Arctic eclipse alert: Hotels full, it’s cold and polar bears prowl

Updated 13 March 2015

Arctic eclipse alert: Hotels full, it’s cold and polar bears prowl

OSLO: The Norwegian Arctic islands of Svalbard are discouraging last-minute visitors for a rare solar eclipse next week, warning that hotels are full, it will be freezing cold and polar bears are on the prowl.
Christin Kristoffersen, mayor of Svalbard's main settlement Longyearbyen, told Reuters an expected 1,500 visitors for the eclipse, on top of about 2,500 residents, meant the usually welcoming archipelago had reached a maximum safe limit.
"Safety comes first, even before the eclipse," she said. "We need to take care of people. It's terribly cold in March and we have the challenge with polar bears."
A bear killed a British teenager on Svalbard in 2011, the most recent fatality. On average, three bears a year are shot by people in self-defence on Svalbard.
A total eclipse, when the moon blocks the sun and its shadow falls on the Earth, will sweep across the Atlantic on March 20 but from land will only be visible from Svalbard and the Faroe Islands.
A partial eclipse will be seen in north Africa, Europe and north Asia. In London, for instance, 84 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon.
Hotels in both Svalbard and the Faroe Islands have been booked for years although the Faroe Islands still has some places to stay, including private homes.
In the best of cases, with clear skies, the northern lights may also be visible during the morning eclipse.
Skies on Friday are likely to be partly cloudy with a temperature of -17 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) in Longyearbyen and 3 Celsius (37) in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroes, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute indicates.
The Faroe Islands, a self-governing nation within Denmark, expects 8,000 visitors to swell its population of about 50,000, said Torstein Christiansen, tourism and business manager of Visit Torshavn.
It will be the first total eclipse on the islands since 1954, with the next expected in 2245.
Faroese camping sites, which usually only open in May, will open early for hardy visitors. "And we don't have polar bears," Christiansen said.


Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

Updated 28 January 2020

Afghan security forces fail to reach ‘Taliban-mined’ site of US military plane crash

  • Probe launched into cause of Monday’s incident as Taliban claim responsibility for shooting down jet

KABUL: Afghan security forces have so far been unable to reach the crash site of a US military aircraft which went down during a mission on Monday in a Taliban-controlled area of the country.
An investigation is underway to determine what caused the Bombardier E-11A plane to crash in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, about 120 km southwest of Kabul, although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for shooting it down.

“The Taliban have mined the area, and security forces could not make it to the site to retrieve the bodies and recover the aircraft last evening. The Taliban had laid an ambush as security forces tried to reach the site,” Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of Ghazni’s provincial council, told Arab News.
He added that other US aircraft had attempted to land in the area overnight but were forced back due to bad weather.
Aref Noori, a spokesman for Ghanzi’s governor, said: “Afghan and foreign forces are preparing a joint plan to go to the site to see what they can do.”
Authorities have yet to determine how many passengers and crew were on board.
Several members of the provincial council said they had heard from locals that four people on board the plane had escaped the site of the crash soon after it came down. However, the reports could not be confirmed by the US military or other officials.
The crash comes amid a push by the Taliban and US diplomats to restart peace talks which are aimed at ending the 18-year-old conflict in the country.