Philippine storm death toll surges to 68

The weather disturbance locally named “Usman” hit the country on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 31 December 2018

Philippine storm death toll surges to 68

  • Fifty-seven people died in the mountainous Bicol region, while 11 were killed in the central island of Samar
  • An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year

MANILA: The death toll from a storm that struck the Philippines shortly after Christmas rose to 68 with the number of fatalities expected to climb even higher, civil defense officials said Monday.
Fifty-seven people died in the mountainous Bicol region, southeast of Manila, while 11 were killed in the central island of Samar, mostly due to landslides and drownings, the officials said.
“I am afraid this (death toll) will still go up because there are a lot of areas we still have to clear,” said Claudio Yucot, Bicol civil defense director.
The weather disturbance locally named “Usman” hit the country on Saturday. While it did not have powerful winds it brought heavy rains that caused floods and loosened the soil, triggering landslides in some areas.
Many people failed to take necessary precautions because Usman was not strong enough to be rated as a typhoon under the government’s storm alert system, Yucot said.
“People were overconfident because they were on (Christmas) vacation mode and there was no tropical cyclone warning,” he told AFP.
Although Usman has since moved westward away from the country, many affected areas were still experiencing seasonal rains, hampering rescue and recovery efforts, he added.
At least 17 people are still missing and more than 40,000 were displaced nationwide due to the storm, the civil defense office said.
An average of 20 typhoons and storms lash the Philippines each year, killing hundreds of people and leaving millions in near-perpetual poverty.
The most powerful was Super Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,360 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in 2013.


Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

Updated 12 December 2019

Delhi’s air quality turns ‘severe’ as toxic haze lingers

  • During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days
  • The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month

NEW DELHI: India’s capital New Delhi was shrouded in a toxic haze for the second straight day on Thursday, and visibility dropped due to cooler temperatures and lower wind speeds that let deadly pollutants hang in the air.
The air quality index crossed 400 on a scale of 500, indicative of “severe” conditions that pose a risk for healthy people and can seriously impact those with existing diseases.
The index measures the concentration of deadly pollutant PM2.5 — tiny particles that can enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure to such pollutants can contribute to the risk of developing diseases such as lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization.
Federal pollution control officials were tracking the air quality status, Prashant Gargava, member secretary at the Central Pollution Control Board, told Reuters.
The board falls under the federal environment ministry.
Under an emergency action plan, authorities shut down brick kilns and halted all construction activity during the day.
During the last two months, the capital’s 20 million residents have breathed “moderate” to “satisfactory” air only for four days, according to a record of official data compiled by Reuters.
The air quality index was “very poor” on most days this month.
Air quality levels have crossed 400 for a second time this month despite farm fires from Delhi’s neighboring states — blamed by authorities as the primary cause for poor air quality in recent weeks — coming to an end with the onset of winter.
“Now fire counts are almost stopped except in a few routine incidences and hence no contribution to Delhi’s air quality is expected now onwards for the season,” government-run monitor SAFAR said.
The relentless focus on stamping out farm fires every year tends to deflect scrutiny from authorities that are falling behind on cleaning up industry or improving public transport, critics say.
Vehicular exhausts, along with emissions from industry, contribute more than 50% of Delhi’s air pollution on most days through the year, according to official estimates.
SAFAR forecast rain later on Thursday, but added that Delhi’s air quality was likely to deteriorate next week due to foggy conditions.