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Singapore flood response not sufficient: Lee Kuan Yew

Mafia infiltrated rebuilding of Italian quake city: police
Rome (AFP) July 22, 2010 - Members of Italy's Camorra mafia won contracts to rebuild the quake-hit city of L'Aquila with the help of four bank employees, police charged Thursday after carrying out six arrests. In an operation codenamed "Untouchable", police also seized 21 businesses, 118 buildings and other property worth a total of around 100 million euros (128 million dollars), the police statement said. Those arrested are thought to be involved in the financial operations of the Casalesi clan, one of the Camorra's most powerful, based in Caserta near Naples.

They have ties to the Rome area, northern Tuscany as well as L'Aquila's Abruzzo region in central Italy, police said. Phone taps caught the suspects arranging money transfers to finance businesses created in L'Aquila in order to obtain lucrative contracts to rebuild the devastated medieval walled city, police said. The bank employees are accused of abetting the suspects by providing financing while ignoring procedures to prevent money laundering, notably by not flagging suspicious activity, police said. The earthquake in L'Aquila on April 6, 2009, claimed 308 lives. Some 120,000 people were affected by the quake in and around L'Aquila, and tens of thousands are still living in hotels, barracks and makeshift apartments built by the government.
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) July 22, 2010
The Singapore government's measures to reduce the impact of recent floods on homes and businesses were insufficient, the island's founding father Lee Kuan Yew said in remarks published Thursday.

Lee, commenting on Wednesday after Singapore suffered three bouts of severe flooding since mid-June, added that constant rain and limited land area made it difficult to totally prevent floods in the tropical city-state.

"How can you say that the response is sufficient?" Lee was quoted as saying by the Straits Times when asked if the government's measures to alleviate the flooding had been up to standard.

"Of course, Singaporeans expect everything to be perfect - which we try to do, but there are some things which are beyond that."

The 86-year-old former prime minister, now an adviser to his son Lee Hsien Loong's government, said Singapore's small land area made it difficult to deal with "acts of God."

Singapore used to be an exception in a region plagued by disasters but the recent flash floods have caused serious property damage and disrupted lives across the island, denting its reputation for urban management.

Critics have blasted the Public Utilities Board (PUB) for not being prepared to handle the first two floods, while the department defended itself by saying abnormal weather conditions and clogged drains were to blame.

Officials have vowed to improve the drainage network and step up alert systems to forewarn residents and businesses to limit the impact of future floods.

The government has identified 52 flood-prone zones, including the financial district and the Orchard Road shopping belt, and some establishments including luxury shops have resorted to installing unsightly sandbag barricades.

"There is a limited amount of space that you can dig underground, limited amount of space that you can have run-offs for canals," Lee noted.

"Whatever we do when we get extraordinary rains like we had recently, no amount of engineering can prevent flooding... unless you want to lose half the roads and have canals."

earlier related report
Philippines to deploy soldiers over water crisis
Manila (AFP) July 22, 2010 - Soldiers will be deployed in the Philippine capital to maintain order amid rising tensions over a water shortage that is affecting millions of people, the government said on Thursday.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the troops would be required to protect trucks as they deliver water to areas of Manila where the taps have run dry following a months-long drought.

"We have asked for warm bodies (from the armed forces) to put order to those water stations and water rationing areas," Singson told reporters.

He stressed there had been no rioting yet, but people were starting to become agitated.

"We have received reports of people jumping queues, others throwing their weight around and so on, so we just need to make sure that there is order in those water rationing areas," Singson said.

He said the soldiers would also have to guard city workers as they cut off water to people who had illegally tapped into pipes.

Large areas of Manila were submerged just 10 months ago after tropical storm Ketsana brought the worst floods to the capital in a generation, killing 464 people.

But drought in the first half of the year has left the main dam that supplies Manila at critically low levels, and weather forecasters predict normal rainfall will resume only in September.

Singson said human error was also to blame for the shortage.

He said water from the dam had been misused for electricity generation this year even when supply shortages were becoming a concern, while years of neglect in not building more dams was a longer-term issue.

Singson said at least three million people, or a quarter of Manila's population, have in recent weeks had their supplies cut off for varying times each day.

Of these, 1.12 million have been severely affected -- defined by having water for less than 12 hours a day and requiring supplies to be trucked in.

Singson did not say how many soldiers would be used or when the troops would be deployed.

The last time soldiers deployed in force in Manila was during the global food crisis in 2008, when the military provided armed escorts to government workers as they gave rice to the slums.

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China floods deadliest in 10 years, conditions set to worsen
Beijing (AFP) July 21, 2010
Flooding in China that has killed more than 700 people this year is the deadliest in a decade and looks set to worsen as the country gets deeper into typhoon season, the government warned Wednesday. But officials, in the first high-level press briefing on weeks of deadly flooding plaguing much of the country's southern half, said a disaster on the scale of historic 1998 flooding on the Yangt ... read more

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