Nine dead as heavy rains lash the Philippines

Nine dead as heavy rains lash the Philippines
Rescuers evacuate residents from their homes near a swollen river due to heavy rains brought about by Tropical Storm Kompasu in Cagayan province north of Manila. (Gonzaga Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office via AFP)
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Updated 12 October 2021

Nine dead as heavy rains lash the Philippines

Nine dead as heavy rains lash the Philippines
  • Severe Tropical Storm Kompasu drenched swathes of the most populous island of Luzon
  • The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year

MANILA: At least nine people were killed and 11 others were missing after heavy rain across the Philippines flooded villages and triggered landslides, authorities said Tuesday.
Severe Tropical Storm Kompasu drenched swathes of the most populous island of Luzon on Monday as it swept across the archipelago nation toward the South China Sea.
Four people were killed in landslides in the landlocked mountainous province of Benguet, and one person drowned in the coastal province of Cagayan, the national disaster agency said.
Seven people were missing on Luzon island.
“Eleven municipalities were flooded but it subsided this morning,” Cagayan provincial information officer Rogelio Sending said.
Major highways and bridges were flooded, he said, but the water was retreating Tuesday.
The storm intensified the southwest monsoon, sparking a flash flood in a village in the western island province of Palawan, leaving four people dead and the same number missing.
“Around seven to eight barangays (villages) are still flooded... due to clogged drainage or lack of drainage,” said Earl Timbancaya, a disaster officer in the city of Puerto Princesa on Palawan.
“But it’s subsiding now.”
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms and typhoons every year, which typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.
Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, climate change increases the risk and intensity of flooding from extreme rainfall.


Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
Updated 6 sec ago

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant

Norwegian Cruise ship detects one probable case of omicron variant
A probable case of the omicron variant has been identified in a crew member of a Norwegian Cruise ship that reached New Orleans on Sunday after detecting COVID-19 among some crew and guests, the Louisiana Department of Health said.
The probable case was found among 10 people who tested positive for the virus on Saturday, the health agency said in a tweet on Sunday.
Another seven cases have since been reported, it added, taking the total number of cases among passengers and crew of Norwegian Breakaway, a cruise ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. , to 17.
“At this time, there have been no changes to scheduled future sailings on Norwegian Breakaway,” a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement to Reuters.
The cruise ship departed New Orleans on a week-long cruise on Nov. 28 and had stops in Belize, Honduras and Mexico, the health agency said.
“NCL has been adhering to appropriate quarantine and isolation protocols,” the department said in an earlier tweet.

Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 December 2021

Gambian President Barrow wins re-election; opposition cries foul

Gambia's president-elect Adama Barrow waves to his supporters after he gives a victory speech in Banjul, Gambia December 5, 2021. Picture taken December 5, 2021. (REUTERS)

BANJUL: Gambian President Adama Barrow has comfortably won re-election, the electoral commission said on Sunday, though he may face a legal challenge from opposition candidates who rejected the results because of unspecified irregularities.
The vote was the first in 27 years without disgraced former President Yahya Jammeh, who was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea after refusing to accept defeat to Barrow in 2016.
Jammeh’s despotic 22-year rule over the small West African nation of 2.5 million people, which began with a 1994 coup, was characterised by killings and torture of political opponents.
Saturday’s peaceful election was seen by many as a victory for democracy that helped draw a line under that troublesome period.
Once cowed by Jammeh’s omnipresent secret police, crowds of people hit the streets of Banjul on Sunday night to celebrate, or drove around in their cars, honking horns. Hundreds gathered in a park opposite the presidential palace to listen to Barrow speak.
“Democracy has taken its course,” Barrow told the cheering crowd after the results were announced. “I have been the lucky person to be chosen by you. I’ll use all the resources to make Gambia a better place for all.”
Barrow’s first term provided a welcome change for many to Jammeh’s brutal tenure. But progress was hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic, which damaged an economy that relies heavily on tourism, as well as exports of peanuts and fish.
In the run-up to the election, Jammeh had tried to persuade supporters to vote for an opposition coalition in telephoned speeches that were relayed to campaign rallies.
But he failed to dent Barrow’s following. The president received around 53 percent of Saturday’s vote, far outstripping his nearest rival, political veteran Ousainou Darboe, who won about 28 percent.
As results came in on Sunday, representatives from all opposition parties signed off on nearly all the tally sheets read to the election commission.
But later in the day, Darboe and two other candidates, Mama Kandeh and Essa Mbye Faal, said they would not accept the results because the results took longer than expected and because of problems at polling stations.
They did not provide specifics or evidence of wrongdoing.
“We are concerned that there had been an inordinate delay in the announcement of results,” their statement said. “A number of issues have been raised by our party agents and representatives at the polling stations.”
The statement did not say what they would do now, only stating that “all actions are on the table.”


Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 06 December 2021

Clashes erupt at Brussels protest against Covid rules

Police use water canons to disperse demonstrators during a demonstration against Belgian government's measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 and mandatory vaccination in Brussels on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
  • The demonstrators oppose compulsory health measures — such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes — and some share conspiracy theories

BRUSSELS: Belgian police fired water cannon and used tear gas Sunday to disperse protesters opposed to compulsory health measures against the coronavirus pandemic.
Around 8,000 people marched through Brussels toward the headquarters of the European Union, chanting “Freedom!” and letting off fireworks.
The crowd was smaller than the 35,000 vaccine and lockdown skeptics who marched last month, and police were better prepared.
Protesters were blocked from reaching the roundabout outside the EU headquarters by a barbed wire barricade and a line of riot officers.
As two drones and a helicopter circled overhead, they threw fireworks and beer cans. Police responded with water cannon and tear gas.
As the crowd dispersed into smaller groups around the European quarter, there were more clashes and some set fire to barricades of rubbish.
Police said two of their officers and four protesters had been hospitalized, and 20 people had been arrested.
Several European countries have seen demonstrations in recent weeks as governments respond to a surge in covid cases with tighter restrictions.
In Brussels, the organizers hoped to match the November 21 demo, in which police seemed caught off guard and there were violent clashes.
The demonstrators oppose compulsory health measures — such as masks, lockdowns and vaccine passes — and some share conspiracy theories.
Banners on Sunday compared the stigmatization of the non-vaccinated to the treatment of Jews forced to wear yellow stars in Nazi Germany.
“Covid = Organized Genocide,” said one sign. “The QR code is a Swastika,” declared another, referring to the EU Covid safe digital certificate.
Parents — some of whom brought small children to the protest — chanted their belief that the vaccine would make their toddlers sick.
Off duty firefighters in uniform, marched at the head of the protest as it wound its way through the city, to demand the right to refuse vaccination.
The measures imposed to fight Covid in Belgium were decided by the country’ own national and regional governments, but the European Union has also attracted the skeptics’ anger.
On Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that in her view it was time to “think about mandatory vaccination,” a suggestion that was denounced by speakers at the protest.
On Friday, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced a series of measures to tighten sanitary rules, bringing school Christmas holidays forward and asking children aged six and over to wear masks.
Belgium, with a population of 11 million, has recorded an average of more than 17,800 daily infections with Covid-19 over the past seven days, as well as 44 deaths.
Around 800 people with severe forms of the disease are in intensive care in hospitals across the country, leading to overcrowding and the postponement of treatment for many other conditions.
 


Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea
Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea

Pakistani wildlife team cradles green turtles babies from beach to sea
  • Green turtles seen on Karachi beaches jumped to 15,000 last year from 8,000-8,500 in 2019, Sindh Wildlife says

KARACHI: A female turtle lumbers across the beach in Pakistan's bustling port city of Karachi late at night, looking for a place to lay her eggs.
Waiting for her, staff from Sindh Wildlife watch quietly as the green turtle buries a hundred or more eggs in the sand before heading back out into the Arabian Sea.
Because of to COVID-19 and movement restrictions, beaches around the world have more sparsely inhabited by humans since last year. Sea turtles have taken the opportunity to return to their birthplaces in large numbers, reclaiming the now less-polluted, serene beaches to lay their eggs during the main September-November breeding season.
Green turtles seen on Karachi beaches jumped to 15,000 last year from 8,000-8,500 in 2019, Sindh Wildlife says. Lockdowns ended by the start of this year's season, but conservation experts still expect a large number of the endangered animals to visit.
Among the largest sea turtles and the only herbivores, adult green turtles can weigh more than 90 kg (200 pounds).
They nest in more than 80 countries and live in tropical and subtropical coastal areas of more than 140. Conservation group Sea Turtle Conservancy says there are 85,000 to 90,000 nesting females worldwide.
The weather in Karachi can be conducive to egg-laying as late as January, and wildlife officials will keep up their vigil until then.
"The turtles have still had an ample egg-laying opportunity during this period. In this season, too, we have had a large number of turtles coming here. The result is that within a period of three months, we have nested around 6,000 eggs so far," said Ashfaq Ali Memon, who is in charge of Sindh Wildlife's Marine Turtle Unit.
As soon as the mother turtle leaves, staff hurry to dig out the eggs and move them to a three-foot (1-metre) deep pit in a hatchery until the babies hatch, 40-45 days later. The hatchlings are taken to the beach immediately and released into the sea.
The Sindh turtle unit has released 860,000 turtle babies into the Arabian Sea since being set up in 1970. Memon said 900 have been released so far this season.
Conservationists say that in the past, sea turtle populations were threatened by demand for their fat, meat and eggs, but in recent years loss of habitat due to pollution and land reclamation have also taken their toll.


Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine
Updated 06 December 2021

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Putin hopes WHO soon approves Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday voiced hope for a quick approval of the country’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine by the World Health Organization, saying the move is essential to expand its global supplies.
Speaking during a video call with Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Putin said receiving the WHO’s vetting is necessary to spread the Russian vaccine more broadly around the world, including free supplies.
“We intend to expand such assistance,” Putin said.
The Russian leader also argued that WHO’s approval should open the door for Russians and others who have had the Sputnik V vaccine to travel more freely around the world. He said about 200 million people worldwide have received Sputnik V.
Putin was vaccinated with Sputnik V in the spring, and last month he received a booster shot of Sputnik Light, the one-dose version. He also said he took an experimental nasal version of Sputnik V days after receiving his booster shot, adding that he was feeling fine and felt no side effects.
The Gamaleya Institute that developed Sputnik V has said the vaccine should be efficient against the omicron variant of COVID-19, but announced that it will immediately start working on adapting it to counter the new variant.
Russia was the first country in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, launching Sputnik V in August 2020, and has plentiful supplies. But uptake has been slow, blamed in part on conflicting signals from Russian authorities.
Russia in recent months has faced its deadliest and largest surge of coronavirus cases, with infections and deaths climbing to all-time highs and only slowing in the last few weeks. Russia has Europe’s highest confirmed pandemic death toll at over 281,000, according to the government’s coronavirus task force. But a report released Friday by the state statistics agency Rosstat, which uses broader criteria, put the the overall number of virus-linked deaths between April 2020 and October 2021 to over 537,000 — almost twice the official toll.
Putin, who despite a surge in infections in Russia has repeatedly argued that vaccinations should remain voluntary, emphasized Sunday that Russian authorities have been tried to use “persuasion and not pressure” and worked to dispel “prejudices and myths driving the aversion to vaccination.”
Russia’s quick approval of Sputnik V drew criticism abroad, because at the time it had only been tested on a few dozen people. But a study published in British medical journal The Lancet in February showed the Sputnik V is 91 percent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
Russia has actively promoted Sputnik V around the world but faced bottlenecks in shipping the amounts it promised. Countries in Latin America have complained about delays in getting the second Sputnik V shot.
The World Health Organization has been reviewing data about Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as part of the approval process. Such approval could pave the way for its inclusion into the COVAX program that is shipping COVID-19 vaccines to scores of countries around the world based on need.