Highlights of world events from July to September 2015

World events during the third quarter of the year include the movement of migrants across Europe, twin blasts in China which tore through an industrial port area and the escape from prison of Mexico’s most notorious drug lord.

SHOWS: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (EBS) – The Greek economic crisis came to a head in early July as the Greek people were asked whether to accept or reject a bailout agreement being offered by creditors.

Having been criticised for dragging its feet on preparing reforms that would unlock funding, Athens was running out of cash and needed new lending to service its debts.

In spite of last ditch talks to reach an agreement before the June 30 deadline to pay the IMF loan, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on June 27 announced a referendum on the bailout conditions. Athens then asked for an extension of the bailout programme beyond June 30.

In Brussels, euro zone finance ministers flatly rejected the pleas to extend the bailout until after the referendum on July 5. The stage was set for default.

With banks closed and capital controls imposed, images of throngs of pensioners besieging bank entrances became a powerful visual symbol of the crisis.

In the lead-up to the referendum thousands of people attended “Yes” and “No” rallies, but it was the “No” camp which was victorious.

Despite the vote, the next day, colourful finance minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned and handed over to Euclid Tsakalotos.

On July 16, the Greek parliament passed a sweeping package of austerity measures demanded by their European partners, opening the way for talks on a third bailout.

A ferry carrying 189 passengers and crew capsized off the coast of the Philippines in heavy waves on July 2, killing more than 60. The motorized, wooden-hulled boat rolled on its side and overturned minutes after leaving the port of Ormoc City.

Mexico’s most notorious drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped from a high security prison on July 11, the second time he had given his captors the slip in 15 years.

The kingpin was seen on video entering a shower area, but after he went out of view for a while, guards entered his cell at the Altiplano prison in central Mexico to find it empty.

Guzman slipped out of the prison through a tunnel more than 1.5 km (1 mile) long which led to a building site in the local town.

His escape sparked a massive manhunt.

Iran and six major world powers reached a nuclear deal on July 14, capping more than a decade of negotiations with an agreement that could transform the Middle East.

“It’s a great honour for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told media at the talks venue in Vienna.

Under the deal, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations would be lifted in return for Iran agreeing long-term curbs on its nuclear programme.

The West has suspected the programme was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb, this denied by Tehran.

The final round of talks involved nearly three weeks of intense negotiation between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif took to talking to reporters from the balcony of his hotel, at one point reporting: “Sleepy and overworked.”

On July 15, NASA’s New Horizons science team revealed new images of distant Pluto.

A U.S. spacecraft had sailed past the tiny planet Pluto in the distant reaches of the solar system the day before, capping a journey of 3 billion miles (4.88 billion km) that began nine and a half years ago.

“Yesterday, America’s space program took another historic leap for humankind,” NASA communications officer Dwayne Brown said.

The Cuban flag was raised over Havana’s embassy in Washington on July 20 for the first time in 54 years as the United States and Cuba formally restored relations, opening a new chapter of engagement between the former Cold War foes.

In Havana, a lone Cuban flag was raised outside the U.S. embassy. It was not due to see the raising of the Stars and Stripes until a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on August 14.

A few metres from the building, Cubans lined up as usual to request visas to travel to the U.S.

An explosion outside a cultural centre in the Turkish town of Suruc near the border with Syria killed 33 people and wounded many more on July 20.

The blast tore through a group of university-aged students from an activist group as they gathered in the border town of Suruc ahead of a planned trip to help rebuild the nearby Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.

The next day, protests in Istanbul against the bombing saw clashes between police and demonstrators.

On July 24, Turkish planes targeted Islamic State with aerial strikes inside Syria, but Ankara also started aerial bombardment of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

Hundreds of people were to be killed as the ceasefire between the PKK and Turkish security forces collapsed in late July, reigniting a conflict in which some 40,000 people have died since it began in 1984.

U.S. President Barack Obama made his first presidential visit to his father’s homeland of Kenya on July 24.

While he took part in official duties, meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other top officials, he also took the time to have a private dinner with family members. The diners included his half sister and step grandmother.

At the end of July, American dentist Walter Palmer killed a rare Zimbabwean lion named Cecil, drawing widespread criticism on social media and a large demonstration by animal rights advocates at his office in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Palmer admitted killing the 13-year-old predator, who was fitted with a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study, but said in a statement he had hired professional guides and believed all the necessary hunting permits were in order. The Zimbabwean authorities appeared to agree as they announced there would be legal action against him.

At the end of July, groups of migrants desperate to enter Britain from France stormed the Channel Tunnel.

Freight and passenger traffic through the rail tunnel was severely disrupted as migrants camping out in shanty towns in the Calais area repeatedly tried to board trucks and trains travelling from France to Britain.

July saw firefighters battling wildfires in July in parched California, part of a string of fires threatening homes and scorching parched wilderness in the U.S. West, where several regions have endured sustained drought.

On August 2, a Russian military helicopter, which was a part of a display team, crashed while performing a manoeuvre during an air show.

Organisers said one pilot had been killed in the accident, while another had ejected and was in hospital.

August saw several large sinkholes open up across the United States.

In New York, one sinkhole consumed a Brooklyn intersection, while in Seffner, Florida, a sinkhole which swallowed a man and part of his house two years ago, re-opened. The house has since been demolished.

On August 8, Typhoon Soudelor ripped through Taiwan and China, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Twin blasts on the night of August 12 tore through an industrial area of China’s Tianjin, near to a port area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored.

Dozens of steel shipping containers were crumpled and rows of cars lined up at the port were incinerated.

Buildings near the blast site were damaged or destroyed, and people were evacuated from their homes.

Two days later a fire re-ignited amid already burned out cars.

More than 160 people died as a result of the blasts, included at least 21 firefighters.

August saw hundreds of migrants arrive each day in Greece, seeking refuge in Europe from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the island of Kos, refugees arrived having been crammed into tiny dinghies.

But for many, relief at their safe arrival soon turned to distress as Kos struggled to cope with the numbers.

On August 11 there were chaotic scenes outside Kos stadium as hundreds of migrants fought to be registered in the crowds and heat.

The arrival of the cruise ship Eleftherios Venizelos helped to ease the pressure; thousands of refugees were able to be housed and their asylum applications processed on board before the ship set off for the Greek mainland.

Watched over by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Marines raised the American flag at the embassy in Cuba for the first time in 54 years on August 14, symbolically ushering in an era of renewed diplomatic relations between the two Cold War-era foes.

Three retired Marines who last lowered the flag in 1961 participated in the ceremony, handing a new flag to the Marine Color Guard, which raised it on the grounds outside the embassy building on the Havana seafront.

Syrian government air strikes at a marketplace in the rebel-held city of Douma on August 16 killed more than 80 people. At least 200 were injured.

A military source said the strikes targeted the headquarters of the rebel group Islam Army.

Fighting rages across much of Syria in a 4-1/2-year-old civil war that has killed 250,000 people.

On August 17 an explosion outside a Hindu shrine in Thailand’s Bangkok was the country’s deadliest bombing.

Amateur video captured the moment of the blast which killed 20, fourteen of them foreigners.

On August 21 passengers on board a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris disarmed a gun-toting suspected Islamist militant

U.S. airman Spencer Stone whose thumb was almost severed by the gunman, managed to assist a fellow passenger who was also seriously wounded.

Stone, student Anthony Sadler, National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and Chris Norman, a British consultant who lives in France, were awarded the Legion d’Honneur by French President Francois Hollande.

As thousands of migrants attempted to move from Greece to Macedonia on August 21 and 22, police lobbed stun grenades and beat them with batons, struggling to enforce a decree to stem their flow through the Balkans to western Europe.

Security forces managed to contain hundreds in no-man’s land. But several thousand others – many of them Syrian refugees – tore through wire fences in muddy fields to Macedonian territory after days spent in the open without access to shelter, food or water.

On August 27 the remains of 71 dead migrants, including four children, were found in an abandoned truck in Austria.

An Austrian motorway patrol discovered the abandoned truck near the Hungarian border, probably at least 24 hours after it had been parked there.

The refugees appeared to have been dead for up to two days and fluids from the decomposing bodies were seeping from its door.

On August 31 a Ukrainian national guardsman was killed and nearly 90 others wounded by grenades hurled from a crowd of nationalist protesters as they were guarding parliament where lawmakers backed giving more autonomy to rebel-held areas.

On September 2, the body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach off the popular Turkish holiday resort of Bodrum, prompting sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping thousands of refugees using dangerous sea-routes to reach Europe.

Aylan, his five-year-old brother, Galip, and mother, Rehan, were among 12 people, including other children, who died after two boats capsized while trying to reach the Greek island of Kos.

On September 3 migrants scrambled to board trains heading for Austria which were stopped or cancelled, triggering chaos and confusion.

One train bound for the border town of Sopron stopped in Bicske, some 35 kilometres (22 miles) west of Budapest, where Hungary has a migrant reception centre.

Riot police ordered migrants off the train, but many resisted, laying on the railway line or fleeing. Some wrestled with police, trying to get back on board.

Frustrated by a lack of transport, hundreds set off from Budapest for the border with Austria on foot, joining many others marching from other parts of Hungary.

In Munich, migrants were welcomed by local residents after completing their long journeys.

On September 8, a Hungarian camerawoman was filmed kicking and tripping up a migrant carrying a child, as he, and others, broke away from police on Hungary’s southern border with Serbia.

On September 10, torrential rains sent rivers surging over their banks in eastern Japan, prompting authorities to issue “rare weather warnings” for five million people and evacuating some 100,000.

Japan’s Self-Defence Force (SDF) helped rescue people from their rooftops as some houses were swept away in the floodwaters.

Residents emerged from their homes to walk through the rubble-strewn streets of Turkey’s Cizre on September 12 after a nine-day curfew imposed by authorities to combat PKK fighters was lifted.

Pro-Kurdish politicians said 21 civilians were killed and there was a humanitarian crisis, with the dead going unburied and food and water running short. The government said one civilian and 32 militants died.

The following day mass funerals were held 16 of those killed, one of them a baby.

Meanwhile, some 200 protesters gathered in Istanbul’s Istiklal Street in solidarity with residents of Cizre. Police charged at the crowd and fired water cannons and rubber pellets as they tried to march to Taksim square.

A magnitude 8.3 earthquake hit off the coast of Chile on Wednesday (September 16), shaking buildings in the capital city of Santiago and generating a tsunami warning for Chile, Peru and French Polynesia.

The quake killed at least 11 people, forced one million from their homes and sent giant waves crashing into coastal areas.

Japan’s parliament voted into law on September 19 a defence policy shift that could let troops fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to loosen the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.

But the legislation sparked massive protests from ordinary citizens and others who say it violates the pacifist constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace.

Greek leftist Alexis Tsipras stormed back into office with an unexpectedly decisive election victory on September 20, Greece’s fifth election in six years.

Voters gave Tsipras and his Syriza party the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout and avert ‘Grexit’, a Greek exit from the euro zone.

There was a sharp rise in the rate of refugees and migrants arriving in Greece in September.

On the island of Lesbos there were days that as many as 3,000 people, crowded into dinghies, made the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey.

Many drowned on the way.

On September 20, foreign volunteers helped rescue a group whose dinghy had holes and a failed engine.

More than 2,000 pilgrims from around the world died in a crush outside the holy city of Mecca on September 24, according to a Reuters tally.

Saudi Arabia came under heavy criticism for its handling of the disaster.

Safety during the pilgrimage is a politically sensitive issue for the kingdom’s ruling Al Saud dynasty, which presents itself as the guardian of Islam and custodian of its holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

On September 30, Russia launched air strikes in Syria, in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, plunging the four-year-old civil war into a volatile new phase as President Vladimir Putin moved forcefully to stake out influence in the unstable region.

After three days of strikes Russian air strikes had mainly hitting areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than the Islamic State fighters it said it was targeting and drawing an increasingly angry response from the West.