Spanish army called in as snow traps thousands on roads

Personnel from the Spanish army’s emergency unit UME working to unblock cars stuck on the AP6 highway after a heavy snowfall. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2018
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Spanish army called in as snow traps thousands on roads

MADRID: Spain deployed 250 soldiers on Sunday to help rescue thousands of people trapped in their vehicles by heavy snow overnight on a highway near Madrid, officials said.
The army’s emergency unit UME said it sent two companies of specialist soldiers and 95 vehicles to free over 3,000 vehicles that became stranded on the AP6 highway linking Madrid and the northwestern city of Segovia.
“The vehicles were removed one by one. There were cars with babies inside that did not have water or food,” said UME spokesman Aurelio Soto.
Videos posted on Twitter by emergency services showed soldiers and police battling snow drifts as they used shovels to clear snow from around trapped cars.
About 70 kilometers (45 miles) of the highway in the center of the country were blocked by snow just as families were returning home after the end of the Christmas holidays.
Motorists took to social media to complain that they had been trapped on the road since Saturday night without anything to eat and no heating, amid freezing temperatures.
“My husband and I didn’t eat anything to give the little we had to our children,” Sara Ramos, who was trapped in her car for 15 hours with her husband and two children aged two and six, told Spanish public television.
“It was really distressing because it was many hours of waiting. It was a really difficult situation. There were people who had no heat because their car battery ran out.”
Public Works Minister Inigo de la Serna said the government had opened an inquiry to see if the toll road operator that runs the AP6 highway — Iberpistas, a subsidiary of Spain’s Abertis — “had fulfilled all protocols” for a snow storm.
The minister said many other roads were covered by snow but these were closed and cleared without drivers being trapped in their vehicles for so long. He urged people not to use their cars in areas affected by he snow storm “unless it is strictly necessary.”
Spain’s weather office issued alerts for 37 provinces on Sunday because of the risks posed by the heavy snow, strong winds and rain.


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 2 min 9 sec ago
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time
TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.