Philippines:Typhoon Mangkhut barreled into southern China after lashing the northern Philippines with strong winds and heavy rain that left at least 64 people dead and dozens more feared buried in a landslide.
More than 2.4 million people had been evacuated in southern China’s Guangdong province to flee the massive typhoon and nearly 50,000 fishing boats were called back to port, state media reported.
The gambling enclave of Macau closed casinos for the first time and the Hong Kong Observatory warned people to stay away from the Victoria Harbour landmark, where storm surges battered the sandbag-reinforced waterfront.
Hong Kong’s RTHK broadcaster cited experts as saying Mangkhut was expected to be the strongest typhoon to hit the city in decades. The Hong Kong Observatory issued its strongest storm warning for 10 hours on Sunday, just slightly shorter than the record time of 11 hours set by Typhoon York in 1999, the South China Morning Post reported.
The storm made landfall in the Guangdong city of Taishan at 5 pm, packing wind speeds of 162 kilometers per hour. State television broadcaster CGTN reported that surging waves flooded a seaside hotel in the city of Shenzhen.
Groceries flew off the shelves of supermarkets in the provincial capital of Guangzhou as residents stocked up in anticipation of being confined at home by the typhoon, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said.
Authorities in southern China issued a red alert, the most severe warning, as the national meteorological center said the densely populated region would face a “severe test caused by wind and rain” and urged officials to prepare for possible disasters.
Hundreds of flights were canceled. All high-speed and some normal rail services in Guangdong and Hainan provinces were also halted, the China Railway Guangzhou Group Co. said.
In Hong Kong, a video posted online by residents showed the top corner of an old building break and fall off, while in another video, a tall building swayed as strong winds blew.
The storm also broke windows, felled trees, tore bamboo scaffolding off buildings under construction and flooded areas with sometimes waist-high waters, according to the South China Morning Post.
The paper said the heavy rains brought storm surges of 10 feet around Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Security Minister John Lee Ka-chiu urged residents to prepare for the worst.
“Because Mangkhut will bring winds and rains of extraordinary speeds, scope and severity, our preparation and response efforts will be greater than in the past,” Lee said. “Each department must have a sense of crisis, make a comprehensive assessment and plan, and prepare for the worst.”
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific said all of its flights would be canceled between 2.30 am Sunday and 4 am Monday. The city of Shenzhen also canceled all flights between Sunday and early Monday morning. Hainan Airlines canceled 234 flights in the cities of Haikou, Sanya, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai scheduled over the weekend.
In Macau, next door to Hong Kong, casinos were ordered to close from 11 pm Saturday, the first time such action was taken in the city, the South China Morning Post reported. Macau suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last year, leading to accusations of corruption and ncompetence at its meteorological office.
In Macau’s inner harbor district, the waterlevel reached 5 feet on Sunday and was expected to rise further. The district was one of the most affected by floods from Typhoon Hato, which left 10 people dead.
In the northern Philippines, Mangkhut made landfall Saturday on the northeastern tip of Luzon island with sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour and gusts of 255 kph.
Trump to meet Kim Jong-un again in late February: White House
WASHINGTON: The White House announced that US President Donald Trump will hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late February.
During the meeting, the two leaders will hold talks over the steps taken by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes. It may be recalled that the first meeting between the two leaders was held on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. The White House, however, did not reveal where the two leaders will meet in February.
The White House made the announcement shortly after Trump held a meeting with North Korean envoy, Kim Yong Chol, on Friday for a discussion that included talk about Kim Jong-un’s unfulfilled pledge to dismantle nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea.
“President Donald J Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and half, to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The president looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
The press secretary told reporters: “We continue to make progress, we continue to have conversations. The US is going to continue to keep “pressure and sanctions” on North Korea until “we see fully and verifiable denuclearization”. We had very good steps and very good faith from the North Koreans with the release of hostages and other moves and so we’ll continue this conversation.And the President looks forward to it next February.”
Kim yong Chol arrived at the White House after meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun at a hotel in Washington.
“The Secretary, Special Representative Biegun, and Vice Chairman Kim discussed efforts to make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore. At the conclusion of the Secretary’s meeting with Vice Chairman Kim, the two sides held a productive first meeting at the working level,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said.
Blast targets Al Qaeda ally in Syria, kills 11
BEIRUT: An explosion outside an office belonging to an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria’s northwest killed at least 11 people and wounded several others, opposition activists said.
The blast comes a week after members of the Al Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee, or HTS, took over control of wide parts of Idlib province and the surrounding countryside after forcing rival insurgents to accept a deal for a civil administration run by HTS in their areas.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Smart news agency, an activist collective, said the blast occurred on the southern edge of the rebel-held city of Idlib.
The observatory said 11 people were killed in the blast, including seven HTS members. Smart said 12 people were killed, many of them militants.
In the country’s east, an air strike in the last area held by the militant Islamic State group killed at least 20 people.
State news agency SANA said 20 people were killed in the air strike on the IS-held village of Baghouz, while the observatory said 23 people were killed including 10 IS members.
They both blamed the US-led coalition that has been providing air cover to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in their monthslong offensive to capture the area from extremists near the Iraqi border.
The SDF has intensified its offensive over the past weeks on the IS-held area.
Meanwhile in Turkey, President Tayyip Erdogan met with US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to discuss the situation in Syria as the United States prepares to withdraw troops.
Graham, a prominent voice on foreign affairs in the US, met with Erdogan and other Turkish officials on Friday for talks that were also expected to include a proposal for the creation of a “safe zone” in northeast Syria.
The visit comes days after a suicide bombing, claimed by IS, killed two US service members and two American civilians in the northeastern town of Manbij.
Graham has said he is concerned that US President Donald Trump’s troop withdrawal announcement had emboldened IS militants and created dangerous uncertainty for American allies.
The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in the suicide bomb attack in Manbij Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, from upstate New York and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.
The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.
Pakistan rules out India’s role in Afghan peace process
Islamabad: Pakistan has ruled out any role for India in the Afghan peace process, the media reported on Friday.
“India has no role in Afghanistan,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at the weekly media briefing on Thursday while responding to a query about Islamabad’s position on New Delhi’s part in the reconciliation process.
Faisal acknowledged that Pakistan has a difficult relationship with India, saying that despite Pakistan’s efforts for normalisation, no concrete progress could be achieved in ties with India, Dawn news reported.
“You all know that India is not willing to engage with Pakistan,” he reminded.
Faisal’s remarks were in sharp contrast to what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told the National Assembly last month.
“Since India is present in Afghanistan, its cooperation in this regard (facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict) will also be required,” he had told legislators.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Pakistan on Thursday to discuss with the senior civil and military leadership the latest efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.
Khalilzad, who met Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi, is leading an inter-agency delegation to India, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan from January 8-21 to “facilitate a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan”.