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Heavy rains flood Japan, over a dozen presumed dead | News

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Fourteen people are feared dead after a nursing home was flooded in western Japan as record heavy rains hit the region, a local governor said.

The victims were found “in cardio-respiratory arrest” at the facility for elderly people that was inundated after a nearby river broke its banks, governor Ikuo Kabashima from the western region of Kumamoto told reporters.

Officials said they were still sorting out the numbers and could not confirm the toll.

Another 10 were presumed missing and dozens were stranded on rooftops waiting to be rescued in southern Japan.

More than 75,000 residents in the southern prefectures of Kumamoto and Kagoshima were asked to evacuate following pounding rains overnight. The evacuation is not mandatory and it was not known how many actually fled.

“I smelled mud, and the whole area was vibrating with river water. I have never experienced anything like this,” a man in a shelter in Yatsushiro city in western Kumamoto told NHK TV. He said he fled early fearing a disaster.

An aerial view shows flooded Kuma River caused by heavy rain at a residential area in Hitoyoshi, Japan

An aerial view shows flooded Kuma River caused by heavy rain at a residential area in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan [Reuters]

NHK footage showed large areas of Hitoyoshi town in Kumamoto inundated in muddy waters that gushed out from the Kuma River. Many cars were submerged up to their windows.

Mudslides smashed into houses and floodwaters carried trunks from uprooted trees. Several people were standing atop a convenience store as they waited for rescuers.

In Tsunagimachi district, two of three people buried underneath mudslides were pulled out without vital signs, Kumamoto prefectural crisis management official Takafumi Kobori said.

Rescuers were still searching for the third person.

In another badly flooded town, Ashikita, six people were unaccounted for and a seventh was seriously injured, Kumamoto officials said.

In the mountainous village of Kuma, residents stranded at their homes were being airlifted by a rescue helicopter. In Hitoyoshi city, rescuers transported some residents in a boat.

Flooding also cut off power and communication lines. About 8,000 homes in Kumamoto and neighboring Kagoshima were without electricity, according to the Kyushu Electric Power Co.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up a task force and said up to 10,000 troops were being mobilised for rescue operations.

The Japan Meteorological Agency earlier issued warnings of extraordinary rain in parts of Kumamoto, which is about 1,000km (600 miles) southwest of Tokyo. It later downgraded them as the rainfall – estimated at 100mm (4 inches) an hour – subsided.

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Colombia launches ‘elite force’ to target rebels, drug gangs | Crime News

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The new unit consisting of 7,000 personnel will be deployed to border with Venezuela and to drug trafficking hotspots.

Colombia on Friday launched a new military unit to target coca crops and cocaine production, illicit mining, and the illegal armed groups who use such activities for financial gain.

Colombia’s decision to launch the unit, known as CONAT in its Spanish initials, came while the country was preparing to restart aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate – possibly starting at the end of March – depending on the government receiving approval from the Constitutional Court.

“The unit was born to hit, repress, and break down the structures of drug trafficking and transnational threats linked to illegal mining, the trafficking of wildlife and people, and – of course – any transnational form of terrorism,” President Ivan Duque said at a military base in Tolemaida.

Colombia, considered the world’s leading producer of cocaine, suspended aerial spraying of glyphosate in 2015 following warnings by the World Health Organization that the chemical was potentially damaging to health and the environment.

The new unit will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

The new unit, consisting of 7,000 personnel, will be deployed to zones such as the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela, as well as the provinces of Cauca and Putamayo, Defence Minister Diego Molano said.

Colombia has faced constant pressure from the United States, a major destination for cocaine, to reduce the size of crops of coca, the drug’s chief ingredient.

During 2019, coca crops covered some 154,000 hectares (380,000 acres) in Colombia, with a potential to produce 1,137 tonnes of cocaine, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. There are no figures available for 2020.

The armed forces eradicated 321,240 acres (130,000 hectares) of coca last year, according to the government, and seized 500 tonnes of cocaine.

Drug trafficking has long driven Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead and millions displaced.

During his address, surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, Duque also said the force would pursue “without qualms” members of the ELN – the last active rebel group in Colombia, as well as drug gangs and ex-FARC rebels who have abandoned the terms of a 2016 peace deal, he said.

“Soldiers, it is a morally necessary, morally correct battle … Let’s go for the defence of Colombia!” he said.

Surrounded by helicopters, tanks and hundreds of soldiers, President Ivan Duque also said the force would pursue ‘without qualms’ members of the ELN and ex-FARC rebels [Courtesy Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters]

When he first announced the creation of the elite force earlier this month, he said many of its targets “are protected in Venezuela” though he did not mention direct military action in the neighbouring country. On Friday, Duque did not mention Venezuela.

But his statement prompted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to pledge to “respond forcefully”.

From Caracas, he said the country’s security forces should “clean the barrels of our rifles to answer them at any level we need to answer if Ivan Duque dares violate the sovereignty of Venezuela.”

Colombia and dozens of other countries recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president, prompting Venezuela to break off diplomatic ties with its neighbour in 2019.

Colombia has repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing refuge to leftist armed groups, a charge Caracas has denied.



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