Nearly 600 dead in South Asia floods

Flood affected villagers travel by boat in floodwaters in Morigaon district, east of Gauhati, northeastern state of Assam, on Aug. 15, 2017. (File Photo by AP)
Updated 19 August 2017

Nearly 600 dead in South Asia floods

NEW DELHI: Nearly 600 people have died and millions have been affected by monsoon floods in South Asia, officials said Saturday, as relief and rescue operations continued.
The latest floods and landslides in the subcontinent began in the second week of August, as the annual monsoon strengthened its grip over the northern and eastern parts of the region.
Indian authorities sought military help in two districts of northern Uttar Pradesh state after fresh heavy rains left hundreds of villages marooned.
As many as 33 out of 75 districts in the most populated Indian state are reeling from floods that have left 55 people dead.
“We have sought army’s help to reach out to the affected people,” T P Gupta, a senior official from the state’s disaster management authority, told AFP.
Nearly 100,000 people have moved to shelters, with authorities estimating another two million have been hit by the deluge.
In India’s worst hit Bihar state the death toll reached 153 following one of the deadliest floods to hit the region since 2008.
Nearly 400,000 people have sought shelter in relief camps and an estimated 10 million have been affected by the flood.
Anirudh Kumar, a top disaster management agency official in the state, said more than 5,000 emergency workers including 2,000 soldiers were supporting relief and rescue operations.
“Nearly 1,300 shelters have been opened to accommodate the affected people,” Kumar told AFP.
Both Bihar and Uttar Pradesh border Nepal, which was hit by floods at the weekend and where the death toll is 123. At least 20 percent of the 28 million population is affected in what the United Nations has called the worst flood to hit the country in 15 years.
Further east in India, at least 60 people have died in floods that hit Assam state a second time in less than four months and nearly 425,000 remain in relief camps.
Railway connectivity between the remote region and mainland remained suspended for the sixth consecutive day following large scale damage to the tracks.
Authorities in West Bengal state said the flood waters were receding after a lull in the rains but 52 so far deaths were reported. More than a million people have been affected.
At least a hundred people have died in neighboring Bangladesh with close to six million affected by the floods.
The government has opened nearly a thousand shelters in schools and colleges where nearly 300,000 people have taken shelter, the country’s disaster management department said.
But there are still pockets of the country where help has yet to reach.
Poresh Mondol, a farmer in the northern district of Kurigram, one of the worst hit areas, has been camping with his family on the roof of his tin-shed house, most of which was submerged.
“No one has come to us with any help. We are left with the last fist-full of dry goods,” he told AFP by phone.
The International Red Cross called it a humanitarian crisis and said urgent action was needed.
“Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters,” said Martin Faller, deputy regional director for Asia Pacific, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Every year hundreds die in landslides and floods during the monsoon season that hits India’s southern tip in early June and sweeps across the South Asia region for four months.
A massive landslide in India’s Himachal Pradesh state swept two passenger buses off a hillside, killing 46 people on Sunday.
Eight others, including two soldiers, were killed in Uttarakhand state in landslides on Monday.
Nearly 350 people died in the first wave of floods that began mid-July in India’s western Gujarat state and several remote northeastern states.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.