Rescuing migrants off the Libyan coast in December 2016
Bertrand Hauger

-Analysis-

A boat is drifting along the coast. There's no captain manning it, no visible passengers on the derelict wooden vessel. The "ghost ship" is missing its rotor blade, making it look like it's facing the choppy waters on its own. Eventually, it washes up on a Japanese beach. In its hull, eight bodies — some in an advanced state of decomposition, making identification or origins of the boat impossible. But in all likelihood, it had set off from the coast of North Korea. Just two days earlier, Japanese officials inspecting another wreckage nearby with two skeletons aboard found a North Korean cigarette pack and life jackets with Korean writings.

Such grim scenes are only coming to light now, but the "ghost ships' of North Korea are not a new phenomenon. In Japan, two other boats, also reportedly coming from North Korea, suffered a similar fate this month, and a total of 44 deadly "ghost ships' have reached the Japanese coasts this year. A similar spate of 15 such vessels washed ashore in 2015.

It's tempting to believe that the passengers were trying to escape the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong-un, especially with last week's dramatic footage of a soldier's escape across the Korean border fresh in our memories. Still, the rare survivors of one these shipwrecks told investigators that they were simply fishermen carried away by strong currents, and insisted on being reconducted to North Korea.

Hunger and politics, of course, continue to drive people to risk their lives elsewhere.

Driven by the country's food shortages, North Korean fishermen are believed to be forced into deeper waters and venture ever farther on dangerously ill-equipped ships. For Seo Yu-suk, a research manager of North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, such an increase on seafood quotas is a direct consequence of toughened U.S.-led sanctions against the rogue state, which President Trump recently called a "state sponsor of terrorism."

Hunger and politics, of course, continue to drive people to risk their lives elsewhere. Over the weekend, at least 30 would-be migrants — including three children and 18 women — drowned off the coast of Libya when their boats sank, Italian daily Corriere della Serra reports.

A recent study by the International Organization for Migration has found that between 2000 and 2017, at least 33,761 people fleeing violence or poverty have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, earning the Sea the macabre distinction of being "the world's deadliest border." Not a week goes by without local police and coast guards conducting rescuing operations, looking for surviving passengers from Somalia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, etc. — and recovering bodies from the sea.

From the Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean, an apparently empty "ghost ship" and a terribly overcrowded rubber raft would seem to offer a portrait in contrast. But the drifting vessels in fact tell the same story: the risk of staying vs. the risk of leaving.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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