Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rescuers search for 107 victims buried in China landslide

Chances of finding survivors was diminishing Tuesday as rescuers used heavy machinery including bulldozers to search for at least 107 people trapped under a landslide in rain-hit southwestern China.

Villagers huddled in tents set up at the site as rescuers looked for their family members.

But there appeared to be tiny hope for survival, with no word on casualties or survivors by noon Tuesday, said Tian Maosheng, an official from Guizhou Communist Party Propaganda Department, who is helping with the rescue.

"The number 107 remains unchanged, and there is still no sign of life here," he said.

Homes were buried when the landslide struck the village of Dazhai in Guizhou province on Monday afternoon after days of torrential rains. An official interviewed by state broadcaster CCTV said nearly half a hill had collapsed.

Makeshift tents were set up as first aid stations and soldiers carrying villagers waded through water and mud as they evacuated more than 360 residents since Monday, CCTV showed.

Light rain on Tuesday morning held up rescue efforts, threatening to wash more mud down the slopes, but began to subside later in the day.

CCTV showed rescuers in orange overalls along a winding mountain road and later bent over a large mound of earth, tugging at large concrete slabs buried in it.

Large areas of southern China have been hit by flooding in the last two weeks, with at least 377 people killed and another 142 missing (not including those from Monday's landslide). More than 3 million people have fled their homes over the past two weeks, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

On Sunday, floodwaters began receding in the hard-hit south and workers finished repairing a dike breach that forced the evacuation of 100,000 people.

The large landslide is about 120 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Guiyang, the provincial capital.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

60 killed in Congo Republic train crash

About 60 people have been killed and about 450 others injured in a train crash in the south of Congo-Brazzaville, officials have said.

The head of the rail operator, Chemin de Fer Congo-Ocean (CFCO), said it happened on Monday night about 60km (37 miles) from the city of Pointe-Noire.

The train is believed to have derailed as it went round a corner in a remote area between Bilinga and Tchitondi, throwing 4 carriages into a ravine.

The dead and wounded have been taken to hospitals and morgues in Pointe-Noire.

"There was a grave train accident during the night," CFCO director-general Sauveur Joseph El Bez told the AFP news agency. "There are dozens of victims and injured."

"The material damage was also very severe," he added. "All steps have been taken to organize relief."
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Iran hangs leader of outlawed Sunni militant group

Iran hanged a Sunni rebel leader, Abdul-Malik Rigi, on Sunday morning after a revolutionary court found him guilty of 79 criminal charges, the ISNA news agency reported.

Mr. Rigi was identified as the founder and leader of the Jundallah group in southeastern Iran, near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group, whose name means soldiers of God in Arabic, was responsible for a series of bombings and attacks since 2003 in which 154 members of the government security forces were killed and 320 others were wounded, the report said.

He was hanged in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran in the presence of families of some victims.

Mr. Rigi was charged with armed robbery, having ties with Israeli, American and NATO intelligence agents, involvement in the killing of dozens of security force officers, kidnapping and founding Jundallah, which the authorities characterized as a terrorist group.

The group had claimed responsibility for attacks against government forces in Sistan-Baluchestan Province, the home of members of the Sunni Baluchi ethnic group, who are a minority in Shiite-dominated Iran.

Most drug traffickers from Afghanistan and Pakistan pass through the province, and Iranian authorities had said that Mr. Riggi was involved in smuggling drugs.

Authorities in Iran said in February that Mr. Rigi was arrested by Iranian security forces as he was flying over the Persian Gulf en route from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan. Video broadcast by Iranian state television showed masked men taking him from a small plane. His younger brother, Abdul-Hamid Rigi, was captured in Pakistan in 2008 and executed in Iran last month.
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

11 killed in 'US missile strike' in Pakistan

At least 11 people have been killed in a suspected US missile strike in the Pakistani tribal region of North Waziristan, local officials say.

A drone aircraft targeted a house in a village about 25km (15 miles) east of the main town of Miran Shah.

The identities of the dead are not yet known. The officials said militants were believed to have been inside.

The lawless region, a haven for members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, has been repeatedly targeted by US drones.

Last month, al-Qaeda number three and Afghan operations chief Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, also known as Sheikh Said al-Masri, was believed to have been killed in such a strike in North Waziristan.

Residents told the Reuters news agency at least three drones were still flying over the village targeted on Saturday, and that they were afraid to approach the destroyed house because of them.

Some 70 drone strikes have killed more than 200 people in North and South Waziristan since the start of 2010, officials say.

Pakistan publicly criticises drone attacks, saying they fuel support for militants. But observers say officials privately condone the strikes.

The US military and CIA do not routinely confirm drone operations, but analysts say only they have deployed such aircraft in the region.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Colombia mining disaster: 72 feared dead

A powerful methane explosion in a coal mine in northwestern Colombia may have left 72 miners dead, making it one of the worst mining disasters in the country's history, officials said.

Only seven of the 79 miners who were working underground at the San Fernando mine near the city of Amaga at the time of the explosion Thursday

could be recovered alive, said Alfredo Ramos, governor of Antioquia province.

Twenty bodies had been recovered, he added. There was little hope of survival for the 52 miners still missing, as there was no breathable air left in the mine, which reaches to a depth of 1,500 metres, he said.

According to Ramos, the mine passed a safety inspection last week despite lacking a ventilation system for dangerous gases, a basic safety feature.

The explosion was felt across several kilometres distance from the mine, local media reported.

Normally 600 miners work in the mine, but the explosion occurred during shift change, likely sparing some lives.

In an earlier statement, President Alvaro Uribe confirmed 16 deaths, adding that the trapped miners faced 'a very difficult fate'.

Colombian mines, including many which are illegal, are considered especially dangerous. The mine hit by the explosion, however, was licensed and considered to be one of the safer operations.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Landslide death toll in Bangladesh hits 53

Bangladeshi army personnel clear the area after landslides struck in the southern coastal area of Cox's Bazar
Massive landslides triggered by overnight torrential rains killed 53 people, burying some alive in Bangladesh's sea resort town of Cox's Bazar flattening shanties and makeshift structures.

Four separate landslides hit Cox's Bazar and Bandarban areas burying a number of people and leaving scores of others missing as heavy rains hampered rescue efforts, police said.

"According to our information so far, at least 49 people including six soldiers have been killed and a number of others are buried alive in the landslides in four places in Cox's Bazar and Bandarban", a police official at the north-eastern Chittagong port city said.

Officials said 12 people were still missing and feared that the toll could go up as a lot of people are still buried in the mudslide.

Officials and witnesses said the rains loosened small hill tops and mudslides came crashing downhill burying makeshift houses and a military camp.

The mudslides, police said, hit Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts, bordering Myanmar and home to thousands of ethnic Rohingya refugees catching the people asleep. At least 25 people were killed in these areas.

Police said hundreds of bamboo shacks were washed away by mudslides and flash floods caused by heavy rains.

Mudslides also washed away army barracks in Cox's Bazar proper where 18 people including six army men were killed. Some army personnel were still reported trapped as the landslides buried the camp completely including 20 vehicles parked there.

"We have not been able to start the rescue operations as rain is hampering efforts and most of the roads are flooded," police said.

The authorities called out army and fire brigade for help.

A depression in the Bay of Bengal caused heavy downpour in the hilly and forested region, triggering landslides. Weather officials have forecast further rains in the region.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Twelve killed in new wave of unrest in Kyrgyzstan

Riots in south Kyrgyzstan have killed at least 12 people and injured more than 120, officials said Friday, as fears grew of a new cycle of violence in the Central Asian nation.

Witnesses in Osh, the country's second-largest city, reported hearing sustained gunfire late Thursday. Local media also reported that gangs of young men armed with sticks and stones smashed shop windows and set cars alight in the center.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Bailinova said 12 people have been killed and more than 120 injured. Many of the injured were being treated for gunshot wounds, she said.

Interim authorities swiftly declared a state of emergency in the city and dispatched armored vehicles and troops to the city in a bid to pacify the situation.

But local residents said shooting continued into the morning and helicopters were flying low overhead. Several buildings across the city were on fire.

Kyrgyzstan has been enjoying an uneasy calm since a mass revolt in April led to the overthrow of then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Quelling the disturbances in Osh will prove a decisive test of the provisional government's ability to control the country.

The mood in south has been tense, however, since five people were killed and dozens injured during two seperate clashes in the town of Jalal-Abad, which is about 70 kilometers (45 miles) from Osh.

It is unclear what caused the latest round of unrest, but local Kyrgyz media have reported that a brawl broke out late Thursday evening on the city's main thoroughfare.

One Osh resident told The Associated Press that he heard a 10-minute-long burst of gunfire shortly past midnight. Local media said they received reports of firing throughout the night.

Osh, which lies on the fringes of the volatile Ferghana Valley, has a large Uzbek minority and a history of ethnic violence. There seemed to be no clear evidence that the violence was provoked by ethnic tensions, however.

Russian news agency Interfax reported that seven armored personnel vehicles carrying soldiers drove into the center early Friday.

The interim government has declared a state of emergency in Osh and surrounding districts that will remain in effect until June 20. A curfew has been imposed from 8 p.m to 6 a.m.

In an emotional televised address Friday, interim President Roza Otunbayeva called for a return to calm.

"I would like to appeal in particular to the women of Kyrgyzstan. Dear sisters, find the right words for your sons, husbands and brothers. In the current situation, it is unacceptable to indulge in feelings of revenge and anger," she said.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

40 killed in bomb attack on Afghanistan wedding party

Around 40 people were killed and more than 70 were wounded in a “massive bomb” attack on a wedding party in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said Thursday.

The cause of the devastating blast was unclear, especially as insurgent attacks in the province, the heartland of the Taliban, are normally aimed at military or police targets and generally cause fewer casualties.

However, Kandahar governor Toror Yalai Wesa told Al Jazeera that a survivor said a car bomb caused the explosion, which occurred as the men sat down to eat during the celebrations.

The groom was a policeman from one of the checkpoints in the area, the governor said.

The attack took place on late Wednesday in Kandahar’s Arghandab district, said Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the provincial governor said. “Right now I can say that dozens of people were killed and injured in the blast.” “It was a suicide bomber that targeted the wedding party,” a senior police official in the province, who declined to be named, said.

“According to our information 39 people were killed and 73 others were injured in the attack,” the official said. The groom and several children were among those injured.

Another official, who also spoke on state of anonymity, said the death toll could rise as the dead and injured were “rushed to different hospitals and a private clinic, we cannot give an accurate number now.” No group took responsibility for the blast, which took place some 15 kilometers north of Kandahar city.

Kandahar, the spiritual home for Taliban militants and their leaders’ headquarters until late 2001, is set to be a scene for a major operation by NATO--led troops this summer.

Thousands of extra US troops are expected to join other NATO allied forces in the region in the coming months. The military escalation is aimed at driving the militants out of Kandahar and stemming the rise of the militants in the volatile region.
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Seven dead as gunmen torch NATO trucks in Pakistan

Gunmen attacked dozens of trucks carrying supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, killing seven people and torching the vehicles, police in Islamabad said on Wednesday.

Islamabad police chief Kalim Imam said 10 to 12 attackers riding motorbikes and a pickup truck stormed a depot at the outskirts of Islamabad late Tuesday and opened fire at around 50 trucks and oil tankers.

"The police are trying to assess how many NATO trucks were torched. We are investigating the terror incident," Imam told DPA. "We had no information on the presence of NATO trucks in the depot."

"I was sleeping in my truck when I heard gunfire," said witness Allah Yaar. "I jumped out and saw some attackers firing while some others splashed petrol on the trucks. Everyone was running to save his life."

A health official at the capital's main hospital, the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, said seven bodies and five injured were moved there. Many of those killed were truck drivers who were resting in their vehicles.

Firefighters struggled for hours to put out the blaze. Television footage showed rows of trucks turned into twisted metal.

Taliban militants have carried out dozens of attacks on Lorries carrying oil and other supplies for western troops from the Pakistani port city of Karachi into landlocked Afghanistan.

But most of those attacks took place in the north-western province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or the south-western province of Baluchistan. It was the first such raid on NATO supplies near Islamabad.

Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters have stepped up suicide and other attacks on official and civilian targets to retaliate against an army assault on their dens in the tribal region along the Afghan border.

More than 3,500 people have died in such attacks since mid-2007.
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Monday, June 7, 2010

10 killed as Cyclone Phet hits Pak's coast

Children stand near huge waves crashing into the seafront in Muscat June 5, 2010. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Ten people died and thousands were left homeless as tropical cyclone Phet brought heavy rain and flooding to Pakistan's coast, officials said on Monday.

The chief port of Karachi was out of danger from the brunt of the cyclone, which made landfall 80 km to the south at Thatta district late on Sunday.

Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, the head of Pakistan's Meteorological Department, said low-lying areas of Thatta's coast bore the impact of the storm with waves up to five metres high.

At least 10 people were electrocuted in Karachi where heavy rains interrupted power transmission. Dozens were admitted to hospitals with injuries from rain-related accidents, said Mohammed Younus, a spokesman for the private Edhi Rescue Service.

Several flights were cancelled or delayed at Karachi international airport.

About 20,000 people were stranded in Gawadar, a port city in the south-western province of Balochistan, where 350 mm of rain fell within 24 hours.

"Our people are carrying out rescue and relief activities round the clock," district official Pasand Khan Buledi said.
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Friday, June 4, 2010

Investigation begun as death toll rises to 98 in Bangladesh fire

Firefighters and bystanders try to extinguish a fire that killed more than 100 people in a residential area of Dhaka, Bangladesh, late Thursday. (Khorshed Alam/Associated Press)
Authorities in Bangladesh have set up an investigation into a fire that raged through residential buildings, shops and a market, killing nearly 100 people in Dhaka, officials said Friday.

Firefighters said they pulled 98 bodies from the ashes of Thursday’s fire, many of which were burned beyond recognition. More than 200 survivors with severe burns were undergoing treatment at the capital’s two main hospitals, a hospital official said.

State-run television put the death toll at 108.

The fire broke out at 9 pm (1500 GMT) Thursday after an electric transformer explosion at Nimtoli in the old part of the city. Flames soon spread to seven residential buildings, trapping many occupants inside, and a plastics factory, said Abdus Salam, deputy director of the Fire Service and Civil Defence.

Firefighters, soldiers and police on Friday morning relaunched a search for bodies in the buildings. The government set up two investigation committees to determine the cause of the blaze. They were asked to report back in a week.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and opposition leader Khaleda Zia expressed shock at the deaths in separate messages. The opposition leader called for an investigation into whether there were any failings in the rescue operations.

The fire took place two days after at least 22 people were killed in a building collapse in the capital’s Tejgaon area.
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