Rain hampers rescue
Heavy rains in northern India forced rescuers yesterday to suspend a search for victims of a torrential downpour believed to have killed more than 40 people. Officials said they had found 18 bodies so far and about two dozen people were still missing after the downpour on Wednesday swept away a colony of laborers in the hilly Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh, about 500km north of the capital, New Delhi. Kishore Shankar, a government official heading rescue efforts, said teams had resumed their search early yesterday but had to abandon it soon afterward due to more heavy rain coming down.
Prison term reduced
Vietnam reduced the prison term of a dissident Catholic priest by five years, a court official said yesterday in the latest sign the communist country is seeking to quell criticism of its religious and political suppression. But Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, 57, will still serve 10 years in prison for "undermining national unity" by writing to the US Congress about religious oppression. A court in northern Vietnam reduced his sentence from 15 years on Wednesday because of his "good behavior," according to state-run media.
Doctor pays for baby
A court ruling that a doctor must pay the costs of raising a child born after a failed sterilization procedure sparked outrage yesterday within the medical profession in Australia. It was the first time damages for child-rearing had been awarded and is certain to further raise the sky-high medical indemnity premiums doctors must already pay. The Queensland Supreme Court upheld a lower court's award of US$137,000 in damages to Brisbane couple Kerry and Craig Melchior over the birth of their third child, Jordan, in 1997. They sued the doctor for the cost of bringing up Jordan, a child they said they didn't want and should not have had.
■ Sri Lanka
Bid to revive peace process
Norway's special envoy Jon Westborg yesterday left to Tamil rebel-held northern Sri Lanka with a Sri Lankan government proposal for a "provisional administration" for the northeast of the country in a bid to revive the stalled peace process, a cabinet minister said. Constitutional affairs minister, G.L. Peiris, said the proposals were a "basis for further discussions" with the rebels. Rebels have been demanding an interim administration for the north and eastern provinces before they return to the Norwegian-backed peace process, which led to talks between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
SARS hospital draws tourists
A Beijing hospital that treated hundreds of SARS patients has been turned into a tourist attraction with 1,000 people a day flocking to see the wards where victims lay, a news report said yesterday. Xiaotangshan, a makeshift hospital built in eight days to treat most of the Chinese capital's SARS cases, has been included on a 28 yuan (US$3.40) tour of suburban Beijing, according to the Hong Kong edition of the China Daily. Last Saturday alone, more than 1,000 people toured the hospital where they were told of health workers' brave battles against SARS, and shown the wards where patients were treated and where many died.
■ United States
Salsa singing legend dies
Legendary salsa singer Celia Cruz, the winner of five Grammy Awards and known for wearing brightly colored costumes and ever-changing hairstyles, has died, reports said Wednesday. The Cuban-born singer died after a long battle with cancer at her home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, the reports said. Doctors discovered Cruz had a brain tumor last year. Her age was believed to be 77 or 78. In her more than 50-year career Cruz made more than 70 albums and acted in numerous films. Cruz grew up poor in Havana and left Cuba for the US in 1960. She became famous in the US as the "Queen of Salsa."