Aid rules have not hit relief bid – Johnson
The UK government is seeking a way of ensuring that the UK can use aid cash to help victims of Hurricane Irma, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.
Downing Street has made clear that Prime Minister Theresa May is “frustrated” with rules set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which are stopping aid money being used for disaster relief in the British overseas territories hit by the devastating storm.
Mr Johnson, who returned yesterday from a two-day visit to view the recovery, said it was “natural” that the money should be used to help those affected in Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands and ministers including International Development Secretary Priti Patel were seeking a means of doing so.
“I think anybody with an ounce of compassion would like to see spending by our government helping these people get back on their feet,” he said.
Downing Street insisted the UK’s assistance effort has not been hampered by the rules which exclude Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands from support from the aid budget because their incomes are too high.
US President Donald Trump meanwhile met federal and state leaders in Florida as he surveyed damage from Irma.
“We have been very, very fast and we had to be,” Mr Trump said at an airport hangar where he was joined by Vice-President Mike Pence.
The president said his administration is “trying to keep them as happy as we can under the circumstances. In many cases, they’ve lost their homes.”
Eight people died in a sweltering home that lost its air conditioning in the storm. The deaths in the Rehabilitation Centre in Hollywood Hills, Florida, shocked the state’s leaders.
“Unfathomable,” governor Rick Scott said. “Inexcusable,” was senator Bill Nelson’s verdict. The snow leopard, long considered an endangered species, has been upgraded to “vulnerable”.
However, experts warned that the new classification does not mean the animals are safe.
Snow leopards still face threats including poaching and loss of prey in their high Himalayan habitat. “The species still faces ‘a high risk of extinction in the wild’ and is likely still declining – just not at the rate previously thought,” said Tom McCarthy, of the big cat conservation group Panthera.
Reassurances on war games
Military officials in Belarus have sought to calm Western fears about major war games with Russia involving thousands of troops, tanks and aircraft.
Some members of Nato, including the Baltic States and Poland, have criticised a lack of transparency and queried Moscow’s intentions.
Beetle threat to ash trees
North American ash trees face extinction due to an invasive beetle which is destroying their populations, conservation experts have warned.
More than eight billion ash trees could be wiped out as the emerald ash borer beetle, which arrived in Michigan from Asia in the late 1990s via infested shipping pallets. Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont was yesterday preparing to open the “yes” campaign for an independence referendum from Spain, planned for October 1.
Spain’s government insists the vote is illegal and courts have suspended it pending a formal decision by judges.
Spanish police have orders to prevent preparations for the ballot.