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
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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.


Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

Updated 17 min 19 sec ago
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Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

  • Organizations stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims and alienated, report finds
  • Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are "threatening social cohesion"

LONDON: Former British prime minister Tony Blair has accused some Muslim organizations in Britain of spreading views that often mirror those of extremists. 

While they are non-violent, such groups stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims, alienated from British society and in constant conflict with the non-Muslim world. 

Most disturbingly, they “promote a worldview that significantly overlaps with that of a proscribed Islamist extremist organisation, Al-Muhajiroun” - a banned group which does espouse violence.

The allegations appear in a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change - the think tank Blair founded after leaving office - and names four groups: CAGE, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK and Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The report identifies six “key themes” shared by all four groups: Victimization, opposition between “good” and “bad” Muslims, opposition between Islam and the West, a delegitimization of the government, making Islam central to national politics and justification of violence.

“There is a range of views on these six themes, with differing degrees of severity from mainstream to extreme,” the report says. Of the four, Hizb ut-Tahrir comes close to sharing Al-Muhajiroun’s stance on violence. 

Banned since 2000, Al-Muhajiroun notoriously dubbed those  behind the Sept. 11 attacks “the Magnificent 19” and several of the group’s adherents have perpetrated other atrocities. 

The report warns that such a “corrosive narrative” promoting divisiveness between Muslims and non-Muslims can only embolden the far right and calls on the UK government to establish “a working definition of extremism” by identifying the key ideas that would “flag up” potential danger.

“Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion in Britain today,” said the former prime minister, who went on to serve as a special Middle East envoy. 

Tony Blair said divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion. (AFP)

“Countering and recognizing this is an essential part of fighting extremism because - let us be clear - there is nothing incompatible between being British and being Muslim. But too many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, actively push messages that suggest otherwise.”

 The result, he said, was a “skewed discourse” in which fringe views dominate because moderate voices are afraid to speak out. Blair also accused  UK politicians of giving up on the discussion.

“Many Muslims in the UK hear more from divisive groups about how there is a security state set up to oppress them than they hear from our national leaders about how communities and policymakers can work together to build a thriving, inclusive Britain,” he said.

“Often when people think of this challenge, they focus entirely on violent, jihadi groups. Yet, as this report shows, many of the central ideas that British Muslims are hearing today from some activist groups are worryingly similar to the ideology of violent extremist groups.”

The Home Office (interior ministry) of the UK government describes Hizb ut-Tahrir as a “radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group” that “holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views.” Almost all the articles on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website portray Muslims as oppressed and bullied. Some articles are clearly anti-Saudi in tone and content.

CAGE was founded as an advocacy service to raise awareness of the plight of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay during and after the War on Terror. Its outreach director, Moazzam Beg was himself held in Guantanamo Bay for two years before being released without charge. However critics have labelled CAGE “apologists for terrorism,” a “terrorism advocacy group,” propagators of a “myth of Muslim persecution” and “a front for Taliban enthusiasts and Al-Qaeda devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human rights group.”

The British-born Daesh extremist Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, who was filmed beheading hostages had been in contact with CAGE while in the UK, complaining that he was being harassed by British intelligence agencies.

Responding to the Blair Institute report, CAGE called it “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies,” and dismissed the former prime minister as “commonly known for being funded by despots.”

CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said: “It’s unsurprising, considering Tony Blair’s penchant for misinformation that his organization would use seriously flawed methodology in order to draw false conclusions.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has held consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs since 2007. However it has also been described as “a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language of human rights to promote an extremist agenda including the adoption of sharia law” and “neo-Khomeinist.” 

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK encourages tactical voting in elections to dislodge members of parliament who support policies which it considers not be in Muslims’ interest. In 2005, the MPACUK targeted Lorna Fitzsimmons, a Labour MP for Rochdale, a town in north-west England with a large Muslim population, printing leaflets that claimed she had done nothing to help the Palestinian cause because she was Jewish. She is not and the group later apologized.

Former home secretary Jack Straw, whose parliamentary seat in Blackburn also has a large Muslim population, called the group “egregious” after it campaigned for Muslims to oust him. 

Azmina Siddique, policy adviser at the Tony Blair Institute, said: “The groups studied in this report don’t represent what most British Muslims think…This isn’t about violent extremism but about sowing division. This ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is becomingly increasingly visible across our society, including from the far right. Policymakers and civil society must start to challenge rhetoric that falls into this grey space between activism and extremism so that we can tackle the increasingly toxic climate that is feeding into extremism.”

Arab News asked the three other UK groups to comment on the report but none of them responded.