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Death toll from Indonesia’s quakes, tsunami soars to 832

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Indonesia Earthquake

Jakarta, Sep 30 (IANS) The death toll from Indonesia’s strong quakes and tsunami in Central Sulawesi province soared to 832 on Sunday as lack of rescuers and vast stretches of land hard to access hampered search and rescue efforts, a government official said here.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the toll could rise into the thousands as the death figure now came mainly from the capital city of Palu while the situation in the other two densely populated districts remained unclear as they were cut off from communications and help, Xinhua news agency reports.

Among the death figures, 821 were recorded in Palu, the provincial capital, and the rest in Donggala district, while figures in two other affected districts, Parigi Moutong and North Mamuju, were not included, the National Disaster Management Agency’s Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

“Besides, there are still many bodies who have not been identified. The victims remain under rubble or flattened buildings. Their number is still a lot. Many areas have not been reached. So that the number of victims is likely to increase,” Sutopo told a press conference.

The catastrophe has also seriously injured 540 people and forced 16,732 people to flee homes, the spokesman said.

“Most victims were hit by rubble or falling blocks of concrete and waves of tsunami,” he said.

Strong and shallow under-earth quakes of 6.0-, 7.4- and 6.1-magnitude that triggered a tsunami have devastated the province, with the hardest-hit area in Palu, the provincial capital and Donggala district.

The tsunami, with a height of 0.5 to 3 meters, devastated coastal areas near Talisa beach in Palu city and Donggala district, the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said.

A mass funeral was held on Sunday for those who lost their lives, Sutopo said.

Sutopo said the search and rescue operation had been hampered by electricity outage, cut-off communications and limited number of heavy machinery equipment.

“The number of machinery devices operating is too little compared with the scale of the damage, the number is not sufficient. Sending the heavy machinery equipment from outside to the province is also facing obstacles. The affected territory is large,” he said.

Communications were only in service in Palu city, the spokesman said.

President Joko Widodo visited a housing complex in Palu flattened in the quake and called for patience.

“I know there are many problems that need to be solved in a short time, including communications,” he said, adding the ruins would be rebuilt.

The focus of the search and rescue operation now is to retrieve victims from under the rubble of Roa Roa hotel in Palu, which has been levelled. About 60 people were estimated to be inside the building when the quake hit, said Sutopo.

The heads of the three districts have been encouraged to declare a emergency status, the spokesman said.

Search efforts were also being undertaken in the ruins of Ramayana Hotel, Dunia Baru Restaurant and wreckage of houses and buildings in coastal areas near Talisa beach which was hit by the tsunami, he said.

Meanwhile, a total of 61 foreign nationals were affected during the disasters, including 21 Chinese citizens who have been secured safely along with those from Singapore, Belgium, Germany and Vietnam, said Sutopo.

But the fate of one South Korean citizen, one Malaysian and three French citizens remained unknown, he said, adding the South Korean might have been trapped in Roa Roa Hotel.

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Israel reports 2,445 new Covid-19 cases; 193,374 in total

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israel coronavirus

Jerusalem, Sep 23 : Israel’s Ministry of Health reported 2,445 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 193,374.

The total count of deaths from the coronavirus in Israel rose by 12 to 1,285, while the number of patients in serious condition rose from 653 to 668, out of 1,352 patients currently hospitalised, Xinhua news agency reported.

The number of recoveries in the country increased by 3,971 to 140,751, while the number of active Covid-19 cases stood at 51,338.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli government approved a plan to expand the national economic safety net to deal with the pandemic’s impact.

“Expanding the plan will enable immediate economic assistance for businesses and wage-earners who are expected to be hurt by the current Covid-19 nationwide lockdown,” said a joint statement by the Prime Minister’s Office and Finance Ministry.

The expansion includes the lowering of damage threshold for businesses to receive fixed expenditure grants to 25 per cent, providing advances against the fixed expenditure grants, a comprehensive worker retention plan, and deferring the reduction in unemployment benefits.

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United States Covid deaths top 200,000 as questions linger over halting virus spread

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Coronavirus Death US

The US death toll from the coronavirus exceeded 200,000, as some guidelines and practices for stopping the disease’s spread have been called into question.

While the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University indicated that 52,000 new cases had been reported on Monday, some 21,800 of those new cases came from the release of backlogged data in Texas.

The US logged 36,695 new cases on Sunday, Johns Hopkins reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused uncertainty Monday when it removed from its website newly posted guidelines saying the coronavirus could be transmitted by tiny particles that linger in the air.

The agency said a draft version of proposed changes was posted in error.

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China turned 500K rural Tibetans into ‘branded coercive labourers’

China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural laborers off the land and into recently built military-style training centers where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labour.

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textile manufacturing China

Beijing: Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural laborers within Tibet and to other parts of China, according to over a hundred state media reports, policy documents from government bureaus in Tibet and procurement requests released between 2016-2020 and reviewed by Reuters. The quota effort marks a rapid expansion of an initiative designed to provide loyal workers for Chinese industry.

A notice posted to the website of Tibet’s regional government website last month said over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred into jobs within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low paid work, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture.

“This is now, in my opinion, the strongest, most clear and targeted attack on traditional Tibetan livelihoods that we have seen almost since the Cultural Revolution” of 1966 to 1976, said Adrian Zenz, an independent Tibet and Xinjiang researcher, who compiled the core findings about the program. These are detailed in a report released this week by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based institute that focuses on policy issues of strategic importance to the U.S. “It’s a coercive lifestyle change from nomadism and farming to wage labour.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly denied the involvement of forced labor, and said China is a country with rule of law and that workers are voluntary and properly compensated.

“What these people with ulterior motives are calling ‘forced labor’ simply does not exist. We hope the international community will distinguish right from wrong, respect facts, and not be fooled by lies,” it said.

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