Top Asian News 1:26 a.m. GMT
ATAMI, Japan (AP) — Rescue workers dug through sludge and debris Monday looking for more than 20 people who may be trapped after a torrent of mud, trees and rocks ripped with a roar through a Japanese seaside resort town, killing at least four people. Atami Mayor Sakae Saito said 24 people were still unreachable Tuesday morning, after the city late Monday released the names of more than 60 registered residents who were unaccounted for and the majority of them responded for the contact request. Officials were double checking the number because many of the apartments and houses in Atami are second homes or vacation rentals.
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said. Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling air base Monday, providing a rare first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America. The U.S. announced Friday it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.
BANGKOK (AP) — A massive explosion at a chemical factory on the outskirts of Bangkok early Monday killed at least one person, injured dozens more and damaged scores of homes, while prompting the evacuation of a wide area over fears of poisonous fumes and the possibility of additional denotations. Dense clouds of black smoke continued to billow from the site late in the day. Winds shifted and started blowing toward the city’s center, and evacuation centers were set up in a school and a government office for those forced from their homes. The fire broke out at around 3 a.m. at a foam and plastic pellet manufacturing factory just outside Bangkok near Suvarnabhumi Airport, with the explosion blowing out windows of surrounding homes and sending debris raining from the air.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops found the last five dead from the crash of a transport aircraft in the south and two wounded survivors died Monday, raising the death toll to 52 in the military’s worst air disaster, officials said. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was carrying 96 people, mostly combat troops, when it overshot the runway while landing Sunday at the Jolo airport in Sulu province, military officials said. It slammed into a coconut grove beyond the airport and burst into flames in a disaster witnessed by horrified soldiers and villagers. Troops, police and firefighters rescued 49 injured military personnel, including a few who jumped off the aircraft before it exploded and was gutted by fire.
PARIS (AP) — Press watchdog Reporters Without Borders has put Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on its list of “predators,” the first time a Western European leader has been placed in the lineup of heads of state or government who “crack down massively” on press freedom. The list published Monday includes 37 leaders. Two women, the prime minister of Bangladesh and the Hong Kong’s administrative chief, also were added to the list, as well as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This was the first time in five years that the watchdog, known by its French initials RSF, has published its press freedom predator’s list.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government announced Monday that Parliament will resume July 26, caving into pressure from the king to lift the legislature’s suspension under a coronavirus emergency imposed in January. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin obtained royal assent in January to declare an emergency until Aug. 1 to curb a spike in coronavirus cases, but critics slammed the decree as a ruse to help him stay in power amid challenges to his leadership from both the opposition and within his coalition. The emergency suspended Parliament but includes no other measures. Muhyiddin’s government remains in control and has extraordinary powers to introduce laws without parliamentary approval.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s government pledged Monday to take steps to eliminate forced labor after the country was downgraded by the U.S. to the worst level in an annual report on human trafficking. Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan said the government is taking the downgrade seriously and has ramped up efforts to battle human trafficking, including increased prosecution for companies involved in forced labor. The U.S. State Department’s annual “Trafficking in Persons” report, released July 2, cited the coronavirus pandemic as contributing to a surge in human slavery between 2020 and 2021. It said Malaysia, which had been on a watchlist for three years, was downgraded to Tier 3 for failing to meet minimal standards for the elimination of trafficking and was not making significant efforts to do.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Parts of Indonesia lack oxygen supplies as the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients who need it increases, the nation’s pandemic response leader said Monday, after dozens of sick people died at a public hospital that ran out of its central supply. “Due to an increase of three to four times in the amount (of oxygen) needed, the distribution has been hampered,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister. The government is asking oxygen producers to dedicate their full supply to medical needs and will import it if needed, Pandjaitan said at a virtual news conference.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — At the end of May, Chen Pei-jer, a member of an expert committee in Taiwan to evaluate COVID-19 vaccines for use on the island, resigned. Chen’s resignation came after he learned that Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration planned to take a regulatory shortcut in approving two vaccines being developed in Taiwan. The shortcut would allow the shots to be given to people for emergency use before the vaccines have finished the final stage of testing. The proposed shortcut comes as Taiwan scrambles to get vaccines amid its worst outbreak of the pandemic, and has also recorded its first cases of the highly contagious delta variant originally found in India.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Father Stan Swamy, a jailed Jesuit priest and longtime Indian tribal rights activist, died Monday in the western Indian city of Mumbai. He was 84. His lawyer and doctor told the Bombay High Court that Swamy, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, died of cardiac arrest. The court was hearing a plea for bail on medical grounds after Swamy had been denied bail in March. The activist had been moved to a private hospital from Tajola Central Prison in May after his health began rapidly deteriorating. He was admitted to the ICU, where he tested positive for COVID-19.