Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents walking along a flooded road in Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. (AFP)
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This photo taken on Dec. 24, 2012 shows a bird's eye view of flooded streets of the northeastern town of Kuantan. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents walking along a flooded road as they evacuate Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. (AFP)
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This photo taken on March 7, 2019 shows residents commuting along a flooded road in Dayeuhkolot village in Bandung, West Java province. Some 6,000 houses have been flooded from the overflowing Citarum river due to heavy rain in the area. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Death toll from Indonesia floods, mudslides rises to 89

  • The lack of heavy equipment is hindering rescue efforts
  • Authorities are still looking for 74 missing residents

JAYAPURA, Indonesia: The death toll from flash floods and mudslides triggered by torrential downpours in Indonesia’s easternmost province has risen to 89, with dozens of others missing, officials said Tuesday.
Floodwaters and landslides destroyed roads and bridges in several areas of Papua province’s Jayapura district early Sunday, hampering rescue efforts.
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the worst-hit area from the flooding was Sentani subdistrict, where tons of mud, rocks and trees from a landslide on a mountain rolled down to a river that burst its banks, sweeping away residents.
He said 89 bodies had been pulled from the mud and wreckage of crumpled homes by Tuesday. Another 159 people were injured, including 84 who were hospitalized, many with broken bones and head wounds.
The number of dead is expected to rise as rescue workers comb through affected areas.
More than 1,600 rescuers, including soldiers and police, faced difficulties on Tuesday in clearing huge piles of debris due to shortages of heavy equipment, said Papua military spokesman Col. Muhammad Aidi.
“We face difficulties removing debris and the bodies under rubble as we don’t have enough excavators,” Aidi said, adding that rescuers were searching for 74 people reportedly missing and feared dead.
Nugroho said about 7,000 residents were displaced from their homes, with more than 400 houses and other buildings damaged and thousands of others submerged.
Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods that kill dozens each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.


Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

Updated 5 min 3 sec ago
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Japan’s ruling coalition secures upper house majority

  • “I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said

TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured a majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament in elections Sunday but will not reach the super-majority needed to propose constitutional revisions, according to vote counts by public television and other media.
NHK public television said shortly after midnight that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner Komeito had won 69 seats in the upper house, with nine seats remaining. If Abe gained support from members of another conservative party and independents, it would make only 76 seats, short of 85 he would have needed, NHK said.
Abe’s ruling bloc already has a two-thirds majority in the lower house, but without such control of the upper chamber, he has a slim chance of achieving his long-cherished goal of constitutional reform.
Nonetheless, Abe welcomed the results, saying winning a majority indicates a public mandate for his government.
“I believe the people chose political stability, urging us to pursue our policies and carry out diplomacy to protect Japan’s national interests,” Abe said in an interview with NHK.
Abe hopes to gain enough seats to boost his chances to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution — his long-cherished goal before his term ends in 2021.
But it’s a challenge because voters are more concerned about their jobs, economy and social security. Abe, who wants to bolster Japan’s defense capability, is now proposing adding the Self-Defense Force, or Japan’s military, to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution. He said he is not considering running for another term.
Abe said resolving the decades-old issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and signing a peace treaty with Russia would be his diplomatic priorities during the rest of his term.
Opposition parties have focused on concerns over household finances, such as the impact from an upcoming 10% sales tax increase and strains on the public pension system amid Japan’s aging population.
Abe has led his Liberal Democratic Party to five consecutive parliamentary election victories since 2012.
He has prioritized revitalizing Japan’s economy and has steadily bolstered the country’s defenses in the backdrop of North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats and China’s growing military presence. He also has showcased his diplomatic skills by cultivating warm ties with President Donald Trump.
Abe needs approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses to propose a constitutional revision and seek a national referendum. His ruling bloc has a two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.
The main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and three other liberal-leaning parties teamed up in some districts. They stressed support for gender equality and LGBT issues — areas Abe’s ultra-conservative lawmakers are reluctant to back.
At a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo district on Sunday, voters were divided over Abe’s 6 1/2-year rule.
A voter who identified himself only as a company worker in his 40s said he chose a candidate and a party that have demonstrated an ability to get things done, suggesting he voted for Abe’s ruling party and its candidate, as “there is no point in casting my vote for a party or a politician who has no such abilities.”
Another voter, Katsunori Takeuchi, a 57-year-old fish market worker, said it was time to change the dominance of Abe and his ultra-conservative policies.
“I think the ruling party has been dominating politics for far too long and it is causing damage,” he said.