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Major quake shakes southern Mexico, at least 6 killed

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Major quake shakes southern Mexico
A damaged building is seen after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico, on June 23, 2020. The building had already been damaged in a 2017 earthquake. (Photo by Reuters)

A powerful earthquake of magnitude 7.4 struck southern Mexico’s Pacific coast on Tuesday, killing at least six people and seriously injuring others in isolated villages, while causing damage to buildings hundreds of miles away in Mexico City.

The fatalities were near the quake’s center in Oaxaca, a mountainous state known for its coffee, mescal, and Spanish colonial architecture.

A Reuters witness in the state’s Pacific coast resort town of La Crucecita, which Mexican authorities said was the epicenter of the earthquake, saw anxious residents standing outside their homes hours after the tremor as they feared deadly aftershocks.

Houses were scarred by wide cracks across walls and residents sought to clear debris from the streets. About 200 houses in the area were damaged, including 30 that were badly impacted, a local official said.

“We lost everything in one moment to nature,” said Vicente Romero, an owner of a stationary store whose house suffered structural damage. “This is our life’s work.”

Rockfalls blocked winding mountain roads between the state capital of Oaxaca City and the coast. Rescue workers reported three people seriously injured in the remote hill village of Santa Catarina Xanaguia, one state official said.

Rescue workers battled for hours to reach the settlement, near the epicenter, where the quake brought down homes and parts of the mountainside, the official said.

A clinic and old churches near the epicenter were severely damaged, images on social media showed.

The dead included a worker from the state oil company Pemex in Oaxaca, who fell from a height at the country’s biggest oil refinery. The refinery was briefly closed after a fire.

Miguel Candelaria, 30, was working at his computer in his family home in the Oaxaca town of Juchitan when the ground trembled. He ran outside with relatives, but they stopped in the middle of the street as the pavement buckled and rocked.

“We couldn’t walk… the street was like chewing gum,” said Candelaria.

Quakes of magnitudes over 7 are major earthquakes capable of widespread, heavy damage.

Mexico City shakes

In Mexico City, buildings shook strongly and people ran into the streets when an early warning seismic alarm sounded.

Two people were injured and more than 30 buildings in the capital suffered damage, officials said, including buildings still scarred from a 2017 earthquake that killed 355 people in the capital and the surrounding states.

Water from rooftop pools or tanks cascaded down residential buildings in the city, and construction workers on the 56th story of a new residential tower clung to each other as it swayed, images on social media showed.

Major quake shakes southern Mexico

The US Geological Survey said the epicenter of Tuesday’s quake was located 69 kilometers northeast of the town of Pochutla. It was very shallow, only 26 km below the earth’s surface, which would have amplified the shaking.

Near the epicenter, Magdalena Castellanos Fermin was in the village of Santiago Astata when the “really intense” quake struck, sending large rocks tumbling down the hillside and alarming residents, she told Reuters by telephone.

Eunice Pineda, a 26-year-old teacher in Juchitan, said the quake “was two minutes of torture,” as she feared her house would collapse.

But residents in one of Mexico’s most seismically active regions have learned to “live one day at a time,” Pineda added.

“We learn to appreciate, to treasure every moment,” she said.

Major quake shakes southern Mexico

(Source: Reuters)

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Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade as thousands protest against new COVID-19 lockdown

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Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade
Demonstrators are seen amid tear gas during a protest at the Serbian parliament building against a lockdown planned for the capital this weekend to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Belgrade, Serbia July 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Violent clashes have erupted between protesters and police forces in Belgrade as thousands protest against new COVID-19 restrictions in defiance of warnings.

Serbian police fired tear gas at protesters after being pelted with flares and stones on Wednesday as thousands protested in front of the Belgrade parliament despite warnings such gatherings could spread coronavirus infections.

The evening before, violence erupted when a crowd stormed parliament in protest at plans to re-impose a lockdown following a new spike in COVID-19 cases. Forty-three police officers and 17 protesters were injured and there were 23 arrests.

Hours before Wednesday’s protest, President Aleksandar Vucic called on people to stop attending anti-government rallies to avoid a further spread of the coronavirus, warning there were no beds left in hospitals.

Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade

“There are no free beds in our hospitals. We will open new hospitals,” he said in an address to the nation. He accused far-right groups and unspecified regional “intelligence officials” of orchestrating riots to “undermine Serbia’s position”.

Most of the protesters on Wednesday evening wore face masks, blew whistles and shouted “Vucic leave!” as they faced off with riot police guarding the parliament complex. Some threw stones and flares at police who responded with volleys of tear gas.

Protesters also skirmished with police in the northern city of Novi Sad.

Although he had on Tuesday said a new lockdown would be imposed in Belgrade this weekend, Vucic said on Wednesday he had ultimately advised the government and health authorities not to introduce it. The government will announce a new set of restrictive measures on Thursday, he said.

Serbia, a country of 7 million, has reported 17,076 COVID-19 cases and 341 deaths. Health authorities say hospitals are running at full capacity and staff are exhausted. The number of new infections rose to 357 on Wednesday from 299 on Tuesday.

Critics say the government’s decisions to allow soccer matches, religious festivities, parties and private gatherings to resume, and parliamentary elections to go ahead on June 21, are to blame for the new surge in infections.

The government blames a lack of sanitary discipline among the public, especially in nightclubs.

Violent clashes erupt in Belgrade

(Source: Reuters)

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Pandemic may push 50 million Africans into extreme poverty: AfDB

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50 million Africans
A resident of Plot 323 in Wilgespruit, Johannesburg, pauses on May 8, 2020 in front of a wooden shack during a ministerial visit aimed to ensure that the vulnerable residents of the informal settlement are soon properly accommodated in temporary residential units. (Photo by AFP)

Nearly 50 million Africans could be driven into extreme poverty in the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the African Development Bank (AfDB) said Tuesday.

Roughly a third of the continent — 425 million people — was already expected to live below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2020, the AfDB said in its African Economic Outlook, forecasting that the situation would further deteriorate.

After Oceania, Africa is the least affected continent in the pandemic, recording nearly 500,000 infections and almost 11,700 deaths, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday.

But the health crisis and ensuing lockdowns have destroyed jobs, crippled incomes and devastated economies continent-wide.

“Between 28.2 and 49.2 million more Africans could be pushed into extreme poverty” this year and next, the AfDB report said, with the first figure the baseline prediction and the latter the worst-case scenario.

The Abidjan-based institution, one of the world’s five largest multilateral development lenders, expects Africa to suffer a major recession, with GDP forecast to contract between 1.7 percent and 3.4 percent this year.

That would be 5.6 to 7.3 percentage points lower than pre-pandemic forecasts.

Late last month, the International Monetary Fund forecasted that sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP would shrink by 3.2 percent, and that incomes would drop to levels last seen in 2010.

The AfDB said that between 24.6 and 30 million jobs would be lost this year due to the virus crisis.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, would see the greatest rise in poverty, it said.

Between 8.5 and 11.5 million of its 200 million population were forecast to fall into extreme poverty this year, as a drop in oil prices compounds the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, where 72 percent of the 90 million inhabitants already live below the poverty line, would see between 2.7 and 3.4 million more extreme poor.

50 million Africans

(Source: AFP)

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Top Israel health official resigns, blasts regime’s performance vs. virus

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Israel health official resigns
Picture taken on May 09, 2020 shows an Israeli protester, wearing a protective mask that bears the slogan "crime minister," during a demonstration in Tel Aviv amid the new coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by AFP)

A senior Israeli health official has resigned, blasting the regime in Tel Aviv for its lax performance in the face of the new coronavirus outbreak and for turning a deaf ear to her relevant pieces of advice.

“For a few weeks now, our compass for dealing with the pandemic has become disoriented,” Siegal Sadetzki, the health ministry’s director of public health services, wrote in a Facebook post while announcing her decision to resign.

“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity [to contain the virus] is running out,” added the epidemiologist.

Top Israel health official resigns

“I’ve reached the conclusion that, in a new context where my professional opinion is not being accepted, it is no longer in my capacity to help prevent the pandemic’s spread,” she wrote.

As of Tuesday morning, Israel had recorded more than 31,000 coronavirus’ cases, including 338 deaths. In recent weeks, the occupying entity has regularly registered between 500 to 1,000 new cases each day.

Israel began loosening anti-virus restrictions after introducing precautions in March and April. The re-opening spree has involved event venues, clubs, bars, gyms, and public pools.

Sadetzki said the regime had negated the effects of the lockdown by “the swift and broad opening of the economy.”

Also in April, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Shin Bet internal spy service to halt its use of phone-surveillance technology in the battle against the virus.

The regime’s ultraorthodox health minister Yaakov Litzman resigned the same month amid mounting criticism over his lack of seriousness in fighting the virus.

Litzman had been found appearing ill-prepared at news conferences and reportedly resisting proposals to tighten some lockdown measures. An ally of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with no formal medical training, Litzman tendered his resignation after himself was diagnosed with the virus.

Top Israel health official resigns

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