Mandela out of hospital
Former president Nelson Mandela was released on Wednesday from the hospital after being treated for a lung infection and having gallstones removed, a government spokesman said. The 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon will continue to receive medical care at home. Mandela had been in the hospital since Dec. 8. In recent days, officials have said he was improving and in good spirits, but doctors have taken extraordinary care with his health because of his age. Mandela was released on Wednesday evening and will receive “home-based high care” at his residence in the Johannesburg neighborhood of Houghton until he fully recovers, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
Fireworks factory explodes
A massive explosion ripped through a warehouse full of fireworks in Lagos on Wednesday, sparking a fire that threatened surrounding city blocks and sending a plume of thick smoke high into the sky. At least one person died and 15 others were wounded, emergency officials said. The blast occurred around 9am in the Jankara area of Lagos Island. The force of the explosion echoed kilometers away and shook windows. A journalist saw members of the Nigerian Red Cross treating people with minor cuts and bruises a few blocks from the site. Later, rescuers pulled out a badly charred corpse from the still-smoldering structure. Many people were injured when they stampeded through the area’s narrow alleyways, National Emergency Management Agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib said. A half-dozen firefighters arrived at the scene with two trucks and locals also ran fire hoses from the trucks to nearby buildings to try to beat back the flames. The trucks quickly ran out of water. One man even scooped up water from a puddle with a bowl in an attempt to fight the blaze.
Hiroshima survivors honored
Hiroshima University yeterday said it would bestow honorary doctorates on three former students from Southeast Asia who survived the 1945 atomic bombing of the city. The degrees will be given to former Brunei prime minister Pengiran Yusuf, 91; Hasan Rahaya, 91, a former Indonesian parliamentarian; and Abdul Razak, 87, who taught Japanese in Malaysia, the university said. The three were among a group of students from Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia studying in the country during World War II under a program designed to provide young foreigners with pro-Japanese education. According to the university, they were forced to stop their studies after Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bomb dropped by US forces, killing an estimated 140,000 people instantly. They were among nine foreign students at the university who were exposed to radiation from the bomb, a university official said.
Latecomer storm kills six
A late season storm has left at least six people dead in separate incidents in the central part of the country, but has spared a southern region that was devastated by a typhoon that killed more than 1,000 people weeks earlier. The national disaster agency said in a report yesterday that three people died when a tree fell on their house in Eastern Samar province, where Tropical Storm Wukong made landfall on Christmas Day. Another person was killed in a landslide in Iloilo province. Officials say heavy rain on mountains surrounding Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province, triggered a flash flood late on Wednesday. It was the 17th storm to hit the country this year.
‘Thunderbirds’ creator dies
Gerry Anderson, the creator of television show Thunderbirds, died on Wednesday at age 83 after a long battle with mixed dementia, his son said on his blog. The puppeteer started his career in the 1950s, creating a string of popular British shows including 1964’s Stingray. His company, AP Films, pioneered the “supermarionation” puppetry technique with the fusion of marionette figures and small-scale models to create live action-style shows. Anderson’s most notable production was 1965 series Thunderbirds, about a secret organization that performs rescue missions using high-tech tools and vehicles. The show became a cult favorite and was adapted for the big screen, most recently in the 2004 film Thunderbirds.
Chavez delegates duties
Ailing President Hugo Chavez, who is still in Cuba recovering from his latest cancer surgery, has delegated several economic duties to Vice President Nicolas Maduro. According to a decree signed by Chavez and published on Wednesday in the country’s government gazette, Maduro is now responsible for making certain decisions related to the national budget and expropriations. Chavez, 58, is scheduled to be sworn in on Jan. 10, but his health has raised concerns over the future of his leftist movement. Officials have never disclosed the type or severity of Chavez’s cancer and he only designated a successor — Maduro — earlier this month.
Storm grounds planes
A powerful winter storm forced the cancelation of about 200 flights yesterday, as heavy snow and high winds pummeled the northeastern US. The National Weather Service forecast 30.5cm to 46cm of snow for northern New England as the storm moved northeast out of the lower Great Lakes, where it dumped more than 30.5cm of snow in Michigan. The storm front was accompanied by freezing rain and sleet. The Ohio River Valley and the Northeast were under blizzard and winter storm warnings. Snow will fall in New York, Vermont and New Hampshire at up to 5cm an hour, the weather agency said.
EU mission head appointed
Authorities have named the general who will lead a EU mission to the Sahel region, a move seen as intended to speed up military intervention against al-Qaeda-linked forces occupying northern Mali. The European Training Mission will be headed by General Francois Lecointre, 50, a marine infantryman who has served in Djibouti, the Central African Republic, Rwanda, Gabon and Bosnia. The announcement came after al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on Christmas Day issued a four-minute video in which one of the group’s leaders, Abou Zeid, criticized France for “not deigning to respond to our offer of dialogue” over four Frenchmen kidnapped in Niger in September 2010.
Bush’s health deteriorates
After more than a month in a Texas hospital battling bronchitis, former US president George H.W. Bush has taken a turn for the worse and was transferred to intensive care on Sunday with a “stubborn fever,” spokesman Jim McGrath said on Wednesday. The 88-year-old was first admitted to Methodist Hospital in Houston on Nov. 7 for bronchitis and released on Nov. 19, but then readmitted four days later. McGrath said doctors were “cautiously optimistic,” but that there was no talk yet of a discharge date.