Pakistan’s deadly monsoon season worsened by climate change 

People wade across a flooded street after heavy monsoon rainfall in Karachi on July 25, 2022. (AFP)
People wade across a flooded street after heavy monsoon rainfall in Karachi on July 25, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2022

Pakistan’s deadly monsoon season worsened by climate change 

Pakistan’s deadly monsoon season worsened by climate change 
  • Experts say monsoon has become highly erratic in terms of its onset, intensity and coverage due to climate change
  • Monsoon rains have claimed 357 lives in Pakistan and injured 408 people since beginning of the season in mid-June

KARACHI: Mohammed Danish Khan left home with his family to attend a dinner earlier this month when his motorbike skidded into a drain in unusually heavy rainfall, killing his wife and infant son.

“I didn’t know that rain was going to claim the lives of my family,” the 23-year-old carpenter in Karachi told Arab News. “I don’t want anyone to face the tragedy I have gone through.”

Only a week after the incident, the seaside Pakistani megapolis in Sindh province witnessed yet another cloudburst in which 15 people either drowned or died of electrocution.

According to National Disaster Management Authority data, 357 people have been killed across the country and 408 injured since the beginning of the season in mid-June.

Over a hundred casualties have been reported in Balochistan, the country’s impoverished southwestern province, while 93 people, including 47 children, also lost their lives in three monsoon spells that lashed Sindh in July.

Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz, chief meteorologist in Karachi, told Arab News the downpours across the country in the ongoing month had been about 200 percent heavier than the average, with the southern parts of Pakistan bearing the brunt of the rainy season.

“Sindh saw some very intense rainfall events in July,” he said. “Karachi, Badin, Sukkur and Padidan received the highest rainfall, which broke all previous records.”

Dr. Ghulam Rasul, a climate change expert and vice president of the Asia-Pacific region at the World Meteorological Organization, said climate change had made the monsoon highly erratic in terms of its onset, intensity and area of coverage.

“This year’s monsoon is among the special ones as its onset was 10 days earlier than its normal beginning in Pakistan,” he told Arab News. “It attained its peak in July, which normally occurs in August, and heavily penetrated monsoon shadow zones, including Balochistan and the high mountains of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, where it usually does not reach.”

Extreme weather events are increasingly becoming the norm across the region, with its major cities remaining ill-equipped to handle them.

“Due to global warming, the frequency of such intense monsoons will increase,” Rasul said. “Climate change will also pose a challenge to policymakers regarding how best to manage heatwaves, droughts and floods, which will be occurring simultaneously.”

Pakistan has long ranked among the most climate-vulnerable countries, according to the Global Climate Risk Index. It is estimated to have lost nearly 10,000 lives to climate-related disasters and suffered losses amounting to $4 billion from extreme weather events between 1998 and 2018.

In August 2020, heavy rains killed 44 people in Karachi and urban flooding disrupted the lives of the city’s 15 million people.

Mashail Malik, assistant professor of government at Harvard University, who studies Karachi’s political landscape, links the tragedies with the growth of poor squatter settlements and slums.

“Aside from these failures in governance, another reason heavy rainfall is so devastating is simply because so much of the population lives in informal settlements — a reality that is often unavoidable in major urban centers in much of the global south,” she told Arab News.

The Sindh administration said it was trying to address the problem without creating greater challenges for the impoverished communities and has mobilized human resources and all necessary equipment to deal with the monsoon season this year.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said in a written interview with Arab News. “We are working to reconstruct and rehabilitate the dilapidated infrastructure of Karachi that has worsened due to ill-conceived planning, illegal constructions, widespread encroachments."

“We keep upgrading our preparedness and response systems to tackle the weather unpredictability and avert urban rain flooding,” he added. 

“Although we do not contribute significantly to the global emissions that pollute the environment, Pakistan is one of the worst-affected countries due to climate change.”


Italy’s Muslim communities confident new government will protect religious freedom

Italy’s Muslim communities confident new government will protect religious freedom
Updated 36 min 59 sec ago

Italy’s Muslim communities confident new government will protect religious freedom

Italy’s Muslim communities confident new government will protect religious freedom
  • ‘Every Italian government will respect the Constitution,’ religious leader tells Arab News
  • ‘Italy’s attitude toward the Middle East isn’t going to change,’ politician tells Arab News

ROME: Islamic communities in Italy say they do not expect a negative attitude toward the 3 million-plus Muslims living in the country by the new right-wing government that will be formed after Sunday’s general election, and “look forward” to working with the new Cabinet with regard to the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.

A concrete change in the country’s leadership is now expected. The far right led by Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) party, traditionally bound to the country’s right, gained a solid majority in both branches of Parliament.

Almost certainly in mid-October, Meloni will be asked by President Sergio Mattarella to form a new government.

She will then be the first woman prime minister in Italy, leading what will be the first far-right government since the Second World War.

The new leadership is expected to be tougher than previous governments on illegal migrants, but nothing is expected to change in the traditionally good attitude of Italy toward the Middle East and the Arab world.

Italian political analysts also point out that the new Cabinet is unlikely to show a tough face toward the Muslim population in the country, especially since the League (Lega), the xenophobic and anti-migrant party led by Matteo Salvini, performed poorly in the election. The League will still be part of the majority, but will hold a much less powerful voice.

“We’re absolutely confident that every Italian government will respect the Constitution, which includes in its founding principles freedom of worship. We expect the new government will be attentive to the rights of Islamic communities,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy, told Arab News.

Lafram said for Muslims in Italy, “there are still many problems, from Islamic cemeteries to the need for a law regulating the construction of places of worship for all religions.”

He also expressed his wish for a formal agreement between the Italian state and its Islamic communities to be underwritten soon.

“It’s in the interest of the new government that there be a full legal recognition of Islamic communities. It will boost integration,” he said.

“We expect a lot from a government that promises to represent all Italians. Italian Islamic communities can’t be accused of being close to Islamic fundamentalism. We’re all citizens of the Italian Republic who feel they’re an integral part of Italian society,” Lafram added.

Andrea Delmastro from the Brothers of Italy told Arab News right after the election results were declared: “Good citizens have nothing to fear, no matter their religion, as long as they respect the law. And Italy’s attitude toward the Middle East isn’t going to change.”

In her victory speech, Meloni struck a moderate tone, saying: “If we are called to govern this nation, we will do it for everyone, we will do it for all Italians, and we will do it with the aim of uniting the people (of this country).”

During the electoral campaign, the left warned that Meloni could push Italy into Europe’s illiberal bloc alongside Hungary and Poland, fighting against diversity and agitating against Brussels.

They quoted her past remarks, such as a speech from 2017 in which Meloni said mass-scale illegal immigration to Italy was “planned and deliberate,” carried out by unnamed powerful forces to import low-wage labor and drive out Italians.

“It’s called ethnic substitution,” Meloni said at the time, echoing the far-right “great replacement” conspiracy theory.

She also said Italy “cannot think of Islamic cemeteries in a country where there are not civilized cemeteries even for Italians in several parts of the country.”

In more recent times, she often spoke of “good integration” and “mutual respect” in a country where “the law has no religion and must be respected whatever the citizen’s creed is.”

In defense of her rhetoric, those close to Meloni say she has a strict stance on migrant traffickers and encourages integration, so long as those who come to Italy share and respect its national values and laws.

The main points of Meloni’s political manifesto concerning immigration, Delmastro said, involve the “fight against all forms of antisemitism, Islamic fundamentalism and irregular immigration; the orderly management of legal immigration flows along with the promotion of social and labor inclusion of legal immigrants; and the blocking of vessels to prevent human trafficking, in agreement with North African authorities.”

Imam Izzedin Elzir, former president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy, stressed that Muslims in Italy “are a non-partisan community, and we want to be an added value for the country.

“We expect attention from the government, which is expected to implement the Constitution, particularly on religious freedom. I believe we can do a good job together. Governing is different from campaigning for votes.”

Finland sees record surge in Russians crossing border

Finland sees record surge in Russians crossing border
Updated 26 September 2022

Finland sees record surge in Russians crossing border

Finland sees record surge in Russians crossing border
  • Nearly 8,600 Russians entered Finland via the land border

HELSINKI: Finland said on Monday it had recorded the year’s busiest weekend in terms of Russians entering the country, after Moscow’s military call-up announcement caused a rush for the border.
“Last weekend was the busiest weekend of the year for traffic on the eastern border,” Mert Sasioglu of the Finnish border guard told AFP.
The border agency said nearly 8,600 Russians entered Finland via the land border on Saturday and nearly 4,200 crossed the other way.
On Sunday, more than 8,300 Russians arrived and nearly 5,100 left.
“The arrival rate is about double what it was a week ago,” Sasioglu said.
“The main reason is the mobilization but it is also partly explained by the fact that both Finland and Russia eased Covid-19 restrictions during the summer.”
The Nordic country announced on September 23 it planned to “significantly restrict the entry of Russian citizens” and would finalize the decision in the “coming days.”
While the restriction is not yet in force, the border guard service said it was ready to apply the new rules “within a day.”
Sasioglu said it was preparing for “difficult developments” as the situation evolved.
“It is possible that when travel is restricted, attempts at illegal border crossings will increase,” he explained.
On Saturday, border guards caught four individuals suspected of crossing the border illegally in the Kuusamo region of eastern Finland. They immediately applied for asylum when detained.

Russia school shooting leaves 13 dead, including children

Russia school shooting leaves 13 dead, including children
Updated 25 min 31 sec ago

Russia school shooting leaves 13 dead, including children

Russia school shooting leaves 13 dead, including children
  • Russia’s health ministry said “14 ambulance teams” were working at the scene to help the injured

MOSCOW: The death toll has risen to 13 people, including seven children, after a man opened fire Monday at his former school in central Russia, authorities said.
The attack was the latest in a series of school shootings that have shaken Russia in recent years and came with the country on edge over efforts to mobilize tens of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the “inhuman terrorist attack” in the city of Izhevsk, the Kremlin said, adding that the shooter “apparently belongs to a neo-fascist group.”
According to investigators, the attacker “was wearing a black top with Nazi symbols and a balaclava” when his body was discovered.
He was later identified as a local man born in 1988, who graduated from this school.
Investigators have said two security guards and two teachers were among the victims, while the attacker “committed suicide.”
Authorities previously announced a death toll of nine people but did not specify if that included the suspected shooter.
Investigators said they were conducting a search in his home and looking into his “adherence to neo-fascist views and Nazi ideology.”
The region’s governor Alexander Brechalov confirmed there were “casualties and wounded among children,” speaking in a video statement outside school No88 in Izhevsk.
Rescue and medical workers could be seen in the background, some running inside the school with stretchers.
Russia’s health ministry said “14 ambulance teams” were working at the scene to help the injured, news agencies reported.
Brechalov declared a period of mourning in the region to last until Thursday.
A city of around 630,000 people, Izhevsk is the regional capital of Russia’s Udmurt Republic, located around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of Moscow.
The attack came just hours after a man had opened fire and severely wounded a recruitment officer at an enlistment center in Siberia.
Russia’s last major school shooting was in April, when an armed man opened fire in a kindergarten in the central Ulyanovsk region, leaving a teacher and two children dead.
The shooter, described as “mentally ill,” was later found dead, with officials saying he had shot himself.
Mass shootings at schools and universities in Russia were rare until 2021, when the country was rocked by two separate killing sprees in the central Russian cities of Kazan and Perm that spurred lawmakers to tighten laws regulating access to guns.
In September 2021, a student dressed in black tactical clothing and helmet armed with a hunting rifle swept through Perm State University buildings killing six people, mostly women, and injuring two dozen others.
The gunman resisted arrest and was shot by law enforcement as he was apprehended and moved to a medical facility for treatment.
It was the second such attack that year, after a 19-year-old former student shot dead nine people at his old school in the Kazan in May.
Investigators said that the gunman suffered from a brain disorder, but was deemed fit to receive a license for the semi-automatic shotgun that he used.
On the day of that attack Putin called for a review of gun control laws and the age to acquire hunting rifles was increased from 18 to 21 and medical checks were strengthened.
Authorities have blamed foreign influence for previous school shootings, saying young Russians have been exposed online and on television to similar attacks in the United States and elsewhere.
Other high-profile shooting cases have taken place in Russia’s army, putting the issue of hazing in the spotlight in the country were military service is compulsory for men aged between 18 and 27.
In November 2020, a 20-year-old soldier killed three fellow servicemen at a military base near the city of Voronezh. In a similar attack in 2019, a young recruit shot dead eight servicemen, saying he faced bullying and harassment in the army.

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military
Updated 26 September 2022

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

Pakistani military helicopter crashes killing six soldiers -military

QUETTA, Pakistan: A Pakistani military helicopter crashed in the southwest area of the country late on Sunday killing all six soldiers on board, including two officers, the military said on Monday.
The helicopter crashed during a “flying mission” near Harnai in the province of Balochistan, the military’s public relations wing said in a statement. No reason for the crash was given.

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
Updated 26 September 2022

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines

Super Typhoon Noru leaves 5 rescuers dead in north Philippines
  • The victims drowned in rampaging waters after a collapsed wall hit the boat they were using to help residents trapped in floods
  • President Marcos orders supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities

MANILA: Typhoon Noru blew out of the northern Philippines on Monday, leaving five rescuers dead, causing floods and power outages and forcing officials to suspend classes and government work in the capital and outlying provinces.

The most powerful typhoon to hit the country this year slammed into the coast in Burdeos town in Quezon province before nightfall on Sunday then weakened as it barreled overnight across the main Luzon region, where thousands of people were moved to emergency shelters, some forcibly, officials said.
Gov. Daniel Fernando of Bulacan province, north of Manila, said five rescuers, who were using a boat to help residents trapped in floodwaters, were hit by a collapsed wall then apparently drowned in the rampaging waters.
“They were living heroes who were helping save the lives of our countrymen amid this calamity,” Fernando told DZMM radio network. “This is really very sad.”
On Polillo island in northeastern Quezon province, a man was injured after falling off the roof of his house, officials said.

More than 17,000 people were moved to emergency shelters from high-risk communities prone to tidal surges, flooding and landslides in Quezon alone, officials said.
More than 3,000 people were evacuated to safety in Metropolitan Manila, which was lashed by fierce wind and rain overnight. Classes and government work were suspended Monday in the capital and outlying provinces as a precaution although the morning skies were sunny.
The entire northern provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija, which were hit by the typhoon, remained without power Monday and repair crews were at work to bring back electricity, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a televised meeting he called to assess damages and coordinate disaster-response.

Marcos Jr. praised officials for evacuating thousands of people to safety as a precaution before the typhoon hit which prevented large number of casualties despite the Noru’s potentially disastrous force. He ordered supplies be airlifted and clean-up equipment be provided to most-affected communities.
“The point at which we can stand down is when the majority of evacuees are already back home,” Marcos said at a news conference with disaster management officials on Monday, referring to the 74,000 people who were forced into evacuation centers by the storm.
Luzon, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy and roughly half of the country’s 110 million population, started clean-up operations as floods in the capital region had started subsiding, officials said.
Noru underwent an “explosive intensification” over the open Pacific Ocean before it hit the Philippines, Vicente Malano, who heads the country’s weather agency PAGASA, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
From sustained winds of 85 kilometers per hour (53 mph) on Saturday, Noru was a super typhoon just 24 hours later with sustained winds of 195 kilometers (121 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 240 kph (149 mph) at its peak late Sunday.
By Monday morning, Noru had sustained winds of 140 kph (87 mph) and gusts of 170 kph (105 mph) and was moving westward in the South China Sea at 30 kph (19 mph), according to the weather agency.
About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” a region along most of the Pacific Ocean rim where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur, making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s most disaster-prone.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest recorded tropical cyclones in the world, left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened entire villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines — well to the south of Noru’s path.

(With Reuters)