Nearly 120,000 displaced in Myanmar floods

Floodwaters have forced thousands from their homes in southeast Myanmar, local police said on July 27, as authorities and volunteers scrambled to provide food and aid to the victims. (Saw Kyaw San Oo/AFP)
Updated 31 July 2018

Nearly 120,000 displaced in Myanmar floods

  • Rescuers in boats tried to pluck people from floodwaters in Hpa-an in Karen state while other residents tried to escape by any means possible
  • Evacuation orders are still in place for many flood-stricken areas with a number of rivers exceeding danger levels

YANGON: Nearly 120,000 people have been displaced after floods submerged a vast swathe of southeastern Myanmar, killing 11 people and sending panicked residents fleeing for dry ground with children perched on their shoulders and few belongings in tow.
An official told AFP Tuesday over 118,000 people have taken refuge in 285 camps so far, as the toll climbed to 11 dead — including three solders — with more deaths feared.
Swirling, muddy waters reached thatched-roofed homes and wiped out farmland in four provinces as officials scrambled to set up rescue centers amid continued torrential rains on Tuesday.
Rescuers in boats tried to pluck people from floodwaters in Hpa-an in Karen state while other residents tried to escape by any means possible, balancing on makeshift rafts or wading out carrying children and plastic bags of goods.
“There could be a few more casualties but we are still collecting the information,” Social Welfare Ministry Director Phyu Lei Lei Tun said.
“Water is going down in some places. But we do not know how long the disaster will last.”
Meanwhile five others were confirmed killed in a landslide triggered by heavy rains in Kawthaung township in Myanmar’s southern tip.
Evacuation orders are still in place for many flood-stricken areas with a number of rivers exceeding danger levels by several feet and 36 dams and reservoirs overflowing, state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
The Mekong region has been battered by particularly heavy monsoon rains this year, causing devastating floods that have forced thousands to flee and wiped out homes and farmland.
Heavy rains caused a massive dam in southern Laos to collapse last week, wiping out entire villages and killing at least 11 — though earlier official tolls initially put the number as high as 27.
Floodwaters from that catastrophe seeped into Cambodia and forced thousands from their homes.
Rescuers are still searching for survivors in southern Laos more than a week after the dam collapse, with Thai, South Korean and Chinese specialists joining efforts to find scores still missing.


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 21 November 2019

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”