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Typhoon Vamco Kills 67 In Philippines, Now Rolling To Vietnam

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For those living in landlocked countries especially in Africa may never understand the dangers of living in countries that kiss the sea. The sea can turn deadly when wind and the high waters disagree.

Several kilometers away, Typhoon Vamco has thrashed into Thailand killing nearly 67 people in a single hit while displacing millions. This makes it country’s deadliest storm this year.

Philippines coast guard and disaster agencies scrambled on Saturday to rescue thousands in a northern province after the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday and early Thursday. On Sunday, 21 people were injured and 12 were missing.

More than 25,000 houses have been damaged and $9.7 million (469.7 million Philippine peso) worth of infrastructure has been destroyed, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Mark Timbal said Sunday.

Another $24.7 million worth of agriculture has been damaged by the flooding and landslides caused by heavy rainfall and strong winds brought by Typhoon Vamco.

In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, houses are submerged in flooded areas in Cagayan valley region, northern Philippines on Friday Nov. 13, 2020. Thick mud and debris coated many villages around the Philippine capital Friday after Typhoon Vamco caused extensive flooding that sent residents fleeing to their roofs and killing dozens of people. (Philippine Coast Guard via AP)

The storm is now reportedly speeding to Vietnam with wind speed of up to 150 kph (93 mph), Vamco hit Vietnam’s coast roughly 100km (62 miles) northwest of Da Nang Sunday local time.

“This is a very strong typhoon,” said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, before the storm hit as he warned provinces in Vamco’s projected path to prepare for its impact.

The provinces planned to evacuate 468,000 people by the end of Saturday, according to state media citing the government’s disaster management authority.

Residents affected by floods from Typhoon Vamco are rescued on a boat, at Marikina, Metro Manila, Philippines, November 12, 2020. 

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. Vamco is the 13th storm to hit the Southeast Asian country this year, where more than 160 people have been killed in natural disasters triggered by a series of storms since early October.

“There has been no respite for more than eight million people living in central Vietnam,” said Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu, president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society. “Each time they start rebuilding their lives and livelihoods, they are pummeled by yet another storm.”

 

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Asia

North and South Korea Restore Cross-border Communications

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In a surprise announcement, North and South Korea said Tuesday that they had restored previously severed cross-border communications, a move that could bolster prospects for stalled nuclear diplomacy.

The development comes more than a year after Pyongyang blew up ties — and an inter-Korean building that had been symbolic of the relationship.

The two Koreas, which remain technically in a state of war, said that the decision to restore links had come after a series of personal letters were exchanged by their leaders, starting in April, in an attempt to shore up ties.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a statement that the two sides had reopened all inter-Korean communication lines as of 10 a.m. Tuesday.

“The top leaders of the north and the south agreed to make a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation by restoring the cutoff inter-Korean communication liaison lines through the recent several exchanges of personal letters,” the agency said.

“The restoration of the communication liaison lines will have positive effects on the improvement and development of the north-south relations,” it added.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office also noted that the two sides had exchanged personal letters, and characterized the moves as a first step toward improving ties.

Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have held three summits, though inter-Korean relations were essentially cut off in June last year after the North unilaterally ended all official military and political communication links with the South.

The North Korean regime had cited Seoul’s alleged failure to crack down on activists who had used balloons to float anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

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Asia

Myanmar’s Ethnic Shanni Military Leader Assassinated

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Major General Sao Khun Kyaw, the second-in-command of the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) has succumbed to gunshot wounds after an assassin shot him at close range.

Colonel Hsur Sai Tun said Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw, an ethnic Shanni from Mohnyin Township in Kachin State died on Thursday.

“His security team was attacked and then he was shot by the assassin. Only he was killed and one of our other members was injured. We killed the assassin.

“There was no personal grudge, he was killed by Myanmar’s army,” he said, declining to comment on evidence of the assassin’s links to the junta.

The spokesman said the group is still investigating the assassination.

Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw joined the armed struggle following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and moved to Kachin Independence Army territory.

He was appointed vice-chairman of the northern section of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, responsible for military affairs.

Major General Sao Khun Kyaw, widely known as Yebaw Than Chaung, deputy leader of the Shanni Nationalities Army

He was accused of being the key perpetrator of the 1992 killing of students in the front’s Pajaung camp, where 35 of 106 detained front members were executed between August 1991 and May 1992, accused of being government spies.

Some died during torture and others were summarily executed, including 15 suspects on Feb. 12, 1992.

Extensive torture and extrajudicial killings followed as leaders of the northern wing of the student army formed after the 1988 crackdown attempted to extract confessions from detainees.

Sao Khun Kyaw then left the front and joined the Restoration Council of Shan State, which was formed in 1999.

He worked as a central committee member in the armed group and was promoted to colonel.

In 2006, he was arrested by Myanmar’s military in Nam Kham Township, northern Shan State, on his way to Kachin State to join the SNA. Sao Khun Kyaw was given four death sentences.

He was released from prison, among many prisoners during the April 2018 presidential pardon, and returned to the SNA as the armed group’s deputy.

The SNA said it was formed in 1989 to fight for political equality, self-determination for the ethnic Shanni community and to establish a Shanni state.

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Asia

Suicide Bombers Blow up Church in Indonesia

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An explosion shook a Roman Catholic cathedral compound in the eastern Indonesian city of Makassar on Sunday morning, shattering the calm of Palm Sunday, a holy day for Christians.

The blast took place around 10:20 a.m. at the gate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral compound, said Inspector General Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono, the Indonesian National Police spokesman.

No churchgoers were killed, but at least 14 people were being treated for injuries at Makassar hospitals, Mr. Argo said.

Local police had previously said the bomber had acted alone.

Authorities were looking into which radical networks the bombers came from and whether the attack was linked to recent arrests of suspected militants, national police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

In January, a counter-terrorism unit raided a militant hideout in Makassar and killed two men suspected by police of involvement in twin bombings at a Philippine church in 2019 that killed more than 20 people.

Father Wilhemus Tulak, a priest at the church, told Indonesian media that a suspected bomber tried to enter the church grounds on a motorbike, but had been stopped by a security guard.

Police did not say who might be responsible for the attack and there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police blamed the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah group for suicide attacks in 2018 on churches and a police post in the city of Surabaya that killed over 30 people.

Boy Rafli Amar, the head of the country’s National Counterterrorism Agency, described Sunday’s attack as an act of terrorism.

Makassar Mayor Danny Pomanto said the blast could have caused far more casualties if it had taken place at the church’s main gate instead of a side entrance.

Makassar, Sulawesi’s biggest city, reflects the religious makeup of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country with a substantial Christian minority and followers of other religions.

“Whatever the motive is, this act isn’t justified by any religion because it harms not just one person but others, too,” Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, said in a statement.

Gomar Gultom, head of the Indonesian Council of Churches, described the attack as a “cruel incident” as Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, and urged people to remain calm and trust the authorities.

Indonesia’s deadliest Islamist militant attack took place on the tourist island of Bali in 2002, when bombers killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

In subsequent years, security forces in Indonesia scored some major successes in tackling militancy, but more recently there has been a resurgence of militant violence.

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