One Finn reported injured in Beirut blast; and embassy ‘destroyed’ says diplomat
The Finnish embassy in Beirut has reportedly been ‘destroyed’ by the blast from a powerful explosion which rocked the Lebanese capital on Tuesday evening. Deputy Head of Mission Aki Kauppinen told Helsingin Sanomat in a phone interview that the embassy, located some 2km away from the port area where the incident happened, had been destroyed: “it doesn’t really exist” he told the newspaper. Kauppinen that any Finnish nationals in Beirut are being advised to stay in a safe place, or seek medical treatment if necessary. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says they know of at least one Finn who was slightly injured in the explosion. Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) confirmed the embassy premises have been “badly damaged”. “My condolences to the relatives of the deceased. Shocking news” the PM wrote on Twitter. Multiple videos and photographs shared online as events unfolded showed an ongoing fire and smaller detonations in Beirut’s port area and then a much larger more powerful explosion which sent a shockwave across the city, and a mushroom cloud of smoke into the sky. It caused widespread devastation in the immediate port area, and damaged buildings several kilometres away. The Lebanese government says at least 78 people have been killed and 4,000 others injured. The blast was reportedly also felt in Cyprus, around 200km distant. Read more at our story here.
Katri Kulmuni interview: Centre Party leader is down, but not yet out
Time might be running out for Katri Kulmuni‘s short reign as leader of the Centre Party. Either that or she’s gearing up for a triumphant second act. The Lapland MP stepped down from her finance minister job in late spring over an expenses issue; the party is limping along with barely double digit support in opinion polls; and Kulmuni is facing two credible challenges from her own colleagues as party chair at the upcoming conference in Oulu in early September. But it doesn’t mean she’s giving up without a fight, after a July tour took her to 70 stops around the country meeting potential voters. “Of course as the current leader of the party I have the pathway, and I’m heading forward. And I see the way of equality on wherever you come from, it’s the way for greening society, getting more renewable energy resources, it’s the way for equality in social terms and if someone else has some other choices then they bring those out” says Kulmuni. Read more about the uphill task Kulmuni faces to retain the leadership of her party at our original story here.
New coronavirus second wave rules in the pipeline
The Ministry of Health is preparing to tighten up some coronavirus rules in anticipation of a second wave of infections, as virus numbers start to grow again in Finland to levels last seen in early June. In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) says she’s ordered THL to draw up new recommendations on making it compulsory to wear face masks; to consider tighter controls on people coming back from at-risk countries to ensure they comply with self-isolation recommendations; and increase coronavirus testing. The government is also monitoring larger gatherings of up to 500 people, which are now permitted, to see if it has any negative impact on Covid-19 cases. “It strongly seems that there may be different official instructions in use in different parts of Finland in the future” says Kiuru, noting that if there are different viral infection rates in Uusimaa compared to Eastern Finland there might be different recommendations on working from home, or going to school.
Police call for witnesses after Lapland car bomb
Police in Lapland are asking for a car driver, a moped rider, and five men seen out walking in Tornio, to come forward after an explosive device exploded underneath a rental car used by the Finnish Border Guard. The incident happened shortly before 01:00 in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Tornio and now police want to trace the driver of a small red car seen on Aarnintie; a moped rider also seen on Aarnintie; three men walking from Aarnintie to Thurevikinkatu; and two other men wearing white and black hoodies seen on Länsipohjankatu towards Miukki to come forward with any information they might have. In a press release, Lapland Police say the explosive device was placed under the vehicle.
Monkey business: Barbary baby born at Helsinki Zoo
Staff at Korkeasaari Zoo in Helsinki have welcomed the birth of a Barbary macaque baby. The infant was born a little over a week ago and is reportedly receiving a lot of attention from his parents. The adult Berber monkeys at the zoo are individuals who were rescued from poor conditions, and have been put together in a new group where all the adults take a role in caring for the new arrival. Barbary macaques are native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and Algeria, along with a famous small population on the Rock of Gibraltar. In addition to the destruction of their habitat, the illegal pet trade is a major threat to the species. The adult Barbary macaques at Helsinki’s Korkeassari Zoo are former pets or were rescued from closed private zoos.
Wednesday morning weather
It’s a bright and sunny start for much of the country on Wednesday. Rain in the east moves further north as the morning goes on. Elsewhere expect temperatures between +13°C in Jyväskylä, +16°C in Vaasa and Åland, +15°C in Turku and the capital city region, and +16°C in the southeast.