x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

When nature plays rough

A strong earthquake rocked Chile, killing at least 800 people and triggering a possibility of a tsunami while storms battered the UAE causing flooding and hardships.

A boy is undeterred by the flooding near his home in Abu Dhabi. Heavy rain caused sporadic flooding in low-lying areas.
A boy is undeterred by the flooding near his home in Abu Dhabi. Heavy rain caused sporadic flooding in low-lying areas.

One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded struck southern Chile, killing at least 800 people and sending a giant wave surging across the Pacific. Tsunami warnings were briefly raised in at least 27 countries around the Pacific Rim, while in Chile, up to 200km of coastline was swamped by huge waves, destroying roads, cutting off power and affecting about two million people. International aid agencies flew in food and medicine but many towns remained without power and water. Amid the chaos, thousands of troops were deployed to prevent looting. The earthquake, which measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, was so powerful it was said by Nasa scientists to have shifted the Earth's axis.

For Canadians, it was the perfect end to what had been an ill-fated Winter Olympics. Its men's ice hockey team won gold in the final against long-time rival, the United States. Not only was the winning shot made in overtime, but it was the last gold medal awarded during the Games and catapulted Canada into first place on the medal table. Both the US president, Barack Obama, and his spokesman, Robert Gibbs, were forced to pay up after losing friendly wagers with their Canadian counterparts. The Games, which featured 2,500 athletes from 82 competing nations, had begun in the worst possible way with the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, a Georgian luger, when his sled flipped and he hit a steel pole during a training run.

Torrential rains and strong winds battered the UAE twice in four days, bringing widespread flooding, disruption in schools and businesses, and causing the deaths of at least five people. Streets were filled with waist-high, murky water. While most of the rain fell on Masafi, straddling Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah, Sharjah seemed to be the worst affected area, with the main Emirates Road to Dubai closed for several hours. In Al Qua, just outside Al Ain, about 200 people were left homeless when fierce gusts ripped off the roofs of their ramshackle houses.

Mahmoud al Mabhouh, the senior Hamas commander assassinated in Dubai on January 19, was drugged and smothered in his Dubai hotel room by a Mossad hit squad, according to a coroner's report. Traces of the muscle relaxant succinylcholine, often used by doctors to administer a breathing tube or anaesthesia, were found in al Mabhouh's blood. Dubai Police have identified 26 suspects. Many of those travelled to the emirate on fake or forged passports. The forensic report said the drug had been injected into al Mabhouh's thigh and he was then smothered with a pillow. It was done, police said, in order to make it look like a natural death.

The UAE stepped up attempts to stub out smoking by announcing that all cigarette packets would soon carry graphic warnings of the dangers of tobacco. The images, to be supplied by the Canadian Health Authority, include one in which an unborn child is seen inhaling smoke from its mother, and another showing a snake coiled around a shisha pipe. The move comes as the UAE is working with other GCC countries to harmonise anti-smoking laws, which will include banning the sale of single cigarettes and the sale of tobacco near schools, mosques and hospitals. The Government will sit down next month to work out how to implement the law.

Naomi Campbell, the fiery British model, had another brush with the law after her driver complained that she punched him in the head as he drove her through central Manhattan. By the time the police arrived at the scene, Campbell had left. Miodrag Mejdina, the driver of the SUV, said the force of Ms Campbell's punch had caused him to hit his head on the steering wheel, although he chose not to press charges and filed only a harassment complaint. It is not the first time Campbell has been in trouble, having attacked two policemen on a British Airways flight and throwing her mobile phone at both an assistant and her housemaid.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, took the extraordinary step of asking the mayor of Jerusalem to rethink controversial plans to demolish Palestinian homes to make way for a park. Nir Barkat had presented the proposal - to replace 20 Palestinian homes built without planning permission with parkland and tourism-based businesses - as a way to develop the area. In return, Palestinian residents would receive permission to build elsewhere in Silwan, which is adjacent to Jerusalem's walled Old City. But Mr Netanyahu said he was concerned how such a move would look to the international community, and asked Mr Barkat to consult with Palestinian residents before breaking any ground.

At least 60 people gathered at a temple for a ritual feast were killed in a stampede after the gate of a Hindu temple collapsed in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Dozens more - mostly women and children - were seriously injured at the Ram Janaki temple. The death toll was expected to rise. It was not immediately clear what caused the gate to collapse.

Starbucks, the global coffee chain, has become a flashpoint in the debate over gun control in the United States. Several gun-toting citizens have recently been seen sipping lattes with their weapons proudly on display in an attempt to test laws in 43 states which allow licensed arms on public premises. Now, gun control advocates are protesting against the policy, urging Starbucks to declare its property weapons-free, and confronting gun owners in several coffee shops. Starbucks said it would not change its policy to allow guns to be worn if state laws permitted it. It has asked both those for and against gun ownership not to turnits cafes into their personal soapbox.

An appeals court in Cairo ordered a retrial of an Egyptian businessmen sentenced to death last year for the killing of the Lebanese pop starm Suzanne Tamim in Dubai. Hisham Talaat Moustafa was convicted last May of paying a retired Egyptian police officer, Mohsen el Sokari, US$2 million (Dh7.2m) to kill Tamim. There was no reason given for a new trial, but lawyers for Moustafa had been arguing that the case was riddled with technical irregularities. A lower court will now set a date for a new trial which could come as early as two months from now. @Email:cbiggs@thenational.ae