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ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogThousands of people lined up at San Juan harbour on Thursday to board a cruise ship that will take them from Puerto Rico to the US mainland in one of the largest evacuations since Hurricane Maria slammed Puerto Rico more than a week ago. Maria, which came ashore as the strongest storm to hit the island in nearly 90 years, has created a humanitarian crisis. The powerful storm knocked out the nation?s electric grid and has crippled communications networks, transport and the water supply for the territory?s 3.4 million people. The devastation is likely to feed an exodus that has driven tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans from the economically struggling island in recent years in search of opportunity on the mainland. ?I?m sorry to be leaving Puerto Rico, but I have to. I prefer home, but it?s impossible with these conditions,? said Ada Reyes, 85. She was in a wheelchair and travelling on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship bound for Florida with her granddaughter, Maria Fernanda, 19. Fernanda planned to drop her grandmother in Florida, then head to Boston to look into colleges. A second-year student at the University of Puerto Rico, the teenager did not know when classes there would resume. Royal Caribbean International said its Adventure of the Seas cruise ship will carry 3,800 passengers from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. A company spokesman said the cruise line is providing the passages free of charge and that travellers were registered with the help of local officials. The ship will make humanitarian calls in the hurricane-hit US Virgin Islands, where it will drop off supplies. It will then head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with a planned arrival of October 3. The cruise line said it will work with airlines to make travel arrangements for passengers looking to meet up with friends and family on the mainland. ?This is a humanitarian mission on behalf of Royal Caribbean,? company spokesman Owen Torres said. At San Juan?s main airport, flights are slowly returning. Major carriers including Southwest and JetBlue are still operating at reduced schedules as the airport works to restore power and return to full staffing levels. JetBlue typically has about 40 flights a day to Puerto Rico but on Thursday it had only seven, which it said was still more than any other airline flying to the US territory. ONE WAY OR ROUND TRIP? People have waited for days for a flight out, with some Puerto Ricans wondering if they will stay once they reach the US mainland. Lilliana Pastor, 34, of San Juan, decided on Tuesday to buy a one-way ticket to Florida for her and her 7-year-old daughter, Leah Aguayo. ?Right now we don?t know about the electricity. We don?t have running water,? Pastor said. ?I?d rather go to Miami where we have family and see what happens.? As US citizens, Puerto Ricans can easily move to the United States. Migration to the mainland has soared in recent years, fuelled by Puerto Ricans? desire for economic stability, jobs, schools and access to medical care. Between April 2010 and July 2016, the population of Puerto Rico dropped by 8.4 percent, the US Census said, the largest percentage drop of any US state or territory. Nearly one-third of those born in Puerto Rico now live on the US mainland, economists wrote in a research report published on a blog site run by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The migrants are mostly younger workers, tilted toward the lower end of the skills and earnings spectrum. The loss of these taxpayers is a blow to the island?s already reeling economy, the economists wrote in an August 2016 post for Liberty Street Economics. Puerto Rico, which earlier this year filed the biggest bankruptcy in US municipal history, is struggling to regain economic stability in the face of a $72 billion debt load and near-insolvent public health and pension systems. ECONOMIC DETERIORATION The out-migration has accelerated the ageing of Puerto Rico?s remaining population, further straining government services, the economists said. ?If people continue to leave the island at the pace that has been set in recent years, the economic potential of Puerto Rico will only continue to deteriorate,? their research said. Back at San Juan?s port, Lara Brown, 42, who runs a child care centre, was fighting back tears. She was sending her son, 14, and daughter, 12, to Miami to live with her sister-in-law, where she says life for them will be easier. ?They have no electricity. Sometimes they have water, sometimes they don?t,? Brown said. ?I?m afraid to leave them at home alone.? Brown started to cry.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogWASHINGTON: The US Navy hospital ship Comfort is due to leave its home port in Norfolk, Virginia, on Friday for deployment to the hurricane-battered island of Puerto Rico, its first civilian disaster mission in seven years, the Pentagon said on Wednesday. The USNS Comfort, equipped to carry as many as 1,000 hospital beds, 12 operating rooms and one of the largest trauma units in the United States, is expected to arrive in Puerto Rico by the middle of next week, according to Defense Department officials. It takes up to four days to load and prepare the vessel. The vessel?s departure date was set a week after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and three days after former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton urged Republican US President Donald Trump in a Twitter message to deploy the ship. Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis ?should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens,? Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Trump?s predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama, tweeted on Sunday. Critics of Trump?s disaster response in Puerto Rico seized on the Clinton tweet, launching a petition on the website Change.org that drew some 260,000 supporters for the idea and igniting a #SendtheComfort social media campaign. The Pentagon did not explain why the vessel was not dispatched sooner or say whether Clinton?s admonition was a factor. But a Defense Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier this week that the Comfort was not deployed before then because the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), which is overseeing disaster relief on the island, had not requested it. Asked why the Comfort had not been prepositioned in case of a deployment request, the official said weather conditions in the Caribbean and the incoming hurricane would have made it difficult. Maria, the most powerful hurricane to strike Puerto Rico in nearly a century, cut a swath of destruction across the island last Wednesday with roof-ripping winds, torrential rains and pounding surf. The storm claimed at least 16 lives on the island, knocked out the territory?s entire power grid, unleashed severe flooding and caused widespread heavy damage to homes and infrastructure. Governor Ricardo Rossello called it an unprecedented disaster for the island. Medical facilities were especially hard hit, many of them left wind-damaged, flooded and short-staffed. A majority of the island?s 69 hospitals were without electricity or fuel needed to run backup generators, according to a Defense Department assessment. The 890-foot (270-meter) Comfort, originally designed to treat US troops wounded in combat, has taken on a secondary mission during the past decade as a major asset for the Navy to deploy in response to natural disasters. Its last civilian relief assignment was in Haiti following a devastating earthquake there in January 2010. The Comfort also was dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and was sent on months-long goodwill humanitarian missions through Latin America and the Caribbean in 2007 and 2011. The ship, equipped with a large helipad, typically anchors offshore and takes aboard patients ferried to the vessel from land by helicopter or small boats. The Comfort will not be the only Navy ship sent to Puerto Rico. Two amphibious ships were previously deployed there - the USS Kearsarge and the USS Oak Hill.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogThe anti-migrant C-Star boat has endured a wretched time in the Mediterranean. AFP/Angelos Tzortzinis ROME: Anti-immigration activists whose boat was reported in trouble said Friday they had got their engines going again after a migrant rescue ship said it had been dispatched to help. The C-Star ? which has vowed to expose what it describes as "collaboration" between privately-funded rescue ships and people traffickers ? said earlier on Twitter it had "developed a minor technical problem during the night", leaving it adrift but not in distress. Germany's Sea-Eye ? one of nine NGOs involved in migrant search and rescue (SAR) operations and a target of the C-Star's campaign ? said it had been "asked by the MRCC (command centre in Rome) to assist the ship". Later, on Friday, however, a spokesman for C-Star told AFP that the boat ? which had only just got going against after being blocked for five days off the coast of Tunisia ? simply stopped its engines to resolve a technical problem. This was what set off a signal to other boats in the nearby area, but not asking for help, he said. The Sea-Eye returned to its previous route and activities once it was told its help was not needed by the C-Star. The Italian coast guard could not be reached for a comment. The C-Star has been plagued with problems since its mission began last month. It was initially refused permission to travel through the Suez Canal, before later being blocked over legal questions in Cyprus. After finally making it to Libya's SAR zone, it needed to refuel but found itself stuck off the coast of Tunisia earlier this week after fishermen and a powerful Tunisian union refused to allow passage. The 40-metre long ship, which is flying under a Mongolian flag, is leased by the far-right group "Generation Identity". Funded by Internet-collected donations of more than $212,000 (180,000 euros), the Austrian, French, German and Italian activists on board have vowed to ensure migrants rescued at sea off Libya be returned to Africa. Two NGO ships were badgered at sea by the C-Star last week with a radio message telling them to "leave the rescue zone" and "stop acting as an incentive for human traffickers". The message echoed one transmitted Thursday by the Libyan navy, which has banned any unauthorised foreign ships from entering the SAR zone off its coast.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogThis video grab image ? obtained July 25, 2017, courtesy of the US Navy ? shows an IRGCN boat heading towards the USS Thunderbolt in the Gulf. AFP/US Navy/Handout WASHINGTON: A US Navy patrol ship fired warning shots Tuesday at an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps boat in the Persian Gulf as it closed in on the American vessel, officials said. The shots were fired after the Iranian vessel came to within 150 yards of the USS Thunderbolt and failed to respond to repeated attempts to reach it via radio, then ignored warning flares and a series of blasts on the US ship's whistle, the Navy said in a statement. "The Iranian vessel's actions were not in accordance with the internationally recognised? 'rules of the road' nor internationally recognised maritime customs, creating a risk for collision," the statement read, noting that the Iranians had conducted an "unsafe and unprofessional" interaction. The incident occurred at about 3:00 AM local time (0500 PST) in the northern Persian Gulf. After the US ship fired the warning shots, the Iranian vessel stopped, officials said, at which point the Thunderbolt continued on her way. The episode marks the latest in a series of close encounters between US ships and Iranian naval vessels. In January, the USS Mahan destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels that approached at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps is a paramilitary force that answers directly to the Islamic republic's supreme leader. The force's boats periodically approach US warships in international waters and the Strait of Hormuz, ignoring US radio messages and giving little indication of their intentions. In January 2016, the Iranians briefly captured the crew of two small US patrol boats that strayed into Iranian waters. The 10 US sailors were released 24 hours later. Tuesday's incident comes as the US Congress votes on a new sanctions bill against Russia. The measure also includes sanctions against Iran and the IRGC navy ? which stands accused of supporting terrorism ? and North Korea, for its missile tests.
ADMIN posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogA US Navy ship fired warning shots when an Iranian vessel in the Gulf came within 150 yards (137 meters) on Tuesday in the first such incident since President Donald Trump took office in January, a US official told Reuters. The last major incident was earlier in January, though there have been other instances when a US vessel fired a flare and another event in March when a US Navy ship was forced to change course after multiple fast-attack vessels from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard came too close. The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Thunderbolt fired the warning shots after the Iranian vessel approached at a high rate of speed and ignored radio calls, flares and the ship´s whistle. The Thunderbolt was accompanied by several US Coast Guard vessels. The Iranian vessel appeared to be from Iran´s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the official said, adding that it was armed but that the weapons were unmanned. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian Foreign Ministry could not immediately be reached for comment. Years of mutual animosity had eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran last year as part of a deal to curb Iran´s nuclear ambitions. But serious differences remain over Iran´s ballistic missile program and conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The Trump administration, which has struck a hard line on Iran, recently declared that Iran was complying with its nuclear agreement with world powers, but warned that Tehran was not following the spirit of the accord and that Washington would look for ways to strengthen it. During the presidential campaign last September, Trump vowed that any Iranian vessels that harass the US Navy in the Gulf would be "shot out of the water." Such incidents occur occasionally. In January, a US Navy destroyer fired three warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed and disregarded repeated requests to slow down.
Naz Baloch addressing the media on Sunday. Photo: Geo News KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Naz Baloch announced joining Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Sunday. Addressing the media alongside Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and senior PPP figure Faryal Talpur at the party?s media cell, she said ?I?ve returned home as my father laid down the foundation of the PPP alongside Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto?. She said she does not want to smear the party where she spent seven years of her life. ?I am a representative of Sindh. I disagree with the PTI?s policies which focus only at Punjab and the centre?s politics,? she said. Criticising the appointment of the same group of people as the PTI's Karachi heads, she said it is no surprise that the party's support has dwindled in the city. Around half an hour before her announcement, Baloch, who was considered an active PTI member on the social media with over 600,000 followers, tweeted the following: The move comes after several recent moves into the PTI of PPP leaders in Punjab. The most recent transfer was of former PPP senator Babar Awan, who has since assumed the charge of being one of the party's spokespersons. Prior to Awan, PPP's Firdous Ashiq Awan, Noor Alam Khan and Nazar Gondal also joined the PTI.
waqas dar posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogA number of missing American sailors have been found dead in flooded areas of a destroyer that collided with a container ship off Japan's coast, the US Navy said Sunday. The sailors were missing for more than 24 hours after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a much larger container ship before dawn on Saturday, causing heavy damage and flooding areas of the destroyer. "A number of sailors' bodies that were missing from the collision between USS Fitzgerald...and a merchant ship have been found," the US 7th Fleet said in a statement. "As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision...the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments. "They are currently being transferred to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified," it added. Japan's public broadcaster NHK updated an earlier report that claimed all seven missing sailors were found dead inside the ship, saying instead that "several" had been found. The accident sparked a major US-Japanese search and rescue operation. The 154-metre (500-foot) Fitzgerald was pulled by a tugboat back to its base in Yokosuka, south-west of Tokyo, on Saturday, where divers searched damaged areas of the guided missile destroyer. The 222-metre Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal had large scrapes on its bow, but none of its 20 crew were injured, Japan's coastguard said. The accident happened 56 nautical miles (104 kilometres) south-west of Yokosuka, in a busy shipping channel that is a gateway to major container ports in Tokyo and nearby Yokohama. The missing sailors have not been identified. "The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time," the Navy said. "The names of the Sailors will be released after all notifications are made." The cause of the accident is under investigation.
waqas dar posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogWASHINGTON: A United States Navy destroyer ? USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) ? collided with a merchant ship, 56 nautical miles south-west of Japan's Yokosuka, late Friday night, the American naval warfare services said. The US Navy in its statement mentioned it has consequently requested assistance from the Japanese coast guard, while the extent of US personnel injuries is currently "being determined". "The extent of damage is being determined. [?] The incident will be investigated," the US Navy stated. ?This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is made available
waqas dar posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogISLAMABAD: In a bid to help its Sri Lankan brethren, the naval ship PNS Zulfiquar dispatched by the Government of Pakistan reached Colombo port on Tuesday with relief goods. The Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan, Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Khan Sipra handed over the relief goods to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Ravi Karunanayake at the Colombo Port. The foreign minister expressed his gratitude to the people and the Government of Pakistan for providing timely and valued assistance. The minister emphasised that Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy excellent relations. It has been a tradition that both nations come to assist each other in times of adversity. On the occasion, Dr Sarfraz Sipra said the people and the Government of Pakistan will leave no stone unturned to further help the people and the government of Sri Lanka in this time of need. Pakistan naval ship Zulfiquar has brought in dry rations, medicines, de-flooding pumps and other relief items. Additionally, the ship has the capability to provide search and rescue facilities through its helicopter, rescue boats, medical team and expert divers. Sri Lanka is facing severe floods which have caused havoc and devastation in many parts of the country.
waqas dar posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogOSLO: Norway plans to launch the first autonomous and fully electric cargo ship next year that the project´s backers said Wednesday will save 40,000 truck journeys per year. Fertiliser company Yara International has teamed up with industrial group Kongsberg to build the Yara Birkeland, which will haul fertilisers between three ports in southern Norway. With a range of more than 65 nautical miles, the ship will be able to haul roughly 100 containers at a speed of 12 to 15 knots, according to the project´s director, Bjorn Tore Orvik. Initially the ship will be manned, but remote operation is expected to begin in 2019 and fully autonomous operation in 2020, the companies said. "Every day, more than 100 diesel truck journeys are needed to transport products from Yara´s Porsgrunn plant to ports in Brevik and Larvik where we ship products to customers around the world," Yara´s chief executive Svein Tore Holsether said in a statement. "With this new autonomous battery-driven container vessel we move transport from road to sea and thereby reduce noise and dust emissions, improve the safety of local roads, and reduce NOx and CO2 emissions," he added. The switch is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by 678 tonnes per year, according to Yara, with the electricity used to charge the ship´s batteries coming almost exclusively from hydro plants. While Norway is a major oil producer it has been a leader in the adoption of electric cars thanks to generous tax incentives and has experimented with electric-powered
waqas dar posted a blog entry in Geo News BlogA Russian naval intelligence ship sank off Turkey's Black Sea coast on Thursday after colliding with a vessel carrying livestock and all 78 personnel on board were evacuated, Turkey's coastal safety authority said. The ship, identified as the Liman, collided with the Togo-flagged Youzarsif H, the authority said on its website. The collision was caused due to fog and low visibility, the Turkish shipping agency GAC said. It occurred 18 miles (29 km) from Kilyos village on the Black Sea coast just north of Istanbul, broadcaster NTV said. Turkish authorities dispatched a tugboat and three fast rescue vessels, the coastal safety authority said. Advisers to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim conveyed his sadness over the incident to Russian counterparts, according to sources in his office. No information was immediately available about the state of the Youzarsif H, or its crew or cargo. The Togo-flagged livestock carrier was built in 1977 and has a capacity of 2,418 tonnes, according to Thomson Reuters shipping data. It is managed by Nejem Co. Marine Services, according to the data. It was not clear whether either vessel was headed to the Bosphorus Strait from the Black Sea. The Bosphorus, which cuts through Istanbul, is one of the world's most important waterways for transit of oil and grains. The 17-mile waterway connects the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.
MIAMI: An unmanned Cygnus cargo ship carrying a load of supplies and science experiments arrived safely at the International Space Station on Saturday, according to live images broadcast on NASA television. Working from inside the orbiting lab, US astronaut Peggy Whitson and her French counterpart Thomas Pesquet operated the station´s external robotic arm to grab the approaching spaceship at 6:05 am (1005 GMT). The Cygnus spacecraft is packed with 7,626 pounds (3,459 kilogrammes) of crew supplies, hardware and dozens of experiments aimed at studying fire, growing food and cancer therapies. After the astronauts unpack the Cygnus, they will reload it with trash that will burn up along with the spacecraft upon re-entry into Earth´s atmosphere on July 25. This supply mission by Orbital ATK is the company´s seventh as part of a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.