INDEPENDENT 2024-07-07 12:09:10


Sister of Titan submersible victim ‘furious’ that he took his son

The sister of a billionaire businessman who died in last year’s Titan submersible disaster has said she is “furious” with her brother for bringing his teenage son with him.

Shahzada Dawood, 48, and his 19-year-old son Suleman both lost their lives when the so-called $250,000-a-head Titanic tourist sub suffered a “catastrophic implosion” an hour and 45 minutes into its dive to the Titanic wreck.

The businessman had been “obsessed” with the disaster and his sister said at the time his son was “terrified” at the prospect of the dive, but wanted to please his father.

This claim has been refuted by his mother, Christine, who said the university student wanted to go to the Titanic.

Reflecting on the tragedy a year later, Shadaza’s older sister Amzeh told the New York Post: “I still wake up every morning and it hits me like a ton of bricks that they’re gone.

“There’s nowhere to share the grief, we just have to carry it inside us.”

The Pakistani father and son lost their lives alongside fellow “citizen explorer” British billionaire businessman Hamish Harding, 58, Titanic expert Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, and OceanGate CEO Stockton Rush, 61.

Amzeh, who spent the anniversary of the tragedy with her immediate family in Amsterdam, said others including Christine and Shadaza’s daughter, Alina, had gathered to be together.

“I sent a message to my mother saying how are you, it’s the anniversary, and she informed me that the whole family were together because it’s so difficult to be alone,” Amzeh said.

Both Christine and Alina were on the Titan’s support vessel, the Polar Prince, when the submersible went missing.

This notably happened on Father’s Day, 16 June, and it is believed that this is why Christine gave her ticket to her son so he could mark the occasion with his father.

Amzeh said she was informed about the disaster by her husband after it took the support vessel hours after losing contact with Titan to report its disappearance to the coast guard.

“My first husband gave me a call – I had no idea whatsoever,” she said. “Then I started to realise, ‘Oh my God, they’ve gone on this and it’s gone missing.’”

She reflected on the last message she had received from her teenage nephew.

She added: “It started to kind of make sense that a couple [of] days before that, Suleman had sent me a short text saying, ‘I love you and I miss you’ and offered to come visit.”

Azmeh said she did not have the best relationship with her brother before his death and said she has been left “furious” by his actions with the submersible.

“My brother was passionate about the Titanic. So yeah, great, [he] got to do this. But Suleman, he’s 19,” she said.

“Obviously I miss my brother, my God, I would do anything to bring him back, but I guess the older sister in me is really, really furious with him for taking Sully,” she added, which was Suleman’s nickname.

Her son, Lehhaan, was incredibly close to his cousin and she said he has been profoundly affected by his death. She said he is so traumatised that he had a seizure when he recently attempted to take a boat trip in Greece.

The pair reportedly played video games together until the disaster last June.

“He was very close to Suleman – I think for a few moments he tapped into the fear that he must have felt,” she speculated.

“He just curled up on the floor of the boat and we were holding him in place and he was just shaking. Because it was just too close. It was just too close to the terror that we all know that Suleman must have held.”

Amzeh has now hit out at the company behind the disaster, OceanGate, and like many, has compared it to the Titanic itself.

She was also particularly critical of the company’s CEO, Mr Rush, who like the Titanic captain Edward Smith went down with his ship.

“It was just kind of pretty much just like the Titanic, wasn’t it? It was hubris or arrogance beyond measure,” she said.

“Thinking he [Mr Rush] was amazing. Compared to the ocean, the ocean is a natural force. It’s breathtaking. To have assumed we can take it on.

“I personally don’t get why someone would raise so much money to visit what is in essence a mass grave site. It should be left alone. It should be respected.

“It’s not tourism, it’s voyeurism.”

While the investigation into the disaster is still ongoing, it is thought the Titan’s experimental carbon fibre hull weakened on its repeat dives to the Titanic, culminating in its eventual catastrophic implosion.

It is believed the implosion happened so quickly that the men aboard the Titan would have died instantly and not experienced any pain.

Tesla cools interest in India as Elon Musk seems to focus on China

Tesla’s plan to make a splash in the Indian market appears to have hit a roadblock since Elon Musk abruptly postponed his visit to the country in April and dashed to China instead.

The electric carmaker’s executives have ceased contact with Indian officials, leading them to conclude that Musk does not intend to invest in the country in the near future, Bloomberg reported.

Tesla was reportedly looking at India, the world’s third-largest automobile market, as the next destination for growth.

The company put the plan on hold after the Indian government reportedly insisted that it produce cars locally, just as it does in China. The carmaker would have preferred importing vehicles initially to gauge demand.

Mr Musk had said Tesla would be in India “as soon as humanly possible” after a meeting with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi during his state visit to the US last year. “He really cares about India because he’s pushing us to make significant investments in India, which is something we intend to do. We are just trying to figure out the right timing,” Mr Musk said, calling himself a “fan of Mr Modi”.

“I am confident that Tesla will be in India and will do so as soon as humanly possible.”

The carmaker planned to invest $2 to $3bn and build a new factory in India, Reuters reported in April. Mr Musk was expected to announce the deal after meeting with Mr Modi in April.

But he cancelled the visit. He said “very heavy Tesla obligations require the visit to India be delayed, but I do very much look forward to visiting later this year”.

Just a week later, the mercurial billionaire made an unplanned visit to China.

The visit reportedly helped Tesla clear regulatory roadblocks related to the launch of self-driving software in the country, a crucial market for the company. Mr Musk met Chinese premier Li Qiang and Tesla’s Model 3 and Y vehicles passed the country’s data security requirements soon after.

Now that Tesla has cooled interest in India, officials told Bloomberg that they were looking to domestic car makers for boosting electric vehicle production. But Tesla would still be welcome to avail a new import tax policy if Mr Musk decided to re-engage, they said.

Tesla’s apparent ghosting of India comes just as its Model Y has been made available for government purchase in China, according to state news outlet Paper.cn.

The Model Y, a fully electric compact crossover SUV, has been included in a list of electric and hybrid vehicles that local governments can purchase for use as service cars.

India likely still remains on Mr Musk’s radar. He congratulated Mr Modi after his swearing-in as prime minister for the third time last month.

“Congratulations Narendra Modi on your victory in the world’s largest democratic elections! Looking forward to my companies doing exciting work in India,” he wrote on X.

Mr Modi responded saying “Indian youth, our demography, predictable policies and stable democratic polity will continue to provide the business environment for all our partners”.

India’s electric vehicle market is small but growing. It’s currently dominated by the local carmaker Tata.

Mr Modi’s government is targeting 30 per cent of new cars to be electric by 2030, up from about 2 per cent currently.

In recent years, Mr Musk has opposed India’s high import taxes on electric vehicles and lobbied for change. In March, India’s government introduced a new policy reducing import taxes from as high as 100 per cent to 15 per cent on certain models, provided the carmaker invests at least $500m and establishes a factory in the country.

Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state at risk of ‘genocidal violence’

The Rohingya in Myanmar‘s Rakhine state are at risk of facing “genocidal violence” similar to what the Muslim minority suffered eight years ago, a UN expert has warned.

Thomas Andrews, UN special rapporteur for the crisis in Myanmar, said the situation in Rakhine was “terrifying”, according to AFP.

“For Rohingya people – oppressed, scapegoated, exploited, and stuck between warring parties – the situation carries echoes of the lead-up to genocidal violence in 2016 and 2017,” Mr Andrews told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday.

An army crackdown against the Rohingya Muslims in 2017 sent 730,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh. The UN described it at the time as genocidal in intent.

In Rakhine, tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced since the Arakan Army, an armed group of the Rakhine ethnic minority seeking autonomy from the central government, renewed fighting the army late last year.

The attacks last November ended a ceasefire which had largely held since a military coup wrested power from the government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

Mr Andrews said the military had been conscripting “thousands of Rohingya youth and mobilising them against the Arakan Army”.

“Even though many Rohingya young men have been taken to the frontlines of the conflict against their will, the potential for retaliation by members of the Arakan community, and a downward spiral of violence, is enormous,” he warned. “Tens, if not hundreds of thousands, have been displaced in Rakhine state.”

Although Rohingya are not eligible for conscription because they are denied citizenship, the military has conscripted more than 1,000 men and boys from the community since February using methods including abduction, threats and false promises of citizenship, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.

In May, the UN human rights office warned of “frightening and disturbing reports” about fresh violence in Rakhine, pointing to attacks on Rohingya civilians by the military and the Arakan Army.

Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN agency, highlighted the burning of the town of Buthidaung, air strikes, shootings at unarmed fleeing villagers, beheadings and disappearances in the northern part of Rakhine in recent weeks.

The Arakan Army announced in May that it had seized Buthidaung, home to a sizable Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine.

“We are receiving frightening and disturbing reports from northern Rakhine state in Myanmar of the impacts of the conflict on civilian lives and property,” Ms Throssell told a briefing in Geneva.

“Some of the most serious allegations concern incidents of killing of Rohingya civilians and the burning of their property.”

She quoted a survivor saying they saw dozens of dead bodies lying around as they fled Buthidaung and others speaking of abuse and extortion at the hands of the Arakan Army.

The United League of Arakan, the political arm of the Arakan Army, said civilians in the battle zone had taken refuge in areas controlled by its forces, adding that it “has been doing its utmost to safeguard and care for these Internally Displaced Persons as valued citizens, irrespective of race or religion”.

Rohingya activists, however, have blamed the Arakan Army for most of the destruction.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller previously said Washington was “deeply troubled” by reports of violence in Rakhine and called on the military and armed groups to protect civilians and allow humanitarian access.

“The military’s previous acts of genocide and other crimes against humanity targeting Rohingya, in addition to its history of stoking intercommunal tensions in Rakhine State and elsewhere across the country, underscore the grave dangers to civilians,” he said.

“The current increased violence and intercommunal tensions also raise the risks of further atrocities occurring.”

Boy, 12, dies from rare ‘brain-eating amoeba’ infection in India

A 12-year-old boy in Kerala has died from a rare infection caused by “brain-eating amoeba”.

He’s the third person to have died of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis in the southern Indian state since May, The Hindu reported.

The boy had taken ill after bathing in a pond and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Kozhikode . He died on Thursday.

“We identified the infection in tests done in our labs and informed the district’s medical officer who took preventive measures by closing access to the pond where the child had bathed,” an unnamed doctor who treated the boy was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.

The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri , thrives in warm freshwater and infects humans through the nose.

It has also been found in artificially heated industrial water sources and domestic water supplies.

A five-year-old girl in Malappuram and a 13-year-old girl in Kannur died from the same infection on 21 May and 25 June, respectively.

The state’s health department has advised caution when bathing in stagnant water and emphasised the need for proper chlorination to prevent infection.

“Bathing in stagnant water and diving in water should be avoided as much as possible,” the department said.

“Water in theme parks and swimming pools should be properly chlorinated to ensure that it is clean.”

The infection can destroy brain tissue and cause severe brain swelling.

It is not contagious.

The symptoms include headache, fever, nausea and vomiting. As the condition progresses, patients may also develop a stiff neck, experience confusion, seizures, hallucinations, and potentially slip into a coma.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people with primary amoebic meningoencephalitis “die within 1 to 18 days after symptoms begin”.

“It usually leads to coma and death after five days.”

Armed clash fears in the buffer zone between North and South Korea

In Majeong-ri, South Korea, Yoon Seol Hyun proudly claims to run the closest guesthouse to North Korea. Only a bridge, a set of guard posts, and several lines of barbed wire fence separate his village from the demilitarised zone (DMZ) which splits the Korean peninsula in two.

Normally, his hostel offers a peaceful getaway for locals visiting from the nearby capital of Seoul. But tensions between the North and the South have spiked recently and Yoon is worried, with a number of incidents around the DMZ, which is 150 miles long and 2.5 miles wide.

Last month, a number of North Korean soldiers – believed to be between 20 and 30 – briefly crossed the demarcation line on three occasions, retreating after soldiers from the South fired warning shots. Seoul said the incidents were likely accidents. Meanwhile, the North has been sending balloons filled with rubbish over the border, it claims in retaliation for a propaganda campaign by North Korean defectors and activists in the South who regularly send over balloons carrying food, medicine, money and leaflets criticising the North’s leaders.

Yoon worries that if things escalate, both sides of the peninsula will go from trading balloons to trading bullets and bombs instead, and that his village will be the first to be impacted.

“Hostility between South and North is higher,” he says. “This area is close to the border, it is very serious, we worry about that.”

Tasked with monitoring these developments is Major General Ivo Burgener, head of the Swiss delegation to the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC). Currently made up of five Swiss and five Swedish soldiers who live inside the DMZ, the NNSC has monitored adherence to the Korean war’s armistice agreement since it was signed in 1953. While this armistice ended hostilities, a peace treaty was never signed and both sides remain technically at war.

Stationed in a hut just metres from the North Korean border, Burgener and the NNSC have a frontline view of how the frozen conflict has developed. Since the start of the year, they have noticed a significant remilitarisation on both sides of the DMZ.

“There are more activities in the DMZ,” Burgener adds, also citing an increase in soldiers, weapons, and construction activity. “The situation is becoming more uncertain.”

With Pyongyang developing its military infrastructure, destroying sections of road, building walls, and planting landmines, explosions from the Northern side now also regularly interrupt the NNSC’s work. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported recently that North Korean soldiers had sustained “multiple casualties” caused by landmines exploding on the Northern side of the DMZ.

“We are seeing more and more militarisation efforts,” explains NNSC operations officer Lieutenant Colonel Livio Raeber. “There is more military equipment inside the DMZ.” Previously unarmed soldiers that face off on either side of the border are now once again armed, and both sides have begun to rebuild formerly decommissioned guard posts.

While the balloons are described by analysts as “low-level provocations,” Burgener points out that they have not helped to de-escalate tensions.

“The possibility of an escalation is higher than before, and this is something that we monitor very closely,” Raeber adds.

“The risk of misunderstandings and unplanned incidents along the DMZ are rising,” says Burgener. In a worst-case scenario, he warned this could lead to “escalation, the outbreak of a conflict”.

At the start of the year, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un branded the South a “principal enemy” and relations on the Korean peninsula are now arguably “at the lowest point in the last five or six years”, said Dr Edward Howell, a Korean Foundation fellow at Chatham House.

Kim’s recent meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, which culminated in the signing of a strategic partnership agreement between the two, has also added to the tension. The guesthouse owner Yoon says that things do not need to be this bad.

In 2018, both sides signed an agreement, aimed at decreasing tensions by partially demilitarising the DMZ, and he was hopeful that the agreement could mitigate the risk of conflict.

“We were very thankful,” he says. “Those times were more peaceful.”

Now, Yoon’s phone buzzes with alerts. Issued by authorities in Seoul, they warn of more incoming balloons and other notes. Yoon sees his responsibility to help maintain peace and he regularly organises events to educate tourists about the area.

And despite living on the frontlines of this frozen conflict, he has no intention of leaving. “This is my hometown,” he says. “I was born in this village, my father, my grandfather was born in this village.”

Six Chinese nationals mining for gold killed in Congo militia attack

Six Chinese citizens were killed and several went missing after a local militia targeted a mining site in the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities said on Thursday as the central African country continued to be wracked by widespread violence.

At least two and possibly three Congolese soldiers were also killed in the attack, which took place in the gold-rich Djugu territory in Ituri province.

The attack was carried out by a militia called Codeco, or Cooperative for the Development of the Congo, Djugu administrator Ruphin Mapela said.

A Red Cross representative in the region said the militiamen “entered the camp and killed six Chinese nationals and three soldiers”.

“They were killed with bullets,” Dhekana Ernest said, adding that the corpses were taken to the city of Bunia.

An army spokesperson said the soldiers guarding the mining site shot dead at least six of the attackers.

Codeco is one of numerous militias engaged in deadly conflicts over land and mineral resources in eastern Congo.

The UN has accused it of carrying out possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The militia has killed hundreds of civilians in Ituri in recent years and forced thousands to flee their homes, according to the UN.

Codeco has also been blamed for killing many foreigners in the African nation.

Beijing condemned the attack on a “Chinese-funded private enterprise” which it said caused the death and disappearance of several Chinese citizens.

“We urge the DRC to pursue and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law as soon as possible,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said. Beijing was working with Congolese authorities to locate the missing, she added.

Ms Ning urged Congo’s government to beef up security for Chinese people and enterprises in the country. “Those already in high-risk areas should be evacuated as soon as possible,” she said.

Congo has granted mining concessions to many private Chinese operators that partner with local licence holders, providing funding and machinery and often bringing in Chinese workers.

Death toll mounts as floods in India displace over 2 million people

More than 2.1 million people have been displaced due to floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains in the northeastern Indian state of Assam.

At least six people died this week, taking the death toll from heavy downpours since May to 52, the state disaster management authority said on Thursday.

More than 386,000 people are taking shelter in 515 relief camps set up in the 24 flood-affected districts.

The water levels in the Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, have dropped marginally, but the flood situation remains grim, a state disaster management spokesperson said.

“Western Assam’s Dhubri and northern Assam’s Darrang are the worst-affected districts where 649,000 and 190,000 people have been displaced.”

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the floods were caused mainly by the breaching of eight embankments and rain in the upstream state of Arunachal Pradesh. “No human intervention can stop it,” he said.

The Brahmaputra, which flows 1,280km in Assam state before running through Bangladesh, is one of 13 major rivers flowing above the danger level.

Incessant rainfall this year has made the Brahmaputra, already known for its powerful and unpredictable flow, even more dangerous to live near.

There are more than 2,000 villages settled on islands in the middle of the river.

Animals in the state’s Kaziranga National Park, famed as the home of the one-horned rhino, were moving to higher ground to escape the floods.

At least 31 animals – 30 hog deer and one otter pup – died after flood waters inundated nearly 80 per cent of the reserve.

Forest guards rescued 82 animals, including a baby rhino.

In neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China, landslides have wiped out several roads.

At least seven districts in the central and eastern parts of the state have been completely cut off by landslides and flash floods.

In Bangladesh, downstream from India, nearly 1.8 million people have been impacted by the floods, the nation’s disaster management agency said.

Fans faint and suffer injuries during India’s T20 World Cup parade

Two people suffered injuries and several fainted as thousands of fans packed the streets of Mumbai for the Indian cricket team’s T20 World Cup victory parade, barely days after a crowd crush at a religious function killed 121 people in northern India.

Several fans also reported trouble breathing as crowds jostled to see the victorious players and the World Cup trophy being paraded in an open-top bus on Thursday night, police said.

The parade left in its wake hundreds of slippers strewn on the roads, collapsed police barricades, damaged vehicles and broken signboards.

The scenes were reminiscent of Tuesday’s devastating stampede in Hathras in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Fans packed Marine Drive, a 3km promenade along the Arabian sea, as the victorious players arrived for a brief roadshow on Thursday evening before heading to the Wankhede stadium for a facilitation ceremony.

The Mumbai police urged commuters to avoid Marine Drive due to the “heavy rush of fans”.

A video showed a policeman carrying a woman who appeared to have fainted as he struggled to make his way out of the crowd.

Rishab Mahesh Yadav, a fan, said he slipped and fell unconscious. “The crowd was swelling. I fell and got choked. I became unconscious and was taken to a nearby hospital, where I received treatment. I feel fine now. The crowd was more than necessary. There was mismanagement. The police were also not alert,” he told news agency ANI.

As skipper Rohit Sharma and his players brandished the World Cup trophy, jubilant fans celebrated by dancing.

The team arrived in Delhi on Thursday, three days after their thrilling final victory against South Africa, ending over a decade-long hunt for silverware.

They were stranded in Barbados as hurricane Beryl passed through the Caribbean nation on Monday, causing high winds and destroying property.

The team met prime minister Narendra Modi in the national capital before heading to Mumbai.

Leave a Reply