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Death toll in Florida condo collapse holds at nine, with 152 still missing

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2021)

The official death toll from the partial collapse of a high-rise condominium complex near Miami, US, held at nine on Sunday, with more than 150 people still missing, as rescue teams picked through the rubble for a fourth day without finding further signs of life.

What caused nearly half the 12-story building to cave in on itself in the wee hours of Thursday as residents slept has yet to be determined, but a 2018 engineer’s inspection report found major structural deterioration in the parking garage beneath the 40-year-old tower.

Officials in Surfside, the shore town near Miami where the building stood along the beach, said hope remained that rescuers would yet discover survivors in air pockets that may have formed in the pancaked debris.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said six to eight squads of rescuers were working on the multi-story pile of shattered concrete and twisted metal laying next to the portion of the Champlain Towers South condo that remained standing.

A smoldering fire beneath the rubble that hindered the work of rescuers had abated by Sunday morning, officials said.

Only remains have been recovered since the early hours of the disaster.

Some residents remain in Champlain Towers North, a sister building where only a voluntary evacuation order has been issued. An inspector did not find any immediately obvious problems with the north tower.

Officials said on Saturday that Miami-Dade County would audit all buildings more than 40 years old within the next 30 days to ensure their safety.

Surfside officials have released documents including the engineer’s report from 2018, which cited major structural damage beneath the building‘s pool deck and “concrete deterioration” in the underground parking garage.

The report was produced for the Champlain Towers South condominium board in preparation for a major repair project set for this year.

The report estimated it would cost $9.1 million to make the recommended repairs. Work had started on replacing the roof, but the pandemic slowed the project, she said.

Satellite data from the 1990s showed the building was sinking 1 to 3 millimeters per year, while surrounding buildings were stable, according to Florida International University professor Shimon Wdowinski.

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Sharp rise in displaced families fleeing conflict: UN report

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

At least 330,000 people have been displaced in the last seven months due to an increase in conflict across Afghanistan, the UN reported Saturday.

“So far in 2021, 330,000 people have been displaced by conflict across Afghanistan. Another five million people remain displaced since 2012,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported.

According to the report, the fighting has also been reported in new areas in the northeast province of Kunar, displacing 20,000 people within the province, and Nangahar Province. 

“Nine UN and partner organizations’ teams are assessing needs in Kandahar. Last week, about 1,800 internally displaced people received food, relief items, and water and sanitation hygiene support as well as physiotherapy and cash assistance. In Kunar, UN and partner organizations are assessing needs and responding.

“Urgent needs include food, water, shelter, and health services,” the report said.

Maryam [not her real name] and her family are among an estimated 330,000 Afghans who have been newly displaced inside the country since the start of this year by an upsurge in violence. 

“There was war. Bombs were being dropped. My father was killed there, and a lot of my relatives were killed as well and we had to flee. I was responsible for my children and I didn’t want them to be killed. So, I came here with my elderly mother,” Maryam said.

“Our situation is very difficult. As you can see, we are all displaced. Our children need food. They would ask for anything, they are children, they don’t know whether we have it or not.”

“We want a normal life just like everyone else. I want my children to become something in Afghanistan, to become doctors, engineers, or something. That is my hope,” she stated.

As conflict intensifies in northern Afghanistan and other parts of the country, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis, saying failure to reach a peace agreement will see further displacement. 

Fahim Hamdard, Senior Field Assistant, UN Refugee Agency, stated: “Over the last year, families have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, a devastating drought and now increased violence in the north and northeast regions is driving more people from their homes every day.”

Amid an overall increase in civilian casualties, the proportion of women and children affected by violence has risen sharply since January, adding to the toll Afghanistan’s decades-long conflict has taken on people like Maryam and her family. 

UNHCR and its partners are assisting newly displaced Afghans with emergency shelter, food, health care, water, and sanitation support, and cash assistance, but a shortage of funding means humanitarian resources are falling dramatically short.

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Nuristan death toll rises to over 113 following deadly flash floods

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

The death toll from last week’s flash floods in eastern Nuristan province has risen to 113, the Afghan Red Crescent Society said in a statement on Saturday.

According to the statement, 173 houses, 900 acres of agricultural land, 14 mills, eight bridges, one restaurant, 13 shops, four power stations, four vehicles and two military bases along with the drinking water system and 3,200 fruit trees were destroyed in the devastating floods that swept through Kamdesh district of the province of a Wednesday night.

“The Afghanistan Red Crescent Society, the only organization with access to Kamdesh, is sending a mobile health team and will provide temporary shelter,” the UN said in a statement.

The statement added that the UN is negotiating with a non-state armed group to get access to the area and will provide medical supplies, food, and other relief items.

“Afghan authorities will mobilize additional support from Kabul,” the statement added.

Sources said on Thursday the area was under Taliban control.

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EU envoy says aid will be cut if Taliban seize power militarily

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

Tomas Niklasson, Acting Special Envoy of the European Union for Afghanistan, says that the EU would not recognize a Taliban government if they manage a military takeover.

In an exclusive interview with Ariana News, Niklasson stated if the Taliban gain power through a military takeover the EU will cut its aid to Afghanistan and the country will be isolated.

“If the Taliban manage to take power by military means it would not be recognized by the EU, it would not be recognized by most countries in the region.”

“It would become an isolated regime and isolated Afghanistan,” he noted.

Niklasson also raised his concerns over the current situation in Afghanistan, calling on the warring parties to show flexibility in order to end the ongoing conflict in the country.

“We are clearly very very concerned by the situation. We try to do what we can to remain engaged in Afghanistan, to continue to provide development assistance, to remain engaged politically to provide humanitarian assistance as long as needed.”

The diplomat stated that the Taliban has no clear proposal in the peace talks with the Afghan Republic’s team. He added that the Taliban want to seek more concessions in the talks via their military campaign.

“The Taliban have not really put on the table a clear proposal of what they want and that is part of the negotiations and that will be a necessary next step,” he stated.

“If they put Islamic Emirate, the design of the 1990s or any Islamic Emirate on the table, no, it would not be acceptable but it could be a start for negotiation,” the EU Envoy said.

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