Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17

Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17
Nhor Chandeun, 31-year-old, center, one of nearly two dozen workers rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building lays on a bed as he talks to a reporter from The Associated Press at a hospital in Preah Sihanouk province, Cambodia, Saturday, June 22, 2019. (AP)
Updated 23 June 2019

Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17

Building under construction topples in Cambodia, killing 17
  • Rescue workers were using saws to cut steel beams and excavators to move piles of rubble from the site

PHNOM PENH: The death toll in the collapse of a Chinese-owned building under construction at a Cambodian resort rose to 17 overnight, officials said Sunday, as rescue workers scrambled to find survivors buried under rubble.
The building went down before sunrise on Saturday in the casino-resort coastal town of Sihanoukville in southwestern Cambodia, a rapidly developing tourist hotspot awash with Chinese investment.
Four people have been detained in connection with the accident, including the Chinese building owner, the head of the construction firm and the contractor. A Cambodian landowner has also been held at provincial headquarters for questioning.
The seven-story building was nearing completion when it collapsed, reportedly trapping dozens in the deadliest such accident in recent years in Cambodia.

Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities said 17 people had died in the accident, with 24 injured, according to a statement sent to AFP.
Officials had earlier pinned the number of dead at seven.
More than 1,000 people including soldiers, police officers and medics worked overnight to search for survivors. Rescue workers earlier pulled victims from a mountain of concrete, wood and twisted metal, some in body bags or with dislocated limbs.
An investigation into the cause of the accident has been launched, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said negligence was to blame.
“The tragedy of the building collapse in Preah Sihanouk province is painful... for our nation, especially the families of those who lost” their lives, he said, announcing compensation of $10,000 each for the victims’ households.
There was no confirmation of precisely how many people were at the building at the time of the collapse, though earlier officials said 30 people were feared trapped.
Around 50 workers would normally have been on the site at the time, Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said.
The building belonged to a Chinese national who rented the land from a Cambodian owner. The construction firm and contractor were both Chinese-owned as well.
Sihanoukville was once a sleepy fishing community before being claimed first by Western backpackers, and then wealthy Russians.
It has been flooded by Chinese investment in recent years, spurring a construction boom in a resort town known for its casinos which pull in mainland tourists.
There are around 50 Chinese-owned casinos and dozens of hotel complexes under construction.
Between 2016 and 2018, $1 billion was invested by Chinese government and private businesses in the Preah Sihanouk province, according to official statistics.
Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries, has notoriously lax safety laws and labor protections. Accidents are common at building sites.
 


UK imams mobilize to counter Covid vaccine disinformation

UK imams mobilize to counter Covid vaccine disinformation
Updated 33 sec ago

UK imams mobilize to counter Covid vaccine disinformation

UK imams mobilize to counter Covid vaccine disinformation
LONDON: Imams across Britain are helping a drive to dispel coronavirus disinformation, using Friday sermons and their influential standing within Muslim communities to argue that Covid-19 vaccines are safe.
Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) which is leading a campaign to reassure its faithful, is among those publically advocating that the inoculations are compatible with Islamic practices.
“We are confident that the two vaccines that have been used in the UK, Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer, are permissible from an Islamic perspective,” he told AFP.
“The hesitancy, the anxiety (and) concern is driven by misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and rumors.”
Britain, the hardest-hit country in Europe by the virus after registering nearly 95,000 deaths, is relying on its biggest-ever vaccination effort to end repeated cycles of lockdowns and restrictions.
However, a report from the scientific committee advising the government showed stronger mistrust of vaccines among ethnic minorities than the rest of the UK population.
It highlighted that 72 percent of Black survey respondents were unlikely or very unlikely to get the vaccine.
Among those from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds, the figure was 42 percent.
Imams are pushing back in particular at fears among Britain’s estimated 2.8 million Muslims that the vaccines contain pork gelatin or alcohol, which are banned by Islam.
Asim said it was “legitimate” to question whether things were permissible under Islam but without paying attention to unfounded claims.
Among the falsehoods spread about the vaccine are that it can modify DNA, make recipients sterile, or even involve inserting a microchip in the body.
Misinformation around the coronavirus is all the more dangerous given several studies have shown that it can impact minorities disproportionately.
“These are precisely the communities we should be trying to target,” said Nighat Arif, a general practitioner based in Chesham, near London.
When she received her vaccination, she posted a video in Urdu on social media aimed at the language’s speakers living in Britain.
“I’m hoping that because they see someone who looks like them, who is a practicing Muslim, wears a hijab, someone who is Asian who speaks their language, that’s more relatable than something that’s coming through from the government,” she added.
Arif is still surprised by the refusal of certain patients to be inoculated, noting they will often get vaccinated to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabi, or to visit Pakistan or India.
She blames conspiracy theories spread online, which contribute to the science behind the process “being lost.”
Samara Afzal, 34, a general practitioner at Netherton Health Center in Dudley in the West Midlands, also shared a video in Urdu with her 35,000 Twitter followers to “debunk some myths.”
She said some people had asked her to send the video directly to them so they could forward it to skeptical loved ones via social tools like WhatsApp.
At her medical center, Afzal estimates that around 40 to 50 people out of 1,000 have refused to be vaccinated when she had expected only one or two.
“It’s still a fair amount of people that are saying no and obviously we haven’t even addressed the younger ones, so this is just the elderly,” she added.
“So I’m sure when it comes down to the younger ones, there’ll be a lot more that say no.”
Around five million people, almost entirely the elderly and caregivers, have already received a first dose of the vaccine in the UK, the highest rate in Europe.
In a sign of officials’ concerns about minority take-up of the jabs, the state-run health service is mobilizing “influencers” in communities to convince the skeptics.
“There’s a big piece of work happening where we’re translating information, we’re making sure the look and feel of it reaches the populations that matter,” Harpreet Sood, a doctor who is leading the anti-disinformation campaign, told the BBC.
A vaccination center has even been set up in a mosque in Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city, which has a large south Asian population.
Imam Nuru Mohammed said the move sent “a big ‘no to fake news’” message to his 2,000-strong religious community and beyond.
He shared the video of his own vaccination on social media.
For Asim, the MINAB chairman whose mosque is in Leeds, in northern England, their efforts also help counter far-right claims.
“If there was a lower take-up of vaccines in Muslim communities in comparison to all other communities, then potentially, it could fan the flames of Islamophobia,” he noted.
“And in this pandemic, no one should be scapegoated.”