■ Dad sought in child's death
An eight-year-old blind girl with a brain malfunction is believed to have been murdered by her father when her mother went shopping with their housemaid yesterday afternoon. According to the police, the girl died from suffocation. On her neck were bruises. The father, the prime suspect, is a middle school teacher in Tali Township (大里), Taichung County. He has gone missing. A note left by him to the victim's mother said only: "She has gone." Another of the couple's children, a nine-year-old daughter, was left at home unharmed. The daughter told TV reporters that her father had often said he wanted to kill the blind daughter. The police said that the couple both work as teachers at the same school. The father had been diagnosed with depression after his mother's death in May last year, and is believed to have been contemplating committing suicide. As of press time, the police were still looking for the father.
Mercury levels declining
Mercury levels found in fish and sediment in the nation's rivers have decreased significantly, which shows that the problem of environmental pollution has improved, according to the results of a survey released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA). The survey was conducted by National Cheng Kung University's Research Center for Environmental Trace Toxic Substances for the EPA in March and August last year. For the purposes of the survey, fish and sediment from seven rivers, including the Tamsui river, the Touchien river, the Choshui river, the Tachia river, the Erhjen river, the Peikang river and the Hsiukuluan river were, analyzed. The results show that the mercury levels in the fish in these rivers averaged 0.051mg/kg, compared with the 0.2mg/kg found in a similar survey carried out in 2003.
Endangered birds increasing
The number of endangered black-faced spoonbills spotted in Taiwan is increasing, with members of the Wild Bird Society of Tainan and other conservation groups counting 819 of the birds in Tainan County, an increase of 78 from last year. The census was conducted at the request of BirdLife International as part of a global census on the population of the rare birds that also included Japan, South Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. The global figure is expected to be released in the next week. Last year, an international census on the birds recorded 1,475 individuals, a 22 percent increase over 2004, with the numbers at the main wintering grounds in Taiwan and Hong Kong up by 20 percent. The global total of black-faced spoonbills has recovered steadily since 1990 when only 294 birds were counted. By 2003, the population had risen to more than 1,000 birds.
Southeast hit by quake
An undersea earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale jolted southeastern Taiwan yesterday, the Seismology Center said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The quake struck at 2pm, with its epicenter 15.1km northeast of the coastal town of Chengkung and 19.4km below the seabed. Taiwan, lying near the junction of two tectonic plates, is shaken regularly by earthquakes.