■ NEW ZEALAND
Storm hits North Island
What weather forecasters warned would be “no ordinary storm” blasted New Zealand yesterday, bringing down power lines, toppling trees and ripping roofs from houses with gale force winds and torrential rains. Winds gusting to 165km an hour were recorded at Cape Brett in the Bay of Islands and news reports said that power supplies to at least 65,000 homes had been cut and it was too dangerous for linemen to fix them. The storm blasted the most populated part of the country and forecasters predicted it would spread right down the 1,100km-long North Island to the capital Wellington and last 24 hours. Officials warned people to leave the center of Whangarei, the Northland region’s biggest city with a population of about 50,000, as floodwaters swollen by high tides threatened.
Train collision kills two
At least two people were killed and 18 injured as two inter-city trains collided head-on near the frontier town of Laksham in eastern Bangladesh, media reports said yesterday. One of the dead passengers was identified as Mohammad Mohiuddin, a 43-year-old local farmer, who was traveling on one of the trains, the daily Bangladesh Observer said. The newspaper, quoting railway officials, said that the accident happened when the steaming Upukul Express, traveling from the capital Dhaka, crashed into another express train coming from the southern port city of Chittagong. Senior railway official Ramzan Ali said Friday’s crash could have been caused by drivers missing signals. The body of another man remained unidentified until late on Friday, sources in the state run railways said. Locals joined in the rescue operation, the daily Ittefaq said.
Foreign activist dies
Han Jong-sok, a Korean immigrant who started a one-man war against the now-defunct Japanese system of fingerprinting foreign residents, has died, his family said on Friday. He was 79. Han, who worked as an executive of an ethnic Korean organization in Japan, succumbed to respiratory failure at a hospital in Tokyo on Thursday. Han, who was born in Korea when it was under Japanese rule, in 1980 became the first to refuse to obey a law requiring that foreigners, not Japanese, attach their fingerprints to identification papers. The fingerprinting requirement was abolished in 2000 after more than 10,000 foreign residents joined Han in their refusal. In a new twist to the controversy, Japan adopted a law in 2006 to fingerprint and photograph foreign visitors at airports in a US-led drive to fight terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
■ SOUTH KOREA
Heavy rains kill seven
Mudslides and flash floods caused by days of heavy rain have left seven people dead and six missing in South Korea, officials said yesterday. Four people were killed in Chunyang village in the southeastern county of Bongwha, where hundreds of others were forced to evacuate after floodwaters and mudslides hit their homes, the National Emergency Management Agency said. Most of the missing were also in the county, which has received more than 230mm of rain since Thursday, officials said.
ATM bomb blasts bank
Thieves blasted an automatic teller machine (ATM) out of the wall of a bank in Brisbane with such force that the building itself might have to be demolished, news reports said yesterday. Police said Friday’s explosion was so strong it blew the ATM into the street and damaged other buildings. The thieves were less successful in actually opening the ATM. They fled without stealing any cash.