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Three killed as Storm Ophelia batters Ireland and heads towards Britain

16 October

Three people have died and more than 330,000 are without power after Storm Ophelia brought chaos to Ireland.

Winds of up to 118mph were recorded as the former hurricane ripped through the island and began to head across the Irish Sea towards Britain.
Video and pictures showed roofs being torn off buildings, flooding on coastlines and fire services reported scores of trees being felled and power lines being blown down.
A woman in her 50s died close to the village of Aglish in County Waterford when a tree fell on to her car, while a man died in identical circumstances in Ravensdale, Dundalk.
Another man died after being fatally injured by a chainsaw while he tried to clear a fallen tree in Cahir, Co Tipperary.
All schools in Northern Ireland and the Republic were closed and will remain shut on Tuesday as officials assess damage.
Ophelia is forecast to move north overnight and the Met Office has put out a yellow warning of very windy weather for Northern Ireland, northern England, central and southern Scotland, and northwest Wales until 3pm on Tuesday.
There could be gusts of up to 70mph in parts of Scotland and northeast England.
Sky News weather producer Chris England said: "The worst of the gales will ease overnight, but there will still be the risk of some disruption in the north.
"The rain will become largely confined to Scotland, but there will be a few showers elsewhere, mainly over northern parts.
"Early rain over northern Scotland will give way to showers during Tuesday morning and the gales will gradually die out.
"Elsewhere, many places will be fine and dry, but there will be a few showers for southern Scotland, northern Ireland and the north of Ireland.
"Southern England may see the odd shower too, while more rain will move onto western Channel coasts around midday."
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who chaired a meeting of his government's National Emergency Coordination Group, urged the public to stay safe, saying: "The advice is: stay indoors until the storm passes.
"Whether that is at work, in their home or some other home, stay indoors. Check on neighbours and relatives."
ESB Networks said the loss of power to homes in the Republic had been an "unprecedented", with around 330,000 homes and businesses experiencing outages on Monday night.
Some 180 flights were cancelled at Dublin Airport, and passengers using airports in Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Cork and Shannon were also advised to check the latest information before travelling.
As Ophelia began to batter southern Ireland, dramatic footage showed a roof being blown off the Douglas Community School's gym in Cork.
Meanwhile, pictures on Twitter showed the collapsed roof of one of the stands at Cork City's football stadium.
Dozens of roads were also affected, with trees and crashed vehicles blocking some major routes including Dublin's M50 and several streets in the city centre.
In parts of England, the sun appeared to turn red as Ophelia's winds pulled air and dust up from southern Europe and Africa.

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Why did Storm Ophelia turn the sun red?

16 October

Parts of England have experienced an unusual side effect from Storm Ophelia: a blood red sun.

The former hurricane's powerful winds have pulled air and dust up from southern Europe and Africa - with the spectacular sight prompting "lots of calls" to the Met Office.
Forecaster Grahame Madge explained: "It's all connected with Ophelia, on the eastern side of the low pressure system air is coming up in the southern direction.
"It's most likely the appearance of sunset at midday is caused by the particles scattering the light and giving the appearance of a red sun."
:: Latest updates on Storm Ophelia
Sharon Derrick was one of those admiring the dramatic skyline, saying: "Bristol looks like the film The Red Planet... the weather is bizarre."
The Bristol Nomad - a part-time photographer - also took pictures of the "very freaky sky" over the city.
Over in Ireland, hundreds of birds were in the darkening skies.
Sarah in Cork tweeted: "Ummmm... think they know there's something big coming?"

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UK and EU to 'accelerate efforts' on Brexit after Brussels dinner

16 October

The UK and EU have agreed "efforts should accelerate" over Brexit negotiations following the Prime Minister's visit to Brussels.

Following a working dinner in the Belgian capital on Monday night, Theresa May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described a "constructive and friendly" exchange as they prepared for a crunch EU summit this week.
In a joint statement, they said: "The Prime Minister and the president of the European Commission reviewed the progress made in the Article 50 negotiations so far and agreed that these efforts should accelerate over the months to come."
Mrs May made the previously unannounced trip to meet the top EU official as Brexit talks remain deadlocked over key divorce issues, including the UK's financial settlement.
Government sources insisted the meeting had been planned for "a while" and did not represent any view on the current state of negotiations.
Both Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's lead negotiator, Michel Barnier, were also due to join the dinner, along with Mrs May's Brexit adviser OIly Robbins and Mr Juncker's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr.
The Prime Minister's visit comes before a European Council summit this week, where leaders of the 27 other EU member states will be updated on the progress of the UK's exit negotiations.
The EU27 will also decide whether to agree the start of the EU's internal preparations for the second phase of Brexit talks, on transitional arrangements and future trading terms.
If they do, it will offer the Government some hope of negotiations progressing to discussions on the future UK-EU relationship before the end of the year, despite suggestions Germany is hardening its stance.
Ahead of her meeting with Mr Juncker, the Prime Minister held calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in a concerted diplomatic push.
The joint statement from Mr Juncker and Mrs May revealed the pair also discussed "current European and global challenges" in a "broad" discussion, including efforts to combat terrorism and Donald Trump's decision not to recertify the Iran nuclear deal.
Despite what Mr Barnier has termed a "disturbing" impasse in negotiations over Britain's exit payment to the EU, the Prime Minister was not expected to make any fresh offers on withdrawal issues.
Downing Street pointed to Mrs May's recent speech in Florence as the Government's "current position".
The Prime Minister has not yet detailed a precise figure but suggested the UK will cover the black hole left by its exit in the current EU budget, which lasts until 2020, as well as pledging to "honour commitments" made during Britain's 44-year membership.
Mr Juncker has insisted the UK will "have to pay" to activate trade talks.
Ahead of the Prime Minister's trip to Brussels, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged the EU to "get on" with Brexit negotiations.
"It's ready for the great ship to go down the slipway and on to the open sea and for us to start some serious conversations about the future and the new relationship," he said.
The last time Mr Juncker had dinner with Mrs May, in Downing Street in April, leaked accounts of the meeting - blamed on Mr Selmayr - prompted a subsequent attack from the Prime Minister on EU leaders.
Commenting on the Prime Minister's trip to Brussels, Labour MP Chris Leslie, a leading supporter of the pro-EU Open Britain campaign, said: "The blandness of their joint statement begs the question of what Theresa May actually did talk about in her meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker.
"We can only hope that this meeting will help to avert the destructive hard Brexit path we are speeding down; but no-one should hold their breath."

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'I watched my children drown': Rohingya mother shares devastating story

16 October

The body has been wrapped in a clean white shroud. It is lying in an ornate silver cot surrounded by mourners.

The imam leads the funeral prayers before the cot is picked up and carried to a small graveyard nearby.
The body is lowered into the ground and covered with the freshly dug earth. The mound is one of many in this plot in Shah Porir Dwip, a small coastal village in southeastern Bangladesh.
There is nothing to mark the graves. No names or clues to identify the bodies. That is because they are all Rohingya bodies. Refugees fleeing the brutality In Myanmar.
They were all on a boat that capsized last week. There were about 60 or 70 people, mostly women and children, packed on to the small wooden boat. Only a few of the bodies have been recovered.
:: Doctors treating Myanmar's sick Rohingya children call for international support
The one being buried today washed up on the beach four days after the boat capsized. A mourner shows me his mobile phone. It has photographs of the body being washed and prepared for burial. The Rohingya is a man in his early 20s. But it is hard to be sure of his age because the body has been in the water so long. His skin is bleached white in places, the eyes are bulging and the body is bloated.
"I'm the imam and teacher at the Shah Porir Dwip madrasa," Bodrul Alam tells me. "I heard about a boat wreck from the coast guards. They recovered 12 bodies. With the permission of the Bangladesh Border Guards we brought them here and prepared them for burial."
Islamic burials must take place as soon as possible after death. The imam shows me some more photographs. This time of the burials that took place right after the boast capsized. I can see five white shrouds laid out in line on the ground. Two are clearly adults. The other three are much smaller. One is a child who can be no older than a few years old.
The survivors of the boat wreck have taken refuge inside Kutupulong Camp. When I arrive to meet them they are sitting in silence in a classroom in a disused school. It is late and dark outside. There is no electricity. In the group there are three young boys and two women. All wear a haunted, hollow expression. They have been through an unimaginable ordeal.
Moina is crying softly. She is just 25 years old and is now a widow. She is also grieving for her two children, boys of seven and four years old who drowned that night.
"I had my two children on my my lap. When I saw the wave coming I tried to pass one to my husband. But he got separated from us. I was trying to swim holding on to my seven-year-old son. But he told me he couldn't swim anymore and I had to let him go because my younger child was swallowing water. Then another wave hit us and that separated me from my younger child. Another wave hit and we both went under."
The journey from Myanmar to Bangladesh was taken late at night under the cover of darkness to avoid detection by Bangladesh border guards. After several hours at sea the boat almost made it to Bangladesh. But it hit a sandbank. And as it was stuck it was hit by a succession of large waves.
We stop the interview to give Moina some time. Through my Rohingya interpreter Abul Kalam, I ask Moina if she wants to stop. I have no desire to make her relive her ordeal. But she says she wants to continue. It is important for her to tell her story so the world can hear about the suffering of her people.
"When I got separated from my boy I started looking for him under the water. After a while I had to come up for air and after then his dead body floated up in front of me. I could also hear my oldest boy calling out for me as he was being swept away by the current. Both my children died."
Moina's husband also drowned.
Sitting in a line in front of Moina are three small boys: Arafat, Ahmad and Mohammed. They are all orphans now. They lost their entire families when the boat sank.
Arafat is eight years old. He has big, black eyes. When he speaks he rocks gently and keeps his fingers over his mouth.
"I was on the boat with my mother, father, sister and brother. We all got separated in the water. My mother found me and grabbed on to me as she was sinking. But I told her, 'You are going to die and you will drown me as well.' So she loosened her grip and let me go. Then she drowned."
So too did the rest of Arafat's family.
Next to Arafat is Ahmad. He is a little older, 12 years old. The left side of his head has been bandaged.
"When the boat got stuck on the island the boatman asked to get down. So we did. That's when a large wave came and hit us. At the time I was with my mother, sister and nephews. The waves kept coming and hitting us and we all got separated. I tried to swim and float and reach the shore somehow. I got swept into a nearby mangrove and climbed a tree. Because it was night I fell asleep. But then I fell and hit my head on a branch."
Ahmad's father died some time ago. He only had his mother, older sister and five nephews. They were all on the boat together. None of them survived.
Mohammed is also eight years old. But he looks much younger. He is the smallest of the three boys. He was on the boat with his mother, three sisters and brother. He is the only one who survived.
"I was in the water when I saw a fat, dead body in front of me. I held on to it and started floating. We drifted into the shore."
All of the survivors came from a village in Buthidaung, a small township inside Myanmar's Rakhine state. They were fleeing the brutality of Myanmar soldiers and had hope to escape to safety in Bangladesh.
Instead they find themselves widowed or orphaned and alone inside one of the world's largest refugee camps.

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Hate crimes: More reports but fewer prosecutions

17 October

There were fewer people prosecuted for committing hate crimes last year despite a sharp rise in reported incidents following the EU referendum.

The figures reveal a total of 14,480 people were prosecuted for hate crimes in 2016-17 in England and Wales compared to 15,442 convictions completed in the previous year.
Authorities could face fresh scrutiny of how they deal with complaints following the 6.2% drop in prosecutions - about a thousand fewer.
The data on hate crime convictions covers offences perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.
Figures on the number of hate crime offences recorded by police for the full 12 months have not yet been published.
But statistics released last year showed a sharp rise in racially or religiously aggravated offences reported to officers following the EU referendum in June.
In the new report, the Crown Prosecution Service noted in 2016-17 there was a small increase of 0.7%, from 12,997 to 13,086, in the number of hate crime cases referred by police compared with the previous year.
This rise followed a 9.6% drop in referrals from 2014-15 to 2015-16.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "The drop in referrals recorded last year has impacted on the number of completed prosecutions in 2016-17.
"And we are working with the police at a local and national level to understand the reasons for the overall fall in referrals in the past two years."
The number of reports also appeared to spike following the terror attacks that took place in the UK this year.
The report also revealed how sentences for hate crimes were "uplifted" after applications by prosecutors in a record 6,306 cases.
Ms Saunders said: "Crimes motivated by hate have a corrosive effect on society and it is pleasing to see the courts are using their powers to increase sentences in the majority of cases for the first time."
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, welcomed the "tougher" sentences but branded the fall in hate crime prosecutions "troubling".
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "All forms of hate crime are completely unacceptable and the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world to tackle it.
"We are clear that the cowards who commit these hateful attacks should feel the full force of the law."

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