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

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.


Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

Updated 11 July 2020

Bosnia Muslims mourn their dead 25 years after Srebrenica massacre

  • At 1100 GMT, a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year began at the memorial cemetery in Potocari
  • On July 11, 1995, after capturing the ill-fated town, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in a few days

SREBRENICA: Bosnian Muslims began marking the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on Saturday, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II, with the memorial ceremony sharply reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Proceedings got underway in the morning with many mourners braving the tighter restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19.
At 1100 GMT, a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year began at the memorial cemetery in Potocari, a village just outside Srebrenica that served as the base for the UN protection force during the conflict.
On July 11, 1995, after capturing the ill-fated town, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in a few days.
Sehad Hasanovic, 27, has a two-year-old daughter — the same age he was when he lost his father in the violence.
“It’s difficult when you see someone calling their father and you don’t have one,” Hasanovic said in tears, not dissuaded from attending the commemorations in spite of the virus.
His father, Semso, “left to go into the forest and never returned. Only a few bones have been found,” said Hasanovic.
Like his brother Sefik and father Sevko, Semso was killed when Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic entered the Srebrenica enclave before systematically massacring Bosnian men and adolescents.
“The husbands of my four sisters were killed,” said Ifeta Hasanovic, 48, whose husband Hasib was one of the nine victims whose remains have been identified since July 2019.
“My brother was killed, so was his son. My mother-in-law lost another son as well as her husband.”
The episode — labelled as genocide by two international courts — came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives.
So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified from more than 80 mass graves.
Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.
Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague.
The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of the Bosnian conflict to be described as genocide by the international community.
And while for Bosnian Muslims recognizing the scale of the atrocity is a necessity for lasting peace, for most Serbs — leaders and laypeople in both Bosnia and Serbia — the use of the word genocide remains unacceptable.
In the run-up to the anniversary, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Srebrenica as “something that we should not and cannot be proud of,” but he has never publicly uttered the word “genocide.”
Several thousand Serbs and Muslims live side by side in impoverished Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia with just a few shops in its center.
On Friday, the town’s Serbian mayor Mladen Grujicic — who was elected in 2016 after a campaign based on genocide denial — said that “there is new evidence every day that denies the current presentation of everything that has happened.”
Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik has also described the massacre as a “myth.”
But on Friday, the Muslim member of Bosnia’s joint presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic, said: “We will tirelessly insist on the truth, on justice and on the need to try all those who have committed this crime.”
“We will fight against those who deny the genocide and glorify its perpetrators,” he said at the memorial center where he attended a collective prayer.
In order to avoid large crowds on Saturday, organizers have invited people to visit the memorial center over the whole month of July.
A number of different exhibitions are on display, including paintings by Bosnian artist Safet Zec.
Another installation, entitled “Why Aren’t You Here?” by US-Bosnian artist Aida Sehovic, comprises more than 8,000 cups of coffee spread out on the cemetery’s lawn.
“We still haven’t answered the question why they are no longer here,” she told AFP.
“How could this have happened in the heart of Europe, that people were killed in such a terrible way in a UN protected area? Not to mention the fact that the genocide is still being denied.”

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