News11 March 2011 Last updated at 22:24 GMT
Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east


Japan's most powerful earthquake since records began has struck the north-east coast, triggering a massive tsunami. Cars, ships and buildings were swept away by a wall of water after the 8.9-magnitude tremor, which struck about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo. A state of emergency has been declared at a nuclear power plant, where pressure has exceeded normal levels. Officials say 350 people are dead and about 500 missing, but it is feared the final death toll will be much higher. In one ward alone in Sendai, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, 200 to 300 bodies were found.


The quake was the fifth-largest in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one which devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, said scientists. Thousands of people living near the Fukushima nuclear power plant have been ordered to evacuate. Japanese nuclear officials said pressure inside a boiling water reactor at the plant was running much higher than normal after the cooling system failed. Officials said they might need to deliberately release some radioactive steam to relieve pressure, but that there would be no health risk. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier said the US Air Force had flown emergency coolant to the site. But US officials later said no coolant had been handed over because the Japanese had decided to handle the situation themselves.
The UN's nuclear agency said four nuclear power plants had shut down safely. Measured at 8.9 by the US Geological Survey, it struck at 1446 local time (0546 GMT) at a depth of about 24km.


The tsunami rolled across the Pacific at 800km/h (500mph) - as fast as a jetliner - before hitting Hawaii and the US West Coast, but there were no reports of major damage from those regions. Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate coastal areas in the states of California, Oregon and Washington.

The biggest waves of more than 6-7ft (about 2m) were recorded near California's Crescent City, said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. A tsunami warning extended across the Pacific to North and South America, where many other coastal regions were evacuated, but the alert was later lifted in most parts, including the Philippines, Australia and China.


Strong waves hit Japan's Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, damaging dozens of coastal communities. A 10m wave struck Sendai, deluging farmland and sweeping cars across the airport's runway. Fires broke out in the centre of the city.


  Japan's NHK television showed a massive surge of debris-filled water reaching far inland, consuming houses, cars and ships. Motorists could be seen trying to speed away from the wall of water. In other developments: Four trains are missing along the coast, says Japan Railways; and a ship carrying 100 people was swept away Fire has engulfed swathes of the coast in Miyagi prefecture's Kesennuma city, one-third of which is reportedly under water A major explosion hit a petrochemical plant in Sendai; further south a huge blaze swept an oil refinery in Ichihara city, Chiba prefecture Some 1,800 homes are reported to have been destroyed in the city of Minamisoma, Fukushima prefecture A dam burst in north-eastern Fukushima prefecture, sweeping away homes, Kyodo news agency reports
At least 20 people were injured in Tokyo when the roof of a hall collapsed on to a graduation ceremony In a televised address, Prime Minister Naoto Kan extended his sympathy to the victims of the disaster.

As aftershocks rattled the country, residents and workers in Tokyo rushed outside to gather in parks and open spaces. Many people in the Japanese capital said they had never felt such a powerful earthquake. In central Tokyo, a number of office workers are spending the night in their offices because the lifts have stopped working. "This is the kind of earthquake that hits once every 100 years," said restaurant worker Akira Tanaka. Train services were suspended, stranding millions of commuters in the Japanese capital.

About four million homes in and around Tokyo suffered power cuts.

NewsBy The Nation Published on April 5, 2011

Bt6.1bn relief fund as toll hits 51 dead, 29,000 ill



More evacuations as Nakhon Si Thammarat hill threatens to collapse: 41,000 out of their homes
The Cabinet yesterday approved a Bt6.1-billion relief fund for payments to flood victims and affected farmers, which will begin after next week's Songkran holiday break, deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut said.

Around Bt2.89 million will be spent in payments of Bt5,000 to each of 579,062 affected households, while another Bt3.23 billion will go to farmers and rubber planters. More than two million residents have been affected in flood-hit southern provinces. The number of deaths has reach 51 and more than 29,000 cases of illness have been reported. Meanwhile, evacuations will soon begin in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Nopphitam district, where one-kilometre-long cracks have been found on a hill located in Khao Luang National Park.

Park chief Charnchai Jornsamer said an unspecified but large number of residents living near the hill and in the vicinity of the national park should leave because San Khao Lek hill was in danger of collapsing if there was more torrential rain amounting to more than 100mm per day. He said San Khao Lek hill and sites of other possible landslides were under 24-hour surveillance through the Mineral Resources Department's Mr Warning system. However, flood levels in many provinces are now stable or beginning to subside and the Nakhon Si Thammarat airport reopened yesterday. Phetkasem Road, or Route 4 - the main thoroughfare in the South - is open to large vehicles such as buses and trucks, hopefully ensuring that there will be no shortages of goods for general consumers and relief supplies will reach badly affected areas. Train travel remains suspended south of Chumphon, especially in areas from Thung Song to Surat Thani, where railway tracks remain under flood water.

A Public Health Ministry update yesterday gave a death toll of 51 for people drowned or otherwise killed in the two-week flooding crisis. The ministry said 29,414 people had become sick, including 227 suffering from stress or requiring counselling. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn visited flooded locations in Tambon Krung Ching, in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Nopphitam district yesterday, according to Army commander General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who said Their Majesties the King and Queen and members of Royal family were concerned about the welfare of residents in the South and flood victims. PM's Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey said the heavy flooding had resulted in part from unauthorised rubber farming and illegal encroachment or establishments of resorts in forest areas. However, the main reason was excessive rainfall. His statement contradicted that of Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who dismissed unlawful misuse of land as a reason for the disaster.

"The average rainfall in certain areas is 1,000mm in an entire year, but the daily amount prior to the widespread flooding reached the same figure. The rain was non-stop in the first four days," Satit said. Special shelters for pregnant women and those with young babies are being set up in affected areas, he said, adding that a donation campaign specifically for powdered milk, diapers, baby clothes and sanitary nakpins would soon be launched.

The number of people affected by the floods, updated yesterday by the government's ad-hoc relief centre, has reached 2,009,134, from 581,085 households. Those evacuated number 40,981, including 35,651 in Surat Thani. Around one million rai of farmland is flooded and 20,000 crew members of fishing trawlers are affected.


News5 April 2011 Last updated at 03:22 GMT

Libya: Government says Libya needs Gaddafi in power



The Libyan government has said it is open to "any" political reform but Muammar Gaddafi must stay in power to avoid a new Iraq or Somalia.

A spokesman told Reuters that Colonel Gaddafi was a "unifying figure", and insisted his forces only targeted armed rebels, not civilians. The Libyan leader has reportedly appeared in public in Tripoli. Meanwhile, evacuees from the besieged city of Misrata accused pro-Gaddafi forces of atrocities against civilians. Fighting has continued in the east of the country where the rebels have been trying to regain ground lost in recent days, and coalition aircraft attacked military vehicles believed to belong to Col Gaddafi's forces.
The oil-rich country's vital coastal belt is effectively split between rebel forces in the east and government loyalists in Tripoli and the west, nearly two months after the revolt against Col Gaddafi's rule erupted. The son of Colonel Gaddafi has insisted that he and his father do not feel betrayed by the defection of the Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa who arrived in London last week. Saif al-Islam told the BBC that Mr Koussa had travelled to Britain for health reasons because he was an old and sick man and needed treatment.

'Elections, referenda, anything'
A Libyan government envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, is currently on a tour of European capitals aimed at resolving the conflict. Speaking in Tripoli, government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said Col Gaddafi was "a safety valve for the country to remain together".

Muammar Gaddafi has been in power since 1969


"The leader provides Libyan tribes and Libyan population of a unifying figure, as a unifying figure," he said. "Many Libyans, many Libyans want him to lead the process forward because they are scared if he is not there for any reason we will have what happened in Iraq, we will have what happened in Somalia, we will have what happened in Afghanistan."

Libya, the government spokesman said, was open to political reform - "elections, referenda, anything" - but "the leader has to lead this forward". Mr Ibrahim said it was not for the West to tell Libya "you have to lose your leader or your system or your regime". Denying government attacks on civilians, he challenged the outside world to investigate any alleged crimes. "We are fighting armed militias," he said. "You are not a civilian if you take up arms." Libyan state TV showed what appeared to be live footage of Col Gaddafi saluting supporters from a jeep outside his fortified compound at Bab al-Aziziya in Tripoli late on Monday. 'Corpses in the street'
On Sunday, a Turkish humanitarian ship carrying more than 250 injured people from Misrata, the only major city in western Libya still under rebel control, arrived in the rebel capital Benghazi. Speaking from Tunisia, other evacuees told Reuters that Gaddafi forces there had been "massacring" civilians.

"You have to visit Misrata to see the massacre by Gaddafi," said Omar Boubaker, a 40-year-old engineer with a bullet wound to the leg, brought to the Tunisian port of Sfax by a French aid group. "Corpses are in the street. Hospitals are overflowing." In the east, rebels were trying again on Monday to advance towards the oil town of Brega. The BBC's Wyre Davies, on the road close to Brega, said the rebels appeared to be more buoyant and organised than recently.

US jets attacked Libyan military vehicles near the cities of Sirte and Brega on Monday, US officials said. 


NewsBy SETH MYDANS Published: March 24, 2011

Earthquake Hits Myanmar



CHIANG RAI, Thailand A severe magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck a sparsely populated mountain area in the Golden Triangle region of northeastern Myanmar on Thursday, with tremors being felt over a wide radius.

News agencies reported Friday that as many as 50 people had been killed, a bridge was destroyed near the epicenter, homes were damaged in southern China and buildings shook as far away as Bangkok; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Yangon, Myanmar's largest city. Buildings were damaged near the epicenter in Myanmar's Shan State and villagers felt aftershocks for several hours, said an official with World Vision, a children's aid agency, in Myanmar. Reports of any damage and injuries, though, were slow to emerge overnight from the remote mountains and valleys. The area affected is landlocked, and no tsunami warning was issued. One woman was killed in this Thai border city, about 70 miles south of the epicenter, when a wall fell on her as she was sleeping, Thai television reported. Some people here said they were shaken from their beds or ran into the streets. One woman attending a funeral said she clung to a pole to stay upright. "I felt I was swaying like a child in a cradle," the woman, Nutpisut Thongkika, a 50-year-old teacher, said in a telephone interview from Chiang Rai. "The situation here was very chaotic when the earthquake hit."

Thai television said no serious damage was reported in Chiang Rai. Many tourists in nearby Chiangmai fled their hotels and remained for hours in the streets. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake was just six miles deep, meaning that severe shaking could have caused major damage to buildings in a wide area. It also reported a smaller quake, of 4.8 magnitude, about a half-hour later.


Buildings shook for more than a minute in China's nearby Yunnan Province and many residents fled their homes in Nanning City, the capital of Guangzi Autonomous Region, the Xinhua news agency reported. It said officials were investigating the extent of the damage. Another earthquake on March 10 in Yunnan Province in southwest China took 26 lives and destroyed a number of schools, Xinhua reported. The tremors Thursday caused panic in Hanoi, 380 miles to the east of the epicenter, where residents said they heard the shattering of windows, the Vietnam News Agency reported. Tall buildings shook and chandeliers swayed in Bangkok, 480 miles to the south.

Hours after the quake, people in villages near the epicenter remained in the streets afraid to return indoors, said Jenny McIntyre, communications manager in Yangon for World Vision, a children's aid agency."These are subsistence farmers, simple people who have got simple water systems which will potentially be threatened," she said, adding that the damaged bridge had cut off an area near the epicenter. She said she also felt the tremors in Yangon, 350 miles to the southwest. "I suddenly felt really sick and strange and I realized that everything was rocking and the lightshades were all rocking," she said.

Wongdeun Kongcharoen, 34, a hotel manager in Chiang Rai, said the earthquake cracked the walls of houses and scattered glassware and other belongings in all directions."People here are still nervous and staying outside," she said about two hours after the tremors. "We feel like the situation that happened in Japan. It was so scary."She said a Japanese friend told her the shaking was light compared to earthquakes in that country. "But this was the first time for us to experience a situation like this," Ms. Wongdeun said. "So that's why we were still outside and still scared."