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  • More powerful tremors hit Turkey - as WHO warns death toll could rise to more than 20,000
    February 7, 2023 at 12:00

    More powerful tremors have hit Turkey through the night, after thousands of people were killed and many more injured in two powerful earthquakes. .

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    A 5.4 magnitude tremor struck the eastern side of the country at 7.10am (UK time) this morning, according to the US Geological Study. Just half an hour earlier, a 4.5 magnitude aftershock was recorded.

    There have been at least 14 large quakes in the region since midnight and around 285 aftershocks.

    Trapped residents unreachable after earthquake amid freezing weather - latest updates

    At least 5,100 people have died across both Turkey and Syria - with the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying fatalities could reach as high as 20,000 in the coming days.

    The first 7.8 magnitude earthquake happened before dawn on Monday, when many people would have been sleeping.

    And while rescuers have spent the night scouring rubble, bitterly cold weather could reduce the time they have to find survivors.

    More than 7,800 people in Turkey have been rescued across 10 provinces so far - and crews from around the world have been making their way to the epicentre to help.

    Countries around the world dispatched teams to assist in the rescue efforts, and Turkey's disaster management agency said more than 24,400 emergency personnel are now on the ground.

    But with such a wide swath of territory hit by the quake and nearly 6,000 buildings confirmed to have collapsed in Turkey alone, their efforts are spread thin.

    In Syria, the earthquake and subsequent tremors further weakened the foundations of buildings that have borne the brunt of shelling and airstrikes during a decade of unrest.

    Read more:
    Before and after images show quake's devastation
    Syrian hospital overwhelmed by injuries

    The latest figures suggest more than 13,000 in Turkey have been injured - and in the city of Iskenderun, there was an enormous pile of debris where an intensive care unit once stood.

    "We have a patient who was taken into surgery but we don't know what happened," said Tulin, a woman in her 30s who was stood outside the hospital and wiping tears from her eyes.

    Adelheid Marschang, WHO Senior Emergency Officer, said Turkey had a strong capacity to respond to the crisis but that the main unmet needs in the immediate and mid-term would be across the border in Syria, already grappling with a years-long humanitarian crisis due to the civil war and a cholera outbreak.

    "This is a crisis on top of multiple crises in the affected region," she said at the organization's board meeting in Geneva.

    "All over Syria, the needs are the highest after nearly 12 years of protracted, complex crisis, while humanitarian funding continues to decline."

    She said that some 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, were likely to be exposed in both countries following the earthquake and its aftershocks.

    Desperate scenes

    Tens of thousands have been left homeless across Turkey and Syria - and spent last night in the cold.

    About 20 miles away from the epicentre of the earthquake in Gaziantep, people took refuge in shopping centres, mosques, stadiums and community centres.

    Around 380,000 survivors are currently being sheltered in government dormitories or hotels, according to Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay.

    In a rebel-held enclave of Syria, four million people were already displaced before the powerful tremors struck - and many live in buildings wrecked by military bombardments.

    A mound of concrete and steel roads lay where a multi-storey building once stood in Aleppo, with a thin young man expressing fears that 12 families could be trapped.

    The Syrian White Helmets, a rescue service in rebel-held territory, said they were in a "race against time" to save the lives of all those under rubble.

    Imran Bahur's apartment building in the Turkish city of Adana was also destroyed. She said her 18-month-old grandson was on the 12th floor, and begged for help in rescuing him.

    Search crews working in Diyarbakir, another Turkish city, occasionally raised their hands and called for quiet - listening for signs of life.

    Read more:
    Terrifying video shows block of flats collapse in 10 seconds
    Moment young girl pulled from rubble of building in Syria

    Syria asks for help

    Syria's UN ambassador Bassam Sabbagh has requested help from the United Nations - receiving assurance that member states will do everything possible in this "very difficult situation".

    He went on to stress that the government is ready to help and coordinate aid deliveries "to all Syrians in all territories of Syria".

    But as well as harsh winter weather, damage to roads and fuel shortages have hampered the UN's response to the earthquake there.

    "The infrastructure is damaged, the roads that we used to use for humanitarian work are damaged, we have to be creative in how to get to the people... but we are working hard," UN resident coordinator El-Mostafa Benlamlih told the Reuters news agency.

    Erdogan declares seven days of national mourning

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spoken to his US counterpart Joe Biden.

    The president has also declared the 10 cities impacted by the quake a "disaster zone" and announced that they will remain in a state of emergency for three months.

    The White House said Mr Biden underscored "the readiness of the United States to provide any and all needed assistance" to Turkey - a NATO ally.

    Two, 79-person urban search and rescue teams have been deployed by Washington - and discussions are ongoing about other forms of relief, including health services.

    Rescue workers from the UK, Czech Republic and Germany have also been making their way to the epicentre.

  • Mother of missing woman with newborn baby tells 'darling' daughter in open letter 'I want to help you'
    February 7, 2023 at 11:17

    The mother of a missing aristocrat who has been missing with her newborn baby and convicted sex offender boyfriend for more than a month has written an open letter to her daughter, pledging to support her..

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    Virginie de Selliers has vowed to stand by Constance Marten, 35, and her grandchild, telling her: "You are not alone in this situation. We will support you in whatever way we can."

    Police have been searching for Miss Marten, who is from a wealthy aristocratic family, and her partner Mark Gordon, 48, since their car was found burning on the M61 in Bolton, Greater Manchester, on 5 January.

    It is believed the couple are sleeping rough in a blue tent in Sussex and there are fears for the safety of the baby, who has not had any medical attention since it was born in early January.

    In the letter, sent to the PA news agency by a representative for the family, Mrs de Selliers says she wants to help Miss Marten care for her baby in a "kind and warm environment".

    She writes: "Open Letter to My Darling Daughter Constance.

    "I know you well enough; you are focused, intelligent, passionate and complex with so much to offer the world. So many of your friends have come forward to say such positive things about you, assuring us of their warmest love and support for you and your family.

    "You have made choices in your personal adult life which have proven to be challenging, however I respect them, I know that you want to keep your precious newborn child at all costs.

    "With all that you have gone through this baby cannot be removed from you but instead needs looking after in a kind and warm environment.

    "I want to help you and my grandchild. You deserve the opportunity to build a new life, establish a stable family and enjoy the same freedoms that most of us have.

    "Constance, I will do what I can to stand alongside you and my grandchild. You are not alone in this situation. We will support you in whatever way we can.

    "I am ready to do what it takes for you to recover from this awful experience so you can thrive and enjoy motherhood.

    "I love you and miss you, Mum xx."

    Read more:
    Where have the couple been spotted?
    Couple and baby sleeping in tent in sub-zero temperatures, police say

    It is the first time that Miss Marten's mother has said anything publicly about her daughter's disappearance.

    Last month her father Napier Marten, reportedly a former page to the late Queen, urged her to contact police.

    The missing couple have so far avoided being traced by the police by moving around frequently and keeping their faces covered in CCTV images.

    A £10,000 reward is on offer for information that leads to them being found safe.

    The couple travelled from Bolton to Liverpool, then to Harwich in Essex, then to east London and then to Newhaven in Sussex, where they were seen near the ferry port on 8 January.

    Miss Marten was a promising drama student when she first met Mr Gordon in 2016.

    Gordon served 20 years in prison in the US for rape and battery committed when he was 14.

  • BP to miss key climate target as annual profits hit record £23bn
    February 7, 2023 at 11:33

    BP has revealed it is to miss a key climate goal while announcing record annual profits..

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    The London-based firm said its main earnings measure, underlying replacement cost profit, came in at $27.7bn (£23bn) for 2022.

    That is more than double the previous year's sum despite weaker oil and gas costs knocking its performance in the final quarter.

    The earnings figures further inflamed the debate on whether big oil and gas firms should be handing more back through windfall taxes amid the energy-driven cost of living crisis.

    It comes just days after Shell reported profits of £32.2bn.

    Both firms suffered big losses during 2020 as the COVID pandemic hammered energy costs due to a lack of demand.

    But the recovery in oil and gas prices since - latterly guided by Russia's war in Ukraine which squeezed supplies, particularly across Europe - has prompted national governments including the UK to impose windfall taxes on the sector.

    Natural gas costs, while well down on their peaks, remain high compared to pre-pandemic levels.

    BP admitted, alongside the figures, that it now expects carbon emissions from its oil and gas production to fall by between 20-30% by 2030 when compared to 2019 levels.

    Its previous target had been a 35-40% drop in emissions.

    It blamed the move on anticipated higher levels of output to meet global needs - a shift that was slammed by climate campaigners including Greenpeace which called for government intervention.

    Chief executive Bernard Looney revealed £6.6bn of additional investment in energy transition projects and a further £6.6bn for oil and gas to meet energy security demands while defending its performance.

    Domestic critics, including unions, climate groups and Labour, want additional tax clawbacks.

    They argue energy firms' earnings have been gained at the expense of wider society because wholesale prices have caused decades-high inflation and left households and businesses nursing record bills on many fronts.

    Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement last November had raised the energy profits levy on UK extraction activities to 35% from 25%, as the government sought to recover more on the back of its continuing energy bill support.

    It left the effective tax rate at 75% because of the 40% corporation tax charge already applied, though some investment relief is granted under the levy.

    Despite that hit, energy company dividends have continued to rise on the wider, more substantial earnings. BP raised its award by 10% helping its share price rise by 4%.

    That is all welcome news for pension values as the vast majority of funds are obliged to hold top tier stocks.

    Shareholders have been further rewarded through share buy-backs. BP said it would repurchase $2.75bn of shares over the next three months after buying $11.7bn in 2022.

    Shell said last week that it expected to pay around £100m under the levy's rules for its UK offshore activities last year - taking its global windfall tax bill to almost £2bn.

    Its total global tax contribution was £10.8bn.

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    BP had earlier forecast a 2022 UK windfall tax sum of around £678m but its results statement suggested a tax effect of £1.8bn.

    The UK's largest producer of oil and gas in the North Sea, Harbour Energy, blamed the impact of the levy for a decision last month to cut jobs.

    It is expected to reveal the figure payable to the Treasury next month having warned investors in January that the sum would be materially higher than expected at the time of its half year results.

    Harbour has said that the increase to the levy had forced it to review its North Sea activities at a time when the country badly needed domestic supplies to bolster energy security.

    Responding to BP's figures, Labour's Ed Miliband demanded the government go further.

    "In just eight weeks' time, the government plans to allow the energy price cap to rise to £3,000. Labour would use a proper windfall tax to stop prices going up in April.

    "When it comes to oil and gas interests, Rishi Sunak is too weak to stand up for the British people. Only Labour is on your side - with a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis now, and a long term plan to cut bills for good and make Britain a clean energy superpower."

  • Two men jailed over knifepoint robbery of Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife in their home
    February 7, 2023 at 12:07

    Two men have been jailed over the knifepoint robbery of Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife in their home..

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    Romario Henry and Ali Sesay were sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday.

    Henry, 31, of Bell Green, Lewisham, south-east London, denied two counts of robbery but was found guilty following a trial and jailed for 15 years.

    Sesay, 28, of Holding Street, Rainham, Kent, admitted two counts of robbery and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

    It comes after the court heard how the Olympic cyclist had a "Rambo-style" knife held against his face by balaclava-wearing men, who broke into his home and stole a pair of watches.

    The 37-year-old and his wife, Peta, were woken up when the intruders broke into the property in Ongar, Essex, at around 2.30am on 27 November 2021.

    After hearing noise coming from downstairs, Mrs Cavendish went to investigate.

    Spotting the intruders, she attempted to shout to her husband to get back into the bedroom.

    Cavendish, who at the time was recovering from a cycling injury, attempted to press a panic alarm but was jumped on by an intruder who began punching him in the head.

    He told the court that one of the men took out a knife and "held it in my face" before threatening to "stab him up" in front of his children.

    Two Richard Mille watches, worth £400,000 and £300,000, were taken in the robbery.

    Judge David Turner KC told the defendants as he sentenced them: "This was planned, targeted, orchestrated, ruthless offending aimed at an internationally known sportsman and his wife who happened to be brand ambassadors for exceptionally valuable Richard Mille watches."

  • St Andrews announces U-turn on Swilcan Bridge paving after backlash from golf fans against 'DIY patio' look
    February 7, 2023 at 11:51

    Renovation work around the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course in St Andrews is to be undone after famous golfers led a backlash against the "horrible" changes..

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    Paving was recently installed at the landmark, which is estimated to be about 700 years old.

    It is a popular spot for tourists following in the footsteps of their golfing heroes.

    Greats like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, the late Arnold Palmer, and 'Old' Tom Morris, seen by many as the father of modern golf, have been pictured on the bridge in the past.

    As a result of the footfall from visitors, St Andrews Links Trust said the turfed approach regularly falls into disrepair.

    However, the move to install a new round paved area was widely criticised on social media.

    Critics included legends of the game.

    Former Open champion Sir Nick Faldo tweeted: "If you've travelled halfway around the world for your bucket list round at St Andrews, would you rather leave with a bit of historic dirt on your shoes or a few cement mix scraps?"

    While US golf fan and No Laying Up blogger, Tron Carter, said it looked "like a DIY backyard patio", adding: "I know it's tough to grow grass in that high traffic area, but my goodness. Horrible."

    Twitter user UK Golf Guy also likened the repair to a "garden patio".

    In a U-turn on Monday, St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the golf course, announced that the area will be reinstated with turf.

    In a statement, the trust said it had trialled "a number of solutions" in recent years to find a long-term fix to the wear and tear.

    It added: "However while this installation would have provided some protection, in this instance we believe we are unable to create a look which is in keeping with its iconic setting and have taken the decision to remove it.

    "The widespread attention and commentary is indicative of the regard in which St Andrews is held around the world and we are conscious of our role in preserving this heritage while recognising its hallowed grounds have continued to evolve to meet demands for more than 600 years.

    "In the coming days our team will be reinstating the area with turf. We would like to thank golfers for their patience as we continue this work. In the meantime we will continue to explore alternative options for a permanent solution and will work with all relevant partners, including Fife Council, and key stakeholders."


Last updated 2023-02-07 12:08:03