Hope fades in Philippines for dozens buried in landslides

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Rescuers dig on September 18, 2018 at a landslide site where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province north of Manila the day before. (AFP / TED ALJIBE)
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Rescuers dig next to a collapsed concrete house where dozens of residents are believed to have been buried in a landslide during heavy rains at the height of Typhoon Mangkhut in Itogon, Benguet province, north of Manila, on September 18, 2018. (AFP / TED ALJIBE)
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Rescuers search for miners from the rubble of a bunkhouse after a landslide caused by Typhoon Mangkhut at a small-scale mining camp in Itogon, Benguet, in the Philippines, on September 17, 2018. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)
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A passerby takes photos of a car pinned down by a tree toppled by Typhoon Mangkhut in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on September 17, 2018. (Huo Jianbin/Southern Metropolis Daily via REUTERS)
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Pedestrians pass through under an uprooted tree on a street, after Typhoon Mangkhut hit Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, on September 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 September 2018

Hope fades in Philippines for dozens buried in landslides

  • Typhoon Mangkhut already is confirmed to have killed 66 people in the Philippines and four in China
  • 40 to 50 miners and their families were believed to have sought shelter inside a chapel when it was buried in a landslide

ITOGON, Philippines: Dozens of people believed buried in a landslide unleashed by Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines probably did not survive, a mayor said Monday, although rescuers kept digging through mud and debris covering a chapel where they had taken shelter.
Of the 40 to 50 miners and their families believed inside the chapel, there is a “99 percent” chance that they all were killed, said Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon, the Benguet province town that was among the hardest hit by the typhoon that struck Saturday.
Mangkhut already is confirmed to have killed 66 people in the Philippines and four in China, where it weakened to a tropical storm as it churned inland Monday.
Palangdan said rescuers have recovered 11 bodies from the muddy avalanche, which covered a former bunkhouse for the miners that had been turned into a chapel. Dozens of people sought shelter there during the storm despite warnings it was dangerous.
“They laughed at our policemen,” he said. “They were resisting when our police tried to pull them away. What can we do?“
Police and soldiers were among the hundreds of rescuers with shovels and picks searching for the missing along a mountainside as grief-stricken relatives waited nearby, many of them praying quietly. Bodies in black bags were laid side by side. Those identified were carried away by relatives, some using crude bamboo slings.
Jonalyn Felipe said she had called her husband, Dennis, a small-scale gold miner in Itogon, and told him to return to their home in northern Quirino province as the powerful typhoon approached Friday.
“I was insisting because the storm was strong but he told me not to worry because he said they’re safe there,” said a weeping Felipe, adding that her husband was last seen chatting with fellow miners in the chapel before it was hit by the collapsing mountainside.
She said she screamed after hearing the news about her husband, and their 4-year-old son sensed what had happened and cried too.
Palangdan said authorities “will not stop until we recover all the bodies.”



Itogon resident Roel Ullani helped search for the missing, including several of his cousins and other relatives. “For me, it will just be retrievals,” he said.
Many of those who sought cover in the two-story building thought it was sturdy but the storm was just too severe, with the avalanche covering it “in just a few seconds,” Ullani said.
Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu said the government will deploy soldiers and police to stop illegal mining in six mountainous northern provinces, including Benguet, to prevent such tragedies.
Philippine officials say that gold mines tunneled by big mining companies and by unauthorized small miners have made the hillsides unstable and more prone to landslides. Tens of thousands of small-time miners have come in recent years to the mountain provinces from the lowlands and established communities in high-risk areas such as the mountain foothills of Itogon.
On Monday, Mangkhut was still affecting southern China’s coast and the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, and rain and strong winds were expected to continue through Tuesday.
The storm was about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the city of Nanning in Guangxi region on Monday afternoon, moving in a northwesterly direction and weakening as it progressed. There were no new reports of deaths or serious damage.
Life was gradually returning to normal along the hard-hit southern China coast, where high-rise buildings swayed, coastal hotels flooded and windows were blown out. Rail, airline and ferry services were restored and casinos in the gambling enclave of Macau reopened.
In Hong Kong, crews cleared fallen trees and other wreckage left from when the financial hub felt the full brunt of the storm Sunday.
“This typhoon really was super strong ... but overall, I feel we can say we got through it safely,” Carrie Lam, the territory’s chief executive, told reporters.
The Hong Kong Observatory said Mangkhut was the most powerful storm to hit the city since 1979, packing winds of 195 kph (121 mph).
The typhoon struck Asian population centers as Hurricane Florence caused catastrophic flooding in parts of North Carolina in the United States.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.