The United States shot down a "high-altitude" object as it flew over Alaska near the northern Canadian border on Friday, White House and Pentagon officials confirmed amid ongoing concerns over Chinese surveillance balloons flying over North America.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby would not say if the object was a balloon or what entity owned it. He said the object, about the size of a "small car," was flying at 40,000 feet and posed a "reasonable threat" to civilian aircraft.
Pentagon spokesperson Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the object was flying in a "northeasterly" direction when it was taken down by a U.S. F-22 fighter jet.
Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed in a statement Friday the object did not fly into Canadian airspace.
President Joe Biden gave the order to shoot down the object "out of an abundance of caution" and at the Pentagon's recommendation, Kirby added.
The incident came a week after U.S. and Canadian officials first confirmed a Chinese surveillance balloon had flown over Canada and across the continental U.S. over the course of several days. The balloon was ultimately shot down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday.
Kirby said the object shot down Friday was "much, much smaller" than the Chinese balloon and was not carrying a "significant payload." Efforts are underway to recover the object, which was first detected Thursday evening.
Torrential rain has triggered flooding and landslides in coastal areas of Brazil’s southeast, killing at least 36 people and displacing hundreds of others.
In Sao Paulo state, television and social media footage from the town of Sao Sebastiao on Sunday showed entire neighbourhoods under water, debris from hillside houses swept away by mud, as well as flooded highways and cars destroyed by fallen trees.
The town, 200km (124 miles) north of the city of Sao Paulo and where many people from the capital spend the holiday weekend ahead of the Christian festival of Lent, was one of the hardest hit, as a record 600mm (24 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours, city officials said.
At least 35 people died in San Sebastiao, according to a statement from the Sao Paolo state government. A seven year old girl was also killed in the neighbouring town of Ubatuba, news reports said.
Sao Paulo state Governor Tarcisio de Freitas declared a state of emergency in five towns along the coast.
His government said 566 people had been displaced or made homeless.
Carnival events were cancelled in Sao Sebastiao, Ubatuba, Ilhabela and Bertioga.
“Our rescue teams are not managing to get to several location; it is a chaotic situation,” said Felipe Augusto, Sao Sebastiao’s mayor.
“We are working at nearly 50 residences that collapsed under the force of the water and there are still people buried,” he told GloboNews.
More than 100 firefighters were working on the scene, with the aid of helicopters, according to local media.
Amid the loss and destruction, authorities said a boy aged two was rescued from a sea of mud, as was a woman who was giving birth.
Weather forecasts show heavy rains are set to continue in Sao Paulo’s coastal area, challenging rescue workers and raising the prospect of a higher death toll.
The federal government ordered the mobilisation of several ministries to assist victims, restore infrastructure and start reconstruction work.
Operations at the port of Santos, South America’s largest, were meanwhile interrupted amid gusts of wind exceeding 55 kilometres per hour (34 miles per hour) and waves of more than one metre high on Saturday, according to a local news outlet.
Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on his social media account he will visit the main affected areas on Monday.
Lula said government at all levels would work to “take care of the injured, look for missing people and restore roads, energy and telecommunications”.
The US will back Ukraine in its fight against Russia for "as long as it takes", US President Joe Biden has said on an unannounced visit to Kyiv.
"We have every confidence you're going to continue to prevail," he said.
Mr Biden's first trip to Ukraine as president came days before the first anniversary of Russia's invasion.
He said that Russia's President Vladimir Putin had been "dead wrong" to think Russia could outlast Ukraine and its Western allies.
He met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the pair visited a memorial to soldiers who have died in the nine years since Russia annexed Crimea and its proxy forces captured parts of the eastern Donbas region.
Mr Biden's presence was intended to reaffirm America's "unwavering commitment to Ukraine's democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity", according to a White House statement.
He had taken a 10-hour train journey from Poland to reach Kyiv in secret, later returning to Poland. Russia was informed about the trip a few hours before President Biden's departure for "deconfliction purposes", a US official said.
After the visit, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new package of security assistance for Ukraine valued at $450m (£373m), including ammunition for howitzers and the Himars rocket system, Javelin missiles and air surveillance radars.
The US will also provide Kyiv with an extra $10m in emergency assistance to maintain Ukraine's energy infrastructure, Mr Blinken said.
A new wave of sanctions against individuals and companies "that are trying to evade or backfill Russia's war machine" will also be announced later this week.
Mr Zelensky said Ukraine's victory over Russia depended on resolve and that he saw such determination in Mr Biden.
"It is now and in Ukraine that the fate of the world order, which is based on rules, on humanity... is being decided," he said.
He also said that the two leaders had discussed the possibility of sending other weapons. Mr Zelensky has repeatedly called for F-16 fighter jets, something the US and other allies have so far stopped short of approving.
Commenting on the trip, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said failure would befall those who, as she put it, "sold their souls to the Americans".
In a scene that added drama to the most high-profile visit to Ukraine since the war began, air raid sirens wailed while President Biden and Mr Zelensky were in St Michael's Cathedral in central Kyiv. The sirens sound regularly in the city.
While other world leaders have visited Ukraine over the past year, the US president's appearance in Kyiv during a war in which American soldiers are not fighting is a show of unity at a time when Russia says Western support for Ukraine is waning.
The visit was welcomed by Ukrainians in Kyiv.
"I'm so grateful for his support - it means so much to us," Roksoliana Gera told the BBC. "I appreciate his courage, that he took on this challenge and came to show the support of the American nation."
Oleksandra Soloviova said the visit showed Russia that "the US supports us and will continue supporting us, with sanctions and military equipment".
The Ukrainian president's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said the visit had been strategic as well as historic. "Many issues are being solved and those that have stalled will be accelerated," he said.
The US is one of Ukraine's biggest allies and the state department has so far announced $24.9bn in military assistance.
In January, Mr Biden announced that the US would send 31 battle tanks and longer-range missiles are also on their way.
However, there is a growing political divide in the US over the amount of aid Kyiv should receive in future.
President Biden's visit to Kyiv came ahead of a three-day visit to Poland where he will meet the country's President, Andrzej Duda, and east European members of the Nato military alliance.
In another development, China's foreign minister has said Beijing is deeply worried by the escalation of the war in Ukraine and the danger it could spiral out of control.
Source : https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/18/earthquake-death-toll-surpasses-46000-in-syria-turkey
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a helicopter tour Sunday of one of the provinces worst-affected by the Feb. 6 earthquake in southern Turkey and northern Syria and pledged a further $100 million in aid to help the region.
“This is going to be a long-term effort,” Blinken said at Incirlik Air Base, a joint U.S.-Turkish facility that has coordinated the distribution of disaster aid. “The search and rescue, unfortunately, is coming to an end. The recovery is on, and then there will be a massive rebuilding operation.”
President Joe Biden announced $85 million for Turkey and Syria days after the earthquake that has killed more than 44,000 people in the two countries. The U.S. has also sent a search and rescue team, medical supplies and equipment.
The additional aid includes $50 million in emergency refugee and migration funds and $50 million in humanitarian assistance, Blinken said.
The secretary of state is making his first trip to NATO ally Turkey since he took office two years ago. Blinken arrived at Incirlik Air Base, near Adana, on Sunday after attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
He toured Turkey’s toured Hatay province from the air with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. He was expected to meet with U.S. and Turkish service personnel, as well as Turkish military families affected by the earthquake.
“When you see the extent of the damage, the number of buildings, the number of apartments, the number of homes that have been destroyed, it’s going to take a massive effort to rebuild,” the top U.S. diplomat said after the helicopter tour.
“The most important thing right now is to get assistance to people who need it, to get them through the winter and to get them back on their feet,” Blinken said as troops nearby unloaded boxes of aid… We’ll stick with it until we get the job done.”
Incirlik, home to the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing, has been a crucial logistics center for aid distribution. Supplies from around the world have been flown into the base and sent by truck and helicopter to those in need, including in difficult to reach villages.
Blinken is set to fly to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, later Sunday for discussions with Turkish officials on Monday, including an anticipated meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As well as the effects of the earthquake, Blinken is expected to discuss Sweden and Finland’s efforts to join NATO, which Turkey has delayed.
Source : https://globalnews.ca/news/9498175/turkey-earthquake-blinken/
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