Philippines braces for ‘super typhoon,’ aims for zero casualty

A weather forecaster illustrates the path of typhoon Mangkhut, locally named ‘Typhoon Ompong,’ as it approaches the Philippines on Wednesday. (AP)
Updated 13 September 2018
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Philippines braces for ‘super typhoon,’ aims for zero casualty

  • Weather forecasters warned of very strong winds and storm surges along coastal areas by Friday
  • Up to 43.3 million people could be affected by the storm in the Philippines and southern China

MANILA: Bracing for the impact of powerful typhoon “Mangkhut” (local name “Ompong“), Philippine officials scrambled to make all necessary preparations as they aimed for “zero casualty.”

Currently packing sustained winds of 205 kph and gustiness of up to 255 kph, Mangkhut has already entered the Philippines area of responsibility on Wednesday afternoon. It is described as the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier said Mangkhut, now with a diameter of 900 km, is expected to reach a peak intensity of around 220 kph maximum sustained winds and gusts of up to 270 kph. 

According to the state weather bureau, cyclones with wind reaching more than 220 kph are categorized as super typhoon. As of reporting time, it has yet to upgrade Mangkhut’s status.

In view of the possible effects of Mangkhut, concerned government agencies held a pre-disaster risk assessment meeting at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo to discuss the country’s preparations on the approach of the cyclone. 

During the meeting, PAGASA said tropical cyclone warning signal No. 1 may be raised over Eastern Luzon as early as Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Heavy rains and strong winds may be experienced over Northern Luzon and parts of Central and Southern Luzon. Surrounding seas are expected to have rough to very rough conditions. Metro Manila may be issued with Tropical Cyclone Warning Signal 1 between Sept. 14 and 15.

As Mangkhut approached the Cagayan-Batanes area, authorities warned that very strong strong winds, storm surges along coastal areas and heavy-to-intense rain is expected in Cagayan and Isabela by Friday and all over northern Luzon by Saturday.

With that, residents along the coastal areas in affected provinces were alerted against a possible storm surge. Likewise, people living in flood and landslide-prone areas were advised to undertake necessary preparations as early as possible.

“Families are expected to heed the call of local government units on pre-emptive evacuation if the situation warrants,” the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.

The NDRRMC Operations Center was likewise placed on red alert and the Response Cluster has been activated. The NDRRMC is also closely monitoring actions and preparations on the threats of the typhoon in close coordination with its regional offices. 

This is to ensure the orchestrated response of the government to address the safety and welfare of communities likely to be affected.

The Department of Interior and Local Government, on the other hand, has activated its reporting systems to closely monitor the preparations of local government units (LGUs) concerned, particularly the implementation of preemptive evacuation. 

Officer-In-Charge Eduardo M. Año has ordered mayors to be present in their respective localities to ensure immediate government response when the typhoon hits the country.

Año warned that those who fail to show up when the Mangkhut rakes through the country will be sanctioned. This was stressed as the government is aiming for zero casualty during the typhoon.

“We have been forewarned as early as last week that Mangkhut is no ordinary typhoon and is similar to Yolanda. Let us brace our communities and urge our people to also make the necessary preparations for their families ... Let’s aim for zero casualty,” said Año. Yolanda (international name Haiyan) was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It struck the country in 2013 and left a swath of destruction, with more than 6,000 people dead.

Año said LGUs must stand by equipment and deploy teams for security, medical, clearing, evacuation, relief distribution, and communication needs. They should be able to send rescue and medical teams to highly vulnerable areas during and after the disaster, and must also secure power, water supply and communications, patrol areas and stand by for clearing operations.

Meanwhile, the NDRRMC logistics cluster led by the Office of Civil Defense has ensured that land, air, and sea assets are in place to immediately transport additional teams and supplies to stricken areas if necessary. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Northern Luzon Command had also alerted all its ground forces to be on standby and are now in position to perform humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations with their military resources such as helicopters and navy vessels which are ready for use if the need arises.

Quick-response teams have been deployed in the province of Batanes and have established alternative communication devices to ensure that communication lines will remain open during the onslaught of the typhoon. 

Additional quick-response teams and health emergency response teams are on standby for immediate deployment in affected areas.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has ensured the prepositioning of food and non-food items on the ground, and is preparing for possible augmentation of relief supplies to affected communities. Health teams, medicines and medical supplies have also been pre-positioned for immediate access of those in need. 

 


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 19 September 2018
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.