Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns

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A view shows a flooded residential area in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)
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A view shows a flooded residential area in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 13 April 2024

Rapidly rising flood waters force mass evacuations in Russian, Kazakhstan border towns

  • Urals city of Orenburg hit by rapidly rising flood waters due to a historic deluge of melting snow
  • Around 100,000 people also evacuated in Kazakhstan's border region of Kurgan

ORENBURG, Russia: Authorities in the Russian city of Orenburg called on thousands of residents to evacuate immediately on Friday due to rapidly rising flood waters after major rivers burst their banks due to a historic deluge of melting snow.

Water was also rising sharply in another Russian region — Kurgan — and in neighboring Kazakhstan the authorities said 100,000 people had been evacuated so far, as rapidly warming temperatures melted heavy snow and ice.
The deluge of melt water has forced over 120,000 people from their homes in Russia’s Ural Mountains, Siberia and Kazakhstan as major rivers such as the Ural, which flows through Kazakhstan into the Caspian, overwhelmed embankments.

Local resident Dmitry Dragoshantsev carries a backpack with his cats out of his flooded house in Orenburg, Russia, on April 12, 2024. (REUTERS)

Regional authorities called for the mass evacuation of parts of Orenburg, a city of over half a million people about 1,200 km (750 miles) east of Moscow.
“There’s a siren going off in the city. This is not a drill. There’s a mass evacuation in progress!,” Sergei Salmin, the city’s mayor, said on the Telegram messenger app.
Russian news agencies later quoted officials in Orenburg as saying that more than 13,000 residents had been evacuated throughout the region, more than a quarter of them children.
The agency reports quoted Mayor Salmin as saying residents were turning out to help erect dykes to keep high-rise apartment blocks from being flooded. Dump trucks loaded with clay were dispatched to areas at risk.
Emergency workers said water levels in the Ural river were more than 2 meters (6.5 ft) above what they regarded as a dangerous level. Water lapped at the windows of brick and timber houses in the city, and pet dogs perched on rooftops.
Salmin called on residents to gather their documents, medicine and essential items and to abandon their homes.

People living in flooded homes lamented the loss of their belongings.
“Judging by the water levels, all the furniture, some household appliances and interior decorating materials are ruined,” local resident Vyacheslav told Reuters as he sat in an idling motorboat and gazed over his shoulder at his two-story brick home, partially submerged in muddy water.
“It’s a colossal amount of money.”
Alexei Kudinov, Orenburg’s deputy mayor, had said earlier that over 360 houses and nearly 1,000 plots of land had been flooded overnight. He said the deluge was expected to reach its peak on Friday and start subsiding in two days’ time.
Orenburg Governor Denis Pasler told President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that 11,972 homes had been flooded and if waters rose further 19,412 more people would be in danger.

Kazakh rescuers evacuate residents of the flooded settlement of Pokrovka, some 90 km from the city of Petropavl, in northern Kazakhstan close to the border with Russia on April 9, 2024. (AFP)

The village of Kaminskoye in the Kurgan region was also being evacuated on Friday morning after the water level there rose 1.4 meters overnight, Kurgan’s regional governor Vadim Shumkov said on the Telegram messaging app.
Kaminskoye is a settlement along the Tobol river which also flows through the regional center Kurgan, a city of 300,000 people. Shumkov said a deluge could reach Kurgan in the coming days.
“We can only hope the floodplain stretches wide and the ground absorbs as much water as possible in its way,” he said, adding that a dam was being reinforced in Kurgan.
Kurgan is home to a key part of Russia’s military-industrial complex — a giant factory that produces infantry fighting vehicles for the army which are in high demand in Ukraine where the Russian military is on the offensive in some areas.
There were no reports that the factory, Kurganmashzavod, had so far been affected.
Rising water levels are also threatening southern parts of Western Siberia, the largest hydrocarbon basin in the world, and in areas near the Volga, Europe’s biggest river.
Water levels in some other Russian regions are expected to peak within the next two weeks.

Amid heat wave spell, authorities say mercury to rise further in southern Punjab from today 

Updated 13 min 1 sec ago

Amid heat wave spell, authorities say mercury to rise further in southern Punjab from today 

  • Temperatures to rise in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan districts from Monday
  • Heat wave first spell to last till May 30, second to begin from June 7-8 followed by third one in last week of June 

ISLAMABAD: A spokesman for the Punjab Disaster Management Authority has said temperatures will continue to rise in southern parts of the Punjab province from today, Monday, amid an ongoing heat wave that is expected to carry on until next month.

Pakistan’s disaster management authority warned earlier this month temperatures in certain areas of Pakistan’s southern Sindh and eastern Punjab provinces could surge to 40 degrees Celsius between May 15-30. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) warned of an “intense” heat wave in the southern districts of Punjab, with severe risk identified in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from May 21 to May 27.

An estimated 18 million students are also unable to attend classes because Punjab, Pakistan’s populous province Punjab, has ordered shutting down schools this month due to rising temperatures. 

“Mercury will rise further in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from today, Monday,” a Punjab official was quoted as saying by state broadcaster Radio Pakistan on Monday. 

“The National Institute of Health has advised people to avoid unnecessary outings and drink more water to prevent themselves from the effects of heatwave.”

Addressing a press conference last week, the Prime Minister’s Coordinator on Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam said 26 districts of the country were in the grips of a heat wave since May 21. 

Alam said the first wave would last till May 30, the second would begin from June 7-8 and the third one in the last week of June. May and June were recorded as the “hottest and driest” with higher monthly average temperatures, she added, appealing to the masses, especially children and elderly, to adopt preventive measures.

She noted that the severity of heat waves had increased rapidly during the past few months with 13 districts of Sindh, nine of Punjab and four districts of Balochistan experiencing “severe heat.”

“Harsh weather is likely to persist at least till June 3. There is no possibility for respite, at least for Sindh. The heat spell may break in parts of Punjab but that, too, after June 4,” the chief meteorologist said last week.

Increased exposure to heat, and more heat waves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heat wave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.

Pakistan PM praises European countries for recognizing Palestinian state, hopes for same attention for Kashmir

Updated 17 min 46 sec ago

Pakistan PM praises European countries for recognizing Palestinian state, hopes for same attention for Kashmir

  • Prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway have said they will formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28
  • Himalayan region of Kashmir, administered in parts by India and Pakistan, has been a flashpoint between them since 1947

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday praised Spain, Norway and Ireland for their decision to recognize the state of Palestine, hoping that the international community will “pay the same amount of attention” to the plight of the people of Kashmir. 

The prime ministers of Ireland, Spain and Norway announced on Wednesday they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.

In a telephonic conversation with Norwegian PM Jonas Gahr Store on Sunday night, PM Sharif appreciated Norway’s “principled stance,” adding that it would send a message of hope and solidarity to the people of Kashmir suffering continuous bombardment at Israel’s hands. 

“I expressed my hope that this bold, principled decision by Norway, Spain, and Ireland will encourage other countries to recognize the State of Palestine,” Sharif wrote on social media platform X from his official account that shares updates in Arabic. 

“We hope the international community will pay the same amount of attention to the suffering and tragedy of Kashmiris who have been suffering from oppression and brutal occupation for 76 years.”

The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between India and Pakistan since 1947 when the two countries gained independence from British colonial India. The nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors have fought two out of three wars over Kashmir. 
Both countries claim the territory in full but administer parts of it. The western portion of the larger Kashmir region is administered by Pakistan as a nominally self-governing entity.
On Aug. 5 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy in a move that was seen by analysts as a strategy to tighten his grip over the territory. The decision provoked outrage in Pakistan and triggered the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade between the two countries. 
Israel’s war on Gaza has sparked international condemnation from rights activists and organizations and countries around the world. Israel’s constant bombardment has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and fighters in its count. 
Around 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes while severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Israel says Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds some 100 hostages after many were released during a ceasefire last year.

ICC includes Pakistani legends Wasim, Waqar and Ramiz in World Cup commentary panel

Updated 31 min 21 sec ago

ICC includes Pakistani legends Wasim, Waqar and Ramiz in World Cup commentary panel

  • Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja are former World Cup winners who will share expert analysis during T20 World Cup 2024
  • Veterans Ravi Shastri, Nasser Hussain, Ian Smith, Mel Jones, Harsha Bhogle and Ian Bishop to lead commentary team

ISLAMABAD: The International Cricket Council (ICC) recently announced it has roped in Pakistani cricket legends Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Ramiz Raja as members of a star-studded commentary panel for next month’s T20 World Cup to share their insights and expert analysis during matches. 

The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, scheduled to kick off from June 1-29, will feature 20 teams across the world compete for the trophy. The tournament will be hosted for the first time partly in the United States while the West Indies will also host some matches of the tournament.

In a post on Sunday, the ICC said the commentary panel would be led by veterans such as Ravi Shastri, Nasser Hussain, Ian Smith, Mel Jones, Harsha Bhogle and Ian Bishop. Former men’s and women’s T20 World Cup champions Dinesh Karthik, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Samuel Badree, Carlos Brathwaite, Steve Smith, Aaron Finch and Lisa Sthalekar will also add insights to the game during the matches. 

“Former 50-over World Cup winners Ricky Ponting, Sunil Gavaskar, Matthew Hayden, Ramiz Raja, Eoin Morgan, Tom Moody and Wasim Akram will also be lending their expert analysis to the upcoming tournament,” the ICC said. 

The global cricket body said other big names part of the commentary team are Pakistan’s Younis, Dale Steyn, Graeme Smith, Michael Atherton, Simon Doull, Shaun Pollock and Katey Martin. Renowned names in broadcasting such as Mpumelelo Mbangwa, Natalie Germanos, Danny Morrison, Alison Mitchell, Alan Wilkins, Brian Murgatroyd, Mike Haysman, Ian Ward, Athar Ali Khan, Russel Arnold, Niall O’Brien, Kass Naidoo and former West Indies skipper Daren Ganga will also be part of the commentary team.

ICC will provide extensive coverage of the tournament across the 28 days of action with a pre-match show, an innings interval program and a post-match wrap-up.

The T20 World Cup is being seen by the ICC as a launch pad toward the sport’s return to the Olympics for Los Angeles 2028. The ninth edition of the tournament, in the fastest and most explosive form of the game, will be the biggest ever after the decision of the International Cricket Council (ICC) to expand the field from 16 nations to 20.

Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Oman are among nations relatively new to the big stage who will be looking to make their mark and grab attention with an upset win or two during the tournament.

Groups for T20 World Cup 2024

Group A: India, Pakistan, Ireland, Canada, United States

Group B: England, Australia, Namibia, Scotland, Oman

Group C: New Zealand, West Indies, Afghanistan, Uganda, Papua New Guinea

Group D: South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Nepal

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals

Updated 27 May 2024

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving each score 33 points as Mavs beat Wolves for 3-0 lead in West finals

  • Luca Doncic and Kyrie Irving score 33 points apiece and Dallas put together a decisive run in the final five minutes

DALLAS: Luka Doncic lunged for the ball after a steal by Anthony Edwards, knocking it far enough away to create a scramble and a jump ball the Dallas superstar won.
The Mavericks made all the big plays again — on both ends of the court — and are a win away from their first trip to the NBA Finals in 13 years.
Doncic and Kyrie Irving scored 33 points apiece and Dallas put together a decisive run in the final five minutes to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-107 on Sunday night for a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The 14-3 finish gave the Mavs a fifth consecutive playoff victory after Dereck Lively II left with a sprained neck when the rookie center took an accidental shot to the back of the head from Karl-Anthony Towns’ knee.
No team in NBA playoff history has rallied from 3-0 down.
“Don’t even say it,” said Doncic, who will try to clinch his first trip to the NBA Finals in Game 4 on Tuesday night in Dallas. “But it feels great. But we’ve got to think about next game. Gotta play with the same mentality. They’re not going to go away. No way.”
P.J. Washington Jr., who scored 16 points, put Dallas ahead for good on a tiebreaking corner 3-pointer with 3:38 remaining after Doncic passed to Irving, who sent the ball to Washington.
The co-stars took over from there.
Doncic hit a shot in the lane for a four-point lead, Irving sent the crowd into a frenzy on a falling-down jumper and Doncic found Daniel Gafford for an alley-oop dunk and a 113-105 lead with 34 seconds left. Gafford had just blocked Mike Conley’s layup attempt at the other end.
“They’re trying to double me the whole game, trying to double Kai, so that just makes us better,” Doncic said. “Everybody touches the ball, everybody plays. We come down to the stretch, and we execute.”
Edwards had 26 points for the Wolves, but just four after scoring eight consecutive points for Minnesota to get the Wolves even in the third quarter.
“I never think the sky is falling,” Edwards said. “I’m always positive, always happy. Been through the works, so the sky’s never falling for me.”
Towns scored 14 points but missed all eight 3s, including a rushed 27-footer early in the shot clock when the deficit was four with 1:25 remaining.
After taking a 104-102 lead on Kyle Anderson’s floater with five minutes to go, Minnesota — which couldn’t hold leads of 18 points in the first half and five points in the final 90 seconds of Game 2 — missed seven consecutive shots.
“You’ve got to try to score alongside of them,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “The whole series, we’ve struggled to close games. These three-minutes games that we’re playing, we’re losing.”
Doncic, whose game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of Game 2 in Minnesota put Dallas firmly in control of the series, was 10 of 20 and 5 of 11 from deep.
Irving, who won the 2016 title alongside LeBron James with Cleveland, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished 12 of 20 and 3 of 6 from long range.
The Mavs, with 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki watching from center court, are the closest they’ve been to the NBA’s biggest stage since the big German led them to their only championship.
Edwards was 11 of 24, but took just three shots in the fourth quarter, making two. The 22-year-old star who has acknowledged fatigue in the series had nine rebounds and nine assists.
“We can’t be anything but positive at this point,” Edwards said. “We can’t be negative. Try to get one win at a time.”
In the second quarter, Lively absorbed the kind of contact normally found on football fields not far from Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, the quarterback-tight end pair sitting courtside.
The rookie from Duke stayed on the court holding his head after it snapped forward on the accidental contact. Lively was down for several minutes before appearing dazed as he was helped off the court and taken to the locker room.
Lively fell as Mike Conley, who scored 16 points, was driving for a missed shot, and Towns was pursuing an offensive rebound when his knee hit Lively’s head in the second quarter.
The 20-year-old Lively and Gafford, the starter, played a big role in helping Dallas take a 2-0 lead. Lively is 12 of 12 from the field in the series, including three makes in Game 3.

Police in Pakistan’s Sargodha finalize ‘hyper security’ arrangements for churches following mob attack 

Updated 27 May 2024

Police in Pakistan’s Sargodha finalize ‘hyper security’ arrangements for churches following mob attack 

  • Angry mob attacked Christians in Pakistan’s eastern Sargodha district over blasphemy allegations 
  • Over 1,000 police officers and youths performing duties at key churches in Sargodha district, say police

ISLAMABAD: Police in Pakistan’s eastern Sargodha district said recently it has finalized “hyper security” arrangements at churches following last week’s mob attack against the Christian community that left one person critically injured. 

Violence erupted in Sargodha city on Saturday when a furious mob targeted members of the Christian community after some people accused their Christian neighbor of desecrating the Holy Qur’an. The house and a small shoemaking factory owned and operated by the man were burned down in the ensuing rampage, which was followed by police action that led to clashes with angry protesters.

The incident came within a year after another attack on the Christian community in August 2023, when a mob in Jaranwala city burned churches and targeted several houses in a similar incident involving blasphemy allegations.

“Sargodha police have completed arrangements for the hyper security of churches across the district,” Sargodha Police wrote on social media platform X. It added that over 1,000 police officers and youths were performing duties at important churches in the district. 

Saturday’s attack was condemned by rights activists and Pakistan’s leading human rights body, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). Pakistani Christian rights activists protested against the attack on Saturday in Karachi, raising alarm over the safety of minorities in the South Asian country. 

“As a 27-year-old Pakistani Christian who has never been abroad since the day I was born to the moment I’m standing here, I and every Christian who calls themselves Pakistani live under fear, under pressure and under the constant threat of being, God forbid, accused of committing blasphemy,” Luke Victor, a rights activist and one of the organizers of the Karachi demonstration, said. 

Blasphemy is an incendiary charge in deeply conservative, Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations of insulting Islam have provoked deadly vigilantism.

Christians, who make up around two percent of Pakistan’s population, occupy one of the lowest rungs in society and are frequently targeted with spurious blasphemy allegations.
Politicians have also been assassinated, lawyers murdered and students lynched over such accusations.