Flood fatalities reach 780
The authorities say the death toll from floods that devastated a vast swathe of northern and central parts of the country has reached 780 confirmed dead with three people still missing. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation department said on its Web site yesterday that more than 2 million people are still effected by flooding in five provinces north and west of Bangkok. The capital itself is dry. The nation’s worst floods in half a century also destroyed millions of tonnes of crops and badly damaged industrial production. The World Bank has estimated the damage at US$45 billion and recovery and reconstruction needs at US$25 billion. The National Social and Economic Development Board has slashed its economic growth forecast to 1.5 percent.
Run on Kim Jong-il trinkets
The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il earlier this month sparked a run on enamel lapel pins bearing his image in the Chinese city of Dandong, street vendors said yesterday. Braving freezing temperatures along the Yalu River, which separates the two countries, sales of badges bearing the likeness of Kim Jong-il surged after his death on Dec. 17. One vendor said she sold 50 to 60 lapel pins every day during the 13-day mourning period, which ended on Thursday with a massive memorial service for the late leader, compared with just two or three a day before his death.
Robber hides in consulate
Police arrested a man accused of robbing a Sydney bar and then fleeing to the grounds of the Chinese consulate, sparking a tense manhunt. New South Wales Police assistant commissioner Mark Murdoch said police were chasing the man yesterday when he scaled the fence surrounding the nearby consulate grounds. Murdoch said the man and police traded gunfire, but no one was hit. Police shut down roads around the consulate and secured the complex before finding the man in a building outside the consulate grounds several hours later, where he was arrested.
Dozens of dogs rescued
Police in the north of the country said they rescued dozens of dogs on their way to a slaughterhouse. Police Superintendent Ronaldo Gayo said 60 dogs were found alive, but 12 had died of suffocation by the time police found them inside a van. The dogs’ snouts and feet were bound by plastic cord. Gayo said the van’s driver and another man were arrested and escorted to their destination — a slaughterhouse inside a sprawling pig and poultry farm in San Carlos Township in Pangasinan Province. The slaughterhouse’s owner and workers fled when police arrived slightly before midnight on Wednesday.
Chinese captain indicted
Prosecutors have indicted the captain of a Chinese fishing boat for illegally operating in Japanese waters, a local official said yesterday. The Nagasaki District Public Prosecutors’ Office finalized its case against Zhong Jinyin (鍾進音), 39, the official said, following his Dec. 20 arrest near islands off the southwest of Japan. It was not clear when Zhong would appear in court. The arrest, the second in the area in less than two months, took place after a six-hour pursuit. Officials found coral and tools on the boat. Arrests of straying Chinese fishermen are increasingly common and usually pass off without much of a hitch, but have occasionally flared into international incidents.
Helicopter crash kills 6
All six crew aboard a Sudanese military helicopter were killed when it crash-landed and burned in North Kordofan State yesterday, the army said. Fire broke out because of a “technical problem” aboard the Russian-made aircraft three minutes after takeoff from a base at El Obeid, the state capital, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said. The pilot crash-landed in a yard, “but the fire destroyed the plane completely and all six crew were killed,” he said. Saad said the chopper was carrying “military equipment” on a logistical mission. The official SUNA news agency reported that the aircraft was a helicopter gunship. On Thursday, South Sudan’s military spokesman said Sudanese air raids killed 17 people in the border state of Western Bahr al-Ghazal, the second day of stepped-up bombing along the northern frontier.
Faction leader dies in strike
Israel killed the leader of an al-Qaeda-inspired faction in an air strike on the Gaza Strip yesterday, accusing him of launching short-range rockets into the Jewish state. Militants identified the man as Momen Abu Daf of the Army of Islam, part of a loose network of Palestinian groups that profess allegiance to al-Qaeda and which have been reinforced by radical Salafi volunteers from neighboring Egypt. Abu Daf was killed when a missile hit Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, the Hamas administration said. Five other Palestinians were wounded and one of them needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian health ministry said. In a statement, the Israeli military said its aircraft “targeted a terrorist squad that was identified moments before firing rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip.” Those militants, the statement said, were “responsible for the firing of rockets at Israel in the past few days.”
Mine kills four civilians
A roadside bomb killed four civilians yesterday in Afghanistan’s southern province of Uruzgan, the provincial head of the crime investigation unit said. “Four civilians were killed and one injured when their vehicle hit a Taliban-planted mine in Trinkot this morning,” Gulab Khan said. All the victims were male and the civilian who was injured was in a critical condition, he added. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but roadside bombs are frequently planted by Taliban-led insurgents fighting a decade-long war against NATO-led foreign troops and Afghan government forces. The UN said the number of civilians killed in violence in Afghanistan rose by 15 percent in the first six months of this year to 1,462, with insurgents blamed for 80 percent of the killings.
Rally urges activist’s release
Several hundred demonstrators have rallied in downtown Moscow to urge the release of a prominent Russian opposition activist and other political prisoners. Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front movement, has been in custody since the fraud-tainted Dec. 4 parliamentary election. He first was held on claims of staging an unsanctioned rally and then sentenced on Sunday to another 10 days in jail on charges of resisting police. Udaltsov has denied the charges and spent much of the month on a hunger strike. Thursday’s demonstration wasn’t sanctioned by authorities, but police didn’t intervene. Russia has been rocked by massive protests against election fraud.
Crash kills at least 13
At least 13 people were killed and 16 wounded on Thursday when a gasoline tanker truck flipped over and caught fire on a highway outside Caracas, spilling flaming liquid that engulfed eight other vehicles. Twelve of those killed were aboard a bus that caught fire, Bolivarian National Police director Luis Fernandez said. He said that the bodies were charred and could not immediately be identified. Fernandez warned that the number of injured could increase. The bus was carrying 32 passengers, and “it is supposed [that] 20 people survived the accident,” he said.
Protesters arrested in Iowa
Police arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters, including a 14-year-old girl, on Thursday just days before Iowa’s closely watched leadoff presidential caucuses. Five were arrested outside the Des Moines, Iowa, campaign headquarters of Republican candidate Ron Paul. The group then moved on to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters, where 12 others were taken into custody. All were ticketed for trespassing and released. Next week’s caucuses are the first voting on the way to choosing a Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in November. “They’re all going to get equal play on this,” said Occupy the Caucuses spokeswoman Danielle Ryun, who was arrested at the state Democratic Party headquarters. “We are very disillusioned with every candidate.”
Nativity vandalism probed
California authorities are investigating vandalism of a church’s Nativity display that includes depictions of gay and lesbian couples. The damage at Claremont United Methodist Church occurred late on Saturday or Sunday morning. The display features silhouettes of three hand-holding couples — two men, two women and a heterosexual pair. The vandal knocked over the depictions of the gay and lesbian couples, but left the straight couple alone. Claremont police Sergeant Jason Walters told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper that it was a hate crime.
Remote volcano erupts
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has issued a heightened alert after a volcano on a remote Alaskan island belched a cloud of ash 4,500m high, potentially affecting trans-Pacific flight routes. The eruption burst forth from the Cleveland Volcano on a remote and uninhabited island about 1,500km southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. “Satellite data indicate that this is a single explosion event. However, more sudden explosions producing ash could occur, with plumes exceeding 20,000 feet above sea level,” the USGS said.
‘Titanic’ auction planned
More than 5,000 artifacts salvaged from the Titanic are to be sold in one lot at auction in New York, 100 years to the day after the luxury liner sank in the Atlantic with about 1,500 people on board. In a filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, Premier Exhibitions, which owns sole salvage rights to the Titanic through its RMS Titanic unit, said it has engaged New York auctioneers Guernsey’s to handle the sale. It will take place on April 15, the 100th anniversary of the day the White Star liner — on its maiden voyage to New York from Southampton, England — slipped under the icy North Atlantic Ocean after hitting an iceberg off Newfoundland.
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500