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.

HIGHLIGHTS

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.


Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

Updated 05 August 2020

Russia warns Belarus will pay price for contractors’ arrests

  • Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, said that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign”
  • Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image”

MOSCOW: Russia’s security chief described the arrest of 33 Russian private military contractors in Belarus as a presidential campaign stunt and warned Wednesday that it would have grave consequences for ties between the two neighbors and allies.
Authorities arrested the Russian contractors outside the capital of Minsk last week on charges of planning to stage mass riots, amid an upsurge of opposition protests ahead of the Sunday election — in which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking a sixth term.
Russia has demanded the release of the contractors for a private firm, saying they only were in Belarus because they missed a connecting flight to another country. The government in Minsk has further irked Moscow by raising the possibility that some of the contractors could be handed over to Ukraine, which wants them on charges of fighting alongside Russia-backed separatists.
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, sharply raised the stakes in the dispute Wednesday, saying that the Belarusian leadership has turned bilateral ties into “small change in the election campaign.”
Without mentioning Lukashenko by name, Medvedev described the arrested contractors as part of a “simple political technology — to create an enemy image and to achieve a political result using that enemy image.”
“It’s not only offensive, it’s very sad,” said Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 and then as prime minister for the next eight years, before becoming No. 2 in the Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin. “And it will entail sad consequences, too.”
Throughout his 26 years in office, the authoritarian Lukashenko has relied on Russian subsidies and loans to shore up his nation’s Soviet-style economy but fiercely resisted Moscow’s push for control over Belarus’s economic assets.
The Kremlin turned the heat up on the Belarusian president earlier this year by withdrawing some of the subsidies and warning the government it would have to accept closer economic and political integration to continue receiving Russian energy at a discount.
Lukashenko denounced Moscow’s position as part of Russia’s alleged efforts to deprive Belarus of its independence.
The 65-year-old president alleged in a state-of-the-nation address on Tuesday that another group of “militants” had been sent to southern Belarus, but gave no details. He warned Moscow against trying to fuel tensions in his country, saying that the instability could spread to Russia.
In a move certain to anger the Kremlin even more, Lukashenko had a phone call Wednesday with the president of Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for Belarus to hand over 28 of the arrested Russians so they can be prosecuted for allegedly fighting alongside Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Belarusian authorities claimed the arrested contractors worked for the Wagner company. The private military firm is linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman who was indicted in the United States for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Wagner has allegedly deployed hundreds of military contractors to eastern Ukraine, Syria and Libya.