Pilgrims die in accident
A truck loaded with Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims overturned on a mountain road in western China, killing at least 54 people and injuring 41, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. The accident happened around noon on Monday as the truck was traveling through the Qinghai region while making its way back from Tibet's capital Lhasa, Xinhua said. The injured were sent to hospital where 29 of them were in serious condition, the report said. Most of the passengers were from Ganzi and Aba, ethnic Tibetan regions of Sichuan Province, Xinhua said. It said they had been on a pilgrimage to Lhasa, the traditional home of the Dalai Lama, Buddhism's highest figure. Road accidents killed about 100,000 people in China last year, most of them blamed on disregard for safety and unsafe or overloaded vehicles.
Four feared dead in crash
A helicopter belonging to Dynasty Air crashed yesterday morning near Mt. Everest and all on board were feared to have been killed, a Civil Aviation official said. The site of the crash has been located and a search is on for survivors, he said. The helicopter, piloted by Pemba Sherpa, was carrying two passengers, he said. Unofficial sources said there were four people in the chopper. According to Kathmandu airport officials, the helicopter took off at 7:45am for Lukla to ferry back passengers including tourists stranded there for the past two days due to bad weather conditions.
Tsunami `hero' arrested
An Australian hailed as a hero for allegedly rescuing more than a dozen tsunami victims in Thailand was arrested on Monday as he returned home by police who recognized him as a suspected burglar. Thomas Connell was arrested by police after stepping off the plane at Brisbane Internation-al Airport. Police said they recognized Connell, whom they had been seeking for two years, after he gave a TV interview from Thailand that aired in Australia last week. Connell is wanted on assault and burglary charges. The 32-year-old businessman was dubbed by local media as "the good samaritan of Patong Beach" for his role in allegedly saving as many as 20 people.
`Hugging saint' pledges cash
An Indian religious leader known as "the hugging saint" -- because she uses hugs as a gesture of blessing -- has pledged 1 billion rupees (US$22 million) to help survivors of last month's devastating tsunami. Money donated by Mata Amritanandamayi will be used to build homes for tsunami victims in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Amritanandamayi's native village of Parayakadavu in Kerala was among those hit by the Dec. 26 disaster. Amritanandamayi, known by her followers as "Amma," which means ``mother'' in several Indian languages, has devotees throughout India and in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.
■ Hong Kong
Seafood worries grow
The Hong Kong government yesterday urged market vendors to temporarily stop importing seafood from South Asian countries hit by tsunamis because of contamination concerns. Authorities feared that the fish may have eaten heavy metals and other pollutants stirred up by the seismic movements in the seabed, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department Assistant Director Thomas Chung said.
Top rebels arrested, killed
Algerian security forces arrested the No.1 leader of the Armed Islamic Group, the radical insurgency movement responsible for brutal village massacres several years ago, and then killed his replacement, the interior ministry announced. In a sweep that began in early November, soldiers and security forces also seized gold stolen from homes during the massacres, as well as weapons and vehicles used by the group, the statement said on Monday. The arrest of Nourredine Boudiafi and the killing of Chaabane Younes all but dismantled the already seriously weakened organization, the statement said.