Heavy rain to continue
Hundreds of thousands of people already reeling from floods have been told to expect further heavy rains until March, authorities said yesterday, as the disaster death toll rose to 53. “There will be more rains in areas which should already be experiencing the dry season,” the national weather bureau’s spokeswoman Venus Valdemoro said. La Nina was partly responsible for the unseasonal downpours, she said. Heavier than normal rainfall is forecast for most of the country over the next three months, increasing the risk of flooding and landslides, especially in eastern regions, Valdemoro said. Heavy rains have swamped much of the country since late last month, with floods affecting nearly 1.6 million people, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Nine die in apartment fire
An apartment fire in the city of Wuhan has left at least nine people dead. The Xinhua news agency says the fire started late on Monday and was put out early yesterday. An unnamed fire official told Xinhua that most people escaped the four-story building. Fires are a hazard in the country as families try to stay warm. Officials with the State Council yesterday expressed concern about icy conditions in the southern part of the country.
Flood victims storm office
Hundreds of flood victims stormed a government office in one of the hardest-hit areas on Monday to demand that aid be distributed, police said. Heavy monsoon rains caused flooding across the island nation last week, killing at least 40 people and leaving 51,400 people in temporary shelters. Anger over the distribution of relief spilled over in Ariyampathi, near the eastern port of Batticaloa. Police rushed to the scene and the crowd left after officials promised to deliver the aid, police spokesman Prishanth Jayakody said. He declined to say how many people were involved or whether anyone was injured.
Medical visa on way in
Manila said yesterday it would introduce special medical visas for foreigners. The medical tourist visas, to be introduced this year, will allow foreigners to stay in the country for six months without having to apply for extensions as regular tourists are required to do, according to the Bureau of Immigration. “The visa will help the Philippines become competitive in the lucrative medical tourism market in Asia now dominated by Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand among others,” immigration bureau deputy head Ronaldo Ledesma reporters.
New Delhi said yesterday it was recalling a senior envoy from Britain following reports that he assaulted his wife, but indicated it would not consider waiving his diplomatic immunity. The diplomat, named by media as Anil Verma, allegedly attacked his wife on Dec. 11 in an argument at their home in London, Britain’s Mail on Sunday reported. Police were called after neighbors heard his wife, Paromita Verma, scream and saw her run out into the street with blood streaming from her nose, the paper said. The envoy was reportedly angry because there was a Christmas tree in the house that had been given to the family by one of his wife’s relatives.
Old whisky returns home
Three bottles of whisky abandoned in the Antarctic ice by British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton more than a century ago returned home to Scotland on Monday. The bottles of Mackinlay’s were part of a cache recovered last year beneath Shackleton’s Antarctic hut, built in 1908 as part of his failed attempt to reach the South Pole. They made it home on Monday to Whyte and Mackay, the brand’s owner, for analysis to see how they have fared after so long preserved in the polar chill. The wooden crate containing the whisky, marked “British Antarctic Expedition 1907,” was frozen solid in minus-30oC temperatures, but the whisky in the bottles was still liquid.
Pirates break record
Somali pirates kidnapped a record number of seafarers last year, in cases that left eight sailors dead, a maritime watchdog said yesterday. Pirates in the lawless region hijacked 53 ships and captured 1,181 seafarers last year, the International Maritime Bureau said in a report. The number of pirate attacks against ships has risen every year for the past four years, the bureau said. There were 445 attacks reported last year, up 10 percent from 2009. A total of 188 crew members were taken hostage in 2006, 1,050 in 2009 and 1,181 last year.
Russian arms trade for debt
Seoul has been negotiating with Russia to receive advanced defense technology as part of debt repayments, officials said yesterday. Russia has so far provided South Korea with US$740 million in weapons as a way of repaying US$1.3 billion in debt dating back to the days of the Soviet Union. Seoul is now in talks on the transfer of cutting-edge technology from Moscow, the South’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said. Yonhap news agency quoted a military source as saying the Russian technologies include long-range radar and a defense system against an electromagnetic pulse attack.
Arson attack hits court
Unknown assailants set fire to the entrance of the country’s highest criminal court and spray painted the building with anti-establishment slogans, police said on Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility and no one was hurt in the attack on the Federal Criminal Court in the town of Bellinzona, police Inspector Renato Pizolli said. Spray painted slogans condemning the judiciary were accompanied by the symbol of an encircled A often used by anarchists. Police said in a statement the fire was most likely arson. The attack in Ticino, near the Italian border, comes several weeks after Italy’s Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb that seriously injured a man when it exploded in the Swiss embassy in Rome.
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘SUICIDE’: Media reports said Park Won-soon went missing on Thursday after a staff member filed a sexual harassment claim against him this week Seoul mayor Park Won-soon, viewed as a potential candidate for the 2022 presidential election, was found dead of an apparent suicide hours after he was reported missing, police said, adding that he was the subject of an undisclosed investigation. In a note he is thought to have left behind on his desk, Park offered his apologies. “I thank everyone who was with me in my life. I apologize to my family for only making them suffer from pain,” according to the note that was released by his office yesterday. Park, in his letter, asked to be cremated and have his remains spread
RISKY BUSINESS: The Chinese firm has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of 5G equipment not covered by US sanctions, but fears a wider ban could be announced in the UK Huawei Technologies Co believes it can supply 5G hardware unaffected by US sanctions to the UK for the next five years, sidestepping the expected conclusion of British emergency review on Tuesday. The company has stockpiled 500,000 pieces of kit, but fears a wider ban on its equipment is to be unveiled to placate rebel British Conservative Party lawmakers, who say that the Chinese supplier represents a national security risk. The British government on Friday said that it was “very likely” that British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden would make a statement to parliament on Tuesday
“Leaving a place that I love was very difficult. We’re all Hong Kong people who come out to protest because we love Hong Kong. But now we are forced to leave.” *Jay* is a former Hong Kong resident who attended many of last year’s protests, including on the front lines. He was arrested and charged with riot offenses, but fled the territory when he was being released on bail several months ago. He is now among dozens of Hong Kong residents seeking political asylum in Australia, and he has no expectation of returning home. “When I was taking the bus to the