India shuts schools as temperatures soar

People buy air coolers from a roadside vendor on a hot summer afternoon in New Delhi on May 20, 2024, amid the ongoing heatwave. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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India shuts schools as temperatures soar

  • India’s weather bureau has warned of “severe heat wave conditions” this week
  • Sweltering heat has dipped voter turnout in India, where world’s largest election is underway

New Delhi: Indian authorities in the capital have ordered schools shut early for the summer holiday, after temperatures hit 47.4 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) with Delhi gripped by a “severe heatwave.”

Delhi city officials asked schools to shut with “immediate effect” due to the blistering heat, according to a government order quoted by the Hindustan Times Tuesday, cutting short the term by a few days.

India’s weather bureau has warned of “severe heatwave conditions” this week, with the mercury reaching the sizzling peak of 47.4 degrees Celsius in Delhi’s Najafgarh suburb on Monday, the hottest temperature countrywide.

Authorities in other states — including Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan — have also ordered schools close, Indian Today reported.

India is no stranger to searing summer temperatures.

But years of scientific research have found climate change is causing heatwaves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.

The Indian Meteorological Department warned of the impact of the heat on the health especially for infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases.

In May 2022, parts of Delhi hit 49.2 degrees Celsius (120.5 Fahrenheit), Indian media reported at the time.

The next round of voting in India’s six-week-long election takes place on Saturday, including in Delhi.

Turnout in voting has dipped, with analysts suggesting the hotter-than-average weather is a factor — as well as the widespread expectation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will easily win a third term.

India’s election commission has formed a task force to review the impact of heatwaves and humidity before each round of voting.

At the same time, India’s southern states including Tamil Nadu and Kerala have been lashed by heavy rains over the past few days.

Severe storms also hit parts of the country last week, including in the financial capital Mumbai, where strong winds flattened a giant billboard that killed 16 people and left dozens more trapped.


Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

Updated 3 sec ago
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Swiss prosecutors say probing suspected Russian agent

The man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland

GENEVA: Swiss prosecutors said Saturday they were investigating a Russian diplomat and suspected agent alongside two others reported to have tried to procure weapons and other potentially dangerous material.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said it had been conducting an investigation into the two accused people without diplomatic immunity, suspected of violating laws including Switzerland’s War Material Act and Embargo Act.
It confirmed to AFP that its request to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) for authorization to also look into the third man in the case had been granted.
“A national arrest warrant” had been issued, it said.
The Tages-Anzeiger daily reported that the man had been accredited as a diplomat in Bern, who had been under surveillance by Swiss intelligence.
After facing accusations of spying with the aim of procuring dangerous material, he had discretely left Switzerland, the paper said.
After the Swiss foreign ministry confirmed that the man’s diplomatic immunity was lifted when he left the country, and following searches of “several houses,” “the FDJP has now granted ... authorization to prosecute,” the OAG said.
It added that the accused enjoyed the presumption of innocence.
The case comes amid concern over swelling numbers of Russian spies in Switzerland since Moscow’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Swiss lawmakers in May demanded that the government take a harsher stance on Russian spies operating in the country — a center of international activity considered a hub for espionage.
That came after Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) warned last year that the country was among European nations with the highest number of Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover.
FIS chief Christian Dussey suggested then that around a third of the some 220 people accredited as diplomatic or other staff at the Russian mission in Geneva were intelligence service operatives.

Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

Updated 3 min 47 sec ago
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Viral clip shows London police ‘assaulting’ pro-Palestine activist

  • Man punched in head multiple times as group of officers stage arrest
  • Ex-Labour Party staffer condemns ‘level of violence’ seen in footage

LONDON: A video has surfaced online appearing to show a pro-Palestine campaigner being violently arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police.

The clip, which was met with angered reaction across social media, follows a series of policing controversies in the UK capital amid weekly pro-Palestine rallies.

In the video, a man is seen protesting his arrest as he stands next to a convertible bearing a large Palestinian flag and a sign saying: “Free Palestine. Stop Gaza genocide.”

A group of officers drag the man to the ground, punching him in the head as he shouts: “I haven’t done nothing. I haven’t done nothing.”

The clip was filmed in the borough of Tower Hamlets, home to a large Muslim community.

Halima Khan, a former Labour Party staffer who ran as a parliamentary candidate in the UK general election last week, condemned the violence seen in the footage.

“The level of violence by the hands of the London Metropolitan Police in East London, for just waving the flag of Palestine. Are we Britain or are we Israel,” she wrote on X.

Other users responded to Khan’s post, criticizing the Met officers for their conduct. One said: “I am tired of answering that question. Is our police force trained in Israel? The Itamar Ben-Gvir school of policing.”

Another said: “There should be charges against that officer — you can clearly see his rage. That man didn’t do anything.”

The officer in question, who is seen in the clip throwing multiple punches at the activist’s head, was accused by another X user of wanting to cause “maximum damage” as part of a “premeditated” attack.

The Met Police, in an online statement, denied that the man was arrested for having a Palestinian flag.

Superintendent Brittany Clarke said: “We’re aware of the video and commentary online following an incident that took place in Whitechapel Road ... A PCSO (police community support officer) requested urgent assistance from officer colleagues. A man was arrested for assault on police and is in custody at this time.”

Clarke added that the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards is reviewing the footage and body-worn camera videos from the officers involved.

“I can assure local people that we are understanding of their concerns and that we will be working to establish the circumstances,” she said.

The controversy is the latest to beset the Met Police, after the force was accused of using heavy-handed tactics to clamp down on the weekly pro-Palestine rallies that have taken place in London since last October.


Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

Updated 14 min 27 sec ago
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Nepal recovers first body from buses swept away by landslide

  • District official Khimananda Bhusal said: “It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way“
  • Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river

BHARATPUR, Nepal: Nepali rescue teams on Saturday recovered the first body from around 50 people missing after monsoon rains triggered a landslide that swept two buses off a highway and into a river.
The force of Friday’s landslide in central Chitwan district pushed the vehicles over concrete crash barriers and down a steep embankment, at least 30 meters (100 feet) from the road.
“One body has been found about 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the accident site,” police spokesman Kumar Neupane told AFP.
District official Khimananda Bhusal told AFP that roughly 50 people remained unaccounted for, revising down the number of missing from the 63 reported by authorities on Friday.
“It is hard to confirm the total number because we don’t know if the buses stopped to add or remove passengers along the way,” he said.
Dozens of rescuers spent hours struggling to comb the raging Trishuli river with rafts, sensor equipment and dive teams to find any trace of the passengers or the vehicles.
Teams on Saturday also moved downstream in hope of locating the missing passengers.
Fierce currents made worse by this week’s torrential downpours have hampered their efforts so far.
Chitwan district chief Indra Dev Yadav said that all authorities in the area have been instructed to stay on alert for any signs of the missing.
“The river is narrow here and very deep,” he told AFP. “The water level is high, its speed is high and its turbidity is also high.”
The accident happened before dawn on Friday along the Narayanghat-Mugling highway, around 100 kilometers west of Katmandu.
One bus was heading from the capital to Gaur in Rautahat district in southern Nepal, and the other was en route to Katmandu from southern Birgunj.
A driver was killed in a separate accident on the same road after a boulder hit his bus. He died as he was being treated at a hospital.
Deadly crashes are common in the Himalayan republic because of poorly constructed roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.
Nearly 2,400 people lost their lives on Nepal’s roads in the 12 months to April, according to government figures.
Twelve people were killed and 24 injured in an accident in January when a bus heading to Katmandu from Nepalgunj fell into a river.
Road travel becomes deadlier during the annual monsoon season as rains trigger landslides and floods across the mountainous country.
Monsoon rains across South Asia from June to September offer respite from the summer heat and are crucial to replenishing water supplies, but also bring widespread death and destruction.
The rainfall is hard to forecast and varies considerably, but scientists say climate change is making the monsoon stronger and more erratic.
Floods, landslides and lightning strikes have killed 88 people across the country since the monsoon began in June, according to police figures.


Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

Updated 33 min 25 sec ago
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Shelling kills 2 in the Kherson region, as a drone attack sparks fire at oil depot in Russia’s southwest

  • Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region
  • In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District was set ablaze on Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack

KYIV: Russian shelling of Ukraine’s Kherson region killed two people, local officials said, as the two countries exchanged drone attacks overnight into Saturday.
Two others were wounded in the attack close to the regional capital, said Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the partly occupied Kherson region.
In Russia’s southwestern Rostov region, an oil depot in the Tsimlyansky District, deep inside the region, was set ablaze in the early hours of Saturday following a Ukrainian drone attack — the latest long-range strike by Kyiv’s forces on a border region.
Ukraine has in recent months stepped up aerial assaults on Russian soil, targeting refineries and oil terminals in an effort to slow down the Kremlin’s war machine. Moscow’s army is pressing hard along the front line in eastern Ukraine, where a shortage of troops and ammunition in the third year of war has made defenders vulnerable.
Rostov regional Gov. Vasily Golubev said the drone attack had caused a fire spanning 200 square meters (2,100 square feet), but there were no casualties. Some five hours after he reported the fire on Telegram, Golubev said the fire had been extinguished.
In addition to two drones being intercepted over the Rostov region, Russian air defense systems overnight destroyed two drones over the country’s western Kursk and Belgorod regions, the Russian Ministry of Defense said Saturday.
Ukraine’s air defenses, meanwhile, intercepted four of the five drones launched by Russia overnight, the Ukrainian Air Force said Saturday morning. Mykola Oleschuk, commander of Ukraine’s Air Forces, said the fifth drone left Ukrainian airspace in the direction of Belarus.
In other developments, Vadym Filashkin, the Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied eastern Donetsk region, said Saturday that Russian attacks on Friday had killed six people and wounded a further 22.


‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

Updated 54 min 26 sec ago
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‘It’s a mistake,’ Zelensky says of Biden’s Putin mix up

  • “We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters

SHANNON, Ireland: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his UScounterpart Joe Biden accidentally referring to him as Russian President Vladimir Putin was a mistake that could be forgotten about given all the support the US has provided to Ukraine.
Biden mistakenly referred to Zelensky as Putin at a NATO summit in Washington on Thursday before correcting himself two seconds later.
“It’s a mistake. I think United States gave a lot of support for Ukrainians. We can forget some mistakes, I think so,” Zelensky told reporters on Saturday at Ireland’s Shannon airport where he was meeting Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris.