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Sudan border clashes kill 36 as south votes

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:07 am

At least 36 people have died in clashes between Arab nomads and southerners near Sudan’s north- south border, leaders in the contested Abyei region said on Monday, on the second day of a vote on southern independence.

Analysts say the central region of Abyei is the most likely place for north-south tensions to erupt into violence during and after the vote, the climax of a troubled peace deal that ended decades of civil war.

Southerners are expected to vote to split from the mostly Muslim north, depriving Khartoum of most of its oil reserves.

Senior southern official Luka Biong condemned the fighting and told Reuters both sides were still trying to settle their bitter dispute over the ownership of Abyei as part of a package of negotiations, including how the regions will share oil revenues after a split.

In a separate, more positive, development, former President Jimmy Carter told CNN on Monday that Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir had offered to take on all of the country’s crippling debt if the south seceded.

Bashir’s spokesman confirmed the south would not take on any of the debt but said the north, south and the international community had a “joint responsibility” to work toward debt relief.

“A division of the debt between the north and south if the south secedes would not be useful … and if the south secedes it will not be able to service this debt,” a statement from the spokesman said.

The comments are a conciliatory gesture from Bashir and will lift a huge fiscal burden from the south in the early days of its expected independence.

The violence in Abyei followed a warning to both northern and southern leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama not to use proxy forces over the voting period, highlighting international concerns that both sides might be resorting to tactics used in past campaigns.


Leading members of Abyei’s Dinka Ngok tribe, linked to the south, accused Khartoum of arming the area’s Arab Misseriya militias in clashes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and said they were expecting more attacks in days to come.

The speaker of the Abyei administration, Charles Abyei, said the Misseriya attacked because they had heard false rumors the Dinka were about to declare themselves part of the south.

“A large number of Misseriya attacked Maker village yesterday (Sunday), backed by government militia … The first day one person died, the second day nine, yesterday 13 … It will continue,” he said.

The south’s Biong warned the Misseriya could provoke the wrath of an independent southern Sudan if the attacks continued.

Misseriya leader Mokhtar Babo Nimr told Reuters 13 of his men had died in Sunday’s clash and accused southerners of starting the fighting.

Residents of the central Abyei region were promised their own referendum on whether to join the north or the south but leaders could not agree on how to run the poll and the vote did not take place as planned on January 9.

A U.N. source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there had been another clash in the village of Todach on Monday morning.

The source said Misseriya were attacking police posts in the area, suspecting them of being occupied by southern soldiers, and said the death count could be higher. “Both sides are concealing their casualties,” the source said, adding southern police and Dinka youth had been caught up in the fighting.

In another sign of tension, southern army spokesman Philip Aguer said two men — a Ugandan and a northern army soldier — were arrested with four boxes holding 700 rounds of AK-47 ammunition in the southern capital Juba on Sunday night.

The northern army’s spokesman, al-Sawarmi Khaled, on Monday denied any link to the ammunition or the clashes.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the otherwise peaceful roll-out of the vote in the south. “This could be a great example of a peaceful ending to a longstanding conflict,” she said in Abu Dhabi.


Observers said thousands of voters queued up for a second day of voting that continued peacefully across other areas of the south. The final results are expected by February 15, with preliminary results a week earlier.

“Yesterday I tried my best but it was too much for me. Queues were too long. People were too emotional. Everyone wants to be first to decide his destiny,” said Salah Mohamed, waiting outside a booth on the outskirts of the southern capital Juba.

“Today I could vote but still as you can see the crowds are still there … I think the commission might need to extend the voting days.”

The referendum’s organising commission said 20 percent of registered southerners had already cast their vote. The turnout needs to be 60 percent for the result to be valid.

Source: SGGP

Mexican troops kill 11 in clash with drug gang: official

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2010 at 6:56 am

Bombs kill dozens as Iraqi Christians mourn

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 5:42 am

Search for missing in Indian Himalayas after floods kill 137

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2010 at 7:25 am

LEH, India, Aug 9, 2010 (AFP) – Emergency teams in India’s remote Himalayan region of Ladakh on Sunday struggled to deliver food and aid to survivors of flash floods that killed at least 137 people and left 500 missing.

A cloudburst on Friday caused devastating floods that swept away roads, buildings, bridges and power cables in a tide of rock and mud. Rescuers fear many more victims may have died after being buried.

Thousands of residents in Leh, the main town of Ladakh in the Indian-controlled sector of Kashmir, abandoned houses hit by the mud flows and moved to higher ground where they slept in the open despite the cold.

Indian army personnel rest after setting up a temporary bridge at Choglamsar village in Leh on August 8, 2010. AFP

Indian soldiers, police and paramilitary troops led the relief operation on Sunday, sifting through destroyed homes and providing basic medical care to those injured.

Tourists visiting the region and local Buddhist monks also helped in the clearance and rescue work, which was hampered by a lack of heavy-lifting equipment and the severe mountain terrain.

“We now have 137 confirmed deaths and over 400 injured,” a police officer in Leh told AFP, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to talk to the media.

He said the village of Choglamsar, on the outskirts of the town, had been swamped by mudslides and many residents were feared dead.

Leh, situated in an arid mountain desert at an altitude of 3,505 metres (11,500 feet), receives virtually no rainfall all year and has no planned drainage system.

The main hospital was badly damaged in the floods and makeshift medical centres dealt with scores of patients on Sunday.

“Children with broken bones have been carried here, and many people say the water just took away everything in its path,” an AFP photographer at the scene said.

“The army are trying to arrange distribution of emergency supplies and to set up relief camps, and soldiers have begun erecting temporary bridges where bridges have disappeared,” he said.

Communication links with the area remained patchy and Leh was without mains electricity. Landslides blocked the two roads to the area via Srinagar, the main town in Indian Kashmir, and via the Manali-Leh highway.

Six planes carrying military emergency teams arrived at the damaged Leh airport on Saturday, along with specialist medical units and five tonnes of medicine flown in from the national capital New Delhi.

Ladakh is a highly militarised area because of sensitive border disputes with both Pakistan and China. It is also renown for its Buddhist culture, while its mountains and rivers attract international adventure tourists.

“On Saturday we rescued some seven foreigners from the Batalik sector of Ladakh, and the search is on to trace if there are any others missing,” army spokesman J.S. Brar told AFP.

Kashmir’s tourism chief Farooq Shah told AFP there were no reports of any foreign casualties.

“There is no death of foreigners in Leh town but we are trying our best to collect information about tourists who had gone out to villages and up into the mountains,” Shah said.

Special flights were laid on Sunday to carry tourists to Delhi from the stricken area and more are planned for Monday, according to the Press Trust of India.

The US and United Kingdom have urged their citizens to avoid travel to Leh.

The floods came as neighbouring Pakistan suffered the worst flooding in its history with 15 million people affected and at least 1,600 people killed.

Source: SGGP

Rescuers hope for survivors after floods kill 120 in Kashmir

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 7, 2010 (AFP) – Rescuers struggled to find survivors Saturday after devastating floods caused by freak rains killed at least 120 people in a remote part of Indian Kashmir popular for adventure sports.

Scores remained missing Saturday as heavy rainfall briefly disrupted rescue efforts and raised fears of more flooding, with several villages in the stark Himalayan border region still cut off.

“The death toll is likely to increase from 120 as more bodies are arriving,” said a senior police official, asking not to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media.

At least 400 people were reported injured in the floods, which struck without warning in the region which shares a sensitive border with China and has a large Indian military presence.

Thousands more were left homeless in the disaster, which came as India’s neighbour Pakistan has been hit by the country’s worst flooding in living memory, affecting up to 15 million people.

Shops in a newly built market in Leh, the main town in the majority Buddhist Ladakh area, were transformed into temporary mortuaries where rescuers laid out bodies.

A Lal Pir Thermal Power building is seen surrounded by floodwaters in Lal Pir, Pakistan on August 7, 2010. AFP

India’s military was helping in the rescue efforts after floodwaters — triggered by a cloudburst in the normally arid region — swamped Leh and surrounding villages in the early hours of Friday as people slept.

Among those killed by the flash floods and mudslides were labourers from various Indian states.

“Our immediate priority is to look for survivors,” said state tourism minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, who was directing rescue efforts in Leh.

Rescuers waded in knee-deep mud to reach victims trapped in collapsed buildings in Leh, which lies 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) above sea level.

A powerful six-foot (two-metre) wave of water, mud and sand left the area looking “like it was bombed,” R.S. Raina, who works for state broadcaster Doordarshan in Leh, told AFP. “I’ve never seen such devastation,” Raina said.

The mountainous area in the southeastern part of Muslim-majority Kashmir is a favourite destination for foreign adventure tourists interested in trekking and river rafting.

Farooq Shah, the region’s director of tourism, said only one foreign tourist was known to have been injured and was out of danger. But he said the situation would become clearer in a day or two as some tourists had travelled to remote villages now cut off by the devastation.

Up to 3,000 tourists were staying in Leh but none of the major hotels suffered serious damage, Leh tourism official Nissar Hussain said. Many tourists were now assisting the relief operations.

Air Force flights resumed to Leh airport Saturday, bringing vital relief supplies, after workers cleared runways of mud and debris.

But the floodwaters had washed away parts of the main highway to the town, making road transport difficult.

“The flights have brought in relief material, including medicines,” tourism official Nissar Hussain told AFP. Private airlines had also resumed operations, allowing some foreign tourists to leave.

Some 25 soldiers were missing after the floods washed away several army posts, said army spokesman Sitanshu Kar.

Civilian doctors were operating in the main army hospital as “the Leh Civil Hospital has been filled with mud,” Kar said.

Rivers in the area had already been running high due to heavy runoff from melting winter snows, exacerbating the disaster, officials said.

Source: SGGP

Flash floods kill 44 in Indian Kashmir: police

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 at 7:20 am

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 6, 2010 (AFP) – More than 40 people have been killed after heavy rain triggered flash floods in Leh, the main town in India’s trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, police said Friday.

“At-least 44 people are confirmed dead and dozens are missing,” a spokesman at Leh’s Police Control Room told AFP by telephone.

File picture shows the Polo Ground in the centre of Leh in front of Leh Palace. AFP file

Ladakh is a mountainous, Buddhist-dominated region, sitting in the southeastern part of Muslim-majority Kashmir, and is popular with foreign adventure tourists interested in high-altitude trekking and river-running.

There were no immediate reports of any tourists among the dead.

Some 3,500 metres (11,500 feet) above sea level, Leh is surrounded by high-altitude desert and heavy rainfall is very uncommon.

The police spokesman said the floods had effectively cut Leh off by road, washing away sections of the main highways to the popular backpacker destination of Manali and the Kashmiri summer capital, Srinagar.

The floods tore through parts of the town during the night, damaging houses and government buildings.

Rescue operations were still underway Friday, as the search continued for the missing, with Indian troops called in to help with the relief efforts.

Leh airport was damaged in the flooding, police said.

Source: SGGP

BP begins crucial well ‘kill’ in Gulf of Mexico

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 7:19 am

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AFP) – BP began operations to permanently plug the runaway well that has brought environmental and economic ruin to the Gulf of Mexico and spilled more oil into the sea than ever before.

Ships work near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. AFP

Engineers launched their long-awaited static kill at 2000 GMT Tuesday, ramming heavy fluid into the blown-out Macondo well to force the crude back down into a reservoir almost 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) beneath the surface of the sea.

BP was optimistic after conducting “text-book” tests that showed the oil could be subdued, though senior vice president Kent Wells said it was too early to know if the process would take hours or days.

Once the heavy drilling fluid, known as mud, is holding down the oil, the aim is to pour in a cement plug that will permanently seal off the reservoir.

Any leaks in the steel casing of the well would complicate matters as it would mean the area between the pipe and the outer well bore, known as the annulus, would also have to be filled up with mud.

The best case scenario could see the well put permanently out of action by Wednesday, although a “bottom kill” will be performed through a relief well in mid-August to cement in the outer well bore and be certain of success.

If the well casing has leaks, a decision could be taken to hold off on the cement job until the relief well is ready.

“We’re so early in the process there’s no way for me to give you any early indication. The only thing I would say is the injectivity test went well and so that gives us the encouragement,” said Wells.

Thad Allen, the US government point man in the disaster, was emphatic that the static kill “will increase the probability that the relief well will work.” In the long run, “drilling into the annulus and into the casing pipe from below, filling that with mud and then filling that with cement is the only solution to the end of this,” he told reporters.

The extent of the spill was confirmed when US government experts on Monday announced that the oil had been pouring out at a rate of 62,000 barrels a day — more than 12 times faster than BP originally admitted.

This was also higher than any previous official estimate, and meant 4.9 million barrels of crude — more than 205 million gallons — spewed into the Gulf in the 87 days it took to cap it, making it the biggest maritime spill ever.

If BP is found guilty of negligence, the flow rate means it could face up to 17.6 billion dollars in fines. The firm has also set up a 20 billion dollar fund to pay claims from individuals and businesses hit by the disaster.

Shutting the well will bring some relief to coastal residents who have been uncertain about their future and frustrated at the cleanup effort since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April and sank to the bottom of the Gulf.

The full economic and environmental cost of the spill will remain unknown for some time, but a hint of what is to come was found in a report out Tuesday by researchers at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP) at Columbia University.

Of 1,200 coastal Gulf coast residents the researchers surveyed last month, 40 percent said they had been directly exposed to the spill, a third said it had affected their kids, and 20 percent said it had hit their wallets.

Parents reported that their children had developed mental, behavioral or physical problems — everything from respiratory problems and rashes to feelings of sadness or nervousness, difficulty socializing with other children, or trouble getting to sleep.

One in five residents told the Columbia researchers that their household income had fallen, with poor residents — those who earned less than 25,000 dollars a year — feeling the pinch more than the better-off.

While there is hope that Louisiana’s marshes and fragile wetlands may recover relatively quickly, no one knows the real spill impact on the Gulf food chain.

Source: SGGP

BP gears up for well ‘kill’

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2010 at 7:20 am

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, Aug 2, 2010 (AFP) – BP geared up Monday for its long-awaited “static kill,” hoping to plug the Gulf of Mexico oil well and take a major step towards ending the region’s worst ever environmental disaster.

Heavy drilling fluid, known in the trade as “mud,” is to be pumped down into the well on Tuesday morning to shut the giant gusher that has threatened the Gulf’s fishing, tourism and oil industries with financial ruin.

Engineers performed a dry-run of “injectivity tests” on Monday, but BP then said it had to delay the last-minute tests before its kill shot due to a hydraulic leak in the cap sealing the well.

This US Coast Guard handout image shows rigs drilling a relief well and preparing the static kill are seen at the site of the Deepwater Horizon well about 40 miles (64km) from the southern Louisiana coast in the Gulf of Mexico July 31, 2010. AFP

The leak was not expected to significantly delay the planned Tuesday start of the kill operation.

“It is anticipated that the injectivity test and possibly the static kill will take place Tuesday,” BP said in a statement.

Even as authorities aimed to shut down the Macondo well once and for all, they gave a more precise picture Monday of how much crude it spewed, saying it gushed at the rate of 62,000 barrels of oil per day initially — more than 12 times faster than BP had admitted shortly after the blowout in April.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels, more than 205 million gallons, spewed from the ruptured well in the 87 days from the beginning of the disaster until the leak was finally capped on July 15, BP and the US government said in a statement.

Some 800,000 barrels were captured during containment operations, but the 4.1 million uncontained barrels now estimated to have flowed into the water make it the biggest unintentional oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

The new numbers could play a crucial role in determining how much BP is fined under the Clean Water Act, which allows the US government to seek civil penalties for illegal oil discharges.

Fines under the law range from 1,100 dollars per barrel spilled to as high as 4,300 dollars per barrel spilled, if negligence is proven, meaning BP could theoretically face fines of up to 17.6 billion dollars for the 4.1 million barrels that poured into the sea.

As for shutting down the runaway well, if its integrity is intact it should only be a matter of hours before it becomes evident that the “mud” is successfully pushing the oil back down into the source rock.

“We want to confirm that we can inject the oil that’s in the wellbore back into the reservoir,” BP senior vice president Kent Wells told reporters Monday.

But US spill response chief Thad Allen cautioned that the operation could take several days if the casing of the pipe has a leak through to the outer well bore.

“A decision on whether or not to put cement in after the mud will be completely dependent on the assessment of the integrity of the casing and the well bore,” said Allen.

In addition to the static kill, engineers could also launch a “bottom kill” that would see cement injected into the wellbore through relief wells that would intersect it thousands of feet below the sea floor.

BP says the first of two relief wells will not intercept the stricken well until some time between August 11 and 15, assuming no additional weather or procedural delays.

The Macondo well gushed noxious crude into the sea for nearly three months since the Deepwater Horizon rig sank in April, devastating fragile habitats and bringing misery to many residents along the US Gulf Coast.

While the last surface patches of toxic crude biodegrade rapidly in the warm waters, the long-term impact of the disaster may not be realized for decades.

As the focus shifts to the clean-up of marshes and beaches, so it does to the restoration of the industries devastated by the spill.

And while locals are eager to see the well plugged for good, there are fears that a successful kill operation will prompt a mass exodus of officials brought into the region to respond to the crisis.

BP dismissed its vilified chief executive Tony Hayward last week, replacing him with an American, Bob Dudley, who has promised not to abandon Gulf residents in their time of need.

Also last week the company posted a quarterly loss of 16.9 billion dollars and set aside 32.2 billion dollars to pay spill costs, including a 20-billion-dollar fund to pay compensation to the battered fishing, oil, and tourism industries.

BP, which leased the rig that exploded April 20, killing 11 workers and triggering the spill, has sought to reassure residents it will remain engaged and work to restore the area.

Source: SGGP

Survivors lash out after Pakistan floods kill 1,100

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

Survivors crammed into inadequate shelters expressed anger over inaction from the Pakistani government on Monday as the death toll from the country’s worst floods in generations topped 1,100.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon pledged extra aid of up to 10 million dollars to help in the crisis, which local officials say has affected more than 1.5 million people in Pakistan’s northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“I had built a two-room house on the outskirts of Peshawar with my hard-earned money but I lost it in the floods,” said labourer Ejaz Khan, one of several hundred people who demonstrated in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

“The government is not helping us… the school building where I sheltered is packed with people, with no adequate arrangement for food and medicine,” the 53-year-old told AFP.

 A Pakistani flood-affected family rest in a makeshift camp in Mardan.

The floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains capped a devastating week in Pakistan, where 152 people were killed when an Airblue passenger jet slammed into hills overlooking the capital in the country’s worst plane crash.

Ban said he was “deeply saddened” by the losses incurred in the worst floods in Pakistan for 80 years, reiterating a full commitment to “meeting the humanitarian needs” of those affected.

Pakistani television footage and photographs taken from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and rooftops of damaged houses as water rushed through villages, with waterborne diseases emerging as a threat to survivors.

Thousands of homes and vast swathes of farmland have been destroyed in a region of Pakistan reeling from years of extremist bloodshed.

“The floods have killed more than 1,100 people in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and affected over 1.5 million,” said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the northwest province’s information minister.

“We are receiving information about the loss of life and property caused by the floods all over the province,” he told AFP, adding that he feared the death toll could rise.

A senior official at the provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) confirmed the toll.

Hussain said more than 3,700 homes had been swept away and the number of people made homeless was mounting.

Hundreds of survivors sought shelter in schools in Peshawar, the main city in northwest Pakistan, and in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, after escaping the floods with children on their backs.

Pakistan’s meterological office said the northwest had been hit by an “unprecedented” 312 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in 36 hours.

The US government announced an initial 10-million-dollar aid pledge and has rushed helicopters and boats to Pakistan.

China, which has also been hit by severe flooding, announced a 10 million yuan (1.5 million dollar) donation, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which cited a government website.

Hussain said rescue teams were trying to reach 1,500 tourists stranded in Swat district, the scene of a major anti-Taliban military offensive last year.

“We are also getting confirmation of reports about an outbreak of cholera in some areas of Swat,” he said.

The Pakistan Air Force said it had airlifted more than 500 stranded people, including six foreigners, as part of relief operations and was carrying out reconnaissance missions to assess the damage to infrastructure.

President Asif Ali Zardari is due in Paris Monday for a two-day visit, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner expressed France’s “solidarity” with Pakistan in the face of the floods.

Floods also ravaged parts of Afghanistan, killing at least 65 people and affecting more than 1,000 families, officials said.

Source: SGGP

Floods kill 37 in China’s northeast: media

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2010 at 7:18 am

The death toll from floods sweeping through northeastern China has risen to 37, state media said Saturday, as the country continues to battle the worst floods in a decade.

Torrential rains in Jilin province have left a further 35 missing as more than 364,000 people were evacuated from waterlogged areas, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The weather bureau has predicted more heavy rain for the central and eastern parts of the hard-hit province, with experts warning of further flooding and landslides.

Water, electricity and telecommunications services were cut in parts of the province, while train services in the town of Kouqian were suspended after the railway station was surrounded by flood waters, previous reports said.

More than 95,500 buildings have been damaged in the floods, with 25,400 destroyed, Xinhua said.

A general view shows the town of Kouqian in China’s Jilin province, on July 28

Floods up to three metres (10 feet) deep in some places submerged factories and houses, reports said earlier this week, before the waters receded to about one metre.

Elsewhere in Jilin, hundreds of workers scrambled to recover 3,000 barrels full of explosive chemicals that were washed by flood waters into the Songhua River, a major waterway.

Water supplies to the nearby city of Jilin were temporarily cut after the incident on Wednesday, leaving 4.3 million people dependent on bottled water.

A total of 7,000 barrels were washed into the river, with 2,500 containing the chemical trimethyl chloro silicane — a highly explosive, colorless liquid — while 500 contained the compound hexamethyl disilazane, Xinhua said.

About 3,700 barrels had been recovered by Friday afternoon, the report said, but it was not clear how many of them contained the chemicals.

Jilin is the latest province to have been hit by recent deadly floods that have killed more than 300 people since July 14 and left another 300 missing, according to the latest official figures.

Until now, torrential rains have mostly hit China’s south, swelling the Yangtze River — the nation’s longest waterway — and some of its tributaries to dangerous levels.

In the far-western Xinjiang region, rescuers were trying to reach 700 residents, construction workers and tourists trapped by floods.

Floodwaters have damaged three bridges and a dozen buildings in Kuqa county in the central part of the region, with more than 13,000 people from the area preparing to reinforce dykes to contain floods.

The worst floods in a decade have left 991 dead and 558 missing since the beginning of the year and caused more than 28 billion dollars in damage, latest official figures show, and authorities have warned of more to come.

Source: SGGP