Death toll reaches 100 as survivors are found in homes smashed by western Japan earthquakes

Death toll reaches 100 as survivors are found in homes smashed by western Japan earthquakes
More than 50 people were reported missing on January 4 as Japanese rescuers battled to reach hundreds still cut off from help three days after devastating earthquake. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 January 2024
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Death toll reaches 100 as survivors are found in homes smashed by western Japan earthquakes

Death toll reaches 100 as survivors are found in homes smashed by western Japan earthquakes
  • Some survivors who had clung to life for days were freed from collapsed homes
  • Others were forced to wait while rescuers searched for loved ones

WAJIMA, Japan: The death toll from a major earthquake in western Japan reached 100 Saturday, as rescue workers fought aftershocks to carefully pull people from the rubble.
Deaths had reached 98 earlier in the day, but two more deaths were reported in Anamizu, while officials in Ishikawa prefecture, the hardest-hit region, held their daily meeting to discuss strategy and damages.
Some survivors who had clung to life for days were freed from collapsed homes. A man was pulled out 72 hours after a series of powerful quakes started rattling Japan’s western coast.
The number of missing was lowered to 211 as of Saturday, after it shot up two days ago.
An older man was found alive Wednesday in a collapsed home in Suzu, one of the hardest-hit cities in Ishikawa Prefecture. His daughter called out, “Dad, dad,” as a flock of firefighters got him out on a stretcher, praising him for holding on for so long after Monday’s 7.6 magnitude earthquake.
Others were forced to wait while rescuers searched for loved ones.
Ishikawa officials said 59 of those who died were in the city of Wajima and 23 were in Suzu, while the others were reported in five neighboring towns. More than 500 people have been injured, at least 27 seriously.
The Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo found that the sandy coastline in western Japan shifted by up to 250 meters (820 feet) seaward in some places.
The earthquakes set off a large fire in the town of Wajima, as well as tsunamis and landslides in the region. With some routes cut off by the destruction, worries grew about communities in which water, food, blankets and medicine had yet to arrive.
The United States announced $100,000 in aid Friday, including blankets, water and medical supplies, and promised more help would come. Dodgers major leaguer Shohei Ohtani also announced aid for the Noto area, though he did not disclose the amount.
Thousands of Japanese troops have joined the effort to reach the hardest-hit spots on the Noto Peninsula, the center of the quake, connected by a narrow land strip to the rest of the main island of Honshu.
Experts warned of disease and even death at the evacuation centers that now house about 34,000 people who lost their homes, many of them older.
Masashi Tomari, a 67-year-old oyster farmer who lives in Anamizu city in Ishikawa, said it was tough sleeping on the floor with just one blanket. There was no heating until two stoves finally arrived Thursday — three days after the 7.6 quake struck.
“This is a terrible, cold place,” he said.
Tomari felt at a loss thinking about his home, where broken glass and knocked over items littered the floor. It was pitch dark at night because the area was still out of power.
But Tomari and others were already thinking about rebuilding.
Sachiko Kato, who owns a clothing shop in Anamizu, put up a yellow notice as a warning inside her store where the walls have tipped slanted, and a red one for the shed in the back that was completely flattened.
“So many stores were on this street. Now, they’re all gone. Maybe we can work hard to rebuild,” she said.
As of Friday, running water was not fully restored in Anamizu. Kato had to get water from a nearby river to flush the toilet.
Dozens of aftershocks have rattled Ishikawa and the neighboring region in the past week. Japan, with its crisscrossing fault lines, is an extremely quake-prone nation. Weather forecasts called for rain and snow over the weekend, and experts warned of more aftershocks.
The region affected by the latest quakes is famous for its craftwork, including lacquerware, knives, ceramics, candles and kimono fabric.
Tsutomu Ishikawa, who oversees a resin company called Aras that makes fashionable plates and cups, said no lives were lost around him, but the atelier was seriously damaged.
He apologized for delayed deliveries and expressed determination to pick up and rebuild, while acknowledging the challenges. “We are feeling a deep helplessness that works we created with so much love are gone.”
Sachiko Takagi, who owns a kimono shop on a street lined with picturesque stores in Wajima, said she was lucky her 80-year-old store — inherited over generations — was still standing. Others were not so lucky.
“These people do not have the energy to start something from scratch,” she said. “I really wonder what will happen to this street.”


How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today

How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today
Updated 7 sec ago
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How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today

How cockroaches spread around the globe to become the pest we know today
  • Study confirms German cockroach species found worldwide actually originated in southeast Asia
  • Cockroaches may have stowed away with people to travel to Middle East, Europe, says study

DALLAS: They’re six-legged, hairy home invaders that just won’t die, no matter how hard you try.

Cockroaches are experts at surviving indoors, hiding in kitchen pipes or musty drawers. But they didn’t start out that way.

A new study uses genetics to chart cockroaches’ spread across the globe, from humble beginnings in southeast Asia to Europe and beyond. The findings span thousands of years of cockroach history and suggest the pests may have scuttled across the globe by hitching a ride with another species: people.

“It’s not just an insect story,” said Stephen Richards, an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine who studies insect genes and was not involved with the study. “It’s an insect and humanity story.”

Researchers analyzed the genes of over 280 cockroaches from 17 countries and six continents. They confirmed that the German cockroach — a species found worldwide — actually originated in southeast Asia, likely evolving from the Asian cockroach around 2,100 years ago. Scientists have long suspected the German cockroach’s Asian origins since similar species still live there.

The research was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The cockroaches then globe-trotted via two major routes. They traveled west to the Middle East about 1,200 years ago, perhaps hitchhiking in soldiers’ breadbaskets. And they may have stowed away on Dutch and British East India Company trade routes to get to Europe about 270 years ago, according to scientists’ reconstruction and historical records.

Once they arrived, inventions like the steam engine and indoor plumbing likely helped the insects travel further and get cozy living indoors, where they are most commonly found today.

Researchers said exploring how cockroaches conquered past environments may lead to better pest control.

Modern-day cockroaches are tough to keep at bay because they evolve quickly to resist pesticides, according to study author Qian Tang, a postdoctoral researcher studying insects at Harvard University.
 


9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process

9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process
Updated 4 min 52 sec ago
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9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process

9 Egyptians go on trial in Greece over deadly shipwreck, as rights groups question process
  • International human rights groups argue the defendants’ right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded
KALAMATA: Nine Egyptian men go on trial in southern Greece on Tuesday, accused of causing a shipwreck that killed hundreds of migrants and sent shockwaves through the European Union’s border protection and asylum operations.
The defendants, most in their 20s, face up to life in prison if convicted on multiple criminal charges over the sinking of the “Adriana” fishing trawler on June 14 last year.
International human rights groups argue that their right to a fair trial is being compromised as they face judgment before an investigation is concluded into claims the Greek coast guard may have botched the rescue attempt.
More than 500 people are believed to have gone down with the fishing trawler, which had been traveling from Libya to Italy. Following the sinking, 104 people were rescued — mostly migrants from Syria, Pakistan and Egypt — and 82 bodies were recovered.
Early Tuesday, police in riot gear clashed with members of a small group of protesters gathered in front of the courthouse and detained two people.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described the shipwreck off the southern coast of Greece as “horrific.”
The sinking renewed pressure on European governments to protect the lives of migrants and asylum seekers trying to reach the continent, as the annual number of people traveling illegally across the Mediterranean continues to rise.
Lawyers from Greek human rights groups are representing the nine Egyptians, who deny the smuggling charges.
“There’s a real risk that these nine survivors could be found ‘guilty’ on the basis of incomplete and questionable evidence given that the official investigation into the role of the coast guard has not yet been completed,” said Judith Sunderland, an associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch.
Authorities say the defendants were identified by other survivors and the indictments are based on their testimonies.
The European border protection agency Frontex says illegal border detections at EU frontiers increased for three consecutive years through 2023, reaching the highest level since the 2015-2016 migration crisis — driven largely by arrivals at the sea borders.

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials
Updated 11 min 22 sec ago
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France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials

France begins its first war crime trial of Syrian officials
  • The Paris Criminal Court will try the three officials for their role in the deaths of two French Syrian men

PARIS: The first trial in France of officials of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad is to begin on Tuesday, with three top security officers to be tried in absentia for complicity in crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Paris Criminal Court will try the three officials for their role in the deaths of two French Syrian men, Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, arrested in Damascus in 2013.
“For the first time, French courts will address the crimes of the Syrian authorities, and will try the most senior members of the authorities to ever be prosecuted since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011,” said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
The war between Assad’s regime and armed opposition groups, including Daesh, erupted after the government repressed peaceful pro-democracy protests in 2011.
The conflict has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions, and ravaged Syria’s economy and infrastructure.
Trials into the abuses of the Syrian regime have taken place elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany.
But in those cases, the people prosecuted held lower ranks and were present at the hearings.
Ali Mamlouk, former head of the National Security Bureau, Jamil Hassan, former director of the Air Force intelligence service, and Abdel Salam Mahmoud, former head of investigations for the service in Damascus, are subject to international arrest warrants and will be tried in absentia.
Scheduled to last four days, the hearings will be filmed.
War crimes
At the time of the arrest, Patrick Dabbagh was a 20-year-old student in his second year of arts and humanities at the University of Damascus. His father Mazzen worked as a senior education adviser at the French high school in Damascus.
The two were arrested in November 2013 by officers who claimed to belong to the Syrian Air Force intelligence service.
“Witness testimony confirms that Mazzen and Patrick Abdelkader were both taken to a detention center at Mezzeh Military Airport, which is run by Syrian Air Force Intelligence and notorious for the use of brutal torture,” the International Federation for Human Rights said, stressing that the pair were not involved in protests against the Assad regime.
They were declared dead in 2018. The family was formally notified that Patrick died on 21 January 2014. His father Mazzen died nearly four years later, on 25 November 2017.
In the committal order, the investigating judges said that it was “sufficiently established” that the two men “like thousands of detainees of the Air Force intelligence suffered torture of such intensity that they died.”
During the probe, French investigators and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA), a non-governmental organization, collected accounts of torture and mistreatment at the Mezzeh prison, including the use of electric shocks and sexual violence, from dozens of witnesses including former detainees.
Lawyer Clemence Bectarte, who represents the Dabbagh family and the International Federation for Human Rights, said the trial was a new reminder that “under no circumstances” should relations with the Assad regime be normalized.
“We tend to forget that the regime’s crimes are still being committed today,” she said.


France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu

France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu
Updated 28 min 6 sec ago
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France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu

France backs ICC after prosecutor seeks arrest warrants for Israel’s Netanyahu
  • If such warrants are issued, members of the court, could be put in a diplomatically difficult position

PARIS: France backs the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ‘fight against impunity’, its foreign ministry said after the court’s prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others for alleged war crimes.
On Monday, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he had requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense chief Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders, including its chief, Yahya Sinwar.
If such warrants are issued, however, members of the court, which includes nearly all countries of the European Union, could be put in a diplomatically difficult position.
“France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence and the fight against impunity in all situations,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
While US President Joe Biden called the legal step against Israeli officials “outrageous,” the French foreign ministry took a different stance.
It reiterated both its condemnation of Hamas’s ‘anti-Semitic massacres’ on Oct. 7 as well as its warnings over possible violations of international humanitarian law by Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip.
“As far as Israel is concerned, it will be up to the court’s pre-trial chamber to decide whether to issue these warrants, after examining the evidence put forward by the prosecutor ... ,” the ministry said.


Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis

Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis
Updated 21 May 2024
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Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis

Protest at Greek parliament before trial of shipwreck that killed several migrants, including Pakistanis
  • Adriana fishing trawler sank off a Greek coast in June 2023 carrying hundreds of migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt
  • Protest held in support of nine Egyptian survivors on board migrant boat who are charged with causing incident, human smuggling

Dozens gathered outside the Greek parliament on Monday (May 20) for a protest ahead of the trial of nine Egyptian men facing smuggling charges in connection with the migrant shipwreck last year.

On June 14, 2023, the Adriana fishing trawler, carrying between 500 and 700 migrants from Pakistan, Syria and Egypt sank off the southern town of Pylos, in international waters, on its way from Libya to Italy. Some 104 men survived and only 82 bodies have been recovered.

The protest was held in support of the nine Egyptian survivors who were on board the migrant boat and who have been charged with causing the incident, participating in a criminal organization, and migrant smuggling.

They have denied any wrongdoing.

The circumstances of the sinking of the Adriana in June remain a source of dispute between the Greek authorities and groups supporting the rights of survivors and migrants — meaning the trial could be the first opportunity to officially hear the accounts of some of those present at the time.

Survivors have accused the Greek coast guard of capsizing the boat. The authorities, which monitored Adriana for hours, say it overturned when a coast guard vessel was about 70 meters away. The coast guard service has denied any wrongdoing.

It remains unclear what happened in the time between the coast guard being alerted to the presence of the vessel and when it capsized.