Digging to rescue 41 workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in India halted after machine breaks

Though trapped, the workers have plenty of space in the tunnel, with the area inside 8.5 meters high and stretching about 2 km in length. (AFP)
Though trapped, the workers have plenty of space in the tunnel, with the area inside 8.5 meters high and stretching about 2 km in length. (AFP)
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Updated 26 November 2023
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Digging to rescue 41 workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in India halted after machine breaks

Digging to rescue 41 workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in India halted after machine breaks
  • A heavy earth digger was seen being taken up a specially cut track to the top of forested hill above the tunnel, to begin the dig

NEW DELHI: Attempts to reach 41 construction workers stuck in a collapsed tunnel in northern India for two weeks were again stymied Saturday.
The drilling machine broke down late Friday while making its way through the rubble, stones and metal, forcing the rescuers to work by hand to remove debris in hopes of reaching the stranded workers, but the whole operation has ground to a halt.
Arnold Dix, an international expert assisting the rescue team at the site in the mountainous Uttarakhand state, said that it was unclear when the drilling will start again.
“The machine is busted. It is irreparable,” he told reporters. “The mountain has once again resisted the auger (machine).”
Dix said the rescuers would need to pull out the entire drilling machine and replace it to restart the digging. He didn’t specify how much time that it would take.
The workers have been trapped since Nov. 12 when a landslide caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) tunnel they were building to collapse about 200 meters (650 feet) from the entrance. The mountainous terrain in the area has proven to be a challenge for the drilling machine, which had earlier broken twice as rescue teams attempted to dig horizontally toward the trapped workers.
The machine stopped working after it had drilled about two meters (6.5 feet) of the last stretch of 12 meters (40 feet) of rock debris that would open a passage for the workers to come out from the tunnel.
Rescuers have inserted pipes into the dug-out channel and welded them together to serve as a passageway from where the men would be pulled out on wheeled stretchers. About 46 meters (151 feet) of pipe has been put in so far, according to Devendra Patwal, a disaster management officer.
Meanwhile, a new drilling machine used to dig vertically was brought to the site Saturday.
The vertical dig is seen as an alternative plan to reach the trapped men, and rescuers have already created an access road to the top of the hill. However, rescue teams will need to dig 103 meters (338 feet) downward to reach the trapped workers — nearly double the distance of the horizontal shaft.
Authorities have supplied the trapped workers with hot meals made of rice and lentils through a six-inch (15-centimeter) pipe after days when they survived on dry food sent through a narrower pipe. Oxygen is being supplied through a separate pipe, and more than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, have been at the site monitoring their health.
Most of the trapped workers are migrant laborers from across the country. Many of their families have traveled to the location, where they have camped out for days to get updates on the rescue effort and in hopes of seeing their relatives soon.
The tunnel the workers were building was designed as part of the Chardham all-weather road, which will connect various Hindu pilgrimage sites. Some experts say the project, a flagship initiative of the federal government, will exacerbate fragile conditions in the upper Himalayas, where several towns are built atop landslide debris.
Large numbers of pilgrims and tourists visit Uttarakhand’s many Hindu temples, with the number increasing over the years because of the continued construction of buildings and roadways.

 


UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
Updated 6 sec ago
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UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson

UK police ‘assessing’ alleged Islamophobic hate speech by MP Lee Anderson
  • He was suspended by the Conservative Party after refusing to apologize for suggesting ‘Islamists’ have taken control of London and the city’s mayor
  • Several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong” but stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic

LONDON: Police in the UK are “assessing” hate speech allegations made against MP Lee Anderson, after he suggested that “Islamists” had taken control of London and the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, Sky News reported on Wednesday.

Anderson was suspended by the ruling Conservative Party on Saturday after he refused to apologize for the remarks, which were branded racist by Khan and others.

Anderson defended himself again on Wednesday in an article for the Daily Express, in which he accused Khan of “playing the race card” and said the mayor had accused him of racism to gain “political advantage.” However, he admitted the words he used were “clumsy.”

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that they have received a complaint about alleged hate speech by an MP. “A report was made to police on Saturday, Feb. 24. Officers are assessing this report,” a spokesperson told Sky News.

While several government ministers, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have described Anderson’s remarks as “wrong,” they have stopped short of labeling them Islamophobic.

On Tuesday, Downing Street said that Sunak does not believe Anderson is racist but that “the language he used was wrong and it’s obviously unacceptable to conflate all Muslims with Islamist extremism or the extreme ideology of Islamism.”

The spokesperson told Sky News that ministers had not been instructed to avoid using the term “Islamophobia,” which “conflates race with religion, does not address sectarianism within Islam and may inadvertently undermine freedom of speech. Anti-Muslim hatred is the more precise term, which better reflects UK hate-crime legislation.”

Anderson did not rule out the possibility that he might join rival political party Reform, which was founded by Nigel Farage.


Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
Updated 36 min 18 sec ago
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Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine

Brazil urges ‘new globalization’ at G20 meet overshadowed by Ukraine
  • FM Haddad: We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles
  • Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global GDP, three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population

SAO PAULO: Brazil called for a “new globalization” to address poverty and climate change as finance ministers from the world’s top economies met Wednesday, but the Ukraine and Gaza wars risked overshadowing the plea.

“It is time to redefine globalization,” Brazilian Finance Minister Fernando Haddad told his counterparts from the Group of 20 leading economies, opening their first meeting of the year in Sao Paulo.
“We need to create incentives to ensure international capital flows are no longer decided by immediate profit but by social and environmental principles,” said Haddad, who gave his speech remotely after coming down with Covid-19.
The meeting, which follows one by foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro last week, will lay the economic policy groundwork for the annual G20 leaders’ summit, to be held in Rio in November.
Brazilian officials said they were working on a compact final statement that would steer clear of divisive issues such as the Ukraine and Gaza wars.
“We know the world is going through a tense geopolitical moment,” said finance ministry executive secretary Dario Durigan.
But “there’s consensus on the economic issues,” he told journalists. “The whole world speaks the same economic language.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wants to use the rotating G20 presidency this year to push issues like the fights against poverty and climate change, reducing the crushing debt burdens of low-income nations, and giving developing countries more say at institutions like the United Nations.
International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva called for bolder climate action, urging countries to accelerate emissions cuts, end fossil fuel subsidies — which reached an estimated $1.3 trillion worldwide last year — and massively mobilize climate financing.
“The climate crisis is already upon us, and we have to admit we have been a bit slow to address it,” she said at a panel discussion on the sidelines of the meeting.
Also on the agenda: increasing taxes on corporations and the super-rich.
“We need to ensure the billionaires of the world pay their fair share of taxes,” said Haddad.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire backed that call, telling journalists that Paris is pushing to “accelerate” international negotiations on a minimum tax on the ultra-wealthy.
However, Durigan said the issue was unlikely to make it into the final statement.

Even before the meeting opened, the conflict in Ukraine took center stage.
The Group of Seven countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, plus the European Union — held their own meeting on the sidelines to discuss shoring up Western support for Kyiv.
Officials said the meeting — attended remotely by Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko — focused on proposals to seize an estimated $397 billion in Russian assets frozen by the West.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday the issue was “urgent.”
But there were divisions among G7 members.
“I want to be very clear: We don’t have the legal basis for seizing the Russian assets now. We need to work further... The G7 must act abiding by the rule of law,” said France’s Le Maire.
Ukraine has warned it is in dire need of more military and financial assistance, with a fresh $60 billion US package stalled in Congress.
The war in Gaza was also a recurring theme, amid fears Israel’s offensive against Palestinian militant group Hamas could spiral into a wider war, with potentially catastrophic effects for the global economy.
Both conflicts could overshadow Brazil’s bid to use the G20 to amplify the voice of the global south.
“It’s a very tricky global context at the moment,” said Julia Thomson, an analyst at Eurasia Group.
“The international agenda will probably hinder part of Brazil’s ability to advance on some of the broader themes” of its G20 presidency, she told AFP.
Founded in 1999, the G20 accounts for more than 80 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), three-quarters of world trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population.
It has 21 members: 19 of the world’s biggest economies, plus the EU and, participating as a member for the first time this year, the African Union.
 


UK government increases security funding for Jewish community

UK government increases security funding for Jewish community
Updated 29 February 2024
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UK government increases security funding for Jewish community

UK government increases security funding for Jewish community
  • The funding will be used to increase security at a range of Jewish buildings across the country, including schools and synagogues, the government says

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday announced 54 million pounds ($68 million) of new funding to protect Jewish communities against antisemitism over the next four years.
Earlier this month Jewish advisory body the Community Security Trust (CST) said Britain recorded thousands of antisemitic incidents after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October, making 2023 the worst year for UK antisemitism since its records began in 1984.
“It is shocking, and wrong, the prejudice, the racism we have seen in recent months,” Sunak said in a speech to the CST’s annual dinner, according to extracts released by his office.
“It is hatred, pure and simple. An assault on the Jewish people. We will fight this antisemitism with everything we’ve got.”
The government had already given the CST, which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, 18 million pounds for 2024-25, taking the total funding up to 2028 to 70 million pounds.
The funding will be used to increase security at a range of Jewish buildings across the country, including schools and synagogues, the government said, providing measures such as security guards, closed-circuit TV (CCTV) and alarm systems.


Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate

Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate
Updated 29 February 2024
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Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate

Mitch McConnell to step down as Republican leader in US Senate
  • McConnell, the leader of Republicans in the Senate since 2015, was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to power in January 2017 before falling out with Trump over the former president’s baseless claims to have won the 2020 election

WASHINGTON: Mitch McConnell, the powerful US political tactician who has advanced conservative causes for years and been a strong defender of aid to Ukraine, announced abruptly Wednesday that he would leave his post as leader of the Republicans in the Senate later this year.

His speech to the chamber came as a surprise and prompted lawmakers from both parties to give him a standing ovation, though he did not say if he was giving up his seat from the state of Kentucky, which he has held since 1985.
“I stand before you today, Mr. President and my colleagues to say this will be my last term as Republican leader,” McConnell, 82, said as he signaled the end of his tenure as the longest-serving Senate leader in American history.
McConnell has been the largely unchallenged leader of Republicans in the Senate since 2015 and was in the front line of the party’s battles against the policies of Barack Obama from 2009-2017.
He was instrumental in bringing Donald Trump to power in January 2017 as the party underwent dramatic changes, before falling out with Trump over the former president’s baseless claims to have won the 2020 election.
In the Senate, McConnell waged a fierce fight to enact a right-wing agenda, notably with the appointment of three Supreme Court justices who led the tribunal to end the federal right to abortion in 2022.
“No Member of Congress has played a greater role in reshaping the federal judiciary than Mitch,” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a fellow Republican, said, predicting that “his legacy will endure for generations.”
For years McConnell relished his self-given monicker as the “Grim Reaper” — one who doomed the hopes of Democratic lawmakers.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer acknowledged that rift Wednesday, saying he and McConnell “rarely saw eye to eye.”
“But I am very proud that we both came together in the last few years to lead the Senate forward at critical moments when our country needed us,” Schumer added, pointing to pandemic-era aid and the certification of Biden’s election only hours after the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol.

Tough political operator
A consummate backroom negotiator with a thick, rumbling southern drawl, McConnell also emerged as one of the most outspoken advocates of US military aid to Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
But he has had to grapple with a fractured, Trump-dominated party that came to shun cooperation and the traditional US leadership role on the international stage.
The isolationist shift was underlined in recent weeks as President Joe Biden’s request for $60 billion for Ukraine stalled in Congress as Republicans in the House demanded action first on an immigration crisis at the border with Mexico.
McConnell projected an image of quiet austerity that clashed with his reputation as a tough political operator and strategist.
Under the presidency of Biden, with whom he served in the Senate for years, McConnell also worked for the passage of bipartisan legislation on infrastructure and other issues backed by both parties.
Biden, 81, told reporters Wednesday he was “sorry” to hear his old Senate colleague was stepping down.
“He and I had trust, we had a great relationship, we fought like hell but he never never never misrepresented anything,” he said.
Last summer concerns arose about McConnell’s health, as several times he froze up while speaking in public and fell awkwardly silent.
In March he was hospitalized after he fell during a dinner and suffered a concussion and a broken rib, forcing him to leave his job for six weeks.
The incident reignited criticism that Congress is dominated by white men in their 70s and 80s who cannot bear to retire.
But McConnell had steadfastly refused to resign and rejected suggestions that he was no longer healthy enough to serve.


Several Malian soldiers killed in large-scale attack by suspected jihadis

Several Malian soldiers killed in large-scale attack by suspected jihadis
Updated 55 min 38 sec ago
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Several Malian soldiers killed in large-scale attack by suspected jihadis

Several Malian soldiers killed in large-scale attack by suspected jihadis
  • Official says more than 100 jihadis attacked an army position at Kwala, about 300 km north of the capital Bamako
  • Mali army said that it "destroyed a large number of “terrorists,” but made no mention of casualties in its ranks

BAMAKO: Several Malian soldiers died on Wednesday in a large-scale attack by suspected jihadists on a military outpost in the remote west of the landlocked West African nation.

“More than 100 jihadists attacked an army position at Kwala,” said an elected representative of the nearby town of Mourdiah, 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of the capital Bamako.
“Several soldiers were killed, the jihadists took over the place before leaving without a problem,” he said, asking to remain anonymous.
A local political official confirmed to AFP the same version of events, adding that the army “camp was first hit with a car bomb.”
A second elected official said there had been a lot of gunfire and government troops returned to the base after the jihadists left.
The army reported the assault in a statement, making no mention of casualties in its ranks and claiming to have “found and destroyed” a large number of “terrorists.”
AFP was unable to verify the claims from the various sources in the remote zone.
Mali’s military junta pushed out a French anti-jihadist force in 2022 amid deteriorating relations following military coups in 2020 and 2021.
Mali has since pivoted toward Russia, both politically and militarily.