Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

The beluga whale swam into France's Seine river and reached a lock some 70 kilometres from Paris. (AFP/File)
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Updated 11 August 2022

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

  • A team of 80 people tried to save the animal’s life by transporting the cetaceous into a refrigerated truck to the port in Ouistreham, in Normandy region.

PARIS: A beluga whale that became a French celebrity after a wrong turn took it up the Seine River had to be euthanized Wednesday after experiencing health complications during an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.
The sparkling white marine mammal appeared deep inside France last week, having accidentally veered off the normal ocean migration route that takes belugas to and from Arctic waters.
Fearing the malnourished creature would not survive in the Seine much longer, a wildlife conservation group and veterinarians planned to move the lost whale to a saltwater port in Normandy, from where they hoped to return it to the open sea.
A team of 80 people assembled to try to save the animal’s life, and it was successfully moved Tuesday night from a river lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, into a refrigerated truck for the 60-kilometer (99-mile) journey to the port in Ouistreham.
But during the drive, the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale started to breath with difficulty, according to Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French veterinarian who worked on the rescue operation.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably in its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Courtois said.
“The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it,” she added.
Environmentalists had acknowledged the plan to move the beluga risked fatally stressing the mammal. But marine conservation group Sea Shepherd said that it couldn’t have survived much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
The group and veterinarians noted the whale had responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins over the last few days, making them hopeful it would recover once it was back in a saltwater environment.
A necropsy is planned on the whale, which weighed about about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers had hoped to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May. In 2006, a bottlenose whale — nicknamed “Willy” — swam up the Thames River as far as London and died during a its attempted rescue.
Another complicating factor during the beluga’s rescue attempt was the extreme heat gripping France. Authorities tried to keep it cool and wet with soaked towels and moved it at nightfall when temperatures are at their lowest.
The sad end to a saga that gripped France in recent days came after experts determined the whale “was too weakened to be put back into water,” Guillaume Lericolais, the sub-prefect of France’s Calvados region, said.
Rescuers tried to feed the whale fish without success since Friday. Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity.

At this Karachi restaurant, foodies love to savor chapli kebabs hot off the skillet

Updated 11 December 2023

At this Karachi restaurant, foodies love to savor chapli kebabs hot off the skillet

  • Chapli kebabs are a Pashtun staple, prepared at restaurants and homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan
  • Chapli kebabs are mutton or beef patties that are fried in a generous amount of ghee or fat

KARACHI: Abdul Wahid drops a round mixture of minced meat, maize flour, and spices into a pot sizzling with hot ghee in front of him. A couple of minutes pass before his assistant flips the finished kebabs onto a plate while a waiter attends to eager customers lining up for their takeout orders at a busy restaurant in Karachi. 

This is the scene one observes almost every night during the winter season at A-One restaurant in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi. Located in the bustling city’s Shah Faisal Colony area, it offers chapli kebabs, a popular staple cooked at roadside stands, sit-down restaurants and homes particularly in northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Chapli kebabs are meat patties fried with a generous helping of animal fat or oil. The kebabs are mostly made from beef and mutton and are a mix of white cumin, carom seeds, dried coriander, pomegranate seeds, salt, green chilies, and tomatoes. Though the restaurant serves several popular food items such as chicken karahi dish, biryani and fish, A-One in Karachi has gained renown for its chapli kebabs over the years. 

“It [A-One] is famous for chapli kebab, which is our primary specialty,” Wahid told Arab News, noting that over the years, additional cuisines were later introduced to the menu. 

A-One occupies a large space now but the restaurant used to be a small shop in the ‘80s when it started. 

“Our Mr. Hajji Gohar Rahman, he started with a small shop,” Gul Muhammad Khan, the restaurant’s manager, told Arab News. “First of all, [the biggest success factor] is Allah’s Grace, then his honesty, and then his hard work gave us an entire complex of Peshawari chapli kebabs.” 

The first chef of the restaurant, 95-year-old Saeed Khan, brought the popular original chapli kebab recipe from Pakistan’s northwestern Peshawar city, said Khan. 

“This is our original recipe; it’s Peshawari,” he added. 

Abdul Wahid, the current chef, said what separates A-One’s chapli kebabs from the ones offered at other eateries, is that they are made from high-quality meat. 

“We use the meat of the leg only,” Wahid told Arab News. “We use high-quality, hygienic meat, which is why the quality that we started with hasn’t changed.” 

Despite being a dish traditionally associated with Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun community, people of various ethnicities savor chapli kebabs at the restaurant, praising its authentic taste.

“People from every community eat,” Gul Muhammad Khan, the manager, told Arab News. 

“Their friends bring them here specifically to introduce them to a new taste, and those who eat, really enjoy it.” 

Zahid Jamal, a frequent customer, selected the venue to celebrate his daughter Safiya’s birthday this weekend. 

“Today is my daughter Safiya’s birthday, so we thought about going out for dinner,” Jamal told Arab News. “We decided to go to A-One as its chapli kebabs are very famous. So, we came here and enjoyed our meal. It was very good.” 

Another regular customer, Aimen Azam, said she regularly sends an uncooked blend of kebabs to her brother in Dubai. 

“Last month, I sent some uncooked chapli kebabs to my brother in Dubai,” Azam told Arab News. “I sent him about 6kg in uncooked form last month, and he had it with his friends there.” 

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike

Updated 08 December 2023

Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer killed in Gaza strike

  • Alareer had refused to leave northern Gaza, the epicenter of the fighting at the time

GAZA: The Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer, one of the leaders of a young generation of authors in Gaza who chose to write in English to tell their stories, was killed in an Israeli strike, his friends said overnight Thursday.
“My heart is broken, my friend and colleague Refaat Alareer was killed with his family a few minutes ago,” wrote his friend, the Gazan poet Mosab Abu Toha, on Facebook.
“I don’t want to believe this. We both loved to pick strawberries together.”
Israel had conducted further raids on Thursday evening in the north of the Gaza Strip, according to Hamas authorities.
Alareer had said a few days after Israel began its ground offensive in October that he refused to leave northern Gaza, the epicenter of the fighting at the time.
“Refaat’s assassination is tragic, painful and outrageous. It is a huge loss,” his friend Ahmed Alnaouq wrote on X.
The Literary Hub website also paid tribute to him, while author and journalist Ramzy Baroud wrote on X: “Rest in peace Refaat Alareer. We will continue to be guided by your wisdom, today and for eternity.”
Alareer, a professor of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza, where he taught Shakespeare among other subjects, was also one of the co-founders of the “We are not numbers” project, which pairs authors from Gaza with mentors abroad who help them write stories in English about their experiences.
The project edited the book “Gaza Writes Back,” chronicles of life in Gaza by young Palestinian authors, and published “Gaza Unsilenced.”
Israel launched a vast military operation in Gaza following an attack by Hamas on October 7, in which around 1,200 were killed, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities.
More than 17,100, also mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s relentless bombardment that has spread to the entirety of the Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
In November, Alareer published a poem on X entitled “If I must die” that was shared tens of thousands of times. It concludes with the words: “If I must die, let it bring hope, let it be a tale.”

Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks

Updated 27 November 2023

Greek PM unhappy after UK’s Sunak cancels Parthenon marbles talks

  • Long-running bilateral dispute over the Parthenon friezes would have been aired

ATHENS: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday expressed his “displeasure” over UK counterpart Rishi Sunak’s decision to cancel a meeting where the long-running bilateral dispute over the Parthenon friezes would have been aired.
“I would like to express my displeasure at the British Prime Minister’s cancelation of our meeting (scheduled for midday on Tuesday in London) just a few hours before it was due to take place,” the Greek leader said in a brief statement. Downing Street declined to comment.

UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale

Updated 24 November 2023

UK charity Penny Appeal announces ‘Beauty and the Balaah’ panto — a Halal twist on the classic tale

  • Proceeds from all the performances will go toward supporting the charity’s ‘Winter Aid’ appeal

LONDON: International humanitarian charity Penny Appeal has announced this year’s “Great Muslim Panto,” promising audiences across Britain “a heartwarming and culturally rich” production.

“’Beauty and the Balaah’ is a captivating Muslim Panto with a unique Halal twist on Disney’s timeless classic, ‘Beauty and the Beast’,” the UK-based organization said in a statement.

“This extraordinary rendition seamlessly weaves South Asian and Muslim references into the beloved story, ensuring it’s inclusive and relatable to a diverse audience while opening doors to the rich tapestry of Muslim culture,” it added.

Set in a picturesque village where tradition and modernity harmoniously coexist, “Beauty and the Balaah” introduces audiences to a spirited young Hijabi girl named Aisha.

“This heartwarming tale beautifully integrates cultural nuances from the Muslim world, creating a one-of-a-kind blend of tradition and progress,” Penny Appeal said.

The storyline follows the journey of a young prince, Balaah, who is transformed into a hideous creature by the benevolent Fairy Noor after falling prey to cruelty and greed under the influence of an evil wizard.

To break the curse and regain his human form, Balaah embarks on a quest to learn the true meaning of love and kindness. When Aisha courageously enters his enchanted castle, she discovers the goodness that lies beneath his monstrous exterior, demonstrating that beauty is more than skin deep.

“The Muslim Panto proudly announces that the lead character, Aisha, will be brought to life by the immensely talented Iman Akhtar, hailing from Glasgow,” the show said.

This year’s production is written and produced by the British-Pakistani actor and writer Abdullah Afzal, known for his contributions to the BBC’s “Citizen Khan” and his previous work on the Muslim Panto, including “Cinder’Aliyah,” which he also wrote as a take on Disney’s “Cinderella.”

“’Beauty and the Balaah’ isn’t just about entertainment; it’s about making a positive impact on the world,” Penny Appeal said.

Proceeds from all the performances will go toward supporting the charity’s “Winter Aid” appeal, a charitable initiative aimed at providing essential support to those in need in areas including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Palestine.

“By attending the Muslim Panto, you’ll be a part of this noble cause, bringing warmth and assistance to vulnerable communities,” Penny Appeal said.

The pantomime will embark on a nationwide tour starting in early December, with up to 60 performances scheduled across the UK through January.

“Following the enormous success of the previous production, “Cinder’Aliyah,” which sold out within 48 hours of ticket sales opening, this new production is poised to captivate audiences with its unique blend of comedy, enchantment, and profound cultural resonance.”

A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England

Updated 23 November 2023

A crane operator has rescued a man from a burning high-rise in England

  • A crowd that had gathered near the building broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air and then lowered to the ground
  • Crane operator Glen Edwards, 65, described the situation as a “close call” because of windy conditions

LONDON: A crane operator played down tributes paid to him on Thursday after he lifted a man to safety from a burning high-rise building in England.
Video from the scene in the town of Reading in southern England showed a man being rescued by a crane cage from the roof of a building under construction as thick plumes of dark smoke and flames billowed around him.
A crowd that had gathered near the building broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air and then lowered to the ground.
Crane operator Glen Edwards, 65, described the situation as a “close call” because of windy conditions.
“I was no more than 20 meters up in the air and I looked out my left-hand window and saw a guy standing on the corner of the building,” said Edwards, who had been working at the site before the blaze broke out.
“I’d only just seen him and someone said ‘can you get the cage on,’ so that was it, I got the cage on and got it over to him the best I could,” he added.
He said he tried to position the cage between the man and the flames but he was “hampered by the wind swirling around there.”
“But I got the cage down and I managed to get him in there,” he said.
More than 50 firefighters arrived at the scene to tackle the blaze, officials said, and another man was also lifted from the building by crane. Both men were taken to a hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. The fire was extinguished later Thursday.