It didn’t rain – it poured. A torrent of water and misery fell over a broad arc across the Himalayan foothills, and washed away hundreds of lives and hundreds of thousands of homes. Millions of people are affected. India, Nepal, Pakistan were all caught in the deluge, as was Bangladesh, one third of which was said to have been under water.
The Indian city of Mumbai is prone to flooding, and there the water caused a residential building in the financial district to collapse adding to the death toll.
In the USA, the state of Texas was also hit by storms and flooding. Dozens of people died in the greater Houston area, more than 300,000 have registered for disaster assistance. President Trump sort of showed up to help, but without actually meeting many people. He later pledged one million dollars of his own money towards disaster relief. There was criticism of his wife, Melania, for leaving Washington D.C. enroute to Houston wearing high heels. Unfair? Fair? Did it matter? By the time she got to Texas there was a change of footwear. A few days later Vice President Pence then arrived and managed to meet some real people.
In some sections of the Western media there was also a debate about why the disaster in Houston received greater coverage than that in South Asia given the disparity in loss of life. Some of the reasons are geographic and technical. Western media has greater access and correspondents in the USA, and the technical media infrastructure allows for easier live 24-hour coverage. Another reason though is the perception of audience interest. All reasons appear open to further debate.
Back in South Asia the ongoing tragedy of the Rohingya people made a rare appearance in the headlines. The Rohingya are a Muslim people in Burma who say they are systematically persecuted by the state. In recent weeks an insurgent groups attacked security forces. A huge military counter offensive ensued in which hundreds of people have been killed amid accusations of the slaughter of civilians. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled attempting to cross into Bangladesh.
Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under pressure to speak out about the alleged atrocities taking place. Analysts are divided over whether she agrees with the government position that the 1 million strong Rohingya do not have citizenship and doesn’t care about them, or – if she fears her position with the military is not yet strong enough to take it on politically.
North Korea was again on the news radar because one of its missiles was on Japan’s military radar: Pyongyang launched a missile which travelled over Japanese airspace and landed in the ocean. This was a calculated game by Kim Jong Un… too close to Japan and it risked the Japanese trying to shoot it down – too close to the American territory of Guam and it risked war. Yes it was risky, he got away with it – but it was another small step towards conflict.
At least one potential conflict calmed down – for now. The standoff between Chinese and Indian border troops was partially resolved… both sides said the other compromised. Indian Prime Minster Modi is now free to attend the BRICS conference in China.
And there was the Hajj the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj is the 5th and final pillar of Islam. There’s always politics surrounding the Hajj – this year there was a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over how many Qataris were allowed to attend, but politics was not on the minds of most of the 2 million plus pilgrims – they were taking the trip of a lifetime and fulfilling a joyous religious obligation.
That was the Week that Was. Eid Mubarak.