SINGAPORE — “Yes, hello, fruits?” Shouting above the din, vendor Sini Mohamad leans forward into a conga line of office workers edging between dozens of lavishly provisioned stalls in Singapore’s Tekka Market. It is lunchtime, and crowds throng the market as dozens of hawker stalls dish out noodles, rice and curries. Most ignore Mohamad’s appeals. But he keeps at it, alongside stallholders selling meat, fish, vegetables and spices. The lunchtime crowd offers a fleeting chance for butchers and grocers to persuade passers-by to do a bit of grocery shopping before they head back to work, their palettes whetted by the aromas of spices and herbs clinging to the steamy market air.
JAKARTA — Aid workers described scenes of destruction and desperation Monday in areas of central Sulawesi they reached for the first time since a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami leveled parts of the Indonesian island, blocked roads and turned solid ground into mud. Just outside the hard-hit town of Palu, the regional capital and hub of the relief effort, volunteers retrieved the bodies of 34 students from a Bible school in the town of Sigi Biromaru, said Aulia Arriani, head of communications at the Indonesian Red Cross. The Red Cross team had “a hard time to evacuate the bodies as they had to walk through mud for one-and-a-half hours,” Aulia said. At least 1,203 people were killed after Friday’s quake, according to an unofficial count by volunteers, nongovernmental groups and hospitals in Palu. The tremor unleashed a tsunami as high as 20 feet crashing into the coastline, destroying roads and bridges, downing cellphone towers and washing away thousands of houses.
JAKARTA — Anisah Firdaus Bandu’s mother called her in tears from her hometown of Palu on Friday evening when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake jolted the island of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia. Since then, with cellphone towers and other infrastructure damaged by the quake and an ensuing tsunami, Anisah hasn’t heard from her parents, who are among thousands believed unaccounted for in the disaster that has left at least 800 people dead, officials said Sunday. “My mother cried a lot, she tried to pick up my father at his office,” said Anisah, a civil servant in Jakarta, the capital. “I really tried hard to reach them till now but I can’t.” As anxious relatives tried to place phone calls in vain and clamored to board military or relief flights to Palu, a town of some 380,000 people, emergency crews struggled to reach the worst affected areas, including a string of coastal towns that remained cut off by washed-out roads and downed communication lines.
JAKARTA — Indonesian officials said 384 people were killed and many more remained unaccounted for after an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 on Friday evening triggered a sundown tsunami measuring between five and ten feet high that washed over Palu and Donggala, two coastal cities in Sulawesi in the east of the Indonesian archipelago. Earlier on Saturday Sutopo Nugroho, the disaster mitigation agency spokesman, told media in capital Jakarta that the deaths had been tallied from four hospitals in Palu, population c.a 380,000, and that there were likely to be “many [more] victims,” possibly including hundreds of people who were attending a beach festival when the waves hit. Among the dead was Anthonius Gunawan Agung, a young air traffic controller who died after leaping from a damaged airport navigation tower in Palu, after ensuring a commercial flight took off before the disaster hit.
JAKARTA — While European Union leaders were in the middle of another round of Brexit talks in Salzburg this week, the European Commission was pitching a plan to boost Europe’s infrastructure links with Asia. The commission, a key EU decision-making body, estimates that Asia needs 1.3 trillion euros ($1.5 trillion) a year in infrastructure spending over the next few decades. European infrastructure upgrades will cost a projected 1.5 trillion euros between 2021 and 2030, it said. EU foreign ministers will vote on the plan ahead of a meeting of leaders of 51 countries across Asia and Europe in Brussels next month. Financing details are hazy, with the commission suggesting that it draws on existing EU funds, loans from development banks and public-private partnerships. Some analysts say the plan — titled “The European Way to Connectivity” — suggests that the EU is proposing an alternative to China’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious collection of road, rail and port projects in 60 countries spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.
SINGAPORE — In an era of business buzzwords like “unicorn” and “fintech,” a commercial model built on spitting into a tube might not seem the most propitious idea. But Asia’s nascent DNA testing sector is likely to expand as related technology becomes more affordable and as scientific research advances. Behind the trend is the region’s growing affluence. As tens of millions of people move from the countryside to cities across Asia, so-called “lifestyle” conditions such as diabetes and heart disease become more commonplace as people eat more processed food and replace physically-taxing employment such as farming with sedentary office work. Peering into a person’s DNA can yield insights about susceptibility to particular health conditions or diseases — and a growing consumer awareness of such advances is driving much of the DNA sector’s Asian growth, note companies involved in testing.
KNOCK — Hundreds of thousands of Catholics gathered under dark rain clouds as Pope Francis said Mass in a Dublin park and stopped briefly to pray at Knock Shrine, a pilgrimage site in the west of Ireland, on the second and final day of his visit to Ireland. Clouds of a different sort were gathering over Francis’s increasingly troubled papacy, however, after a former Holy See ambassador to the U.S. called on Francis to resign over claims that the pope protected Theodore McCarrick, who was forced to resign as cardinal in July after accusations of sex abuse crimes. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C., sent a statement to several Catholic newspapers overnight, in which he claimed Francis “continued to cover” for the disgraced McCarrick, who, Vigano said, was sanctioned by Benedict XVI, Francis’s immediate predecessor as pope.
DUBLIN — Pope Francis on Saturday vowed to adopt “stringent” measures to rid a crisis-convulsed Catholic Church of the “pain and shame” caused by decades of sexual abuse and its tolerance by clerical authorities. Francis traveled to Ireland, once a bastion of Catholic belief, but where religious practice that has been eroded by years of church scandal that has fed a process of secularization similar to preceding variants elsewhere in Europe. He met privately for an hour and a half with eight survivors, the Vatican said, without providing details. Two of the participants in the meeting later said the pontiff equated the scandal and cover-up with excrement.
KNOCK — When Pope Francis lands in Dublin on Saturday morning, he will encounter a land much changed from the one that gave predecessor John Paul II a euphoric welcome nearly four decades ago. “Devotion was at its peak, there were around 450,000 people here in Knock to see the pope,” said Bernard Byrne, 74, sitting inside his souvenir shop next to the parish church in Knock, a village in the west of Ireland. Behind him loomed statues of the Virgin Mary and framed photos of Francis, who will visit the Catholic pilgrimage site on Sunday, emulating John Paul II.
DUBAI — The food stalls ringing the interior of Little Manila in Dubai make for a nostalgic evocation of the real thing — and serve as a home away from home for some of the estimated 750,000 Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates. Across Dubai there are dozens of similarly themed restaurants and shops, sometimes even entire streets, catering to expatriate worker communities from India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and several other Asian countries. Much of the talk in these establishments now centers on the thousands of stranded workers who are availing of a temporary amnesty provided by the government to fly home after having any prospective punishments for visa infractions revoked.