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Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero heroes’ help drought-hit city halve water use

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Here is some good news from Cape Town. It rained last week.

A couple of light rain showers, preceded by bursts of thunder, rolled around Table Mountain and deposited a few millimetres of badly needed moisture on this water-starved city.

Residents celebrated with photos and videos and tried to capture what they could through the strategic positioning of buckets and containers.

Here is the bad news. The dams which supply this community of four million still dropped by half a percentage point last week, leaving them at the perilously low level of 22.1%.

The last 10% is not fit for human consumption due to higher levels of sediment.

The city’s water crisis is the product of a savage three-year drought and the region needs heavy winter rains to relieve the pressure on its dams. But that is not something anybody here can count on.

Instead, the people of Cape Town have done something remarkable in their bid to head off “Day Zero” – the point when the authorities will have to turn the taps off.

:: Cape Town introduces ‘world’s first water police’ after drought

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
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Cape Town needs heavy winter rains to relieve the pressure on its dams

Residents have slashed the amount of water they use in half – from 1.2 billion litres to 522 million litres per day – representing an unprecedented act of collective water conservation.

We found one of these “Day Zero heroes” in a modest looking house on the city’s outskirts.

Masha du Toit is a teacher who has turned her home into a water harvesting and recycling machine.

If it rains, Ms du Toit catches every drop with a series of large black tubs connected to her drain pipes.

“Actually, it doesn’t look so bad,” she said as she peered inside one of them.

“There is soot, smoke, sand and bird droppings in there so this is not drinking water – this is for flushing the toilet.”

She proudly showed us her new toilet attachment (which makes it easier to “self-fill” the cistern) – the dirty dishes storage system (so the washing up is done less frequently) and her bucket-and-container strewn shower.

“We don’t do this ‘two-minute shower’ anymore, we just do bucket baths,” she revealed.

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
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Masha du Toit has turned her home into a water harvesting machine

The cumulative effect of this do-it-yourself water regime is quite extraordinary.

The city restricts Capetonians to a thrifty 50 litres of water a day but Ms du Toit says her daily usage is around 15 litres, “plus a little bit for our fish tank – we do top it up occasionally.”

When you consider that it takes about 20 litres of water just to flush the toilet a couple of times, this Cape Town teacher is something of a revolutionary.

I asked her if she had become a bit obsessive about saving water?

“Absolutely, yes I’m completely obsessed,” she replied.

“In fact, if I watch a movie now and I see someone washing their hands while they are talking to another character, I’m like, are you going to close that tap?”

Of course, Ms du Toit is not the only water-revolutionary in town.

Bev Antoncich, the well-coiffured director of the hair salon Perfectly Pampered, runs special “bucket and jug days” at her business.

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
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Perfectly Pampered hair salon encourages customers to bring their own water

Clients who bring in their own bottled water get a glass of champagne for free. Other salons offer discounts to their “BYOB customers”.

“It has been tough to get the whole thing going,” concedes Ms Antoncich.

“At first we were wetting clients all the way down their backs. We would give them a complete bath with the jugs. But we have it all under control now.”

Ms Antoncich says she has completely changed about the way she thinks about water and cannot bear the thought of any going to waste.

“You know, I think it would be easier for us if we didn’t have to ‘bucket and jug’ but we will still be saving water,” she said.

“I just couldn’t let water just go down the sink hole again.”

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‘We dread the nights’: Life under Israeli bombardment as Gazans live through the ‘madness’ again | UK News

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Laila Barhoum, a humanitarian worker and human rights advocate in Gaza, describes her feelings of “dread” and “injustice” as the region is pounded by Israeli air strikes.

In Gaza, we always joke about the fact we shouldn’t ask “What worse can happen?” as it seems that we are always proven wrong.

But our worse this time came unexpectedly with innocent people losing their lives.

Laila Barhoum
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Laila says Palestinians have been ‘failed and forgotten for decades’

Last week, we were preparing for Eid, buying chocolate, children getting new clothes and mothers cooking Eid cookies.

This would have contributed to making happy memories. Memories that are now replaced with images of destruction, fear and death.

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Building in Gaza collapses after airstrike

The fact that what is happening is happening again because we had been failed by the international community makes it even worse. Knowing that hundreds of innocent people who lost their lives this time and many times before could have been alive now, celebrating Eid with us.

Every day we dread the nights, as with them comes the worst targeting and airstrikes, when we hear the numbers of people killed rising. When we see women and children running, screaming, and houses and buildings turning into dust.

I look around me at my nieces while thinking they live an occupation that I was born under. That I am moving toward my 40s while they are marking their first years, yet we are both suffering from the same injustice.

People inspect the remains of a destroyed building in Gaza City
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People inspect the remains of a destroyed building in Gaza City

Thinking that you are trying to make the world a better place for them because it wasn’t made better for you makes you feel sad and frustrated.

No one feels safe in Gaza, and no place is safe in Gaza.

There are no shelters, no places away from any air strikes. And this is a feeling you carry with you all day long, while you are trying to make sense of what you are going through.

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We have been failed and forgotten for decades, which is why we live through this madness again.

The lives of generations of young people and children are shaped by loss, fear and injustice.

These are the lost generations, who only saw what a normal life looks like through a screen. These are the generations who wait for the sun to rise every night so they can breathe.

Israel says it only attacks targets containing Gaza militant groups – who have been launching hundreds of rockets at Israel. It says it makes strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties such as giving people advance warning and chance to evacuate.

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Inside the Iron Dome: How Israel’s missile defence shield is battling Hamas rocket attacks | World News

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From the moment a giant, green radar detects rocket fire blasting out of Gaza towards Israel, it is only a matter of seconds before an Israeli defence missile shoots up to intercept.

The radar, at a secure site in southern Israel, relays the information to what the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) call a “battle management centre”.

In reality, it’s a beige-coloured, small metal cabin on the other side of the square-shaped compound.

The iron dome has blocked almost 90% of Hamas airstrikes since the violence began eight days ago
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In a 24-hour operation, soldiers monitor incoming airstrikes and intercept them before they cause serious loss of life or damage

Everything here is mobile – to be able to move in relation to the threat.

A number of military personnel – some aged between just 18 and 21 – in the cabin then calculate the trajectory of the rocket, the anticipated impact point and which air defence missile launcher to use to fire back.

It’s a job that needs manning 24 hours a day.

Launcher selected, a single operator is able to fire multiple missiles against multiple Hamas rockets at the same time.

The missiles are guided onto their targets and either smash directly into the incoming rocket or explode near to it, with the shrapnel rendering the incoming fire redundant.

Major Kifr – we were not allowed to use his full name for security reasons – is in charge of the 947 Iron Dome Battalion.

He and his team have been busy since the conflict with Hamas started eight days ago.

The rate of rocket fire, launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants is unprecedented.

But the officer says his unit and the many others that comprise Israel’s Iron Dome air defence shield are more than up to the task.

“We have been trained for this situation,” he told Sky News.

He said the shield – which has blocked about 90% of the incoming rocket fire – could handle an even heavier tempo of attack if necessary.

It is the main reason why, despite more than 3,000 rockets being fired in their direction, Israel has only suffered a relatively low number of fatalities.

“We are very proud of our mission,” Major Kifr said. “We do not distinguish between Arabs, Jews or anyone. We protect everyone.”

His troops are not immune to the threat posed by the incoming fire though.

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As Sky News was at the site, a siren sounded warning of rocket fire.

Military personnel moved into a concrete shelter to wait until the threat was over – a common scene across the country these days.

As we stepped back outside, small clouds of white smoke could be seen in the air – evidence of successful interceptions by a different air defence unit.

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COVID-19: Disneyland Paris to reopen but no hugs from Mickey Mouse – as Netherlands sex workers return amid lockdown easing across world | World News

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Disneyland Paris has announced the date it will reopen and sex workers in the Netherlands will return this week, as several countries ease COVID restrictions.

Having been closed since last October, Disney’s amusement park in the French capital will welcome visitors back from 17 June.

A statement said the site’s reopening would be accompanied by “appropriate health and safety measures” – with hugs from the likes of Mickey Mouse and other mascots suspended.

It will also limit the number of visitors, with those over six being asked to wear masks.

Sex workers can welcome clients again from this week
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Sex workers in the Netherlands can welcome clients again from this week

Meanwhile, Netherlands health minister Hugo de Jonge revealed a series of measures to relax coronavirus rules.

Parks, zoos, gyms and outdoor swimming pools will reopen on Wednesday, after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations eased pressure on hospitals, the minister said.

And sex workers will be allowed to resume five months after being ordered to pause operations in mid-December.

They had protested in Amsterdam in March, saying they were being discriminated against as the authorities allowed other “contact businesses” including hairdressers and masseurs to reopen.

Public libraries will reopen on Thursday and further steps, including reopening museums and allowing indoor service at restaurants, are expected over the next three weeks, Mr de Jonge added.

“This a responsible step at this moment, but we have to stay very careful,” he said of the broader relaxation.

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“We see a significant contribution from vaccinations. But we’re not there yet.”

COVID infections in the Netherlands have dropped by more than a quarter this month, after climbing to their highest levels of the year in April.

Another city to be easing measures is Dubai, where hotels in the regional tourism hub will be allowed to operate at full capacity and concerts and sports events will be able to welcome crowds and participants who have been vaccinated.

The United Arab Emirates ranks highly globally for coronavirus testing and vaccination rates, which has allowed for capacities for restaurants and entertainment venues to also be increased.

Authorities in Sri Lanka have announced shops and public transport can reopen, easing a three-day travel restriction imposed across the country.

Sri Lankans had been from banned from leaving their homes since Thursday night to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Authorities said though that those restrictions would now be imposed for five hours overnight for the next two weeks.

And in Turkey, the interior ministry has said a full lockdown that had ordered people to stay home to fight infections would be shifting to a less-restrictive program.

This will still involve curfews on weeknights and weekends from 1 June, which authorities said was part of a “gradual normalisation”.

Shopping malls can reopen – and while some businesses will remain closed, including gyms and cafes, restaurants will be able to offer takeaway in addition to delivery. Preschools will resume in-person education but upper grades will continue remote learning.

People in Turkey can also return to their workplaces but must stay at home from 9pm to 5am on weekdays.

However, other parts of the world have been tightening restrictions.

Hong Kong authorities say quarantine rules for arrivals from countries like Singapore, Japan and Malaysia would become tightened from Friday amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

And Trinidad and Tobago has declared a state of emergency, also citing a sharp increase in cases.

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