Global stories that could hit close to home

Published 8:51 am Thursday, September 7, 2023

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Once again, I feel like it’s time to check in with what’s happening with our neighbors around the world. Here are a few international stories that recently caught my attention, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Fires have been in many headlines over the past few months, from the recent tragedy in Lahaina, Hawaii that wiped the whole town off the map to the persistent wildfires in Canada that have been the source of many hazy, smoky days this summer even as far south as our local part of North Carolina.

But, across the ocean, Greek residents are also dealing with massive, ongoing wildfires that have yet to cool off. Several people have died in a blaze near the Turkish border which has burned more than 190,000 acres of land so far, one of the biggest any European country has ever seen. The government recently sent in more reinforcements to try to get the flames under control, so now there are 474 firefighters – some from neighboring countries – on the scene to help. They’re using 100 vehicles, seven planes, and two helicopters in their efforts.

Wildfires have been springing up all over Greece recently thanks to gale-force winds and hot, dry conditions. While the cause isn’t always known, arson has been suspected in some cases.

I think it’s terrible to see so many struggling with fires this year, and I salute all the firefighters working hard to save people and stop the flames.

Speaking of saving people, rescuers in Pakistan were recognized by the country’s prime minister this week after they helped save six children and two adults that were trapped in a dangling cable car.

The close call came earlier this month when a cable snapped, leaving the passengers trapped and hanging precariously over the valley below. They had been on their way to school, which is located outside of their village, and the cable car was the only way of traversing the terrain to reach it.

It took 16 hours to get everyone safely out. Rescue efforts started first with commandos in a helicopter, but the wind from the blades made things more perilous. So village volunteers used a wooden bedframe and ropes to construct a makeshift chairlift to be hoisted up to the cable car.

Since the ordeal, the villagers have renewed efforts to ask the government to construct a school within the town or to build a safer bridge to cross the valley. With the attention of the prime minister himself, I hope those pleas are heard and acted upon. That definitely sounds like something the government should take care of.

In the United States, there has been plenty of discussion about strikes over the past year. The Hollywood writers’ and actors’ strike is perhaps the most prominent ongoing example right now. But they’re not the only ones trying to get better pay and work conditions.

Air traffic controllers at the civilian airport in Beirut, Lebanon – the only civilian airport in the whole country – have announced that they will be striking in September. Their concerns are over severe staffing shortages, which cause them to work roughly 300 hours a month. They said the government has ignored all their proposals to fix the issue and resolve a number of safety concerns.

The airport’s team of 13 air traffic controllers made the announcement, while also noting that the airport is supposed to have a staff of 87 air traffic controllers.

That’s quite a large gap. I can see why those 13 people are feeling the strain of the work.

The government hadn’t responded yet to the announcement, but prior statements have pointed to pandemic restrictions affecting the entire globe as a reason for the shortage.

I hope the issue gets resolved before the strike is scheduled to begin on Sept. 5 for the sake of the workers and the travelers.

In Kenya, plenty of people are pointing fingers after a large power outage last week that lasted nearly a day, but the reason for the black-out is still unknown at this point. It affected much of the country’s 50 million people, and included the capital city of Nairobi. Hospitals had to run on generators and the airport was temporarily shuttered.

Kenya Power, the government-owned electricity provider, placed the blame on a loss of power generation at one of their wind power plants. But the plant responded by saying that they had to go offline due to an “overvoltage situation in the national grid system.” The interruption in power should have been compensated by the system’s other power generators, but that didn’t happen.

The country could have imported power from its neighbor, Uganda, but Kenya Power also said that option was unavailable for some reason.

Almost all of Kenya’s electricity comes from renewable sources, which I think is admirable. It sounds to me like there was some sort of human error involved somewhere to cause the outage. Pointing fingers never seems to accomplish anything when people could be using that frustration to solve the problem at hand and find ways to prevent it from happening again.

These are only a few stories from around the world, but all of them have parts that we can find relatable here in the United States. Our global neighbors often face many of the same triumphs and tragedies that we face here at home. We can always learn something from knowing more about what’s happening elsewhere: either as a guide to a solution or a word of warning to prevent future problems.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.