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20 killed in Greece wildfires

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Athens, July 24 : At least 20 people have been killed due to  forest fires raging across Greece and the government sought international assistance.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos confirmed the death toll and said most of the victims were trapped in the seaside resort of Mati, 40km from here, and died either in their homes or their cars on Monday.

More than 104 were injured, 11 seriously, Tzanakopoulos said, with 16 children among the casualties, the BBC reported.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the blazes as people left their homes behind near the capital. Authorities urged people in the path of the flames to get out while they can.

A spokesman for the EKAV emergency service told radio station 24/7 that the dead included a 15-year-old girl and at least 11 of the injured were listed in critical condition at hospitals in the Attica region.

Greece declared a state of emergency and appealed to its European Union partners for assistance in dealing with the fires, Efe news reported.

In eastern Attica, some people on a beach threatened by the flames dived into the water. The coast guards told that while 15 people were rescued, eight Danish tourists were reported to be adrift on a boat.

A search and rescue operation is underway for them.

“We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

He cut short an official trip to Bosnia in order to help coordinate the response to the situation, which firefighters have described as “extremely difficult”.

Dramatic video posted on social media showed damaged buildings, orange smoke-filled skies, and people fleeing the fires by car.

Citing police, ERT television said that some 300 residents of several villages in east Attica were trapped in their homes by the fires.

Tsipras assured that “all emergency forces have been mobilised” and declared a state of emergency in the Attica region around Athens.

The government also asked other European countries for helicopters and additional firefighters to help tackle the fires, the BBC said.

Earlier on Monday, residents of a coastal region near Athens were told to abandon their homes as the uncontrolled fires spread. Hundreds of children were also evacuated from holiday camps.

Countries including Italy, Germany, Poland and France have all sent help in the form of additional planes, vehicles and firefighters.

But with temperatures set to soar again, they are in a race against time to get the fires under control.(IANS)

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No boundary dispute with China: Nepal Foreign Minister

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Pradeep Gyawali

Kathmandu, Sep 23 : Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on Wednesday said that there is no boundary dispute with China, referring to recent media reports that said China had encroached on Nepalese territory and built 11 buildings in Humla district on the Nepal-China border.

Later in the evening, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a statement and denied any encroachment by the Chinese side. These clarifications came amid media reports that China has unilaterally constructed 11 cemented buildings in Nepalese territory recently and locals of the Lapcha area where the buildings were constructed brought it to the notice of the local Humla district administration and protested the move.

But the Nepal Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that its attention has been drawn to the media reports about the alleged construction of buildings by China within Nepalese territory between the Nepal-China boundary pillars 11 and 12 at Humla district.

“The Department of Survey, Government of Nepal, based on the official records, reports of the joint field inspection and boundary maps, has verified and confirmed that the said buildings are not located within the Nepalese territory,” the statement said.

Earlier on Wednesday, a group of people had protested in front of Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu and chanted slogans against the land encroachment by the Chinese in Humla. The issue of Chinese buildings in question had also surfaced in 2016, the ministry added, an inter-ministerial team after the field inspection had concluded that the said buildings were located approximately one kilometre inside the Chinese territory from the Nepal-China border.

The ministry stated that the boundary between Nepal and China was delineated and demarcated based on the Boundary Treaty and Boundary Protocols signed between the two countries. Nepal and China have always maintained close communication on border matters, it said.

Addressing a press conference Gyawali who is also the spokesperson of Nepal government said that a probe committee comprising officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Land Reform had later shown that the Chinese side had constructed buildings some 1 kilometre away from the Nepal-China border. New buildings were constructed by Chinese authorities for their border security personnel in the same area now.

Gyawali also said that a team led by Chief District Officer (CDO) of Humla district is currently in the Limi village and further details will be available once the team returns to the district headquarters. The Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu also refuted the media reports stating that the buildings mentioned by the media are on the Chinese side and urged the Nepal to verify the construction.

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France’s Macron urges UN mission to visit China’s Xinjiang region

“This is the reason why … France has requested that an international mission under the aegis of the United Nations go to Xinjiang in order to take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority,”

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Uighur Muslim rights

PARIS : France’s president on Tuesday called for an international mission under the auspices of the United Nations to visit China’s Xinjiang due to concerns over the Muslim Uighur minority.

U.N. experts and activists say at least a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes them as training centres helping stamp out terrorism and extremism and giving people new skills.

“Fundamental rights are not a Western idea that one could oppose as an interference … these are the principles of our organisation, enshrined in texts that the member states of the United Nations have freely consented to sign and to respect,” Emmanuel Macron said in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

“This is the reason why … France has requested that an international mission under the aegis of the United Nations go to Xinjiang in order to take into account the concerns that we collectively have on the situation of the Muslim Uighur minority,” he said.

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Israel reports 2,445 new Covid-19 cases; 193,374 in total

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israel coronavirus

Jerusalem, Sep 23 : Israel’s Ministry of Health reported 2,445 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 193,374.

The total count of deaths from the coronavirus in Israel rose by 12 to 1,285, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 653 to 668, out of 1,352 patients currently hospitalised, Xinhua news agency reported.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 3,971 to 140,751, while the number of active Covid-19 cases stood at 51,338.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli government approved a plan to expand the national economic safety net to deal with the pandemic’s impact.

“Expanding the plan will enable immediate economic assistance for businesses and wage-earners who are expected to be hurt by the current Covid-19 nationwide lockdown,” said a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.

The expansion includes the lowering of damage threshold for businesses to receive fixed expenditure grants to 25 per cent, providing advances against the fixed expenditure grants, a comprehensive worker retention plan, and deferring the reduction in unemployment benefits.

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