BANDA ACEH: The death toll from a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Indonesia’s Aceh province Wednesday has nearly doubled to 97, a military chief said.
“So far 97 people have been killed and the number keeps growing,” Aceh military chief Tatang Sulaiman told AFP.
The USGS upgraded the magnitude to 6.5 from an initial reading of 6.4 and issued a yellow alert for expected fatalities and damage.
Mosques and shops were flattened in the small town of Meureudu, where the force of the quake sent people fleeing from their homes. No tsunami alert was issued.
Indonesian search and rescue personnel work to rescue people trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie, Aceh province on Dec 7, 2016. (Photo: CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN/AFP)
The head of the local disaster agency, Puteh Manaf, said the sole hospital in the district had been overwhelmed by the number of injured.
“Hundreds are estimated to have suffered injuries,” he told AFP.
Rescue operations were under way to find those believed trapped beneath the rubble, with heavy machinery being used to shift the debris.
A witness said local residents were wandering the streets, unable to return to their damaged homes and fearing aftershocks.
Images from the scene showed homes levelled, mosque spires toppled and cars crushed under rubble.
The location of the quake at the northern tip of Sumatra, roughly 130km from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. (Graphic: USGS)
“The earthquake was felt strongly and many people panicked and rushed outdoors as houses collapsed,” Sutopo Nugroho of the national disaster management agency (BNPB) said in a statement, adding that few injuries, and no deaths, had been reported.
Social media images showed buildings reduced to rubble, fallen electricity poles, and people gathering outside at street corners.
District official Apriadi Achmad said that an elderly man had died, possibly from a heart attack, and there were fears for dozens believed to be trapped inside damaged homes.
“Several shophouses and homes have caved in in Pidie Jaya district and the owners are still trapped there,” Achmad, chief of the local disaster management office, told AFP.
“We are now deploying heavy machines to help out and hopefully we can save the ones who are trapped,” he said.
Seismologists said the earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province, which was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
At least five aftershocks followed the quake, said Eridawati, local head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.
“Some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localised,” it said, giving a 44 per cent chance of the quake resulting in between one and 10 deaths.
In the coastal town of Sigli, people panicked and fled their houses to seek shelter away from the sea.
“We are now evacuating to Tijue because we are afraid of a tsunami,” said Nilawati, one of those heading several kilometres inland.
The United States Geological Survey said the quake struck at a depth of 17km on Aceh’s northeastern coast. No tsunami warning was issued. At least five aftershocks were felt in the hours after the initial quake, the disaster management agency said.
The region suffered massive destruction in 2004 when a quake of magnitude 9.2 triggered a tsunami that wiped out entire communities in Indonesia and other countries around the Indian Ocean.
Indonesia was the hardest hit, with more than 120,000 people killed in Aceh alone.
COPENHAGEN: Danish toy manufacturer Lego announced on Tuesday (Dec 6) a management shake-up to develop the brand beyond its iconic plastic bricks under the leadership of its veteran chief who brought the company back from the brink of bankruptcy.
Chief executive Jorgen Vig Knudstorp took over Lego when it was on verge of collapse in 2004 and transformed it into one of the industry’s biggest success stories, but he will step down by the end of the year to head a new unit focusing on the Lego brand, called Lego Brand Group, the company said.
Lego’s outgoing CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp. (AFP/Nikolai Linares)
“With our recent growth and globalisation come new and exciting opportunities for the brand,” deputy chairman and fourth generation owner Thomas Kirk Kristiansen said in a statement. “We establish the Lego Brand Group to look into these new opportunities,” he said.
Lego’s colourful toy blocks have proved resilient to the rise of digital devices which is battering the traditional toy industry, but the company has also been adept at using different channels to engage with children.
The group has allowed partners to develop branded video games, a Hollywood blockbuster, television shows and theme parks.
The company has grown over the years, but has always remained owned by the family of creator Ole Kirk Kristiansen since its founding in 1932. Its sales have increased five-fold in the past 10 years, to 35.8 billion kroner (US$5.1 billion).
The company shake-up should be seen in the light of its loss-making expansion into non-core businesses before Knudstorp took over, Niels Lunde, editor of Danish business daily Borsen and the author of a book about Lego, told AFP.
“Lego uses its brand in more channels now than it used to, and that is what Jorgen Vig Knudstorp will oversee in the new role,” he said.
Knudstorp was the first non-family member to take the helm of the group. He will be replaced at the Lego Group by 14-year Lego veteran Bali Padda, currently the company’s chief operating officer.
Padda, a Briton, will be the first non-Dane to head Lego Group, which will manufacture the plastic bricks.
“Lego has become so big that it’s hard for one chief executive to carry out all of the tasks,” Lunde said. “The chief executive role (of Lego Group) will become smaller now than it has been,” he added.
The new unit, Lego Brand Group, would work with the Lego Group as well as other units, including Lego Education and attractions at the Merlin Entertainments-controlled Legoland theme parks.
Knudstorp will also become chairman of Lego Group.
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SINGAPORE: Two Singaporean men have been charged for dealing with criminal proceeds in Adelaide, Australia, after they were found to be jointly carrying A$520,450 (S$551,367) at Adelaide Airport.
In a media release, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said one of the men was identified on Sunday in the airport’s check-in area. A police cash and drug detector dog had approached him, and he was found to be carrying A$250,000 (S$264,828) after police searched his luggage.
The second man was subsequently identified, and was found to be carrying A$270,450 (S$286,455) after his bag had been searched.
Both men were then arrested. They appeared before the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Monday, according to AFP.
Adelaide Airport Police Commander Gavin Stone said this is the largest cash seizure detected by one of its cash and drug detector dogs at Adelaide Airport, adding that the dog, Utana, was instrumental in the seizure.
Utana, a AFP Cash and Drug Detector (CADD) dog. (Photo: Australian Federal Police)
“Travellers are reminded that when carrying more than $10,000 in Australian currency or equivalent, it must be declared before departing Australia,” AFP said.
PHUKET: Under cloudy skies, the 30th Phuket King’s Cup regatta got underway on Sunday (Dec 4).
This premium event in Asia is Thailand’s oldest sailing regatta. The event is held annually around Dec 5, the birthday of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and is organised with the help of the Thai government and navy.
The regatta was created three decades ago to honour the late king, who himself was a keen sailor. About 200 sailing boats of all types, big and small, are taking part in the 20-race regatta.
Sailing boats of all types take part in the yearly regatta. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
King Bhumibol loved building sailboats and sailing. He won a gold medal for sailing at the 1967 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. His sailing mentor, Prince Bhisadej Rajani, said King Bhumibol was a natural at the sport when he picked it up in 1963, and would sail outside of his Palace of Klai Kangwon in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.
“His Majesty was very talented and was able to perfectly control the rudder,” said the prince. “This is a gift because if one doesn’t have the experience, you will end up slowing down the boat. But His Majesty was a natural.”
This year, there are about 1,000 sailors from 20 countries taking part in the regatta.
King Bhumibol sailing with his oldest daughter Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya. (Photo: Thai Royal Household Bureau)
THE LAST KING’S CUP
Kevin Whitcraft, the president of Phuket King’s Cup, said the regatta must go on as commemorations to the late king.
“It is a sad occasion, but it is also an occasion to memorialise His Majesty and his love of sailing and his sailing skill,” said Whitcraft. “What we did see, as the organiser, is the highest number of early entries in the regatta. Clearly, sailors around the world felt that that it was important to come to this event.”
About 1,000 sailors from 20 countries are taking part this year. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
For the island of Phuket, the regatta is extra special as it will be the last King’s Cup under the patronage of King Bhumibol.
“If the late Majesty can see us now, I think he will want to see that we carry on his wishes,” said Dr Chockchai Dejamornthan, the provincial governor of Phuket. “And I just want to say that the people of Phuket loved the late king so this particular King’s Cup is really important to us.”
This year’s regatta will be completed on Dec 10. While the race will be held again next year, the King’s Cup is expected to be renamed as there is now a new monarch.
This year’s winner will also be the last to take home the trophy designed by the late monarch.
The trophy has nine sails in honour of King Bhumibol, who was Rama IX.
The trophy awarded at the King’s Cup has nine sails because the late king was known as Rama IX. (Photo: Panu Wongcha-um)
Mark Hamill Stewart, the commodore of Royal Varuna Yacht Club, which helps organise the race, said this could be the last King’s Cup held.
“What I hope and expect is that we will continue to have big sailing event here with hopefully some kind of royal approval, but we have to wait and see about that,” said Stewart.
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PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will aim to entice more Muslim tourists to the country by formalising halal certifications for restaurants and food producers.
There are currently no internationally recognised halal standards in Cambodia, with local Muslims and tourists alike frustrated by the lack of transparency when it comes to food products.
Although nationally recognised certification can be granted, mostly Muslims rely on trust that meat has been prepared via methods acceptable by Islamic law.
“There are a lot of visitors that are confused about halal restaurants. There are some restaurants that just put the halal logo, but the food’s not halal,” said Mao Hasan from CamTours, an agency that specialises in tours for Muslims.
Two women prepare halal sausages in the north of Phnom Penh.
He says the holiday experience for Muslim visitors can be difficult when it comes to food and prayer – in a country where less than two per cent of the population follows the Islamic faith.
As a result of the confusion – and the potential trade and investment opportunities – the government is seeking the assistance and technical support of Malaysian experts to standardise halal practices. The first certifications could be completed by mid-2017, according to Ministry of Commerce spokesperson Soeung Sophary.
“When halal practices are in place and properly regulated, they would be beneficial and supportive to the tourism industry,” she said.
A special committee has been formed, including officials from 12 ministries and the Council of Jurists, to oversee the rollout.
A cow that will soon be butchered using methods permissible by Islamic law.
It comes as local meat producer SLN Meat Supplies eyes becoming the country’s first halal meat exporter. It currently slaughters Australian cattle and is reportedly looking to make multi-million dollar inroads in markets in Malaysia and the Middle East.
Numbers of tourists from Muslim-majority nations are small but fast growing. As of September this year, more than 100,000 visitors from Malaysia visited Cambodia, a 2.9 per cent increase on 2015, while about 20,000 holidaymakers from Indonesia were registered.
Rapid growth has occurred in the number of tourists from the Middle East, including Jordan, Syria and Yemen, however the sector is still niche – only about 4,000 visitors from Muslim nations from that region have arrived so far in 2016.
In the north of Phnom Penh, home to many local Cham Muslims, the butchery industry is a healthy and lucrative one. Ly Ah Shi sells about 70kg of halal beef each day from her small market stall in Russey Keo.
She sells to local customers and city restaurants and says, for diligent Muslims, it can be difficult to ensure the meat they purchase is properly prepared.
“If you’re picky enough, you will find it hard to get the real halal beef. If you don’t care much, it is easy,” she said. “If they take it seriously, they won’t take a risk.”
She has faith in her meat providers but says certification would help regulate the industry properly.
Butchers in the area – who are mostly smaller operators without the desire or capability to export their products – have mixed thoughts though about the need to adhere to an international standard.
Halal dishes prepared by a restaurant in the Cambodian capital.
Sausage producer Ly Romeh said it would be “totally sinful” to deceive others about halal food, and says, for her business, self-regulation is sufficient.
For Cambodian Muslims, eating out at city restaurants remains a challenge, yet despite that, not all customers are convinced by certification and prefer to get to know restaurant owners.
“I am not worried whether it is halal or not because he (the chef) is a Muslim himself. Once we know it is a Muslim cook, we don’t need to ask more,” said Un Maly, while eating at the aptly named Halal Restaurant in central Phnom Penh.
“It is ok, there no need to have it because we trust our fellow Muslim cook. Why do we need a sign,” said fellow diner Ly Amin.
The Cambodian government wants to encourage tourism by making travelling experiences easier for Muslim visitors.
The chef himself at Halal Restaurant – Mat Say Nin – says most of his customers are overseas tourists and for that reason having certification would be helpful but not essential to his business.
“It is not that important because I am a Muslim myself. People know I can cook halal food. I have been doing this for so long already. People keep coming,” he said.
It is that local knowledge that can often be missing for tourists – a gap that certification could soon address.
SINGAPORE: Kenyans continued their dominance at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore on Sunday (Dec 4), with Felix Kiptoo Kirwa clocking in a time of 2hr 17min 17sec in the men’s full marathon.
The 23-year-old fought off the humidity and the competition to clinch the top prize of S$50,000 in his maiden race in Singapore.
“Singapore is a very hot race, I’ve never run a hot race like today before,” he said, adding he only realised he might win at around the 40km mark. “I was not expecting to win this race, there were so many Kenyans and the race was very competitive.”
Fellow Kenyan Rebecca Kangogo Chesir was the women’s champion, finishing the race at 2hr 43min 03sec.
2013 SEA Games champion Mok Ying Ren was the first local across the finish line, with a time of 2hr 41min 03sec.
“I was slightly worried coming to the race – I’ve been training just once a day, running home from work and so on,” said Mok. “So I wasn’t sure how fit I was, and I haven’t really been running any extra-long runs – so I’m glad it turned out well today.”
Mok added that he and fellow national runner Ashley Liew have races lined up to qualify for next year’s SEA Games. But these will not be on Singapore’s shores – Mok plans to run a race in March 2017 in either Japan or South Korea.
Mok Ying Ren was the top local finisher at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore.
“Singapore is not really conducive to run a fast time to hit the qualifying mark, so both of us will be going overseas to try and clock our qualifying times,” said Mok. “So for both of us this is more of a tune up race for the marathon next year.”
This year’s race is also the first edition staged by organiser Ironman Asia, and the first time the full and half marathons had a simultaneous flag off along Orchard Road, which Mok said added a lot to the atmosphere of the race.
Apart from some congestion at points, most other runners Channel NewsAsia spoke with had few quibbles about the organisation of the race. But the 2016 edition of the race drew fewer numbers than last year – about 46,000 compared to over 50,000 in 2015.
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SINGAPORE: Against a trend of developed countries turning inwards and adopting a more protectionist, nativist approach, Singapore must remain open, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Dec 4).
In his speech at the 34th People’s Action Party (PAP) Conference held at Singapore Expo, Mr Lee pointed out that the events of Brexit and the US presidential elections – which he called “another very nasty campaign” – were the byproduct of unhappy voters and divided societies.
“Voters are fed up, not just with particular parties or individual leaders but with the whole system,” said Mr Lee, who is the PAP’s secretary-general. “Because they felt the elite is out-of-touch; and the system is not working for them.”
He said this was a mood also spreading across Europe ahead of its election season next year. “Extreme parties on both the left and the right are strengthening, gaining support,” said Mr Lee. “They can’t govern, they offer no workable alternative, but voters still support them – doesn’t matter, bring the house down.”
“These changes impact not just individual countries, but also the whole international order and environment – the world we live in,” he said, noting that developed countries are turning away from the same broad objective of prosperity and the shared perspective of cooperation.
“Instead of being open, self-confident, and proud of their own countries, and seeking win-win opportunities with other countries, now voters have become insecure, inward-looking, anxious about their future,” said Mr Lee. “When others succeed they think of it as a win-lose proposition, and so try to shut themselves off from the rest of the world.”
“This looks like the trend now,” he said. “I do not know how far it will go, but I do not like the direction it is going. If more countries turn this way, the world is going to change, and change for the worse.”
SINGAPORE’S PLACE TODAY
The changes around the world will have major consequences especially for small, open countries like Singapore, said Mr Lee.
“We have always depended on open trade, making friends around the world, looking for opportunities to cooperate with others,” he said. “We have relied on a secure, peaceful Asia, an international order where countries big and small cooperate and compete according to rules which are fair to all; where small countries have a right to their place in the sun.”
“That is how we have prospered these last 50 years.”
He added: “Yes, we worked very hard, and earned our success. But we were also very lucky to enjoy this international environment. We attracted foreign investments, negotiated FTAs, worked with other countries, expanded our exports, traded, prospered.”
But now, said Mr Lee, other countries are flexing their muscles and becoming increasingly assertive.
“Nobody can tell how relations between the big powers will develop,” he admitted. “If US-China relations grow tense, Singapore is going to be in a very difficult spot, because we regard both as our friends and do not want to have to choose between them.
“At the same time, world trade is flat, obstacles to trade are increasing. Our exports are not growing very much. It’s harder for countries to prosper together, to achieve win-win outcomes.”
He cited the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which 12 countries, including the US and Singapore, spent six years negotiating for what he called “a good deal”.
“But now, President Trump has declared the TPP is bad for the US, and that he will pull the US out of the TPP. Without the US, there will be no TPP,” said Mr Lee.
“We have to accept the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We still hope that one day we will have a regional trade deal including the US and other big countries,” he said. “But meanwhile, we have to continue to pursue trade liberalisation with others in the region, for example through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Programme.”
“We must continue to cooperate with our major partners – the US, China, ASEAN and others,” Mr Lee concluded. “Because if we close up like other countries, our people will be finished.”