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2 dead, 45 wounded in anti-government protests in Thailand

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 1 - 2013 1 COMMENT

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) — Two people have been killed and 45 others were wounded when clashes broke out during anti-government protests in Thailand’s capital, an official said.

Pornthep Saeheng, from the city’s Erawan emergency center, gave CNN the updated toll — which was double the number reported on Saturday, when the violence occurred.

At least one of those killed was a university student who was shot inside Ramkhmhaeng University, according to a spokesman for the center.

The incident occurred on the same day that 2,000 members of the armed forces were called in to protect government buildings after demonstrators stormed a number of them, according to Lt. Gen. Paradon Pattanathabut.

Saturday’s violence came after weeks of heightened tensions. On Friday, hundreds of protesters stormed army headquarters in Bangkok to demand help overthrowing the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Yingluck’s critics accuse her of being the puppet of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecommunications tycoon and former premier who was ousted in a 2006 coup. Yingluck denied that charge in an interview with CNN’s Anna Coren on Friday.

Yingluck survived a no-confidence vote in parliament Thursday.

“The government is ready to open a space for dialogue,” the embattled prime minister said in a brief televised statement after the vote. She added that officials were willing to “listen to all voices of people, including those who are still occupying the governmental offices.”

But a spokesman for Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party said she would not resign or dissolve the parliament.

“She will stay in power,” Prompong Nopparit said.

Thaksin was a polarizing figure who was removed from power by the military in 2006, while he was in New York. Except for a brief return in 2008, he has lived in exile since. Thai courts have convicted him of corruption and sentenced him in absentia to two years in prison.

Courts have also frozen billions of dollars of his assets, but he is believed to still have a great deal of money held elsewhere.

On Monday, protesters in Bangkok stormed the finance ministry building and converted it into a command center.

The protests started as a response to a government-backed amnesty bill that could have extended a pardon to Thaksin Shinawatra and opened the door for his return to Thailand.

The Thai senate rejected the bill on November 11, but opposition demonstrators have called since then for Yingluck’s government to be replaced.

At various points during the past few days, demonstrators have surrounded the foreign ministry, the agriculture ministry and the interior ministry.

Yingluck had said authorities will “absolutely not use violence” to disperse the demonstrators. But the situation is delicate after Thai police issued an arrest warrant against protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban.

On Thursday, protesters pulled down electricity wires to the National Police Headquarters.

The protests evoke the 2010 clashes in Bangkok between security forces and Thaksin supporters who demanded his return. Some 90 people, many of them civilians, were killed.

Typhoon Haiyan death toll jumps to 5,235 in Philippines

Posted by Rattana_S On November - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — The death toll from this month’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines has spiked to 5,235, a national agency reported early Saturday.

That figure — posted at 6 a.m. (5 p.m. ET Friday) on the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s website — marks a significant increase from counts earlier in the week. On Thursday, for instance, the toll stood at slightly more than 4,000.

The same agency also reported that 23,501 were injured due to the epic storm, with 1,613 reported missing. The missing amount is 31 higher than a day earlier.

The monster typhoon left behind a catastrophic scene after it made landfall on six Philippine islands on November 8, leaving many without immediate access to food and medical care.

It flattened some communities and displaced about 3 million people.

Russian jetliner crashes; 50 dead

Posted by Rattana_S On November - 18 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — A Russian jetliner crashed on landing in the city of Kazan, killing all 50 aboard, authorities there reported Sunday.

Tatarstan Airlines flight 363 carried 44 passengers and a crew of six, Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Rossius said. There were no survivors.

The dead included Lt. Gen. Alexander Antonov, the regional chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service, and Irek Minnikhanov, the son of Tatarstan regional President Rustam Minnikhanov, Russia’s state news service RIA Novosti reported.

The Boeing 737 took off from Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport, about 700 kilometers (450 miles) west of Kazan, Rossius said.

There was no immediate indication of the cause of the crash, which occurred about 7:25 p.m., the ministry said. Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee has launched an investigation, and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and Boeing are assisting.

Boeing said it “extends its deepest condolences to the families of those who perished.”

The jet was 23 years old and had been in service with at least eight airlines, including Air France, Uganda Airlines and Bulgaria Air, according to aviation industry websites.

In a November 2012 flight, it was forced to cut short a flight to Moscow and return to Kazan after losing cabin pressure, according to the website AeroInside.

Russia has tried to improve its checkered reputation for air safety in recent years.

In 2011, then-President Dmitry Medvedev grounded two classes of Soviet-era aircraft after a pair of crashes that killed more than 90 people, including a charter plane crash that killed an entire professional hockey team.

Medvedev said Russia would have to upgrade its aircraft fleet, step up safety standards and radically cut the number of airlines.

Tacloban, Philippines (CNN) — The official death toll in the Philippines in the wake Typhoon Haiyan rose to 3,621 Friday, according to national disaster agency spokesman Eduardo del Rosario.

The toll of those injured stood at 3,850. At least 77 people are reported missing in the wake of the storm that ripped up a group of the nation’s islands with winds more than three times stronger than those of Hurricane Katrina.

The fright-filled scramble to survive the storm’s fury, to keep heads above the wall of ocean waves it drove, has faded away with Typhoon Haiyan’s winds.

But now, a week later, sickness, hunger and thirst have settled in with the sticky, humid heat and stench of rancid flesh hanging over the apocalypse the cyclone left behind.

Traumatized survivors under improvised shelters watch over bodies of husbands, wives and children who perished and are rotting in the sun.

More bodies keep emerging from under the rubble, as the cadaver collectors’ cohorts in debris-removal crews uncover them while they heave away wreckage from the roads.

Juvelyn Taniega tried to keep busy. She collected old dishes and cleaned them up, crouching on the ground near the spot where her home once stood and the place where she last saw her husband and six children alive.

She’s found the bodies of three of her children, but three of them are still missing. In days, she said, no one has come to help.

“My children are decomposing,” she said.

There are many like her, looking in disbelief over fields miles long of crushed wood and stone that once stood as houses, wondering if her missing loved ones are buried in them.

But the bodies that Haiyan had flung everywhere are becoming a scarcer sight, as cadaver crews pull up in trucks to collect them for mass burial in nameless graves.

Officially, 801 bodies have been counted in Tacloban by Friday morning, but thousands are feared dead here.

Whole neighborhoods were swept out to sea.

Wandering children

In Tacloban, children have stayed children in spite of the wretchedness around them left behind when one of the strongest storms on record roared over the Philippines a week ago.

They wandered the streets Friday, satisfying their curiosity. Parents were often nowhere in sight — if they are even still alive.

Children are most vulnerable, UNICEF spokesman Kent Page told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. It’s hard to keep them safe, and to give them so much that they desperately need.

“Health, nutrition, getting them clean water, good sanitation, protection, and we have to consider education also,” Kent says.

“Schools have been wiped out and getting kids into child friendly spaces, where they can feel protected, where they can get a chance to play, where they can get a sense of normalcy back in their life after going through such a devastating experience is very important.”

Many families are getting their children out of town. Their mothers are evacuating them, while their fathers are staying behind to sort through the remains of their destroyed lives, Tacloban’s mayor Alfred Romualdez said.

He advises other families to follow their example.

As many mouths as possible should be fed elsewhere, where there is more food and water, and children need to be in safety.

Turning a corner?

Major streets have freed up in Tacloban, once home to 220,000 people, but the hum of delivery trucks ferrying out aid is conspicuously missing. The fields of rubble have become a ghost town.

Many of the city’s haggard survivors have concentrated at the airport.

A line of people eager to catch a flight out of the tragedy snaked around it.

As naval ships pushed up on beaches like gray whales and drop their loading bay gates, people carrying over their shoulders whatever possessions they could rescue, strode into the bellies of the arks taking them to safer ground.

At the convention center, the hungry stood for hours in the sun in long lines awaiting the next load of food and bottled water landing in bulk pallets from around the world.

Some are there, because they have nowhere else to go.

“We really don’t know what we’re going to do next,” said 30-year-old May May Gula, whose family a sharies what was left of a room on the convention center’s ground floor with eight more families.

Reaching all the victims and assisting the survivors — including more than 2 million people in need of food, according to the Philippines government — are both priorities now.

Romualdez feels like his town is turning its first corner towards recovery. The mayor compares Tacloban to boxer who was knocked out.

After lying on the mat for a long time, it is just now coming to and trying to get back on its feet.

The relief efforts took a lunge forward Thursday, when the USS George Washington, an aircraft carrier teeming with 5,500 crew, pulled into Philippine waters.

It’s accompanied by eight more ships that, together, have 80 aircraft, including 21 helicopters that can deliver supplies to inland villages where roads have been obliterated and eyeball pockets of people in despair from above.

Endless debris keeps them locked in with their misery and slows down aid from reaching them.

Irony of fate

Some typically called upon to help need help themselves.

Ryan Cardenas has helped with recovery efforts in the Philippine Navy after two cyclones in the past two years that left hundreds dead.

But when Haiyan slammed into the Tacloban naval station where he’s based, he and other sailors clung to rafters in their barracks.

Their commanding officer, who was in a separate building almost demolished by the storm, stayed alive by clutching a palm tree’s trunk.

Afterward, sailors helped retrieve some bodies, according to Cardenas. One found his mother sitting dead against a wall.

Now, they’re sorting through the wreckage of the naval station and awaiting orders.

“This is the worst,” Cardenas said, taking a break from fixing a piece of damaged furniture. “We’re both victims and rescuers.”

Concerns of violence

There have been reports of the threat of violence by groups looking to steal relief aid, but the U.S. military has said that violent crime is less of a problem than the debris blocking roads to those who need aid the most.

A Philippines senator said she’s learned of reports of rapes and other crimes against women, some allegedly perpetrated by convicts who escaped prison in the typhoon’s aftermath, the state-run Philippines News Agency reported.

Sen. Nancy Binay particularly expressed alarm after women said on TV that the situation had become worse, with assailants going so far as to break into people’s homes.

Someone to live for

Jericho, a boy whose mother, aunt and nine cousins were killed in the storm in Tacloban, tells his father he wants to leave the city on one of the planes he’s seen flying overhead.

His father tells him they have to stay.

“We have no money,” he says. “Just each other.”

Another man whose wife and child died said he can’t stop thinking of seeing his family drown in the storm.

“The first one that I saw was my youngest,” he said. “She fainted, and then she drowned. The water was so fast. And then my wife, when I tried to grab her, I missed her. Then she drowned, and then I never saw her again.”

Over the past week, he admits he’s often thought of killing himself.

But he hasn’t, he said, because he still has one child who needs him.