Child killed as quake strikes southern Philippines

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Above, damaged structures after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered 61 kilometers southwest of Davao hit on Sunday, December 15, 2019. (PIA Davao Region Facebook)
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Rescuers look for trapped victims at collapsed market building in Padada, Davao del Sur of southern Philippines on Sunday, December 15, 2019. (Vincent Yaj Makiputin via Reuters)
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Above, damaged structures after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered 61 kilometers southwest of Davao hit on Sunday, December 15, 2019. (PIA Davao Region Facebook)
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Trapped flower vendors are pulled out from a collapsed wall following a strong earthquake that struck Padada, Davao del Sur province, southern Philippines on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (John Angelo Jomao-as/AP)
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Above, damaged structures after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered 61 kilometers southwest of Davao hit on Sunday, December 15, 2019. (PIA Davao Region Facebook)
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Above, damaged structures after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake centered 61 kilometers southwest of Davao hit on Sunday, December 15, 2019. (PIA Davao Region Facebook)
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Residents look at a destroyed building after a 6.8magnitude earthquake in the town of Padada in Davao del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Child killed as quake strikes southern Philippines

  • A rescue operation had been launched at a heavily damaged market building in Padada
  • Patients were evacuated from hospitals as a precaution and nervous crowds massed outside shopping malls

MANILA: A powerful earthquake hit the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Sunday, killing a child, injuring dozens and damaging buildings in an area still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.
Police said a rescue operation had been launched at a heavily damaged market building in Padada near the 6.8 magnitude quake’s epicenter, which is about 90 kilometers (55 miles) south of the major city of Davao.
Patients were evacuated from hospitals as a precaution and nervous crowds massed outside shopping malls after the jolt and dozens of smaller, but strong aftershocks.
“We can no longer use our office because the walls cracked and the stairs collapsed,” local police spokeswoman Lea Orbuda told AFP. “The power is off and the water taps are dry.”
A provincial police commander said the number of injured across the hardest hit areas had reached 62, with one confirmed fatality after a child was crushed under a collapsed structure.
The commander, Alberto Lupaz, said there appeared to be some people trapped under the damaged market building but rescue efforts had been delayed.
“They (rescuers) were attempting to check the rubble... the aftershocks were too strong,” Lupaz said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who is from Davao, was caught up in the earthquake but was unharmed, officials said.
“The First Lady... said the car she was riding (in) was swaying,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said. “They are unhurt.”
There was no threat of a tsunami, said the US Geological Survey, which initially reported the magnitude at 6.9.
The Philippines is situated on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Three quakes above 6.0 magnitude hit roughly the same area of Mindanao in a matter of weeks in October, killing some two dozen people and heavily damaging office buildings, schools and apartments.
Tens of thousands of people were forced into shelters by the string of tremors, the government said, either because their homes were damaged or they were too afraid to return.
Most of the deaths in October were due to collapsing walls and falling debris, including a teenage boy who was crushed by a falling wall as he tried to escape his school.
Other fatalities were attributed to rock and landslides unleashed by the violent shaking that injured at least 400 people.
The Philippines has been hit by several very powerful earthquakes in recent decades, including one of magnitude 7.8 that struck the northern resort town of Baguio in 1990.
That tremor toppled multi-story buildings and hotels, killing some 1,200 people.


Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

Updated 53 min 22 sec ago

Indonesia begins human trials of anti-virus vaccine

  • The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday
  • The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines

JAKARTA: Indonesia is stepping up efforts to find a COVID-19 vaccine by launching human trials of a potentially effective drug amid criticism of its lacklustre handling of the pandemic and concerns about its plummeting economy.

The third phase of the clinical trials of the vaccine — which is manufactured by China’s Sinovac Biotech in collaboration with its Indonesian pharma counterpart, Bio Farma — began on Tuesday and is being conducted by the Padjadjaran University School of Medicine at six locations in Bandung, West Java province, where the university and the state-owned pharma company are based.

“The first day of the trial went well, with 20 volunteers in each of the six locations injected with the potential vaccine. We have no complaints so far, and we are preparing the second injection batch on Aug 14,” Iwan Setiawan, a spokesman for Bio Farma, told Arab News on Wednesday.

He added that the six-month trial would require the participation of 1,620 volunteers who were “in good health and had not tested positive” for the disease.

Ridwan Kamil, governor of West Java, Indonesia’s most populated province, is among the volunteers who have signed up for the trial.

The third phase is a must before the vaccine, known as CoronaVac, goes into the production stage and is a prerequisite for all pharmaceutical products, including medicines and vaccines.

“The potential vaccine had gone through three trials; the pre-clinical, the clinical trial first phase and the second phase in China,” Bio Farma CEO Honesti Basyir said in a statement.

According to Basyir, Sinovac is one of the few institutions that have progressed to the third phase of the clinical trial from among hundreds of research institutions around the world that are developing the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Oxford Business Group’s COVID-10 Economic Impact Assessment, there are more than 150 different vaccines that international researchers are working on. However, only 26 have reached the human trial stage so far.

Once the trials are concluded, Bio Farma will register the vaccine with the Food and Drug Supervisory Agency so that it can begin mass-production of the drug.

“We have prepared a production facility for the COVID-19 vaccine with a maximum capacity of 100 million dosages, and by the end of December this year we will have an increased production capacity to produce an additional 150 million dosages,” Basyir said.

President Joko Widodo oversaw the first injections to the batch of volunteers in one of the six locations and also toured Bio Farma’s production facility. 

“We hope this clinical trial would conclude in six months and so we can start producing the vaccine in January and vaccinate our people soon,” Widodo said.

State-Owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir, who is also the head of the COVID-19 mitigation and national economic recovery committee, said that Bio Farma was a well-established vaccine producer whose products were halal-compliant and used in 150 countries, including in the Middle East.

The collaboration with Sinovac is one of three vaccine-development projects that Indonesia is engaging in with foreign parties as it grapples with a surge in infections. At the same time, social restrictions and economic activities were eased. The other two projects are with South Korea’s Genexine and Norway’s Coalition for Epidemic, Preparedness and Innovation.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had reported 130,718 infections with 1,942 new cases, 85,798 recoveries and 5,903 deaths, although experts suggest that the numbers could be higher due to the country’s low testing capacity.

Cases also surged in the capital Jakarta with workplaces emerging as the new infection clusters after thousands of employees returned to work recently.