Vietnam flood and landslide toll hits 54

Flash floods damage a house in northern province of Hoa Binh, Vietnam on Friday Oct. 13, 2017. (Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Updated 13 October 2017
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Vietnam flood and landslide toll hits 54

HANOI: The death toll from devastating floods and landslides in north and central Vietnam has jumped to 54, officials said Friday, in one of the deadliest weather disasters to hit the country in years.
Rescuers were desperately searching for 39 people still missing after heavy rains pounded several provinces this week, with forecasters warning of another major storm heading toward the country.
Villages, roads and homes across several provinces remained submerged Friday, as authorities tried to clear roads and reach isolated residents in the mountainous north, which was hit by deadly landslides.
Entire families were killed in some areas as rivers tore a destructive path through villages and towns.
Hoang Phuc Son said he lost two children and two grandchildren as flood waters slammed into their house in Yen Bai province.
“We had no time to run. My children couldn’t run because water was coming in from all sides... my children and their two kids were swept away,” said Son, choking back tears.
The body of a Vietnam News Agency reporter was recovered Friday after he was washed away by a swollen river in Yen Bai province while reporting on the floods this week.
Thousands of police and soldiers were deployed to help search efforts, reinforce dikes and hand out food as the death toll jumped from 37 people on Thursday.
“We have mobilized more than 2,500 soldiers and policemen and thousands of civilians for rescue and relief efforts,” said Do Duc Duy, chairman of the Yen Bai People’s Committee.
In recent days floods submerged or destroyed 33,000 houses, wiped out swathes of farmland, and left several dikes badly damaged, Vietnam’s Disaster Management Authority said.
Northern Hoa Binh province — where a state of emergency was declared this week — was the hardest hit with 17 dead and 15 missing, followed by central Thanh Hoa province where 14 were killed, the disaster agency added.
And the country is bracing for yet more adverse weather, with forecasters predicting that tropical storm Khanun will intensify over the South China Sea and could hit Vietnam early next week.
Vietnam has already been hit by severe rain and storms this year, with nearly 170 people dead or missing before the latest bout of bad weather. Typhoon Doksuri killed 11 people and caused widespread destruction last month when it slammed into central Vietnam.
The country is routinely hit by tropical storms from May to October, frequently lashing its central coast. More than 150 people died when Tropical Storm Ketsana tore through the country in 2009.


Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

Updated 17 February 2019
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Acting Pentagon chief not decided yet on funding US-Mexico border wall

  • President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval
  • Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Saturday he had not yet determined whether a border wall with Mexico was a military necessity or how much Pentagon money would be used.
President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the US-Mexico border without congressional approval.
A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Shanahan was likely to approve the $3.6 billion being redirected from the military construction budget.
By declaring a national emergency, Trump can use certain Department of Defense funding to build the wall.
According to the law, the defense secretary has to decide whether the wall is militarily necessary before money from the military construction budget can be used.
“We always anticipated that this would create a lot of attention and since moneys potentially could be redirected, you can imagine the concern this generates,” Shanahan told reporters traveling back with him from his trip to Afghanistan, the Middle East and Europe.
“Very deliberately, we have not made any decisions, we have identified the steps we would take to make those decisions,” Shanahan said.
He added that military planners had done the initial analysis and he would start reviewing it on Sunday.
Officials have said that the administration had found nearly $7 billion to reallocate to the wall, including about $3.6 billion from the military construction budget and $2.5 billion from a Defense Department drug interdiction fund.
The US defense official said Shanahan would meet with the service secretaries in the coming days to pick which specific projects the money should come from.
Shanahan said that planners had identified the different sources of money that could be used, but he had not decided specifically what projects it would impact and ultimately it was his decision.
“I am not required to do anything,” he said.
Shanahan said he did not expect to take money away from projects like military housing.
Poor standards of military housing were highlighted by recent Reuters reporting, which described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers.
“Military housing, what’s been interesting- I’ve received a number of letters, I’ve had lots of feedback, do not jeopardize projects that are underway,” Shanahan said.
“As we step our way through the process, we’ll use good judgment,” Shanahan said.
The Republican president’s move, circumventing Congress, seeks to make good on a 2016 presidential campaign pledge to build a border wall that Trump insists is necessary to curtail illegal immigration.
Within hours, the action was challenged in a lawsuit filed on behalf of three Texas landowners.
“We are following the law, using the rules and we’re not bending the rules,” Shanahan said.