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Global warming blamed for three cyclones battering India in three years

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By S Venkat Narayan,

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Cyclone Tauktae is the third cyclone from the Arabian Sea to batter India’s west coast in as many consecutive years. Favourable conditions reigning in the Arabian Sea, such as ocean heat and high sea surface temperature due to global warming, are responsible, experts say.

Tauktae intensified from a very severe to an extremely severe cyclonic storm rapidly on Monday, taking weather experts and scientists by surprise. “Tauktae intensified very rapidly this morning. We did not state that it would intensify to an extremely severe cyclone in our forecast. But it did because of extremely favourable oceanic and atmospheric conditions,” said M Mohapatra, director general, India Meteorological Department (IMD).

While forecasting the trajectory of Tauktae at 2.20am on Monday, IMD said it would intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm and cross the Gujarat coast on May 18 (Tuesday). But, by 8.15 am, another IMD bulletin said Tauktae already intensified to an extremely severe cyclonic storm with a maximum wind speed of 180-190 kmph gusting to 210 kmph and that it would cross the Gujarat coast on Monday night.

Tauktae is in keeping with the trend of an increasing number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea. Time was when most of those affecting India were on the other side, in the Bay of Bengal. Scientists have no doubts as to why this is happening — warmer seas on account of the climate crisis.

“Rapid intensification of cyclones is a response to climate change and ocean warming, and cyclone forecast models have a hard time in picking them up. We need to incorporate this in forecast models and be prepared on the ground for future…,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.

Tauktae also intensified very rapidly from a depression to a cyclone on Friday. “With Cyclone Tauktae, this will be the fourth consecutive year of a pre-monsoon cyclone over the Arabian Sea. This is also the third consecutive year when a cyclone has come very close to the west coast of India. Sea surface temperatures in Arabian Sea have increased rapidly during the past century and this has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of cyclones in the Arabian Sea… global warming has presented us with new challenges… Improving the Indian Ocean Observing System and incorporating global warming signals in the weather models can help us tackle the challenges,” Koll added.

Still, some experts warned of this. “Conditions are extremely favourable for Tauktae’s rapid intensification. Ocean heat potential is above normal; sea surface temperatures are 1-2°C above normal… We should be prepared,” Sunitha Devi, who studies cyclones at IMD, said on Thursday when a low-pressure area formed over Arabian Sea.

“We are seeing very intense cyclones form over Arabian Sea, they also intensify rapidly… It happens because ocean heat content is higher and sea surface temperatures are also higher… Sometimes our models are able capture this but not always,” said M Rajeevan, Secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences.



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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers

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Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb

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One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention

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Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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