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Record rain leaves at least 8 dead in South Korean capital

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At least eight people died in and around the South Korean capital of Seoul overnight, authorities said on Tuesday, after torrential rain knocked out power, caused landslides and left roads and subways submerged.

The southern part of Seoul received more than 100mm (3.9 inches) of rain per hour on late Monday, with some parts of the city having received 141.5mm of rain, the worst rainfall in decades, according to Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).

The accumulated rainfall in Seoul since midnight Monday stood at 451mm as of 2 pm Tuesday, with more rain forecast.

In the glitzy, dense Gangnam district, some buildings and stores were flooded and were without power, while cars, buses and subway stations were submerged, leaving people stranded.

Lim Na-kyung, a 31-year-old office worker, recounted her fears of Monday evening, saying the situation reminded her of a scene from the 1997 film “Titanic”.

“I had to keep going higher and higher because the building was submerging at a fast pace … I couldn’t believe that I was trapped in building with 40 other people in the middle of Gangnam district,” said the mother of two, who eventually had to spend the night at a Pilates center on the fourth floor.

At least five people died in Seoul and three others in the neighboring Gyeonggi Province by early Tuesday, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said. Four died after being drowned in flooded buildings, one was believed to have been electrocuted, another person was found under the wreckage of a bus stop, and the other two died in a landslide, it said.

At least nine people were injured, while seven were missing.

Data showed at least 765 facilities were damaged, while about 52 highways and roads have been blocked. There were about 391 victims across the greater Seoul area, most of whom had to stay at local schools and gyms, while another 399 temporarily evacuated to community centers and schools, according to the data.

The headquarters raised the crisis alert to the highest and requested organizations adjust their working hours.

The KMA issued heavy rain warnings across the capital and the metropolitan area of ​​26 million as well parts of Gangwon and Chungcheong Province.

President Yoon Suk-yeol presided over an emergency response meeting, ordering authorities to focus on preventing casualties and quickly controlling and recovering flooded areas, the disaster headquarters said.

The KMA expects heavy rainfall for the central part of the country to continue through at least Wednesday.

While South Korea often experiences heavy rains in summer, “such sharp increase in precipitation and frequent torrential rains cannot be explained without the big trend of climate change,” a KMA official, who spoke in condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “This phenomenon is seen occurring more often due to climate change that has resulted in a prolonged summer.”

Sri Lanka asks China to postpone ship visit after India protests

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Sri Lanka says it has asked China to defer a planned visit of a Chinese ship to the island country after initially approving its arrival this week, yielding to diplomatic pressure from neighbor India to keep the military vessel out.

The Yuan Wang 5 was due to arrive on Thursday at the Chinese-built and leased Hambantota port in Sri Lanka’s south for five days for replenishment. She It is currently sailing in the east Indian Ocean, according to Refinitiv Eikon.

Foreign security analysts describe the Yuan Wang 5 as one of China’s latest generation space-tracking ships, used to monitor satellite, rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile launches.

The Pentagon says Yuan Wang ships are operated by the Strategic Support Force of the People’s Liberation Army.

New Delhi fears its bigger and more powerful rival China will use Hambantota as a military base in India’s back yard. The $1.5bn port is near the main shipping route from Asia to Europe.

Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said on July 12 it had approved the ship’s arrival for this month.

“Subsequently in light of the need for further consultations, the ministry has communicated to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Colombo to defer the visit of the said vessel to the Hambantota port,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

India said late last month it was monitoring the planned visit of the ship, adding that New Delhi would protect its security and economic interests. India also lodged a verbal protest with the Sri Lankan government.

Asked about the controversy over the ship, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing that China’s relations with Sri Lanka were “not targeted at third parties”.

Wenbin told reporters it is “completely unjustified for certain countries to cite the so-called ‘security concerns’ to pressure Sri Lanka”.

“As Sri Lanka grapples with economic and political difficulties, to grossly interfere in Sri Lanka’s normal exchange and cooperation with other countries is to exploit its vulnerability, which is morally irresponsible and against the basic norms governing international relations,” he said.

“We urge the relevant parties to see China’s marine scientific research activities in a rational light and stop disrupting normal exchange and cooperation between China and Sri Lanka,” he added.

Relations between India and China have been strained since armed clashes on their Himalayan border two years ago killed at least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers.

Both China and India have tried to expand their influence in Sri Lanka, which is facing its worst economic crisis in its independent history, though India has provided more help to it this year than any other nation.

At the same time, China’s agreement to restructure its infrastructure loans to Sri Lanka is vital for the country to be able to reach a bailout program with the International Monetary Fund.

China backed Sri Lanka during a civil war with ethnic Tamil rebels and defended it from accusations of gross human rights abuses. Since the end of the war in 2009, China has lent Sri Lanka billions of dollars for development projects.

Britain issues new ‘extreme heat’ warning for England and Wales

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Britain’s weather service on Tuesday issued an amber “Extreme Heat” warning for parts of England and Wales, with no respite in sight from hot dry conditions that have sparked fires, broken temperature records and strained the nation’s infrastructure.

The amber warning — the second-most severe after red — will be in place from Thursday through to the end of Sunday and means that people vulnerable to extreme heat could face adverse health effects, the UK Met Office said.

Temperatures are expected to peak at 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) on Friday and may hit 36C in some places on Saturday.

The warning follows the driest July for England since 1935, when temperatures rose above 40C for the first time, turning a renewed spotlight to the impacts of climate change.

Other European nations have also faced a scorching heatwave in recent weeks with temperatures often exceeding 40C.

Britain, which is less used to such high temperatures, has struggled to cope.

July’s heatwave caused power outages, damaged airport runways, buckled rail tracks and ignited dozens of blazes in London, where the fire brigade faced its busiest week since World War Two.

Several water companies have since imposed usage restrictions and supermarkets have limited sales of disposable BBQs that firefighters warn can set light to tinder-dry grass. Ambulance services have received hundreds of calls from patients facing breathing difficulties, dizziness and fainting.

The amber warning, which follows Britain’s first-ever red “Extreme Heat” warning in July, covers much of the southern half of England and parts of eastern Wales.

Scientists have said the July heatwave was made at least 10 times more likely because of climate change.

Explosion rocks Russian air base in Crimea

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Ammunition detonated at an airfield in Moscow-annexed Crimea on Tuesday but there were no victims, the Russian defense ministry said.

The blasts at the Saki airfield took place on the 167th day of Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

“Several aviation munitions detonated” near the settlement of Novofyodorovka, the defense ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

“As a result of the explosion no one was hurt.”

The Russian defense ministry said it was looking to establish the reason for the explosions but indicated that the airfield was not targeted in an attack.

According to dramatic footage on social media, holidaymakers left the local beach in panic as large plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky. Cars rushed to leave Novofyodorovka, as ambulances were dispatched to the scene.

Crimea borders the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson — now controlled by Moscow — and the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia — partially occupied by the Russian army — is also nearby.

In a video statement, Crimea head Sergei Aksyonov, speaking from the scene, said the affected area had been cordoned off.

“All necessary measures have been tightened to ensure the safety of infrastructure facilities and the population,” he said.

Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014, is a popular tourist destination.

US scraps ‘remain in Mexico’ policy after Supreme Court ruling

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The United States says it has ended a Trump-era policy requiring asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings on their immigration status following a Supreme Court ruling in favorite of President Joe Biden’s bid to scrap the initiative.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, informally known as “remain in Mexico”, will be unwound in a “quick, and orderly manner”, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement on Monday.

The policy, which was launched in 2019 under former Republican President Donald Trump, pushed non-Mexican asylum seekers back to Mexico to await a resolution of their US cases, which sometimes takes months or years.

No more people will be enrolled under the program and those currently waiting in Mexico will be removed from the program and allowed to enter the US as they return for their next scheduled court dates, DHS said in a statement.

It added the policy has “endemic flaws, imposes unjustifiable human costs, and pulls resources and personnel away from other priority efforts to secure our border”.

The move to scrap the program came after the US Supreme Court ruled on June 30 in favorite of Biden’s bid to terminate it.

But the timing of the announcement had been in doubt, with DHS officials saying they had to wait for the court to certify the ruling and for a Trump-appointed judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, to then lift his injunction on scrapping the policy .

The Supreme Court certified its ruling last week and Kacsmaryk lifted his injunction on Monday.

Under Trump, who made restricting both legal and illegal immigration to the US a central tenet of his time in office, the initiative forced about 70,000 non-Mexican asylum seekers back across the border where they waited in often squalid and dangerous conditions.

Biden, a Democrat, ended MPP shortly after taking office in January 2021 as part of his efforts to reverse the hardline policies of his Republican predecessor.

But the termination was blocked by a federal judge in August 2021, forcing Biden to restart the program and eventually sending the legal fight to the Supreme Court.

As of July 6, nearly 5,800 asylum seekers had been sent to Mexico under a revamped version of the program, according to DHS statistics.

Nicaraguans accounted for the largest number of those affected, with Cuban, Colombian and Venezuelan nationals also affected.

Despite Washington’s move to scrap the policy, many questions over its ongoing effects remain, including whether those whose claims have been denied or dismissed will get a second chance or if those whose next court dates are months away will be allowed to return to the US sooner .

DHS said it will provide additional information “in the coming days”.

Ukraine says it has creditor approval for growth-related warrant changes

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Ukraine has gained the necessary approval from holders of its GDP warrants to its request for proposed changes to the securities, preliminary results of a vote released in a filing on Tuesday showed.

The Ukrainian government launched a proposal in July to change conditions on its $2.6 billion of outstanding GDP (gross domestic product) warrants, a derivative security that triggers payments linked to economic growth.

“Approximately 93% of Holders of the Notional Amount of Securities outstanding were represented for quorum purposes and approximately 91% of such Holders had voted in favorite of the Extraordinary Resolution,” Tuesday’s statement said.

Ukraine said that final results will be announced after a meeting on Wednesday.

Kyiv is also asking creditors to defer payments on the war-torn country’s international bonds for 24 months as Ukraine seeks to avoid a potential $20 billion debt default.

Turkey’s new drill ship to operate outside disputed waters in Mediterranean

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Turkey resumed its hydrocarbon drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday after a two year hiatus, though President Tayyip Erdogan said its new drill ship would operate outside waters also claimed by Cyprus.

The Abdulhamid Han, Turkey’s fourth drill ship, will operate 55 kilometres off the Gazipasa region in the southern coastal province of Antalya, Erdogan said.

“The survey and drilling work we are conducting in the Mediterranean are within our sovereign territory. We do not need to receive permission or consent from anyone for this,” he said, speaking at a ceremony to launch the ship in Turkey’s coastal Mersin province.

The launch comes at a time when long-running tensions between Turkey and Greece have risen again, with Erdogan accusing Athens of arming islands in the Aegean Sea that have a demilitarised status. Athens rejects this. read more

Natural gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean in the past decade have made the region a viable alternative energy source for Europe, but also exposed disputes between neighbouring countries in the region over rights to the resources.

A Greek government spokesperson told reporters on Tuesday that Athens is monitoring the situation carefully.

“We need to be vigilant … We’ve always been doing what we have to do to have stability in our region and to fully defend international law and our own sovereign rights,” spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said.

Ankara said the 238-metre (780.84 ft) Abdulhamid Han is the largest and the most technologically advanced deep sea drilling ship in its survey and exploration fleet. It can drill down more than 12,000 meters.

Turkey has not sent a drill ship to the eastern Mediterranean since the withdrawal of the Yavuz drill ship from contested waters in September 2020.

The Yavuz, Fatih and Kanuni drill ships have been operating in the Black Sea, where Turkey discovered a natural gas reserve with a volume of 540 billion cubic metres.

Turkey is almost completely reliant on imports to meet its energy needs and rising global energy prices have derailed the government’s plan to flip its current account deficit to a surplus.

Britain’s Liz Truss still favorites tax cuts over direct support on energy bills

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Liz Truss, frontrunner in the race to replace Boris Johnson as British prime minister, said on Tuesday she still favored tax cuts to grow the economy instead of providing direct support to households facing unprecedented rises in energy bills.

Charities, business groups and politicians have called on Truss and her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, to set out how they would help Britons cope with a forecast 82% rise in energy prices in October.

Sunak, who as finance minister in May set out a 15 billion pound ($18.14 billion) support package to help households struggling with surging energy bills, has pledged more direct support. Truss has said she favorites tax cuts over handouts.

Asked repeatedly why she was ruling out providing direct support to households, Truss told reporters: “What I don’t believe in is taxing people to the highest level in 70 years, and then giving them their own money back.”

Truss has promised an emergency budget if she wins.

“I’m not going to write the budget in advance. We’ll see what the situation is like in the autumn, but I’m committed to making sure people are supported,” she said. read more

A spokesperson for Sunak’s campaign said Truss was “divorced from reality”.

“Liz’s plan will not touch the sides (remotely suffice) for the majority of British families this winter and pensioners will get no help whatsoever,” the spokesperson said.

Two Palestinians killed, 40 wounded as Israeli troops raid West Bank

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Two Palestinians, including a senior militant commander, were killed Tuesday as Israeli forces raided a house in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, the army said.

The latest violence comes two days after deadly fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in the coastal enclave of Gaza was halted by a truce.

In the old city of Nablus, an AFP correspondent reported Palestinians trading gunfire with Israeli security forces.

At least 40 Palestinians were wounded, four of them in serious condition, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

“The terrorist Ibrahim al-Nabulsi was killed in the city of Nablus,” the Israeli army said in a statement, adding that “another terrorist who was staying in the house” also died.

Nabulsi was a commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of the main militant groups present in the West Bank operating under the ruling Fatah party.

Clashes with the Israeli army also broke out in other parts of Nablus, as Palestinians hurled stones at the troops.

Heavy gunfire was heard as dozens of Israeli military vehicles brought traffic in one of the West Bank’s largest cities to a standstill.

“A violent clash developed with dozens of rioters who threw stones and threw explosives at the forces, who responded by means of crowd dispersal and shooting. Several injuries were confirmed,” the army said.

“All the forces have left the city, there are no casualties to our forces,” it added.

Israeli security forces have conducted near-daily operations in the West Bank in recent months, focusing on militants from the Islamic Jihad group.

At least 57 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank.

They have included suspected militants and also non-combatants, among them Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American dual national, who was covering an Israeli raid in Jenin.

Attacks on Israeli targets have killed 19 people over the same period, most of them civilians killed in attacks inside Israel. Three Israeli Arab attackers have also been killed.

Deadly Gaza fighting

On Friday, Israel launched what it called a “pre-emptive” aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip, leading militants in the coastal enclave to fire more than a thousand rockets in retaliation, according to the army.

An Egypt-brokered ceasefire reached Sunday and ended three days of intense fighting that killed 46 Palestinians, 16 of them children, and wounded 360, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Israel insists that some the children and other civilians counted in the Palestinian toll were killed by Islamic Jihad rockets that fell short or misfired.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that the bombardment had “landed a devastating blow to the enemy”, and that the “entire senior military command of Islamic Jihad in Gaza was successfully targeted.”

Islamic Jihad said 12 of its members had been killed, including commanders Taysir al-Jabari and Khaled Mansour.

Mohammad al-Hindi, a senior member of the group, said the ceasefire deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work towards the release of two prisoners”.

They were named Bassem al-Saadi, a senior figure in the group’s political wing who was arrested in the West Bank early last week, and Khalil Awawdeh, a militant also in Israeli detention.

Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon

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The head of Lebanon’s powerful armed movement Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned on Tuesday against any Israeli attempts to expand their targeting of Palestinian militants to Lebanon.

“Any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered,” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking Ashura, a melancholic commemoration for Shi’ite Muslims of the killing the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Hussein.

The comments came after a flare-up in violence between Israel and the Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza strip, prompted by Israel’s arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader earlier this month.

On Saturday, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz hinted at the possible targeting of Islamic Jihad officials abroad, who he said could be seen in “restaurants and hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon”.

“They too will have to pay the price,” Gantz said.

On Monday, a day after a truce brokered by Egypt ended the Gaza violence, he said Israel could carry out “pre-emptive strikes” abroad.

“In the future too, if necessary, we will deliver a pre-emptive strike in order to defend Israel’s citizens, sovereignty and infrastructure and this is true for all fronts, from Teheran to Khan Younis,” he said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah is vehemently opposed to Israel and tensions between the two have been escalating in recent months over a disputed maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.