Thousands flee floods
Floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains forced almost 14,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter at relief centers, the Bernama news agency said yesterday. Rain showers which coincided with high tides flooded hundreds of homes in the northeastern states of Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan, it said. Bernama said the flood situation was deteriorating as the number of evacuees continued to rise and some major roads in Pahang were closed as rivers burst their banks. Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, the meteorological department’s weather forecast director, warned that there could be more rain in Terengganu, Pahang and southern Johor State in the next few days.
Fires incite mob anger
Angry residents beat a man to death and threw rocks at firefighters after a shantytown fire left thousands of people homeless and another Christmas Day blaze in Manila left seven people dead, officials said yesterday. A resident was beaten to death by his neighbors after shouting that he started Tuesday’s shantytown fire in San Juan, Senior Fire Officer Domingo Cabog said. The man was reportedly drunk and not responsible for the fire. About 5,000 people were left homeless and 13 hurt in the fire. The injured included two firefighters and a volunteer hit by rocks that were thrown by residents who were impatient and tried to grab fire hoses to save their own shanties, Cabog said. “It’s Christmas and many of the men in the neighborhood were drunk,” Cabog said. In Quezon City, a predawn fire on Tuesday killed a veterinarian and six household members who were trapped inside a house, arson investigator Rosendo Cabillan said. The blaze was suspected to be triggered by an overloaded electrical circuit, he said.
Political attack sparks chaos
Businesses were closed in Karachi yesterday after an attempt to murder a politician left six dead on Tuesday and ensuing violence killed 10 others. Aurangzaib Farooqi, leader of the hardline Sunni Muslim organization Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, survived an attack yesterday by gunmen, prompting his party to demand a day of mourning, the Dawn newspaper reported. Farooqi was shot in the thigh, while five of his guards and chauffer were killed in the shootout. People with bamboo shafts and some with pistols took to the streets after television channels reported the news of the attack. Armed men fanned across the city during a wave of violence in which 10 more people were killed, either in reaction or related to the attack, the daily said. Trade unions said they will refrain from opening shops to join a day of mourning.
Military jet crashes, kills 27
All 27 people on board a military jet carrying top border guard officials that crashed have died, the National Security Service said in a statement. The victims included the acting head of the Federal Border Service, Turganbek Stambekov, and his wife, the statement said. The 22-year-old plane crashed late on Tuesday about 20km from Shymkent Airport where it had been due to land after a flight from Astana. State KTK television said the jet fell from a height of 800m. Witnesses also reported hearing a loud explosion at the time of the crash. Footage of the crash site aired on state television yesterday showed only fragments of the An-72 military transport plane remaining on the ground. However, the security service said that the plane had recently undergone all necessary checks and repairs.
Drunk drives on runway
A drunken British man was arrested on Tuesday after driving a stolen car on an Amsterdam airport runway “for a few minutes,” police said. The unnamed passenger headed home for Christmas had pushed an emergency exit button at one of Schiphol airport’s gates, stumbled onto the tarmac and stole a car belonging to an airport contractor, police spokesman Dennis Muller said. “He drove around for a few minutes, but at no point was there any danger to flight traffic,” Muller said. “We don’t know why he took the car, these are things you do when you’re drunk.”
Blast, quake rock Sochi
A gas pipeline blast followed by a mild earthquake has struck the Black Sea resort of Sochi, which will host the 2014 Winter Olympics, a local government spokeswoman said yesterday. Irina Gogoleva of the Emergencies Ministry said no one was hurt and there was no apparent damage to the city’s infrastructure after a magnitude 5.2 earthquake was reported at 2:42am yesterday. Gogoleva said the epicenter of the quake was about 150km off Sochi in the Black Sea. In an unrelated incident, a gas pipeline that feeds a local power station exploded a couple of hours before the quake. Gogoleva said the power plant had switched to fuel oil and the city was receiving electrical power. She said the reason for the blast was unknown. Sochi, the first city in the nation to have been awarded the Winter Olympics, is located on the coast close to Georgia.
Bush Sr still in hospital
Former president George H.W. Bush spent Christmas in a Houston hospital with his wife, Barbara, and other relatives who planned to treat him to a special holiday meal. Bush’s son Neil and his wife also visited on Tuesday, and one of Bush’s grandsons was planning to stop by as well, said Jim McGrath, Bush’s spokesman in Houston. The 88-year-old has been in the hospital since Nov. 23 with a lingering, bronchitis-like cough. A hospital spokesman had said Bush was likely to be released to spend Christmas at home, but then McGrath said the former president developed a fever.
Thatcher remains in hospital
Former prime minister Margaret Thatcher spent Christmas in hospital recovering from bladder surgery, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday. There has been no change in Thatcher’s condition since Sunday, when the 87-year-old was said to be “in good spirits,” the spokeswoman added. Thatcher was admitted to hospital on Thursday last week for a minor operation to remove a growth in her bladder. She suffers from dementia and has appeared increasingly rarely in public in recent years.
Police helicopter crashes
A police helicopter belonging to the Interior Ministry crashed shortly after takeoff on Tuesday afternoon in the central part of the country, killing five people on board, officials said. The Mi-8 helicopter slammed into the ground just after taking off from an airport in the city of Alexandria in the Kirovograd region, about 320km southeast of the capital, Kiev, ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov said. Investigators were working to determine what caused the helicopter to hit the ground as it was gaining speed, Burlakov said. Three of the dead were crewmembers, and two were ground staff on board the helicopter.