Reactors unsafe: newspaper
Regulators have found inadequate fireproofing at more than one-fifth of the nuclear reactors that went offline after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi crisis, a major daily said yesterday. The finding could delay their restart by several years in some cases, the Mainichi Shimbun said. More than 10 of the nation’s 50 reactors, excluding those at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, have flaws in fireproofing, the paper quoted sources at the industry ministry and the Nuclear Regulation Authority as saying.
Population in decline
The nation’s population logged a record drop last year, health ministry estimates showed yesterday, highlighting concerns that an ever-dwindling pool of workers is having to pay for a growing number of pensioners. A record low 1,033,000 babies were born last year, against 1,245,000 deaths, resulting in a net drop of 212,000 in the nation’s population of about 126 million, ministry figures showed. The decline is sharper than in 2011 when the annual decline topped 200,000 for the first time as 19,000 people lost their lives in a 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami that followed.
Shark scares swimmers
Thousands of bathers enjoying the hot New Year’s Day weather on Bondi Beach fled the water yesterday after a shark alert was sounded. The crowded sea was cleared in a matter of minutes after authorities raised the alarm when a surf patrol boat said it had seen what it thought could have been a large shark. A helicopter was called in to scour the water, but found no sign of the animal and the beach was reopened 25 minutes later. Westpac Life Saver helicopter service later tweeted: “Offshore Rescue Boat has cleared Bondi Beach of any sharks following sighting at 4:15pm. Lifeguards have opened beach.”
Measle cases surge: WHO
The WHO says measles cases surged in the south of the country last year, with hundreds of children dying of the disease. The WHO did not give a reason for the increase in deaths, but a provincial health official said that the disease hit areas where poor families do not vaccinate their children. A spokesperson for the WHO said yesterday that 306 children died nationwide of measles last year, compared to 64 the year before. She said the jump was most pronounced in southern Sindh Province, where measles killed 210 children last year. Provincial health minister Saghir Ahmed said 100 children died in Sindh Province last month alone, mostly areas where many go unvaccinated.
Alleged bomb plotter caught
Police yesterday arrested a man who was allegedly trying to plant a crude bomb near the home of one of the accused in the New Delhi gang-rape and murder case. The 37-year-old man was arrested in a slum in southwest Delhi where four of the six accused lived, an officer said. The low-grade device was filled with explosives usually used in firecrackers, he said. Two of the other accused come from outside Delhi, police said. The incident reflects growing anger across the country since the 23-year-old medical student was repeatedly assaulted and violated with an iron bar while being driven around in a bus on the night of Dec. 16. The victim died of her grievous injuries in a Singapore hospital on Saturday.
Two held for bomb attempt
Two men were being held in custody in Northern Ireland yesterday after being arrested over the attempted murder of a police officer. The men, aged 34 and 25, were arrested on Monday in the Belfast area, a spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said. The targeted officer found the viable device underneath his car in east Belfast on Sunday. Army bomb disposal experts carried out a controlled explosion. A group calling itself the “New IRA,” or Irish Republican Army, claimed responsibility for the attack. Senior officers have said the attack could have killed the off-duty policeman and his family.
Fireworks kill two
Two people were killed by exploding fireworks and 361 injured in New Year’s revelry despite multiple public awareness campaigns to encourage people to tone down the partying. A 49-year-old builder was killed by a rocket flying into his face and a 51-year-old restaurant owner died when a firecracker went off near his head as he was trying out a firework battery just before midnight, police said. Both accidents occurred in the Campania region in the south. A car apparently packed with illegal fireworks exploded in Naples on New Year’s Eve, severely injuring the two teenagers inside, police said. Dozens more were injured overnight in and around Naples, the capital of Campania, including a six-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy who were hospitalized with burns caused by explosions, but were later released. There were scores of injuries in other parts of the country too, with an 11-year-old Roma boy in Milan losing three fingers when an unexploded firecracker went off in his hand and one man losing the use of his hand due to a blast near Foggia.
Guantanamo pair retire
The last two Cuban workers at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base retired on Monday from jobs they began more than five decades ago. Harry Henry, an 82-year-old office supply technician, and Luis La Rosa, a 79-year-old welder, had worked at the US base since they were teenagers. They were among thousands of Cuban workers who once commuted to the base each day. The US imposed an economic embargo, as well as a hiring freeze, to put pressure on the island’s communist government in 1962. Over the decades, the ranks of daily commuters thinned until only Henry and La Rosa were left. Henry had worked at the base for more than 61 years and La Rosa for more than 53 years. They also served as couriers, carrying US government pension payments to other Cubans who had retired from the base. Because of its embargo, the US government has been left scrambling to find another way to make those payments.
New bank notes introduced
The nation woke up yesterday to a new year and new bank notes, which lop off three zeros in a bid to address high inflation that made the currency cumbersome to work with. Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda launched the new Kwacha notes by assuring the public that the move to rebase the currency was meant to address previous bouts of depreciation. What was 1,000 kwacha is now 1 kwacha. Previously, 10,000 kwacha was worth roughly US$2. The new currency will run side by side with old Kwacha notes until June 30. “Although the old currency will cease to be legal tender on 30 June, it will be available for exchange at the Bank of Zambia, commercial banks for a period of 36 months until 31 December 2015,” Chikwanda said.