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Asia’s deadly month

Earthquakes have shaken Indonesian islands, floodwaters have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and unseasonal cyclones have battered coastlines around the region.


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Updated: August 21, 2018

Earthquakes have shaken Indonesian islands, floodwaters have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and unseasonal cyclones have battered coastlines around the region.

It has been a deadly month for the continent.

More quakes hit Lombok

At least five people died Sunday evening in a series of strong earthquakes that shook the Indonesian island of Lombok. One 6.9-magnitude tremor cut power across the island, set off landslides and hindered recovery efforts for an earlier series of quakes that killed at least 480 people and left hundreds of thousands of the island’s inhabitants homeless.

Authorities suspect that Sunday’s tremors might have claimed even more lives had many people not already been living in tents as a result of the previous deadly quakes.

According to the AFP, Lombok has experienced 30 earthquakes since July 28.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), tweeted late Sunday images of darkened areas that had lost electricity, severely cracked roadways, as well as reports of collapsed buildings, and has confirmed that Sunday’s strong quake was a new mainshock, rather than an aftershock.

As of Aug. 11, according to The Jakarta Post, the BNPB had estimated that the economic loss caused by those earlier quakes had reached $138.4 million, and had damaged 67,875 houses, 468 schools, six bridges, three hospitals. The BNPB has not yet released revised figures on losses.

Historic flood-waters

The Indian state of Kerala has faced the heaviest rainfalls and flooding in nearly 100 years. The last comparable season took place in 1924.

The death toll from those floods has climbed to include at least 370 people. In the worst affected areas, people have been stranded for as many as three days without access to food or fresh water.

According to the government, the rains have abated, and the country’s meteorological service estimates that the state expected to be spared of heaving rainfall starting Monday. But, thousands of people are believed to still be awaiting rescue on rooftops of homes and community centers.

But, sinking water levels may not exactly be a reason to rejoice.

“Now the problem is that with the water level coming down, it might not be able to operate the big boats and hence we will have to use small or rubber boats,” a group of rescue workers told The Statesman in Alappuzha, a coastal city south of Kochi.

And, it’s important to remember that Kerala isn’t the only Indian state affected by severe rains. As many as 191 people have died in Uttar Pradesh, 183 people in West Bengal, 139 in Maharashtra, 52 in Gujarat, 45 in Assam and 11 in Nagaland, all related to flooding.

Typhoon season

Typhoon Rumbia, the 18th such storm to hit China this year, made landfall in Shanghai Friday causing the evacuation of more than 2,200 people.

The Korean Peninsula is bracing for the potential arrival of Typhoon Soulik, which is expected to pass through as early as Wednesday. If it does make landfall, it will be the first typhoon to do so since Typhoon Sanba six years ago.

A slow recovery in Laos

Recovery has been slow in Laos following a dam failure on July 23 that caused floodwaters to surge through the Laotian countryside swallowing at least 13 whole villages, displacing thousands and killing as many as 39 people.

The man-made disaster has proved to be a wake-up call for the country’s government, causing officials to rethink the country’s goal of becoming “the battery of Asia.” On Aug. 8, the government announced that it would be carrying out inspections of existing dams to make sure they are in compliance with safety standards, and that it would be shelving all new hydroelectric projects until further notice.

Recovery efforts in the area have been severely hindered by seasonal rains. Flooded villages that had emerged from the waters were inundated further last week after several days of heavy rainfall. As of last week, Sanamxay District, the area most affected by flooding was only reachable by boat or helicopter.

And, due to extensive flooding-related damage from the saddle dam failure, the area’s school year is set to be postponed indefinitely. The schools that did survive the flood relatively intact are currently being used as housing for the displaced. As many as 7,000 people currently call those area schools home.

The government has promised compensation for victims of the flooding, but many victims are still waiting for the funds, a 500,000 kip handout, or the equivalent of about $82.



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About the Author: ANN’s Board representative Mr Zhou Li, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of China Daily Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong, was recently appointed Deputy Editor-in-Chief of China Daily Group

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