Earthquakes hit Philippines

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Rescue and medical teams from the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been dispatched to the affected areas. (AP)
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A damaged house remains in Itbayat town, Batanes islands, northern Philippines after a strong earthquake struck on Saturday July 27, 2019. (AP)
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Damaged houses lie in Itbayat town, Batanes islands, northern Philippines following the earthquakes, Saturday, July 27, 2019. (AP)
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A resident looks at damages in Itbayat town, Batanes islands, northern Philippines on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (AP)
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People gather on a field after an earthquake struck the Batanes Province, in northern Philippines, July 27, 2019, in this photo obtained from social media. (Reuters)
Updated 28 July 2019

Earthquakes hit Philippines

  • Search and rescue operations ongoing amid heavy rainfall, aftershocks

MANILA, Philippines: Two earthquakes on Saturday shook the Philippines’ northernmost municipality of Itbayat in Batanes province, killing at least eight people, including an infant, and injuring 60.

Itbayat, a remote coastal municipality barely touched by modernization and with limited electricity supply, has a population of nearly 3,000 and is 156 km from the southernmost tip of Taiwan.
The Department of Science and Technology — Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said Batanes was initially hit by a magnitude 5.4 earthquake at 4:16 a.m., with intensity 6 felt in Itbayat. Intensity 3 was felt in the municipalities of Basco and Sabtang.
Then at 7:38 a.m., a magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked the province. Intensity 7 was felt in Itbayat, intensity 5 in Basco and intensity 4 in Sabtang and Ivana. Strong aftershocks were recorded.
Officials said people were asleep when the initial earthquake struck. Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator Ricardo Jalad said the first tremor caused houses to collapse, killing five people. Three others were killed in the following earthquake. As in other parts of Batanes, many houses in Itbayat are made of stone to withstand strong storms because the province lies in the path of tropical cyclones.
Aside from collapsed limestone houses, damaged structures include the historic belfry of the Nuestra Senora Del Rosario Church.


Batanes was initially hit by a magnitude 5.4 earthquake at 4.16 a.m., with intensity 6 felt in Itbayat. Intensity 3 was felt in the municipalities of Basco and Sabtang.

Itbayat Mayor Raul De Sagon said residents are currently staying at the town plaza. Disaster response and rescue teams from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and medical teams from the health department, have been dispatched to the area.
There are reports that some of the wounded need to be airlifted to Basco for treatment. De Sagon appealed for medicines and doctors for the immediate treatment of those injured.
Videos shared on social media showed residents of Itbayat manually retrieving some of the victims. Search and rescue operations are ongoing amid heavy rainfall and aftershocks.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said government agencies, including the OCD, are coordinating with distressed local government units and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in Batanes.
He said President Rodrigo Duterte has been briefed on the situation, and he directed all agencies to undertake measures to provide assistance to the victims and rehabilitate damaged properties.

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 15 December 2019

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)

Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”