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Eleven newborn babies died in a hospital fire in the western Senegalese city of Tivaouane, the president of the country said late Wednesday.
Just before midnight in Senegal, Macky Sall announced on Twitter that 11 infants had died in the blaze.
"I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital," he tweeted.
"To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy," Sall added.
The tragedy occurred at Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the transport hub of Tivaouane, and was caused by "a short circuit", according to Senegalese politician Diop Sy.
"The fire spread very quickly," he said.
The city's mayor Demba Diop said "three babies were saved".
According to local media, the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital was newly inaugurated.
Health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva attending a meeting with the World Health Organization, said he would return to Senegal immediately.
"This situation is very unfortunate and extremely painful," he said on radio. "An investigation is under way to see what happened."
The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other incidents at public health facilities in Senegal, where there is great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.
In the northern town of Linguere in late April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed. The mayor of that town had cited an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.
'Enough is enough'
Wednesday's accident also comes over a month after the nation mourned the death of a pregnant woman who waited in vain for a Caesarean section.
The woman, named Astou Sokhna, had arrived at a hospital in the northern city of Louga in pain. The staff had refused to accommodate her request for a C-section, saying that it was not scheduled.
She died April 1, 20 hours after she arrived.
Sokhna's death caused a wave of outrage across the country on the dire state of Senegal's public health system, and health minister Sarr acknowledged two weeks later that the death could have been avoided.
Three midwives -- on duty the night Sokhna died -- were sentenced on May 11 by the High Court of Louga to six months of suspended imprisonment for "failure to assist a person in danger" in connection to her case.
Amnesty International's Senegal director Seydi Gassama said his organisation had called for an inspection and upgrade for neonatology services in hospitals across Senegal after the "atrocious" death of the four babies in Linguere.
With Wednesday's fresh tragedy, Amnesty "urges the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine responsibility and punish the culprits, no matter the level they are at in the state apparatus", he tweeted.
Opposition lawmaker Mamadou Lamine Diallo also responded with outrage to the Tivaouane blaze that killed the babies.
"More babies burned in a public hospital... this is unacceptable @MackySall," he said.
"We suffer with the families to whom we offer our condolences. Enough is enough."
© 2022 AFP
Britain brings out the bunting next week for Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee, with four days of public events to mark her 70 years on the throne.
Across the country, red, white and blue Union Jack are being hung for street parties, picnics and barbecues over four days from Thursday to Sunday.
With two public holidays and the weekend, retailers and the hospitality sector in particular are hoping for a sales boost, after a difficult few years.
Harvir Dhillon, an economist at the British Retail Consortium, predicted a rush to stock up on party food and booze.
"Fresh food, sales of alcohol and particularly items adorned with the Union Jack are expected to perform well," he told AFP.
The British Beer and Pub Association estimated that 90 million pints will be sold, giving a 105-million-pound ($132 million, 124 million euros) boost to the trade.
Closing time has been extended from 11:00 pm to 1:00 am from Thursday to Saturday night.
Jason Smith, who runs the White Swan pub in Otley, near Leeds, northern England, said Covid restrictions and closures had been a "real blow" to business.
"But this will be an opportunity to bounce back, so we're keeping fingers crossed for nice weather as well to lift spirits and celebrations even more."
Events begin on Thursday with Trooping the Colour, the military parade that has officially marked the British monarch's birthday for more than 250 years.
Four days of public events start next Thursday with the Trooping the Colour military parade JUSTIN TALLIS AFP
In previous years, the queen has taken the salute herself on horseback at Horse Guards Parade, near her central London home at Buckingham Palace.
But at 96, and with well-documented problems walking and standing, senior royals will deputize.
Heir to the throne Prince Charles, 73, most recently stood in for his mother at the State Opening of Parliament -- a key ceremonial engagement.
The queen has been largely out of action at public engagements since last October, when she spent a night in hospital after unspecified tests.
Last-minute cancellations and a bout of Covid earlier this year cast doubt on whether she would participate in full at the landmark jubilee.
No other British monarch in history has reigned for 70 years.
"If we don't see the queen over the jubilee, there'll be millions of people disappointed," veteran royal photographer Arthur Edwards told AFP recently.
But she has made several surprise appearances in recent weeks, at the opening of a new east-west rail link in London that bears her name, and at the Windsor Horse Show.
She walked with a stick on those occasions and toured exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show this week in a deluxe chauffeur-driven buggy.
The pomp and pageantry of the Trooping the Colour has typically ended with an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and a ceremonial fly-past.
But numbers have been limited to working royals only, leaving no place for self-exiled grandson Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan, nor her disgraced second son Prince Andrew.
But reports have claimed Andrew -- who in February settled a US civil claim for sexual assault -- could be involved in the jubilee in some form.
Harry and Meghan have also promised to fly in from the United States with their young children Archie and Lilibet to take part in the wider celebrations.
Andrew's appearance in March supporting his mother at her late husband Prince Philip's memorial service caused outrage, and royal officials are reportedly concerned about a media circus around Harry and Meghan.
As in previous jubilees, events have been designed to reflect the queen's position as head of state and a national figurehead representing tradition and history.
The whole event is characteristically British, such as a pudding competition, and quirky world record attempts for the biggest cream tea party and longest picnic.
Events end on Sunday with a people's parade, with puppets including of the queen's beloved corgis ADRIAN DENNIS AFP
Participants in a giant public parade that tops off the events on Sunday will be familiar to anyone acquainted with British popular culture since 1952.
But Bollywood dancers and a Caribbean carnival will also reflect the changing nature of British society since the start of her reign from one predominantly white and Christian to multicultural and multi-faith.
The most recent YouGov poll gave the queen a 75-percent approval rating, maintaining her position as Britain's most favored royal.
But British Future, a think-tank, said the monarchy she heads and will soon pass on needs to do more to broaden its appeal to the young and ethnic minorities to remain relevant.
© 2022 AFP
The darting eyes of the sullen boy sitting all alone on a slab of a destroyed Ukrainian apartment tower moved to the sound of shellfire.
An overnight attack had leveled an abandoned building facing the Russians approaching through the nearby woods.
Yevgen and his mother had already escaped the ruins of one village smoking on the horizon of Ukraine's increasingly besieged war zone capital Kramatorsk.
The 13-year-old was now contemplating having to run again in the fourth month of Russia's invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.
"That was a 22," the serious-looking boy from the ruined hamlet of Galyna volunteered from the edge of his severed block of concrete.
The booms of what could have been 122-calibre shells rolled in from the environs of one of the biggest battles of the eastern front.
Yevgen kicked a few boulders and wandered through the rubble that layered a yard once filled with children from families operating the surrounding factories and farms.
"I am not scared," he declared with a resolute shake of the head.
"I got used to the shelling in Galyna."
- Battle of Galyna -
That Yevgen appeared to distinguish the calibre of exploding shells -- adopting the shorthand used by Russian and Ukrainian soldiers -- worried his mother to no end.
Lyubov Zakharova had spent much of the war trying to keep Yevgen off the streets.
They ended up sheltering for a week in a Galyna school basement from a frightening battle between Russian tanks and Ukrainian forces dug in the surrounding hills.
Zakharova then risked it and made a mad 20-kilometer (12-mile) dash with Yevgen and his two little sisters for the relative safety of Kramatorsk.
"I stay up all night worrying about them," the 33-year-old single mother said from the garden of an abandoned cottage she found near the now-destroyed Kramatorsk tower.
"My two-year-old has started losing her hair from the stress."
Yevgen stood with his hands folded behind his mother's skirt and stared at his shoes.
But his head would jerk sharply at the rumbles coming from the front.
"You barely want to allow the children to go out and play," the mother said.
"The kids keep asking to go out and I never want to let them. I will probably have to move us again."
War zone capital
The battle at Galyna allowed the Russians to edge a little closer to Kramatorsk -- a rival seat of power for the Donbas war zone to one Kremlin-backed fighters set up in Donetsk.
The largely deserted city is locally famous for the particularly bleak tone of the air raid sirens blaring at seemingly random hours of both day and night.
Its administration buildings and factories have mostly been either bombed or closed.
It has had no gas for nearly a week and is starting to lose power.
This made Galina Mukhina all the more incredulous when her recently married son -- safely ensconced in Poland -- decided to bring his young family back to Kramatorsk.
"I am scared for their little children," Mukhina said while sweeping out shards of glass and plaster that went flying across her apartment in the overnight attack next door.
"I have been telling them it is not safe. Maybe they will listen now."
Refugee and returnees
That Yevgen and his mother were thinking of fleeing -- while Mukhina's son was planning to return to -- the same devastated city highlights one of the great contradictions of the war.
Some return because they have run out of savings and others because they feel the longing of home.
But retired police investigator Oleksandr Rytov said he does not expect his own adult children to ever come back from their newly found refuge in Germany.
"We are probably witnessing the start of a new emigration wave among the young," the 55-year-old said while clearing out his own shelled-out apartment in the neighboring city of Bakhmut.
"This is a war. No one knows what will happen in the next 10 minutes. It is impossible to predict a thing."
Yet Yevgen's young mind seemed firmly set.
The 13-year-old kept staring at the destroyed building and then shooting furtive glances at the battles raging across the horizon.
He brooded for a few minutes and then spoke in a sudden burst.
"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin did this to us. This is the Russian world he promised us," he said with a nod toward the leveled tower.
"I will hate the Russians for the rest of my life," the boy angrily whispered. "At least the Americans support us."
© 2022 AFP