Heatwave kills 489
A scorching heat wave sweeping southern India has killed 489 people in the past two weeks, an official said on Wednesday, as the mercury soared as high as 47?C. State Relief Commissioner D.C. Rosaiah said many of the 683 people reported in Andhra Pradesh state suffering from dehydration and sunstroke had died. "Four hundred and eighty-nine have proved fatal so far," he said. Andhra Pradesh is battling its worst drought in four decades. People are being told to stay indoors to avoid the heat which the weather office expects to continue for another two or three days.
Mom accused of maid abuse
A Malaysian mother of two has been accused of kicking, punching and scorching her Filipino maid and forcing her to eat soap powder, it was reported yesterday. Choong Wai Lan, 27, is alleged to have committed the physical abuses between October and December against Ronaly Asidera, 22, The Straits Times said. The accused, married to a Singaporean, is contesting the charges and is out on bail. The case has been scheduled for a pre-trial conference on June 10. Eleven charges against Choong were read on Tuesday in court, including an allegation that Asidera swallowed detergent after Choong threatened to throw her down a rubbish chute.
■ Hong Kong
SARS lamps cause cancer
Hong Kong consumers who used ultraviolet lamps advertised to kill germs amid the SARS outbreak have been warned to stop using them because they could cause skin cancer. Government officials urged users of the lamps to return them to suppliers for a refund, the South China Morning Post reported. Health officials said that regular use of ultraviolet lamps could cause skin cancer, age the skin and cause eye damage. "These lamps should not have been advertised for household use," said Ho Mang-yee, principal medical and health officer at the department of health.
Rare rhino faces extinction
The two-horned Sumatran rhino is moving closer to extinction with only 10 of the rare animals remaining in Sumatra's Kerinci National Park, one of its few remaining natural habitats in Indonesia, news reports said yesterday. "We're pessimistic. We can't promise to stop the extinction of the Sumatran rhino," Listya Kusumawardhani, head of the Kerinci park in Jambi province, about 720km northwest of Jakarta, told the state-run Antara news agency. The Sumatran rhino is an endangered species, with fast disappearing populations in Kerinci, Leuser National Park in Sumatra's Aceh province and in Ujung Kulon National Park in West Java, where the animal hasn't been spotted for years.
■ New Zealand
Pot police want pension
Five former New Zealand police officers who became addicted to cannabis while working as undercover agents to help bust drug rings have accepted compensation. But the Police Association, the policemen's labour union, which has fought their case for a decade, said another 19 officers were continuing legal action against the government for bigger pay-outs. All claimed they suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and became addicted to cannabis and other drugs while working undercover. Former association secretary and lawyer Bob Moodie told Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper the officers should be entitled to a war pension, adding, "Every New Zealander has an obligation to them."