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Tsunami alert lifted 

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The Philippines lifted a tsunami alert early on Sunday as waves receded from a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that struck the south of the country, triggering coastal evacuations and some waves in there and in Japan.

There were no initial reports of casualties or serious damage from the quake in the Mindanao region, although some residents reported damage to buildings in the area, which is less populated than some parts of the archipelago.

More than 500 aftershocks were recorded, and the Philippines’ Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) urged caution as people resumed normal activities.

“The tsunami threat associated with this earthquake has now largely passed the Philippines,” Phivolcs said in a statement but advised people in threatened communities to heed the instructions from local authorities.

It had earlier urged people living near the coast of Surigao Del Sur and Davao Oriental provinces to move inland.

The national disaster said it was assessing the impact of the quake, with a team on the ground collating information.

The Philippine Coast Guard put all its vessels and aircraft on alert for potential dispatch.

“We started going back to our homes early on Sunday, although we are still shaking because of aftershocks,” Julita Bicap, 51, a front desk staffer at GLC Suites hotel in the seaside town of Bislig, said after power was restored around 5 a.m. (2100 GMT)

“There are aftershocks even now. Last night we were at the evacuation centre including my two foreigner guests. One of them came back to the hotel already,” Bicap told Reuters, adding that she noticed a small crack in the hotel’s front wall.

The largest aftershock was magnitude 6.5, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

Earthquakes are common in the Philippines, which lies on the “Ring of Fire”, a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is prone to seismic activity.

Scores of residents were seen in an evacuation centre in photographs posted on social media by the authorities in Hinatuan province, 30 km (20 miles) from the quake’s epicentre.

Philvolcs’ Hinatuan-Bislig Bay station recorded maximum waves of 0.64 metre (2 feet). Japan’s Hachijojima island, some 290 km (180 miles) south of Tokyo, recorded waves of 40 cm (1.3 feet), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The U.S. Tsunami Warning System had initially warned of waves of up to 3 metres (10 feet) above the usual high tide level.

The quake, which struck at 10:37 p.m. (1437 GMT) on Saturday, was at a depth of 25 km (15 miles), Philvolcs said.

James Soria, who owns a small hotel in Hinatuan, said there had been significant damage to his home. “It’s shaking again here now,” he told Reuters before the call was disconnected as another aftershock hit.

Cosme Calejesan, 47, said there had been damage to his house in Surigao City 185 km (115 miles) from the epicentre, but the structure was intact.

“I was already asleep, but I was woken up by the creaking sounds of my cabinets when the tremor occurred,” he said. “It was frightening. It was sudden and abrupt and I was worried for my children.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by srilankamirror staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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India becomes first country to successfully trial air-droppable portable hospital

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Aarogya Maitri Cubes, the world’s first disaster hospital packed in 72 cubes that can be airlifted, had its test run by the Indian Air Force at Agra on May 14. India has become the first country to successfully develop and test a portable, air-droppable hospital. 

The Indian Air Force conducted a test run of the BHISHM Cube, a mobile hospital designed for rapid deployment, in Agra.

This innovative solution in emergency healthcare aims to provide comprehensive medical aid swiftly during crises and emergencies. The BHISHM Cube is part of the Bharat Health Initiative for Sahyog Hita and Maitri (BHISHM) and was tested as part of the Aarogya Maitri project.

Key features of the BHISHM Cube include its waterproof, lightweight design, allowing for various configurations to suit different emergency scenarios. Equipped with advanced medical equipment, the Cube also utilizes RFID-tagged supplies for efficient repacking and redeployment. Sustainability is a core component, with solar energy and battery power ensuring continuous operation. Remarkably, the Cube can be fully deployed in just 12 minutes and has the capacity to treat up to 200 patients.

The BHISHM Cube is packed with essential supplies, including a compact generator, stretchers, modular medical gear, medications, and food supplies. It also includes sophisticated medical equipment such as X-ray machines, blood testing devices, ventilators, and tools to treat various injuries. Integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics facilitates real-time monitoring and efficient management of medical services in the field.

Project BHISHM was announced in February 2022, with the Ministry of Defence establishing a task force to drive this initiative. At the Global South Summit in January 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Aarogya Maitri project, under which India committed to providing essential medical supplies to developing countries affected by natural disasters or humanitarian crises.

The technology behind the BHISHM Cube is a testament to India’s prowess in disaster preparedness and medical innovation. The Cubes were recently deployed in Ayodhya to enhance medical readiness during the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Modi on January 22.

The successful test run in Agra demonstrates the Indian Air Force’s ability to rapidly deploy these portable hospitals to remote or disaster-stricken areas, ensuring timely and effective medical intervention. This development not only enhances India’s disaster response capabilities but also positions the country as a global leader in emergency medical solutions.

As the BHISHM Cube becomes operational, it is expected to play a pivotal role in India’s strategy for disaster management and emergency healthcare. 

The innovation signifies a major advancement in how medical aid can be delivered swiftly and efficiently during crises, potentially saving countless lives and providing critical support where it is most needed.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi killed in helicopter crash, official says

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister were killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday, after search teams located the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province.

“President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” the senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Iran’s Mehr news agency confirmed the deaths, reporting that “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

An Iranian official earlier told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

State TV reported that images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a U.S.-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in the early hours of Monday.

“With the discovery of the crash site, no signs of life have been detected among the helicopter’s passengers,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.
Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi’s 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.
For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

Coming soon: Get the latest news and expert analysis about the state of the global economy with Reuters Econ World. Sign up here.

(Reuters)

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8 killed and dozens injured after Mumbai billboard collapse

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A least eight people have been killed and about 60 injured after a giant billboard collapsed during a sudden storm in the Indian city of Mumbai, authorities said.

The billboard, measuring 70m by 50m according to the police, fell onto houses and a petrol station in the city’s financial district on Monday.

About 20 to 30 people are still feared to be trapped with a rescue operation under way, emergency services said.

The billboard fell after a rain and dust storm hit the city of Mumbai, ripping up trees and causing travel chaos and power outages.

Footage on local news channels shows the huge billboard swaying in the wind before giving way and crashing into the buildings near a busy road in the city’s eastern suburb of Ghatkopar.

Video posted on social media appears to show the immediate aftermath at the petrol station, with vehicles crushed under the fallen advertisement hoarding.

In photos from the scene, emergency teams can be seen working through the wreckage. dramatic video footage also shows rescue workers pulling out a victim from under the fallen billboard and using power tools to cut the metal.

In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said “speedy winds” caused the collapse and that several agencies including police, fire and national disaster response teams were involved in the rescue operation.

Devendra Fadnavis, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said a “high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.”

She adde that the state government would provide financial assistance of 500,000 rupees (£4,767) to the families of those killed and wounded in the incident.

Flights were temporarily suspended at the city’s international airport during the storm with at least 15 planes diverted, local media report.

Mumbai is one of several cities in India prone to severe flooding and rain-related incidents during the monsoon season – which is usually between June and September.

(BBC News)

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