19 dead, scores hurt in Kenya heavy rains

COLLAPSE: Dozens of people are feared trapped or dead after this six-story building collapsed in Nairobi, Kenya (Reuters)
Updated 30 April 2016
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19 dead, scores hurt in Kenya heavy rains

NAIROBI: A six-story residential building collapsed in heavy rain in Nairobi, killing 12 people and injuring scores, Kenyan officials said Saturday.
Rescuers in the Kenyan capital made desperate efforts to free survivors including a woman and child trapped in the building.
Seven other people died in floods elsewhere in Nairobi, including four killed when a wall collapsed.
“Ten bodies have been recovered, and we have 80 people who have been treated and discharged from hospital,” Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery told reporters amid the wreckage of the building.
“There is a lady in the building and her child who are alive, and all efforts are being made to rescue them, as well as other people still believed to be in the building,” Nkaissery said.
The Kenya Red Cross said 150 building units and adjacent homes were affected. Rescuers said they could hear voices of five people trapped in the building and said it will be difficult to remove the concrete slabs using heavy machinery without endangering those stuck in the rubbled, said nominated legislator Johnson Sakaja.
Live TV footage showed the National Youth Service and firefighters removing stones by hand and a crowd cheering as a child was removed from the rubble. President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the scene.
Hours-long traffic jams caused by flooded roads delayed rescue teams trying to reach the scene, said Japheth Koome, Nairobi’s police chief said. The 134 injured were rescued from the rubble, Koome said. Kenya is in the midst of its April-May rainy season.
Jacob Kiruma, who said he lived in the house adjacent to the one that collapsed, said the building was constructed “shoddily.” The structure had been built in less than five months and the 126 single rooms were quickly occupied at a rent of $35 a month, Kiruma said.
Area legislator Stephen Kariuki said this was the second building to collapse in a year. He blamed the county government of failing to follow through with demolitions of buildings that were identified as unfit for human habitation.
Taking advantage of a high demand for housing in Nairobi, some property developers bypass building regulations to cut costs and maximize profits.
President Kenyatta last year ordered an audit of all the buildings in the country to see if they are up to code after eight buildings collapsed, killing at least 15 people. The report from the audit by the National Construction Authority found that 58 percent of buildings in the capital were unfit to live in. The majority of Nairobi’s 4 million people live in low-income areas or slums.
The heavy rains have caused other fatalities. Four people died when a wall collapsed Friday in the affluent Hurlingham area and two people drowned when they were swept away by flood waters in the capital’s industrial area, said Nairobi police chief Koome.
President Uhuru Kenyatta visited the wreck of the six-story building on Saturday, where 10 people perished after concrete floors collapsed down on top of each other during torrential rainstorms on Friday.
The two-year-old building, home to more than over 150 families, had been condemned by building authorities but the order had been ignored.
But access for rescuers with larger machinery has been made difficult by the narrow and crowded streets.
One survivor was pulled from the huge pile of debris shortly after dawn, Kenya Red Cross said, some 10 hours after the building collapsed Friday night.
Pictures broadcast by local media showed soldiers, policemen and civilians searching through the rubble.
Kenyatta “braved the rainy and chilly weather” to visit densely-populated and poor Huruma neighborhood, a statement from the presidency said.
He ordered police “take immediate action to identify and arrest owners of buildings who have ignored directives by the National Construction Authority,” it said.


North Korea’s new ‘tactical’ weapon test highlights military modernization

Updated 10 min 38 sec ago
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North Korea’s new ‘tactical’ weapon test highlights military modernization

SEOUL: North Korea’s claim last week that it had tested an unidentified “ultramodern tactical weapon” highlighted its desire to upgrade its conventional arms and reassure its military even as talks are under way to end its nuclear program, analysts said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un witnessed the test of a newly developed tactical weapon that could serve as a “steel wall,” state media reported on Friday, without giving details of the weapon.
It was Kim’s first observation of a weapons test this year and could complicate already stalled nuclear talks with the United States, although Washington and Seoul downplayed the development in an apparent effort not to derail negotiations.
Experts say the test was part of Kim’s initiative to shift the mainstay of the conventional military power from a nearly 1.3 million-strong army to high-tech weapons.
“This is sort of like the North Korean version of military reform,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“If we have to find an underlying message to the outside world, it’s ‘Don’t underestimate us, we are modernizing too.’“
New advanced weapons might be even more crucial if the country were to abandon at least some of its nuclear arsenal.
Although heavily-sanctioned Pyongyang is easily outspent in defense funding by Seoul and Washington, the North’s forward-deployed troops, guns and multiple-launch artillery rocket systems (MLRS) pose a significant threat to the allies.
The North Korean military has nearly 5,500 MLRS, 4,300 tanks, 2,500 armored vehicles, 810 fighter jets, 430 combatant vessels and 70 submarines, according to a 2016 assessment by the South’s defense ministry.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said last week it has identified at least 13 undeclared missile bases inside North Korea.
The Washington-based think tank has also said Pyongyang has been developing hovercraft units for its 200,000-strong special forces as part of the military modernization drive.
Kim has been pushing to modernize production lines at munitions factories and replace aging weapons and technology since he took power in late 2011.
“The defense industry should develop and manufacture powerful strategic weapons and military hardware of our style, perfect its Juche-oriented production structure and modernize its production lines on the basis of cutting-edge science and technology,” he said in his 2018 New Year speech, referring to the long-held principle of self-reliance.
The two Koreas agreed during their September summit in Pyongyang to significantly reduce military tensions along the border, and the North has begun deactivating artillery deployed along the skirmish-prone western shore, Seoul’s defense ministry said.
But the pact did not include any removal of MLRS from forward-deployed areas, where some long-range guns and rocket launchers can still reach Seoul.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the newly tested weapon was a new model of MLRS, citing an unnamed military source familiar with intelligence. Other experts suggested it might be a new, short-range missile.
Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said by touting a modernized weapon, Kim could seek to reassure hard-line military generals and the public in North Korea who may be worried about a nuclear-free future.
“With Kim having publicly declared the economy a new priority and saying the North would denuclearise, many in the military who saw a decline in interest and support could be doubtful and anxious because he has not secured significant concessions like an end-of-war declaration,” Kim, the professor said.
“It could have been necessary for him to consolidate the nation even though such a field guidance would give a negative signal to the outside.”