Egypt’s Zamalek Wins Inaugural Basketball Africa League

2021 BAL CHAMPIONS Photo Credit: Basketball Africa League/Twitter

 

Zamalek Basketball Club of Egypt have defeated US Monastir of Tunisia 76-63 to win the inaugural Basketball Africa League (BAL) Championship, which took place at the Kigali Arena in Rwanda.

The final game was broadcast to fans in 215 countries and territories in 15 languages.

BAL President, Amadou Gallo Fall, presented Zamalek with the trophy designed to represent the baobab tree, which is native to Africa and known as the “tree of life” for providing food, water, shelter, and protection to people and animals alike.

Following the game, the BAL announced the first recipients of the league’s end-of-season awards, which honoured pioneering African NBA Legends Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dikembe Mutombo (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Manute Bol (South Sudan).

READ ALSO: Real Madrid ‘No Longer Had Faith In Me’ – Zidane

The BAL created the Hakeem Olajuwon BAL Most Valuable Player Award, Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year Award, and Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award in recognition of their legendary NBA careers and off-court contributions.

2021 BAL CHAMPIONS Photo Credit: Basketball Africa League/Twitter

 

Award winners were selected by a panel of sportswriters, broadcasters, and NBA team scouts in attendance, with nominees receiving three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

The 12 BAL Head Coaches voted for the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award.  Coaches could not vote for players on their own team. Both the BAL group phase and Playoffs were considered as part of the voting process.

Walter Hodge (Zamalek) was named the Hakeem Olajuwon BAL Most Valuable Player after leading his team to an undefeated 6-0 record with per-game averages of 15.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.0 rebounds.

Anas Osama Mahmoud (Zamalek) was named the Dikembe Mutombo BAL Defensive Player of the Year after recording per game averages of 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

Makrem Ben Romdhane (US Monastir) received the Manute Bol BAL Sportsmanship Award for exemplifying the ideals of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Additional awards will be announced tomorrow on the BAL’s social media channels, including the BAL All-First Team, 2021 BAL Scoring Champion, and Ubuntu Award, which is awarded to an individual or organization that has made an impact on the local community during the first BAL season.

Olajuwon became the first player from Africa to be drafted into the NBA when he was selected first overall in the 1984 Draft by the Houston Rockets.  The two-time NBA champion and Hall of Fame inductee was also named league MVP in 1993-94 when he led the Rockets to the franchise’s first NBA title.

Mutombo won a record-tying four NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team six times during his Hall of Fame career. Bol, who passed away in 2010, enjoyed a 10-year NBA career as a 7-7 center and is recognized as one of the most imposing shot-blockers of his generation.

Champions from the national leagues in Angola, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia earned their participation in the inaugural BAL season.  The remaining six teams, which came from Algeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, and Rwanda, secured their participation through BAL qualifying tournaments conducted by FIBA Regional Office Africa across the continent in late 2019.

Israel, Egypt Hold Talks Toward Gaza ‘Permanent Ceasefire’

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (2nd-R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip's rulers Hamas Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi (2nd-R) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip’s rulers Hamas. Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP

 

Israeli and Egyptian officials held talks in both countries Sunday aimed at bolstering the Cairo-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest deadly flare-up of violence between the Jewish state and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem to discuss “strengthening cooperation” between their countries, Netanyahu’s office said.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tasked Kamel and his delegation, who were also to visit the occupied Palestinian Territories, with hammering out a permanent ceasefire deal, senior Egyptian security officials told AFP.

On the same day, Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made the first official visit by an Israeli top diplomat to neighbouring Egypt in 13 years, for talks with his counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Ashkenazi tweeted on his arrival that they would “discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza with a pivotal role played by the international community”.

The Egyptian foreign ministry tweeted that the ministers’ talks were “part of Egypt’s relentless and continued efforts to revive the peace track and to build on the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip”.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was also expected in Cairo for talks, senior Egyptian security officials said, without providing further details.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, health officials said.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, medics said.

Prisoners

Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s demand “for the prompt return” of Israelis being held in the Gaza Strip, according to the statement.

Ashkenazi also said Israel was “fully committed” to repatriating Israeli prisoners held by Hamas.

Since Israel’s 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip, the Islamist group has held the bodies of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, although Hamas has never confirmed their deaths.

Hamas is also believed to be holding two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza alone and whose families say they have mental health issues.

Israel is meanwhile holding more than 5,000 Palestinians in its jails.

Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in the densely populated Gaza enclave, which was pummelled by Israeli air strikes.

Hamas has pledged not to touch “a single cent” of international aid to rebuild Gaza.

Israel, which has enforced a land and maritime blockade on the enclave since 2007, accuses the group of diverting international aid to military ends.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said he and Kamel also discussed “mechanisms and processes to prevent the strengthening of Hamas and its use of the resources that will be directed to the civilian population in the future”.

Root causes

The latest violent flare-up was sparked by increased tensions in Jerusalem, including over Israeli security forces cracking down on Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

A bitter divide between Hamas and Fatah has long plagued Palestinian politics, but analysts say the latest escalation has served to unite the geographically fragmented Palestinian community in a way not seen in years.

Sisi also tasked Kamel with working to help iron out political divisions between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Egyptian officials said.

The UN Human Rights Council decided Thursday to create an open-ended international investigation into violations surrounding the latest Gaza violence.

It said it would also look at the “underlying root causes of recurrent tensions and instability, including systematic discrimination” in the occupied Palestinian Territories and inside Israel.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet voiced particular concern about the “high level of civilian fatalities and injuries” from the bombing of Gaza and warned the Israeli strikes on the enclave “may constitute war crimes”.

AFP

US Secretary Of State Blinken Visits Egypt On Mission To Shore Up Gaza Truce

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by US ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen (L) as he arrives in Cairo on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP)

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Cairo Wednesday as he presses efforts to shore up an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The US top diplomat already met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to throw Washington’s support behind the Friday truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza and rocket fire from the enclave into Israel.

After talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as giving millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The announcements signalled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the long term, Blinken evoked the “possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they’re entitled to”.

READ ALSO: Myanmar Excluded From WHO Annual Meeting

After meeting earlier Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the international reconstruction aid.

In Cairo, Blinken is to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before flying on to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.

Unlike the United States and many European governments, which boycott Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement as a terror group, Egypt maintains regular contacts.

Egypt was also the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

– Rebuilding Gaza –

Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the Palestinian territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years.

US President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with his Egyptian counterpart on Monday for the second time in less than a week to discuss the relief effort.

Blinken said Wednesday the United Sates was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinian people.

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he arrives in Cairo on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP)

 

This included $250 million in economic, development, security and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people announced in March and April.

On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in additional aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

“All of these funds will be administered in a way that benefits the Palestinian people — not Hamas, which has only brought misery and despair to Gaza,” Blinken said.

Last week, Sisi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

Even before the fighting halted, he had sent ambulances into Gaza to bring out some of the most seriously wounded for treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

He has since sent in food and medical supplies through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, the only entry point to Gaza not controlled by Israel.

– British FM in Jerusalem –

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meanwhile travelled to Jerusalem Wednesday, also to back international efforts to shore up the ceasefire.

Speaking ahead of planned talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Raab urged an end to the “cycle of violence” through a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The events of the last month demonstrate the urgent need to make genuine progress towards a more positive future for both Israelis and Palestinians, and break (the) cycle of violence that has claimed so many lives,” he said.

The latest military escalation started after clashes in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Israeli security forces had moved in on Palestinian worshippers there towards the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

They had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

AFP

Egypt Pledges $500 Mn To Rebuild Gaza, Sends Medical Aid

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubbe of the six-storey Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on May 18, 2021. – The UN Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting today amid a flurry of urgent diplomacy aimed at stemming Israel air strikes that have killed more than 200 Palestinians. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged Tuesday $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza, his office said, after a week of Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave.

“Egypt will provide $500 million… for the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip as a result of recent events, with expert Egyptian construction companies implementing the rebuilding,” the presidency said in a statement.

Cairo has sought to mediate a ceasefire between Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel since the deadly violence erupted on May 10.

Since then, Israeli air strikes have killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Twelve people have been killed on the Israeli side, according to authorities in the Jewish state.

Sisi is holding talks in Paris with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah II aimed at seeking a rapid truce to the lethal conflict.

Egypt also sent 65 tonnes of medical aid to neighbouring Gaza, its healthy ministry said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burns treatment as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks (and) syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said late Monday.

Sisi on Sunday ordered the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt — the enclave’s only border point not controlled by Israel — to open to allow wounded Gazans to be treated in Egyptian hospitals and to deliver aid.

Sources at Rafah on Tuesday said that 26 trucks of food had been sent to Gaza, with 50 ambulances ready to transport the wounded.

Egypt said it would make space in 11 hospitals nationwide at a capacity of over 1,800 beds.

Israel launched its aerial bombing campaign on Gaza after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The Israeli strikes have killed 213 people, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 in Gaza, according to the health ministry.

The UN says nearly 40,000 Gazans have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Strikes have knocked out the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in the blockaded enclave, the health ministry has said.

Egypt Sends Medical Aid To Gaza After Israeli Airstrikes

.
JACK GUEZ / AFP

 

Egypt has sent 65 tonnes of medical aid to neighbouring Gaza after a week of Israeli strikes left more than 200 Palestinians dead and hundreds more wounded, health officials said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burns treatment as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks (and) syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said late Monday.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday ordered the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt — the enclave’s only border point not controlled by Israel — to open to allow wounded Gazans to be treated in Egyptian hospitals and to deliver aid.

Sources at Rafah on Tuesday said that 26 trucks of food had been sent to Gaza, with 50 ambulances ready to transport the wounded.

Egypt said it would make in space in 11 hospitals with over 900 beds.

Israel launched its air campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 after the enclave’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Israeli air strikes have killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The UN says nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Strikes have knocked out the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in Gaza, the territory’s health ministry has said.

-AFP

Gaza Wounded Taken To Egypt For Medical Treatment

Palestinians carry one of survivers from under the rubble of a building, after it was struck by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, May 16, 2021. – Israeli forces pummeled the densely populated Gaza Strip, the sixth day of bombardments on the Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, which fired back rocket barrages. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

 

Wounded Palestinians from Gaza were taken Sunday across the Rafah border crossing into Egypt for medical treatment as Israeli strikes continued to pummel the enclave, medical and border sources said.

Three convoys of 263 Palestinians — including those wounded in the latest strikes as well as students and travellers with serious ailments — crossed into Rafah in the restive North Sinai region, the sources said.

Israel imposed a land and sea blockade on Gaza after Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.

Rafah is the only passage not controlled by Israel to the outside world for Gaza — a densely populated area of around two million Palestinians, half of whom live below the poverty line.

Egyptian authorities opened the crossing in February but it remains heavily secured and closed during public holidays.

READ ALSO: Israel Envoy Tells UN Conflict Was ‘Premeditated’ By Hamas

Egypt’s Red Crescent in North Sinai said Sunday on its Facebook page that medical emergency teams had been dispatched at the Egyptian side to help transport victims.

Tarek Tayel, Egypt’s ambassador in Ramallah, discussed with Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh Cairo’s “tireless efforts… to provide humanitarian support to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said.

Israeli strikes killed more than 40 Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, the worst reported daily death toll yet in the almost week-long fighting.

The strikes have come in retaliation to Palestinian group Hamas launching rockets on Israel, amid high tensions after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem.

AFP

Egypt Sends Ambulances To Evacuate Gaza Wounded

Palestinians wounded in Israeli airstrikes await treatment at a hospital in Gaza City City on, May 12, 2021. Gaza militants have launched more than 1,000 rockets since the beginning of this week according to Israel’s army, which has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza. PHOTO: Anas BABA / AFP

 

Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza Saturday to allow 10 ambulances to transport Palestinians seriously wounded in Israeli air strikes to Egyptian hospitals, medical officials said.

Egypt “exceptionally opened the Rafah crossing to allow 10 Egyptian ambulances into the Gaza Strip to transport wounded Palestinians… to be treated in Egypt,” a medical official said.

An official at the Gaza border said the opening was “exceptional” because it is usually closed during public holidays including Eid al-Fitr, this year running from Wednesday to Sunday in Egypt.

READ ALSO: 12 Die In Afghan Mosque Blast

The Egyptian public health authority said Friday that the holiday was being suspended for some Egyptian doctors and nurses in preparation to receive “those coming from the Gaza Strip”.

The Rafah border crossing is usually open on working days.

Medical officials in Gaza say Israeli strikes have killed 139 people, including 39 children, since Monday. Around 950 people have been wounded.

Rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups have killed nine people in Israel, including a child and a soldier.

The strikes were retaliation for the Palestinian group Hamas launching rockets on Israel after Israeli police moved in on Palestinian worshippers in the Al-Aqsa mosque and cracked down on protests against planned Israeli expulsions of Palestinians from their homes in annexed east Jerusalem.

The grand imam of Egypt’s famed Al-Azhar mosque and university, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, late Friday launched a campaign on social media in “support the Palestinian people”.

“Stop the killing,” he said.

“Enough with silence and double standards if we are really working towards peace.”

AFP

Nearly 100 Injured In Egypt Train Accident – Health Ministry

People abd security forces gather at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt’s central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. AFP

 

A train accident north of Cairo on Sunday left 97 people injured, Egypt’s health ministry said, in the latest rail calamity to hit the North African country.

The ministry said “97 citizens were injured in a train accident in Toukh”, a small farming town in the fertile Nile Delta about 40 kilometres (25 miles) outside the capital.

No deaths were reported.

A security source told AFP eight carriages came off the rails as the train headed north towards the city of Mansoura.

Over 55 ambulances were dispatched to treat the injured, the ministry said, and investigators have been sent to assess the accident’s cause.

The security source said the driver and other rail officials had been detained for questioning.

Egyptian rail disasters are generally attributed to poor infrastructure and maintenance.

At least 20 people died and 199 were injured last month in a train crash in the country’s south, according to the latest official toll, which authorities have revised several times.

People gather at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt’s central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. AFP

 

The prosecution alleged last week that the driver of one train and his assistant had both left the driver’s cabin when it crashed into another train.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has vowed to hold to account those responsible for the latest of several deadly train accidents in recent years.

The African Development Bank announced earlier this month a $170 million loan to improve safety on Egypt’s rail network.

AFP

Egypt ‘Seizes’ Megaship Over Nearly $1 Bln Suez Claim

A photograph taken on April 7, 2021 shows the MSC Rifaya container ship arriving at the Rotterdam port, from the Suez Canal, following its blockage. (Photo by Robin UTRECHT / ANP / AFP) / Netherlands OUT

 

 

A mega-ship that blocked Egypt’s Suez Canal and crippled world trade for nearly a week has been ‘seized’ on court orders until the vessel’s owners pay $900 million, canal authorities said Tuesday.

The MV “Ever Given was seized due to its failure to pay $900 million” compensation, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram, a state-run newspaper.

The Japanese-owned, Taiwanese-operated and Panama flagged vessel got diagonally stuck in the narrow but crucial global trade artery in a sandstorm on March 23, setting in motion a mammoth six-day-long effort by Egyptian personnel and international salvage specialists to dislodge it.

Maritime data company Lloyd’s List said the blockage had held up an estimated $9.6 billion worth of cargo each day between Asia and Europe.

The canal is economically vital to Egypt, which lost between $12 and $15 million in revenues for each day the waterway was closed, according to the canal authority.

The $900 million compensation figure was calculated based on “the losses incurred by the grounded vessel as well as the flotation and maintenance costs, according to a court ruling handed down by the Ismailia Economic Court,” Rabie added.

He did not explicitly cite the Japanese owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha, but a different source at the SCA told AFP Tuesday that negotiations over damages between that company, insurance firms and the canal authority were ongoing.

In its court filing, the SCA referred to Articles 59 and 60 of Egypt’s maritime trade law which stipulates that the ship would remain seized until the amount is paid in full, Al-Ahram said.

The MV Ever Given was moved to unobstructive anchorage in Bitter Lake after it was freed on March 29, and tailbacks totalling 420 vessels at the northern and southern entrances to the canal were cleared in early April.

The Suez Canal earned Egypt just over $5.7 billion in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to official figures.

Israel Reopens Egypt Crossing For First Time Since COVID-19 Pandemic

(FILES) A file Photo:  (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

Israel on Tuesday reopened the Taba border post with Egypt that had been closed throughout the pandemic, allowing limited numbers to cross to the Sinai peninsula for Passover holidays.

The move was the latest step towards normalcy for Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than half of its roughly 9.3 million residents against coronavirus, the world’s fastest per capita pace.

From Tuesday through April 12, 300 Israelis will be allowed through Taba on the Red Sea each day.

To cross, individuals must be inoculated or have recovered from Covid-19. A negative laboratory test is also required in both directions.

READ ALSO: Dollar Breaks 110 Yen For First Time Since March 2020

Egypt’s Sinai peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Israelis, especially during the Passover break which began over the weekend, but the pandemic has forced Taba’s closure since March 2020.

Israel’s successful vaccination rollout has been making gains against the virus.

The number of serious coronavirus cases, which stood at 800 at the end of last month, has fallen to 467, according to the health ministry.

AFP

Ship Stuck In Suez Canal Turned 80% In Right Direction – Officials

This picture taken on March 29, 2021, from a nearby tugboat in the Suez Canal, shows a view of the Panama-flagged MV ‘Ever Given’ (operated by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine) container ship as it begins to move. AFP

 

The massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal for almost a week has been turned 80 per cent in the right direction, officials said Monday, raising hopes the vital trade route could soon be clear.

But its owner said that while the giant ship “has turned”, it was still not yet afloat.

The MV Ever Given, longer than four football fields, has been wedged diagonally across the canal since Tuesday, strangling world supply chains and costing the global economy billions.

Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chief Osama Rabie said Monday that rescue efforts with tugs had succeeded in shifting the front and back of the ship.

“The position of the ship has been reorientated 80 per cent in the right direction,” Rabie in a statement.

“The stern… moved to 102 metres (335 feet) from the shore,” compared to its position four metres from the shore previously.

Efforts to refloat it will resume on the next high tide.

The SCA statement said that the refloating process “will resume when water flow increases again from 11:30 local time… in order to completely refloat the vessel, so as to reposition it in the middle of the waterway.”

According to the Vesselfinder and myshiptracking sites, the stern could be seen to have shifted from the canal’s western bank.

– ‘Not afloat’ –

An official from the 200,000-tonne ship’s owners, Shoei Kisen, said while the Ever Given “has turned”, it “is not afloat.”

The ship had been “stuck at an angle of 30 degrees towards the canal, but that has eased,” said the official.

“A total of 11 tug boats have been pulling Ever Given since this morning,” they added, saying that while there was damage sustained by the ship on its bow when it got stuck, “but no new damage has been reported.”

It is not yet clear when traffic along the canal will resume.

A canal official, who requested anonymity, said that the team on the ground had started technical checks, and were reassured that the ship’s motor was working.

Salvage crews have been working around the clock.

They had focussed on efforts to remove sand around the ship, with 27,000 cubic metres (over 950,000 cubic feet) cleared at a depth of 18 metres (59 feet), SCA spokesman George Safwat said Sunday.

On Sunday evening a shipping company, Leth agencies, had said Egyptian authorities had decided more tugboats were needed to shift the vessel and had postponed the refloating attempt around Sunday’s high tide.

The Dutch-flagged Alp Guard arrived to join the mission on Sunday evening.

The crisis has forced companies to choose between waiting or rerouting vessels around Africa, which adds a huge fuel bill, 9,000 kilometres (5,500 miles) and over a week of travel to the trip between Asia and Europe.

Each day of the blockade could be costing global trade some $6-10 billion, according to a study published Friday by German insurer Allianz.

That translates to some 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points of annual trade each week.

Authorities said 369 ships are currently stalled as they wait for the canal to reopen.

Russia offered assistance Sunday, following other countries including the United States that have made similar offers.

As a sign of the knock-on effects, authorities in war-wracked Syria said the crisis had hit its fuel imports from Iran and forced it to ration already scarce supplies.

Romania’s animal health agency said 11 ships carrying livestock out of the country were also impacted, while the charity Animals International warned of a potential “tragedy” affecting some 130,000 animals.

Egypt Buries Train Crash Dead As Toll Is Revised To 19

Egypt’s Minister for Endowments and Religious Affairs Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, Mufti Shawki Allam, and Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal attend a funerary service at the Sayyida Nafissa mosque in the centre of the capital on March 27, 2021 for the victims of a train collision the previous day in the Tahta district of the southern Sohag province, some 460 kilometres away.
Mohamed EL-RAAI / AFP

 

Egypt buried the dead Saturday from a train collision that killed at least 19 people and injured 185, according to a revised toll, as investigators probed the country’s latest deadly rail crash.

Health Minister Hala Zayed told reporters that an initial toll of 32 killed in Friday’s crash was revised down, while the number of injured rose from 165.

“After we honed in on the details of those killed and injured… at this moment there are 185 injured and 19 corpses and three bags of body parts,” Zayed said, without giving further details.

Surveillance camera footage of the accident seen by AFP showed a speeding train barrelling into another as it rolled slowly down the tracks, sending a carriage hurtling into the air in a cloud of dust.

Most of those injured in Friday’s crash that occurred in the Tahta district of southern Sohag province suffered fractures.

The first victims were laid to rest early on Saturday with small groups of family and friends in attendance as residents, who appeared mistrustful of outsiders, kept the media at bay.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged tough punishment for those responsible for the crash, the latest in a series of rail accidents to plague Egypt. Such incidents are generally attributed to poor infrastructure and maintenance.

– ‘Carnage’ –

It came as the most populous Arab nation struggles with another major transport challenge — a giant container ship blocking the Suez Canal, a vital shipping lane for international trade.

Early on Saturday Egypt was again struck by tragedy when a building collapsed in the capital Cairo, killing 18 people, state media reported.

At the scene of the rail disaster, technicians worked through Friday evening to remove five dislocated and damaged carriages. By morning the crash area was cleared of twisted metal and debris.

Rail traffic also resumed ahead of the burials.

Witnesses and survivors recounted horrifying scenes.

“We were at the mosque then a child came and told us (about the incident). We heard the collision, so we rushed and found the carnage,” said a 59-year-old man speaking on condition of anonymity.

The first ambulances to reach the scene arrived “around half an hour” after the crash, he said.

“There were children who removed (debris) using wooden ladders,” added the witness, who spent the day helping rescue workers.

One train was travelling between the southern city of Luxor and Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast and the other between the southern city of Aswan and Cairo.

Kamel Nagi, a 20-year-old conscript, was on the Cairo-bound train after enjoying a few days of leave.

“Our train suddenly stopped and a quarter of an hour later, the second arrived and struck us,” said Nagi, who suffered multiple broken bones.

“I saw it coming, screamed, then found myself on the ground in great pain,” he said from his hospital bed.

– ‘Decades of negligence’

Authorities opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of the accident, while the rail authority blamed the crash on unidentified passengers who “activated emergency brakes” in one train.

The prosecution said it would interrogate several rail employees, including the two train drivers, their assistants and the signalman.

They will also have to undergo drug testing and authorities have seized their mobile phones to examine their call logs, it added.

But media reports on Saturday claimed both train drivers had died of injuries sustained in the crash.

The rail authority said one train hit the last carriage of the other, causing at least two carriages to overturn between the stations of Maragha and Tahta.

Transport Minister Kamel al-Wazir, a former army general appointed by Sisi to lead the ministry, pointed to human error or intervention as playing a role in the country’s rail accidents.

“We have a problem with the human element,” he told a late-night Saturday talk show, pledging to automate Egypt’s rail network by 2024.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said the government would disburse 100,000 Egyptian pounds (around $6,400) to each family who lost a loved one and between 20,000-40,000 to those injured.

The government has spent “hundreds of billions of pounds” to upgrade the railway system over the past four years, he said, acknowledging that the network “has suffered from decades of negligence”.

Egypt’s railway network is one of the oldest in Africa and the Middle East and improving it “will take time”, Madbouli told reporters Friday after visiting the crash site.

One of the deadliest Egyptian train crashes came in 2002, when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of Cairo.

-AFP