Clean-up begins after Typhoon Mangkhut slams into Philippines coast with wind gusts of up to 255km/h

Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the country's northeastern coast early Saturday, with witnesses saying the storm's ferocious wind and blinding rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power at the start of the onslaught.

The typhoon made landfall before dawn in the coastal town of Baggao in Cagayan province on the northern tip of Luzon island, an agricultural region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces often hit by landslides.

More than 5 million people were at risk from the storm, which the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Centre categorizes as a super typhoon with powerful winds and gusts equivalent to a category 5 Atlantic hurricane.

Typhoon Mangkhut slammed into the country's northeastern coast, with witnesses saying ferocious wind and blinding rain ripped off tin roof sheets and knocked out power. Source: Associated Press

There were no immediate reports of major damages or casualties in the region, where a massive evacuation from high-risk areas was carried out over two days.

Associated Press journalists in a hotel in Cagayan's capital city of Tuguegarao saw tin roof sheets and other debris hurtle through the air and store signs crash to the ground. Cars shook as wind gusts pummelled a parking lot.

With a huge raincloud band 900 kilometres wide, combined with seasonal monsoon rains, the typhoon was expected to bring intense rain that could set off landslides and flash floods. Storm warnings have been raised in almost all the provinces across the Luzon, including the capital, Manila, restricting sea and air travel.

Before it hit the island, Mangkhut was tracked late Friday with sustained winds of 205 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 255km/h, forecasters said.

Even if the typhoon weakens slightly after slamming ashore, its winds will remain very destructive, government forecaster Rene Paciente said.

"It can lift cars, you can't stand, you can't even crawl against that wind," Paciente told reporters late Friday in Manila.

In Cagayan's capital city of Tuguegarao, residents braced for the typhoon's fury by reinforcing homes and buildings and stocking up on food.

"It was busy earlier in the hardware store and people were buying wood, nails, tin wire, plywood and umbrellas," said Benjamin Banez, who owns a three-story hotel where workers were busy hammering up wooden boards to protect glass panels.

A super typhoon wrought heavy damage to Banez's hotel and the rest of Cagayan in 2016.

Ninia Grace Abedes abandoned her bamboo hut and hauled her four children to a school building serving as an emergency shelter. The 33-year-old laundrywoman said the 2016 typhoon blew away their hut, which they abandoned before the storm hit.

"If we didn't, all of us would be dead," Abedes said.

More than 15,300 people had been evacuated in northern provinces by Friday afternoon, the Office of Civil Defence said.

Concerns over massive storm surges that could be whipped inland by the typhoon's winds prompted wardens to move 143 detainees from a jail in Cagayan's Aparri town to nearby towns, officials said.

The typhoon hit at the start of the rice and corn harvesting season in Cagayan, a major agricultural producer, prompting farmers to scramble to save what they could of their crops, Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba said. The threat to agriculture comes as the Philippines tries to cope with rice shortages.

After the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory predicts Mangkhut will plough into the Chinese mainland early Monday south of Hong Kong and north of the island province of Hainan. Though it is likely to weaken from a super typhoon to a severe typhoon, it will still pack sustained winds of 175km/h, it said.

The observatory warned of rough seas and frequent heavy squalls, urging residents of the densely populated financial hub to "take suitable precautions and pay close attention to the latest information" on the storm.

The gambling enclave of Macau, near Hong Kong, suffered catastrophic flooding during Typhoon Hato last August that left 10 dead and led to accusations of corruption and incompetence at its meteorological office.

On the Chinese mainland, the three southern provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan are coordinating preparations, including suspending transport and moving people to shelter inland, the national meteorological agency reported.

Guangdong, China's manufacturing hub, has set up 3,777 shelters, while more than 100,000 residents and tourists have been moved to safety or sent home.

The province has recalled more than 36,000 fishing boats to port, while train services between the cities of Zhanjiang and Maoming have been suspended and all ferry services between Guangdong and Hainan have been put on hold. Fujian province to the north of Guangdong is also closing beaches and tourist sites, the agency reported.

Philippine forecasters said the shifting typhoon could possibly blow toward Vietnam after it exits late Saturday or early Sunday.

In an emergency meeting Thursday, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte asked Cabinet officials from the north to help oversee disaster-response work and told reporters it was too early to consider seeking foreign aid.

"If it flattens everything, maybe we need to have some help," he said.

Mangkhut, the Thai word for mangosteen fruit, is the 15th storm this year to batter the Philippines, which is hit by about 20 a year and is considered one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.

Typhoon Haiyan left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, flattened villages, swept ships inland and displaced more than 5 million in the central Philippines in 2013.

Ferocious winds and rain tore off tin roof sheets and knocked out power through Baggao, in Cagayan province. Source: Associated Press



Congo reports Ebola death close to busy Ugandan border

Authorities have fought rumours and trained community members including traditional healers in efforts to calm and educate nervous residents.

The 32-year-old woman had assisted in the burials of other Ebola victims and health workers had followed her as a possible case, but she refused a vaccination and disappeared from the city of Beni, said the vice governor of Ituri Province, Pacifique Keta.

She died on Thursday at a hospital in Tshomia, on Lake Albert.

It is the closest a confirmed Ebola death in the current outbreak has been to Uganda, which has said it was making arrangements with the World Health Organisation to vaccinate health workers and other high-risk populations as needed.

Three thousand vaccine doses will be imported.

Congo's health ministry said that as of Friday there have been 116 confirmed cases, including 68 deaths, of Ebola in the outbreak that was declared on Aug. 1.

More than 10,000 people have been vaccinated.

Ebola monitoring has been taking place at the border and Uganda is considered what WHO calls "very high risk."

"To date, health workers in Uganda have responded to over 100 Ebola alerts that have been found to be negative for the Ebola virus," WHO's country office there has said.

The U.N. health agency has not recommended travel restrictions.

A new case of the Ebola virus emerges just after West Africa is declared free from the deadly virus. Source: Associated Press


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Thousands rally across Russia against raising pension ages

Several thousand people attended a Moscow rally organised by the Communist Party and other leftist groups, which was authorised by city officials.

Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for rolling back the proposed changes, arguing that the government should redistribute resources to avoid raising the pension age.

"They keep reaching into your pockets," he told protesters, who waved red flags.

The government's plan to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women has irked a wide range of Russians from all political factions.

Older Russians fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits while younger generations are worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities.

The proposal has also dented President Vladimir Putin's popularity.

Dmitry Orlov, who came to Moscow from his home city of Kostroma to join the rally, denounced the Russian government's move as a "robbery."

"It can't be that our country doesn't have money for its people, the people who spend their whole lives working and paying deductions for their pensions," he said.

Similar protests were also held Saturday in many cities across Russia's 11 time zones, most of them sanctioned by authorities.

Several hundred demonstrators rallied against the pension age hike in Sevastopol in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

"This is a very serious issue for me, because it touches upon my life, my children, my parents who haven't retired yet," said Olga Konitskaya, 30, a protester in Sevastopol.

The demonstrations went on peacefully, unlike a wave of unauthorised pension protests earlier this month organised by opposition leader Alexei Navalny that led to the detention of over 1,000 people across Russia.


Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin's most visible foe, had called for protests against the pension age hike before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organising a January protest over a different issue.


He is set to be released from custody Monday.

Putin has responded to the protests by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancies in Russia could exhaust the nation's pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same.

The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma has given only a preliminary approval to the pension changes bill and is yet to hold a decisive second reading.

Protest (file picture).
Protest (file picture). Source: 1 NEWS


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Two tiger sharks killed after Queensland shark attacks

Queensland fisheries authorities have caught and killed two tiger sharks, but it is unclear if they are responsible for separate attacks on a woman and a little girl in the Whitsundays.

Three baited hooks were dropped in the area on Friday, with Fisheries Queensland officials catching and killing a two-metre tiger shark and a 3.3-metre tiger shark today.

"It is unclear if they were responsible for injuries caused to two swimmers this week," Fisheries Queensland said in a statement.

The state government insists killing the sharks is in the interest of public safety, despite also saying it would be impossible to determine whether they were the sharks responsible.

The sharks will be cut open and measured before being dumped at sea.

12-year-old Hannah Papps was holidaying from Melbourne with her father and sister when she received a life-threatening wound to her right leg on Thursday while swimming in shallow water in Cid Harbour.

Her attack came after Tasmanian Justine Barwick, 46, was bitten on her left thigh while snorkelling in the same area less than 24 hours earlier.

Both victims have now been transferred to hospitals in Brisbane where Hannah is in a critical but stable condition and Ms Barwick was last known to be stable.

"We would like to thank everyone who has helped and cared for Hannah, including the police, emergency services and the hospital teams," her family said in a statement on Friday.

"We ask that everyone, including the media, please respect our family's privacy during this very difficult time so we can focus our energies on Hannah's recovery."

It is the first time baited hooks have been used in the popular Whitsundays holiday destination, where the tourism industry is still recovering following Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

The girl is Hannah Papps, who lives in Melbourne with her New Zealand parents. Source: 1 NEWS


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At least eight members of elite Revolutionary guard dead after gunmen attack military parade in Iran

Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz today, killing at least 8 members of the elite Revolutionary Guard and wounding 20 people, state media said.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that the wounded included a woman and a child but did not elaborate.

Earlier reports described the assailants as "Takfiri," a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group.

The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

State television showed images of the immediate aftermath. In it, paramedics could be seen helping someone in military fatigues laying on the ground.

Other armed security personnel shouted at each other in front of what appeared to be a viewing stand for the parade.

The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack's aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away. The attack struck on Ahvaz's Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Today’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran.

That attack had at that point been the only one by the Sunni extremists inside of Shiite Iran, which has been deeply involved in the wars in Iraq and Syria where the militants once held vast territory.

At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in the 2017 attack that saw gunmen carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles and explosives storm the parliament complex where a legislative session had been in progress, starting an hours-long siege.

Meanwhile, gunmen and suicide bombers also struck outside Khomeini's mausoleum on Tehran's southern outskirts.

Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran's first supreme leader until his death in 1989.

Ahvaz is the capital of Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan province. The province in the past has seen Arab separatists attack oil pipelines.

The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.

Fighter generic. Source: Thinkstock