Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs Wins First Post-Bolt Olympic 100m Gold

 

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs outshone a field of unusual suspects to claim a shock Olympic gold in the men’s 100 metres on Sunday, breaking retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event.

Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major championship 100m races of recent times.

Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat in 9.89sec.

The athletes were introduced in a dramatic light show — the stadium floodlights were shut off and 12 projectors cast 3D images of the world, zooming in to the Tokyo skyline, and then the name of each sprinter.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke Storms Into 100m Final At #Tokyo2020

The lights came back on, swiftly followed by a horrendous false start for Zharnel Hughes in lane four, the Anguilla-born Briton not even bothering to question his disqualification.

Dressed in light blue singlet and lycra shorts, the US-born Jacobs, in lane three, made a good start, held his nerve through the drive phase, and powered through to the line.

Jacobs joyously ran into the arms of Italian teammate Gianmarco Tamberi, who had just shared gold in the men’s high jump and was waiting at the finish line.

The race, run in stifling temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), had a distinctly underwhelming build-up and feel to it as hot favourite Trayvon Bromell bombed out of the semi-finals in which China’s Su Bingtian and Jacobs unexpectedly set Asian and European records respectively.

The Tokyo Olympics are the first since Athens in 2004 to take place without Bolt, who went on to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, as well as three straight 200m crowns.

And for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, there was no Jamaican in the final, Bolt’s long-time former teammate Yohan Blake failing to qualify from his semi-final.

The field was instead filled with a raft of relatively unknown sprinters, with Jacobs’ main claim to fame a European 60m indoor title earlier this year.

The 100m in Tokyo, and the circus around it, has arguably been a pale imitation of Bolt’s glory years during which the charismatic Jamaican not only dominated the sprints but also captivated a truly global audience.

While the spectacle that Bolt brought to the blue riband event has been missing since his retirement in 2017, so also has been the emergence of a new generation of sprinting hopes.

Many have been lauded as the athlete to fill Bolt’s spikes, but no one has yet lived up to the considerable weight of expectation.

Added to that, the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Tokyo had no cheering fans because of coronavirus restrictions in the Japanese capital.

Instead, there were sparse pockets of athletes and team officials who did their best to create something of an atmosphere at what is normally one of the most widely anticipated events of the entire Games, commanding a huge worldwide television audience.

AFP

Olympic Athletes Infected As Covid Travel Woe Hits Europe

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Two athletes became the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said Sunday, as new border rules in Europe caused last-minute travel frustration.

Less than a week before the Olympics is due to begin, the cases will heighten concerns over the event.

Organisers have described the Games as the world’s “most restrictive sports event”, but it faces opposition in Japan over fears it will bring new infections to a country already battling a surge.

A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the village.

Britain is also facing a backlash over its decision to exclude France from its new looser entry policies — vaccinated returning UK residents will still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike in other “amber” countries.

“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense,” said Maud Lemoine, a London-based doctor who is visiting France.

And France’s government drew ire after announcing that unvaccinated visitors from Britain and several other European countries must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure rather than 48 or 72 hours, as was the case previously.

The interior ministry said almost 114,000 demonstrators gathered across France on Saturday to protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic and continued restrictions on everyday life.

“It’s not that we think the Earth is flat, but we don’t know the long-term effects of these vaccines cobbled together in a hurry,” care assistant Rita, 39, said at a march in the city of Montpellier.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greek officials imposed curfews on the party island of Mykonos and Spanish authorities did likewise in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.

EU jabs overtake US

European governments are facing an uphill battle, with the EU’s disease prevention agency warning that infections could rise fivefold across the bloc by August 1.

But the continent also had something to celebrate, with the proportion of people vaccinated topping the US figure for the first time.

Around 55.5 percent have now had a first dose following a sluggish start, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said the achievement validated the EU’s strategy of “remaining open and exporting half of our production to 100+ countries”, vaunting the bloc’s “solidarity” compared with other vaccine makers.

And in Britain, where most of the adult population has now had two jabs, the government is preparing to ease most restrictions.

Quarantine for vaccinated Britons returning from “amber” list countries is due to end on Monday but at the last minute the government decided to retain the status quo for France because of the “persistent presence” of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

While the rule applies only to England for now, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales indicated they were likely to follow suit.

The new looser regime in England, with mask requirements among the rules to be dropped, comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 cases in a day on Friday and the government said that rate could double in the coming weeks.

However, officials said the high vaccination rate should prevent a spike in deaths and serious illness.

Hajj joy

Among those testing positive was Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the disease and was isolating.

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine. And so far, my symptoms are very mild,” Javid said via Twitter.

With cases surging, critics say the reopening is a reckless gamble.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world — particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement on Friday.

One poorer country experiencing an infection surge is Senegal, whose national bus operator announced Saturday it would suspend intercity transport.

The announcement comes after the country of 16 million logged a record — 1,366 — of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, almost double the daily record of 733 set on Wednesday.

A new single-day record was also set in Thailand, which had more than 11,300 new infections Sunday, bringing the kingdom’s cumulative cases to more than 400,000. Saturday also saw the single-day death toll reach 141 — a new high.

Three more provinces will be placed under severe restrictions — including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five — that already cover Bangkok and the southern provinces.

Saudi Arabia is allowing crowds to gather for the second downsized hajj since the start of the pandemic.

The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part — a fraction of the pre-pandemic number — as it seeks to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.

Among the chosen ones this year was Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor who was picked for the ritual along with his wife and three adult children.

“We are overjoyed,” said Ameen. “So many of our friends and relatives were rejected.”

At Least 23 Killed In Landslide, Wall Collapse In India Monsoon Rains

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021. Sujit Jaiswal / AFP
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and other rescue team personnel inspect the site of the landslide in a slum area where 18 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai on July 18, 2021.
Sujit Jaiswal / AFP

At least 23 people were killed after several homes were crushed by a collapsed wall and a landslide triggered by heavy monsoon rains in India’s financial capital Mumbai, authorities said Sunday.

A falling tree demolished a wall in the eastern suburb of Chembur during Sunday’s early hours, burying nearby residents, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said.

Seventeen bodies had been recovered from the rubble, it added. Rescuers were searching the scene for more survivors and bodies.

And in the suburb of Vikhroli in the city’s northeast, six people were killed after a landslide hit five homes early Sunday, the NDRF added.

Building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon season, with old and rickety structures buckling under days of non-stop rain.

Mumbai, home to 20 million people, has been hit by downpours since Saturday, with local transport services affected.

The Indian Meteorological Department said early Sunday that “moderate to heavy rain or thundershowers” were forecast for the next two days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and added that there would be financial compensation for victims’ families.

Last month, 12 people were killed when a building collapsed in a Mumbai slum.

In September, 39 people died when a three-storey apartment block collapsed in Bhiwandi near Mumbai.

AFP

Zuma Graft Trial To Resume Despite Deadly South Africa Protests

 

Former South African President Jacob Zuma arrives ahead of his corruption trial at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on May 26, 2021. PHILL MAGAKOE / POOL / AFP

 

The dragging corruption trial of South Africa’s jailed ex-president Jacob Zuma resumes on Monday despite deadly violence that swept the nation after his imprisonment in an unrelated case.

Zuma faces 16 charges of fraud, graft, and racketeering related to a 1999 purchase of fighter jets, patrol boats, and military gear from five European arms firms when he was South Africa’s deputy president.

He is accused of pocketing four million rand ($277,000) in bribes from one of the firms, French defence giant Thales, which has been charged with corruption and money laundering.

The trial started in May after numerous postponements and delays, as Zuma’s legal team worked fervently to have the charges dropped.

The 79-year-old Zuma appeared in person for the opening and said he was innocent.

Thales also pleaded not guilty, and the next hearing was set for July 19.

But things took a nasty turn when on June 29, Zuma was found guilty of contempt of South Africa’s top court for snubbing graft investigators probing his tenure as president. He was jailed a week later.

The incarceration sparked protests in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), which snowballed into a week of deadly outbreak of looting and arson that spread to the economic hub Johannesburg, claiming over 200 lives.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to office promising to curb graft, said the riots were a “coordinated and well-planned attack” on the country’s young democracy.

“Using the pretext of a political grievance, those behind these acts have sought to provoke a popular insurrection,” Ramaphosa said on Friday night.

Monday’s hearing could reignite tensions that had eased late last week, analysts warn.

Stability at stake

“People will be watching the behaviour of judges,” said Sipho Seepe, a fellow of the University of Zululand in KZN.

“If they feel justice is not done, they will protest,” he said.

Monday’s hearing will focus on an application by Zuma’s legal team to recuse chief prosecutor Billy Downer for allegedly leaking information to the media.

“We will argue vigorously for the application to be dismissed,” National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga told AFP.

The trial will be heard virtually to “avoid disruption”, said Mhaga.

Zuma and his supporters have repeatedly decried all these probes as politically motivated and warned his jailing would spark unrest.

But they deny being behind the recent turmoil.

Carl Niehaus, a close friend of Zuma, told reporters this week that there was no “coordinated campaign to lead to looting and violence”.

“There is however an uprising of people who are deeply concerned and angered by [his] imprisonment.”

‘Ride the storm’

Zuma, once dubbed the “Teflon president”, is meanwhile seeking to reverse his 15-month jail sentence.

He was arrested for disobeying a Constitutional Court order to testify before a judicial panel probing the plunder of state coffers during his nine-year rule.

Most of the transgressions investigated by the commission involve three brothers from a wealthy Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative government contracts and were allegedly allowed to choose cabinet ministers.

Zuma only testified once in July 2019.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party forced Zuma — who is a member of the country’s dominant Zulu ethnic group — to resign in 2018 after mounting graft scandals.

But Zuma has retained a fervent support base within the ANC and among the general public, viewed by many as a “people’s man” and a defender of the poor.

Ralph Mathekga, author of “When Zuma Goes”, says judges in the graft case will not bow to “political pressure”.

“Not prosecuting Mr Zuma will have serious implications for the rule of law,” he told AFP. “The judiciary is going to have to ride the storm.”

AFP

Djokovic Wins Record-Equalling 20th Grand Slam And Sixth Wimbledon Title

Serbia's Novak Djokovic speaks as he holds the winner's trophy after beating Italy's Matteo Berrettini during their men's singles final match on the thirteenth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic speaks as he holds the winner’s trophy after beating Italy’s Matteo Berrettini during their men’s singles final match on the thirteenth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 11, 2021.
Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title and sixth Wimbledon on Sunday with a four-set victory over Italian slugger Matteo Berrettini with rival superstar Roger Federer hailing the achievement as a “wonderful performance”.

The world number one triumphed 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to move level on 20 majors with Federer and Rafael Nadal.

His win also put him three-quarters of the way to the first calendar Grand Slam of all four majors since 1969.

“I could definitely envisage that happening and I hope I will give it a shot. I’m in great form and played well and having my best form at Grand Slams is my number one priority,” said Djokovic.

A sixth victory at the All England Club for Djokovic, who was playing in his 30th final at the Slams, added to his nine Australian Opens, two Roland Garros titles as well as three at the US Open.

Should he win a fourth title in New York in September, he will become just the third man in history after Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) to complete the calendar Grand Slam.

“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini.

Of sharing the record with Federer and Nadal, he said: “It means none of us three will stop. Roger and Rafa are legends, they are the reason I am where I am today.

“They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger, physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”

Federer — who bowed out in the quarter-finals while Nadal did not play — tweeted his congratulations.

“Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” said Federer, an eight-time champion at Wimbledon.

Federer praise

“I’m proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done.”

Djokovic also now has 85 career titles while he has become the first man to break the $150 million prize money barrier.

A gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics could give him the first ever Golden Grand Slam by a male player.

“Novak is a great champion, he is writing history on this court,” said Berrettini.

Djokovic overcame a nervy start to break for 3-1, which he stretched to 5-2.

He even had a set point in a marathon eighth game which the Italian saved after eight deuces.

Reinvigorated, he broke Djokovic when he served for the set and then dominated the tiebreaker which he sealed with his fourth ace of the contest.

The top seed stormed to a 5-1 lead in the second set on the back of a double break.

Berrettini, bidding to be Italy’s first men’s Grand Slam winner since Adriano Panatta at the 1976 French Open, clawed his way back to 4-5, saving three set points, but Djokovic this time served it out for a set apiece.

Djokovic struck first again for a 2-1 lead in the third set and fought off three break points in the sixth game, a show of defiance which brought watching Hollywood star Tom Cruise to his feet.

That was Berrettini’s last chance of the set as Djokovic served it out in the 10th game.

A weary Berrettini then served up a double fault on break point to hand Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.

Djokovic kept coming, sprinting from the back of the court to pull off a wondrous pick-up and he held on for 5-3.

Berrettini, hoping to be Italy’s first singles champion at Wimbledon, saved two championship points in the eighth game.

But he was powerless on the third as Djokovic swept to his place in history.

“It is not the end, it is the beginning for me,” said Berrettini.

“Without my family, friends, and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”

AFP

‘Experience Of A Lifetime’: Billionaire Branson Achieves Space Dream

Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the "experience of a lifetime" -- and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021. AFP
Sir Richard Branson speaks on stage with other crew members, after they flew into space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism at Spaceport America, near Truth and Consequences, New Mexico on July 11, 2021.

 

British billionaire Richard Branson flew into space Sunday aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel, a voyage he described as the “experience of a lifetime” — and one he hopes will usher in an era of lucrative space tourism.

“Congratulations to all our wonderful team at Virgin Galactic for 17 years of hard, hard work to get us this far,” he said during a live feed as the VSS Unity spaceship glided back to Spaceport America in New Mexico.

It reached a peak altitude of around 53 miles (85 kilometers) — beyond the boundary of space, according to the United States — allowing the passengers to experience weightlessness and admire the Earth’s curvature.

The trip proceeded without drama, and touchdown occurred at around 9:40 am Mountain Time (1540 GMT), about an hour after take-off.

The mission’s success means Branson has beaten fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos in the race to be the first tycoon to cross the final frontier in a ship built by a company he founded.

Earlier, a massive carrier plane took off and ascended to 50,000 feet before dropping VSS Unity to complete the rest of the flight using its rocket-powered engine.

The spaceplane carried two pilots and four passengers, including Branson.

The ship then re-entered the atmosphere, lowered its flexible wings and glided back to the runway.

A smiling Branson hugged loved ones after the trip.

“It’s a beautiful day to go to space,” the brash Brit wrote in a tweet earlier where he posted a video of himself biking to the base and meeting with his crewmates, all Virgin employees.

He also posted a picture of himself standing in a kitchen with SpaceX boss Elon Musk, who’d come to show his support.

Several tourists journeyed to the International Space Station in the 2000s, but on Russian rockets.

Branson’s official role is to evaluate the private astronaut experience to enhance the journey for future clients.

Space base

Branson, who founded the Virgin Group that today has interests in everything from commercial aviation to fitness centers, is known for his appetite for adventure and has set world records in hot air ballooning and boating.

“As a child, I wanted to go to space,” the 70-year-old wrote a few days ahead of his trip.

He founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, but the dream almost came to an end in 2014 when an in-flight accident caused the death of a pilot, considerably delaying the program.

Since then, VSS Unity has successfully reached space three times, in 2018, 2019 — which included the first crew member who wasn’t a pilot — and finally in May this year.

Sunday’s flight left from Spaceport America, a huge base built in the Jornada del Muerto desert, around 20 miles southeast of the nearest town, Truth or Consequences.

Financed largely by the state of New Mexico, Virgin Galactic is the principal tenant.

Paying passengers in 2022?

After Sunday, Virgin Galactic plans two further flights, and then the start of regular commercial operations from early 2022. The ultimate goal is to conduct 400 flights per year.

Some 600 tickets have already been sold to people from 60 different countries — including Hollywood celebrities — for prices ranging from $200,000 to $250,000.

And though, according to Branson, “space belongs to us all,” the opportunity for now remains the preserve of the privileged.

“When we return, I will announce something very exciting to give more people the chance to become an astronaut,” he promised.

The competition in the space tourism sector, whose imminent rise has been announced for years, has come to a head this month.

Bezos, the richest person in the world, is due to fly on July 20 on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket.

Blue Origin posted an infographic Friday boasting the ways in which the experience it offers is superior.

The principal point: New Shepard climbs up to more than 60 miles in altitude, thus exceeding what is called the Karman line, the frontier of space according to international convention.

Bezos himself wished Branson “best of luck” in an Instagram post.

AFP

Separatist Rebels Kill Three Gendarmes In Cameroon

his photo taken on June 16, 2017 in Bamenda shows a hotel destroyed by a fire, allegedly attributed to a radical separatist movement demanding the independence of the anglophone region from the rest of francophone Cameroon. REINNIER KAZE / AFP
his photo taken on June 16, 2017, in Bamenda shows a hotel destroyed by a fire, allegedly attributed to a radical separatist movement demanding the independence of the anglophone region from the rest of francophone Cameroon. REINNIER KAZE / AFP.

 

Three gendarmes were killed by Anglophone separatist rebels in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, the latest deaths in a bloody four-year conflict, a perfectly told AFP on Sunday.

The attack on Saturday follows the murders of two soldiers and an official in the neighbouring Southwest region in two separate incidents.

Five other officials also kidnapped in one of those attacks were still missing on Sunday.

“Three gendarmes who were at their checkpoint were attacked and killed” by separatists, Ngoketunjia county prefect Quetong Handerson Kongeh told AFP, adding that two of the three killed had been decapitated. A fourth managed to escape.

He said a large number of rebels overwhelmed the gendarmes who “could not defend themselves”.

A bitter independence struggle by English-speaking rebels has been raging in Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions since 2017.

Members of the anglophone minority in the country’s westernmost provinces have long complained of being marginalised by the French-speaking majority and 88-year-old President Paul Biya, in power for 38 years.

From 2017, their demonstrations devolved into a bloody conflict.

The rebels have extended their violent attacks against police and soldiers to civilians.

UN and international aid groups say both army troops and anglophone rebels have committed abuses and crimes against civilians.

In the past four years, more than 3,500 people have been killed and over 700,000 have fled their homes to escape the conflict.

Australia Deputy PM Loses Job In Government Climate Split

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney on July 5, 2016.
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce addresses a press conference in Sydney on July 5, 2016.

 

A climate change revolt in Australia’s governing coalition on Monday brought in a new deputy prime minister likely to challenge the country’s already hesitant moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Barnaby Joyce, best known internationally for threatening to euthanise Johnny Depp’s dogs, defeated incumbent Michael McCormack in a snap internal party vote, elevating him to the role of deputy PM.

The vote for the leadership of junior coalition partner the Nationals came as apparent cracks emerged in the ruling coalition over climate change policy.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told G7 leaders last week that Australia wants to achieve net-zero carbon emissions “as soon as possible”, and preferably by 2050.

McCormack had reportedly been accused by party colleagues of failing to push back against such accelerated climate action, a charged topic among the Nationals’ rural conservative voters.

READ ALSO: Nine Children Among 10 Killed In Storm-Hit Alabama Crash

On Monday, Joyce dodged questions on whether he would support Australia taking a net-zero by 2050 target to November’s UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow.

But he echoed conservative talking points that strong climate change action posed a threat to Australia’s commodity-dependent economy.

“If the National Party room believes that the best deal for regional Australia is to make sure that we secure their jobs, is to make sure that we secure their industries… that’s the view that I’ll support,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Joyce previously held the Nationals’ leadership but stepped down in a 2018 scandal when it was revealed the married father-of-four had an affair with a young adviser and she was pregnant.

He was also accused of sexual harassment by a prominent rural woman but an internal investigation failed to reach a conclusive verdict.

Joyce called the allegations “spurious and defamatory”, adding that after three years on the backbench he hoped to “be a better person to do a better job”.

He gained international notoriety after threatening to put down Hollywood star Johnny Depp’s two Yorkshire Terriers over a quarantine violation in 2015.

Morrison congratulated Joyce on his elevated role, saying in a statement that they shared a “passion for ensuring our regions and rural communities thrive”.

Nine Children Among 10 Killed In Storm-Hit Alabama Crash

Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead - 9 children and one adult.
Drone image shows aftermath of a deadly crash of 18 vehicles on interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, on Sunday June 20, 2021, leaving 10 dead – 9 children and one adult.

 

 

Nine children and an adult were killed in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on an Alabama highway as heavy storms lashed the southeastern US, authorities said Sunday.

Saturday’s crash on an interstate highway near the city of Greenville involved at least 15 vehicles and was “probably” caused by hydroplaning under torrential rains, Butler County coroner Wayne Garlock told AFP.

Storm Claudette dumped up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain in the Gulf Coast region Saturday. It was blamed for at least two other deaths.

The dead in the crash included a father and his nine-month-old daughter in an SUV, and eight occupants of a van — aged four to 17 — from a “girls ranch” for neglected and abused children, local media reported.

“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” Sheriff Danny Bond told the al.com website.

He said at least two of the vehicles involved were 18-wheel trucks, and that four or five other people had suffered nonfatal injuries.

The driver of the van was pulled out alive by a bystander, witnesses said. The bystander then tried to help the children but was prevented by a fierce fire engulfing the vehicle, Garlock said.

The van driver was identified as Candice Gully, director of the girls farm in Tallapoosa County, an official with the state ranch system told al.com.

‘Suffered a great loss’

The SUV driver was identified as Cody Fox, 29, an emergency management worker from Tennessee. His fiancee was injured in the wreck.

Garlock said the crash scene was in an area notorious for hydroplaning as Interstate 65 curves down a steep hill.

Northbound and southbound traffic on the busy highway was halted for hours by the accident, but both had reopened by Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said on Twitter.

The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch said it was providing grief counselors for children there.

“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss… Please send prayers our way,” the ranch’s account said on Twitter.

The van in the accident was one of two bringing children back from a weeklong beach outing to nearby Gulf Shores, al.com reported. The other van was unscathed.

Storm Claudette, later downgraded to a tropical depression, has dumped heavy rain across the southeastern US.

The Tuscaloosa News said two people died — a 24-year-old man and his three-year-old son — when a tree fell on their house.

Claudette is forecast to return to tropical storm status on Monday over eastern North Carolina, before weakening again by Tuesday.

The system has washed out roads, trapped motorists in their cars, and flooded residential areas in the region, and the National Hurricane Center warned that further flooding was likely.

Millions Of Dollars Lost As Elephants On Tour Wreak Havoc In China

UNMING, June 1, 2021 (Xinhua) -- Aerial photo taken on May 28, 2021 shows the herd of wandering wild Asian elephants in Eshan County, Yuxi City, southwest China's Yunnan Province. (Xinhua/Hu Chao) Hu Chao / XINHUA / Xinhua via AFP
June 1, 2021 (Xinhua) — Aerial photo taken on May 28, 2021 shows the herd of wandering wild Asian elephants in Eshan County, Yuxi City, southwest China’s Yunnan Province. (Hu Chao/AFP)

 

A herd of 15 wandering elephants on an epic trek through southwestern China have entered villages to gorge on crops, broken into barns, and caused a million dollars of losses.

Over the past week, the animals drained a water tank, helped themselves to a cornfield, and guzzled supplies after crashing into a barn, state broadcaster CCTV said.

It is unclear why the wild Asian elephants, a protected species in China, strayed from the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Yunnan province.

Their destination so far is unknown as well.

READ ALSO: China Confirms First Human Case Of Bird Flu Strain

But since April, the large animals have embarked on a 500km journey, closely monitored by residents and authorities, with hundreds of people mobilised to ensure public safety.

On Tuesday, Yunnan authorities said the herd was in a city just 20km from its provincial capital where millions live.

Experts believe the leader of the group might have led it astray, adding that it is rare for them to trek so far.

Since mid-April, the elephants have wrecked around 56 hectares of crops, causing an estimated 6.8 million yuan ($1.07 million) in losses, CCTV said.

No casualties have been reported so far, with locals attempting to guide the animals with food and by blocking roads with trucks.

The wild elephant population in Yunnan is around 300, up from 193 in the 1980s, reported Xinhua.

But there have been more reports of such elephants wandering into villages and harming crops in recent years, with the plants they usually eat gradually replaced by non-edible varieties amid forest expansion, said, local officials.

AFP

Norwich City Promoted To The Premier League

Photo: @NorwichCityFC

 

Norwich City were promoted to the Premier League despite a 3-1 defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday as draws for Swansea and Brentford sent the Championship leaders back into the top-flight.

Daniel Farke’s side have dominated the second tier with 27 wins from their 42 games so far, earning an immediate return to the Premier League following last season’s relegation.

The Canaries suffered just a sixth defeat of the season after Dimitrios Giannoulis’s red card after just 17 minutes at Carrow Road.

Emi Buendia had already opened the scoring for the hosts before the sending-off, but Bournemouth made the most of their man advantage to consolidate their place in the playoff places.

Second-half goals from Sam Surridge, Arnaut Danjuma and Lloyd Kelly moved the fifth-placed Cherries to within eight points of Watford in the second automatic promotion place.

“It’s massive. It’s not an easy task when you get relegated to bounce straight back and today we’ve managed to do that,” Norwich midfielder Todd Cantwell said.

“It’s disappointing this evening. A controversial decision and some controversial goals but we can go home smiling knowing we’re going up.”

Norwich’s promotion was guaranteed after third-placed Swansea were held to a 2-2 draw by bottom of the table Wycombe, while fourth-placed Brentford drew 0-0 with Millwall.

Farke’s men are 14 points clear of Swansea, who have four games left, and 16 ahead of Brentford, who have five matches left.

They are also eight points clear of Watford, who lost 1-0 at local rivals Luton on Saturday.

Swansea were forced to claw their way back from two goals down against bottom-of-the-table Wycombe to keep alive their slim hopes of challenging Watford for automatic promotion.

Steve Cooper’s side were able to cut the gap between second and third to six points thanks to their dramatic draw.

Admiral Muskwe put Wycombe ahead 19 seconds into the second half at the Liberty Stadium when he lashed a lay-off from Uche Ikpeazu past Freddie Woodman from the edge of the area.

Five minutes later they doubled their lead, Garath McCleary fired into the bottom corner to double Wycombe’s lead.

But Jason McCarthy conceded a penalty for handball in the 80th minute and Jamal Lowe scored his fourth goal in three games.

Swansea substitute Liam Cullen headed home a Connor Roberts cross with eight minutes remaining.

COVID Death Toll Passes Three Million As India Cases Surge

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container before its cremation at the El Angel crematorium, in Lima. – The new coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 lives worldwide, an AFP tally showed July 18. (Photo by Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP)

 

 

The global COVID-19 death toll passed three million on Saturday as the pandemic speeds up despite vaccination campaigns, leading countries like India to impose new lockdowns to fight spiralling infection numbers.

It is the latest grim milestone since the novel coronavirus first surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.

An average of more than 12,000 deaths were recorded globally every day in the past week, shooting the overall toll past three million on Saturday, according to an AFP tally.

For comparison, three million people is more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia — and three times the death toll of the Iran-Iraq war, which raged from 1980-1988.

And the pandemic is showing no sign of slowing down: the 829,596 new infections reported worldwide on Friday is the highest number yet, according to AFP’s tally.

The daily average of 731,000 cases registered over the last week is also close to being a record.

India’s capital New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as the world’s second-most populous nation recorded 234,000 new cases and 1,341 deaths.

– South Asian ‘wake-up call’ –
India now has three times the daily cases of the United States, the world’s worst-hit nation, and families are clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Some doctors say they are alarmed at how many young people are now getting seriously ill — like Raj Karan, who got sick while campaigning for elections in the northern city of Luckno.

The 38-year-old died soon after.

“I am devastated… I could only see him via a video call,” his friend Ajay Singh Yadav, told AFP.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have seen the worst of the pandemic have been dashed, with India recording over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing new shutdowns.

Udaya Regmi of the International Red Cross said the “truly frightening” South Asian surge was a “wake-up call to the world”.

Richer countries that have waged mass inoculation efforts have seen their virus numbers plummet.

Britain, which has given 60 percent of the population at least one vaccination dose, now records around 30 deaths a day — down from 1,200 in late January.

Olympic fears

Thailand recorded its fourth consecutive day of more than 1,000 new cases on Saturday, its spiralling infections linked to a nightlife district of the capital Bangkok earlier this month.

Alcohol sales will be banned in Bangkok restaurants from Sunday, while entertainment venues will be shuttered nationwide for two weeks.

In Japan, rising virus cases have stoked speculation that the Olympic Games — postponed last year due to the pandemic — could be cancelled.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first meeting with US President Joe Biden, said his government was listening to experts and doing its “utmost” to prepare for the Tokyo games in July.

The virus continues to hit events around the world.

On Saturday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II bid farewell to her husband, Prince Philip, coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people could attend his funeral.

Family members — all masked — sat socially distanced in the church, with bottles of hand sanitiser placed among the floral tributes inside.

In Brazil, the country with the third-highest death toll in the world, night shifts have been added to several cemeteries as diggers work around the clock to bury the dead.

“We try not to get upset in our work, but it is sad, it is a lot of people,” said one gravedigger in Vila Formosa, the largest cemetery in Latin America.

More than 365,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil.

Despite the high infection rates there however, the government of Brazil’s most populous state Sao Paulo announced it would allow businesses and places of worship to reopen from Sunday.

‘Cautious optimism’ in Europe

France, which banned flights from Brazil last week, on Saturday announced compulsory quarantine for anyone arriving from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa, because of concerns about their coronavirus variants.

Earlier Saturday, Spain extended the mandatory quarantine of passengers arriving from 12 countries in South America and Africa, including Brazil and South Africa.

A day after Italy announced a partial easing of coronavirus restrictions for schools and restaurants from April 26, entertainment industry workers marched in Rome Saturday calling for more state support — and a calendar for the reopening of the country’s arts venues.

In more good news for Britons after the partial reopening of society this week, Germany on Friday removed the United Kingdom from the list of risk zones for coronavirus infections, meaning that travellers will no longer need to quarantine upon arrival.

Israel announced it was scrapping the obligation to wear masks outside from Sunday.

Libya launched its vaccination drive on Saturday, prioritising the elderly and health care workers.