Death toll from Philippine storm, landslides climbs to 126

The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on December 29 and caused massive flooding and landslides. (AFP)
Updated 06 January 2019
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Death toll from Philippine storm, landslides climbs to 126

  • Officials also said that many residents were reluctant to leave their homes during the Christmas holidays
  • About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people

MANILA: The death toll from a storm that devastated the Philippines shortly after Christmas rose to 126, authorities said Sunday, adding landslides caused by torrential rain were the top cause.
The storm hit central and eastern Philippine islands on December 29 and caused massive flooding and landslides. More than 100 people died in the mountainous Bicol region southeast of Manila, regional disaster officials said.
While the Bicol region is often hit by deadly typhoons, many people failed to take necessary precautions because the storm was not strong enough to be rated as a typhoon under the government’s storm alert system, according to civil defense officials.
Officials also said that many residents were reluctant to leave their homes during the Christmas holidays.
“In two days alone, Usman poured more than a month’s worth of rainfall in the Bicol region,” national disaster agency spokesman Edgar Posadas said, using the local name for the storm which had weakened into a low-pressure area.
“Our search and retrieval operations are ongoing but the sticky mud and the unstable soil are a challenge.”
The death toll was likely to climb further with 26 people still missing, Posadas added.
More than 152,000 people were displaced by the storm and 75 were injured, according to the national disaster agency.
President Rodrigo Duterte visited the storm-hit areas on Friday and urged officials to build evacuation centers instead of using schools as shelters for the displaced.
About 20 typhoons and storms batter the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people.
The deadliest in recent years was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013.


France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

Updated 25 March 2019
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France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.