Rescuers race to help survivors after deadly Afghanistan earthquake

Special Rescuers race to help survivors after deadly Afghanistan earthquake
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Villagers, along with rescue workers, examine the extent of the damage, following an earthquake, in Bernal district, Paktika province, Afghanistan, June 23, 2022. (AFP)
Special Rescuers race to help survivors after deadly Afghanistan earthquake
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More than 3,000 houses were destroyed during the earthquake including those in the Spera District, above, in the southwestern part of Khost Province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo)
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Updated 24 June 2022

Rescuers race to help survivors after deadly Afghanistan earthquake

Rescuers race to help survivors after deadly Afghanistan earthquake
  • Over 70% homes destroyed in some areas, about 1,000 killed in Paktika province, according to official estimates
  • At least $15m in immediate support, blood, medicines, food and shelter urgently needed, say UN and aid bodies

KABUL: Rescuers in eastern Afghanistan continued relief efforts on Thursday to help the survivors of a deadly earthquake that according to official figures killed at least 1,000 people in the mountainous region.

The earthquake of magnitude 6.1 hit areas of Paktika and Khost provinces neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday night, flattening homes as people slept inside.

Paktika was worst affected, with officials estimating that more than 1,000 people were killed and over 1,500 injured in the province’s Gayan and Barmal districts alone.

The extent of the destruction in the villages tucked away in the mountains was slow in coming to light, as search and rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain and poor connectivity in the affected areas. UN World Food Program teams deployed to deliver emergency supplies estimated that more than 70 percent of homes in the worst-hit regions have been destroyed.

“The whole area looks like an open camp,” Qais Mohammad Muslim, an aid worker who arrived in Gayan district, told Arab News. “People have no shelter and no food to eat. The aid (that reached) the area so far is little and insufficient.”

BACKGROUND

The extent of the destruction in the villages tucked away in the mountains was slow in coming to light, as search and rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain and poor connectivity.

Abdul Qudos, a resident of Paktika, said he had never experienced a quake as powerful and destructive.

“Entire villages were drowned in soil in Barmal and Gayan districts. There are families who lost all members,” he said. “We must do everything possible to help them. The international community has to deliver urgent aid to avoid further damage and loss.”

The response is complicated because rescuers are working without heavy equipment and proper medical support, after many organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban seized power last August.

In the wake of the Taliban government’s call for foreign assistance, its chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday that aircraft with aid have already arrived from Qatar and Iran, and trucks with food reached Paktika by road from Pakistan.

But more aid is needed.

Naeem Hakim from the Afghan aid group Ehsas Welfare and Social Services Organization, who arrived in Paktika on Wednesday, said local hospitals were struggling to treat the injured.

“There’s an urgent need for blood (for) the seriously injured and medicine,” he told Arab News. “Six hundred to 700 wounded people have been brought to the nearest hospital in Urgun district since yesterday. Around 200 are still there today. The more serious ones are transferred to the military hospital in the provincial capital Sharana, the provincial hospital and hospitals in Gardez and Ghazni.”

The quake was the deadliest in Afghanistan since 1998, when magnitude 6.5 tremors killed more than 4,000 people in Takhar province in the country’s north.

Ramiz Alakbarov, UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said on Wednesday at least $15 million of aid was needed to respond to the disaster — a figure expected to rise in the coming days.


Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict

Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict
Updated 12 sec ago

Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict

Russia attends G20 meeting set to be dominated by Ukraine conflict
  • The G20 foreign ministers’ meeting runs until Friday in host country Indonesia
  • Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be up close with the most vocal opponents of the Ukraine invasion
NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on the Indonesian island of Bali on Thursday preparing for a G20 gathering that will be his first face-to-face meeting with the fiercest critics of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The G20 foreign ministers’ meeting runs until Friday in host country Indonesia, which has this year grappled with the tough balancing act of running a global summit buffeted by geopolitical pressures and a global food crisis blamed on the Ukraine war.
There was tight security on Thursday as foreign diplomats descended on the tropical island for a meeting where the Russia-Ukraine conflict will be front and center.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said her country and like-minded nations would use the G20 meeting to highlight the impact of the war.
“We will be making very clear collectively our views about Russia’s position and Russia’s behavior,” she said.
Thursday’s welcome dinner will be the first time President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving foreign minister Lavrov will be up close with the most vocal opponents of the Ukraine invasion, which Moscow has called a “special military operation.”
Lavrov planned to meet some G20 counterparts on the sidelines of the summit, Russian news agency TASS reported, but ministers including Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have ruled out separate meetings with Lavrov.
The Group of 20 includes Western countries that have accused Moscow of war crimes in Ukraine and imposed sanctions, but also countries like China, Indonesia, India and South Africa that have been more muted in their response.
Some US and European officials have stressed the gathering would not be “business as a usual,” with a spokesperson for the German foreign minister saying G7 countries would coordinate their response to Lavrov.
In 2014, the G7 excluded Russia from the G8 over its annexation of Crimea.
Top officials from Britain, Canada and the United States walked out on Russian representatives during a G20 finance meeting in Washington in April.
Despite early talk of boycotting subsequent G20 meetings, some analysts say Western nations may have decided it would be counterproductive to cede the floor to Russia.
A senior US State Department official said on Thursday it was important to maintain a focus on what Indonesia had set out for its G20 presidency and “not let there be any disruptions or interruptions to that.”
Discussion of energy and food security are on the agenda in the two-day meeting, with Russia accused of stoking a global food crisis and worsening inflation by blockading shipments of Ukrainian grain. Russia has said it ready to facilitate unhindered exports of grain.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi discussed with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi the need to protect regional stability and solve global issues related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“The solidity of the voices of developing nations are needed to stop the war, and to reintegrate food exports of Ukraine and Russia into the global supply chain,” Indonesia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Trying to leverage Indonesia’s neutrality, President Joko Widodo undertook an ambitious peace-brokering mission last week, visiting Kyiv and Moscow to meet his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Honda lauds Japan-Algeria relations

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Honda lauds Japan-Algeria relations
Updated 51 min 15 sec ago

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Honda lauds Japan-Algeria relations

Parliamentary Vice-Minister Honda lauds Japan-Algeria relations

TOKYO: Celebrations for the “60th Algeria Independence Day and the 60th Anniversary Ceremony of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and Algeria” were held at the Embassy of Algeria in Japan on Tuesday.

Taro Honda, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, sent a video message to the event.

Honda said he was very pleased to celebrate this memorable day with Ambassador Larbi Katy, noting that Algeria is a friend of Japan in politics, economy and culture. He stated that he would like to further strengthen relationships in various fields, in the future.

“We will continue to work on cooperation that contributes to the economic growth and diversification of Algeria, and further promote the traditional friendship and cooperation between the two countries in this milestone year,” Honda stated.

“On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to congratulate the Government of Algeria and its people on the occasion of the 60th Algerian Independence Day. In addition, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Algeria.”

The beginning of the relationship between Japan and Algeria dates back to 1962 before the independence of Algeria. After independence, many Japanese businessmen were engaged in oil and natural gas development.”

Honda also made reference to TICAD 8, which will be held in Tunisia on August 27 and 28: “As African countries seek to recover from the new corona, soaring food and energy prices are having a profound impact on Africa’s economy and society. Based on this situation, TICAD intends to discuss ways for Japan and Africa to create a sustainable world together.”

This story originally appeared on Arab News Japan


Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s

Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s
Updated 07 July 2022

Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s

Australia offers fourth COVID-19 shot to over 30s
  • Australia had previously recommended a fourth COVID-19 shot only to people over 65 as well as to vulnerable groups
SYDNEY: Australia will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over 30, health authorities said Thursday, as hospitals bulge with patients in a winter wave of infections.
The government said it is recommending a fourth jab for over 50s — but also offering it to everyone over 30 despite benefits to the younger age group being unclear.
It followed a recommendation by the top immunization advisory body, which said it recognized younger people might want a winter booster dose, even though its impact for them “is uncertain but likely to be limited.”
Australia had previously recommended a fourth COVID-19 shot only to people over 65 as well as to vulnerable groups, including those with weakened immune systems.
As new, more infectious omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 race through the population, the number of Australian hospital patients with COVID-19 has jumped by more than 1,000 in a month to about 3,900, with 140 people now in intensive care.
“This is placing real pressure on our health and hospital systems,” Health Minister Mark Butler told a news conference as he announced the decision.
More than 95 percent of people over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated in Australia, where few people now wear a mask or take measures to socially distance.
As restrictions are gradually dismantled in a country that previously shut its international borders for nearly 20 months to exclude the virus, Australia this week dropped all vaccine certificate requirements for foreign visitors.

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules
Updated 07 July 2022

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules

Hong Kong suspends flight bans as it eases COVID-19 rules
  • Hong Kong has banned more than 100 flights this year
  • Previously, airlines would be banned for five days if they brought in more than five people infected with the coronavirus

HONG KONG: Hong Kong has suspended a rule that banned individual flights for bringing in passengers infected with the COVID-19 virus, as it caused “unnecessary trouble” and inconvenience to residents of the global financial hub, the government said on Thursday.
The city has banned more than 100 flights this year. The bans were a major frustration for businesses and residents used to easy and efficient travel from the former British colony. Its removal paves the way for many residents to return home, with scores stranded overseas due to the flight bans. “The social cost caused by the ‘circuit breaker mechanism’ is quite large, and it also brings unnecessary trouble to these international students and their families,” the government said in a statement.
Previously, airlines would be banned for five days if they brought in more than five people infected with the coronavirus. Earlier this year flights were banned for up to two weeks, making it difficult for airlines to operate.
All arrivals are still required to quarantine for at least one week in a hotel.
The government said it was looking to “improve” quarantine arrangements, “to facilitate the movement of people necessary for social and economic recovery.”
Measures such as the flight bans and mandatory hotel quarantine have hammered Hong Kong’s competitiveness, said business executives who are hoping the city’s new leader, John Lee, will scrap the quarantine rules.
Lee needs to reboot the city, eight business leaders said, because Hong Kong’s border has effectively been sealed since 2020 and international arrivals are subject to stringent quarantine and testing protocols.


Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition
Updated 07 July 2022

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition

Singapore hangs drug traffickers despite opposition
  • Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years

KUALA LUMPUR: Two drug traffickers were hanged in Singapore on Thursday, bringing the number of executions this year in the city-state to four despite growing calls to abolish its death penalty.
Activists said the prison department handed the belongings and death certificates for Malaysian national Kalwant Singh and Singaporean Norasharee Gous to their families after their execution Thursday morning.
Amnesty International said Singapore is one of just four countries known to have executed people for drug-related offenses in recent years, going against a global trend toward abolishing the death penalty.
“Singapore has once again executed people convicted of drug-related offenses in violation of international law, callously disregarding public outcry,” said Emerlynne Gill, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for research.
“The death penalty is never the solution and we oppose it unconditionally. There is no evidence that it acts as a unique deterrent to crime,” Gill said in a statement.
Kalwant, who was convicted in 2016 of bringing heroin into Singapore, was the second Malaysian to be executed in less than three months. In late April, the hanging of another Malaysian sparked an international outcry because he was believed to be mentally disabled.
Kalwant filed a last-minute appeal on the eve of his execution on grounds that he was a mere courier and that he had cooperated with police, but it was rejected by Singapore’s top court, activists said.
Critics say that Singapore’s death penalty has mostly snared low-level mules and done little to stop drug traffickers and organized syndicates. But Singapore’s government defends it as necessary to protect its citizens.
“We urge the Singaporean authorities to immediately stop this latest wave of hangings and impose a moratorium on executions as a step toward ending this shameful and inhuman punishment,” Amnesty said.
Four others drug traffickers, including two more Malaysians, were scheduled to be hanged earlier but their executions were delayed pending legal challenges.