Fire destroys slum
A fire raced through an overcrowded slum in Dhaka, killing five people and destroying more than 1,000 huts, a fire official said yesterday. The blaze broke out at Balur Math slum in the suburb of Rayer Bazar just before midnight on Saturday, leaving about 5,000 people homeless, said Nilufar Yasmin, a Dhaka Fire Brigade official. Three children were among the dead, she said. It took firefighters several hours to bring the fire under control. The fire destroyed most of the slum, Yasmin said. It was not clear what caused the fire, and the official said they were investigating.
Court suspends execution
A court handed down a suspended death sentence to a Canadian at the center of the country's biggest car smuggling ring, state press reported on Saturday. The gang smuggled 2,043 cars into the country, mostly via Vietnam, over 18 months, avoiding US$29.8 million in import taxes, the Beijing Morning Post said. Canadian Chen Naizhi, 32, of Chinese origin, had his death sentence suspended for two years, after which it would likely be commuted to life imprisonment. Another 22 people in the smuggling network were sentenced on Thursday to between three months and 15 years in jail.
Earthquake jolts Sumatra
A strong earthquake jolted the west of the country early yesterday, sending panicked residents fleeing from their homes, officials and witnesses said. The power of the tremor shook telephone and electricity poles and forced the evacuation of at least one hospital. The 6.1-magnitude quake was centered 175km from Sumatra, which has been hit by a series of tremors in recent months, the US Geological Survey said. It had a depth of just 10km beneath the ocean floor, the agency said, but did not trigger a tsunami and there were no immediate reports of injuries. "It was very strong ... even utility poles were shaking," said Dina Ramadani of Bengkulu, Sumatra.
Missile drills planned
The military plans to conduct anti-ballistic missile drills in the Tokyo area next month as it steps up its defense against North Korea's nuclear threat, a news report said yesterday. The Defense Ministry will bring Patriot PAC-3 missiles -- currently deployed at the Iruma base in Saitama -- to Tokyo for the drills at about 10 locations in Tokyo, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported. The drills are aimed at testing the locations to see if there are any communications obstacles in the surrounding areas so that the ministry can determine the best locations for future deployment, the newspaper reported without citing a source.
WHO calls for change
The WHO called yesterday for Asia to revamp medical care to tailor it to individual needs, saying health services were insufficient despite rising spending. Asia's health system too often treats patients as a set of symptoms without assessing cultural, environmental and other factors, said Shigeru Omi, the UN health body's Western-Pacific regional director. While the world spent US$4.1 trillion on health in 2004, 50 percent of people globally say they are dissatisfied with their medical care, he said. "What I'm calling for is a concerted effort to put the heart back into medical practice," Omi told a WHO conference in Tokyo.
Thief returns car, baby
A thief returned the car he had stolen after finding an 18-month old baby on the back seat, police said on Friday. "The mum was at the solarium and the father had nipped away to get money from the bank leaving the keys in. When he returned the car had vanished," Aachen police spokesman Walter Frantzen said. Police in the spa town, worried the incident could be a possible abduction, scrambled a team of 40 to 50 officers as well as a helicopter to track down the missing vehicle and child. However, following a tip-off from a member of the public, the car was found nearby an hour later with the baby boy inside, still fast asleep, Frantzen said.