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The world in brief: Swiss town evacuates as rocks slide

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | May 13, 2023 at 3:57 a.m.
A warning sign is seen Friday in front of the “Brienzer Rutsch,” the rockfall danger zone in Brienz-Brinzauls, Switzerland. (AP/Arnd Wiegmann)

Swiss town evacuates as rocks slide

BRIENZ, Switzerland -- Stragglers packed up belongings in cars, trucks and a least one pickup truck before an evacuation order took effect on Friday in a tiny village in eastern Switzerland that is facing an urgent rockslide threat.

As geologists and other experts in fluorescent vests took measurements on Friday, villagers and vacationers bared their emotion that the centuries-old Alpine village of Brienz -- home to under 100 residents -- could be soon be subsumed under spilling rock.

Swiss authorities say about 2 million cubic meters of rock on an Alpine mountainside overhead could soon come crashing down.

Erosion over generations has left the bald-faced mountainside white, gray and orange with exposed rock and earth, and a few boulders have already made their way onto the edge of the village in the verdant valley. One sat menacingly next to a small wood cabin.

The rumble of shifting ground, the sporadic crackle of rocks colliding, and the remains of dead trees and dirt sliding down the mountain facade Friday brought an eerie sense of portent to the village and underscored the rising urgency for locals to get out of town by the 6 p.m. deadline set by authorities.

Santos settles Brazilian check charges

RIO DE JANEIRO -- A day after New York Rep. George Santos pleaded innocent to charges in the U.S., he signed an agreement Thursday with public prosecutors in Brazil to avoid prosecution for forging two stolen checks in 2008.

"What would have been the start of a case was ended today," Santos' lawyer in Brazil, Jonymar Vasconcelos, told The Associated Press in a text message. "As such, my client is no longer the subject of any case in Brazil."

Asked about the details of the non-prosecution agreement, Vasconcelos demurred, citing the fact the case proceeded under seal. The public prosecutors' office of Rio de Janeiro state also declined to comment when contacted by the AP.

Court records in Brazil, first uncovered by The New York Times, show Santos was the subject of a criminal charge for using two stolen checks to buy items at a shop in the city of Niteroi, including a pair of sneakers that he gifted to a friend. At the time, Santos would have been 19. The purchase totaled 2,144 Brazilian reais, then equal to about $1,350, according to the charge prosecutors filed in 2011.

That followed an investigation opened in 2008 and Santos' signed confession, in which he admitted to having stolen the checkbook of his mother's former employer from her purse and making purchases, including in the store, and recognizing the fraudulent checks as those he had signed, according to the court documents reviewed by the AP.

Cyprus, U.S. train deminers for Ukraine

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus is working together with Irish and U.S. military experts to help train two groups of Ukrainian personnel in clearing an untold number of unmarked minefields in their homeland, the island nation's defense minister said Friday.

Replying to an Associated Press query, Minister Michalis Georgallas said a first group of 24 Ukrainians was currently undergoing training in Cypriot military installations, with another group expected to arrive next month.

The training was under the auspices of a European Union Military Assistance Mission (EUMAM Ukraine) that was launched last October to meet Ukraine's calls for support, he said.

As the situation on the ground in Ukraine now stands, a 5,000-strong team of demining experts would need at least 30 years to clear all mines from unmarked minefields across the front lines, Georgallas said.

He said Cypriot officers are also taking part in training of Ukrainian personnel in Germany.

Sudan takes steps for humanitarian aid

CAIRO -- The U.N. envoy for Sudan on Friday welcomed a deal between the country's warring generals promising safe passage to civilians fleeing the conflict and protection for humanitarian operations in the East African nation.

The envoy, Volker Perthes, said the agreement was an important first step toward a cease-fire to the fighting which is about to enter its fourth week.

The Sudanese military and the country's paramilitary, the Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, signed a pact late Thursday vowing to alleviate humanitarian suffering across the country, although a truce remains elusive.

Both sides also agreed to refrain from attacks likely to harm civilians. The violence has already killed over 600 people, including civilians, according to the U.N. healthy agency.

"The most important element is that both sides commit to continue talks," Perthes said during an online U.N. news conference from his office in Port Sudan. International efforts to turn the deal into a cease-fire have already started, he added.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the agreement, which outlines a series of shared pledges and promises to "facilitate humanitarian action in order to meet the needs of civilians."

--Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

  photo  Sudanese, who had been stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, arrive at Port Sudan airport, Thursday, May 11, 2023. The conflict between the country's military and a rival paramilitary group has killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands since it broke out in mid-April, creating a humanitarian crisis inside the country and at its borders. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
 
 
  photo  Sudanese, who had been stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, arrive at Port Sudan airport, Thursday, May 11, 2023. The conflict between the country's military and a rival paramilitary group has killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands since it broke out in mid-April, creating a humanitarian crisis inside the country and at its borders. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
 
 
  photo  Sudanese evacuees wait under a pane at Port Sudan airport, Thursday, May 11, 2023. The conflict between the country's military and a rival paramilitary group has killed hundreds and displaced hundreds of thousands since it broke out in mid-April, creating a humanitarian crisis inside the country and at its borders. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
 
 

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