Thousands flee as Typhoon Kammuri churns toward Philippines

Nearly 70,000 people have already fled their homes in the Bicol region of central Philippines, which is where the typhoon is expected to make landfall. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2019

Thousands flee as Typhoon Kammuri churns toward Philippines

  • Typhoon Kammuri is expected to make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday in the nation’s east
  • The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year

MANILA: The Philippines was braced for powerful Typhoon Kammuri as the storm churned closer, forcing evacuations and threatening plans for the Southeast Asian Games events near the capital Manila.
Kammuri is expected to make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday in the nation’s east with heavy rains and wind gusts of up to 185 kilometers per hour, forecasters said.
The storm is on track to then pass close to Manila, which is home to some 13 million people and the site for many of the SEA Games competitions.
Nearly 70,000 people have already fled their homes in the Bicol region, which is where the typhoon is expected to make landfall.
“We hope there won’t be any damage, but given its (Kammuri’s) strength, we can’t avoid it,” Mark Timbal, spokesman for the national disaster agency, said.
“We have preemptively evacuated people in areas that are in the storm’s direct path.”
The weather bureau also warned of rain-induced landslides and possible storm surges of up to three meters (10 feet) which could hit coastal areas in the nation’s east.

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, killing hundreds and putting people in disaster-prone areas in a state of constant poverty.
The country’s deadliest cyclone on record was Super Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
Kammuri is already snarling plans for the SEA Games, which opened Saturday for thousands of athletes from the region and is set to run through December 11 in and around Manila.
Windsurfing was canceled and triathlon events were held earlier than scheduled. Organizers are due to deliver an update on the impact later on Monday.
Organizers have insisted they have contingency plans in place, including allowing indoor events to proceed but with attendance limited to competitors.
The storm is the latest trouble for the SEA Games, which saw a series of transport snafus and a rush of last-minute construction ahead of the opening.
This year’s Games in Clark, Manila and Subic are already particularly complex, with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours apart by car.
Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year’s 30th edition — the biggest ever — along with another 12,000 volunteers. Organizers hope more than 500 million viewers will tune in on TV by the end of competition on December 11.
In an eclectic program, Olympic sports like swimming and athletics sit side-by-side with regional favorites such as martial arts, and this year athletes will even battle an obstacle race course in Manila.


Jailed UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘chess piece’: husband

Updated 26 min 12 sec ago

Jailed UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘chess piece’: husband

  • Ratcliffe said there was a 'gap' between him and the government over its tactics
  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016

LONDON: The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran, on Thursday said his wife was being used as a “chess piece,” following talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Speaking from Downing Street after his meeting, Richard Ratcliffe said there was a “gap” between him and the government over its tactics.
“I think there remains that gap between my sense that the government needs to be tougher with Iran, alongside improving relations generally, and the Foreign Office instinct to not have things escalate,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think I have come away thinking Nazanin is coming out tomorrow or even next week.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 after visiting relatives in Iran with her young daughter.
She worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — at the time.
Her family say Johnson jeopardized her case by mischaracterizing her job at the time.
Iranian authorities convicted her of sedition — a charge Zaghari-Ratcliffe has always contested — and she is serving a five-year jail term.
Her case has unfolded amid escalating tensions between Tehran and the West, particularly the United States and Britain.
But Ratcliffe believes it is particularly linked to London’s failure to return £400 million ($500 million, 450 million euros) owed to Tehran for a 1970s tank deal.
Ratcliffe said Thursday that his wife was “being held hostage” and used as a “chess piece.”
“That wasn’t disputed in there,” he said. “The UK obviously is wary of that tightrope it is walking between the US and Europe in Iran relations.
“I was saying ‘I think this is different’. This is a global norm, that actually we all uphold universal values where hostage-taking shouldn’t be happening.”
Ratcliffe had previously blamed Johnson for making his wife’s case worse by mistakenly stating, when he was foreign minister, that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists while visiting Iran.
The pair “didn’t talk about the past” on Thursday, he said.
Johnson “was very clear that he was committed in what he was doing... and that if there was anything they could do almost within reason, that they were ready to do it,” Ratcliffe added.
“I don’t doubt his personal commitment to Nazanin.”