Hours after tsunamis flattened south Asian beaches popular with vacationing Swedes, Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds went to the theater. The next morning, as the magnitude of the disaster became apparent and thousands of Swedes were injured, dead or missing, planes from Sweden sat idle. \nIn the week since, the country's leaders have weathered hostility and resentment for its slowness to react in what will likely be the biggest peacetime disaster it has ever encountered. \nWith 52 confirmed killed in the disaster and more than 2,300 missing, Sweden is facing a potential loss of life on scale of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington. Analysts warned the Social Democratic government could suffer from its response to the crisis when Swedes go to the polls in national elections next year. \n"Injured Swedes risk dying from infections because the government didn't press the red button to get them home. It's a shame and a scandal," columnist Johanna Hildebrandt wrote in tabloid Aftonbladet. \nDespite pleas from Swedish doctors in Thailand on Dec. 28 to immediately transport injured Swedes to European hospitals, the first two air ambulances didn't leave Sweden until Dec. 30. \nNeighboring Finland and Norway acted quicker, sending the first planes the day after the tsunami struck. Freivalds, the foreign minister, faced heavy criticism for going to the theater as news reached the Swedish Embassy in Thailand that thousands of Swedes were in the disaster zone. She defended her decision saying her mobile phone was switched on during the performance. \nOther Foreign Ministry officials were criticized for not immediately interrupting their holidays and help answer phone calls from relatives of potential victims. \n"I am ashamed of being Swedish when I have a prime minister who says that they can't get more people answering telephones because it is Boxing Day and people have the day off," wrote Claes Thilander in an e-mail to respected Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter. \n"Your government's incompetence shines like a bonfire in the night," another e-mail read. \nThe tabloid Expressen said it received hundreds of e-mails demanding Freivalds' resignation. \n"We could have got started more forcefully, but the scope of the disaster did not become evident before after a while," she said. \nPrime Minister Goeran Persson has reiterated his confidence in Freivalds, adding he won't seek her resignation, nor of any other government minister. \nThe number of missing is nearly six times the number of Swedes killed when the ferry Estonia sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994. The reach is so pervasive in the country of 9 million that Persson said it would be hard not to find someone in Sweden untouched by the tragedy that has claimed at least 137,000 lives. Since last Wednesday, planes have begun ferrying Swedes home and temporary consular offices have been set up in Phuket to speed their transit out of the country. \nOn Monday, Swedes were clamoring for information about the missing. Denmark, Norway and Finland had posted lists of their missing on the Internet and in newspapers, a move that helped them lower their figures of missing residents dramatically.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete