June 25, 2017

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ONE of the reasons why Singapore is perhaps the safest place to live in is due to the low frequency of natural disasters resulting from our geographical location. Fortunately, we are being geographically encased by Borneo on one side and Malaysia on the other. Thus, any typhoon or tsunami activity will go through those locations first. By the time they reach Singapore, it’s merely a tame tropical depression with great surf conditions.

Yet, our counterparts in the international community are not as lucky as us. Natural disasters often disrupt the life of the natives – damaging infrastructure, costing massive amounts of money to recover from the damage, causing a temporary halt to economic activities and worst of all, resulting in high death tolls and injuries. Here are some natural disasters around the world in the month of April:

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1. Lima, Peru – Flood and mudslides: Death toll continues to rise 

Floods and mudslides have been afflicting Peru since the start of the year. The death toll is currently at 113 as of 19 April. The heavy rains have been affecting the South American country all year round, causing rivers to reach high levels, forcing people to leave the place. An estimated million homes have been damaged and more than 2,500 kilometres of road have been destroyed.

In a latest update, the National Center for Emergency Operations said that the recent natural calamity is because of a climate phenomenon called “coastal El Nino”.

CNN reported on March 20 that half a million people in and around the country’s capital, Lima, have been affected by storms and flooding. President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has said the country will need some US$9 billion (S$12.5 billion) to rebuild and modernise the affected areas. He said: “We know it is a difficult situation, but we are controlling it, and we are hopeful that it will soon pass”.
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2. Naypyidaw, Myanmar – Cyclone Maarutha 

Image of Cyclone Maarutha churning above the Bay of Bengal captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
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Cyclone Maarutha caused a storm to move over land on the Rakhine coast of Myanmar on the night of April 17. The landfall was first classified as a tropical depression on April 15 in the Bay of Bengal, according to Aljazeera.

Relief web reported: Three people were killed in Irrawaddy Division as Cyclone Maarutha made landfall on Arakan State’s coast and swept through southern coastal Burma on Sunday (Apr 16).

The town Thandwe was swept by the cyclone with winds at 60km/h and steady, heavy rain. The cyclone continued but weakened as it passed the rugged terrain of the region. This cyclone is the first tropical cyclone in the northern hemisphere. This cyclone season usually leads up to the southwest monsoon.
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3. Wellington, New Zealand – Double trouble Cyclone Debbie and Cyclone Cook

Image of Cyclone Cook sweeping through the South Pacific before approaching New Zealand taken by NASA.
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April isn’t a particularly good month for New Zealand as it was first hit by Cyclone Debbie and then Cyclone Cook.

In the first week of April, the tail-end of Cyclone Debbie devastated the Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe, forcing its 2,000 residents to flee with only a few minutes’ warning. Although flooding eventually became less severe than anticipated, hundreds of trees have fallen, and police said many roads had been closed in the North Island. State of emergency was activated in Bay of Plenty and Thames-Coromandel, with the defence force assisting in moving residents to higher ground and keeping people away from the coast. Fortunately, there are no reported deaths due to Cyclone Debbie.

About a week later, New Zealand was hit by Cyclone Cook on April 13. It struck New Zealand with power outages, fallen trees and landslides reported around much of the central and eastern North Island, which bore the brunt of the storm. Forecasters feared that Cyclone Cook could be the worst storm to strike New Zealand since 1968. There is also no known deaths due to Cyclone Cook.
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4. Manila, Philippines – Earthquake Swarm

Image of a Filipino villager walking past a tilted shanty at a coastal village in the earthquake-hit town of Taal, Batangas province, Philippines taken by Francis R. Malasig.
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The Philippines was hit by an earthquake swarm, which is when a local area experiences sequences of many earthquakes striking in a relatively short period of time, on April 8.

Three quakes ranging in magnitude from 5.0 to 5.9 struck Batangas province, about 90 km (55 miles) south of Manila, around 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) over a period of about 20 minutes, said the U.S. Geological Survey. Hundreds of residents of coastal areas in a province south of the Philippine capital fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami on after a series of earthquakes on the main island of Luzon. However, the earthquake swarm was not powerful enough to cause a tsunami according to Head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Dr Renato Solidum.

While there were no reports of casualties, power was cut off in some in some areas and cracks were reported in homes and some commercial buildings. Landslides were also reported in some towns and a portion of a Catholic church tower that had collapsed.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. An earthquake of magnitude 7.7 killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon in 1990.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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THOUSANDS and thousands – from school children to retirees, even the Japanese prime minister and Malaysian Johor prince – paid their last respects in person to Mr S R Nathan yesterday (Aug 25) at Parliament House.

Mr Nathan, the Republic’s sixth president, died on Monday (Aug 22) after suffering a stroke. He was 92.

By 10pm, the total tally of visitors was more than 20,000, reported MSM.

Today (Aug 26), the state funeral procession will start from Parliament House at 2pm, and end at the National University of Singapore’s University Cultural Centre (UCC). The funeral service there will be held from 3pm to 5pm.

As we say goodbye to a former president, we also say hello to the Republic’s first driverless taxi.

Sounds impressive but the taxi (yes, just one taxi) travels to only one of 12 locations within one-north for now. Oh, and it’s only open to an invited group of about 10 people.

The company nuTonomy, founded by two researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), hopes to make the service commercially available in 2018.

In Italy, the death toll continues to climb with now close to 250 confirmed dead from an earthquake that struck the country’s central region on Wednesday (Aug 24).

Both the President and Prime Minister have written their Italian counterparts to express their condolences.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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MORE than 70 people are dead in two earthquakes that struck in central Italy and Myanmar yesterday (Aug 24). In Italy, the 6.2-magnitude quake was the strongest since 2009, during which more than 300 people in the city of L’Aquila were killed.

Hardest hit this time was the town of Amatrice, home of the popular pasta sauce amatriciana. Said its mayor: “Half the village has disappeared.”

In Myanmar, at least three people were killed by a separate quake incident which also damaged about 100 ancient Buddhist pagodas in Bagan. The former capital of Myanmar is also a major tourist site.

Meanwhile in India, heavy monsoon rains have caused the Ganges river to burst its banks, flooding villages and claiming at least 300 lives. About 6 million people have been affected after the floods destroyed power and phone lines, roads, crops and left villages submerged in water, officials said.

Closer to home, we’re worrying about deaths at work. Workplace fatality rate is expected to rise this year from 1.9 to 2.2 per 100,000 workers, with already 48 deaths recorded so far, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say at a workplace safety conference yesterday.

Most of the deaths were related to unsafe practices by workers and a lack of safety measures by companies.

Moving on to disease: A pre-school in Bukit Batok began screening its pupils and staff yesterday after a teacher was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) last week.

The Little Greenhouse located in Bukit Batok St 31 has 104 children – from 18 months to six years old. Screening began only yesterday because the assessment by Tan Tock Seng’s TB Control Unit took time, and permission was needed from the children’s parents, said an executive of the school’s parent company, Global EduHub.

From 10am to 10pm today, members of the public may pay their last respects to Mr S R Nathan at Parliament House, where his body will remain before the State Funeral tomorrow.

The funeral tomorrow will be held at the University Cultural Centre from 3pm to 5pm.

If you have time to read only one tribute to the former president today, make it the one by Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan, who spoke at his wake yesterday. Read it here.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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A man walks amidst rubble following an earthquake in Pescara del Tronto, central Italy, August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

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Featured image and video by REUTERS.

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Sign words of "Rice, Water, Preserved Food and HELP'" are written on the ground at a welfare center for the aged after an earthquake in Mifune town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo April 17, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. - RTX2AAWP

REUTERS

A MAGNITUDE 7.3 earthquake struck southern Japan early on Saturday (April 16), killing at least one person, injuring many more and bringing down buildings, local media reported, just over a day after a quake killed 9 people in the same region.

62,000 homes remain without electricity, Japanese media reported, and at least 11 people are still missing, 41 people dead, and hundreds wounded.

The authorities warned of damage over a wide area, as reports came in of people being trapped in collapsed buildings, fires, and power outages.

Residents living near a dam were told to leave because of fears it might crumble, broadcaster NHK said.

Saturday’s tremor triggered a tsunami advisory, although it was later lifted, and no irregularities were reported at three nuclear power plants in the area, a senior government official said.

People still reeling from Thursday’s shock poured onto the streets after the Saturday quake.

Kyodo news agency said one person was confirmed dead. NHK reported that nearly 400 people were being treated in hospitals, but that figure included “people who don’t feel well”, so it was not clear how many serious injuries there were.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arriving at his office, told reporters the government was making every effort to determine the extent of the damage, carry out rescue and recovery, and to get accurate information to citizens.

Local residents look at cracks caused by an earthquake on a road in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. - RTX2A6F8
Local residents look at cracks caused by an earthquake on a road in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan on April 16, 2016. (REUTERS/Kyodo)
A woman takes shelter after another earthquake hit the area at a hotel in Kumamoto, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2A5DR
A woman takes shelter after another earthquake hit the area at a hotel in Kumamoto, southern Japan. (REUTERS/Kyodo)
Landslide site caused by an earthquake is seen in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX2A6AX
Landslide site caused by an earthquake is seen in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan. (REUTERS/Kyodo)
Rescue workers conduct a search and rescue operation to a collapsed house at a landslide site caused by earthquakes in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. - RTX2A7C1
Rescue workers conduct a search and rescue operation to a collapsed house at a landslide site caused by earthquakes in Minamiaso town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan. (REUTERS/Kyodo)

 

Featured Image and Video by Reuters.

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Black clock showing 8.30

DID you feel it? The slight tremors that affected parts of Sengkang and Jurong around 8.50pm after Sumatra was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake last night (March 2). Residents said it lasted only a few seconds, but what a thrill/scare it must have been. No one was hurt and apparently early reports of deaths in Indonesia as a result of the earthquake were unfounded.

Did you hear it? The lone voice of Terry Xu, editor of The Online Citizen (TOC), fighting back against the Law Minister’s accusation in Parliament on Tuesday that the website had “planned, orchestrated a campaign using falsehoods” to make the police look bad in the suicide case of Benjamin Lim. Once the face of so-called alternative media in Singapore, TOC is now a one-man show. Read its statement here.

(BTW, if you’re curious about exactly what Mr K Shanmugam said about TOC, we have his notes exclusively here for you on our Facebook page.)

 

 

Did you think it was going to die down? Mr K Shanmugam’s lengthy speech in Parliament about Benjamin’s death might have been designed to set the record straight once and for all – but more questions have come up over the handling of the case. We discuss what exactly is sub judice and what it means for media coverage of ongoing court cases; if you knew that the minister was lecturing the president of the Law Society in his speech; and Bertha gives her thoughts on the rules of engagement in such situations.

Coming up today: Daniel’s take on why in silence, misinformation is king; and a column by our writer Brenda Tan, asking: More clarity, but where’s the compassion?

It’s not just us asking questions, of course. The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) yesterday issued a press statement asking why the minister had taken five weeks to address Benjamin’s death – when he was “very quick off the mark” about the death of a four-year-old boy in his constituency who fell through a window that had no grilles installed. The opposition party said it did not “make sense” that the minister said he had refrained from commenting on the case out of respect for Benjamin’s family.

Speaking of the boy’s family, his father has come out to rebut the school’s claim that a phone call was made to Benjamin’s mother to discuss the boy’s well-being, reported TODAY. “He merely informed her that the school had a meeting, and Benjamin will be excluded from the camp. Before the mother can ask any further questions, (he hung up),” the father said.

 

 

Featured image by Chong Yew

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GOOD morning!

An earthquake in Southern Taiwan near the city of Tainan, which caused a 16-storey apartment building to collapse, has killed at least 14 people. Buildings in other parts of the city had also collapsed or were left tilting in dangerous angles. Probes will be launched to determine the construction and engineering companies responsible, though it was reported that many of them have already closed down. Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said there are no reports from Taiwanese authorities of Singaporean casualties, while assistance by the Singapore Civil Defence Force as well as the Singapore Armed Forces has been offered by Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam and Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen respectively.

With many families returning to celebrate the Chinese New Year, there are fears of higher casualties, and rescue efforts are still underway. Besides also offering Singapore’s support and help, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong added that “My thoughts are with the affected families. It must be especially difficult with the New Year approaching and everyone looking forward to the celebrations.”

The prime minister, closer to home in his traditional Chinese New Year message, outlined challenges in the global economy as well as the implications for Singapore: the slowdown of the Chinese economy (affecting stock markets and business sentiments), slowdowns in global demand (reducing demand for exports), and the slow growth of local employment. “We should take these ups and downs in our stride. We still enjoy full employment, and there are still opportunities to be seized, in Singapore and in the region,” Mr Lee said, and while there are uncertainties he reassured Singaporeans that a repeat of the severe downturn during 2008 global financial crisis is unlikely.

He also highlighted the 33,800 Singaporean babies born last year, the highest number in 13 years, and marginally higher than the 33,238 born during the last Dragon Year in 2012.

Individuals the ST spoke to credited the SG50 celebrations as well as the enhanced Marriage and Parenthood incentives and measures, though it is not clear whether the momentum can be sustained. In his speech the prime minister reaffirmed the government’s support of Singaporeans through the responsibilities and joys of parenthood, and – in a Facebook post – Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo mooted the possibility of making a second week of paternity leave compulsory.

And finally, the death of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim – after he was picked up by the police from school, before he was arrested for allegedly molesting an 11-year-old girl – has continued to raised questions about the role of schools during these investigations, and about the presence of a third party during police questioning. An online petition to the Singapore Police Force, calling for minors to be protected during investigations in Singapore, has also received over 1,000 signatures.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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