25 killed in fireworks blast
At least 25 people died and nine were injured after fireworks exploded at a firecracker factory in northern China's Shanxi province, local officials said yesterday. State media said most of the victims of the accident Tuesday afternoon at the Xiangliu firecracker factory were young women. Police were searching for the factory owner, who fled after the explosion, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The cause of the accident was under investigation, it said.
China `attacks' fishermen
The Chinese coast guard fired on two Vietnamese fishing boats in separate attacks in the Gulf of Tonkin, killing nine Vietnamese fishermen and wounding six others, an executive said yesterday. Nguyen Phi Phuong, director of Hung Cuong Fishing Cooperative in northern Thanh Hoa province, said two Chinese coast guard boats armed with machine guns attacked one of his company's vessels on Saturday. The Vietnamese were fishing in waters jointly shared by Vietnam and China when they came under fire, Phuong said. However, a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Hanoi said the embassy had received an unconfirmed report that Vietnamese pirates attacked Chinese fishermen who were fishing in China's territorial waters, he said.
Israel denies drone report
The Israeli military denied reports that Israel had suspended an upgrade for drone aircraft it sold to China in the 1990s. Rachel Niedak-Ashkenazi, spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Ministry, said Tuesday that Israel had not returned parts to the Chinese military as earlier reported. Several Israelis close to the deal had said Israel returned the parts without upgrading them in apparent deference to Washington's concern that the Harpy attack drones threatened Taiwan. However, another Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed Niedak-Ashkenazi's assertion that the parts are still in Israel.
■ Hong Kong
`Longhair' strikes again
Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) was forced to delay his policy address speech by 15 minutes yesterday when rebel Legislator Leung "Longhair" Kwok-hung (梁國雄) shouted protests as he entered the legislative council chamber. Legislative Council President Rita Fan (范徐麗泰) adjourned the speech and took Leung to one side to seek an assurance that he would allow Tung to continue his speech uninterrupted. Leung then delivered a brief, defiant speech before walking out. "I just want to say one thing -- that is that absolute power leads to absolute corruption," he said.
Homeless seek tsunami aid
Beggars from the south Indian technology capital Bangalore have shifted operations to the tsunami-hit coastline where aid cash and supplies is overflowing, a newspaper reported yesterday. The traditional haunts of Bangalore's beggars -- temples, mosques and churches as well as train and bus stations -- are virtually deserted, The Times of India said. No one has an official count for the number of beggars, but Karnataka state's Beggar Relief Committee has noticed the migration. "In fact we expected more beggars from Tamil Nadu and other tsunami-affected areas to inhabit the city," committee superintendent Chandrappa B. Madar told the Times. "We are happy the numbers have reduced in the city for now," he said.
■ United States
Kicking bunny' on trial