TIME natural disaster

Millions Affected as Widespread Flooding Inundates Swaths of Southern Asia

Millions of people have been affected, hundreds are dead and thousands of have lost their homes and land

Flooding brought on by torrential monsoon rains has left large swaths of land across parts of southern Asia underwater, and has affected an estimated 10 million people in India alone.

The usual monsoon rains have been made worse this year by Cyclone Komen, which made landfall in Bangladesh last Friday.

In India, 200 people have died and more than 1 million have been moved to relief camps in West Bengal, which has taken the brunt of the damage, reports Agence France-Presse. Flash floods and landslides have swept away homes, farmlands and livelihoods in Manipur, Gujarat and Rajasthan states as well.

On Tuesday, two passenger trains derailed off a bridge into a river in Madhya Pradesh. It is believed the heavy rain had caused the river levels to rise and partially submerged the track, reports the BBC.

Meanwhile, flooding in neighboring Burma has caused widespread devastation in several western states, prompting the government to appeal for international assistance on Tuesday.

More than 200,000 people have been affected and at least 47 people have died.

Burma’s President Thein Sein has declared four areas in the country, formally known as Myanmar, as disaster zones and many remote areas are still cut off by floodwaters, landslides or damaged roads, leaving thousands of people without aid.

Aid agencies are particularly concerned with the 140,000 people already living in displacement camps in the country’s western Rakhine state.

“The floods are hitting children and families who are already very vulnerable, including those living in camps in Rakhine state,” said Shalini Bahuguna, from the U.N. Children’s Fund UNICEF.

Flooding has claimed 150 lives and affected 800,000 people across several Pakistan provinces including Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and the disputed region of Kashmir.

In northern Vietnam, flooding has left more than 12,000 people without electricity for days and record rainfall has affected the power supply to 27 cities and provinces nationwide. Since July 26, Quang Ninh province saw a total rainfall of 1,500 mm, considered to be the worst in 40 years.

Heavy rains and flooding have damaged 10,000 houses and ruined 4,000 hectares of rice and other crops in the province. Seventeen people have died.

And in disaster-hit Nepal, at least 90 people have died in the past two months as a result of floods and landslides.

TIME free diving

The World’s Greatest Free Diver Is Missing and Presumed Dead in Spanish Waters

She set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport

Natalia Molchanova, regarded by many as the greatest free diver in the history of the sport, is missing and presumed dead after she disappeared during a dive off the Spanish island of Formentera on Aug. 2.

Molchanova, who set 41 world records and won 23 world championships in the sport, was diving for fun with friends close to the village of La Savina in an area where currents can fluctuate powerfully, the New York Times reports. Because she was diving for leisure and not to set a record, she was not attached to the line that divers often use to mark depth and guard against emergencies.

Her personal records in competition include a dive of 233 feet without the use of fins and almost 300 feet with a monofin. She also held the world record for “static apnea,” in which a diver floats face-down in a pool, managing to stay 9 minutes 2 seconds without taking a breath.

Search efforts begun after her disappearance continued for two days, but her son, Alexey Molchanov, who is also a respected free diver, told the Times on August 4 that she is now not expected to be found alive.

“Free diving is not only sport, it’s a way to understand who we are,” Molchanova said in an interview with the Times last year. “When we go down, if we don’t think, we understand we are whole. We are one with world.”

[NYT]

TIME China

After Three Grim Accidents in a Week, Is It Even Safe to Ride on a Chinese Escalator?

A woman walks next to escalators at a department store in Shanghai
© Aly Song / Reuters—REUTERS A woman walks next to escalators at a department store in Shanghai, March 8, 2015.

Experts warn of poorly maintained, aging equipment and not enough inspectors

A 35-year-old employee of a shopping mall in Shanghai had to have his left leg amputated on Saturday after a part of the escalator he was cleaning collapsed underneath him, according to state-linked newspaper Global Times. It was the third such mishap in China within a week.

Exactly a week earlier, video of 30-year-old mother Xian Liujuan went around the world after the escalator she was traveling on, in a department store in the central province of Hubei, suddenly gave way. She was able to push her young son before being sucked into the machinery and killed. On Friday, a toddler’s arm got caught in an escalator, this time at a mall in the southern Guangxi region, when he tripped after wandering away from his parents. His mangled arm was pulled out 30 minutes later.

These three accidents have led to heightened concerns and scrutiny of the country’s aging escalators and elevators, many of which are not up to acceptable safety standards. A report by the country’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), cited by the state Xinhua news agency, found that more than 110,000 escalators have potential safety issues of which over 26,000 have not yet been repaired.

The AQSIQ said there were 49 escalator accidents in 2014 that claimed 37 lives, the Global Times said, citing Xinhua. The accidents were generally caused by poor design, the use of substandard materials, installation and maintenance, China Elevator Association official Zhang Lexiang told the Global Times.

According to the website china.org.cn — a government portal run by the State Council Information Office — figures from the China Elevator Association show that more than half of all accidents involving elevators and escalators are connected to maintenance and repair neglect.

Zhang Huaiji, an engineer with the Shenzhen Institute of Special Equipment Inspection and Testing, told the site that there were not enough inspectors for China’s many escalators and elevators, and added that low wages and long hours were leading many maintenance workers to leave the field.

The central government has ordered all its provincial authorities to ensure that escalators in every mall are functioning properly by Aug. 10. Chinese citizens are meanwhile taking no chances. Images and videos of their ways of dealing with escalator-phobia, being shared on Chinese social media (and excerpted here by BuzzFeed), range from practical to hilarious to risky.

TIME Afghanistan

The Afghan Taliban Has Elected a New Leader After Mullah Omar’s Death

A long-time deputy of the Taliban co-founder and leader was elevated to the top position

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has been chosen as the head of the Afghan Taliban, according to two commanders of the Islamic militant organization.

The commanders said the long-time deputy of the deceased Mullah Omar was elected at a shura or meeting of top Taliban representatives just outside the Pakistani city of Quetta where many of them are based, Reuters reports.

Siraj Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani militant faction within the Taliban, has been selected as Mansour’s deputy. Mansour is only the Taliban’s second-ever leader, with Omar having been at the helm since founding the Afghanistan-based militant organization in the 1990s.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed reports of Omar’s death, although he said it occurred more recently than April 2013—the date given by the Afghanistan government earlier this week.

“For some time, (Omar) has been suffering a kind of sickness and over the last two weeks it became more serious, and due to that illness he passed away,” Mujahid said. The Taliban founder has not been seen in public since 2001, leading to widespread speculation of his whereabouts and multiple reports of his death over the last decade.

Peace talks between the Taliban and the current Afghanistan government, due to be held in and mediated by neighboring Pakistan, have been postponed indefinitely in the meantime. Pakistan cited the reports of Omar’s death as the reason for delaying the talks, because of concerns that a battle for succession could further deepen discord between the Taliban’s numerous factions.

TIME India

India Pays Tribute to ‘People’s President’ A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Kalam died on Monday aged 83

India continued to mourn one of its most beloved Presidents and iconic leaders on Tuesday, as tributes and condolences poured in for A.P.J. Abdul Kalam following his sudden passing Monday evening.

The Indian government declared a seven-day state mourning until Aug. 2 during which national flags across the country will be flown at half-mast, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Kalam, 83, collapsed from an apparent cardiac arrest while delivering a lecture to a group of students in India’s northeastern city of Shillong and was declared dead at the hospital about two hours later. His body was flown to the country’s capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday afternoon, where it was received by the chiefs of all three military branches as well as several politicians including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and current President Pranab Mukherjee. It will then be taken to his residence in the city in order for people to pay their respects before being flown to his hometown Rameshwaram, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, for the last rites, Indian broadcaster NDTV reported.

Modi earlier mourned Kalam’s loss on Twitter, calling him “a great scientist, a wonderful President and above all an inspiring individual.”

Mukherjee, who took office after Kalam’s successor Pratibha Patil, also tweeted a heartfelt tribute before announcing that he would make an unscheduled return to New Delhi from his tour of the country’s south.

International leaders like former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also added their condolences via social media.

Although the office of the President in India is a largely ceremonial one, with the Prime Minister as the de facto head of state, Kalam used his tenure to reach out to the masses — India’s youth in particular — which earned him the moniker the People’s President.

He is also commonly referred to as the Missile Man of India, a reference to his role in shaping India’s missile program during his tenures at India’s space and defense-research agencies respectively from the 1960s to the 1990s. He was also a key player in India’s emergence as a nuclear power, playing an integral part in the country’s infamous nuclear tests of 1998.

Few Indian leaders in the 21st century enjoyed the kind of popular support experienced by Kalam, evidenced by the near-unanimous backing of his election as India’s 11th President in 2002 among all the parties across India’s fractious political spectrum, as well as the overwhelming outpouring of grief at his death.

Born in a small town in Tamil Nadu in 1931 to a boatman father, Kalam always encouraged young people to follow their dreams and genuinely believed India could be the next superpower. He advocated as much through his best-selling books like India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium and Ignited Minds: Unleashing the Power Within India, as well as his iconic autobiography Wings of Fire.

“My message, especially to young people, is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed,” he once said. “These are the great qualities that they must work towards.”

TIME China

A Mother in China Fell to Her Death Inside an Escalator but Somehow Saved Her Toddler

A metal panel gave way as she stepped across it

A woman in China was crushed to death on Saturday after falling through a panel of flooring at the top of an escalator in a department store in Hubei province.

Xian Liujuan, 30, was carrying her young son at the time but managed to push him out of harms way as she fell, reports Agence France-Presse.

CCTV footage posted to YouTube on Sunday appears to show Xian stepping off the escalator onto a metal panel, which gives way. As she falls, Xian pushes her child away from her and a shop assistant drags him to safety.

The assistant then grabs hold of Xian’s hand but the escalator keeps rolling and she disappears into the mechanism.

According to local paper the Wuhan Evening News, maintenance work had been carried out on the escalator at the Anliang shopping mall in Jingzhou and workers had allegedly forgotten to screw the access cover into place.

Xian’s body was recovered four hours later by a team of firefighters.

The video, which contains graphic scenes that some viewers may find upsetting, can be seen here.

[AFP]

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TIME fashion

The King of Stretch Jeans, Elio Fiorucci, Has Passed Away

Elio Fiorucci Next To A Sculpted Red Horse
Adriano Alecchi—Mondadori via Getty Images The Italian stylist Elio Fiorucci poses resting his left hand on a sculpted red horse in 1994

Fiorucci introduced stretch jeans to show off women's curves

Elio Fiorucci, the man behind stretch jeans, was found dead at the age of 80 at his home in Milan on Monday morning, according to New York magazine’s fashion news portal, the Cut.

He started his Milan-based fashion label in 1967, churning out pieces initially inspired by ’60s mod fashion in London.

But what he is best known for are form-fitting stretch jeans. Fiorucci got the idea for the pants after a trip to Ibiza, the Spanish island now known as one of the party capitals of Europe. He was impressed with the way wet jeans fit a woman’s body better, the Cut says, and wanted to re-create the effect.

At the time of waifish models like Twiggy, Fiorucci introduced his stretch jean silhouette to show off women’s curves. Once the 1970s hit, his designs spread globally, and he opened a store in New York City on 59th Street. Famous patrons like Andy Warhol, Liz Taylor and Cher came to buy up his designs, while a 15-year-old Marc Jacobs used the store as a hangout, the Cut reports.

Even in post-9/11 New York, Fiorucci fashioned a lasting legacy. His shop, which moved downtown, eventually transformed into a place for Fiorucci to sponsor and inspire new artists, among them DJ and design duo Andrew Andrew, who used the shop to launch their careers.

Fiorucci’s New York shop eventually closed down in 2003 because of financial troubles, but his iconic leopard-printed Americana style remains the inspiration of many designers and fast fashion labels.

[The Cut]

TIME Web

Grooveshark Co-Founder Joshua Greenberg, 28, Found Dead at Florida Home

No cause of death could be determined, although Gainesville police said they had ruled out both foul play and suicide

Grooveshark co-founder Joshua Greenberg was found dead on July 19 at his home in Gainesville, Fla., according to a statement released by local police via Twitter.

The department wrote that there was “no evidence of foul play or suicide” in the death of the 28-year-old. The cause of death was not immediately known. Lori Greenberg, Joshua’s mother, told the Gainesville Sun that a medical examiner’s autopsy had offered no answers and full toxicology results will not be back for at least two months. “They are as baffled as I am,” she said.

It had been a difficult time for Greenberg: Grooveshark, which he started with classmates in 2007 as a streaming website based on users’ own uploaded files, shut down in April after a string of legal battles in which record companies alleged copyright infringement. The final blow came on May 1 when a court ordered Grooveshark parent company, Escape Media Group, to close the site permanently and pay $50 million to rights holders. Nevertheless, Lori told the Sun that her son had been relieved rather than depressed about the outcome and had moved on to other projects.

A letter authored by Greenberg and his co-founders posted on the site offered an apology for “very serious mistakes.” Despite the founders’ good intentions, it says, “we failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service. That was wrong. We apologize. Without reservation.”

TIME Weddings

Funeral Homes Could Be the Hot New Wedding Venue

Cemetery Weddings
Darron Cummings—AP Danessa Molinder walks toward the Crystal Tower for photos before her wedding at the Community Life Center, which sits on cemetery land near a funeral home in Indianapolis.

The funeral industry is declining as costs increase

Funeral homes are looking to expand their businesses as the industry has become, er, sickly in recent years.

They’re helping people tie the knot, as opposed to simply honoring the dead.

The Associated Press reports that funeral home owners are seeing their profits shrink as people go for less costly funeral services these days. This week, Connecticut became the nation’s most expensive place to die because of hefty new fees for settling estates.

“As a business, we need to find ways to keep growing,” Bruce Buchanan, who owns a funeral home, told the AP.

“People aren’t as religious as they once were … and their attitudes toward death are changing,” he added. “Funeral homes were seen for one reason: to have a funeral. Now they’re being used for all kinds of things.”

The typical funeral costs $8,000 to $10,000, according to Forbes. Meanwhile, the funeral industry in the U.S. is reportedly worth around $20 billion. The average wedding costs around $30,000, and the industry is worth an estimated $55 million.

TIME Nigeria

Twin Blasts In Northern Nigeria Have Killed At Least 49 People

Another 71 were injured in the attack

Twin blasts struck a marketplace in the northeast Nigerian city of Gombe Thursday, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens more.

The market was crowded with people doing last minute shopping on the eve of the Eid festival that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, reports Agence France-Presse.

The first bomb went off outside a busy footwear shop at 5:20p.m. local time (12:20p.m. ET) and was followed by a second explosion minutes later.

“I and many other people rushed to assist the victims. While we were trying to attend to the wounded, another blast happened outside a china shop just opposite the footwear shop,” local trader Badamasi Amin told AFP.

Ali Nasiru, another trader at the market said he saw “people lying lifeless on the ground.”

A senior rescue worker said 49 people had been killed and 71 injured in the attack but warned the death toll could climb as some of the wounded were in a “critical condition.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but in recent months Gombe city has been the target of bombs and suicide attacks by militant Islamist group Boko Haram

More then 15,000 people have been killed in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria since 2009.

[AFP]

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