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Germany, Belgium floods: at least 100 dead, more than 1,000 missing



Photo: Social Media
(Last Updated On: July 16, 2021)

More than 1,000 people were missing and more houses were destroyed in flood-stricken regions in western Germany and Belgium on Friday where further flooding was feared with the death toll already over 100.

Entire communities lay in ruins after swollen rivers swept through towns and villages in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“It was terrible not to able to help the people. They were waving at us out of the windows. Houses were collapsing to the left and right of them and in the house between they were waving,” Frank Thel, a resident of Schuld, told Reuters in front of a pile of rubble in the town, where several buildings had collapsed. “We were lucky, we survived,” he said.

In Germany alone, more than 90 people have died in what is the country’s worst mass loss of life in years. That number was feared to rise further as more houses collapsed, while in Belgium media said the death toll was at least 14.

“The water had such enormous power! We were in the house, it blew the door open and I was thrown against the chimney- stove. That’s how much pressure the water had when filling the house,” Thel said of the shock in the night that changed everything for them.

“It just went so fast. We just couldn’t save anything. The water came so fast, I’ve never seen anything like that. We were on the bridge down there and I thought, this might be getting tight, and then it was over, the water rose and rose continually, and I realized, it’s useless now to try save anything. Car, gone, all gone, digger, gone, it was all gone.”

The Infrastructure has been destroyed completely, roads washed away, the sanitation system submerged and phone and internet networks are either completely down or instable, meaning lots of people cant be traced or accounted for.

“Here in Schuld the question today is: What can be cleared here now? Can we restore roads? Bridges have collapsed, making areas difficult to access. The infrastructure with water, electricity and the sanitation supply etc is difficult. We have to rebuild them. This has already happened here in Schuld. Downstream in Insul, people had to be evacuated yesterday and we still have to rebuild the infrastructure there,” firefighter Andreas Solheid, of the fire-fighter association of Adenau municipalities said.

In the neighbouring Ahrweiler district in North Rhine-Westphalia, around 1,300 people were missing the district government said on Facebook.

Mobile phone networks have collapsed in some of the flood-stricken regions, which means that family and friends are unable to track down their loved ones.

Further north, in Erftstadt near Cologne, several houses collapsed on Friday morning, and rescue crews were struggling to reach residents by boat. Roads around the town Erftstadt were impassable as they were washed out in the floods.

It was not clear whether there were any casualties as rescuers had to rely on walkie-talkies to relay information.

One dam close to the Belgian border, the Rurtalsperre, flooded, while another, the Steinbachtalsperre, was stabilised early on Friday. Some 4,500 people have been evacuated from communities downstream, and a stretch of the A61 motorway has been closed amid fears of a breach.

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AWCC launches 3G services in a remote area of Kunar province



(Last Updated On: March 28, 2023)

Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) has rolled out 3G services to the remote Chaghan district in the northeastern province of Kunar.

Being so remote, Chaghan residents have struggled with limited telecommunications in the past but this week they welcomed AWCC’s initiative.

Officials in the area also welcomed the move and said the new infrastructure installed in Chaghan also helps cover surrounding areas.

“An AWCC site was opened in a dominant location. This is a very good place. It is connected to the [provincial] center and covers some areas of Marawar district and Watepur district. We are grateful to AWCC,” said Sajjad, provincial director of communications.

Ejazul Haq Yousufzai, head of Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) in Kunar, said efforts are ongoing for the development of telecommunication services so as to reach all districts in the province.

Local authorities in Kunar expressed their appreciation for the provision of telecommunication and internet services by AWCC and acknowledged that the services provided by the company are of a good quality.

“First of all, we are very grateful to the employees of AWCC for providing these services to the people of Kunar. We ask all companies and institutions to provide such services to the mountainous province of Kunar,” provincial governor, Ahmad Taha, said.

Abdullah Haqqani, deputy governor of Kunar, said: “Kunar is a mountainous province. The number of [cellphone] towers is not enough. We demand that problems faced by the people get solved.”

Local residents also expressed their satisfaction with the recent move of AWCC.

“The opening of this site is a great achievement for these two valleys. With this, these two valleys were connected to the center. The problems that people were facing before have now been solved,” Hayatullah, a resident of Kunar province, said.

Meanwhile, AWCC officials in the eastern zone assured the people of Kunar that the company will provide telecommunication services to all remote areas of the province.

“This site plays a key role for these two valleys, Dangam, Ghazi Abad, Nari, Watepur and up to Nuristan. Without the site, other sites cannot provide these services,” said Attaullah Sahil, head of AWCC in the eastern zone.

With the improvement of the security situation, AWCC has not only expanded its telecommunication services in the eastern zone, but it has covered many remote areas of the zone with 3G and 4G internet services.

Kunar province lies in the northeastern section of the country and borders northern Pakistan. The vast majority of the province is mountainous and extremely rugged.

The province is dominated by the lower Hindu Kush mountains which are cut by the Kunar River to form the forested Kunar Valley. The mountains, narrow valleys with steep walls, and rivers present formidable natural obstacles and have historically constrained all movement through the province.

Even in the early 21st century, movement on foot, with pack animals, or with motorized vehicles is extremely limited and channeled due to the significant geographic restrictions.

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US House committee chair signs subpoena for State Dept Afghanistan documents



(Last Updated On: March 28, 2023)

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman said on Monday he signed a subpoena to be delivered to Secretary of State Antony Blinken for documents related to the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Michael McCaul has launched an investigation into the messy withdrawal from Afghanistan under Democratic President Joe Biden and events in the country since.

Republicans – and some Democrats – say there has never been a full accounting of the chaotic operation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed at Kabul’s airport, Reuters reported.

McCaul had given the State Department until Monday to produce the documents.

“Unfortunately, Secretary Blinken has refused to provide the Dissent Cable and his response to the cable, forcing me to issue my first subpoena as chairman of this committee,” McCaul said in a statement.

He said the subpoena would be delivered on Tuesday morning.

About two dozen U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan sent a confidential cable through a so-called dissent channel warning Blinken in July 2021 of the potential fall of Kabul to the Taliban as U.S. troops withdrew from the country, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2021.

Blinken said during a hearing last week that the department had already shared information and was working to provide more, but that some specific details could only be shared with senior officials, a move intended to protect the identity of those who had expressed dissent.

Asked by Reuters for comment on the subpoena, the State Department referred to remarks by spokesperson Vedant Patel at Monday’s press briefing. Patel said it was “vital to us that we preserve the integrity” of the dissent channel. He said the department was “prepared to make the relevant information in the cable available through briefings or some other mechanisms.”

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IEA urges UN to remove sanctions against its members



(Last Updated On: March 27, 2023)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials have once again called on the United Nations to remove the names of IEA members who are on the UN blacklist, and said the international community should engage with the group instead of putting pressure on it.

The UN Security Council failed to reach an agreement to extend travel exemptions, allowing 13 Islamic Emirate officials to travel abroad, which expired in August 2021.

“Some 20 to 25 Islamic Emirate officials are on the UN blacklist and have been sanctioned. Some of them have died, and a few are working with the caretaker government,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, the IEA’s spokesman.

According to Mujahid, adding pressure and force will not bear results. The war of the past 20 years has proven that the people of Afghanistan will not surrender to pressure. Instead, engagement and negotiations are ideal options to reach a comprehensive conclusion, he added.

In addition, inclusion of the Islamic Emirate officials on the UN blacklist violates the Doha Agreement, Mujahid said.

The Doha Agreement is a peace deal between the US and the IEA aimed at restoring peace in Afghanistan. The agreement was signed in Doha in 2020, finalizing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan contingent on IEA security assurance that Afghan soil will not be used against the US by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

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