|160 killed in Indian plane crash
least 160 people were killed Saturday morning when an
Air India Express plane overshot a table-top runway in
southern India, falling off a cliff into a valley, officials
The Boeing 737 from Dubai was carrying 163 passengers and
nine crew members when it crashed outside the city of
Mangalore, amid heavy weather in a hilly region. It then
caught fire, hampering immediate rescue attempts from people
in the neighbouring village of Manapur.
“We have come here to help the authorities in whatever way
we can. But it is really chaotic here. Nobody knows what is
going on. Officials are talking on their wireless and
rushing about,” Sumathi Raj, one of the civilian rescuers,
said by telephone.
Television images showed charred bodies being pulled out of
the wreckage as firefighters worked to douse the flames. In
one case, a child’s limp, burned body was extricated from
the smoldering plane by a policeman, who carried the child
up a hill as other rescuers offered to pull him up.
Home Minister for Karnataka state V.S. Acharya told
reporters that at least 160 people had died in the crash.
Other officials put the number of dead at 60 but said they
feared that it would soon sharply rise.
A senior civil aviation official in New Delhi said that
about six survivors were pulled out of the wreckage and
rushed to hospitals in serious condition. Two hospitals in
Mangalore offer specialised care to patients with burn
“We have been geared up since morning to receive survivors.
We have a burn ward in our hospital. But the fact that we
have not got a single one here is bad news. It means there
are not many survivors.” said Prabhkar, a doctor at Father
Mullers Medical College Hospital in Mangalore.
The Mangalore district health officer, Jagan Nath, said
bodies of victims were being transported to the morgue,
where relatives and friends of passengers were gathering.
“They are crying. Things are very bad,” he said.
Indian television reported that the pilot of Air India
Express 812 had not advised air-traffic controllers of any
mechanical issues before the crash.
A senior captain of Air India who regularly flies the
Mangalore route said the runway was lengthened to about
8,000 feet from about 5,300 feet about three years ago
“It is a safe airfield now,” he said by telephone from
Mumbai. “One edge of the runway is a steep drop. But we
operate large aircraft there. It is adequate. ... This is
hilly terrain. Within eight miles northeast of the runway,
there are hills that are 6,000 feet high.”
Saturday’s crash may rank as the country’s deadliest
aircraft disaster since 1996, when 349 people died after
Saudi and Kazakh passenger planes collided in midair above
north India. (Washington Post)
|Afghan rescuers halt search for air
Snow, fog and high winds forced
Afghan rescuers Friday to call off their search for the day
for survivors at the site of a plane crash in mountains just
north of the capital Kabul.
Bodies of some of the 44 people aboard the Pamir Airways
plane which crashed on Monday had been retrieved, but it was
impossible to confirm all onboard had died, said a spokesman
for the transportation and civil aviation ministry.
“It is difficult to immediately say how many bodies have
been recovered,” Nangialai Qalatwal told AFP, adding some
“were only remains and in bits and pieces”.
He added that the plane was carrying six crew and 38
passengers when it crashed into a mountainside 20 kilometres
(12 miles) from Kabul.
The search would resume on Saturday.
The bodies and wreckage of the plane were found in an area
called Surkh-e-Parsa on the Shakar Darah mountains in Kabul
province, at around 13,500 feet (4,100 metres), officials
Afghanistan’s chief aviation investigator Ghulam Farooq told
the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that eight foreign
passengers were on board the plane.
AAP reported him as saying the passengers included three
Britons and an American, as well as Australian and Pakistani
nationals, though he did not have a breakdown of numbers.
Australia’s foreign affairs department could not confirm how
many Australians were on the plane, AAP said.
The ageing Pamir Airways plane came down in bad weather
during a scheduled flight to Kabul from the northern
province of Kunduz.
Conditions for recovery were hampered by the harsh weather,
Qalatwal said. “It takes the rescuers two hours to climb (to
the crash site) and two hours to bring down the bodies.
EU finance ministers have
agreed for the need to be tougher on member states’ budgets
in the wake of the Greek debt crisis.
And following criticism that Europe did too little, too late
to defend the euro, they pledged to react quicker and more
efficiently in future.
At the first meeting of a new EU economic taskforce, they
agreed new sanctions were needed to enforce rules.
Countries that break deficit limits could lose EU money or
The meeting in Brussels comes at the end of another week of
turmoil on the markets as European countries grapple with
the aftermath of the debt crisis in Greece.
The euro fell to its lowest level for four years against the
dollar in the last few days and share markets have seen big
With additional concerns about the level of debt in Spain,
Portugal and other countries, the fear has been that the
crisis could harm the wider European economy. (BBC NEWS)
|News in brief
unrest under control
Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva says order has been restored to
the capital, Bangkok, and throughout the country.
Abhisit said the government would “move swiftly to restore
normalcy” following a week of violence which left more than
50 people dead.
In a televised address he said reconciliation efforts would
continue to address political divisions.
Anti-government protesters returning to Chiang Mai in the
north received cheers and applause from supporters.
Many of the “red-shirt” protesters - named for the colour
they adopted - said they were determined to keep up the
drive to force Abhisit to step down and call new elections.
US oil spill commission takes shape
Two political veterans are expected to head a US commission
investigating a huge oil spill, amid criticism of the
Reports say former Democratic Senator Bob Graham and William
Reilly, who once served as environment chief for the
Republicans, will lead the inquiry.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been forced to
defend its record in dealing with the spill.
Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the government was doing all it
could. (BBC NEWS)
Niger’s hungry ‘crossing into Nigeria’
Reports from northern Nigeria say a growing number of people
from Niger are crossing the border into Nigeria because of
the food crisis at home.
A BBC correspondent in the northern Nigerian state of
Katsina says many women and children from Niger are seeking
shelter with local families.
Aid agencies say about seven million people in Niger - about
half the population - are short of food.
Niger’s transitional government has started distributing
food in the north. (BBC NEWS)
13-year-old becomes youngest to top Mount Everest
A 13-year-old American boy became the youngest climber to
reach the top of Mount Everest on Saturday, breaking the
former record as part of his quest to climb the highest
peaks on all seven continents.
A spokesman for Jordan Romero says the boy’s team called him
by satellite phone from the summit of the world’s highest
mountain, 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level.
“Their dreams have now come true. Everyone sounded
unbelievably happy,” a new statement on Jordan’s blog said
Saturday morning. (SFGATE)
|Lawmakers in Germany back rescue for
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany
narrowly pushed the country’s share of the nearly $1
trillion stabilisation package for the euro through
Parliament on Friday in the face of significant public
It was an uncomfortably close call for Mrs. Merkel. The bill
passed by a margin of just seven votes, with half a dozen
members of her conservative coalition voting against it. The
left-wing opposition parties refused to support the deal,
either abstaining or voting against it.
The vote answered the question, for now at least, of whether
Germany is committed to seeking European solutions to the
fiscal crisis facing the continent. It came at the end of a
week that saw sharp divisions emerge over the German
government’s decision to introduce unilateral measures to
dampen financial-market speculation, and to do so without
consulting its European partners.
The German Finance Ministry’s actions, including a partial
ban on so-called naked short-selling, were intended to
placate a German public fed up with bailouts, whether for
other countries or for financial institutions widely viewed
as profiting from the present instability.
But the crisis of confidence in the euro, which has weakened
the currency and shaken markets around the world, is not
just about underlying economic fundamentals. At its heart,
it concerns the ability of European leaders to work in
concert. And the German decision to go it alone reinforced
the negative impression of a divided Europe at a delicate
In Germany, where Mrs. Merkel is still trying to recover
from her party’s election defeat in the country’s most
populous state earlier this month, the unilateral measures
were viewed as a necessary step to win passage of the rescue
plan in the Bundestag.
“As a consequence of the overheated public debate,” said
Ulrike Guérot, director of the Berlin office of the European
Council on Foreign Relations, “the German government needed
to take action to show we are doing something against
financial speculation before the Bundestag vote. It was a
very controversial debate, but the vote is done so I guess
Germany is coming back to its European convictions.”
Germany’s share of the safety net could reach $183 billion,
the largest share of any European country. After meeting in
Berlin with the new prime minister of Britain, David
Cameron, Mrs. Merkel called it “an important day for the
“Germany is the main financer of the rescue plan,” Seehofer
said. “The people expect that their representatives will not
|Outcry in South Africa over prophet
A South African newspaper on Friday published a Mohamed
cartoon which has upset South African Muslims with the World
Cup being just around the corner.
The cartoon in the weekly Mail & Guardian shows Mohamed on a
psychiatrist’s couch complaining “Other prophets have
followers with a sense of humor.”
On Thursday night South African Muslim advocacy groups
failed in a court bid to prevent the Mail & Guardian
printing the cartoon.
The issue provoked a flood of responses on South African
radio talk shows and internet sites.
Ihsaan Hendricks, president of South Africa’s Muslim
Judicial Council (MJC), said the cartoon “seems to be
provocative in many ways on the very eve of the World Cup in
South Africa, when we need peaceful co-existence and
co-operation amongst religious communities in South Africa.”
He said the newspaper should understand that offending the
South African Muslim community is offending the
international Muslim community.
On Friday morning the Mail & Guardian said on its website
that its editor-in-chief Nic Dawes and other staff were
fielding a flood of angry callers, and even death threats
hit the newspaper’s office.
“You’ve got to watch your back” and “This will cost him
his life” were some of the remarks made.
Dawes recounted how he received a call from an attorney from
the council at about 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night, after the
distribution process of the Friday paper had begun. “He
asked for an undertaking that we would stop distribution of
the paper and remove the cartoon.”
Dawes pointed out that this was impossible, and that in any
event the M&G would not do so.
The Mail & Guardian said that during Thursday’s
application the Muslim Judicial Council repeatedly raised
the specter of a violent backlash, saying that the timing of
the cartoon was bad because of a possible threat to the FIFA
It added that while it wouldn’t advocate violence, it
couldn’t necessarily guarantee that there wouldn’t be any.
“We very much saw that as a threat, and our counsel
vigorously objected,” said Dawes. The judge upheld the
|Can India’s economy overtake China?
(BBC NEWS) Can the lumbering elephant overtake the
hyperactive dragon? What appeared unthinkable for decades,
if not for more than half a century, may actually happen
soon, perhaps as early as next year.
In 2010, the Indian economy may grow faster than that of
China. What is more, experts contend that South Asia could
expand at a more rapid pace than East Asia.
While there is no dearth of sceptics who believe that China
will continue to grow faster than any other major economy on
the globe in the foreseeable future, there are others who
contend that the trend growth rates of the two most populous
nations could change and that India could march ahead of the
Chinese economy just a little faster than many predict.
China and India, accounting for roughly 40% of the 6.5bn
plus people on Planet Earth, are not merely the two fastest
growing major economies in the world at present, but are
among the few countries that have continued to expand at a
time when the economies of most countries have contracted.
In the early 1950s, in terms of per capita income and levels
of economic development, there was little to distinguish
between China and India. Half the populations of both
countries were mired in abject poverty - in India’s case
after centuries of colonial rule.
From the 1970s, the Chinese economy started growing at a
fast rate while India’s economy grew sluggishly at an
average rate of 3.5% - sarcastically described by the late
economics professor Raj Krishna as the “Hindu rate of
As China grew by double-digits decade after decade for
nearly 40 years, economists kept claiming the bubble would
burst, that data was doctored by smart statisticians in
Beijing - but the metaphorical dragon continued to grow
bigger and bigger defying all expectations.
The economy of India, on the other hand, started
accelerating from the early 1990s onwards as Delhi loosened
bureaucratic controls over industry, trade and services.
In the middle of the 1990s, for the first time since India
became independent in August 1947, the country’s economy
expanded by an annual average of more than 9% four years in
succession, that is until the impact of the ongoing
international recession saw the Indian economy decelerate.
Economists argue that one reason why India’s economy can
grow faster than that of China in the near future is simply
on account of what statisticians describe as a “base
Following this argument, India’s growth rate is higher
because the base on which the rate is calculated is
China’s economy is roughly three and a half times bigger
than that of India - Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measured
in US dollars in 2008 for the two countries stood at $4.2
trillion and $1.2 trillion respectively.
But there is an important reason why India’s economy has
been hurt relatively less by the ongoing international
economic recession in comparison to China, whose growth has
been largely export-driven in recent decades.
Exports and imports put together (including “invisible”
earnings from tourists, workers’ remittances and exports of
services) account for approximately half of India’s GDP
whereas the comparable proportion for China is over 80%.
Two years ago, China overtook the US as India’s largest
In late June, the World Bank in its Global Development
Finance 2009 report projected that in 2010, the rate of
growth of India’s economy at 8% would be faster than that of
China, expected to be 7.7%.
The bank’s forecast for the current year was revised upwards
for both China (from 6.5% to 7.2%) and India (from 4% to
5.1%) but these prognostications are lower than those made
by the governments of the respective countries.
The Chinese government claims a rate of growth close to 8%
for 2009, while various agencies of the Indian government
would place the comparable figure at somewhere between 6.5%
|Tensions flair up in troubled Korea
After nearly two months of cautious treading the
South Koreans have come out with conclusive evidence for
what many feared, their inimical northern neighbour is
responsible for, the sinking of a naval vessel on March 26,
2010, that resulted in the worst incident since the Korean
War ended in an armistice in 1953. The 1200-ton Cheonan was
on a routine patrol mission in the waters near the Koreas’
maritime border when an explosion ripped the sturdy frigate
in two. Fifty-eight sailors were rescued; 46 others
perished. The incident has left a scar on many Koreans - not
just on the families of the 46 sailors who died, but all
Koreans, who are fully aware of the threat that exists from
The South Korean military was careful early on not to
cast suspicion on North Korea, even though the Yellow Sea
has been the site of three bloody skirmishes between the two
countries, most recently in November 2009. Naval clashes
between North and South have been a regular feature of the
Korean standoff for the past decades. But the unprovoked
sinking of the Cheonan is a major escalation in the North’s
actions that may well portend even larger clashes -
especially if Kim Jong II, the illusive leader of the North
feels his navy has escaped scot-free in the murder of dozens
of South Korean sailors.
Nearly two months since the sinking, the evidence is
overwhelming. An experts’ panel has now conclusively
concluded that a North Korean torpedo is the only plausible
option for the explosion that resulted in the destruction of
vessel. The shattered structure of the ship was salvaged
from the seabed and tested for weapons residue, which the
investigators now say they found and matched to known North
Korean torpedo samples.
The findings have enraged the South Korean government and
raised tensions in the region to levels not seen since the
end of the Cold War. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
currently on a tour of Asia, strongly condemned North Korea
for what she called “provocative actions” against South
Korean. “I think it is important to send a clear message to
North Korea that provocative actions have consequences,” she
said while in Tokyo. “We cannot allow this attack on South
Korea to go unanswered by the international community.”
Clinton’s statement came just hours after South Korean
President Lee Myun-Bak called an emergency meeting in Seoul,
in response to the investigation. Lee said the attack
violated the U.N. Charter as well as the truce that ended
the Korean War in 1953.
However ruffled the South Koreans and the US maybe there
options against a nuclear armed North seems limited. South
Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young said Seoul would work
with the international community to come up with
non-military sanctions against the reclusive state while
Secretary of State Clinton said Washington would consult
China, South Korea, and Japan on the appropriate response,
but refused to call the North’s attack “an act of war”
mindful of the Korean Peninsula’s instability. A retaliatory
move is limited, especially as the Chinese are reluctant to
join in any action against their ally North Korea. Beijing
has described the incident only as unfortunate and urged all
parties to show restraint. In her talks with the Chinese,
Clinton will be hampered by the fact that she needs their
backing over North Korea, but also for sanctions against
Iran and a deal on re-adjusting the Chinese currency. At the
moment the US considers its moves at the Security Council
against Iran as its top foreign policy priority and for that
China is a critical partner. The North may have yet got away
once with the perfect crime due its foes being reluctant to
take stronger actions considering the risks of full blown
out war with an erratic, nuclear armed state.
North Korea, which denies one of its submarines fired a
torpedo at the corvette, said again that it would regard any
punitive action as an act of war. North Korea has often
threatened to attack Seoul but most analysts say that, in
the face of a much better equipped South Korean army backed
by some 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula, any major
confrontation would be suicidal for Pyongyang. Some analysts
still warned the more the North’s now frail leader Kim
Jong-il is pushed into a corner, the greater the risk of
clashes. Kim is also trying to secure the succession for one
of his sons. Troublingly the South’s capital Seoul, is
within range of artillery from North Korea.
Even though a military retaliation is highly unlikely at
the stage the latest provocation from the North would be
hardly forgotten. The South Koreans who have been boosting
its failed Northern neighbour with much needed food aid and
investments are expected to curtail such interactions, a
move that would further jeopardise the fragile economy of
the North. Currently more than one hundred South Korean
companies operate in an exclusive economic zone in the
North, just across the border which employees nearly 30,000
Northern labour. This was seen as the first step in the
North attempting a Chinese type freeing of its tightly
controlled economy. Though an immediate closure of the zone
is not a realistic option the South’s government may not
encourage its companies to expand into the North. The small
but significant foreign currency flow would thin out. Also
the hundreds of tons of food aid provided by the South
Koreans, Japanese and the US is likely to reduce.
Increasing stakes of war
The North Koreans are known for their hard bargaining
strategies. At the height of a famine in the late 1990s the
North started its nuclear programme which was seen as a
bailout from its own enemies who would go to extraordinary
lengths to stall the progress of the North to build a
nuclear devise. Food and other economic aid as promised and
delivered to the North on the promise that it would stop
nuclear material enrichment. After many years of playing
hard ball, obtaining aid that kept its dictatorial regime in
power the North eventually did produce a nuclear bomb. This
time too the North seems to be hoping that its foes would
follow the same path. By increasing the stakes of war the
North is now positioned to exchange aid for the promise of
peace. With the South and its traditional allies the US and
Japan reluctant take military action, the North may well
have pulled off its perfect crime once again and eventually
benefit from it.
|NORTH KOREAN ATTACK ON SHIP
WILL NOT GO ‘UNANSWERED’
Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton condemnedNorth Korea on Friday for a
deadly attack on a South Korean warship and vowed that it
would not go “unanswered,” but senior U.S. officials
stressed that neither side on the Korean Peninsula seems to
be heading toward war.
Clinton’s trip to the region is part of a whirlwind of
diplomatic activity that will focus on crafting a response
to North Korea’s attack on the 1,200-ton Cheonan warship in
March. Clinton met with Japanese officials Friday and will
see Chinese and South Korean officials in coming days.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will also travel to South Korea
and Japan for a trip that will no doubt focus on the
incident. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is expected
to address his nation on the attack, which killed 46
The heightened tension seems to have helped push Japan to
agree to most elements of a plan to relocate U.S. forces on
Okinawa, specifically the Marines’ Futenma Air Base,
Japanese officials and media reports said. Prime Minister
Yukio Hatoyama was scheduled to visit Okinawa this weekend
to explain his decision, Japanese officials said. Japan’s
“language has changed since Cheonan,” a senior U.S. official
said. “There was a realisation that this still is a very
In a blunt statement after meeting with Japanese Foreign
Minister Katsuya Okada, Clinton said the United States
“strongly condemns” the North Korean attack and that both
countries would seek an international response.
“Let me be clear,” Clinton said in her first public comments
since South Korea released a report on Thursday formally
blaming the North for the torpedo strike. “This will not be
and cannot be business as usual.”
South Korean investigators, assisted by experts from the
United States, Australia, Britain and Sweden, concluded that
the weapon that destroyed the ship was a North Korean-made
torpedo in part because fragments of it “perfectly match”
schematics of a product that Pyongyang has been offering to
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials are trying to
formulate a response that will be tough enough to deter
further provocations from North Korea but will not spark a
war on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea’s
nuclear-armed forces face off against those of South Korea
and nearly 29,000 U.S. troops. South Korea’s capital, Seoul,
is within easy artillery range of North Korea’s big guns and
could be pulverised within minutes, military experts have
North Korea’s response to the investigation has been
typically bombastic. “Our army and people will promptly
react to any ‘punishment’ and ‘retaliation’ and to any
‘sanctions’ infringing upon our state interests with various
forms of tough measures, including an all-out war,” said a
statement attributed to the North’s National Defense
More economic sanctions
South Korean officials have said they want to take the issue
to the U.N. Security Council and possibly slap more economic
sanctions on North Korea. South Korea could also further
limit its severely restricted trading relationship with the
North. But senior U.S. officials briefing reporters covering
Clinton’s trip said they do not think Seoul is contemplating
“I think it’s clear that the South Koreans do not wish to go
to war. . . . They will not take steps that run that risk,”
said a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. As for
the North Koreans, he said, he had seen no evidence that the
attack was “the first step on the road to war.”
“The hope is that this was a one-off action,” he said,
adding that North Korea has a long history of violence
against South Korean targets.
Preventing “one-offs” could prove challenging. North Korea
is believed to be armed with nuclear weapons. It has twice
tested a nuclear device and pulled out of talks designed to
persuade it to abandon nuclear weapons.
“We have never been good at stopping North Korean missile
tests and nuclear tests,” said Victor Cha, a former National
Security Council official and North Korea specialist. “But
we thought we were good at conventional deterrence, which
has kept the peace since 1953. Now, my concern is that the
North feels confident enough in its nuclear capabilities
that they do not fear retaliation if they strike out
conventionally to gain the upper hand.”
China’s lukewarm reaction
China, where Clinton arrived late Friday at the head of a
delegation of hundreds of U.S. officials preparing for
annual talks with Beijing, is key to any plan to deter North
Korea from further attacks. But China’s reaction to South
Korea’s investigation has been lukewarm.
China waited almost a month to express condolences to South
Korea for the loss of life on the Cheonan and throughout the
crisis has tried not to take sides. It feted North Korean
leader Kim Jong Il in early May and apparently presented him
with a large package of aid.
Clinton will discuss the attack with Chinese leaders. U.S.
officials said they want to see Beijing accept the
Cha said China has successfully balanced North and South
Korea since 1992 when it recognised Seoul but now is being
forced to choose between them.
“Aggression by North Korea on this scale really forces China
to choose: its economic future with the South, or its
communist past with the North,” he said.
to rejoin politics
The former Pakistani
president, Pervez Musharraf has said he intends going back
home to enter politics. Musharraf, who seized power in a
coup in 1999 and ruled until stepping down as president in
2008, has raised the possibility of re-entering politics
several times over the past year although political analysts
have played down the likelihood.
“I certainly am planning to go back to Pakistan and also
join politics. The question of whether I am running for
president or prime minister will be seen later,” Musharraf
told CNN in an interview.
“There are security issues. Maybe my wife and my family is
more worried than I am but there are security issues which
one needs to take into consideration and that is why I’m not
laying down any dates for my return,” he said. Musharraf
could also face a host of legal dangers.
The Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice Musharraf
tried to dismiss, has declared his 2007 imposition of
emergency rule unconstitutional, which could be a basis for
actions against him. Polls show that Nawaz Sharif, the prime
minister Musharraf ousted in 1999, is Pakistan’s most
popular politician and he too has called for Musharraf to be
put on trial.
Musharraf left Pakistan about a year ago and spends most of
his time in Britain and the United States.
Many Pakistanis welcomed the 1999 coup by the
straight-talking army chief, which ended a decade of
fractious rule by rival parties tainted by corruption
But the longer he ruled the more unpopular he became.
He tried to strike a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto,
a former prime minister, who returned from self-exile in
October 2007 to campaign for a general election. But she was
assassinated weeks later.
Musharraf’s government said Pakistani Taliban were
responsible but in a country where conspiracy theories run
rife, many people believed shadowy forces, perhaps close to
Musharraf, played a part in her death.
The party that backed Musharraf was humiliated in a February
2008 election, in which Bhutto’s party won the most seats,
and Musharraf stepped down later that year.
He survived two bomb attacks and officials spoke of other
plots to assassinate him. (Al-jazeera)