Arctic eclipse alert: Hotels full, it’s cold and polar bears prowl

Updated 13 March 2015

Arctic eclipse alert: Hotels full, it’s cold and polar bears prowl

OSLO: The Norwegian Arctic islands of Svalbard are discouraging last-minute visitors for a rare solar eclipse next week, warning that hotels are full, it will be freezing cold and polar bears are on the prowl.
Christin Kristoffersen, mayor of Svalbard's main settlement Longyearbyen, told Reuters an expected 1,500 visitors for the eclipse, on top of about 2,500 residents, meant the usually welcoming archipelago had reached a maximum safe limit.
"Safety comes first, even before the eclipse," she said. "We need to take care of people. It's terribly cold in March and we have the challenge with polar bears."
A bear killed a British teenager on Svalbard in 2011, the most recent fatality. On average, three bears a year are shot by people in self-defence on Svalbard.
A total eclipse, when the moon blocks the sun and its shadow falls on the Earth, will sweep across the Atlantic on March 20 but from land will only be visible from Svalbard and the Faroe Islands.
A partial eclipse will be seen in north Africa, Europe and north Asia. In London, for instance, 84 percent of the sun will be covered by the moon.
Hotels in both Svalbard and the Faroe Islands have been booked for years although the Faroe Islands still has some places to stay, including private homes.
In the best of cases, with clear skies, the northern lights may also be visible during the morning eclipse.
Skies on Friday are likely to be partly cloudy with a temperature of -17 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) in Longyearbyen and 3 Celsius (37) in Torshavn, the capital of the Faroes, the Norwegian Meteorological Institute indicates.
The Faroe Islands, a self-governing nation within Denmark, expects 8,000 visitors to swell its population of about 50,000, said Torstein Christiansen, tourism and business manager of Visit Torshavn.
It will be the first total eclipse on the islands since 1954, with the next expected in 2245.
Faroese camping sites, which usually only open in May, will open early for hardy visitors. "And we don't have polar bears," Christiansen said.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 58 min 7 sec ago

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.