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Japan conducts evacuation drills amid nuclear missile threat

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TOKYO — The Japanese government is preparing its citizens in case a North Korean missile comes their way — possibly with less than 10 minutes’ warning.

About 550 people in the Sea of Japan coastal city of Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, participated in an evacuation drill conducted under a scenario that the city received central government reports that a missile was headed its way.

When the first report arrived, a siren went off and residents were told, either electronically or by town officials, to take cover in their homes, underground shelters and ditches if they were out in the fields.

The well-drilled players huddled in the shade for a moment as the coach counted heads and then they jogged to a nearby government office.

“Even if it’s a drill, I feel scared thinking that broken pieces of glass could fly towards me,” Aren Arifuku said.

The team spent about 10 minutes kneeling with their hands over their heads.

“I felt frightened, you never know when it [a North Korean missile] will be fired and our life becomes unstable,” said fellow player Koki Ishida.

Being a sporting man, coach Masafumi Ishida naturally had some statistics to share about the baseball players’ performance.

“As for a score, I’d like to give them 80 points,” Mr Ishida said.

Kotoura is a sleepy coastal town in Tottori prefecture, on Japan’s west coast. Looking out from its famed sand dunes, North Korea lies beyond the horizon.

Tottori prefecture is close to the likely flight path of any North Korean missiles heading towards the United States territory of Guam.

Its local government is particularly active in holding emergency drills.

Japan’s official civil defense website has had 5.7 million visitors in the first 23 days of April after North Korea has issued threats and paraded missiles this month — compared with usual monthly traffic of less than 400,000 hits, WahingPost reported.

Under the “frequently asked questions” section, the government poses the question of how many minutes it would take for a missile to reach Japan.

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Deadly Nipah virus claims 12 in Indian state of Kerala

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NEW DELHI — At least 12 people in India have died from a rare deadly and contagious virus known as Nipah virus, according to news reports.

Four deaths were reported on Monday, including of a nurse who treated the three initial infections at the EMS Cooperative Hospital in Perambra. The death of the nurse triggered panic among hospital staff who have had their leaves cancelled to treat the sick, Hindustan Times reported

Two deaths were reported from Kozhikode and four from Malappuram district. At least six persons are in critical condition and another 20 are under observation, state health officials said.

It was recorded in Siliguri district in West Bengal in 2001 and is being suspected in Kerala now, according to media reports

Humans get infected by consuming fruit or date-palm sap contaminated by infected bats but while human-to-human transmission through body fluids is rare.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Nipah virus infection is an emerging disease that was first identified in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and Singapore.

The virus is thought to naturally infect fruit bats (of the genus Pteropus), but it can also infect pigs and other domesticated animals, as well as humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus can also spread from person to person.

CDC says Nipah virus can cause an inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis. Symptoms can include fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and confusion. People who are infected with the virus may fall into a coma within 48 hours of showing symptoms, the CDC says.

The virus can be highly lethal, with an average fatality rate of around 75 percent, according to the WHO.

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