Strong earthquake strikes
A strong magnitude 6.1 earthquake hit a mountainous area of the country early yesterday, the US Geological Survey (USGA) and Tajik authorities said, adding there were no initial reports of damage. The epicenter of the tremor, which occurred at 7:45am, was located 106km southwest of the city of Karakul, near the country’s border with China, USGS said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. “For the moment we have no information about any victims,” a spokesman for the Tajik emergency situations ministry said. “The epicenter was located at 362km south of Dushanbe, the capital. The magnitude was 6 there and 3 in Dushanbe,” an official from the Tajik seismic center said.
Asylum seekers sought help
A boatload of desperate asylum seekers called police for help after their vessel escaped detection until just before it hit jagged cliffs, killing about 48 people, a report found yesterday. An internal Customs investigation urged the installation of land-based radar at remote Christmas Island, after finding that authorities had no advance warning of the rickety wooden fishing boat’s approach. Believed to have set off from Indonesia carrying about 90 Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish refugees, the vessel shattered against the island’s limestone cliffs in wild, seas, tossing dozens to their deaths. Rescuers saved 41 survivors, while one man scrabbled to the shore himself and 30 bodies were retrieved. Customs chief Michael Carmody said the boat was first spotted just one hour before it foundered on the rocks, about 600m offshore, and no “firm intelligence” before that time had suggested a vessel was approaching. Conditions were treacherous, forcing two border patrol ships on duty in the area to take shelter on the other side of the island. One, the HMAS Pirie, had only just started making its way to the struggling refugee ship following the initial sighting, when its terrified passengers called to request assistance from police, reporting an engine fire. The wooden boat splintered on the rocks 25 minutes before the first rescue boats from the Pirie reached the scene. The report found that Customs had no prior intelligence to suggest the ship was making its way to Australia. It recommended the trial of a land-based radar system at Christmas Island “as a priority.”
Torture soldiers sentenced
Three soldiers captured on video torturing two men from the restive eastern region of Papua have been sentenced for the relatively minor offense of disobeying orders. Footage posted on YouTube last year showed the men burning the genitals of one suspected separatist during an interrogation and running a knife across the neck of another. Their trial on the charges of disobeying orders wrapped yesterday. The military tribunal’s presiding judge said the soldiers were guilty, but had shown adequate remorse. He sentenced them to jail terms of between eight and 10 months. Human rights activists slammed the sentences as too lenient.
Singing legend dies
Legendary singer Bhimsen Joshi, who was best known for promoting classical Indian music to audiences around the world, died yesterday at the age of 89. Joshi died at a hospital in Pune after battling a prolonged illness. He built a reputation for singing Khayal, a modern form of traditional Hindustani music. He was awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 2008.