BEIJING — Heavy rain in China has claimed six lives this week and forced the evacuation of some 200,000 people.
Five people died in southeastern China, according to state media reports: A house collapse took three lives in Fujian province on Tuesday, and two died Monday in a landslide caused by torrential rain in neighboring Jiangxi province.
One person died and three are missing in northern China after a vehicle fell into the water in mountain flooding from heavy rain in the Inner Mongolia region.
China regularly experiences seasonal rains and flooding during the summer, most frequently in central and southern areas.
Video on state broadcaster CCTV showed large parts of cities flooded in muddy waters. Rescue workers carried trapped people out of buildings on their backs in waist-deep water in Guangdong province, also in the southeast.
The rain ended Wednesday in Jiangxi, but more precipitation is forecast for another week in Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong and the nearby Guangxi region. The National Meteorological Center said residents should prepare for floods and landslides as the soil is already saturated in those areas.
More than 110,000 people have been relocated in Jiangxi province, along with more than 80,000 in Fujian, state media reports said.
Seventeen people died last week in rain-related disasters in Guangxi and in Hunan province in central China.
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South Korea launches first successful homegrown rocket, starting ‘new era’ for space program
SEOUL — South Korea successfully launched and put its homegrown space rocket into orbit Tuesday, becoming the seventh nation capable of launching practical satellites using a self-developed propulsion system.
“The Nuri rocket launch was a success,” Lee Sang-ryul, director of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute told the press after the launch. “After the launch, Nuri’s flight process proceeded according to the planned flight sequence.”
KARI set off its 200-ton homegrown space rocket from the Naro Space Center in the Southern coastal village of Goheung. The launch was delayed from the original test date last Thursday due to weather conditions and a technical glitch.
Loaded with a 162.5-kilogram (358-pound) performance-verification satellite — as well as four cube satellites for academic research and a 1.3-ton dummy satellite — Nuri reached its target orbit of 700 kilometers (435 miles) above the Earth. All three stages of its engine were combusted according to plan, separating the mounted satellites at the arranged moment.
With Tuesday’s launch, South Korea joined the U.S., Russia, France, China, Japan and India in its self-developed propulsion capabilities, according to officials.
“The launch opens up a new era for South Korea’s space program and science technology,” Aerospace Engineering professor Cho Donghyun of Pusan National University said.
The Nuri Development Project, also known as the Korean Launch Vehicle project, commenced in 2010. The completion of its three-stage launch vehicle system technology enabled the team to test-fire South Korea’s first homemade rocket last October.
Back then, the rocket made it to the target altitude of 700 kilometers but failed to put a dummy satellite into orbit, making the launch a half-success. The rocket launched on Tuesday stably settled the performance-verification satellite into orbit.
“The Nuri spacecraft is fired up by not just one engine but a clustering of four 75-ton grade liquid engines. This gives potential to build larger projectiles with more engines in the future,” Cho said.
A latecomer in the aerospace industry, South Korea’s rocket-launch journey began in 2013 when it blasted its first carrier rocket, Naro-1, to achieve orbit. The aircraft was a collaborative project with Russia’s Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center and KARI.
In the 12 years since that collaboration, South Korea developed its very own space rocket. South Korea invested $616 million on space research in 2021, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT, a figure considerably less than the $48 billion the U.S. spent in the same period.
“We have set the stage for us to travel to space whenever we’d like, without having to rent a launchpad or a projectile from another country,” Minister of Science and ICT Lee Jong Ho said. “The South Korean government plans to enhance the technical reliability of the Nuri rocket through four additional launches until 2027.”
ABC News’ Eunseo Nam contributed to this report.
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Residents say China used health tracker for crowd control
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Angry bank customers who traveled to a city in central China to retrieve their savings from troubled rural banks have been stopped by a health app on their cellphone.
Chinese residents are required to have the health app, which displays a code indicating their health status, including possible exposure to COVID-19. A green code is required to use public transportation and to enter locations such as offices, restaurants and malls. But some depositors at the banks in central Henan province said their codes were turned red to stop them.
The incident has started a national debate on how a tool designed for public health was appropriated by political forces to tamp down controversy.
The issue started in April, when customers found they could not access online banking services. They tried to report the banks and get their money back, but didn’t get replies.
Thousands of people who had opened accounts with the six rural banks in Henan and Anhui provinces began trying to withdraw their savings after media reports that the head of the banks’ parent company was on the run. The majority shareholder of several of the banks, Sun Zhenfu, was wanted by authorities for “serious financial crimes,” according to the official media outlet The Paper.
Authorities likely feared a bank run, which is not uncommon with smaller banks in China that tend to be less stable than their larger, institutional counterparts.
Customers from around the country were connected with the rural banks through financial platforms such as JD Digits. There, the small banks sold customers financial products such as fixed deposit accounts with higher interest rates, which require people to deposit their money for a set amount of time, according to Sixth Tone, the sister publication of The Paper.
Unable to resolve the issue online, customers set out earlier this week to demand government action at the Henan province office of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou. But after arriving in the city, they found they couldn’t go far.
In one since-deleted account on the social media app WeChat, a woman surnamed Ai said shortly after she checked into a hotel in Zhengzhou, she was questioned by a group of police who asked her why she was there. She replied that she wished to withdraw money from the bank. Shortly after, she found her health code had turned red even though she had a negative COVID-19 test result in the previous 48 hours.
She was immediately taken to a quarantine hotel by a pandemic prevention worker.
Sixth Tone interviewed over a dozen people who said their health codes turned red after they scanned a QR code in the city.
In China, places like train stations and grocery stores have QR codes to scan at their entrances, logging people’s presence for contact tracing during the pandemic. When people are deemed to be at risk for COVID-19, their codes are turned different colors that indicate restrictions such as mandatory quarantines.
With a red health code, it’s impossible to go to any public venues, or even to board a train.
One bank customer, who gave her last name as Liu, said she saw that many people were reporting their health codes had turned red after arriving in Zhengzhou.
Liu, who did not go to Zhengzhou herself, said she tested the code change after others reported it in their shared group chat. After scanning the QR code from a photo someone had shared in the group, Liu found that her health code also turned red.
Another bank customer told Sixth Tone that he got a red code after scanning in at the train station in Zhengzhou and was taken into police custody. A few hours after police officers made him leave Zhengzhou, his health code turned green.
Jiakedao, a social media account run by the main Communist Party newspaper, criticized the Henan authorities in an editorial on Tuesday.
“Let’s be frank, no matter which department or individual instigated it, arbitrarily using the epidemic prevention and control measures for ‘social governance’ or ‘stability maintenance’ should be strictly held accountable,” the editorial said.
An official with Henan’s Pandemic Control Committee said in response to Jiakedao that authorities were investigating the reports of health codes being turned red.
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Philippine militants accused of beheading tourists surrender
MANILA, Philippines — Two long-wanted Abu Sayyaf militant commanders accused of beheading two kidnapped Canadian tourists and a German in the southern Philippines have surrendered to authorities, officials said Friday.
Almujer Yadah and Bensito Quitino gave themselves up to military officials in Jolo town in southern Sulu province and surrendered their assault rifles, Sulu military commander Maj. Gen. Ignatius Patrimonio and other security officials said. The officials did not provide details of how and when the surrenders were arranged.
The two were briefly presented in a news conference in an army camp in Jolo and later turned over to police.
Sulu provincial police chief Col. Jaime Mojica said they will face multiple murder and other criminal charges, including violation of the country’s anti-terrorism law. The militants are accused of beheading the hostages after failing to obtain large ransoms they had demanded.
They also were involved in other ransom kidnappings and bomb attacks, Mojica said.
Canadian tourists Robert Hall and John Ridsdel were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from a marina on southern Samal island along with a Norwegian and a Filipino in September 2015 and taken to jungle camps in Sulu.
Hall and Ridsdel were beheaded by the militants months later after the deadline for payment of the ransoms passed. Videos released by the militants showed the victims being brutally killed in front of an Islamic State group-style black flag. The Norwegian and Filipino hostages were eventually freed.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time that he was horrified by the killings and affirmed Canada’s refusal to “pay ransoms for hostages to terrorist groups, as doing so would endanger the lives of more Canadians.” He said Canada was working with the Philippine government “to pursue those responsible for these heinous acts and bring them to justice, however long it takes.”
Other key suspects in the kidnappings and killings of Hall and Ridsdel were killed earlier in clashes with Philippine forces.
Mojica said the two militants were also involved in the 2017 beheading in Sulu of German hostage Jurgen Gustav Kantner. Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized Kantner at gunpoint and killed a woman sailing with him off neighboring Malaysia’s Sabah state. Villagers later found a dead woman on a yacht with a German flag off Sulu’s Laparan Island.
The United States and the Philippines have labeled the Abu Sayyaf a terrorist organization for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings. The small but brutal group emerged in the early 1990s as an extremist offshoot of a decades-long Muslim separatist rebellion in the southern Philippines, the homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic nation.
The Abu Sayyaf has been weakened considerably by decades of military offensives, surrenders and infighting, and is currently estimated by the military to have less than 200 armed fighters, but remains a national security threat.
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