Huge fire rages through shanty town leaving 15,000 people homeless


From NYT

Last Week, 7th of February there was a huge fire in Shanty town, near the docks of Manila, burning the whole slum area which left more than 15000 people homeless, said Philippine capital said last Wednesday.

The blaze started 9:38 p.m. on Tuesday night in Area B, Gate 7 of the Shanty town, according to Senior Superintendent Wilberto Tiu, chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), National Capital Region. Fire authorities said the flames spread quickly as houses in the area are made of light materials, making them incredibly flammable. Superintendent Tiu said that 90 firetrucks were deployed to put out the fire.

Seven people were injured, more than 1000 makeshift houses were burnt and fortunately no casualties were reported. Three evacuation centres were opened, and food and water were provided to the 3,000 families who lost their homes, said Philippine social welfare officer Regina Jane Mata.

The BFP says that the cause of the fire is still unknown. However, the investigation team suggests that the cause might be a faulty electricity wiring or an unattended gas stove, as reported in The Telegraph. Recently a Inquirer published that the fire appeared to have been caused by a candle left unattended inside a house of a Parola Compound resident known only as Andang.
A victim named Edna Purios explained the fire spread so quickly her family fled without their belongings. Purios, who lived with six of her children and three grandchildren, said the local government should help the community rebuild. “Our only wish is to get some help with repairing our house because we have nowhere to sleep,” she told Reuters Television.

To watch the video, click here.


From NYT


A Philippine NGO named ‘Project Pearls’ is working there helping the victims and building up new homes.

Statistics show that fires are very common in factories of Shanty town and Manila and just only a week ago a worker was killed and hundreds were injured in a huge industrial fire at a factory south of Manila.

Philippines seek cooperation in South China Sea dispute

On 21st May, the Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and the Filipino president Aquino announced their cooperation against “illegal” Chinese activities and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

Shortly after, on May 22nd, the Vietnamese minister held a speech at the World Economic Forum in Manila, Philippines, saying that Vietnam is considering joining the Philippines in a lawsuit against China under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The declaration of cooperation from Wednesday was made only two days after Aquino accused China to violate an informal agreement from 2002 between the 10 ASEAN member states and China. Within this informal code of conduct, China and the ASEAN member states declared to refrain from building new structures, such as oil rigs, and occupying uninhibited reefs.

South China Sea: Interactive map (click it)

According to Filipino intelligence, China started to claim territory surrounding the Johnson South Reef, considered to be within the Filipino Exclusive Economic zone (EEZ), already in 2012. Several military surveillance photos were released on May 15th, providing evidence of Chinese construction sites on uninhibited reefs.

The EEZ is regulated by the UNCLOS, which was signed and ratified by China. The UNCLOS defines the EEZ of a state 200 miles from it’s shores.

On May 1st, China deployed an oil rig close to the Vietnamese shore, within an area Vietnam considers to be part of it’s EEZ.

After deploying the oil rig, Vietnamese boats tried to stop the Chinese vessels and by today (May 22nd), fights with ramming and water cannons between coast guards and fishing vessels of both states continue. No hard ammunition was reported to be used thus far, but demonstrations against Chinese sea occupation in Vietnam resulted in several deaths.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the main source of conflict in the South China Sea is about resources. Beside fishery and hydrocarbons, which are in high demand due to the forthcoming industrialization of the coastal areas, the South China Sea is expected to have at least seven billion barrels of oil reserves and 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Furthermore, about 50% of global oil tanker shipments routes through the South China Sea and traffic is significantly higher than in the Suez Canal or Panama Canal.

Since the US is increasing it’s activity in the pacific, China might feel forced to secure this very important trade lane and to get the disputed territory and resources under control before external forces become a thread to the Chinese interest in the South China Sea.

The US announced it’s focus on the transpacific relations in 2010. Right now, the US is negotiating a free trade area, called Transpacific Partnership (TPP), with several states within the pacific ocean.

Besides the TPP, the US also announced on April 28th a military cooperation with the Philippines and will reactivate military bases within the Philippines.


Nearly 10,000 Estimated Dead after Deadly Typhoon Hits Philippines

Makeshift shelter in front of ruined houses devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Reuters: Romeo Ranoco)

Makeshift shelter in front of ruined houses devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Reuters: Romeo Ranoco)

Early Friday morning, beginning around 8:05 am, disaster struck in the Philippines, and its name was Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda, as it is locally known.)  According to BBC News, Typhoon Haiyan, with consistent winds of up to 200mph (320km/h) and gusts up to 235mph (379km/h), is one of the largest recorded tropical storms to ever hit land.

The Official Gazette of the Filipino government has stated that the devastating storm has affected over 12 million people in 41 provinces across the country.  In addition to the severe physical damage that the storm caused on nearly 150,000 homes or more, the official count of human casualties is nearing 2,000, with just over 2,600 more injured and 83 reported missing.  However, estimates from news sources and government officials are circulating with numbers nearing 10,000 casualties (The Guardian).  Although the devastation in the Philippines is so immense from the storm, Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, told the Associated Press that “early evacuations and the speed at which the typhoon swept across the Philippines, may have helped reduce its destructive potential” (BBC News).

CNN Video Coverage: Typhoon Footage

Typhoon Haiyan has not only destroyed homes, businesses, and entire towns, but it has affected a great deal of power supplies, hindered communication because of destroyed telephone lines and cellular towers, and left people with very little to none of the necessary resources for living, such as food and water.  Another result of this terrible storm has been mobs of scared citizens raiding food warehouses, and even stealing from other survivors, fueling the fear that law and order will continue to break down.  Many international organizations are aiding in the providing of food and other necessities to the survivors of the storm, but the damage done to the lines of communication and roadways has been severely hindering efforts. BBC News has reported that United Nations humanitarian chief, Valerie Amos has stated that help is coming, but that a lot will be needed.  She said, “The priority has got to be, let’s get the food in, let’s get the water in.”  According to Xinuahnet, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have asked for $83 million and $34 million, respectively, to provide food, generators and additional aid to the survivors of the storm and to provide aid for the estimated 4 million children in the Philippines.

Predicted Path of Typhoon Haiyan from Philippines to Vietnam and Ending in China (BBC News, source: Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

Predicted Path of Typhoon Haiyan from Philippines to Vietnam and Ending in China (BBC News, source: Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

While relief efforts continue in the Philippines, Vietnamese citizens braced themselves for the storm.  Early predictions warned that Typhoon Haiyan was expected to pick up speed on its way toward Vietnam.  However, Al Jazeera has reported that after hitting land in Vietnam with much slower, but still high winds of 75mph (120km/h), the storm has decreased in power and as it moved toward southern China, it has only slowed down further.  No additional deaths have been reported in Vietnam, so aid efforts will continue to be focused on the Philippines with additional aid to the damage that did occur in Vietnam.