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News Update
Kazakhstan Evacuates Over 86,000 People Since Beginning of Floods
Source:
Astana Times / Factal
4/9/2024

Kazakhstan Evacuates Over 86,000 People Since Beginning of Floods

4/9/2024

ASTANA – As of April 9, over 86,000 people, including 29,000 children, have been rescued and evacuated since the floods began in Kazakhstan, reported the Kazakh Ministry of Emergency Situations. According to the ministry, the involved aircraft rescued 2,823 people, of whom 865 were children. Temporary accommodation centers housed 8,472 people, including 4,055 children. Over 81,000 farm animals were relocated to safe places. The hotline received 1,130 calls, with psychologists offering emergency psychological assistance to those affected by the flooding. Meanwhile, water levels in the country’s rivers continue to rise. Water reservoirs in the East Kazakhstan Region are filled to an average of 62% and are expected to reach the highest levels this week, spokesperson for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Moldir Abdualiyeva said at an April 8 briefing. Minister Nurzhan Nurzhigitov continues to exchange hydrological data with the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring due to the flood flow formation along the Tobol and Zhaiyk (Ural) rivers. The Tobol River is an important tributary of the Yertis (Irtysh) River. While the Tobol River primarily flows through Kazakhstan, its upper reaches extend into Russia. Another surge in water levels is predicted at Zhaiyk River, which flows from Russia to Kazakhstan. Water discharge from the Iriklinsky hydroelectric complex in Russia, which also witnesses flooding, remains consistent at 1,680 cubic meters per second. “This water can reach the borders of Kazakhstan in 15-20 days,” Abdualiyeva warned. “The ministry and the administrations of the West Kazakhstan and Atyrau Regions clear river beds of ice cover and eliminate congestion to prevent flooding.” Four large reservoirs in the West Kazakhstan Region are filled to an average of 65%. The region is witnessing an increase in the level of the Chagan River, a tributary of the Yertis River. An inflow into the Chagan reservoir is currently at 690 cubic meters per second. Reservoirs in the Akmola and Aktobe Regions are full, with the peak of the flood having passed. The most critical and intense period of flooding has also passed in the Karagandy Region. Floods persist in the Kostanai and North Kazakhstan Regions. In the Atyrau Region, water levels in the Zhem River, a river in Kazakhstan, part of the larger basin of the Ural River, have begun to decline. The ministry has initiated the establishment of a national hydrogeological service to address issues related to the rational use of groundwater, including drinking water supply, irrigation, and livestock grazing. This service will conduct exploration work and state monitoring of groundwater resources. As Kazakhstan continues to address the rising waters, international solidarity and support are coming. Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed condolences to the people of Kazakhstan on April 8. “Deeply saddened by devastating floods in brotherly Kazakhstan. We express sympathy to the people who have been affected by this disaster,” the ministry wrote on its X account.

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News Update
Brazil: Epidemic fears as 80% of Indigenous Amazon tribe fall ill
Source:
The Guardian
4/9/2024

Brazil: Epidemic fears as 80% of Indigenous Amazon tribe fall ill

4/9/2024

More than 100 Indigenous people in Brazil’s Javari valley have been diagnosed with flu-like symptoms, raising fears that the situation could escalate into an epidemic. The valley, where Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira and journalist Dom Phillips were killed in 2022, is home to the largest population of Indigenous people in voluntary isolation and of recent contact worldwide. The Korubo people were first contacted by government officials in 1996, and they continue to live with little interaction with other Indigenous groups and local authorities. “The vulnerability of this community is extremely high; any infection can quickly escalate into an epidemic,” said Manoel Chorimpa, a local leader and adviser at OPI, an organisation dedicated to protecting Indigenous groups in voluntary isolation and those recently exposed to urbanisation. Healthcare workers operating in the territory say that of the 101 individuals from the Korubo community diagnosed with symptoms, 22 cases had progressed to pneumonia, of whom 15 were under nine years old. The community is made up of just 121 people, meaning the vast majority have been infected. In 2022, the Covid-19 pandemic also affected most of its people. To address the difficulty of providing healthcare to these communities, Pereira had proposed a health boat, which became a reality one year after his death. Currently managed by the health ministry, the unit was intended to cross the Ituí river, providing healthcare to remote Korubo villages. However, it has been parked along the banks of the Ituí River, requiring patients to travel there instead. “This has already subverted the boat’s purpose,” said Luisa Suriani, another OPI adviser. “When someone is sick and heads over, the whole family tags along, setting up camp on the riverbank, which makes it easier for diseases to spread.” One or two doctors serve in a team of usually seven, which includes a nurse, cook, and boat driver – but there is a high turnover of staff. “When we spoke to health agents, no one wanted to stay due to its bad working conditions,” Suriani said. According to the OPI advisers and a health worker who requested anonymity due to their position, the raft is too small for the team, who also contend with unbearable heat, leaks from the ceiling during rain, and loud noise from the light oil-fuelled generator. They have also faced shortages of medical supplies. Mobile videos recorded by a local professional in March showed patients seeking shelter from heavy rain under plastic tents near the health boat. “There is no decent shelter for them,” the health worker said. “There was a triage of critically ill patients who needed to stay in the camp. Many couldn’t be adequately cared for due to limited resources and poor conditions.” In addition to dealing with flu outbreaks, the Javari people have grappled with high rates of malaria and diarrhoea, worsened by the fact that less than a fifth of villages have access to sanitation. Between 2018 and 2022, 134 people died, 34% of whom were under a year old, the health ministry said. The ministry told the Guardian no deaths had yet been reported in the recent outbreak, and several patients had already been discharged to their villages. Invasions by illegal miners, loggers, fishers, hunters and drug gangs have had severe effects on the health and quality of life of Indigenous people living in the Amazon. The situation worsened under the administration of Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who halted enforcement and slashed environmental budgets, leading to surges in deforestation and illegal activity in the region. Hopes for a more active stance towards the protection of the Amazon and its native peoples were reignited when the new president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, took power in January 2023. His administration has established the first ministry of Indigenous peoples. However, the reality has been different. “It feels like nothing has really changed in the Javari valley since the death of Bruno and Dom, despite the global attention it received,” said Indigenous advocate Eliésio Marubo. He said that aside from sporadic government enforcement operations to dismantle illegal activities, people in the region had received minimal assistance. Marubo himself lives in fear of criminal groups acting in the area and always uses a bulletproof vest and an armoured car. “I don’t want to believe this is normal,” he told Brazilian congresspeople last year. A taskforce comprising government officials and environmental leaders is preparing a protection plan for the Javari valley. The preliminary document, obtained by the Guardian, underscores persistent illegal mining and deforestation within and around the protected area. Deforestation inside the Javari valley surged by more than 30% to 99 hectares in 2023 compared with the previous year, according to Mapbiomas, a platform monitoring land changes in Brazil. Even with the pressures of agricultural expansion and urbanisation, Indigenous lands persist as green islands in the Amazon, with less than 3% of the biome’s deforestation occurring within these protected areas. The most pressing concern in the Javari valley arises from the “significant invasion” of fishers and hunters into areas inhabited by isolated Indigenous communities, the document says. These groups have been linked to the killing of Pereira and Phillips, and five individuals accused of the crime are in prison. Several Brazilian news reports have highlighted the continued presence of invaders in the region, as Indigenous people have to navigate the same river routes as criminal groups in order to access limited medical care.

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News Update
Mozambique ferry disaster kills more than 90 - officials
Source:
BBC News
4/8/2024

Mozambique ferry disaster kills more than 90 - officials

4/8/2024

More than 90 people have died after a ferry sank off the north coast of Mozambique, local authorities say. Officials in Nampula province said five people had been rescued of the around 130 believed to have been on board. They were fleeing a cholera outbreak, Nampula Secretary of State Jaime Neto said. Many children were among the dead, he added. "Because the boat was overcrowded and unsuited to carry passengers it ended up sinking," said Mr Neto. Unverified video posted on social media purported to show dozens of bodies lying on a beach. The boat was apparently travelling from Lunga to Mozambique Island, off the coast of Nampula, Portuguese broadcaster RTP reported. It is a Muslim-majority area and some of those who died have already been buried, in line with Islamic rites. Nampula province has been one of the worst-affected by the cholera outbreak which has spread over several countries in southern Africa since January last year. According to Unicef, the current outbreak is the worst in 25 years. Since October 2023, Mozambique has reported 13,700 confirmed cases and 30 deaths. An Islamist insurgency in neighbouring Cabo Delgado province has claimed the lives of at least 4,000 people and displaced nearly one million others since it began over six years ago. Ordinary Mozambicans say the news of the boat tragedy shocked them, particularly because of the huge number of deaths. Boat accidents are not uncommon in Mozambique but rarely do so many people die. Thousands of boats are said to ferry passengers around with little oversight. "It's shocking - the authorities are partly to blame for not doing enough to control and monitor sea traffic," local journalist Charles Mangwiro told the BBC. Another reporter in Mozambique, Berta Madime, told the BBC that this latest accident comes despite recent pressure on ferry operators to improve safety. For nearly 400 years, Mozambique Island was the capital of Portuguese East Africa, when the region was under colonial rule. The island is designated a Unesco world heritage site for its colonial architecture and rich history as a trading post. Additional reporting by Natasha Booty

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News Update
Russia: waters rising in two cities and thousands evacuated after dam bursts
Source:
The Guardian
4/8/2024

Russia: waters rising in two cities and thousands evacuated after dam bursts

4/8/2024

Flood waters were rising in two cities in Russia’s Ural mountains on Sunday after Europe’s third-longest river burst through a dam, flooding at least 6,000 homes and forcing thousands of people to flee. The Ural River, which rises in the Ural Mountains and flows into the Caspian Sea, swelled several metres in just hours on Friday and burst through a dam embankment in Orsk – one of the hardest-hit cities – 1,800km (1,100 miles) east of Moscow. More than 4,000 people, including 885 children, were evacuated in Orsk as swathes of the city of 230,000 in the Orenburg region were flooded. Footage published by the emergencies ministry showed people wading through neck-high waters, rescuing stranded dogs and travelling along flooded roads in boats and canoes. State news agency Tass reported that six adults and three children had been hospitalised in Orsk but their condition was not life-threatening. The Russian government declared a federal emergency in Orenburg, where the regional governor, Denis Pasler, said the floods were the worst to hit the region since records began. Flooding had been recorded along the entire course of the 2,400km (1,500-mile) Ural River. President Vladimir Putin ordered the emergencies minister, Alexander Kurenkov, to fly to the region. The Kremlin said on Sunday that flooding was now also inevitable in the Urals region of Kurgan and the Siberian region of Tyumen. Putin had spoken to the governors of the regions by phone, the Kremlin said. Some of the worst floods in decades have hit a string of Russian regions in the Ural Mountains and Siberia, alongside parts of neighbouring Kazakhstan, in recent days. Footage from Orsk and Orenburg showed water covering the streets, dotted with one-story houses. In Kurgan city, which has a population of 310,000, authorities ordered residents of one riverside neighbourhood to evacuate urgently, saying flood waters would soon arrive in the city. Russian media cited Orenburg region authorities as estimating the cost of flood damage locally as around 21bn roubles ($227m) and saying that flood waters would dissipate only after 20 April. “The water is coming, and in the coming days its level will only rise,” said Sergei Salmin, the mayor of Orenburg city, which has a population of at least 550,000 people. “The flood situation remains critical.” Kurenkov said bottled water and mobile treatment plants were needed, while local health officials said vaccinations against hepatitis A were being conducted in flooded areas. Flood warnings were issued in other Russian regions and Kurenkov said the situation could get worse very fast. Local officials said the dam in Orsk was built for a water level of 5.5 metres (18 feet) yet the Ural River rose to 9.6m (31.5ft). Federal investigators opened a criminal case for negligence and the violation of safety rules over the construction of the 2010 dam, which prosecutors said had not been maintained properly. The Orsk oil refinery suspended work on Sunday due to the flooding. Last year, the Orsk Refinery processed 4.5m tons of oil. In Kazakhstan, president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said on Saturday the floods were his country’s largest natural disaster in terms of scale and impact for 80 years. The North Korea leader, Kim Jong-un, expressed sympathy to Putin about the flood, state media KCNA said, underscoring stronger ties between Moscow and Pyongyang after the leaders met last year. “Our people will always be with the Russian people,” Kim said. The Associated Press contributed reporting

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News Update
South Africa: ‘You see skeletons’ - the deadly migrant crossing
Source:
BBC News
4/4/2024

South Africa: ‘You see skeletons’ - the deadly migrant crossing

4/4/2024

Many migrants risk all to reach South Africa, making a notoriously dangerous journey across the border from Zimbabwe. Having fled poverty and desperation elsewhere in Africa they feel they have no choice. But as elections approach, xenophobic sentiment is on the rise and South Africa's government is under pressure to tighten the border. The migrants who make it have survived a difficult trek through the bush. It is lawless and unforgiving territory. Wild animals and gangs of criminals are a constant threat. Stories of theft, beatings, rapes and even killings are common. "It is very, very dangerous," a Zimbabwean man, who only gave his name as George, told us. "You see skeletons, you see someone already killed two or three months ago," he said about his own crossing. We met him as night fell in Musina and groups of men returned to a dingy compound of tin-roofed huts. The lucky ones had found some casual work in town, earning a little cash to send back to their families in neighbouring countries. One explained: "We can't go back to Zimbabwe because there is nothing there. We're starving. There is no food." No-one knows for sure how many undocumented migrants live, under the radar of the authorities, in South Africa, the continent's most advanced economy. The last census found that there were more than 2.4 million foreigners - nearly half of them Zimbabwean - living in the country, accounting for just over 3% of the population. But there are no official estimates for the number of those who have entered illegally. And with a general election scheduled for the end of May, illegal immigration has become a highly charged political issue. The South African authorities say they are tightening border security. We saw for ourselves the enormity of the task. Along the road from Musina towards the Limpopo River, which separates South Africa and Zimbabwe, coils of metal glint in the undergrowth. It is the remains of a border fence: flimsy, piecemeal, trampled. The river itself is all but dried up. And there, in the sweltering heat, dozens of people bustle back and forth across an invisible border. Donkeys drag carts, laden with goods, across the cracked riverbed. Women, balancing stacks of packages on their heads, hurry alongside. They told us that it takes about five minutes to walk from the nearest Zimbabwean village into South Africa. And there is nothing - no fence, no guards - to stop them. John - who asked for his name to be changed to protect his identity - sat on his cart, occasionally twitching a whip at his restless donkeys. Watermelons were piled up on the wagon. He has a family at home in Zimbabwe, he told us. But there are no jobs there, not enough food. So now he grows the melons and brings them over to sell in South Africa, where they fetch a far higher price. "I do this to survive," he says. It is a thriving, illicit, cross-border marketplace. While the migrants who cross here face a gruelling trek to Musina, most of the goods are shifted back and forth by cart or car. Occasionally, John told us, soldiers arrive and make arrests. But there is usually advance warning, he added, and it is easy - albeit risky - to melt into the bush. But the South African government wants to take back control. Last year President Cyril Ramaphosa officially launched a new border force. Mike Masiapato, the commissioner of the Border Management Authority (BMA), told us he was sending 400 newly trained officers to the border and procuring drones, body cams and motorbikes to improve surveillance. "I can assure you now that the current leadership of the country understands the criticality of this work." But even Mr Masiapato acknowledges it will take time to really secure the country's border. "We have started to fortify the environment. Hopefully in [the] next few years we should be able to succeed." The country's governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), may not have years. After three decades in power, the ANC presides over a country in which power and water supplies are failing and whose citizens are plagued by record levels of unemployment and violent crime. As South Africa lurches towards what polls predict will be a bruising election for the ANC, it is perhaps unsurprising that some political opponents - like the anti-migrant party Operation Dudula - openly blame migrants for the country's woes. And xenophobic rhetoric is rife, with migrants also blamed for taking jobs from locals. Even President Ramaphosa has said that undocumented foreign nationals exacerbate South Africa's social and economic problems And other opposition parties are demanding stronger border controls, including ActionSA, which was formed four years ago by Herman Mashaba, an outspoken politician and former mayor of Johannesburg. "The ANC government has failed our people terribly," says Malebo Kobe, a regional spokeswoman for ActionSA. Ms Kobe, who we meet by the Zimbabwe border, says that illegal immigration tops the list of voter concerns in this area. She warns that local hospitals and other services have been overwhelmed by undocumented migrants who come here seeking healthcare or other benefits. "It would be offensive to not even speak about the reality of what it does to our public systems when people don't pay taxes, but expect to live and benefit from the goods and services that our government provides." Even as South Africa prepares - perhaps - to redraw its political map, need and desperation continue to define this country's limits.

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News Update
Taiwan earthquake: nine dead and 900 injured as buildings collapse
Source:
The Guardian
4/3/2024

Taiwan earthquake: nine dead and 900 injured as buildings collapse

4/3/2024

Taiwan’s strongest earthquake in 25 years has killed nine people and injured at least 900, causing building collapses, power outages and landslides on the island, and triggering initial tsunami warnings in southern Japan and the Philippines. Dozens of people are thought to be trapped and awaiting rescue, including some in a coalmine. The quake, given a magnitude of 7.2 by Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency and 7.4 by the US, struck close to Hualien, a city popular with tourists on Taiwan’s eastern coast, damaging buildings and trapping people amid aftershocks after the quake, which started at 7.58am. Videos on social media showed children being rescued from collapsed residential buildings. One five-storey building in Hualien appeared heavily damaged, its first floor collapsed and the bulk of the building leaning at a 45-degree angle. Taroko national park in Hualien said nearly 1,000 tourists and staff were stranded in its mountains. Local media reported that three hikers and one driver died after rockslides in the park. Taiwan’s Centre for Science and Technology (CST) said people and vehicles were trapped in the Dachingshui tunnel. Train lines were also damaged, and schools and workplaces were closed across large areas of the city. Tens of thousands of homes are without power. Witnesses in Hualien described driving while rocks dislodged from nearby mountains fell down around them, while others rushed outside after feeling the strength of the tremors. Farther north, part of the headland of Guishan Island, a tourist attraction also known as Turtle Island because of its shape, slid into the sea. In the capital, Taipei, several people were rescued from a partially collapsed warehouse, and tiles fell from buildings. Although it was measured at 7.7 in Japan, Taiwan’s earthquake monitoring agency gave the magnitude of Wednesday’s quake as 7.2, making it Taiwan’s strongest since 1999, when a 7.6-magnitude quake 93 miles (150km) south of Taipei killed 2,400 and injured 10,000. Hualien’s last big quake in 2022, recorded as 6.9 magnitude, toppled buildings and derailed a train, killing one person and cutting off power for thousands of residents. Wednesday’s quake caused TSMC, Taiwan’s leading semiconductor manufacturer, that is responsible for the production of most of the world’s advanced semiconductors, to evacuate its production lines, according to Bloomberg News.

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News Update
Five Dead, 1,000 Homes Destroyed in Papua New Guinea Earthquake
Source:
VOA News
3/25/2024

Five Dead, 1,000 Homes Destroyed in Papua New Guinea Earthquake

3/25/2024

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea — At least five people were killed, and an estimated 1,000 homes destroyed when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked flood-stricken northern Papua New Guinea, officials said Monday as disaster crews poured into the region. "So far, around 1,000 homes have been lost," said East Sepik Governor Allan Bird, adding that emergency crews were "still assessing the impact" from a tremor that "damaged most parts of the province." Dozens of villages nestled on the banks of the country's Sepik River were already dealing with major flooding when the quake struck early Sunday morning. Provincial police commander Christopher Tamari told AFP that authorities had recorded five deaths but the number of fatalities "could be more." Photos taken in the aftermath of the quake showed damaged wooden houses collapsing into the surrounding knee-high floodwaters. Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on top of the seismic "Ring of Fire" — an arc of intense tectonic activity that stretches through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. Although they seldom cause widespread damage in the sparsely populated jungle highlands, they can trigger destructive landslides. Many of the island nation's 9 million citizens live outside major towns and cities, where the difficult terrain and lack of sealed roads can seriously hamstring search-and-rescue efforts.

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News Update
Indonesia: 19,559 People Displaced Due to Floods in Demak and Kudus, 8 Died
Source:
CNN Indonesia
3/25/2024

Indonesia: 19,559 People Displaced Due to Floods in Demak and Kudus, 8 Died

3/25/2024

Jakarta, CNN Indonesia -- Data from the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) as of March 24 at 19.00 WIB recorded that 19,559 people had been displaced by the flood disaster in Demak and Kudus Regencies in Central Java. In detail, 13,027 people are in Demak and 6,532 people are in Kudus. They are spread across 119 evacuation points. Apart from that, eight people in Kudus died as a result of this disaster. Head of the BNPB Disaster Data, Information and Communication Center, Abdul Muhari, said that the number of refugees in Demak had decreased after the flood waters began to recede. "So we can see from 24 thousand last week, then this week if I say 'remaining' 13 thousand that means in some places it has receded. So people can return to their homes," said Abdul in an online press conference , Monday (25/3). Abdul emphasized that BNPB guarantees the needs of affected communities until the flood recedes. He also revealed that 13 sub-districts in Demak and 5 sub-districts in Kudus were affected by the flood. BNPB also noted that this disaster affected 230 places of worship, three markets, 143 educational facilities, 11,173 hectares of rice fields, 15 office facilities, 15 health facilities and 529 hectares of ponds.

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Original Article in Indonesian, translation by Google Translate

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News Update
Nairobi floods: Seven die as heavy rains expose poor drainage system
Source:
ntv Kenya
3/25/2024

Nairobi floods: Seven die as heavy rains expose poor drainage system

3/25/2024

At least seven people are feared dead after a heavy downpour hit Nairobi on Sunday night, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The heavy rains have also exposed the capital’s age-old problem of poor drainage, which City Hall has been struggling with for years. Among the dead was an on-duty police officer identified as David Chesire. According to Nairobi Regional Commander Adamson Bungei, Chesire was on his way to rescue four people trapped in a stall at the Country Bus Station before they were swept away by the floods. His body has yet to be recovered as rescuers continue to search for his remains. As a result, the officer was swept away by the raging waters along with his AK 47 rifle,” the report said… “We have searched for him in vain. We are going back to the spot to continue the search,” Mr Bungei told the media. In Dandora Phase 5, a family was left in tears after their daughter was swept away by the floods while trying to cross a dancing makeshift bridge over a tributary of the Nairobi River. The incident happened at around 7am when the two schoolgirls were on their way to Ushirika Primary School before one of them slipped into the fast-moving water in the Maili Saba area. “The boy asked the girl to walk first and when the girl was about to cross to the other side, she slipped and efforts to help her failed,” said Esther Kamau, the head teacher at Ushirika. Police said they were still searching for the body of the student, as well as one of the rescuers who tried to save the girl only to drown. According to Nairobi County District Administrator Charles Maboga, another body was recovered from the banks of the Korokocho River on Monday morning. Mr Maboga said he was called and informed of the body of a woman, which was later picked up by police. In a separate incident, a body was recovered in the Makumi area of Waruku, which the Nairobi County government confirmed was one of the deaths caused by the floods in the city. Disruption and displacement In a statement, Governor Sakaja said his disaster management team had confirmed that more than 300 families had been affected in Mukuru Kwa Reuben and Kwa Njenga and another 20 households in Waruku area. More than 300 families were also affected in Kware area and about 150 families in Biafra and Kinyago in Kamukunji. About 100 families were affected in Viwandani and 200 in Matopeni area of Kayole. The Njiru area was also affected. At press time, the Kenya Red Cross Society was still verifying data from its field assessment team.

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News Update
Greece: ‘Pushed to the limit’: the tiny Greek island in people smugglers’ sights
Source:
The Guardian
3/27/2024

Greece: ‘Pushed to the limit’: the tiny Greek island in people smugglers’ sights

3/27/2024

Even by the standards of small Greek islands, Gavdos is tiny. In a population of fewer than 70 people, there are just two families with four children. The rest “are all old people mostly living alone”, its mayor, Lilian Stefanaki, explains. It is a micro-world that in the depths of winter is served by a single school, a bakery, two mini-markets and four kafeneia cum tavernas. The remote island – separated from the coast of Crete by frequently unpredictable waters in the Libyan Sea – is watched over by Efsevios Daskalakis, who for much of the year is its sole police officer. But recently life on Gavdos has been a little less quiet than usual. “The weekend before last we had 150 people arrive from Libya in three very overcrowded boats,” says Stefanaki. “We’re being pushed to the limit because, firstly, there’s no infrastructure to house them on Gavdos.” At Europe’s southernmost tip, closer to Africa than Athens, the 29-square kilometre island has emerged as the latest focal point for smugglers bent on bringing people to the west. Of the 9,502 men, women and children who have sought refuge in Greece since January, about 1,186 Egyptians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have arrived in vessels that have landed “in the vicinity” of Crete and Gavdos, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). During the same three-month period last year there were “zero arrivals” on either island, a fact that has spurred fears of a new smuggling route emerging in the Mediterranean. “It’s been incredible. More than 800 souls in just a few months have landed on our coast in Tripiti,” says Daskalakis, alluding to the rocky promontory at the island’s southernmost point. “They’re young men mostly, who arrive in boats carrying four times their capacity after more than a day-and-a half at sea.” Often, he says, they were exhausted after making the perilous 180km journey from the port city of Tobruk on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean coast. “The first thing they do is call the emergency number, 112, which is when I am alerted by central office. There’s no road so I have to walk there if the seas are too turbulent. It’s been quite something. Usually it’s tourists you see at Tripiti because it’s the southernmost tip of Europe and they like to be photographed on the chair [a sculpture] there.” Until 17 March, when the EU sealed a €7.4bn (£6.4bn) deal with Egypt to stem migration flows, the boats had been coming in thick and fast. “There’d be one or two every two or three days,” Daskalakis says. “But since the [Greek] prime minister and other European leaders went to Cairo to sign the agreement there’s been a noticeable lull. It’s a relief but, then nobody knows how long exactly it will last.” Greece, like Italy, had pushed hard for the pact despite the prospect of human rights groups decrying a deal with Egypt. The number of people arriving in Greece since 1 January increased by 187%, according to officials. “No country or local community should be left alone to deal with the challenge of managing flows,” says Stella Nanou, a spokesperson at UNHCR’s Athens branch. “The numbers we are seeing are still manageable but swift coordination, preparedness and support from Greek central authorities and the EU is needed.” Greece’s migration minister, Dimitris Kairidis, will visit Gavdos this weekend with the aim of ensuring the outpost does not become what he has called “a hotspot of irregular migration”. Whereas in the past migrant boats from Libya had only stopped in Greece “by default”, it was clear the approach had changed with the country having become a destination, he told the Guardian. “Unless stopped, we should all brace for the potential of another tragedy similar to the one off Pylos,” he says of the more than 500 men, women and children who drowned when the trawler in which they were travelling from Tobruk capsized in controversial circumstances off the southern Peloponnese last year. “What we are seeing is criminal smuggler networks putting ever more of these unfortunate people into unseaworthy vessels that should never leave the Libyan coast.” Underscoring the importance of the three-year EU-Egypt deal, Kairidis insisted the Arab world’s most populous country had not only played a crucial role in stopping irregular migration but merited help to bolster its fragile economy if another migration crisis in Europe was to be averted. The emergence of the new migration route in southern Greece was not only worrisome, but required being managed properly and in time, he says. “We need the cooperation of Egypt because it’s mostly Egyptians who are coming. That’s why we pressed for the agreement and giving Egypt the EU support it deserves.”

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