Houses of Poetry Sprout across Gulf Countries

Head of Kuwaiti house of poetry Abdullah al-Failakawi, Kuwaiti Writers National Association Chief Talal Saad Al-Rumaydi, Sharjah House of Poetry Director Abdullah al-Buraiki, Asharq Al-Awsat
Head of Kuwaiti house of poetry Abdullah al-Failakawi, Kuwaiti Writers National Association Chief Talal Saad Al-Rumaydi, Sharjah House of Poetry Director Abdullah al-Buraiki, Asharq Al-Awsat
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Houses of Poetry Sprout across Gulf Countries

Head of Kuwaiti house of poetry Abdullah al-Failakawi, Kuwaiti Writers National Association Chief Talal Saad Al-Rumaydi, Sharjah House of Poetry Director Abdullah al-Buraiki, Asharq Al-Awsat
Head of Kuwaiti house of poetry Abdullah al-Failakawi, Kuwaiti Writers National Association Chief Talal Saad Al-Rumaydi, Sharjah House of Poetry Director Abdullah al-Buraiki, Asharq Al-Awsat

In the wake of modern literature, literary critic and Cairo University professor Gaber Asfour deemed the outburst of contemporary novels to have subdued the field of Arabic literature, an opinion which did not sit well with old-fashioned Diwan poets.

Poets have mobilized to bring back to life the vibrant culture of Diwan poetry, giving birth to a ‘houses of poetry’ movement.

Traditionally, Diwan stands for a collection of poems produced by one author and are usually are recited in gatherings.

Subsequently, houses of poetry are devoted to organize regular evenings and seminars to revive Diwan poems as folklore and consolidate support for the works of composers.

This phenomenon spread in more than one Gulf country, and in many Arab countries. A group of poets officially announced establishing a houses of poetry headed by poet Abdullah al-Failakawi and in cooperation with the national literary association.

Speaking to Asharq Al- Awsat, Failakawi said he believes that houses of poetry should surge all over the Arab world.

Diwans reflect the respective Arab capitals they are produced in and interact with its issues and relationships with other fellow Arab capitals, Failakawi explained in his defense of the traditional Diwan going up against modern literature.

Giving an example on the sociocultural benefits of the movement, Failakawi said that the Kuwaiti house of poetry is home to a constellation of Kuwaiti poets and residents who create and interact with the community.

“Poets are the messengers of beauty and the makers of public conscience,” added Failakawi.

Putting it simply, the Kuwaiti poet said that “if you want to change the actions of a people, first change their feelings.”

“And if you want to change their feelings, then let them express their conscience,” he added.

“Our vision is to create an Arab poetry renaissance which is launched from Kuwait. In order to achieve this, we will allow all forms and schools of Arabic poetry to interact with each other.”

“Each team will listen to the versifiers of the other team and exchange criticism and expertise.”

The National Association of Kuwaiti Writers is the vessel on which the house of poetry floats.

"Poetry still has its great place…. We in the association are proud of them (renowned and traditional Arab poets) and their son very much—and poetry in Kuwait has a long and documented history and literature to its record,” Kuwaiti Writers National Association Chief Talal Saad Al-Rumaydi said.

“The Kuwaiti Literary Association Board of Directors have taken into consideration that poets should have a special forum dedicated to looking after and celebrating their new and old achievements—upon that, it decided on establishing and empowering the Kuwaiti House of Poetry in Kuwait,” Rumaydi added.

"Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, has expressed his belief in the importance of Arabic poetry and its active role in the cultural and humanistic movement," Emirati poet and Sharjah House of Poetry Director Abdullah al-Buraiki said.

Buraiki says that the Sharjah house of poetry embraces all poetry trends both in its classical and modernist genres.

He said that most activities center on drawing on the experiences of all creative poets without exception, and promoting their work through Arab cultural and artistic production and exchange.

Buraiki said that the body he heads is committed to a set of main objectives—among these goals is: rooting the role of poetry and poets in cultural movements and society, communicating the voice of poetry to all social sectors, documenting local, Gulf and Arabic poetry movement, as well as supporting poets and encouraging them financially and morally.



Black Farmers in Brazil Changing Views on Coffee Production

Many in Brazil still associate coffee production with slavery. Douglas Magno / AFP
Many in Brazil still associate coffee production with slavery. Douglas Magno / AFP
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Black Farmers in Brazil Changing Views on Coffee Production

Many in Brazil still associate coffee production with slavery. Douglas Magno / AFP
Many in Brazil still associate coffee production with slavery. Douglas Magno / AFP

Raphael Brandao beams with pride as he describes the high-end Brazilian coffee he produces with beans sourced exclusively from Black farmers in a country where many still associate the product with slavery.
The 31-year-old buys his coffee beans solely from farms owned by Afro-descendents and says his goal is to "reverse this logic that Black people" like himself "are mere laborers”.
"In my own way, I am trying to make historical reparations," Brandao told AFP at his roastery in Nova Iguacu, a poor suburb of Rio de Janeiro.
Four years ago, he launched his brand Cafe di Preto.
By 2022 he sold 800 kilograms (about 1,700 pounds), the following year 1.4 tons. This year he hopes to increase that to more than two tons following a 20-percent sales increase in the first quarter alone.
The logo for Cafe di Preto is a raised Black fist clutching a coffee branch, and the different flavor lines are each named after important Black women of Brazilian history.
Brazil was the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery, in 1888, and racial inequalities remain high in a country where more than half of people identify as "preto" (Black) or mixed-race.
'Changing the world'
He is also seeking to "break the stigma that Black people do not produce quality."
"So my work also gives light to this," he said. "Today I have six coffees produced by Black people, all of them... of great quality."
Many of his clients, he added, are looking for quality but also for a product that is "changing the world."
Brandao is a leader in the so-called Black Business wave in Brazil that promotes commerce among people of African descent as a tool for social progress.
At first, he had trouble finding Black suppliers given that the overwhelming majority of coffee plantations in Brazil still belong to white families.
"My black suppliers are the first generation to produce on their own land, often only a few hectares," he said.
And Brandao has more than once had to defend his chosen crusade.
"I am sometimes asked: 'What if it was the opposite, if roasteries owned by whites bought coffee from white farmers?' But isn't that what is happening already?"
From farm to cup
About 500 kilometers (311 miles) from Nova Iguacu is the 19-hectare (47-acre) coffee plantation of Neide Peixoto, one of Brandao's first suppliers.
"I have been in contact with coffee since childhood. My parents worked in crops and I often accompanied them," Peixoto, 49, told AFP on her farm in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, a mecca for coffee production.
Unlike her parents, she grows coffee on land that belongs to her own family, bought by her husband and brothers who are also former laborers.
"It means a lot to me to be a Black producer of special coffee, because... we, Black people, have a very difficult and painful history," Peixoto said.
Most of the farm's production is for export, but the beans reserved for Cafe di Preto have a special significance for Peixoto.
"It's exciting to know that the coffee I produce, which is coffee produced by Black people, is also roasted by Black people," she said.
"I'm very happy to know that we are making this connection, from production here on the farm to the cup."


Blue Origin Flies Thrill Seekers to Space, Including Oldest Astronaut

Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin resumes its flights to the edge of space, carrying six people seated in a capsule atop the New Shepard rocket, ending a near two-year pause of crewed operations following a 2022 mission failure in Van Horn, Texas, US May 19, 2024 in a still image from video.  Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS
Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin resumes its flights to the edge of space, carrying six people seated in a capsule atop the New Shepard rocket, ending a near two-year pause of crewed operations following a 2022 mission failure in Van Horn, Texas, US May 19, 2024 in a still image from video. Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS
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Blue Origin Flies Thrill Seekers to Space, Including Oldest Astronaut

Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin resumes its flights to the edge of space, carrying six people seated in a capsule atop the New Shepard rocket, ending a near two-year pause of crewed operations following a 2022 mission failure in Van Horn, Texas, US May 19, 2024 in a still image from video.  Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS
Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin resumes its flights to the edge of space, carrying six people seated in a capsule atop the New Shepard rocket, ending a near two-year pause of crewed operations following a 2022 mission failure in Van Horn, Texas, US May 19, 2024 in a still image from video. Blue Origin/Handout via REUTERS

After a nearly two-year hiatus, Blue Origin flew adventurers to space on Sunday, including a former Air Force pilot who was denied the chance to be the United States' first Black astronaut decades ago, Agence France Presse reported.

It was the first crewed launch for the enterprise owned and founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos since a rocket mishap in 2022 left rival Virgin Galactic as the sole operator in the fledgling suborbital tourism market.

Six people including the sculptor Ed Dwight, who was on track to become NASA's first astronaut of color in the 1960s before being controversially spurned, launched around 09:36 am local time (1436 GMT) from the Launch Site One base in west Texas, a live feed showed.

Dwight -- at 90 years, 8 months and 10 days -- became the oldest person to ever go to space.

"This is a life-changing experience, everybody needs to do this," he exclaimed after the flight.

"I thought I didn't really need this in my life," he added, reflecting on his omission from the astronaut corps, which was his first experience with failure as a young man.

"But I lied," he added, with a hearty laugh.

"You take everything you imagined, you multiply it roughly by 100 and you are still quite far from reality," crewmate and French entrepreneur Sylvain Chiron told AFP.

"I'm not quite back down to Earth yet."

Mission NS-25 is the seventh human flight for Blue Origin, which sees short jaunts on the New Shepard suborbital vehicle as a stepping stone to greater ambitions, including the development of a full-fledged heavy rocket and lunar lander.

Including Sunday's crew, the company has flown 37 people aboard New Shepard -- a small, fully reusable rocket system named after Alan Shepard, the first American in space.

The program encountered a setback when a New Shepard rocket caught fire shortly after launch on September 12, 2022, even though the uncrewed capsule ejected safely.

A federal investigation revealed an overheating engine nozzle was at fault. Blue Origin took corrective steps and carried out a successful uncrewed launch in December 2023, paving the way for Sunday's mission.

After liftoff, the sleek and roomy capsule separated from the booster, which produces zero carbon emissions. The rocket performed a precision vertical landing.

As the spaceship soared beyond the Karman Line, the internationally recognized boundary of space 62 miles (100 kilometers) above sea level, passengers had the chance to marvel at the Earth's curvature and unbuckle their seatbelts to float -- or somersault -- during a few minutes of weightlessness.

The capsule then reentered the atmosphere, deploying its parachutes for a desert landing in a puff of sand. However, one of the three parachutes failed to fully inflate, possibly resulting in a harder landing than expected.

Asked for comment, a Blue Origin spokesperson stressed its system was designed with multiple fail-safes.

"The capsule is designed to safely land with one parachute. The overall mission was a success, and all of our astronauts are excited to be back," the spokesperson said.

In all, the mission lasted around 11 minutes roundtrip.

Bezos himself was on the program's first crewed flight in 2021. A few months later, Star Trek's William Shatner blurred the lines between science fiction and reality when he became the world's oldest astronaut at age 90, decades after he first played a space traveler.

Dwight, who was almost two months older than Shatner at the time of his flight, became only the second nonagenarian to venture beyond Earth.

Astronaut John Glenn remains the oldest to orbit the planet, a feat he achieved in 1998 at the age of 77 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Sunday's mission finally gave Dwight the chance he was denied decades ago.

He was an elite test pilot when he was appointed by then-president John F Kennedy to join a highly competitive Air Force program known as a Pathway for the astronaut corps, but was ultimately not picked.

He left the military in 1966, citing the strain of racial politics, before dedicating his life to telling Black history through sculpture. His art, displayed around the country, includes iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and more.


Man Becomes '10 years Younger' after 93 Days at Bottom of the Atlantic

His stem cell count had also skyrocketed - (The AP)
His stem cell count had also skyrocketed - (The AP)
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Man Becomes '10 years Younger' after 93 Days at Bottom of the Atlantic

His stem cell count had also skyrocketed - (The AP)
His stem cell count had also skyrocketed - (The AP)

Retired naval officer Joseph Dituri spent 93 days submerged in the Atlantic ocean and came out 10 years younger.

Dituri emerged from his 100-square-foot pod with extraordinary results.

Not only did he shatter the previous world record for underwater habitation, which was 73 days, but he had also turned back the ageing clock, emerging from his pod 10 years younger, The Mirror reported.

After returning to dry land, medical assessments revealed that Dituri's telomeres, the DNA caps at the ends of chromosomes that typically shrink with age, were 20 per cent longer than before his dive. His stem cell count had also skyrocketed, and his overall health metrics had undergone a remarkable transformation.

Dituri also experienced a significant improvement in sleep quality, with 60 to 66 percent of his nights now spent in deep REM sleep. His cholesterol levels plummeted by 72 points, and his inflammatory markers had been slashed in half. These transformations were attributed to the underwater pressure, which is known to have numerous positive effects on the body.


Comet Fragment Lights up Sky over Spain, Portugal 'Like a Movie'

FILE PHOTO: A section of the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/Hubble | October 21, 2014
FILE PHOTO: A section of the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/Hubble | October 21, 2014
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Comet Fragment Lights up Sky over Spain, Portugal 'Like a Movie'

FILE PHOTO: A section of the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/Hubble | October 21, 2014
FILE PHOTO: A section of the Tarantula Nebula, located within the Large Magellanic Cloud. REUTERS/NASA/ESA/Hubble | October 21, 2014

A bright comet fragment lit up the skies over parts of Spain and Portugal late on Saturday, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), with one Lisbon resident saying the dazzling display "felt like a movie".

On Sunday morning, the ESA shared on X a video captured by its "fireball camera" of what it described as a "stunning meteor" over the skies of the western Spanish city of Caceres, near the Portuguese border.

But it later said it appeared to be a "small piece of a comet" and not a meteor, estimating it flew over Spain and Portugal at a speed of 45 km (28 miles) per second before burning up over the Atlantic, Reuters reported.

"The likelihood of any meteorites being found is very low," the ESA said.

In both countries, videos shot in several cities and towns went viral on social media, showing the object crossing the night sky at high speed and illuminating it in bright tones of blue and green.

The Spanish Calar Alto astronomical observatory also said a preliminary analysis by Andalusia's Institute of Astrophysics revealed the object had a "cometary origin".

During a concert in the Portuguese city of Barcelos, the object was filmed streaking across the sky as the singer performed. Another video showed the skies of Porto, Portugal's second biggest city, turning bright for a few seconds.

Many contacted emergency services to report what happened. A spokesperson for the Spanish Emergency service 112, in Madrid, told Europa Press news agency it had received several calls.

Lisbon resident Bernardo Taborda, 31, told Reuters he was walking around the city with friends when the sky suddenly turned bright green: "It almost looked like daylight ... we all looked back and saw it."

"It felt like a movie, we all looked at each other and we were stunned," Taborda said. "It was amazing."

 

 

 

 

 


Saudi Arabia: NCW Launches Cave Exploration Program in Northern Border Area

According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
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Saudi Arabia: NCW Launches Cave Exploration Program in Northern Border Area

According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. SPA

The National Center for Wildlife (NCW) is embarking on a groundbreaking exploration program focused on caves in the Northern Borders, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Sunday.
Launched in 2022, the program is part of a larger endeavor dedicated to monitoring all ecosystems and biodiversity across the Kingdom's diverse terrestrial and marine landscapes, it said.
The program aims to achieve three key goals: international recognition by placing these caves on the global map for biodiversity and natural heritage, historical preservation by recognizing them as natural museums that offer insights into past environments, and wildlife conservation by protecting these unique ecosystems.
"The exploration of these caves holds immense historical and environmental value for the Kingdom," said NCW CEO Dr. Mohammed Qurban. "These caves act as a natural museum, showcasing the evolution of biodiversity throughout the region's history, and providing insights into past environmental and climate changes on the Arabian Peninsula."
These efforts build upon NCW's earlier discoveries of mummified cheetahs found in a cave in northern Saudi Arabia. Estimated to be over 4,000 years old, this find marked the first documented evidence of this species in the Kingdom.
"Based on this discovery, NCW is creating a program to reintroduce hunting cheetahs, allowing them to once again play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance," Qurban said.
According to Qurban, researchers from NCW have uncovered in the Kingdom's caves some of the world's rarest bat species alongside the remains of extinct animals. Classification and age determination of these remains are ongoing, paving the way for potential reintroduction efforts.
"The ultimate goal is to reintroduce these extinct species or their closest genetic relatives, allowing them to reclaim their ecological roles," Qurban said.
With 1,826 documented caves across Saudi Arabia, NCW's program sheds light on the Kingdom's natural heritage while promoting conservation and the potential return of lost species.


Japanese Authorities Urge Caution after Wild Bears Attack Several People

A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
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Japanese Authorities Urge Caution after Wild Bears Attack Several People

A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)

Japanese authorities have warned residents Saturday to be aware of wild bears in the country's northeast after several people were attacked, including police officers.
The bears, measuring about 50 centimeters in height, were seen in the area, including Akita and Fukushima Prefectures.
Two police officers were attacked Saturday in the city of Kazuno in Akita while recovering the body of a missing man, according to Japanese media reports. The man had gone hunting for bamboo shoots in the mountains a few days earlier where he was found dead in the area with gash wounds. It remains unclear if he died due to a bear attack.
The officers are in serious condition, though not life-threatening, reports said.
In response, some wooded areas have been closed off in Kazuno "for an indefinite time,” The Associated Press quoted officials as saying in a statement.
News footage showed police officers putting up signs warning people to stay out of mountainous areas where the bears were sighted.
Over the weekend, patrol cars were dispatched together with a helicopter search to locate the bears.
Akita Prefectural Police have urged people to keep bells and other noise-producing devices on hand to scare the bears away in case of an encounter, and not to go out at night.
Thousands of Asiatic black bears live in the wild throughout Japan. Attacks have risen as the borders blur between the bears’ habitats and people’s dwellings. The scarcity of acorns, berries and other food, possibly connected to climate change, is also blamed for the surge in bear encounters.


British Woman, 82, Bikes Up Mont Ventoux to Raise Gaza Aid Funds

Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
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British Woman, 82, Bikes Up Mont Ventoux to Raise Gaza Aid Funds

Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media

An 82-year-old British grandmother has taken on one of the Tour de France's most famous mountains to raise funds for aid to Gaza, the BBC reported.

Anne Jones, from Lewisham, south London, rode 20 km up Mont Ventoux in southern France to support Amos Trust's Gaza appeal, it said.

She battled hail, rain and fog as she cycled for six hours to the climb's summit at 1,910m above sea level.

According to the BBC, Jones raised £13,000 for the appeal.

The grandmother-of-six said she was "delighted" to have completed the feat and hoped it would change the "assumptions" people make when they see "an old face.”


Eruption of Indonesia's Mt Ibu Forces 7 Villages to Evacuate

Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
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Eruption of Indonesia's Mt Ibu Forces 7 Villages to Evacuate

Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS

A volcano on the remote Indonesian island of Halmahera has spectacularly erupted, spewing a grey ash cloud into the sky, and people from seven nearby villages have been evacuated, authorities said on Sunday.
Mt. Ibu erupted on Saturday evening, sending ash 4 km (2.5 miles) high, as streaks of purple lightning flashed around its crater, according to information and images shared by Indonesia's volcanology agency.
A joint team comprised of police, military and search and rescue officials was dispatched to the area to evacuate residents from surrounding villages, Abdul Muhari, from the disaster mitigation agency, said in a statement.
According to Reuters, photos shared by the disaster agency showed authorities assisting the elderly, while other residents were moved in pick-up trucks and accommodated in emergency tents for the night.
The agency did not provide any information about how many people had been moved, but authorities have recommended that a seven-km (4.35-mile) radius be cleared.
Indonesia's volcanology agency raised the alert level of the volcano to the highest level on Thursday, after Ibu erupted multiple times earlier this month.
Ibu's activities follow a series of eruptions of different volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has 127 active volcanoes.
Flash floods and cold lava flow from Mount Marapi, one of the most active in West Sumatra province, covered several nearby districts following torrential rain on May 11, killing more than 60 people.
In recent weeks, North Sulawesi's Ruang volcano has also erupted, spewing incandescent lava. The eruption prompted authorities to evacuate more than 12,000 people on a nearby island.


Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
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Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)

Parts of northwest India sweltered under scorching temperatures on Saturday, with the capital New Delhi under a severe weather alert as extreme temperatures strike parts of the country.

India's weather department expects heat wave conditions to persist across the north for the next few days, and has put several states on high alert.

On Friday, parts of New Delhi reported up to 47.1 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). The nearby states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan also saw temperatures soar and are likely to stay high over the next few days, said Soma Sen Roy, a scientist at the India Meteorological Department.

Roy cautioned people against going outdoors under the afternoon sun, drink lots of water and wear loose-fitting clothes while who are especially vulnerable like the elderly should stay indoors.

The extreme temperatures in northern India coincide with a 6-week-long general election, with experts worried that the heat wave could increase health risks as people wait in long lines to cast their vote or candidates campaign aggressively in the outdoors. One minister fainted due to heat last month while addressing an election rally in Maharashtra state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as his main challenger, Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress Party, are expected to hold rallies in New Delhi later on Saturday, as the city heads to the polls on May 25.

The main summer months — April, May and June — are always hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But the heat has become more intense in the past decade and is usually accompanied by severe water shortages, with tens of millions of India's 1.4 billion people lacking running water.

A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April that struck parts of Asia was made at least 45 times more likely in some parts of the continent by climate change.

Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent and the study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 C (1.5 F) hotter in the region because of climate change.

At least 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Bangladesh, as well as five in India in April. Surges in heat deaths have also been reported in Thailand and the Philippines this year, according to the study.

Extreme heat is fast becoming a public health crisis in India, with more than 150 people dying last year during heat waves. The government estimates nearly 11,000 people have died during heat waves this century, yet experts say such figures are likely a vast undercount.


'Danger Behind the Beauty': More Solar Storms Could Be Heading our Way

Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
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'Danger Behind the Beauty': More Solar Storms Could Be Heading our Way

Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File

Tourists normally have to pay big money and brave cold climates for a chance to see an aurora, but last weekend many people around the world simply had to look up to see these colorful displays dance across the sky.
Usually banished to the poles of Earth, the auroras strayed as far as Mexico, southern Europe and South Africa on the evening of May 10, delighting skygazers and filling social media with images of exuberant pinks, greens and purples.
But for those charged with protecting Earth from powerful solar storms such as the one that caused the auroras, a threat lurks beneath the stunning colors.
"We need to understand that behind this beauty, there is danger," Quentin Verspieren, the European Space Agency's space safety program coordinator, told AFP.
Mike Bettwy of the US Space Weather Prediction Center said that "we're focused on the more sinister potential impacts" of solar storms, such as taking out power grids and satellites, or exposing astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation.
The latest auroras were caused by the most powerful geomagnetic storm since the "Halloween Storms" of October 2003, which sparked blackouts in Sweden and damaged power infrastructure in South Africa.

There appears to have been less damage from the latest solar storms, though it often takes weeks for satellite companies to reveal problems, Bettwy said.
There were reports that some self-driving farm tractors in the United States stopped in their tracks when their GPS guidance systems went out due to the storm, he told AFP.
'Definitely not over'
These strange effects are caused by massive explosions on the surface of the Sun that shoot out plasma, radiation and even magnetic fields at incredibly fast speeds born on the solar wind.
The recent activity has come from a sunspot cluster 17 times the size of Earth which has continued raging over the week. On Tuesday it blasted out the strongest solar flare seen in years.
The sunspot has been turning towards the edge of the Sun's disc, so activity is expected to die down in the short term as its outbursts aim away from our planet.
But in roughly two weeks the sunspot will swing back around, again turning its gaze towards Earth.
In the meantime, another sunspot is "coming into view right now" which could trigger "major activity in the coming days", ESA space weather service coordinator Alexi Glover told AFP.
So the solar activity is "definitely not over", she added.
It is difficult to predict how violent these sunspots could be -- or whether they could spark further auroras.
But solar activity is only just approaching the peak of its roughly 11-year cycle, so the odds of another major storm are highest "between now and the end of next year", Bettwy said.
What threat do solar storms pose?
Geomagnetic storms such as the recent one create a magnetic charge of voltage and current, "essentially overloading" things like satellites and power grids, according to Bettwy.
The most famous example came in 1859 during the worst solar storm in recorded history, called the Carrington Event.
As well as stunning auroras, the storm caused sparks to fly off of telegraph stations. The charge that originated from the Sun was so strong that some telegraphs worked without being plugged into a power source.
So what would happen if such a powerful geomagnetic storm struck Earth again?
Bettwy said most countries have improved their power grids, which should prevent prolonged outages like those that hit Sweden in 2003 or Canada in 1989.
Still, he suggested people have an emergency kit in case electricity is knocked out for a day or two. Fresh water might also help in case filtration plants go offline.
Astronauts are particularly at risk from radiation during extreme solar activity. Those on the International Space Station usually take the best shelter they can when a bad storm is expected.
Bettwy said a massive solar storm could expose astronauts to an "unhealthy dose" of radiation, but he did not think it would be lethal.
Emphasizing that he did not want to "instill fear", Bettwy added that radiation can also potentially "get through the fuselage" of planes flying near the north pole.
Airlines sometimes change routes during extreme solar storms to avoid this happening, he added.
Several upcoming missions are expected to improve forecasting of the Sun's intense and unpredictable weather, aiming to give Earth more time to prepare.