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La Palma volcano eruption declared over after three months of destruction

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Scientists declared the eruption on Spain’s La Palma officially over on Saturday, allowing islanders to breathe a sigh of relief nearly 100 days after the Cumbre Vieja volcano began to spew out lava, rock and ash and upended the lives of thousands.

After bursting into action on Sept. 19, the volcano suddenly went quiet on Monday Dec. 13 but the authorities, wary of raising false hope, held off until Christmas Day to give the all-clear.

“What I want to say today can be said with just four words: The eruption is over,” Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez told a news conference on Saturday.

During the eruption, lava had poured down the mountainside, swallowing up houses, churches and many of the banana plantations that account for nearly half the island’s economy. Although property was destroyed, no one was killed.

Maria Jose Blanco, director of the National Geographic Institute on the Canaries, said all indicators suggested the eruption had run out of energy but she did not rule out a future reactivation.

Some 3,000 properties were destroyed by lava that now covers 1,219 hectares – equivalent to roughly 1,500 soccer pitches – according to the final tally by the emergency services.

Of the 7,000 people evacuated, most have returned home but many houses that remain standing are uninhabitable due to ash damage. With many roads blocked, some plantations are now only accessible by sea.

German couple Jacqueline Rehm and Juergen Doelz were among those forced to evacuate, fleeing their rented house in the village of Todoque and moving to their small sail boat for seven weeks.

“We couldn’t save anything, none of the furniture, none of my paintings, it’s all under the lava now,” said Rehm, 49, adding that they would move to nearby Tenerife after Christmas.

“I’m not sure it’s really over. I don’t trust this beast at all,” she said.

The volcanic roar that served as a constant reminder of the eruption may have subsided and islanders no longer have to carry umbrellas and goggles to protect against ash, but a mammoth cleanup operation is only just getting underway.

The government has pledged more than 400 million euros ($453 million) for reconstruction but some residents and businesses have complained that funds are slow to arrive.

($1 = 0.8836 euros)

 

(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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U.S. charges man with human smuggling after 4 freeze to death near Canada border

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U.S. authorities on Thursday charged a man with human smuggling of Indian nationals from Canada, the day after four people including a baby were found frozen to death in a remote part of Canada close to the Minnesota border.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota said 47-year-old Steve Shand had been arrested just south of the border on Wednesday while driving two undocumented Indian citizens.

U.S. border patrol agents soon came across five more Indians traveling on foot, one of whom was carrying a backpack belonging to a family of four who had become separated from the group as they all tried to cross the border.

They alerted Canadian police who found the victims – a man, a woman, a teenage boy and a baby – about 40 feet (12 meters) from the frontier with Minnesota. First indications are that they died from exposure to the cold.

“These victims faced not only the cold weather, but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness,” Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy told a televised news conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Wind chill had driven down the temperature to minus 35 C (minus 31 F), she said.

The U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement that the four victims had tentatively been identified as the missing Indian family.

The five Indian nationals explained they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone and estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours.

Shand has been charged with one count of human smuggling. He is next due in court on Jan 24.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)

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Canada agency says Russian-backed actors targeting infrastructure

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Network operators of critical Canadian infrastructure should boost their defenses against Russian state-sponsored threats, Canada’s signals intelligence agency said on Thursday.

The warning from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is the latest in a series of bulletins from Canada’s two main spy agencies accusing Russian actors of trying to hack into sensitive computer systems.

“(CSE) encourages the Canadian cyber-security community —especially critical infrastructure network defenders — to bolster their awareness of and protection against Russian state-sponsored cyber threats,” it said in a statement.

Russian actors and others are targeting critical infrastructure network operators as well as their operational and information technology, it added.

Operators should be prepared to isolate components and services that “would be considered attractive to a hostile threat actor to disrupt” and boost vigilance, CSE said.

Canada has had poor relations with Russia since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Ottawa fears armed conflict could break out in Ukraine and is working with allies to make clear to Russia that any further aggression towards Kiev is unacceptable, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Canada adds jobs for fifth month in December -ADP

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Canada added 19,200 jobs in December, the fifth straight month of gains, led by hiring in the professional and business services and leisure and hospitality sectors, a report from payroll services provider ADP showed on Thursday.

The November data was revised to show 102,100 jobs were created rather than an increase of 231,800. The report, which is derived from ADP’s payrolls data, measures the change in total nonfarm payroll employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

 

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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