Haiti Quake Kills At Least 304, Searches For Survivors Begin

People search through the rubble of what used to be the Manguier Hotel after the earthquake hit on August 14, 2021 in Les Cayes, southwest Haiti.  Stanley LOUIS / AFP

 

Rescue workers were scrambling to find survivors after a powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, killing at least 304 and toppling buildings in the disaster-plagued Caribbean nation still recovering from a devastating 2010 quake.

The epicenter of the shaking, which rattled homes and sent terrified locals fleeing for safety starting around 8:30 am (1230 GMT) Saturday, was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) by road west of the center of the densely populated capital Port-au-Prince.

Churches, businesses, schools and homes crumbled in the quake that trapped hundreds of victims under rubble and left at least 1,800 people injured, the country’s civil protection agency said.

Rescuers raced against the clock to find survivors, with the civil protection tweeting that efforts by “both professional rescuers and members of the public have led to many people being pulled from the rubble,” adding that already overburdened hospitals continue to receive injured.

Hours after the quake, the agency announced the death toll had jumped to 304, ticking upwards throughout the day from a first report of 29 fatalities.

The long initial quake was felt in much of the Caribbean, emanating from the epicenter at Haiti’s southwestern peninsula.

The civil protection said at least 160 people were killed in the country’s South department alone.

“Lots of homes are destroyed, people are dead and some are at the hospital,” 21-year-old Christella Saint Hilaire, who lives near the epicenter, told AFP.

Hospitals in the regions hardest hit by the quake were already struggling to provide emergency care and at least three were completely full, according to Jerry Chandler, head of the civil protection agency.


READ ALSO: Haitian Presidential Security Chief Arrested Over Assassination

READ ALSO: Deadly 7.2-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Haiti


State of emergency 

The “Petit Pas” hotel is seen damaged by the earthquake on August 14, 2021 in Les Cayes, southwest Haiti. Stanley LOUIS / AFP

 

The health ministry quickly dispatched personnel and medicine to the southwestern peninsula, but their arrival could be hampered by insecurity that has for months plagued the poorest country in the Americas.

The United States and other nations swiftly pledged support to the crisis-wracked country, with US President Joe Biden approving “immediate” aid efforts and Haiti’s neighbor Dominican Republic shipping 10,000 food rations and medical equipment.

A medical brigade of 253 Cuban doctors deployed in Haiti was traveling to treat the injured and adapt a Port-au-Prince hospital until now used for Covid patients, their head said on Cuban television.

In Ecuador, Quito Fire Department said it was preparing to send a team of 34 personnel specialized in urban search and rescue. Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru and Venezuela also offered help while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Haitians “can count on the support of Spain to come through this terrible event.”

Tennis star Naomi Osaka, whose father is Haitian, said she was going to donate her prize money from an upcoming tournament to help quake victims.

“Really hurts to see all the devastation that’s going on in Haiti, and I feel like we really can’t catch a break,” Osaka wrote on Twitter.

Images circulated on social media showed people frantically trying to pull people from the ruins of caved-in buildings, while screaming bystanders sought safety in the streets outside their homes.

“Houses and their surrounding walls have collapsed. The roof of the cathedral has fallen down,” resident Job Joseph told AFP from the hard-hit city of Jeremie on Haiti’s far western end.

Heavy damage was reported in the center of the city, which is home to around 200,000 people and composed primarily of single-story residences and buildings.

The damage in the city of Les Cayes appeared to be significant, including the collapse of a multi-story hotel.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who surveyed the damage via helicopter, declared a state of emergency for one month while calling on the nation to “show solidarity” and not panic.

‘People are terrified’ 

People search through the rubble of what used to be the Manguier Hotel after the earthquake hit on August 14, 2021 in Les Cayes, southwest Haiti. Stanley LOUIS / AFP

 

Shortly after the quake, the US Geological Survey issued a tsunami alert, but lifted the warning soon after.

Jeremie resident Tamas Jean Pierre said the possibility of a tsunami nonetheless sent parents “fleeing the city with their children in arms.”

“People are terrified,” she said.

A 7.0-magnitude quake in January 2010 left much of Port-au-Prince and nearby cities in ruins, killing more than 200,000 and injuring some 300,000 others.

More than 1.5 million Haitians were made homeless, leaving island authorities and the international humanitarian community with a colossal challenge.

Besides hundreds of thousands of homes, the quake also destroyed administrative buildings and schools, not to mention 60 percent of Haiti’s health care system.

The rebuilding of the country’s main hospital remains incomplete, and non-governmental organizations have struggled to make up for the state’s many deficiencies.

The latest quake comes just over a month after president Jovenel Moise was assassinated in his home by a team of gunmen, shaking a country already battling poverty, spiraling gang violence and Covid-19.

AFP

Coronavirus Death Toll Rises 63,437 Worldwide

 

The worldwide number of fatalities from the novel coronavirus rose to 63,437 on Saturday, according to a tally compiled by AFP at 1900 GMT from official sources.

More than 1,169,210 declared cases have been registered in 190 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 219,000 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are only testing cases that require hospitalisation.

A total of 5,964 new deaths and 86,745 cases have been reported since a count compiled at 1900 GMT on Friday.

The United States registered the highest number of new deaths (1,399) followed by France (1,053) and Spain (809).

Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death at the end of February, has 15,362 fatalities, with 124,632 infections and 20,996 people recovered.

Spain recorded 11,744 fatalities and 124,736 infections, followed by the United States with 8,098 deaths and 297,575 cases — the highest in the world.

France has reported 7,560 deaths and 89,953 infections, followed by Britain (4,313 deaths and 41,903 cases).

China — excluding Hong Kong and Macau — has to date declared 3,326 deaths and 81,639 cases, with 76,755 recoveries.

Since Friday at 1900 GMT, Angola, Georgia, Kuwait, Liberia and Suriname announced their first deaths from the virus.

Europe has listed 627,127 cases and 46,033 deaths to date, the US and Canada together have 311,447 cases with 8,342 deaths, Asia 116,129 cases and 4,137 deaths, the Middle East 71,739 cases and 3,623 deaths, Latin America and the Caribbean 28,166 cases with 891 deaths, Africa 8,129 cases with 375 deaths and Oceania 6,480 cases with 36 deaths.

COVID-19: With Low Test Rates, Virus Spreads In Shadows

An employee of a medical laboratory tests a sample of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Roosendaal, The Netherlands on March 4, 2020.
Rob ENGELAAR / ANP / AFP

 

The lack of available tests for COVID-19 means the world is effectively fighting the pandemic blind and may not know the true extent of infection for months if not years, experts said Thursday.

Because COVID-19 is so infectious — roughly 2.5 times that of the common cold — but not everyone presents symptoms, the figure of more than 200,000 confirmed cases tells only a fraction of the story.

On Tuesday the British government conceded it was likely there were already more than 55,000 COVID-19 infections in the country, far higher than the more than 2,600 confirmed cases so far.

Jerry Shaman, a diseases expert at the University of Columbia, told AFP it was “likely” that developed nations are identifying between one in five and one in 10 true infections.

Shaman said there was a variety of reasons, including “test availability, capacity, ignorance (not taking the issue seriously), arrogance (national pride).”

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Italy Passes China’s Virus Deaths, Braces For Long Lockdown

While the number of undetected or non-symptomatic cases likely mean the virus is less deadly than initially feared, low detection rates are a huge problem for governments looking to slow the spread and reduce the strain on health systems.

“Many of these infections are mild but still contagious. So they go about their normal routine — go to work, use public transportation, go shopping — and spread the virus in the broader community,” said Shaman.

“They unwittingly take the virus to new places by auto, train or plane.”

While it is generally accepted that patients showing symptoms are more contagious than those exhibiting no sign of infection, the idea of millions of infected people mixing with vulnerable groups will not comfort governments.

– Speed and scope –

And testing capacity differs hugely, even among rich nations.

Cecile Viboud, an epidemiologist at the US National Institutes of Health, singled out South Korea for praise.

After a surge in cases in February, Korean authorities boosted testing capacity and implemented stringent measures to prevent further transmission.

“A real turning point was the strong increase in testing that they did,” she told AFP.

“You need to know where you are in the epidemic to be able to do something about it. And to do that, you need to test.”

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed the sentiment on Monday with a simple message for all countries: “test, test, test”.

“If they test positive, isolate them & find out who they have been in close contact with up to 2 days before they developed symptoms & test those people too,” he said on Twitter.

Sharon Lewin, head of the world-leading Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne, said another good example of testing and then tracing contacts of patients occurred in Singapore.

“Very early on they did aggressive testing and chased down cases through contact tracing, and very aggressively quarantining contacts,” she told AFP.

“They did some social distancing measures, but not as extreme. They closed schools for a while, but only for two or three weeks. They banned meetings, but people still went to work.”

But there is only a small window of opportunity to shut down an outbreak once a cluster of cases emerges.

These seem to have caught authorities in Italy and Spain — the two European countries worst hit by the pandemic — off guard.

As of Wednesday Italy had carried out 165,000 tests, compared with roughly 42,000 in France.

Ultimately, the true impact of the disease worldwide cannot be known until tests for COVID-19 antibodies — for example those patients who had it and recovered — are established.

There are several currently in development.

AFP

Latest Developments On Coronavirus Across The World

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP

 

With new tolls and key developments, here is the latest in the coronavirus crisis.

– More than 3,000 dead –

Across the world, 3,155 people have died from the virus. More than 92,723 have been infected in 78 countries and territories, according to AFP’s latest toll based on official sources at 1700 GMT Tuesday.

The main countries affected: mainland China (80,151 cases, 2,943 deaths), South Korea (5,186 cases, 28 deaths), Italy (2,502 cases, 79 deaths), Iran, (2,336 cases, 77 deaths), Japan (268 cases and 12 deaths).

More than 700 cases have also been registered on the Diamond Princess cruise ship berthed in Japan.

– China reports cases from abroad –

China reports an increase in cases coming from abroad, notably eight from Italy, as the country where the disease first emerged now worries about importing infections.

– ‘Rapidly depleting’ supplies –

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that supplies of protective gear to fight the virus are “rapidly depleting” worldwide.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron says authorities will requisition all face mask stocks and production in the coming months.

– Emergency rate cut –

The US Federal Reserve announces an emergency rate cut, responding to the growing economic risk posed by the epidemic and giving President Donald Trump the stimulus he has called for.

– Home working –

Twitter asks its staff across the world to work from home starting Monday in an effort to stop the spread of the epidemic.

Google tells thousands of staff at its European headquarters in Dublin to stay away for the day after one employee reports flu-like symptoms.

In Britain, the government outlines a new action plan and says up to one-fifth of employees could be off work in the country when the coronavirus outbreak peaks.

– Treatment prospects –

A treatment for the virus could be available by mid or late 2020, but a vaccine might take longer, says US Vice President Mike Pence.

– No high-fives or handshakes –

US media reports the National Basketball Association has sent a memo to teams recommending that players interacting with fans should bump fists rather than high-five.

Negotiators from the European Union and Britain, meeting for a second day of talks on post-Brexit relations, agree not to shake hands.

– Pope in the clear –

Pope Francis, who is suffering from a cold, tests negative for the coronavirus, Italian newspaper Messagero reports.

Wilder Exercises Rematch Clause For Third Fight With Fury – Reports

Tyson Fury (L) punches Deontay Wilder during their Heavyweight bout for Wilder’s WBC and Fury’s lineal heavyweight title on February 22, 2020 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

Dethroned world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder has exercised his rematch clause and will fight Tyson Fury a third time, according to media reports on Saturday.

BT Sport, citing promoters Bob Arum and Frank Warren, and Yahoo Sports, reported Wilder had officially exercised his contractual rematch clause and will take on Fury for a third time later this year.

The news comes a week after Britain’s Fury stopped Wilder in the seventh round of their heavyweight title rematch in Las Vegas.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Watford’s Moments In 3-0 Triumph Over Liverpool

Despite clamour for a unification fight between Fury and fellow Briton Anthony Joshua, Wilder was widely expected to exercise his contractual right for a rematch — likely to take place by July.

In a video message posted on social media on late Friday, Wilder promised to return “in a few months.”

“I will rise again,” Wilder stated. “I will be back. We will rise like a phoenix from the ashes and regain the title.

“I’ll see you in a few months. For the war has just begun.”

Wilder also said Friday that he would keep co-trainer Mark Breland in his corner, despite earlier hints that he was ready to part company with Breland, who threw in the towel in the seventh round of the loss to Fury.

“I’m a warrior. I feel the same way I felt on fight night — if I have to go out, I want to go out on my shield,” Wilder said.

“But I understand that my corner and my team has my best interest at heart. Mark Breland is still a part of Team Wilder and our team looks forward to preparing for the rematch.”

Breland, a former Olympic and world champion, called a halt to last week’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena after Wilder had been knocked down twice and pummelled relentlessly by Fury.

Fury seized the World Boxing Council heavyweight title from Wilder, 14 months after the two fought to a dramatic split-decision draw in their first meeting in Los Angeles.

AFP

Nike Unveils New Footwear For Sprints, Distance Races

 

 

A retail version of Nike’s Zoom Alphafly NEXT% footwear was unveiled Wednesday by the shoemaker, only days after new World Athletics rules-tightening on prototype shoes.

The Air Zoom Viperfly is aimed for the 100-meter sprint crowd, while Nike’s Air Zoom Victory is designed for 800m to 10-kilometer races, with sales expected to begin this summer.

Just five days earlier, the global track and field governing body introduced tougher rules on footwear for competitors.

Nike’s controversial Alphafly prototype shoes were worn by Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge when he broke the two-hour marathon barrier in Vienna last October.

“For runners, records like the four-minute mile and two-hour marathon are barometers of progress. These are barriers that have tested human potential. When someone like Eliud breaks them, our collective belief about what’s possible changes,” says Tony Bignell, Nike’s vice president of Footwear Innovation.

“Barriers are inspiring to innovators. Like athletes, when a barrier is in front of us, we are challenged to think differently and push game-changing progress in footwear design.”

The NEXT% designs are aimed at maximizing sports science with design to boost body performance through technological enhancement.

The latest version adds air pods in the forefoot and foam in the heel.

“The groundbreaking research that led to the original Vaporfly unlocked an entirely new way of thinking about marathon shoes,” said Carrie Dimoff, an elite marathoner and member of Nike’s Advanced Innovation Team.

“Once we understood the plate and foam as a system, we started thinking about ways to make the system even more effective.”

“That’s when we struck upon the idea of adding Nike Air to store and return even more of a runner’s energy and provide even more cushioning.”

Viperfly incorporates an innovative new carbon plate in the shoe sole designed to provide responsiveness and energy, following deep study of race strategy and performance and runner’s needs over the final 20 meters of a sprint.

Victory has foam, a carbon fiber plate and a unique welded sole that divides the unit into two separate pockets provides impact protection and allows for a smooth transition without sacrificing control.

AFP

Asian Markets Mostly Higher As Iran Fears Recede, Eyes On US Jobs

People wait to cross a street in front of a stock indicator displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on January 9, 2020. BEHROUZ MEHRI / AFP

 

Most Asian markets rose Friday but investors were struggling to maintain a rally triggered by easing US-Iran tensions the previous day as focus turned back to the global economic outlook.

The toning down of rhetoric from Donald Trump and Tehran following an Iranian missile attack on US assets in Iraq soothed concerns about a possible conflict in the Middle East and lit a fire under global equities on Thursday.

That has allowed dealers to resume their buying spree that had characterised business for the past few weeks, cheered by China and the United States reaching a trade deal, central banks easing monetary policy and data pointing to an improved global outlook.

“Even though we are hitting close to or near all-time highs, we still feel pretty excited about this market,” Invesco strategist Timothy Horsburgh told Bloomberg TV.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of days with some of this relief rally, this is indicative of a market that’s wanted to go higher for a while now as a result of better fundamentals and a little bit of optimism around reaccelerating growth here in the US.”

Wall Street’s three main indexes racked up fresh records and Asia broadly followed suit, though the gains were light.

Tokyo ended 0.5 percent up, Seoul added 0.9 percent and Sydney jumped 0.8 percent, while Singapore put on 0.2 percent, Taipei jumped 0.5 percent and Mumbai climbed 0.7 percent. Wellington, Bangkok and Jakarta also rose.

But Shanghai dropped 0.1 percent, while Manila lost 0.6 percent.

Oil falls further

There appeared to be little negative market reaction to claims by Canada that Iran shot down an airliner in Tehran this week, killing 176 people.

Investors are now looking to the release later in the day of US jobs figures for a better idea about the state of the world’s top economy, while next week sees China and the US put pen to paper on their mini trade deal.

The “critical payroll data comes as a most welcome distraction and will provide an essential update on the pace of US job gains”, said Stephen Innes at AxiTrader.

“With US economic growth mostly dependent on the consumer, a healthy labour market is crucial to any constructive ‘risk-on’ narrative”.

“With the market backdrop remaining supportive –- namely, improving macro, central bank easing, and receding… risk around trade, Brexit, and the Middle East, the path of least resistance remains up.”

Oil prices dipped, with the sharp gains enjoyed in the wake of the US assassination of Iran’s top general last week being wiped out. The commodity is now below levels seen before the killing early last Friday.

Innes added that with “the chance of a proxy or rogue threat of disruption to physical supply still elevated, we could see a floor start to build around current (price) levels”.

“At the same time, traders will now turn the focus back on the relatively pedestrian views around trade and data, which remain positive for oil.”

Key figures at 0710 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 23,850.57 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.2 percent at 28,609.63

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 3,092.29 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3083 from $1.3064 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.90 pence from 84.98 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1108 at $1.1105

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.57 yen from 109.51 yen

Brent Crude: DOWN eight cents at $65.29 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 10 cents at $59.46 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 28,956.90 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,598.12 (close)

US Stocks End At Records As Iran Worries Ease

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 03, 2020 in New York City.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

 

Wall Street stocks jumped to fresh records on Thursday following a buoyant session for global equities as investors took heart that a US-Iran conflict is not escalating and a trade deal with China is likely to be signed.

All three major US indices finished at all-time highs, with the broad-based S&P 500 winning 0.7 percent as haven investments such as gold and the yen faltered.

The gains in New York marked a second straight session of advances on rising confidence about the US-Iran clash following statements Wednesday by US President Donald Trump and Iranian officials.

“Assuming Iran-US tensions continue to simmer rather than boil, markets are likely to refocus on the global growth outlook and on trade, with the interim US-China trade deal expected to be signed on 15 January,” said National Australia Bank’s Tapas Strickland.

Further boosting sentiment, China said that Vice Premier Liu He will travel to Washington next week to sign the “phase one” deal with the United States that has lowered trade tensions between the world’s two biggest economies.

The advance in the United States was broad-based, with the technology, financial and energy sectors registering especially large gains.

“Markets have learned not to overreact to developments in the Middle East,” Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services told AFP.

“What animates investors is fear of missing out on a higher stock market. Nobody wants to be the first sell or take profits.”

Frankfurt led European gains as the DAX closed up 1.3 percent — Lufthansa flying high with a four percent gain — as London and Paris, which at one time brushed a 13-year high, limited gains to around a quarter of one percent.

Tokyo and Hong Kong had earlier added around two percent and Shanghai 0.9 percent.

But the rush to riskier investments saw gold, seen as a haven in times of unrest, pull back, having earlier broken $1,600 per ounce for the first time in seven years.

The lowering of tensions will allow traders to turn their attention to the release on Friday of US jobs data, which will provide the latest snapshot of the world’s number one economy, with recent figures indicating it remains robust.

Also in focus is the upcoming earnings season, which kicks off this month.

Pound falls

In London meanwhile, the pound slid after Bank of England governor Mark Carney said Britain’s economic recovery was “not assured” despite a drop in Brexit uncertainties.

“Although the risk of a semi-hard Brexit at the end of 2020 will continue to hang over the UK, the sweeping 12 December election win for (Prime Minister Boris) Johnson and his Conservative Party has brought much of the damaging uncertainty of recent years to an end,” said Kallum Pickering, senior economist with Berenberg.

He forecast a real growth pickup from 1.3 percent in 2019 to 1.8 this year and 2.1 in 2021.

Key figures at 2220 GMT

New York – Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 28,956.90 (close)

New York – S&P 500: UP 0.7 percent at 3,274.70 (close)

New York – Nasdaq: UP 0.8 percent at 9,203.43 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 7,598.12 (close)

Frankfurt – DAX 30: UP 1.3 percent at 13,495.06 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 6,042.55 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.6 percent at 3,795.88 (close)

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 2.3 percent at 23,739.87 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: 1.7 percent at 28,561.00 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 3,094.88 (close)

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3064 from $1.3097 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 84.98 pence from 84.80 pence

Euro/dollar: FLAT at $1.1105

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.51 from 109.12 yen

Brent Crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $65.37 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: FLAT at $59.56 per barrel

How The World Is Reacting To Turkey’s Assault In Syria

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad after Turkish bombings, in a picture taken from the Turkish side of the border near Akcakale in the Sanliurfa province on October 9, 2019. BULENT KILIC / AFP

 

World governments reacted with concern Wednesday after Turkey launched a military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, while the UN Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the assault.

Here are some of the initial comments following the start of the attack, called “Operation Peace Spring”.

 ‘Act with restraint’ 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to show “restraint”, while acknowledging that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns”.

“It’s important to avoid actions that may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome, in remarks released by his office.

The UN Security Council’s president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint”.

 ‘Bad idea’ 

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the incursion into northern Syria a “bad idea”.

He insisted Washington “does not endorse this attack”, despite having withdrawn US troops from the area in what was interpreted as a green light for Turkey to assault Kurdish militias previously allied with America.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.

The US and the UK also expressed concern over the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

 ‘Think carefully’ 

Ahead of the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “think carefully” before taking any action “so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis,” the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.

Erdogan for his part told Putin that the offensive “will contribute to Syria’s peace and stability and ease the path to a political solution”.

 No funding for ‘safe zone’ 

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker demanded a halt to the operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called “safe zone” that might be created.

He told the European Parliament he recognised Turkey had “security concerns” along the border. But he warned that the military action would not lead to a “good result”, saying a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.

‘Risk of resurgent IS’ 

Turkey “is willingly risking further destabilising the region and a resurgence of IS” (Islamic State) by attacking northeastern Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“Syria needs stability and a political process… however, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster,” Maas said in a statement, adding that Berlin would “urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully”.

 ‘Must stop’ 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the offensive “must stop”.

“It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans’ security,” he said in a tweet, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin earlier said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration “which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn” the Turkish campaign.

 ‘Risks destabilising the region’ 

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed “serious concerns about the unilateral military action that Turkey has taken”.

The action “risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus,” he added in a statement.

Ambassador summoned 

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said he had summoned Turkey’s ambassador to condemn the assault.

“I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen,” Blok, whose country is a member of the coalition against the Islamic State, said on Twitter.

“No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS and stability in the region.”

 Already struggling population 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “deeply concerned that any escalation in the country’s north-east could harm an already struggling population,” stressing that “the humanitarian space” needs to be preserved”.

AFP

Asia Stocks Slump On Recession Fears

Investors look at stock prices on a screen at a securities company in Beijing on August 15, 2019.  NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

 

Asian markets sank Thursday after the Dow suffered its worst day of the year as fears of a global recession mounted with investors fleeing equities.

Tokyo’s key Nikkei index nosedived nearly two percent at the open before recovering slightly to finish the morning 1.2 percent down.

The losses followed a dark day on European bourses and on Wall Street, with all three US benchmarks tumbling around three percent and US bond yields plunging as investors deserted stocks for safer Treasury assets.

“The Japanese stock market is sliding against the backdrop of sharp falls in US shares,” Okasan Online Securities said in a note.

“Worries over the US economic recession grew, while negative economic data for China and Germany also prompted investors to downgrade their views on the global economy,” Mizuho Securities added.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note briefly slid below the yield on the two-year bond, a so-called “inversion” that has been a reliable harbinger of recession for decades.

Coming on the back of an intensifying US-China trade war that shows no signs of resolution, the flight to bonds signalled the growing fears of a global recession.

“US-China trade tensions have metastasised into something more sinister by affecting global growth to such a large degree that bond markets are pricing-in a high probability of a worldwide recession”, warned Stephen Innes, managing partner at VM Markets.

The trade war has hammered global demand, with Chinese industrial output hitting a 17-year low while investment and retail sales have also slowed in the world’s number two economy.

Weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have added to the climate of uncertainty, with Beijing referring to the increasingly violent demonstrations as “terrorism”, stoking fears of a Chinese crackdown.

Shanghai and Jakarta fell 0.7 percent while Sydney plummeted more than two percent. Singapore also shed 0.9 percent. But Hong Kong edged up 0.1 percent after opening 1.5 percent down.

‘Risk-toxic environment’

Economists have warned for months that the trade tensions were threatening investment and dampening global sentiment, which is already suffering due to China’s slowdown and fears over Brexit’s impact on Britain and Europe.

The release of German data showing that the Europe’s largest economy contracted in the second quarter did not help matters, with Frankfurt slumping Wednesday to its lowest level since March.

“In this risk-toxic environment, the only thing that could help shift equity sentiment is if the Fed pulls back to back (rate cuts) out of their hat, something the markets are beckoning them to offer up but are unlikely to deliver,” said Innes.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the Federal Reserve for not cutting interest rates more sharply and frequently, blasted Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday, calling him “clueless” for being too slow to lower rates.

But some observers wonder whether the Fed and other central banks will be able to do much to avert a downturn as the trade spat deepens.

Key figures around 0300 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.2 percent at 20,404.92 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 25,332.01

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,790.71

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1143 from $1.1138 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2053 from $1.2056

Euro/pound: UP at 92.45 pence from 92.38 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.93 yen from 105.78 yen

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Water System Of Medieval German City Gets World Heritage Status

A picture taken on July 3, 2019, shows a view of the waterworks at the Hochablass (High Drain) near the city of Augsburg, southern Germany. CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

 

 

The German city of Augsburg was Saturday granted World Heritage status by UNESCO for its over 800-year-old water management system boasting an aquaduct, water towers, ornate fountains, canals and hundreds of bridges.

The 2,000-year-old city in Bavaria state calls the system which has since the Middle Ages provided clean drinking water and sanitation an “intricate interplay between the innovative spirit and a technical tour de force”.

The old town centre of Augsburg, located on Germany’s Romantic Road, is criss-crossed with canals and boasts over 500 bridges, “more than in Venice”, according to the city.

“The history of water in Augsburg is linked to the cultural and artistic wealth of this city,” Thomas Weitzel, the city’s cultural affairs director, told AFP.

“Augsburg considered water such a precious asset that it has always sought to protect it.”

Augsburg’s resourceful engineers were European forerunners in damming and redirecting river water, from the Lech, Wertach and Singold streams.

Water flowed via an aquaduct and into water towers from 1416, making the waterworks at the city’s Red Gate “the oldest in Germany and also in central Europe”.

The water flowed through hollowed pine logs connected with metal casts to ornamental fountains in the city, including the Mercury and Hercules fountains.

It also entered the city’s butchers house, the Stadtmetzg, where the flowing water helped to cool the meat and dispose of the waste.

Later water power was used for industry, with water wheels driving mills and pumping stations as Augsburg became an early centre of textile and paper production.

With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the city saw the creation of the first large hydroelectric power plant, at nearby Wolfzahnau.

One of the waterways, the Ice Canal, was designed to keep free floating ice from entering the city, and in 1970 became the world’s first artificially created whitewater canoe course, used for the 1972 Olympics.

AFP

PHOTOS: How The World Celebrated Valentine’s Day

Afghan girls buy gifts during Valentine’s Day in the Shar-e-Naw area of Kabul on February 14, 2019.  WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

 

February 14 is a day set aside annually to celebrate love as the season connotes.  Valentine’s Day is a time when people show affection and friendship. It is celebrated in many ways worldwide and falls on February 14 each year.

Many people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing appreciation for the people they love or adore.

Some people take their loved ones for a romantic dinner at a restaurant while others may choose this day to propose or get married. Many people give greeting cards, chocolates, jewellery or flowers, particularly roses, to their partners or admirers on Valentine’s Day.

Across the world, the day was celebrated by many who took out time to show love to their spouses, parents and loved ones.

In Paris, the French capital, most couples still took out time despite the work schedule to celebrate the season.

The situation wasn’t different from Afghanistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Pakistan, Britain, the United States and other countries where Valentine’s day was celebrated in love.

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Meanwhile, in India, more than 10,000 schoolchildren, some as young as six, made Valentine’s Day pledge not to marry without their parents’ consent.

The vast majority of Indian marriages are arranged by families and couples who defy tradition to marry outside caste and religion face a severe and sometimes deadly backlash.

Some 10,000 pupils aged six to 17 and even some teachers took a vow at 25 schools to “love and respect their parents till eternity” in the western state of Gujarat — the stronghold of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I will always respect their decision because no one in the world has sacrificed for me like them,” said student Samadrita Banerjee.

People in swiftly-changing but still largely conservative India also often frown upon unmarried couples who can find themselves being abused and harassed in public places.

Elsewhere, a school association in the southern state of Karnataka alerted teachers and parents to ensure children did not celebrate Valentine’s Day by bunking classes to go to shopping malls or the movies, The Times of India newspaper reported.

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