Many feared buried as hopes dim after Sri Lanka garbage dump landslide

COLOMBO: Hopes faded on Sunday for the survival of an estimated 100 people trapped under the mud and debris of a landslide at a giant rubbish dump in the Sri Lankan capital.

Police say the known death toll from the disaster has risen to 26 and emergency workers are to resume their search on Monday after halting late on Sunday night.

The 300-foot-high (90-metre) dump in the Meethotamulla area on the border of the commercial heart of Colombo collapsed after flames engulfed it late on Friday, the nation’s new year’s day, burying many homes.

Military spokesman Roshan Senivirathna told Reuters that survival was “very unlikely” but the rescue mission involving more than 1,000 emergency workers from defence establishments would continue.

Authorities are struggling to ascertain the exact number of missing people.

Liyanage Menaka, who lost her house in the disaster, urged the government to provide homes for those who live in danger around the country’s biggest garbage pile.

“The lives of more than 100 are lost. What we are asking is (that they) give us a solution and take care of our kids,” she told Reuters.

President Maithripala Sirisena has instructed the authorities to ensure financial resources are not an obstacle in the relief operation, his office said in a statement.

The police said they were investigating whether the landslide was natural or man-made. They also said about 145 houses had been damaged.

Residents of the area, mostly living in shanties, had been demanding the removal of the dump, saying it was causing health problems. The government had said it would remove it soon, under an infrastructure plan.

(Writing by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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Woman arrested after fracas at Tiong Bahru Plaza

SINGAPORE: A 45-year-old woman was arrested after she made a scene at a shop in Tiong Bahru Plaza on Monday (Apr 3).

Police said they were alerted to the incident just before 10pm and said investigations are ongoing.

A 5-minute-and-40-second video of the incident has gone viral on Facebook, with more than 1 million views and counting as of Tuesday evening. The woman, visibly agitated, is seen yelling at shop staff at the Owndays spectacles shop and hitting two of them, asking them to retrieve her bracelet. Passersby and a security guard try to intervene, but the woman continues to swear at the shop staff.

Channel NewsAsia reached out to Owndays, but staff at the shop declined to comment.

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Ten more bodies recovered after Bangladeshi ferry sinks, six still missing

DHAKA: Ten more bodies have been recovered from Bangladesh’s Panguchi River, a local official said on Thursday, after a ferry carrying about 80 passengers capsized this week.

Divers had been deployed to find the six people who were still missing, the chief administrator of Morelganj sub-district, Obaidur Rahman, said.

Rashedul Alam, a police official from Morelganj, where the accident happened, said a combination of strong currents and overloading caused the ferry to sink on Tuesday.

Most of the passengers had swum to safety, he said.

Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has a track record of ferry accidents and deaths sometimes run into the hundreds.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir and Enammul Haque; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)

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RSS Independence retires after nearly two decades of service

SINGAPORE: Nineteen years after it entered operational service, the RSS Independence – one of the first warships wholly designed and built in Singapore – retired on Wednesday (Mar 8).

The Fearless-class patrol vessel, along with its sister ships, was built under a collaborative effort by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), the Defence Technology Community and the local defence industry. The vessels have been operational since 1996.

The RSS Independence was commissioned by then-Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Tony Tan Keng Yam on Aug 22, 1998, to take over the operational duties of patrol craft RSS Independence to safeguard Singapore’s maritime interests and to maintain its territorial integrity.

The RSN said the RSS Independence will be remembered for its role in rescuing five fishermen from their capsized fishing trawler in the waters off Pedra Branca on Sep 22, 2015.

Former crew of the RSS Independence take a wefie for memory’s sake. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

The navy added that RSS Independence had “valiantly taken on the duties and was involved in numerous operations at sea, as well as in maritime surveillance, patrol and escort operations”.

It also flew the RSN flag high in a number of important bilateral and multilateral exercises, such as Exercise Malapura, Exercise Singsiam, the Singapore-Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise and the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise.

The RSS Independence has flown the Singapore flag high in various important bilateral and multilateral exercises (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han paid tribute to RSS Independence and to the generations of its crew members.

He said: “In her years of service, RSS Independence was an integral part of the RSN’s frontline force which protected Singapore’s territorial waters and safeguarded our sea lines of communication, staying true to her motto ‘We Will Defend’.

“The success of RSS Independence would not have been possible without the unwavering dedication, professionalism, tenacity and sacrifice of the generations of officers and crews who have served onboard.”

RSS Independence was decommissioned at a sunset ceremony at Tuas Naval Base on Wednesday evening. Officiated by RADM Lai, the ceremony marked the start of the progressive handing over of duties from the patrol vessels to the new Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV).

RSS Independence (L) with its successor LMV Independence (R). (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

The name RSS Independence along with its operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence during a commissioning ceremony on May 5, to be held in conjunction with the RSN’s 50th anniversary celebrations. “The LMVs are faster, more versatile, and equipped with sharper capabilities to further strengthen the RSN’s effectiveness in seaward defence, and the protection of Singapore’s sea lines of communication,” the navy said. The eight LMVs that were added to the navy’s fleet will be fully operational by 2020.

Also present at the decommissioning ceremony were past and present crew members of RSS Independence as well as senior RSN officers.

The RSS Independence’s name and operational duties will be handed over to the LMV Independence (Photo: Xabryna Kek)

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Man injured after falling from height at Orchard Central

SINGAPORE: A young man was injured at Orchard Central on Friday afternoon (Feb 24), after he reportedly fell from a ledge on the fourth floor.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) confirmed that a man was sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital.It added that it was alerted to the incident at about 4.05pm. 

Blood was seen on the ground and the man appeared to be unconscious, according to an eyewitness.

Blood seen on the ground where the man fell.

Hole on a fourth floor ledge where a man is said to have fallen from.

“A lot of people were trying to do CPR on him. They kept trying and trying for a good 15 minutes at least,” said Devi Rajaram who was at the scene. “He was just motionless.”

She added that there was “whitish” debris on the floor.

Another eyewitness, Mike Tan, told Channel NewsAsia that he was having coffee with a friend when they heard a scream and saw the man falling. He said he called for an ambulance at 4.02pm and was instructed to look for an automated external defibrillator. 

The SCDF said CPR was administered by its paramedics on the way to the hospital which was on standby to receive him.

The area on the ground floor where the man fell has been cordoned off and a link bridge on the fourth floor is now closed.

Link bridge leading to Orchard Gateway is closed.

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Toyota shares drop after Trump threat on Mexico plant

TOKYO: Toyota shares dropped more than three per cent on Friday (Jan 6) after US President-elect Donald Trump threatened the carmaker with import taxes over a new vehicle plant in Mexico.

Shares in the Japanese automaker fell as much as 3.11 per cent after the opening bell before paring losses to move 2.21 per cent lower at 6,893 yen after the first half hour of trade.

Other automakers also sagged, with Nissan declining 2.08 percent to 1,174.5 yen and Honda down 2.01 percent to 3,497 yen.

Toyota became the latest company to face Trump’s wrath when he tweeted “NO WAY” to the firm’s plans for a new manufacturing plant in Mexico.

“Build plant in US or pay big border tax,” Trump said.

The president-elect – who takes office on January 20 – campaigned in part on bringing manufacturing jobs back to America’s heartland and allegations of unfair trade.

As well as the Trump salvo, Toyota shares were also under pressure as exporters across the board were hit with a fall in the dollar against the yen, which can damage their profitability.

The US currency stood at 115.47 yen on Friday morning, compared with 115.89 yen in Tokyo on Thursday and sharply lower from 118.12 yen seen in Tokyo on Wednesday.

In a statement issued after the tweet, the company said it looked forward to “collaborating with the Trump administration” to serve consumer and industry interests.

“Production volume or employment in the US will not decrease as a result of our new plant in Guanajuato, Mexico announced in April 2015,” it said.

The company employs 136,000 Americans and maintains 10 manufacturing facilities in the United States.

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Tsunami threat passes after 7.2-magnitude quake off Fiji

SYDNEY: A shallow 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fiji on Wednesday (Jan 4), the US Geological Survey said, but there were no reports of damage and a tsunami warning was lifted.

The quake hit at a depth of 15 kilometres, some 221 kilometres from Nadi and 283 kilometres from the Fijian capital Suva and was followed by two smaller aftershocks.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre initially said hazardous waves were possible within 300 kilometres of the epicentre, but later reported the threat had passed.

Geoscience Australia said structural damage from shaking was possible only within an estimated 110 kilometre radius, well away from the nearest land.

Residents in Nadi on the western side of the main Fijian island of Viti Levu said they felt a slight shake but there were no reports of damage.

“It was 200 kilometres off the coast which was a saving grace in terms of shaking and damage,” Geoscience Australia seismologist Jonathan Bathgate told AFP.

The area lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a highly active tectonic zone that frequently experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

A deep 6.3-magnitude quake hit south of Fiji on Monday while a 7.9 tremor struck near Papua New Guinea last month.

There is rarely any damage and Bathgate said the activity was largely driven by movements in the Australian tectonic plate.

“It is moving seven centimetres to the northeast every year and that’s what causes the quakes in the (Pacific) region,” he said. “They are usually quite deep. What was unusual about this one was it was quite shallow.”

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Man arrested for using 'criminal force' against public servant after Eunos accident

SINGAPORE: A 38-year-old man has been arrested “for using criminal force against a public servant” following an accident at the junction of Eunos Link and Ubi Avenue 2 on Friday morning (Sep 23). 

Police said they were informed of the accident at about 7.30am, and the incident involved a bus and a car. No injuries were reported, and investigations into the cause of the accident, as well as the man’s actions against the public servant, are ongoing.

Police added that the man who was arrested was the driver of the car. Channel NewsAsia understands that he was uncooperative and deterred a public servant from carrying out his duties. 

The car appeared to be badly damaged and mounted a kerb following the accident. 

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it despatched an ambulance to the scene after being alerted to the accident at 7.30am. 

“A man in his 30s was assessed by the paramedic. Subsequently he was handed over to the police,” a spokesperson for SCDF said. 

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DPM Teo to attend Singapore Day in San Francisco after US working visit

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will attend Singapore Day in San Francisco on Saturday (Sep 24), after a working visit to Washington DC from Wednesday to Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a media release on Tuesday.

In Washington DC, Mr Teo will meet senior administration officials, key members of the US Congress and prominent strategic thinkers, MFA said, adding that the visit would “reaffirm Singapore’s close and longstanding bilateral partnership with the US, including in security cooperation and tackling common challenges”.

In San Francisco, the Deputy Prime Minister will meet overseas Singaporeans and launch the Action Community for Entrepreneurship Silicon Valley Chapter, a partnership with Singaporeans to support Singapore-based tech start-ups venturing into the US market, according to the ministry.

MFA said Mr Teo will be accompanied in Washington DC by Parliamentary Secretary of Home Affairs Amrin Amin, Member of Parliament (MP) and Deputy Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law Edwin Tong and officials from MFA, Ministry of Home Affairs and National Security Coordination Secretariat.

His entourage in San Francisco will include Senior Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo, MP and Deputy Chairperson of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law Edwin Tong and officials from MFA and PMO. 

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Three Thai royal insult prisoners freed after pardon

BANGKOK: Three Thai women convicted of insulting the monarchy were released from jail Saturday after receiving royal pardons, a human rights lawyer said, following years spent behind bars for violating the draconian law.

Thailand’s lese majeste law is among the world’s harshest, punishing any perceived criticism of the monarchy with up to 15 years per offence.

Cases have skyrocketed under the ultra-royalist junta that seized power in 2014, with more than 60 people facing trials since the power grab, mostly in military courts.

The law has also been interpreted with an increasingly broad sweep, with one man arrested for making sarcastic comments about the king’s late dog.

Media must self-censor when reporting on royal defamation cases to avoid falling foul of the law.

On Saturday three lese majeste convicts were included in a royal pardon that saw over 100 female prisoners released from a Bangkok jail.

“Three women prisoners who were jailed for lese majeste were freed today,” Weeranan Huadsri, from the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, told AFP.

They included Daranee Charnchoengsilapakul, an activist sentenced to 15 years in 2011 for speeches delivered at political rallies.

Known as “Da Torpedo” for her hard-hitting rhetoric, the activist was a fervent supporter of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra — the leader of a political faction loathed by the kingdom’s military rulers.

Porntip Mankong, a 29-year-old activist arrested in 2014 for her role in a satirical play, was also released Saturday, the lawyer said.

She had around two months left of her 2.5 year sentence.

The young activist was prosecuted alongside Patiwat Saraiyaem, a male university student who also participated in “The Wolf Bride” play.

Patiwat was released earlier this month after receiving a royal pardon on Queen Sirikit’s birthday.

The third lese majeste prisoner set free Saturday was Thitinan Kaewjantranont, an elderly woman jailed for insulting a portrait of the Thai king.

The court that sentenced her in 2015 noted she suffered from mental health issues but said her behaviour was “so evil” it warranted jail time.

The monarchy has become an increasingly sensitive subject in Thailand as 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej enters his twilight years.

Analysts say anxiety over his ailing health has exacerbated the kingdom’s decade-long political crisis, as competing elites wrestle for influence.

But open discussion of the monarchy and its future is impossible due to the royal insult law.

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