Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns

Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns
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A view shows a flooded residential area in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)
Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns
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A view shows a flooded residential area in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 13 April 2024
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Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns

Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns
  • Urals city of Orenburg hit by rapidly rising flood waters due to a historic deluge of melting snow
  • Around 100,000 people also evacuated in Kazakhstan's border region of Kurgan

ORENBURG, Russia: Authorities in the Russian city of Orenburg called on thousands of residents to evacuate immediately on Friday due to rapidly rising flood waters after major rivers burst their banks due to a historic deluge of melting snow.

Water was also rising sharply in another Russian region — Kurgan — and in neighboring Kazakhstan the authorities said 100,000 people had been evacuated so far, as rapidly warming temperatures melted heavy snow and ice.
The deluge of melt water has forced over 120,000 people from their homes in Russia’s Ural Mountains, Siberia and Kazakhstan as major rivers such as the Ural, which flows through Kazakhstan into the Caspian, overwhelmed embankments.




Local resident Dmitry Dragoshantsev carries a backpack with his cats out of his flooded house in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)

Regional authorities called for the mass evacuation of parts of Orenburg, a city of over half a million people about 1,200 km (750 miles) east of Moscow.
“There’s a siren going off in the city. This is not a drill. There’s a mass evacuation in progress!,” Sergei Salmin, the city’s mayor, said on the Telegram messenger app.
Russian news agencies later quoted officials in Orenburg as saying that more than 13,000 residents had been evacuated throughout the region, more than a quarter of them children.
The agency reports quoted Mayor Salmin as saying residents were turning out to help erect dykes to keep high-rise apartment blocks from being flooded. Dump trucks loaded with clay were dispatched to areas at risk.
Emergency workers said water levels in the Ural river were more than 2 meters (6.5 ft) above what they regarded as a dangerous level. Water lapped at the windows of brick and timber houses in the city, and pet dogs perched on rooftops.
Salmin called on residents to gather their documents, medicine and essential items and to abandon their homes.

People living in flooded homes lamented the loss of their belongings.
“Judging by the water levels, all the furniture, some household appliances and interior decorating materials are ruined,” local resident Vyacheslav told Reuters as he sat in an idling motorboat and gazed over his shoulder at his two-story brick home, partially submerged in muddy water.
“It’s a colossal amount of money.”
Alexei Kudinov, Orenburg’s deputy mayor, had said earlier that over 360 houses and nearly 1,000 plots of land had been flooded overnight. He said the deluge was expected to reach its peak on Friday and start subsiding in two days’ time.
Orenburg Governor Denis Pasler told President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that 11,972 homes had been flooded and if waters rose further 19,412 more people would be in danger.




Kazakh rescuers evacuate residents of the flooded settlement of Pokrovka, some 90 km from the city of Petropavl, in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with Russia on April 9, 2024. (AFP)

The village of Kaminskoye in the Kurgan region was also being evacuated on Friday morning after the water level there rose 1.4 meters overnight, Kurgan’s regional governor Vadim Shumkov said on the Telegram messaging app.
Kaminskoye is a settlement along the Tobol river which also flows through the regional center Kurgan, a city of 300,000 people. Shumkov said a deluge could reach Kurgan in the coming days.
“We can only hope the floodplain stretches wide and the ground absorbs as much water as possible in its way,” he said, adding that a dam was being reinforced in Kurgan.
Kurgan is home to a key part of Russia’s military-industrial complex — a giant factory that produces infantry fighting vehicles for the army which are in high demand in Ukraine where the Russian military is on the offensive in some areas.
There were no reports that the factory, Kurganmashzavod, had so far been affected.
Rising water levels are also threatening southern parts of Western Siberia, the largest hydrocarbon basin in the world, and in areas near the Volga, Europe’s biggest river.
Water levels in some other Russian regions are expected to peak within the next two weeks.


Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
Updated 2 min 9 sec ago
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Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx
  • Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud
  • The director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority announced Wednesday that Allam, the AI generative platform serving Saudi Arabia and Arabic speakers around the world, was included in IBM’s watsonx data platform at the IBM Think 2024 conference in its pilot phase as one of the best generative models in Arabic in the world.
Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud.
In a speech at the annual conference, the director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA, Essam Al-Waqeet, commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities in enabling large language models and simplifying machine learning, as well as enhancing AI governance, compliance and hybrid cloud deployment flexibility, and praised the inclusion of Allam for global use, which significantly strengthens SDAIA’s position as a leader in the field of AI.
“It is acknowledged that large linguistic models trained on high-quality data are the basis for the successful implementation of generative AI, and Allam has been trained on more than 500 billion linguistic units in Arabic. We will seek to expand the addition of high-quality data and work to improve the accuracy of its models,” Al-Waqeet said.
He also reaffirmed the SDAIA’s commitment to make Allam the best generative AI model in the Arabic language in the world.
Al-Waqeet also invited the participants at the IBM Think 2024 to join the third Global Artificial Intelligence Summit, to be organized by the SDAIA in Riyadh from Sept. 10-12 later this year.


‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action

‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action
Updated 14 min 40 sec ago
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‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action

‘September or October’: Al-Hilal coach reveals timeline for Neymar’s return to action
  • No. 10 is at ‘a crucial phase’ in his injury recovery, says the Roshn Saudi League champions’ manager Jorge Jesus
  • Al-Hilal teammate Kalidou Koulibaly is eagerly awaiting the return of Neymar: ‘I call him the magician because he has so much magic in his feet’

RIYADH: Neymar is working to make his comeback from injury in the first few months of next season, Al-Hilal manager Jorge Jesus has revealed.
The Brazilian superstar playmaker, a record signing for Al-Hilal last summer, suffered a season-ending cruciate ligament injury while on international duty in October.
Neymar, however, was a big part of Al-Hilal’s recent Roshn Saudi League title celebrations in Riyadh and declared himself as “feeling good” and “impatient to be back on the pitch.”
With the No. 10’s rehabilitation in full swing, Jesus is eagerly anticipating having the world-class attacker back in his plans for the upcoming campaign.
“He’s currently in a crucial phase of treatment, and we’re hopeful he might be ready to rejoin the team and start practicing by September or October,” Jesus said. “He’s a star player, he possesses exceptional talent. Unfortunately, I can’t provide a definitive answer at this point. Injuries like Neymar’s typically require 10 to 12 months for recovery.”
As someone who knows exactly what it is like to both play with and against Neymar, his Al-Hilal teammate Kalidou Koulibaly will be delighted to have the 32-year-old back in action. The Senegalese defender, a key part of the club’s world record-winning run earlier in the campaign, believes the re-addition of Neymar will only make Al-Hilal even better next season — as well as himself.
“It will be really important. Neymar is a really important player for us. I call him the ‘Magia’ — magician — because he has so much magic in his feet,” Koulibaly said. “When he touches the ball, he is incredible. We are waiting for him to be fit and to play with us and to make us happy and to make the supporters happy. Also to play with him — to play with someone of that level — you can only increase your own level and become better. Neymar is really important for us, and I hope that next year he will play all season and that we can win some trophies with him.”
Speaking at the recent title celebrations following Al-Hilal’s 4-1 victory over Al-Hazem, which clinched the Riyadh club’s 19th Saudi Arabian league crown, Neymar said: “I am very happy obviously. Winning titles is always good. The best thing would have been being on the pitch, but I am so happy for my teammates.
“I am fine. I am feeling good. I am impatient to be back on the pitch. The fans are unbelievable. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to give them the happiness they deserve, but you can be sure that next season we are going to have a lot of fun.”
Unbeaten domestically this season, Al-Hilal clinched the Roshn Saudi League title with three matches to spare and have won 29 of their 32 games thus far. Nearest challengers Al-Nassr, who are captained by Cristiano Ronaldo, are 12 points behind. Al-Hilal’s next match is at home to Al-Tai on Thursday in the Roshn Saudi League.
Al-Hilal created top-flight world football history this season by winning 34 matches in succession between September and April across all competitions. The incredible run saw them overtake Welsh club The New Saints’ winning streak of 27 games in season 2016-17. Prior to that, the record stood for 44 years following Dutch giants Ajax’s 26-game winning stretch between 1971 and 1972.


Pakistan to enhance production of indigenous petroleum products— minister

Pakistan to enhance production of indigenous petroleum products— minister
Updated 31 min 17 sec ago
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Pakistan to enhance production of indigenous petroleum products— minister

Pakistan to enhance production of indigenous petroleum products— minister
  • Cash-starved Pakistan spends over $20 billion each year on petroleum imports to meet energy demand
  • Pakistan welcomes foreign companies to invest in its oil and gas sector, says Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik

KARACHI: Pakistan wants to enhance the production of its indigenous petroleum products, Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik said on Wednesday, citing the financial burden that expensive crude oil imports have on the country’s fragile economy. 

Cash-strapped Pakistan relies heavily on imported petroleum products as its energy demands grow. Struggling with a balance of payments crisis, high inflation and steep currency devaluation, Pakistan is looking to secure cheaper energy imports and find alternate ways to lessen the cost of power generation. 

According to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), the country’s indigenous oil production meets only about one-fifth of Pakistan’s current oil needs. The rest is met through high-cost imports.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has urged the government to turn toward renewable energy resources. Last month, he said the country currently imports oil worth $27 billion to meet its power and transportation needs, which puts a strain on the cash-strapped nation. 

Speaking at the Pakistan Energy Symposium, Malik said it would be difficult to manage the country with such a huge energy import bill when Pakistan’s exports were around $30 billion. 

“We want to first of all, produce as much of the petroleum products, including gas and crude, indigenously as much as possible,” the minister said, adding that the government has put blocks for bidding and is actively trying to attract global players in exploration activities.

Malik said the government is expediting oil and gas exploration within the country, adding that it welcomes foreign companies to invest in the sector.

“So, we are telling the world that Pakistan is open for business, our regulatory process, particularly the petroleum concession process is very dense and opaque,” he said. 

He said investment processes and information about oil and gas exploration have been digitized and simplified to facilitate the government’s aims to enhance indigenous production of energy resources. 

Malik advocated for increasing the utilization of Pakistan’s abundant renewable energy resources, pointing out that the country’s solar energy costs have significantly decreased. 
 


Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Updated 32 min 49 sec ago
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Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
  • The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system
  • Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah

RIYADH: The Haramain High Speed Railway offers pilgrims and travelers a safe and efficient way to navigate between holy sites.

The Saudi Press Agency recently witnessed the smooth operations at the Madinah station, the punctual arrivals and departures of trains carrying hundreds of pilgrims, Umrah performers, citizens and residents.

The train travels with regularity and is easy to use. At the station, SPA witnessed a streamlined process — travelers verify their reservations, head to the departure hall and board the train. The 13 rail cars offer ample seating. One car is dedicated to food and beverages.

Yahya Al-Sharqawi, from Egypt, expressed satisfaction with the ease and safety of the journey, highlighting the convenience of traveling directly from Jeddah airport to Madinah. He commended the Kingdom’s commitment to facilitating pilgrims’ movement.

Anwar Badr, another Egyptian visitor, was pleased with the many transportation options available, and the ease with which the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque can be reached, and expressed gratitude for the exceptional services provided to pilgrims.

Ali Rajabi, from Iran, echoed these sentiments, praising the comfort and convenience offered by the Haramain High Speed Railway. He said that the project serves pilgrims from all corners of the globe.

The Madinah station caters to travelers’ needs with a variety of amenities. Parking is available below the station, and self-service kiosks handle reservations and ticketing.

Information and assistance offices help to navigate the facilities. Multiple arrival and departure halls ensure smooth passenger flow, with seasonal halls specifically dedicated to serving pilgrims during peak periods.

For added convenience, the station boasts retail outlets selling food and beverages, as well as companies offering housing and car rental services. A permanent health center provides on-site medical care.

The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system. Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah.

This efficient and modern railway system is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s dedication to ensuring a smooth and fulfilling Hajj experience for all, SPA reported.


Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges up to close at 12,157

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges up to close at 12,157
Updated 22 May 2024
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Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges up to close at 12,157

Closing Bell: Saudi benchmark index edges up to close at 12,157

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index rose on Wednesday, gaining 34.55 points, or 0.28 percent, to close at 12,157.03. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR5.3 billion ($1.413 billion), as 54 stocks advanced while 136 retreated.    

Similarly, the MSCI Tadawul Index increased slightly by 3.54 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 1,523.94. 

However, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu dipped by 88.34 points, or 0.33 percent, to close at 26,845. This comes as 25 stocks advanced while as many as 35 retreated.  

The best-performing stock was Naseej International Trading Co., whose share price surged 9.81 percent to SR81.70. 

Other top performers included Gulf General Cooperative Insurance Co. and Makkah Construction and Development Co., whose share prices soared by 6.68 percent and 6.01 percent, to stand at SR15.02 and SR97 respectively. 

Saudi Cable Co. and Saudi Ground Services Co. also performed well.

The worst performer was Amlak International Finance Co., whose share price dropped by 5.03 percent to SR11.34. 

Batic Investments and Logistics Co. as well as Al-Jouf Agricultural Development Co., share prices dropped by 4.94 percent and 4.37 percent to stand at SR3.27 and SR63.50, respectively. 

On the announcements front, Saudi IT company Rasan has set the final offering price for its upcoming initial public offering on the Kingdom’s stock market at the upper limit of SR37 per share. 

This follows the successful completion of the book-building process for institutional investors, which saw the offering oversubscribed approximately 129.1 times the total offer shares. 

Institutions subscribed to the entire offering, with 22.74 million ordinary shares allocated to them, representing 100 percent of the total holdings offered in the first phase. 

This information comes from a statement issued by Saudi Fransi Capital, the IPO manager, as well as the financial advisors and book-runners for the institutional tranche, Saudi Fransi Capital and Morgan Stanley Saudi Arabia. 

The statement on Tadawul added that following the successful completion of the book-building process, up to 2.274 million ordinary shares, representing 10 percent of the total holdings offered, will be allocated to individual investors in the second phase.