Typhoon Utor death toll rises to eight

Updated 16 August 2013
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Typhoon Utor death toll rises to eight

MANILA: The confirmed death toll from Typhoon Utor rose to eight in the Philippines Thursday as the storm swept across southern China, where thousands had fled its path.
Utor left tens of thousands displaced and whole towns badly damaged when it raked across the north of the main Philippine island of Luzon on Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
But the death toll was much lower than in past typhoons which killed hundreds, and council spokesman Reynaldo Balido said Filipinos were learning how to cope with about 20 storms that hit the country each year,
“People are aware of the danger and the risks of this kind of typhoon now, so they were able to conduct pre-emptive evacuations,” he said. Nevertheless, two men were swept away by a flash flood while two fishermen were killed as the typhoon smashed their boat that they had taken ashore to shelter from the cyclone, Balido said.
A man drowned while trying to save his water buffalo from being carried away by an overflowing river, another man drowned while rescuing relatives from floodwaters, and a man was crushed by a landslide.
A woman was swept away while standing on the roof of a house as rescue teams and neighbors watched helplessly, he said.
The government reported four other people missing, mostly fishermen who went to sea before the storm hit.
Although Utor was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, packing gusts of 200 kilometers (124 miles) an hour, Balido said it was unlikely the death toll would go sharply higher as all the affected areas had reported in.
More than 83,000 people still need assistance, including thousands who lost their homes, he added.
Utor ripped the roofs off houses, government buildings and churches as it flattened crops and toppled trees in parts of the Philippines before heading out to the South China Sea.
Packing winds of up to 150 kilometers per hour at its center, it brushed past Hong Kong, where it forced the closure of financial markets, schools and businesses and disrupted hundreds of flights.
It also caused a 190-meter-long cargo ship to sink off Hong Kong Wednesday before making landfall in mainland China in the southern city of Yangjiang.
At least one person was confirmed dead and five were missing in southern China, state media said Thursday, as Utor dumped torrential rain on the area.
More than 88,000 residents of Maoming in Guangdong province were evacuated, the official Xinhua news agency said, but the victims were caught in flooding and mountain torrents
By Thursday the typhoon had weakened to a tropical depression as it moved northwards toward Hunan province, the Hong Kong Observatory said.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to typhoons, as it is where storms often make landfall after they emerge from the Pacific Ocean and move west.
Over a thousand people were killed when Typhoon Bopha hit the southern Philippines in December, the deadliest storm in the world in 2012.


Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

Updated 11 min 48 sec ago
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Murder of teenage Indian maid sparks calls for tougher laws urgently

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The murder of a teenage maid in India triggered calls on Monday for the government to urgently pass laws to curb trafficking and update legislation that lets children work as domestic help.
Police said the 16-year-old girl from eastern Jharkhand state was strangled and her body chopped up and dumped in a drain earlier this month after she demanded a year's unpaid salary from the employment agency that hired her.
A man, who worked at the agency that brings girls from poor families in rural areas to work in Delhi, was arrested late last week, senior Delhi police officer Rajender Singh Sagar told reporters.
"How can we allow our little daughters to be brutally killed after trafficking and exploitation? Where is the rule of law?" Indian Nobel laureate and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi said on Twitter.
The case has put the spotlight on the abuse of domestic servants in India where millions of people, including children trafficked from remote and impoverished states, toil for long hours in homes with little freedom or protection.
Satyarthi urged the government to pass India's new anti-trafficking bill, that was cleared by cabinet in February but has not been tabled in parliament yet, and called for the enactment of another bill to regulate employment agencies.
With stringent punishment for traffickers and quick relief for victims, campaigners believe the anti-trafficking law will result in more arrests and convictions.
About 60 percent of the more than 23,000 trafficking victims rescued in India in 2016 were children, government data shows.
Campaigners have blamed the dilution of the country's child labour act for more children being trafficked for domestic work.
India's parliament approved a controversial law in 2016 allowing children to work for family businesses, despite widespread concern that it would push more of them into labor.
Anti-trafficking charity Shakti Vahini demanded a rollback of amendments in the law and quick enactment of legislation to monitor unregulated employment agencies to stop them withholding salaries from workers or using violence against them.
"It is getting worse after the law was amended," Ravi Kant, founder of Shakti Vahini, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"There is no fear of law under the current child labour act."