Philippines typhoon death toll tops 6,000

Updated 22 December 2013
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Philippines typhoon death toll tops 6,000

MANILA: The number of people dead after one of the world’s strongest typhoons struck the Philippines has risen above 6,000, the government said Friday, with nearly 2,000 others still missing.
Five weeks after Super Typhoon Haiyan destroyed entire towns across the nation’s central islands, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the official death toll at 6,009, making it the Philippines’ deadliest recorded typhoon.
The council said it is still looking for 1,779 missing people amid an international relief and rehabilitation effort covering a large devastated area about the size of Portugal.
The number of people confirmed dead or unaccounted for continues to rise steadily. On November 23, more than two weeks after the storm struck, officials put the death toll at 5,235 and listed 1,613 people as still missing.
The latest official count puts Haiyan nearly on par with a 1976 tsunami in the southern Philippines, generated by a major undersea earthquake in the Moro Gulf, that left between 5,000 and 8,000 people dead.
The Haiyan toll has already surpassed Tropical Storm Thelma, which unleashed floods that killed more than 5,100 people in the central city of Ormoc in 1991, previously the country’s deadliest storm.
The United Nations asked donors this week to more than double their emergency aid donations to the Philippines to $791 million to cover needs over 12 months.
The government said more than four million people lost their homes to either Haiyan’s 315 kilometers (195 miles) per hour winds or tsunami-like storm surges, and some would continue to need food aid as well as shelters and jobs.
As part of the international aid effort, an Indonesian official who rebuilt Aceh after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami was in the Philippines on Friday to help the neighboring country recover from the typhoon.
Senior Minister Kuntoro Mangkusubroto visited the hard-hit central city of Tacloban at the Philippine government’s invitation to provide insights on managing large-scale recovery programs, the United Nations Development Programme said in a statement.
“I’m here to offer the government and the international community my experience as the coordinator of rehabilitation of Aceh,” Mangkusubroto said in the statement.
“I look forward to sharing my expertise and contributing to designing an efficient recovery plan for the areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan,” he added.
“The aim of this significant visit by Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto is to share ways to ensure that the recovery process in the Philippines will build resilience against future typhoons,” said the UN’s humanitarian and resident coordinator Luiza Carvalho.
Mangkusubroto was the director of Indonesia’s National Agency for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation for Aceh and Nias islands, which accounted for about half the 200,000-plus deaths caused by the 2004 tsunami.


Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

Updated 19 November 2018
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Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

  • Some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops
  • ‘It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps’

LAREDO, United State: They started work in the cool of the morning and moved quickly, uncoiling reel after reel of vicious-looking fencing and tying it with barbed wire to green poles hammered into the ground.
Over the course of three days, a gleaming, shoulders-high barrier of concertina-wire emerged like a silver snake along a lush riverbank, stretching as far as the eye could see.
This was the work of 100 or so American troops from the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Rather than finding themselves in a far-off warzone, the soldiers are in Laredo, a busy border town overlooking a stretch of the Rio Grande river in southwest Texas, carrying out controversial orders from President Donald Trump.
He has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico and toward the US, in a move critics decry as a costly political stunt to galvanize supporters ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.
Before the election Trump called the matter a “national emergency” and warned that so-called migrant caravans were an “invasion” with “some very bad thugs and gang members.”
So far at least, the most visible aspect of Trump’s deployment is the fence, a visible deterrent and physical obstacle to migrants, designed to corral would-be asylum seekers toward organized points of entry into the US.
Over the weekend, Lt. Alan Koepnick’s platoon could be seen stringing concertina wire, which is built to snag clothing, along one edge of a quiet riverside park near downtown Laredo.
As families walked dogs, grilled sausages and relaxed, the soldiers mounted the wire, occasionally ripping their camouflaged uniforms on its metal barbs.
Koepnick said some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops.
“But there’s also been a lot of support, people coming in, vets shaking our hands, bringing us cakes, water, things like that,” Koepnick said.
About 100 yards (meters) behind him, a group of people on the Mexican side of the river could be seen standing on the bank.
“You’ll see people across the river cursing at us in Spanish, throwing bottles at us. But on this side it’s more positive,” Koepnick said.
He and his soldiers were unarmed, but a group of armed military police officers stood by to provide “force protection.”
Under US law, the military is not allowed to conduct domestic law enforcement in most cases, so soldiers here will not have any direct interactions with migrants.
Trump created a media whirlwind by sounding the alarm about the migrant caravans before the November 6 elections. He has mainly stopped raising it since, though last week he praised the military’s work.
“They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence,” said Trump, who wants to build a hardened wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.
Laura Pole, a British tourist visiting Laredo for the third time, was less enthusiastic.
“It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps,” she said, but added: “I really don’t know what’s the best thing to do.”
The border mission has put the supposedly non-political military in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has hit back at critics who say the Pentagon should not be doing Trump’s political bidding, saying “we don’t do stunts.”
He visited troops on the border last week and reiterated that their job in the short term was to assist under-resourced Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and put up physical obstacles.
But “longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined,” he said.
After some rank-and-file troops grumbled about the purpose of the mission to US media last week, they are now under strict instructions not to voice personal opinions to the press.
Several soldiers AFP spoke to said their time on the border provided valuable real-world training, albeit without the risks of combat.
“We have a very large group of brand-new soldiers and it’s really good for them,” Corporal Samuel Fletcher said, citing a chance for the green troops “to do real work and put their skills to use.”
In Laredo, large groups of migrants from the caravans in Mexico had not arrived.
Instead they were mainly headed to Tijuana, about 1,300 miles away in San Diego, where authorities say more than 3,000 have already arrived.
Still, a CBP agent, who was not authorized to give his name, said he was glad of the military assistance as each day, “hundreds” of migrants attempt to cross the approximately 30-mile stretch of border he patrols.
The military deployment is set to wrap up December 15 and it is not clear what will become of the wire fencing.
Already, the winds whistling down the Rio Grande valley are strewing trash, clothing and plastic bags along the jagged wire.
“Nobody seems to know when it’s coming down. It’s not really our decision,” said Koepnick.
“If we are told to take it down, we will take it down with a smile on our faces, like good soldiers.”