Philippines raises alert as super typhoon hurtles closer

A worker anchors the roof of a fuel station to a mixer truck as Super Typhoon Mangkhut approaches the city of Tuguegarao, Cagayan province, north of Manila. (AFP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Philippines raises alert as super typhoon hurtles closer

  • By Friday evening, strong winds had already downed trees in Tuguegarao, a city in the north of Luzon, where almost all businesses had been shuttered
  • At least four million people are directly in Mangkhut’s path, which is predicted to move on to China’s heavily populated southern coast

MANILA: Thousands of people have fled from the path of Typhoon Mangkhut (local name Ompong) which picked up strength as it barreled toward the Philippines’ Cagayan region on Friday.
While the authorities said there is slim chance of Mangkhut becoming a super typhoon, it but warned “it is still a powerful and destructive typhoon.”
With maximum sustained winds of 205 kph near the center and gusts of up to 255 kph, Mangkhut further accelerated hours before it was expected to land in the Cagayan-Isabela area early on Saturday.
The authorities placed Cagayan and Isabela provinces under storm signal No. 4, while signal No. 3 was also raised in other parts of northern Luzon. Signal No. 4 means the area will experience winds of 171 kph to 220 kph, which can bring heavy damage to structures and agriculture, lift cars off the ground, uproot trees, and take the roof of a house, an official explained.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesperson Edgar Posadas said at least 2,298 families in regions affected by the storm have voluntarily evacuated since Thursday.
More residents are expected to move to safety as the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) called on governors, mayors and village heads in four regions in the north to immediately evacuate all residents living in landslide and flood prone areas.
Posadas said an estimated 5.2 million people are in the path of Mangkhut, with 983,100 considered to be below poverty line or most vulnerable to the effects of the typhoon.
The DILG urged local chief executives as heads of their Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (LDRRMCs) not to delay in issuing action plans to evacuate vulnerable residents.
“Times like this are when public services have to be most accountable, responsive and far-sighted,” said DILG spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Jonathan Malaya.
Officials have repeatedly warned that storm surges of up to six meters are likely in the coastal areas of Cagayan, Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, as well as Ilocos Sur when the eye of Ompong is over Batanes.
“Every minute counts. Immediate evacuation should be to areas that are more than 10 meters above sea level, regardless of distance from the coastline,” Malaya advised.
Residents along riverbanks and landslide prone areas were also encouraged to evacuate their homes.
And with its huge diameter of 900km, officials said that many areas not directly affected by the storm can still experience heavy rains and strong winds.
“For those in Metro Manila, prepare for moderate to heavy rains due to Habagat (the summer monsoon) intensified by Ompong. Flooding is expected in the usual low-lying areas,” said Posadas.
Gusty winds with occasional moderate to heavy rains are expected over Visayas, while scattered light to moderate to at times heavy rains over Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and CARAGA.
“Residents in these areas, especially those living near river channels, in low-lying areas and in mountainous areas, are advised to take appropriate action against possible flooding and landslides, coordinate with local disaster risk reduction and management offices, and to continue monitoring for updates,” PAGASA advised.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte deployed some cabinet secretaries to areas that will most likely be hit by the typhoon to monitor the situations on the ground. “I cannot be everywhere and anywhere,” he said.
When asked by reporters if the government is willing to seek assistance from the international community, Duterte said: “It would depend on the severity of the crisis.”
“If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help. And if there are countries who are well-meaning... But it’s too early to speculate,” he added.
Mangkhut is expected move on from the Philippines on Sunday.


Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

Updated 25 June 2019
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Bangladesh police kill three suspected Rohingya traffickers; rescue 15 refugees

  • The group of smuggled refugees included a number of girls
  • Bangladeshi authorities sent the refugees to two different camps after questioning

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh police killed three people suspected of trying to smuggle 15 Rohingya Muslim refugees to Malaysia in a clash on Tuesday near the South Asian nation’s main refugee camp, an official said, the second such incident in as many months.
Nearly 900,000 Rohingya who fled a military-led crackdown in neighboring Buddhist-dominated Myanmar in 2017 live in Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp, and other temporary settlements in Bangladesh’s beach town of Cox’s Bazar.
“On sensing the presence of our team, they fired on police, and police also responded,” said Prodip Kumar Das, a police official in the nearby town of Teknaf.
The men attempting to smuggle the refugees, who included some girls, were shot and died on the way to hospital, Das added. The refugees were rescued and sent to two different camps after initial questioning.
The clash, around 30 km from Kutupalong, followed a tip-off to police, Das told Reuters, adding that they had retrieved three locally-made guns and 15 rounds of ammunition.
The men were themselves Rohingya known to be human traffickers living in the area since their arrival in Bangladesh before 2017, he added.
Rohingya civilians who left Myanmar have said they faced atrocities at the hands of its armed forces but almost all such accusations have been denied by the authorities.
With doubts over whether they will ever return to Myanmar, some refugees in Bangladesh are being drawn toward drugs and violence, say people in the area and aid workers.
The risks of being trafficked have increased as refugees are lured by the promise of work. Anti-trafficking groups fear that routes through the Bay of Bengal are being used to smuggle out Rohingya refugees.
In recent months, police and the coast guard have rescued several dozens of them. Last month police killed two suspected smugglers in a gun fight in a nearby area.