Flood-trapped miners freed
Two miners were rescued early yesterday after spending 10 days trapped underground by a flood, state news services reported, in a rare success for the accident-prone industry. A total of 42 workers were underground when water began pouring into the state-owned Zhengsheng coal mine on Sept. 28 and although 30 escaped, a dozen were stuck inside, Xinhua news agency said. Rescue efforts in Fenyang, Shanxi Province, have been continuing ever since, Xinhua added, citing the mining company’s rescue headquarters. The two miners were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening problems and searchers were still trying to reach the remaining 10. The pair’s fate stands in stark contrast to that of hundreds of miners every year. Last year, 1,384 people were killed in coal mining accidents, according to official figures.
Official fired for wedding
The country’s anti-graft watchdog has fired a village official who spent more than 1.6 million yuan (US$260,000) on a lavish three-day wedding for his son, state media said, the latest step in the government’s crackdown on waste and extravagance. Ma Linxiang (馬林祥), a deputy village head from the Beijing suburb of Qingheying, hosted the estimated 250-table wedding at an upmarket convention center during the week-long National Day holiday last week, newspapers reported. Ma told the Beijing News that the wedding was hosted by both families and that he “couldn’t stop” the bride’s family from splurging on the venue, as well as a troupe of performers that included two celebrities. Ma said he only paid for the two days of festivities in his village that cost 200,000 yuan and that he received a fraction of that back in gifts, the newspaper said. Ma also said luxury cars used at the wedding were only “borrowed.”
Pardon given to 56 prisoners
The government released 56 political prisoners, including some former ethnic minority separatists, in a presidential amnesty yesterday, according to government and activist sources. The prisoners were freed from at least a dozen detention centers across the country, a senior Ministry of Home Affairs official, who declined to be identified, told reporters. Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner who now works for the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a body that monitors prisoners of conscience held or political activists facing charges, said that former members of ethnic minority rebel groups were among those freed. The move came just ahead of the annual ASEAN forum in Brunei. In a speech made during a trip to Britain earlier this year, President Thein Sein promised to free all political detainees by the end of the year.
North threatens US over drill
Pyongyang yesterday warned Washington of a “horrible disaster” and put its troops on alert over a massive joint naval drill involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, and South Korean and Japanese vessels scheduled for this week. The warning came after the government and Washington last week signed a new joint strategy to counter the growing threat from the North. Pyongyang said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “getting strained again” and warned the US that the closer its forces came “the more unpredictable disasters their actions will cause... The US will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces.”
Police have identified the man who set himself on fire on the National Mall and later died of his injuries. Washington police spokesman Paul Metcalf said in a news release on Monday the man was 64-year-old John Constantino of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. Police said on Saturday that Constantino’s injuries were so severe that authorities needed to use DNA and dental records to identify him. The man poured the contents of a red canister of gasoline on himself in the center portion of the mall on Friday last week. He then set himself on fire, with passing joggers taking off their shirts to help put out the flames.
Divers ‘unpack’ bodies
Deep sea divers “unpacked a wall of people” from the hull of a smuggler’s trawler on the sea floor near Lampedusa Island on Monday, gingerly untangling the dead would-be migrants in the latest and most painstaking phase of a recovery operation following the ship’s fiery capsizing. It was the first time the divers had been able to reach the hull and authorities said 38 more bodies were recovered, raising the death toll from the tragedy on Thursday last week to 232. Scores more are believed missing; most, if not all, were Eritreans trying to reach Europe in search of asylum and a better life.
Lost journalist survives
As her husband went for help, Cathy Frye lay on the ground of a remote Texas state park, hiding from the sun under a small tree. She was alone for two days until someone on high ground spotted her. Frye, an award-winning reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, remained in an El Paso hospital on Monday, one day after she was airlifted by helicopter to safety. Rescuers found Frye, the 43-year-old mother of two children, in a dry creek known as an arroyo. The partial federal government shutdown had forced Frye and her husband, Democrat-Gazette photographer Rick McFarland, out of their original destination, Big Bend National Park, but they took a local employee’s advice and went west to Big Bend Ranch State Park, which remained open. The couple headed toward a popular hiking trail, but overshot their mark and spent that night near a scenic overlook, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. They found the right trail the next day, but then lost it again. That night, the couple slept in wet clothes and with no material to start a fire. On Friday, Frye told her husband she could not go any further. They decided McFarland should carry on toward their truck to find help.
President in for surgery
Doctors prepared to drill into President Cristina Fernandez’s skull yesterday morning to siphon out blood that is pressuring her brain two months after she suffered an unexplained head injury. Experts described the procedure as generally low risk and almost always having positive results, but the surgery on the 60-year-old leader worried many Argentines, who have struggled to imagine their country with anyone else at its center. Fernandez was diagnosed with “chronic subdural hematoma,” or fluid trapped between the skull and brain. As people age, it can happen with a head injury so mild that they do not remember it. In the president’s case, doctors initially prescribed a month’s rest, but decided surgery was required after she complained of numbness and weakness in her upper left arm on Sunday.