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Archive for October 4th, 2009|Daily archive page

Super typhoon Parma enters East Sea

In Vietnam Weather on October 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Super Typhoon Parma, which hit the Philippines’ north Saturday with winds gusting up to 150 kmph and reportedly killed 16 in Luzon Island, is moving toward Vietnam, the national weather bureau said Sunday.

Vietnam’s weather bureau said that Parma has become the 10th storm faced by Vietnam this year.

The typhoon has entered the East Sea, the weather bureau said.

A map of Typhoon Parma by Vietnam’s national weather bureau

It is forecast to move northwest in the next 24 hours. The weather bureau said at 1pm Sunday, the typhoon is 890 km east of the Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago. By 1pm Oct. 6 (Tuesday), the typhoon is about 780 km east of Hoang Sa.

The sea is seriously rough, the weather bureau said.

A few days ago, Typhoon Ketsana killed more than 100 in Vietnam after wreaking havoc in the Philippines, leaving more than 260 people dead.

At present, another super typhoon, called Melor, is seen east of the Philippines.

Vietnam’s weather bureau said Typhoon Parma and Typhoon Melor are interacting, resulting in complicated movements.

Source: SGGP

Vietnam announces three more swine flu deaths

In Vietnam Health on October 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Vietnamese health officials Oct. 2 confirmed three swine flu-related deaths — a man in Ho Chi Minh City and two women in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau.

The male victim, 29, from HCMC’s District 12, was hospitalized at the city’s Heart Institute.

Children with flu treated at the National Institute of Infectious and Tropical Diseases (Photo: VNA)

A week ago, he suffered a high fever, running nose and body pains, but decided to self-medicate instead of seeking medical attention.

Though, initially, his fever broke for a short while, his condition worsened. 

Tests showed that he was infected with the H1N1 virus and medics immediately gave him Tamiflu pills. In spite of doctors’ effort to save him, his condition deteriorated and he died on October 2.

A 25-year-old pregnant woman from the southern province of Ca Mau’s U Minh District died from swine flu on September 27, five days after being admitted to the province hospital, a health official said.

A 47-year-old woman from the province’s Phu Tan District presented flu symptoms on September 24. She was taken to the district hospital three days later. Health workers confirmed her death on September 30.

Their deaths bring the nationwide death toll to 19 in less than two months.

On October 3 alone, 76 more cases of A/H1N1 influenza infections were reported, bringing the nation’s total number of patients to 9,537, including 19 deaths.

Of those infected, 8,331 have been discharged from hospital and the rest are quarantined for treatment, said the Ministry of Health.

The ministry said the development of the flu is very complicated. The polluted environment in the Central and the Highlands provinces, due to recent flooding and storms, is causing concerns to health officials. 

The ministry warned people in storm-hit areas to conduct good hygienic measures, with pregnant women, who are vulnerable to the flu, to visit their nearest medical clinics for consultancy and timely treatment if they present flu-like symptoms.

Source: SGGP

Eight US troops killed in Afghanistan firefight

In World on October 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

KABUL (AFP) – NATO has suffered its deadliest attack in Afghanistan in more than a year after eight US soldiers were killed in a firefight in the east of the country, the alliance said Sunday.

A US soldier fires his assault rifle during a gun battle with insurgent forces in Barge Matal, in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province in July. Eight American soldiers and two Afghan troops were killed in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said Sunday. (AFP photo)

Tribal militia launched attacks on Saturday from a local mosque and a village in Nuristan province near the border with Pakistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

“Coalition forces effectively repelled the attack and inflicted heavy enemy casualties, while eight ISAF and two ANSF service members were killed,” a statement said, referring to Afghan National Security Forces.

No exact details were given on the location of the firefight, which a Taliban spokesman claimed had killed 30 foreign and Afghan troops.

An ISAF spokesman told AFP later: “I can confirm that they (the foreign troops) were all American.”

The attack was the deadliest single incident for foreign forces since 10 French troops were killed in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan in August 2008.

Six Italian soldiers were killed in a massive suicide bomb in the capital Kabul last month.

Coalition forces are currently battling to quell a growing insurgency that is spreading across Afghanistan, nearly eight years after the hardline Islamist Taliban were ousted from power.

Eastern Afghanistan has seen an escalation in insurgent-related violence recently as Taliban-linked militias spread their footprint beyond regions like Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south, where they have long held sway.

The intelligence head of Nuristan province, Mohammad Farooq, told AFP that Saturday’s attack took place in the province’s Kamdesh region, near the lawless border with Pakistan, where Al-Qaeda and Taliban sympathisers are based.

ISAF said the militants had fired on the coalition forces in outposts.

The Taliban were virtually wiped out in 2002 but are now on the march. Related article: Taliban revival raises fear

The London-based International Council on Security and Development think-tank estimates they now have a permanent presence in 80 percent of the country.

The commander of the more than 100,000 NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, US General Stanley McChrystal, has described the Afghan security situation as “serious” and reportedly requested up to 40,000 more troops. Related article: Nato seeks strategy

The extra forces would be sent mainly to the north and west of the country, where troop numbers are lowest, the US military told AFP on Saturday.

Mariam Abou Zahab, from the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI) in Paris, said: “The Taliban are in a strong position. They want to show that they are everywhere.”

North and west Afghanistan were calm until the start of this year, but have seen a sharp deterioration in security in recent months, as Taliban insurgents intensified attacks before the August 20 presidential election.

Like in the south and the east, fighting between militants and international forces has now become a daily occurrence.

This year has been the deadliest year for foreign troops since 2001, with 394 deaths, 236 of them American, according to an AFP toll based on a tally by the independent website.

More than 1,430 soldiers have died since the start of US-led operations in 2001.

Political uncertainty has exacerbated the tenuous security situation as no result has yet been declared in the August 20 presidential poll, which was marred by fraud allegations.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed President Hamid Karzai, accused of vote-rigging, leads preliminary results with 55 percent of the vote, while his main rival Abdullah Abdullah has around 28 percent.

Auditing of suspect ballots from more than 3,000 ballot boxes is due to start Monday, electoral officials have said.

Source: SGGP

Credit crunch clouds uneven European rebound

In World on October 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

PARIS (AFP) – European economies are shaking off recession but analysts warn the pace of recovery could vary greatly from country to country, revealing a North-South divide, and could be undone by a squeeze on credit.

Shoppers crowd a store in Paris. European economies are shaking off recession but analysts warn the pace of recovery could vary greatly from country to country, revealing a North-South divide, and could be undone by a squeeze on credit. (AFP file)

Economists show near unanimity that official stimulus measures, renewed consumer and business confidence and beefed up production have combined to halt the worst downturn since the 1930s.

The eurozone’s two leading economies, Germany and France, have already put recession behind them and, according to analysts at ING Bank “the coming months are likely to bring more good news” for the bloc as a whole.

ING says a return to growth of 0.5 percent in the 16-nation eurozone is possible in the third quarter compared with the second.

While gross domestic product is projected decline 3.8 percent in 2009, it should show an expansion of 1.2 percent in 2010 and 2.1 percent in 2011.

The rebound in the eurozone is also likely to have a salutary impact on Russia and central and eastern Europe, where analysts at Capital Economics see negative growth of 8.0 percent this year transformed into a 1.0 percent momentum gain in 2010 and 2.0 percent in 2011.Related article: Eurozone interest rate

But economists are voicing concern that recovery in Europe will be far from uniform.

“The fast growing economies of the past are likely to be the laggards of the future, while past laggards need to fully tap their growth potential,” ING analysts said.

Gilles Moec at Deutsche Bank in a recent note cited a potential North-South split, pointing to “striking divergences” within the eurozone.

Whereas France and Germany encountered the downturn from positions of relative economic health, “the dire state of public finances in Italy prevented any fiscal support from mitigating the recession there while Spain has to cope with overindebtedness in both the household and corporate sectors.”

Industrial output, a key component of economic well-being, improved in both France and Germany in July while declining in Spain and Italy, he said.

ING economists say the real test for eurozone will come next year, when government support measures are withdrawn.

“The economy still needs to prove that it can swim without armbands,” they wrote recently.

Among their principal worries is the availability of credit — critical to sustaining momentum — in Germany and France.

Loans to the German corporate sector have been on the decline since the start of the year at a time when demand for such credit has been rising, according to ING.

“This makes a real text book credit crunch a realistic threat for the German economy,” ING analysts said.

Credit conditions are also tightening in France, where new loans from the banking system to the private sector fell by 20 percent in July compared with the same month last year and where managers are reporting difficulties in meeting the financing needs of their companies, ING analysts found.

A credit crunch looms over the emerging market economies of eastern Europe as well.

“Aggressive cuts in official interest rates over the past year have yet to have much impact on borrowing costs in the real economy,” according to analysts at Capital Economics.

They said that interest rates on consumer loans in every country of eastern Europe are higher than they were a year ago.

The problem, they added, is that emerging market lenders — still saddled with risky, “non-performing” loans — are generally hesitant to approve fresh credit.

For Russia, another potential constraint to recovery is the prospect of falling oil prices next year when a recent surge in stock-building comes to an end, Capital Economics analysts said.

“Any shock to oil prices is likely to lead to a sharp sell-off in the ruble.

“This in turn would force the central bank to hike interest rates and tighten liquidity conditions, thus adding to the already enormous pressure on Russia’s fragile banking sector.”

Source: SGGP

Hopes fade for Indonesian quake victims

In World on October 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

PADANG, Indonesia (AFP) – Rescuers held out scant hope of finding more Indonesian quake survivors on Sunday, leaving clean-up teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of thousands of victims from the rubble.

The military and medics pushed deeper into rural areas where whole villages have been buried by landslides, and more international rescue teams arrived with sniffer dogs and specialist equipment.

An Indonesian woman cries after hearing that her relative died in last month’s devastating earthquake (AFP photo)

But they said there was little likelihood of plucking people out alive from the wreckage of the 7.6-magnitude quake which struck on Wednesday.

In the worst-hit city of Padang, heavy excavators moved over the crumpled remains of the Ambacang hotel, where hopes had been raised for survivors after police received a SMS phone message believed to be from someone inside.

“I think the chances of finding survivors are very slim,” the team leader of Newmont Emergency Rescue Team, Samsubin, told AFP at the scene of the ruined Dutch colonial-era hotel.

“We are taking an aggressive approach today to remove about 140 bodies that we believe are buried near the swimming pool.” Related article: Asian armies to the rescue

Jack hammers and other heavy cutting machinery were deployed on the huge pile of concrete, metal rods and debris which has drawn large crowds despite the clouds of dust and sickening smell of decomposition.

“What rescuers say is that the worst bit is that they’re finding a finger or hand here, a foot there, and they’re trying to piece people together,” said the head of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Indonesia, Bob McKerrow. Related article: Indonesia’s unlucky president

Estimates by the government and international agencies for the number of dead or buried range from 3,000-4,000.

“The number of people who died is 551 now, but it could reach 3,000,” Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told AFP Sunday. “We’ll have more solid figures in three to four days’ time.”

Outside Padang, the scale of the disaster is only now being discovered. Desperate villagers complained to AFP reporters they were being neglected while the focus remained on the city.

Whole hillside villages were found obliterated after giant landslides buried houses and hundreds of people, including an entire wedding party of 30 people swept away in an avalanche of mud and rock.

“Today the military will be heading to landslide areas which we have not been able to access earlier because roads are closed and broken,” Indonesian military spokesman Sagom Tamboen told AFP.

The mayor of Padang, Fauzi Bahar, said that only 60 percent of the disaster zone had been accessed by emergency teams, and that more heavy machinery and materials to rebuild houses were urgently needed.

He said people were “traumatised” in his city, the capital of West Sumatra, which now faces a colossal rebuilding task.

Anger about poor construction and lax enforcement of building regulations is beginning to surface as people recover from the shock of the disaster.

“The government must introduce new standards when rebuilding the city,” said Irwadi, a fisheries ministry official waiting outside the Ambacang hotel for news of colleagues who had been meeting there when the quake hit.

“They must only approve permits for buildings that are strong and only use quality building materials.”

Countries from around the world have rushed aid and rescue teams to the scene and international aid groups are ramping up efforts to provide housing, medical services and basics such as food and water.

Teams from Australia, Britain, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United States have arrived or are travelling to the scene to help overwhelmed and exhausted locals.

The quake struck off Sumatra’s west coast northwest of Padang on Wednesday on a major fault-line on the volatile “Ring of Fire” that scientists have long warned was a disaster waiting to happen.

Another 5.5-magnitude earthquake rocked Indonesia on Sunday, in West Papua province which is in the far east of the sprawling archipelago about 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles) from the Sumatra quake disaster zone.

Authorities said there were no reports of injuries there.

Source: SGGP