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UN demands halt to Ivory Coast killings

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

The United Nations demanded a halt to the “atrocities” triggered by Ivory Coast’s political crisis that have left 173 dead, and accused Laurent Gbagbo’s troops of harassing its peacekeepers.

And in another blow to Gbagbo’s regime, the Central Bank of West African States said only his rival Alassane Ouattara’s globally recognised government could manage the country’s accounts there.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile repeated Thursday a call for Gbagbo to step down.

UN officials in Abidjan said Gbagbo’s security forces, shielded by civilian protesters and backed by unidentified masked gunmen, had prevented human rights monitors from probing reports of at least two new mass graves.

They said gangs of gunmen had carried out murderous overnight raids on civilians living in the poorest districts of Abidjan.

UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast man a position near a line of barbed wire at the entrance of the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

“The situation is sufficiently disturbing for everyone to take it seriously and do something about it,” said Simon Munzu, UN human rights director in Abidjan.

“We’ve been stopped virtually every time we’ve tried to go into the field.”

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast”, citing killing, kidnaps, sexual violence, repression of protests and destruction of property.

In a statement to the council, Clinton said: “We reiterate our call for former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately.

“The United States joins the international community in condemning the growing violence, the grave human rights violations, and the deterioration of security in Cote d’Ivoire,” she added.

The UNOCI peacekeeping force also complained that Gbagbo’s camp continued to besiege the waterfront Abidjan hotel where Alassane Ouattara’s rival government is holed up, protected by 800 UN troops.

Gbagbo and Ouattara have been in a standoff since a November 28 presidential election, which both claim to have won. Ouattara has been recognised by the UN Security Council, but Gbagbo is determined to cling to power.

“Serious human rights abuses and intimidation continue to be reported in several districts of Abidjan. The toll of dead, wounded and missing is rising rapidly,” UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Toure told reporters.

Human Rights Watch said it had recorded the same crimes.

But Gbagbo’s regime remained defiant, calling on supporters to resist international pressure.

“It’s a battle,” Gbagbo’s powerful wife Simone told lawmakers. “War is being waged on us in several forms. If we do not want to be crushed, we should raise our heads, resist and have confidence in ourselves.”

But in a further blow to Gbagbo, seven finance ministers representing the other countries in the West African Monetary Union said only Ouattara’s government could deal with their shared central bank.

The decision could threaten Gbagbo’s camp with a cashflow problem.

Earlier, briefing ambassadors in Geneva, the UN deputy human rights chief said the UN had been able to confirm allegations of 173 killings and 90 cases of torture or ill treatment in Ivory Coast in the past week.

Munzu said the true toll might be much higher because Gbagbo’s troops had blocked attempts by his staff to investigate reports of two major mass graves — one allegedly holding 60 to 80 bodies, the other 30.

“We get to a roadblock, manned by heavily armed elements of the Defence and Security Forces, with whom are associated hooded people who we don’t know,” he told reporters at UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

The Defence and Security Forces (FDS) are police and army regulars loyal to Gbagbo. They have been deployed to prevent protests by Alassane supporters.

“And to this is added civilians, including children, who would tomorrow be classified as ‘collateral damage’ if we tried to force our way” past roadblocks, Munzu said.

Asked if the United Nations had confirmed reports that Liberian mercenaries were in Abidjan, spokesman Toure said: “Our patrols have met a group of people speaking English and claiming to be Liberian.”

He said the group was seen at night in Abidjan and was “heavily armed”.

Toure said pro-Gbagbo security forces were blocking UN patrols and supply convoys, intimidating UN police and besieging Ouattara’s base in the Golf Hotel, “supported by masked individuals with rocket launchers.”

UNOCI was having trouble finding fuel or getting flights into Abidjan airport, but promised that the force would stay on, he added.

Nigeria will host a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, and US officials say an appeal will be made for new troops to reinforce the hard-pressed UN peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba issued a statement on behalf of the national team calling for an end to the violence.

Source: SGGP

UN renews Ivory Coast force mandate

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:33 am

The UN Security Council extended the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast in defiance of Laurent Gbagbo’s calls that the force leave as world powers made new calls for him to stand down as leader.

Amidst UN accusations that the strongman’s followers had been involved in killings and that his entourage had hired mercenaries, the Security Council made its most explicit sign of support yet for opposition leader Alassane Ouattara as the rightful president.

The European Union imposed sanctions on Gbagbo, his wife and 17 other Ivorians, the United States said it was preparing new action against him.

The UN Security Council also warned that it could order “targeted” sanctions and reinforce the 10,000-strong UNOCI peacekeeping force.

Nearly all the international community has recognized Ouattara as winner of Ivory Coast’s November 28 election and fears of a repeat of the country’s 2002 civil war have grown as Gbagbo has clung to the presidential palace.

UN peacekeepers patrol near the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan on December 20, 2010.

The UN has accused Gbagbo’s security forces of involvement in dozens of alleged kidnappings and murders.

UN peacekeeping supremo Alain Le Roy warned that the UN force faced a “dangerous” confrontation with Gbagbo and accused the disputed leader of using mercenaries.

“It is clear that President Gbagbo’s camp is doing everything to make life difficult for us, including by blocking our supplies and by harassing our personnel, and carrying out provocations, some armed,” Le Roy told AFP.

“They want to cut all of our fuel. They are forcing us to leave the apartments we use,” added the UN under secretary general after briefing the UN Security Council on the UN mission in Ivory Coast, UNOCI.

“There is direct harassment of UNOCI. They are really trying to make our life difficult, they want to make it impossible.”

Security Council resolution 1962 warned that UN might more troops “as may be needed” from other peacekeeping missions and it called on countries to be ready to help any new appeal for forces.

It said the Security Council was ready “to impose measures, including targeted sanctions, against persons who, among other things, threaten the peace process and national reconciliation.”

UN peacekeepers and France’s 900-strong force continued to patrol the streets of Abidjan and to protect the Golf hotel where Ouattara has set up his base.

UNOCI chief Choi Young-jin accused Gbagbo’s troops of blockading the Golf Hotel and “on and off denying access to food and water supply trucks.”

He complained that gunmen in military uniform opened fire on a UN patrol, and said the Gbagbo camp had sent armed young men to intimidate UN staff in their homes at night.

Gbagbo and Ouattara have both declared themselves president, but the Gbagbo retains control of the armed forces and the presidential palace.

Ouattara is backed by the former rebels that control areas north of a 2003 ceasefire line but in the south, home to the cocoa ports that dominate Ivory Coast’s economy, he is confined to the Golf Hotel.

Meanwhile, in the poor suburbs of Abidjan, there are reports of gangs in uniform raiding houses at night and killing suspected Ouattara backers.

On Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed concern about “the growing evidence of massive violations of human rights”.

“In the past three days there has been more than 50 people killed, and over 200 injured,” she said.”

Pillay said “armed individuals in military uniform accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security Forces (FDS) or militia groups” took people at night and some were “found dead in questionable circumstances.”

Gbagbo’s interior minister, Emile Guirieoulou, rejected accused the UN of producing a “partisan report” about alleged rights abuses.

“The violence of the past few days has seen around 14 members of the Defence and Security Forces shot dead. That is not said often enough,” he told AFP.

The Ivorians sanctioned by the European Union include top presidential advisers, senior security officials and military officers, the head of state television, Gbagbo’s wife Simone and her chief bodyguard.

France urged Gbagbo to restrain his forces, and warned that the French peacekeeping contingent will protect its estimated 15,000 expatriate citizens there.

In Washington, the Barack Obama administration urged Gbagbo to step down and threatened sanctions against him and his family within days, saying there is no doubt he had lost a disputed presidential vote.

“The election was clear, its result was clear, and it’s time for him to go,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Source: SGGP

Two Chinese missing after clash with S.Korea coast guard

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

Two Chinese fishermen are missing and another is in a critical condition after their trawler collided with a South Korean coastguard ship Saturday and capsized, officials said.

South Korean Coast Guard patrols near a group of disputed islets.

Four coastguard officers were also injured as they tried to arrest the crew of the Chinese boat for illegal fishing off South Korea’s Eocheong island in the Yellow Sea.

The Chinese fishermen attacked the Korean officers with iron pipes and clubs, the Yonhap news agency quoted the coastguard as saying.

The 63-ton Chinese boat capsized after it collided with the 3,000-ton coastguard ship, leaving two of its crew members missing. Eight other Chinese were rescued but one was in a coma and taken to hospital by helicopter.

Eight boats and four helicopters were searching for the missing.

Illegal Chinese fishing is common in South Korean waters. In 2008 a South Korean coast guard officer was attacked and drowned while trying to inspect a Chinese boat operating illegally.


Source: SGGP

US newspaper extols Nam Hai resort on Vietnam’s central coast

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 11:23 am

Rescue on blazing ship carrying 111 off English coast

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

LONDON, Oct 27, 2010 (AFP) – An operation was under way Wednesday to rescue 111 people from a factory fishing vessel which caught fire southwest of the Isles of Scilly off southwest England, the coastguard said.

“There are 81 persons in life rafts with 30 people remaining on the ship fighting the fire,” a spokesman said, adding that the “Athena” was 230 miles (370 kilometres) southwest of the Isles of Scilly.

Source: SGGP

Low pressure areas formed off the Pacific Coast

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

Two low pressure areas have been formed off the Pacific Coast in October 21, said the National Hydrometeorological Forecast Center.

The first low pressure area was located at 17.10 degrees north latitude and 142.25 degrees east longitude, and moved to the West-northwest in the evening.

The second low pressure area was found at 19.9 degrees north latitude and 158.8 degrees east longitude and moved to the Northwest.

Their wind speed was about 20-30 kph. They can develop into a typhoon and will hit the Philippines in next few days.

The super typhoon Megi is around 670km to the Northeast of Vietnam’s Hoang Sa Archipelago (Paracel Islands) with gusts over 220 kph.

It will go deep into the mainland of Guangdong Province in China on October 22.

The country presently sees a dry weather in three regions.

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Source: SGGP

Titanium mining causes distress along central coast

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 7:03 am

Phu My District in the central Binh Dinh Province resembles a gigantic work site as 20 titanium mining projects are under way simultaneously.

A titanium mine in Phu Cat District in the central province of Binh Dinh

It has led to environmental problems on an equally large scale.
For instance, a swathe of protective forests along the coastal communes of My Thanh, My Tho, My An, and My Thang have disappeared, leaving 20-30-meter deep holes in sand in their wake.
Dinh Thi Mai of My Thanh said the forests had been considered guardian angels by the local villages for the last 30 years since they had kept out sand, wind, and water from land.
But after Anh Vi Trade Company Ltd began to exploit titanium, the forests were gradually cut down, she said, warning that the land will soon sink and houses will be swallowed by the sea.
The sea will soon flood the mainland, she further warned.
Upset with the company’s actions, residents in these communes razed its facilities several times, gathered in front of the district People’s Committee to protest, and intercepted the company’s vehicles on the highway.
Nguyen Hung, a company worker, said machines operate at full capacity every day, mining an average of 60 tons of titanium daily.
Workers dig holes 20-30 meters deep and since there is sometimes not enough water for the mining work, they pump groundwater, he added.
Cao Huu Lau, an official of Dien Hai Commune, said the company was licensed in 2009 to exploit titanium for three years but no agency has been assigned to monitor its work.
As a result, it has damaged the region’s environment, he said.
In Quang Tri Province’s Gio Linh and Vinh Linh Districts, huge tract of protective coastal forest has been levelled, allowing sand to encroach into farmlands and make them into deserts.
Le Thanh Hung of Gio Linh said these farms once yielded plenty of rice and sustained many generations of farmers but have now become barren also due to a water shortage caused by the mining.
Who benefit from the exploitation?
According to the Binh Dinh Mineral Management Division, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has licensed titanium mining on a total of 945 hectares in Phu My and Phu Cat Districts, while the province has licensed on over 360 hectares.
The province has also licensed 28 projects to explore and mine titanium in Nhon Hoi Economic Zone in Quy Nhon city.
This has become a hot issue questioned by many deputies at provincial People’s Council meetings.
Affected residents have written to authorities about the severe air pollution caused by the mining but have not received any response.
Nguyen Van Lich, head of the Phu My District Natural Resources and Environment Department, said titanium companies do not follow regulations.
There are 30 of them operating in Binh Dinh alone with a total output of 620,000 tons per year. Since most of them are small and use old technologies, they only export raw titanium.
An official from the province’s Industry and Trade Department said: “They exploited 400,000 tons of titanium in 2009.
“They would have earned around VND700 billion (US$36.8 million) but contributed less than VND100 billion to the province budget.”
An analyst, who wished to remain unnamed, said to improve titanium mining and processing, the ministry needs to be prudent about granting new licenses and should ensure they meet export standards.

Source: SGGP

Mindulle set to slam into central coast

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

The tropical depression on East Sea has intensified into a tropical storm with international name ” Mindulle “, which is forecast to approach the northern central coast Tuesday afternoon.

Central residents move a boat to safety to stave off damage by the coming typhoon Mindulle (Photo: SGGP)

On the day’s early morning, Mindulle ( the third storm of Vietnam this year ), was centered just 80 kilometers east off the central coast. It was moving westward at 15 kilometers per hour and caused torrential winds up to 75-102 kilometers an hour.

Areas around the typhoon’s center experienced gusts up to 103-133 kilometers an hour.

According to Bui Minh Tang, director of the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center, the powerful storm will cause  floodings  in the provinces from Thanh Hoa to Quang Tri, bringing downpours to the areas in the next few days.

The storm will continue causing heavy rains, which have occurred over the past few days  in the central region, Minister of the Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said at a meeting held in Hanoi yesterday to discuss measures to deal with the third storm.

Localities should be ready  to cope with the storm devastation, Minister Phat warned, adding they should keep watch of inundation in low-lying areas and landslides in mountainous regions.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, who also chaired  the meeting, ordered local authorities prepare food and medicines ready to conduct relief aids in places, prone to be stranded by floodwaters.

Affected by the typhoon, central coastal provinces on Monday evening had medium to heavy rains with the average rainfall of 500-100mm, according to the national weather service.

Meanwhile, the flood and storms prevention center for central and Central Highlands regions, reported that as of Monday afternoon, about 1,214 fishing boats with nearly 9,300 fishermen were still at sea in the central region.

Central farmers have raced to harvest the summer-autumn rice to avoid storm-triggered floods.

In Quang Ngai Province’s Mo Duc District, residents have harvested over 700 hectares of rice on Monday’s noon while over 100 hectares in Duc Phong Commune were still submerged by flooding due to continuous rains in the past few days.

In Thua Thien-Hue Province, thousands of hectares of rice have also been inundated in floodwaters. Local residents have harvested 8,000 of about 26,000 hectares of summer-autumn rice fields.

Source: SGGP

‘Major oil spill’ as rig sinks off US coast

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

A blazing oil rig has sunk into the Gulf of Mexico, sparking fears of an environmental disaster two days after a massive blast that left 11 workers missing.

US maritime authorities said crude oil was pouring into the sea at the site where the hulking Deepwater Horizon rig once stood, though they were unable to determine at what rate.

In Washington, President Barack Obama said the federal response to the disaster “was being treated as the number one priority,” the White House said in a statement.

Obama “made sure that the entire federal government was offering all assistance needed in the rescue effort as well as in mitigating and responding to the environmental impact,” the statement read.

US Coast Guard issued photo shows fire boat response crews battling the blazing remains of an oil rig off the Louisiana coastline.

Officials said that before the explosion there were 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of diesel fuel on board the semi-submersible platform and it had been drilling 8,000 barrels, or 336,000 gallons, of oil a day.

“This is considered a major oil spill,” Mike O’Berry, a US Coast Guard senior chief petty officer, told AFP.

The Coast Guard said a one mile by five mile slick had settled on the surface some 45 miles (70 kilometers) offshore as a massive clean-up operation gets under way to prevent the oil from hitting land in the Gulf states of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

Coast Guard vessels continued their search late Thursday for the 11 missing workers, while British oil giant BP, which leased the platform, dispatched a fleet of boats to try to keep environmental damage in check.

Officials said the current spill had the potential to be the worst seen in the United States since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters.

That spill, vastly bigger than the current one in the US Gulf, poured nearly 11 million gallons of crude into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, devastating some 750 miles (1,300 kilometers) of its once pristine shores.

If oil leaks and the spill escapes containment efforts, Louisiana‘s sensitive coast would be at risk for ecological damage. Wild birds, breeding grounds for shrimp, and oyster beds would also be threatened. Should a spill reach shore, birds could be covered in the slick.

O’Berry said US authorities were deploying several oil-skimming vessels to try to limit the pollution.

The Coast Guard sent a mini-submarine equipped with cameras to determine the oil flow into the ecologically fragile Gulf, home to a vast array of waterfowl and other wildlife.

Before the rig sank into the ocean, oil fires raged for more than a day and a half following a spectacular explosion late Tuesday that sent huge balls of flame leaping into the night sky.

The now submerged oil rig measuring 396-by-256 feet (121-by-78 meters) is owned by Houston, Texas-based contractor Transocean, Ltd. and under contract to BP.

Transocean confirmed late Thursday that it had not been possible “to stem the flow of hydrocarbons prior to the rig sinking,” raising fears that thousands more gallons of crude will pollute the Gulf waters before the flow is contained.

“We are working closely with BP Exploration & Production, Inc. and the US Coast Guard to determine the impact from the sinking of the rig and the plans going forward,” the company said.

It added that “the US Coast Guard has plans in place to mitigate any environmental impact from this situation.”

Transocean vice president Adrian Rose said earlier that the rig likely suffered a blowout while drilling through rock at BP’s Macondo prospect, although investigations into the exact cause of the accident are ongoing.

Meanwhile rescue crews scoured the Gulf waters for sign of the 11 missing workers.

Seventeen workers were airlifted to hospital on Wednesday after suffering broken bones, burns and smoke inhalation in the explosion on the mobile rig. Four remained in critical condition.

But there was no sign of the missing workers and it remained unclear whether they made it safely into one of the rig’s lifeboats.

“We’re going to continue to search as long as there is a reasonable probability of finding them alive,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Ashley Butler told AFP, adding that weather conditions were favorable for the search.

Transocean’s Rose said the missing workers “may have been unable to evacuate” once the rig exploded.

Transocean is the world’s largest offshore drilling contractor, with a fleet of 140 mobile offshore drilling units, in addition to three ultra-deepwater units under construction.

A total of 126 people were onboard the platform at the time of the explosion, 79 of them Transocean staff, six BP personnel and 41 contractors.

Source: SGGP

Tropical low pressure system forms off Vietnam coast

In Vietnam Weather on January 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

A low pressure zone intensified into a tropical low pressure system over the southern East Sea January 18, the National Hydro-Meteorological Forecast Center said.

The chart shows the tropical low pressure system off the southern coast of Vietnam on January 19 (Photo: the national weather bureau)

At 1 am on January 19, the system lay centered over southern Truong Sa (Spratly Islands).

It packed winds of up to level 7, or 50-61 kilometers an hour, near the eye.

In the next 24 hours the system would intensify and move northwest at a speed of 10 kilometers, the center forecast.

The system will bring medium to heavy rains to the central coastal region.

The southern, south-central, and Central Highlands regions have experienced unseasonable rains in the last few days and this is expected to last another day or two.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share