Thousands flee as Typhoon Kammuri churns toward Philippines

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

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.


World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

Updated 39 min 37 sec ago

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row
  • Letter sent to Afghan president comes amid corruption claims linked to new government controls on public-private partnerships

KABUL: The World Bank has threatened to close the taps on $200 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if Kabul fails to share banking sector data.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday said that the World Bank had warned the country’s President Ashraf Ghani that it would halt its assistance if the information was not forthcoming.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, Henry G. Kerali, the World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan, mentioned issues that “remain to be resolved” and “may impact” the bank’s capacity to disburse the full amount of $200 million.
The issues included the World Bank’s inability to obtain banking data from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank.
“The letter has actually been addressed to the president, and copies of it have been sent to relevant offices. The issue will be resolved in the coming week,” finance ministry spokesman, Shamroz Khan Masjidi, told Arab News.
“In the past, we would have shared a number of non-sensitive banking data with the World Bank. Now, a misunderstanding has appeared with the central bank which has not shared it with it (the World Bank) … the issue will be resolved.” The World Bank’s Kabul office declined to comment on whether the letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arab News, was a warning to Ghani. In an equivocal statement issued on Wednesday, the lender said: “No letter from the World Bank to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been released to the public.” Ghani’s spokesman declined comment.
The World Bank’s purported threat comes amid complaints over increasing corruption after the presidential palace in recent months took control of public-private partnerships (PPP) from the Ministry of Finance through amendments to the country’s PPP law.
Reliant on international assistance, Afghanistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction, in a letter on Nov. 11 said that the Afghan government “often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.” Even Ghani’s brother, Hashmat Ghani, spoke against the PPP law move. “Taking away PPP office and authority from the finance ministry has been a mistake. It should be reversed immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan and International Monetary Fund adviser, said the World Bank’s letter was “not a good signal” for Afghanistan.
“The reason for which it is interrupting the payment is that the president wants to move a number of important state-owned enterprises and the management of PPP to the palace where there is no oversight of the parliament at the palace as opposed to the ministry (Finance Ministry),” he told Arab News.
“So, this is how corruption creeps in, and the international community is worried about what is going on and the World Bank expresses it in a diplomatic language in this letter.” Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a lawmaker from the parliamentary financial affairs committee, said: “The executive power, particularly, the presidency, has created another government of its special circle which deals with appointments and budget’s expenses. All the power lies with the president and without his knowledge they cannot do anything.” “This has been our concern and we have shared it with the donors and have asked them to prevent such wayward acts,” he added.
Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, denied the existence of any “circle” under the president. “These MPs, I am sure they know the whole process and the authority of government officials and the president on budget spending. Budget issues must not be politicized.
“The government sends details of the budget to the parliament in a very transparent way and they have the legal right to oversee the spending. It is an open budget system, there is no circle.”