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.


Somali militant-turned-politician arrested before regional vote

Updated 13 December 2018
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Somali militant-turned-politician arrested before regional vote

MOGADISHU: A former senior Somali militant leader was arrested on Thursday, the government said, less than a week before he was scheduled to run for a regional presidency.
The government accused Muktar Robow, who defected from the extremist Al-Shabab movement last year, of “organizing a militia” in Baidoa, the capital of the southwestern Bay region, and seeking to “undermine stability.”
“These actions indicate that he never relinquished his extremist ideologies and is ready to harm the Somali people again,” the government said in a statement.
Authorities had been attempting to prevent Robow from standing in the December 19 election because he remains subject to US sanctions for his time as deputy leader of Shabab.
The Al-Qaeda affiliate Shabab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government for more than a decade.
Police sources speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that Robow had been arrested in Baidoa and taken to the capital Mogadishu.
Baidoa residents told AFP that hundreds of supporters took to the streets in protest of the detention of Robow, who enjoys the support of several clans and is regarded as a serious candidate for the region’s leader.
Sporadic gunfire was heard in the city, the residents said.
“This is a violation of democracy, Robow was standing in his region and his people wanted him. The government has no right to arrest him, this will lead to violence,” said Mohamed Sheik Ali, a Baidoa resident told AFP.
“The people are burning tires and the police are firing gunshots to disperse them. There is gunfire and there are casualties as well,” said Osman Adan, another witness.
“Armed militia and supporters of Robow have reportedly clashed with the police and the situation in town is tense as we speak,” he added.
Robow’s run for office has exposed the tensions between Somalia’s federal states, which want greater autonomy from a national administration keen to safeguard its central powers.
Robow defected from the Shabab in August last year. For a time the US government had offered a $5 million (4.4 million euro) bounty for his capture.
In 2013 Robow split from former Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and sought refuge in the nearby region of Bakool, without completely breaking off links to the group.
Forced out of Mogadishu in 2011, the Shabab have since lost the bulk of their strongholds though they still control vast swathes of mainly rural zones from where they launch guerilla operations on government, security and civilian targets.