Cyclone bears down on flood-hit Kenya, Tanzania

Tanzanian fishermen sit on their boats on the shores of the Indian Ocean as they prepare for the effects of tropical cyclone Hidaya in Bagamoyo District in the Coast region, Tanzania May 4, 2024. (REUTERS)
1 / 2
Tanzanian fishermen sit on their boats on the shores of the Indian Ocean as they prepare for the effects of tropical cyclone Hidaya in Bagamoyo District in the Coast region, Tanzania May 4, 2024. (REUTERS)
Cyclone bears down on flood-hit Kenya, Tanzania
2 / 2
Workers cut trees next to a damaged bus that was carried away by waters in an area heavily affected by torrential rains and flash floods in Mai Mahiu, Kenya, on April 29, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 May 2024
Follow

Cyclone bears down on flood-hit Kenya, Tanzania

Cyclone bears down on flood-hit Kenya, Tanzania
  • The two East African neighbors are still recovering from last weeks devastating floods
  • Kenya reported about 200 dead while Tanzaia said at least 155 died in floods and landslides

NAIROBI: Beaches were deserted and many shops closed on Saturday as heavy rains and winds from a tropical cyclone buffeted coastal areas of Tanzania and Kenya.
Both countries have gone on alert for Tropical Cyclone Hidaya, after weeks of torrential rains and floods that have wreaked havoc in many parts of East Africa and claimed more than 400 lives.
But there were no reports of casualties or damage as of Saturday afternoon as the cyclone rolled in from the Indian Ocean and made landfall in Tanzania.
“It’s so strange today to see only few people at the beach. We are used to seeing crowds, especially during the weekend,” said Yusuf Hassan, a resident of Tanzania’s main city Dar es Salaam.
“But I am sure people are afraid of the cyclone.”
The Kenya Meteorological Department said the cyclone was already being felt offshore, with strong winds exceeding 40 knots and waves of over two meters (over six feet).
It forecast heavy rainfall along the coast from Sunday, intensifying over the following two days, but said Kenya would only feel the effects of the cyclone from the “fringes” because of its location on the equator.
Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki announced a ban on all beach activities, swimming and fishing.

The Tanzanian Meteorological Authority said there had been strong winds and heavy downpours along the coast overnight.
In the Mtwara area, it said over 90 millimeters (3.5 inches) of rain had been reported in 24 hours, nearly twice the average May rainfall of 54 millimeters.
The agency advised people living in risk-prone areas and those involved in marine activities to take “maximum precautions.”
In the Zanzibar archipelago, all marine transport has been suspended.
“We believe it’s not safe to travel under such weather conditions caused by the cyclone,” Zanzibar Maritime Authority director general Sheikha Ahmed Mohamed told AFP.
Cyclone season in the southwest Indian Ocean normally lasts from November to April and there are around a dozen storms each year.

Kenyan President William Ruto on Friday described the weather picture as “dire” and postponed the reopening of schools indefinitely, with the approach of what he said was the nation’s first-ever cyclone.
Around 210 people have died in Kenya from flood-related incidents and nearly 100 are missing.
A further 165,000 have been forced to flee their homes, according to government data.
“No corner of our country has been spared from this havoc,” Ruto said in a televised address, blaming the devastating cycle of drought and floods on a failure to protect the environment.
“Sadly, we have not seen the last of this perilous period.”
On Thursday, the interior ministry ordered anyone living near major rivers or dams to leave the area within 24 hours or face “mandatory evacuation for their safety.”
It warned that 178 dams and reservoirs were at risk of spilling over.
Kindiki said 138 camps have been set up to offer temporary shelter to more than 62,000 people displaced by floodwaters.
Opposition politicians and lobby groups have accused the government of being unprepared and slow to respond despite weather warnings.
At least 155 people have also been killed in Tanzania by floods and landslides that have swallowed homes and destroyed crops.
East Africa is highly vulnerable to climate change and this year’s rains have been exacerbated by El Nino — a climate phenomenon typically associated with increased heat that leads to drought in some parts of the world and heavy downpours elsewhere.
Torrential rains have claimed at least 29 lives in Burundi since September, while weather-related deaths have also been reported in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda.
Late last year, more than 300 people died in rains and floods in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, just as the region was trying to recover from its worst drought in four decades.
 

 


Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
Updated 4 sec ago
Follow

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest

Student protesters vow ‘complete shutdown’ in Bangladesh after days of violent protest
  • Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party
  • Protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday
DHAKA: People stayed home and many malls closed their doors Thursday morning in Bangladesh’s capital as protesters attempted to impose a “complete shutdown” after days of student protesters violently clashing with police and ruling party-backed student activists.
Traffic was thin on Dhaka’s usually clogged streets. Offices and banks opened, but commuters complained that transport was limited.
Salma Rahman, an official at a financial institution in Dhaka, said that she left his car at home and caught a ride on a motorcycle. “Our office has alerted us to stay safe on streets, as there is fear that violence could happen during the shutdown.”
Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party, but the protests have escalated since violence broke out on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday. Six people were killed amid protests on Tuesday, leading the government to ask universities across the country to close and police to raid the main opposition party’s headquarters.
The violence continued late Wednesday in Dhaka. Traffic was halted on a major highway as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, who set fire to a toll booth, blocked streets and detonated explosives, Somoy TV reported.
Other news outlets said scores were injured in the hours of violence.
On Thursday morning, with classes suspended and dormitories closed, students near Dhaka’s BRAC University clashed with police, who fired tear gas.
Police set up checkpoints at the entrances to Dhaka University.
On Wednesday night, the protesters announced they would enforce “a complete shutdown” across the country on Thursday in response to security officials’ continued attacks on the campus demonstrators. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said that it would do what it could to make the shutdown a success.
Protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30 percent of government jobs for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. They argue that the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.
Hasina’s government halted the quotas after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations. The Supreme Court then suspended the High Court’s ruling and is expected to rule on Aug. 7. The government has also separately appealed the High Court decision in the wake of the protest, according to the attorney general’s office.
“I am requesting all to wait with patience until the verdict is delivered,” Hasina said in a televised address Wednesday evening. “I believe our students will get justice from the apex court. They will not be disappointed.”
While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh’s private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are stable and well paid. Each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.
Hasina said there would be a judicial probe into Tuesday’s deaths and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.
“Some precious lives have been lost unnecessarily,” she said. “I condemn every killing.”
UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk said in a post on the social media platform X that all acts of violence and deadly use of force must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. Turk said freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights.
Bangladesh’s ruling party blamed the BNP for the chaos, and Dhaka police raided the party’s headquarters late Tuesday. Detective Chief Harun-or-Rashid said police arrested seven members of the party’s student wing, and said detectives found 100 crude bombs, 500 wooden and bamboo sticks, and five to six bottles of gasoline in the raid.
Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior BNP leader, said the raid was a government attempt to divert attention from the protests.

India plans to ease rice export curbs to retain market share against Pakistan

India plans to ease rice export curbs to retain market share against Pakistan
Updated 9 min 18 sec ago
Follow

India plans to ease rice export curbs to retain market share against Pakistan

India plans to ease rice export curbs to retain market share against Pakistan
  • Authorities in India imposed rice export curbs in 2023 in an effort to keep local prices in check
  • Rice exporters say supplies have exceeded local demand, seek overseas sales to prevent spoilage

NEW DELHI: India is likely to cut the floor price for basmati rice exports and replace the 20 percent export tax on parboiled rice with a fixed duty on overseas shipments, government sources said, as rice inventories in the country jumped a record high.
The world’s biggest rice exporter imposed various curbs on exports in 2023 and continued them in 2024 in an effort to keep local prices in check ahead of the general elections held in April-May.
New Delhi is expected to lower the basmati rice’s minimum export price (MEP) to $800-$850 a metric ton, down from $950 a ton, to boost shipments, said the sources, who didn’t wish to be identified as they are not authorized to talk to media.
Lowering the MEP would help India retain its market share against Pakistan, which exported a record amount of rice this year due to New Delhi’s export curbs.
India and Pakistan are the leading exporters of basmati rice. New Delhi exports more than 4 million metric tons of basmati – the premium long-grain variety famed for its aroma – to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.
New Delhi is also expected to drop the 20 percent export tax on parboiled rice and introduce a minimum export tax to stop under-invoicing of shipments, the sources said.
The government was examining possibilities of easing rice export curb, including resuming white rice exports, Reuters reported last month.
Worried over expectations of lower output due to the El Nino weather pattern, India banned overseas shipments of non-basmati white rice varieties in July 2023 and imposed curbs on other grades.
“With rice supplies significantly exceeding local demand, it’s crucial to reduce stockpiles to prevent spoilage. The most effective solution is to lift export restrictions,” said B.V. Krishna Rao, president of the Rice Exporters Association (REA).
The country’s rice stocks at state warehouses have jumped to 48.51 million metric tons as of July 1, the highest ever for the month and nearly 19 percent more than last year, according to the Food Corporation of India.
New Delhi would also review the export ban on non-basmati white rice after assessing the progress of rice planting, the sources said.
Farmers have so far planted 11.6 million hectares with rice paddy during the current planting, up 20.7 percent on the same period last year.


Death inevitable, says preacher at center of Indian stampede disaster

Death inevitable, says preacher at center of Indian stampede disaster
Updated 18 July 2024
Follow

Death inevitable, says preacher at center of Indian stampede disaster

Death inevitable, says preacher at center of Indian stampede disaster
  • Bhole Baba: ‘I am very distressed by what happened, but who can possibly challenge fate?’
  • Police constable-turned-preacher spoke to local media at one of his monasteries in Kasganj

NEW DELHI: An Indian preacher whose latest sermon ended in a deadly stampede that killed more than 120 people insisted that fate could not be challenged and death was inevitable.
In his first appearance before the media since July 2, when 121 people were crushed to death following a sermon he delivered in the northern city of Hathras, Bhole Baba said he was upset by the tragedy.
“I am very distressed by what happened, but who can possibly challenge fate?” he said.
“Whoever comes to this earth has to go one day — it is only a matter of when.”
The police constable-turned-preacher spoke to local media Wednesday at one of his monasteries in Kasganj, around 60 kilometers from the stampede site.
Baba’s lawyer had earlier said “anti-social elements” in the crowd were responsible.
The prayer meeting was attended by 250,000 devotees, more than three times the authorized number. The vast majority of fatalities were women.
A police report issued after the stampede named several organizers of the prayer meeting sought for arrest, but Baba was not among them.
So far 11 volunteers working for him have been arrested.
Religious gatherings in India have a grim track record of deadly incidents caused by poor crowd management and safety lapses.
In 2008, 224 pilgrims were killed and more than 400 injured in a stampede at a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur.


Top Democrats increase pressure on Biden to step aside, US media reports

Top Democrats increase pressure on Biden to step aside, US media reports
Updated 18 July 2024
Follow

Top Democrats increase pressure on Biden to step aside, US media reports

Top Democrats increase pressure on Biden to step aside, US media reports
  • US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi among voices of dissent
  • Joe Biden has repeatedly rejected calls from Democrats to drop out of the presidential race

WASHINGTON: Top Democrats including US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have increased pressure on President Joe Biden to withdraw from his reelection campaign over concerns he cannot defeat Republican challenger Donald Trump, US media reported on Wednesday.
Schumer told Biden in a meeting on Saturday it would be better for the country and the Democratic Party if he ended his reelection campaign, ABC News reported.
US House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has expressed similar views directly to Biden, ABC News reported, citing a source familiar with the conversation.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Pelosi, too, has told Biden polling shows he cannot defeat Trump and that the president could destroy the Democrats’ chances of winning back control of the House of Representatives.
Pelosi spoke to Biden in a recent telephone call, CNN reported, citing four sources briefed on the call. None of the sources indicated Pelosi told Biden he should leave the race, CNN said.
Biden responded by telling Pelosi he has seen polling indicating he can win, according to one CNN source.
A Pelosi spokesperson told CNN that Pelosi has not spoken to Biden since Friday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Democratic US Representative Adam Schiff became the 20th congressional Democrat to publicly call for Biden to drop out of the race.
Schumer’s office responded to the report about his meeting with the president with a statement calling it “idle speculation” and said Schumer “conveyed the views of his caucus directly to President Biden on Saturday.”
Jeffries’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Biden has repeatedly rejected calls from Democrats to drop out of the race after his halting performance in a debate last month against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“The President told both leaders he is the nominee of the party, he plans to win, and looks forward to working with both of them to pass his 100 days agenda to help working families,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.


Malaysia’s 99-year-old ex-PM Mahathir in hospital: aide

Malaysia’s 99-year-old ex-PM Mahathir in hospital: aide
Updated 18 July 2024
Follow

Malaysia’s 99-year-old ex-PM Mahathir in hospital: aide

Malaysia’s 99-year-old ex-PM Mahathir in hospital: aide
  • A two-time former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad turned 99 last week
  • He has suffered several heart problems in recent years and underwent bypass surgeries

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s nearly 100-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been hospitalized for “continuous coughing,” his aide said Thursday.
“Mahathir is expected to be treated for the next few days,” Sufi Yusoff said, adding he had been admitted on Monday.
A two-time former prime minister, Mahathir turned 99 last week.
He has suffered several heart problems in recent years and underwent bypass surgeries.
He spent nearly three months in hospital earlier this year.
Born on July 10, 1925, Mahathir served as prime minister twice, first taking office as the country’s fourth national leader from 1981 until 2003.
He then served as prime minister for a second time at the age of 92 from 2018 to 2020.