Philippines races to free 30 trapped in landslide; typhoon kills 7

Typhoon Yutu slammed into the Philippines on October 30 with fierce winds that sheared off roofs and snapped trees in half, after thousands were evacuated ahead of the powerful storm’s arrival. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018
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Philippines races to free 30 trapped in landslide; typhoon kills 7

  • Typhoon Yutu swept across the main island of Luzon on Tuesday with winds of 140 km per hour before exiting the land in the evening
  • Six of those killed died in landslides and another drowned in an overflowing river

MANILA: Philippine rescue teams worked to free at least 30 people trapped under earth and rubble on Wednesday after a typhoon dumped heavy rainfall on a mountainous region, triggering floods and deadly landslides.
Soldiers and disaster agency personnel managed to pass through blocked roads to reach the remote area during the night in northern Mountain Province, where a building owned by the local highways department was engulfed by an avalanche of earth.
A dead body was recovered from the site, one of seven people killed on Tuesday in four provinces in the Cordillera region, said Ruben Carandang, director of its civil defense office.
Typhoon Yutu swept across the main island of Luzon on Tuesday with winds of 140 km per hour (87 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 230 kph (142 mph), before exiting the land in the evening.
It came six weeks after super typhoon Mangkhut caused nearly 50 landslides in the Cordilleras, killing more than 70 people.
“In the pictures sent to me this morning, the building was not flattened. There were doors open. There are open spaces,” Carandang said by phone.
“There is a possibility there are people still alive. They will not die if they were not crushed.”
The disaster agency said 20 laborers, an engineer, three security guards and six or seven residents sheltering from the typhoon were inside.
Six of those killed in the Cordillera region died in landslides and another drowned in an overflowing river. Four of the dead were children aged between 5 and 11.
Radio reported a man was electrocuted in Isabela province, where Yutu made landfall. The national disaster agency reported no confirmed casualties on Wednesday but said seven people were “affected” by landslides.
Thousands of people in the typhoon’s path were evacuated before the storm hit, mostly in mountainous, coastal and river areas at risk of floods, storm surges and mudslides.
When it struck the Philippines, Yutu’s winds were half the strength of those it packed five days earlier, when as a super typhoon it piled into the US Northern Mariana islands, about 6,000 km (3,700 miles) west of Hawaii, killing one person, wounding more than 130 and damaging critical infrastructure.
Yutu, the 18th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, was moving toward southern China on Wednesday and had weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 102 kph (63 mph) and gusts of 130 kph (81 mph), according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 19 min 5 sec ago
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.