Tuesday, September 29, 2009

American Samoa hit by tsunami after earthquake in Pacific

A powerful 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck in the South Pacific between Samoa and American Samoa around dawn today, sending terrified residents fleeing for higher ground as a tsunami swept ashore, flattening at least one village. There were no immediate reports of fatalities.

The quake hit at 6.48am local time midway between the two island groups. In Apia, families reported shaking that lasted for up to three minutes. The US Geological Survey said the quake struck 20 miles (35 km) below the ocean floor, 120 miles from American Samoa and 125 miles from Samoa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Honolulu, Hawaii issued a general alert for the South Pacific region, from American Samoa to New Zealand. It said there were indications a tsunami wave could be "destructive" along some coastlines.

The centre issued a tsunami warning for numerous islands in the Pacific, including the Samoas, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand, French Polynesia and Palmyra Island.

A tsunami watch was issued for Hawaii, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands, Solomon Island, Johnston Island, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Wake Island, Midway Island and Pitcairn.

New Zealander Graeme Ansell said the beach village of Sau Sau Beach Fale was levelled.

"It was very quick. The whole village has been wiped out," Ansell told New Zealand's National Radio from a hill near Samoa's capital, Apia. "There's not a building standing. We've all clambered up hills, and one of our party has a broken leg. There will be people in a great lot of need round here."

A tsunami swept into Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, shortly after the earthquake, sending sea water surging inland about 91 metres (100 yards) before receding, leaving some cars stuck in mud.

The staff of the port ran to higher ground, and police soon came by, telling residents to get inland.

In Fagatogo, water reached the waterfront town's meeting field and covered portions of the main highway, which also was plagued by rock slides.

In Samoa, the powerful quake jolted people awake.

"It was pretty strong; it was long and lasted at least two minutes," one resident told local radio.

"It's the strongest I have felt, and we ran outside. You could see all the trees and houses were shaking," he said.

Sulili Dusi told National Radio that "everything dropped on the floor and we thought the house was going to go down as well. Thank God, it didn't". Along with neighbours, they fled to high ground.

She said the tsunami hit the south side of the island, and some "cars have been taken". She did not elaborate, but added "we just thank God no life has been taken yet".

Another resident, Dean Phillips, said the southern coast of Upolu island had been struck by the tsunami.

"The police are sending everybody up to high ground," he said.

Local media said they had reports of some landslides in the Solosolo region of the main Samoan island of Upolu and damage to plantations in the countryside outside Apia.

There were no immediate reports of injury or serious damage from local emergency services, but people reported cracks in some homes and items tossed from shelves.

Peshawar blast security failure of provincial govt.

PESHAWAR: The City is still tense and people were in state of insecurity after the Saturday’s car-bomb blast which caused not only human loss but also damaged scores of buildings on Fakher-e-Alam road. The blast at front of the Askari Bank in Peshawar was, of course, meant to do damage. But on top of the immediate casualties, it was the psychological blow to Peshawarites. The people prefer to remain inside their homes rather to go out for shopping at busy areas. The normal rush at the weekly Sunday bazaar was also not seen this week where usually people go for their kitchen shopping. The shopping malls, markets and bazaar in different localities of the city were giving deserted look even after the five days of Saddar blast. Peshawar suicide car-bomb attack was alleged the establishment for failing to provide security to common man.It is also important that no close-circuit camera was installed there even it was in a highly security zone. It occurred due to the absence of an intelligence framework, poor planning and a failure to devise a responsive deployment pattern in order to counter the challenge of suicide attacks, keeping in view this was a second blast at the same place, the security experts were opined. It merits mentioning here that the spokesman of the provincial government in a press briefing had confessed that the miscreants have managed a safe route to achieve their target as twice they have crossed all security checks in the same vicinity. The place where the car-bomb went off, was in a highly security zone as number of sensitive buildings and offices were situated. Besides, Askari Bank which badly damaged after it was been targeted where mostly the security forces personnel visit for their bank accounts, the State Bank also situated near there, Combined Military Hospital which is just few yards away, the Corp. Headquarter and US Consulate were at the distance of few hundred yards, private Radio Station and other important offices were also situated on the Fakher-e-Alam Road. It is high time that the law enforcing agencies should revise their security deployment paradigm and modify their standard operating procedures for deployment of the force which has become a soft target ‘in the form of sitting ducks’ for the potential attacks. The police can also make different security rings inner, outer and outer most ones that may provide security coverage to much larger area and can also save human resources. Experienced police officers opine that this is the time, that smart deployment instead of heavy deployment should become the norm and not the exception in current environment for deployment of Reserves or Platoons. Further these reserves or platoons should always be kept at a safe distance from the venue in order to provide quick response in times of an emergency. The citizens have termed the recent blast a security lapse and have directed the government to ensure installation of security cameras in important buildings and chowks besides raising a special security force to avert such incidents in future. People termed it a failure of intelligence agencies while condemning the incident. It was a clear proof of security lapse as provincial government no longer capable of protecting the citizens, they remarked. Almost all the promises of provincial government have been proved false, and they have disappointed everyone in every way and nothing has been achieved in these months. Whatever it is, the ANP provincial government has failed to fulfill its duties and they seem to be in total loss and chaos, they added. The traders also worried what they call the government's failure to curb the increasing incidents of abduction. They said suicide attack, bomb blasts, rockets attacks and several kidnappings for ransom have ruined their business and business community badly suffered by the deteriorating law and order situation in the provincial metropolis.

Five killed' in US missile strike in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Missiles fired from a US drone aircraft Tuesday killed five suspected Taliban in a strike on a militant hideout in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt, local officials said.
The attack hit in the lawless region of South Waziristan, a Taliban bolthole where Washington says Islamist fighters are hiding out and planning attacks on Western troops stationed in neighbouring Afghanistan.
"A missile from a US drone fired on a compound of local Taliban commander Irfan Mehsud and killed five militants and injured six," said a security official in the area. A local administration official confirmed the toll.
The missiles targeted Sara Rogha, a village northeast of regional hub Wana and a stronghold of former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was himself killed in a US drone strike in August.
The security official said the spy plane fired two missiles on the compound, adding that reports suggested three of the dead could be Uzbeks.
"The death toll may rise," he told AFP. "The compound is completely destroyed and militants have surrounded the area."
The fatalities are impossible to verify independently, as the US does not confirm the strikes and the targets are deep in Taliban-controlled territory.
An intelligence official, who also refused to be named, said militants were pulling their dead from the debris. He said his reports suggested low-level insurgent commander Irfan Mehsud had survived.
US drone attacks are hitting the tribal belt with increasing frequency, as the United States tries to stem the flow of militants waging a deadly insurgency against some 100,000 foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion, carving out boltholes and training camps in the remote Pakistani mountains.
Late last Thursday, a US drone attack in North Waziristan killed 10 militants from an Al-Qaeda-linked network, and Tuesday's attack is the fifth such strike in the semi-autonomous tribal area this month.
The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks, but its armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are the only forces that deploy pilotless drones in the region.
Islamabad publicly opposes the US missile strikes, saying they violate its territorial sovereignty and deepen resentment among the populace.
Since August 2008, nearly 60 such strikes have killed more than 550 people.
But the government welcomed the death of Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone attack on August 5.
Pakistan's security forces are also engaged in a fierce offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwest whom they blame for a wave of attacks across Pakistan that has killed more than 2,100 people in the last two years.
The military launched a fierce offensive against insurgents in Swat valley in April, and is now engaged in a similar push in tribal Khyber district.
Pakistani air strikes have also hit South Waziristan, ahead of an expected ground offensive into the Pakistani Taliban's heartland, although the army is keeping silent on when such an assault would begin.
Swat is beset by outbreaks of violence as authorities try and round up all the Islamist fighters, with the military announcing Tuesday that they had arrested 43 insurgents in the district in the past 24 hours.

Trust to be set up for utilising US funding

PESHAWAR: The federal government has decided to set up a trust fund for development of the NWFP and Fata with the financial assistance of the United States as approved under the Kerry-Lugar bill.

The proposed ‘Trust Fund for Development of NWFP and Fata’ would be governed through a board of trustees that would decide projects and look after all their financial affairs, said NWFP Governor Awais Ahmad Ghani here on Monday.

The US Senate last week passed the Kerry-Lugar bill to authorise $1.5 billion in economic assistance annually for Pakistan over five years to offset the impact of ongoing war on terror on its economy and social service delivery.

The board of trustees will comprise representatives of federal and provincial governments and donor agencies, and inclusion of two representatives from the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also been recommended. The main office of the trust will be based in Peshawar.

The idea behind creation of the trust, the governor explained, was to ensure maximum utilisation of funds in the conflict-hit NWFP and Fata by avoiding lengthy process of project designing and funds disbursement.

‘Under this arrangement, at least 75 per cent of the funds will go to development projects of the NWFP and Fata,’ the governor said.

Mr Ghani was speaking at the launching ceremony of SCCI’s Trade and Industry Directory, which contains contact details of 3,000 entrepreneurs of Peshawar.

Besides others, Senator Ilays Ahmad Bilour, leader of Businessman Forum Pakistan, SCCI president Sharafat Ali Mubarik and vice-president Mohammad Ishaq were also present.

The governor, while responding to identical points raised by the participants, endorsed the SCCI demand of declaring NWFP as a war-affected province, urging the federal government to immediately announce a relief package for its economic revival.

‘The province and adjoining tribal belt has suffered because of militancy and now it is time for the federal government to allocate adequate resources for the reconstruction,’ he said.

Mr Ghani told the meeting that the federal government was serious in reconstruction of conflict-hit areas, particularly the Malakand division, and focus also was on initiating uplift schemes in Peshawar.

According to him, a project for extension of the Peshawar airport had been approved and the Civil Aviation Authority had released funds for land acquisition. The project would increase parking capacity of aircrafts from four to 10.

Likewise, three different sites had been identified in the Peshawar valley for establishment of a housing project under the Defence Housing Authority and steps were being taken for setting up Peshawar Business City at Katcha Garhi and a modern bus terminal, he said.

Mr Ghani said a committee under the chairmanship of federal finance minister with the NWFP governor and chief minister as its members had been constituted to dispose of financial affairs of the province on a war footing.

He also endorsed the SCCI viewpoint on Reconstruction Opportunity Zones and made it clear that the government would not approve the initiative unless the chamber’s reservations were addressed.

Earlier, Senator Ilyas Bilour, SCCI president Mubarik and vice-president Ishaq apprised the governor about the problems being faced by local businessmen.