News & Current Affairs

September 7, 2008

Mudslides bury Philippines homes

Mudslides bury Philippines homes

Crushed house (07/09/08)

The ramshackle houses were crushed by cascading tonnes of mud

At least 11 people have been killed and 14 others are missing after landslides triggered by heavy rains buried several houses in the southern Philippines.

Dozens of rescue workers have been trying to reach victims trapped under debris in Compostela Valley, about 840km (520 miles) south-east of Manila.

Up to 30 makeshift houses were destroyed by falling mud and rocks in the disaster on Mindanao island.

Hundreds of people have fled the area because of the risk of more mudslides.

Army, police and civilian volunteers searched for survivors amid treacherous conditions, while two air force helicopters were deployed to ferry victims to hospital.

“Our people are battling against weather and time,” Major Armand Rico was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

A first landslide hit the area on Saturday, followed by a second one early on Sunday.

Officials have ordered people to leave the area because of the threat of a further landslide.

Such incidents are common in the Philippines, especially in low-lying and mining and coastal areas, during the monsoon season between May and October.

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August 30, 2008

Manila ferry blast suspect held

Manila ferry blast suspect held

Superferry 14 on fire in Manila Bay in February 2004

The 10,000-tonne Superferry 14 was heading for Bacolod

A leading suspect wanted over the Philippines’ worst militant attack has been arrested in Bahrain and returned to Manila, officials have said.

Ruben Pestano Lavilla Jr, 35, is wanted for alleged involvement in the bombing of a ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 that led to 116 deaths in a subsequent fire.

He was the “brains” behind an Islamic group allied to two al-Qaeda affiliated organizations, Manila officials say.

They say he was detected after document checks by Manila’s embassy in Bahrain.

The arrest had not been made public while Philippine officials prepared deportation papers.

‘Fled’ country

Marcelino Libanan, head of the immigration commission, told Reuters news agency that Mr Lavilla was checked after trying to get a bank loan and had been working as an interpreter at the Philippine embassy.

However, Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor told the AP agency that the arrest came after Mr Lavilla submitted documents for a job at the embassy.

Mr Lavilla is alleged to have fled the Philippines a month after the ferry attack.

He is accused of being the mastermind behind the Rajah Solaiman Movement, blamed for several bomb attacks in Manila in 2004 and 2005.

The movement is said to be linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf Muslim militant groups, based in the southern Philippines.

Mr Blancaflor said: “If you are a terrorist, wherever you are, wherever you hide, the law will catch up with you – that’s the most important thing here.”

The ferry blaze was South East Asia’s second-worst militant attack after the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people.

The 10,000-tonne Superferry 14 was heading for Bacolod in the central Philippines when it caught fire on 27 February 2004.

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