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Sunday 25 February 2018

World in brief: Thousands evacuated after 25 people die in floods across Serbia and Bosnia

Press Association

More than 25 people have been killed in the worst floods in more than a century in Serbia and Bosnia, authorities said yesterday, with thousands evacuated from towns still under threat from rising rivers.

The death toll in Bosnia alone reached 19, including nine found yesterday when waters receded from the north-eastern town of Doboj.

Thousands of volunteers joined soldiers, police and fire-fighters in building flood barriers made of sandbags in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and the western town of Sabac.

The River Sava hit its highest-recorded level in Serbia, the army said, rising at a rate of 3cm per hour after days of the heaviest rainfall in almost 120 years.

Authorities in Serbia said they would not give a death toll for Obrenovac, a town of some 30,000 people, until the waters had receded and the extent of the damage was clear. A Reuters photographer said the entire town centre was submerged under two to three metres of water.

More rain is forecast for today.

TURKISH MINING TOWN UNDER LOCKDOWN

Turkish police put the mining town of Soma on virtual lockdown yesterday, setting up checkpoints and detaining people to enforce a ban on protests as rescue efforts following the country's worst industrial disaster ended.

The last two bodies of workers thought still to have been left in the mine were carried out four days after a fire sent deadly carbon monoxide through it. That brought the death toll to 301, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said.

Hundreds of riot police patrolled the streets while others checked identity cards at three checkpoints on the approach road to Soma. The local governor banned protests in response to clashes a day earlier between police and several thousand demonstrators.

Tuesday's disaster has triggered protests across Turkey, aimed at mine owners accused of ignoring safety for profit, and at Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government, seen as too close to industry bosses and insensitive in its response.

JONG-UN'S 'EXECUTED' EX-LOVER RETURNS

A North Korean singer said to be Kim Jong-un's former girlfriend and reported to have been executed by firing squad last year has appeared on state television.

Hyon Song-Wol was shown delivering a speech at a rally of 'art workers' in the capital, Pyongyang, on Friday.

The singer was reported to have been caught up in palace intrigue last summer having incurred the displeasure of Ri Sol-ju, Mr Kim's wife.

The 31-year-old North Korean leader and the performer were said to have been teenage lovers but had been forced to split by Kim Jong-il, Mr Kim's father and predecessor.

In August, Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper with close links to its country's intelligence services, reported that Hyon and 11 other well-known performers had been caught making a sex tape and executed.

But in last week's TV appearance, Hyon expressed gratitude for Mr Kim's leadership and pledged to work harder to "stoke up the flame for art and creative work".

INDIANS HAIL NEXT PRIME MINISTER MODI

Thousands of people welcomed India's next prime minister in the capital after he led his party to a resounding election victory.

Narendra Modi, 63, flashed a victory sign to his supporters in New Delhi and told them that the win "has created a new confidence among people". Mr Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most decisive election victory India has seen in three decades, sweeping the long-dominant Congress party from power.

Mr Modi has marketed himself as the one man capable of waking this nation of 1.2 billion from its economic slumber, while trying to shake off allegations he looked the other way amid communal riots in his home state in 2002 that killed 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

GREEKS TO VOTE DOWN WATER AUTHORITY

WHILE the Euro elections are sceduled for next week, Greece's second largest city, Thessalonika and 10 of the other 13 municipalities in the area, will also hold a "referendum" on whether to privatise their local water authority on Sunday, despite a government warning that it considers the poll to be illegal.

Greece's rickety coalition also faces its first electoral test in local elections today – which the left-wing opposition has billed as a referendum on the country's bailout.

Much has changed in the two years since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' governing conservatives won a slim victory in a parliamentary election.

Greece is projected to return to growth after a nightmare six-year recession slashed a quarter off the economy. But unemployment, although below its cruel peak of nearly 28 per cent, remains very high amid a deep drop in incomes and property prices.

Polls give Alexis Tsipras' opposition Syriza party a small lead over the conservatives ahead of the May 25 European parliamentary elections, in which Tsipras is the European Left's candidate for EU Commission president.

BOMB EXPLODES AT CAIRO ELECTION RALLY

A bomb in Cairo wounded three people at an election event in support of Egyptian presidential frontrunner and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi yesterday.

A man threw the homemade device in the direction of Sisi supporters. At least one of those injured was a policeman. Sisi, who was not present, is expected to trounce all comers in the presidential election on May 26.

MAN DROWNS AT PUERTO RICO BAPTISM

ONE person drowned and two others were rescued during a baptism taking place along Puerto Rico's north coast, authorities said yesterday.

Police said a 25-year-old man died and two women aged 20 and 32 were dragged to safety by good Samaritans after a current carried them away.

The drowning occurred yesterday along a river mouth in the northeast coastal town of Luquillo.

EU 'CANNOT MONITOR' EGYPTIAN ELECTION

The EU will not monitor Egypt's presidential election this month because Cairo has not given permission for it to bring essential security and safety equipment.

The EU had planned to deploy election monitors from late April, with observers stationed throughout Egypt.

It will now only have an "elections assessment team" in the capital, which will have a more limited role in scrutinising the vote.

MILITARY BANS ALL FLIGHTS OVER BENGHAZI

Libya's military yesterday banned flights over the city of Benghazi, a day after troops loyal to a rogue general attacked Islamist militias in violence that killed 36 people.

The north African nation's weak government already described the rogue general's offensive on Friday, which included military air support, as tantamount to a "coup".

The violence again showed how precarious government control remains after the 2011 toppling of Gadaffi.

VISIT BY BIDEN 'IMPORTANT TO CYPRUS'

Turkey's foreign minister says US vice-president Joe Biden's visit to ethnically split Cyprus next week sends an important message of US support for renewed talks aimed at unifying the island.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognised a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Negotiations resumed in February after the two sides agreed on key principles of an envisioned federation.

Press Association

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