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.


UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

Updated 25 January 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

  • Richard Ratcliffe says his jailed wife is ‘being held hostage’ by Tehran
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed by Tehran over charges of espionage has urged the UK to be “tougher” with the regime.

Richard Ratcliffe made the comments after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Thursday. 

Ratcliffe said there had been “no breakthrough” in discussions between the two nations to secure her release, and his wife was being used as a “chess piece” by Iran. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.” She and her family maintain that she was in the country to visit relatives.Speaking outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, Ratcliffe told reporters that the meeting had been warm in nature, but hinted that the government was not doing enough.

“The prime minister was there, the foreign secretary was there, (we) talked quite openly about having tried a number of different things to get Nazanin home,” he said. 

“We pressed him (Johnson) to be brave. I want him to push forward on improving relations. You need to be imposing a cost on Iran for holding innocent people as leverage, you’ve got to be brave there as well. The government doesn’t always say it, but in my view, Nazanin is being held hostage.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The Downing Street meeting comes ahead of an impending court case over a long-term trade dispute between the UK and Iran, with London accused of owing Tehran debts over an arms deal from the 1970s.

Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family live, called on the government to settle the debt in order to help facilitate her release.

But MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC that the issue was “extraordinarily difficult.” 

He suggested that setting a precedent of capitulating on legal disputes in return for the release of UK nationals could entice foreign governments and groups to threaten other UK citizens abroad. “The risk that would pose to British citizens traveling abroad would be very considerable,” he said.

Johnson was blamed by many in 2017, when he was foreign secretary, for having worsened Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation in Iran when, in a statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that he had been briefed that she was in Tehran training journalists. 

Despite claims from other politicians, her family and her employer, the Thompson Reuters Foundation, that he had been misinformed, the statement was subsequently used as evidence against her in court.