News & Current Affairs

August 9, 2009

Saudi princess robbed in Sardinia

Filed under: Business News, Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 1:57 pm

Saudi princess robbed in Sardinia

map

Italian police are investigating the theft of some $16m (£10m) in cash and jewellery from a Saudi princess staying on the Italian island of Sardinia.

The thieves used a master key to gain entry to her luxury hotel suite in Porto Cervo before ripping a safe from the wall, Italian media reports say.

They said the safe was only fixed with silicon to the wall in the suite.

Officials have not named the princess but say Italian and Saudi diplomats have had talks about the incident.

“The thieves used a master key. In 10 minutes at dinner time, without making any noise, they managed to remove the safe from a suite occupied by the Saudi princess,” Italy’s La Stampa newspaper reported.

The hotel is located in one of the most chic resort areas on the Italian island.

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July 21, 2009

Asia set for total solar eclipse

Asia set for total solar eclipse

Total solar eclipse photographed in Egypt, 2006 (Darren Baskill)

Stargazers will travel long distances to see the eclipse

Millions of people in Asia will see the longest total solar eclipse this century on Wednesday as swaths of India and China are plunged into darkness.

Scores of amateur stargazers and scientists will travel long distances for the eclipse, which will last for about five minutes.

The eclipse will first appear in the Gulf of Khambhat just north of Mumbai.

It will move east across India, Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before hitting the Pacific.

The eclipse will cross some southern Japanese islands and will last be visible from land at Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati.

Elsewhere, a partial eclipse will be visible across much of Asia.

The previous total eclipse, in August 2008, lasted two minutes and 27 seconds. This one will last six minutes and 39 seconds at its maximum point.

Alphonse Sterling, a Nasa astrophysicist who will be following the eclipse from China, scientists are hoping data from the eclipse will help explain solar flares and other structures of the sun and why they erupt.

“We’ll have to wait a few hundred years for another opportunity to observe a solar eclipse that lasts this long, so it’s a very special opportunity,” Shao Zhenyi, an astronomer at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China told the Associated Press news agency.

Solar scientist Lucie Green, from University College London, is aboard an American cruise ship heading for that point near the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, where the axis of the Moon’s shadow will pass closest to Earth.

“The [Sun’s] corona has a temperature of 2 million degrees but we don’t know why it is so hot,” she said.

“What we are going to look for are waves in the corona. … The waves might be producing the energy that heats the corona. That would mean we understand another piece of the science of the Sun.”

The next total solar eclipse will occur on 11 July next year. It will be visible in a narrow corridor over the southern hemisphere, from the southern Pacific Ocean to Argentina.

TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE
Infographic (BBC)
In the area covered by the umbra (the darkest part of the shadow), a total eclipse is seen
In the region covered by the penumbra (where only some of the light source is obscured) a partial eclipse is seen

solar

September 9, 2008

S Lanka ‘shoots down rebel plane’

S Lanka ‘shoots down rebel plane’

Map

Sri Lanka’s air force has shot down a plane belonging to the rebel Tamil Tigers, military officials have said.

If confirmed, it would be the first rebel plane downed by the military.

The aircraft was intercepted by fighter jets after it and another rebel plane bombed a military airfield in the north of the island, the air force said.

A rebel artillery strike and ground assault on the air base killed 10 soldiers, 10 rebels and one policeman, the ministry of defense said.

The Tamil Tigers said they had no information that one of their planes was shot down.

The ministry of defence said 15 soldiers, five air force personnel and eight police were also wounded in the attack on the air base at Vavuniya, near the front line in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

Government offensive

The air force said the light aircraft used by the Tamil Tigers was shot down over thick jungle near Mullaittivu, in rebel-held territory.

The Tigers’ rudimentary air force began operations last year with a surprise attack on an air base on the outskirts of the capital, Colombo.

A Tamil Tiger picture of bombs loaded beneath a plane
The Tamil Tiger aircraft have improvised bomb racks

The last successful rebel attack took place on the strategic eastern port of Trincomalee in August, when 10 sailors were wounded.

The Tamil Tigers have a number of small Czech-built, two-seater, propeller-driven Zlin-143 aircraft, which are operated from jungle airstrips.

They are thought to have been smuggled into the island in pieces, then reassembled and modified to carry bombs, our correspondent says.

The aerial battle comes as the government forces continue a major offensive against the rebels in northern areas of the island.

On Monday, the government ordered all aid workers out of the battle zone, saying it could not guarantee their safety.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting for a separate state for the Tamil minority in the north and east of Sri Lanka for 25 years. More than 70,000 people have died.

September 8, 2008

Cuba hammered by Hurricane Ike

Cuba hammered by Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike has been battering eastern Cuba with giant waves and torrential rain but it weakened slightly as it made landfall.

The Category Two storm’s maximum sustained winds are still more than 165km/h (105mph).

Some homes along the coast, where some 800,000 people have been evacuated, have been damaged beyond repair.

Earlier, Ike killed 61 people in Haiti and reportedly damaged 80% of homes on the main Turks and Caicos islands.

The Cuban Meteorology Institute said the eye of the hurricane came ashore near Punta Lucrecia in the state of Holguin about 510 miles (823km) south-east of the capital Havana.

Hurricane Ike’s predicted path

With Hurricane Gustav striking just a week ago, Cuba’s internationally acclaimed emergency services are being stretched to the limit.

Gustav caused serious damage to the western side of the island, damaging almost 100,000 homes.

“In all of Cuba’s history, we have never had two hurricanes this close together,” Jose Rubiera, head of Cuba’s meteorological service, told state TV.

Windows shatter

Ike is forecast to reach Havana early on Tuesday morning.

Rubble blocks a street in Camaguey, Cuba, after the hurricane on 8 September

The storm left rubble strewn in the streets of Camaguey

A direct hit on the densely populated city of two million people with its precarious colonial buildings could be devastating, our correspondent says.

In the city of Holguin, a hotel worker named Carmela told Reuters news agency: “There is lot of worry, windows are beginning to break. There’s a lot of water, it’s raining very heavily.”

Among those evacuated before the arrival of Ike were 15,000 tourists.

RED CROSS APPEAL
The charity is accepting donations to help people in the Caribbean
Donations can be made on 0845 053 53 53 or via its

In the Camaguey region, in the path of the hurricane, resident Ramon Olivera was preparing to leave by motorcycle as municipal workers boarded up banks and restaurants.

“There’s no fear here but one has to be prepared – it could hit us pretty hard,” he told The Associated Press.

Haitian appeal

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, endured the onslaught of four tropical storms in a three week period.

RECENT MAJOR STORMS
Hurricane Ike: September
Tropical Storm Hanna: September
Hurricane Gustav: August, September
Tropical Storm Fay: August

Heavy rains and flooding sparked by the outer bands of the storm killed at least 61 people in Cabaret, to the north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

“The whole village is flooded,” said local civil protection official Moise Jean-Pierre. “The death toll could go higher.”

The destruction in Haiti has been described as catastrophic.

Police said 500 people were confirmed dead from recent Tropical Storm Hanna while others were still missing and the number could rise.

The newly installed Prime Minister, Michele Pierre Louis, has launched a fresh appeal for international aid.

He called in particular for helicopters to bring those left stranded by the floods to safety. Many lived for days on their rooftops to escape the flood waters.

Florida threat

Ike has been moving westwards at 20km/h (13mph) and is expected to make a 30-hour track along the centre of Cuba, although weakening on the way, the US National Hurricane Center says.

It has been downgraded to a Category Two storm, but the NHC said it was still potentially very dangerous.

On its current track the storm could threaten the islands of the Florida Keys by Tuesday. Some residents have received evacuation orders.

Emergency management director Craig Fugate urged them to move soon, or they “may find the escape route blocked by a hurricane”.


Are you in the Caribbean? Have you been affected by the storms? What preparations have you made to deal with the adverse weather? Send us your comments and experiences

September 7, 2008

Mudslides bury Philippines homes

Mudslides bury Philippines homes

Crushed house (07/09/08)

The ramshackle houses were crushed by cascading tonnes of mud

At least 11 people have been killed and 14 others are missing after landslides triggered by heavy rains buried several houses in the southern Philippines.

Dozens of rescue workers have been trying to reach victims trapped under debris in Compostela Valley, about 840km (520 miles) south-east of Manila.

Up to 30 makeshift houses were destroyed by falling mud and rocks in the disaster on Mindanao island.

Hundreds of people have fled the area because of the risk of more mudslides.

Army, police and civilian volunteers searched for survivors amid treacherous conditions, while two air force helicopters were deployed to ferry victims to hospital.

“Our people are battling against weather and time,” Major Armand Rico was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

A first landslide hit the area on Saturday, followed by a second one early on Sunday.

Officials have ordered people to leave the area because of the threat of a further landslide.

Such incidents are common in the Philippines, especially in low-lying and mining and coastal areas, during the monsoon season between May and October.

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New hurricane menaces Caribbean

New hurricane menaces Caribbean

Caribbean nations are bracing for another major storm, Hurricane Ike, coming just days after Tropical Storm Hanna passed through the region.

Ike has regained strength after weakening, with winds of up to 135mph (215km/h) as it nears the Turks and Caicos islands and the Bahamas.

Cuba has issued a hurricane watch for its eastern provinces.

Haitian officials have said that at least 500 people have been found dead as floodwater’s caused by Hanna recede.

That storm has hit the US south-east coast and is dropping torrential rain on North and South Carolina.

Storm warnings are in force along the Atlantic coast from Georgia to New Jersey.

‘Major hurricane’

Hurricane Ike gained strength to Category Four on the Saffir Simpson scale – an “extremely dangerous hurricane” – after weakening slightly earlier on Saturday, said the Florida-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

As of 2100 GMT, Ike was tracking west south-west, moving at 15mph about 90 miles (145km) east of Grand Turk Island.

SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE
Cat 1: Winds 74-95mph (119-153km/h). No real damage to buildings
Cat 2: Winds 96-110mph (154-177km/h). Storm surge 6-8 feet (1.8-2.8 metres) above normal
Cat 3: Winds 111-130mph (178-209km/h). Major hurricane. Coastal flooding destroys smaller structures
Cat 4: Winds 131-155mph (210-249km/h). Large storm surge and widespread damage to smaller buildings
Cat 5: Winds greater than 155mph (249km/h). Small buildings blown away, roofs on large buildings destroyed. All trees and signs knocked down. Widespread coastal flooding.
Source: US National Hurricane Center

The NHC said the storm was expected to pass near or over the Turks and Caicos islands and the south-eastern Bahamas late on Saturday or early Sunday.

After Hanna pummeled the low-lying Turks and Caicos, a British territory to the north of Haiti, earlier in the week, many residents and visitors decided to leave.

Authorities decided to close the airport in Providenciales at mid-day on Saturday.

Ike should hit the northern coast of eastern Cuba by late Sunday or early Monday, according to the NHC forecast.

If it stays on its projected course, Ike will cut across the island from east to west, putting the crumbling colonial buildings of the capital, Havana, at risk.

A storm surge of up to 12ft (3.6m) is expected along with “large and dangerous battering waves” and heavy rainfall, the NHC said.

The center of the hurricane is forecast to pass to the north of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

But Haiti, already reeling from three major storms in as many weeks, will not be spared, with up to 12in (30cm) of rain due to fall.

As floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Hanna receded, Haitian officials said more than 500 people had been killed.

Hurricane Gustav last week and Tropical Storm Fay two weeks ago killed about 120 people.

Hardest hit by Hanna was the city of Gonaives, which was flooded with up to 16ft of water that has only now begun to recede.

The devastation there has been described as catastrophic.

Police said 500 people were confirmed dead but that others are still missing and the number could rise higher.

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) said hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced by the flooding.

The WFP has begun distributing food aid but a spokesperson said the scale of the disaster was putting their resources to the test.

Other aid workers say people’s spirits are running low after the successive storms.

“Food supplies and water are scarce and the price of the food that’s left is rising,” said Parnell Denis from Oxfam in Gonaives.

“The morale of people staying in the shelters is so very low; I am afraid to tell them that another storm is on its way.”

More bad weather will hamper the aid effort even further.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, there have been no reports of major damage.

However, preparations are under way for the arrival of Hurricane Ike.

“The ground is saturated and some of the dams in the south-east region are fairly close to their maximum capacity,” said meteorological official Gloria Ceballos.

Civil defense director Colonel Juan Manuel Mendez said Dominican troops had been put on alert.

Map of Hurricane Ike's predicted route


Are you in the Caribbean? Have you been affected by the storms? What preparations have you made to deal with the adverse weather? Send us your comments and experiences

August 25, 2008

No leads on Thailand disappearance

No leads on Thailand disappearance

Courtesy BBC News

Danny Hall on The Weakest Link

Danny Hall is a former winner of TV quiz show The Weakest Link

How can someone disappear without trace on a small island?

That is the question nagging the family and friends of Danny Hall, a British backpacker who went missing in the southern Thai resort of Koh Pha Ngan six months ago.

The disappearance of the 36-year-old – last seen on 25 February – has baffled investigators and loved ones alike.

A roadie and former winner of TV quiz show The Weakest Link, Mr Hall had been on his third trip to Thailand when he was last seen after the island’s world-famous Full Moon Party.

Every month, it is estimated up to 25,000 revellers descend on Koh Pha Ngan for the all-night beach rave.

For most of the party-goers their worst experience is likely to be waking up with a hangover.

But the British foreign office website warns that incidents of date rape have been reported at the event.

Danny Hall
I’ve kind of accepted I’m never going to see him again. But someone must have seen something, someone must know something
Roy Twemlow
Danny Hall’s friend

The Bangkok Post reported in April that a Koh Pha Ngan police chief had recently been transferred amid a rising crime rate and complaints about visitors’ safety.

Meanwhile, a number of accounts of tourists being attacked on the island can be found on internet travel chatrooms.

Mr Hall’s friend, Roy Twemlow, was one of the last people to speak to him when he rang Mr Twemlow from a bar, in the afternoon following the Full Moon Party.

The pair became friends at Birmingham University, where Mr Hall, from Norwich, England, graduated with an honours degree in history.

The 36-year-old said: “It was about 2pm when [Danny] rang me and he sounded fine, he didn’t sound panicked. It’s just not like him to vanish without trace.

“I’ve kind of accepted I’m never going to see him again. But someone must have seen something, someone must know something.

Full Moon Party reveller

“Danny’s very sociable, makes friends easily and is highly intelligent. He’s also very non-confrontational.”

On arriving in Thailand at the end of January, Mr Hall, who had worked as a roadie for The Rolling Stones and at England’s Glastonbury music festival, spent a week in Bangkok at Mr Twemlow’s home.

“He wasn’t moping around or depressed,” recalls his friend. “It was just the same old Danny.”

Mr Twemlow, a teacher who has lived in Thailand for a decade, travelled down to Koh Pha Ngan to investigate after Mr Hall had been reported missing.

He expected to find police on the island in the midst of a full investigation when he arrived at the end of April.

‘Disgrace’

But he says: “When I got to Koh Pha Ngan, the police knew very little about the case, they hadn’t even searched the area where Danny was last seen. It’s a bit of a disgrace really.”

Danny Hall

Mr Hall (right) on the day he was last seen in the Backyard Bar

Mr Twemlow found his friend’s possessions – a backpack and an acoustic Yamaha guitar – left in his accommodation, a hut at the island’s secluded Hat Yao beach. But Mr Hall’s passport and money belt have not been found.

American backpacker Chris Chester, who met Mr Hall on Koh Pha Ngan a week before his disappearance, but did not attend the Full Moon Party, raised the alarm within three of four days of the Briton vanishing.

The 39-year-old said he and his German girlfriend had met up with Mr Hall almost daily, going to the beach, relaxing with a massage and shopping.

“He had been in regular contact with us the whole time, so when we didn’t hear from him for a couple of days I thought it was pretty strange. I started trying to find him and asking around,” he said.

Mr Chester checked hospitals and clinics on Koh Pha Ngan and neighbouring Koh Samui in his search for the missing tourist, but to no avail.

“There was nothing to suggest he was depressed. I really can’t fathom what happened to him,” he said.

‘Totally bizarre’

Mr Hall is known to have joined dozens of party-goers at the Backyard Bar for an “after-party”, on the morning after the Full Moon rave.

Danny Hall

Thai police say Mr Hall’s bank account remains dormant

Niki Kursakul, 45, from Sydney, Australia, who is married to the Thai owner of the bar, described Mr Hall’s disappearance as “totally bizarre”.

The mother-of-two, who has lived in Thailand for 16 years, said: “It’s very, very strange. The bar isn’t near a beach but I suppose it’s possible he could have wandered down to the sea, gone swimming and got into difficulty.

“But a body would usually get washed up if someone drowned. If he’d fallen or had an accident near the bar he would have been found by now.

“There can be the occasional fight [in the Backyard Bar] but no-one saw any argument taking place that day as far as I know.”

Bangkok’s ministry of foreign affairs said the Thai authorities were working closely with Mr Hall’s family and friends and the British embassy to investigate his disappearance.

Danny Hall

Mr Hall’s friends have launched an appeal to help find him on Facebook

Spokesman Tharit Charungvat said: “The safety of tourists in Thailand is a matter of great concern to the Royal Thai Government.”

He said the number of visitors to Thailand was on the rise and that the country’s popularity was “due, among other things, to the hospitality and safety tourists can expect when visiting Thailand”.

Thai Police Colonel Chataree Pandum said Mr Hall’s bank account remains dormant since he disappeared and investigators believe the Briton did not leave the island.

Norfolk Constabulary in England said they were treating Mr Hall as a missing person – as is the UK foreign office – but that officers currently had no plans to travel to Thailand.

In the meantime, the agony for Mr Hall’s loved ones continues.


Have you ever been to Koh Pha Ngan’s Full Moon Party? What was your experience? Tell us

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