North Korean leader berates officials over typhoon preparations

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an emergency meeting to discuss disaster prevention efforts against Typhoon Lingling on Friday, September 6, 2019. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Updated 07 September 2019

North Korean leader berates officials over typhoon preparations

  • Typhoon Lingling is expected to make landfall in the North on Saturday afternoon
  • Many in positions of authority were ill prepared, the North’s KCNA news service reported

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has berated officials for their “easygoing” attitude to the approach of Typhoon Lingling, state media reported.
The powerful storm is expected to make landfall in the North on Saturday afternoon after passing off the coast of South Korea, according to Seoul’s Korea Meteorological Association.
Kim convened an emergency meeting on Friday and said “dangerous circumstances” caused by the typhoon were “imminent,” but that many in positions of authority were ill prepared, the North’s KCNA news service reported later that day.
Officials in the North “remain unchanged in their attitude and helpless against the typhoon, unaware of its seriousness and seized with easygoing sentiment,” Kim said during the meeting, according to the KCNA report.
In South Korea, more than 270 flights were canceled and power outages in over 30,000 homes have been reported, while public parks and zoos were closed for the weekend after heavy rain and strong winds on Saturday.
Seoul’s weather authorities also warned of landslides and flooding, and advised the public to stay indoors.
Kim said efforts to minimize damage from the typhoon in North Korea would be an “enormous struggle,” adding that its army should “remain loyal to its sacred duty” of ensuring its citizens’ safety.
The impoverished and isolated North is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods, due in part to deforestation and poor infrastructure.
At least 138 North Koreans were known to have died after torrential rain triggered major floods in 2016, the United Nations said at the time.
More than 160 people were killed by a massive rainstorm in the summer of 2012.

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

Updated 04 July 2020

Tech-savvy Indonesians go off-grid to help to remote villages fight virus

  • Young volunteers tackle tough terrain, pandemic myths in isolated northern region

JAKARTA: A group of tech-savvy young locals in Indonesia’s northern North Halmahera regency is spreading awareness about the dangers of COVID-19 in remote corners of the archipelago at a time when bureaucracy has impeded a rapid response to the pandemic.

The Relawan Merah Putih, or Red and White Volunteers, includes a multimedia expert, university students, lecturers, civil servants and a web developer in Tobelo, the main city of North Halmahera in North Maluku province, about 2,500 km from the capital Jakarta.

The city is located on Halmahera island, part of the Maluku Islands, Indonesia’s fabled Spice Islands on the northeastern part of the sprawling archipelago.

Stevie Recaldo Karimang, a 28-year-old freelance photographer and videographer, told Arab News that he set up the group after social restrictions introduced to counter the pandemic put him out of business. 

He quickly developed a website on the pandemic and created online flyers and audiovisual materials that he and 31 other volunteers distributed on social media platforms and messaging apps to educate the public about the pandemic soon after the first cases in Indonesia were confirmed in Jakarta in early March.

“We translated the information we took from the national COVID-19 task force into the market language spoken here, which is a mixture of Indonesian and the local dialect, to make it more understandable for the locals,” Karimang said.

The group also used a drone to issue public warnings against mass gatherings.

“The drone helped to remind people not to form a crowd when social restrictions were enforced. We attached a flashlight to the device to catch the crowd’s attention, and we were able to dismiss such gatherings.”

But the volunteers shifted their efforts to rural areas after the first coronavirus case in North Maluku province was confirmed on March 23.

Jubhar Mangimbulude, a microbiology expert at Halmahera University and the group’s adviser, said the team had visited 30 isolated villages out of 196 townships in the regency, which is home to 161 million people.

“We reached one village after hours of driving over rough terrain. We have to use four-wheel-drive vehicles because along the way we may have to cross a river where the bridge is damaged,” he told Arab News.

Mangimbulude said that many villagers were unaware of the pandemic and only knew from TV that a dangerous virus was spreading quickly and infecting people. He was glad to find that no COVID-19 cases had been detected among the villagers.

But he acknowledged that misinformation was rife and said that he had to debunk myths about “how alcohol could be used to prevent the disease.”

“The villagers heard that the virus can be killed with heat in one’s body, and since drinking alcohol can warm the body, they encouraged their children and elders to drink a local alcoholic beverage made of fermented sugar palm fruit,” Mangimbulude said.

Fellow volunteer Oscar Berthomene, a local civil servant, said that the group was able to move faster than the regency administration whose bureaucracy slowed down the response to the pandemic.

“I have support from my supervisor, and we were able to help their activities with cars to allow them to move around,” he told Arab News.

The regency has about 18 percent of the 953 cases in the province, which make up about 1.5 percent of the national total of 62,142 as of Saturday.