22
Mar

Train collision kills at least eighteen near Brussels, Belgium

Monday, February 15, 2010

Belgian authorities have confirmed that at least eighteen people died in a head-on collision between two passenger trains in the suburbs of Brussels. Other reports suggest that the death toll could be as high as 25. More than 125 passengers are reported injured, 11 of them “very seriously”. Rescuers were still trying to free bodies from the wreckage of the trains more than eight hours after the crash, which occurred in snowy conditions at 08:28 local time (0728 UTC) near the station of Buizingen in the municipality of Halle, about 15 kilometres southwest of the Belgian capital.

One of the trains involved was travelling from Quiévrain to Liège, while the other was travelling from Leuven to Braine-le-Comte. The collision saw the first two carriages of one train being forced upwards into the air over the first carriage of the second train. Eyewitnesses described the collision as “brutal”, with passengers being thrown “violently” around the carriages.

Television footage showed the two smashed locomotives forced up in the air, with passenger cars strewn over a wide area and dazed survivors wandering at the crash site. Train speed at the time of the crash was not immediately known. There are reports that one of the trains ran a stop signal.

Initial reports suggest that the Leuven–Braine-le-Comte train was on the wrong line. It is not known if the train went through a red signal or if there was a problem with the signalling. A “well informed source” quoted by French-language daily Le Soir suggested that there might have been an electrical failure in the signalling system.

The collision occurred on one of the main access lines to Brussels-South station, about 14 kilometres (9 miles) from the Belgian capital. It caused “major damage” to overhead power cables, especially on the Brussels–Mons and Brussels–Tournai lines, and high speed rail services between Brussels and France and the UK have been suspended. Thalys services were temporarily halted due to the accident, with four of its trains in the region being diverted to alternative stations. Thalys services between Brussels and Cologne have now resumed, but services to Amsterdam and Paris are still suspended.

One passenger on board, Christian Wampach, described conditions on board the train, “It was a nightmare. We were thrown about for about 15 seconds. There were a number of people injured in my car but I think all the dead were in the first car.” Wampach was in the third car.

Another passenger, Patricia Lallemand, said, “When we came out we saw dead bodies lying next to the tracks, some mutilated.”

22
Mar

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21
Mar

Indian Premier Manmohan Singh undergoes heart bypass; Pranab Mukherjee takes charge

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received a successful coronary artery bypass surgery and was recuperating well in the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Sunday.

Dr. Manmohan Singh is the 17th and current Prime Minister of the Republic of India. He also serves as the Union Minister for Finance, succeeding P. Chidambaram.

“The 76-year-old Prime Minister is doing fine now. He is conscious, stable, comfortable and is making rapid progress. He also met his family and congratulated all doctors. [His] ventilator has been taken off and he is breathing on his own. This is an important step,” said Dr. Ramakant Panda, one of the surgeons, after the 11-hour procedure on Saturday.

According to critical care specialist Dr. Vijay D’Silva, who has been entrusted with his post-operative care, Singh has been given a liquid diet since morning including a cup of tea, and was speaking to doctors after the procedure. “The way you [doctors] are taking care of me, you should also take care of other people”, Dr. D’Silva, who received his basic medical training in Nagpur and headed the ICU at Mumbai’s Jaslok and Lilavati Hospitals before he helped set up the ICU at the ultra-modern Asian Heart Institute, quoted Singh as saying.

“We started the operation at 7:45 am. The second operation always takes longer and makes it difficult to reach the heart. We did a total of five by-passes to clear multiple blockages in his arteries. Surgery was the long term answer since there were many blockages. We will take the PM out of the breathing machine in the next 2-3 hours and the PM should stay for three days in the ICU and then 4-5 days more in the hospital,” Drs. Panda and D’Silva explained.

Singh’s personal physician and AIIMS cardiac surgeon, Dr. K. S. Reddy, has predicted the PM will be allowed to attend to some official work in two weeks, to most of the duties in four weeks and will be able to resume office in six weeks. “PM was sent to the Operation Theatre at 6:40 am, surgery was done at 8:45 am and was concluded at 7:30 pm. PM was sent back to the ICU at 8:55 pm,” said Dr. Reddy.

“The team has brought about 20 boxes of special equipment with it. Earlier, Dr. K. S. Reddy had discussions with Dr. Panda in connection with the line of treatment to be followed,” the team of 11 doctors said.

The team of surgeons made a 6 to 7 inch incision along the scar that marked the PM’s 1990 bypass operation, and he was given five grafts. “The new grafts, all 3 mm long, will last the PM the rest of his life,” said Dr. Pradyot Kumar Rath from the Asian Heart Institute. “If the PM could have been so active with all the blockages, he can be even more active now,” Dr Panda said.

Singh underwent a coronary angiography at the AIIMS hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday and was discharged on Thursday. The tests results revealed multiple arterial blockages and Singh returned to hospital on Friday for pre-surgery tests.

External Minister Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, age 73, has been given the charge of Finance Ministry after he held meetings with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and then Prime Minister Singh. Mukherjee said he would meet the Prime Minister because he was going for treatment and when he was abroad, Singh was in hospital. “These are quite natural things. You should not be unnecessarily worried over and coming here in large numbers,” he said.

Mukherjee has also taken charge over some prime ministerial responsibilities, while Singh recovers, officials and media reports said. But no acting prime minister has been named while Singh is recuperating. Mukherjee will also preside over Cabinet meetings and will further handle coal, environment and forests, including information and broadcasting and finance portfolios.

Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, a native of West Bengal, India, is the Minister for External Affairs of India in the Manmohan Singh-led Government of India. A prominent leader of the Indian National Congress in the 14th Lok Sabha, he is known to be a competent party apparatchik, “a prominent Gandhi family loyalist who did not win a popular election until 2004”.

Singh, a diabetic, underwent a bypass surgery in Britain in 1990 and had an angioplasty in 2004 in Delhi in which stents were introduced in his arteries. He had earlier been operated for a benign enlarged prostate in 2007, and for nerve compression in both wrists in 2006 and cataract removal procedure last year, officials said.

The Congress Party, which leads the coalition Government, has said that he will remain Prime Minister if Congress and its allies win again. But Congress is reportedly planning to replace him, possibly within two years, with Rahul Gandhi, the 38-year-old son of Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born Congress leader. “Days are not far off for Rahul Gandhi to become Indian Prime Minister,” Mr Mukherjee said earlier this month.

Rahul is an Indian politician and member of the Parliament of India, representing the Amethi constituency. He is a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family, the most prominent political family in India. He is the son of current Italian-born Congress President Sonia Gandhi, and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991. Gandhi was 14 years old when his grandmother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, was assassinated by her security guards. His great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first Prime Minister of India, and his great-great-grandfather Motilal Nehru was a distinguished leader of the Indian independence movement.

20
Mar

6.0 magnitude earthquake rocks eastern Turkey

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck Basyurt, in the Elazig province or eastern Turkey at 04:32 AM (02:32 GMT) on Monday. According to local Kandilli observatory, the quake struck at a depth of five kilometres; the epicenter was near Karakocan town in the same province.

The pre-dawn earthquake killed at least 40 people and almost 100 were injured. The village of Okcular was worst hit, claimed the press secretary for the provincial governor, Ozcan Yalcin. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, nearly five hours later, a magnitude-5.5 aftershock hit the province. 40 other aftershocks followed shortly, the highest of them being 4.4 magnitude, according to sources.

While no deaths were immediately reported, the government’s crisis management center soon put the toll at seventeen with another 60 injured according to the officials at Ankara, the capital. It was soon confirmed that at least 39 were dead; the toll is expected to rise. At least four of the victims were children.

Muammer Erol, the provincial governor of Elazig, stated Okcular, Yukari Kanatli and Kayali accounted for majority of the dead. He told CNN Turk that “villages consisting mainly of mud-brick houses have been damaged, but we have minimal damage such as cracks in buildings made of cement or stone”.

Okcular, the largest of the affected villages, accounted for at least seventeen of the dead. The village has a population of 800, and the majority of the dwellers live in mud-brick homes built on hillsides. About 25 to 30 houses were demolished in this village. “The village is totally flattened,” Hasan Demirdag, local administrator, told NTV.

Yadin Apaydin, the administrator of Yukari Kanatli, said his village had been severely affected. “Everything has been knocked down – there is not a stone in place,” he told CNN’s Turkey sister network, CNN Türk.

“Many houses have collapsed. Search and rescue teams have been sent to the area,” said the prime minister’s office in a statement. Injured people are being rushed to local hospitals according to sources. At least 100 people have been taken to hospital. Some who panicked after the first quake jumped from balconies or windows were injured.

Rescue workers, consisting of policemen as well as civilians dug with shovels to rescue people from the debris. The Turkish Red Crescent is also sending tents and blankets to be distributed. Neighboring districts are providing ambulances to assist the victims. Cemil Cicek, deputy Prime Minister of Turkey has left for the disaster area. Health Minister Recep Akdag, Housing Minister Mustafa Demir and State Minister Cevdet Yilmaz are accompanying him.

According to CNN Türk, the tremor of the earthquake was felt in the adjacent provinces of Bitlis and Diyarbakir, causing residents to panic.

Turkey lies on highly active fault lines and earthquakes often hit the nation. A 7.4-magnitude earthquake in Istanbul killed 20,000 people in August 1999. Most of the earthquakes that hit Turkey are usually minor.

20
Mar

Queen’s University agree to cut 103 members of staff

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Queen’s University of Belfast, Northern Ireland has agreed to cut 103 members of staff and to close its German department. The ruling body agreed with the cuts claiming that it would save money and also increase the school’s chances of entering the world’s top 100 universities.

Originally announced as a staffing reduction of 150 positions, the number was lowered. The lecturers’ union has commented, saying it is the “wrong decision”; they intend to “fight the job losses” despite the fact that the number is lower than expected.

According to the BBC, the university wishes to ensure that most of the academic staff takes part in “high quality” research, so those who just teach students are most at risk of losing their jobs.

Both the university management, and the union are to appear before the Employment and Learning Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly at a later date. They were summoned after reports of job and subject cuts.

19
Mar

Childhood pneumonia can be cured at home

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A new study by researchers of Boston University’s School of Public Health and colleagues sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows children with severe pneumonia can be effectively treated at home and do not need to be hospitalized. This finding is hugely significant for developing countries where children cannot be brought to a hospital easily or where no hospitals exist.

Per the study the change of treatment could save many children’s lives and take pressure off health systems. Every year pneumonia kills 2 million children under the age of 5. The researchers found that antibiotics given at home could significantly reduce deaths.

The group examined 2,037 children between 3 to 59 months in seven areas in Pakistan. About half of them were given antibiotics and sent home while the other ones got intravenous antibiotics in the hospital. Both groups were found to show equal progress in healing off the illness.

Current WHO guidelines recommend that pneumonia should be treated in a hospital with injectable antibiotics. With the new study there are indicators that pneumonia can be treated just as effectively at home with oral antibiotics.

17
Mar

German police arrest three in imminent terrorist plot

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Three Islamic militants were arrested by German police in Oberschloedorn, Germany, a remote village located north of Frankfurt. The suspects who had been trained in Pakistan belong to the so-called Jihad-Union. They are also reported as having strong links to Al Qaeda.

Two of the suspects were German citizens and one was a Turkish resident of Germany. They were found in possession of 1,500 pounds of hydrogen peroxide, which was the main chemical used in suicide bombings in London in July of 2005. One of the suspects was supposedly willing to commit a suicide attack.

“They were planning massive attacks,” the German federal prosecutor, Monika Harms, said at a news conference, outlining a vast six-month investigation. The targets of the attacks were thought to include places used by Americans, such as the Frankfurt international airport, and the U.S. Air Force Base at Ramstein.

The plot was thought to have been planned to occur next week, 6 years after the September 11 tragedy.

17
Mar

Airplane in Nigeria crashes during mock rescue exercise

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Nigerian airplane crashed in the city of Port Harcourt yesterday, resulting in several minor injuries.

The plane was supposed to be taking part in a mock rescue exercise, and was carrying 30 members from the National Emergency Management Agency and other emergency workers, when it slid off the runway and into some bushes after landing at Port Harcourt International Airport.

The rescue workers on the ground, intended to participate in the emergency drill, instead had to deal with a real emergency; however, only a few people on board the aircraft sustained minor wounds.

A spokeswoman for the police, Rita Inoma-Abbey, commented today that “[n]o life was lost, but the aircraft was severely damaged.”

16
Mar

Borneo bridge collapse: death toll reaches four, many remain missing

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The death toll from yesterday’s suspension bridge collapse on the Indonesian island of Borneo has risen from three to four, with a six-month-old baby among the dead. Search and rescue teams continue to look for survivors in the Mahakam River.

The initial death toll was raised at first to five, but was revised back down to four. The number of wounded rose from at least seventeen to at least nineteen, but Monsters and Critics offers a figure as high as 39 injured; Indonesia Today yesterday suggested the actual figure was 100 hospitalised. Roughly 40 people remain missing at the scene in East Kalimantan’s Kutai Kartanegara district, where “Kalimantan’s Golden Gate Bridge” linked the towns of Tenggarong and Samarinda.

At least three cars, several motorbikes, and at least one public bus all fell into the Mahakam River. Another car was left overturned and balanced upon wreckage over the water. State-owned builders PT Hutama Karya completed the bridge about a decade ago in the image of California’s Golden Gate Bridge, and it is now reported it was under repair at the time of the failure. New information suggests a cable on the 720-metre structure failed as workers dealt with it; six of the repair crew are among the missing.

National police representative Boy Rafly Amar said “It is believed that some victims are still in the river. There are two buses in the river and efforts are under way to lift them.” He said 39 were rescued with 20 still in hospital. Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih visited survivors in Parikesit Hospital and promised them medical treatment at government expense.

“It happened so fast, only about 30 seconds,” according to National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugoroho. National search and rescue head Daryatmo said Monday will see cranes attempt to move debris.

The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has sent three ministers to the site to investigate the accident, while Bambang Widaryatmo, head of East Kalimantan’s police, promised “parties found to be negligent will be prosecuted”. The government has promised a replacement ferry service. The river is closed to boats as rescue operations continue, and a 22-strong team has been dispatched from the national police, comprising six forensics experts, five disaster victim identification specialists, and eleven investigators. They are there to augment the East Kalimantan Police.

Some people swam ashore after falling, with the aftermath filled with screams. 40-year-old Adam Nur describes breaking free from a car and swimming 300 metres with one arm after his other arm was injured in the fall. Syakrani, 24, says he survived by clinging to empty plastic containers when he fell from the bridge after leaving his truck to investigate a traffic jam. “The authorities should have closed the bridge if it was under repair,” he said.

 This story has updates See Death toll from Borneo bridge collapse reaches eleven, November 28, 2011 
16
Mar

Mr. Miyagi passes away, Thanksgiving Day

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pat Morita, nee Noriyuki Morita, who was best known for his work in the 1984 film The Karate Kid and its sequels, passed away on November 24. The cause of death is not yet confirmed, but was said to be natural.

Pat started out at a stand-up comedian in the 1960s, and styled himself the “Hip Nip”. “‘Hip Nip’ just sounds groovy,” Morita said “A drummer laid it on me.” His career took off, and he became a regular on the show Happy Days as “Arnold” of “Arnold’s Restaurant” fame. He also acted in the show Mr. T and Tina which was an unsuccessful spin-off of the Welcome Back Kotter series.

However, Pat’s career continued, and he starred in several TV movies including Amos and a 1987-88 made-for-TV police drama called Ohara. Then, for his acclaimed performance in The Karate Kid, he was nominated for an Academy Award.

At his death, Morita had over 100 screen credits, including The Karate Kid sequels, and also as a voice character in the Disney films Mulan and Mulan II. Morita was beloved by many children of the 80s, and remains a popular icon.