Saudi Arabia Advances 15 Ranks on Global Innovation Index

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia Advances 15 Ranks on Global Innovation Index

A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
A general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia has risen 15 places in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Global Innovation Index 2022, reflecting the extent of development in research, development, and innovation in the Kingdom.

In June, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed the National Aspirations and Priorities for Research, Development, and Innovation (RDI) in Saudi Arabia for the next two decades based on four key priorities; human health and wellness, sustainable environment and supply of essential needs, energy and industrial leadership, and economies of the future.

The plan aims to enhance the Kingdom's global competitiveness and entrepreneurship, align with the plans of the Saudi Vision 2030, and improve its status in the region.

Forbes Magazine reported that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-transforming countries in the world, working to diversify its economies by entering new sectors that have contributed to the development of the national innovation system over the past decade.

It also cited Saudi Aramco in its report, which included the contributions of ten Saudi companies in innovation fields. The company obtained 864 patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2021 alone, bringing it to first place in the oil and gas sector globally and entering the list of the top 50 companies and universities that obtained patents this year. In 2022, the company strengthened its efforts in research and innovation, with the number of patents increasing to 963.

Digital infrastructure in the Kingdom ranked second among the G20 countries, according to the Digital Competitiveness Report 2021 issued by the European Center for Digital Competitiveness, state news agency SPA reported.

In 2017, only one Saudi company entered the "Forbes" list of the most funded startups in the Middle East. By 2020, that number increased to two, and this year the number rose to five Saudi companies within the top ten positions in the list.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has focused its innovation efforts on sustainability, announcing its commitment to increasing the percentage of energy generation from renewable sources to reach 50% by 2030, in preparation for achieving zero neutrality by 2060. In the same context, the Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) entered the Guinness World Records, achieving a new record as the desalination plant with the least energy consumption in the world, at a rate of 2.27 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter of desalinated water.

The Research, Development, and Innovation Authority (RDIA), in collaboration with Forbes Middle East, reviewed the ten most innovative companies in each of the four sectors of the national priorities in the Kingdom, totaling 40 companies. The list includes Aramco, SABIC, NEOM, STC, Ma’aden, Almarai, Al Rajhi Bank, Al-Habib Medical Group, ACWA Power, and Saudi National Bank.



More People Are Evacuated After the Dramatic Eruption of an Indonesian Volcano 

Search and rescue boat is docked on the port of Tagulandang as Mount Ruang volcano spews volcanic ash in Sitaro Islands Regency, North Sulawesi province, Indonesia, April 19, 2024. (Reuters)
Search and rescue boat is docked on the port of Tagulandang as Mount Ruang volcano spews volcanic ash in Sitaro Islands Regency, North Sulawesi province, Indonesia, April 19, 2024. (Reuters)
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More People Are Evacuated After the Dramatic Eruption of an Indonesian Volcano 

Search and rescue boat is docked on the port of Tagulandang as Mount Ruang volcano spews volcanic ash in Sitaro Islands Regency, North Sulawesi province, Indonesia, April 19, 2024. (Reuters)
Search and rescue boat is docked on the port of Tagulandang as Mount Ruang volcano spews volcanic ash in Sitaro Islands Regency, North Sulawesi province, Indonesia, April 19, 2024. (Reuters)

More people living near an erupting volcano on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island were evacuated on Friday due to the dangers of spreading ash, falling rocks, hot volcanic clouds and the possibility of a tsunami.

An international airport in Manado city, which is located less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the erupting Mount Ruang, is still temporarily closed as volcanic ash was spewed into the air.

Satellite imagery from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency showed that the ash has spread to the west, northwest, northeast and southeast, covering Manado and North Minahasa, according to a statement from Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry.

“We are still monitoring developments in the eruption of Mount Ruang and coordinating with relevant stakeholders ... to anticipate the necessary actions to ensure flight safety, security and comfort,” said Ambar Suryoko, head of the regional airport authority.

More than 11,000 people were told to leave their homes and at least 1,000 have done so. A joint team from the local authorities is still combing the villages surrounding the volcano and evacuating the residents to safer areas by boat.

Officials worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami, as happened in an eruption there in 1871 eruption.

Houses, roads and other buildings in the affected areas were covered by gray volcanic ash. Many house roofs were also broken by the materials spewed from the eruption.

Mount Ruang saw at least five large eruptions Wednesday, causing the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation to issue its highest level of alert. People were ordered to stay at least 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from the 725-meter (2,378-foot) mountain.

The observation from the agency on Friday said that white smoke is rising from the main crater with medium to thick intensity.

Tagulandang Island, east of the volcano, could be at risk if a collapse occurred. Its residents were among those being told to evacuate. Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said residents will be relocated to Manado, a journey of six hours by boat.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.


Eiffel Tower Loses Sparkle for Parisians ahead of Olympics

Parisian landmark The Eiffel Tower has lost its lustre for many who live near it due to crime and grime © Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP
Parisian landmark The Eiffel Tower has lost its lustre for many who live near it due to crime and grime © Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP
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Eiffel Tower Loses Sparkle for Parisians ahead of Olympics

Parisian landmark The Eiffel Tower has lost its lustre for many who live near it due to crime and grime © Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP
Parisian landmark The Eiffel Tower has lost its lustre for many who live near it due to crime and grime © Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP

The Eiffel Tower is set for a starring role during the Paris Olympics this year, but the landmark and its park have become symbols of the capital's struggles with cleanliness and crime.
In the shadow of the 330-meter (1,082-foot) monument, workers are already building the temporary stadium that will host the beach volleyball during the Games, which start on July 26, AFP said.
The opening ceremony along the river Seine will also finish in front of the attraction, while judo and wrestling will take place in a semi-permanent exhibition space at the far end of its park.
Although the sport will look spectacular in the TV coverage, behind the scenes the area has become a lightning rod for complaints about the management of public space in the capital and the pressures of mass tourism.
"It's very dirty and it's getting worse and worse," local resident Frederic Mabilon, 78, told AFP as she walked her dog in the Champ-de-Mars park beneath the iron monument known as the "Iron Lady".
Mabilon remembers visiting the area as a child, enjoying the merry-go-rounds and play areas that have been closed ahead of the Olympics -- much to the anger of their operators.
"Look there," she said, pointing to a man urinating on the fence of one of the homes that line the park. "It happens all the time. There aren't enough toilets."
Mikael Dalle, a 53-year-old local out with his son, said he was bothered by the illegal hawkers who shout out to passers-by, offering unlicensed food and drinks, trinkets and berets.
"It's definitely got worse and we've lived around here for the last eight years," he said.
- Street crime -
Around seven million people ascend the Eiffel Tower each year and many more pose for photos, eat picnics, or play ball games in the Champ-de-Mars.
With so many visitors, the park's lawns are often rubbed bare, while at night they are left strewn with rubbish by revelers.
"You should see it at 6 o'clock in the morning. It's catastrophic," complained another local dog walker, Louis, 53, who preferred not to give his surname.
Left-over food and overflowing bins are a delight for the flourishing local rat population.
And while low-level street crime such as pick-pocketing and scams have long been a feature of Paris's tourist hotspots, two alleged rapes took place on the Champ-de-Mars at night last year, shocking locals.
"I've told my eldest daughter not to walk through here in the dark," Louis explained.
The right-wing opponents of Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo blame her for the problems, with local senator Agnes Evren claiming the area has turned into "the far-west".
Even the tower's workers are unhappy, launching a five-day strike in February to protest against its state of disrepair and demanding the city spend more on painting and anti-rust protection.
- 'Paris will shine' -
Hidalgo, an eco-minded left-winger re-elected for a second term in 2020, is admired by many for her policies to restrict cars and promote cycling.
But she has also been dogged by complaints about cleanliness, with a survey in 2021 suggesting eight out of ten Parisians found their city "dirty".
An online campaign in 2021 called #saccageParis (#TrashedParis), in which residents shared pictures of filth or ugliness, struck a chord in a city that prides itself on its elegance.
To tackle the security problems, police announced a major operation for the Eiffel Tower area last June, leading to several dozen police officers on the ground per day.
"We've had excellent results in this area as well as other tourist zones in Paris," Paris police chief Laurent Nunez told AFP last week.
"But we need to continue. The Olympics are coming," he added.
The number of reported physical assaults fell by 58 percent to 21 incidents in the first quarter of the year compared with the same period of 2023, while property crimes were down 18 percent, he said.
Much of the Champ-de-Mars now stands behind steel fencing, its protected lawns growing back, its gardeners busy preparing it for hundreds of thousands of foreign sports fans.
"Paris will shine, Paris will be beautiful, Paris will be ready to welcome the world," deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire promised last week.


Gulf Countries Assess Damage from Record Rainfall, Compensates those Affected

Gulf countries continue to survey the damage and compensate those affected from the record rainfall. (Oman News Agency)
Gulf countries continue to survey the damage and compensate those affected from the record rainfall. (Oman News Agency)
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Gulf Countries Assess Damage from Record Rainfall, Compensates those Affected

Gulf countries continue to survey the damage and compensate those affected from the record rainfall. (Oman News Agency)
Gulf countries continue to survey the damage and compensate those affected from the record rainfall. (Oman News Agency)

The Al-Matir depression, which swept the Gulf region over the past two days, has caused human losses and massive material damage.

The Sultanate of Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announced the end of the depression and that work was underway to reopen roads, assess the damage to infrastructure and public and private properties, and provide the necessary support to all those affected.

On Thursday, the Center for Emergency Management in Oman announced that rescue teams will continue to search for missing persons after the number of victims reached 19, most of them students.

The rainy weather condition in Oman, which was accompanied by flooding and thunderstorms, led to serious damage to public and private property.

The Regional Center for Climate Change in Saudi Arabia announced the start of a comprehensive climate study of the depression that affected the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, its causes, and the extreme rainfall resulting from it. In a statement, the center said the study will also cover “the role of climate change” with efforts being coordinated with affected countries.

The center’s spokesman, Hussein Al-Qahtani, explained to Asharq Al-Awsat that the recent rainfall was higher than usual, which requires more research to study.

He stressed that that indicators of climate change were evident in several Saudi cities, such as Al-Namas, which witnessed hail falling in higher quantities than usual this year, in addition to other cities that saw the same situation last year, such as Taif, Buraidah, and Khamis Mushait.

He also confirmed that all climate studies presented by the National Center of Meteorology indicate that Saudi Arabia will see stronger climate phenomena in the coming years.

Last year, scientists at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) published a report that provided a comprehensive analysis of climate change and its consequences on the Arabian Peninsula.

The report said climate change could lead to higher temperatures and an increase in the severity and frequency of droughts, affecting agricultural and food production and leading to an increase in flash floods such as those witnessed in the region this week.


North Korea Releases Song Praising Leader Kim as ‘Friendly Father’ 

This picture taken on April 16, 2024 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on April 17, 2024 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) taking part in a ceremony to mark the completion of the second phase of a 10,000-unit housing development in Pyongyang. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
This picture taken on April 16, 2024 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on April 17, 2024 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) taking part in a ceremony to mark the completion of the second phase of a 10,000-unit housing development in Pyongyang. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
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North Korea Releases Song Praising Leader Kim as ‘Friendly Father’ 

This picture taken on April 16, 2024 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on April 17, 2024 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) taking part in a ceremony to mark the completion of the second phase of a 10,000-unit housing development in Pyongyang. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)
This picture taken on April 16, 2024 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) via KNS on April 17, 2024 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (C) taking part in a ceremony to mark the completion of the second phase of a 10,000-unit housing development in Pyongyang. (Photo by KCNA VIA KNS / AFP)

North Korea has released a new song praising leader Kim Jong Un for being a "friendly father" and a "great leader", in a move that appears to be part of a propaganda drive to enhance his standing in the reclusive state.

The music video for the song was aired on the state-controlled Korean Central Television on Wednesday.

It features North Koreans of different backgrounds ranging from children to troops and medical staff exuberantly belting out lines such as: "Let's sing, Kim Jong Un the great leader" and "Let's brag about Kim Jong Un, a friendly father".

A live performance of the song accompanied by an orchestra and watched by Kim was also broadcast on state television as part of a ceremony to mark the completion of building 10,000 new homes.

The Kim family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its founding after World War Two have sought to strengthen their grip on power by building cults of personality around them.

The release of the upbeat song titled "Friendly Father" comes at a time when North Korean state media has recently changed the name it uses for a public holiday, prompting speculation that the move is part of efforts to solidify Kim's position.

Instead of calling the annual public holiday celebrating the birth of the country's founder Kim Il Sung "Day of the Sun", state media has started mostly referring to it as the more neutral "April holiday".

Such changes might be part of an effort by Kim to stand on his own feet without relying on his predecessors, an official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said.


Laborers and Street Vendors in Mali Find No Respite as Deadly Heat Wave Surges Through West Africa 

Soumaila Traoré, a 30-year-old welder, cools off with water under a blazing sun in Bamako, Mali, Thursday, April, 18, 2024. (AP)
Soumaila Traoré, a 30-year-old welder, cools off with water under a blazing sun in Bamako, Mali, Thursday, April, 18, 2024. (AP)
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Laborers and Street Vendors in Mali Find No Respite as Deadly Heat Wave Surges Through West Africa 

Soumaila Traoré, a 30-year-old welder, cools off with water under a blazing sun in Bamako, Mali, Thursday, April, 18, 2024. (AP)
Soumaila Traoré, a 30-year-old welder, cools off with water under a blazing sun in Bamako, Mali, Thursday, April, 18, 2024. (AP)

Street vendors in Mali's capital of Bamako peddle water sachets, ubiquitous for this part of West Africa during the hottest months. This year, an unprecedented heat wave has led to a surge in deaths, experts say, warning of more scorching weather ahead as effects of climate change roil the continent.

The heat wave began in late March, as many in this Muslim majority country observed the holy Islamic month of Ramadan with dawn-to-dusk fasting.

On Thursday, temperatures in Bamako reached 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) and weather forecasts say it's not letting up anytime soon.

The city's Gabriel-Touré Hospital reported 102 deaths in the first four days of the month, compared to 130 deaths in all of April last year. It's unknown how many of the fatalities were due to the extreme weather as such data cannot be made public under the regulations imposed by the country's military rulers.

Cheikh A Traoré, Mali’s general director for health, said significantly more elderly people have died during this period although there were no statistics available due to the measures.

Mali has experienced two coups since 2020, leading a wave of political instability that has swept across West and Central Africa in recent years. Along with its political troubles, the country is also in the grip of a worsening insurgency by militants linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIS group.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre says that a lack of data in Mali and other West Africa countries affected by this month's heat wave makes it impossible to know how many heat-related deaths there were but estimated that the death toll was likely in the hundreds if not thousands.

The heat is also endangering already vulnerable children in Mali — 1 million under the age of 5 were at risk of acute malnutrition at the end of 2023 due to protracted violence, internal displacement, and restricted access to humanitarian aid, according to the World Food Program.

Professor Boubacar Togo, head of pediatrics at Gabriel-Touré, told The Associated Press that the hospital has had six cases of meningitis in children in the last week, an unusually high number. He also added that there were many illnesses with diarrhea as a leading symptom. Togo did not elaborate or offer specific data.

To protect children from the worst of the heat, Mali's military rulers have shortened the school day, to end before 1 p.m. instead of at 5.30 p.m. during the heat wave. But on the streets of Bamako, workers say they have no choice but to go out and brave the extreme heat.

“Either I work and risk my health or I stop working for the most of the day and I earn nothing,” said 25-year-old driver Amadou Coulibaly, who offers rides on his motorbike for a small fee.

With the political instability, many foreign investors are leaving Mali. Rolling power cuts and fuel shortages have forced companies to shut doors, exacerbating an already dire economic situation.

Despite the heat, 30-year-old welder Somaila Traoré worked in his shop alongside a dozen employees, urging them to work faster.

“We’ve got to finish the job before the power cuts,” he said.

An analysis published Thursday by the World Weather Attribution — an international team of scientists looking at how human-induced climate change impacts extreme weather — said the latest heat wave in the Sahel, a region in Africa south of the Sahara that suffers from periodic droughts, is more than just a Malian record-breaker.

“Our study found that the extreme temperatures across the region simply wouldn’t have been possible without human-caused warming,” said Clair Barnes, the lead author and a researcher at Imperial College London.

The researchers say climate change has made maximum temperatures in Burkina Faso and Mali hotter by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — something that may not have happened “if humans had not warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels.”

With sustained warming temperatures, the trend would continue, with similar events likely once every 20 years, the study said.

“This result is a warning for both the region and the world,” Barnes said. “Extreme heat can be incredibly dangerous and will become more of a threat as the world continues to warm.”


Prince William Returns to Public Duties for 1st Time Since Kate's Cancer Diagnosis

Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
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Prince William Returns to Public Duties for 1st Time Since Kate's Cancer Diagnosis

Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS
Britain's Prince William helps to load trays of food into vans during a visit to Surplus to Supper, a surplus food redistribution charity, in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, Britain, April 18, 2024. Alastair Grant/Pool via REUTERS

The UK’s Prince William returned to public duties on Thursday for the first time since his wife’s cancer diagnosis.
William visited a surplus food redistribution center and a youth club it serves, highlighting efforts to reduce food waste as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and feed people in need. The prince stepped away from public duties after Kate, the Princess of Wales, announced on March 22 that she was undergoing treatment for an unspecified type of cancer.

In a video message released that day, Kate asked for “time, space and privacy” as she and her family adjusted to her diagnosis.

“I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family,” she said at the time.

“It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them, and to reassure them that I am going to be okay,” she added.

Both King Charles III and Kate have been largely absent from the public stage since January due to health problems, leaving Queen Camilla, Princess Anne and other members of the royal family to pick up the slack on the whirl of events and awards ceremonies that dominate the work of Britain’s monarchy.

Charles announced on Feb. 5 that he had been diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer following treatment for an enlarged prostate two weeks earlier. Kate’s diagnosis came after she was hospitalized in late January for unspecified abdominal surgery.


Saudi Film 'Norah' Gets Cannes Film Festival Nomination

The Cannes Film Festival announced that the Saudi film "Norah" shas been chosen as part of the festival's Official Selection in the 'Un Certain Regard' section. SPA
The Cannes Film Festival announced that the Saudi film "Norah" shas been chosen as part of the festival's Official Selection in the 'Un Certain Regard' section. SPA
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Saudi Film 'Norah' Gets Cannes Film Festival Nomination

The Cannes Film Festival announced that the Saudi film "Norah" shas been chosen as part of the festival's Official Selection in the 'Un Certain Regard' section. SPA
The Cannes Film Festival announced that the Saudi film "Norah" shas been chosen as part of the festival's Official Selection in the 'Un Certain Regard' section. SPA

The Cannes Film Festival announced that the Saudi film "Norah," supported by the Saudi Film Commission through its 'Daou' initiative, has been chosen as part of the festival's Official Selection in the 'Un Certain Regard' section.

The festival will take place from May 14 to 25.

Written and directed by Tawfiq Al-Zaidi, the feature film "Norah" clinched the top prize of a funding award from the Saudi Film Commission's Daou Film Competition, an initiative launched by the Kingdom's Ministry of Culture in September 2019 to bolster Saudi film production and nurture the next generation of filmmakers.

The film also garnered support from the Quality of Life program, one of the Kingdom's Vision 2023 initiatives, Film AlUla, Generation 2030, and the Red Sea Film Festival, where it premiered in December 2023.

Set in a remote village in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s and filmed in AlUla, "Norah" presents a poignant narrative about the transformative power of art in inspiring change. It features Maria Bahrawi, Yaqoub Al-Farhan, and Abdullah Al-Sadhan.

This nomination marks a historic milestone for Saudi cinema as "Norah" becomes the first Saudi film to be included in the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival. "Un Certain Regard" is renowned for showcasing new talent and unconventional narratives, running parallel to the Palme d'Or competition. It serves as a significant international platform that garners attention from filmmakers worldwide, emphasizing the artistic and creative merit of the selected films.


Indonesia Volcano Eruption Forces Evacuations, Airport Closure

A handout photo taken and released by Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) on April 18, 2024 shows Mount Ruang spewing smoke in Sitaro, North Sulawesi. (Photo by Handout / Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) / AFP)
A handout photo taken and released by Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) on April 18, 2024 shows Mount Ruang spewing smoke in Sitaro, North Sulawesi. (Photo by Handout / Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) / AFP)
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Indonesia Volcano Eruption Forces Evacuations, Airport Closure

A handout photo taken and released by Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) on April 18, 2024 shows Mount Ruang spewing smoke in Sitaro, North Sulawesi. (Photo by Handout / Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) / AFP)
A handout photo taken and released by Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) on April 18, 2024 shows Mount Ruang spewing smoke in Sitaro, North Sulawesi. (Photo by Handout / Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) / AFP)

Indonesia shut a provincial airport and evacuated hundreds of people from the vicinity of the Ruang volcano after it belched explosive plumes of lava, rocks and ash for days, officials said on Thursday, declaring the highest alert on the situation.
Wednesday's dramatic eruption of the volcano on a remote island in the province of North Sulawesi threw a fiery-red column of lava, incandescent rock and ash as much as three km into the sky.
Purple flashes of lightning rent the sky above the erupting volcano, videos on social media showed.
"We're running, guys," said one witness who filmed the eruption while scrambling to evacuate. "We are escaping because the ash is coming close."
More than 800 people were evacuated from the area, with authorities widening the evacuation zone further after the volcanology agency raised the alert status.
"The potential for further eruption is still high, so we need to remain alert," agency official Heruningtyas Desi Purnamasari told reporters on Thursday, blaming a rapid escalation in volcanic activity.
The agency had also received reports that falling rocks and ash damaged homes and forced a nearby hospital to evacuate, the official said.
Transport authorities shut the airport in the provincial capital of Manado to protect against the showers of ash from the eruption.
Budget airline Air Asia cancelled flights with nine airports in East Malaysia and Brunei after aviation authorities warned of a safety threat.
Officials have cordoned off an area of six kilometers around the volcano and are evacuating more residents, some from the neighboring island of Tagulandang, said Abdul Muhari, spokesperson of the disaster mitigation agency.
About 1,500 of those in high-risk areas needed to be immediately evacuated, he added, while almost 12,000 more stand to be affected.
Officials have also flagged the risk of a tsunami if parts of the mountain collapse into the ocean below. About 400 people were killed in a tsunami unleashed by a previous eruption of the volcano in 1871.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, has 120 active volcanoes. It is prone to volcanic activity because it sits along the “Ring of Fire,” a horseshoe-shaped series of seismic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean.


‘Cinema Nights’ Back in Saudi Arabia with Exclusive Shows

The Red Sea Film Foundation logo
The Red Sea Film Foundation logo
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‘Cinema Nights’ Back in Saudi Arabia with Exclusive Shows

The Red Sea Film Foundation logo
The Red Sea Film Foundation logo

The Red Sea Film Foundation has announced the return of the “Cinema Nights” series, which will be held on Thursday in partnership with Diriyah Biennale Foundation.
The “Cinema Nights” program will present a selected series of exclusive film screenings, including the “Night Music” and the Saudi film “Noura” by Saudi director and writer Tawfiq Al-Zaidi, in addition to other Saudi and international short films which will be screened in the JAX District in Diriyah.
The program offers visitors captivating cinematic experiences according to the latest audio and video technologies, with Arabic and English subtitles available for all films scheduled to be screened. The program will also show a selection of feature films every Thursday from April 18 to May 23, with the weekend being allocated to short films from May 10 to 11.
Question and answer sessions will also be organized with distinguished cinematic talents, providing the audience with the opportunity to interact with the filmmakers and ask their questions. This exceptional partnership between two of the Kingdom’s foremost cultural institutions aims to enrich the cinematic and cultural landscape, enhance creativity, and attract promising talents in the film industry.


Snake on Train Delays Japanese Bullet Service

Passengers get on a Kodama bullet train, or "shinkansen" service to the city of Nagoya at Tokyo station in central Tokyo on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
Passengers get on a Kodama bullet train, or "shinkansen" service to the city of Nagoya at Tokyo station in central Tokyo on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
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Snake on Train Delays Japanese Bullet Service

Passengers get on a Kodama bullet train, or "shinkansen" service to the city of Nagoya at Tokyo station in central Tokyo on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
Passengers get on a Kodama bullet train, or "shinkansen" service to the city of Nagoya at Tokyo station in central Tokyo on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)

Even small delays in Japan's much-vaunted bullet trains are rare, and more unusual still are snakes on board holding up the speedy "shinkansen" services.

On Tuesday evening, a passenger alerted security to a 40-centimeter serpent lurking on a train between Nagoya and Tokyo, resulting in a 17-minute hold-up.

It was unclear whether the cold-blooded commuter was venomous or how it ended up on the train, and there was no injury or panic among passengers, a spokesman for Central Japan Railway Company told Agence France Presse.

Shinkansen customers can bring small dogs, cats and other animals, including pigeons on board -- but not snakes.

"It's difficult to imagine wild snakes somehow climbing onto the train at one of the stations. We have rules against bringing snakes into the shinkansen," the spokesman told AFP.

"But we don't check passengers' baggage," he said.

The train was originally scheduled to go on to Osaka, but the company decided to use a different train for the trip, causing a delay of about 17 minutes, he said.

Patrols by uniformed security guards onboard bullet trains were scaled up after a fatal stabbing in 2018 on a shinkansen that shocked normally ultra-safe Japan.

Additional security was added for the Summer Olympics in 2021 and Group of Seven meetings last year.

First launched in 1964, the shinkansen network has never suffered an accident resulting in any passenger fatalities or injuries, according to Japan Railways.

The trains can travel at 285 kilometers per hour, with an average delay of 0.2 minutes.