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3 US firefighters killed in Aus identified

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Sydney: Australian authorities on Friday revealed the identities of the three US firefighters who died when their air tanker crashed while battling blazes in New South Wales (NSW) state.

Captain Ian McBeth, 45, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson, 43, and flight engineer Rick A DeMorgan Jr, 44, were killed, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, while calling the deaths an “unbelievable loss” and offered a state memorial, reports the BBC.

Fitzsimmons said the experienced and “well known” crew had been contracted to Australia to help fight the unprecedented bushfires.

The state government ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on Friday, in tribute to the three men.

Officials lost contact with the C-130 Hercules plane, owned by Canadian firefighting company Coulson Aviation, shortly before 1.30 p.m., on Thursday.

It crashed in an active fire zone in the Snowy Mountains, south of Canberra, said the NSW Rural Fire Service.

The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

In another fire-hit state, Victoria, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) tweeted its thanks to US firefighters who had just arrived on deployment, said the BBC report.

Since September 2019, Australia has battled a bushfire crisis which has now killed at least 33 people. More than 70 bushfires were still raging across NSW alone.

Fires in southern Australia are expected to peak in February and continue into April.

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Disaster

British doctor dies of coronavirus

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London, March 30 : Amged El-Hawrani, an ear, nose and throat trainer at Queen’s Hospital Burton in Staffordshire, died with coronavirus in the UK on Sunday.

In a statement, his family said he was “incredibly strong” and “compassionate”, the BBC reported.

“His greatest passions were his family and his profession, and he dedicated his life to both”, they added.

His colleague Gavin Boyle, chief executive at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton (UHDB), said he was “known for his dedication and commitment to his patients” and that his death had left hospital staff “desperately saddened”.

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said his death was “a stark reminder to the whole country that we all must take this crisis seriously”.

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Netanyahu, Gantz make ‘significant progress’ in coalition talks

Currently, Ministers must resign if they face criminal charges, but the law does not explicitly refer to a Prime Minister.

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Netanyahu and Gantz

Jerusalem, March 29 : Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz wrapped up an all-night meeting on Sunday in terms of a unity government, which they were hoping to finalize later in the day, a media report said here.

A joint statement said they to reached “understandings and significant progress” during the talks at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, without elaborating, The Times of Israel said in the report.

Further talks will be held later Sunday with the aim of reaching a signed deal, according to the statement.

The unity talks came after Gantz in a shock move was elected Parliament or Knesset Speaker on Thursday, leading to the dissolution of his Blue and White alliance, which had campaigned during the three elections over the past year on not joining a government led by Netanyahu due to his indictment on graft charges, said The Times of Israel report.

Meanwhile, members of the Gantz-led Israel Resilience patyu have said the only alternative to joining a Netanyahu-led coalition was a fourth round of elections and that a government was needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

As part of the negotiations, Netanyahu is seeking legislation saying that an acting Prime Minister under indictment can continue to serve, in order to ensure he can fill that role when his prime ministerial rotation with Gantz is slated to go into effect, the report further said.

Currently, Ministers must resign if they face criminal charges, but the law does not explicitly refer to a Prime Minister.

Israel is currently facing a parliamentary crisis as the elections on March 2, the third within a year, once again failed to produce a clear majority by either Netanyahu or Gantz.

Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, had been due in court last week to face corruption charges in connection with three separate cases, a BBC report said.

But the hearing has now been postponed until at least May 24 because of the coronavirus outbreak that has so far infected 3,865 people across Israel nad killed 12 others.

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Disaster

Jack Ma, Alibaba foundations donate medical supplies to India

Similar to the arrangement with the Italian Red Cross Society in Italy, the Indian charity will facilitate the distribution of these supplies in the country.

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New Delhi, March 29 : The Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation have donated essential medical supplies to India along with six more countries — Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Collectively, these seven countries will receive a total of 1.7 million face masks, 1,65,000 test kits as well as protective clothing and medical equipment such as ventilators, forehead thermometers.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to make a difference, most importantly by sourcing these supplies and overcoming logistical challenges to get the medical supplies to where they are needed as fast as we can,” a Jack Ma Foundation spokesperson said in a statement on Sunday.

With this announcement, the two foundations have now donated essential medical supplies to 23 Asian countries, totalling 7.4 million masks, 4,85,000 test kits along with other medical equipment.

The first batch of medical supplies for India arrived in Delhi on Saturday night and was received by the Indian Red Cross Society.

“To supplement the efforts of government, Indian Red Cross has mobilised first tranche of supplies consisting of facemasks, protective body suits and essential medical equipment,” said R.K Jain, Secretary General, Indian Red Cross.

Similar to the arrangement with the Italian Red Cross Society in Italy, the Indian charity will facilitate the distribution of these supplies in the country.

These donations are among a number of aid initiatives from the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation to support the areas of the world affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

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