News in Brief 26 July 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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A boy sits under a water fountain during a heat wave. File Photo: Amarjeet Singh/IRIN

Middle East heatwave "could be a regional record"

A blistering heatwave that's been making life uncomfortable for millions of people in the Middle East could be a new temperature record, UN weather experts said Tuesday.

The announcement by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) comes after thermometers in Kuwait peaked at 54 degrees Centigrade on Thursday 21 July.

A special committee is being set up to examine the evidence to see if the reading is a new high for the eastern hemisphere and Asia.

WMO's Omar Baddour said that climate change and higher concentrations of so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere helped contribute to higher temperatures.

Nonetheless, he said, records depend on many other factors:

"To reach such records you need to have very complex combination of factors including air circulation, the influence of the sea, the season and the environment, et cetera, et cetera. Those conditions are not always met frequently."

The current world record stands at 56.7 degrees Centigrade; it was registered in Death Valley, California, in 1913.

Deaths on Mediterranean Sea pass 3,000 in 2016

More than 3,000 people have died at sea trying to cross to Europe this year, UN-partner agency the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has announced.

The threshold was crossed after the discovery of 39 bodies washed up on Libyan shores this week.

According to the organization, a thousand fewer lives were lost in the Mediterranean Sea at the same point last year.

IOM also said that it is expecting to confirm that more than a quarter of a million migrants and refugees have made it to Europe so far this year, arriving mainly in Italy and Greece.

In a statement, the organization also praised Italian and international vessels for saving hundreds of lives at sea every day.

Rising numbers of South Sudanese flee into Uganda

Fighting in South Sudan has forced more people to flee the country in the past three weeks than in the whole of the first half of the year, the UN said Tuesday.

According to the UN Refugee agency (UNHCR), some 70,000 people are now sheltering in neighbouring Uganda.

More than half of the refugees have arrived since clashes erupted in early July between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said that the situation remains extremely volatile inside South Sudan, although there is less fighting than in recent weeks:

"New arrivals are reporting ongoing fighting, looting by armed militias, burning down of homes, murders of civilians. Some of the women and children told us they were separated from their husbands and fathers by armed groups who were reportedly trying to recruit them into the ranks and reportedly preventing them from crossing the border to leave the country."

More than nine in 10 of the arrivals are women and children; most have left the Eastern Equatoria region of South Sudan, along with Juba.

UNHCR says that it is a priority to find new reception facilities for them inside Uganda to offer hot meals, water, shelter and other life-saving care, but severe under-funding is hampering efforts.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3'11"


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