Philippine villages at risk of landslides forcibly evacuated

Rescuers search for survivors after a landslide set off by heavy rains struck a village in Naga city, central Philippines on Thursday September 20. (AP)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Philippine villages at risk of landslides forcibly evacuated

  • Authorities have limited the number of rescuers and other people inside the stricken villages
  • About 270 government troops and policemen were deployed to prevent residents from returning to high-risk villages

NAGA, Philippines: Philippine troops and police forcibly evacuated residents of five villages vulnerable to landslides after the collapse of a mountainside buried dozens of homes and killed at least 22 people in a central region.
Some residents left on their own, but the bulk of more than 1,200 people in villages adjacent or near the landslide-hit area were forcibly moved by authorities Thursday night, police Chief Superintendent Debold Sinas said Friday.
Survivors heard a thunderous roar, crashing and banging when the mountainside fell onto rural houses and shanties in two villages in Naga city on Thursday morning. Some trapped in the sludge managing to send text messages pleading for help but the messages stopped within a few hours.
Distraught relatives begged for more backhoes to be brought to the mound of earth and debris, where they hoped loved ones could be pulled out alive, but there were far too few machines to dig for the dozens of people missing.
Resident Nimrod Parba said one of his trapped relatives called for help about three hours after the landslide hit, entombing 13 of his kin. “They are still under the rubble, they are still there. They are covered in shallow earth, we need a backhoe,” Parba said.
A man embracing a child in a house was dug out by rescuers using a backhoe Thursday night in a poignant scene witnessed by journalists.
Authorities have limited the number of rescuers and other people inside the stricken villages, fearing heavy rains on the loose and soaked ground could cause new slides. Thursday’s landslide also covered part of a river, prompting officials to order a temporary canal to be dug.
About 270 government troops and policemen were deployed to prevent residents from returning to high-risk villages, Sinas said.
President Rodrigo Duterte is to visit Naga city in Cebu province later Friday as he faces his latest crisis.
The landslide in the central region occurred as parts of the far northern Philippine deal with damage from a typhoon that hit last weekend. At least 95 people were killed and more than 50 are missing, many in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north where landslides hit houses and a chapel where people had gathered in the storm.
Cebu province was not directly hit by Typhoon Mangkhut but the storm intensified the seasonal monsoon rains that normally fall in tropical Asia.
It’s not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. It is lashed by about 20 tropical storms each year and has active seismic faults where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Poverty forces many people to live in those vulnerable areas, making natural disasters more deadly.


Anti-India strike shuts Kashmir amid anger over deaths

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago
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Anti-India strike shuts Kashmir amid anger over deaths

  • India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety
  • Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country

SRINAGAR, India: Armed soldiers and police fanned out across much of Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday as separatists challenging Indian rule called for a general strike to mourn the deaths of civilians and armed rebels during confrontation with government forces.
The death toll of civilians in an explosion after a gunbattle between government forces and militants the previous day climbed to seven as another injured young man died at a hospital on early Monday.
Government forces Monday patrolled streets in Kashmir's main city of Srinagar and enforced a security lockdown in the downtown neighborhoods in anticipation of anti-India protests. Businesses, schools and shops remained shut and public transport stayed off the roads.
Eight combatants, including five militants and three Indian soldiers, were killed in a pair of gunbattles on Sunday, officials said, triggering massive anti-India protests and clashes during one of the fighting in which nearly three dozen people were injured. The seven civilians were killed in an explosion at the site in southern Kulgam after the fighting ended, police and residents said.
Protesting villagers in Kulgam made several attempts to reach the site where the rebels were trapped, barraging troops with stones and abuse. They were trying to distract the soldiers who apart from guns and grenades also used explosives to blast the house where the rebels were cornered, residents and police said.
Authorities offered condolences to the families of slain and reiterated that gunbattle sites should not be visited by civilians until they're cleaned from any leftover explosives.
Some residents blamed Indian troops for excessive use of explosives in populated areas and deliberately leaving explosives at the site.
"It's routine with them (Indian army) to blast homes with explosives for killing holed up militants. High over their victory of killing Kashmiris, they leave the area without clearing it from unexploded explosives," said Farooq Ahmed, a resident in southern Kulgam area where Sunday's incident occurred. "It's so sinisterly planned, and it has happened so many times."
Anger spiraled in the region after the deaths, sparking protests and clashes at many places. Separatist leaders called for Monday's strike to protest what it described "Indian occupation forces crossing all limits of repression to break Kashmir's freedom struggle."
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.