Tropical storm ruins Christmas for thousands of Filipinos

Tropical storm ruins Christmas for thousands of Filipinos
The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific cyclone belt. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 December 2019

Tropical storm ruins Christmas for thousands of Filipinos

Tropical storm ruins Christmas for thousands of Filipinos
  • Officials on Christmas Eve said residents should evacuate coastal areas, and thousands more were stranded at ports with ferry services shut down
  • Strong winds and associated dangers like floods, landslides, and, more rarely, giant walls of seawater pounding the coasts kill scores of people each year

MANILA: Thousands of people in typhoon-prone central Philippines have had their Christmas plans ruined after they were told to leave their homes as a severe tropical storm approaches.
Officials on Christmas Eve said residents should evacuate coastal areas, and thousands more were stranded at ports with ferry services shut down as the nation hunkered down for rain and strong winds.
Damaging gale- to storm-force winds were forecast over the Asian nation’s Pacific coast in the afternoon ahead of Tropical Storm Phanfone’s projected landfall on Samar island as early as 5:00 p.m. (0900 GMT), the state weather service said.
Though much weaker, Phanfone was tracking a similar path as Super Typhoon Haiyan, the country’s deadliest cyclone on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.
All ships on the storm’s projected path through the central islands were ordered to stay in port, while local executives there told residents of the coasts as well as flood- and landslide-prone areas to move to safety.
“Some families are reluctant to evacuate because they want to celebrate Christmas at home, but local officials will force them out if they refuse to heed our warnings,” regional civil defense official Reyden Cabrigas told AFP.
Cabrigas, speaking by phone from the central city of Tacloban, said evacuations were underway there as well as nearby Samar, but added he did not immediately have a total count.
“We are aiming for zero casualties,” Cabrigas added.
More than 21,000 ferry passengers trying to get home for the mainly Catholic nation’s Christmas holidays have been stranded at ports as shipping shut down, the coast guard said Tuesday.
Local carriers also suspended dozens of domestic flights.
The state weather service said Phanfone, Laotian for “animal,” may strengthen into a typhoon with sustained peak winds of more than 120 kilometers (62 miles) an hour overnight Wednesday.
It advised residents, including those in Manila, to stay indoors on Christmas Day to avoid the high winds which can cause damage to weaker structures.
The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific cyclone belt, and the archipelago gets hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons each year, putting millions of people in disaster-prone areas in a state of constant poverty.
Strong winds and associated dangers like floods, landslides, and, more rarely, giant walls of seawater pounding the coasts kill scores of people each year, wipe out farmers’ harvests and destroy infrastructure.
Homes built with flimsy materials, as well as populated areas along the coasts, floodplains, and mountainous interiors, are often the most vulnerable.


France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 03 December 2020

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown
  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.