Aid reaches Papua New Guinea landslide site

Aid reaches Papua New Guinea landslide site
Above, locals carry supplies at the site of a landslide at Yambali village in the region of Maip Mulitaka, in Papua New Guinea’s Enga Province on May 29, 2024. (World Vision/AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Aid reaches Papua New Guinea landslide site

Aid reaches Papua New Guinea landslide site
  • Difficulties getting aid and supplies to the site has stoked a mix of desperation and frustration on the ground
  • Full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the site’s remote location

PORT MORESBY: Supplies of food and medicine began arriving at the scene of a deadly landslide in Papua New Guinea Wednesday, with aid workers discovering children rendered mute by the shock of the disaster.
Papua New Guinea’s government estimates that as many as 2,000 people may be buried underneath a massive landslide that struck a thriving highland settlement in Enga province in the early hours of May 24.
Only six bodies have so far been pulled from the mountain of churned-up earth after days of frantic digging with makeshift tools.
Difficulties getting aid and supplies to the site — and the speed of the government response — has stoked a mix of desperation and frustration on the ground.
Community leader Miok Michael said that 19 of his “family members and relatives” were missing and feared dead.
“The relief support and donations are slowly reaching the affected site,” said Michael, who recently visited the disaster zone.
“But displaced people are still crying and calling for help. There is no proper house for them to sleep, all their houses were buried.”
With rescue teams abandoning hope of finding survivors under the meters of mud and rubble, the community has started to count the emotional and physical cost.
Mourning locals have started carrying the dead away in immense “haus krai” funeral processions, collective outpourings of love and grief that can last for weeks.
Images showed a group of men carrying a wooden casket down the forested valley on their shoulders as scores of mourners trailed behind them, wailing with despair.
Aid groups fear children will bear the brunt of the catastrophe, estimating that 40 percent of residents in the area are younger than 16.
“What we are hearing is that, because of what they saw and experienced, many of the children have stopped talking,” Justine McMahon from CARE Papua New Guinea said.
Niels Kraaier from UNICEF Papua New Guinea said workers were aware of nine orphaned children.
UNICEF said it had started distributing rudimentary hygiene kits of buckets, jerrycans and soap, while World Vision said food, shelter, blankets and mosquito nets remained immediate needs.
However, full-scale rescue and relief efforts have been severely hampered by the site’s remote location, nearby tribal violence and landslide damage that has severed major road links.
The collapse of bridges along the sealed road to the site has forced lengthy detours for some aid convoys.
Papua New Guinea’s military tried for days to bring heavy earth-moving equipment to the site.
But, with a series of bridges in a state of disrepair or damaged by earlier floods, they have now abandoned that plan and will source equipment from mines and businesses.
That equipment will arrive at the landslide by Thursday at the “latest,” UN migration agency official Serhan Aktoprak said.
Provincial leaders have implored the government to declare a national emergency that would draw attention to their plight and free up resources.
“I am not equipped to deal with this tragedy,” provincial administrator Sandis Tsaka said.
Prime Minister James Marape is yet to visit the remote pocket of Enga province more than five days after the landslide.
He has stayed in the capital Port Moresby, where his government is trying to fend off a no-confidence motion that could sweep it from power.
There are concerns this political manoeuvering has drawn attention away from what could be one of the country’s worst natural disasters.
Marape told parliament on Wednesday that the village of Yambali was “no more.”
“Nature, through a disastrous landslip, submerged or covered the village and from our initial estimation over 2,000 people would have perished in this disaster.”
“In this year, we have had extraordinary rainfall that has caused flooding in river areas, sea level rise in coastal areas, and landslips in a few areas,” Marape said.
Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions and landslides are extremely common in its highlands.
Geologists believe recent heavy rain may have contributed to the slide.
“Papua New Guinea sits right on a plate boundary, where these large, rigid parts of the earth plow into each other,” University of Adelaide geologist Alan Collins said.
“This creates mountains, steep slopes and other extreme topography.
“You have these steep slopes located in an area of heavy rainfall, and this can rot the minerals in the rocks, and gradually weaken them.”
The World Bank and others have warned that landslides were likely to increase in Papua New Guinea due to a growing population and uncontrolled land use.
Scientists have also warned that climate change will cause more extreme rainfall across most parts of the world.


Three bodies found near migrant shipwreck off Italy

Three bodies found near migrant shipwreck off Italy
Updated 55 min 26 sec ago
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Three bodies found near migrant shipwreck off Italy

Three bodies found near migrant shipwreck off Italy
  • The migrants had set sail from Turkiye and came from Iran, Syria and Iraq
  • The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity said some migrants also came from Afghanistan

ROME: Three bodies have been recovered near the site of a migrant shipwreck between Italy and Greece from which more than 60 people were reported missing, a spokesperson for the Italian coast guard said on Tuesday.
The migrants were on a sailing boat about 200 kilometers (124 miles) east of the Italian region of Calabria. Eleven survivors and the body of a woman were taken ashore on Monday, and aid groups said 64 people, including 26 children, were unaccounted for.
The coast guard said late on Monday it had deployed two patrol boats, one ship and a plane to search for the missing. It did not release further information about the three recovered bodies.
The migrants had set sail from Turkiye and came from Iran, Syria and Iraq, according to a joint statement from the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity said some migrants also came from Afghanistan.
Another shipwreck was reported on Monday by German sea rescue charity RESQSHIP, which picked up 51 people from a wooden boat about 90 kilometers south of the island of Lampedusa, and found 10 corpses trapped in the lower deck of the vessel.
Survivors told aid workers they had set off from the Libyan port of Zuwarah two days earlier. They said half the passengers were from Bangladesh, with others from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt.
The two shipwrecks confirmed the central Mediterranean’s reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes. According to UN data, more than 23,500 migrants have died or gone missing in its waters since 2014.


Turk jailed pending trial in Greece over gun attack at supermarket

Turk jailed pending trial in Greece over gun attack at supermarket
Updated 18 June 2024
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Turk jailed pending trial in Greece over gun attack at supermarket

Turk jailed pending trial in Greece over gun attack at supermarket
  • The gun attack took place at a supermarket in the port city of Piraeus on Friday afternoon
  • The victims, a 42-year old man who died and a 23-year old man who is being treated in hospital, were members of the “Baygaralar” criminal gang that has been operating in Türkiye’s Adana city

ATHENS: A 22-year old Turkish national was jailed pending trial in Greece on Tuesday after killing another Turk and seriously injuring a third in a gun attack, with police sources saying both victims were members of a criminal gang.
The gun attack took place at a supermarket in the port city of Piraeus on Friday afternoon.
The 22-year old man confessed when he appeared before a prosecutor on Tuesday, who ruled that he should be detained pending trial, a legal source said. He told police last week that the attack was an act of revenge for his uncle’s death and it was not related to criminal gang activities.
The victims, a 42-year old man who died after being shot multiple times and a 23-year old man who is being treated in hospital for bullet wounds to the chest, were members of the “Baygaralar” criminal gang that has been operating in Turkiye’s Adana city, the sources said.
They fled a few months ago to Greece due to gang rivalry and fears that they would be arrested by Turkish authorities after a recent crackdown on the criminal group, they said.
The injured man’s brother was killed a month ago in Berlin, while more “Baygaralar” gang members are suspected to have fled to other European countries, the sources added.
Greek judicial authorities do not officially comment on ongoing cases.
Following a tipoff by the Turkish intelligence service and acting on an international arrest warrant, Greek police arrested in May Ramazan Baygara, the suspected leader of “Baygaralar,” wanted by Ankara for a range of crimes including manslaughter. An extradition request is pending approval.
Turkiye and Greece, NATO allies and historic foes, have long been at odds over maritime boundaries among other issues. In recent months they have made high-profile steps to ease tensions and have stepped up cooperation in many sectors including security.


Ukraine jails man for aiding Russian forces in Donetsk

Ukraine jails man for aiding Russian forces in Donetsk
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ukraine jails man for aiding Russian forces in Donetsk

Ukraine jails man for aiding Russian forces in Donetsk
  • Prosecutors in Ukraine have opened thousands of criminal cases into collaboration since Russian forces invaded in February 2022
  • The regional prosecutor’s office said the man had committed high treason by passing information on the location of Ukrainian troops in the area to Russian forces

KYIV: A Ukrainian man has been handed 15 years behind bars for passing sensitive military information to Russian forces, prosecutors in the eastern Donetsk region said on Tuesday.
Prosecutors in Ukraine have opened thousands of criminal cases into collaboration since Russian forces invaded in February 2022.
The regional prosecutor’s office said the man, who was not identified, had committed high treason by passing information on the location of Ukrainian troops in the area to Russian forces.
“Fifteen years behind bars — Russian agent who directed hostile attacks on Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and armored vehicles is sentenced,” it announced in a statement.
The prosecutors said the resident of Kostyantynivka, a town near the frontline, had disclosed in May last year locations of Ukrainian troop deployments and movements of Kyiv’s artillery in the region via the Telegram messenger service.
It said the man’s Russian handler had promised payment in return but had not made good on the promise.
Russian forces are making steady gains in the industrial Donetsk region, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, as Ukraine suffers critical manpower and ammunition shortages.
The United Nations said last year that Ukraine had opened more than 6,600 criminal cases “against individuals for collaboration and other conflict-related crimes” since the war began.


Finnish law to stop migrants at Russia border makes progress in parliament

Finnish law to stop migrants at Russia border makes progress in parliament
Updated 18 June 2024
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Finnish law to stop migrants at Russia border makes progress in parliament

Finnish law to stop migrants at Russia border makes progress in parliament
  • Finland has accused Russia of weaponizing migration by encouraging hundreds of asylum seekers last year from countries such as Syria and Somalia to cross the border
  • Helsinki believes Moscow is promoting the crossings in retaliation for Finland joining NATO, which backs Ukraine against Russia’s invasion

HELSINKI: Finland’s parliament will be able to accept a government proposal to temporarily reject asylum seekers arriving across the border from Russia if some amendments are made, an influential committee of legislators said on Tuesday.
The announcement by the chair of parliament’s constitutional committee is expected to pave the way for the controversial proposal to be approved in a plenary vote in due course.
Finland has accused Russia of weaponizing migration by encouraging hundreds of asylum seekers last year from countries such as Syria and Somalia to cross the border, an assertion the Kremlin denies.
Helsinki believes Moscow is promoting the crossings in retaliation for Finland joining NATO, which backs Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.
After first shutting all land border crossings with Russia late last year, preventing regular travel, the Finnish government in May presented legislation allowing border guards to stop migrants still arriving from seeking asylum.
While the plan clearly contradicts principles included in international human rights agreements, it is still justified as a temporary emergency measure under the circumstances, committee chair Heikki Vestman told a press conference.
For the legislation to pass it must be accompanied by a procedure giving those who are rejected a possibility to appeal the decision, said Vestman, who belongs to the ruling National Coalition Party.
No migrants have arrived across the border with Russia since March 13, official data shows.
Before the vote, the committee heard 18 experts, who were all against approving the law.
But in the end, 15 of the 17 parliamentarians on the constitutional committee gave their backing, with only the Left Alliance and Green Party representatives objecting.
“For the first time the Finnish state explicitly ignores the human rights system and European Union legislation,” Left Alliance lawmaker Anna Kontula said, adding that this could set a dangerous precedent.


A Swedish diplomat says his release from a 2-year detention in Iran is like a dream

A Swedish diplomat says his release from a 2-year detention in Iran is like a dream
Updated 18 June 2024
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A Swedish diplomat says his release from a 2-year detention in Iran is like a dream

A Swedish diplomat says his release from a 2-year detention in Iran is like a dream
  • “The dream that I sometimes did not dare to believe in has come true — to be back with my loved ones and to live my life in freedom,” said Floderus
  • Sweden’s Expressen tabloid posted a video of Floderus on his knee at the airport on Saturday and appearing to be proposing to his fiancé

COPENHAGEN: The Swedish European Union diplomat who was held in Iran for two years and freed in a prisoner swap over the weekend said Tuesday that his release was “the dream that I sometimes did not dare to believe in.”
Johan Floderus and a second Swedish citizen, Saeed Azizi, returned to Sweden on Saturday in exchange for Hamid Nouri, an Iranian convicted in Stockholm of committing war crimes over his part in 1988 mass executions in the Islamic Republic.
Floderus was arrested in April 2022 at the Tehran airport while returning from a vacation with friends. He had been held for months before his family and others went public with his detention.
“After two long years, I am finally a free man, reunited with my family, my fiance, and will be able to marry,” he said in a statement to Swedish media. “The dream that I sometimes did not dare to believe in has come true — to be back with my loved ones and to live my life in freedom.”
Sweden’s Expressen tabloid posted a video of Floderus on his knee at the airport on Saturday and appearing to be proposing to his fiance. In the background stood Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who had welcomed Floderus and Azizi at the airport and said they had faced a “hell on earth.”
The swap was mediated by Oman, a sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula that has long served as an interlocutor between Iran and the West. It came as the Muslim world celebrates Eid Al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and typically sees prisoners freed.
The arrest of Nouri by Sweden in 2019 as he traveled there as a tourist likely sparked the detentions of the two Swedes, part of a long-running strategy by Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution to use those with ties abroad as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West. Iran long has contended it doesn’t hold prisoners to use in negotiations, despite years of multiple swaps with the US and other nations showing otherwise.
In 2022, the Stockholm District Court sentenced Nouri to life in prison. It identified him as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj.
Saturday’s swap did not include Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian expert on disaster medicine whom a UN panel long has described as being arbitrarily detained by Tehran since 2016. He is currently being held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
In an appeal to Kristersson, Swedish broadcaster SVT on Tuesday carried an audio message from Djalali, who faces possible execution after being convicted on charges of “corruption on Earth” in 2017.
“Mister prime minister, you decided to leave me behind under huge risk of being executed,” Djalali said in the message. “You left me here helpless. Why not me? After 3,000 days.”