Philippines earthquake kills seven, hundreds injured

A resident walks past destroyed houses after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit Tulunan town, North Cotabato province, on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)
Updated 29 October 2019

Philippines earthquake kills seven, hundreds injured

  • In Tulunan town, 90 percent of the structures, including schools and health centers, had either collapsed or were totally damaged
  • Videos posted on social media showed panicked office workers screaming as they ran into open spaces

MANILA: The southern Philippines woke up to a powerful earthquake on Tuesday, which killed at least seven people and injured hundreds. The disaster comes as traumatized residents are still recovering from a similar incident from two weeks ago.

The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the 6.6 magnitude quake of tectonic origin struck some 26 km northeast of Tulunan in Cotabato at 9:04 a.m. 

Many of the affected areas were still recovering from the 6.3 magnitude tremor that struck on Oct. 16.

In Tulunan town, a pregnant woman was killed after she was struck by a piece of wood outside her home as she tried to run for cover.

The town’s mayor, Reuel Limbungan, said 90 percent of the structures, including schools and health centers, had either collapsed or were totally damaged.

“All schools in the three villages were totally destroyed. It was very traumatic for the children,” said Limbungan. Children were in classes when the earthquake struck.

The mayor said some of the students had to crawl out of the debris after their classrooms crumbled.

Tsai Via, a teacher at Daig Elementary School in Tulunan, said in a radio interview that parents and teachers “had to pull children from under the rubble.”

An earthquake-triggered landslide isolated a village with 4,000 residents.

In Magsaysay town, police reported that approximately 300 people were injured, although most of them only sustained minor injuries.

Cpl. Kristen Nahine said two people were killed: A 15-year-old student who was hit by debris while evacuating to safer ground, and a woman who was buried in a landslide.

Nahine added that two people were reported missing.

In Koronadal, South Cotabato, an elderly man was killed after he was hit by fallen debris while helping to rebuild an evangelical church.

A father and his young child died in Lanao Kuran, South Cotabato, after a huge rock rolled on them while they were at their farm. Another fatality was reported in Digos City.

Authorities said up to 108 people were injured in Cotabato.

Videos posted on social media showed panicked office workers screaming as they ran into open spaces. Hospital patients were evacuated.

The earthquake left many areas without electricity, while classes were ordered suspended for the rest of the week.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the national government is closely monitoring the situation in Mindanao following the strong earthquake.

“We ask our citizens to remain calm but vigilant and we urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm, panic and stress to many people. We also urge them to monitor developments through the alerts and bulletins of official government channels,” said Panelo.

“All responsible government agencies and local government units are currently undertaking rapid damage assessment and analysis of affected areas and communities in order to properly assess the situation and coordinate rescue and relief operations,” he added.

Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

Updated 45 min 25 sec ago

Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

  • Authorities use UAPA charges against those ‘misusing’ social media

NEW DELHI: When Yahia Mir steps outside of his home in Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, he is careful to leave his smartphone behind. 

The 23-year-old journalism student from Kashmir University explained that he does so because he is scared of security forces discovering the Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on his mobile phone.

Recently, Mir (not his real name) said, a friend of his was assaulted by officials who found a VPN on his phone.

“Everyone in the valley uses a VPN to connect with the outside world,” Mir told Arab News on Wednesday. “Tell me, how do you expect life to be normal when there is no internet?” 

The disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir has been under curfew following New Delhi’s annulment of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution — which guaranteed special autonomy to Kashmir, parts of which are governed in part by both India and Pakistan, but all of which is claimed by both countries to belong to them.

Since the Indian government annulled Article 370, there has been a crackdown on mobile and Internet services in the valley which, to date, have only been partially restored.

To get around the internet ban many in the valley turned to proxy networks, which allow users to anonymously connect with a third-person server outside of Kashmir.

On Tuesday, in a renewed crackdown, the Indian government filed charges against people “misusing” social media.

Local police in Srinagar registered cases against various unnamed individuals under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a draconian law that means anyone charged cannot seek bail for six months.

Police said that action would be taken against those who misused social-media sites to propagate “secessionist ideology and (promote) unlawful activities.”

“There have been continuous reports of misuse of social media sites by the miscreants to propagate secessionist ideology and to promote unlawful activities,” Jammu and Kashmir police said in a statement released on Tuesday, which went on to say that the “miscreants” were “propagating rumors with regard to the current security scenario of the Kashmir valley … and glorifying terror acts/ terrorists. 

“A lot of incriminating material has also been seized in this regard.” A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against the “miscreants.”

Mir told Arab News that this is “the government’s new way to terrorize the people of Kashmir.”

Legal professional Deeba Ashraf said the crackdown feels “as if we are living in the 19th century.”

She told Arab News: “My profession demands that I remain updated about recent cases and case laws. How is that possible without the internet?” She added that “even security personnel” in the valley are using VPNs.

“I have lost trust in the government and I don’t see which way Kashmir is going,” she continued. “The government’s crackdown scares everyone. But I wonder does the government have any policy for Kashmir besides lockdown?”

Computer engineer Muddasir (not his real name) agreed.

“Most of the people who needed the Internet for their professional survival have left the valley,” he said. “I am also thinking of leaving Srinagar to escape the prison that we are in. The sense of fear is so strong. Imagine: Security forces are checking your phone and trying to see what apps are on (it). Is this normal?”

Iltiza Mufti, daughter of the detained former Chief Minister of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti, strongly condemned the government’s measures.

“The rest of the country — and the envoys who visited Kashmir — were told that we enjoy equal rights, but in reality you can’t even use VPN in Kashmir. What rights do Kashmiris have right now?” she asked in a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday.

“The clampdown in Kashmir (is taking a huge toll) and Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis,” added Mufti, who has become the face of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after her mother’s arrest last year.

Srinagar-based political analyst and writer, Gowhar Geelani, told Arab News: “This is an official admission by the Indian government of thought control of the entire population of Kashmir. This is a war against the people of Kashmir. The arrest of the three former chief ministers of the state and the detention of other political activists show that, in Kashmir, the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Geelani added that there are “darker days ahead and not much hope.”