Ambulance drugs stolen
Hundreds of people were given water instead of pain-killing medication after thieves siphoned off the drugs from ambulance supplies and refilled the empty vials from the tap, officials said yesterday. Authorities in the state of Victoria said large amounts of the drug fentanyl had been taken and an investigation was under way. Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella said hundreds of patients were affected by the switch. “We have been able to identify all those patients that may have come into contact with this issue and we have been in direct contact with them and we can assure them they are safe,” he said. “We apologize for any sub-optimal pain relief they had.” Fentanyl is often used by paramedics as a fast-acting painkiller and usually administered as a nasal spray. It can be addictive and is used by some drug abusers as a substitute for heroin.
Travel bans sought
A special prosecutor has asked for President Lee Myung-bak’s son to be banned from leaving the country while he probes alleged irregularities in a project to build Lee’s retirement home. The office of special counsel Lee Kwang-bum asked the justice ministry to bar Lee Si-hyung, 34, from going abroad, a ministry official said yesterday. “We’ve received a request for an immediate ban on leaving the country and we’re now processing it,” the official said. According to Yonhap news agency, the prosecutor has asked for similar travel bans on 10 others, including former presidential security service chief Kim In-jong. The move comes a day after a 63-member team kicked off an investigation into a now-defunct project to build a retirement home for Lee. The controversy centers around the joint purchase last year by Lee Si-hyung and the presidential security service of a plot of land in Seoul.
Minister’s defense criticized
Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma has dismissed claims that a colleague embezzled US$134,000, saying the sum was too small to be taken seriously. Verma spoke out in defense of Salman Khurshid, the law minister who has been accused of siphoning off government money allotted to a trust that he heads to help disabled people. “I believe Salman Khurshid could not have embezzled 71 lakh [7.1 million rupees or US$134,500]. It is a very small amount for a central minister,” Verma was quoted as saying by the Times of India yesterday. “I would have taken it seriously if the amount was 71 crore [710 million rupees],” he added. The newspaper ran an editorial criticizing Verma’s statement as “grossly ill-timed and ill-phrased,” adding the the “comments reflect the rather blase attitude that the political class has developed towards corruption.”
Elephant kills keeper
An elephant trampled its Laotian keeper to death at Fuji Safari Park yesterday as he tried to stop the animal from attacking its newborn calf, police and reports said. Inthavong Khamphone, 30, had watched the elephants overnight with other keepers at the zoo after the mother gave birth on Sunday, police said. “Khamphone entered the cage with another keeper because the mother started attacking the baby,” a police officer said. “The mother then started attacking Khamphone.” He had come to Japan with the mother elephant in July last year, Jiji Press and the Sankei Shimbun said, citing the zoo. Reports said the keeper had died after the two-tonne elephant stood on his chest.