Monthly Archives: December 2011

Croc fears rise as Daly River awaits floodwaters

Daly River community prepares for flooding.

The local shire of the Daly River region in the Northern Territory says crocodiles will pose the biggest problem with expected flooding of the river system.

Residents are preparing for flooding as the water from heavy rain in the Katherine region makes its way into the river system.

The deluge washed away the Territory’s major rail and road routes to Darwin two days ago.

The shire’s Andrew McTaggert says the river is expected to rise quickly within the next 24 hours.

“At this stage the crocs are the biggest problem that will arise out of this,” he predicted.

“The last floods we had this year, I think they caught three or four crocs just in and around the community here where the kids go and have a swim.

“So that’s the biggest thing. They take all the dogs and sooner or later they’ll take a child.”

Mr McTaggert says the river will rise quickly when it arrives and could reach 13.5 metres.

“People in low-lying houses will be evacuated,” he added.

The Daly River Mango Farm’s Gary Higgins says he has been preparing since yesterday.

“We’ve got accommodation and a licensed bistro so all of that [has been] packed up and we lift that to a height of 14.5 to 15 metres.

There are also concerns the raging river could damage construction works on a local causeway and the Daly River bridge.


Fire on Russian nuclear sub ‘totally extinguished’

Nuclear-powered submarine Yekaterinburg

Russia says it has doused a raging blaze aboard a nuclear submarine after nearly a full day and night, by partially submerging the vessel after battling the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats.

Officials said there was no radiation leak and crew inside the submarine were monitoring the stricken vessel’s nuclear reactors, which had been shut down.

At least nine people were injured fighting the flames which witnesses quoted by local media said rose 10 metres above the Yekaterinburg submarine at the navy ship yard in the Murmansk region of northern Russia.

“The fire on the submarine has been totally extinguished,” Emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu told officials leading the firefighting effort, more than 20 hours after the blaze began.

His remarks were reported by Interfax news agency.

After hours of fighting the fire emergency officials decided to partially submerge the 18,200-tonne Yekaterinburg submarine at the Roslyakovo dock, one of the main dockyards of Russia’s Northern Fleet, 1,500 kilometres north of Moscow.

Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet, once the pride of the Soviet Union’s mighty armed forces, has been involved in a host of disasters including the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in 2000 with the loss of all 118 people on board.

Official statements were vague, but the blaze is believed to have started when wooden scaffolding caught fire during welding repairs to the the 167-metre Yekaterinburg submarine, which had been hoisted into a dry dock.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an investigation into the incident.

The submarine, which launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Barents Sea at a firing range as recently as July, can carry 16 ballistic missiles, each with four warheads, and a crew of 140.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said all its weapons had been removed before repairs started and its nuclear reactors were shut down.

“Radiation indicators are within normal levels. There is no threat to the local population,” the Emergencies Ministry said in a statement.

Russian submarines’ reactors are built to withstand enormous shocks and high temperatures.

Part of the crew was onboard the submarine to check carbon dioxide levels, the temperature and to ensure the safety of the nuclear reactors.

“Part of the crew remains on board and is carrying out regular monitoring every 30 minutes of the situation in the  nuclear submarine and around it,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Yekaterinburg is a Delta IV class submarine. Russia’s Northern Fleet was established under the Soviet Union to watch over European waters and was armed during the Cold War against threats from NATO.

The navy was criticised by Russia’s political leaders following the Kursk disaster for failing to give accurate information about the true nature of the disaster.

Reuters


Man dies from bird flu in China

A man in southern China has died of bird flu a week after being admitted to hospital with a fever, state media reports.

The 39-year-old bus driver from Guangdong province contracted the first human case of bird flu in China in 18 months.

The man from Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, developed symptoms last week and was admitted to a hospital on Christmas Day because of severe pneumonia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The report added the man died in the early afternoon on Saturday (local time), after having tested positive for the H5N1 virus.

Guangdong’s official newspaper, the Southern Daily, said 120 people who had contact with the man had developed no signs of sickness.

About 10 days ago Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens at a wholesale poultry market and suspended all imports of live chickens from mainland China for 21 days after a dead chicken there tested positive for the H5N1 virus.

The virus is normally found in birds but can jump to people who do not have immunity to it.

Researchers worry it could mutate into a form that would spread around the world and kill millions.

In recent years, the virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in east Asia, during the cooler months.

Authorities in China are worried about the spread of infectious diseases around this time when millions of Chinese travel in crowded buses and trains across the country to go home to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The current strain of H5N1 is highly pathogenic, kills most species of birds and up to 60 per cent of the people it infects.

Since 2003, it has infected 573 people around the world, killing 336.

The virus also kills migratory birds but species that manage to survive can carry and disperse the virus to new, uninfected locations.

It transmits less easily between people but there have been clusters of infections in people in Indonesia and Thailand in the past.

Reuters/AFP


Nigerian Christmas bomb death toll rises to 37

The Christmas Day bomb blast toll in Abuja has now climbed to 37 dead.

The death toll from a bomb attack on a church just outside Nigeria’s capital Abuja on Christmas Day has risen to 37, with 57 people wounded, a source at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said on Friday.

The bombing at St Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas mass was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the militant Islamist sect Boko Haram.

“As of just now, the latest death toll from the bombing of St Theresa’s church is at 37. Wounded, we have 57,” a senior NEMA official said. The initial death toll had been 27.

The official asked not to be identified because the victims were now in the hands of hospitals and morgues.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s office put out a statement late on Friday pledging that “the government will fight Boko Haram, the group of evil-minded people who want to cause anarchy, to the end”.

Mr Jonathan held talks on Friday with Mohame Bazoum, deputy prime minister of Niger. Security officials suspect the countries’ porous common border is a gathering point for militants, and that Boko Haram may have made contact there with Al Qaeda’s north African wing.

“The perpetrators pass through borders at will and we have to ensure that there are no safe havens for them in the sub-region,” Mr Jonathan said.

He had summoned his security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the growing Islamist militant threat and how to deal with it.

National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi said that Nigerian security services were considering making contact with moderate members of Boko Haram via “back channels”, even though explicit talks are officially ruled out.

Reuters


At least 8 killed in Pakistan car-bombing

Deadly blast ... An injured man is rushed to hospital after the detonation in Quetta killed at least eight people.

A bomber remotely has detonated an explosives-laden car outside the home of a former Pakistani minister, killing at least eight people and wounding 30.

The car was parked outside the house of Naseer Mengal, a former minister of petroleum and natural resources, according to police officials in the city of Quetta.

Several militants exchanged fire with private security guards after the blast.

Paramilitary forces cordoned off the area and were searching for the assailants.

The explosion shattered windows and knocked down electricity lines. Live video from local TV channels showed clouds of smoke rising from burning cars at the site of the bombing.

Emergency services and police officials said they expected the casualty figure to rise.

Baluchistan is Pakistan’s biggest but poorest province, where Baluch separatists militants are fighting a protracted insurgency to demand more autonomy and control over the natural resources of their impoverished region.

Much of the violence in the past has been blamed on separatist militants.

Pro-Taliban militants are also active in the province which shares borders with Afghanistan and Iran.

Pakistan, a key US ally in its war on terror, has seen a wave of violence in past years, most of it in the north-west where troops are battling militants.

Reuters


N Korea vows retaliation for South’s ‘sins’

Two missiles take off at an undisclosed location in North Korea

North Korea has pledged unspecified retaliation against the South, after the final funeral ceremony for Kim Jong-il.

The North has pledged to shun South Korea’s Lee Myung-Bak government for eternity.

It made unspecified threats against the South and promised there would be no change in direction for their country under new leader Kim Jong-un.

The comments were made in an official statement from the powerful National Defence Commission.

The South Korean government will pay, it said, for the “unforgivable sins” of not allowing more South Koreans to travel to the North to pay their respects to Kim Jong-il, whose final funeral service was held on Thursday.

“We solemnly and proudly declare to foolish politicians in the world, including South Korean puppets, that they should not expect any changes from us,” the NDC statement said.

Kim Jong-un was declared “supreme leader of party and army and people” at Thursday’s massive memorial service.

“The world shall clearly see how the millions of our soldiers and people, who united firmly round great leader comrade Kim Jong-Un to transform sorrow into courage and tears into strength, will achieve the final victory,” the NDC statement added.

The world has been watching for any signs of change under the untested new leader, aged in his late 20s.

His father presided over a 1990s famine which killed hundreds of thousands, pursued a nuclear and missile program which brought international sanctions and resisted Chinese pressure to reform the crumbling state-directed economy.

Inter-Korean relations have been frosty since the conservative Mr Lee took office in February 2008 and linked major economic aid to nuclear disarmament.

Ties turned icy after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

The North denied involvement but shelled a South Korean island in November 2010, killing four people including civilians.

“The scene of pan-national grieving by the people and military… shows the party, military and people united round the revolutionary leadership with one mind, and the invincibility of our socialist system and regime that cannot be toppled,” the NDC statement said.

The South’s Yonhap news agency said a statement issued in the name of the NDC, rather than attributed to an NDC spokesman, was rare.

Stephen McDonell  ABC News

ABC/AFP


Iran official contradicts missile test claim

Iran’s senior navy commander has denied state media reports that the Islamic Republic test-fired long-range missiles during a naval drill, saying the missiles will launch in the next few days.

Mahmoud Mousavi told Iran’s English-language Press TV “the exercise of launching missiles will be carried out in the coming days.”

The semi-official Fars news agency, Press TV and the state-run IRNA news agency had earlier reported that Iran had test-fired long-range and other missiles during the exercise on Saturday.

“All kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles will be tested in the coming days,” Mr Mousavi told Press TV.

The 10-day naval drill, which began last Saturday, coincided with increased tension in Iran’s nuclear row with Western powers, after the European Union said it was considering a ban –  already in place in the United States – on imports of Iranian oil.

Tehran says the drill is aimed at showing Iran’s resolve to counter any attack by enemies such as Israel or the United States.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out a military option if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute with Iran.

Washington and its allies say Iran wants to build nuclear bombs under the cover of a civilian program of uranium enrichment – a claim Tehran denies.

Reuters