3 dead, 77,000 flee as storm pounds Philippines

Villagers wade through a flooded street in Brgy Calingatngan, Philippine, on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017
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3 dead, 77,000 flee as storm pounds Philippines

TACLOBAN: At least three people were killed and tens of thousands were driven from their homes by floods as Tropical Storm Kai-Tak pounded the eastern Philippines on Saturday, cutting off power and triggering landslides, officials said.
Kai-Tak, packing gusts of up to 110 km/per hour, hit the country’s third-largest island Samar in the afternoon and tore through a region devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan four years ago, the state weather service said.
Local officials reported three deaths on neighboring Leyte island — a two-year-old boy who drowned in the town of Mahaplag, a woman buried by a landslide and another person who fell into a flooded manhole in Ormoc city.
Samar and Leyte, with a combined population of about 4.5 million, had borne the brunt of Haiyan in 2013, which left more than 7,350 people dead or missing.
Bus driver Felix Villaseran, his wife and four children hunkered down in their two-story house in the Leyte city of Tacloban along with 11 relatives whose homes were flooded from incessant rain.
“We have yet to shake off our phobia. I hope we don’t have a repeat of that,” Villaseran, who lost 39 cousins in the Haiyan onslaught, told AFP.
“My missus stockpiled on groceries before the storm hit, but since we also have to feed these three other families we’re now running low on food,” he added.
Military trucks drove through rising floodwaters on Samar and Leyte to rescue trapped residents, with more than 77,000 people now in evacuation centers, local officials said.
Strong winds toppled trees and power pylons, knocking out power throughout the region while floods, small landslides and rock falls blocked roads and buried some homes, local officials and witnesses said.
Farmland in the mainly rural region was also under water, while seven people were injured by landslides and flying objects, the regional civil defense office said in a report.
A spokeswoman for the national government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told AFP it was trying to confirm reports of two other deaths from landslides and floods on the islands of Biliran and Dinagat.
“It was like a flashback again for residents of Tacloban city,” its Vice Mayor Sambo Yaokasin told Manila TV ABS-CBN, referring to the Haiyan disaster.
The station broadcast images of flooded streets and corrugated iron roofing sheets flying off homes.
“Nearly half the villages here are flooded,” Marcelo Picardal, vice governor of Eastern Samar province told ABS-CBN in an interview.
Three other people were missing in Ormoc after being swept away by floods on Saturday, city Mayor Richard Gomez told CNN Philippines TV in an interview.
“We need a lot of water and a lot of blankets,” Gomez added, citing widespread flooding that may have contaminated the tap water system of the city of 200,000 people.
The state weather service said more heavy rain was expected in the eastern Philippines in the coming hours with Kai-Tak forecast to slice across the rest of the central Philippines over the weekend.
Ferry services on the storm’s path were suspended due to rough seas, the civil defense office in the area said.
About 20 typhoons or weaker storms either make landfall in the Philippines or reach its waters each year, bringing annual misery and death and consigning millions of survivors to perennial poverty.


Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
THE PROSECUTION
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

THE DEFENSE
Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.