27 dead in floods, landslides on Indonesia’s Sumatra island

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Villagers wade through flood water at the Saladi village in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra. (AFP)
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People use a heavy equipment to remove debris after flash floods hit the Saladi village in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra. (AFP)
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Villagers examine a site after it was hit by flash floods at the Saladi village in Mandailing Natal, North Sumatra. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2018

27 dead in floods, landslides on Indonesia’s Sumatra island

  • Heavy downpours since Wednesday triggered flooding and landslides that hit several districts on Sumatra island
  • The disaster has already killed at least 27 people, including a dozen children at a school

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Torrential rains triggered flash floods and landslides on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, killing at least 27 people, including a dozen children at a school, officials said Saturday.
A flash flood with mud and debris from landslides struck Mandailing Natal district in North Sumatra province and smashed an Islamic school in Muara Saladi village, where 29 children were swept away on Friday afternoon, said local police chief Irsan SinuHajji.
He said rescuers retrieved the bodies of 11 children from mud and rubble hours later.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency’s spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said rescuers and villagers managed to rescue 17 other children and several teachers on Friday and pulled out the body of a child on Saturday near Aek Saladi river, close to the school.
A video obtained by The Associated Press showed relatives crying besides their loved ones at a health clinic where the bodies of the children were lying, covered with blankets.
Nugroho said two bodies were found early Saturday from a car washed away by floods in Mandailing Natal, where 17 houses collapsed and 12 were swept away. Hundreds of other homes were flooded up to 2 meters (7 feet) high, while landslides occurred in eight areas of the region.
Four villagers were killed after landslides hit 29 houses and flooded about 100 buildings in neighboring Sibolga district, Nugroho said.
He said flash floods also smashed several villages in West Sumatra province’s Tanah Datar district, killing five people, including two children, and leaving another missing. Landslides and flooding in the neighboring districts of Padang Pariaman and West Pasaman killed four villagers after 500 houses flooded and three bridges collapsed.
Both North and West Sumatra provinces declared a weeklong emergency relief period as hundreds of terrified survivors fled their hillside homes to safer ground, fearing more of the mountainside would collapse under continuing rain, Nugroho said, adding that dozens of injured people were rushed to nearby hospitals and clinics.
Seasonal downpours cause frequent landslides and floods each year in Indonesia, a chain of 17,000 islands where millions of people live in mountainous areas or near fertile flood plains.


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 26 January 2020

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections

BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.