Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south

Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south
Of Australia’s 10 hottest years on record, eight were since 2010, meteorologists say, which raise the risk of bushfires. (AFP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 22 February 2024
Follow

Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south

Thousands ordered to flee while they can as bushfire burns in Australia’s south
  • Roughly 50 square kilometers is ablaze northwest of Ballarat
  • A similar area is also burning out of control further to the west

SYDNEY: More than two thousand people have been ordered to evacuate from towns in the west of Australia’s Victoria state due to a bushfire burning out of control on Thursday.
The state emergency service urged residents in the towns of Raglan and Beaufort, home to around two thousand people, and those in surrounding areas to leave while it was still safe and head east to the nearby regional hub of Ballarat, 95 kilometers west of Melbourne.
Roughly 50 square kilometers is ablaze northwest of Ballarat. A similar area is also burning out of control further to the west.
State Premier Jacinta Allan said more than 1,000 firefighters were on the ground, supported by 24 aircraft and more than 100 vehicles. More are set to join the fight soon.
“Leaving immediately is the safest option for those communities,” she said at a news conference. “If you are located in these areas, please heed this advice, please act now to save your own life.”
Officials said no property damage had been reported but it was too soon for an accurate picture.
Large swathes of the state are on high alert for fires and the Bureau of Meteorology on Thursday issued extreme fire danger warnings for several districts due to hot, dry winds and the potential for thunderstorms.
The fires west of Ballarat are expected to worsen throughout the evening until around midnight, when the winds will begin to slow, Jason Heffernan, chief officer of the Country Fire Authority, told the news conference.
Temperatures were above 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit) in the northwest of the state at 3.00 p.m. (0400 GMT).


Japan resumes funding for UNRWA with $35m donation

Japan resumes funding for UNRWA with $35m donation
Updated 15 sec ago
Follow

Japan resumes funding for UNRWA with $35m donation

Japan resumes funding for UNRWA with $35m donation
  • Japanese authorities put funding for UNRWA on hold after Israel alleged 12 of its workers participated in Oct. 7 attacks
  • Money will be used to provide vital supplies for women, babies in Gaza, and medical services in the West Bank

LONDON: The Japanese government on Monday said it had resumed its funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and sent a donation of about $35 million to the organization.

The money will be used to provide vital supplies for women and babies in the Gaza Strip, and medical services in the West Bank, the Jiji Press news agency reported.

Japanese authorities suspended their funding for UNRWA after Israeli officials in January alleged that 12 people working for the agency, out of a total of 30,000, had played a part in the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

Japan, the sixth-biggest single donor to the agency, and 15 other countries put about $450 million of funding on hold in response to the allegation, throwing the agency’s operations in the war-torn Gaza Strip into turmoil. The Japanese government had announced on April 2 that it was lifting the suspension.

Some other countries that suspended payments to UNRWA in the immediate aftermath of the allegation have similarly resumed funding, including Australia and Canada.
 


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers
  • Demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three terminals, stopping traffic into one of busiest US airports

CHICAGO: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminals Monday morning, temporarily stopping vehicle traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports and causing headaches for travelers.
Protesters linked arms and blocked lanes of Interstate 190 around 7 a.m., a demonstration they said was part of a global “economic blockade to free Palestine,” according to Rifqa Falaneh, one of the organizers. Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area was also snarled for hours Monday morning as pro-Palestinian demonstrators shut down both directions of the Golden Gate Bridge and stalled a 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 880 in Oakland.
O’Hare warned travelers on the social platform X to take alternative forms of transportation with car travel “substantially delayed this morning due to protest activity.”
Some travelers stuck in standstill traffic left their cars and walked the final leg to the airport along the freeway, trailing their luggage behind them.
Among them was Madeline Hannan from suburban Chicago. She was headed to O’Hare for a work trip to Florida when her and her husband’s car ended up stalled for 20 minutes. She got out and “both ran and speed walked” more than 1 mile. She said she made it to the gate on time, but barely.
“This was an inconvenience,” she said in a telephone interview from Florida. “But in the grand scheme of things going on overseas, it’s a minor inconvenience.”
While individual travelers may have been affected, operations at the airport appeared near normal with delays of under 15 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Inbound traffic toward O’Hare resumed around 9 a.m.
On the Golden Gate Bridge in California, a small number of demonstrators stood by, as did police. Some protesters held a black banner that read “Stop the world for Gaza.” The iconic bridge was closed off to all auto traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
In Chicago, dozens of protesters were arrested, according to Falaneh. Chicago police said Monday that “multiple people” were taken into custody after a protest where people obstructed traffic but did not have a detailed count.
Protesters say they chose the location, in part, because O’Hare is one of the largest airports. Among other things, they’ve called for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
Anti- war protesters have demonstrated in Chicago near daily since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people. Israeli warplanes and ground troops have conducted a scorched-earth campaign on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli offensive has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.


Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested

Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested

Four wounded in Sydney church attack, 15-year-old arrested
  • Police said suspect is being held at undisclosed location after attack provoked communal violence
  • The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six people at a shopping mall in the city

SYDNEY: A knife attack at a live-streamed church service in Australia wounded four people on Monday and sparked clashes between riot police and outraged members of the local community.

A bishop and the 15-year-old suspect were among those being treated for “non-life threatening injuries” after the attack at an Assyrian Christian church in the west of Sydney.

Police said the suspect is being held at an undisclosed location after his alleged attack provoked communal violence that also left two officers hospitalized.

The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six people at a shopping mall in the city’s east before being shot dead by police.

Graphic footage of Monday’s stabbing showed the suspect emerging from the congregation, rushing the dais and slashing wildly at Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel before being subdued by churchgoers.

Social media accounts leapt on news of the attack to make claims about the motive, none of which were verified by police.

There were tense scenes outside the church after Monday’s attack, with hundreds of angry members of the local community trying to make their way past a phalanx of riot police to reach the suspect.

An AFP journalist at the scene saw projectiles being hurled before police with riot shields and body armor pushed the protesters away from the church.

New South Wales acting assistant police commissioner Andrew Holland said the crowd had displayed an “emotional response to what took place in the church” — fueled by rumors and graphic images circulating on the Internet.

Two police vehicles and a number of houses were damaged as the protesters threw “bottles, bricks and other items,” Holland said.

One officer was “hit with a metal object and sustained a twisted knee and a chipped tooth,” police said.

“Another constable sustained a broken jaw after he was hit with a brick and a fence paling.”

Police urged the public to avoid the area amid “a large police response.”

AFP verified the video of Monday’s attack as being taken at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church, which has an online following of almost 200,000.

It is located in Sydney’s western suburb of Wakeley, a hub for Sydney’s small Christian Assyrian community, many of whom fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.

New South Wales state premier Chris Minns issued a joint statement with Christian and Muslim leaders calling for calm.

“We’re calling on everyone to act with kindness and respect for each other,” the statement said.

“Now is the time to show that we are strong and united.”

Assyrians trace their roots to an empire that ruled a swath of the ancient Middle East.

Since that age of empire, they have faced persecution as a religious and ethnic minority distinct from the region’s Arab and Muslim majorities.

Australians are still reeling from Saturday’s stabbing, which was carried out by a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness.

In that attack, videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.

A black ribbon was projected onto the Sydney Opera House on Monday as a mark of respect for the victims of that attack.


UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation

UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation

UK PM Sunak to speak with Israel’s Netanyahu, seeking to avoid escalation
  • “All sides must show restraint," Sunak says

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he would soon speak with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on how to prevent escalation in the region after Iran’s drone and missile attack.
“I will also shortly be speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu to express our solidarity with Israel in the face of this attack, and to discuss how we can prevent further escalation,” Sunak said in a statement to parliament.
“All sides must show restraint,” he added.
Last week Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel in retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
British military jets helped shoot down the drones.


Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested

Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested

Four wounded in Sydney Assyrian church stabbing, man arrested
  • A member of the congregation at an Assyrian church rushed at the dais and slashed at the bishop, causing pandemonium.
  • Incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six at a shopping mall in the east of Sydney

SYDNEY: Four people are being treated for “non-life threatening injuries” after a stabbing at a live-streamed church service in Sydney on Monday, the latest knife attack to rock the city.
Australian police said they had arrested one man, after a member of the congregation at an Assyrian church rushed at the dais and slashed at the bishop, causing pandemonium.
Amid the panic and screams, several churchgoers rushed to safety while others tried to subdue the attacker.
The ambulance service told AFP that four men aged between 20 and 70 were being treated for injuries, including lacerations.
“The injured individuals suffered non-life threatening injuries and were treated by New South Wales Ambulance paramedics before being conveyed to hospital,” police added.
“A male was arrested and remains in police custody.”
The incident came two days after a man with a knife killed six at a shopping mall in the east of Sydney.
AFP verified video of Monday’s attack as being taken at the Christ the Good Shepherd Church in Sydney’s western suburb of Wakeley.
The neighborhood is a hub for Sydney’s small Christian Assyrian community, many of whom fled persecution and war in Iraq and Syria.
There were tense scenes outside the church after the attack, with hundreds of members of the local community trying to make their way past a phalanx of riot police to reach the suspect.
An AFP journalist at the scene saw projectiles being hurled, before police with riot shields and armor pushed the protesters away from the church.
“He has been removed from the church and taken to an undisclosed location,” police said.
They urged the public to avoid the area amid “a large police response.”
The Christ the Good Shepherd Church holds a bible session every Monday evening.
Police said they began to receive emergency calls from the scene “about 7.10 pm.”
Australians are still reeling from Saturday’s stabbing, which was carried out by a 40-year-old man with a history of mental illness.
In that attack, videos shared on social media showed unshaven itinerant Joel Cauchi pursuing mostly female victims as he rampaged through the vast, crowded Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction on Saturday afternoon.
A black ribbon was projected onto the Sydney Opera House on Monday as a mark of respect for the victims.