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At least 20 die in cold snap across Europe

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483802216906635200

WARSAW: A cold wave across Europe has left at least 20 people dead in the past two days, including several homeless and migrants, authorities said Saturday, with the frigid temperatures expected to continue through the weekend.
Russia meanwhile celebrated the coldest Orthodox Christmas in 120 years, and Istanbul was covered with a blanket of snow.
Ten of the latest victims of the cold perished in Poland where sub-freezing conditions remain with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.
“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the Polish government center for security (RCB).
“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”
In Italy in the past 48 hours the cold has been blamed for seven deaths, including five homeless people, two of them Polish nationals, authorities said.
There was heavy snowfall in central Italy and also in the southeast where the airports at Bari and Brindisi as well as in Sicily were closed Saturday morning.
Temperatures in Moscow fell to minus 30 degrees overnight and to minus 24 in Saint Petersburg where police found the body of a man who had died of hypothermia.
And in Bulgaria on Friday the frozen bodies of two Iraqi migrants were discovered by villagers in a mountain forest in the southeast of the country near the border with Turkey.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.
The winter snow storms reached Turkey, paralyzing its biggest city Istanbul where hundreds of flights were canceled on Saturday. Traffic through the Bosphorus strait was also disrupted.
Greece likewise has seen fierce cold weather this past week. In the north near the Turkish frontier a 20-year-old Afghan migrant died of the cold on Tuesday.
With more than 60,000 mainly Syrian refugees on its territory, Greece has moved many migrants to prefabricated houses and heated tents.
The temperature in Athens on Saturday was zero degrees Celsius and down to minus 15 in the north of the country.
The coldest temperature in Europe so far this winter was recorded on Friday in the Swiss village of La Brevine at minus 29.9 degrees.
That was still much warmer than the village’s record of the coldest temperature ever in Switzerland at minus 41.8 degrees on January 12, 1987.

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18 dead as torrential rains submerge Thai south

Author: 
Lillian Suwanrumpha | AFP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483797636336132600

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand: Heavy rains continued to hammer Thailand’s flood-ravaged south on Saturday, bringing the death toll up to 18 and leaving thousands of villages partially submerged, authorities said.
The flooding, which was roof-high in some areas, has affected nearly one million people in ten southern provinces since it started a week ago, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
At least 18 people have died and one is missing, it added, with the rains turning roads into rivers, inundating farmland and damaging more than 1,500 schools in the region.
The downpour is expected to persist for at least two more days, according to Thailand’s Meteorological Department, which warned of flash floods.
“The situation is very bad today and tomorrow. It’s still raining heavily,” said Junjuda Pornsri, a meterological official.
Military bases across the region have been mobilized to help evacuate flood victims, provide temporary shelters and distribute emergency aid, the government said Saturday.
In hard-hit Nakhon Si Thammarat province, two army helicopters were deployed to airlift food to families trapped inside their homes in Cha-uat district.
Bapha Suthiphanya, a 60-year-old who has spent the past three nights in a makeshift government shelter in the district, said she was forced to evacuate her home after the waters rose above her head.
“I was so shocked and scared. I’ve never seen water like this and I also can not swim,” she told AFP.
The monsoon rains are unusually heavy for this time of year in Thailand, which normally sees a three-month stretch of relatively dry and cool weather starting in November.
It is high season for tourists who flock to the kingdom’s island resorts, powering a crucial sector of the economy.
But the deluge has already disrupted beach holidays in several traveler hotspots, including the popular islands of Samui and Phangan.
Hundreds of tourists have had their flights delayed, while train and bus services on the mainland have also been suspended.
Yet some travelers are refusing to let the storm stop the fun, with photos doing the rounds on social media of tourists coasting through flooded streets on pool floats, sipping drinks.
“Some tourists are enjoying the flooding, they’re taking pictures and going swimming,” said Nongyao Jirundorn, a tourism official on Samui island.
Neighbouring Malaysia was also hit by severe flooding earlier this week, with thousands stranded in relief centers in two northeastern states.
But by Saturday, the number of evacuees in Kelantan and Terengganu had dropped to about 13,500, from almost 23,000 Wednesday, as weather conditions improved and authorities forecast less rainfall over the weekend.
Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Kelantan on Saturday and met with people seeking shelter at a relief center.

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Indian lawmaker arrested for raping minor girl

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483797636376132900

NEW DELHI: Indian police have arrested a lawmaker from northeastern Meghalaya state on charges of raping a 14-year-old trafficked girl, an officer said on Saturday.
Julius Dorphang, a militant commander turned legislator, was arrested in neighboring Guwahati city late Friday after evading police for several days.
“He was arrested last night and has been charged with raping a minor girl and human trafficking,” Vivek Syiem, a police officer in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, told AFP.
The victim has accused the 51-year-old politician of sexually assaulting her twice in December after she was sold to him by traffickers.
The girl told police she was kept at a guesthouse and has accused seven other people, including a guesthouse employee, of trafficking and selling her to the legislator.
The guesthouse is owned by a state minister’s son, according to Syiem.
Dorphang founded a militant group in Meghalaya in 2000 seeking greater rights for two tribal groups, before laying down arms in 2007 and entering politics.
Meghalaya is one of seven northeastern states mired in decades of armed insurgencies ranging from tribal disputes to separation from India.
Traffickers in India lure thousands of vulnerable children from impoverished families on false promises of jobs before selling them off to prostitution rings and domestic or commercial establishments.

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Ivory Coast seeks to defuse troops’ mutiny as unrest spreads

Author: 
Ladji Abou Sanogo with Evelyne Aka in Abidjan | AFP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483799500086351700

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast’s defense minister on Saturday headed to the northern city of Bouake where troops have seized control, firing rocket launchers in the streets in an angry protest over pay.
As the country’s second city, Bouake was the headquarters of an armed rebellion that broke out in 2002 and split Ivory Coast in two until 2011.
The unrest erupted in the early hours of Friday morning with troops demanding hefty pay rises, and the protests quickly spread to other cities, including Man in the west.
“We are going to talk with our men, hear their complaints and find solutions to this situation that is understandable but regrettable,” Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi said in a televised address before his departure.
The rattle of automatic gunfire continued throughout the night, and could still be heard on Saturday morning along with the sound of heavy weapons fire, local residents and an AFP correspondent said.
“We heard shooting all through the night,” one resident told AFP by phone.
Troops had also set up barricades, blocking entry into the city where long queues of vehicles could be seen waiting.
Similar protests erupted in several central and northern towns throughout the day and by Saturday morning, the unrest had also spread to Man, witnesses and a military source said.
“I went out of my house at 7 a.m. when I heard the first shots,” a local resident called Jean told AFP, saying that within an hour, the firing had “intensified.”
“The military is now parading through the streets in vehicles,” he said, with a military source confirming the unrest had hit the city shortly after dawn on Saturday.
The protests had also spread to the central towns of Daloa and Daoukro as well as Korhogo in the north, where angry troops demanded salary hikes although witnesses said they had largely disappeared from the streets by Friday evening.
Speaking to AFP on Friday, a military official said the unrest was spearheaded by former rebel fighters now integrated into the army who were demanding bonuses of five million CFA francs ($8,000, 7,600 euros) each plus a house.

Ready for war
“We are emerging from a crisis and our army is being rebuilt,” the defense minister said in his televised address.
“Things are not moving as quickly as we hoped but they are moving none the less.”
Ahead of the minister’s arrival, troops expressed wariness over his intentions, with one telling AFP, “We believe they are getting ready to do something against us.”
“If he wants to come to negotiate, there won’t be any problems. But if they want to attack us, we are ready for that too,” he added.
President Alassane Ouattara, who is currently in Ghana for the swearing in of the country’s new president, was expected to return to Abidjan, the economic capital, by the end of the day for a cabinet meeting.
Friday’s unrest saw troops breaking in to Bouake’s main weapons depot, arming themselves with rocket-launchers and other weapons mounted on pickup trucks, a military source said.
Troops then attacked all seven police posts, manned strategic junctions and put up barricades in the town center, an AFP correspondent said.

The demand
A similar dispute by rebels-turned-soldiers erupted in Bouake in November 2014 which spread to Abidjan and briefly brought the country to a standstill.
The nearly 9,000 strikers, who joined the army between 2009 and 2011, were demanding full payment of back pay and promotions.
Bouake was the capital of a rebellion which erupted in 2002 in a failed attempt to oust then president Laurent Gbagbo, who remained in power.
The effective partitioning of the country between a rebel-held north and a loyalist south sparked a decade of clashes and crises.
Rebel forces generally backed Ouattara, the current president who took office in April 2011 after a bloody post-electoral showdown which ended with Gbagbo’s arrest.
Gbagbo was turned over to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where his trial began in January last year for crimes against humanity.

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Florida airport shooting suspect had mental health issues, say relatives

Author: 
JASON DEAREN | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788501515454700

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: The man police say opened fire with a gun from his checked baggage at a Florida airport had a history of mental health problems — some of which followed his military service in Iraq — and was receiving psychological treatment at his home in Alaska, his relatives said Friday after the deadly shooting.
“Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good,” his uncle, Hernan Rivera, told The Record newspaper.
Esteban Santiago, 26, deployed in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year with an engineering battalion, according to Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen.
In recent years, Santiago had been living in Anchorage, Alaska, his brother, Bryan Santiago, told The Associated Press from Puerto Rico. Bryan Santiago said his brother’s girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his treatment.
In November, Esteban told FBI agents in Alaska that the government was controlling his mind and was forcing him to watch Daesh group videos, a law enforcement official said. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.
The FBI agents notified the police after the interview with Esteban Santiago, who took him in for a mental health evaluation.
Bryan Santiago said his brother never spoke to him directly about his medical issues.
“We have not talked for the past three weeks,” Bryan Santiago said. “That’s a bit unusual … I’m in shock. He was a serious person … He was a normal person.”
Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2, his brother said. He grew up in the southern coastal town of Penuelas before joining the Guard in 2007.
Since returning from Iraq, Santiago served in the Army Reserves and the Alaska National Guard in Anchorage. He was serving as a combat engineer in the Guard before his discharge for “unsatisfactory performance,” said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a spokeswoman. His military rank upon discharge was E3, private 1st class, and he worked one weekend a month with an additional 15 days of training yearly, Olmstead said.
She would not elaborate on his discharge, but the Pentagon said he went AWOL several times and was demoted and discharged.
Still, he’d had some successes during his military career, being awarded a number of medals and commendations including the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
His uncle and aunt in New Jersey were trying to make sense of what they were hearing about Santiago after his arrest at the Fort Lauderdale airport. FBI agents arrived at their house to question them, and reporters swarmed around.
Maria Ruiz told The Record that her nephew had recently become a father and was struggling.
“It was like he lost his mind,” she said in Spanish of his return from Iraq. “He said he saw things.”
Santiago was flying from Anchorage on a Delta flight and had checked only one piece of luggage, which contained the gun.
Santiago was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016, damaging a door when he forced his way into a bathroom at his girlfriend’s Anchorage home. The woman told officers he yelled at her to leave, strangled her and smacked her on the side of the head, according to charging documents.
A month later municipal prosecutors said he violated the conditions of his release when officers found him at her home during a routine check. He told police he had lived there since he was released from custody the previous month. His Anchorage attorney, Max Holmquist, declined to discuss his client.
Law enforcement officers were at the girlfriend’s home Friday afternoon, and officers guarding the property outside told a reporter who approached the home to step away.
___
Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Rachel D’Oro and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska; and Lolita C. Baldor and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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Florida airport shooting suspect had mental health issues, say relatives

Author: 
JASON DEAREN | AP
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788501515454700

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: The man police say opened fire with a gun from his checked baggage at a Florida airport had a history of mental health problems — some of which followed his military service in Iraq — and was receiving psychological treatment at his home in Alaska, his relatives said Friday after the deadly shooting.
“Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good,” his uncle, Hernan Rivera, told The Record newspaper.
Esteban Santiago, 26, deployed in 2010 as part of the Puerto Rico National Guard, spending a year with an engineering battalion, according to Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Dahlen.
In recent years, Santiago had been living in Anchorage, Alaska, his brother, Bryan Santiago, told The Associated Press from Puerto Rico. Bryan Santiago said his brother’s girlfriend had recently called the family to alert them to his treatment.
In November, Esteban told FBI agents in Alaska that the government was controlling his mind and was forcing him to watch Daesh group videos, a law enforcement official said. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation by name and spoke Friday on condition of anonymity.
The FBI agents notified the police after the interview with Esteban Santiago, who took him in for a mental health evaluation.
Bryan Santiago said his brother never spoke to him directly about his medical issues.
“We have not talked for the past three weeks,” Bryan Santiago said. “That’s a bit unusual … I’m in shock. He was a serious person … He was a normal person.”
Esteban Santiago was born in New Jersey but moved to Puerto Rico when he was 2, his brother said. He grew up in the southern coastal town of Penuelas before joining the Guard in 2007.
Since returning from Iraq, Santiago served in the Army Reserves and the Alaska National Guard in Anchorage. He was serving as a combat engineer in the Guard before his discharge for “unsatisfactory performance,” said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a spokeswoman. His military rank upon discharge was E3, private 1st class, and he worked one weekend a month with an additional 15 days of training yearly, Olmstead said.
She would not elaborate on his discharge, but the Pentagon said he went AWOL several times and was demoted and discharged.
Still, he’d had some successes during his military career, being awarded a number of medals and commendations including the Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
His uncle and aunt in New Jersey were trying to make sense of what they were hearing about Santiago after his arrest at the Fort Lauderdale airport. FBI agents arrived at their house to question them, and reporters swarmed around.
Maria Ruiz told The Record that her nephew had recently become a father and was struggling.
“It was like he lost his mind,” she said in Spanish of his return from Iraq. “He said he saw things.”
Santiago was flying from Anchorage on a Delta flight and had checked only one piece of luggage, which contained the gun.
Santiago was charged in a domestic violence case in January 2016, damaging a door when he forced his way into a bathroom at his girlfriend’s Anchorage home. The woman told officers he yelled at her to leave, strangled her and smacked her on the side of the head, according to charging documents.
A month later municipal prosecutors said he violated the conditions of his release when officers found him at her home during a routine check. He told police he had lived there since he was released from custody the previous month. His Anchorage attorney, Max Holmquist, declined to discuss his client.
Law enforcement officers were at the girlfriend’s home Friday afternoon, and officers guarding the property outside told a reporter who approached the home to step away.
___
Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico; Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Rachel D’Oro and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska; and Lolita C. Baldor and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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Red Cross declares Britain’s health service in a ‘humanitarian crisis’

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788594085458600

LONDON : Britain’s health service is engulfed in a “humanitarian crisis” that requires the support of the Red Cross to use Land Rovers to transport patients, the charity said on Saturday.
Founded in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) is a source of huge pride for many Britons who are able to access care for free from the cradle to the grave.
But tight budgets, an aging population and increasingly complex medical needs have combined in recent years to leave many hospitals struggling during the winter season, sparking headlines about patients being left to wait on trolleys for hours or even days.
In a statement on its website next to appeals for help in Yemen and Syria, the British Red Cross said it was now “on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.”
“This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving,” said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross.
The NHS has always been an emotive issue in Britain — one of the richest countries in the world — and was once described by a former finance minister as the “closest thing the English have to a religion.”
In recent years charities and opposition politicians have warned that government cuts to social care have resulted in more elderly and vulnerable patients being treated in hospital rather than at home, putting a huge burden on the service.
The Red Cross said it was working alongside the health service to support people in their homes to free up beds.
“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them,” Adamson said.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said plans were in place to cope with increased pressure during the winter and that beds were not as full as this time last year.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Red Cross declares Britain’s health service in a ‘humanitarian crisis’

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483788594085458600

LONDON : Britain’s health service is engulfed in a “humanitarian crisis” that requires the support of the Red Cross to use Land Rovers to transport patients, the charity said on Saturday.
Founded in 1948, the National Health Service (NHS) is a source of huge pride for many Britons who are able to access care for free from the cradle to the grave.
But tight budgets, an aging population and increasingly complex medical needs have combined in recent years to leave many hospitals struggling during the winter season, sparking headlines about patients being left to wait on trolleys for hours or even days.
In a statement on its website next to appeals for help in Yemen and Syria, the British Red Cross said it was now “on the front line, responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country.”
“This means deploying our team of emergency volunteers and even calling on our partner Land Rover to lend vehicles to transport patients and get the system moving,” said Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross.
The NHS has always been an emotive issue in Britain — one of the richest countries in the world — and was once described by a former finance minister as the “closest thing the English have to a religion.”
In recent years charities and opposition politicians have warned that government cuts to social care have resulted in more elderly and vulnerable patients being treated in hospital rather than at home, putting a huge burden on the service.
The Red Cross said it was working alongside the health service to support people in their homes to free up beds.
“We’ve seen people sent home without clothes, some suffer falls and are not found for days, while others are not washed because there is no carer there to help them,” Adamson said.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said plans were in place to cope with increased pressure during the winter and that beds were not as full as this time last year.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Cold snap kills 10 in Poland in two days

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931345255500

WARSAW: Ten people have died in two days in Poland in a snap cold wave that is expected to continue this weekend, the authorities said Saturday.
“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the government center for security (RCB).
“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”
The cold snap saw temperatures plunge to well under freezing conditions in some regions, with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.
Police have asked people to aid those risking hypothermia, especially the homeless.
The last winter in Poland was unusually mild but claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.
mc/ach/jm

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No Image

Cold snap kills 10 in Poland in two days

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-01-07
ID: 
1483785931345255500

WARSAW: Ten people have died in two days in Poland in a snap cold wave that is expected to continue this weekend, the authorities said Saturday.
“Seven people died on Friday in what was the deadliest day this winter,” said spokeswoman Bozena Wysocka from the government center for security (RCB).
“We recorded three other victims the previous day,” she said. “This takes to 53 the number of hypothermia victims since November 1.”
The cold snap saw temperatures plunge to well under freezing conditions in some regions, with minus 14 degrees Celsius (seven degrees Fahrenheit) forecast on Saturday.
Authorities expect the toll to rise as weather conditions are set to remain unchanged this weekend.
Police have asked people to aid those risking hypothermia, especially the homeless.
The last winter in Poland was unusually mild but claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.
mc/ach/jm

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