Indian capital on alert as heat index surges to 50 degrees

Special Indian capital on alert as heat index surges to 50 degrees
A woman washes her face with water to cool off during a hot summer day near the India Gate in New Delhi on June 17, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Indian capital on alert as heat index surges to 50 degrees

Indian capital on alert as heat index surges to 50 degrees
  • Weather patterns disrupted by El Nino, India Meteorological Department says
  • Northern India was already on ‘red alert’ due to heatwaves in May

NEW DELHI: India’s capital territory of Delhi was on the meteorological department’s highest weather alert on Tuesday, with the heat index surging to 50 degrees Celsius as an unusually long hot spell continued to grip parts of the country.

Prolonged extreme heat has been roiling swaths of South Asia, covering some of the world’s most densely populated regions. In India, it has hit especially the country’s north — home to more than 400 million people — including Delhi, with its 30 million inhabitants.

As temperatures soared above 45 degrees Celsius, the India Meteorological Department issued a red alert for Delhi and the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

According to IMD, the heat index, or the feels-like temperature, was about 50 degrees Celsius due to humidity.

“If the temperature is 45 or 46 degrees Celsius, the feels-like temperature may be 50 or 51,” Dr. Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the IMD’s director general of meteorology, told Arab News.

“The heatwave has been here in the northwest India in two spells. One spell was in the month of May and the second commenced around June 10.”

May is usually hot in the Indian subcontinent but this year the heatwave pattern is unusual, and northern parts of India were already on the IMD’s highest, “red alert” last month.

Mohapatra attributed the anomaly to the El Nino climate phenomenon, which every few years disrupts weather patterns. The El Nino effect was overlapping the warming due to climate change.

“In El Nino years, north India experiences more heatwave conditions so that is the reason,” Mohapatra said. “Climate change leads to the rising of temperature and when there is a rise in temperature, the probability of the occurrence of heatwaves increases. That doesn’t mean that every year you will have this type of heat ... (but) there is a rising trend in the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.”

Additional factors making the heat insufferable in India are rapid urbanization, deforestation and water shortages.

Delhi relies on external sources for freshwater supply, as its own groundwater resources are low.

Last month, the Delhi government had to approach the Supreme Court for intervention to obtain more water from neighboring states.

“I think the government has been looking after and lots of work has been done in various departments at the national and state level. But stringent policies have to be there ... we need to have good mitigation strategies to address the issue,” said Bharti Jasrotia, technology transfer manager at Development Alternatives, a Delhi-based social enterprise and think tank involved in sustainable development.

“They should do mass-scale plantation and create more urban forest areas in and around Delhi so that Delhi gets good air and the temperature gets diluted. The government will have to address the issue of groundwater, too. Many areas of Delhi are facing water shortages.

“They should also look for a good supply of water. They should involve people in plantation drives and this will help in the coming five years.”


US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia
Updated 14 sec ago
Follow

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia

US-bound Air India plane makes emergency landing in Russia
  • The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport
NEW DELHI: An Air India airplane flying from Delhi to San Francisco made an emergency landing in Russia after the crew detected a potential issue in the cargo hold area, the airline said on Friday, its second such incident on the route in just over a year.
Many carriers, including US and European Union airlines, avoid Russian airspace following the war in Ukraine, but Air India uses that route, giving it a flying time and cost advantage on US-bound flights.
The Boeing 777 aircraft, carrying 225 passengers and 19 flight crew, made a precautionary landing safely in the Russian region of Siberia at the Krasnoyarsk International Airport, the airline said in a statement.
It added Air India was “concerned about the passengers and staff and are making every effort possible to operate the ferry flight as soon as possible.”
The airport said the flight’s crew had been moved to hotels, and passengers were in the international departure area, which angered some of those stranded, according to social media posts.
Mayank Gupta, whose mother was on the flight, wrote on X he was “sad and angry” that her medicines and luggage remained on the airplane.
A passenger said on X that people were struggling to get food and water, posting a photo showing some passengers sleeping on the floor inside the airport area.
In another statement on Friday, Air India said representatives from the Indian consulate in Moscow traveled to Krasnoyarsk overnight and “are working with Russian authorities to allow passengers to move to hotels, which have been on standby throughout the night.”
The airport said the plane landed due to an activated smoke detector. Regulatory clearances have been obtained for a relief flight that will depart Mumbai at 11 a.m. India time (0530 GMT) on Friday and ferry the guests out of the airport, Air India said.
Shortly after the incident, Russia’s civil aviation agency, Rosaviatsiya, said the aircraft had taxied to a parking spot after landing and there had been no signs of a fire or smoke onboard.
Boeing and a spokesperson for the US State Department deferred to Air India for comment on the incident.
Russia banned many foreign carriers from its airspace in retaliation for Western sanctions over the Ukraine war, and many countries and airlines also banned their planes from crossing over all or part of Russia.
The bans have redrawn air routes and upset business models for some airlines that now need to fly around the world’s largest country. United Airlines canceled many of its non-stop US-India flights due to the issue.
In June 2023, an Air India Boeing plane on the same route was stranded for a day after reporting a technical issue. Passengers on that flight, including US citizens, were housed in makeshift accommodation at Russia’s remote Magadan airport.
Air India sent an aircraft a day later to pick up the stranded passengers.

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again

Trump vows to end wars, restore US power if elected again
  • The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden

MILWAUKEE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump promised Thursday to bring an end to raging international crises and restore American prestige on the world stage, saying he could “stop wars with a telephone call.”
The former president sought to paint a dire picture of the world under his successor Joe Biden, telling the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee that the planet is “teetering on the edge of World War III.”
“We will restore peace, stability and harmony all throughout the world,” Trump said, without giving any detail on how he might do that.
“Under our leadership the United States will be respected again. No nation will question our power, no enemy will doubt our might, our borders will be totally secure.”
Trump placed the blame for conflicts around the world squarely on Biden — even those with roots stretching back far before the Democrat took office.
“There is an international crisis the likes of which the world has seldom been part of... war is now raging in Europe, in the Middle East, a growing specter of conflict hangs over Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and all of Asia,” he said.
He vowed to change all that if he is elected to a second term in the White House.
“I will end every single international crisis that the current administration has created, including the horrible war with Russia and Ukraine,” Trump said. But “to achieve this future, we must first rescue our nation from failed and even incompetent leadership.”
He also said he wanted Americans held abroad to be released — or else.
“The entire world, I tell you this: we want our hostages back and they better be back before I assume office or you will be paying a very big price,” said Trump — again failing to give any specifics.
He pledged to build a version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system for the United States, ignoring the fact that the system is designed for short-range threats and would be ill-suited to defending against intercontinental missiles that are the main danger to the country.
And he suggested that Kim Jong Un — the reclusive North Korean dictator whom he met in person during his presidency, and whose country possesses a nuclear arsenal — longed to see him back in the White House.
“I get along with him, he’d like to see me back too. I think he misses me, if you want to know,” Trump said.


Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout

Bangladesh wakes to torched government buildings, internet blackout
  • This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further
  • Protesters have called for an end to a quota system that reserves over half of civil service posts for specific groups

Dhaka: Bangladesh woke Friday to survey destruction left by the deadliest day of ongoing student protests so far, which saw government buildings torched by demonstrators and a nationwide internet blackout put into effect.

This week's unrest has killed at least 39 people including 32 on Thursday, with the toll expected to rise further after reports of clashes in nearly half of the country's 64 districts.

A police statement issued after a near-total shutdown of the nation's internet said protesters had torched, vandalised and carried out "destructive activities" on numerous police and government offices.

Among them was the Dhaka headquarters of state broadcaster Bangladesh Television, which remains offline after hundreds of incensed students stormed the premises and set fire to a building.

"About 100 policemen were injured in the clashes yesterday," Faruk Hossain, a spokesman for the capital's police force, told AFP. "Around 50 police booths were burnt".

Anti-quota protesters clash with the police in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

The police statement said that if the destruction continued, they would "be forced to make maximum use of law".

Police fire was the cause of at least two-thirds of deaths reported so far, based on descriptions given to AFP by hospital staff.

At least 26 districts around the country reported clashes on Thursday, broadcaster Independent Television reported.

The network said more than 700 had been wounded through the day including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.

Near-daily marches this month have called for an end to a quota system that reserves more than half of civil service posts for specific groups, including children of veterans from the country's 1971 liberation war against Pakistan.

Critics say the scheme benefits children of pro-government groups that back Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, 76, who has ruled the country since 2009 and won her fourth consecutive election in January after a vote without genuine opposition.

Hasina's government is accused by rights groups of misusing state institutions to entrench its hold on power and stamp out dissent, including by the extrajudicial killing of opposition activists.

Her administration this week ordered schools and universities to close indefinitely as police step up efforts to bring the deteriorating law and order situation under control.

Mubashar Hasan, a Bangladesh expert at the University of Oslo in Norway, told AFP Thursday that the protests had grown into a wider expression of discontent with Hasina's autocratic rule.

"They are protesting against the repressive nature of the state," he told AFP. "The students are in fact calling her a dictator."

Students have vowed to continue their campaign despite Hasina giving a national address on the now-offline state broadcaster seeking to calm the situation.

"Our first demand is that the prime minister must apologise to us," protester Bidisha Rimjhim, 18, told AFP on Thursday.

"Secondly, justice must be ensured for our killed brothers," she added.

London-based watchdog Netblocks said Friday that a "nation-scale" internet shutdown remained in effect.

"The disruption prevents families from contacting each other and stifles efforts to document human rights violations," it wrote in a social media post on X.


US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds

US aid vetting failures may have benefited militants in Afghanistan, watchdog finds
  • The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul
  • Since the US withdrawal was completed in 2021, Washington has provided over $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: Two State Department bureaus could not prove compliance with internal policies for vetting aid groups in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan that received $293 million in funds, raising a risk that extremists may have profited, a US watchdog said on Wednesday.

“It is critical that State knows who is actually benefitting from this assistance in order to prevent the aid from being diverted to the Taliban or other sanctioned parties,” said the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report.

The Taliban, the report said, has tried to obtain US aid funds “through several means, including the establishment of humanitarian organizations,” underscoring the need for the department to “fully and consistently assess the risks posed by its implementing partners.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SIGAR said three of five State Department bureaus were found in compliance with department regulations requiring vetting of aid fund recipients.

But the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs could not provide enough documentation to prove their adherence.

“State could not demonstrate compliance with its partner vetting requirements on awards that disbursed at least $293 million in Afghanistan,” it continued.

For that reason, “there is an increased risk that terrorists and terrorist-affiliated individuals and entities may have illegally benefitted,” it said.

The department agreed with the report’s conclusions and would “work to ensure compliance” with vetting requirements, it said.

The US remains the largest aid donor to impoverished Afghanistan nearly three years after the Taliban seized Kabul as the last US troops completed a chaotic pullout following 20 years of war with the Islamist militants.

Since the US withdrawal was completed on Aug. 30, 2021, Washington has provided more than $17.9 billion in assistance to Afghanistan.


Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists

Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists
Updated 19 July 2024
Follow

Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists

Street clashes in Bangladesh leave 702 people injured, among them 104 police and 30 journalists
  • Protesters set fire to several government buildings as well as vehicles along the streets, a police statement said
  • The nationwide agitation, the biggest since PM Sheikh Hasina was re-elected earlier this year, has been fueled by high youth unemployment

DHAKA: At least 104 police officers and 30 journalists were injured in Bangladesh during a day of violent clashes around the country, private broadcaster Independent Television reported.
The network said 702 people were injured during Thursday’s confrontations between police and student protesters, with clashes in 26 of the country’s 64 districts.

Protesters set fire to several government buildings as well as vehicles along the streets, a police statement said.
“The miscreants have already torched, vandalized and carried out destructive activities,” on the offices of state broadcaster BTV and the national disaster management agency along with “various” police and government buildings, said the statement, issued after a nationwide Internet shutdown Thursday night.

An injured Bangladeshi policeman lies on a street in Dhaka on July 18, 2024, during clashes with students during dayslong protests over the allocation of government jobs. (AP)

The statement was issued late Thursday after the imposition of a nationwide Internet shutdown that cut off Bangladesh’s lines of communication with the outside world.
“So far, we have shown maximum restraint,” police said, adding if the destructive activities continued, they would “be forced to make maximum use of law.”
Thirty-nine people have died this week in the clashes, sparked by student protests over civil service hiring rules, with 32 killed Thursday in the deadliest day of unrest so far.
Private broadcaster Independent Television said 702 people had been injured during Thursday’s clashes including 104 police officers and 30 journalists.
At least 26 of the country’s 64 districts saw clashes on Thursday, the network said.

On Friday, telecommunications remained widely disrupted across the nation, Reuters witnesses in Dhaka and New Delhi said.

Protesters vandalize vehicles during the ongoing anti-quota protest in Dhaka on July 18, 2024. (AFP)

Telephone calls from overseas were mostly not getting connected and calls through the Internet could not be completed.
Web sites of several Bangladesh-based newspapers were not updating on Friday morning and their social media handles were also not active.
Only some voice calls were working in the country and there was no mobile data or broadband on Friday morning, a Reuters photographer in Dhaka said. Even SMSes or mobile-to-mobile text messages were not going through, he added.
The nationwide agitation, the biggest since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was re-elected earlier this year, has been fueled by high youth unemployment. Nearly a fifth of the country’s 170 million population is out of work or education.
Protesters are demanding the state stop setting aside 30 percent of government jobs for the families of people who fought in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Hasina’s government had scrapped the quota system in 2018, but a high court reinstated it last month. The government appealed against the verdict and the Supreme Court suspended the high court order, pending hearing the government’s appeal on Aug. 7.