Flood fatalities reach 780
The authorities say the death toll from floods that devastated a vast swathe of northern and central parts of the country has reached 780 confirmed dead with three people still missing. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department said on its Web site yesterday that more than 2 million people are still effected by flooding in five provinces north and west of Bangkok. The capital itself is dry. The nation’s worst floods in half a century also destroyed millions of tonnes of crops and badly damaged industrial production. The World Bank has estimated the damage at US$45 billion and recovery and reconstruction needs at US$25 billion. The National Social and Economic Development Board has slashed its economic growth forecast to 1.5 percent.
Run on Kim Jong-il trinkets
The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il earlier this month sparked a run on enamel lapel pins bearing his image in the Chinese city of Dandong, street vendors said yesterday. Braving freezing temperatures along the Yalu River, which separates the two countries, sales of badges bearing the likeness of Kim Jong-il surged after his death on Dec. 17. One vendor said she sold 50 to 60 lapel pins every day during the 13-day mourning period, which ended on Thursday with a massive memorial service for the late leader, compared with just two or three a day before his death.
Robber hides in consulate
Police arrested a man accused of robbing a Sydney bar and then fleeing to the grounds of the Chinese consulate, sparking a tense manhunt. New South Wales Police assistant commissioner Mark Murdoch said police were chasing the man yesterday when he scaled the fence surrounding the nearby consulate grounds. Murdoch said the man and police traded gunfire, but no one was hit. Police shut down roads around the consulate and secured the complex before finding the man in a building outside the consulate grounds several hours later, where he was arrested.
Dozens of dogs rescued
Police in the north of the country said they rescued dozens of dogs on their way to a slaughterhouse. Police Superintendent Ronaldo Gayo said 60 dogs were found alive, but 12 had died of suffocation by the time police found them inside a van. The dogs’ snouts and feet were bound by plastic cord. Gayo said the van’s driver and another man were arrested and escorted to their destination — a slaughterhouse inside a sprawling pig and poultry farm in San Carlos Township in Pangasinan Province. The slaughterhouse’s owner and workers fled when police arrived slightly before midnight on Wednesday.
Chinese captain indicted
Prosecutors have indicted the captain of a Chinese fishing boat for illegally operating in Japanese waters, a local official said yesterday. The Nagasaki District Public Prosecutors’ Office finalized its case against Zhong Jinyin (鍾進音), 39, the official said, following his Dec. 20 arrest near islands off the southwest of Japan. It was not clear when Zhong would appear in court. The arrest, the second in the area in less than two months, took place after a six-hour pursuit. Officials found coral and tools on the boat. Arrests of straying Chinese fishermen are increasingly common and usually pass off without much of a hitch, but have occasionally flared into international incidents.
Helicopter crash kills 6
All six crew aboard a Sudanese military helicopter were killed when it crash-landed and burned in North Kordofan State yesterday, the army said. Fire broke out because of a “technical problem” aboard the Russian-made aircraft three minutes after takeoff from a base at El Obeid, the state capital, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said. The pilot crash-landed in a yard, “but the fire destroyed the plane completely and all six crew were killed,” he said. Saad said the chopper was carrying “military equipment” on a logistical mission. The official SUNA news agency reported that the aircraft was a helicopter gunship. On Thursday, South Sudan’s military spokesman said Sudanese air raids killed 17 people in the border state of Western Bahr al-Ghazal, the second day of stepped-up bombing along the northern frontier.
Faction leader dies in strike
Israel killed the leader of an al-Qaeda-inspired faction in an air strike on the Gaza Strip yesterday, accusing him of launching short-range rockets into the Jewish state. Militants identified the man as Momen Abu Daf of the Army of Islam, part of a loose network of Palestinian groups that profess allegiance to al-Qaeda and which have been reinforced by radical Salafi volunteers from neighboring Egypt. Abu Daf was killed when a missile hit Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, the Hamas administration said. Five other Palestinians were wounded and one of them needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian health ministry said. In a statement, the Israeli military said its aircraft “targeted a terrorist squad that was identified moments before firing rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip.” Those militants, the statement said, were “responsible for the firing of rockets at Israel in the past few days.”
Mine kills four civilians
A roadside bomb killed four civilians yesterday in Afghanistan’s southern province of Uruzgan, the provincial head of the crime investigation unit said. “Four civilians were killed and one injured when their vehicle hit a Taliban-planted mine in Trinkot this morning,” Gulab Khan said. All the victims were male and the civilian who was injured was in a critical condition, he added. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but roadside bombs are frequently planted by Taliban-led insurgents fighting a decade-long war against NATO-led foreign troops and Afghan government forces. The UN said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first six months of this year to 1,462, with insurgents blamed for 80 percent of the killings.
Rally urges activist’s release
Several hundred demonstrators have rallied in downtown Moscow to urge the release of a prominent Russian opposition activist and other political prisoners. Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front movement, has been in custody since the fraud-tainted Dec. 4 parliamentary election. He first was held on claims of staging an unsanctioned rally and then sentenced on Sunday to another 10 days in jail on charges of resisting police. Udaltsov has denied the charges and spent much of the month on a hunger strike. Thursday’s demonstration wasn’t sanctioned by authorities, but police didn’t intervene. Russia has been rocked by massive protests against election fraud.
Crash kills at least 13
At least 13 people were killed and 16 wounded on Thursday when a gasoline tanker truck flipped over and caught fire on a highway outside Caracas, spilling flaming liquid that engulfed eight other vehicles. Twelve of those killed were aboard a bus that caught fire, Bolivarian National Police director Luis Fernandez said. He said that the bodies were charred and could not immediately be identified. Fernandez warned that the number of injured could increase. The bus was carrying 32 passengers, and “it is supposed [that] 20 people survived the accident,” he said.
Protesters arrested in Iowa
Police arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters, including a 14-year-old girl, on Thursday just days before Iowa’s closely watched leadoff presidential caucuses. Five were arrested outside the Des Moines, Iowa, campaign headquarters of Republican candidate Ron Paul. The group then moved on to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, where 12 others were taken into custody. All were ticketed for trespassing and released. Next week’s caucuses are the first voting on the way to choosing a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in November. “They’re all going to get equal play on this,” said Occupy the Caucuses spokeswoman Danielle Ryun, who was arrested at the state Democratic Party headquarters. “We are very disillusioned with every candidate.”
Nativity vandalism probed
California authorities are investigating vandalism of a church’s Nativity display that includes depictions of gay and lesbian couples. The damage at Claremont United Methodist Church occurred late on Saturday or Sunday morning. The display features silhouettes of three hand-holding couples — two men, two women and a heterosexual pair. The vandal knocked over the depictions of the gay and lesbian couples, but left the straight couple alone. Claremont police Sergeant Jason Walters told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper that it was a hate crime.
Remote volcano erupts
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has issued a heightened alert after a volcano on a remote Alaskan island belched a cloud of ash 4,500m high, potentially affecting trans-Pacific flight routes. The eruption burst forth from the Cleveland Volcano on a remote and uninhabited island about 1,500km southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. “Satellite data indicate that this is a single explosion event. However, more sudden explosions producing ash could occur, with plumes exceeding 20,000 feet above sea level,” the USGS said.
‘Titanic’ auction planned
More than 5,000 artifacts salvaged from the Titanic are to be sold in one lot at auction in New York, 100 years to the day after the luxury liner sank in the Atlantic with about 1,500 people on board. In a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, Premier Exhibitions, which owns sole salvage rights to the Titanic through its RMS Titanic unit, said it has engaged New York auctioneers Guernsey’s to handle the sale. It will take place on April 15, the 100th anniversary of the day the White Star liner — on its maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, England — slipped under the icy North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg off Newfoundland.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies