Prison fire in Honduras leaves at least 300 dead, official says

February 15, 2012

Trapped inmates screamed from their cells as a fire swept through a Honduran prison, killing at least 300 inmates, authorities said Wednesday.

Lucy Marder, chief of forensic medicine for the prosecutor’s office, said early Wednesday some 356 people on the prison roster are unaccounted for among 852 prisoners.

“The majority could be dead, though others could have suffered burns, escaped or survived,” she said.

The fire broke out Tuesday night at a prison in Comayagua, a town 90 miles north of the Central American country’s capital, Tegucigalpa.

Comayagua fire department spokesman Josue Garcia said he saw “horrific” scenes while trying to put out the fire, saying inmates rioted in attempts to escape. He said “some 100 prisoners were burned to death or suffocated in their cells.”

“We couldn’t get them out because we didn’t have the keys and couldn’t find the guards who had them,” Garcia said.

Officials are investigating whether the fire was triggered by rioting prisoners or by an electrical short-circuit, said Danilo Orellana, head of the national prison system.

A prisoner identified as Silverio Aguilar told HRN Radio that someone started screaming, “Fire, fire,” and the prisoners called for help.

“For a while, nobody listened. But after a few minutes, which seemed like an eternity, a guard appeared with keys and let us out,” he said.

Hundreds of relatives rushed to Santa Teresa Hospital in Comayagua state to learn the fate of their loved ones, said Leonel Silva, fire chief in Comayagua.

Marder said 12 victims were treated there and nine more in the Hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, bringing the total of injured to 21. “That’s why we think the death toll will rise,” she said.
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Radiation leaking from Japan’s quake-hit nuclear

March 12, 2011

Radiation leaked from a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday, the government said, after an explosion blew the roof off the facility in the wake of a massive earthquake.

The developments raised fears of a meltdown at the plant as officials scrambled to contain what could be the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 that shocked the world.

The Japanese plant was damaged by Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which sent a 10-meter (33-foot) tsunami ripping through towns and cities across the northeast coast. Japanese media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed.

“We are looking into the cause and the situation and we’ll make that public when we have further information,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said after confirming the explosion and radiation leak at the plant.

Edano said an evacuation radius of 10 km (6 miles) from the stricken 40-year-old Daiichi 1 reactor plant in Fukushima prefecture was adequate, but an hour later the boundary was extended to 20 km (13 miles). TV footage showed vapor rising from the plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
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World sends disaster relief teams to Japan

March 12, 2011

The international community started to send disaster relief teams on Saturday to help Japan after it suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami, with the United Nations sending a group to help co-ordinate work.

“We are in the process of deploying 9 experts who are among the most experienced we have for dealing with catastrophes. They will help evaluate needs and coordinate assistance with Japanese authorities,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told Reuters.

The team of U.N. disaster relief officials includes several Japanese speakers and an environmental expert, she said.

An explosion blew the roof off an unstable nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday, raising fears of a disastrous meltdown.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said there had been a radiation leak at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake — the strongest recorded in Japan — sent a 10-meter (33-foot) high tsunami ripping through towns and cities across the northeast coast on Friday. Japanese media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed. Read the rest of this entry »

Language school became New Zealand quake disaster zone

February 25, 2011

When Lalane Agatep boarded her flight to Christchurch last Sunday, the Filipina was laughing and thrilled at the prospect of completing an English language course to launch a new career as a nurse in New Zealand.

Now the 38-year-old is now listed as missing, feared entombed with up to 120 others in the CTV building which was devastated in Tuesday’s 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

Her distraught sister Leila Garcia and brother-in-law James arrived in New Zealand’s second city on Friday, praying she would be miraculously found alive, but knowing they faced the grim prospect she had not survived.

“We last saw her on Sunday when we dropped her off at the airport in Wellington. She was coming to Christchurch to study at English at King’s Education,” James Garcia said as he comforted his weeping wife.

“She was so happy. She was working at a retirement home and needed to study English to become a nurse. This was to be her new life. Now we can only hope she is all right, but…” He could not complete the sentence.
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State of emergency in Bahrain after deadly crackdown; opposition party withdraws

February 19, 2011

The country is effectively under martial law after violence that left five dead as Bahrain’s Shiite majority, dissatisfied over their place in a Sunni-led monarchy, followed the mood of protest in other Arab countries and pushed for reform.

Tanks and other military vehicles patrolled the capital and remained in control of key intersections. Banks and some grocery stores closed. The main Shiite political party announced its withdrawal from parliament, and leaders called for a “Day of Rage” after Friday prayers – hoping to emulate the protests that brought down President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Other leaders among the Persian Gulf countries rallied to the defense of Bahrain’s monarchy, denouncing any outside influence in the country’s affairs and praising the quick action of Bahraini leaders to counter the protests. Though the violence was “regrettable,” said Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, the protests were pushing the country toward a “sectarian abyss.”

Most residents of the gulf states are Sunni, and there are enduring concerns among the region’s leaders about Iran’s influence over Shiite communities, particularly in Bahrain and neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the government to use restraint in response to the protests, telling the Bahraini foreign minister in a phone call of “deep concerns” over the police-led violence.
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Australia: Disaster zone

February 9, 2011

Floods, fires and even earthquakes and volcanoes have become political events all over the world, polarising public opinion and sometimes contributing to the fall of governments. Now that the line between natural and man-made disasters has been blurred by a changed understanding of our impact on the planet, every disaster sets off a search for causes and culprits. This is made more contentious by arguments over the degree of human responsibility that have increased the tension between right and left in many countries. The inevitable result seems to be that political leaders are finding themselves more and more in the firing line when nature springs its nasty surprises.

The war over the causes of climate change, in particular, has been waged nowhere more fiercely than in Australia, a country whose knife-edge ecology makes it especially vulnerable. Floods in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, Cyclone Yasi, and now a dismal coda with bushfires around Perth in Western Australia, have made disaster control and prevention the issues of the day in what is normally Australia’s switched-off summer holiday period. Even so, it is surprising that support for the Australian government has tumbled so precipitately. If an election was held today, prime minister Julia Gillard and the Labor party would be swept from office, according to a poll published in the Australian.
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From crisis management to global governance

December 2, 2010

Two developed countries are out; India and Brazil are in. The BRIC countries, namely Brazil, India and China, move up to the top 10; three OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries slide below the line. I am referring to the recent change in the membership and country ranking of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) 24-member board. This is what was agreed at the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in the run-up to the G20 Seoul Summit, to be held on November 11-12. The transformation is emblematic of a tectonic shift in economic power among countries and heralds a new era in global financial governance. At the centre of this remarkable evolution is the G20 as a prime mover.

The Seoul summit will be the fifth since the G20 leaders got together in the immediate aftermath of the global economic crisis in 2008. Thanks to the G20-led concerted efforts, the world has been able to avoid another Great Depression. The successfully-performed feat has earned the G20 an honourable title: ‘a premier forum for international economic cooperation’. To be fair, the G20 that accounts for 85% of the global domestic product and two-thirds of the world population deserves due respect on its own merit. The emergence of the G20, with both developed and emerging markets as members, is definitely a welcome step forward from the standpoint of global governance, when compared with the G7 as an exclusive club of high-income countries.
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Scores killed in crowd stampede at Cambodia water festival

November 22, 2010

More then 180 people died in a stampede at a water festival in Phnom Penh tonight, according to Cambodia’s prime minister.

Hundreds more were hurt at the event, on a small island, as the crowd panicked and pushed over a bridge to the mainland. Authorities had estimated that more than 2 million people could descend on the capital for the three-day event, whose main attraction is a traditional boat race along the Tonlé Sap river.

The last race ended in the early evening. Panic broke out later on Koh Pich island, where a concert was being held. So Cheata, a soft drinks vendor, said the trouble began when 10 people in the crowd fell unconscious. She said that set off a panic, which then turned into a stampede in which many people were trampled.

Part of the crowd huddled on to a bridge, which jammed solid, causing people to fall under others or off the bridge. So Cheata said she saw hundreds of injured people lying on the ground afterwards.
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Pakistan floods wake-up call to growing disasters

November 22, 2010

The U.S. and other countries must recognize the threat represented by the massive floods that hit Pakistan earlier this year and increase preparation for a growing number of natural disasters caused by climate change, a new report said Monday.

It is estimated that as many as 200 million people will be displaced by natural disasters and climate change around the world by 2050, said the report by Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International. The world’s poorest and most crisis-prone countries will be disproportionately affected.

“The massive flooding in Pakistan is a wake-up call that starkly highlights the real threats we face from climate-related disasters,” said Michel Gabaudan, president of Refugees International. “Given the high costs of responding to these catastrophic events, it is in our best interest to plan now for the massive human displacement they cause and protect those most at risk.”

This summer’s floods in Pakistan submerged one-fifth of the country, an area the size of Louisiana, and affected more than 20 million people. The disaster caught both the Pakistani government and the humanitarian community by surprise and overwhelmed their response capabilities.
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Tomas moves away from land; mudslides remain threat in Haiti

November 7, 2010

Hurricane Tomas killed six people and left a trail of destroyed homes in Haiti as it continued moving away from land Sunday. However, Haitians could still grapple with effects from Tomas after the hurricane dissipates.

The hurricane was expected to weaken in the next few days as it churns away from the Americas into the Atlantic Ocean.

As of late Saturday night, Tomas was about 275 miles (440 kilometers) north-northeast of Grand Turk Island and about 570 miles (915 kilometers) south-southwest of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.

The hurricane carried maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph) and was headed north-northeast at at 10 mph (17 kph), the Hurricane Center said. Tomas currently poses no threat to land.

In Haiti, a nation still grappling with the effects of a killer earthquake and a deadly cholera outbreak this year, Tomas ruined houses and turned some streets into rivers. Six people were also killed by the storm, according to the Haitian Civil Protection Authority.
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