Seven drown on school trip
Seven schoolchildren drowned while swimming in the sea during a picnic near Ho Chi Minh City, police said yesterday. The school trip ended in tragedy on Sunday after the children were swept out to sea by strong waves at Can Gio Neach, a coastal area on the outskirts of the city. “The last bodies were found early Monday morning,” a Can Gio District policeman told reporters. According to the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper, the children, aged 12 to 14 years old, were part of a group of nearly 100 students attending the picnic organized by the Nguyen Binh Khiem Upper Secondary School in Binh Duong Province. “Most of them could swim well,” a teacher who was escorting the group was quoted as saying by Tuoi Tre. “Suddenly, the wave became big, pulling the kids away from the shore. Four of them swam back to ask for help, but rescue canoes were not immediately available.” Drowning is one of the main causes of child deaths in the nation, with about 3,500 children drowning each year, Tuoi Tre figures show.
Official warns on toxic land
About 3.33 million hectares of farmland is too polluted to grow crops, a government official said yesterday, highlighting the risk facing agriculture after three decades of rapid industrial growth. The country has been under pressure to improve its urban environment following a spate of pollution scares, but cleaning up rural regions could be an even bigger challenge as the government tries to reverse damage done by years of urban and industrial encroachment and ensure food supplies for a growing population. The area of contaminated land is about the same size as Belgium. The official said no more planting would be allowed on it as the government was determined to prevent toxic metals entering the food chain. A government land survey revealed traces of toxic metals dating back at least a century, as well as pesticides banned in the 1980s, and state researchers have said that as much as 70 percent of soil may have problems.
Bombs near Musharraf home
Police yesterday found explosives on a road close to the home of former president Pervez Musharraf, two days before he is to appear at a treason tribunal. The 2.5kg of explosives and two detonators were found about 2km from the retired general’s home on the edge of Islamabad. The discovery was made close to where 5kg of explosives were found last Tuesday, as Musharraf’s treason trial was due to start. The case was adjourned to tomorrow because of the security alert. Musharraf said on Sunday he had not yet decided whether to attend the hearing, denouncing the case as a “vendetta” against him and saying he had the backing of the powerful army.
Railway workers end strike
Thousands of railway workers yesterday agreed to end a three-week partial strike after lawmakers vowed to reflect their opinions in the government’s plan to reorganize railway services. More than 6,000 unionized workers of the Korea Railway (Korail) — about one-third of the firm’s entire staff — had been on a strike since Dec. 9 in protest at the management overhaul plan they feared would spark mass layoffs and pay cuts. The government this month announced the plan to spin off part of Korail and allow other state-run firms to buy shares in it. It said the move was aimed at revitalizing the debt-ridden railway, but thousands of workers suspect it is a prelude to privatization.
Arsonist killer captured
A man suspected of killing three people and setting fire to a home in southern Colorado has been captured in Oklahoma after a nationwide manhunt, authorities said on Sunday. Harry Carl Mapps, 59, was captured at a motel in Roland, Oklahoma, on Saturday night, police said. Mapps was found using information developed by the US Marshals Service in Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas. Mapps is wanted on charges of fatally shooting Kim Tuttle, 55; her husband, Reggie Tuttle, 51; and their daughter, Dawn Roderick, 33. Their bodies were found in the Tuttles’ home in Rye after the house burned down on Nov. 27. The fire was ruled arson. Three days after the fire, deputies said Mapps was their primary suspect. Authorities said Mapps had been living with the Tuttles and was working for Reggie Tuttle’s trucking company. Taylor said money appeared to be the motive for the shootings.
Ambassador’s home attacked
Gunshots were fired at the German ambassador’s residence in Athens early yesterday, but caused no injuries or damage, police said.
At least four shots hit the outside metal gate of the residence, which lies behind a security wall on a busy street in a northern suburb of the capital, police said. Investigators have collected 15 spent bullet cases so far. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras spoke to the German ambassador to Athens, Wolfgang Dold, after the incident, a police statement said. Anti-German rhetoric has become common among opposition politicians and anti-bailout groups since the country’s international financial bailout in 2010, due to the harsh austerity policies that accompanied it.
Lightning kills 8 in church
A lightning bolt struck a church in the capital, killing eight worshipers and injuring several others, media reported. Several members of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Lilongwe, were admitted to hospital after Saturday’s strike, the Nyasa Times said, citing witnesses, police and health officials. It was not immediately clear whether they were injured by the lightning or in the panic to escape. “People were inside the church attending the service when the lightening stuck. I first heard a loud burst which frightened almost everybody and few minutes later I just saw a stampede,” the paper quoted a witness as saying.
About 70 journalists killed
At least 70 journalists were killed on the job around the world this year, including 29 who died covering the civil war in Syria and 10 slain in Iraq, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Six journalists died in Egypt. Half of those reporters were killed while reporting an Aug. 14 crackdown by Egyptian security forces on demonstrators protesting the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. “The Middle East has become a killing field for journalists. While the number of journalists killed for their work has declined in some places, the civil war in Syria and a renewal of sectarian attacks in Iraq have taken an agonizing toll,” the committee’s deputy director, Robert Mahoney, said in a statement. Reporters and commentators who covered police misconduct, political corruption or drug trafficking and other sensitive topics were slain in separate incidents in Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Russia. For the first time in a decade, no journalists were known to have been killed for their work in Mexico.