Search continues for Philippines earthquake victims

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
October 16, 2013

Rescuers in the Philippines continue search for survivors of Tuesday’s earthquake, China sends riot police to stop flood victims from protesting, and Russian opposition leader Navalny’s sentence is suspended. Today is Wednesday, October 16, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Vendors and shoppers run to safety after an earthquake hit Mandaue town in Cebu City, central Philippines, October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Philippines death toll rises. Rescue workers search through the remains of buildings destroyed by the 7.2 earthquake that killed at least 144 people and injured 300 when it hit the Philippines yesterday. Roughly 3 million people were affected by the disaster, which damaged roads, bridges, and ancient churches in the Bohol and Cebu islands, and has caused more than 840 aftershocks. Officials fear more bad news:

“I think this is a growing number,” Loon mayor Lloyd Lopez told Philippine radio. “Yesterday, we had a partial communications block-out.” “We have not reached all barangays, many are cut off, the roads are blocked by big boulders,” Lopez said, referring to villages. Mobile phone links from the country’s main provider had been restored but a rival provider still had to fix some of its damaged equipment, a state telecommunications official said. Many of the millions hit by the quake spent the night outdoors, including patients at some hospitals, because of aftershocks.

The government declared a state of calamity in Bohol and Cebu, triggering a price freeze in the areas. Philippine President Benigno Aquino said anyone attempting to profit off the tragedy will be penalized. View images of the aftermath here. A separate disaster rocked Japan today in the form of Typhoon Wipha, which killed 17 people but largely avoided the capital and problematic Fukushima nuclear plant:

More than 50 people were missing after the “once in a decade” Typhoon Wipha roared up Japan’s east coast. About 20,000 people were told to leave their homes because of the danger of flooding and hundreds of flights were canceled…. Television footage showed roads clogged with wreckage and houses with gaping holes smashed into them. “I heard a crackling sound and then the trees on the hillside all fell over,” a woman on Izu Oshima told NHK television.

Typhoon Wipha was the strongest storm to hit the area since October 2004, when a cyclone killed nearly 100 people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

A man paddles a raft amidst a flooded street as residents are seen atop a partially submerged building in Yuyao, Zhejiang province, October 10, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

Protest police. Chinese authorities send riot police to Yuyao city to prevent a second day of anti-government protests which pitted thousands of flood victims against security forces:

On Tuesday, residents of Yuyao city massed in front of the local government headquarters, denouncing what they decried as inadequate relief efforts and demanding the local Communist Party secretary and mayor step down. Accounts on microblogs, supported by photographs posted on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, said they vandalized the government building, using metal tools to pry loose and remove the party slogan “Serve the people” mounted at the entrance. Photographs showed several residents bleeding from the head.

According to state media, more than 70 percent of Yuyao was flooded by the heaviest rainfalls in a century after typhoon Fitow hit eastern China. Senior party official for Zhejiang province Cai Qi used social media to praise the government reaction to the tragedy, saying “the leaders and cadres of all levels in Yuyao city have done everything possible for the typhoon relief efforts.” Citizen may fear disputing an official’s stance, especially following a September ruling that said bloggers could be prosecuted for disseminating rumors.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny (2nd R), his co-defendant Pyotr Ofitserov (L) and their lawyers react after the announcement of the verdict at a court building in Kirov, October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Navalny walks. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is freed from court after his five-year sentence for theft was suspended, but with a significant caveat:

The conviction, however, will prevent Alexei Navalny, borne to prominence nearly two years ago by the biggest protests of Putin’s 13-year rule, from seeking elected office for several years. He said he would appeal. “It’s clear for me that the authorities are trying by all means to hound me out of politics, coming up with some restrictions and fabricated cases,” Navalny, 37, said after embracing his wife following a tense three-hour hearing. “One thing is for sure, they will not succeed in pushing me and my allies out of political life,” said Navalny, who posted a strong second-place showing against a Putin ally in a Moscow mayoral election last month.

The Kremlin denied involvement in the court’s decision, but analysts suspect that the ruling is a way for Russia’s government to nullify any political threat posed by Navalny without making him a martyr.

Nota Bene: Iran offers concessions during Geneva nuclear talks.

Standouts:

Frenemies - Obama’s biggest Iranian challenge may come from his allies. (Reuters)

Marsupial medicine - An injured kangaroo pays a visit to the pharmacy in an Australian airport. (The Telegraph)

Price of civility - Madrid residents may be fined for beating carpets in the street. (The Atlantic Cities)

“American arrogance” - World looks on as U.S. government heads toward possible default. (New York Times)

Media culpa - Chinese viewers mock U.S. TV show’s depiction of the one-child policy. (Foreign Policy)

From the File:

  • Italian Rabbi praises protest of Nazi war criminal’s burial.
  • Plane crash in Laos reportedly kills 39 people.
  • Minibus blast kills 21 in Southern Syria, according to activists.
  • New Czech government could see hostility in rust belt.
  • EU accuses Turkey of using excessive force during protests.
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