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London’s Gatwick Airport plagued by drone sightings

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  • LONDON — New drone sightings Friday caused fresh chaos for holiday travellers at London’s Gatwick Airport, which reopened in the morning after a 36-hour shutdown only to hastily suspend flights for more than an hour in the late afternoon on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

    The reopening, closing and re-reopening of Britain’s second-busiest airport due to repeated drone sightings raised a host of questions for British officials. Those included how safe is it really to fly with drones around and why can’t the country’s police, military and aviation experts catch those responsible since they have been investigating the drone invasions since Wednesday night.

    The Friday night flight suspension at Gatwick caused still more delays and cancellations just as the holiday travel season peaked. Tens of thousands of travellers have been stranded or delayed due to the persistent drone crisis at Gatwick, located 30 miles (45 kilometres) south of London.

    The latest drone sighting came after British police and transport officials said extra measures had been put in place to prevent drones from intruding on the airport, which serves 43 million passengers a year.

    Military forces with special equipment have been brought in and police units are working around-the-clock, but the culprit or culprits have not been found. Police say a sophisticated drone operation is targeting the airport to cause maximum disruption during the holiday rush.

    The motive for the drone invasion wasn’t clear but British police said there are no indications it was “terror related.”

    Gatwick reopened at about 6 a.m. Friday after having been shut down Wednesday night and all day Thursday after authorities said drones repeatedly violated the airport perimeter, threatening the safely of incoming and outgoing planes.

    Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said Friday morning there had been about 40 sightings of “a small number of drones” while the airport was shut down. He told the BBC that the drone disruption at Gatwick was “unprecedented anywhere in the world.”

    Greyling said additional “military capabilities” and a range of security measures had been put in place overnight but would not elaborate. He said the airport was considered safe for flights Friday even though the drone operator or operators had not been apprehended.

    The Thursday shutdown upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers, since about 110,000 people had been scheduled to pass through Gatwick that day.

    After flight operations restarted Friday, the airport struggled to resolve a massive backlog of passengers and cancelled, delayed or diverted flights. The number of passengers expected Friday was even higher than the previous day, and about 145 of Friday’s 837 scheduled flights at Gatwick were cancelled to handle the crush.

    Then, in a shock, Gatwick takeoffs and landings had to be suspended again as a “precaution” after reports that a drone was spotted about 5:10 p.m., the airport said.

    Planes circled over London or sat at Gatwick gates, waiting to find out what would happen Friday night, before getting a new “all-clear” about 80 minutes later.

    “The military measures we have in place at the airport have provided us with reassurance necessary to reopen our airfield,” the airport tweeted moments after flights resumed.

    The hundreds of travellers who were stuck overnight at Gatwick by Thursday’s closure described freezing conditions as they slept on benches or the airport floor. Many complained they weren’t being kept informed about re-routed flights.

    British officials, meanwhile, were debating whether shooting down a drone was an available “tactical option” due to concerns that such an action could inadvertently hurt people on the ground.

    “Shooting the drone out of the sky is probably one of the least effective options” available, said Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry of Sussex Police.

    He said police believe there was more than one drone operating around Gatwick in the last two days and that it was possible the drones were being operated from fairly far away.

    Gregory Katz, The Associated Press



















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    Funeral today for seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

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  • HALIFAX — Mourners will descend upon a large Halifax hall today for the funeral of seven children who died in a fast-moving house fire.

    The service for the Barho children will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Cunard Centre on the city’s waterfront.

    Imam Abdallah Yousri says funeral proceedings will follow in the Islamic traditions, but is open to people of all faiths and members of the public.

    He says he hopes that by opening the ceremony up to all who wish to attend, the children’s mother — Syrian refugee Kawthar Barho — will see the widespread support and sympathy from the community.

    Yousri says the traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members, including Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, who is trying to help some of the mother’s overseas relatives come to Canada.

    Following the funeral service, there will be a burial at a Muslim cemetery in Hammonds Plains.

    “(Kawthar Barho) doesn’t have family over here in Canada. She does not have friends as well here in Halifax because she moved here five months ago,” said Yousri on Friday.

    “That’s why we are trying to invite her to come see the support and let everybody gather.”

    Shuttles will be organized to and from the Cunard Centre to accommodate those who wish to attend, and ample parking is available at the centre.

    The children’s father — Ebraheim Barho — remained in hospital Friday recovering from extensive burns. He was in critical, but stable condition.

    Early Tuesday, the Quartz Drive house fire killed all of the Barho children: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

    The cause of the fire remains unclear.

    The scale of the tragedy for the young family who arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees has struck a chord with Canadians.

    A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $523,846 by late Friday afternoon, with a $1-million goal.

    The Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, when they first arrived in Nova Scotia and were embraced by residents there.

    They had moved to the Halifax suburb of Spryfield to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services, and had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.

    The family was among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years. The Trudeau government granted asylum to 40,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16.

    A brutal civil war has raged across Syria since 2011, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

    The Canadian Press




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    Funeral today for seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

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  • HALIFAX — Mourners will descend upon a large Halifax hall today for the funeral of seven children who died in a fast-moving house fire.

    The service for the Barho children will begin at 1:30 p.m. at the Cunard Centre on the city’s waterfront.

    Imam Abdallah Yousri says funeral proceedings will follow in the Islamic traditions, but is open to people of all faiths and members of the public.

    He says he hopes that by opening the ceremony up to all who wish to attend, the children’s mother — Syrian refugee Kawthar Barho — will see the widespread support and sympathy from the community.

    Yousri says the traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members, including Halifax MP Andy Fillmore, who is trying to help some of the mother’s overseas relatives come to Canada.

    Following the funeral service, there will be a burial at a Muslim cemetery in Hammonds Plains.

    “(Kawthar Barho) doesn’t have family over here in Canada. She does not have friends as well here in Halifax because she moved here five months ago,” said Yousri on Friday.

    “That’s why we are trying to invite her to come see the support and let everybody gather.”

    Shuttles will be organized to and from the Cunard Centre to accommodate those who wish to attend, and ample parking is available at the centre.

    The children’s father — Ebraheim Barho — remained in hospital Friday recovering from extensive burns. He was in critical, but stable condition.

    Early Tuesday, the Quartz Drive house fire killed all of the Barho children: Ahmad, 14; Rola, 12; Mohamad, 9; Ola, 8; Hala, 3; Rana, 2 and Abdullah, who was born in Canada on Nov. 9.

    The cause of the fire remains unclear.

    The scale of the tragedy for the young family who arrived in Nova Scotia in September 2017 as refugees has struck a chord with Canadians.

    A GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $523,846 by late Friday afternoon, with a $1-million goal.

    The Barho family lived in Elmsdale, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, when they first arrived in Nova Scotia and were embraced by residents there.

    They had moved to the Halifax suburb of Spryfield to take advantage of language training and other immigrant services, and had planned to return to Elmsdale next month.

    The family was among 1,795 Syrian refugees who have come to Nova Scotia in recent years. The Trudeau government granted asylum to 40,000 Syrian refugees in 2015-16.

    A brutal civil war has raged across Syria since 2011, claiming more than 400,000 lives.

    The Canadian Press




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