Storm brings death and destruction in central Philippines

A mother sits with her children on fallen banana trees in Barangay San Mateo Borongan in Eastern Samar, Dec.17, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Storm brings death and destruction in central Philippines

MANILA: At least 33 people were killed and dozens still missing due to floods and landslides as tropical storm Urduja (globally known as Kai-tak) pounded central Philippines during the weekend.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 110 kilometers per hour, Urduja made landfall over San Policarpio in Eastern Samar Saturday afternoon.
As of Sunday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reports that Urduja has affected a total of 51,004 families or 221,953 persons in 492 villages, mostly in Eastern Visayas.
Of the total affected population, at least 20,389 families or 88,917 persons are currently being served in evacuation centers.
Meanwhile, information coming from the affected localities indicate the number of deaths may reach 33 while up to 30 people are still missing.
In the island province of Biliran, at least 26 people were reported killed from landslides that hit the towns of Caibiran, Almeria, Naval, and Biliran. Dozens of others are still missing as search and rescue operations continue. The province has been placed under a state of calamity.
In Ormoc City, Mayor Richard Gomez reported that three people have died due to the onslaught of Urduja but did not say the specific cause. Three people were also reported dead due to drowning in San Fernando town of Romblon and Palanas in Masbate, while one succumbed to a landslide in Labo, Camarines Sur.
Massive flooding in different parts of the Visayas likewise destroyed bridges and other infrastructure, while many areas were experienced power interruption.
From data released by the NDRRMC, 15,534 passengers were reported stranded in different ports in Southern Luzon, Bicol region, and the Visayas.
Many roads remained closed to all types of vehicles due to flooding, prompting authorities to identify alternative routes to ensure the continuity of relief distribution.
A total of 57 domestic flights have been canceled since December 13 owing to bad weather.
A response cluster meeting was held at the NDRRMC yesterday wherein officials gave an update on the assistance provided to communities affected by Urduja and ensured immediate distribution and augmentation of relief in highly affected areas.
The NDRRMC said challenges in the distribution of relief goods to the affected communities are being addressed.
Meanwhile, preparations are being made due to impending entry of another weather disturbance threatening the southern part of the Philippines.


World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

Updated 14 min 5 sec ago
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World 'won't rest' on Rohingya crisis, UK's Hunt tells Suu Kyi

  • The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
  • Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Thursday called for justice on the Rohingya crisis after his visit to Myanmar's Rakhine state, telling embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi the world "won't let it rest".
Hunt's rallying cry for accountability comes at the end of a busy two-day visit during which he visited Rakhine -- the epicentre of a brutal military campaign that drove out more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims -- and met with Suu Kyi.
"Burma needs to know the international community won't let it rest," said Hunt using Myanmar's former name.
Myanmar has set up an "independent" commission to address the army's crackdown against the Rohingya, rejecting the UN probe and calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate.
"If we don't see that process happening, we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure there is justice... the world is watching," Hunt said after the meeting, which he said was "lively" and "frank".
The British foreign minister's visit came the same week UN investigators released a damning and meticulous report detailing why six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they joined about 300,000 already in cramped refugee camps, carrying accounts of extrajudicial killings, extreme sexual violence and arson.
The evidence warrants the charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, UN investigators said.
Hunt also brought up with Suu Kyi his "concerns" on the jailing of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were sentenced earlier this month to seven years each under the state secrets act.
The pair had uncovered the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men in the Rakhine village of Inn Din -- something the army has since acknowledged.
Suu Kyi, who endured a total of 15 years of house arrest under the previous junta-led regime, said last week Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo's sentencing upheld the rule of law.
"She said she would look into it," Hunt said Thursday.
Before the meeting, the foreign minister was led on a three-hour, tightly-managed tour of Rakhine via helicopter, which included the Taung Pyo Letwe returnee reception centre, opened to receive the refugees even though virtually no Rohingya have come back.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement last year to repatriate the Muslim minority but it has stalled as they fear returning to Rakhine without their safety and rights guaranteed.
In each of the three other locations Hunt was shepherded to, he found a pre-selected group of locals waiting to speak to him. At Pan Taw Pyin village, the final stop, he walked off to try to speak with nearby residents about their experiences despite the heavy security presence.
The military has consistently denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting that its campaign was justified to root out militants, and Myanmar's ambassador to the UN on Tuesday slammed the UN probe as "one-sided" and "flawed".
Suu Kyi, a former pro-democracy icon, has seen a sharp fall from grace internationally due to her failure to address the Rohingya crisis.
Her supporters say her hands are tied by a still powerful military, which controls a quarter of parliament's seats and three ministries.
UN investigators say her government's "acts and omissions" contributed to the "atrocity crimes" in the crisis.
Hunt will head to New York next week for the UN General Assembly, where he will chair a foreign ministers' meeting Monday on Myanmar.
Suu Kyi will not be travelling to New York for the UN top meeting.