CONFUSION AND FIGHTING IN BURUNDI
Violent broke out this morning in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura between soldiers loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza and forces who claimed to have staged a coup.
The situation is very uncertain in the capital, as reports suggest the attempted coup is still ongoing, RFI reports.
- But Gen. Godefroid Niyombare, who was part of the president’s government until yesterday, announced that Nkurunziza, who is currently abroad, had in fact been ousted.
- Coup leaders claimed today to be in control of most of the capital. “We control virtually the entire city,” coup spokesman Venon Ndabaneze told AFP. “The soldiers who are being deployed are on our side.”
- But the head of the loyalist army forces said that his soldiers were still occupying key points in the city and that the coup had failed.
- In late April, Nkurunziza announced he would run for a controversial third term. Although it was approved by the country’s Constitutional Court, a peace agreement signed in 2000 that put an end to a 10-year civil war between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority, outlines a two-term limit.
EXTRA! PRINCE CHARLES’ MEMOS TO OFFICIALS
After a 10-year legal battle, the contents of 27 secret letters written by Prince Charles to British ministers were published today, revealing the extent of his attempts to influence the government. On the front page of its Thursday edition, The Times ran a picture of the Prince of Wales in front of the so-called “black spider memos” (so known because of his scrawled handwriting). Read more in our Extra! feature.
AT LEAST 72 DEAD IN PHILIPPINE FACTORY FIRE
Photo: Rouelle Umali/Xinhua/ZUMA
A fire that engulfed a footwear factory in the Filipino town of Valenzuela City has killed at least 72 people, local authorities confirmed today. AP reports that they plan to open a criminal investigation, as angry relatives and workers describe poor safety standards such as iron grills on the factory’s windows that prevented the workers’ escape. The blaze is believed to have been caused by welding equipment used to repair a broken gate. “Someone will definitely be charged because of the deaths,” The Telegraph quoted national police Chief Leonardo Espina as saying. “It doesn't matter if it’s an accident. People died.”
ON THIS DAY
Sixty-seven years ago today, Israel was founded as an independent state. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
TALIBAN GUNMAN KILLS 14 IN KABUL
At least 14 people — including nine foreigners — were killed in an attack led by a Taliban gunman on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, that started Wednesday and lasted into the early hours of Thursday morning, a government official confirmed. The Taliban claims it targeted the Park Palace Hotel, popular with foreigners, because it had information that foreign dignitaries would be present, NBC News reports. Local authorities initially said that three attackers were involved, but the Taliban and criminal investigation chief Farid Afzali Kabul later said there was only one gunman, who was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle, a pistol, hand grenades and a suicide vest. The attacker was killed, and more than 40 people were rescued in the police operation.
Transportable and cheap, a made-in-Italy DNA kit prototype promises to allow molecular analysis directly in the field, sending collected data instantly across the world. Four Italian researchers decided to fly to Tanzania to test the kit, La Stampa’s Anna Martellato reports. “The DNA Field Lab means the possibility to carry out biological measurements in the highest biodiversity areas on our planet,” she writes. “It's a fundamental step, in a time when the funds needed to safeguard the diversity of life on our planet are not enough. The goal of these four ‘Indiana Joneses of genetics’ is to discover small wild animals and decode their DNA — an operation that usually takes several months, but now takes just half a day.”
Read the full article, New Portable DNA Kit Aids Global Pursuit Of Biodiversity.
AMTRAK TRAIN TRAVELING TWICE LEGAL LIMIT
The Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia Tuesday evening, killing seven people and injuring at least 200, was traveling at 106 mph, twice the speed limit, shortly before the crash, USA Today reports.
- Investigators say the engineer slammed the brakes, slowing the train down to 102 mph at the moment of the accident. According to Reuters, the train derailed at a left-hand curve in northern Philadelphia where the speed limit is 50 mph.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has yet to determine what caused the train to derail, but investigators said they would interview the train’s 32-year-old engineer, reported to be among the injured, in the next 24 to 48 hours.
- The NTSB also said the accident could have been prevented with the installation of an advanced and automated safety system called “positive train control.”
- On CNN, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter suggested it was a case of reckless driving but added that he didn’t want to prejudge. “We know what happened. We don't know why.”
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
MORE THAN 125 DEAD IN SECOND NEPAL QUAKE
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake, the second in less than three weeks, that struck Nepal Tuesday has killed at least 125 people and injured more than 2,500, Nepalese police spokesman Kamal Singh Bam said today.
“It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States,” Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said of Johnny Depp’s two Yorkshire terriers, who the actor is believed to have brought into the country by private plane, bypassing quarantine rules. Joyce has given Depp until Saturday to get the pampered pooches back home, or risk their being euthanized.
Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.