Powerful typhoon approaching northern Philippines, Taiwan

Updated 21 September 2013
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Powerful typhoon approaching northern Philippines, Taiwan

TAIPEI/HONG KONG: The most powerful typhoon of the year was approaching the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan on Friday with ferocious wind gusts of up to 305 km per hour. It was expected to skirt both regions, with authorities warning of torrential rains and destructive winds.
Super Typhoon Usagi had maximum sustained winds of 250 kph on Friday afternoon and was about 665 km southeast of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, according to the US Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center. A storm achieves super typhoon status when its sustained winds are at least 240 kph.
“It is the strongest typhoon in the west Pacific region this year,” a weather forecaster at the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau told AFP.
Philippine authorities evacuated some 240 people in the northern agricultural province of Tarlac, while ferries were restricted to their ports, stranding traveLlers.
A signal four alert was issued for the Batanes island group in the extreme north of the country, warning large trees could be uprooted, plantations flattened and power and communications infrastructure knocked out.
Emergency relief services were also put on heightened alert, with the Red Cross already stockpiling first aid kits and food packs in some areas. “Damage to affected communities can be very heavy,” the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said. “The situation is potentially very destructive to communities. All travel and outdoor activities should be canceled.”
The country’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Usagi would cause intense rainfall of 10-20 mm per hour within a 700-km range.
Hong Kong officials warned of worsening weather in the southern Chinese territory.
“Weather will deteriorate significantly with strengthening winds and rough seas,” the Hong Kong observatory said. Its tropical cyclone track map showed the storm would hit the city after 8:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Sunday.
The typhoon is expected to be downgraded to “severe” by the time it makes landfall in the territory, according to the observatory, still enough to stop metro and ferry services and curtail air travel.
Typhoon Usagi is set to brush the southern tip of Taiwan on Saturday morning, expected to bring fierce winds and torrential rains, possibly leading to landslides.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry deployed more than 1,600 soldiers in “high risk” areas prone to flooding and landslides while placing 24,000 others on standby.
The island’s weather bureau issued a warning to the residents of Taitung, Kaohsiung and the Pingtung areas to take special precautions, as television news footage showed people surfing on waves whipped up by Usagi. Authorities in the southern city of Kaohsiung deflated an 18-meter-tall yellow duck.


Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

Updated 11 min 6 sec ago
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Pakistan appoints former chief justice as caretaker prime minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling and opposition parties on Monday announced the appointment of a former Supreme Court chief justice as caretaker prime minister.
The selection of Nasir ul Mulk comes days after the country’s president announced that general elections will be held on July 25 — setting up what would only be Pakistan’s second ever democratic transfer of power.
“Today is an important day in the democratic history of Pakistan, the name was chosen after consensus was reached,” said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during a press conference.
“We have chosen a person whose past is very clear.”
Opposition leader Khursheed Shah added that Mulk, who served on the top court for nearly a decade — including a stint as chief justice from July 2014 to August 2015 — had backing across the political spectrum.
Mulk famously helped pave the way for the removal of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani after he was convicted for contempt in 2012 for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against then president Asif Ali Zardari.
The appointment of the widely respected judge came as a surprise because he was not named as a potential frontrunner in recent discussions in the Pakistani press about who would take the helm as caretaker premier.
The current government’s tenure will end on May 31. Power will then be handed over to a caretaker administration after the parliament is dissolved until a new government is formed following elections.
The July polls will bring to a head political tensions that have been mounting since former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court on corruption charges last July and later barred from politics for life.
Sharif was the 15th prime minister in Pakistan’s seven-decade history to be ousted before finishing a full term.
The country witnessed its first democratic transfer of power following polls in 2013, which Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) won in a landslide.
The upcoming elections are expected to pit the PML-N against its main rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by former cricket star Imran Khan.
Despite the numerous court rulings against the PML-N, the party has won a string of recent by-elections proving it will likely remain a powerful force.