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Indonesian quake leaves 46 dead, dozens missing

Indonesia Earthquake

Indonesian quake leaves 46 dead, dozens missing

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CIKANGKARENG, Indonesia – Rescuers dug through rocks and debris with their bare hands Thursday in search of dozens of villagers believed buried in a landslide triggered by a strong Indonesian earthquake that killed at least 46 people and damaged thousands of buildings.

At least 110 people were hospitalized with injuries from the 7.0 magnitude quake just off the coast of densely populated Java island, Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono said, adding that 10 were in critical condition.

The earthquake Wednesday afternoon caused destruction across West Java province, where more than 18,300 homes and offices were listed as damaged, around 9,000 of them seriously, Kardono said. At least 5,300 people were forced into temporary shelters, he said.

Some rural areas could not be reached by telephone and there may be more victims and damage, officials said. Many of the deaths and injuries were caused by falling debris or collapsed walls and roofs.

In the village of Cikangkareng in Cianjur district, a landslide buried a row of homes under tons of rock and mud. At least 13 bodies were recovered and villagers were searching for dozens of people believed missing, Kardono said.

“Everything is gone, my wife, my old father-in-law and my house … now I just hope to find the bodies of my family,” farmer Ahmad Suhana, 34, said as he pried at giant stones with a crowbar.

Heavy digging equipment had not reached the remote village, which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to visit later Thursday. Police, military personnel and villagers used their hands. Maskana Sumitra, a district administrator, said 11 houses and a mosque were buried by the landslide and estimated that more than 50 people were trapped and feared dead.

“The chance of survival is so slim … but we have to find them,” Sumitra said.

The prolonged shaking from the quake was felt hundreds of miles (kilometers) away on the neighboring resort island of Bali. In the capital, Jakarta, 125 miles (190 kilometers) north, thousands of panicked office workers flooded out of swaying skyscrapers onto the streets, some of them screaming.

The Disaster Management Agency said at least 46 people were confirmed dead. Dede Kurniati said her 9-year-old son was playing at a friend’s house when the earthquake struck and is now “buried under the rocks.”

“I lost my son … now I just want to see his body, I want to bury my lovely son properly,” she said, weeping.

Hospitals in towns and cities across West Java province quickly filled with scores of injured people, most of them with broken bones and cuts. A tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck at mid afternoon but was lifted an hour later. Several dozen aftershocks were measured by geological agencies.

Indonesia, a vast archipelago, straddles continental plates and is prone to seismic activity along what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire. A huge quake off western Indonesia caused a powerful tsunami in December 2004 that killed about 230,000 people in a dozen countries, half of them in Aceh province.

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Iran Protesters Take to Streets Despite Threats

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Iran Protesters Take to Streets Despite Threats

CAIRO — Thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran on Thursday, clapping, chanting, almost mocking the authorities as they once again turned out in large numbers in defiance of the government’s threat to crush their protests with violence.

As tear gas canisters cracked and hissed in the middle of crowds, and baton-wielding police officers chased protesters up and down sidewalks, young people, some bloodied, ran for cover, but there was an almost festive feeling on the streets of Tehran, witnesses reported in e-mail exchanges.

A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kargar Street, paused for a moment and said, “I am not scared, because we are in this together.”

The protesters set trash afire in the street, and shopkeepers locked their gates, then let demonstrators in to escape the wrath of the police. Hotels also served as havens, letting in protesters and locking out the authorities.

The security forces did not fire on protesters, witnesses said, and it was unclear how many people were injured or arrested. On Friday, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran cited witnesses saying that dozens of people had been detained and many injured in beatings by police and militia forces.

It has been almost four weeks since the polls closed and the government announced that President Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad had won re-election in a landslide.

And there have been almost four weeks of defiance, in the face of the government’s repeated, uncompromising and violent efforts to restore the status quo. The government did succeed in keeping people off the streets in the previous 11 days, leaving many to simmer on their own as political insiders and clerical heavyweights slugged it out behind the scenes.

But there was an opening to take to the streets again on Thursday in a collective show of defiance, and many protesters seized it, even though the principal opposition leaders stayed away. Mir Hussein Moussavi, who claims he won the election; another candidate, Mehdi Karroubi; and former President Mohammad Khatami have agreed to pursue their complaints through the legal system and to protest only when a permit is issued.

But the mood of the street never calmed. One witness said that had it not been for the overwhelming show of force, it appeared, tens of thousands would have turned out.

The day was supercharged from the start, with a protest called for 4 p.m. to honor the students who 10 years earlier were bloodied and jailed during a violent confrontation with the police.

Cellphone messaging was disconnected Thursday for a third consecutive day, apparently to prevent communication among protesters. The government also closed universities and declared an official holiday on Tuesday and Wednesday, ostensibly because Tehran has been shrouded in a cloud of heavy dust and pollution.

But neither the announced holiday nor the murky air seemed to thin the crowds.

Many people thrust their hands into the air, making the V-sign for victory. The crowds remained mostly peaceful, a witness said, even as they watched, and sometimes tried to stop, police officers and militia members beating unarmed men and women. Many women were on the street, as they have been throughout the crisis.

A crowd chanted, “Please stop,” and chased two Basij members away.

The streets burned with garbage fires. Tear gas settled all around. And on one street, thousands of people pushed on, proclaiming their solidarity and defiance.

“We don’t want war,” said one 27-year-old man in a black shirt. “We just want freedoms.”

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Toronto, and independent observers from

Under a hot summer sun, police officers in riot gear patrolled the streets in roving bands of about 50. Then the crowds started to form, men, women and children packing the sidewalks. Traffic stopped and drivers honked or stepped from their cars in solidarity. The people chanted, “Down with the dictator,” “God is great” and “Mouss-a-vi” as they walked along Revolution Street.

“Tell the world what is happening here,” one 26-year-old engineering student said. “This is our revolution. We will not give up.”

Asked what he wanted, he said, “We want democracy.”

One witness gave this account: “The crowds are too huge to contain. Riot police running up and down Fatemi Street, beating people, barely got out of the way. The crowds just get out of their way and come back.”

Scenes like that were reported all over the city, though the main skirmishes seemed to have occurred near Tehran University and at Revolution Square. The police shot tear gas into Laleh Park. As night fell, the scene grew more severe. The air filled with acrid smoke and soot, and police officers and Basij militia members ran along the streets.

A man in a business suit pulled out a collapsible baton and beat a person who had a camera until the baton broke. A middle-age woman ran through the crowd, her coat covered with blood stains. Protesters hurled rocks at security officers. Two men held a huge arrangement of yellow and purple flowers on green leaves, in commemoration of those killed last month and in 1999, a witness said.

But still, no matter who stopped to talk, witnesses said, there was a sense of mission and unity that seemed almost validated by the brutal government response. A 55-year-old woman on the streets in support of the marchers said: “This is Iran. We are all together.”

Until now, the government has relied on three main tactics to try to put the turbulence of the presidential race behind it: detentions; the violent suppression of street protests; and a shifting of blame for the unrest to “meddling” foreign nations, primarily Britain and the United States, but also Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The nation’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has sanctified the election, and the powerful Guardian Council has certified the results. But the opposition has continued to insist that there were widespread irregularities, rendering the vote and the results invalid. It has refused to concede, which has served to keep the conflict from fading.

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Deadly floods ravage Brazil’s Minas Gerais

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A total of 66 towns cities in Minas Gerais state have declared a state of emergency.In the town of Ouro Preto two taxi drivers died when a bus station was destroyed by a landslide.
Flood waters are also threatening hillside communities in Rio de Janeiro state that were devastated a year ago.

Flooding is common in southeastern Brazil during the rainy season. Nationwide, more than 2m people have been affected by this year’s rains, Brazil’s civil defence force says.

About 10,300 people have been evacuated, and 3,000 homes have been destroyed.

Many roads have been blocked, making it difficult to get help and supplies to affected areas.

Early warning

Last year floods killed more than 800 people, in what officials said was the worst natural disaster ever to befall Brazil.
Most of the deaths were in towns in the mountains north of Rio de Janeiro such as Nova Friburgo, which are again suffering from intense rains.

Since then, the Brazil government has set up an early warning system to monitor weather rainfall and ensure people evacuate before floods strike.

There has also been heavy investment in flood protection.

Minas Gerais state governor Antonio Anastasia said disaster prevention measures had proved effective.

“Given the quantity of rain, we can observe that the system of alerts and evacuation are working well,” he said.

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