South tip swallowed by sea
The southernmost tip of India, called Indira Point, has been swallowed by the sea after giant waves struck, the coastguard and police said yesterday. "A coastguard helicopter made a sortie to Indira Point and it has reported it is under the sea," said Milind Patil, coastguard commander of Car Nicobar island. Andamans police chief Sansher Deol added: "Yes, it is under water, the fire station, the wireless station and the main bazaar are all under water. "The lighthouse is in the middle of the sea." The officials said the fate of four international scientists and 16 lighthouse workers who were at Indira Point, named after later prime minister Indira Gandhi, was unclear. However local people on the islet of Campbell Bay which stretched down to the point said they had been swept away to their deaths.
■ Hong Kong
Rally turns into charity
A massive pro-democracy rally planned for Saturday in Hong Kong was cancelled Thursday. Thousands of protesters instead decided to use the opportunity to raise money for Asian tidal wave victims. Lee Wing-tat, a march ordganizer, said that activists would instead take the streets to raise money for victims of Sunday's tsunami. A program of fundraising events is being organized for Jan. 1, expected to include collections at railway stations and prayers for victims in Victoria Park.
Rally planners arrested
Vietnam has arrested seven ethnic minority people in the past week for attempts to organize unrest in the restive Central Highlands, state-run media said yesterday. The People's Army daily identified seven men and said they had been apprehended in the highland province of Gia Lai. "They planned a demonstration on Christmas night and would have then instigated people in 49 villages to come to Pleiku to slander the authorities about repressing religion," said newspaper said, referring to the provincial capital. Early Christmas morning, they threw stones and used a knife to oppose a police patrol, and they also cut the telephone line of a People's Committee office in a district, the newspaper said.
Royal engagement official
After years of disappointing speculation about suitors, the engagement of Princess Sayako to a Tokyo city bureaucrat, a commoner, became official yesterday with an announcement by Japan's Imperial Household Agency. Japan had eagerly awaited word of the engagement between Sayako, 35, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and Yoshiki Kuroda, 39. The wedding will probably occur late next year.
Bird flu strain reappears
A 16-year-old girl from southern Vietnam has become infected with the bird flu strain that killed 32 people earlier this year and devastated the poultry industry across Asia. The girl, from the southern Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, is in critical condition in Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam's 29th person confirmed with the disease, the girl had slaughtered a chicken she brought with her from Dong Thap province to southern Tay Ninh province, where she was visiting her uncle. None of the eight family members have developed bird flu symptoms, and the house has been disinfected. Health officials earlier this month warned that the world's next pandemic was likely to be a potent mix of avian influenza and a human flu virus -- and that it was likely to emerge from Asia.