Accidents kill people
Two transportation disasters struck a northeastern province, with a bridge collapse yesterday upending four trucks and killing three people and a collision of passenger trains at a railway station injuring at least 24 people. The trucks plunged 30m after the bridge collapsed in Heilongjiang Province, Xinhua news agency reported, and officials reported three deaths. Xinhua said it was at least the sixth major bridge collapse across the country since July last year. The train collision occurred on Thursday evening at the Jiamusi railway station in Heilongjiang, Xinhua said. Most of the injuries were slight and five people were under medical observation, Xinhua said, adding that an investigation was under way.
Accidental millionaire jailed
A gas station owner who fled to China with millions of US dollars after his bank mistakenly gave him the money has been sentenced by a court to four years and seven months in prison. A 2009 bank error gave Hui “Leo’” Gao a credit line of NZ$10 million (US$8.1 million). Gao transferred most of the money overseas before the bank realized its mistake. Dubbed the “Accidental Millionaire,” the 32-year-old then fled to China with his partner, Kara Hurring. The bank recovered about two-thirds of the money. Gao, who was extradited from Hong Kong last year, said at his sentencing yesterday he had none of the money left. Gao and Hurring earlier pleaded guilty to theft charges. Hurring was sentenced yesterday to nine months home detention.
Doraemon gets residency
Doraemon, a Japanese robot cat from the future, is to celebrate turning minus-100 years old by being given official residence of the city where he would be born, a city official said yesterday. The electronic blue feline, whose cartoon exploits have captivated children across Asia, is to be given a residency certificate for Kawasaki, a city near Tokyo, on Sept. 3, exactly a century ahead of his supposed birth. The city, in which the character’s creator lived, is also home to a popular museum of all things Doraemon and plans to issue copies of the time-traveling robot cat’s residency certificate to fans and visitors. “Doraemon was created and born in Kawasaki city. In that sense, he has always been a city resident,” Kawasaki Mayor Takao Abe said. “I hope [the residency certificate] will bring the museum closer to many people,” he said.
The certificate will give Doraemon’s birthday as Sept. 3, 2112, as well as listing his likes — pastries — and his dislikes — mice. Doraemon was sent back in time from the 22nd century by a young boy who wanted to alter his family’s historical misfortune.
Student dies in beach prank
Officials say a 19-year-old exchange student from South Korea suffocated when a sand pit collapsed on him during a Southern California beach party for new students. Coroner’s investigator Craig Stevens told the Ventura County Star on Thursday that “Paul” Mingyu Sang died on Wednesday from asphyxia with suffocation. The death was ruled an accident. Provost Mark Tatlock says Sang was an incoming freshman at The Master’s College, which is a small Christian college in Santa Clarita. Classes begin there on Monday. Students and staff were attending an orientation event on a beach in Oxnard when they dug a hole that was 1.8m to 2.4m deep. Sang had climbed inside when it collapsed and buried him.
Dried seahorses seized
More than 16,000 dried seahorses destined for illegal export to Asia, where the animal is sought for its supposed healing properties, were seized on Thursday in Peru’s capital Lima, authorities said. “We managed to seize ... 16,280 seahorses destined to be sold illegally on the Asian continent,” Colonel Victor Fernandez, from the police unit tasked with confiscating such goods, said. Police uncovered the cargo, weighing around 160kg, in three cases during a search operation near the airport in the Peruvian capital. In Asia, particularly in China, South Korea and Japan, the seahorse — protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species — is coveted for its alleged medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Seahorse powder sells for about US$6,000 per kilo, Fernandez said.
Quebec in disease scare
Legionnaire’s disease, which hit Quebec in the middle of last month, has infected 65 people and killed six, health authorities of the French-speaking Canadian province said. “We are very concerned by the current situation,” Quebec public health chief Francois Desbiens said. “It’s the largest legionellosis outbreak in Canada in recent years.” Sixteen new cases were reported on Thursday alone. Health authorities suspect improper maintenance of cooling towers in air conditioning systems are at fault for the outbreak. Legionella bacteria grow in stagnant water in such appliances, then spread with droplets expelled by the system during operation. The 68 cooling towers housed in 28 buildings were inspected, cleaned and disinfected, but the operation has not put an end to the epidemic. Legionnaire’s disease — discovered in 1976 during a veterans convention in the US, where 29 people died — is an infection that causes high fever, dry cough and pneumonia.
Group storm Arctic oil rig
Greenpeace says that its activists have stormed a floating oil rig in the Pechora Sea to protest oil drilling in the Arctic. Greenpeace said in a statement yesterday that six activists boarded the Prirazlomnaya platform early yesterday morning and remain on the facility. They set off in inflatable speedboats from their ship and scaled the platform with mooring lines. The platform is owned and operated by a subsidiary of energy giant Gazprom, which is pioneering the country’s oil drilling in the Arctic. Gazprom was not immediately available for comment. Both Russian and international environmentalists have warned that drilling in the Russian Arctic could have disastrous consequences because of a lack of technology and infrastructure to deal with a possible spill in a remote region with massive icebergs and heavy storms.