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More than 50,000 Malaysians forced from homes in worst floods for years

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More than 50,000 people have been forced from their homes in Malaysia and at least seven are dead after the country faced some of its worst floods for years, officials said on Monday.

A weekend of torrential rain caused rivers to overflow, flooding towns and villages and cutting off major roads, with many motorists left trapped in their vehicles for hours.

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The number of evacuees across the country rose to about 51,000 on Monday, according to official data, with the worst-hit area being the eastern state of Pahang, where some 32,000 were forced from their homes.

The country's wealthiest and most populous state Selangor, surrounding the capital Kuala Lumpur, has been badly affected — which is unusual as it typically avoids the worst of the monsoon floods.

Seven people have been confirmed dead in Selangor, according to fire and rescue officials cited in The Star newspaper. With reports of others missing, the toll is expected to climb.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that a month's rainfall came down in one day in Selangor, adding that tens of thousands of emergency service and military personnel were deployed to aid rescue efforts.
Student Eyilavarasi Magesuaran recalled the moment her house was flooded in the hard-hit city of Shah Alam in Selangor early Sunday.

“Water rushed into our house from the rear and back, trapping us inside,” the 21-year-old told AFP, adding she was alerted to the flood by her barking dog.

“I really feared we would drown. We have lived here since 1995, and never experienced flooding.”

A relative with a truck rescued her family.

The rains had largely stopped by Monday, leaving residents to return to damaged properties and pick up the pieces.

The Southeast Asian nation is hit by floods annually during the monsoon season, but those on the weekend were the worst in years.

Global warming has been linked to worsening floods. Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.

Read more: Countries must brace for future food ‘shocks’ due to droughts, floods: FAO

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Saudi tourist killed by elephant in Uganda park

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A Saudi tourist was trampled to death by an elephant during a game drive at a popular park in Uganda, a wildlife official said Wednesday.

The attack happened on Tuesday at the Murchison Falls National Park when the man left the vehicle he was travelling in with friends, said Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesman Bashir Hangi.

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“They stopped along the way and the deceased went out of the car, an elephant charged at him, killed him on the spot,” Hangi said in a statement.

The victim was identified as Ayman Sayed Elshahany.

Park officials said police will investigate Elshahany’s death as they review security protocols to “avoid repeat of such incidents.”

Animal attacks are not unheard of in the East African country.

In 2018, a leopard snatched and ate the three-year-old son of a female game ranger at another park in the west of the country.

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US responds to Russia’s security demands in Ukraine crisis

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The US delivered its response to Russia’s security demands, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, the latest step in the high-stakes diplomacy over Moscow’s buildup of troops on Ukraine’s border.

The response delivered by Ambassador John Sullivan on Wednesday sets out “a serious diplomatic path forward, Blinken told reporters in Washington. “We are open to dialogue, we prefer diplomacy. It remains up to Russia to decide how to respond. We are ready either way.

The report delivered to officials in Moscow largely sticks to points made by Blinken and other US officials: It rejects Russia’s demand that NATO close its door to potential Ukraine membership in the future, but offers suggestions for areas of mutual interest, such as arms control talks and greater transparency over troop movements and military exercises, Blinken said.

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“We will uphold the principle of NATO’s open door, Blinken said, repeating the US and European position that Russia shouldn’t get to dictate which nations join the military alliance.

“We also do lay out areas where we believe that together we could actually advance security for everyone, including for Russia, Blinken said.

The top US diplomat said he expects to speak with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the “coming days, adding that the US response won’t be released publicly.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is expected to speak to reporters soon on the alliance’s response to Russia.

Tensions have soared as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, though officials in Moscow have repeatedly said they have no intention of invading the country.

Nevertheless, a top official of the pro-Kremlin ruling party who’s also a senior member of the Senate, Andrey Turchak, suggested it could send “certain weapons to the separatists it backs in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Openly arming the separatists would undermine Russia’s claims — rejected by Ukraine and the West — that it’s not a party to the conflict.

Russia has said it will decide on whether to continue diplomatic efforts with the US and its allies based on the written answers.

The Kremlin has said it wants the US to respond to its key demands — no further expansion of NATO to the east, no deployments of weapons there that can strike Russia and a pullback of alliance forces in the region — even though Washington has made clear those are non-starters.

Moscow has said previously that the talks the US did offer publicly on limiting missiles and reducing risks around military maneuvers were positive, but not sufficient to address its security concerns.

Even as talks continued and Russia awaited the replies in recent days, the Kremlin continued its buildup of troops, tanks and equipment near Ukraine’s borders, with a major deployment to Belarus for exercises. Russia has said the forces aren’t a threat to anyone, but has refused Western calls to reverse the buildup.

Read more:

Biden says Putin could face sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine

Putin will pay ‘dear price’ if Russia invades Ukraine: US President Biden

US puts 8,500 troops on heightened alert amid Russia-Ukraine heightened tensions

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US to shut down Afghan embassy, strip diplomats of immunity: Sources

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The US government has informed Afghanistan’s diplomats that they will shut down the embassy in Washington and the consulate missions in Los Angeles and New York, sources familiar with the matter tell Al Arabiya English.

The Afghan diplomats will also be stripped of their diplomatic immunity, according to a memo sent to the Afghan diplomats at the beginning of the week.

– Developing

Read more: Once-bustling Afghan Embassy in US down to few diplomats

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