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Gautemala Volcano Eruption leaves at least 63 dead; 13 identified

Authorities have said they feared the death toll could rise with an undetermined number of people unaccounted for. The disaster agency said 3,265 people had been evacuated.

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Gautemala Volcano Eruption

EL RODEO, Guatemala — The charred landscape left behind by Guatemala’s erupting Volcano of Fire was still too hot in many places Monday to pull out bodies so thickly coated with ash that they looked like statues as the death toll rose to 62 and was expected to go higher.

Rescuers in helicopters managed to pull at least 10 people alive from ash drifts and mud flows that were up to the rooflines of some homes, forcing first responders to use sledgehammers to break through the roofs to see if anyone was trapped inside.

Residents of El Rodeo, about eight miles (12 kilometers) downslope from the crater, said they were caught unaware by the fast-moving hot ash and rock when the volcano west of Guatemala City exploded Sunday, sending towering clouds into the air.

Searing flows of ash mixed with water and debris gushed down the volcano’s flanks, blocking roads and burning homes.

Hilda Lopez said the volcanic mud swept into her village of San Miguel Los Lotes, just below the mountain’s flanks, and she didn’t know where her mother and sister were.

“We were at a party, celebrating the birth of a baby, when one of the neighbors shouted at us to come out and see the lava that was coming,” the distraught woman said. “We didn’t believe it, and when we went out the hot mud was already coming down the street.”

“My mother was stuck there, she couldn’t get out,” said Lopez, weeping and holding her face in her hands.

Lopez’s husband, Joel Gonzalez, said his father had been unable to escape and was believed to be “buried back there, at the house.”

At least 62 people were confirmed dead, according to Fanuel Garcia, director of the National Institute of Forensic Science. All came from the hamlets of Los Lotes and El Rodeo, but only 13 had been identified so far because the flows that reached temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit (700 Celsius) had so disfigured the bodies.

“We’re having a lot of trouble identifying them because some of the dead lost their features or their fingerprints. We’re going to have to use other anthropological methods and if possible take DNA samples to identify them.”

In the village of El Rodeo, heavily armed soldiers wearing blue masks to ward off the dust stood guard behind yellow tape cordoning off the scene as orange-helmeted workers operated a backhoe. A group of residents arrived at the scene with shovels and work boots.

Some residents said they never learned of the danger until it was upon them – and were critical of authorities.

The country’s disaster agency “never told us to leave. When the lava was already here they passed by in their pickup trucks yelling at us to leave, but the cars did not stop to pick up the people,” said Rafael Letran, a resident of El Rodeo. “The government is good at stealing, but when it comes to helping people they lack spark.”

Authorities have said they feared the death toll could rise with an undetermined number of people unaccounted for. The disaster agency said 3,265 people had been evacuated.

Among the fatalities were four people, including a disaster agency official, killed when lava set a house on fire in El Rodeo, National Disaster Coordinator Sergio Cabanas said. Two children were burned to death as they watched the volcano’s second eruption this year from a bridge, he added.

Dramatic video showed a fast-moving flow of mud, ash and slurry slamming into and partly destroying a bridge on a highway between the towns of Sacatepequez and Escuintla.

Ash from the volcano, which lies about 27 miles (44 kilometers) west of Guatemala City, fell on the capital area as well as the departments of Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango and Escuintla. Streets and houses were covered in the colonial town of Antigua, a popular tourist destination.

Aviation authorities closed Guatemala City’s international airport because of the danger posed to planes, but the airport was reopened at mid-morning Monday after workers cleared away ash.

One of Central America’s most active volcanos, the conical Vocano of Fire reaches an altitude of 12,346 feet (3,763 meters) above sea level at its peak.

Disaster

Modi Government Sometimes Blames God, Sometimes People, But Not Its ‘Misrule’: Rahul Gandhi

“The blind arrogance of the Modi government sometimes blames god, sometimes people for the plight of the country, but not its own misrule and wrong policies.”

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Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday attacked the Centre over Union Minister Harsh Vardhan’s remarks that people’s “irresponsible behaviour” has resulted in a surge in Covid-19 spread, saying the Modi government’s “blind arrogance” sometimes blames god, sometimes people, but not its own “misrule”.

Gandhi’s attack on the government came a day after Health Minister Vardhan, while replying to a special discussion on the coronavirus pandemic in Lok Sabha, said that there is a surge in the spread of Covid-19 in the country due to societal “irresponsible behaviour”.

Tagging a media report on Vardhan’s remarks, Gandhi tweeted, “The blind arrogance of the Modi government sometimes blames god, sometimes people for the plight of the country, but not its own misrule and wrong policies.”

“How many more ‘Act Of Modi’ will the country bear?” he said in the tweet in Hindi.

Gandhi has been critical of the government over the handling of the Covid-19 crisis and accused it of failing to tackle the situation. The government has dismissed all such claims in the past.

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Government failed to curb COVID-19: Shashi Tharoor

He highlights the failure of the government to curb COVID-19, adding that government’s ₹20,000 crore package inspired little confidence.

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Shashi Tharoor in Lok Sabha
Senior Congress Leader and Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor (File Picture)

New Delhi: As Lok Sabha discusses COVID-19 situation, Shashi Tharoor shares WHO data to state that India has the highest number of daily Infections and deaths in the world.

Government did not listen to Rahul Gandhi’s warning. Instead it was more interested in toppling the government in Madhya Pradesh.

He highlights the failure of the government to curb COVID-19, adding that government’s ₹20,000 crore package inspired little confidence.

He states that there was minimal effort by government to reach out and consult other stakeholders, particularly state governments in opposition.

The Opposition MP also spoke about the danger faced by students while giving exams and thanked the healthcare workers for their services.

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Covid-19 joblessness pushing youths to extremist groups in Northeast

Adding to this are the reports of a large consignment of China-made weapons reaching the hands of the secessionist Myanmar-based radical groups, who share close links with militant groups in India’s Northeast.

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Unemployment Rate in India

India’s Covid-19 pandemic lockdown is now giving headaches to the national security agencies. Youth, left jobless during the pandemic, are reported to be joining the banned rebel groups such as the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and other such, in droves.

Adding to this are the reports of a large consignment of China-made weapons reaching the hands of the secessionist Myanmar-based radical groups, who share close links with militant groups in India’s Northeast.

The emerging scenario is threatening to upset the delicate balance achieved through years of hard work by the Indian security and intelligence officers, according to senior executives in the national security establishment, who requested to stay unnamed, citing government service rules.

The Arakan Army (AA) — which seeks an independent homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine state — has received the fresh cache of Chinese weapons and is known to be one of the key suppliers of arms and ammunition to the rebel groups in Northeast India.

In addition, the AA opposes India’s Kaladan Multi Modal Project, which provides states like Mizoram — a landlocked province — an outlet to the sea through the Sittwe port in Myanmar, officials said. Interestingly the AA has not opposed the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

Security agencies have told the government that insurgent groups active along the Indo-Myanmar border find easy recruits among youth left unemployed by Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

“The successful induction of the Chinese-made weapons by the AA will have an impact on the security situation in India’s Northeastern states, as much of these weapons are finding their way to some of the dormant militant groups of the Northeast,” the official said.

“The new weapons provide firepower to the northeastern groups whose ranks are increasing as youth left jobless by the pandemic are signing for militant groups.”

Strengthened by new recruits and rearmed, the Khaplang faction National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) — a banned militant group of Northeast based out of Myanmar — is gathering along the Indo-Myanmar Border in areas such as Mon to plan and execute attacks against the Indian security forces.

In 2016, the NSCN (K) killed 18 soldiers of the Indian Army, forcing India to launch cross border strikes on the militant hideouts taking refuge in Myanmar.

Worryingly, for India, peace talks with the Naga rebel groups have failed despite efforts of the Narendra Modi government.

Agencies have warned that groups like the People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK) had recruited 15 fresh cadres in Assam. “There was recruitment of 10-15 cadres by the Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger in the outfit,” the source said.

Further, United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) had recruited 15-20 youths in the outfit from Meghalaya.

In Tripura, intelligence input indicates that extremist Parimal Debbrama of National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) is trying to revive his group and some newly recruited members of the outfit had completed their basic training in a hideout of Khagrachari District of Bangladesh.

“These cadres are planning to infiltrate into India for operations,” the source further added.

Intelligence agencies also stated that the India-Myanmar border remained susceptible to threat due to the presence of insurgent groups.

“Many insurgents groups are camping in Myanmar and trying to infiltrate through Tirap, Longding and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Mon District of Nagaland and Charaideo district of Assam,” the source said.

(Sumit Kumar Singh can be reached at [email protected])

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