english news

Auckland floods: More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

more heavy rain

People in flood-hit New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rain this week following new severe weather alerts. At least four people have died and a state of emergency order continues in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record. About 350 people needed emergency accommodation, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said. He added there had been significant damage across Auckland and the North Island. The newly-appointed PM also highlighted climate change’s role in the extreme weather event.

“It’s a 1-in-100-year weather event, and we seem to be getting a lot of them at the moment. I think people can see that there’s a message in that… Climate change is real, it’s with us,” Mr Hipkins said on Monday. He told national broadcaster TVNZ: “We are going to have to deal with more of these extreme weather events in the future. “We need to be prepared for that. And we need to do everything we can to combat the challenge of climate change.”(BBC)…[+]

Avalanche kills two skiers in Japan’s Nagano region

two dead

The bodies of two men caught in an avalanche on Sunday have been found in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Extensive searches took place after the incident, which happened on the east slope of Mount Hakuba Norikura. Japanese authorities have not revealed their identity but confirmed they were from a group of five foreign skiers. Local police said they believed the men were off-piste skiing separately from the rest of the group when the avalanche took place. Police official Tomohiro Kushibiki told news agency AFP that the two men were found “in cardio-respiratory arrest” on Monday, a term often used in Japan before a death can be confirmed by a doctor.

The three other skiers were able to safely make it down the mountain. A warning for snow and avalanches remains in place for the area, after a cold snap last week which covered much of the region in snow. Nagano Prefecture, which hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics, is popular with tourists in the winter season, attracting many skiers from both Japan and abroad.(BBC)…[+]

Ukraine: Boris Johnson says Putin threatened him with missile strike


Boris Johnson has said Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike in an “extraordinary” phone call in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The then-prime minister said Mr Putin told him it “would only take a minute”. Mr Johnson said the comment was made after he warned the war would be an “utter catastrophe”. The claim is made in a BBC documentary on Mr Putin’s interactions with world leaders over the years. The Kremlin spokesman said it was a “lie”. Mr Johnson warned Mr Putin that invading Ukraine would lead to Western sanctions and more Nato troops on Russia’s borders.

He also tried to deter Russian military action by telling Mr Putin that Ukraine would not join Nato “for the foreseeable future”. But Mr Johnson said: “He threatened me at one point, and he said, ‘Boris, I don’t want to hurt you but, with a missile, it would only take a minute’ or something like that. Jolly. “But I think from the very relaxed tone that he was taking, the sort of air of detachment that he seemed to have, he was just playing along with my attempts to get him to negotiate.”(BBC)…[+]

Japan hunts for person who faxed bomb threats to schools

japan hunts down

Japanese police are on the hunt for a person who sent bomb and death threats to hundreds of schools, prompting hasty closures. The threats were faxed to high schools and universities earlier this week from a Tokyo-registered number. No explosives have been found in school buildings, according to police, and there have been no reports of attacks on pupils and staff so far. Bomb threats are rare in Japan, which is known for its low crime rate. The first wave of messages began on Monday, reaching schools and universities across the country. In one prefecture, Saitama, more than 170 schools received bomb threats, said officials.

Local media reported that one message claimed that over 330 bombs had been set up, while another read: “I planted a major bomb.” Some reports said the messages demanded ransoms ranging from 300,000 yen (£1,870; $2,320) to 3 million yen. On Tuesday, messages threatening to kill students and teachers with homemade weapons were sent from the same number to high schools in various prefectures including Osaka, as well as Saitama and Ibaraki near Tokyo. The threats saw many schools in Japan shutting down as a precaution, though most had re-opened by Thursday. Fax machines are still commonly used in Japan.(BBC)…[+]

Opium production in Myanmar surges to nine-year high


The production of opium increased sharply in Myanmar, rising to a nine-year high, according to the UN. It touched nearly 795 metric tonnes in 2022, nearly double the production in 2021 – 423 metric tonnes – the year of the military coup. The UN believes this is driven by economic hardship and insecurity, along with higher global prices for the opium resin that is used to make heroin. The coup plunged much of Myanmar into a bloody civil war that still continues. “Economic, security and governance disruptions that followed the military takeover of February 2021 have converged, and farmers in remote, often conflict-prone areas in northern Shan and border states, have had little option but to move back to opium,” said Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The region, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos meet – the so-called “Golden Triangle” – has historically been a major source of opium and heroin production.(BBC)…[+]

Man held after fatal machete attack at Spanish church

one dead

One person has died and at least one other injured after a man wielding a machete carried out attacks at two churches in southern Spain. According to the interior ministry the suspect first entered the church of San Isidro in Algeciras where the priest was attacked and seriously injured. The alleged attacker then went to a second church where a verger was stabbed to death. The suspect was disarmed and arrested shortly afterwards. A statement by the Ministry of the Interior said: “Just after 19:00 local time (18:00 GMT) this evening, a man entered the church of San Isidro in Algeciras, where, armed with a machete, he attacked the priest, leaving him seriously wounded.” “Subsequently, he entered the church of Nuestra Senora de La Palma in which, after causing damage, he attacked the verger.” The statement added that the alleged victim managed to get outside the church but was attacked again and fatally wounded. “Moments later, (the assailant) was disarmed and arrested and is currently in police custody,” the ministry said.(BBC)…[+]

Beirut blast investigator charges key figures after long suspension

key figures

The judge leading the investigation into the devastating port explosion in Beirut in 2020 has reportedly charged more key figures as part of his probe. Despite Tarek Bitar’s work being frozen for 13 months amid legal challenges, he unexpectedly said on Monday that he thought he could restart his inquiries. But on Tuesday the public prosecutor told him that he had no jurisdiction. More than 200 people were killed when ammonium nitrate that was being stored unsafely at a port warehouse ignited. The blast it created was one of the worst non-nuclear explosions in recent history, and devastated a large area of the Lebanese capital. There is no official confirmation of the identities of those who have been charged, or detail of what indictments they may face. Instead, lists of names and potential dates for questioning sessions are being circulated among local journalists, apparently released by judicial sources. Senior figures like the heads of the General Security and State Security departments are new names to appear on the list.(BBC)…[+]

Alice Springs: Alcohol limited in Australian town due to violence


An outback Australian town has re-imposed a controversial policy directed at Aboriginal communities that restricts the sale of alcohol. Under the new restrictions, no takeaway alcohol will be sold in Alice Springs – about 450km northeast of Uluru – on Mondays or Tuesdays. Alcohol can also only be sold between 15:00 and 19:00 on all days except Saturdays. A previous ban ended in mid-2022 after it was deemed as racial discrimination. The leader of the Northern Territory, Natasha Fyles, said the measures were imposed to protect families and children across the town as the town experiences a significant increase in violence. Ms Fyles said data showed alcohol-related harms had risen since the last alcohol ban ended in July 2022.  In the 12 months to November 2022, there were 2,653 assaults in a town of roughly 25,000 people, the Northern Territory government’s crime statistics found. Alongside the restrictions on alcohol, more than 25m Australian dollars (£14.2m) for community services – including women’s services, police funding and CCTV safety lighting – was announced.(BBC)…[+]

Afghanistan: Freezing weather kills at least 124 people

afhan cold

At least 124 people died in freezing temperatures in Afghanistan in the past fortnight, Taliban officials say. About 70,000 livestock had also perished in what is the coldest winter in a decade, a State Ministry for Disaster Management spokesman said. Many aid agencies suspended operations in recent weeks after the Taliban banned Afghan women from working for non-governmental organisations. A Taliban minister said despite the deaths, the edict would not be changed. Acting Minister of Disaster Management Mullah Mohammad Abbas Akhund told the BBC that many areas of Afghanistan were now completely cut off by snow; military helicopters had been sent to the rescue, but they couldn’t land in the most mountainous regions. The acting minister said the forecast for the next 10 days indicated temperatures would warm. But he was still worried about a rising death toll – of Afghans, and their livestock.(BBC)…[+]

Ukraine war: German tanks for Ukraine depend on US approval

german tanks

Germany will only send battle tanks to Ukraine if the US does the same, multiple reports suggest. Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under increasing international and domestic pressure to supply German-built Leopard 2 tanks or at least approve their delivery by third countries. Poland and Finland have both promised to send their Leopards – but need Germany’s permission to do so. But Berlin is still in talks with the US about its official position. Many expect an announcement to follow a meeting of Ukraine’s Western allies at the American military base of Ramstein in southwestern Germany tomorrow. Reports suggest that Mr Scholz will only give the green light to the Leopards if the US President Joe Biden agrees to supply American Abrams tanks. However, the Pentagon’s top security adviser, Colin Kahl, said late on Thursday that the US wasn’t prepared to meet Kyiv’s demands for the tanks.

“The Abrams tank is a very complicated piece of equipment. It’s expensive. It’s hard to train on. It has a jet engine,” Mr Kahl said.(BBC)…[+]