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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Britain ups aid for storm-hit Caribbean, but Brexit fears loom
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Sept 13, 2017


Five crew missing after boat collision off Singapore
Singapore (AFP) Sept 13, 2017 - Five sailors were missing after their dredger collided with a tanker off Singapore Wednesday, authorities said, just weeks after a deadly accident in the same area involving a US warship.

A search effort was launched for the four Chinese members of crew and one Malaysian after the accident around the busy Singapore Strait, the city-state's Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) said.

Seven other Chinese sailors were rescued from the Dominican-registered dredger after it capsized following the collision in the early hours, and were taken to hospital.

The Indonesian-registered tanker sustained damage to its front section but is stable and none of its crew members were hurt, the port authority said.

The MPA said in a statement it was "leading the search and rescue operations", with boats and an air force helicopter deployed to hunt for the sailors.

There was no disruption to shipping in the Singapore Strait, it added.

On August 21, the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near the Singapore Strait, tearing a gaping hole in the ship's hull, and flooding it with water.

Ten US sailors were found dead inside flooded compartments after the collision, the latest accident involving an American warship in Asian waters.

The waters around Singapore are some of the busiest in the world, with huge numbers of cargo vessels plying the trade routes between Asia and Europe.

Britain on Wednesday announced an extra 25 million ($33.2 million, 27.2 million euros) in aid for its Caribbean territories devastated by Hurricane Irma, but lawmakers warned reconstruction efforts could be hampered by Brexit.

The self-governing territories of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands were hard hit by the mega-storm that swept through the region last week, and London is deploying more than 1,200 troops to help deliver aid and restore order.

"Today I'm announcing an additional 25 million to support the recovery effort, further to the 32 million of assistance I announced last week," Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons.

She rejected claims her government had been too slow to act, and noted that more than 1,000 British military personnel are now in the region, with another 200 due to arrive within days, along with more than 60 police officers.

"The devastation that has taken place means there will be a significant need for reconstruction," she added.

"We will be working with our overseas territories to ensure we are able to see those countries actually brought to life once again, and people able to have an economy and a good life there."

During a visit to the British Virgin Islands and Anguilla, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pledged "our absolute commitment" to Britons there.

"What they're seeing is an unprecedented UK response, but I want to stress it is not just for the short-term, we are going to be there for the long-term as well," he told the Press Association news agency.

In a letter to Brexit Secretary David Davis published Wednesday, however, a House of Lords committee warned the government it must consider how Brexit might affect the long-term sustainability of the territories.

They "will now face a particularly acute need to access significant reconstruction funds following the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Irma", the committee said.

It noted many of them do not qualify for British development aid, instead relying on funds from the European Union to build schools and roads, and maintain their environments -- funds which could dry up with Brexit.

- 'Cover the loss' -

"Some of the islands devastated by Hurricane Irma rely heavily on EU money through the European Development Fund to support their infrastructural development," said acting committee chairman Lord Michael Jay.

"We heard that 36 percent of Anguilla's capital budget comes from EDF funding -- that will be needed more now than ever."

He urged ministers to consider making contributions to the EU budget after Brexit to maintain this funding.

"If the Overseas Territories can no longer access EU funding the government will need to think seriously about how that loss is covered," the peer said.

Nine people were killed in the British territories in the hurricane out of a total of at least 50 dead in the region.

The chief minister of Anguilla, Victor Banks, told the Press Association that the bill to repair his island's infrastructure alone could reach 1 billion.

ar/pg

EDF - ELECTRICITE DE FRANCE

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