearly 40 percent of the population according to a WFP assessment published in January this year.
“Hunger has deepened, rates of malnutrition have skyrocketed, and the situation is set to worsen as people enter peak hunger season until this year’s harvest in October,” according to WFP.
The dire assessment comes despite a humanitarian truce in March allowing the resumption of desperately needed international aid convoys to the stricken region’s capital Mekele, with fuel shortages making it difficult to distribute supplies.
“Although humanitarian partners have increased supplies to Tigray... with 6,105 trucks having arrived in Mekelle as of 26 July 2022, this is yet to translate into increased humanitarian assistance, as other challenges remain, such as limited access to fuel,” the report said.
Malnutrition among children aged between six to 50 months has soared to alarming levels, with six percent of screened children diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.
“Out of the surveyed children, 65 percent had not received nutritional support for over a year,” the report said.
Since the conflict broke out 21 months ago, Tigray has had limited access to food and basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.
Abiy sent troops to topple the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
The rebels mounted a comeback, recapturing Tigray and expanding into Afar and Amhara, before the war reached a stalemate.
On Wednesday, Abiy’s government called for a formal cease-fire agreement to be reached as soon as possible to enable the resumption of basic services to Tigray.
But the TPLF insists that basic services would have to be restored to the region before dialogue can begin, with both sides blaming each other for the impasse.

 


Putin to allow inspectors to visit Russia-occupied nuclear plant

Putin to allow inspectors to visit Russia-occupied nuclear plant
Updated 27 min 43 sec ago

Putin to allow inspectors to visit Russia-occupied nuclear plant

Putin to allow inspectors to visit Russia-occupied nuclear plant

ODESSA: Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed that independent inspectors can travel to the Moscow-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the French presidency said Friday, as fears grow over fighting near the site.
The apparent resolution of a dispute over whether inspectors travel via Ukraine or Russia came as a US defense official said Ukraine’s forces had brought the Russian advance to a halt.
“You are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said, speaking on grounds of anonymity.
According to French President Emmanuel Macron’s office, Putin had “reconsidered” his demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency travel through Russia to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear site.
The UN nuclear watchdog’s chief, Rafael Grossi “welcomed recent statements indicating that both Ukraine and Russia supported the IAEA’s aim to send a mission to” the plant.
Meanwhile, UN chief Antonio Guterres urged Moscow’s forces occupying Zaporizhzhia not to disconnect the facility from the grid and potentially cut supplies to millions of Ukrainians.
A flare-up in fighting around the Russian-controlled nuclear power station — with both sides blaming each other for attacks — has raised the spectre of a disaster worse than in Chernobyl.
The Kremlin said that Putin and Macron agreed that the IAEA should carry out inspections “as soon as possible” to “assess the real situation on the ground.”
Putin also “stressed that the systematic shelling by the Ukrainian military of the territory of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant creates the danger of a large-scale catastrophe,” the Kremlin added.
The warning came just a day after Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Guterres, meeting in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, sounded the alarm over the fighting, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the United Nations to secure the site.
“This summer may go down in the history of various European countries as one of the most tragic of all time,” Zelensky said in his Friday evening address.
“No instruction at any nuclear power plant in the world provides a procedure in case a terrorist state turns a nuclear power plant into a target.”
During his visit to the southern port of Odessa on Friday, the UN secretary general said that “obviously, the electricity from Zaporizhzhia is Ukrainian electricity. This principle must be fully respected.”
“Naturally, its energy must be used by the Ukrainian people,” he told AFP in separate comments.
On Thursday, Moscow said Kyiv was preparing a “provocation” at the site that would see Russia “accused of creating a man-made disaster at the plant.”
Kyiv, however, insisted that Moscow was planning the provocation, and said Russia’s occupying forces had ordered most staff to stay home Friday.
Guterres visited Odessa as part of an effort to make more Ukrainian grain available to poor countries struggling with soaring food prices, after a landmark deal with Russia last month to allow its export.
The deal, the only significant agreement between Russia and Ukraine since Moscow invaded in February, has so far seen 25 boats carrying some 600,000 tons of agricultural products depart from three designated ports, Kyiv has said.
Guterres is expected to head to Turkey after Odessa to visit the Joint Coordination Center, the body tasked with overseeing the accord.
The grain deal has held, but brought little respite along the sprawling front lines after nearly six months of fighting between US-supplied Ukrainian forces and the Russian military.
The United States on Friday announced a new $775 million arms package, including more precision-guided missiles for Himars systems that enable Ukraine to strike Russian targets far behind the front lines.
The primary tool of Moscow’s forces has been artillery barrages, and recent bombardments over the eastern Donetsk region — which has been partially controlled by Russian proxies since 2014 — left several dead.
The Ukrainian head of the region, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on social media Friday that Russian strikes had killed five people and wounded 10 more in three settlements.
Strikes early Friday in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, left one person dead and damaged a school and a private business, the head of the region said.


Greece: 71 migrants aboard boat reaching southern island

Greece: 71 migrants aboard boat reaching southern island
Updated 20 August 2022

Greece: 71 migrants aboard boat reaching southern island

Greece: 71 migrants aboard boat reaching southern island
  • Some 170 people, the vast majority from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, had arrived at Kythera on another two sailing boats on Wednesday

ATHENS: Greek authorities on Friday raised to 71 the number of migrants aboard a sailboat that reached the southern island of Kythera a day earlier, the third crammed vessel to do so in two days.
The boat, a sailing catamaran, was located in the early hours of Thursday off Kythera’s western coastline.
The coast guard said seven women and 12 minors were among the 71 people aboard.
Nine were from Iran and the rest from Iraq.
On Thursday, the coast guard had said initial indications were that the boat had been carrying 67 people.

Humanitarianism is very important, but the people who wish to come to the EU due to the inequalities that exist in the world are hundreds of millions.

Notis Mitarachi, Migration minister

Some 170 people, the vast majority from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, had arrived at Kythera on another two sailing boats on Wednesday.
The coast guard said five people were arrested on suspicion of migrant smuggling — three Turkish nationals who had been on board the first vessel, and two Russian nationals on the second.
Located off the southern tip of the Peloponnese, Kythera isn’t a target destination for the thousands of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Most attempting to make it into the EU cross from the Turkish coast to nearby Greece’s eastern Aegean islands.
But with Greek authorities increasing patrols in the area and facing persistent reports of push-backs — summary and illegal deportations of new arrivals back to Turkey without allowing them to apply for asylum — more people are attempting a much longer and more dangerous route directly to Italy.
Greek authorities deny they carry out pushbacks.
On Friday, Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi said on Greece’s Skai radio that migration flows into Greece were at their lowest in a decade last year, with 8,500 people arriving in the country in 2021.
Skai radio quoted him as saying that 2022 was expected to see the second-lowest number of arrivals in the past 10 years, with around 7,000 people having arrived so far.
Greece has been widely criticized by aid groups, asylum seekers and some European politicians for using heavy-handed tactics, particularly pushbacks, to keep arrival numbers down.
“Humanitarianism is very important, but the people who wish to come to the EU due to the inequalities that exist in the world are hundreds of millions,” Skai quoted Mitarachi as saying.
“We’re not speaking of a closed Europe, but nor of a Europe in which traffickers decide who gets in.”
Mitarachi repeated that a 38-km fence along Greece’s northeastern land border with Turkey would be extended by another 80 km.
Greek authorities came under withering criticism last week over a group of mainly Syrians who had been trapped for days on an islet in the Evros River that runs along the Greek-Turkish border in Greece’s northeast.
Greek officials insist the islet is on the Turkish side of the border.
Police on Monday said they found 38 people on the Greek side of the border, away from the river.
The group told authorities a five-year-old girl had died of a scorpion sting on the islet during the ordeal.
Mitarachi said earlier this week that Greece would work with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent for the recovery of the child’s body.


France’s Macron assails Putin’s ‘brutal attack’ on Ukraine

France’s Macron assails Putin’s ‘brutal attack’ on Ukraine
Updated 19 August 2022

France’s Macron assails Putin’s ‘brutal attack’ on Ukraine

France’s Macron assails Putin’s ‘brutal attack’ on Ukraine
  • Putin is seeking to impose his “imperialist will” on Europe: French president

PARIS: Hours after talking with Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday accused the Russian leader of launching a “brutal attack” on Ukraine in an imperialist, revanchist violation of international law.

Macron, who tried tirelessly but unsuccessfully to prevent the invasion and long vaunted the importance of dialogue with Putin, has grown increasingly critical of the Russian president as the war bears on.

He warned French citizens that the resulting energy and economic crisis confronting Europe isn’t over, calling it “the price of our freedom and our values.”

“Since Vladimir Putin launched his brutal attack on Ukraine, war has returned to European soil, a few hours away from us,” Macron said in a speech commemorating the 78th anniversary of the Allied landing in Nazi-occupied southern France during World War II.

Macron said Putin is seeking to impose his “imperialist will” on Europe, conjuring “phantoms of the spirit of revenge” in a “flagrant violation of the integrity of states.”

Earlier Friday, Macron spoke more than an hour with Putin to urge Russia to accept Ukraine’s conditions to allow UN nuclear inspectors to visit Europe’s largest nuclear plant. There are growing international concerns about security at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is occupied by Russian forces and at the heart of the war.

The leaders also discussed efforts to get grain and other food commodities out of Russia. EU sanctions aimed at ending the war make exceptions for food.

It was their 20th conversation this year but their first in three months.


FDA asks Pfizer to test second Paxlovid course in patients with COVID rebound

FDA asks Pfizer to test second Paxlovid course in patients with COVID rebound
Updated 19 August 2022

FDA asks Pfizer to test second Paxlovid course in patients with COVID rebound

FDA asks Pfizer to test second Paxlovid course in patients with COVID rebound
  • The regulator said a formal plan for the clinical trial is expected to be finalized this month

DUBAI: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered Pfizer Inc. to test the effects of an additional course of its antiviral Paxlovid among people who experience a rebound in COVID-19 after treatment, the regulator said on Friday.
The drugmaker must produce initial results of a randomized controlled trial of a second course of the antiviral by Sept. 30 next year, the FDA told Pfizer in a letter dated Aug. 5.
The regulator said a formal plan for the clinical trial is expected to be finalized this month.
Pfizer is “working with the FDA to finalize a protocol to study patients who may be in need of retreatment,” and will provide details when available, a company spokesperson said.