– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: An air strike killed at least 40 people at a camp for displaced people in north Yemen on Monday, humanitarian workers said, in an attack which apparently targeted nearby Houthi fighters who are battling President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Yemen’s state news agency Saba, which is under the control of the Houthis, said the camp at Haradh was hit by Saudi planes. It said the dead included women and children, and showed the bodies of five children laid out on a blood-streaked floor.
A Saudi military spokesman said the kingdom was seeking clarification on the incident.
“It could have been that the fighter jets replied to fire, and we cannot confirm that it was a refugee camp,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said.
“We will ask the Yemeni official agencies to confirm that,” he told reporters.
Hadi’s Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin earlier blamed Houthi artillery for the explosion.
The International Organisation for Migration, which initially reported 45 deaths, said 40 people were killed and 200 wounded – dozens of them severely.
A humanitarian worker said earlier that the strike hit a truck of Houthi militiamen at the gate to the Mazraq camp, near Haradh, killing residents, guards and fighters.
The medical aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres said at least 34 wounded people were brought to a hospital in Haradh which it supports. Another 29 were dead on arrival.
“People in Al Mazraq camp have been living in very harsh conditions … and now they have suffered the consequences of an air strike on the camp,” said Pablo Marco, MSF operational manager for Yemen.
Mazraq, in the province of Hajja next to the Saudi border, is a cluster of camps that are home to thousands of Yemenis displaced by over a decade of wars between the Houthis and the Yemeni state, as well as East African migrants.
Saudi Arabia, supported by regional Sunni Muslim allies, launched an air campaign to support Hadi after he withdrew last month from the capital to Aden. He left Yemen on Thursday to attend an Arab summit and has not returned.
The fighting has brought civil war to the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. Sunni Muslim tribesmen allied with Hadi are battling northern Zaydi Shi’ites backed by soldiers loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after 2011 mass protests against his 33 years in office.
Yemen was already sliding into chaos with a growing southern secessionist movement and a covert U.S. drone campaign – now stalled – against al Qaeda in the east.
The growing power of the Houthis, part of a Shi’ite minority that makes up about 20 percent of the country’s 25 million people, also means Yemen has become the latest stage for Saudi Arabia’s power struggle with Iran.
The two regional rivals support opposing sides in Syria’s civil war and in neighbouring Lebanon. Tehran also supports and arms Shi’ite militias in Iraq, although it denies Riyadh’s accusations that it supports Yemen’s Houthis militarily.
WARSHIPS FIRE ON HOUTHIS
In the capital Sanaa, controlled by the Houthis, jets struck around the presidential palace overnight and made more raids throughout the day. Most of the air strikes, launched on Thursday, have taken place so far only at night.
In the south, Houthi fighters closed in on the port city of Aden, the last major stronghold of Hadi supporters, and residents said warships believed to be Egyptian shelled a column of Houthis advancing along the coastal road.
It was the first known report of naval forces taking part in the conflict. A Reuters reporter heard heavy explosions and saw a thick column of black smoke rising from the area about 15 km northeast of Aden, apparently after air strikes.
Saudi-led war planes also shook buildings in Aden’s Khor Maksar district when they fired at least one missile at the airport, where Houthi-allied fighters are based, residents said. A stray shell killed at least three people on a mini-bus in the same area, local fighters said.
A Hadi aide told the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV that Houthi fighters also shelled the president’s private residence in Khor Maksar killing a number of guards.
While Hadi’s fighters ceded ground around Aden, Pakistan announced it would send troops to support the Saudi-led coalition.
“We have already pledged full support to Saudi Arabia in its operation against rebels and will join the coalition,” a Pakistani official said.
In a cabinet statement, Saudi King Salman said Riyadh was open to a meeting of all Yemeni factions willing to preserve Yemen’s security, under the auspices of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Arab leaders agreed at their meeting in Egypt to form a unified military force to counter growing regional security threats such as the Yemen conflict.
But working out the logistics of the force will be a protracted process and Yemen’s rugged geography, internal power struggles and recent history all present challenges to any military campaign.
Just four years after the 1990 unification of North and South Yemen, civil war erupted when southerners tried to break away, but were defeated by Saleh’s northern forces.
In the 1960s, intervention by Saudi Arabia and Egypt on opposing sides of a civil war in North Yemen led to a long and damaging military stalemate.
Saudi Arabia says it is focusing for now on air strikes against the Houthis, rather than a ground campaign, promising to increase pressure on them over coming days.
On Sunday, sources said Yemeni exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) were running as normal despite the shutdown of major seaports. But French oil firm Total said on Monday operations at its Block 10 had been reduced, with gas production maintained only for local power generation and to supply nearby areas.
Several countries have evacuated citizens from Yemen in recent days. About 500 Pakistani nationals were flown out of the Red Sea port of Hodeida on Sunday, and India said on Monday it was preparing to fly out 500 people from Sanaa.
— Phuket Gazette Editors
Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home
PHOTO: Lost In Space? Or lost in reality? Maybe someone will fall for it – Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2
The Nigerians have somewhat of a reputation for scams and scammers. Who hasn’t received an email offering loads of cash in return for your bank account and a moderate deposit? But this letter takes the famous Nigerian Scam to another level. Or perhaps it’s true (we don’t think so…)?
Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde – Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555, Misau Street, PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA
Dear Mr. Sir,
REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL
I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.
In the 14 years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.
Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.
Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.
Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.
Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.
Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis
Thousands of rescue workers are searching for survivors from the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm slammed into Japan. As of the time of this post, the storm had killed at least 35 people.
(Video from Sky News below…)
Hagibis crashed into the country Saturday evening, but brought hours of torrential rains before it made landfall, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.
More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night searching for people trapped by the disaster. Local media report at least 35 people have been killed, with the Kyodo news agency reporting nearly 20 people were missing. Government figures from Sunday night were lower, though updates were expected throughout today.
While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.
In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.
The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the “Brave Blossoms”, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.
Rescue efforts have been continuing this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.
The death toll mounted throughout yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.
The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.
As of this morning, some 57,500 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.
But most subway trains have resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse PHOTOS: AFP
Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia
From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.
Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.
Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.
A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.
“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”
And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.
“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.
The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.
While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.
Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.
But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.
There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.
“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.
As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.
“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”
Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.
And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.
“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.
Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.
But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.
“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
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