Tuesday 28 May 2013

Syria - lessons from Iraq?

As Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague itches to arm the rebels in Syria, a warning from Iraq that getting rid of a bad ruler does not solve all problems.  Yesterday, at least 66 people were killed in a dozen explosions targeting mainly Shia areas in Baghdad.

The United Nations says more than 700 people were killed in April, the worst monthly death toll in nearly five years.  So far this month more than 450 have died, raising fears that violence is heading back to the peaks seen in 2006 and 2007.

Many of the bombs were detonated in busy shopping areas and markets.  Last week, more than 70 people were killed in explosions at bus stations and markets in mainly Shia districts, while two weeks ago, 38 perished in an attack on a Sunni mosque.

Iraq’s Sunni minority has been complaining that the government, led by Shias, discriminates against them.

Saturday 25 May 2013

Darfur - lest we forget

So far this year, an estimated 300,000 people have fled their homes in Sudan’s Darfur region according to the United Nations.    After a peace deal was signed in 2011, violence had died down, but not out.
Altogether, about 1.4 million people are now homeless, and 300,000 are believed to have died since the conflict began in 2003.  While on a visit to a refugee camp, the UN’s top humanitarian official, Valerie Amos, said the situation was ‘extremely worrying’.
She said displaced people faced chronic food shortages, and had to walk in fierce heat to get water.  They also lacked access to health care and education, while rebels were obstructing the distribution of aid.
The conflict began with rebels complaining that the Sudanese government favoured Arabs and oppressed black Africans.  Since it started, the mainly Arab Janjaweed militia has been accused of carrying out ethnic cleansing and genocide, and President al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.
(See also my blogs of March 4, 5 March, 6 Aug, 21 Sept, 2009 and 27 May 2010.)
* The fifth in my series of videos on Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters features the Battle of Hastings.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtIhODt-Wrc&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Tornadoes - poor Moore


Lightning may not strike the same place twice, but tornadoes do.  Moore, Oklahoma, which was devastated yesterday, was also hit in 1999 and 2003.

This time winds of up to 200 mph flattened whole neighbourhoods.  Schools were destroyed, and at least 24 people have been killed.  President Obama has declared it a major disaster.  Tornadoes, hail and high winds also hit Iowa and Kansas. 

The 1999 tornado (pictured) caused devastation for nearly 40 miles, killing 41 people, destroying thousands of homes, and inflicting damage that cost more than $1 billion.    In 2003, houses, businesses, two hotels and a church were among the buildings destroyed or damaged.

The most devastating twister in US history was the Great Tri-State Tornado of 1925, which wrought havoc in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, killing around 700.  

* The fourth video in my series on Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters – the Anglo-Saxon Conquest is now up - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVC0oEVukmA

Monday 20 May 2013

Great disasters - great escapes


With a death toll of more than 1,120, the fall of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh is now confirmed as the deadliest building collapse in modern history, but in the midst of terrible tragedy, there was an astonishing story of survival.

Nineteen year old Reshma Begum was pulled from the rubble alive after being trapped for 17 days.  Rescuers had spotted her waving an aluminium curtain rail.   Reshma had come to the big city from the countryside three years ago, and had been working at her factory in the Rana Plaza for less than a month when the block collapsed.  

Three years ago, a 24 year old man was dragged out of the remains of a hotel eleven days after the Haiti earthquake, and 17 days after the collapse of the Sampoong department store in Seoul, South Korea, in 1995, an 18 year old was found alive.

In 1906, nearly 1,100 miners were killed by an explosion in a colliery at Courrieres in France.   To the astonishment of rescue workers, 20 days later, a group of 13 survivors emerged.    They had kept themselves alive on food that miners took down the pit to eat during their breaks and by slaughtering a horse.
*My third video on Britain's 20 Worst Military Disasters is a story from Scotland - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKR5Ayyx6cs

Friday 3 May 2013

Bangladesh factory collapse now deadliest of modern times

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory building near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, is now confirmed as the deadliest event of its kind in modern times.    Officials say the death toll has now reached 507, but that scores of people have still not been accounted for. 

About 2,500 people were injured as the 8-storey building fell, and rescuers say they do not know how many are still missing because they have not been able to get accurate figures from the factory owners.  Nine people have been arrested in connection with the disaster.

Ever since the Rana Plaza collapsed last week, workers in Bangladesh’s huge clothing industry have been holding protests to demand better safety standards.

Until now, the deadliest building failure of modern times was the collapse of the Sampoong department store in Seoul, South Korea in 1995, in which 501 people died. When part of the Circus Maximus in Rome collapsed during a gladiator fight some time between 138 and 161AD, it was said to have cost more than 1,100 lives.

*The second in my series of videos on Britain’s 20 Worst Military Disasters – the defeat of Boudicca.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR7U4cjenuQ