Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023 – UN 

This aerial photograph taken on September 5, 2022 shows flooded residential areas after heavy monsoon rains in Dera Allah Yar, Balochistan province. (AFP)
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Updated 01 June 2024

Asia hit hardest by climate, weather disasters in 2023 – UN 

  • Climate change exacerbated severity of weather disasters last year, sauys World Meteorological Organization
  • 79 disasters, mostly floods and storms, associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia in 2023

GENEVA: Asia was the world’s most disaster-hit region from climate and weather hazards in 2023, the United Nations said Tuesday, with floods and storms the chief cause of casualties and economic losses.

Global temperatures hit record highs last year, and the UN’s weather and climate agency said Asia was warming at a particularly rapid pace.

The World Meteorological Organization said the impact of heatwaves in Asia was becoming more severe, with melting glaciers threatening the region’s future water security.

The WMO said Asia was warming faster than the global average, with temperatures last year nearly two degrees Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.

“The report’s conclusions are sobering,” WMO chief Celeste Saulo said in a statement.

“Many countries in the region experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms.

“Climate change exacerbated the frequency and severity of such events, profoundly impacting societies, economies, and, most importantly, human lives and the environment that we live in.”

The State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report highlighted the accelerating rate of key climate change indicators such as surface temperature, glacier retreat and sea level rise, saying they would have serious repercussions for societies, economies and ecosystems in the region.

“Asia remained the world’s most disaster-hit region from weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2023,” the WMO said.

The annual mean near-surface temperature over Asia in 2023 was the second highest on record, at 0.91 degrees Celsius above the 1991-2020 average, and 1.87 C above the 1961-1990 average.

Particularly high average temperatures were recorded from western Siberia to central Asia, and from eastern China to Japan, the report said, with Japan having its hottest summer on record.

As for precipitation, it was below normal in the Himalayas and in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile southwest China suffered from a drought, with below-normal precipitation levels in nearly every month of the year.

The High-Mountain Asia region, centered on the Tibetan Plateau, contains the largest volume of ice outside of the polar regions.

Over the last several decades, most of these glaciers have been retreating, and at an accelerating rate, the WMO said, with 20 out of 22 monitored glaciers in the region showing continued mass loss last year.

The report said 2023 sea-surface temperatures in the northwest Pacific Ocean were the highest on record.

Last year, 79 disasters associated with water-related weather hazards were reported in Asia. Of those, more than 80 percent were floods and storms, with more than 2,000 deaths and nine million people directly affected.

“Floods were the leading cause of death in reported events in 2023 by a substantial margin,” the WMO said, noting the continuing high level of vulnerability of Asia to natural hazard events.

Hong Kong recorded 158.1 millimeters of rainfall in one hour on September 7 — the highest since records began in 1884, as a result of a typhoon.

The WMO said there was an urgent need for national weather services across the region to improve tailored information to officials working on reducing disaster risks.

“It is imperative that our actions and strategies mirror the urgency of these times,” said Saulo.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the evolving climate is not merely an option, but a fundamental necessity.”

Russian attack kills two in Ukraine’s Kharkiv, governor says

Updated 3 sec ago

Russian attack kills two in Ukraine’s Kharkiv, governor says

Russian forces hit residential quarters with guided bombs

KYIV: A Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv killed two civilians and injured at least two others on Saturday, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
He said Russian forces hit residential quarters with guided bombs. Rescue workers were working at the site, he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

Updated 10 min 52 sec ago

Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

  • Clashes between Myanmar junta and insurgents started in October 2023
  • Deadly fighting engulfs Rohingya-inhabited border areas

DHAKA: Bangladesh will not take in any more Rohingya fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said on Saturday, amid reports that people from the areas affected by fighting have been gathering on the border.

Concerns that a war between Myanmar’s junta and the opposition ethnic-minority Arakan Army would trigger a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Bangladesh have been on the rise over the past few months.

Clashes between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin States started in late October 2023 with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which has been in control of the country since early 2021.

Most of the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom fled to Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown and persecution in 2017 — come from Rakhine. One of the most heavily Rohingya-populated areas in the state, Maungdaw, has been under the control of the Arakan Army, which last week warned it was expecting the junta to attempt to recapture it.

“On the other side of the border in Myanmar, a fierce gunbattle is happening and, every day, people are dying. Maungdaw town is a predominantly Rohingya-inhabited area,” Rahman told Arab News.

“We have heard that (some) Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh ... (they) have gathered on the border on the Myanmar side, mainly near the Teknaf subdistrict under Cox’s Bazar.”

More than a million Rohingya Muslims currently live in squalid camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Rahman said Bangladesh cannot receive more refugees and will not allow any more Rohingya to enter the country from Myanmar.

“The Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar camps are very anxious about the safety and fate of their relatives living in Maungdaw and the surrounding area,” he said. “(But) we can’t receive any more Rohingyas, as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than 1 million. Our stand is that not a single more Rohingya will enter our land.”

The UN estimates that 95 percent of Rohingya refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance, which has been dropping since 2020, despite urgent pleas for donations by the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The protracted humanitarian crisis has started to affect the host community, which, despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, has been supporting the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, healthcare and a huge law-enforcement presence.

The Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief estimates the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining infrastructure for refugees.

Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

Updated 15 min 19 sec ago

Agricultural fire that killed 12 in southeast Turkey under control, media says

ANKARA: Turkish authorities have brought under control an agricultural fire that killed 12 people and wounded 78 others in a region near the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq, local media reported on Saturday.
The fire had started late on Thursday due to the burning of straw and spread because of strong winds, the local governor's office said. Authorities have launched an investigation into the cause of the fire, Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said in a post on X on Friday.
Broadcaster NTV and others said the fire was now under control and authorities were working to cool the scorched areas. NTV said many animals trapped in the fire were also killed.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said late on Friday that the treatment of the wounded was still underway, with some in critical condition.
"We are continuing the treatment and monitoring of five of our wounded. Three of our five wounded receiving treatment in Diyarbakir are intubated," Koca said on X.
Burning straw is a common practice by farmers and villagers in central Anatolia following harvest periods. 

Mauritanian president calls on West African states to ally against jihadism

Updated 25 min 50 sec ago

Mauritanian president calls on West African states to ally against jihadism

  • Former army chief and defense minister is tipped for a second term as head of the country of 4.5 million

ATAR, Mauritania: Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani called on West African countries to come together in the face of jihadism, in an interview with AFP ahead of the country’s presidential vote.
“The region must generate a common political will to be able to fight against insecurity,” Ghazouani said on Friday, on the campaign trail ahead of an election on June 29.
“I am not one of those who think today that countries can face a threat like terrorism individually.”
The 67-year-old former army chief and defense minister is tipped for a second term as head of the country of 4.5 million that lies strategically between north and sub-Saharan Africa.
He said that the “security situation in the sub-region is not at all good” and has become “worse.”
The military has seized power by force in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in recent years, heightening uncertainty in the region. Ghazouni’s huge desert nation has a frontier of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) with Mali.
While jihadism has spread in the Sahel, particularly in Mali, Mauritania has not seen an attack since 2011.
“We need to form a coalition,” Ghazouani said, urging the countries of the region to “come together.”
He spoke to AFP in Atar, some 450 kilometers northeast of the capital Nouakchott, where he launched his re-election campaign last week.
Ghazouani called for a possible replacement to the G5 Sahel alliance, which was created in 2014 by Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad, with the support of Western countries, to confront jihadism.
The military leaders in Mali, Burkina and Niger have all withdrawn from the G5 alliance in recent years.
“If the G5 Sahel is not the right one, we must find another G-something,” he said.
The three countries, which have broken militarily and politically with the former French colonial power, have pivoted closer to Russia under their new military rulers.
They have also pulled out of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and created their own alliance of Sahel states. Ghazouni said he Mauritania did not seek any role in the internal affairs of the other Sahel countries.
“We respect their sovereignty in their decisions. We want these countries to move as fast as possible toward elections,” he said.
Mauritania, which is rich in natural resources but still has a low gross domestic product, was hit by a series of coups from 1978 to 2008, before the 2019 election marked the first transition between two elected presidents.
The president said that stability has been maintained by being aware of the militant threat as well as “enormous efforts” made in education and health provision.
Ghazouani has pledged to “step up” his social welfare policy for the poor if re-elected, claiming more than 1.5 million people had benefited already from housing and financial help during his first term.

Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, criticized for saying West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine

Updated 28 min 50 sec ago

Nigel Farage, leader of Reform UK, criticized for saying West provoked Putin to invade Ukraine

  • Claiming that he warned of a potential war in Ukraine in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament, Farage said “we provoked this war”
  • “It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say”

LONDON: Nigel Farage, leader of the far-right Reform U.K party, is facing wide-ranging criticism across the political spectrum over his claim that the West provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, including of being an appeaser.
In a BBC television interview broadcast Friday evening, Farage, who is seeking to woo voters away from Britain’s governing Conservatives at the July 4 general election, drew a link between the expansion of NATO and the European Union eastwards over the past few decades and the invasion.
Claiming that he warned of a potential war in Ukraine in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament, Farage said “we provoked this war.” It’s unclear whether his warning came before or after Russia had annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in February 2014.
“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘They’re coming for us again’ and to go to war,” Farage said. “It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault — he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”
Farage’s critics from across the political spectrum slammed his statement, with many describing him as a Putin apologist.
In perhaps his sharpest criticism of Farage, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was “completely wrong” to say the West provoked Putin into launching a full invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
“This is a man who deployed nerve agents on the streets of Britain, who’s doing deals with countries like North Korea,” Sunak said. “And this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us and only emboldens Putin further.”
Many Conservatives, including Sunak, have largely held back from overly criticizing Farage, who though not a lawmaker in the UK Parliament, was hugely influential in Britain’s vote to leave the EU in 2016.
The worry among many Conservatives is that attacking him too much will further alienate many Conservative voters, who sympathize with his tough rhetoric on issues like immigration and Brexit. In many constituencies around the country, Conservatives have argued that a vote for Reform would see the main opposition Labour Party come through the middle and win.
“I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says if ‘I was running the country’ and presents very simplistic answers to actually, I am afraid in the 21st century, complex problems,” Ben Wallace, the former Conservative defense secretary who has stood down as a lawmaker, told BBC radio.
This is the first general election that Reform UK is contesting and it has enjoyed a lift in the polls after Farage said in early June he would lead the party and contest the seat in Clacton in southeast England. Though the party is not expected to secure many seats, Farage is currently favorite to win his contest and finally enter Parliament after seven attempts.
Keir Starmer, leader of the left-of-center Labour Party who is widely expected to become prime minister after the election, labelled Farage’s comments as “disgraceful.”
“Anyone who is standing for Parliament ought to be really clear that Russia is the aggressor,” he said.