Major aftershocks jolt Philippines after magnitude 7.6 quake

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Residents and medical personnel evacuate patients from inside a hospital after a 7.6 earthquake struck Butuan City, in southern island of Mindanao late Dec. 2, 2023. (AFP)
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People gather along a street after evacuating from inside buildings after a 7.6 earthquake struck Butuan City, in southern island of Mindanao late Dec. 2, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Major aftershocks jolt Philippines after magnitude 7.6 quake

  • The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center initially said that based on the magnitude and location, it expected tsunami waves to hit the southern Philippines
  • In Japan, authorities issued evacuation orders in various parts of Okinawa Prefecture

MANILA: A powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck the southern Philippines on Saturday, the US Geological Survey reported, followed by four major aftershocks that sent residents fleeing from coastal areas amid fears of a tsunami.
The initial quake struck off the coast of the country at a depth of 32 kilometers (20 miles) at 10:37 p.m. local time (1437 GMT) about 21 kilometers northeast of Hinatuan municipality on Mindanao island, the USGS said.
Early on Sunday, over the span of several hours, four powerful aftershocks of magnitudes 6.4, 6.2, 6.1 and 6.0 rumbled through the region, the USGS said.
The initial quake triggered tsunami warnings — which were later downgraded — across the Pacific region and sent residents in northeast Mindanao fleeing buildings, evacuating a hospital and seeking higher ground.
“Destructive tsunami is expected with life threatening wave heights,” the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said on X, formerly Twitter.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii also issued an alert but later posted that the danger had passed.
“There is no longer a tsunami threat from this earthquake,” it said in a message.
The Philippines seismology institute said in a bulletin at 3:23 am (1923 GMT) local time that the highest waves generated by the seismic activity were .64 meters (25 inches) tall on Mawes Island, but that the tsunami warning had ended.
Small swells were reported as far as Japan’s eastern Pacific coast, where a tsunami warning was also briefly in effect. Palau, a western Pacific archipelago some 900 kilometers (560 miles) off Mindanao, reported no impact.
Hinatuan police Sergeant Joseph Lambo said the quake was “very strong” but that there were no reports of casualties or major property damage.
“Appliances fell off the shelves at the police office and two TV sets were broken. The motorcycles parked outside also tumbled down,” Lambo told AFP.
“Right now we don’t have reports of damage or casualties but people are evacuating because of the tsunami alert.”
Lambo said the 45,000 residents in the municipality had been ordered to leave their homes and many were going on foot or in vehicles to higher ground.
A video posted on social media and verified by AFP showed bottles of drinks and other products falling off shelves in a convenience store as staff fled outside.
Another video, shot by Dennis Orong, showed people screaming as they ran along a street in Lianga, a coastal municipality of Surigao del Sur.
“I was shaking in fear, mainly because of exploding electric poles,” the 26-year-old hairdresser told AFP.
“It was very traumatic.”

Social media reports of a tsunami hitting Lingig municipality, about 35 kilometers south of Hinatuan, were “fake news,” said police Master Sergeant Robert Quesada.
“We’re at low tide,” he said.
“People evacuated away from the coast soon after. We can’t say how many at this point, but pretty much the entire town is along the coast.”
Many people, including Bethanie Valledor, were asleep when the quake struck.
“I felt like the room we’re staying in would be destroyed,” Valledor, 24, told AFP after fleeing the resort where she had been staying, about 20 kilometers southwest of Hinatuan.
“Our place is very near the sea. The resort owner asked us to evacuate immediately. Honestly, I was screaming. I panicked.”
In Butuan City, northwest of Hinatuan, orderlies evacuated patients on gurneys and in wheelchairs from a hospital, their drip and IV bags hanging from support stands.
The quake came nearly two weeks after a 6.7 magnitude quake hit Mindanao, killing at least nine people, shaking buildings and causing part of the ceiling of a shopping mall to collapse.
Quakes are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Most are too weak to be felt by humans, but strong and destructive quakes come at random with no technology available to predict when and where they will happen.
 

 


A man escaped Sudan’s bloody civil war. His mysterious death in Missisippi has sparked suspicion

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A man escaped Sudan’s bloody civil war. His mysterious death in Missisippi has sparked suspicion

  • Family members and concerned citizens spent weeks searching for Dau Mabil, who was captured by a surveillance camera walking near the trail

JACKSON, Mississippi: As a child, Dau Mabil escaped war-torn Sudan and built a new life in Mississippi. This month, fishermen found the body of the 33-year-old Mabil floating in a river, prompting calls for a federal investigation into his disappearance and death.
Mabil, who lived in Jackson with his wife, went missing in broad daylight on March 25 after going for a walk on a trail connecting the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with other city landmarks. His brother, Bul Mabil, cast doubt on initial autopsy results published Thursday, which a sheriff said did not uncover signs of foul play.
Bul Mabil said he is dissatisfied with the way authorities have handled the case.
“I can’t believe this would happen to someone who came here from a war-torn country,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I was expecting much better government in this country. But this is the way the United States operates. It is so appalling.”
Democratic US Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, whose district includes Jackson, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting a Justice Department investigation. Thompson said civil rights organizations had contacted his office about the case, and his letter described Mabil as an “African male, who is married to Mrs. Karissa Bowley, a white female.”
Family members and concerned citizens spent weeks searching for Dau Mabil, who was captured by a surveillance camera walking near the trail. In an interview, Bul Mabil said he raced to Jackson from his home in Houston on March 26 after hearing of his brother’s death from a family friend. He said he began looking into the case on his own, alongside the Capitol Police, a state law enforcement agency that operates in part of Jackson.
At the same time, Bowley led rallies and information campaigns on behalf of her missing husband, asking for the public’s help to find him. She did not respond to a text or phone call seeking comment.
Fishermen spotted a body on April 13 in the Pearl River in Lawrence County, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Jackson. Days later, officials confirmed the remains were those of Dau Mabil.
Bul Mabil said his brother’s death has been devastating for him and his mother, who still lives in a refugee camp.
The brothers were among the thousands of young refugees brought to the US during their country’s bloody civil war. After they arrived, Julie Hines Mabus, the ex-wife of former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, started a foundation that helped the children settle in Jackson. She described Dau Mabil as “soft-spoken, a smile on his face, a little twinkle in his eye.”
“To get here was miraculous and then for Bul to get his brother here was even more miraculous,” Hines Mabus told the AP. “It was sort of like a homecoming. And now for Bul to face this with his brother, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Bul Mabil filed emergency legal papers to ensure his brother’s body wouldn’t be released to Bowley and her family until an autopsy was performed by both the state crime lab and an independent medical examiner. On Thursday, Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas granted the request, pausing release of the body and ordering a second autopsy.
In a subsequent court filing, Bowley’s attorney said her client “embraces” the judge’s order for an additional autopsy, with the condition it be conducted only after all law enforcement entities finish investigating.
Bul Mabil cast doubt on a statement from Lawrence County Sheriff Ryan Everett, who first reported the results of the initial autopsy Thursday. Everett said the autopsy did not reveal foul play, but an official determination may be made later, pending further testing.
Bailey Martin, a spokesperson for the state Department of Public Safety, said the state crime lab performed the autopsy. The department expects to receive DNA confirmation next week.
Bul Mabil’s attorneys said they hope an independent autopsy can be done within the next week.
Capitol Police conducted an “insufficient” investigation, Bul Mabil said. One of this attorneys, Carlos Tanner, said his client was “being left in the dark about the suspicious circumstances” about his brother’s disappearance and death.
Vallena Greer, a Jackson woman who took in and raised Dau Mabil, said he thrived in America. He received a school award for his improved English speaking skills and was a talented soccer player.
At the time of his disappearance, Dau Mabil worked as a manager at a Jackson restaurant and planned on returning to school to earn a computer science degree.
“He did well for what America wants immigrants to be,” Bul Mabil said. “We called Mississippi our second home. We didn’t know something like this would happen to one of us.”
 

 


China says AUKUS security pact risks nuclear proliferation in Pacific

Updated 31 min 19 sec ago
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China says AUKUS security pact risks nuclear proliferation in Pacific

SYDNEY, Australia: China’s foreign minister on Saturday accused Western powers in the AUKUS security pact of provoking division and risking nuclear proliferation in the South Pacific.
On a weekend visit to strengthen Beijing’s ties with Papua New Guinea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at AUKUS, which provides for the United States and Britain to equip Australia with nuclear-powered but conventionally armed submarines.
The three-way AUKUS agreement “runs counter” to a South Pacific treaty banning nuclear weapons in the region, he told a news conference in Port Moresby.
AUKUS also “raises serious nuclear proliferation risks,” the Chinese foreign minister told reporters after meeting with his Papua New Guinea counterpart Justin Tkatchenko.
In recent years, Beijing has tried to chip away at US and Australian influence across the South Pacific, including in Papua New Guinea.
The Pacific Islands, while small in population, are replete with natural resources and sit at a geostrategic crossroads that could prove strategically vital in any military dispute over Taiwan.
Australia is by far Papua New Guinea’s largest donor, but Chinese firms have made solid inroads into markets in the impoverished but resource-rich nation.

The Chinese foreign minister seized on a recent announcement by the AUKUS nations that they are considering cooperating with Japan on military technology.
Under the AUKUS agreement, the partners plan to develop advanced warfighting capabilities such as artificial intelligence, undersea drones and hypersonic missiles.
“The recent attempts to draw more countries to join in such an initiative of stoking confrontation between blocs and provoking division are totally inconsistent with the urgent needs of the island countries,” the foreign minister said.
Wang took a thinly veiled swipe at Australian and US relations with Solomon Islands, which held elections on Wednesday.

Solomon Islands
The Solomons’ incumbent prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has embraced China while his main challengers view Beijing’s growing influence with a mix of skepticism and alarm.
A new government has yet to be agreed among elected MPs.

Electoral officers prepare to count votes from the general election at the Multi-Purpose Center in Honiara, capital city of the Solomon Islands, on April 19, 2024. (AFP)

“We believe that the people of Solomon Islands have the wisdom and ability to determine the future of their country. Island nations belong to their people,” Wang said.
“They are not the backyard of any big country,” Wang said — an allusion to historic perceptions that Australia considered the South Pacific to be its backyard.
State-backed Chinese news outlets have pushed reports that the United States might orchestrate riots to block Sogavare from returning to power.
US Ambassador to the Solomons Ann Marie Yastischock has said such rumors are “blatantly misleading.”
Papua New Guinea’s foreign minister welcomed the Chinese minister, saying they had “reached some understanding” in their talks.
“PNG values China as an important bilateral partner,” he said.
Wang is scheduled to have breakfast with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape on Sunday, wrapping up a three-nation tour of Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea that began April 18.
 


Moldova faces new challenge from restive Gagauzia region

Updated 55 min 40 sec ago
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Moldova faces new challenge from restive Gagauzia region

  • Gagauzia’s 140,000 residents, mainly ethnic Turks, have had uneasy relations with central authorities since Moldova threw off Soviet rule in 1991
  • President Maia Sandu has identified Russia as the biggest threat to her country and wants Moldova to join the European Union

CHISINAU: Moldova’s pro-European government faces a new challenge from its restive pro-Moscow Gagauzia region after its leaders denounced proposed judicial reforms and demanded enhanced status for the Russian language.
Gagauzia’s 140,000 residents, mainly ethnic Turks who adhere to Orthodox Christianity, have had uneasy relations with central authorities since Moldova threw off Soviet rule in 1991.
On Friday, Gagauzia’s local assembly rejected judicial reforms which would shut down an appeal court in the region and called for special status for Russian, alongside Moldova’s sole state language, Romanian.
Under Moldova’s constitution, Gagauzia’s leader, or bashkan, is automatically a member of the government in the country lying between Ukraine and Romania.
But President Maia Sandu refuses to sign an enabling decree on grounds that the current bashkan, Yevgenia Gutul, was elected on the ticket of a banned pro-Russian political party led by fugitive businessman Ilan Shor, convicted of mass fraud.

Moldovan President Maia Sandu. (Reuters)

Prime Minister Dorin Recean stood by the judicial reforms and said the courts would uproot what he called criminal elements running the region.
“The judicial system will do what it has to and bring to account all members of these groups,” he told a television interviewer on Friday evening. “There are absolutely no grounds for confrontation. Our goal is to build Europe.”
Sandu has identified Russia as the biggest threat to her country and called a referendum for later in the year on joining the European Union alongside a presidential election.
Gutul is deeply suspicious of the EU plan, accuses Sandu of victimizing her region and has made two trips to Russia in the past month and asked Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin for help.
Political analyst Vitalie Andrievschi said the region’s demands, including its call for improved status for the Russian language, were part of a campaign endorsed by the Kremlin — and Shor — to disrupt political activity in Moldova.
“They need this to stir things up in a year with a presidential election and referendum on the agenda in order to undermine stability and divide the country,” he told Reuters.

 


At least 58 people die after boat capsizes in Central Africa

Updated 21 April 2024
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At least 58 people die after boat capsizes in Central Africa

  • The wooden boat was overloaded with more than 300 people when it sank on the Mpoko river, say rescuers
  • Witnesses said the passengers were headed to the funeral of a village chief when the tragedy happened

BANGUI, Central African Republic: At least 58 people going to a funeral died after their overloaded river boat capsized in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, the head of civil protection said on Saturday.

“We were able to extract 58 lifeless bodies,” Thomas Djimasse told Radio Guira. “We don’t know the total number of people who are underwater.
According to witnesses and videos on social media, the wooden boat was carrying more than 300 people — some standing and others perched on wooden structures — when it sank on the Mpoko river on Friday.
The vessel was heading to the funeral of a village chief in Makolo, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) from Bangui, but got into difficulty shortly after setting off from the pier.
Rescue services arrived 40 minutes after the disaster.
The government did not respond on Saturday but in a speech recorded on Friday and broadcast a day later, government spokesman Maxime Balalou had reported a “provisional toll of at least 30 dead.”
The government sent its condolences to the bereaved families, he said, announcing the opening of an investigation and the setting up of a support system for families of the victims.
Maurice Kapenya, who was following the boat in a canoe because there was no space on board, said his own sister was among the bodies of the victims he had recovered.
He was helped by local fisherman and residents. Motorbike taxis meanwhile evacuated some of the injured.
Driver Francis Maka told AFP he had “taken more than 10 people to the community hospital... free of charge, in the face of the tragedy.”
With civil protection teams no longer on the scene Saturday, desperate families searching for missing loved ones near the river helped canoe operators they had hired, an AFP journalist observed.
Several opposition parties expressed solidarity with the families and called for national mourning.

The Central African Republic is ranked by the United Nations as the second least-developed country in the world.
A civil war has plagued the former French colony since a Muslim-dominated armed coalition called the Seleka ousted former president Francois Bozize in 2013.
The conflict lost intensity from 2018 but the country still suffers bouts of violence by rebel groups or over its resources, which include gold and diamonds.
French intervention and deployment of UN peacekeepers paved the way for elections in 2016, which President Faustin Archange Touadera won.
Two years later, Touadera brought in fighters from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to help train his armed forces.
The country still suffers bouts of violence by rebel groups or over its resources, which include gold and diamonds.
In 2020, CAR brought in more Russian operatives as rebel groups advanced on the capital and repelled a siege of Bangui.
However, some areas of the country remain outside government control.


Russia warns of more death and destruction as US House passes Ukraine aid bill

Updated 21 April 2024
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Russia warns of more death and destruction as US House passes Ukraine aid bill

  • Aid package will make US get richer, but further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians, says Putin's spokesman
  • The legislative package approved by the US House of Representatives provides $60.84 billion to Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish weapons, stocks and facilities

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that US House of Representatives’ approval of security aid to Ukraine would lead to more damage and deaths in the conflict there.

The decision “will make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians, the fault of the Kyiv regime,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
The Kremlin has been locked in conflict in Ukraine since invading it more than two years ago.
The House approved a legislative package providing $60.84 billion to Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish US weapons, stocks and facilities.
The package now goes to the US Senate, which passed a similar measure two months ago, for expected approval next week. It then is passed on to President Joe Biden to sign.
Peskov also said that provisions in the legislation allowing the US administration to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine to fund reconstruction would tarnish the image of the United States.
Russia, he said, would enact retaliatory measures.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said the approval of US aid for Ukraine was expected and grounded in “Russophobia.”
“We will, of course, be victorious regardless of the bloodsoaked $61 billion, which will mostly be swallowed up by their insatiable military industrial complex,” wrote Medvedev, one of Russia’s most vociferous hawks as deputy chairman of the Security Council.
Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the approval of aid in the legislation to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan would “deepen crises throughout the world.”
“Military assistance to the Kyiv regime is direct sponsorship of terrorist activity,” Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
“To Taiwan, it is interference in China’s internal affairs. To Israel, it is a road straight to escalation and an unprecedented rise in tension in the region.”