Child dies as migrants rush to cross Greek-Turkish border

Migrants walk near the Pazarkule border crossing in Edirne, at the Turkish-Greek border on Monday, March 2, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 02 March 2020

Child dies as migrants rush to cross Greek-Turkish border

  • The child’s death was the first since Turkey announced it was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross to Europe
  • Greece says it is faced with an organized Turkish campaign to push people through its borders

KASTANIES, Greece: A child died when a boat full of migrants heading to a Greek island capsized Monday, part of a wave of thousands trying to push through Greece’s land and sea borders after Turkey declared the way was open for migrants and refugees to enter Europe.
The child’s death, reported by the Greek coast guard, was the first since Turkey announced Thursday it was easing restrictions on those wishing to cross to Europe and thousands of migrants began massing at the frontiers with Greece.
Turkey’s announcement marked a dramatic departure from its previous policy of containing refugees and migrants under an agreement with the European Union. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has demanded more support from Europe in dealing with the fallout from the Syrian war to its south.
Erdogan said Monday that Western leaders were calling him and urging him to reverse the border opening. “It’s done, the gates are open now. You will have your share of this burden now,” he said he told them.
Soon “the number of people going to the border will be expressed in millions,” he said.
Greece says it is faced with an organized Turkish campaign to push people through its borders. The government has sent army and police reinforcements to its borders and suspended all asylum applications for a month. It says it will return those entering the country illegally without registering them.
Thousands of migrants on Monday tried to find a way across the land border into Greece, which has made clear its borders will remain closed. Dozens managed to pass, either through border fences or across the river there.
At one site on the border, Greek police fired tear gas at migrants throwing stones as they tried to push through, while nearby other migrants held white flags, shouting “peace, peace,” and asking to be let in. The army announced a 24-hour live-fire exercise along the border for Monday, apparently to dissuade people from entering those areas. Greek authorities have also accused Turkish border guards of firing tear gas over the border to prevent its guards from stopping migrants.
Under a 2016 deal, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for more than 6 billion euros in financial aid after more than a million people entered Europe in 2015. Ankara has since accused the EU of failing to honor the agreement. Erdogan has frequently threatened to “open the gates” unless more international support was provided.
European countries moved to show support for Greece amid the surge at the borders. The EU’s border protection agency Frontex said it will launch a “rapid intervention,” sending extra border guards, at Athens’ request.
Top EU officials, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, were to join Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on a visit to the land border Tuesday.
“The challenge that Greece is facing right now is a European challenge,” von der Leyen said. “I acknowledge that Turkey is in a difficult situation with regards to the refugees and the migrants, but what we see now can’t be an answer or a solution.”
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Angela Merkel offered to hold a four-way meeting with Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis in Syria, which he said was “of course the key to what’s happening at the borders.”
Seibert said the accord with Turkey should be maintained because it helps both sides. “We are certainly experiencing a situation at the moment that isn’t in line with the spirit of the accord,” he said.
He insisted money was flowing to Turkey — more than 3 billion euros released so far, along with bilateral funds — but said Berlin was willing to discuss the money issue with Ankara.
Turkey’s eased its border restrictions amid a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive into Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. That offensive has killed dozens of Turkish troops and led to a surge of nearly a million Syrian civilians fleeing toward Turkey’s sealed border.
Fighting in Idlib continued Monday, with heavy clashes between Syrian government forces and Turkish-backed fighters. The Kremlin said Erdogan and Putin would meet in Moscow on Thursday for talks on Idlib.
On Greece’s frontier, the coast guard said 48 migrants on a dinghy heading to the island of Lesbos, accompanied by a Turkish patrol vessel while in Turkish waters, deliberately overturned their boat once in Greek waters.
The coast guard said they rescued the migrants, but one boy, aged around 6 or 7 and believed to be from Syria, was pulled from the water unconscious. Efforts to revive him failed. A second child was hospitalized.
On the Turkish side, an official said its coast guard had saved people in a dinghy after it was targeted by the Greek coast guard. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said the Greek coast guard “performed maneuvers aimed at sinking” the boat, which had set off from near Bodrum, as well as firing warning shots and hitting those on board with boat hooks. There was no immediate reaction from the Greek side.
On the northeastern land border, Greek authorities said they thwarted 9,877 crossing attempts either through the fence or across the Evros River running along the frontier. Authorities arrested 68 people and charged them with illegal entry. Many of those who managed to cross were being picked up by Greek authorities after crossing and driven away in white vans.
Therose Ngonda, a 40-year-old from Cameroon, made it into Greece by wading across the river.
Speaking in the morning, her feet still wet, she said she had been told migrants had 72 hours from Friday to leave Turkey. She got on one of dozens of buses and minibuses ferrying people from Istanbul to the border, among about 2,000 people, including Syrians and families with young children.
Ngonda said she was put into the river on the Turkish side of the border. “They told me ‘go that way’.”
Greek islands near the Turkish coast also saw a major increase in arrivals. The coast guard said that in the 24 hours until Monday morning, 977 people reached the islands.
On Lesbos, where most arrived, local anger boiled over, with some residents preventing people, including young children and babies, from disembarking from a dinghy in a small harbor. Elsewhere on the island, they prevented buses from taking new arrivals to Lesbos’ massively overcrowded migrant camp of Moria.
The new arrivals spent the night on the beach. Those arriving near the island’s main town of Mytilene were being taken to the port for processing.


Bus plunges into gorge in northern India, killing at least 25

Updated 7 sec ago

Bus plunges into gorge in northern India, killing at least 25

  • Over 45 to 50 people, all part of a wedding party, were on bus— police 
  • Police say over 110,000 are killed each year in road accidents across India 

NEW DELHI: A bus in northern India plunged into a gorge, leaving at least 25 dead and over a dozen others injured, officials said. Police told the Press Trust of India news agency there were 45 to 50 people on board the bus, all of whom were part of a wedding party, when it fell Tuesday evening into a gorge in Pauri district in Uttarakhand state. State police and the disaster response force worked alongside locals to rescue 21 people Tuesday night at the site of the crash, police chief Ashok Kumar tweeted. Vijay Kumar Jogdande, a senior government officer, said they would be carrying out an investigation into the incident and will conduct postmortem examinations after retrieving the bodies from the site. Officials were seen clearing the area of bushes and trees to help with the rescue operation as they pulled up an injured person. Rescuers also retrieved a dead body using ropes before they were taken away on a stretcher. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all possible assistance will be given to those affected. “In this tragic hour my thoughts are with the bereaved families. I hope those who have been injured recover at the earliest,” he tweeted Wednesday. Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles. More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police.


Ten dead after Indian Himalayas avalanche hits climbers

Updated 13 min 56 sec ago

Ten dead after Indian Himalayas avalanche hits climbers

  • Several dozen climbing trainees caught in Tuesday's snowslide near summit of Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II
  • Indian air force and local disaster agency were assisting with rescue efforts before heavy snow and rainfall

New Delhi: Ten people are confirmed dead after an avalanche struck climbers in the Indian Himalayas, police said Wednesday, with 18 other members of the expedition still missing.

Several dozen climbing trainees were caught in Tuesday morning's snowslide near the summit of Mount Draupadi ka Danda-II in the northern state of Uttarakhand.

The Indian air force and local disaster agency were assisting with rescue efforts before heavy snow and rainfall forced them to abandon the search overnight.

"Rescue teams have recovered 10 bodies," the Uttarakhand state police force said on Twitter after operations resumed in the morning.

Fourteen people have so far been rescued from the site of the avalanche, around 4,900 metres (16,000 feet) above sea level, and police said five were being treated at a district hospital in Uttarkashi.

Police footage showed several rescued climbers arriving in the town and walking unassisted while escorted by officers.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami confirmed on Twitter that accomplished climber Savita Kanswal, who had summited Everest earlier this year, was among the dead.

Kanswal was an instructor with the expedition and had been feted by the climbing community for summiting the world's highest peak and nearby Makalu in just 16 days -- a women's record.

Dhami said the government would provide immediate financial assistance to those injured in the avalanche along with the families of victims.

State disaster agency spokesperson Ridhim Aggarwal told AFP that the climbers had been stuck in a crevasse after the avalanche hit.

The Nehru Institute of Mountaineering said the expedition included 34 of its trainees, seven instructors and a nursing assistant.

Two air force helicopters had been sent to the region to assist with the search, senior disaster management official Devendra Singh Patwal told AFP.

Fatal climbing accidents are common on the treacherous terrain of the Himalayas, home to Everest and several of the world's highest peaks.

In August, the body of a mountaineer was recovered two months after he fell into a crevasse while crossing a glacier in the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh.

And last week, renowned US ski mountaineer Hilaree Nelson's body was found on the slopes of Nepal's Manaslu peak after she went missing skiing down the world's eighth-highest mountain.

On the day of Nelson's accident, an avalanche hit on the 8,163-metre (26,781-foot) mountain, killing Nepali climber Anup Rai and injuring a dozen others who were later rescued.

Although no substantial research has been done on the impacts of climate change on mountaineering risks in the Himalayas, climbers have reported crevasses widening, running water on previously snowy slopes, and the increasing formation of glacial lakes.


Taliban report mosque blast at government ministry in Kabul

Updated 38 min 49 sec ago

Taliban report mosque blast at government ministry in Kabul

  • Explosion takes place inside Interior Ministry’s mosque, no immediate casualties reported
  • Blast follows last week’s attack on education center in Kabul where 52 people were killed 

KABUL, Afghanistan: A blast struck a mosque at a government ministry building in Kabul Wednesday as workers and visitors were praying, a Taliban official said.
The afternoon explosion went off inside the mosque of the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for security and law enforcement in the country.
A Taliban-appointed spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Abdul Nafi Takor, said in a tweet: “Unfortunately there was an explosion inside a(n) ancillary mosque where some Interior Ministry workers and visitors were praying. Will share the details later.”
He did not say if the mosque was inside the ministry or near it. There was no immediate information about casualties and no immediate claim of responsibility.
The mosque blast follows last week’s suicide bombing at an education center in Kabul that killed as many as 52 people, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press, more than twice the death toll acknowledged by Taliban officials.
The reason for the lower death toll provided by the Taliban was not immediately clear. In the past, they have at times been slow to confirm casualty figures in the aftermath of attacks.
Taliban security officials initially said 19 people had been killed at the Kaaj Higher Educational Center, then revised the death toll to 25 over the weekend.
However, The Associated Press spoke directly to relatives of 39 of those killed and obtained the names and other information about the remaining 13.


Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

Updated 29 min 46 sec ago

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

  • The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia
  • Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said his nation may need to turn to Russia to fulfil its fuel needs amid rising global energy prices, bucking pressure from Western allies for countries to shun Moscow.
Speaking to the Manila Overseas Press Club, Marcos, who is also agriculture minister, said the Philippines may also deal with Russia for supply of fertilizer.
“We take we take a very balanced view because the truth of the matter is, we may have to deal with Russia for fuel, for fertilizer,” said Marcos.
The Philippines like many countries is grappling with soaring inflation, due to supply woes fanned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia.
Marcos, the son and namesake of the ousted late strongman who ruled the Philippines for two decades, also said he wanted his country to play a key role in promoting regional peace, amid challenges posed by North Korea and China-Taiwan tensions.
“We hope to be part of leading, the ones that are leading the effort for peace,” he said.
He said he would propose a new approach to the crisis in Myanmar at an upcoming meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, which could involved engaging the military government directly.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits over its failure to implement a five-point peace plan it agreed with ASEAN in April last year, after violent turmoil erupted in the country following a military coup.
The generals have been outraged by ASEAN’s unusually tough stand and have said they intend to comply with its plan, but will not agree to its call to hold dialogue with a pro-democracy resistance movement they call “terrorists.” “It’s time to put together, to put forward some concrete proposals on what we can do to at the very least to bring at least representatives of the military government to the table so we can begin to talk about these things,” Marcos said.
On Wednesday, Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, confirmed that a request had been sent to the State Administrative Council, as the junta is known, that it nominate a non-political figure to represent Myanmar at the upcoming leaders’ summits. “Again, the SAC has refused to send anyone to the summits,” Cambodia Foreign spokesperson Chum Sounry said.


Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2

Updated 31 min 39 sec ago

Blast hits Kabul mosque in vicinity of interior ministry, kills 2

KABUL: A blast hit a mosque in Afghanistan’s capital in the vicinity of the heavily fortified interior ministry compound on Wednesday, officials said, killing at least two people and wounding 18, according to medics.
The government did not immediately say what caused the explosion in Kabul, where militants have carried out a number of attacks in recent months.
“The mosque was used by visitors and sometimes by interior ministry employees,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafi Takor said.
Italian NGO aid group Emergency, which runs a hospital in Kabul, said on Twitter it received 20 patients from the blast, two of whom were dead on arrival.
The interior ministry compound is in a secure area next to Kabul international airport.
The ruling Taliban have said they have secured the country since taking over in 2021. But though widespread fighting has ended, a series of blasts have hit urban centers in recent months.
An explosion at an education center in West Kabul on Friday killed 53 people, most of them young women, according to the United Nations’ Mission to Afghanistan.