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Posts Tagged ‘major’

Australia’s Brisbane besieged by major flood crisis

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:06 am

BRISBANE, Australia, Jan 12, 2011 (AFP) – Australia’s third-biggest city Brisbane was besieged Wednesday by once-in-a-century floods that could hit up to 20,000 homes, as fears grew up to 25 people were killed by raging torrents.


Thousands of people took refuge with friends and central districts were eerily quiet as the river city of two million prepared for its worst deluge since 1893, as floods spread across vast areas of Australia’s northeast.

Friends and family members transfer their belongings into a boat from their flooded home after rainwaters the day before inundated the city of Ipswich, some 40 kms southwest of Brisbane on January 12, 2011. AFP

Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman confirmed that the number of homes expected to be hit by waters breaching river systems around the city had risen from 6,500 to 19,700, as he opened more evacuation centres for victims.


“We are bracing for a one-in-a-hundred-year flood,” said state premier Anna Bligh. “We are bracing for a massive amount of water coming into this river system and it will flood thousands of properties.”


Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the number of homes under threat was “mind-boggling”, but urged people in the city, bisected by the winding Brisbane River, to help neighbours deal with what is shaping up as a major emergency.


“If there’s someone in your street you’re worried about, maybe an older Australian that you haven’t seen for a while, maybe give them a knock on the door and make sure they’re okay,” she added.


Brisbane, the cosmopolitan state capital and economic hub, is the latest and biggest victim of a crisis caused by months of rains that have turned three-quarters of Queensland into a disaster zone twice the size of Texas.


Dozens of suburbs and roads are under water with the Brisbane River bursting its banks in some places and expected to swamp the city centre when it peaks on Thursday. Power will be cut to about 100,000 properties as a safety precaution.


Some 900 people spent the night in evacuation centres in nearby Ipswich, upstream of Brisbane, while two entire small towns were evacuated in the neighbouring state of New South Wales.


Some of the inundation is related to flash floods that smashed through towns high in the Great Dividing Range to the city’s west on Monday, leaving at least 10 dead as rescuers search wrecked communities for more bodies.


State premier Bligh said the toll was expected to rise sharply, warning that the number of people missing had been upgraded to 90.


“Police are anticipating or have very, very grave fears for at least 15 more people,” Bligh said. “This is a potentially gruesome day for our rescue workers and a heartbreaking day for families,” she added.


Meanwhile Melbourne, about 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) from Brisbane in Australia’s southeast, was on alert for flash-floods following incessant downpours also blamed on the disruptive La Nina weather system.

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Source: SGGP

S.Korea readies major military drill near tense border

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

SEOUL, Dec 22, 2010 (AFP) – South Korea prepared Wednesday for a major live-fire drill involving fighter jets and tanks near the tense North Korean border, as Seoul and Washington reacted warily to overtures from Pyongyang.


South Korea’s military said Thursday’s ground and air firing exercise 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the mainland border would also involve self-propelled guns and 800 soldiers.

The South Korean Navy MSB (Movement Sea Base) floats off the coast of South Korea-controlled island of Yeonpyeong near the disputed waters of the Yellow Sea on December 22, 2010. AFP

Although similar drills have been held at the same firing range at Pocheon many times before, the latest exercise comes with Seoul on high alert for a possible attack from its wayward neighbour.


South Korea’s navy meanwhile began a four-day firing drill Wednesday off the east coast, a relatively distant 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the border with the North, mobilising six warships plus helicopters.


The military said it would practise responses to intrusions by North Korean submarines and patrol boats.


And South Korean marines were posted to guard a Christmas tree that was lit up Tuesday near the land border, reflecting fears that the North might fire on the display as a propaganda symbol.


Tensions have been high since the North shelled an island near the contested western maritime border last month in response to a live-fire drill by the South. The bombardment of Yeonpyeong killed four people including civilians.


The South staged a repeat drill on Yeonpyeong Monday but the North did not go through with threats to hit back, saying it “did not feel any need to retaliate against every despicable military provocation”.


A senior South Korean military commander said Thursday’s drill at the Pocheon range would “demonstrate our solid military preparedness”.


“We will retaliate thoroughly if the North commits another provocative act like the shelling of Yeonpyeong,” First Armoured Battalion commander Choo Eun-Sik told Yonhap news agency.


The North’s comments late Monday eased fears of war on the peninsula, and it also reportedly offered nuclear concessions to visiting US politician Bill Richardson.


But Seoul and Washington have expressed scepticism about the apparent overtures, coming after an intense bout of sabre-rattling from Pyongyang, whose hardline communist regime is undergoing a generational power shift.


The United States said that North Korea was not even “remotely ready” to resume six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, despite the apparent concessions offered to New Mexico Governor Richardson on his private trip.


The White House made clear there was no change to US policy, despite Pyongyang’s reported offer to re-admit UN nuclear inspectors and sell off fuel rods which could be used to produce plutonium.


President Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs said Pyongyang had, over many years and different US administrations, failed to match its words with actions.


“We’re not going to get a table and a room and have six-party talks just for the feel-good notion of having six-party talks,” he said.


“When and if the North Koreans are ever serious about living up to their obligations, then we can think about restarting six-party talks.”


North Korea pulled out of the nuclear talks — which involve the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China, and Japan — in April 2009 and ordered UN nuclear inspectors out of the country.


It staged a second nuclear test a month later.


Its disclosure last month of an advanced uranium enrichment plant — purportedly to serve a peaceful nuclear power programme — heightened regional security fears.


Richardson, a veteran troubleshooter with the North who was formerly a US ambassador to the UN, unveiled Pyongyang’s apparent concessions after a visit that the White House stressed was unofficial and independent.

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Source: SGGP

S.Korea holds major new drill as N.Korea raps ‘warmongers’

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 4:29 am

SEOUL (AFP) – South Korea’s military Thursday held a live-fire drill involving tanks, artillery and jet fighters, in a major show of strength staged exactly a month after North Korea’s attack on a border island.


Washington expressed support for the live-fire exercise by its ally, the second this week, but Pyongyang criticised the South’s “puppet warmongers”.

AFP file – South Korean marines patrol Yeonpyeong island.

The South’s President Lee Myung-Bak, visiting a frontline army unit elsewhere, told troops to hit back hard for any new attack. He accused the North of letting its people starve while it spent money on nuclear bombs.


The exercise at the Pocheon range, 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the tense land border with North Korea, lasted about 40 minutes.


Some 800 troops took part along with 30 K-1 tanks, 11 K-200 armoured personnel carriers, two F-15K jets, four KF-16 jets, 36 K-9 artillery pieces, three multiple long-range rockets, four 500MD helicopters, three AH-1S Cobra helicopters, and other equipment.


The navy is also conducting a four-day exercise off the east coast, which began Wednesday.


The South says its drills are defensive. But tensions have been high on the peninsula since the North shelled a South Korean island near the contested western sea border on November 23.


The North said its shelling was in response to the South’s live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong island. The South said it had been staging such artillery exercises for 37 years and the North was seeking a pretext to attack.


Seoul staged a repeat drill on the same island on Monday, backed up by jet fighters and warships, but the North did not follow through with threats to hit back.


Some analysts said Seoul’s show of force deterred the North. Others said the hardline regime had been told by close ally China to exercise restraint before a visit to Washington by President Hu Jintao starting on January 19.


The military invited students and other civilians to watch the exercise.


“We are facing a crisis because of North Korea, so I came to see this air and ground operation,” Kim Tae-Dong, a 70-year-old Internet businessman, told a pool reporter.


“I want to feel and see the level of South Korea’s armed forces,” Kim said.


“Another North Korean provocation will happen. We should prepare our military perfectly for that.”


Analysts agreed, saying that while Pyongyang had shown restraint this time it was likely just biding its time for another military strike.


“It’s not a question of whether there will be another provocation, but when,” said Peter Beck, a North Korea expert with the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations.


The North’s official news agency said the South’s claims that the drills are routine were an attempt “to conceal the provocative and offensive nature of the exercises”.


The wording was relatively mild. In another sign that tensions are easing, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had lowered a military alert issued for frontline areas before and during Monday’s drill.


Vulcan artillery vehicles fired into a wide valley with numbers carved on hills below to launch the show of strength.


Tanks raced along roads, firing as they went. A hillside blossomed smoke as artillery and rockets opened up.


Hovering helicopters fired rockets at targets, and F-15 aircraft dropped bombs into the valley, sending up huge plumes of smoke.


Lee, quoted by Yonhap news agency, said the military should retaliate without hesitation in case of another surprise attack.


The South’s military was heavily criticised for a perceived feeble response to last month’s attack. It has been stressing its battle-readiness and determination to hit back harder next time, using air power.


“We should make a stronger and bigger counter-strike so they cannot provoke us again,” Lee was quoted as saying.


“We’ve endured enough for long. We thought we could maintain peace on this land if we endured, but that was not the case,” Lee said. “Now we need to strongly retaliate to maintain peace, deter provocations and prevent war.”


People in the North, the president said, “are almost starving to death, and with the money spent to make atomic bombs, people can live”.


The United States, which has 28,500 troops based in the South, earlier warned North Korea there was no reason for it to respond to the latest drills.


White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the manoeuvres had been announced well in advance and were transparent and defensive, and “should in no way engender a response from the North Koreans”.

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Source: SGGP

European music festival to take place in major cities

In Uncategorized on November 18, 2010 at 6:27 am

Two major new airports planned

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Flash floods strand thousands in major Thai city

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2010 at 8:43 am

Hitler becomes major Berlin tourist attraction

In Uncategorized on October 22, 2010 at 7:54 am

Hitler and the Germans,” an exhibition in Berlin’s German Historical Museum which investigates the society that created Hitler, has seen more than 10,000 visitors walk through its doors since opening on Friday.


Rudolf Trabold, a spokesman for the museum, said there were 4,000 visitors to the exhibition on the first day alone.


People visiting the exhibition said they had waited as long as 1-1/2 hours to get in.


Ravi Nair, a 73-year-old Indian visitor, said: “I had to queue for about an hour but it was worth it. The exhibition should help people in democratic countries realize that their vote is very valuable.”

Copies of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) are pictured at the media preview of Hilter und die Deutsche Volksgemeinschaft und Verbrechen (Hitler and the German Nation and Crime) at the Deutsche Historisches Museum.

Trabold said Hitler and the Germans was so popular because it was “the first exhibition to explain how a man who lived on the margins of society for 30 years, in Vienna’s men’s hostels, could become an almost mythical leader of the German people.


“We are all affected by Hitler, so it speaks to all of us and helps Germans and foreigners to come to terms with the past.”


Inge Lonning, a 72-year-old tourist from Norway said: “I thought the exhibition was very impressive. I wanted to see it because I experienced the German occupation of Norway as a small child, so it’s not just history for me.”


But not everyone was convinced there was something new to be learned from the exhibition.


“So much has been done about this period over the years, it was like, I knew this and I knew that,” said Canadian Julien Cayer, aged 28. “I thought I’d find something new but I didn’t.”


There has been widespread concern in the German media that the exhibition could become a magnet for neo-Nazi admirers of Hitler, but Trabold said that although there had been some right-wing extremist visitors, they had not caused any problems.

Source: SGGP

S.Korea holds second day of major anti-submarine drill

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 at 7:20 am

SEOUL, Aug 6, 2010 (AFP) – A major South Korean naval exercise designed to strengthen defences went into a second day Friday.


The exercise is one of a series planned in coming months in response to what the South says was a North Korean torpedo attack on a warship.

This photo taken on August 5, 2010 shows South Korean Marines carrying inflatable boats during a military exercise in Baengnyeong Island near the disputed Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas. AFP

The South has mobilised 4,500 troops, backed by 29 ships and 50 aircraft, for its five-day drill in the Yellow Sea.


This week’s manoeuvres do not include US forces. Last week South Korea and the United States staged a massive joint naval and air drill in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) as a show of force.


Service personnel will practise attacks on intruding craft and defences against submarines on Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, along with a drill to repel attacks on coastline batteries and commando raids.


Pyongyang has angrily denied responsibility for the March sinking of the corvette near the disputed inter-Korean border in the Yellow Sea. The incident killed 46 sailors and sharply raised tensions.


The North Thursday termed this week’s drill a deliberate provocation and threatened “the most powerful” retaliation if the South triggers a conflict during the exercise.


“Our people and military will mercilessly crush the provokers and their stronghold with the most powerful war tactics and strike means beyond imagination if they ever dare to set a fire,” said a statement from a state body called the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.


But as of Friday morning no unusual movements by the North had been detected, a JCS spokesman told AFP.


A multinational investigation concluded in May that a North Korean submarine had torpedoed the warship.


Washington has announced new sanctions on the North to punish it for the alleged attack and to push it to scrap its nuclear weapons programme.


But the Obama administration on Thursday stopped short of putting Pyongyang back on a blacklist of countries supporting terrorism, despite pressure from lawmakers to do so.


Then-US president George W. Bush de-listed North Korea in 2008 after it vowed to end its nuclear programme, agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency and pledged to disable its nuclear plants.

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Source: SGGP

Typhoon Conson causes major damage in Philippines

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm

MANILA, July 14, 2010 (AFP) – Typhoon Conson ripped through the main Philippine island, leaving a trail of wreckage in Manila and sweeping shanties into the sea, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.


The official civil defence office said 19 fishermen from the eastern island of Catanduanes had failed to return home and were missing at sea after the typhoon hit the area late Tuesday.

Parents pick up their children wearing protective rain gear after elementary school classes in the Philippine capital Manila are called off due to Typhoon Conson, on July 13, 2010. AFP

There were no immediate reports of fatalities but communication systems were down amid the chaos of the typhoon’s aftermath, and disaster relief officials were still trying to determine the extent of the damage.


Electricity was knocked out throughout the main island of Luzon, including the country’s capital where fallen tree branches and other debris littered the streets.


Manila’s overhead railway system was also shut down due to the power outage. Knee-high floods and fallen trees were still blocking some roads in and around the capital, obstructing traffic.


Shanty towns erected by squatters on the coastal areas near Manila were swept away, leaving the shocked, drenched residents to scavenge scrap wood to build makeshift shelters, according to an AFP reporter there.


The government called off classes at grade and high school levels in Manila.


Several flights in and out of Manila were cancelled as Conson was passing but airport officials said their operations had returned to normal after the storm passed.


Conson, packing maximum gusts of 120 kilometres (74 miles) an hour, hit the eastern side of Luzon late Tuesday and crossed the island before exiting before dawn Wednesday, heading west into the South China Sea at 22 kilometres an hour.

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Source: SGGP

Major fire at shopping center in Central Highlands city

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Thick, black smoke began pouring out of an artificial flower shop set in a Pleiku City shopping center in the central highlands province of Gia Lai, scaring hundreds of people, said police on July 4.

Two firefighters battle the blaze at a shopping center in Pleiku City on July 4. (Photo:SGGP)

At 5:10 pm on July 4, the major fire erupted in the Ngoc Doanh shop on Ngo Gia Tu street, the busiest area in the city.


Fortunately, it was raining as the fire blazed.


Three fire trucks and dozens of firefighters arrived on the scene to control the fire.


According to an investigation, a short circuit on the second floor of the shop caused of the fire.


In related news, in Ho Chi Minh City, fire blazed out of at a wasted materials establishment on Nguyen Thai Binh Street in Tan Binh District at 6:40 am on July 5.


The shop was full of the waste materials such as paper and plastic so the fire burnt out quickly.


Four fire trucks and 40 firefighters were sent to the scene, controlling the fire by 8 am. 
   

Source: SGGP