Earthquakes hit Philippines

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)
Earthquakes hit Philippines
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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

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.


Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (C) arrives with the government delegation during a visit in Herat province on January 21, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal

Kabul hails Biden plan to review Taliban deal
  • Violence has worsened since signing of peace accord, critics claim
  • The February 2020 US-Taliban agreement has not delivered the desired goal of ending the Taliban’s violence and bringing a cease-fire desired by Afghans

KABUL: Officials in Kabul have welcomed the new US administration’s plan to review a peace deal between Washington and the Taliban that paved the way for a complete withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan by May.

President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Saturday told his Afghan counterpart, Hamdullah Mohib, that Washington will review last year’s agreement — an issue long demanded by Kabul — in a sign of a possible policy shift in the White House under its new leadership.

The accord, signed in Doha in February 2020, followed secret talks between the previous US government of Donald Trump and Taliban leaders. It committed the militants to reducing conflict in Afghanistan and engaging in negotiations with the Afghan government.

However, violence has intensified since the signing of the deal that also forced Kabul to release thousands of Taliban prisoners, souring President Ashraf Ghani’s ties with Washington. 
“We welcome the US intention to review the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement,” Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan deputy interior minister, said in a tweet following Sullivan’s conversation with Mohib.

“The agreement has not delivered the desired goal of ending the Taliban’s violence and bringing a cease-fire desired by Afghans. The Taliban did not live up to its commitments.”

Mohib’s spokesman, Rahmatullah Andar, told Arab News that Afghan security leaders had emphasized “a cease-fire, just peace, democratic Afghanistan and protecting the past 20 years of gain.”

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until the arrival of US-led forces in 2001. 
Andar said that Afghanistan remained committed to its “foundational partnership with the US,” and will work closely with Washington on security, peace, counterterrorism and regional engagement.

Meanwhile, the Taliban say that they expect the new US administration to stick to the February deal.

“The demand of the Islamic Emirate from the new administration in America is full implementation of the Doha accord,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Arab News. 
“The Doha agreement is the best prescription and only roadmap for ending the war in Afghanistan and for the withdrawal of US forces. The Islamic Emirate is committed to the agreement,” he said.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to cut ties with “terrorist groups” and halt attacks on US-led troops.

Trump administration officials claimed that there have been no strikes by the Taliban against US troops since the signing of the deal. 
Thousands of US soldiers have left since February, and only 2,500 remain in the country along with 30,000 foreign contractors. 
Afghan analysts are divided on the implications of the US administration’s announcement.

Tamim Asey, a former deputy defense minister, said the reassessment of the deal may lead to a slowing of the US withdrawal.

“I am now confident that the US will slow its troop drawdown until a policy review is complete,” he said.

Toreq Farhadi, a former government adviser, told Arab News there are likely to be only “minor changes in the reassessment” since the US wants to end the war.

However, Taj Mohammad, said that a review of the deal may lead to a “new wave of fighting.”

“The Taliban and some in the region oppose this because it could be seen as furthering the presence of US forces,” he said.