Indian rescuers pull out all 41 workers who were trapped in a tunnel for 17 days, minister says

Update Indian rescuers pull out all 41 workers who were trapped in a tunnel for 17 days, minister says
The more than two-week-long rescue operation for the 41 trapped miners has been hit by repeated setbacks. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 November 2023
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Indian rescuers pull out all 41 workers who were trapped in a tunnel for 17 days, minister says

Indian rescuers pull out all 41 workers who were trapped in a tunnel for 17 days, minister says
  • Nitin Gadkari, the minister of road transport and highways, said on X that he was “completely relieved and happy” after all were rescued from the Silkyara Tunnel
  • He added that “this was a well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies

UTTARKASHI, India: India’s transportation minister says all 41 construction workers who were trapped in a collapsed mountain tunnel in the country’s north for more than two weeks have been pulled out after rescuers reached them on Tuesday.
Nitin Gadkari, the minister of road transport and highways, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was “completely relieved and happy” after all were rescued from the Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi after an ordeal that lasted 17 days.
“I am very happy that all the 41 trapped workers have come out and their lives have been saved,” he said in a video message posted on X. Gadkari added that “this was a well-coordinated effort by multiple agencies, marking one of the most significant rescue operations in recent years.”

Cheers and jubilation erupted as rescuers in India reached 41 construction workers who were trapped in a collapsed mountain tunnel for over two weeks in the country’s north and started pulling them out, officials said earlier during the day.
After less than an hour, Kirti Panwar, a government spokesperson, said 34 workers had been rescued so far. “All are safe and sound,” he said.
The workers were being pulled out through a passageway made of welded pipes which rescuers previously pushed through dirt and rocks. They will each go through an initial health checkup at a temporary medical camp set up inside the 13-meter (42.6 feet) wide tunnel.
As the first worker was pulled out, Pushkar Singh Dhami, the top elected official in the state of Uttarakhand, presented him with a garland and hung it around his neck as rescuers, other officials and relatives cheered.
A crowd of locals shouted slogans of “Bharat Mata ki Jai,” or “Long live mother India,” and set off firecrackers.
One of the rescuers, Devender, who only gave his first name, told the New Delhi Television channel that “the trapped workers were overjoyed when they spotted us in the tunnel. Some rushed toward me and hugged me.”
The massive rescue mission had grabbed the country’s attention for the past weeks. The workers got trapped on Nov. 12, when a landslide caused a portion of the 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) tunnel they were building in Uttarakhand state to collapse about 200 meters (650 feet) from the entrance.
They survived on food and oxygen supplied through narrow steel pipes.
“Soon all the laborer brothers will be taken out,” Pushkar Singh Dhami, top official in Uttarakhand, had posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, earlier on Tuesday, when there were only a few feet remaining to be dug out.
Kirti Panwar, a state government spokesperson, said about a dozen men had worked overnight to manually dig through rocks and debris, taking turns to drill using hand-held drilling tools and clearing out the muck in what he said was the final stretch of the rescue operation.
Rescuers resorted to manual digging after the drilling machine broke down on Friday while drilling horizontally from the front because of the mountainous terrain of Uttarakhand. The machine bored through about 47 meters (nearly 154 feet) out of approximately the 57-60 meters (nearly 187-196 feet) needed, before rescuers started to work by hand to create a passageway to evacuate the trapped workers.
By Tuesday, they had drilled through more than 58 meters (190 feet). As dusk fell, families of those trapped underground gathered near the site of the accident, anxiously waiting to see their loved ones emerge from the tunnel.
Among them was Jaimal Singh who said he was hopeful he would soon see his brother Gabbar Singh, who is trapped inside. “Even nature looks cheerful today ... the weather is good. Let’s hope this ends soon,” he told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Rescue teams had inserted pipes into dug-out areas and welded them together so the workers could be brought out on wheeled stretchers. On Sunday, rescuers also began to create a vertical channel with a newly replaced drilling machine as a contingency plan.
What began as a rescue mission expected to take a few days has turned into weeks, and officials have been hesitant to give a timeline for when it might be completed.
“I just feel good. The drilling on top of the mountain is coming along perfectly, in the tunnel, it’s coming along very well. I have never said ‘I feel good’ before,” Arnold Dix, an international tunneling expert who is helping with the rescue, told reporters at the site earlier on Tuesday.
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.
Authorities have supplied the trapped workers with hot meals through a 6-inch (15-centimeter) pipe after days of surviving only on dry food sent through a narrower pipe. They were getting oxygen through a separate pipe, and more than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, have been at the site monitoring their health.
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.


Gaza, Ukraine loom large as G20 foreign ministers meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
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Gaza, Ukraine loom large as G20 foreign ministers meet

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
  • A new UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire was vetoed Tuesday by the United States, which said the text would endanger ongoing negotiations, including on the release of Hamas-held hostages
  • After Lula on Sunday compared Israel's war on Gaza to Hitler's treatment of Jews, Israel said on Monday that Lula is not welcome

RIO DE JANEIRO: G20 foreign ministers open a two-day meeting Wednesday in Brazil, with the outlook bleak for progress on a thorny agenda of conflicts and crises, from the Gaza and Ukraine wars to growing polarization.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are both expected in Rio de Janeiro for the first high-level G20 meeting of the year — though not China’s Wang Yi.
In a world torn by conflicts and divisions, Brazil, which took over the rotating G20 presidency from India in December, has voiced hopes for what President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva calls “the forum with the greatest capacity to positively influence the international agenda.”
But Lula’s bid to make the G20 a space for finding common ground suffered Sunday when the veteran leftist ignited a diplomatic firestorm by accusing Israel of “genocide,” comparing its military campaign in the Gaza Strip to the Holocaust.
The comments drew outrage in Israel, which declared him “persona non grata,” and could overshadow any bid to de-escalate the conflict via the G20.
“If Lula imagined he was going to propose peace resolutions on Israel or Ukraine, that just got swept off the table,” international relations specialist Igor Lucena told AFP.
More than four months after the Gaza war started with Hamas fighters’ unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which has vowed to wipe out the Islamist group in retaliation, there is little sign of progress toward peace.
A new UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire was vetoed Tuesday by the United States, which said the text would endanger ongoing negotiations, including on the release of Hamas-held hostages.
The outlook is similarly downbeat on Russia’s war in Ukraine, which also has G20 members divided.
Despite a push from Western countries for the group to condemn President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, the G20’s last summit, held in New Delhi in September, ended with a watered-down statement that denounced the use of force but did not explicitly name Russia, which maintains friendly ties with fellow members like India and Brazil.
Underlining the G20 stalemate, the G7 group of top economies — Ukrainian allies Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States — will hold its own virtual meeting on the war Saturday, the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion.

Held at a marina on the Rio waterfront, the G20 meeting will open with a session on “addressing international tensions.”
The ministers will discuss global governance reform Thursday — a favorite issue for Brazil, which wants a greater voice for the global south at institutions like the UN, IMF and World Bank.
“The number and gravity of conflicts has returned to the level of the Cold War. That brings new urgency to the issue,” said Brazil’s top diplomat for G20 political negotiations, Mauricio Lyrio.
“We need to adapt the international system to prevent new conflicts,” he told journalists Tuesday. “Now, we’re just putting out fires.”
Brazil also wants to use its G20 presidency to push the fights against poverty and climate change.
There will also be space for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the gathering — though a Blinken-Lavrov encounter looks unlikely, given the exploding tension over Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s death in prison Friday.
Blinken and Lavrov last met in person at a G20 gathering in India in March 2023.

Founded in 1999, the Group of 20 brings together most of the world’s biggest economies.
Originally an economic forum, it has grown increasingly involved in international politics.
But the prospects for major advances via the group are dim in a year when elections will be held in some 50 countries, including key G20 members such as the United States and Russia, said Lucena.
“Reaching big agreements will be difficult,” he said.
“It’s not a favorable environment for resolving conflicts. On the contrary.”
A Brazilian government source said that after recent G20 struggles for consensus, the hosts axed the requirement that every meeting produce a joint statement — with the exception of the annual leaders’ summit, scheduled for November in Rio.
 

 


Trump says Navalny was ‘brave,’ but should not have returned to Russia

Trump says Navalny was ‘brave,’ but should not have returned to Russia
Updated 26 min 5 sec ago
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Trump says Navalny was ‘brave,’ but should not have returned to Russia

Trump says Navalny was ‘brave,’ but should not have returned to Russia
  • The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death and said that Western claims that Putin was responsible are unacceptable

GREENVILLE, South Carolina: Former US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Alexei Navalny was “a very brave man” who “probably” should not have returned to Russia, without assigning any blame for the Russian opposition leader’s unexpected death.
Democratic President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death, as has Nikki Haley, who trails far behind Trump as his sole remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Navalny is a very sad situation, and he is a very brave, he was a very brave guy because he went back. He could have stayed away,” Trump said during a town hall interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham in South Carolina.
“And, frankly, probably would have been a lot better off staying away and talking from outside of the country as opposed to having to go back in, because people thought that could happen and it did happen. And it’s a horrible thing,” he said.
The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death and said that Western claims that Putin was responsible are unacceptable.
Trump — who has expressed admiration for Putin during his 2017-2021 White House tenure and afterward — also continued to compare himself to Navalny, implying that both men had faced unjust prosecutions due to their political beliefs.
“But it’s happening in our country too,” he said. “We are turning into a communist country in many ways. And if you look at it — I’m the leading candidate. I get indicted.”
On Sunday, Trump wrote in a Truth Social post that Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony last week had made him “more aware of what is happening” in the United States. Trump did not elaborate, but he has frequently described the 91 criminal charges against him as politically motivated, a claim prosecutors deny.
During the interview on Tuesday, which was conducted before a live audience in Greenville four days before the state’s primary contest, Trump continued to blast migrants, portraying them as a threat to public safety without offering any evidence to support his claims that they are more violent than native-born Americans.
At several moments, 77-year-old Trump’s answers to questions veered into tangential topics.
While being asked about electric vehicles and Americans’ “freedom of movement,” Trump spoke about the usefulness of tariffs and described his interactions with an unnamed American dishwasher company during his time in office.
Trump praised South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott, who joined Trump on stage for the final part of the interview. The former president has privately asked associates about naming Scott, a one-time rival in the Republican nomination battle, as his running mate, sources familiar with the matter have previously said.
Tying himself to Scott may have short-term electoral benefits for the former president in South Carolina, where voters go to the polls on Saturday to choose who they want as the Republican nominee to take on Biden in the Nov. 5 election.
Trump is leading Haley by more than 30 percentage points in South Carolina according to most polls, and his team is eager to deliver a crushing blow. However, Haley has said there is no way she will drop out and that she plans to keep campaigning into March.


US lawmakers hopeful of pause in Gaza war before Ramadan

Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter @SenBlumenthal, @ChrisCoons)
Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter @SenBlumenthal, @ChrisCoons)
Updated 39 min 11 sec ago
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US lawmakers hopeful of pause in Gaza war before Ramadan

Richard Blumenthal (L) and Chris Coons. (Photo/Twitter @SenBlumenthal, @ChrisCoons)
  • Israel has killed over 29,000 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

AMMAN: Two senior US lawmakers who held talks with Israeli and Arab leaders said on Tuesday that they were hopeful a deal could be struck allowing a humanitarian pause in the war in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In an interview with Reuters in Amman, Democratic Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons — who said they had earlier met Jordan’s King Abdullah and held talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem — said there was “broad hope” of a deal soon to release hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a pause in fighting.
“Within a matter of weeks we could see a pause before Ramadan,” Blumenthal, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Reuters.
Arabs countries led by Jordan have expressed worries that Israel’s continued offensive against Hamas during the holy month of Ramadan could ramp up tensions further in the war.
But Egyptian and Qatari-mediated talks to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and secure the release of over 100 Israeli hostages being held in the Hamas-ruled territory have yet to produce results. A round of inconclusive talks in Cairo ended last week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Israel would not pay any price for the return of hostages, saying the way to free them was by ramping up the military pressure on Gaza and defeating Hamas.
Still, Blumenthal said that talks with Israeli leaders suggested that Israel is open to a pause as it wraps up a phase of intense fighting in Gaza and moves to a potential focus on counter-insurgency combat instead.
“Once there is that agreement on a pause it opens the way toward a negotiation that could produce self governance by the Palestinians, a state that gives them control over their own destiny,” Blumenthal said.
But an Israeli offensive in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge, would complicate efforts toward a halt in the fighting and the senators warned that Israel had an obligation to protect civilians and allow for relocations before moving on Rafah.
“There is an attempt to balance between supporting Israel and its war against Hamas and supporting the legitimate aspirations of Palestinian people for self governance and end of conflict,” Coons said.
 

 

 


Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space

Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space
Updated 47 min 50 sec ago
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Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space

Russia denies US reports Moscow plans to put nuclear weapons in space
  • The 1967 treaty bars signatories – including Russia and the United States – from placing “in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction”

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia was against the deployment of nuclear weapons in space, and his defense minister flatly denied US claims that Russia was developing a nuclear capability for space.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Washington believes Moscow is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon whose detonation could disrupt everything from military communications to phone-based ride services.
“Our position is clear and transparent: We have always been categorically against and are now against the deployment of nuclear weapons in space,” Putin told Sergei Shoigu, his defense minister.
“We urge not only compliance with all agreements that exist in this area, but also offered to strengthen this joint work many times,” Putin said.
He added that Russia’s activities in space did not differ from those of other countries, including the United States.
The clearest public sign that Washington thinks Moscow is working on a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon was a White House spokesperson’s comment on Thursday that the system being developed would
violate the Outer Space Treaty.
The 1967 treaty bars signatories – including Russia and the United States – from placing “in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.”
The New York Times has reported that the US intelligence was related to Russia’s attempts to develop a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon.

’NO SUCH PROJECTS’
Commenting on the US allegation, Shoigu said there were no plans of the kind outlined by the unidentified sources in the United States.
“Firstly, there are no such projects — nuclear weapons in space. Secondly, the United States knows that this does not exist,” Shoigu told Putin.
He accused the White House of trying to scare US lawmakers into allocating more funds for Ukraine as part of Washington’s plan to inflict what he said was a strategic defeat on Russia.
He said the second reason for the leaked information about the alleged Russian weapon was to encourage Russia to engage in a dialogue about strategic stability.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to the most serious confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and the post-Cold War arms control architecture has crumbled.
Putin said Russia had never been against discussions about strategic stability, but he said it was impossible to divide what he said was the West’s aim to defeat Russia and talks about strategic security.
“If they seek to inflict a strategic defeat on us, then we must think about what strategic stability means for our country,” Putin said.
“Therefore, we do not reject anything, we do not give up anything, but we need to figure out what they want. They usually want to achieve unilateral advantages. That’s not going to happen.”
Putin did not rule out talks at defense and foreign ministry level with the United States on strategic stability.

 


China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports
Updated 13 min 45 sec ago
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China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote, Xinhua reports
  • “China expresses its strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto,” Xinhua reported Zhang Jun as saying

BEIJING: China expressed “strong disappointment” over the United States blocking a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, Xinhua said on Wednesday, citing its UN representative Zhang Jun.

The United States on Tuesday vetoed for the third time a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body toward a rival draft that calls for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Algeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Amar Bendjama votes in favor as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield vetoes a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at UN headquarters in New York, US, February 20, 2024. (REUTERS)

The US has said the draft resolution put forward by Algeria could jeopardize “sensitive negotiations” between US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar aimed at brokering a pause in fighting and securing the release of hostages.
“China expresses its strong disappointment at and dissatisfaction with the US veto,” Xinhua said, citing Zhang who urged the UNSC to push for a ceasefire calling it a “moral obligation that the council cannot shy away from.”
“The US veto sends a wrong message, pushing the situation in Gaza into a more dangerous one,” said Zhang, adding that objection to ceasefire in Gaza is “nothing different from giving the green light to the continued slaughter.”
Zhang said the spillover of the conflict is destabilising the Middle East region, raising risks of a wider war.
“Only by extinguishing the flames of war in Gaza can the world prevent the fires of hell from engulfing the entire region,” Xinhua cited him as saying.