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Million urged to seek shelter as floods and landslides hit Japan

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More than a million people have been urged to seek shelter as torrential rain triggered floods and landslides in western Japan, leaving at least one dead and two missing.

Authorities in Hiroshima and the northern part of Kyushu issued their highest evacuation alert as the weather agency reported unprecedented levels of rain in the area on Saturday.

Under the non-compulsory alert, about 1.4 million residents have been asked to leave their homes immediately, public broadcaster NHK reported.

TV footage showed rescuers towing residents through submerged streets on a lifeboat in the city of Kurume in Fukuoka, while a muddy stream began to overflow in neighbouring Saga prefecture.

A 59-year-old woman died and two of her family members were missing after a landslide destroyed two houses in Unzen, Nagasaki prefecture, a local official said.

“More than 150 troops, police and firefighters were dispatched to the site for rescue operations,” Takumi Kumasaki told AFP. “They are carefully searching for the missing residents, while watching out for further mudslides as the heavy rain continues.”

Downpours are forecast for several more days over a large swathe of the country. Scientists say the climate crisis is intensifying the risk of heavy rain in Japan and elsewhere, because a warmer atmosphere holds more water.

“Unprecedented levels of heavy rain have been observed,” Yushi Adachi, a meteorological agency official, told reporters in Tokyo. “It’s highly likely that some kind of disaster has already occurred. The maximum alert is needed even in areas where risks of landslides and flooding are usually not so high.”

Downpours last month caused a devastating landslide in the central resort town of Atami that killed 23 people, with four still missing.

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The Colombian Caribbean, tonight, in “Basques around the World”

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Reporter Pedro Mardones and cameraman Raúl Pérez set course, today , to the cradle of Colombian magical realism that Gabriel García Márquez himself fell in love with: the Colombian Caribbean. Bathed by the Caribbean Sea and the Magdalena River, Cartagena de Indias and Barranquilla conserve their colonial architecture intact, as well as the color and seasoning of the descendants of colonists and African slaves. Hand in hand with the Basques Asier Tapia, Juan Mari Isunza, Sister Alicia Ibáñez and Oier Urteaga will tour this region of northern Colombia in ” Basques around the World “

Between fruits and songs, the joy of the palenqueras will welcome us to Cartagena de Indias . Surrounded by its 11-kilometer-long wall, Cartagena was one of the main ports in Spanish America. For its hegemony empires and pirates fought, being the Basque admiral Blas de Lezo the architect of the victory in the most legendary battle against the English Crown.

The counterpoint of modernity is provided by Barranquilla, Curramba la Bella, la Arenosa. Homeland of Shakira and Sofía Vergara, Barranquilla looks to the future through the rehabilitation of its boardwalk in front of the Magdalena River, the main river port in Colombia. The city lives by and for its Carnival, the most important in the country, which perfectly reflects the character of Barranquilla.

The journey will end at the spectacular white sand beaches and turquoise blue waters of this Caribbean region. Playa Blanca, on Isla Barú, offers visitors the Caribbean flavor of local bathers and the warmth of its people. Those who prefer a more exclusive getaway will find their paradise in the Rosario Islands, ideal for snorkeling due to its ancient coral reefs.

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Pentagon ‘deeply concerned’ by sweeping Taliban gains in Afghanistan

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The Pentagon is “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, as the Taliban completed their sweep of Afghanistan’s south on Friday, taking four more provincial capitals in a lightning offensive that brought them closer to the capital, Kabul, just weeks before the US is set to officially end its two-decade war.

The Biden administration has begun rushing 3,000 troops to Kabul’s airport to help with a partial evacuation of the US embassy. The move highlights the stunning speed of the Taliban takeover of much of the country, including their capture on Thursday of Kandahar, the second-largest city and the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

“We are certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving,” the Pentagon press spokesman, John Kirby, said at a briefing on Friday afternoon.

Kirby hesitated for several moments after a reporter asked him if the defense department had been surprised by the speed and ease with which the extremist insurgent force captured great swaths of the country with little resistance, despite years of US assistance to the Afghan government and training for Afghan troops.

“I’m not going to speculate about ‘surprise’,” Kirby said of the most recent developments.

“We’re obviously watching this just like you’re watching this and seeing it happen in real time, and it’s deeply concerning.”

Kirby said Kabul was “not right now in an imminent threat environment”, but added: “If you just look at what the Taliban’s been doing, you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul. Now what they want to do if they achieve that isolation I think only they can speak to.”

Asked if Kabul was isolated now, Kirby deflected, saying, “I don’t want to get into a special intelligence assessment on the battlefield.”

The Pentagon called on Afghans to unite in the face of the extremist power grab. Kirby said: “No outcome has to be inevitable.”

Joe Biden announced in April that he planned to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by 11 September this year, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US in 2001.

The United Nations secretary general António Guterres, on Friday called on the Taliban to immediately halt their offensive in Afghanistan, warning that “Afghanistan is spinning out of control.

“The message from the international community to those on the warpath must be clear: seizing power through military force is a losing proposition. That can only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan,” Guterres said.

Molly Montgomery, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, expressed serious concerns for Afghan women and girls as Taliban forces continue to advance towards Kabul.

“Woke up with a heavy heart, thinking about all the Afghan women and girls I worked with during my time in Kabul,” Montgomery said on Friday in a now-deleted tweet.

“They were the beneficiaries of many of the gains we made, and now they stand to lose everything. We empowered them to lead, and now we are powerless to protect them.”

Withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan was a central part of Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, and had the support of a majority of Americans, according to polling.

But many Republicans have nonetheless been highly critical of Biden’s decision to follow through on the withdrawal. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, compared the Kabul embassy evacuation efforts to “the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975”

“Afghanistan is careening toward a massive, predictable, and preventable disaster,” McConnell said in a statement released on Thursday.

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, accused the president of failing to “execute a responsible exit”.

“But in a matter of months, the Biden admin has led a botched withdrawal process that has now handed an entire country over to terrorists,” he said on Twitter.

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