Vietnam flood and landslide toll hits 54
Vietnam flood and landslide toll hits 54
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.
Video emerges of Macron bodyguard beating protester in Paris
PARIS: A video showing one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s security chiefs beating a student demonstrator, until now cloaked in secrecy, is drawing a fierce public backlash over what is seen as mild punishment and a possible cover-up.
The video of the May 1 event in Paris, revealed by Le Monde on Wednesday evening, shows Alexandre Benalla in a helmet with police markings, and surrounded by riot police, brutally dragging off a woman from a demonstration and then repeatedly beating a young man on the ground. The man is heard begging him to stop. Another man in civilian clothing pulled the young man to the ground.
Police, who had hauled the man from the crowd before Benalla took over, didn’t intervene. Benalla then left the scene. The second man was apparently a gendarme who Le Monde said had worked with Benalla in the past.
The uproar over Benalla’s punishment — a two-week suspension and a change in responsibilities — forced top French officials to address the issue Thursday. But Macron has remained silent. Benalla, who hasn’t commented on the matter, handled Macron’s security during the presidential campaign.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, responding to questions in the Senate, called the event “shocking,” but stumbled to respond to questions, notably whether all French are equal before the law.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that the two men “obviously had no legitimate (reason) to intervene.” He said he has demanded that a police unit which investigates suspected criminal behavior by officers explain the rules for observers and verify whether they were respected.
Condemning the “unacceptable behavior,” Macron spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said that Benalla was also removed from his responsibilities of organizing security for presidential trips — though he maintains his office at the Elysee Palace.
In addition, authorities launched a preliminary investigation that could lead to charges against Benalla, a judicial official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing case.
Despite this, Benalla has been seen this month on the ground with police at several high-profile events, including the return home Monday of France’s champion World Cup team, an event attended by hundreds of thousands.
Macron, in the Dordogne region to officially launch a new postage stamp, didn’t respond to questions about the scandal. The upstart centrist elected last year had promised an exemplary presidency during his term to break with unending cases of corruption in French politics.
Roger-Petit said the punishment dealt out to Benalla was the “most serious” ever given to a top aide at the presidential Elysee Palace and served as a “last warning before dismissal.”
Opposition politicians expressed shock, with some denouncing a climate of impunity at the top of the French political hierarchy and asking Macron to personally address the issue.
The head of France’s main conservative party The Republicans, Laurent Wauquiez, asked on Europe 1 radio if the government was trying to “hush the affair.”
Roger-Petit stressed that Benalla had requested authorization to use his day off “to observe” security forces’ operations on May Day when marches are traditionally held. It was granted.
It was unclear why the young man under attack, who wasn’t detained, was singled out by police before Benalla intervened.
“An observer doesn’t act like that,” said the spokesman for the UNSA-Police union. They are typically equipped and briefed in advance, and the framework is “completely clear,” Philippe Capon told BFM-TV.
He couldn’t say why police didn’t stop Benalla.
The context was “special,” he said. “He was an observer from the Elysee. When police officials hear the word ‘Elysee’ there is a particular apprehension.”