Philippines raises alert as super typhoon hurtles closer

A worker anchors the roof of a fuel station to a mixer truck as Super Typhoon Mangkhut approaches the city of Tuguegarao, Cagayan province, north of Manila. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Philippines raises alert as super typhoon hurtles closer

  • By Friday evening, strong winds had already downed trees in Tuguegarao, a city in the north of Luzon, where almost all businesses had been shuttered
  • At least four million people are directly in Mangkhut’s path, which is predicted to move on to China’s heavily populated southern coast

MANILA: Thousands of people have fled from the path of Typhoon Mangkhut (local name Ompong) which picked up strength as it barreled toward the Philippines’ Cagayan region on Friday.
While the authorities said there is slim chance of Mangkhut becoming a super typhoon, it but warned “it is still a powerful and destructive typhoon.”
With maximum sustained winds of 205 kph near the center and gusts of up to 255 kph, Mangkhut further accelerated hours before it was expected to land in the Cagayan-Isabela area early on Saturday.
The authorities placed Cagayan and Isabela provinces under storm signal No. 4, while signal No. 3 was also raised in other parts of northern Luzon. Signal No. 4 means the area will experience winds of 171 kph to 220 kph, which can bring heavy damage to structures and agriculture, lift cars off the ground, uproot trees, and take the roof of a house, an official explained.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesperson Edgar Posadas said at least 2,298 families in regions affected by the storm have voluntarily evacuated since Thursday.
More residents are expected to move to safety as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on governors, mayors and village heads in four regions in the north to immediately evacuate all residents living in landslide and flood prone areas.
Posadas said an estimated 5.2 million people are in the path of Mangkhut, with 983,100 considered to be below poverty line or most vulnerable to the effects of the typhoon.
The DILG urged local chief executives as heads of their Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (LDRRMCs) not to delay in issuing action plans to evacuate vulnerable residents.
“Times like this are when public services have to be most accountable, responsive and far-sighted,” said DILG spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya.
Officials have repeatedly warned that storm surges of up to six meters are likely in the coastal areas of Cagayan, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, as well as Ilocos Sur when the eye of Ompong is over Batanes.
“Every minute counts. Immediate evacuation should be to areas that are more than 10 meters above sea level, regardless of distance from the coastline,” Malaya advised.
Residents along riverbanks and landslide prone areas were also encouraged to evacuate their homes.
And with its huge diameter of 900km, officials said that many areas not directly affected by the storm can still experience heavy rains and strong winds.
“For those in Metro Manila, prepare for moderate to heavy rains due to Habagat (the summer monsoon) intensified by Ompong. Flooding is expected in the usual low-lying areas,” said Posadas.
Gusty winds with occasional moderate to heavy rains are expected over Visayas, while scattered light to moderate to at times heavy rains over Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and CARAGA.
“Residents in these areas, especially those living near river channels, in low-lying areas and in mountainous areas, are advised to take appropriate action against possible flooding and landslides, coordinate with local disaster risk reduction and management offices, and to continue monitoring for updates,” PAGASA advised.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte deployed some cabinet secretaries to areas that will most likely be hit by the typhoon to monitor the situations on the ground. “I cannot be everywhere and anywhere,” he said.
When asked by reporters if the government is willing to seek assistance from the international community, Duterte said: “It would depend on the severity of the crisis.”
“If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help. And if there are countries who are well-meaning... But it’s too early to speculate,” he added.
Mangkhut is expected move on from the Philippines on Sunday.


BJP drive to change names of Mughal-era cities in India opposed

Updated 37 min 15 sec ago
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BJP drive to change names of Mughal-era cities in India opposed

  • Allahabad was established by the 16th-century Mughal ruler Akbar, adjacent to the ancient city of Prayagraj, a revered place for Hindus
  • Prayagraj is believed to be a place for a highly revered Hindu saint, and Ayodhya is allegedly the birthplace of the supreme Hindu deity, Ram

DELHI: Irshadullah, 40, from Allahabad, or what is now known as Prayagraj, finds it difficult to accept the new name of his birthplace — he says that history cannot be changed.
“It’s not the issue of the change of name of a particular place, it’s the question of our existence and history in India,” said Irshadullah, a social worker and political activist from Allahabad, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).
His anger and frustration are palpable.
“The only reason why the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government wants to change the name is that it has been given by the Mughal ruler. This I feel is not only an attempt to obliterate India’s Islamic history but also to create a wedge in the multicultural society in the name of religion,” Irshadullah said.
Last week, in a slew of decisions by the BJP government in UP led by the controversial monk and Hindu nationalist politician Yogi Adityanath, the names of the medieval city of Allahabad and Faizabad were renamed Prayagraj and Ayodhya respectively.
Allahabad was established by the 16th-century Mughal ruler Akbar, adjacent to the ancient city of Prayagraj, a revered place for Hindus. Similarly, Faizabad also cropped up next to the Hindu city of Ayodhaya.
Prayagraj is believed to be a place for a highly revered Hindu saint, and Ayodhya is allegedly the birthplace of the supreme Hindu deity, Ram.
However, Hindu right-wing politicians claim that Allahabad and Faizabad were built replacing Hindu names.
“The Mughal ruler Akbar built the city Allahabad without disturbing the area closer to the river, known as Prayagraj,” Irshadullah said.
“With a name you have history associated with it. When you change it, you tamper with its historicity. The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh and the center, they don’t have anything substantial to demonstrate as their achievement — that’s why they are indulging in this political polarization,” Irshadullah said.
Faizabad-based historian, Prof. N.K. Tiwari of Dr. Rammanohar Lohia Avadh University, said the Mughals never changed the name of any Hindu place of worship.
“From the historical point of view, the change of names of medieval cities is wrong. But the political climate now is such that if you raise your voice you are termed anti-Hindu or anti-national. The whole episode has made me highly uncomfortable,” Tiwari told Arab News.
The opposition parties in UP have called the move “a desperate attempt to hoodwink people before the elections next year.”
“They failed as a government and now they are back on their agenda of divisive politics with vehemence. But people now understand the BJP’s politics,” said Sanjay Tiwari, a local leader of the Congress Party in Allahabad.
But the BJP said the “name change is a normal process.”
“India, which was subjugated twice — first by the Mughals and second by the British — must rediscover its soul. Name change is one way of remembering our past glory,” said Sudesh Verma, a national spokesperson for the BJP.
“Prayagraj or Ayodhya sounds more cultural than Allahabad or Faizabad respectively,” he said.
While talking to Arab News, he denied changing Muslim names. “India cannot be complete without Muslims and other minorities. But it is true that a nation cannot celebrate invaders, rapists and those who forcibly converted using swords and were religious bigots,” Verma said.
Earlier this year, the BJP government in UP renamed Mughalsarai, an iconic railway station in the eastern part of the state, after its founder, Deen Dayal Upadhaya.
Last year, the Yogi government deleted the Taj Mahal in Agra from the list of tourist sites, but after huge protests the regime revised the list.
Now the BJP legislator from Agra Jagan Prasad Garg wants to rename the historic city “Agrawal.” “Agra has originally been the place for the Hindu Agrawal community and the Mughal ruler changed its name to Agra. I demand the restoration of the old name,” Garg told Arab News.
The demand for the name change has come for the historic city of Ahmadabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat, the home state of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
“Changing the name itself is not an issue. Names have been changed in the past also. Bombay became Mumbai, Calcutta became Kolkata because they wanted to correct the pronunciation,” said the historian Prof. Aditya Mukherjee from Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
“These changes are being done to demonize the Muslims. The picture is being created that Muslims are foreigners, they invaded India, they did all kinds of crime and, therefore, their name should be changed,” he said.
“One of the essential features of fascism is that it creates the enemy from within. What the BJP is doing is that they are creating an enemy out of Muslims, Christians, Dalits and other minorities,” Mukherjee told Arab News.
“The consequences for this kind of politics would be dangerous for the country. We must fight it. Each one of us — intellectuals, teachers, writers, journalists — we need to fight it when there is time. There is no point in fighting when the damage has penetrated deep.”
Irshadullah refused to change the place of birth in his birth certificate. “It is not easy to adapt to the change, I have with Allahabad so many memories, they can change the name of my city, but I will still call it Allahabad, not Prayagraj.”