Outside help sought
The Solomon Islands yesterday issued an invitation to an Australian-led intervention force to occupy the main island of Guadalcanal to restore law and order after four years of civil war. New Zealand and Fiji are also expected to join the roughly 2,000-strong force of police and military personal mounting the first wave around July 24. An advance police and military team are already in the capital Honiara. It will be the biggest military engagement by outside forces in the region since 1980 when Papua New Guinea sent its military to newly independent Vanuatu to crush a rebellion.
■ Hong Kong
Bus plunges off bridge
A double-decker bus collided with a truck and plunged off a bridge early yesterday, killing 22 people and injuring 20, according to officials and local news reports. Some people were thrown out of the bus and others were trapped inside as it fell more than 15m and landed on a rural hillside, fire commander Wong Sai-chuen told reporters at the scene. Rescue crews tied injured passengers onto stretchers, then formed a human chain and used ropes to pull them off the slope. Firefighters later lifted the wreckage and said no one had been trapped beneath it.
Gum makes comeback
People will soon be allowed to buy long-banned chewing gum -- but only from pharmacies -- the government said yesterday. Pharmacists will be able to sell without prescription gum that aids "dental and oral hygiene," the Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement released. The government will allow the sale of Orbit and Orbit White, both made by Chicago-based Wrigley, the world's largest gum maker, the Trade and Industry Ministry said in a statement. A Trade and Industry Ministry spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity that other gum makers would also be allowed to enter Singapore's market of 4 million people. The decision stems from a recently signed free-trade agreement between the US and Singapore, and follows lobbying from the US Congress and American gum makers.
■ New Zealand
Train driver kills girlfriend
A train driver unknowingly killed his live-in girlfriend when his locomotive hit her car at a crossing, news reports said yesterday. The driver of the freight train was grief stricken when he discovered that the 44-year-old woman he lived with was the victim of the accident at Eltham, 56km from New Plymouth on the west coast of the North Island, police said. Police sergeant Shaun Keenan told the Daily News, "There's no suggestion of foul play. The accident's being treated as a tragedy." Another officer said that warning bells and lights were operating at the crossing, which has no barrier arms, at the time of the accident on Wednesday afternoon. The names of the pair were not disclosed.
Flooding toll rises to 298
The death toll from massive flooding in China has risen to 298, with up to 100 million people affected by swelling rivers and torrential rains, the International Red Cross said yesterday. So far 209,000 people have been made homeless. Despite rising flood waters in the north central Huai River basin in the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Henan, the death toll from weeks of downpours has so far been largely confined to south central China.
Twins' bodies in Tehran
The bodies of Iranian twins Laleh and Ladan Bijani, whose bid to lead separate lives after 29 years joined at the head ended in death in a Singapore operating theatre, returned to the Iranian capital yesterday. Around 100 people were at Tehran's Mehrabad airport to watch the two coffins taken from an Emirates plane, put into an ambulance and whisked away to a local morgue.