Storms Threaten Northern England and Wales With Floods
The Met Office has warned residents and businesses in the north of England and Wales to prepare for flooding as the storms that ravaged homes and properties in the south-west and the Midlands continued in their direction. It expected 40mm of rain to fall in the region, with 70mm predicted for some places. A similar amount of rainfall caused severe flooding in Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron promised to help affected communities, saying that the government would “ensure everything would be done to help”. Latest figures released by the Environment Agency showed that 900 properties had been flooded since Wednesday. Three people died as a result of the storms. A 21-year-old woman died in Exeter after her tent was struck by a tree, a 50-year-old man drowned in a canal in Watford and an elderly woman is feared dead after being swept in the River Thames.
Separatist Parties Win in Catalonia, Push for Independence
Catalonian separatists have won a large majority in the region’s parliamentary elections. Two-thirds of the regional parliament, or 87 seats, will be held by parties that favour a referendum on secession from Spain. The Convergence and Union (CiU) party of Catalan President Artur Mas, who called the early elections, was punished at the ballots with a loss of 12 seats and will have to seek a coalition in order to govern, despite remaining the biggest party in parliament. “This is not the majority we were looking for, nor the majority necessary to fight what we have to fight”, said Mas shortly after the results were revealed. “But the process will carry on. There will be no concessions,” continued the Catalan leader. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he had “never seen such a ruinous political operation as Mas’s”, adding that he hoped the vote would put an end to the idea of an independence referendum for Catalonia.
Israeli Defence Minister Barak Quits Politics
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak announced on Monday that he would quit politics despite polls showing his Independence party gaining support ahead of the January 22 vote. “I didn’t make this decision without hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly”, said Barak in a hastily-arranged press conference in Tel Aviv. A former prime minister and decorated general, Barak was seen as a moderating influence on the Netanyahu cabinet. “I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me. There are many ways for me to serve the country, not just through politics”, said Barak. He added that he would be able to spend more time with his family after quitting politics. His departure also heightens chances of an unilateral Israeli attack against Iran. Barak clashed repeatedly with Prime Minister Netanyahu, defending that Israel should seek U.S. approval before any decision to strike.
Fire at Second Bangladeshi Factory a Day After Blaze Kills 123
A fire broke out in a garment factory in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, a day after a blaze at another garment factory killed more 100 people. A local fire brigade official said the blaze in the 11-storey building was under control and eight workers were injured due to smoke inhalation. The blaze on Sunday was the country’s worst-ever factory fire. Rooms filled with female workers were cut off as piles of yarn and fabric were ignited in sequence, with fire exits reportedly bolted shut by locks. Twelve workers leapt to their deaths while trying to escape the fire. The factory, Tazreen Fashions, is known to produce garments for European high-street stores such as C&A. Delwar Hossein, the managing director of Tazreen, told the Guardian that he “could not do anything for my workers. I do not know what went wrong and cannot understand why the staff could not get out of the building”. Bangladesh earns £12.5 billion a year from the exports of garments, mainly to Europe and the U.S., with around 4,000 factories dedicated to the segment.
Record Number of Journalists Killed So Far in 2012
The International Press Institute, an organisation dedicated to the safeguarding of press freedom, has revealed that 119 journalists died in 2012, the highest number since it began keeping records in 1999. Of those killed, 32 died covering the Syrian conflict and 18 perished in Somalia. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said that most of those killed were not foreign correspondents, but local reporters covering stories such as drug trafficking and illegal logging. “We must break the vicious cycle that silences journalists, deprives society of important voices and frightens other citizens, preventing them from speaking out”, said Bokova. Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that governments should do more to protect journalists. “Any attack against the media should be labeled as an attack on democracy itself”, he said.