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Schools near empty as freeze hits north

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:05 am




Schools near empty as freeze hits north


QĐND – Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 21:36 (GMT+7)

Primary schools and kindergartens in the capital are struggling to maintain normal operations during the current cold spell.


Hanoi’s schools saw massive student absences on Jan. 10 despite the temperature staying above the 10 degree Celsius benchmark, below which children are not required to attend primary schools and nurseries.


Trang An Kindergarten in Thanh Xuan district, for instance, welcomed only a quarter of its students. And Vu Thi Hang, a teacher at Hoa Tra My Kindergarten in Cau Giay district, said only half of her students had turned up.


Le Minh Khanh, the mother of an 8-year-old girl, said she still took her daughter to school although 27 of 50 children in the class had not shown up.


“It was very cold; I just wanted to let her stay home but unfortunately the weather forecast at 6.30am today said it was 11.3 degree Celsius, which meant she had to go,” she said.


Meanwhile, Nguyen Hoang Ha said he preferred to keep his 4-year-old son at home as the boy was already suffering from a cough caused by the weather.


Dinh Thuy Duong, principal of Thanh Xuan Trung Primary School, said almost one sixth of her students had not come to class on Jan. 10, a much higher than normal absentee rate but still lower than other schools in the area.


She said the students staying home would make it hard for teachers to keep up with the curriculum given that a new academic term had started.


Teachers would have to work more to help those absent children catch up with the rest of the class, she explained.


She also said that school activities had been adapted to minimise the effect of the current cold weather on children.


Changes included cancelling outdoor activities, turning on heaters, providing warm drinking water, and warm blankets and mattresses for children when taking naps, Duong said.


Nguyen Thi Dong, principal of Hoa Sen Kindergarten in Ba Dinh district, said her school was now serving meals that would give children more energy in the cold.


Hanoi ‘s Education and Training Department has also allowed schools to stay open later than usual in cold weather.


“I hope parents don’t panic. Children are being kept warm in class,” said Duong.


“Please trust us. Bring your children to school so that they won’t fall behind with their schoolwork.”


The Department’s office head Nguyen Hiep Thong said the 6.30am forecast were used to decide if children had to go to school.


While children at primary school and kindergarten level were not required to attend if their local day temperature fell below 10 degree Celsius, the benchmark for lower secondary school students was 7 degree Celsius.


However schools had to take care of students who still turned up despite temperatures lower than these benchmarks, said Thong.


“It is a good, flexible decision as not all parents can afford to have their children at home. They still have to go to work no matter how cold it is,” said Khanh.


The temperature on the peak of Mau Son mountain in the northern province of Lang Son dipped to -1 degree Celsius on Jan. 10 morning, the lowest this winter, while temperatures in other northern provinces were between 1 and 11 degrees Celsius after the arrival of a new cold spell on Jan. 9.


Meteorologists said another cold spell was going to northern Vietnam on Jan. 11, keeping temperatures low.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Lack of transparency hits property floors

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:03 am




Lack of transparency hits property floors


QĐND – Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 21:36 (GMT+7)

Recent Ministry of Construction statistics show that only 15 percent of real estate transactions take place on transaction floors.


This means that the development of the floors has not yet met the expectation of a real estate market seeking transparency.


According to the ministry, the market is plagued by poor transparency, while land and home buyers are keen to have clear information about the house or land they want to buy.


To improve the situation, the establishment of a trading floor system under the strict control of authorised agencies has been proposed.


According to the Department of Housing Administration and Real Estate under the Ministry of Construction, the country has a total of 600 real estate transaction floors.


Despite this, the number of transactions remains very low.


Total real estate sales nation-wide through these floors totalled 3,679, – 327 in Hanoi and 3,352 in HCM City.


Many investors have sought to avoid trading through transaction floors by exploiting legal loopholes. As a result the number of deals made through the transaction floors remains low.


Director of Housing Administration and Real Estate Nguyen Manh Ha said the department requested the floors to report their performance from the beginning of 2010, but only 20 percent have so far complied.


Deputy Minister of Construction Nguyen Tran Nam acknowledged that agencies have not fined violators. He also admitted that administrative procedures to set up real estate floors are too simple.


Nam said that in the current context, authorised agencies need to gradually improve the quality service provided by trading floors so as to eliminate those that are in efficient.


Source: VNA


Source: QDND

Snow hits flights, strands drivers in Europe

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

 Heavy snow disrupted European air travel over the weekend and stranded hundreds of drivers in their cars as far south as Italy as a white Christmas appeared increasingly likely for many places.


Britain was hit by more blizzards that shut its biggest airports on the busiest weekend for travellers before Christmas and hit road and rail traffic.


London Heathrow, the world’s busiest international passenger airport, closed both runways until at least Sunday morning to clear the snow, while London Gatwick also closed its runway for several hours.


British Airways cancelled all short-haul departures from both airports Saturday, with all long-haul flights from Heathrow scrapped for most of the day.

People walk past snow covered chairs and tables at a restaurant in Berlin.

Gatwick airport said it was providing beds and cots, distributing thousands of blankets, bottles of water and food and making showers and washing facilities available free of charge.


Flights were also grounded at Stansted and Luton airports near London, at Birmingham airport in Britain’s second city and Southampton airport for at least part of the day.


Meanwhile Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, was operating with speed restrictions that added up to an hour on journey times.


National rail routes and trunk roads were also affected.


Four people were killed in traffic accidents across Britain caused by the weather. In Lancashire, northwest England, hundreds of people had to spend the night in their cars after an accident blocked the main north-south motorway.


Temperatures dropped as low as minus 17 degrees Celsius (one degree Fahrenheit) north of Norwich in eastern England. Gatwick registered minus 11 Celsius (12 Fahrenheit).


Sporting events were also hit, with several top flight football matches postponed, including Sunday’s big English Premier League clash between title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United. Saturday’s games at Arsenal, Wigan, Liverpool and Birmingham were also called off.


Frankfurt airport, Germany’s busiest, cancelled about 170 flights on Saturday because of the severe winter weather across Europe, an airport spokesman said.


German carrier Lufthansa advised passengers to take the train rather than fly, saying tickets for flights could be used on the railways.


But German rail operator Deutsche Bahn warned that the snowfall would also lead to delays and cancellations.


Dozens of flights were also cancelled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol, the press office said.


In Italy, the Tuscany region was hardest hit, with hundreds of cars stuck on highways around Florence, where up to 20 centimetres (eight inches) of snow fell.


High-speed trains between Milan, Florence and Rome were also cancelled, leaving some 5,000 passengers sheltering in a conference hall in the Tuscan capital.


Florence airport closed until mid-afternoon, while the airport at Pisa, which is used by low-cost airlines, was likely to remain closed until Sunday.

About a quarter of flights from the main Paris Charles de Gaulle hub will be cancelled on Sunday between 0700 and 1500 GMT, while 60 percent of flights were delayed on Saturday, the French civil aviation authority said.

Some 5,200 passengers were rerouted to the airport on Saturday, largely due to Heathrow’s closure, a transport official told AFP. Half of them were put up in hotels while others were given lodgings in gymnasiums near the airport.

In the Bordeaux region five people were hurt on a motorway when a 38-tonne truck ploughed into two vans whose drivers had lost control on black ice, and then caught fire. A fourth vehicle then crashed into the wreckage.

Up to 4,000 people were blocked late Saturday at Brussels airport, which had to accept passengers from other European airports closed by the snow, airport spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse said.

He told Belga news agency: “The flights for London come from everywhere in the world… China, South Korea, Kuwait, the United States, etc. Given that their destination is outside the Schengen zone (for passport-free travel within Europe) not all these travellers have a visa valid for Belgium, so they must spend the night at the airport.”

The snowfall even reached as far south as Algeria, where two people died in a road accident and traffic ground to a halt on several major roads.

The snowstorm that has brought the chaos is moving slowly south over Europe, but the cold weather is expected to continue across much of the continent on Sunday and into next week.

Source: SGGP

Mexican border city hits 3,000 dead in drug war

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

This year’s death toll in drug-related violence in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, the hardest hit by Mexico’s drug war, rose to 3,000 Tuesday after two men were shot dead on a street, authorities said.


Ciudad Juarez has seen its homicide rate rise to one of the highest in the world after vicious turf battles broke out between gangs representing the Juarez and Sinaloa drug cartels in 2008.


That year, 1,623 people were killed in drug-related violence, and the toll increased to 2,763 deaths in 2009.


With prosecutors’ spokesman Arturo Sandoval announcing the latest grim milestone, a total of 7,386 people have died in the city of 1.3 million people across the border from El Paso, Texas, in three years. Most were members of rival drug gangs, but civilians, police and recovering drug addicts have also been targeted.

A federal police officer stands on a vehicle as he guards the area near a car where two people lie dead in the heavily guarded ‘safe’ zone, the PRONAF, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Monday Dec. 13, 2010.

More than 28,000 people have died throughout Mexico in the four years since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels when he took office in December 2006.


The U.S. Embassy touted Mexico’s increased cooperation in anti-drug efforts, noting in a statement that on Tuesday Mexico extradited 14 suspects wanted in the United States on drug, organized crime, money laundering, weapons and homicide charges.


The extraditions “represent another victory in our joint fight against organized crime,” the embassy said.


And touting Mexico’s own successes in the offensive, Calderon said Tuesday that a big party led to the demise of a drug cartel chief, who was killed in a shootout with federal police.


The La Familia gang invited hundreds of people to a party last week in the western city of Apatzingan and didn’t bother to keep it a secret, Calderon said in an interview with W Radio.


Federal police learned about it and the shootout broke out when they arrived to investigate, he said. The government says that La Familia leader Nazario Moreno, nicknamed “The Craziest One,” was killed in battles that lasted two days and spread to key parts of Michoacan state, with gunmen blockading roads with burning vehicles.


“What happened those days is that we gave La Familia cartel the biggest blow in its history,” Calderon said. “With a certain amount of insolence, they organized a party, a gathering of hundreds of their people. … Everyone found out about the party.”


The government says cartel gunmen fled with their dead during the shootouts, and Moreno’s body has not been recovered.


After Calderon spoke, the lower house of Mexico’s Congress voted 384-2, with 21 abstentions, to rescind the congressional immunity from prosecution of a fellow legislator accused of links to La Familia.


Congressman Cesar Godoy Toscano has denied the accusations, although tapes have surfaced in which he allegedly chats with a man identified as a leader of the cartel.


Godoy Toscano already faces federal charges for allegedly protecting La Familia, but congressmen in Mexico are given immunity from arrest while in office. Tuesday’s vote suspended him from Congress, but provided that he can return to office if he is acquitted or the charges are dropped.


While Godoy Toscano had filed an appeal against his arrest on the first set of charges, which is still working its way through the courts, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday it will file a second set of charges against him alleging money laundering.


A statement by the office did not give specifics of the new charges, or any indication of whether allegedly laundered money may have been used in Godoy Toscano’s election campaign.


The congressman was not present at the vote, and his whereabouts were unclear.

La Familia has been the most flamboyant of Mexico’s drug cartels. The gang claims it is trying to protect Michoacan — Calderon’s home state — from other cartels and common criminals, a message it touts in banners and even in occasional interviews with the news media.

The gang has not bothered to lower its profile since Moreno’s reported death. Sympathizers — some with small children — have marched repeatedly in Apatzingan and the state capital of Morelia, carrying signs supporting the capo and demanding the withdrawal of federal forces.

On Tuesday, the Interior Department issued a statement saying such demonstrations show only the cartels’ “incipient penetration of some local sectors, but not any social support for crime and its tactics.”

Later, in a rare joint statement, federal police, prosecutors, the army and navy urged all three levels of government — local, state and federal — and all three branches of government to work together against drug cartels.

The statement said La Familia members “are nothing more than criminals whose only intention is to terrorize and attack society.”

“Far from protecting Michoacan residents from crime, they deeply hurt them. They commit murders, extortion and kidnappings,” the statement added.

Moreno, 40, the dead drug lord, was considered the ideological leader of La Familia, setting a code of conduct for members that prohibits using hard drugs or dealing them within Mexican territory.

He reputedly handed out Bibles and money to the poor, and wrote a religiously tinged book of values for the cartel, sometimes known as “The Sayings of the Craziest One.”

The gang, specializing in methamphetamine, is also known as one of Mexico’s most vicious. La Familia emerged as an independent organization in 2006, announcing its split from the Gulf cartel when it rolled five severed heads into a nightclub in the city of Uruapan.

Soon afterward, Calderon deployed thousands of federal troops and soldiers into Michoacan, a crackdown he quickly extended to other cartel strongholds in northern and western Mexico. Several top drug lords have been brought down but gang violence has soared to unprecedented levels, claiming more than 28,000 lives in four years.

“I’m a Michoacano and the situation of the state hurts,” Calderon said. “We cannot allow the law of a cartel to rule a state.”

Also Tuesday, the Mexican navy reported it seized nine go-fast boats and a total of 15 metric tons (16.5 tons) of marijuana during two days of searches in the Gulf of California.

The navy said in a statement that patrol aircraft detected three suspicious boats near an island just off the coast of Baja California state on Dec. 11. The three boats were later found abandoned, with 512 packages of marijuana on board.

Two days later, a search by land, air and sea detected six other boats and six suspects in a nearby town. Those boats were carrying 1,058 packages of marijuana.

Source: SGGP

Fluctuation on interest rates hits economy

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 10:14 am

Thai flood death toll hits 122

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 10:55 am

Death toll from Thai floods hits 100

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2010 at 10:40 am

BANGKOK, Oct 30, 2010 (AFP) – The death toll from severe floods in Thailand has risen to 100, including at least three foreigners, although the waters have receded in some areas, officials said Saturday.


Six more people have died in the disaster, which began on October 10, the Emergency Medical Institute of Thailand said in its daily update.

Residents paddle through floodwater in Ayutthaya province, north of the Thai capital Bangkok on October 30, 2010. AFP

Among them was a 38-year-old Dutchman, named as Harald Vusser, who was electrocuted or drowned in Ayutthaya province just north of Bangkok on Friday, it said.


Local media reported he was helping his Thai wife move her belongings to a dry place.


The other foreign victims were a 44-year-old Cambodian woman who was killed in a mudslide earlier this month on Koh Chang island in Trat province, and a two-year-old Myanmar boy who drowned in Phathum Thani.


Authorities said that while 22 of Thailand’s 76 provinces were still flooded, the waters have receded in 16 others.


The authorities estimate that about five million people have been affected, with homes submerged and farmland or cattle destroyed, mostly in central and eastern areas, although life is slowly returning to normal for some.


Tens of thousands of people have sought medical treatment, mostly for itchy skin, common colds and stress.


Nakhon Ratchasima, a large mountainous province about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Bangkok, is the worst affected with 18 deaths and about 40 centimetres (16 inches) of rain this month.


Nakhon Sawan and Lopburi just north of the capital have also been badly hit.


Bangkok has been on standby with thousands of sandbags and pumps as flood water from the north runs downstream and could coincide with high tide.


So far the capital has avoided major flooding, although more than 1,000 homes along the Chao Phraya have been partially submerged.

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Source: SGGP

One dead as Typhoon Megi hits Philippines: govt

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

MANILA, Oct 18, 2010 (AFP) – Typhoon Megi claimed its first victim in the Philippines on Monday with authorities reporting that a fisherman had drowned as the storm brought heavy rain and strong winds.


The man drowned in a river in the northern city of Tuguegarao on Monday morning as Megi approached the area, the nation’s civil defence chief, Benito Ramos, told reporters.

Military rescuers and volunteers prepare life-saving equipments at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila on October 17, 2010. AFP

The northeastern provinces of Cagayan, in which Tuguegarao is situated, and Isabela, were the first to feel the impacts of the typhoon.


Megi, dubbed a “super-typhoon” by government relief agencies, was just off the northeastern coast of the Philippines at 11:30 (0330 GMT), packing wind gusts of up to 260 kilometres per hour, the government weather station said.


Megi was expected to cut across the northern part of Luzon throughout Monday, then exit out towards Vietnam on Tuesday, the weather station said.


The highest level of a four-step storm alert was raised over Isabela and surrounding provinces while lower alerts were in effect over most of Luzon.


Isabela and other provinces in Megi’s direct path are mostly agricultural and fishing areas, with a few million residents who are well-drilled in preparing for the many storms that hit each year.


Over 3,000 people had already been moved from their homes in the northern provinces as part of a “pre-emptive evacuation” of threatened areas, the civil defence office said.


Flights to and from northern Luzon were also suspended and ships there were told not to leave port.


Military, police and relief agencies had positioned supplies and rescue units to provide swift assistance to any affected areas, the civil defence office reported.


Rubber boats, large trucks, heavy equipment and rescue divers were all on standby, ready to be dispatched to areas hit by floods or blocked by landslides, the office said.


The US military and UN representatives were also due to meet with President Benigno Aquino to see how they could help, GMA television reported.


The Philippines is battered by an average of 20 typhoons a year, some of them deadly.


More than 1,100 people were killed when tropical storm Ketsana and typhoon Parma struck Luzon within a week of each other in September and October last year, triggering the worst flooding in recent history.

d
Source: SGGP

Deadly cold snap hits Argentina, Uruguay, Chile

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 3:21 pm

An intense cold front is rearing its head across South America, killing dozens, closing down highways, and killing cattle across the Andes.


At least 26 people have died in Argentina, from a combination of exposure to harsh climates, poisoning from carbon monoxide inhalation, and other factors, according to the Associated Press.


The front, which set in Saturday, has remained over much of the countries in the Southern Hemisphere, which are in the height of winter now.


As authorities respond to shelter for thousands in need, the cold snap could wreak havoc on farmers for months to come. Argentina is just coming out of one of its worst droughts in five decades, which saw cows dying and grassland shriveled last year. In neighboring Paraguay, authorities say approximately 1,000 cattle have frozen to death.


Ten people have died in Paraguay, while in Uruguay, some two deaths have been reported due to low temperatures as of Tuesday. The Andina news agency reports that pregnant alpacas in Peru have been losing their babies.


As one reader noted on the CNN website: “I think many people are failing to realize that in some parts of these countries there is no infrastructure to handle these temperatures. While it may seem like a mild winter to some of us in the US, these places do not have similar well-heated homes. Some of them live in basic shacks.”


In Bolivia, school was cancelled through at least Wednesday, as the nation faced 18 deaths due to low temperatures. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, an opposition stronghold in this normally tropical region, the temperature, at 37 F, was the lowest reported in nearly three decades. Elsewhere in the country it dropped below freezing.


In Chile, the Associated Press reports that the capital, Santiago, has turned a sports stadium into a shelter after one reported death linked to exposure.


And further south, in the Aysen region (Summer Photo Essay), heavy snow has cut off access to many small towns that dot this sparsely-populated province. Weather forecasters say that this cold front could persist through tonight, and into tomorrow.

Source: SGGP

12 killed as train hits revelers in Spain

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 4:38 am

At least 12 people were killed when a high-speed passenger train slammed into a group of revelers crossing a railway track in northeastern Spain, regional authorities and media said Thursday.


At least 13 others were injured in the accident at the Castelldefels Playa station south of Barcelona at around 11:30pm (2130 GMT) on Wednesday, the interior ministry of the regional government of Catalonia said in a statement.


Spanish media said the dead and injured were mostly youths who were celebrating the annual San Juan (Saint John) mid-summer festival, which includes bonfires, fireworks, concerts and dances, often on the beach.


Reports said they had just arrived at the station on another train from Barcelona and were crossing the tracks to go to the beach, although the station was equipped with a pedestrian underpass.

A high-speed train in Barcelona. At least 12 people were killed when a high-speed passenger train slammed into a group of revelers crossing a railway track in northeastern Spain, regional authorities and media said Thursday

One witness, Fernando Ortega, told Spanish media the train they arrived on was “very full” and a large number of people got out at the same time so “most decided to jump across the tracks and cross to the other side of the station” to avoid the crush of people.


It was then that the northbound express train came past suddenly.


The head of the regional emergency services, Josep Maria Soto, told Spain’s TV3 television that the cause of the accident is under investigation but “the positions of the first victims we found gives the impression they were hit” by a train as they were crossing the track.


An AFP photographer said a body and some human body parts were visible on the tracks hours after the accident amid dozens of police, medics, firefighters and Red Cross workers.


The interior ministry said the passengers on the train, which was traveling between the eastern cities of Alicante and Barcelona, were unhurt. The rail line was closed following the accident.


Spanish radio said it was the worst rail accident in Spain since 19 people were killed and 38 injured in a June 2003 collision between a passenger train and a freight train in the southeastern town of Chinchilla.

Source: SGGP