255 Killed In Afghanistan Earthquake
A powerful earthquake struck a remote border region of Afghanistan overnight killing at least 255 people and injuring hundreds more, officials said Wednesday, with the toll expected to rise as rescuers dig through collapsed dwellings.
The 5.9 magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged terrain of the east, where people already lived hardscrabble lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August.
“According to the information, the number of earthquake victims so far in the provinces of Paktika and Khost has reached 255 dead and 500 injured,” tweeted, government spokesman, Mohammad Naeem.
Earlier, another spokesman told newsmen that many houses were damaged and people were still trapped inside.
Yaqub Manzor, a tribal leader from Paktika province, said survivors were mobilising to help those affected.
“The local markets are closed and all the people have rushed to the affected areas,” he told reporters by telephone.
Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed badly damaged mud houses in remote rural areas.
Some footage showed local residents loading victims into a military helicopter.
Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently struck the country.
But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters, an immediate response is often limited.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Scores of people were killed and injured in January when two quakes struck rural areas in the western province of Badghis, damaging hundreds of buildings.
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In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
The latest earthquake comes at a time when Afghanistan is battling a severe humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country.
Aid agencies and the United Nations say Afghanistan needs billions of dollars this year to tackle the crisis.
Aid agencies have particularly stressed the need for greater disaster preparedness in Afghanistan, which remains extremely susceptible to recurring earthquakes, floods, and landslides.
FEC Approves N454bn For Kano-Niger Republic Rail, Others
The Federal Executive Council, on Wednesday, approved the sum of N453.90bn for the procurement of rolling stock, operation and maintenance equipment for the Kano-Maradi standard gauge rail line currently under construction.
The amount also includes N510.93m meant for procuring four customised fire service/search and rescue vans in seaports at Port Harcourt, Lagos Port Complex, Tincan Island port and the Marina headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, disclosed this to State House correspondents after this week’s Council meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
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Kicked off in 2021, the 248km rail line will traverses Kano other cities such as Kazaure in Bauchi State, Daura and Mashi in Katsina State; Dutse in Jigawa State, the border town of Jibia, before terminating in Niger Republic’s trade and agricultural hub of Maradi.
According to a former Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, the line has 15 stations along its path with a forecasted daily traffic of 9,364 passengers and approximately 3000 metric tons of cargo.
However, the project has been fraught with resistance, especially from lawmakers.
In November 2021, The PUNCH reported that the National Assembly Joint Committee on Land and Marine Transport faulted the proposed rail project.
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But speaking on Wednesday, Sambo explained, “The memorandum sought council’s consideration and approval for the award of contract for the procurement of rolling stock, operation or maintenance equipment for the Kano-Maradi standard gauge rail line that is currently under construction.
“The contract was awarded to MSSRs Mota-Engil Nigeria Limited, who are the contractors handling this particular project in the sum of $984,722,302.5 inclusive of seven and a half per cent VAT with a completion period of four years.”
Sambo also revealed that the Transport ministry presented another memo on behalf of the Nigerian Ports Authority “for the award of contract for the construction and supply of four customised Fire Service search and rescue vans for extrication of accident victims for Rivers Ports in Port Harcourt, Lagos Port complex, Tincan Island Port and the Marina headquarters of the NPA, all in Lagos.
“Council considered the memorandum and approved the award of the contract as recommended and reviewed by the Bureau of Public Procurement in the sum of N510,934,600 inclusive of seven and a half percent VAT with a completion period of nine months in favour of Messrs All Works Commercial Company Limited.”
Also speaking was the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Abubakar, who said his ministry secured the council’s approval for a revised 2022 National Agricultural Seed Policy memo.
He said Nigeria had been operating the 2010 policy revised in 2015 before the latest revision in 2022.
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Abubakar said the current revision was to meet up with globally approved standards in terms of seed quality and also to ensure food security.
He explained, “With the continuous technological development, seeds are constantly being upgraded, standardized four to five with several vitamins. There’s also the issue of genetically modified organisms or seeds.
“So, this revision seeks to conform with global best practices in yield. Our farmers must have access to the best quality seeds that have been fortified, seeds that can produce the yield that will be worth their while, seeds that can produce again, the produce that can compete in the world market. This is the basis for this particular policy.”
Gov Poll: US Condemns Voter Intimidation, Violence, Threatens Sanctions
The United States has condemned voter intimidation and increased violence that marred the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections on Saturday.
This was contained in a statement made available to our correspondent on Tuesday.
The rescheduled Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections were held in 28 states and 36 states, respectively, amid increased violence and voter intimidation when compared with the Presidential and National Assembly polls held on February 25.
Despite the massive deployment of security agencies in many strategic locations, there was widespread violence in many states of the federation.
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The US said despite that the March 18 elections appeared to have had significant operational improvements, as polling stations generally opened on time and most results were visible on an electronic viewing platform in a timely manner, there were increased violence in Lagos, Kano and other reported states.
However, it commended stakeholders who spoke against the violence and intimidation melted on voters, adding that it was a sign of respect to democratic process.
The statement read in part “Nigeria carried out the second round of its electoral process with gubernatorial and state assembly elections on March 18.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the disturbing acts of violent voter intimidation and suppression that took place during those polls in Lagos, Kano, and other states. Members of the U.S. diplomatic mission observed the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of these incidents first-hand.
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“The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning.
“We commend all Nigerian political actors, religious and community leaders, youth, and citizens who have chosen to reject and speak out against such violence and inflammatory language, affirming Nigerians’ commitment to and respect for the democratic process.”
The US also threatened to sanction perpetrators, calling on Nigerian authorities to probe reports on election violence.
It said, “We call on Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process.
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“The United States likewise will consider all available actions, including additional visa restrictions, on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Nigeria.
“The United States renews its call for any challenges to election results to go through established legal processes, which must not be interfered with. We further call for Nigeria’s people to work together as they participate in and continue to strengthen the country’s vibrant democracy.”
UK Food Delivery App To Axe More Than 1,700 Jobs
Food delivery platform Just Eat Takeaway unveiled plans, on Tuesday, to axe more than 1,700 mostly courier jobs in Britain, as it slashes costs in the wake of huge annual losses.
The UK business “is reorganising and simplifying its delivery operation as part of the ongoing goal of improving efficiency”, it said in a statement emailed to AFP.
“As part of this process we have proposed to transition away from the worker model for couriers” in Britain, it added.
Just Eat Takeaway said its UK division will stop employing its own couriers — and instead will only use self-employed gig economy workers.
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Approximately 170 staff in its UK operations team will also be affected by the overhaul, but some could be redeployed.
The Amsterdam-based company was created in 2020 after Dutch online service Takeaway.com gobbled up Britain’s Just Eat, and the business subsequently boomed on the back of the Covid pandemic-fuelled surge in-home delivery, which has since subsided.
The group has also put Grubhub up for sale as it seeks to focus on Europe, having already slashed the value of the US subsidiary it bought for $7.3 billion in 2020.
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