• 18 Aug 2018 19:24 India’s PM Modi surveys Kerala as floods kill 324

     

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised the flood-ravaged state of Kerala more helicopters, boats and other equipment needed to evacuate tens of thousands of stranded people as he was given an aerial tour of stricken areas on Saturday.

    There are growing fears that the death toll, already in the hundreds, could escalate rapidly, with so many people still marooned, desperate for food and potable water.

    The chief minister of the southwestern state has estimated that two million people have been forced to move into relief camps since the monsoon season brought torrential rains three months ago.

    He put the death toll from floods and landslides at 324. An official involved in the relief operations told Reuters on Saturday that 185 people had died since Aug. 8, when the waters began to rise, causing Kerala’s worst floods in a century.

    Modi was taken by helicopter over inundated farmland and villages, as India’s military stepped up its response to an emergency that is still unfolding.

    “More helicopters, boats and other equipment are being sought and the Modi promised to provide all of these as fast as possible,” Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told journalists.

    Indian volunteers and rescue personal evacuate local residents in a boat in a residential area at Aluva in Ernakulam district, in the Indian state of Kerala on August 17, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

    The chief minister said initial estimates suggest the state may have lost 195 billion rupees ($2.78 billion) as a result of the floods.

    Modi declared initial assistance of 5 billion rupees ($71.3 million) and promised more later, Vijayan said.

    The prime minister also gave assurances that the federal government would send desperately needed grains, as storage in the state had been flooded and stocks destroyed.

    As the rescue efforts ramped up, more army boats and helicopters were operating in the worst-affected areas to “save as many people as possible,” the government official involved in the rescue operation told Reuters by telephone from Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital.

    This handout photograph released by India’s Defense Ministry on August 18, 2018 shows an Indian man being winched up to an Indian Air Force helicopter as he is evacuated from a flood affected area in the southern state of Kerala. (Photo by AFP)

    In some communities, thousands of people remained stranded on roof tops and upper floors, without food, water, and medicine.

    Some people have died in relief camps too, officials said.

    According to a lawmaker in Pathanamthitta district, some 10,000 people were stranded and in grave danger unless they were rescued urgently.

    Monsoon rains are likely to ease from Sunday, an official with the state-run India Meteorological Department told Reuters.

    (Source: Reuters)

     

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  • 18 Aug 2018 19:23 HRW skeptical of Myanmar inquiry into Rohingya abuses

    Human Rights Watch has warned that a panel set up by Myanmar to probe atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state does not seem to be performing its task in a “serious and impartial” manner.

    “It’s now clear that Myanmar’s new ‘independent commission of inquiry’ into human rights violations committed in Rakhine State will not be a serious and impartial investigation that will identify alleged perpetrators to be brought to justice,” Richard Weir, of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Asia Division, said on Friday.

    Under heavy criticism for committing violence by its security forces against the Muslim minority group, the Myanmar government established the commission in July to probe the rights abuses in a declared bid to find those responsible.

    The panel referred at the time to the process of establishing accountability as “quarreling,” saying it was the opposite of looking for peace.

    Judging the remarks made by the so-called commission, HRW also warned on Friday that the panel investigation should be treated with heavy skepticism lest Myanmar tried to use it to shield itself from critical scrutiny.

    Rohingya Muslims previously based in Rakhine were subjected to a campaign of killings, rape, and arson attacks by the military, backed by the country’s majority Buddhist extremists, in what the UN has described as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

    The brutal campaign forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homeland since August 2017 and seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.

    Many of the displaced Rohingya are either living in squalid camps or just across the border in a plot of land known as the “no man’s land.”

    UN urges Myanmar to facilitate safe return of Rohingya

    The United Nations Security Council calls on Myanmar to facilitate the safe return of the Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh.

    The Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.

    Their former communities in Myanmar have been razed. Report say Buddhists have been shuttled and settled there in newly-built structures to repopulate the area.

    US imposes sanctions on Myanmar military over Rohingya crackdown

    Meanwhile, the United States slapped sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders as well as two army units, accusing them of “ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims and widespread human rights abuses across the Southeast Asian nation.

    “Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, using an alternative name for Myanmar.

    “Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader US government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering,” Mandelker added.

    The measures called for freezes of any US assets the individuals hold, a prohibition on Americans doing business with them as well as bans on travel to the United States.

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  • 18 Aug 2018 19:20 Italy holds funeral for bridge collapse victims

    A state funeral service was underway Saturday in Italy to commemorate dozens of people killed in Genoa’s bridge disaster, as some outraged relatives shunned official ceremonies and rescuers pulled more bodies from the wreckage.

    The service, which coincides with a national day of mourning, came as firefighters still searching for five missing people discovered a car with human remains inside.

    Local media reported a family of three had been discovered, including a nine-year-old girl, adding to the death toll of 38.

    The populist government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the collapse and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts.

    Rescuers work among the rubble and wreckage of the Morandi motorway bridge two days after a section collapsed in Genoa on August 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

    Thousands of mourners flocked to bid farewell to the victims whose coffins, adorned with flowers and photographs, lined an exhibition hall turned into a makeshift chapel.

    “I lost a friend but I came for all the victims,” Nunzio Angone told AFP.

    Among the coffins was a small white one for the youngest victim, an eight-year-old boy who was killed alongside his parents.

    Another two were draped in the Albanian flag featuring a black eagle against a red background.

    Applause erupted as firefighters entered the hall ahead of the ceremony, which began at 11:30 am (0930 GMT), according to an AFP reporter.

    But more than half of the families of the victims refused to take part, some preferring a more intimate funeral, while others announced a boycott.

    “It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful,” the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.

    Roberto, father of another of the dead from Naples used social media to vent his anger: “My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures.”

    “We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”

    Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco, who is expected to lead the mass, expressed his respect for those who refused state funerals.

    Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are due to preside over the state funeral, which local media say will also be attended by senior staff of infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia, the managing company of the highway.

    Mourners also included the city’s two football squads, Genoa and Sampdoria, who have postponed their weekend matches.

    (Source: AFP)

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  • 18 Aug 2018 19:18 Bomb that killed Yemeni kids supplied by US: CNN

    Munitions experts have confirmed that a bomb used by Saudi Arabia in last week’s attack on a school bus in Yemen that killed dozens of children had been supplied by the US.

    The experts told CNN on Friday that the bomb was a 227-kilogram laser-guided Mark 82 bomb.

    They also noted that the numbers on the weapon identified major US military contractor Lockheed Martin as its maker.

    The Saudi air raid on Sa’ada hit a school bus on August 9 as it drove through a market in the town of Dhahyan, sparking outrage from international human rights groups and UN officials.

    View image on Twitter

    The attack killed a total of 51 people, among them 40 children, and left 79 others wounded.

    Earlier this week, a local journalist said recovered bomb fragments showed that it was likely manufactured in the US.

    ‘US bomb likely used in fatal Saudi air raid on Yemeni kids’

    Pieces of a 500-pound American bomb have been found at the site of a bloody Saudi air strike on a bus carrying Yemeni schoolchildren, a journalist says.

    Riyadh initially described the Sa’ada strike as a “legitimate military action,” but later launched an investigation into the incident amid mounting criticism of its bloody war on Yemen.

    Asked about CNN’s report, Saudi “coalition” spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that it would not “be appropriate for the coalition to comment further while the investigation is underway.”

    The report also said that the bomb used in the Sa’ada airstrike was very similar to the one that hit a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, in October 2016, killing 155 people and injuring 525 others.

    In December that year, the US cancelled the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia because of concerns about civilian casualties. In March 2017, however, the US administration under President Donald Trump overturned the ban.

    Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby claimed that the government of former President Barack Obama had “deep concerns about the way the Saudis were targeting, and we acted on those concerns by limiting the kinds of munitions that they were being given and stridently trying to argue for them to be more careful and cautious.”

    Recent fatal Saudi airstrikes have highlighted the issue of the US complicity in the deaths of the Yemenis.

    Sana’a protest

    On Friday, thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of Sana’a to condemn the economic hardship caused by the US-backed Saudi war.

     

    Protester Abdulrahman Faya’a said, “Saudi Arabia and the United States which lead the aggression against Yemen are the reasons behind the increase in prices.”

    “They are the reasons behind this systematic process targeting the Yemeni riyal. Because the reason for the recession of the Yemeni riyal are those countries who started the aggression and are targeting the Yemeni people, their food and livelihood.”

    War goes on

    Separately on Friday, the Yemeni army fired a ballistic missile at the kingdom’s southern Narran region in retaliation for the deadly military campaign on the impoverished state.

    Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam news network reported Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters had targeted a new Saudi military base in Najran with a Badr 1-type missile.

    Additionally, Yemen’s al-Masirah television network reported a Saudi airstrike on the Hamadan district in Sana’a Province.

    Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

    The offensive initially consisted of a bombing campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces into Yemen.

    The imposed war, however, has so far failed to achieve its goals, thanks to stiff resistance from Yemeni troops and allied Houthi fighters.

    Several Western countries have been supplying Saudi Arabia with advanced weapons and military equipment.

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