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.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.