Atsuma, Sept 8 (AP/UNB) — The toll from an earthquake that rocked Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido rose to 20 on Friday, and 19 others remained unaccounted for in one small town after an entire mountainside collapsed on their homes.
The region was slowly restoring transport links and power, with lights back in about half of the homes on the island of 5.4 million people after a day of region-wide blackouts. Officials said they hoped to have the generating capacity close to normal by the weekend, though full repairs to Hokkaido's main power plant could take up to a week.
Rescuers were using search dogs, backhoes and shovels as they dug through tons of mud and debris from the landslides triggered by the magnitude 6.7 quake that struck before dawn Thursday.
After more than a day of digging there were no reports of survivors being pulled from their crushed homes in the outskirts of the town of Atsuma, not far from the quake's epicenter.
There were scant signs of damage inside Atsuma itself, a seaside community of about 4,600 that advertises itself as a destination for surfing and a great lifestyle. But by late Friday, the power still had not been restored and stores were closed.
"There are no supplies, so the shop simply cannot function. It's tough," said Yasuhiro Kurosaki, a young father whose wife was cradling their infant son outside the small supermarket owned by his father. Shelves inside the darkened shop were bare aside from a few boxes of potato chips.
Most residents sought meals, water and shelter at the local social services office.
Farther inland, unharvested rice fields stretched before a long expanse of hillside that had collapsed all at once, bringing earth and timber down on homes that had been tucked along the edge of the mountain.
Of the 20 people confirmed or presumed dead, 17 were from Atsuma.
In the regional capital, Sapporo, lights and water were restored to many areas a day after the entire island saw power cut off. Bullet train services resumed and the city's airport at Chitose reopened.
Some parts of the city were severely damaged, with houses atilt and roads crumbled or sunken. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided in some areas, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a meter (yard) in some places.
"This is shocking. I was always walking on this street and I had never imagined this road could collapse in such a way," said resident Noriyuki Sumi. "But, if you think positively, imagine if I was walking here when this took place. I might have lost my life. So, I try to think I am lucky in this unfortunate situation."
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it would take at least a week to fully restore power to all communities due to damage at a thermal power plant at Tomato-Atsuma that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity.
"We're trying to do it faster, but it will likely take a week," Seko said. He urged residents to conserve power.
Japan has had a string of natural disasters in recent months. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, and damaged the main airport near Osaka and Kobe. The summer also brought devastating floods and landslides from torrential rains in Hiroshima and deadly hot temperatures across the country.
Dhaka, Sept 7 (UNB) – The landmark ruling by India’s Supreme Court to decriminalise same sex relationships is a giant step for equality in India, and will hopefully prompt other States to adopt similar legislation in line with international human rights law, a UN expert said.
“Criminalisation of homosexuality is one of the root causes behind grave and pervasive human rights violations against gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual persons,” said Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A world free from discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity depends to a large extent on dismantling criminalising provisions, which are often the result of colonial imposition, he said, applauding the judgement diluting Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, issued unanimously by a five-Judges bench on 6 September 2018.
“It is my sincere hope that, today, all other countries that still criminalise homosexuality and other forms of sexual orientation and gender identity, will carefully examine this ruling and decide that the time has come to bring themselves to full compliance with this human rights imperative,” the Independent Expert said.
Madrigal-Borloz, who has repeatedly stated that these forms of criminalisation of consensual sex between two adults violates international human rights law, noted that the Indian Supreme Court had remarked on the arbitrary and irrational nature of such criminalisation.
“I am encouraged by the Supreme Court’s findings, which evoke the principle of equality and the imperative of respecting a person’s identity. I am delighted that India – home to one-sixth of the world’s population - has taken this very meaningful step toward full compliance with its human rights obligations,” he said.
Madrigal-Borloz applauded the vital contribution of civil society in the drive to decriminalise same sex relations in India.
“Behind this and every other major State step to protect the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans persons there are years of steadfast commitment by human rights defenders, victims, advocates and activists,” he said. “This judgement, which comes after decades of litigation before the Indian Judiciary, is a reminder of the indispensable contribution of civil society to the mission of perfecting democracy and respect for human rights around the globe.”
Sapporo, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — Searchers used dogs, backhoes and shovels to dig through mud and debris Friday looking for survivors beneath the landslides caused by a powerful earthquake in northern Japan that left at least 16 people dead or presumed dead.
The magnitude 6.7 quake early Thursday unleashed scores of landslides that buried homes in avalanches of soil, rock and timber on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido. In Atsuma, a town of 4,600 people, 26 were still unaccounted for.
The landslides ripped through some homes and buried others. Some residents interviewed by national broadcaster NHK described awakening to find their relatives and next-door neighbors gone.
"The entire thing just collapsed," said one. "It's unbelievable."
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said nearly half of the nearly 3 million households on the island had their power restored after a day of island-wide blackouts.
"The forecasts are for rain, and that could bring more landslides, so please continue to exercise extreme caution," he said.
The regional government said the bullet train to the provincial capital, Sapporo, was due to reopen later in the day. The city's regional airport also was beginning to resume operations after hundreds of flights had been cancelled, stranding thousands of travelers, due to Thursday's power outage and light quake damage.
Hokkaido is Japan's northern frontier and a major farming region with rugged mountain ranges and vast forests, and its people are accustomed to coping with long winters, isolation and other hardships.
It is sparsely populated compared to the rest of Japan, but disruptions were widespread. Many roads were closed and some were impassable.
In Sapporo, the regional capital and home to 1.9 million people, casualties were relatively light. But damage to some parts of the city was severe, with houses atilt and roads crumbled or sunken. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a meter (yard) in some places.
"I was on the 9th floor when it hit. I was about to go to sleep. Then, all of sudden, there came a big tremor. I never experienced such big tremor since I was born. So, I was really surprised," Sayaka Igarashi, 20, told The Associated Press.
"People are saying there could be aftershocks. I 'm worried that another big one will hit," said Ryota Kitsui, 29.
Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters Friday that it would take at least a week to fully restore power to all communities due to damage at a thermal power plant at Tomato-Atsuma that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity.
"We're trying to do it faster, but it will likely take a week," Seko said. He urged residents to conserve power by keeping lights off, unplugging unused appliances and having family members stay together in one room.
"This will help us to restore power to more places," he said.
The last few months have brought a string of calamities in Japan. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, and damaged the main airport near Osaka and Kobe. The summer also brought devastating floods and landslides from torrential rains in Hiroshima and deadly hot temperatures across the country.
Naypyitaw, Sep 07 (AP/UNB) — Myanmar's government on Friday rejected an International Criminal Court ruling that it has jurisdiction to investigate allegations that Myanmar security forces violated international law by driving hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims from their homes.
The office of Myanmar President Win Myint said Thursday's decision by The Hague-based court was "the result of faulty procedure and is of dubious legal merit."
It reiterated the government's previously stated position that it has no obligation to respect the court's ruling because it is not a party to the treaty that established the institution. It also listed points of law and evidentiary arguments in rejecting approval for the court to make a preliminary investigation.
A special U.N. commission on Monday recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar military officers for suspected genocide.
Because Myanmar is not a member of the international court, some legal experts had contended the court did not have jurisdiction.
But the argument that prevailed, made by court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, was that while the Rohingya were forced from their homes in Myanmar, part of the crime involved them being driven across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, which is a member of the court.
Myanmar's statement Friday said the court's decision "was the result of manifest bad faith, procedural irregularities and general lack of transparency."
It challenged the factual basis of the ruling, contending that "The allegations of deportation cannot be further from the truth."
"Myanmar reiterates that it has not deported any individuals in the areas of concern and in fact has worked hard in collaboration with Bangladesh to repatriate those displaced from their homes."
Some 700,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh after a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar security forces. The report issued Monday by the three-member "fact-finding mission" working under a mandate from the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council alleged widespread rights violations, including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes and villages.
Myanmar denies any organized abuses and says the army's operations were a response to attacks last August by an underground Rohingya insurgent group on Myanmar security personnel in Rakhine state.
Earlier this year, Myanmar signed agreements with Bangladesh and U.N. agencies concerning the repatriation of the Rohingya, but it has been dragging its feet in allowing access to U.N. representatives to ensure their safe return.
The Muslim Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.
Earlier Friday, the top government spokesman addressed another issue that has drawn international criticism of Myanmar, the sentencing of two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison on charges of illegal possession of official documents.
Zaw Htay said at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the court's ruling Monday against Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was the prerogative of the judicial branch, and the government could not interfere.
The verdict and sentence caused international outrage. The prosecutors' case was widely seen as based on fabricated evidence, and a key police witness undercut the case when he testified in a pre-trial hearing that the reporters had been set up. The reporters had been gathering evidence of a massacre by security forces of 10 Rohingya in a village in Rakhine state at the time of their arrest.
He also acknowledged that Myanmar had yet to develop adequate media freedoms, saying the country's transition to full democracy has yet to be completed. The country was under military and military-backed rule for more than five decades until the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, took power in 2016.
Suu Kyi has been criticized for failing to ensure fair treatment of the Rohingya and falling short in implementing democratic reforms.
Prague, Sep 7 (AP/UNB) — India's president says there's a significant potential for cooperation in the defense industry between his country and the Czech Republic.
Speaking in Prague Friday after meeting his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind called on Czech defense firms to come to India to create joint venture companies.
Kovind says he believes the economic ties between the two countries will be bolstered further by a planned trip next year of Czech government ministers to India.
Kovind also expressed his appreciation to Zeman for his backing of the idea that India deserves to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Zeman says both are worried by the situation in Pakistan, India's neighbor and rival.
Kovind also visited Cyprus and Bulgaria as part of a 3-nation European tour.