Rescuers search for survivors after deadly Afghan quake

Rescuers search for survivors after deadly Afghan quake
People walk along a road during a foggy day in Kabul on January 18, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Rescuers search for survivors after deadly Afghan quake

Rescuers search for survivors after deadly Afghan quake
  • Images circulating on social media showed residents, including children, searching through the rubble of collapsed homes

HERAT: Rescuers searched Tuesday for survivors of a powerful earthquake in a remote western region of Afghanistan that killed at least 22 people and caused “massive” damage to buildings, officials said.
Monday afternoon’s shallow 5.3-magnitude quake jolted Qadis district in Badghis province, a rural area not easily accessible by road.
“The earthquake caused massive damage to houses, about 700 to 1,000 have been damaged,” Badghis provincial spokesman Baz Mohammad Sarwary said in a video message.
Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country in August when Western countries froze international aid and access to assets held abroad.
Sarwary said 22 people were killed and four were injured, revising the death toll from the previous figure of 26 he gave to AFP late Monday.
“There is the possibility that the casualties could increase,” he said in his latest video message.
Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the toll.
Images circulating on social media showed residents, including children, searching through the rubble of collapsed homes.
Government officials said rescue workers were helping search for survivors and transferring the injured to local hospitals.
A Taliban team was in the area assisting in the relief work.
Mujahid said that all government agencies had been instructed to provide the food, medical aid and shelter to those affected.
“We also call on international aid agencies and humanitarian agencies to assist the victims of the disaster,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The epicenter of the quake was near the city of Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis, less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Turkmenistan border, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The United Nations has said it needs $5 billion in 2022 to avert the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
A devastating drought has compounded the crisis, with earthquake-hit Qadis one of the worst affected areas.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Even weak earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built homes and buildings in the impoverished country.
In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
In that disaster, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school building.


Bangladesh investigates crippling 10-hour nationwide power cut

Bangladesh investigates crippling 10-hour nationwide power cut
Updated 06 October 2022

Bangladesh investigates crippling 10-hour nationwide power cut

Bangladesh investigates crippling 10-hour nationwide power cut

DHAKA: Bangladeshi officials were investigating on Wednesday why power was cut to about three quarters of the country, halting the vital garment sector and telecommunications services for about 10 hours.

Electricity was fully restored just before midnight on Tuesday, government officials said.

“We suspect a transmission line experienced a technical glitch that led to a cascade of failures throughout the national power grid,” Mohammad Hossain, the top official at the government’s power cell division, told Reuters.

The grid malfunctioned at around 2 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Tuesday, leading to blackouts across up to 80 percent of the country.

Telecoms services and work in the lucrative export-oriented garment industry, which supplies to clients such as Gap Inc., H&M, and Zara, ground to a halt.

Grid failures generally happen when there is a big mismatch between demand and supply, sometimes due to unexpected or sudden changes in power use patterns.

Power division secretary Habibur Rahman said officials were investigating the possibility that the failure originated in a substation near Ghorashal, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the capital, Dhaka.

“Our investigation team is in Ghorashal now. Once we get the report from them, we’ll know what caused it,” Rahman said.

Bangladesh’s recent impressive economic growth has been threatened by power shortages since the government suspended operations of all diesel-run power plants to reduce costs for imports as prices have soared.

The diesel-run power plants produced about 6 percent of Bangladesh’s power generation, so their shutdowns cut output by up to 1500 megawatts.

Earlier this month, Faruque Hassan, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said that the situation is so serious that garment factories are without power now for around four to 10 hours a day. Bangladesh is the world’s second-largest garment exporter after China, and it earns more than 80 percent of its total foreign currency from exports of garment products each year.

Last month, the Asian Development Bank said in a report that Bangladesh’s economic growth would slow to 6.6 percent from its previous forecast of 7.1 percent in the current fiscal year.

Weaker consumer spending due to sluggish export demand, domestic manufacturing constraints and other factors are behind the slowdown, it said.


Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’
Updated 06 October 2022

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

Nobel Prize for three chemists who made molecules ‘click’

STOCKHOLM: Three scientists were jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for developing a way of “snapping molecules together” that can be used to design better medicines, including ones that target diseases such as cancer more precisely.

Americans Carolyn R. Bertozzi and K. Barry Sharpless, and Danish scientist Morten Meldal were cited for their work on click chemistry and bioorthogonal reactions, which are used to make cancer drugs, map DNA and create materials that are tailored to a specific purpose.

“It’s all about snapping molecules together,” said Johan Aqvist, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that announced the winners at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Sharpless, 81, who previously won a Nobel Prize in 2001 and is now the fifth person to receive the award twice, first proposed the idea of connecting molecules using chemical “buckles” around the turn of the millennium, Aqvist said.

“The problem was to find good chemical buckles,” he said. “They have to react with each other easily and specifically.”

Meldal, 68, based at the University of Copenhagen, and Sharpless, who is affiliated with Scripps Research in California, independently found the first such candidates that would easily snap together with each other but not with other molecules, leading to applications in the manufacture of medicines and polymers.

Bertozzi, 55, who is based at Stanford University, “took click chemistry to a new level,” the Nobel panel said.

She found a way to make the process work inside living organisms without disrupting them, establishing a new method known as bioorthogonal reactions. Such reactions are now used to explore cells, track biological processes and design drugs that can target diseases such as cancer more precisely.


Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general
Updated 05 October 2022

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general

Putin makes Chechnya’s Kadyrov an army general
  • Kadyrov said Putin had "personally" informed him of the decision
  • "The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general," Kadyrov said on Telegram

MOSCOW: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, said Wednesday he was granted a top rank in Russia’s army, just as Moscow’s forces suffer a series of defeats in Ukraine.
The 46-year-old Chechen leader — one of the most outspoken voices in Russia backing Putin’s Ukraine offensive — said it was a “huge honor” for him.
Kadyrov, a former warlord who rules Chechnya with widespread violations of human rights, said Putin had “personally” informed him of the decision.
“The President of Russia awarded me the rank of colonel general,” Kadyrov said on Telegram. “This is a promotion for me.”
The rank of colonel general is the third highest command rank in the Russian military hierarchy.
Kadyrov’s appointment to the rank came as the Ukrainian army pushed back Moscow’s forces in areas that the Kremlin proclaimed to be “Russian forever.”
The Chechen leader said he would do “everything to end the special military operation quickly” — using the Kremlin’s term for its Ukraine campaign.
Chechen units — including Kadyrov’s own militia with a sinister reputation, the “Kadyrovtsi” — are fighting alongside regular Russian forces in Ukraine.
Kadyrov has thrown his full backing behind Putin’s campaign, regularly calling for the most drastic tactics to be used in Ukraine.
This week he called on Moscow to use low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine after Russian troops were forced to retreat from the town of Lyman.
He then said he was sending three of his teenage sons — aged 14,15 and 16 — to the front.


Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach
Updated 05 October 2022

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. open to buying Russian fuel, proposes new Myanmar approach
  • The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia
  • Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits

MANILA: Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday said his nation may need to turn to Russia to fulfil its fuel needs amid rising global energy prices, bucking pressure from Western allies for countries to shun Moscow.
Speaking to the Manila Overseas Press Club, Marcos, who is also agriculture minister, said the Philippines may also deal with Russia for supply of fertilizer.
“We take we take a very balanced view because the truth of the matter is, we may have to deal with Russia for fuel, for fertilizer,” said Marcos.
The Philippines like many countries is grappling with soaring inflation, due to supply woes fanned by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Philippines, a US defense ally, has not imposed any sanctions on Russia.
Marcos, the son and namesake of the ousted late strongman who ruled the Philippines for two decades, also said he wanted his country to play a key role in promoting regional peace, amid challenges posed by North Korea and China-Taiwan tensions.
“We hope to be part of leading, the ones that are leading the effort for peace,” he said.
He said he would propose a new approach to the crisis in Myanmar at an upcoming meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November, which could involved engaging the military government directly.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has been barred from regional summits over its failure to implement a five-point peace plan it agreed with ASEAN in April last year, after violent turmoil erupted in the country following a military coup.
The generals have been outraged by ASEAN’s unusually tough stand and have said they intend to comply with its plan, but will not agree to its call to hold dialogue with a pro-democracy resistance movement they call “terrorists.” “It’s time to put together, to put forward some concrete proposals on what we can do to at the very least to bring at least representatives of the military government to the table so we can begin to talk about these things,” Marcos said.
On Wednesday, Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, confirmed that a request had been sent to the State Administrative Council, as the junta is known, that it nominate a non-political figure to represent Myanmar at the upcoming leaders’ summits. “Again, the SAC has refused to send anyone to the summits,” Cambodia Foreign spokesperson Chum Sounry said.


Bombing of mosque at Afghan interior ministry kills four

Bombing of mosque at Afghan interior ministry kills four
Updated 05 October 2022

Bombing of mosque at Afghan interior ministry kills four

Bombing of mosque at Afghan interior ministry kills four
  • An explosion occurred at a mosque of the ministry when worshippers were offering mid-day prayers
  • “Four worshippers were martyred and 25 others were injured,” Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor said

KABUL: A bombing in a mosque on the grounds of Afghanistan’s interior ministry in Kabul killed four people and wounded 25 others on Wednesday, an official said, with injured patients claiming it was a suicide attack.
Since the Taliban returned to power last August they have made security a priority but attacks have ramped up in recent months, with officials trying to downplay them.
Interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor said an explosion occurred at a mosque of the ministry when worshippers were offering mid-day prayers.
“Four worshippers were martyred and 25 others were injured,” he said in a statement to reporters, adding that an investigation was being conducted.
Takor had earlier said the explosion had occurred at a mosque located “at a distance from the interior ministry.”
Italian non-governmental organization Emergency, which operates a hospital in Kabul, said it had received 20 male patients, two “dead on arrival,” following “a bomb attack in a mosque at the interior ministry.”
“The number of injured people arriving increased and they reported seeing a man detonate a device,” said Emergency country director Dejan Panic.
“It was a suicide attack,” he added in a statement, quoting patients.
Takor denied it was a suicide attack but did not give any other details of the blast.
On Wednesday afternoon the Emergency hospital was closely guarded by Taliban forces, who were also heavily deployed around the scene of the attack.
The latest blast comes after a suicide bombing on Friday killed 53 people in a Kabul classroom, including 46 girls and women, according to a UN toll.
Witnesses said the attacker blew himself up in the women’s section of a gender-segregated classroom at a study hall in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood — an enclave of the historically oppressed Shiite Hazara community.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for that attack, which Taliban authorities said claimed 25 lives.
However, the jihadist group Daesh, which considers Shiites heretics, has carried out several deadly attacks in the same area targeting girls, schools and mosques.
The Taliban were also accused of plotting attacks on the Hazara community as they waged a two-decade insurgency against the old US-led regime which collapsed last August.
The hard-line Islamists’ return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end to that insurgency and a dramatic decline in violence.
The Taliban movement — made up primarily of ethnic Pashtuns — has pledged to protect minorities and clamp down on security threats.