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Strong earthquake hits southern Taiwan, building collapses

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A 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the sparsely populated southeastern part of Taiwan on Sunday, the island’s weather bureau said, derailing train carriages and causing a convenience store to collapse.

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The weather bureau said the epicentre was in Taitung county, and followed a 6.4 magnitude temblor on Saturday evening in the same area, which caused no casualties.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at a magnitude 7.2 and at a depth of 10 kilometres.

The county government in Hualien, which sits next to Taitung, said two people were trapped in a building housing a convenience store that collapsed in Yuli, while rescue efforts were underway for three people who fell off a damaged bridge.

The Taiwan Railways Administration said three carriages came off the rails at Dongli station in eastern Taiwan after part of the platform canopy collapsed, and the roughly 20 passengers aboard had been evacuated and were uninjured.

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Taiwan after the tremor but later rescinded the alert. Japan’s weather agency also lifted an earlier tsunami warning for part of Okinawa prefecture.

The quake could be felt across Taiwan, the weather bureau said. Buildings shook briefly in the capital Taipei.

Science parks in the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung, home to major semiconductor factories, said there was no impact on operations.

Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is prone to earthquakes.

More than 100 people were killed in a quake in southern Taiwan in 2016, while a 7.3 magnitude quake killed more than 2000 people in 1999.

Camilla: I will always remember Queen Elizabeth’s smile

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Camilla, wife of the Britain’s new King Charles and now queen consort, said the smile of the late Queen Elizabeth was “unforgettable” in a message of tribute to the late monarch released on Sunday.

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“She’s been part of our lives for ever. I ‘m 75 now and I ca n’t remember anyone except the Queen being there,” Camilla said of Elizabeth ‘s death her on Sept. 8 aged 96.

“It must have been so difficult for her being a solitary woman. There weren’t women prime ministers or presidents. She was the only one so I think she carved her own role,” she added in the tribute which was recorded as part of a package in the last three months.

Charles has delivered a number of personal messages about his late mother, expressing how he would miss his “darling mama”.

“She’s got those wonderful blue eyes, that when she smiles they light up her whole face. I will always remember her smile. That smile is unforgettable,” Camilla said in the message.

Camilla, Charles’s second wife, has grown in popularity since she wed the new king back in 2005, having previously being lambasted and blamed by the press and many Britons for causing the break-up of his first marriage to the late Princess Diana.

Her rehabilitation was complete when in February Queen Elizabeth marked 70 years on the throne by giving her blessing to Camilla taking the title queen consort, saying it was her “sincere wish” that she did so.

Britain: Russia may step up attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine

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Russia has widened its strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine in the past week and is likely to expand its target range further, Britain said on Sunday, while Ukrainians returning to territory abandoned by Russian forces tried to find their dead.

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Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the Donetsk region over the past day, while in Nikopol several dozen high-rise and private buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were damaged by Russian strikes, the governors of those regions said separately on Sunday.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said investigators had discovered new evidence of torture used against some soldiers buried near Izium, one of more than 20 towns that were retaken in the northeastern Kharkiv region after a lightning advance by Ukraine’s forces earlier this month.

Zelenskiy said in a video address that authorities had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium, some of which he said bore signs of torture.

Residents of Izium have been searching for dead relatives at a forest grave site discovered last week and where emergency workers have begun exhuming bodies. The causes of death for those at the grave site have not yet been established, although residents say some died in an airstrike.

Ukrainian officials said last week they had found 440 bodies in the woodlands near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians, and that the site proved war crimes had been committed by Russian invaders who occupied the area for months.

Oleksandr Ilienkov, the chief of the prosecutor’s office for the Kharkiv region, told Reuters at the site on Friday: “One of the bodies (found) has evidence of a ligature pattern and a rope around the neck, tied hands,” adding that there were signs of violent death causes for other bodies but they would undergo forensic examination.

Valery Marchenko, mayor of Izium, told state television on Sunday that “the exhumation is underway, the graves are being dug up and all the remains are being transported to Kharkiv”.

He added “the work will continue for another two weeks, there are many burials. No new ones have been found yet, but the services are looking for possible burials”.

Moscow regularly denies committing atrocities in the war or deliberately attacking civilians. The Kremlin has not commented publicly on the discovery of the graves.

The head of the pro-Russian administration that abandoned the area earlier this month accused Ukrainians of staging the atrocities at Izium. “I have not heard anything about burials,” Vitaly Ganchev told Rossiya-24 state television.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not responded to the accusations but on Friday brushed off Ukraine’s swift counteroffensive, casting Russia’s invasion as a necessary step to prevent what he said was a Western plot to break Russia apart.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that Russia had lauched several thousand long-range missiles against Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

“However, in the last seven days Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure even where it probably perceives no immediate effect,” the ministry said in the tweet.

The strikes have struck targets including an electricity grid and a dam, it added.

“As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” the ministry said.

BIDEN WARNS RUSSIA

Putin has said Moscow would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure, raising concerns he could at some point use unconventional means like small nuclear or chemical weapons.

US President Joe Biden, asked what he would say to Putin if he was considering using such weapons, replied: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two.” He made the comment in an interview with CBS program “60 Minutes”, a clip of which was released by CBS on Saturday.

Some military analysts have said Russian might also stage a nuclear incident at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling around the plant that has damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cooled and safe.

One of the plant’s four main power lines has been repaired and is once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Saturday.

Ukraine has also launched a major offensive to recapture territory in the south, where it hopes to trap thousands of Russian troops cut off from supplies on the west bank of the Dnipro River, and retake Kherson. Kherson is the only large Ukrainian city Russia has captured intact since the start of the war.

EU moves to cut money for Hungary over damaging democracy

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The European Union executive recommended on Sunday suspending some 7.5 billion euros in funding for Hungary over corruption, the first such case in the 27-nation bloc under a new sanction meant to better protect the rule of law.

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The EU introduced the new financial sanction two years ago precisely in response to what it says amounts to the undermining of democracy in Poland and Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban subdued courts, media, NGOs and academia, as well as restricting the rights of migrants , gays and women during more than a decade in power.

“It’s about breaches of the rule of law compromising the use and management of EU funds,” said EU Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn. “We cannot conclude that the EU budget is sufficiently protected.”

He highlighted systemic irregularities in Hungary’s public procurement laws, insufficient safeguards against conflicts of interest, weaknesses in effective prosecution and shortcomings in other anti-graft measures.

Hahn said the Commission was recommending the suspension of about a third of cohesion funds envisaged for Hungary from the bloc’s shared budget for 2021-27 worth a total of 1.1 trillion euros.

The 7.5 billion euros in question amounts to 5% of the country’s estimated 2022 GDP. EU countries now have up to three months to decide on the proposal.

Hahn said Hungary’s latest promise to address EU criticisms was a significant step in the right direction but must still be translated into new laws and practical actions before the bloc would be reassured.

CORRUPTION

Orban’s government proposed creating a new anti-graft agency in recent weeks as Budapest came under pressure to secure money for the ailing economy and forint, the worst-performing currency in the EU’s east.

Orban, who calls himself a “freedom fighter” against the world view of the liberal West, denies that Hungary – an ex-communist country of some 10 million people – is any more corrupt than others in the EU.

The Commission is already blocking some 6 billion euros in funds envisaged for Hungary in a separate COVID economic recovery stimulus over the same corruption concerns.

Reuters documented in 2018 how Orban channels EU development funds to his friends and family, a practice human rights organisations say has immensely enriched his inner circle and allowed the 59-year-old to entrench himself in power.

Hungary had irregularities in nearly 4% of EU funds spending in 2015-2019, according to the bloc’s anti-fraud body OLAF, by far the worst result among the 27 EU countries.

Orban has also rubbed many in the bloc the wrong way by cultivating continued close ties with President Vladimir Putin and threatening to deny EU unity needed to impose and preserve sanctions on Russia for waging war against Ukraine.

Nancy Pelosi condemns ‘illegal’ Azerbaijan attack on Armenia

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday condemned what she described as an “illegal” attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia that sparked the worst fighting since their 2020 war.

Baku and Yerevan have accused each other of initiating the border clashes on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

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“We strongly condemn those attacks — on behalf of Congress — which threaten (the) prospects of the much-needed peace agreement,” Pelosi told a news conference in Yerevan.

“Armenia has particular importance to us because of the focus on security following an illegal and deadly attack by Azerbaijan on the Armenian territory.”

Pelosi said the attack was an “assualt on (the) sovereignty of Armenia”.

Hostilities between the Caucasus arch foes ended overnight on Thursday thanks to mediation by the United States, Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan said.

Earlier attempts by Russia to broker a true failed.

“We are grateful to the United States for the agreement of the fragile ceasefire reached by their mediation,” he told a news conference alongside Pelosi.

Simonyan thanked the US for “the targeted assessment to (sic) the war actions of Azerbaijan”.

Pelosi, who arrived in Yerevan on Saturday for a three-day visit, is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Armenia since the tiny nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars — in the 1990s and in 2020 — over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan.

Together with France and Russia, the US co-chairs the Minsk Group of mediators, which had led decades-long peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under the aegis of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Analysts have said the recent fighting has largely undone Western efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace deal.

The six-weeks war in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

Serbia police clash with right-wing protesters at LGBTQ march

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Police clashed with right-wing protesters on Saturday as several thousand people joined an LGBTQ march in Serbia to mark the end of EuroPride week, an event staged in a different European city each year.

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Police clashed with two right-wing groups trying to disrupt the march, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said, adding that 10 police officers were slightly injured, five police cars damaged and 64 protesters arrested.

“I am very proud that we managed to avoid more serious incidents,” Brnabic, who herself is Serbia’s first gay prime minister, told reporters.

Following protests by nationalists and religious groups, the government had banned the march last week. But faced with calls by European Union officials and human rights activists, it allowed a shortened route for the march.

Those participating walked several hundred meters to the Tsmajdan stadium where a concert took place.

The United States’ ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, and the European parliament’s special rapporteur for Serbia, Vladimir Bilcik, joined the march.

Previous Serbian governments have banned Pride parades, drawing criticism from human rights groups and others. Some Pride marches in the early 2000s met with fierce opposition and were marred by violence.

But recent Pride marches in Serbia have passed off peacefully, a change cited by EuroPride organizers as one reason Belgrade was chosen as this year’s host. Copenhagen was the host in 2021.

Serbia is a candidate to join the EU, but it must first meet demands to improve the rule of law and its record on human and minority rights.

Fury grows in Iran over woman who died after hijab arrest

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Protests persisted on Sunday and #MahsaAmini became one of the top hashtags ever on Persian-language Twitter as Iranians fumed over the death of a young woman in the custody of morality police enforcing strict hijab rules.

Amini, 22, died on Friday after falling into a coma following her arrest in Tehran earlier in the week, putting a spotlight on women’s rights in Iran.

Police rejected social media suspicions that she was beaten, saying she fell ill as she waited with other detained women. read more

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Sunday around the University of Tehran on Sunday, shouting “Woman, Life, Freedom”, according to online videos.

Reuters could not verify the footage.

Under Iran’s sharia, or Islamic law, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Offenders face public rebuke, fines or arrest. But in recent months activists have urged women to remove veils despite the hardline rulers’ crackdown on “immoral behavior”.

SURGING HASHTAG

The Persian hashtag #MahsaAmini has now reached 1.63 million mentions on Twitter.

Amini was from Kurdistan, where there were also protests on Saturday, including at the funeral in her hometown Saqez. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have long put down unrest among the minority Kurds. read more

Police repressed the Saqez demonstrations, with videos posted online showing at least one man with a head injury. Reuters could not authenticate the videos.

Behzad Rahimi, a member of parliament for Saqez, told the semi-official ILNA news agency that a few people were wounded at the funeral. “One of them was hospitalized in the Saqez Hospital after being hit in the intestines by ballbearings,” he said.

Kurdish rights group Hengaw said, however, that 33 people were injured in Saqez. Reuters could not independently confirm the number.

Russia artillery and air strikes pound eastern Ukraine targets

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Russia has widened its strikes on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine in the past week and is likely to expand its target range further, Britain said on Sunday, while Ukrainians returning to territory abandoned by Russian forces tried to find their dead.

Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the Donetsk region over the past day, while in Nikopol several dozen high-rise and private buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were damaged by Russian strikes, the governors of those regions said separately on Sunday.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said investigators had discovered new evidence of torture used against some soldiers buried near Izium, one of more than 20 towns that were retaken in the northeastern Kharkiv region after a lightning advance by Ukraine’s forces earlier this month.

Zelenskiy said in a video address that authorities had found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium, some of which he said bore signs of torture.

Residents of Izium have been searching for dead relatives at a forest grave site discovered last week and where emergency workers have begun exhuming bodies. The causes of death for those at the grave site have not yet been established, although residents say some died in an airstrike.

Ukrainian officials said last week they had found 440 bodies in the woodlands near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians, and that the site proved war crimes had been committed by Russian invaders who occupied the area for months.

Oleksandr Ilienkov, the chief of the prosecutor’s office for the Kharkiv region, told Reuters at the site on Friday: “One of the bodies (found) has evidence of a ligature pattern and a rope around the neck, tied hands,” adding that there were signs of violent death causes for other bodies but they would undergo forensic examination.

Valery Marchenko, mayor of Izium, told state television on Sunday that “the exhumation is underway, the graves are being dug up and all the remains are being transported to Kharkiv”.

He added “the work will continue for another two weeks, there are many burials. No new ones have been found yet, but the services are looking for possible burials”.

Moscow regularly denies committing atrocities in the war or deliberately attacking civilians. The Kremlin has not commented publicly on the discovery of the graves.

The head of the pro-Russian administration that abandoned the area earlier this month accused Ukrainians of staging the atrocities at Izium. “I have not heard anything about burials,” Vitaly Ganchev told Rossiya-24 state television.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not responded to the accusations but on Friday brushed off Ukraine’s swift counteroffensive, casting Russia’s invasion as a necessary step to prevent what he said was a Western plot to break Russia apart.

In an intelligence update on Twitter, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that Russia had lauched several thousand long-range missiles against Ukraine since the start of the invasion.

“However, in the last seven days Russia has increased its targeting of civilian infrastructure even where it probably perceives no immediate effect,” the ministry said in the tweet.

The strikes have struck targets including an electricity grid and a dam, it added.

“As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely extended the locations it is prepared to strike in an attempt to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” the ministry said.

BIDEN WARNS RUSSIA

Putin has said Moscow would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure, raising concerns he could at some point use unconventional means like small nuclear or chemical weapons.

US President Joe Biden, asked what he would say to Putin if he was considering using such weapons, replied: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war unlike anything since World War Two.” He made the comment in an interview with CBS program “60 Minutes”, a clip of which was released by CBS on Saturday.

Some military analysts have said Russian might also stage a nuclear incident at the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling around the plant that has damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cooled and safe.

One of the plant’s four main power lines has been repaired and is once again supplying the plant with electricity from the Ukrainian grid, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Saturday. read more

Ukraine has also launched a major offensive to recapture territory in the south, where it hopes to trap thousands of Russian troops cut off from supplies on the west bank of the Dnipro River, and retake Kherson. Kherson is the only large Ukrainian city Russia has captured intact since the start of the war.

UNICEF: Improvement on immunization in Nigeria fantastic

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Peter Hawkins, the Country Representative, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, says the improvement recorded in the number of children immunized against diseases in the country is fantastic.

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He gave the commendation on Sunday during the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja.

Newsmen report that the National Immunization Coverage Survey (NICS) 2021 revealed that 57 per cent of Nigerian children received all three doses of pentavalent vaccines.

Hawkins said that in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria was able to record an improvement in immunization indices even when some other countries witnessed a drop.

He added that “the situation in Nigeria, it’s not so much where we are today, it’s where we have come from.

“In 2016, it was 34 per cent Penta three, so three, Penta vaccines for a child.

“Now it is at 57 per cent, so that improvement is fantastic. Over the past three to four years, it increased from 50 per cent to 57 per cent.

“So, that increase is fantastic, in actual fact, given that in the middle, we had COVID and in most countries, immunization dropped.

“In Nigeria, we put a lot of efforts, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) puts a lot of effort in maintaining importation of vaccines for routine immunization, maintaining the structures so that they continue to provide vaccinations to children and 50 to 57 per cent is a fantastic achievement.”

Hawkins, however, said that though there was measurable improvement, 57 per cent is still insufficient for a country like Nigeria, and that the indicators around child mortality demonstrates that.

According to him, the problem is in the fact that some states are performing at a high level, while some only record little improvement.

He added that “Lagos State is at 82 per cent, if I remember correctly, and they have sustained it at that level, whereas a state like Sokoto has gone from seven per cent to 11 per cent.

“Eleven per cent is the problem there. So it’s looking at the states where immunization is low, seeing what the fundamental problems of why and then unbottling those bottlenecks to ensure that they go up to the 57 per cent, 60 per cent and ultimately get to 80 per cent.”

He also said that there are communities with zero dose children, adding that there are some communities even in Lagos State where immunization has not reached.

He explained that the NPHCDA, together with Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization (GAVI) and UNICEF have been working hard to ensure that those communities are not left behind.

He also said that continuous financing for vaccines should be enabled to ensure that the gap is closed.

For malaria vaccine for children, he said it would herald a significant change in child mortality.

He added that though the vaccine is still expensive, it will be included in routine immunization to prevent children from dying from malaria once they become available.

“We are also coming up with malaria, that will be a significant change in the way that the child mortality is looked at.

“The vaccine is still expensive. That new vaccine is starting to be developed and once that becomes available for children, it will change the dynamic and it’s how you include that in the routine immunization to prevent children from dying from malaria.”

NAN reports that the 2021 World Malaria Report (WMR 2021) indicates that Nigeria contributes 27 per cent of the global malaria cases and 32 per cent of global malaria deaths.

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced its recommendation of widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission .

The recommendation was based on results from a pilot program in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that reached more than 900,000 children since 2019.

Though the malaria vaccine is still under review, the global target of the World Health Organization is to reduce the incidence of the disease by at least 30 per cent by 2030.

Death toll from Kyrgyz-Tajik clashes rises to 36

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Kyrgyzstan said on Sunday at least 36 people had died in recent border clashes with Tajikistan, raising its toll of the latest violence between the Central Asian neighbors.

“The total number of dead as a result of the armed conflict in the Batken (border) region is 36,” the health ministry said in a statement.

A further 139 people had been wounded in the fighting on the southwestern border, it said.

The previous toll given by the ministry was 24 dead.

The Tajik interior ministry said on Saturday that civilians had been killed in the clashes but did not provide a figure.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called for “no further escalation” between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In phone calls with the leaders of the Central Asian nations, Putin also urged them to “take steps to resolve the situation as soon as possible by exclusively peaceful, political and diplomatic means”. according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are part of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) but they regularly clash.

The two sides agreed to a ceasefire on Friday but have since accused each other of breaching it.

After more clashes on Saturday, the night passed “quietly, without incidents” the Kyrgyz authorities said on Sunday morning.

“The country’s leadership is taking all measures to stabilise the situation, prevent attempts of escalation… in a peaceful way,” they added.

On Sunday afternoon, the Kyrgyz authorities issued a statement saying the situation at the border “remains calm, trending towards stabilisation”.

On Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the leadership of both sides “to engage in dialogue for a lasting ceasefire, said a spokesman.

Border disputes have dogged the former Soviet republics through their three decades of independence. Around half their 970-kilometre (600-mile) border is still to be demarcated.

In 2021, unprecedented clashes between the two sides killed at least 50 people and raised fears of a wider conflict.