‘Unlikely’ to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

‘Unlikely’ to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide
Papua New Guinea has one of the wettest climates in the world, and research has found shifting rainfall patterns linked to climate change could exacerbate the risk of landslides. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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‘Unlikely’ to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide

‘Unlikely’ to be more survivors from Papua New Guinea landslide
  • Some 2,000 people are feared buried by a massive landslide that entombed a remote highland community
  • Full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the remote location

PORT MORESBY: It is “very unlikely” more survivors of Papua New Guinea’s deadly landslide will be found, a UN agency warned Tuesday, as thousands at risk from further slips were ordered to evacuate.
Some 2,000 people are feared buried by a massive landslide that entombed a remote highland community in the early hours of May 24.
Since then, locals have been picking through a hellscape of meters-deep churned-up earth, uprooted trees and car-sized boulders in the search for loved ones — often using little more than their hands, shovels and digging sticks.
But hopes are dimming that anyone is alive underneath the mountain of rubble.
“It is not a rescue mission, it is a recovery mission,” UNICEF Papua New Guinea’s Niels Kraaier said. “It is very unlikely they will have survived.”
Full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the remote location, the only road link being severed, heavy rainfall and nearby tribal violence.
The Papua New Guinea Defense Forces have struggled to access the site with heavy earth-moving equipment.
Early on Tuesday, Enga provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka warned the disaster could worsen further, as clumps of limestone, dirt and rock continue to shear off the side of Mount Mungalo.
Tsaka said authorities were now trying to coordinate the evacuation of almost 7,900 more people.
“The tragedy is still active,” he said. “Every hour you can hear rock breaking — it is like a bomb or gunshot and the rocks keep falling down.”
Aid officials said many residents were refusing to leave at-risk areas because they were holding out hope of finding loved ones.
Satellite images show the enormous scale of the disaster.
A vast smear of yellow and grey debris can be seen cutting through once verdant bushland and severing the region’s only road.
“This was an area heavily populated with homes, businesses, churches and schools, it has been completely wiped out. It is the surface of the moon — it is just rocks,” said Tsaka.
“People are digging with their hands and fingers,” he said, expressing anguish at the unde-resourced government’s inability to meet the enormity of the disaster.
“I am not equipped to deal with this tragedy,” Tsaka admitted.
Overwhelmed Papua New Guinea authorities held an online emergency meeting with United Nations agencies and international allies Tuesday, hoping to kickstart the relief effort.
Papua New Guinea’s national disaster center has told the United Nations that the initial “landslide buried more than 2,000 people alive.”
According to a letter obtained by AFP, the slide also “caused major destruction to buildings, food gardens and caused major impact on the economic lifeline of the country.”
The scale of the catastrophe required “immediate and collaborative actions from all players,” it added, including the army, and national and provincial responders.
Australia has announced millions of dollars worth of aid, including emergency relief supplies such as shelters, hygiene kits and support for women and children.
China’s President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Joe Biden — more accustomed to scrapping for influence in the strategically located country — both offered assistance.
More than 1,000 people have already been displaced by the catastrophe, aid agencies have estimated.
UN Development Programme official Nicholas Booth said up to 30,000 people could have been cut off by the disaster across several villages.
These communities had enough supplies for the coming weeks, but opening up that road remained essential, he said.
“This landslide has blocked the road westward, so not only are there challenges in accessing the village itself, but it does mean the communities beyond that are also cut off.”
Locals said the landslip may have been triggered by recent heavy rains.
Papua New Guinea has one of the wettest climates in the world, and research has found shifting rainfall patterns linked to climate change could exacerbate the risk of landslides.
The estimated death toll has climbed significantly since the disaster struck, as officials reassess the size of the population.
Many people fleeing tribal violence have moved into the area in the past few years.
The area is located about 600 kilometers from Port Moresby.


Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard

Updated 3 sec ago
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Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard

Migrant shipwreck victims pursue case against Greek coast guard
53 have filed a group criminal complaint, alleging the coast guard took hours to mount a response despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone
The case is still under preliminary investigation by the naval court of Piraeus

ATHENS: A year after one of the Mediterranean’s worst migrant shipwrecks killed more than 600 people, lawyers for survivors pursuing a criminal case against the Greek coast guard gave fresh details on the case Thursday.
The rusty and overloaded trawler Adriana sank on the night of June 13-14 last year. It was carrying more than 750 people, according to the United Nations, but only 82 bodies were found.
Lawyers representing dozens of survivors held a news conference after a court in Kalamata last month dropped charges against nine Egyptian men accused of being part of the criminal gang operating the trawler.
Among the 104 survivors, 53 have filed a group criminal complaint, alleging the coast guard took hours to mount a response despite warnings from EU border agency Frontex and the NGO Alarm Phone.
“This was a crime committed over a 15-hour period,” Eleni Spathana, a lawyer with the Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) group, told journalists.
The case is still under preliminary investigation by the naval court of Piraeus, but the survivors’ lawyers say they have found many irregularities in the Greek coast guard’s actions before and after the incident.
The boat was sailing from Tobruk, Libya to Italy. In addition to Syrians and Palestinians, it was carrying nearly 350 Pakistanis, according to the Pakistani government.
Survivors said the coast guard was towing the vessel when it capsized and sank 47 nautical miles off the coast of Pylos.
The coast guard has insisted it communicated with people on board who “refused any help,” rendering any rescue operation in high seas risky.
But on Thursday Maria Papamina, legal coordinator for the Greek Council for Refugees, said the coast guard chose to dispatch a patrol boat from Crete — and not a larger rescue tugboat stationed closer by at the Peloponnese port of Gythio.
The patrol boat’s voyage data recorder was damaged and was only repaired two months after the accident, Papamina added. Nor was there any video footage from the patrol boat.
“There are reasonable concerns of an attempted cover-up,” she said.
Spathana of the RSA added: “There was clearly no intent to rescue before the boat sank. Not only is this terrifying, it is criminally liable.”
Eighteen of the victims remain unburied, including eight still to be identified.
The independent Greek ombudsman’s office has launched a disciplinary investigation into the case, after the coast guard saw no grounds to do so, the lawyers said Thursday.
On Friday, victims’ relatives in Pakistan plan to gather in the city of Lala Musa to protest the lack of response from the Greek authorities to the tragedy, organizers in Athens said.

Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit

Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit
Updated 7 min 55 sec ago
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Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit

Pope to meet Biden, Zelenksy, Modi at G7 summit
  • Francis, the first ever pope to attend a Group of Seven rich nations summit, has been invited by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
  • The 87-year-old is also expected to talk about the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will meet with US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and India’s Narendra Modi at the G7 summit in Italy, the Vatican said Thursday.
Francis, the first ever pope to attend a Group of Seven rich nations summit, has been invited by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to address a session on artificial intelligence (AI) in Puglia on Friday.
The 87-year-old, who arrives by helicopter at 12:30 p.m. local time (1030 GMT), is also expected to talk about the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine during a series of bilateral meetings.
As well as Zelensky, Biden and Modi, Francis will sit down with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Justin Trudeau and International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Kristalina Georgieva.
He will also meet privately with Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Türkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the Vatican said.
Francis appeals regularly for peace but Vatican efforts to find a diplomatic solution in Ukraine have yet to bear fruit.
The leaders of the G7, which brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, are meeting Thursday and Friday in the luxurious seaside resort of Borgo Egnazia in southern Italy.


Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers

Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers
Updated 11 min 26 sec ago
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Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers

Modi sends minister to Kuwait after fire kills 40 Indian workers
  • Most of the victims were from the southern state of Kerala
  • Indians account for more than 30 percent of Kuwait’s workforce

NEW DELHI: India’s Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh arrived in Kuwait on Thursday to coordinate the repatriation of the remains of 40 Indians killed in a fire a day earlier.

The blaze broke out in a building housing foreign workers in the city of Mangaf on Wednesday morning.

Footage shared on social media showed flames engulfing the lower part of the six-story apartment block and thick black smoke billowing from the upper floors.

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior said that 49 people were killed in the incident and more than 50 injured. At least 40 of the dead were Indian nationals, according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The ministry said that “on the directions” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Singh would “work toward early repatriation of mortal remains as well as for medical assistance to those injured.”

On his arrival on Thursday morning, he “immediately rushed to Jaber hospital to ascertain well-being of injured Indians in the fire incident yesterday. He met the six injured people admitted to hospital. All of them are safe,” the Indian embassy in Kuwait said on social media.

“(He) called on FM of Kuwait H.E. Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya in Kuwait. FM Yahya conveyed his condolences on the tragic incident. He assured full support including for medical care, early repatriation of mortal remains and investigation of the incident.”

Before leaving for Kuwait, Singh told local media that an Air Force aircraft would repatriate the remains of those killed and that DNA tests were underway as some of the bodies had been charred beyond recognition.

“As soon as the bodies are identified, the kin will be informed and our Air Force plane will bring the bodies back,” he said.

Most of the victims are believed to be from the southern Indian state of Kerala.

More than one million Indians are living and working in Kuwait, accounting for some 22 percent of the Gulf state’s population and 30 percent of its workforce.


Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues
Updated 13 June 2024
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Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues
  • Jakarta, Riyadh have been working with other Muslim countries to rally international support for Palestine
  • President-elect Subianto recently pledged to increase UNRWA funding, send more medical teams to Gaza

JAKARTA: Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s president-elect, sees Saudi Arabia as a main partner in resolving global issues, his office said on Thursday following a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Subianto, who is still serving as Indonesia’s defense minister before he takes the top office in October, visited Jeddah on Wednesday after attending an international aid conference on Gaza in Jordan. 

In his first meeting with the Saudi crown prince since winning the general vote in February, Subianto highlighted the importance of cooperation between Jakarta and Riyadh to support international peace efforts, including in Palestine.  

“For Indonesia, Saudi Arabia is a main partner in dialogue and in resolving regional and global issues,” Subianto said, as quoted in a Ministry of Defense statement. 

“I have witnessed (the crown prince’s) steadfastness in affirming Saudi leadership in the region, including to promote peace and stability for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. The issue of Palestine is very close to our hearts.” 

Subianto pledged to increase contributions to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees and send more medical teams to Gaza during the conference in Jordan, where he also called for a two-state solution for Palestine.

Indonesia has long been a staunch supporter of Palestine and one of the most vocal countries since the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza last October. It sees Palestinian statehood as mandated by its constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are part of a ministerial committee formed during the joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit last November, which has been working to rally international support for an immediate end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“I rely on your leadership to defend peace, justice and humanity for Palestine,” Subianto told the crown prince during their meeting.

The Indonesian president-elect has been urging Israel to obey the orders of the International Court of Justice and stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and has called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the besieged strip, where over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 80 percent of people have been displaced from their homes.


UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process
Updated 13 June 2024
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UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process
  • “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto

MANCHESTER: Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is far ahead in polls before a July 4 election, pledged on Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process.
“Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto — the collection of policies it would enact if it forms the next government.
“We are committed to recognizing a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”
The current Conservative-led government has previously said Britain could formally recognize a Palestinian state before the end of a peace process, and that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be given “the political perspective of a credible route to a Palestinian state and a new future.”
In May, Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, prompting an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.