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UN agency fears 670 dead after Papua New Guinea landslide

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Berlin, May 26 (IANS/DPA) At least 670 people are feared to have been killed by a landslide in Papua New Guinea, an International Organization for Migration (IOM) official said on Sunday.

Serhan Aktoprak, the IOM’s head of mission for the Pacific country, told Australian broadcaster ABC that the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

Several villages in the province of Enga were hit when part of a mountain collapsed in the early hours of Friday in the remote central highlands of Papua New Guinea.

More than 4,000 people live in the affected area, according to reports, although it is unclear how many were present when the landslide occurred.

The United Nations on Sunday confirmed the deaths of five people whose bodies have been recovered. At least 20 women and children have also been injured.

One village in the area, Yambili, disappeared under the landslide, the local newspaper Post Courier reported on Saturday. In the region, at least 150 houses are believed to be buried under 6 to 8 metres of mud.

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The inaccessibility of the region has complicated rescue efforts and hopes of finding survivors are diminishing quickly. The area is characterized by tropical forests and a huge mountain range with rugged valleys, some of which are not accessible by road and can only be reached by air.

The terrain surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remains dangerous and unstable, prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, Aktoprak said.

Aktoprak described the difficulties at the scene, saying people had to “run away from the site because of the increased danger as rocks nonstop keep falling and the land continues to slide.”

Despite the difficulties, rescue efforts are continuing, involving national emergency response teams, police, the army and the UN.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday offered the Papua New Guinea government help with rescue efforts and reconstruction. Australia and the United States have also offered support.

Papua New Guinea, with a population of almost 10 million people, lies just north of Australia.

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Despite being rich in minerals, timber, oil and gas, its history of colonialism, political instability and mismanagement of resources has kept its people impoverished.

–IANS/DPA

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International

Ukraine plans solar expansion to stabilise energy security

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Kiev, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is planning to expand the country’s construction of solar systems to stabilise the energy grid, which has been significantly impacted by Russian attacks.

“The government has been tasked with immediately presenting a program to encourage the installation of solar generation and energy storage systems in Ukraine,” Zelensky said in his daily video address on Thursday.

According to the plan, citizens who install solar panels will be able to receive an interest-free loan.

The President said that measures were taken to protect energy facilities from ongoing attacks by Russia and specific deadlines were established for the completion of the protective structures.

Zelensky pledged to build more facilities for decentralised energy supply to ensure administration and critical infrastructure buildings had an alternative energy source during power outages.

Ukraine has been defending itself against a full-scale Russian invasion for more than two years.

Official figures show that about half of Ukraine’s energy production capacity has been lost due to systematic Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy facilities with drones and missiles.

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Strict energy rationing and daily power cuts have been implemented, with concerns about the situation worsening in the winter.

–IANS/DPA

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Thousands of Israelis turn out in renewed rally against govt

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Jerusalem, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of Israelis turned out for fresh protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in a renewed show of anger at the failure to agree on a ceasefire in Gaza and bring about the return of hostages.

According to Israeli media on Thursday, the largest rally took place in front of a private home of the Prime Minister in the city of Caesarea.

The demonstrators demanded new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds also gathered in Jerusalem for a protest, according to reports.

These are the latest in months of protests as people accuse Netanyahu of bowing to the demands of the ultra-orthodox partners in his right-wing coalition and obstructing a deal to release the Israeli hostages held by Palestinian Islamist organisation Hamas.

Some Ministers oppose an agreement with Hamas as it would also provide for a ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

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Israel continues to seek to eliminate Hamas, which attacked sites in southern Israel on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people and abducting about 250 more to Gaza.

Israel responded by pounding Gaza with airstrikes and launched a ground offensive into the sealed-off Palestinian territory at the end of October.

More than 37,300 people have been killed and more than 85,000 injured in the course of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority in Gaza.

Months of efforts have failed to bring about a breakthrough in indirect negotiations to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire and Hamas to release around 120 hostages.

–IANS/DPA

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WHO warns counterfeit diabetes drugs in circulation worldwide

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Geneva, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Counterfeit diabetes drugs have been in circulation since 2022, a problem affecting all regions of the world, the WHO warned in a statement.

The health authority on Thursday referred specifically to findings in Britain, the US and Brazil since October 2023.

The drug concerns Ozempic, a medicine containing the active ingredient semaglutide, which is also approved in the EU for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

The counterfeit version looks identical to the real medicine. Because the product also suppresses the appetite, it is increasingly being prescribed for weight loss.

But counterfeit drugs may not contain the right amount of active ingredients and could therefore lead to uncontrolled sugar in diabetics, the WHO said, adding they may also contain other active ingredients that pose health risks.

The WHO called on doctors, pharmacists, regulatory authorities and the public to be vigilant.

People should only buy medicines on prescription from pharmacies and not online, the WHO said.

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Users should ensure that the dosage scale on insulin pens is displayed correctly, the label looks correct and there are no spelling mistakes on the box, the global health agency added.

–IANS/DPA

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Putin warns S.Korea against arms deliveries to Ukraine

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Hanoi, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Russian President Vladimir Putin has said South Korea would be making a “big mistake” if it supplies arms to Ukraine.

“If that happens, then we will make corresponding decisions that will not please the current leadership of South Korea,” Putin said on Thursday during a trip to Vietnam.

The South Korean government had earlier expressed concern over a new Russia-North Korea strategic partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked.

Seoul said the security commitments violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

It also suggested it could reconsider its long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to Kiev.

North Korea, ruled by President Kim Jong Un, is subject to far-reaching UN sanctions and import bans due to its nuclear weapons programme, including the trade in weapons and the transfer of military technologies to the country.

During a state visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Putin signed the partnership agreement with Kim.

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At a press conference in Hanoi on Thursday, Putin called Seoul’s concerns unfounded.

He said South Korea had nothing to fear as the pact would only apply if either Russia or North Korea was attacked by a third country.

“As far as I know, (South Korea) is not planning any aggression” against North Korea, he said.

This means that “there is no need to fear our cooperation”.

Putin also said that he would not deploy any North Korean soldiers in Ukraine.

However, he threatened to deliver high-precision weapons to North Korea as a response to Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

–IANS/DPA

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Washington prioritises Ukraine, postpones military supplies to others

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Washington, June 21 (IANS/DPA) The US government plans to postpone the delivery of some military equipment to other countries to prioritise strengthening Ukraine’s air defences.

White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that given Kiev’s urgent needs, the US government had made the “difficult but necessary” decision to postpone certain planned arms sales to other countries, in particular missiles for the Patriot and NASAMS air defence systems.

These should go instead to Ukraine, whose armed forces urgently need additional air defence capacities, he added.

The countries concerned had been informed, Kirby said, though he did not say which countries were involved.

All are to receive what they had ordered, just a little later than originally planned, he added.

This was first mentioned by US President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a few days ago on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

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–IANS/DPA

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