Wednesday 21 March 2018

Flash flooding kills more than 100 in Russia as survivors take to the trees

Intense flooding in the Black Sea region of southern Russia killed 103 people after torrential rains dropped nearly a foot of water, forcing many to scramble out of their beds for refuge in trees and on roofs, officials said yesterday.

Many people were asleep when the flooding hit overnight in the Krasnodar region, and the water rushed into the area around the hard-hit town of Krimsk with such speed and volume that rumours emerged that local officials had opened a nearby water reservoir.

People waded through waist-high water or negotiated the streets in boats yesterday. About 5,000 homes were flooded, said Krasnodar's governor.

Meanwhile, in Britain, torrential downpours battered the south-west, causing life-threatening floods as extraordinary levels of summer rain continued. Devon was worst hit as three severe flood warnings were issued, while a man was killed in Northumberland when his car crashed off a rain-soaked road.

US ranks Afghanistan alongside Israel

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Afghanistan yesterday on a surprise visit and declared that the country would join Israel and Pakistan as a "major non-Nato ally".

Her announcement was designed to reassure Kabul and its neighbours that America would not abandon the country as its troops pull out.

Mrs Clinton stopped in Kabul on her way to an international conference designed to shore up the country's uncertain future. She will join 70 other delegations today at a meeting in Tokyo to promise billions of dollars to keep the precarious Afghan administration running after 2014, when the Nato combat mission is scheduled to end.

Nobel laureate author has dementia

The brother of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez has disclosed that the 85-year-old Nobel laureate is suffering from dementia.

Jaime Garcia Marquez, a civil engineer, told a group of students at a lecture in the Colombian city of Cartagena that his elder brother often telephoned him to ask basic questions.

"He has problems with his memory. Sometimes I cry because I feel like I'm losing him," he said.

The author, who has lived in Mexico City since 1961, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. His most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, has been translated into 37 languages and has sold more than 20 million copies.

Annan admits failure of Syrian plan

Special United Nations envoy Kofi Annan acknowledged in an interview published yesterday that the international community's efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed.

Mr Annan told the French daily Le Monde that more attention needed to be paid to the role of Syria's long-time ally Iran and that countries supporting military actors in the conflict were making the situation worse. "The evidence shows that we have not succeeded," he said.

Police foil attempt to sell fake Picasso

Police in Spain have arrested four people for trying to sell a forged Pablo Picasso oil painting for up to €1.2m.

The canvas, a counterfeit version of a 1964 work called The Bust Of A Young Boy, was accompanied by false authenticity documents bearing the signatures of Paloma, one of the painter's daughters, and a renowned French art expert.

Arrests ahead of Burma anniversary

More than 20 political activists were detained across Burma ahead of a planned commemoration today of the 50th anniversary of a brutal military crackdown on students, fellow activists said.

They said the detentions were proof that the government remained repressive despite the president's widely praised reforms. Kyaw Ko Ko, leader of the All Burma Federation of Students Union, said 23 people were arrested.

Germans willing to forgo some power

Around half of Germans are prepared to give up some national powers to Brussels in the pursuit of a common European Union financial policy, according to a poll by Emnid for the German magazine Focus.

Some 49 per cent of the 1,000 Germans surveyed supported handing over more power to the EU, in line with the closer European fiscal and political union championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Some 44 per cent were opposed.

Voters for the opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party were particularly willing to give up some national competences, according to the poll, while voters for the parties in the ruling coalition were more reluctant.

Iraq suicide bomber kills own family

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged belt at a gathering of his own family in western Iraq, killing his pro-government cousin and six other relatives, officials said.

The blast targeting a leader in the Sahwa militias in the city of Ramadi is a reminder of how extremism still divides Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority, with some working with al-Qaeda-linked insurgents against others who support the Shiite-led government.

The killing is part of a surge in violence six months after the last American troops withdrew from the country. The bomber entered the home of his cousin, the local Sahwa leader, on Friday night as the extended family was gathered for a meal.

Mugabe denies rumours of cancer

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe returned from another trip to Singapore for medical checks yesteday.

Mugabe flew to Singapore on Monday for what his aides said was a routine check-up, reviving speculation about the health of the 88-year-old leader who has denied reports he has cancer.

Sunday Independent

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