Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Neighbors and family members mourn those who died in Osaka quake

Neighbors and family members mourned Tuesday for those who died in the powerful earthquake that rocked Osaka Prefecture a day earlier, including a 9-year-old girl remembered as a bubbly child who often greeted them with a smile.

Rina Miyake, 9, was on her way to elementary school in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, when a concrete wall surrounding the school’s swimming pool collapsed, killing her.

The girl, who lived with her brother and parents, had left for school 10 minutes earlier than usual on Monday to join a greeting campaign as a class representative.

“She usually left for school around 8 a.m. but told me she had to leave early since it was her turn to join the greeting (campaign),” said a 71-year-old woman who lives across the street from the girl’s family. “It’s unfortunate that the quake occurred on this day.”

Another neighbor remembered Rina as a gregarious child. “Since many cars pass close to the school, children usually walked at the side of the road,” the 69-year-old woman said. “I will miss her as she always smiled and waved to me.”

A temporary memorial was set up Monday evening in front of the school, where bouquets of flowers lined its main gate in memory of the girl.

A woman cries near a memorial adorned with flowers for Rina Miyake, 9, who was killed in the major earthquake that hit Osaka Prefecture on Monday morning when a school concrete wall collapsed on her as she was making her way to class. | KYODO
In Higashiyodogawa Ward, Osaka, Minoru Yasui, 80, was also killed when a wall collapsed in the quake.

Yasui, who lived with four other family members, had been bound for his daily practice of keeping watch over children making their way to school.

A few minutes after leaving home and immediately after greeting an acquaintance the quake struck, and Yasui, who walked with a cane, was buried under the collapsed wall of a nearby residence.

Neighbors and family members rushed to the scene, with his wife holding his hand, though they were unable to revive him.

“I feel empty. I just can’t understand how this could have happened,” Yasui’s wife, Sanae, 78, said tearfully.

His son Katsuyuki, 54, echoed her thoughts.

“We had dinner together Sunday night to celebrate Father’s Day,” he said. “I can’t make sense of my feelings.”

Yasui was known to be close to the neighborhood children and was often seen riding his bicycle in the area.

“He must’ve felt invigorated by helping keep watch over children,” Katsuyuki said.

A third victim of the quake, Motochika Goto, 85, of Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, died after being crushed by a bookshelf in his apartment.

He had worked for a major trading company and was known by neighbors to enjoy reading foreign books and taking strolls in the area.

“When my two daughters entered university, he gave them books. He also gave us souvenirs from his hometown in the Kyushu region. He was a kind person,” said a 65-year-old neighbor who declined to be identified.

(Source: JT)

How a giant python swallowed an Indonesian woman

An Indonesian woman has been killed and swallowed whole by a 7m (23ft) long python, say local authorities.

Though such incidents are incredibly rare, this was the second python death reported in Indonesia in just over a year.

What happened to the woman?
Wa Tiba, 54, went missing last Thursday while checking on her vegetable garden on Muna island in Sulawesi province. A huge search was mounted by local people.

Her sandals and machete were found a day later - a giant python with a bloated belly was lying about 30m away.

"Residents were suspicious the snake swallowed the victim, so they killed it, then carried it out of the garden," local police chief Hamka told news outlet AFP.

"The snake's belly was cut open and the body of the victim was found inside."

Gruesome footage has been circulating on social media in Indonesia showing the woman's body being recovered intact in front of a large crowd.

How do pythons attack?
The python in Sulawesi is believed to have been a reticulated python.

They can reach lengths of more than 10m (32ft) and are very powerful. They attack in an ambush, wrapping themselves around their prey and crushing it - squeezing tighter as the victim exhales.

Reticulated pythons are usually said to avoid humans
They kill by suffocation or cardiac arrest within minutes.

Pythons swallow their food whole. Their jaws are connected by very flexible ligaments so they can stretch around large prey.

When it comes to eating humans, "the restricting factor is human shoulder blades because they are not collapsible," Mary-Ruth Low, conservation & research officer for Wildlife Reserves Singapore and a reticulated python expert, told the BBC in an earlier interview.

Do they eat other large animals?
"Pythons are almost exclusively mammal feeders," Ms Low points out, though they do occasionally eat reptiles, including crocodiles.

Typically they eat rats and other small animals, she said, "but once they reach a certain size it's almost like they don't bother with rats anymore because the calories are not worth it".

"In essence they can go as large as their prey goes."

That can include animals as large as pigs or even cows.

Sometimes the size of the meal can be misjudged. In 2005 a Burmese python - the largest in the python family - tried to swallow an alligator whole in Florida. It burst in the process and both died, their bodies later being found by rangers.

But these opportunistic hunters can be surprisingly picky too. If they don't see suitable prey, they can go for long periods on very little food until they see something big enough.

Is this the first time a python has eaten a human?
No. In 2002, a 10-year-old boy was reportedly swallowed by a rock python in South Africa.

And in March last year - also in Sulawesi - a farmer was swallowed by a 7m-long python.

The 25-year-old from West Sulawesi was on a palm oil plantation near his village when he was attacked. Video footage showed his body being extracted.

Video showed the snake being cut open with a long knife to free the man's body
Also last year, a man from the Indonesian province of Sumatra managed to fight off a 7.8m-long python who had attacked him while he was on a palm oil plantation. He survived with serious injuries.

Previous claims often involved hard-to-prove cases that happened some time before they were reported, in remote areas and without reliable witnesses.

Anthropologist Thomas Headland, who spent decades among the Agta, a group of hunter-gatherers in the Philippines, had claimed that a quarter of the tribe's men had been attacked by reticulated pythons at some point.

Though almost all fended them off with machetes, adult Agta - who are physically small - were occasionally eaten, his research said.

Snake expert Nia Kurniawan from Indonesia's Brawijaya University, told BBC Indonesia that pythons are sensitive to vibrations, noise and heat from lamps, so they normally avoid human settlements.

The latest victim's garden was located at the base of a rocky cliff littered with caves, known to be home to snakes, according to the local police chief.

The reticulated python (Python reticulatus)

  • The longest snake in the world, capable of reaching over 10m (32ft) in length.
  • The longest in captivity is held in Kansas City, US, and measured 7.6m (25ft) in 2011, according to Guinness World Records.
  • If often lives in forests, is normally fearful of humans and is rarely seen.
  • Is often treated as a sacred animal in parts of Indonesia when caught.
  • Dozens of other python species are found in sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, China, and across South East Asia.

(Source: BBC)

Parents forced to quit jobs as they wait for school places for children with special needs

‘It almost feels like you are being constantly punished for daring to have a disabled baby’

Dozens of councils across the country have called on the education secretary to urgently boost special needs funding as thousands of children have been left at home waiting for school places.

Parents have been forced to quit their jobs – and in some have waited for several years for a place in the right provision – to ensure their child with special needs is supported, experts say.

Local authorities have said they are “deeply concerned” that funding cuts are making it even more difficult to place children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in schools.

A letter – signed by 39 local authorities and education unions – calls for councils and schools to be given more money to make sure that children with SEND get the support they need. “We urge the government to act quickly on this matter,” the letter, which is addressed to Damian Hinds, says.

The number of youngsters with special educational needs, plans or statements has been rising – as has the demand for special school places. Meanwhile, funding pressures have made it harder for schools and local authorities to provide specialist provision to the most vulnerable learners.

More than 2,000 children with complex needs have “no education provision at all” due to inadequate funding, according to the new letter – which is backed by some Conservative-led councils.

Thousands of children with special needs are not in school because of funding pressures, councils and unions say ( Corbis )
Jo-Ann D’Costa Manuel, director of charity Autism Parent Empower, said she knows of parents whose children have been at home for two years while they wait for the right specialist school place.

“When they are left at home on a waiting list, even if they are provided some help, they become wasted years,” she said. “It is hugely wasted time and opportunity for them to progress.”

Ms D’Costa Manuel, who has a nine-year-old son with autism, told The Independent that some parents have resorted to home schooling their children because they feel “failed by the system”.

“A lot of parents are not equipped to homeschool their children. They cannot suddenly become teachers or teaching assistants and know what to do,” she warned.

Some parents have been put in an “impossible position” and have been forced to quit their jobs to look after their children, according to Andrew Baisley, from the National Education Union (NEU).

And in other cases, parents have seen their children with SEND repeatedly being passed between mainstream schools because of funding and accountability pressures on staff, he added.

“I think it is harder to get kids into mainstream schools because there is a massive financial disincentive and there is an enormous accountability disincentive,” Mr Baisley said.

Last month, schools minister Nick Gibb said judging schools on the education outcomes of students they have moved on could help tackle the rising number of schoolchildren being excluded.

It came after special educational needs experts called for excluded children and parents to be protected by a “bill of rights”, giving them better scrutiny of a school’s decision to get rid of them.

Nancy Gedge, a coordinator of special needs provision in a school in Oxfordshire, told The Independent that she thinks increasing funding alone will not solve the problems in the sector.

Ms Gedge, who has a 17-year-old son with Down’s syndrome, said a culture shift was needed to ensure families with children with special needs were treated fairly throughout the process.

“It almost feels like you are being constantly punished for daring to have a disabled baby. It feels like you are constantly dealing with brickbats thrown in your direction,” she said.

The Department for Education announced last month it was allocating £50m for the expansion of special schools – but unions and councils say it “will not solve the long-term challenges” they face.

Nadhim Zawahi, minister for children and families, said: “We want to make sure every child with special educational needs gets the support that they rightly deserve. The high-needs budget for pupils with special educational needs is £6bn this year – the highest on record, with core schools funding rising to £43.5bn by 2020 – 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000.

“We are also undertaking the biggest special educational needs reforms in a generation, introducing education and health care plans that are tailored to the needs of individuals and put families at the heart of the process.

“Already, nearly 320,000 children and young people are benefiting from these and we will continue to work to make sure every child gets the support they need to fulfil their potential.”

(Source: The Independent)

Mexico fans set off earthquake sensors celebrating seismic World Cup win

Supporters in Mexico City watching Germany game cause two ‘artificial’ quakes during their team’s surprise win

Mexicans jumping in jubilation on Sunday shook the ground hard enough to set off earthquake detectors after their team scored a surprise victory over World Cup defending champions Germany.

The Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Investigations said highly sensitive earthquake sensors registered tremors at two sites in Mexico City, seven seconds after the game’s 35th minute, when star player Hirving Lozano scored. It called the tremors an “artificial” quake.

Fans waving Mexican flags and wearing traditional “sombrero” hats, gathered at the iconic Angel of Independence monument in downtown Mexico City, to watch the match on on a giant screen in front of a towering cathedral.

As Mexico beat Germany 1-0 in Moscow, they sang the country’s unofficial soccer anthem, “Cielito Lindo,” or “Pretty Little Sky,” a popular folksong.

At the Angel of Independence monument after the match, Rodolfo Pulido, 47, led a chant of “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!” perched on a concrete barrier that usually separates traffic on a busy thoroughfare.

“I am incredibly happy,” said Pulido, with his girlfriend and son on a Father’s Day outing. “It’s a double gift: Mexico won and I get to celebrate with my son.”

He also said he could now dream of Mexico reaching the next stage along with 15 other teams, getting a shot at reaching the quarter- and semi-finals before the final match.

“El Tri,” as the team is called, in homage to Mexico’s three-colour flag, has failed make it past the round of 16 in the last six World Cups.

Presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered his congratulations at a campaign event in Mexico state, telling supporters, “Just like the team won today, Mexico will keep winning.”

Fans on social media celebrated goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s performance, circulating memes depicting him as president of Mexico.

Others riffed on US president Donald Trump’s pledge to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, placing photos of Ochoa guarding the goal alongside the caption “Hey! We already have a wall.”

Another popular meme depicted German chancellor, Angela Merkel, holding a phone to her ear with the text: “Donald? It’s me Angela. Please build the wall.”

Mexico will face South Korea in their next game on Saturday in Rostov-on-Dov.

(Source: The Guardian)

Monday, 18 June 2018

Deadly quake hits Osaka, kills child and two men, injures hundreds

A strong earthquake in Osaka, Japan has killed at least three people, including a child, and injured more than 200.

Airports in the area were closed for several hours, train lines interrupted and factories had to halt production.

The 6.1 magnitude quake did not trigger a tsunami warning and nuclear plants in the area are operating normally.

Japan lies in a particularly earthquake-prone region and accounts for around 20% of quakes worldwide of magnitude 6.0 or more.

Monday's quake in Osaka occurred just before 08:00 local time (23:00 GMT Sunday) north of the city.

A nine-year old girl killed by a falling wall at her school was one of three confirmed fatalities.

An elderly man was also killed by a collapsing wall while another was trapped below a bookcase at home, national broadcaster NHK reported.

'I thought my time was up'
Atsushi Yokoi, a research scientist who lives in Ibaraki-shi near the epicentre of the tremor, told the BBC he was asleep when the quake struck.

"The earthquake woke me up," he said. "It felt like strong sideways shaking and lasted about five seconds, and I stayed there until it stopped."

After sending messages to his family and friends, he went to work to check the damage to his research equipment.

"Though most public transport was still paralysed, buses were working. All the experiments planned have bee cancelled and postponed until we are absolutely sure that there's no risk of an aftershock."

Ibaraki-shi resident Gloria Randriamihaja was also woken by the earthquake.

"It only lasted a minute but it seemed so long. My apartment was messed up, broken glasses on the floor, fridge open.

"The whole building was shaking, I was so scared, telling myself 'Gloria this is it, your time is up.' Finally the [shaking] stopped," she told the BBC.

Several people were trapped in elevators and roads were cracked with broken pipes spilling water.

Some 170,000 houses were left without power and gas supplies to more than 100,000 homes were stopped, the Japan Times reported.

The earthquake registered as 6.1 on the Japan's quake scale, a level at which it is difficult to remain standing. The US Geological Survey measured it as magnitude 5.3.

Debris on a supermarket floor showed the impact of the quake
Both the high-speed Shinkansen and local trains suspended operations during the morning commuting hours as several smaller aftershocks followed the quake.

The tremors also affected the prefectures of Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, and Shiga.

Japan's meteorological agency warned there could be another big earthquake in the coming days.

Trains had to stop en route and be evacuated
There are also warnings that rain and landslides will continue to pose a danger for several days.

The quake also hit several key industrial areas near Osaka with companies like Panasonic and Daihatsu saying they were suspending production at their affected sites.

(Source: BBC)