Daily News Roundup

July 25, 2018

Image Source: AFP

WEDNESDAY, July 2

Greece is observing three days of national mourning after at least 74 people died when wildfires tore through a resort town, trapping people in cars and on cliffs with many forced to jump for their survival, Reuters Newsagency reports.

The village of Mati, east of Athens, was the worst hit with charred bodies laying on roadsides and in one area a group of 26 people, including children, were found dead near the top of a cliff, some locked in an embrace as the flames bore in as they tried to flee.

“Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced,” the head of Greece’s Red Cross, Nikos Economopoulos, told Skai TV.

Others were able to leap off the cliffs to survive, or rush into the sea from the beach.

“We went into the sea because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water. It burned our backs and we dived into the water,” said Kostas Laganos, a survivor who described the ordeal as similar to the 79AD destruction of the Italian city of Pompei when thousands died after Mount Vesuvius erupted.

Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his country has endured “an unspeakable tragedy”.

“Greece is going through an unspeakable tragedy,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on television, declaring the three days of national mourning.

“Greece is living one of its most difficult moments. There are absolutely no

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said no Australians were known to be affected by the fires “at this time”, while Poland has confirmed two of its citizens, a mother and son, are among the victims.

Boats are continuing to comb beaches to search for any remaining survivors.

By Tuesday afternoon the Mati fire had been contained, but fire fighters are concerned it could reignite as continued searing summer heat beats onto parched scrubland.

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Scientists in the US are warning of the potential for serious ecological consequences if Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the US and Mexico goes ahead, the ABC reports.

The wall, which would span the majority of the border from the North Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, will impede animal migration, shrink animal habitat and split populations of species into smaller, less viable groups, according to the 18 researchers who published their findings today in BioScience.

More than 2,500 scientists endorsed the article, which calls on the US government to “recognise and give high priority to conserving the ecological, economic, political and cultural value of the US-Mexico borderlands”.

“National security can and must be pursued with an approach that conserves our natural heritage,” they wrote.

The construction of a border fence between the US and Mexico began during George W Bush’s presidency. At the time Congress gave the Department of Homeland Security authority to waive laws that could slow construction of the border fence, including the endangered species act (ESA) and the national environmental policy act (NEPA).

And there has reportedly been very little assessment of the environmental impacts of the various sections of border fence — adding up to 1,200 kilometres — that have since been built. Now President Trump plans to extend these various sections into a continuous barrier.

Numerous species along the US-Mexico border are already threatened with extinction, according to study author Professor Bill Ripple from Oregon State University.

“There are currently 62 species that are threatened,” he said.

“The Mexican grey wolf, it’s threatened, and its range would be truncated [by the wall].

The jaguar, there’s only a small amount of its range in the United States and that would be cut off from its range in the south. And the same with the ocelot.”

The researchers identified 1,506 species with ranges on both sides of the border, including 163 mammals.

“Things like jaguar, jaguarundi, the pronghorn, a number of larger-bodied species could still be impacted even if there are small passageways in the barrier,” Professor Kiett said.

“They move daily and seasonally. Some embark on largescale migration, but many just move about to forage, to find mates, and for other reasons, so if their movement ability is restricted that can impact their populations.”

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says America will continue to hold Russia accountable for the 298 people, including 38 Australians, killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine by a Russian missile four years ago, ABC reports.

Pompeo was told of the ongoing pain families of victims, including Perth parents Anthony Maslin and Rin Norris who lost their three children Otis, Evie and Mo and their grandfather Nick Norris in the incident.

A letter from Maslin was read by a reporter to Pompeo at a press conference on Tuesday in California at the conclusion of the annual Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) talks.

“We need the Russians to continue to be held accountable for that,” Mr Pompeo responded.

“We take this matter seriously,” he said.

Pompeo, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne spent the past two days at the AUSMIN talks, held at Stanford University.

 

This news roundup is curated with stories from news.com.au

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