Papua New Guinea quake death toll rises to 125

This photo taken on Feb. 27, 2018 shows damage to a road near Mendi in Papua New Guinea's highlands region after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake. (Melvin Levongho/AFP)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Papua New Guinea quake death toll rises to 125

SYDNEY: The death toll from a major earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea last month has risen to 125, police said Wednesday, amid concern that an outbreak of disease will see it jump further.
A 7.5-magnitude quake struck the Pacific nation’s mountainous interior on February 26, burying homes and causing landslides, making it hard to reach isolated villages.
Police said the toll had now reached 125, up from 100 last week, as more news filtered in from remote communities.
“From the reports received at the command centers, 45 have died so far in the Southern Highlands and in Hela province 80 people are confirmed dead,” the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary said in a statement.
“It is expected that the figure might increase once all people have been accounted for.”
It added that 15,000 people had been displaced in the Southern Highlands and at least 20,000 in Hela, with many now in temporary shelters. Schools remain closed.
While aid is finally reaching remote areas, doctors warned that public health issues must also be urgently addressed, with fears disease will kill even more people.
“Food-borne and water-borne diseases are just two of the many diseases that many may die from if we don’t start addressing the issues now,” Sam Yockopua, head of emergency medicine at the government’s Health Department, told The National newspaper.
“For example, from one of the areas that health officers recently visited, 80 people came in with injuries caused by the earthquake, while more than 100 came in to be treated for food-borne and water-borne diseases.”
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said Australian doctors were being recruited to help manage the crisis.
“In the next few days or weeks, the waterborne diseases will affect the affected population and areas, we have to lift our presence in medical support,” he said.
Earthquakes are common in PNG, which sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.


US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

Updated 43 min 19 sec ago
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US to withdraw from UN rights council: UN officials

  • Washington accuses UN Human Rights Council of bias against Israel.
  • UN rights chief: "The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable".

UNITED NATIONS: The United States will announce on Tuesday that it is withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, which it accuses of bias against Israel, UN officials said.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley will make the announcement at a press conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington at 5:00 p.m. (2100 GMT).
Haley has repeatedly threatened to quit the Geneva-based body, established in 2006 to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric declined to comment ahead of the announcement, saying: “We will wait to hear the details of that decision before commenting fully.”
“What is clear, is that the secretary-general is a strong believer in the human rights architecture of the UN and the active participation of all member states in that architecture.”
UN officials privately confirmed they were expecting the US decision to quit the rights body.
The withdrawal followed strong UN criticism of Trump’s policy to separate migrant children from their families at the US-Mexico border.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Monday “the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable.”
Human Rights Watch criticized the move, warning that Washington’s absence at the top UN body would put the onus on other governments to address the world’s most serious rights problems.
“The Trump administration’s withdrawal is a sad reflection of its one-dimensional human rights policy: defending Israeli abuses from criticism takes precedence above all else,” said HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth.
“The UN Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel.”
US criticism stems from the fact that Israel is the only country that has a dedicated agenda item, known as Item 7, at the rights council, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians comes under scrutiny at each of the body’s three annual sessions.
The United Stated refused to join the body when it was created in 2006, when George W. Bush was in the White House and his ambassador to the UN was John Bolton, Trump’s current hawkish and UN-skeptic national security adviser.
It was only after Barack Obama came to power that Washington joined the council in 2009.
Since Trump took office, the United States has quit the UN cultural agency UNESCO, cut UN funding and announced plans to quit the UN-backed Paris climate agreement.