- New Japan islet created in volcano eruption
- Coconut farmers face ruin after Philippine typhoon
- 'Dead' baby wakes at China funeral parlour before cremation
TOKYO: A dramatic volcanic eruption in the Pacific Ocean has created a tiny new islet in Japan's territorial waters, officials said Thursday, the first time in decades the nation has seen the phenomenon.
The navy spotted smoke about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Tokyo on Wednesday and Japan's coastguard later verified the birth of the islet around the Ogasawara island chain.
Video footage showed plumes of smoke and ash billowing from the 200-metre island, and Japan's coastguard said it was warning vessels to use caution in the area until the eruption cools off.
"Smoke is still rising from the volcanic island, and we issued a navigation warning to say that this island has emerged with ash falling in the area," said a spokesman for the maritime agency.
He added that the islet may not last long due to erosion, but if enough volcanic lava surfaces and solidifies it could mark a new entry on the map.
Similar eruptions in the early 1970s and mid-80s created tiny islets in Japan's territory that have since been partially or completely eaten up by the ocean.
Japan's top government spokesman joked that he hoped the outcrop would mark an expansion of Tokyo's maritime territory - a reference to diplomatic rows with China and South Korea over ownership of other islands far from the tiny islet.
"If this becomes a solid island, our country's territorial waters will expand," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga quipped in response to questions about the new addition.
In September Pakistan also witnessed the birth of a new island - a mound of mud and rock 20 metres (70 feet) high and 90 metres wide created by a huge earthquake that hit the country's southwest.
The phenomenon on the coastline near the port of Gwadar caused astonishment when it emerged from the Arabian Sea but experts also said it was unlikely to last long.
Video footage of the Japanese islet can be seen here: http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/videonews/fnn?a=20131120-00000215-fnn-soci
BURAWIN, Philippines: The super typhoon that slammed through the central Philippines laid waste to a vast region of coconut farmland, eradicating in one fell swoop the livelihoods of tens of thousands of smallholders.
"It's all gone," Glen Mendoza said, gesturing towards the collection of snapped and toppled trees that used to be the small but reliable grove that fed and supported his family.
"My daughter might have to stop going to college," he said. "These coconut trees are our only hope and now they're gone."
Mendoza's plight is shared, not just by the farmers in his coconut-growing town of Burawin, but by tens of thousands of others across the island of Leyte.
A major coconut-growing province, Leyte accounts for one third of all the fruit produced in the fertile centre of the country, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
The particular problem facing farmers like Mendoza is that there is no short-term solution to the loss of their groves.
Replanting can begin very soon but, depending on the variety, coconut trees take between five and ten years to reach maturity and bear fruit.
More than 208,000 hectares (515,000 acres) are planted with over 22 million trees in Leyte, providing a living for 122,000 families, or around 600,000 people, said Joel Pilapil, a senior PCA official in the province.
There are no firm estimates yet on the full extent of the damage, but ground reports and aerial views of Leyte and nearby Samar island tell the same story - coconut trees either toppled, snapped or sheared when Typhoon Haiyan scythed across the region on November 8, packing winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) per hour.
"I've spent 21 years in the industry and this is the first time that the damage has been this heavy," Pilapil told AFP in an interview at the PCA's typhoon-damaged building in the town of Palo.
"It hurts... Coconut farming families are going to go hungry," he said
Cipriano Alibay, 73, a farmer in Dagami town near Burawin, used to harvest 3,000 coconuts every three months from his now destroyed two-hectare smallholding.
"My investment is gone. I don't know what to do," he said.
According to Pilapil, the government is ready to provide free seedlings, but the ground must first be cleared of thousands of toppled trees, ruined buildings and other debris.
Trees that are still standing but have no hope of bearing fruit need to be cut down, he said, adding that the clearing operations could take months.
Pilapil said some of the felled trees could provide timber for rebuilding houses destroyed by the typhoon.
As well as the farmers, many others relied on the coconut industry, including Rodolfo Ortega, 54, who buys dried coconut meat - called copra - from farmers and sells it to millers.
Copra extracts can be used in a variety of products, including soap and shampoo.
"It will probably take 10 years before coconut farmers can get on their feet," Ortega told AFP as he and a few of his workers stood idly outside his warehouse in the town of Dagami.
He warned that with so many people dependent on the industry, the government must act fast to prevent social consequences.
"If people have no jobs, that can create social problems," Ortega said, adding that the government should teach farmers to plant alternative crops while they wait for the seedlings to grow.
For coconut farmer Alibay, there is no choice but to keep going.
"We need to be strong in order to go on living," he said. -AFP
BEIJING: A Chinese baby boy who had been declared dead was saved from being cremated alive when he started crying at a funeral parlour, media reported Thursday.
The parents of the critically-ill boy, who was less than one month old, had agreed to end his medical treatment at Anhui Provincial Children's Hospital in eastern China, hospital sources told Xinhua state news agency.
A death certificate was issued before the baby was sent to a funeral parlour in Hefei, the provincial capital - only for staff there to be alerted by crying on Wednesday.
It was unclear how long he had been at the funeral parlour, or when his cremation had been due.
The baby was immediately sent back to the hospital, several news outlets including the Beijing News reported on Thursday.
"Because the baby still had life signs, we continued to give him transfusion to maintain his life for humanitarian reasons," a hospital staff member told Xinhua.
The baby was born with a "congenital respiratory system malformation", the report added.
The baby was receiving treatment at the hospital late Wednesday, reports said.
A doctor was suspended, a nursing worker laid off and an investigation launched into the incident, the hospital said, according to Xinhua. -AFP
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