SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – More than 40,000 people have fled their homes as Typhoon Bopha made landfall in the southern Philippines, prompting authorities to suspend aviation and shipping services in the area.
The state weather service said Bopha made landfall on Mindanao island's east coast at dawn on Tuesday, raking across the island of 10 million people, packing gusts of up to 210km an hour and bringing heavy rain.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage but Mindanao was in lockdown with residents of coastal and flood-prone areas moving into shelters as floods hit some areas.
Aviation and shipping were suspended, with 80 flights grounded and thousands of ferry passengers stranded at ports as the coastguard ordered vessels to stay in port, the civil defence office said.
Power has been cut off in at least eight municipalities in southern Surigao del Sur and Davao Oriental while parts of Agusan del Sur province are flooded, Civil Defence chief Benito Ramos said.
More than 41,000 people had moved into nearly 1,000 government shelters across the island by early Tuesday, it said in its latest bulletin.
The commercial centre of Cagayan de Oro, one of Mindanao's largest cities, was hit by flooding as rivers overflowed following heavy rain.
School holidays were declared in Mindanao and large areas of the central Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino led calls for evacuations on Monday, saying: "(Bopha's) destructive potential is no laughing matter. It is expected to be the strongest typhoon to hit our country in 2012."
The storm was approaching from the Pacific Ocean with sustained winds of 175km per hour and gusts of up to 210kph. Its eye was last tracked at 390km southeast of Surigao del Sur province's Hinatuan township.
The Philippines president said army troops were deploying search and rescue boats in advance and villagers were being pre-emptively evacuated. Authorities ordered small boats and ferries not to venture out along the country's eastern seaboard, warning of rough seas and torrential rain and wind that could whip up four-metre waves.
Thousands of villagers moved out of their homes in high-risk coastal villages and along rivers, including in southern provinces that were devastated in December by a deadly storm.
In the mountainous Compostela Valley, authorities halted mining operations and ordered villagers to evacuate to prevent a repeat of deadly losses from landslides and the collapse of mine tunnels seen in recent storms.
Residents in a riverside village that was wiped out by the storm in December in southern Cagayan de Oro city moved to a government hall, carrying TV sets, bundles of clothes and a pig.
Nearly 8,000 villagers were moved to four government shelters in Hinatuan, the coastal town that was directly in Bopha's path until the typhoon began to veer slightly, officials said.
Bopha, a Cambodian word for flower or a girl, is the 16th weather disturbance to hit the Philippines this year, less than the 20 typhoons and storms that normally lash the archipelago annually. Forecasters say at least one more storm may hit the country before Christmas.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Britain has made "extremely encouraging" progress in securing an order from the United Arab Emirates for 60 Typhoon fighter jets made by BAE Systems, a British defence source said on Wednesday.
"There is a political agreement. Clearly there are a lot of details to be worked through, but it is extremely encouraging," the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
He said a contract was likely to be signed sooner rather than later.
The official was speaking after British Prime Minister David Cameron travelled to the UAE earlier this week on a two-day diplomacy and trade visit. Previously, Cameron's office and BAE sources had said the Emiratis had shown interest in ordering up to 60 of the aircraft.
The two countries said in a joint communique on Tuesday that they planned to establish a defence and industrial partnership involving close cooperation around the Typhoon. They did not give details of the tie-up.
In 2007, Saudi Arabia signed a contract with BAE to buy 72 Typhoons; that deal was worth around 4.5 billion pounds ($7 billion).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Britain may deploy its warplanes in the Gulf region amid the mounting tension over a possible war between Israel and Iran and the overall turbulence in the wake of the Arab Spring, according to a British newspaper.
The arrival of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets may be announced soon by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been discussing the issue with rulers of the United Arab Emirates, says The Independent.
The warplanes may be deployed at the Al Dhafra airbase south of the capital Abu Dhabi, where American and French troops are already present. It’s not yet clear which country would pay for the Typhoons’ presence. The UAE foots operational costs for the French Mirage fighter-bombers stationed there, which is estimated at between 20 and 45 million euro annually.
The news comes as top Israeli politicians are touring European countries. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Britain, where he met military top brass in addition to politicians. He is said to be aware and supportive of the plan to deploy British warplanes in the region.
Barak earlier reiterated in an interview that Israel will attack Iranian nuclear facilities unilaterally when it feels it is necessary to prevent Tehran from creating a nuclear weapon. However, he said the deadline to launch such an attack will not come before spring or summer next year.
Israel’s Western allies, including the UK and the US, have been trying to restrain its hawkish ambitions, citing the mounting economic sanctions against Iran. The damage to the Islamic Republic’s economy appears significant ever since America and the European Union targeted its oil industry.
Tehran however remains defiant and defends its right to develop civilian nuclear program. It denies all allegations of secretly trying to weaponize its stockpile of enriched uranium.
UK’s Ministry of Defence insists the possible deployment of Typhoons has no connection with the tension around Iran’s nuclear program.
“We have a mutual interest with our GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] partners in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and exercises such as this allow us to practice working together,” it said.
However the warplanes may be needed to secure the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a major oil transportation waterway, which Iran threatened to block in case of an attack against it. The British government said it wanted to be prepared for any contingency, although it favors sanctions against Iran over a military intervention.
UK already has a significant military presence in the Persian Gulf, including a number of warships and a nuclear submarine. The key military player in the region, the US, also built up its forces in the region over the past year amid the tension.
In addition to maintaining three aircraft carriers on patrol, the US Navy doubled the number of mine sweepers assigned to the region, moved a converted amphibious transport and docking ship there. Its Air Force has deployed additional F-22 and F-15C warplanes capable of striking on Iran’s territory.
Anti-war activist John Rees from London believes these fighter jets are going to destabilize the situation in the region further.
“We’re coming to a decision point here. Many people understand that the condition of the Western stance towards both Syria and Iran is shaped by the US presidential elections about to take place,” Rees observed.
“Whoever wins the elections in the US we can expect developments in respect of Iran to move much more quickly after [the US presidential election] as well,” he concluded.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A typhoon slinging fierce winds moved north Saturday toward the Japanese island of Okinawa, on a track to hit the Korean Peninsula, where dozens of people were killed by a big storm last month.
Tropical cyclone Sanba had winds of 232 kilometers per hour (144 mph), said CNNI Weather Anchor Jenny Harrison. "One expects and assumes that people are beginning to already take serious precautions as to the arrival of this very strong typhoon," she said.
She predicted that storm surge could prove to be a problem for islanders. "It's a large storm and it's going to have a fairly wide-reaching effect," she said. "Okinawa is pretty much in the path of this storm."
The storm had been, "for a very short time," classified as a "super typhoon," with winds of more than 241 mph (150 mph), she said.
Typhoon tourism: One week in North Korea
Sanba is expected to approach Okinawa late Saturday or early Sunday local time before trudging on toward South Korea, according to projections from regional weather agencies. It is forecast to gradually weaken as it moves north.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency on Friday classified Sanba's scale as "large" and intensity as "violent."
Last month, Typhoon Bolaven killed more than 60 people on the Korean Peninsula. Bolaven had also swept over Okinawa, which escaped relatively unscathed.
North Korea rebuffs typhoon aid offer from South
The infrastructure on Okinawa is designed to withstand powerful storms, since the island is in an area of the western Pacific Ocean where typhoons are frequent.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Typhoon Saola has causing nearly the entire island of Taiwan to close down, bringing torrential rains that could linger until next week, officials have said.
The typhoon arrived in Taiwan early on Thursday, a day after the storm killed 23 people and forced 154,000 from their homes in the Philippines.
Taiwan's National Fire Agency said one person had been killed in a landslide in the central region of Chiayi. Eight people were injured, most in falls from motorcycles.
While some major companies remained open, Taiwanese authorities ordered other businesses and schools to shut.
Financial markets were also shut, with normal operations expected to resume on Friday.
Most domestic flights were also cancelled, along with some international services.
Train services were also stopped as the typhoon made its way up Taiwan's less populated and mountainous east coast.
Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reporting from New Taipei City says: "Flash-floods are occurring across northeastern Taiwan, but no major casualties are reported."
Saola is currently rated a category 2 typhoon on a scale of five and was expected to weaken to a category 1 within 12 hours as it passed Taiwan and headed for southeast China, meteorologists said.
A separate system, Typhoon Damrey, has not affected Taiwan and is expected to pass north of China's financial hub of Shanghai on Friday but will weaken to a tropical storm.
China's meteorological agency issued typhoon warnings on Thursday for the southern and eastern provinces of Fujian and Jiangsu.
On Tuesday, China's Premier Wen Jiabao told authorities to be on the highest alert.
Wen, who usually leaves more junior leaders to oversee arrangements before storms, told authorities to step up preparations and "put people's lives first", the official Xinhua news agency said.
Forecasters also predict rain through to Friday, and warn of possible landslides and road collapses.
Typhoon Saola is named after the rare mammal found in Laos and Vietnam.—www.shafaqna.com/english