World in brief: Villages flooded; crops at risk
Kot Addu, Pakistan – Floodwaters surged into Pakistan’s heartland and swallowed dozens of villages Tuesday, adding to a week of destruction that has already ravaged the mountainous northwest and killed 1,500 people.
The rush of muddy water over river banks in Punjab threatened to destroy vast stretches of crops that make the province Pakistan’s breadbasket, prompting the U.N. to warn that an estimated 1.8 million people will need to be fed in the coming weeks.
Several foreign countries and aid organizations have stepped in to support the government, including the United States, which announced Tuesday that it was sending six large military helicopters from Afghanistan to help with the relief effort.
Border skirmish claims four lives
Adeisseh, Lebanon – Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire Tuesday in a fierce border battle that killed a senior Israeli officer, two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist – underlining how easily tensions can re-ignite along the frontier where Israel and Hezbollah fought a war four years ago.
It was the worst fighting since 2006 in the area, where Israeli and Lebanese soldiers patrol within shouting distance of each other, separated by the U.N.-drawn Blue Line boundary.
The fighting flared into Israeli tank, helicopter and artillery strikes near this Lebanese town, but ended after several hours and there was no sign that either side was preparing to escalate.
The Shiite guerrilla force Hezbollah said it offered to help the Lebanese army but in the end did not get involved.
Quito, Ecuador – Ecuador pledged in a pioneering agreement with the United Nations on Tuesday to refrain from oil drilling in a pristine Amazon preserve in return for some $3.6 billion in payments from rich nations.
The accord, signed by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and Rebeca Grynspan, associate administrator of the U.N. Development Program, sets up a trust fund to be administered by the world body.
The three oilfields under the Yasuni preserve would remain untapped for a decade under the pact. They are estimated to hold 846 million barrels of crude, or 20 percent of Ecuador’s reserves.
The $3.6 billion represents about half the expected earnings from the sale of the oil that would have been removed from Yasuni, a 3,800-square-mile expanse declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1989.
In addition to being home to unique species of birds, amphibians and monkeys, the Yasuni hosts tribes of the Huarani people, a hunter-gatherer indigenous group threatened by the encroachment of loggers and other settlers.