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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks next to what state media reports is the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on its launch vehicle

Despite battling a wave of suspected COVID-19 infections, North Korea appears to be preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s first trip to South Korea, South Korean and U.S. officials said.

An ICBM test appeared imminent, Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told a briefing in Seoul.

“If there is a small or large North Korean provocation during the summit period, we have prepared Plan B,” he said.

That plan would secure the combined U.S. and South Korea military forces’ defence posture and command and control systems, even if it requires changing the summit schedule, Kim said.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the latest intelligence showed North Korea could carry out an ICBM test as soon as Thursday or Friday.

Biden is expected to arrive in South Korea on Friday and hold talks with his South Korean counterparts over several days before visiting Japan.

The White House said last week Biden was considering a trip to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with North Korea, but Kim said that seemed unlikely.

A weapons test could overshadow Biden’s broader focus on China, trade, and other regional issues, and underscore the lack of progress in denuclearisation talks despite his administration’s vow to break the stalemate with practical approaches.

It could also complicate international efforts to offer Pyongyang aid as it battles its first confirmed COVID outbreak.

The trip is Biden’s first to the region as president, and will be the first summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10.

Yoon has vowed to take a harder line against North Korean “provocations,” and is expected to seek greater assurances from Biden that the United States will strengthen its “extended deterrence” against the North.

The Yoon administration has asked the United States to station more nuclear-capable “strategic assets” such as long-range bombers, submarines, and aircraft carriers in the region.

The chances of North Korea conducting a nuclear test this weekend appear low, but if the North stages any major provocation, such assets are ready to be mobilised, Kim said.

U.S. officials had warned that the North could test a nuclear weapon around the visit, and the State Department said on Tuesday there is no expectation that the COVID outbreak would change Pyongyang’s determination to eventually resume nuclear testing, paused since 2017.

“Even as (North Korea) continues to refuse the donation of … apparently much-needed COVID vaccines, they continue to invest untold sums in ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes that do nothing to alleviate the humanitarian plight of the North Korean people,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told a briefing.

A new report by the U.S.-based Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) said commercial satellite imagery shows work continuing at the nuclear site, whose underground testing tunnels were shuttered in 2018 after leader Kim Jong Un declared a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.

He has since said that the country is no longer bound by that moratorium because of a lack of progress in talks with the United States. The North resumed testing ICBMs in March.

“The timing of this test rests solely within the hands of Kim Jong Un,” the CSIS report on the nuclear site said.

North Korea has also resumed construction at a long-dormant nuclear reactor that would increase its production of plutonium for nuclear weapons by a factor of 10, researchers at the U.S.-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) reported last week, citing satellite imagery.

Analysts say that even if North Korea tests a weapon, South Korea and the United States should offer unconditional COVID aid.

North Korea sent aircraft to China to pick up medical supplies days after it confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak, media reported on Tuesday, but Pyongyang has yet to respond to offers of aid from South Korea. Washington says that it supports providing assistance to North Korea, but that there were no current plans to provide vaccines.

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File photo: Rescue workers at the site of the crash REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

Investigators looking into the crash of a China Eastern Airlines 600115.SS jet are examining the actions of the crew on the flight deck, with no evidence found of a technical malfunction, two people briefed on the matter said.

In mainland China’s deadliest aviation disaster for 28 years, the Boeing 737-800 crashed in the mountains of southern Guangxi on March 21, after a sudden plunge from cruising altitude, killing all 123 passengers and nine crew.

The pilots did not respond to repeated calls from air traffic controllers and nearby planes during the rapid descent, authorities have said.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said flight data from one of the black boxes indicated that someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane, citing people familiar with the preliminary assessment of U.S. officials.

One source told Reuters that investigators were looking at whether the crash was a “voluntary” act involving crew inputs to the controls, though that does not necessarily mean the dive was intentional.

The cockpit voice recorder was damaged during the crash and it is unclear whether investigators have been able to retrieve any information from it.

Boeing Co BA.N, the maker of the jet, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declined to comment and referred questions to Chinese regulators.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which is leading the investigation, did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Screenshots of the Wall Street Journal story appeared to have been censored both on China’s Weibo social media platform and the Wechat messaging app on Wednesday.

The hashtag topics “China Eastern” and “China Eastern black boxes” are banned on Weibo, which cited a breach of laws, and users are unable to share posts on the incident in Wechat groups.

In an April 11 response to internet rumors of a deliberate crash, the CAAC said the speculation had “gravely misled the public” and “interfered with the accident investigation work”.

On Wednesday, a woman who had lost her husband in the crash, asked to be identified only by her surname, Wen, said she had not seen the Wall Street Journal report but hoped the results of the investigation would be released soon.

Wen added that she and other members of victims’ families had signed an agreement with China Eastern that included a clause on compensation, but declined to say how much was offered.

China Eastern did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Wall Street Journal said the airline had said in a statement that no evidence had emerged that could determine if there were any problems with the aircraft.


The 737-800 is a widely flown predecessor to Boeing’s 737 MAX but lacks the systems linked to fatal 737-MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019 that brought a lengthy grounding of the MAX.

China Eastern grounded its entire fleet of 737-800 planes after the crash but resumed flights in mid-April, a decision widely seen at the time as ruling out any immediate new safety concerns over Boeing’s most widely used model.

In a summary of an unpublished preliminary crash report last month, Chinese investigators did not point to any technical recommendations for the 737-800, which has been in service since 1997 with a strong safety record, according to experts.

In a May 10 interview with Reuters, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said board investigators and Boeing had traveled to China to assist the Chinese investigation, which had not found any safety issues requiring urgent action.

Homendy said if the board had any safety concerns it would “issue urgent safety recommendations.”

The NTSB assisted Chinese investigators with the review of black boxes at its U.S. laboratory in Washington at China’s request, despite political tension between the countries.

CAAC said the NTSB confirmed that it did not release information about the China Eastern crash to media, the state-owned Global Times said.

Shares of Boeing closed up 6.5%.

A final report into the causes of the crash could take two years or more to compile, Chinese officials have said. Analysts blame most crashes on a cocktail of human and technical factors.

Deliberate crashes are exceptionally rare globally.

In March 2015, a Germanwings co-pilot deliberately flew an Airbus A320 into a French mountainside, killing all 150 on board.

French investigators found the 27-year-old was suffering from a suspected “psychotic depressive episode,” concealed from his employer. They later called for better mental health guidelines and stronger peer support groups for pilots.

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Medical workers load a victim’s body into a vehicle after a bus crash, to transport to their family at a hospital in Mojokerto on May 16, 2022.  (Photo by AFP)

At least 14 people were killed and more than a dozen others injured when a bus carrying domestic tourists crashed into an advertising sign in Indonesia’s East Java province early on Monday, police said.

The bus — which was carrying 31 passengers, the driver and a crew member — hit the pole and then rolled over on a toll road connecting the town of Mojokerto to the country’s second city, Surabaya.

The victims were from Benowo, a village near Surabaya, and were returning home after a long weekend at popular holiday destination Dieng Plateau, about 400 kilometres away in Central Java, local official Ridwan Mubarun told Indonesian television station Metro TV.

“Fourteen people have died and 19 others sustained minor and serious injuries,” Mojokerto police chief Rofiq Ripto Himawan told reporters on Monday, adding that authorities were still investigating the cause of the accident.

Earlier, a spokesman for the East Java police blamed the crash on driver error.

“This accident was caused by human error, the driver was exhaused or tired,” Dirmanto, who goes by a single name, told Metro TV.

A police report stated that both weather and traffic were clear when the accident occurred on Monday morning.

The driver survived and has been taken to a hospital for his injuries, the police report said.

Deadly traffic accidents are common in Indonesia, where vehicles are often old or poorly maintained and road rules are routinely ignored.

Last month, 16 people were killed when a truck carrying miners crashed into a cliff in West Papua province, police said.

In February, 13 people died and dozens more were injured after a tour bus carrying factory workers to a popular beach holiday tipped over and crashed on Java island, according to police.
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Workers use their helmets to pour water to cool themselves off near a construction site on a hot summer day on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India

For construction worker Yogendra Tundre, life at a building site on the outskirts of the Indian capital New Delhi is hard enough. This year, record high temperatures are making it unbearable.

As India grapples with an unprecedented heatwave, the country’s vast majority of poor workers, who generally work outdoors, are vulnerable to the scorching temperatures.

“There is too much heat and if we won’t work, what will we eat? For a few days, we work and then we sit idle for a few days because of tiredness and heat,” Tundre said.

Temperatures in the New Delhi area have touched 49 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) this year, often causing Tundre, and his wife Lata, who works at the same construction site, to fall sick. That in turn means they lose income.

The relentless heatwave is likely to result in some parts of Delhi experiencing temperatures north of 120 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

“Because of heat, sometimes I don’t go to work. I take days off … many times, fall sick from dehydration and then require glucose bottles (intravenous fluids),” Lata said while standing outside their house, a temporary shanty with a tin roof.

Scientists have linked the early onset of an intense summer to climate change, and say more than a billion people in India and neighbouring Pakistan are in some way at risk from the extreme heat.

India suffered its hottest March in more than 100 years and parts of the country experienced their highest temperatures on record in April.

Many places, including New Delhi, saw the temperature gauge top 40 degrees Celsius. More than two dozen people have died of suspected heat strokes since late March, and power demand has hit multi-year highs.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called on state governments to draw up measures to mitigate the impact of the extreme heat. 

Tundre and Lata live with their two young children in a slum near the construction site in Noida, a satellite city of New Delhi. They moved from their home state of Chhattisgarh in central India to seek work and higher wages around the capital.

On the construction site, labourers scale up walls, lay concrete and carry heavy loads, using ragged scarves around their heads as protection against the sun.

But even when the couple finish their day’s work, they have little respite as their home is hot, having absorbed the heat of the sun all day long.

Avikal Somvanshi, an urban environment researcher from India’s Centre for Science and Environment, said federal government data showed that heat stress was the most-common cause of death, after lightning, from forces of nature in the last 20 years.

“Most of these deaths occur in men aged 30-45. These are working class, blue-collar men who have no option but to be working in the scorching heat,” Somvanshi said.

There are no laws in India that prevent outdoor activity when temperatures breach a certain level, unlike in some Middle-Eastern countries, Somvanshi said.

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National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and fire brigade personnel conduct a search and rescue operation after a fire broke out in a commercial building, in New Delhi, India, May 14, 2022. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

Police in New Delhi arrested two people suspected of flouting fire safety regulations on Saturday after at least 27 people died in a blaze at a building housing a manufacturing unit for surveillance cameras.

Rescue teams worked overnight to clear the burnt out four-storey building near a railway station in the western suburbs.

More than 75 people were in the building when the fire broke out on Friday evening. Some jumped from windows to save themselves, according to eyewitnesses, and firefighters broke the glass and rescued people with ropes.

Authorities said fire started in an office on the first floor and spread rapidly. Two owners of the company were arrested as part of probe to identify suspected safety violations.

Offering condolences, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised 200,000 rupees ($2,580) in compensation for the victims’ next-of-kin.
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Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad demand grandchild or $650,000 Photo courtesy: Times of India

An Indian couple are taking their son to court demanding that he and his wife produce either a grandchild within a year or cough up almost $650,000.

Sanjeev and Sadhana Prasad say that they exhausted their savings raising and educating their pilot son and paying for a lavish wedding.

Now they want payback.

“My son has been married for six years but they are still not planning a baby. At least if we have a grandchild to spend time with, our pain will become bearable,” the couple said in their petition filed with a court in Haridwar last week.

The compensation they are demanding — 50 million rupees — includes the cost of a wedding reception in a five-star hotel, a luxury car worth $80,000 and paying for the couple’s honeymoon abroad, the Times of India reported Thursday.

The parents also forked out $65,000 to get their son trained as a pilot in the United States only for him to return to India unemployed, the paper said.

“We also had to take a loan to build our house and now we are going through a lot of financial hardships. Mentally too we are quite disturbed because we are living alone,” the couple said in their petition.

The couple’s lawyer Arvind Kumar said the petition will be taken up for hearing by the court in northern India on May 17.

India has a strong joint family system with many generations including grandparents, nephews, aunts and uncles often living in the same household.

However, in recent years the trend has shifted, with young couples preferring to move away from their parents or siblings, and wives — such as in this case — opting to work rather than focus on having children and staying at home.

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A resident and a child look out through gaps in the barriers at a closed residential area during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China

The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday China’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 policy is not sustainable given what is now known of the virus, in rare public comments by the U.N. agency on a government’s handling of the pandemic.

“We don’t think that it is sustainable considering the behaviour of the virus and what we now anticipate in the future,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing.

“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts. And we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable… I think a shift would be very important.”

He said increased knowledge about the virus and better tools to combat it also suggested it was time for a change of strategy.

The comments come after China’s leaders have repeated their resolve to battle the virus with tough measures and threatened action against critics at home even as strict and prolonged lockdowns exact a heavy toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

Speaking after Tedros, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said the impact of a “zero-COVID” policy on human rights also needs to be taken into consideration.

“We have always said as WHO that we need to balance the control measures against the impact they have on society, the impact they have on the economy, and that’s not always an easy calibration,” said Ryan.

He also noted that China has registered 15,000 deaths since the virus first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019 – a relatively low number compared with nearly 1 million in the United States, more than 664,000 in Brazil and over 524,000 in India.

With that in mind, it is understandable, Ryan said, that the world’s most populous country would want to take tough measures to curb coronavirus contagion.

Still, China’s zero-COVID policy has drawn criticism ranging from scientists to its own citizens, leading to a cycle of lockdowns of many millions of people, anguish and anger. Most other nations that shared its approach initially have now at least begun a transition to strategies to live with the virus.

The continued outbreaks also underscore how difficult it is to stop the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

Under zero-COVID, authorities lock down large population areas to stamp out viral spread in response to any coronavirus outbreak, even if just a small number of people test positive.

Shanghai’s measures have been particularly strict, with residents allowed out of compounds only for exceptional reasons, such as a medical emergency. Many are not even allowed out of their front doors to mingle with neighbours.

Its quarantine policy has also been criticised for separating children from parents and putting asymptomatic cases among those with symptoms.

Highlighting the far-reaching impact of prolonged lockdowns on global manufacturing and supplies of critical goods, General Electric’s GE.N healthcare unit outlined on Tuesday the drastic measures it has taken to deal with shortages of dye used for medical scans and tests in the United States caused by the suspension of its Shanghai factory.

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Presidential aspirant Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of the late dictator, casts his vote

Philippine voters streamed to polling stations on Monday, with prospects high of a once-unthinkable return to power for the Marcos family, 36 years after strongman Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a ‘people power’ uprising.

The presidential election pits Vice President Leni Robredo against former senator and congressman Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son and namesake of the dictator whose two decade rule ended in a public revolt and his family’s humiliating retreat into exile.

Around 18,000 posts, from the vice presidency, seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives to mayors, governors and councillors are also up for grabs.

Opinion polls put Marcos, popularly known as ‘Bongbong’, leading his rival by over 30 percentage points in the presidential race, having topped every poll this year. That means Robredo will need a late surge or low turnout if she is to win.

Turnout appeared high, election officials said, which would favour Marcos. The officials said they saw no major disruptions, although police were investigating the killing of three people near a polling station.

Voting started at 6 a.m. (2200 GMT Sunday) and is scheduled to close at 7 p.m. (1100 GMT), with polling stations operating longer than usual because of COVID-19 precautions.

An unofficial vote count could give an indication of the winner within hours of the close.

Marcos, 64, cast his ballot in his home province of Ilocos Norte, surrounded by bodyguards and accompanied by family members, including his son who is running for congress.

Asked by a reporter how voting was going, he said: “It was fine”, before leaving the polling station.

Marcos has presented no real policy platform but his presidency is expected to provide continuity from outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, whose ruthless, strongman approach proved popular and helped him to consolidate power rapidly.

His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is tipped to win the vice presidency. Although the president and vice president are elected separately, Marcos and Duterte-Carpio are aligned.


Election Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said he was “overwhelmed’ by the number of voters flocking to polling centres despite the pandemic threat.

The elections commission noted minor voting delays in some precincts, but said these were isolated.

Separately, police were investigating the killing of three members of a local peacekeeping force who were shot by unidentified assailants near a polling station in Maguindanao province in the restive southern region of Mindanao. No motive has been established.

In some instances, long queues were due to malfunctioning vote-counting machines, according to media reports.

Robredo, who voted in her home province of Camarines Sur, expressed concern after the reports.

“I hope the authorities will show they are on top of everything,” she told reporters.

Retired boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, who is running a distant third in polls for the presidency, said the surveys did not capture his support among the poor and said he was “confident” he could cause a surprise.

Voter Thelma Manansala said she hoped her compatriots will be discerning in choosing the next leaders.

“We Filipinos are facing a lot of hardships and we really need a change of leadership,” said Manansala, 58.


Marcos is buoyed by the support of many younger Filipinos born after the 1986 revolution, having launched a massive social media offensive in an upbeat campaign that has carried undertones of historical revisionism. Read full story

His supporters have dismissed narratives of plunder, cronyism and brutality under the martial law of his late father as lies peddled by opponents, presenting what his critics say is a different version of history. The Marcos camp has denied running misinformation campaigns.

Despite its fall from grace, the Marcos family returned from exile in the 1990s and has since been a powerful force in politics, retaining its influence with vast wealth and far-reaching connections.

The vote also presents an opportunity for Marcos to avenge his loss to Robredo in the 2016 vice presidential election, a narrow defeat by just 200,000 votes that he sought unsuccessfully to overturn.

Marcos has steered clear of debates and has campaigned on a message of optimism and unity.

Robredo, 57, a former human rights lawyer and staunch liberal, has pledged to improve education and welfare, fight poverty and improve market competition if elected.

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Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr, son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Lipa, Batangas province, Philippines

Philippines presidential candidates geared up for final rallies on Saturday to galvanise support and win over undecided voters, two days from an election plagued by misinformation campaigns and the rekindling of a bitter rivalry dating back decades.

Up to 65 million Filipinos are eligible to cast ballots on Monday to decide on the successor to President Rodrigo Duterte after six years in power, plus thousands of other posts, from lawmakers and governors to city mayors and councillors.

A two-horse presidential race has emerged between Vice President Leni Robredo and frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the son and namesake of a strongman whose two-decade rule ended with his overthrow in a 1986 ‘people power’ uprising.

Tens of thousands of supporters gathered in the capital Manila at rallies for Robredo and Marcos, braving the scorching afternoon heat hours before candidates were due to arrive.

The location of Robredo’s rally was symbolic, held along Ayala Avenue, where a huge march took place in 1983 after the assassination of senator Benigno Aquino, an icon of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

The rally exuded a festival-like atmosphere, where supporters in bright pink, Robredo’s campaign colour, handed out ice cream, drinks, T-shirts and flags.

“Robredo has helped many people and they appreciate her,” said Mary Ann Ileto Fernandez, who was celebrating her 27th birthday at the rally.

“While many people do not openly show support, we know they will vote for her.”

If opinion surveys are accurate, Robredo, 57, will need a late surge, or a low turnout if she is to win the presidency, with Marcos, a former congressman and senator, leading her by over 30 points having topped every poll this year. Read full story

If that deficit holds, Marcos, 64, could be the first Philippines president to be elected with a majority vote since the end of his father’s rule.

Marcos Jr was due to address what was expected to be a huge crowd at a casino resort alongside Manila Bay, which his camp said was an event to show appreciation for an outpouring of public support.

Marcos’s lead has been attributed to his team’s astute use of use of social media to reach younger voters, to discredit Robredo and present what political experts say is a counter narrative to historical accounts of his father’s rule. Marcos recently praised his father as a “genius”. Read full story

Monday will be a rematch of the 2016 vice presidential election which Marcos had also looked set to win, before losing by just 200,000 votes to Robredo. He fought hard to overturn the result, which the Supreme Court upheld. Read full story

Saturday’s rallies are expected to collectively draw hundreds of thousands of supporters, with candidates using celebrities and social media influencers personalities to energise supporters.

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Most women in Afghanistan wear a headscarf for religious reasons, but many in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces

The Taliban on Saturday ruled Afghan women must cover their faces, according to a decree from the group’s supreme leader, an escalation of growing restrictions on women in public that is drawing a backlash from the international community and many Afghans.

A spokesman for the Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice read the decree from the group’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada at a press conference in Kabul, saying that a woman’s father or closest male relative would be visited and eventually imprisoned or fired from government jobs if she did not cover her face outside the home.

They added the ideal face covering was the all-encompassing blue burqa, which became a global symbol of the Taliban’s previous hardline regime from 1996 until 2001.

Most women in Afghanistan wear a headscarf for religious reasons, but many in urban areas such as Kabul do not cover their faces.

The group has faced intense pushback, led by Western governments but joined by some religious scholars and Islamic countries for their growing limits on women’s rights.

A surprise U-turn in March in which the group shuttered girls’ high schools on the morning they were due to open drew the ire of the international community and prompted the United States to cancel planned meetings on easing country’s financial crisis.

Washington and other nations have cut development aid and enforced strict sanctions on the banking system, since the Taliban took over in August, pushing the country towards economic ruin.

The Taliban has said it has changed since it last ruled when it banned girls’ education or women leaving the house without a male relative and women were required to wear cover their faces.

However in recent months the administration has increased its restrictions on women including rules limiting their travel without a male chaperone and banning men and women from visiting parks at the same time.

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File photo: Military parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army in Pyongyang on April 26, 2022. KCNA via REUTERS

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Saturday, South Korean military said, three days before the inauguration of South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to take a hard line against the North.

South Korean military said that North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile believed to be an submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) into the sea off its east coast around 0507 GMT on Saturday from around Sinpo, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test-firing SLBMs.

Japan’s defence ministry also tweeted that the projectile could be a ballistic missile. It had fallen, Japan’s Coast Guard said around 0525 GMT, based on information from Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the projectile landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, citing government sources.

On Wednesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea and Japan said, after Pyongyang vowed to develop its nuclear forces “at the fastest possible speed”. Read full story

The United States assessed that North Korea was preparing its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and could be ready to conduct a test there as early as this month.

“Instead of accepting invitations to dialogue, the Kim regime appears to be preparing a tactical nuclear warhead test. The timing will depend most on when the underground tunnels and modified device technology are ready,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“A seventh nuclear test would be the first since September 2017 and raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula, increasing dangers of miscalculation and miscommunication between the Kim regime and the incoming Yoon administration.”

Yoon takes office on Tuesday. U.S. President Joe Biden is to visit South Korea and meet with him on May 21.

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People line up to get tested at a mobile nucleic acid testing site, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Beijing, China May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Residents of Beijing fretted over anti-virus restrictions curbing their movement while also worrying about the dozens of new COVID-19 cases reported daily, as China’s leaders threatened action against critics of their zero-tolerance COVID policy.

Incurring a heavy economic cost and facing rare bursts of public criticism on its tightly-controlled internet, China is increasingly isolating itself from a world in which COVID restrictions are becoming a thing of the past.

Internationally, industry bodies have complained that COVID curbs in China have global economic reverberations. At home, the population was worried about painful, long-term restrictions.

Beijing was racing to avoid an explosive rise in cases like the one that forced the commercial and financial hub of Shanghai into an almost complete lockdown for more than a month. The mood among the capital’s residents was tense.

“Sometimes everyone seems easily irritable,” said Shi Wei, a retiree in Beijing. “When the virus can change people’s way of life at any time, people are more susceptible to mood swings.”

After a meeting of the country’s highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Communist Party’s politburo, state TV reported late on Thursday that China will fight any comments and actions that distort, doubt or repudiate its COVID policy.

Relaxing COVID controls, which were being imposed in dozens of cities across the world’s second-largest economy and affecting hundreds of millions of people, would lead to large-scale infections, it warned.

On Friday, an editorial in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper hit back against accusations China’s COVID policy is disrupting global economy and trade.

“Some U.S. politicians have frequently attacked and smeared China’s epidemic prevention and control measures and tried to throw the blame on China for the so-called disruption of global supply chains,” it said without naming the people.

It said China was putting “life first,” and that although pressure on its economy has increased, the country could overcome difficulties.

State television reported that the State Council, or cabinet, had given an assurance that more support measures would be rolled out to stabilise employment and help the foreign trade sector.


Shanghai vice major Wu Qing said on Friday COVID-19 infections have been on a “continuous downward trend” since April 22, and “the epidemic has come under effective control.”

And yet most of the city’s 25 million people remained unable to leave their housing compounds or were only allowed out briefly. Some were in this situation despite their community’s risk rating being officially downgraded to a level that in theory should allow them to move more freely.

Beijing has reported dozens of new cases a day for about two weeks since its outbreak emerged. On Friday, officials said they detected 72 cases on May 5, the highest number so far.

On the corresponding day 14 of its own outbreak, Shanghai was reporting 139 cases but numbers quickly surged afterwards.

Isolated lockdown of residential buildings and closures of restaurants and other venues remained in place. But after three consecutive days of mandatory mass testing, Beijing residents were given a break on Friday.

But weekly COVID tests would be required from residents to enter office buildings and public venues and take subways or buses, state-backed Beijing Daily reported.

Beijing’s demand for rolling negative test results in coming days and weeks would require a robust testing infrastructure to meet the demand of the city’s 22 million people.

Some residents have complained they never received all the results from recent rounds of mass testing, while others were hit by “pop-up windows” on their mobile health apps, preventing them from accessing public transport or public spaces even though they have done their tests.

“Yesterday I couldn’t enter the office building because of the pop-up even though I tested negative within 24 hours. Isn’t that insane?” said a resident surnamed Wang.

Goldman Sachs analysts said regular testing could be a potential middle-ground strategy Chinese cities could embark on going forward, allowing cases to be identified and isolated early with much lower costs than city-wide lockdowns.

It “would not be a panacea, but would help limit disruption to a large part of China’s manufacturing and overall economic activity for a protracted period,” they said.

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr, also known as 'Bongbong,' has been accused of living generously at the helm of Asia’s most notorious thief politics

Former political prisoner Christina Bawagan was arrested, tortured and sexually abused by soldiers during the brutal martial law of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. I still have the clothes I was wearing.

Bawagan fears that if his son of the same name defeats the president in next week’s elections, the fear of Marcos’ rule will be diminished. This victory will conclude the 30-year political counterattack of families expelled during the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Marcos Jr., also known as ‘Bongbong,’ has been accused of living generously at the helm of Asia’s most notorious thief politics, partly as a decades-long public relations campaign to change family perceptions. We are benefiting from what political analysts say.

Family rivals say the presidential election is an attempt to rewrite history and change the story of corruption and authoritarianism associated with his father’s time.

“This election is not just a battle for elected positions, but also a fight against disinformation, fake news and historical revisionism,” said Lenny Robredo, a major rival to the Marcos presidential election. Stated.

The May 9 voting fact-checking initiative, TSEK.PH, unveiled a score of martial law-related disinformation last month that it was used to repair, erase, or polish Marcos Snr’s disgraceful record. I told Reuters that I did.

The Marcos Jr. camp did not respond to a written request for comment from Reuters on Bawagan’s story.

Marcos Jr., who called his deceased father a “political genius” last week, denied claims that he had previously disseminated false information, and his spokesman said Marcos was not engaged in negative public relations.

67-year-old Bawagan said martial law victims like her need to share their story to counter the portrayal of Elder Marcos’ administration as a peaceful and golden age in Southeast Asian countries. rice field.

“It’s very important that they see the main evidence that it really happened,” said a rift under the neckline where her torturer crossed her breasts, past the blade and caressed her breasts. Bawagan said while showing a printed dress.

Elder Marcos ruled for 20 years from 1965, almost half of which was under martial law.

During that time, 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed, according to Amnesty International figures asked by Marcos Jr. in a January interview.

Activist Bawagan was arrested on May 27, 1981 by a soldier in Nueva Ecija on suspicion of capsizing, taken to a “safe house” and beaten in an attempt to elicit a confession.

“Whenever they weren’t happy with my answer, I slapped my face, and that was always,” Bawagan said. “They banged my thighs and banged my ears. They tore my duster (dress) and caressed my breasts.”

“The hardest part was when they put things in my vagina. That was the worst part of it and I was screaming all the time. Nobody seemed to hear it.” 2 The mother of the man, Bawagan, said.

In a conversation with Marcos Jr. on YouTube in 2018, Juan Ponse Enrile, the late dictator’s defense minister, was arrested for criticizing political and religious views and Elder Marcos. Said not.

However, more than 11,000 victims of martial law state atrocities later received compensation from Marcos’ Swiss bank deposits for millions of dollars. Read more Felix Dalisai was deaf for 17 months starting in August 1973, being beaten by soldiers, tortured, and trying to inform other activists.

“They kicked me before I got on the army jeep, so I fell and hit my face on the ground,” Darisai said, looking back at the day he was arrested, leaving a scar on his right eye.

When they arrived at the military headquarters, Darisai was taken to the cross-examination room, where the soldiers repeatedly tapped and kicked his ears during the cross-examination, saying he sometimes hit him with the rifle’s butt.

“They started by inserting the bullet used in the .45 caliber gun between my fingers, and they clasped my hand. It really hurts. They answer my answer. If not satisfied, they will attack me, “Darisai points to different parts of his body. ..

It is unthinkable for Darisai, who turned 70 this month, to return Marcos to power in the country.

“Our blood is boiling with that idea,” Dalisay said. “Marcos Sr has declared martial law, and they say no one was arrested and tortured? We’re talking here while we’re still alive.”

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File photo: Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles take part in a parade to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Revolutionary Army  on April 26, 2022.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea and Japan said, about a week after Pyongyang vowed to develop its nuclear forces “at the fastest possible speed”.

The launch, which marks the North’s 14th known weapons test this year, comes days before South Korea’s newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol takes office on May 10. Its last test was on April 16 and involved a new tactical guided weapon aimed at boosting the country’s nuclear capabilities.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it had detected the launch about noon in Sunan area of Pyongyang, where an international airport is located and from which North Korea said it fired its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-17, on March 24.

The missile flew for about 470km (292 miles) to a maximum altitude of 780km (485 miles), the JCS said.

“A recent series of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches poses a grave threat to peace and stability of not only the Korean peninsula but also the international community,” the JCS said in a statement, urging the North to immediately stop such actions.

Japan’s Coast Guard also reported a suspected ballistic missile launchby North Korea. Tokyo’s deputy defence minister Makoto Oniki put the missile’s range at 500km (311 miles) and its maximum altitude at 800km (497 miles). He said the ministry was still analysing the data to determine what type of missile it was.

“North Korea’s recent action, including frequent missile launches, cannot be tolerated, as it poses a threat to security and safety of the region and international community,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters, adding that his country had logged a protest against North Korea.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to speed up the development of his country’s nuclear arsenal while overseeing a huge military parade as denuclearisation talks with the United States remain stalled. ballistic

Officials and experts say it is too early to determine whether the latest test involved an ICBM.

In its March 24 test, the North’s first full-capability launch since 2017, a missile flew 1,080km to an altitude of 6,200km, with a flight time of 71 minutes, the JCS said.

“It might be an ICBM or something with a shorter range,” Lee Jong-sup, the incoming president Yoon’s nominee for defence minister, said at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

The latest launch came as Yoon is mapping out his foreign policy agenda after signalling a tough line against Pyongyang. 

Lee, a retired military commander who served as deputy JCS chairman, told the hearing that he would beef up South Korea’s deterrent capability to “sternly” respond to the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

Pyongyang has recently stepped up weapons tests, resuming long-range missile launches for first time since 2017 in March. Officials in Seoul and Washington say it may also be preparing for a new round of nuclear tests.

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A makeshift nucleic acid testing site during a mass testing in Chaoyang district of Beijing, China May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alessandro Diviggiano

Beijing shut dozens of metro stations and bus routes on Wednesday in its campaign to stop the spread of COVID-19 and avoid the fate of Shanghai where millions of residents have been under strict lockdown for more than a month.

New evidence has emerged that China’s uncompromising battle against the coronavirus, believed to have emerged in a market in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, is undermining its growth and hurting the international companies invested there.

Late on Tuesday, another city announced work-from-home and other COVID curbs for the coming week. The central city of Zhengzhou, home to 12.6 million people and a factory of Apple’s iPhone manufacturer Foxconn 2354.TW, joins dozens of big cities in full or partial lockdown.

The capital shut more than 40 subway stations, about a tenth of the network, and 158 bus routes, service providers said. Most of the suspended stations and routes are in the Chaoyang district, the epicentre of Beijing’s outbreak.

With dozens of new cases a day, Beijing is trying to avoid a full lockdown, as Shanghai also did initially, instead hoping that mass testing will find and isolate the virus before it can spread.

The city of 22 million people has closed schools as well as some businesses and residential buildings in high-risk areas, and many people are stocking up in case a full lockdown does come.

Twelve out of 16 Beijing districts were conducting the second of three rounds of tests this week, having done three mass screenings last week.

In Shanghai, there’s no end in sight for the lockdown.

After more than a month, most people in mainland China’s biggest city and its financial centre are still not allowed to leave their housing compounds.

Some of Shanghai’s 25 million people have benefited from a tentative easing of precautions since Sunday, with usually just one member of a household allowed out for a quick stroll, some fresh air and a bit of shopping at supermarkets.

According to the latest data, Shanghai found 63 new cases outside areas under the strictest curbs, suggesting the city has a way to go to reach the goal of no cases for several days before curbs can ease significantly.

Authorities say the zero-COVID policy aims to save as many lives as possible, pointing to the millions of COVID deaths outside China, where many countries are throwing off precautions to “live with COVID” even as infections spread.


But the policy is hurting domestic consumption and factory output, disrupting key global supply chains and shrinking revenues for some of the biggest international brands, such as Apple AAPL.O, Gucci-parent Kering PRTP.PA and Taco Bell-owner Yum China 9987.HK.

Capital Economics estimates COVID has spread to areas generating 40% of China’s output and 80% of its exports – all facing various degrees of restrictions.

“Recent mobility trends suggest that China’s growth momentum deteriorated significantly in April, with traffic congestion, subway passenger volume and other high-frequency indicators at their weakest since the initial outbreak,” Fitch Ratings said in a note.

Its analysts cut their 2022 growth forecast to 4.3%, from 4.8%, well below China’s official 5.5% target.

Starbucks Corp SBUX.O suspended its guidance for the rest of its fiscal year on Tuesday mainly due to China’s COVID curbs. Sales in China, where the chain has rapidly expanded in recent years, declined 23%, overshadowing 12% growth in North America.

Foxconn said on Wednesday it was continuing production in Zhengzhou.

Numerous factories were shut after Shanghai went into lockdown from March. While some have started reopening, getting workers back, while dealing with snarled supply chains, has proven difficult.  

Shanghai authorities helped Tesla TSLA.O transport over 6,000 workers and carry out disinfection work to reopen its factory last month, according to a letter that Tesla sent to officials and seen by Reuters.

International trade is also facing disruption.

A study by Royal Bank of Canada analysts found that a fifth of the global container ship fleet was stuck in congestion at various major ports.

At Shanghai’s port, 344 ships were awaiting berth, a 34% increase over the past month. Shipping something from a warehouse in China to one in the United States takes 74 days longer than usual, they said.

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India said on Saturday it had seized $725 million from the local bank accounts of China’s Xiaomi Corp (1810.HK) after a probe found the smartphone maker had made illegal remittances to foreign entities by passing them off as royalty payments.

The Enforcement Directorate had been investigating the Chinese company’s business practices over suspected violations of Indian foreign exchange laws.

The financial crime fighting agency said on Saturday it had seized the bank account assets from Xiaomi Technology India Private Limited after finding the firm had remitted the foreign currency equivalent of 55.5 billion rupees to three foreign-based entities, including one Xiaomi group entity, “in the guise of royalty” payments.

The remittance to two other unidentified and unrelated US-based entities was also for “the ultimate benefit of the Xiaomi group entities”, the agency added in a statement.

“Such huge amounts in the name of royalties were remitted on the instructions of their Chinese parent group entities,” the directorate said.

Xiaomi said in a statement issued later on Saturday that it complies with Indian laws and believed its “royalty payments and statements to the bank are all legit and truthful”.

“These royalty payments that Xiaomi India made were for the in-licensed technologies and IPs used in our Indian version products … we are committed to working closely with government authorities to clarify any misunderstandings,” it added.

The directorate’s actions against Xiaomi signal widening scrutiny of the Chinese smartphone maker, whose India office was raided in December in a separate investigation over alleged income tax evasion. Some other Chinese smartphone markers were also raided at the time.

Reuters reported on April 12 that Xiaomi’s former India head, Manu Kumar Jain, had been summoned for questioning as part of the directorate’s investigation.

Jain, who is now a global vice president at Xiaomi based in Dubai, appeared before investigators earlier this month, said a source with direct knowledge of the probe, asking not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The Enforcement Directorate also asked the company for details of foreign funding, shareholding and funding patterns, financial statements and information of key executives running the business.

Xiaomi was India’s leading smartphone seller in 2021, with a 24 per cent market share, according to Counterpoint Research. South Korea’s Samsung was the No. 2 brand with a 19 per cent share.

Many Chinese companies have struggled to do business in India due to political tensions following a border clash in 2020. India has cited security concerns in banning more than 300 Chinese apps since then, including popular ones like TikTok, and also tightened norms for Chinese companies investing in India.

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Workers in protective suits ride electric tricycles and scooters during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, April 30, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

China’s commercial capital of Shanghai was dealt a blow on Monday as authorities reported 58 new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine areas while Beijing pressed on with testing millions of its people on a May Day holiday few were celebrating.

Tough coronavirus measures in Shanghai have stirred rare public anger, with millions of the city’s 25 million people confined indoors for more than a month, some sealed inside fenced-off residential compounds, and many struggling to secure daily necessities.

Shanghai residents breathed a sigh of relief at the weekend on news that no cases had been confirmed outside quarantine areas for two days, but bad news came on Monday with the report of the 58 new infections.

Authorities did not comment on the new cases at a media briefing but members of the public weighed in online.

“They announced that they stamped out cases at the community level too early,” one person commented on the Weibo social media platform.

But many people also took heart from data that showed an encouraging trend with 32 new deaths on Sunday, compared with 38 a day earlier, and 6,606 new asymptomatic cases, from 7,084 the previous day.

“There is hope for May,” said another Weibo user.

The coronavirus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and for the two years authorities managed to keep outbreaks largely under control with lockdowns and travel bans.

But the fast-spreading Omicron variant has tested China’s “zero-COVID” policy this year, an important one for President Xi Jinping who is expected to secure a precendent-breaking third leadership term.


China’s COVID policy looks increasingly bizarre to much of the outside world, where many governments have eased restrictions, or thrown them off altogether, in a bid to “live with COVID” even though infections are spreading.

China has given no hint of deviating from its policy despite a mounting toll on the world’s second-largest economy, and the ripples of disruption travelling out through global supply chains.

In the capital, home to 22 million people, authorities tighten COVID restrictions over the five-day Labour Day holiday that runs through Wednesday, traditionally one the busiest tourist seasons.

Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now entering two weeks, has not locked down, instead relying, at least for now, on mass testing to locate and isolate infections.

Beijing’s restaurants are closed for dining in and some apartment blocks are sealed shut. The streets are quiet and the residents who do venture out have to show negative coronavirus tests to enter most public venues.

Authorities are tracking down close contacts of confirmed cases, warning them to stay at home and contact authorities, and calling on everyone to abide by lockdown rules.

China reported 7,822 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from 8,329 new cases a day earlier, the National Health Commission said on Monday.

All of China’s 32 new deaths were in Shanghai, taking the country’s overall death toll since the virus emerged to 5,092.

India, the only country with a comparable population to China’s 1.4 billion people, has officially recorded more than half a million deaths, though some health experts believe its toll is even higher.

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China’s capital Beijing tightened COVID restrictions on Sunday as it battled an outbreak, while Shanghai let some of its 25 million residents venture out for light and air after reporting a second day of zero infections outside of quarantine areas.

Shanghai’s outbreak, which began in March, has been China’s worst since the early months of the pandemic in 2020. Hundreds of thousands have been infected and the city has forbidden residents from leaving their homes, to great public anger.

The outbreak in China’s most populous city and the risk of a spread in Beijing are testing the government’s zero-COVID approach in a year when Xi Jinping is expected to secure an unprecedented third term as president.

Beijing, with dozens of daily infections in an outbreak now in its 10th day, has not locked down. More than 300 locally transmitted cases have been logged since April 22.

But on Sunday the capital tightened social distancing rules and launched a fresh round of mass testing in its most populous and worst-hit district.

The city of 22 million has in the past week conducted mass testing in most of its 16 districts, suspended all entertainment venues and banned restaurant dining.

“The impact of all this on us is too great – 20,000 yuan ($3,000) in a day gone, just like that!” said Jia, a manager at a normally popular burger restaurant in the east of Beijing.

“Our boss is stressing out about this too,” Jia said, asking to be identified only by his surname. “We have three branches in Shanghai. They’ve all been shut and losing cash for a month. And now this.”

Beijing’s sprawling Universal Studios theme park closed on Sunday, while in the highly visited Badaling section of the Great Wall, visitors were told to show proof of negative COVID test results before entering.

Chaoyang district, accounting for the biggest share of infections in Beijing’s outbreak, launched an additional round of mass testing, with public health workers knocking on doors to remind residents to get tested.

“I do the PCR test everyday and I know I am not sick,” said a Chaoyang resident surnamed Ma, whose local health app on her mobile phone had marked her profile as abnormal.

“I feel caged, like I am sick. These restrictions are too excessive,” said Ma, who works in finance.


Shanghai’s citywide lockdown since early April has upended the daily lives of its residents, sparking worries about food and concern about being taken to crowded quarantine centres should they catch the virus.

Extreme measures taken to seal up residential compounds, including fencing up entrances of buildings, have prompted outrage.

Some residents have turned to social media to vent their frustration, some clanged pots and pans outside their windows, and others clashed with public health workers.

The song “Do you hear the people sing?” from the musical Les Miserables has become a popular protest anthem. On Saturday, an online video of a Chinese orchestra playing the song, with the musicians performing from their respective homes, went viral with nearly 19,000 shares before it was blocked.

While much of the city remains in lockdown, Shanghai officials, striking a confident tone, said on Sunday that curbs on some areas would be eased after the city reined in COVID transmission risks at the community level, excluding cases in quarantine centres.

Six of its 16 districts attained zero-COVID status, meaning three consecutive days with no new daily increases in infections, senior city government official Gu Honghui told a virtual news conference.

Public transport will be allowed to resume in five districts, but residents must remain in their districts as they visit supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals, a health official told the news conference.

Social media posts showed the streets of Fengxian, one of the six districts, filled with pedestrians and choked with scooters and bicycles. Reuters could not independently verify the videos.

But despite the fall in transmissions, Shanghai will launch a new round of citywide PCR and antigen tests from Sunday until May 7.

Excluding imported cases arriving from outside the mainland, China reported 8,256 new local cases for Saturday, down from 10,703 a day before. Beijing accounted for 59 of the infections, while Shanghai saw 7,872 new cases and all of the nation’s 38 fatalities.

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Pakistan has touched highs of 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country

Pakistan issued a heat warning after the hottest March in 61 years while in parts of neighbouring India schools were shut and streets deserted as an intense heave wave on Friday showed no signs of abating.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, urged the federal and provincial governments to take precautionary measures to manage the intense heat wave, which touched highs of 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) in parts of the country.

“South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan are faced with what has been a record-breaking heat wave. It started in early April and continues to leave the people gasping in whatever shade they find,” Rehman said in a statement.

Temperatures were predicted to rise by 6 to 8 degrees Celsius above average temperatures after the hottest March on record since 1961, she said.

More than a billion people are at risk of heat-related impacts in the region, scientists have warned, linking the early onset of an intense summer to climate change. For the first time in decades, Pakistan had gone from winter to summer without the spring season, Rehman said.

The government has also told provincial disaster management authorities to prepare urgently for the risk of flash-flooding in northern mountainous provinces due to rapid glacial melting, Rehman said.

Glaciers in the Himalaya, Hindu Kush and Karkoram mountain ranges have melted rapidly, creating thousand of glacial lakes in northern Pakistan, around 30 of which were at risk of sudden hazardous flooding, the climate change ministry said, adding around 7 million people were vulnerable.

A senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department said on Friday heat conditions would persist for at least the next three days, but that temperatures would fall after the arrival of monsoons, expected in some parts by May.

The health problems triggered by the heatwave were posing a bigger worry than the expected fourth wave of COVID-19, doctors in India said.

“We are getting many patients who have suffered heatstroke or other heat-related problems,” said Mona Desai, former president of Ahmedabad Medical Association in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

She said that 60-70% of the patients were school-aged complaining of vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal colic, weakness and other symptoms.

Roads were deserted in Bhubaneshwar, in India’s eastern state of Odisha, where schools have been shut, while neighbouring West Bengal advanced the school summer break by a few days.


In Pakistan, the lead up to the religious holiday of Eid was dampened by the intense heat and regular power cuts as most of the population refrained from eating food and drinking water during daylight hours for the holy month of Ramadan.

The increased demand for power from rising temperatures combined with fuel shortages and infrastructure issues put pressure on Pakistan’s electricity system, leading to regular power cuts, known as load shedding.

Residents of northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said that at times the power was out for between 10 and 14 hours a day, leaving few options to cool down.

“The weather is unreasonably hot these days but the hours’ long power load shedding….further added to our miseries,” said Abdul Salam Khan, owner of a shoe brand in the northern city of Peshawar

Khan said the heat wave had dented an expected surge in shoe sales ahead of Eid as many people stayed home in the intense heat while their stores struggled to operate during power cuts.

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Trade unions protest during a nationwide strike demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rakapaksa and his cabinet, blaming them for creating the country's worst economic crisis in decades

Many schools in Colombo were shut and several train stations deserted on Thursday as teachers and train drivers joined mass walkouts demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government quit over Sri Lanka’s worst financial crisis in decades.

Hundreds of employees from Sri Lankan state-run banks, most wearing black and carrying black flags, also joined other bank trade unions in a protest march to the president’s office as thousands of people took to the streets around the country.

The pandemic, rising oil prices, populist tax cuts and rapidly dwindling foreign currency reserves have left Sri Lanka without enough dollars to pay for vital imports of fuel, food and medicine. Sometimes violent street demonstrations have erupted this month as shortages and power cuts became acute.

“This government has ruined our country. Costs are increasing every day, businesses are closing, and people have no way to live. There is no fuel, when we go home there is no electricity and no cooking gas to make meals,” said Samanthi Ekanayake, 34 who works as a teller at a state-run bank.

“We are tired of broken promises.”

The country’s trade union leaders have threatened an ongoing strike from May 6 if the president and the government do not resign.

Rajapaksa this week reiterated his willingness to form an interim government with a new prime minister and cabinet. However, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is his elder brother, has declined to step down and insisted he continues to have a majority in the 225-member parliament.

Meanwhile, two Opposition parties, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have started the process to bring no-confidence motions against the president and prime minister in parliament.

“Political instability will only make it more difficult to provide solutions to the financial crisis. So it is imperative a strong government with a clear majority is established in parliament and the government is working towards this goal,” Cabinet spokesman Nalaka Godahewa said.