Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control

A firefighter douses the flames to contain a fire near the Kotsiatis area, on the outskirts of Cyprus’ capital Nicosia on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2021

Cyprus forest fire that killed 4 now under control

  • Cyprus’ Forestry Department said more than 600 people managed to contain the blaze early Monday
  • President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire “an unprecedented tragedy” for Cyprus

NICOSIA: A deadly brush fire that claimed four lives and has been described as the most destructive blaze in Cyprus’ 61-year history as an independent republic is now fully under control, Cypriot authorities said Monday.
Cyprus’ Forestry Department said more than 600 people managed to contain the blaze early Monday after it scorched more than 55 square kilometers (21 square miles), forcing the evacuation of nine villages and burning down homes, businesses, orchards and forest.
Fire crews remain on the scene in case the blaze reignites amid temperatures reaching 35 C (95 F). Cyprus Electricity Authority officials said they hope to have power restored to at least seven villages by Monday evening.
Search crews on Sunday discovered the bodies of four people who are believed to be Egyptian laborers outside the village of Orou on the southern edge of Cyprus’ main Troodos mountain range.
The men, ages 22 to 29, had gone missing Saturday afternoon when the fire began outside the nearby village of Arakapas and spread quickly amid strong winds.
Officials said the four tried to flee the fire along a dirt mountain track, but their small truck veered off the road and fell down an embankment. They tried to flee on foot, but didn’t make it.
Trade Union PEO has asked for a full investigation into the laborers’ deaths as well as their work safety conditions.
President Nicos Anastasiades called the fire “an unprecedented tragedy” for Cyprus except for the destruction wreaked by a 1974 war that split the island along ethnic lines after Turkey invaded in response to a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Some residents who lost their homes and property to the fire wept as they described seeing a lifetime’s worth of labor going up in flames. People were allowed back to their homes after their villages were declared safe.
Anastasiades, who toured the fire-hit villages on Sunday, pledged immediate government help to farmers and homeowners who lost crops and property and the families of those who perished in the fire.
Crews are assessing the damage so that fire-afflicted residents can receive the first compensation packages later this week.
Anastasiades on Monday opened up a bank account for private contributions to help those who lost their homes and livelihoods.
The Cypriot president said to underscore that commitment, he instructed electricity generators to be sent to all villagers who lost power.
He also ordered a renewed tender process for the purchase of a mobile crisis management center, and asked his Cabinet to come up with ideas by Wednesday on how best to support residents financially.
Police spokesman Christos Andreou told The Associated Press that a 67-year-old man is being investigated on arson charges. He said “more than one witness” had seen the man leave his orchard shortly before a fire broke out there. A court ordered that he remain in custody for eight days.
Fire crews had been joined by police officers, soldiers, Civil Defense and Wildlife Service staff as well as many members of the public who volunteered to help. Authorities said more than 70 fire engines, 14 bulldozers and numerous water tankers were mobilized, while a National Guard drone provided eyes overhead to locate new fire fronts.
A total of nine Cypriot firefighting aircraft, and police and National Guard helicopters were deployed. Two helicopters from British military bases in Cyprus also helped firefighting efforts, along with two Greek Canadair CL-415 aircraft and two Israeli fixed-wing planes.
Anastasiades spoke separately with the prime ministers of Greece and Israel to thank them for their help.


Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

Updated 9 min 42 sec ago

Mikati holds key meetings in effort to restore Arab trust in Lebanon

  • Interior minister says steps will be taken to prevent smuggling and combat the drugs threat

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday held a number meetings designed to help restore Arab trust in Lebanon, and the country’s diplomatic and economic relationships with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

It followed an agreement, announced in Jeddah on Saturday, by French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to work together to help the people of Lebanon.

The participants in extended meetings at the Grand Serail, the prime minister’s headquarters, included Defense Minister Maurice Selim, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, Agriculture Minister Abbas Hajj Hassan and Industry Minister George Boujikian.

Other officials who took part included Acting Director-General of Lebanon Customs Raymond Al-Khoury, Mohammed Choucair, the head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, and representatives of the Federation of Lebanese-Gulf Businessmen Councils.

Choucair, who is also a former minister, stressed the need for the organizations to work on resuming exports to Saudi Arabia and said: “We discussed new ways of doing that.”

During the meeting, Mikati said that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are fed up of hearing slogans that are not implemented.”

A number of people who were present told Arab News that Mikati stressed the “need to address the gaps,” and that “some issues the Gulf states are complaining about are right. We must recommend measures to address them, such as the establishment of additional towers on the borders with Syria in order to control the border.”

Mawlawi said that discussions had focused on the issue of exports to Saudi Arabia and concerns about smuggling.

He said: “We will take practical measures for anything that might pose a threat to our relations with the Arab states, and I will follow up on all judicial proceedings related to smuggling and combating drugs and captagon.

“We must all take prompt action to control the borders, airport, port and all crossing points, and we must (address) the smuggling happening through Lebanon. We do not disclose all smuggling operations we bust.”

Mawlawi added: “We intercepted a captagon-smuggling operation on Saturday. We are following up on it, and the people involved have been arrested.

“We will give practical answers to the smuggling taking place, and what might pose a threat to our relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states in this regard.”

He also noted that “in the case of seized narcotic substances, even if they are manufactured outside of Lebanon and brought to Lebanon to change the manufacturing company’s name and repackage them, the company’s license will be revoked, its work discontinued and its name announced.”

Regarding a call for the restriction of weapons to Lebanese state institutions as a condition for the restoration of Saudi-Lebanese relations, Mawlawi said: “We are implementing the Lebanese state’s policy and highlighting its interests.”

Nicolas Chammas, head of the Beirut Traders’ Association, said that “the biggest problem remains contraband.” He added: “We will work to make Lebanon, once again, a platform for the export of goods, not contraband. We are required to take swift, serious measures and we will take successive measures in this regard.”

Fouad Siniora, a former president of Lebanon, described Saturday’s Saudi-French statement as being “of exceptional importance in these delicate circumstances.”

It “resolves the controversy regarding many issues raised in the Arab region, especially with regard to Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon,” he added.


Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi desalination corporation reveals environmental sustainability road map

  • Kingdom’s plans for improving environment, combating climate change, reaching carbon neutrality shared at global industry forum

JEDDAH: A Saudi government institution responsible for the desalination of seawater has revealed its road map to achieving environmental sustainability at a major international industry conference.

Officials from the Saline Water Conversion Corp. shared their Saudi Green Initiative action plans — aimed at improving the environment, combating climate change, and reaching carbon neutrality ­— at a recent forum in London attended by more than 90 global leaders and investors.

By taking part in the event, the SWCC not only hoped to strengthen its world leadership role in the desalination industry, but also look at ways to further reduce production costs while increasing the involvement of relevant Saudi companies and organizations in current and future projects.

Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan was among forum delegates who heard how the corporation was focused on enhancing the use of clean energy sources in place of thermal heating systems.

Addressing the meeting, Saleh Al-Mana, the SWCC’s assistant deputy governor for technical affairs and projects, said that by reusing water and recycling filters in production systems, and developing engineering principles in technical designs for beneficiaries including the agriculture, industrial, and urban sectors, the transition to low carbon activated the circular economy.

The corporation has been working on initiatives to achieve environmental sustainability in all areas of desalination supply, from production to transportation.

At the Saudi Green Initiative forum held in Riyadh in October, the Kingdom revealed its blueprint for dealing with climate change by increasing the reliance on clean energy, protecting the environment, and offsetting millions of tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030.

The country was investigating more ways to produce, treat, and distribute water locally using energy systems that ensured sustainable growth.

The initiative aims to protect the marine environment by investing in zero liquid discharge systems, a wastewater management system that extracts salts and minerals and converts them into products of high economic value for use in the industrial sector.

Earlier this year, the SWCC set a world record for the lowest energy consuming desalination plant.

The transition to a low-carbon future will be a complex process. Alternatives will take significant time and sustained investment to meet the rising global energy demand.


Sudanese protest military coup, deal that reinstated PM

Updated 06 December 2021

Sudanese protest military coup, deal that reinstated PM

  • Footage circulated on social media showed demonstrators marching in different locations in Khartoum and Omdurman
  • In the western Darfur region, the death toll from tribal clashes over the weekend climbed to at least 48 people

CAIRO: Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets Monday in the capital of Khartoum and other cities in the latest protests against the October military coup and subsequent deal that reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
Footage circulated on social media purportedly showed demonstrators marching in different locations in Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman. There were also protests in other cities, including Kassala, Sennar and Port Sudan.
Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters marching in a street near the presidential palace in Khartoum, activist Nazim Sirag said. He said they also used heavy tear gas to break up a one-day sit-in protest in Khartoum’s district of Bahri. Around a dozen protesters suffered light injuries from tear gas canisters, he said.
In past rounds of demonstrations security forces used violence, including firing live ammunition at protesters, according to activists. At least 44 protesters were killed and hundreds were wounded since the coup, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee, which tracks protester deaths.
The Sudanese military seized power Oct. 25, dissolving the transitional government and arresting dozens of officials and politicians. The takeover upended a fragile planned transition to democratic rule more than two years after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir and his Islamist government.
Hamdok was reinstated last month amid international pressure in a deal that calls for an independent technocratic Cabinet under military oversight. The agreement included the release of government officials and politicians detained since the coup and the formation of an independent technocratic Cabinet led by Hamdok.
The deal, however, was rejected by the pro-democracy movement, which insists on handing over power to a civilian government to lead the transition. The protests came under the slogan of: “No negotiations, no compromise, no power-sharing” with the military.
Monday’s protests were called by the Sudanese Professionals Association and the so-called Resistance Committees, which spearheaded the uprising against Al-Bashir and then the military coup.
Among the protesters’ demands are the restructuring of the military under civilian oversight, purging officers loyal to Al-Bashir and disbanding armed groups including the Rapid Support Forces.
“We will keep on using all peaceful means to reject and resist until the fall of the coup government and the return to the course of democratic transition,” said protester Dalia Mostafa, while taking part in a march in Khartoum.
The Rapid Support Forces are a paramilitary unit notorious for atrocities during the Darfur war and a 2019 massacre of protesters in Khartoum. They are led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who is also the deputy head of the ruling sovereign council.
Dagalo is seen as the co-architect of the coup along with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of the ruling body.
Relentless street demonstrations have put pressure on the military and Hamdok to take measures to calm angry protesters and gain their trust. Hamdok has yet to announce his Cabinet, which is likely to face opposition from the pro-democracy movement.
In televised comments over the weekend, Burhan described the deal that reinstated Hamdok as “a true start” for the democratic transition.
He said they were working on crafting a “new political charter” with the aim of establishing a broader consensus among all political forces and movements.
In the western Darfur region, meanwhile, the death toll from tribal clashes over the weekend climbed to at least 48 people, all of them shot dead, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee. It said dozens of others were wounded, some in critical condition.
The fighting grew out of a financial dispute late Saturday between two individuals in a camp for displaced persons in the Kreinik area in West Darfur province.
The clashes continued Sunday, with Arab militias known as janjaweed attacking the camp and torching and looting property, according to Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur.
The clashes in Darfur pose a significant challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional authorities to end decades-long rebellions in some areas like war-wrecked region.


More attacks will happen, says UK’s top counterterrorism cop

Updated 06 December 2021

More attacks will happen, says UK’s top counterterrorism cop

  • Neil Basu’s warning came during an inquiry into the 2017 bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester
  • ‘I’m going to be very blunt about this: We won’t stop them happening again, they will happen again. We have to try and minimize or reduce the risk,’ he said

LONDON: Britain’s highest-ranking counterterrorism police officer has warned that despite improvements in the ways agencies collaborate to prevent terror attacks, they cannot stop them all and it is inevitable that there will be more.

The comment by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu of the Metropolitan Police Service came on Monday when he appeared at the inquiry into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Twenty-two people were killed, including a number of children, when 22-year-old suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated an explosive device at an Ariana Grande concert.

Basu, who serves as the National Police Chiefs Council lead for Counter Terrorism Policing, told the inquiry: “The horror of this makes you look very hard at, hopefully, preventing it ever happening again.”

But he added: “I’m going to be very blunt about this: We won’t stop them happening again, they will happen again. We have to try and minimize or reduce the risk and that means constantly trying to have a system that looks at improvement, no matter how busy we are.”

The inquiry into the attack in May 2017 is examining the activities of emergency services, including the police and intelligence agencies, in the lead-up to the attack.

Basu said the results of a joint police and MI5 review of a number of attacks that took place in 2017, including the arena bombing, were “humbling.” That review made 104 recommendations for improvements, four of which remain outstanding.

He added that cross-agency collaboration has improved since 2017 but that more work can yet be done to better align the work of agencies.

“We’re very close but we need to be closer still,” Basu said.

The inquiry also heard from Ian Fenn, the former headteacher of a Manchester school Abedi attended between 2009 and 2011. He said Abedi was not a good student and was, at times, “aggressive and rude” to teachers, and had been suspended for theft and for setting off fireworks.

However, there was “no indication,” Fenn added, that Abedi held extremist views at that time.

“He never came across as somebody who was opinionated, who was driven, that had an agenda,” he told the inquiry. “He was a typically lackluster child who drifted around.”


Yorkshire appoint former England bowler Gough as director of cricket after racism scandal

Updated 06 December 2021

Yorkshire appoint former England bowler Gough as director of cricket after racism scandal

  • Darren Gough, 51, played for both Yorkshire and England during his long career
  • The club was rocked by a racism scandal that brought on resignations from the club's top brass

LONDON: Yorkshire confirmed the interim appointment of former England bowler Darren Gough as the county’s new managing director of cricket on Monday as the cricket club attempts to rebuild following a damaging racism scandal.
The club came under intense fire over their handling of Azeem Rafiq’s allegations of racism and harassment, with chairman Roger Hutton and chief executive Mark Arthur standing down.
On Friday, the county announced that 16 members of the coaching and medical staff had left the club, including first-team coach Andrew Gale and director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
Gough, 51, who had two playing spells with Yorkshire, captaining them in the second, has been appointed initially until the end of the 2022 season.
“Like many, I have followed how the club handled the recent racism allegations with sadness and anger,” said the former England paceman.
“I want to play my part in rebuilding cricket in Yorkshire and I am looking forward to working with the exceptionally talented group of players here.
“I am also aware of my wider responsibility to listen to everyone and ensure that every person who is associated with this club feels welcome, instilling values we want associated with the White Rose: honesty, straight-talking, hard work, integrity and excellence.”
New chairman Kamlesh Patel praised Gough’s “infectious” enthusiasm.
“As we start on this journey with Darren, we want to engage everyone at the club and involve as many people as possible in shaping our direction,” he said.
“We have a considerable job ahead of us, but we are ready to embrace the opportunity together and build a brighter future for Yorkshire County Cricket Club.”
England captain Joe Root, who plays for Yorkshire, had earlier welcomed reports that Gough was set to be appointed.
“From my experience of spending time with Goughy he is obviously very passionate and knowledgeable about the game,” the skipper said ahead of the first Ashes Test in Brisbane this week. “His love for it is clear for anyone to see.
“And for the club as well, I’m sure he will be wanting to bring all of that to the fore and all of his experiences and achievements within the game and pass that knowledge onto the group.”