- Critically Endangered Porpoise Found Dead Off Coast of Mexico, Conservationists Say
- What We Know So Far About the New Zealand Mosque Shootings
- New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern Says 40 Killed in Christchurch Mosque Shootings
- Four People Are in Custody After Mass Shootings at New Zealand Mosques
- Mozambique Braces for ‘Worst Case Scenario’ as Cyclone Idai Makes Landfall
- North Korean Official Says the U.S. May Have Missed Its Chance in Hanoi
- At Least 40 People Killed in Mass Shootings at Two New Zealand Mosques
- Israel Strikes Militants in Gaza Strip in Retaliation for Tel Aviv Attack
- President Trump Claims He Gave Theresa May Ideas on Negotiating Brexit But ‘She Didn’t Listen’
- ‘All This Potential Gone Forever.’ Colleagues Remember the Humanitarians Killed in the Ethiopian Airlines Crash
Posted: 15 Mar 2019 01:18 AM PDT
Conservationists say they have found a dead vaquita porpoise, a critically endangered marine animal of which only about 10 remain in the world, in a fish net off the coast of Mexico.
On March 12, crew from environmental group Sea Shepherd set out on patrol ships in the Gulf of California when they spotted an unidentified white animal trapped in an illegal gillnet, an apparatus used to trap fish by their gills.
The animal was believed to be the endangered vaquita, but its severely decomposed corpse made it difficult to identify. Preliminary photos sent to experts confirmed that its body matched that of a vaquita porpoise.
The vaquita is listed as a “critically endangered” species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species.
A report published by the IUCN on March 6 states that only about 10 vaquitas remained alive in 2018, as per an acoustic monitoring program conducted in the Gulf, though there is a 95% chance they number between 6 and 22.
According to Sea Shepherd, gillnets threaten the vaquita porpoise with imminent extinction. Used to target the totoaba fish, also a critically endangered species of a similar size to the vaquita, the nets are a “perfect death trap.” The totoaba fish is caught largely for its swim bladder, and its numbers have been severely reduced due to overfishing in recent decades.
Some had previously argued that gillnets are not a threat to vaquitas and other cetaceans.
“If there were any reservations about totoaba gillnets being a great danger for vaquitas and other cetaceans, despite ample proof in the past, this event should definitely leave no room for doubt,” said Sea Shepherd Director of Marine Operations Locky Maclean.
In the report, the IUCN called on the government of Mexico to expand net removal efforts to maintain the area where the last few vaquitas remain as a net free zone, and in the long term, to support vaquita-safe fisheries to conserve the species.
“Without immediate, effective action on the part of the Government, the vaquita is doomed to extinction,” the report adds.
Posted: 15 Mar 2019 01:03 AM PDT
At least 49 people have been killed in mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday.
The attacks occurred while worshippers attended Friday prayers. The main attack happened at Masjid Al Noor in central Christchurch, the largest city on the country’s southern island, where about 30 people died, according to the Associated Press. A second shooting took place Linwood Masjid Mosque, in an eastern suburb of Christchurch.
It is reported that a number of explosive devices attached to vehicles were defused after the attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the incident a “terrorist attack.”
“There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence,” she said at a press conference in Christchurch.
Here’s what we know so far about the events unfolding in New Zealand.
What we know about the suspects
The suspects have not yet been named. Arden confirmed the attackers were not on any security watch lists.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the suspects is an Australian citizen, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Reports say a man by the name of Brenton Tarrant posted a hate-filled manifesto to social media, according to the Morning Herald.
It has also been reported that the suspect streamed the massacre on Facebook Live for approximately 17 minutes. New Zealand Police urged people not to view any “extremely distressing footage” being circulated online, and confirmed that the police are working to remove any footage from the Internet.
What we know about the victims
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed that at least 49 people have been killed in the shootings. Ardern said many of the victims are migrants and refugees.
The Canterbury District Health Board confirmed that 48 patients are currently being treated at Christchurch Hospital, including children to adults, some with critical injuries. People with gunshot wounds are also being treated at other hospitals.
What we know about the survivors
Survivors of the attack described a gunman wearing army-style clothing spraying the mosque with bullets. Noor Hamzah, 54, who was inside the Al Noor Mosque when the shooting began, described running for his life and hiding in the mosque’s carpark with several other worshippers, the New Zealand Herald reports.
Sabbir Hussain, who was inside the Linwood Masjid, said he hid in a wash and storeroom before jumping out a window to hide until police arrived, reports stuff.co.nz.
Among those who managed to escape with their lives were several members of Bangladesh’s cricket team, who were in Christchurch for a match against New Zealand. Players and coaches of Bangladesh’s cricket team were on a bus en route to Masjid al Noor mosque in Christchurch when the shooting started, reports the Associated Press. A Saturday match between the New Zealand and Bangladesh cricket teams has been cancelled.
The team’s batsman Tamil Iqbal Khan tweeted about the incident.
Team member Mushfiqur Rahmin also tweeted about the team’s narrow escape:
What have authorities said
Ardern said at a press conference that the tragedy in Christchurch could “only be described as a terror attack.” She had earlier condemned the attacks on Twitter:
Other leaders joined Ardern in denouncing the shooting. “I condemn the violent, extremist, right-wing terrorist attack that has stolen the lives of so many innocent New Zealanders as they went about their peaceful practice of worship at their mosques in Christchurch today,” said Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison Twitter.
Police have asked Christchurch residents to stay at home, and called for the closure of mosques across the country. “We have asked all mosques nationally to shut their doors, and advise that people refrain from visiting,” the New Zealand Police said on Twitter.
The country’s national security threat level has been raised from low to high, according to the Associated Press.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 11:51 PM PDT
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 40 people have been killed in an attack at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.
Four people have been detained, and one is Australian.
Ardern said more than 20 people were seriously injured during the shootings at two mosques during Friday prayers.
Thirty fatalities occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch. Seven of the dead were inside the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque and three died outside the same mosque.
A man who claimed responsibility for the shootings said in a manifesto that he was a 28-year-old white Australian who came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 10:48 PM PDT
New Zealand police say they’re not aware of other suspects beyond the four who have been arrested after two mosque shootings but they can’t be certain.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush did not elaborate on the suspects who are in custody.
The shootings occurred at two mosques in the Christchurch area during Friday afternoon prayers.
A witness described multiple deaths at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch. A witness who heard about five gunshots at the suburban Linwood Masjid Mosque said two wounded people were carried out on stretchers.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 09:57 PM PDT
A major cyclone the equivalent of a strong Category 2 hurricane approached the coast of Mozambique late Thursday, prompting residents to brace for what weather authorities have called a likely “worst case scenario.”
Cyclone Idai was forecast to make landfall just south of Beira, the nation’s fourth-largest city with a population of half a million, late Thursday night. It is now carrying sustained 110 mph winds gusting to above 130 mph, according to the Washington Post.
Flooding from Idai’s path inland has already killed 122 people in Mozambique and Malawi, making it the deadliest weather disaster this year.
The landfall will pose further threat to the African country, with authorities saying it could bring a “life-threatening” storm surge of up to 13 feet along Mozambique’s coastline, and close to 20 feet at the mouth of the Pungwe river, which runs to Zimbabwe. The surge could submerge thousands of homes and businesses, and potentially displace more than 1,000 residents, the Post reports.
Mozambique ranks third among countries in Africa most susceptible to weather-related hazards, according to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. In 2015, Cyclone Chedza killed 140, and in 2000, Tropical Cyclone Eline left 350 dead and 650,000 homeless across southern Africa. Cyclone Idai is predicted to be the strongest to make landfall in Mozambique since Eline.
Mozambican authorities have issued a red alert regarding Tropical Cyclone Idai and humanitarian response is ongoing in Malawi and Mozambique. The government, with support from local and international partners, is providing assistance to people already displaced by floods, but access is being impeded by road damage, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 09:21 PM PDT
(PYONGYANG, North Korea) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon make a decision on whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain the country’s moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said, noting the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing an urgent meeting Friday of diplomats and foreign media in Pyongyang, including The Associated Press, said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.
She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”
Choe, who attended the Feb. 27-28 talks in Hanoi, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the U.S. She suggested that while Trump was more willing to talk, the U.S. position was hardened by the uncompromising demands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
“Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” she added.
She said it was entirely up to Kim whether to continue the launch and test moratorium, and said she expects he will “clarify his position” within a short period of time.
“On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said. ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?'” she said. “I want to make it clear that the gangster-like stand of the U.S. will eventually put the situation in danger. We have neither the intention to compromise with the U.S. in any form nor much less the desire or plan to conduct this kind of negotiation.”
Choe questioned the claim by Trump at a news conference after the talks in Hanoi broke down that the North was seeking the lifting of all sanctions against it, and said it was seeking only the ones that are directed at its civilian economy. After the summit had ended, State Department officials clarified that was indeed the North’s position, but said the lifting of economic sanctions was such a big demand that it would essentially subsidize the North’s continued nuclear activity.
Choe said it was the U.S. that was being too demanding and inflexible.
“What is clear is that the U.S. has thrown away a golden opportunity this time,” she said. “I’m not sure why the U.S. came out with this different description. We never asked for the removal of sanctions in their entirety.”
“This time we understood very clearly that the United States has a very different calculation to ours,” she added.
She refused to comment directly when asked by one of the ambassadors about news reports the North may be preparing for another missile launch or satellite launch.
“Whether to maintain this moratorium or not is the decision of our chairman of the state affairs commission,” she said, using one of Kim’s titles. “He will make his decision in a short period of time.”
Journalists were not allowed to ask questions during the briefing, which lasted nearly an hour.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 07:24 PM PDT
(CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand) — Mass shootings at two mosques full of worshippers attending Friday prayers killed 40 people on what the prime minister called “one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” as authorities detained four people and defused explosive devices in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the events in Christchurch represented “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” and acknowledged many of those affected may be migrants and refugees. In addition to the dead, she said more than 20 people were seriously wounded.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
Police took three men and a woman into custody after the shootings, which shocked people across the nation of 5 million people.
Authorities have not elaborated on who they detained. But a man who claimed responsibility for the shootings left a 74-page anti-immigrant manifesto in which he explained who he was and his reasoning for his actions. He said he was a 28-year-old white Australian.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that one of the four people arrested was an Australian-born citizen.
Ardern at a news conference alluded to anti-immigrant sentiment as the possible motive, saying that while many people affected by the shootings may be migrants or refugees “they have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not.”
Police Commissioner Mike Bush said police were not aware of other suspects beyond the four who were detained but they couldn’t be certain.
“The attackers were apprehended by local police staff. There have been some absolute acts of bravery,” Bush said. “I’m hugely proud of our police staff, the way they responded to this. But let’s not presume the danger is gone.”
Bush said the defense force had defused a number of improvised explosive devices that were attached to vehicles stopped after the attacks.
He said anybody who was thinking of going to a mosque anywhere in New Zealand on Friday should stay put.
The deadliest attack occurred at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch at about 1:45 p.m. Arden said 30 people were killed there.
Witness Len Peneha said he saw a man dressed in black enter the mosque and then heard dozens of shots, followed by people running from the mosque in terror.
Peneha, who lives next door to the mosque, said the gunman ran out of the mosque, dropped what appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon in his driveway, and fled.
Peneha said he then went into the mosque to try and help.
“I saw dead people everywhere. There were three in the hallway, at the door leading into the mosque, and people inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s unbelievable nutty. I don’t understand how anyone could do this to these people, to anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
He said he helped about five people recover in his home. He said one was slightly injured.
“I’ve lived next door to this mosque for about five years and the people are great, they’re very friendly,” he said. “I just don’t understand it.”
He said the gunman was white and was wearing a helmet with some kind of device on top, giving him a military-type appearance.
A video that was apparently livestreamed by the shooter shows the attack in horrifying detail. The gunman spends more than two minutes inside the mosque spraying terrified worshippers with bullets again and again, sometimes re-firing at people he has already cut down.
He then walks outside to the street, where he shoots at people on the sidewalk. Children’s screams can be heard in the distance as he returns to his car to get another rifle.
The gunman then walks back into the mosque, where there are at least two dozen people lying on the ground. After walking back outside and shooting a woman there, he gets back in his car, where the song “Fire” by English rock band “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” can be heard blasting from the speakers. The singer bellows, “I am the god of hellfire!” and the gunman drives away. The video then cuts out.
There was a second shooting at the Linwood Masjid Mosque that Ardern said killed 10 people.
Mark Nichols told the New Zealand Herald he heard about five gunshots and that a Friday prayer-goer returned fire with a rifle or shotgun.
Nichols said he saw two injured people being carried out on stretchers past his automotive shop and that both people appeared to be alive.
The man who claimed responsibility for the shooting said he came to New Zealand only to plan and train for the attack. He said he was not a member of any organization, but had donated to and interacted with many nationalist groups, though he acted alone and no group ordered the attack.
He said the mosques in Christchurch and Linwood would be the targets, as would a third mosque in the town of Ashburton if he could make it there.
He said he chose New Zealand because of its location, to show that even the most remote parts of the world were not free of “mass immigration.”
New Zealand is generally considered to be a welcoming country for immigrants and refugees. Last year, the prime minister announced the country would boost its annual refugee quota from 1,000 to 1,500 starting in 2020. Ardern, whose party campaigned on the promise of raising the intake of refugees, dubbed the planned increase “the right thing to do.”
A cricket match between New Zealand and Bangladesh scheduled to start Saturday was canceled after the Bangladesh cricket team had a narrow escape.
Players and members of the team’s coaching staff were reportedly on their bus, approaching the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Hagley Park when the shooting broke out.
Batsman Tamim Iqbal tweeted “entire team got saved from active shooters. Frightening experience and please keep us in your prayers.”
Mass shootings in New Zealand are exceedingly rare. The deadliest in modern history occurred in the small town of Aramoana in 1990, when gunman David Gray shot and killed 13 people following a dispute with a neighbor.
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 06:53 PM PDT
(JERUSALEM) — Israeli warplanes on Friday struck some 100 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a rare rocket attack on the Israeli metropolis of Tel Aviv. Rocket fire persisted throughout the morning, setting the stage for additional possible reprisals.
The army said that its targets had included an office complex in Gaza City used to plan and command Hamas militant activities, an underground complex that served as Hamas’ main rocket-manufacturing site, and a center used for Hamas drone development. There were no reports of casualties.
The late-night attack on Tel Aviv, Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital, marked a dramatic escalation in hostilities. It was the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war between Israel and Gaza militants.
Hamas denied responsibility for the initial rocket attack, saying it went against Palestinian interests. But after a preliminary investigation, Israel said it had concluded that the militant group was behind the attack.
Following the Israeli airstrike, several additional rounds of rocket fire were launched into Israel. The military said several rockets were intercepted by its air defense systems, and there were no reports of injuries.
The fighting broke out as Egyptian mediators were in Gaza trying to broker an expanded cease-fire deal between the bitter enemies.
The initial blasts from the Israeli airstrikes in southern Gaza were so powerful that smoke could be seen in Gaza City, 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the north. The Israeli warplanes could be heard roaring through the skies above Gaza City.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007. Smaller flare-ups have occurred sporadically since Israel and Hamas fought their last war, in 2014.
The sudden outburst of fighting comes at a sensitive time for both sides. Israel is holding national elections in less than a month. Netanyahu is locked in a tight fight for re-election and could face heavy criticism from his opponents if he is seen as ineffective against the militants.
Cabinet Minister Naftali Bennett, a hard-line rival of Netanyahu’s, called on the prime minister to convene a gathering of his Security Cabinet and demand the army “present a plan to defeat Hamas.”
Likewise, Hamas has come under rare public criticism in Gaza for the harsh conditions in the territory. An Israeli-Egyptian blockade, combined with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and mismanagement by the Hamas government, have fueled an economic crisis in the territory. Residents have little desire for another war with Israel.
Earlier Thursday, Hamas police violently broke up a small protest over the harsh living conditions.
Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, the chief Israeli military spokesman, said the army had been caught off guard by Thursday night’s rocket barrage and had no advance intelligence.
Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming out of the territory. Hamas possesses a large arsenal of rockets and missiles capable of striking deep inside Israel.
But with Gaza’s economy in tatters, the group has been seeking to preserve calm.
Hamas denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group’s military wing was meeting with the Egyptian mediators.
In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the Hamas Interior Ministry said the rocket fire went “against the national consensus” and promised to take action against the perpetrators.
But Israel’s military concluded that Hamas was responsible. In a statement early Friday, the army said “we can confirm” that Hamas carried out the rocket attack.
Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed militant group that also has a large rocket arsenal, also denied firing the rockets. Smaller factions inspired by the Islamic State group also sometimes fire rockets, though it is unclear whether they possess projectiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.
Earlier this week, Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire on southern Israel, near the border. Late Thursday, local media said that Egyptian mediators left the territory.
At the time, Netanyahu issued a warning to Hamas, rejecting suggestions that Israel would be reluctant to take tough action in Gaza ahead of national elections next month.
“I suggest to Hamas, don’t count on it,” he told his Cabinet. “We will do anything necessary to restore security and quiet to the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and to the south in general.”
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 02:09 PM PDT
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Thursday sharply criticized Britain’s handling of negotiations over leaving the European Union, saying the talks have been bungled and that the wrenching debate was dividing the country.
“I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation,” he said.
Trump, who holds himself up as a master deal-maker, said he gave Prime Minister Theresa May his ideas on how she could negotiate a successful deal for leaving the 28-member group of nations. But “she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine. I mean she’s got to do what she’s got to do,” he said at the White House as he welcomed Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar for an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly,” Trump said. “I hate to see it being, everything being ripped apart right now.”
Trump spoke hours before British lawmakers voted to delay Brexit for at least three months. Britain’s exit from the EU had been scheduled for March 29. The motion commits May’s government to seek an extension until June 30 if Parliament approves a U.K.-EU withdrawal deal next week.
Trump predicted later Thursday that the situation eventually would work itself out. The president said he and Varadkar discussed the issue during their Oval Office meeting. Varadkar opposes Britain’s EU exit and expressed concern about how such a move would affect Northern Ireland.
“We talked about Brexit, something that’s turning out to be a little more complex than they thought it would be,” Trump said at an annual Capitol Hill luncheon for the Irish. “But it’ll all work out. Everything does. One way or the other, it’s going to work out.”
The Republican president was at the Capitol just hours before 12 GOP senators broke ranks and voted to reject his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump had taken that step so he could spend money that lawmakers refused to give the administration specifically to build a wall there.
The Democratic-run House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, voted last month to block the declaration.
Pelosi used the luncheon to make a pointed plug for immigration after just she had just described the annual event as “a tradition where we dispense with our differences, whether they’re political or whether they’re competitive in any other way.”
Speaking about the contributions of Irish-Americans, Pelosi quoted Republican President Ronald Reagan as saying U.S. leadership would be lost “if we ever close the door to new Americans.” Then she told the bipartisan luncheon: “You can applaud if you want.”
Posted: 14 Mar 2019 12:45 PM PDT
When an Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying 157 passengers crashed Sunday, killing all aboard, the world lost nearly two dozen “superheroes”—selfless humanitarians and peace-seekers whose work for the United Nations helped save thousands of lives across the globe, according to environmental leaders and friends of the victims.
At least 22 U.N. workers were killed when the doomed Nairobi, Kenya-bound flight went down minutes after taking off from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, officials said. Some of them were headed to Nairobi to attend the fourth U.N. Environment Assembly, the top decision-making body on global environmental issues, which kicked off Monday with a somber moment of silence. Heads were bowed and flags were flown at half-staff, officials said, as the thousands gathered paid tribute to their fallen colleagues.
Among the dead was 38-year-old Victor Tsang, a kind and fierce fighter for women’s rights, who was about a month away from enjoying the birth of his second child, according to his colleagues and friends.
“He was the best of his generation and such a decent human being,” said Erik Solheim, the former executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme. “Victor made the world a better place. He spread sunshine wherever he went.”
Tsang, a Hong Kong native, championed gender equality and promoted sustainable energy as an ambassador for the U.N. Environment Programme, the agency said. “He was a very strong feminist,” Solheim told TIME, adding that Tsang may have been motivated to fight for the cause because of his close connection to his wife, who is eight months pregnant. The couple “did everything together” and deeply loved their 2-year-old son, colleagues said.
“He would play with his child like a child,” said Pushpam Kumar, the U.N. Environment Assembly’s chief environmental economist. “He had boundless energy.”
When he learned of his colleague’s death, Kumar said he had flashbacks of happier memories of Tsang bringing his son into his Nairobi office and expressing his excitement about his upcoming baby. But Kumar, 50, was also hit with waves of sadness. “Life is so fragile. We know that. But this was something else,” he said, adding that he had to ask himself, “Victor is no more?”
“He had a full life to go,” Kumar said. “All this potential gone forever.”
Solheim, Tsang’s former boss, said Tsang “could have achieved so much.” Solheim said Tsang was brave and determined to effect change even if it meant constantly barging into his office with new ideas. “A lot of people don’t dare to do that,” Solheim said with a laugh. “It may be strange, but the U.N. is a very authoritarian institution. But he was frank, coming with suggestions on how to do things other ways. That’s what I will remember about him.”
Tsang became “one of the strongest voices in the organization for the promotion of women,” Solheim said. He also took his activism outside of the office and spread awareness about the issue around the globe. “He had no enemies. His hard work, dedication—it would have taken him very far in life,” Solheim said. “It was a life cut short when it was starting to flourish.”
Sunday’s crash also claimed the life of Oliver Vick, a British native who worked for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and helped set up elections in Afghanistan, according to the organization and his friends. “He was a very free spirit,” said Sheilagh Henry, a U.N. official based in New York and Vick’s good friend.
Vick was also a skilled worker who fought “tirelessly for peace in Somalia,” UNSOM said in a statement. He also “had political knowledge of every country he ever worked with” and was the person his colleagues could turn to for “information, for insight and for friendship and fun,” Henry said. More importantly to him, Vick was an “amazing father” to two young children—at least one of whom was born while Vick was on the job in Afghanistan, Henry said.
“The world just won’t be the same without him,” Henry said through tears.
Also killed were seven people who worked for the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which helps more than 90 million people in more than 80 countries each year. Its workers face perilous conditions every day they’re on the job, often rushing toward tsunamis and volcanoes and setting up camp in war zones and hostile territories as others flee, according to WFP Executive Director David Beasley. They delivered food and relief despite threats from terrorists, extremists and the worst of Mother Nature.
“The seven we lost really represent the best of the best,” Beasley told TIME. “Thousands upon thousands are alive today because of these seven. Thousands upon thousands have better lives and dreams to fulfill now because of these seven.”
“They’re superheroes,” he added. “They laid their lives down for others every single day. We didn’t expect them to go down like this. This is heartbreaking.”
The seven WFP workers who were killed included Ekta Adhikari, 28, from Nepal, who was stationed in Addis Ababa. “She was the life of the office,” Beasley recalled, adding that she was also “inspiring and encouraging.” The team also lost Michael Ryan, a 39-year-old engineer from Ireland, who Beasley credits for saving thousands of people. Ryan joined the group as head of engineering in Addis Ababa in 2012. He leaves behind a wife and two children, including a 6-month-old baby.
Other U.N. agencies that lost workers in the crash include the United Nations office in Nairobi, the International Telecommunications Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.
The 157 victims in total came from 35 countries, including Kenya, Canada, Ethiopia, France, China, Italy, Britain and the U.S., officials said. It’s still unclear what caused the crash, which prompted about 40 nations—including the U.S. as recently as Wednesday—to ground all of its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. It was the second fatal crash involving the model in just five months.
Environmental leaders and colleagues of the slain humanitarians pledged to forge ahead in their memory. At Monday’s assembly, Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, urged the more than 4,700 delegates at the event to remain “optimistic and bold” and to keep working toward the goal of reducing fossil fuel use and waste.
Beasley said continuing the victims’ work would be the best way to remember them. “Every single one of [them] would want us to not skip a beat. They would want us to go and do more on their behalf,” he said. “This tragedy, I believe, is letting the world know the sacrifices that humanitarians go through every day around the world. And I’m hoping that through this tragedy, people all over the world will be inspired to do even more.”
“The deaths of all these humanitarians on that plane will not be vain,” Beasley added.
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