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News Summary: November 2016

Donald Trump Becomes American President 

After one of the most high-profile American elections ever, controversial businessman Donald Trump has become the country’s President-Elect.

His term begins in January 2017 and will last for four years.

His predecessor was Barack Obama who spent the maximum two Presidential terms in The White House with his wife, Michelle Obama and their two daughters.

Croydon Tram Crash

At least seven people have been killed and more than 50 taken to hospital after a tram crashed and derailed in Croydon, south London on a Wednesday morning.

The crash occurred near to Sandilands junction on a sharp, left-hand curve as the tram was approaching a stop as it travelled from New Addington to Wimbledon.

Others said the tram had failed to brake in its usual place before the derailment, as the bend has a speed limit of just 12mph (20km/h) yet the Croydon trams have a top speed of around 50mph.

The overturned tram remains on its side next to an underpass and appears to have derailed where the track branches.

The police were called to the scene in Croydon, south of the British capital, shortly after 6 am, and officers, 70 firefighters with eight fire engines from the London Fire Brigade and paramedics with 22 ambulances to treat people worked through the morning to free the five people who were trapped inside the tram, the British Transport Police said in a statement.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is now investigating the incident. Investigators said the vehicle was travelling at a “significantly higher speed than is permitted”, and are probing whether the driver may have fallen asleep. The 42-year-old driver, from Beckenham, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and remains in custody.

Transport for London also said it had also launched an inquiry to identify what went “catastrophically wrong”.

After news the crash broke, claims emerged on Facebook that an incident had occurred on the same stretch of line on 31 October, though there were no reports that anyone was hurt.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered her thoughts and prayers for the Croydon victims, while London mayor Sadiq Khan visited the crash site.

London’s only tram network, which opened in 2000 and became the first tram system in London since 1952, operates in the south of the capital, goes from Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction, Elmers End and New Addington, via Croydon and vice versa.

The network consists of 39 stops along 17 miles (27km) of track, a mixture of street track shared with other traffic, dedicated track in public roads and off-street tram lines. More than 27 million passengers used the service in 2015-16.

The crash is the worst accident on the rail and tram networks since 2004, when seven people were killed in a rail crash near Ufton Nervet in Berkshire by a car driver trying to take his own life. Although in 2007 a tourist tram at Seaton in Devon derailed but there were no injuries. The cause was suspected to be someone placing an object in the points.

Tram accidents are extremely rare and most incidents involve collisions with other vehicles or pedestrians or cyclist being hit by trams. There have been no fatalities on board a tram in the UK since 1959, when two female passengers and the driver died when a tram caught fire in Shettlestone Road, Glasgow, after a collision with a lorry.

A casualty bureau number has been set up for relatives and friends to call – 0800 056 0154 and a book of condolence has opened at Croydon Town Hall.

The Croydon Tramlink line was closed between Reeves Corner and Addiscombe village, while police set up a cordon stretching more than 400 metres along Addiscombe road.

British Transport Police have warned that identifying the dead may be a “complex and lengthy process”.

Indian Train Crash Kills At Least 150

At least 150 people have been killed and more than 200 injured after a passenger train derailed near the city of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh in northern India.

Fourteen carriages of the Indore-Patna Express train came off the tracks in a remote area near the village of Purwa, about 65km (40 miles) from the industrial town of Kanpur at around 3:10am local time when the majority of passengers were asleep. Three of the 14 carriages near the engine where most victims were located were completely crushed, trapping hundreds of people inside.

A railways spokesman said the train carried 1,000 people travelling on reservations, but 700 more were estimated to have squeezed into the unreserved carriages.

Police said the cause of the crash was still unknown and will be announced only after a full investigation was completed. However, the national newspaper, Times of India quoted sources as saying a fracture in the track sending the carriages crashing into each other could have been to blame.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that India’s National Disaster Response Force was overseeing the rescue efforts.

Emergency services and ambulances took longer than usual to reach the site because the incident took place in a rural area. Medical trains from the nearby city of Jhansi were dispatched in the relief effort and cranes were deployed to lift the crushed carriages while sniffer dogs moved from carriage to carriage looking for signs of life within the wreckage.

Hundreds of army personnel, police and survivors are sifting through the mangled wreckage to free trapped passengers and recover bodies. Medical teams provided first aid near the site of the crash, while those seriously injured were taken to hospitals near Kanpur.

National Disaster Response Force and army units used gas cutters to try to find survivors, as hopes of finding people alive dwindled.

Pratap Rai, a Senior Railway Official, said: “We are using every tactic to save lives, but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages.”

Many anxious relatives gathered at the station in Indore, where the train began its journey, holding pictures of loved ones, Times of India said. A large crowd had also gathered at the site, with many combing through the bags and clothes strewn across the area in hopes of finding clues to the fate of their loved ones. Others thronged hospitals in a search for survivors, including many young children who had become separated from relatives.

The disaster occurred at the peak of India’s marriage season, and at least one wedding party was on board the train. Local media said wedding clothes, jewellery and invitation cards could be seen spilling from abandoned bags.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident.”

Modi also said he had spoken to Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who was “personally monitoring the situation closely”.

On his Twitter account, Prabhu warned that “strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident”. He said an investigation into the crash would begin immediately and compensation would be paid to “unfortunate passengers who died and to injured”, which was later confirmed to be that victims’ families would receive 200,000 rupees (£2,400) as compensation. Injured people can claim 50,000 rupees from government relief funds.

Kanpur is a major railway junction and hundreds of trains pass through it every day. Several trains using the line have been diverted to other routes, according to a spokesman for Indian Railways.

Train accidents are fairly common in India, where much of the railway equipment is out of date. In what was probably India’s worst rail disaster, a train fell into a river in the eastern state of Bihar of 1981, killing an estimated 500 to 800 people. Then in 2005, a train was crushed by a rock and another plunged into a river, each disaster killing more than 100 people. More recently, an accident in Uttar Pradesh in March last year killed 39 people and injured 150.

This particular train crash is the worst disaster since 2010, when a passenger train crashed into a freight train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing 146 and injuring more than 200, which the government blamed on sabotage by Maoist rebels.

The largely colonial-era railway system, the world’s fourth largest, carries a saturation-level total of about 23 million people daily. Ageing badly without modern signalling and communication systems and suffering from chronic under investment, its average speeds top just 50 kph (30 mph) and train accidents are common and claim more than 25,000 lives a year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. A 2012 government report called the loss of life as an annual “massacre”.

The Ministry of Railways said safety had declined from April to November, with derailments up by 67% compared with the same period last year.

The crash is a stark reminder of the obstacles facing Narendra Modi in delivering on his promise to turn the railways into a more efficient, safer network befitting India’s economic power.

This year, Modi pledged record levels through investments of $137bn (£111bn) over five years to modernise and expand the railways. Although some estimate that Modi’s $137bn (£111bn) commitment over his five-year term to upgrade India’s railways may not be enough to bring creaking trains and railway infrastructure up to standard.

However the main network has made little progress on upgrading tracks or signaling equipment.

He has also shied away from raising the highly subsidized fares that leave the railways with next to nothing for investment. By some analysts’ estimates, they need 20 trillion rupees ($293.34 billion) of investment by 2020.

He has also announced a new high-speed line funded by Japan who agreed to provide $12 billion (£9.7 billion) in soft loans to build India’s first bullet train, though plans remain in their infancy.

Mayawati, the state’s former chief minister who uses only one name and is a Modi critic, said the government should have “invested in mending tracks instead of spending billions and trillions of rupees on bullet trains”, media reported.

A document sent to the Guardian by Anil Saxena, a railways spokesman, said derailments were often caused by “poor maintenance of infrastructure especially at stations and failure to take appropriate precautionary measures against flash floods, landslides, boulder[s] falling, etc”.

Saxena said the Indian government would launch a “zero-accident mission” for the railways. “We have formed an action plan and a roadmap which we will implement to achieve this,” he said.

The government has ordered an inquiry to determine the precise cause of this specific crash.

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu addressed a rowdy crowd of lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, promising to a thorough investigation.

“Forensic enquiry has been ordered to look into all possible angles. Guilty will be given strictest possible punishment,” he said.

But chaos at the crash site sparked a blame game, as leaders speculated about how the train derailed.

Murli Manohar Joshi, veteran politician from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and MP for Kanpur, said the derailing might be part of a “conspiracy to defame” the centre.

“If 14 coaches are being derailed then this creates a doubt that whether the incident happened because the railway tracks were broken or someone did it to defame the Railways Ministry of our country, whatever can be the reason, we demand a probe into the matter,” Joshi told India’s DNA newspaper.

China Power Plant Collapse Kills At Least 74

Dozens of workers were crushed to death whilst others were left seriously injured under an avalanche of scaffolding, cement and steel rods in southeast China one Thursday after a platform in an unfinished tower of a coal power plant collapsed.

The platform, part of a power plant project near Fengcheng, a city in Jiangxi Province, collapsed around 7 am when more than 70 workers were on the site, safety inspectors at the scene said. By early Friday, rescuers had found 74 dead, according to Xinhua, a state-run news agency.

About 500 rescue workers, ­including paramilitary police officers, were shown by the broadcaster digging through the debris with their hands. State broadcaster CCTV’s report showed showed iron pipes, steel bars and wooden planks strewn across the floor of the cavernous, 165-metre-high concrete cooling tower. CCTV says more than 100 paramilitary police have joined in efforts to rescue trapped workers. Photographs from the scene showed rescuers standing on piles of twisted metal rods and shattered concrete.

The initial reports did not give a precise reason for the collapse but said that a platform more than 200 feet high being used by workers inside the unfinished tower had fallen after a crane collapsed.

The cooling tower near Fengcheng was part of an expansion of a power plant run by a state-owned company. In 2015, it won approval to add two 1,000-megawatt “ultra super critical” power-generation units, which can burn coal much more efficiently than traditional ones since Jiangxi province has plans to increase its power capacity to 30GW from last year’s level of only 16 GW. The third-phase extension project at the Fengcheng Power Station started in July last year.

The planned extension included two one-gigawatt generation units, according to the Jiangxi Development and Reform Commission. The first unit was scheduled to start operating in November of next year and the second unit was to be finished in 2018.

At the time of the collapse, workers had built 230 feet of the planned 541-foot tower, officials said, according to the China News Service.

After the two units were approved, a deputy governor of the province, Mo Jiancheng, told city officials to “do everything to create a good setting for building the project,” the Jiangxi Daily newspaper reported at the time.

“Speed up progress on the project,” said Mo, who has since moved to another post. “Create a safe, high-quality, environmentally friendly, energy-saving, clean model project.”

Shenzhen-listed Jiangxi Ganneng had invested about 7.7 billion yuan (HK$8.9 billion) into the power station project, the company announced last year.

China has suffered a series of major industrial accidents in recent years that have been blamed on corruption, pressure to boost production amid a slowing economy and subsequent disregard for safety violations in their haste to complete projects.

As is typical after big industrial accidents in China, government officials promised to find the cause of the disaster and prevent a recurrence. Yang Huanning, the director of the State Administration of Work Safety, was rushing to the power plant, about 750 miles south of Beijing, to oversee the rescue efforts, his office said.

A work unit would be set up to assist family members of the ­victims, Jiangxi’s Deputy Governor, Li Yihuang, said.

He also pledged to investigate the cause of the accident.

“All departments in the province must learn from this accident, conduct a systematic check and address all the safety risks,” Li said.

The accident at the power station is the most serious on the mainland since a landslide at a waste tip in Shenzhen buried buildings last year, killing 73.

“Strengthen oversight and preventive measures,” the Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, said in instructions about the accident issued on the central government’s website. “Prevent such major accidents from recurring.”

In recent years, the government has become more serious about work safety, and fatalities have fallen. But tens of thousands of work-related deaths still occur in mines and factories, at building sites and on the roads every year.

In the first half of this year, 14,136 people died in work-related accidents, according to official statistics. That death toll fell 5.3% from the same period a year earlier.

In June 2015, 442 people were killed when a modified cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze River; poor decisions by the captain and crew were blamed.  In August last year, explosions at an illegal chemical warehouse in Tianjin, a northern port city, killed 173 people, including 104 firefighters at the scene. In December, a landslide on a dump site for dirt from construction projects in Shenzhen, in far southern China, killed at least 81 people after its operators ignored warnings of instability.

More recently, three workers in the northern city of Shenyang, Liaoning province, died on October 19 after a road collapsed over a subway station under construction and on October 31, 33 miners died after a gas explosion at a coal mine in Chongqing.

On Thursday, Yang Dongliang, a former Director of the State Administration of Work Safety, faced trial in Beijing on charges of taking the equivalent of $4.1 million in bribes in that post and previous jobs, state media reported. Yang pleaded guilty, the reports said.

On September 13, Beijing launched a campaign called Work Hard Together for 100 Days, urging workers at the station to speed up construction while heeding safety rules.

Local governments have yet to follow Beijing’s call to slow down the expansion of coal-fired power plants in its effort to reduce overcapacity and tackle pollution.

Jiangxi Province lies inland and has long stayed a rural backwater as neighboring coastal regions boomed from trade and industry. But it has grown quickly in recent decades, drawing in factories.

Colombia Plane Crash 

A chartered plane carrying players from a Brazilian football team headed to Colombia for a regional tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin’s airport, killed at least 71 people as unconfirmed reports suggested the plane was low on fuel or suffered an electrical fault.

Almost all of the football team and accompanying staff were among the 77 passengers and crew onboard the aircraft. Local reports said a large number of journalists were also on the plane. Four other people listed on the flight manifest did not board the plane due to visa issues.

The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, operated by a Bolivian-based Venezuelan charter airline named LaMia, declared an emergency and lost radar contact just before 10pm on Monday (3am GMT) because of an electrical failure, aviation authorities said. It is believed the pilots reported an electrical fault to the control tower.

Authorities also said the plane encountered heavy rain and the crew declared an emergency shortly before it disappeared from the radar.

The short-haul chartered plane was flying at an altitude of 15,500ft, approximately 30km from its destination when it came down in a mountainous area of Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Union as it approached Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin. The plane apparently split in two with only the nose and wings recognisable, and its tail end had virtually disintegrated, raising suspicions that it had lost power due to a lack of fuel rather than poor weather conditions.

Bad weather hampered rescue efforts, with the crash site inaccessible by air. Rescuers had to travel on foot for more than half an hour to reach the site. Soldiers were guarding the wreckage overnight, with investigators due to begin work at first light for clearer conditions.

“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the site in a mountainous area outside the city where aircraft crashed.

Brazilian President, Michel Temer said military planes have been made available for victims’ relatives to travel to Colombia and for the transfer of the bodies back home.

Colombia’s civil aviation authority named the six survivors in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday. It said two crew members – Ximena Suárez, a flight attendant, and Erwin Tumiri, a flight technician – had been taken to the Clínica Somer hospital in Rionegro.

Three players – Alan Luciano Ruschel, Jakson Ragnar Follmann and Hélio Hermito Zampier – were also said to be in hospital, along with the journalist, Rafael Valmorbida. Two of the six are said to be seriously injured. The player who was rescued but later died of his injuries was named as goalkeeper Marcos “Danilo” Padilha.

Also killed was Tiago de Rocha Viera, a 22-year-old forward. A video spread online of Viera’s thrilled reaction to learning one week before the crash that his wife Graziele was pregnant with their first child.

Of the players, goalkeeper Jakson Follmann was recovering from the amputation of his right leg, doctors said. Another player, defender Hélio Hermito Zampier, remained in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs. Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spinal injuries and was due to undergo surgery.

Conmebol released a short statement on Tuesday morning to confirm the suspension and express it’s sadness over the incident.

The statement read: “The South American Football Confederation confirms that it has been notified by Colombian authorities that the plane in which the team of Chapecoense Atlético de Brasil was travelling suffered an accident upon arrival in Colombia. We are in contact with the authorities and pending official progress.”

All football has been suspended in South America for an indefinite period following the crash, while the President of Brazil, Michel Temer, has declared three days of mourning.

“I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families,” he said.

“The government will do all it can to alleviate the pain of the friends and family of sport and national journalism.”

His Colombian counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, also tweeted his condolences, saying: “Solidarity with the families of the victims and Brazil.”

The team hail from the small city of Chapeco in south Brazil and had embarked on something of a fairy tale season this year. The club have never won a major trophy in their history and after gaining promotion to the Serie A in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s, Chapecoense reached the Copa Sudamericana final in what is South America’s equivalent to the Uefa Europa League. After seeing off San Lorenzo in a two-leg semi-final, they were due to play Colombian side Atletico Nacional on Wednesday before the return fixture in Chapeco next week.

The mood was jubilant as the Chapecoense players began to board flight LMI2933 and the club posted a video on Facebook of the team in good spirits shortly before takeoff, describing the Brazilian football team’s trip to Medellin as “the club’s most important to date”.

The club said in a brief statement on its Facebook page that “may God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests travelling with our delegation”.

Atletico Nacional, which was due to play the team on board, has asked South America’s soccer federation to award the Copa Sudamericana title to Chapecoense in light of the tragedy.

In a joint statement, Brazilian first division football teams have offered to lend players to Chapecoense free of charge, and asked the league to protect the club from relegation for the next three years.

The statement added: “It is a minimum gesture of solidarity that is at our disposal at the moment, but endowed with the sincere objective of reconstruction of this institution and the Brazilian football that was lost today. #ForçaChape,” – or Strength Chape – after the club’s nickname.

Other Brazilian clubs also leant their support to Chapecoense, with a number of them posting: “Today, all clubs of Brazil are one #ForcaChape.”

Both the Real Madrid and Barcelona squads help a minute’s silence in tribute to the dead during training this morning ahead of their El Clasico derby this weekend.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea were among the many Premier League teams that sent messages of condolence to the Brazilian club, while a number of individuals also took the time to send their tributes to family, friends and supporters of the victims.

Some footballers and clubs changed their social media profile pictures to a black version of Chapecoense’s green badge, and many included the hashtag #ForçaChape.

Chapecoense fans gathered outside the club’s stadium to mourn the dead, console one another and offer their prayers.

British investigators will help authorities in South America examine the black box recovered from the plane, as the aircraft was built in Britain. The aircraft was an Avro RJ85, built in 1999 and previously owned by CityJet of Dublin. The model has a good safety record. It had reportedly carried the Argentinian national football team earlier this month including star player, Lionel Messi between World Cup qualifying matches.

The plane, a variant of the BAE146 model which went out of production in 2002, was manufactured by British Aerospace, now part of BAE Systems. Representatives from BAE Systems will join the AAIB team in assisting the investigation.

A spokesman for the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said: “As the state of manufacture of the aircraft, the AAIB is sending a team of inspectors to Colombia to assist with the investigation of the aircraft accident at Medellín.”

Investigators from Brazil and Bolivia will also be involved.

Two “black box” flight recorders have been recovered “in perfect condition” from the crash site on a hillside near the town of La Union.

Colombia’s aviation agency said experts have already begun examining the recorders, which will likely help investigators determine the exact cause of the crash.

The crash is Colombia’s worst air disaster in two decades.

This is not the first recorded incident involving a British Aerospace 146 aircraft:

In 1991, a chartered LAN Chile British Aerospace 146 overran a runway on its approach to Puerto Williams Airport in Chile, with 20 of the 73 people on board killed

In 2006, a 146 plane operated by Atlantic Airways crashed after overshooting the runway at Stord Airport in Norway. with four deaths, due to a reported fault with its braking system.

Football Child Sex Abuse Scandal 

About 350 victims have reported child sexual abuse within UK football clubs, police chiefs have said.

The spotlight has been turned on football following recent claims made by Andy Woodward, a former player, that he was abused as a youth. Andy Woodward, 43, who played in the lower divisions of English football, told the Guardian newspaper in an interview two weeks ago how his life had been ruined because he had been molested as a boy by a youth team coach.

His frank revelations of the sexual abuse he endured three decades ago prompted more than 20 other former professionals to come forward with their own distressing stories of suffering at the hands of sexual predators in the sport.

The allegations of child sex abuse in English soccer from the 1970s through to the 1990s has shocked Britain and led to deep soul-searching in the game amid fears hundreds of young boys might have been involved.

Police Chiefs are vowing to hunt down anyone responsible – no matter how long ago the crimes took place. All cases will be investigated, with a priority being to identifying alleged offenders who may still pose a danger to children.

The figures, compiled by forces and including referrals to a specially set up helpline by NSPCC, were released in a statement. The NSPCC says more than 860 people have called its dedicated football hotline. Within the first three days of it launching, the charity made more than 60 referrals to a range of agencies across the UK.

That was more than three times as many referrals as in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the charity added.

The phone line is available 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.

Police forces across the UK, including Police Scotland, are investigating more than 80 potential suspects and 98 clubs in the abuse scandal that has rocked the game. The Football Association has announced an internal review and a number of football clubs are conducting their own inquiries. The Premier League club is also set to share information with the Football Association following its own investigation.

The Scottish Football Association said that it had met with representatives from Police Scotland and the Professional Footballers’ Association Scotland yesterday for an update on “our collective effort to support criminal investigations into reports of child sexual abuse in football”.
The statement added: “Both the Scottish FA and PFA Scotland are committed to working together to support Police Scotland in appealing to anyone with information to report child sexual abuse in Scottish football, and to provide a safe and confidential environment in which to do so.

Women’s football had not featured in any of the allegations. Cameron said that may be because its popularity was comparably modest during the 70s, 80s and 90s when the majority of the abuse is alleged to have taken place.

However the NSPCC has not ruled out suggestions the abuse is still ongoing.

“It would be naive to assume that all of the concerns that are being disclosed and being talked about are in the past,” said Jon Brown, the NSPCC lead on tackling sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, former darts world champion Eric Bristow has been dropped as a TV pundit and from a scheduled appearance in front of fans at Newcastle United’s football ground after making controversial remarks about the abuse scandal.

He was used on a freelance basis as a pundit and occasional commentator by Sky, but the broadcaster said it will not use him in the future.

Bristow, 59, wrote on Twitter: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out.”

He added: “Dart players tough guys footballers wimps.”

Steve Walters, one of the ex-players to have spoken out about his abuse at the hands of convicted paedophile and former Crewe coach Barry Bennell, responded on Twitter: “Disgusted with Eric Bristows remarks tonight #stoneagementality.”

It was also revealed that about 2,500 coaches are working in youth football in Scotland without having full background checks. Of the 15,385 coaches registered with the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA), 2,500 have not had Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) clearance.

Peru Declares State of Emergency Over Forest Fires

Peru has declared a state of emergency in seven districts in the north of the country where forest fires have killed two, injured four and burnt nearly 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of land, including five protected natural areas.

Wildfires have spread to 11 regions across the country as Peru experiences one of its driest years in two decades, according to it’s Forest Service, Serfor.

The spate of wildfires in the past week were likely started by accident after peasant farmers burned fields to prepare them for planting, said the Civil Defense Institute.

Peru’s Environment Minister, Elsa Galarza, said a special brigade of firefighters had been deployed to the worst-affected areas in the north. The 31 firefighters are normally stationed in the Inca citadel Machu Picchu, the country’s top tourist attraction and one of the world’s seven wonders.

Peru’s military has deployed planes and helicopters to douse the flames with water, but firefighting has been constrained by high altitudes and difficult geography in some Andean provinces.

Peru’s Prime Minister, Fernando Zavala, travelled to the affected areas and said the state of emergency would allow the government to “continue mobilising people, resources and diverse equipment in order to confront these fires”.

In August, biologists and environmentalists from around the world warned the presidents of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia about the dangers of devastating fires in what they said might be the region’s worst drought in at least half a century.

Ernesto Ráez, a former adviser with the Environment Ministry, said the government was given due warning of the possibility of forest fires in mid-August. He said he and 23 other biologists and environmentalists sent an open letter to authorities in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru warning of the grave risk due to drought conditions over the last year due to climate change and last year’s El Nino weather pattern making the Amazon drier than usual.

“Peru completely dismissed our letter,” he said, adding a reply was received from the Environment Ministry but there was no response from the Agriculture Ministry which is responsible for dealing with forest fires.

Speaking on national radio, Peru’s Agriculture Minister, José Manuel Hernández admitted that the country was ill-prepared to deal with this type of emergency.

“We’ve been prepared for floods but we’re not prepared for fires like this,” he said.

Endangered animal species such as the spectacled bear – which inspired the Paddington Bear children’s stories – and the white-winged guan are under threat from the blazes.

Other rare species such as jaguars, howler monkeys and the collared anteater, are seeing their habitat destroyed inside the protected areas, which include the Amotape mountain range and Cutervo national park.

Joel Córdoba, Chief at the Paigabamba protected forest in Cajamarca, one of the worst-affected regions, who has been working with park guards, volunteers and local firefighters to control the blazes since they began last week, said they were gradually bringing the flames under control.

“The people have a bad habit of burning to clear land for cultivation at this time of year they rely on the rains to put them out, but the rains didn’t come,” he told the Guardian by telephone.

No one had died in the fires and no evacuations have been ordered.

In September, wildfires along the Ene River in a southern Amazonian region destroyed some 20,000 hectares (49,421 acres) of rainforest.

Hurricane Otto 

At least eight people have been killed across Central America through extreme weather caused by Hurricane Otto, four dying in Panama and at least four fatalities in Nicaragua, with another five reported missing.

The Miami-based US National Hurricane Center said Otto hit land near the town of San Juan de Nicaragua, just North of the Costa Rican border with winds of 110 mph (175km/h) around midday local time and categorised the unusually strong late-season as a “dangerous” Category 2 (on the five point Saffir-Simpson scale) hurricane after fluctuating between tropical storm and hurricane status since winds weekend to 100 mph (155 kph) as it moved inland near the border with Costa Rica.

This death toll could have been worse had the storm not missed major population centres, and passed across Central America’s largest lake, Lake Nicaragua.

A 7.0-magnitude quake in the Pacific Ocean also occurred in the aftermath of the hurricane about 120km (75 miles) off of Puerto El Triunfo on the coast of El Salvadorat a depth of 6.4 miles (10.3 km), briefly triggering a tsunami alert.

Nicaragua closed schools and was evacuating more than 10,000 people from communities in the storm’s path. Heavy rains were expected to affect the entire country, raising the possibility of flooding and landslides.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency due to the hurricane and the quake, said spokeswoman Rosario Murillo, who is also his wife and added that vacations would continue because of the continued risk of flooding.

Although in Bluefields – the nearest major town on the Nicaraguan coast – the 45,000 residents rode out the hurricane as there was very limited damage despite being directly in the path of the storm. Although there were reports of panic buying od battery powered lamps, bottled water, canned food and plastic bags.

Officials in Costa Rica ordered the evacuation of 4,000 people from its Caribbean coast and also called off school nationwide for a week.

The extreme conditions caused around 16 government shelters in Costa Rica to hold around 2000 evacuees out of the 5,500 which had to be evacuated. This gap has been created as people often take shelter with their relatives during such evacuations.

In Costa Rica, the National Emergency Commission (CNE) said some 255 communities were affected altogether, of which at least 23 were isolated because of damages to roads and highways.

Jose Donderis, Panama’s Civil Defense Director, said a landslide just west of Panama city early on Tuesday trapped nine people. Seven were rescued but two bodies were pulled from the mud. In the capital, a child was killed when a tree fell on a car outside a school.

Otto, the seventh Atlantic hurricane of the season, also battered Nicaragua’s Corn Islands with 3.5-meter waves and damaged property but residents were all safe in refuges, said the archipelago’s mayor, Cleveland Rolando Webster.

Authorities also began to release water from locks and lakes feeding the Panama Canal. Several towns were covered by water and mud, the roofs of many houses had been ripped off, small bridges collapsed, trees toppled, vehicles were urged off of the road, flights were cancelled, government offices across the country were closed, hospitals in the most vulnerable regions suspended elective surgeries and were in the process of transferring patients to other areas, and authorities also began to release water from locks and lakes feeding the Panama Canal.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis urged residents to heed official warnings.

“Let me be clear: the hurricane is potentially highly destructive. We hope no-one gets hurt, but that is why we must be prepared, and follow the authorities’ orders.”

Attention is now turning towards the heavy rains affecting the region, which has consisted of an entire month of precipitation in one week, and the consequential risk of landslides and flash flooding and the President announced that public employees would not have to work until everything has calmed down.

The governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, including Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis, have both expressed fears the storm could damage important coffee and other crops which are almost ready for harvest.

Otto “could seriously jeopardize food security for small-holder farmers who rely on maize, beans, cocoa, honey, coffee and livestock for their livelihoods,” Jennifer Zapata, a regional director for U.S.-based anti-poverty group Heifer International, said according to the Associated Press.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis decreed three days of mourning.

The country’s National Meteorological Institute says it will be the first time a hurricane has made landfall in Costa Rica since records began in 1851.

Otto is also the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America.

However those aren’t the only firsts: Otto is the strongest hurricane this late in the season since 1934, Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach tweeted. His message was shared dozens of times by his nearly 9,000 followers.

Hurricane season in the Caribbean Sea usually runs from the beginning of June to the end of November.

This is probably the result of exceptionally high sea surface temperatures in the region – around 29C.

Although computer models are struggling to handle a tropical storm this far south so late in the year, Otto will remain a “fish storm”, by continuing to feed off warm surface waters eventually decaying over open water.

By the end of the week Otto was heading out to the Pacific with top sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (105 km per hour) and churning about 245 miles (394 km) south-southeast of San Salvador.

New Zealand Earthquake 

A powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island, killing at least two people and triggered a tsunami alert for the entire east coast, forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes in the middle of the night and seek higher ground and killing two people.

One man died when historic Elm Homestead collapsed in Kaikoura and another man had a heart attack at his property in Mount Lyford.

Meanwhile some of those injured were able to get to Kaikoura Hospital which has wifi, they were able to send out essential messages to let family and friends they were safe.

The quake hit just after midnight on a Monday, north-east of Christchurch but it was felt as far afield as the capital Wellington on the North Island, 120 miles (200km) away. The USGS initially estimated it had a magnitude of 7.4 before revising it to 7.8.

An estimated 1,200 tourists were staying in Kaikoura, a popular whale-watching destination, at the time. About 3,500 people live in the town and surrounding area.

A state of emergency was subsequently declared in the town. However authorities said they were not yet declaring a national emergency, saying the regions are coping well.

Prime Minister John Key said the top priority was to provide desperately needed supplies to Kaikoura.

Key later travelled with the New Zealand Air Force across the wider Kaikoura region and said the damage was much worse than initially thought.

“It’s pretty horrendous for the people of Kaikoura and there will be a massive cleanup.”

The quake will be a major blow to Kaikoura’s tourism revenue with New Zealand’s $34.7bn industry just beginning the peak of its season.

A tsunami arrived about two hours later. Officials warned everyone along the eastern coast to head inland or for higher ground. At one point, the ministry of civil defence suggested tsunami waves as tall as five metres could hit the eastern coast. But just after 08:00 local time (19:00 GMT), the warning was scaled back to a “marine and beach threat” with waves of just one metre along a small stretch of coast.

A rail line which runs adjacent to parts of the highway had moved about 20 metres toward the sea and freight train on the rail line near Kaikoura has been stranded between two slips.

Many schools and offices stayed closed while engineers checked the buildings, and ferries and trains were cancelled.

The initial tremor was followed by aftershocks, including several above magnitude 6. These ensuing aftershocks and landslips destroyed buildings and caused damage that will take months – perhaps years – to fix at a cost estimated in the  billions of dollars.

Helicopters with medical and rescue personnel were sent near the epicentre of the quake, where it opened up snaking fissures in roads and triggered landslides.

Australian, Canadian and US warships are helping with evacuations and supplying aid to the New Zealand town of Kaikoura after a series of tremors.The foreign warships had been destined for Auckland to take part in 75th anniversary celebrations for the New Zealand navy but diverted to help with the recovery effort. The USS Sampson is the first US warship to visit New Zealand in 30 years.

New Zealand Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the offer of assistance was “heartening”, and that Japan and Singapore had also offered help.

Widespread damage is reported to bridges, infrastructure and buildings in the northern South island. Power and water supplies have also been disrupted. There were also reports of a train trapped north of Kaikoura, and at least one major building collapsed in the town itself.

Workers also established emergency road access to the town, which has been cut off by landslides.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges told reporters on Tuesday that access to Kaikoura would take “several months” to be re-established.

Police have warned that water and electricity supplies are running low, while hundreds of people remain in evacuation shelters and community centres. The New Zealand Red Cross also had teams on the ground in Kaikoura operating an evacuation centre and distributing supplies and support to the town’s residents and visitors, said Lauren Hayes, New Zealand’s Red Cross’s Spokesperson.

At least 1,000 people are being housed in the local marae, or Maori meeting place, in Kaikoura. They had crayfish – the town’s speciality after which it is named – for breakfast, after local fisheries’ tanks failed with the electricity shortage.

“It’s better to use the food than throw it in the rubbish,” said local Maori Community Leader Mark Solomon.

People in Kaikoura were also being told to urgently conserve the existing supply of water and use it for drinking only.

Accounts of looting also emerged in the aftermath of the quake. New Zealand’s Newshub website reported that a Christchurch family who fled their home returned hours later to find they had been been burgled.

GeoNet, a government-funded project monitoring earthquakes, said that aftershocks would continue over the next few months.

The nation of 4.7-million people is still recovering from heavy quakes in 2010 and 2011 which killed 185 people, with the continuing rebuilding of Christchurch expected to cost about £23 billion.

New Zealand lies in the seismically active “Ring of Fire”, a 40,000km arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Ocean. Around 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur within this region. New Zealand experiences as many as 15,000 tremors a year.

Amid the devastation, one of the most striking scenes from the aftermath of the quake was the image of three cows left stranded on a patch of grass after the paddock around them collapsed.

Derrick Millton, a local farmer, said the cows were rescued after a team dug a track through the surrounding soil for them to escape.

“They’re quiet but they’ve had a terrible ordeal,” he said.

“You’re a clever cow to skip and dance while the land beneath you is disappearing down the hill… I think one or two had lost calves in the earthquake, so they were a bit distressed.”

He said that fourteen had been saved in total.

Tragically, he explained why some of the cows were so distressed:  “I think one or two had lost calves in the earthquake so they were a bit distressed.”

“It was very steep limestone bluff covered in lovely pasture a week ago, and now it’s all in the gully,” he added.

New Zealand’s 10 million cattle easily outnumber its 4.7 million people.

A 6.2 earthquake later struck northwestern Argentina, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Fidel Castro Death

Fidel Castro, the controversial former Cuban President who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 US presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10.29pm on a Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Towards victory, always!”

Nine days of national mourning have been declared until 4 December, when Castro’s ashes will be interred during a memorial service in the southeastern city of Santiago,where Castro began his revolutionary career, after a four-day procession through Cuba.

A defining figure of the 20th century, Castro took power following a revolution in 1959 to become, at 32, the youngest leader in Latin America.

Two years later he fended off a US-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

His alliance with Moscow helped trigger the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a 13-day showdown with the United States that brought the world close to a nuclear war.

Castro was famous for long, fist-pounding speeches filled with blistering rhetoric, often aimed at the United States.

At home, he swept away capitalism and won support for bringing schools and hospitals to the poor. But he also created legions of enemies and critics, concentrated among Cuban exiles in Miami who fled his rule and saw him as a ruthless tyrant.

Castro ruled Cuba for 49 years before standing down in February 2008 after a long illness.

His own physician, a specialist in longevity, had suggested four years earlier the leader could live to 140.

“I am not exaggerating,” Dr Eugenio Selman said.

The nation was therefore stunned as its ageing, yet ironclad leader handed over power temporarily to his brother in 2006 when an acute infection in his colon forced him to undergo emergency surgery.

Cuban intelligence services claim Castro – who reportedly married twice and fathered nine children – faced 634 assassination plots between 1958 and 2000, with some reportedly involving poisoned or explosive cigars. Castro’s former bodyguard, Fabian Escalante, also claimed there had been 638 attempts on the leader’s life.

Surviving numerous attempts on his life became a source of pride for Castro. As he was fond of saying: “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal.”

Just before his last birthday, he told communist party members: “Soon I will be 90…Never would such an idea have occurred to me. It was not the fruit of any effort, it was the whim of fate. Soon I will be like all the rest.”

People have been pouring onto the streets to lament – and celebrate – the death of former Cuban president Fidel Castro.

While some Cubans described his loss as “a painful blow”, others rejoiced, blaming the revolutionary leader for the deaths of innocent people and separating families.

In Miami, home to almost a million Cubans, the exiles and their descendants chanted “Cuba si! Castro no!” on Calle Ocho – 8th Street – against the backdrop of a carnival-like atmosphere of fireworks, salsa music and car horns as they celebrated the death of the man they knew as el monstruo – the monster.

Many travelled there as minors under programmes such as Operation Pedro Pan, or were part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980, which was triggered by a sharp downturn in the Cuban economy. Castro had declared: “Anyone who wants to leave Cuba can do so.”

Therefore under Castro’s regime, thousands of exiles and refugees fleeing poverty and persecution settled in the US — with Castro facing criticism for presiding over alleged human rights abuses.

In 2014, under Raul Castro, Cuba and the US agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties to end decades of hostility. Fidel Castro’s year-long silence thereafter raised questions about whether he agreed with his brother’s decision.

Obama offered the Cuban people “a hand of friendship” in a statement following news of Castro’s death whilst US President-elect Donald Trump, who during his campaign threatened to reverse the thaw in American/Cuban relations, said Cuba could move towards a “wonderful future” following the death of a “brutal dictator”.

Meanwhile, those in Cuba reacted with sadness to the death of the leader, who had freed the nation from the clutches of dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

Despite the mixed reactions to the death of the man who famously declared “history will absolve me,” one thing all could agree on was that this extraordinary figure had left his mark on history.

His death saw a raft of tributes from world leaders.

In his final years, Fidel Castro no longer held leadership posts. He wrote newspaper commentaries on world affairs and occasionally met with foreign leaders but he lived in semi-seclusion.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, spoke of “deep sorrow” upon hearing of Castro’s death, adding that his father had been “very proud to call him a friend”.

Jacob Zuma, the South African president, praised Castro for inspiring Nelson Mandela and others fighting for freedom in the African nation.

“President Castro identified with our struggle against apartheid,” he said. “He inspired the Cuban people to join us in our own struggle. As a way of paying homage to the memory of President Castro, the strong bonds of solidarity, cooperation and friendship that exist between South Africa and Cuba must be maintained and nurtured.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said via Twitter: “Fidel Castro was one of the most iconic personalities of the 20th century. India mourns the loss of a great friend.”

“Fidel Castro was a sincere and reliable friend of Russia. He embodied the high ideals of a politician, a citizen and a patriot sincerely convinced of the rightness of the cause to which he dedicated his whole life”, said Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Latin American leaders led the tributes to Castro, however.

Nicolás Maduro, President of Venezuela, hailed his legacy. “To all the revolutionaries of the world, we have to continue his legacy and his flag of independence, of socialism, of homeland,” he said.

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, said he was “a great one”. “Fidel is dead. Long live Cuba! Long live Latin America!”

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto tweeted: “I lament the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, leader of the Cuban revolution and emblematic reference of the 20th Century,” he said on Twitter.

China’s President Xi Jingping also had kind words for Castro in a statement read out on state television: “The Chinese people have lost a good and true comrade. Comrade Castro will live forever.”

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who praised Castro as “a massive figure in the history of the whole planet”.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described Castro as an “historic if controversial figure” whose death “marks the end of an era for Cuba and the start of a new one for Cuba’s people”.

Elsewhere, French President François Hollande said Castro “incarnated the Cuban revolution” in its “hopes” and its “disillusionments”.

“Fidel Castro was a figure of the 20th century. He incarnated the Cuban revolution, in the hopes that it aroused, then in the disillusionments it provoked,” he said in a statement.

Japanese Earthquake

A 7.4-magnitude earthquake shook Japan this month, triggering mass evacuations and tsunami warnings with no serious injuries or damage although

The earthquake struck at about 6am local time, at a depth of seven miles. A series of aftershocks were felt in the hours after the initial quake struck. The epicentre was off the east coast of the Fukushima prefecture, the site of the devastating magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011 that left more than 18,000 dead  triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the Chernobyl meltdown and left a substantial area of Japan uninhabitable for many years.

The tsunami warnings called for residents to “flee the coast immediately”, to move to higher ground or tall buildings, and to “not be complacent”.

The warnings allowed for the possibility of waves of up to 3m (10 feet) along the country’s north-east Pacific coast, but the highest recorded wave, of 1.4m (4.6 feet), was observed at Sendai port shortly after 8am and the tsunami warnings issued for both the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures were downgraded to advisories in the hours after the tremor although people were still urged to stay away from coastal areas.

In a statement, the agency said the earthquake was thought to be an aftershock of the 9.0-magnitude event that devastated the same region in 2011. The region was also hit by a series of weaker quakes throughout Tuesday.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, who was overseas for meetings, said said his government would“do its utmost in response to the quake”.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20% of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

HMP Bedford Riot

Around 50 or 60 inmates are understood to have been removed from HMP Bedford after a number of prisoners were involved in a riot.

At least 150 inmates are thought to have been involved in the incident at the Category B (which means prisoners do not require maximum security but any escape would pose a “large risk” to the community.) facility; the Prison Officers Association has said 230 although the riot is said to have spread over more than one wing inside the prison.

Emergency services, including specially-trained officers, were called to the prison in the town centre at around 5pm on a Sunday where hundreds of prisoners are understood to have taken over parts of the category B prison, some of whom allegedly carried blades and ransacked the guards’ offices, sparking small fires and stealing medical supplies.

Mobile phone footage from inside a prison – but which cannot be verified – was posted on social media. Videos showed chaotic scenes with scores of prisoners out of their cells and in the prison’s gangways, shouting and bellowing including one which showed what appeared to be paper and furniture strewn across an atrium floor. It is also understood that inmates have also ripped up toilets in an attempt to flood the buildings and there were reports of loud noises erupting from the prison.

Some guards were forced to retreat to a “safe place”.

Once specialist riot officers were brought in, the prisoners quickly gave up and returned to their cells. The Prison Service said the disturbance was “successfully resolved” at around 11:30pm, more than six hours after they arrived, and that they would be launching an investigation into the riot.

Officers had warned of plans by prisoners to cause trouble and had urged management not to let them out, but had been overruled.

There were no injuries to prison staff but two inmates were treated for injuries that were not thought to be serious.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “We are clear that prisoners who behave in this way will be punished and could spend significantly longer behind bars.”

The three arrested men, aged 39, 37 and 26, are being questioned on suspicion of committing offences under the Prison Security Act 1992.

60 other inmates including 50 riot “ringleaders” have been transferred to other jails as two wings are said to be out of action, the Prison Officers Association (POA) said.

Damage caused by prisoners is likely to cost at least £1m to fix.

An internal investigation is also taking place into what happened.

Officials did not say what sparked the riot, with unconfirmed reports in the media the violence may have been a reaction to poor conditions inside the prison.

HMP Bedford, which has been on its current site since 1801, currently holds around 500 inmates instead of its certified normal capacity of 322, according to a HM Inspectorate of Prisons report in September.

In the recent report published in September, almost twice the number of HMP Bedford inmates said it was “easy” to access drugs, compared to a previous inspection in February 2014. Subsequently the number saying they had developed a drug problem while at the prison increased from 4% to 14%. It also mentioned that the use of drugs previously known as “legal highs” was having a “serious impact” on safety at the prison.

The HMP inspection in May also found that the physical condition of the prison was poor, with many inmates living in cramped conditions. The report detailed damaged furniture, graffiti, shortages of clothing and dirty, unscreened showers.

The report also said: “Arrangements for managing violent and bullying behaviour and supporting victims were weak.”

Although this particular incident is believed to be because the inmates were protesting against the reduction of the duration of social time that they get to spend together as a result of acute understaffing.

The incident came days after Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced a programme of measures including a £1.3bn investment plan in new prisons over the next five years, and plans for 2,100 extra officers, drug tests and more autonomy for governors. This followed comments by the Head of the Prison Officers Association Mike Rolfe warning that British jails had been engulfed by a “bloodbath”.

However the POA warned this latest disturbance would make it even more difficult to recruit – as the government pledged just last week to increase staff numbers.

In October inmates of Lewes Prison in East Sussex also went on a rampage.

Bolivian Drought

Bolivia’s government has declared a state of emergency over the worst drought in 25 years, making funds available to alleviate a crisis that has affected families and the agricultural sector.

The national state of emergency comes after 172 of the country’s 339 municipalities declared their own emergencies related to the drought, with some communities only receiving water every third day.

The supply is so limited that many people only have enough to drink, and cannot bathe or wash clothing.

Earlier this month, neighbourhoods in and around the capital of La Paz had a rationing plan imposed, forcing residents to go without water for 60 hours at a time before getting 12 hours of access. That has now been extended to periods of three days without water and just three hours to replenish their supply, since reservoirs are running dry.

The three main dams that supply water into Bolivia’s second largest city, El Alto, are almost dry. The main Ajuan Khota dam is at 1% of capacity, while the other two dams are averaging 8% capacity.

The Corque municipality has been hit particularly hard, according to a report from the Pan American Health Organisation, and 70% of the population lacks drinking water.

In three cities, including La Paz, the end of the school year has been brought forward by up to a week due to the shortage of water.

Authorities declared water rationing in La Paz to be a permanent measure as the drought in Bolivia worsens.

The water shortages have prompted angry protests in major cities and conflicts between miners and farmers over the use of wells and aquifers.

The Federation of Town Councils, known as Fejuve, briefly held officials and water authorities hostage after the Minister of Environment and Water, Alexandra Moreira, failed to turn up for commander sildenafil pfizer das a meeting to report on a water supply project in the city of El Alto to demand the government explain its plans to mitigate the shortage.

Police were eventually called to release the hostages, including Ruben Mendez, Bolivia’s Deputy Water Minister.

The vice-ministry of civil defense estimated that the drought has affected 125,000 families and threatened 290,000 hectares (716,605 acres) of agricultural land and 360,000 heads of cattle.

Ranchers, mainly in the city of Santa Cruz, have also recorded a loss of $149 million due to the drought, with 60,000 cattle dead, reported Bolivian newspaper, La Razón.

President Evo Morales called on local governments to devote funds and workers to drill wells and transport water to cities in vehicles, with the support of the armed forces, from nearby bodies of water.

“We have to be prepared for the worst,” Morales said at a press conference, adding that the current crisis was an opportunity to “plan large investments” to adapt to the effects of climate change on the country’s water supply.

He also the head of the state water company and the director of the state water authority, as well as issuing an apology. He has now promised that funds will be diverted to drill wells and transport water to cities with the support of the country’s armed forces.

He told the Bolivian newspaper, La Razón that long-term projects such as the provision of wells and aqueducts, as well as diverting rivers, were being considered, but such ideas would take up to a year to implement.

However in the meantime, the recently-created “water cabinet” in the country is planning to distribute water from 100 tankers in La Paz, where long queues for water have formed each day.

The water cabinet has also asked foreign companies for help with technical advice, the La Razon newspaper reported. The country’s Defence Minister, Reymi Ferreira, has said that a Korean and several European companies were providing help.

Morales has blamed the crisis on global warming, saying he had seen the dry lakes from which the country draws its water first-hand from a helicopter.

The drought is believed to have been exacerbated by the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon. No rain is forecast until early December.

In 2004, a lack of access to water in El Alto, prompted residents to take to the streets in protest. As a result, the control of water was taken out of private hands and into those of the state.

Bolivia’s crisis is not a new problem. The Andean glaciers that supply much of the water to the world’s highest capital of La Paz have been melting rapidly in recent decades. In the last quarter of the 20th century, average temperatures in the tropical Andes rose around 0.6 F per decade, according the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Chacaltaya glacier, situated northwest of La Paz, disappeared entirely in 2009.

Around the world, a lack of water due to the effects of global warming has led to an increased reliance on underground aquifers. Many of the planet’s largest aquifers, supplying water to hundreds of millions of people, are now being rapidly depleted.

Pentonville Prison Escape

Two prisoners escaped from HMP Pentonville this month, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the inmates, aged 28 and 31, escaped using diamond-tipped cutting equipment to cut through cell bars and left mannequins in their beds to fool prison guards before scaling an outside wall.

The men were not required for prison work, which is why they were not reported missing until 12:00. It was addd that added staff were expected to conduct a visual check on prisoners at about 07:00.

Both were on remand, one for attempted murder and the other for burglary. One of the two escaped prisoners is believed to be serving “a very long sentence” but the MoJ declined to name either of them.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Public protection is our top priority and we take escapes from custody extremely seriously. We are working closely with the police and are urgently investigating the matter.”

However Scotland Yard said: “Detectives are advising the public not to approach two men who escaped from a north London prison earlier today.

“It is not known what clothing either male had when escaping from the prison.

“Police are asking the public to call them on 999 should they see either man, and not to approach them as they could become violent.

The two prisoners escaped from G wing, where a 21-year-old prisoner was fatally stabbed the previous month.

Jamal Mahmoud, died after being stabbed at the prison on 18 October in an attack by other inmates which left two others critically injured.

The killing of the young father prompted calls for an inquiry into the state of prisons in England and Wales, with his family accusing the jail of neglecting him.

Cuts to staff and resources by the government meant the death was “no massive surprise”, the Prison Governors Association said. Basana Kimbembi, 34, has been charged with his murder.

HMP Pentonville in north London is a category B Victorian prison which opened in 1842 and holds more than 1,200 adult men. Notable former inmates include Oscar Wilde in 1895.

Last year, the prison was singled out by former Justice Secretary Michael Gove as “the most dramatic example of failure” within the estate.

Following the death, about half of the 200 prison officers at the jail reportedly passed a vote of no confidence in its Governor, Kevin Reilly.

A report published by the Ministry of Justice earlier this year said escapes are “rare” and “taken very seriously”.

Only two recorded in 2015/16 – burglar Joseph Moss from Featherstone Prison near Wolverhampton and robber Haroon Ahmed from HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire – according to the latest MoJ figures, a number which has not exceeded in any financial year since 2007/08.

None of those that escaped were still at large by the end of April, the report added.

A Pentonville inmate was involved in a standoff with police last December after escaping his cell and climbing on to the roof of the prison. He was brought down after negotiating with prison staff for more than an hour.

Another prisoner, John Massey, was on the run for 48 hours after escaping from Pentonville in 2012. He managed to break out using a makeshift rope to scale the wall of the prison before he was found in hiding in a two-bedroom cottage in Faversham, Kent, two days later after a nationwide manhunt. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a man at a pub in Hackney in 1975.

The MoJ defines an “escape” as a prisoner breaching the secure perimeter of a prison

Jo Cox Murder

Thomas Mair has been jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox.

The 53-year-old shot and stabbed to death the 41-year-old mother-of-two in the quiet village of Birstall, West Yorkshire, on 16 June, as she arrived at the local library to hold her constituency surgery, where her constituents of ethnically diverse Batley and Spen were waiting to speak to her.

She was shot at three times and stabbed a total of 15 times a week before the EU referendum, in which she had been campaigning for the UK to remain whilst Mair shouted “Britain first” in the attack, but the judge said the true “patriot” was Cox, not Mair.

“You affect to be a patriot. The words you uttered repeatedly when you killed her give lip service to that concept,” Judge Justice Wilkie said.

“”You are no patriot. By your actions you have betrayed the quintessence of our country, its adherence to parliamentary democracy,” he added.

As the 5ft-tall MP was being attacked, she told her Personal Assistant Fazila Aswat and Senior Caseworker Sandra Major to “Get away you two. Let him hurt me. Don’t let them hurt you.”

The Judge later said her generosity of spirit was “evident in the selfless concern she had for others, even when facing a violent death”, referring to Mrs Cox’s plea to her assistants to get away and save themselves, as she lay dying in the street.”

He stabbed the MP 15 times and shot her three times –including in the head – as she lay collapsed on the pavement and was trying in vain to defend herself by holding her hand to her to her face.

He was also convicted of stabbing pensioner Bernard Kenny in the stomach who had tried to save the MP, during her murder.

Rashid Hussain, a taxi driver, screamed at Mair to leave her alone. Mair threatened him and again shouted: “Britain first.”

Mair then calmly walked away “without a care in the world”, said eyewitnesses including one who followed him from a safe distance and alerted the police. He was still armed when he was rugby-tackled to the ground and, calmly, he confirmed he had weapons in the bag. He was arrested less than 30 minutes after the killing. Mair cut his head during the scuffle.

On his arrest, he told police officers he was a “political activist” and when he first appeared before magistrates in London, he responded “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” when he was asked his name.

Outside the library, locals performed CPR in an attempt to save the MP before paramedics and a doctor desperately tried to save Cox. They performed an emergency thoracotomy – an extreme procedure to open the chest as part of resuscitation.

She died shortly afterwards in the back of an ambulance.

Cox, 41, was a self-proclaimed “proud Yorkshire lass” who was considered by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to be a “bright star” of Westminster who was barely a year into her dream job when she died.

In her maiden speech to Parliament, she said “It is a joy to represent such a diverse community” and praised the “independent, no-nonsense and proud Yorkshire towns and villages” she represented.

“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”, she said.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn described the murder as “an attack on democracy” which “has robbed the world of an ambassador of kindness and compassion” and urged her fellow MPs to confront those who wish to promote the hatred and division that led to her murder.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:

“The shocking and senseless murder of Jo was an attack on all of us and the values we share of democracy and tolerance.

“As Home Secretary I am determined that we challenge extremism in all its forms including the evil of far-right extremism and the terrible damage it can cause to individuals, families and communities.”

The court also heard Nazi-related material was found at the defendant’s home in Birstall during a subsequent police raid.

Police found a library of far-right literature in his bedroom alongside works about about Charles Dickens, TS Eliot, and Jane Austen, including books on the Nazis and white supremacy. On top of the bookshelf was a gold-coloured Third Reich eagle with a swastika emblazoned on the front.

He also looked at web pages about members of the Ku Klux Klan, Israel, the British National Party, people murdered in the US because of their civil rights work and white supremacist and Neo-Nazi websites

He worked his way through a list of political assassinations, including that of John F Kennedy and the 1990 IRA killing of Conservative MP Ian Gow.

He read up on matricide, the crime of killing one’s mother, political prisoners, “lying in state”, coffins and arrangements for a pauper’s funeral.

A press cutting in relation to Anders Brevik, who murdered 77 people in twin attacks in Norway in July 2011, was also found, the court heard.

“The white race,” Mair once wrote, was about to be plunged into “a very bloody struggle”. His greatest obsession, however, and his deepest bitterness was over those white people whom he condemned in his writings as “the collaborators”: the liberals, the left and the media.

He had a vast collection of literature from the National Alliance, an American neo-Nazi group. He also seemed to have fantasised about killing a “collaborator” for more than 17 years, drawing inspiration from another rightwing terrorist, David Copeland.

Elsewhere around the semi-detached council house which he had been his family’s before him, police found a draw-string bag containing stones bearing rune symbols, and a computer printout concerning the extreme rightwing South African organisation Die Blanke Bevrydingsbeweging.

In the days before Cox’s murder, Mair would visit his local library and use the internet to work out how he was going to kill her.

He then asked one of the members of staff about Cox’s constituency surgeries at the library.

Yet there is no evidence of him having been identified at rallies or marches down the years, he was not prominent on social media.

He was immersed in his books.

Police found an SS officer’s book on race theory and mate selection, along with a book entitled March of the Titans: The Complete History of the White Race and a book on the “politics of the Holocaust”, among other texts.

“Your wife should be at least as racially worthy as yourself,” it says.

“In your children, you live on.”

Mair will go to prison childless.

His chosen weapons were a knife and a small rifle usually used for pest control on farms.

Mair did not have the permission required to possess the rifle. The police say it was stolen in Keighley last year. They are still investigating whether Mair was involved or got it from someone else – and who modified it to make it more likely to kill a human.

The prosecution, as was the case when trying the Lee Rigby murderers, wanted the jurors simply to decide whether he was guilty of carrying out the murder, and not to consider his motives.

A jury at the Old Bailey deliberated for less than two hours before finding Mair unanimously guilty of murder, inflicting grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent, and possession of an offensive weapon.

Judge Justice Wilkie handed Mair a whole life sentence for the murder due to the crime’s exceptional seriousness.

During the trial, Mair listened emotionless to much of the evidence, but was seen rolling his eyes when a statement from MP Stephen Kinnock, hailing Cox as “incredibly well-liked and popular”, was read to the court.

He has largely refused to engage with the court process altogether and has not entered a plea and chose not to give evidence in his defence at the trial meaning that the family of the victim was forced to hear the details of the murder.

He underwent an examination by a psychiatrist, who could find no evidence that he was not responsible for his actions as a consequence of poor mental health.

Although after the verdicts were read out, Mair said he wished to address the court, but the judge refused to give him permission.

It was ruled that Mair could be released only by the Secretary of State.

Neighbours of Mair were shocked, including many who had known him his whole life, describing him as a quiet man with some mental health issues but “wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Mair, who was unemployed, spent much of his time volunteering at a garden centre for those who suffered from poor mental health.

The conviction of MP Jo Cox’s murderer was met sombrely in her constituency, where people said it would “close a sad chapter” for the area. Residents spoke of a hard working, popular politician whose death had cast a long shadow.

Meanwhile the Belgian and European Union capital of Brussels is expected to name a building, street or square after former resident as she is on a list of 26 illustrious women who will be celebrated by the Belgian capital as it seeks to feminise the city.

Before becoming a Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Cox spent two years in Brussels working as an adviser to Glenys Kinnock who was a Member of the European Parliament.

The city said it had been overwhelmed by the MP’s death and felt appropriate she should be among those commemorated for their contribution to the city.

She joins leading figures from the world of sport, the arts and politics with links to Brussels, who will have a a street or square named in their honour, Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper reported.

Prosecutors said Mair was motivated by hate and his crimes were “nothing less than acts of terrorism”.

Jo Cox was the first British female MP ever to be murdered and the first MP to be killed in office since 1990 when Conservative Ian Gow was killed by an IRA car bomb in 1990.

Image Credit: www.gotcredit.com

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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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