Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Chinese fishermen killed as typhoon hits South Korea

A powerful typhoon has struck South Korea, killing at least eight people including five fishermen. Strong winds and heavy rain churned up rough seas and smashed two fishing ships on to rocks, forcing the coastguard to perform a daring rescue for the survivors.

Rescuers saved 12 fishermen and were still searching for 10 missing from the Chinese ships, which hit rocks off South Korea's southern Jeju island.

At least three other people died as Typhoon Bolaven knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, cancelled flights and temporarily halted joint war games by US and South Korean military forces.

State media in North Korea, which is still struggling to rebuild from recent floods and a devastating drought, reported on Tuesday the country was being lashed by heavy rain and strong winds.

Off Jeju island, dangerous waves kept rescue vessels from approaching the Chinese fishing ships. The coastguard used a special gun to shoot rope to one ship so officers could pull themselves over and bring the fishermen back to shore, coastguard spokesman Ko Chang-keon said.

Eighteen fishermen survived. Twelve were rescued by the coastguard and the others swam or were washed ashore.

South Korea issued a storm warning for the capital, Seoul, as Bolaven battered the country's south and west, knocking over street lights and church spires and ripping down shop signs. A large container box crushed the caretaker of an apartment building to death, a woman fell to her death from a rooftop and a third person died after bricks hit a house, according to disaster and fire officials.

Strong gusts left Seoul streets covered with leaves, rubbish and branches. More than 15,000 schools cancelled classes, and businesses and homes boarded up windows.

More than 330,000 South Korean households lost power, the government said, and more than 70 people were left homeless because of floods or storm damage. Nearly 200 flights were cancelled.

In North Korea, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported gale-force winds and heavy rain in many parts of the country. Rainstorms often mean catastrophe in the north because of poor drainage, deforestation and decrepit infrastructure.

North Korea is still trying to help people with food, shelter, healthcare and clean water after heavy flooding in July, according to a recent United Nations report. More than 170 died nationwide, and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed in the floods, according to official North Korean accounts.

Many flood victims still live in tents with limited access to water and other basic facilities, the UN report said, and there is concern about malnutrition. Seoul's unification ministry approved a trip Wednesday by two South Korean aid groups to visit the North Korean city of Kaesong for talks on flood aid.

Weather officials had warned that Bolaven would be the strongest typhoon to hit the region in several years, but its gusts turned out not to be as powerful as expected.

The typhoon hit the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Monday, injuring four people but doing less damage than feared before moving off to sea. More than 75,000 households lost power.

Further south, another typhoon, Tembin, doubled back and hit Taiwan three days after drenching the same region before blowing out to sea. Fierce winds and rain toppled coconut trees in the beach resort town of Hengchun.

In Manila, the Philippine weather agency reissued typhoon warnings to residents and fishermen for Tembin, which blew out of the archipelago over the weekend. Fishing boats in the north were urged not to venture out to sea while larger ships were warned of possible big waves and heavy rains.

Tuesday 28 August 2012


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36 Egyptians missing, 3 dead after boat sinks trying to reach Europe illegally

Three bodies washed ashore in Libya Monday after a boat carrying illegal Egyptian migrants trying to reach Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, and officials say 36 people are missing.

The boat’s only known survivor, Mohamed Gomaa Abdel-Kader, 23, told authorities that 40 people were on the boat when it sank. They were traveling overnight Sunday from an Egyptian port near Libya. They were part of a three-boat convoy full of migrants heading to Europe illegally, he said, according to a statement from Egypt’s Foreign Ministry.

The growing crisis from the flood of refugees could prompt Turkey to ask the United Nations to create a haven in Syria.

The boat he was on was supposed to carry no more than 15 people. It started sinking from the weight of the passengers, and people began jumping into the sea in the middle of the night, he said.

The search for survivors was continuing in the Burdi area, the officials in Cairo said.

In Libya, the state news agency Lana reported that the boat was carrying around 40 illegal migrants and capsized off Libya's east coast near the border with Egypt, with only one passenger surviving the tragedy.

"All the migrants who were on board died, except for one person who survived and was able to alert local authorities and inform them of the tragedy," Lana said, quoting a local official.

It was not immediately clear who the passengers of the boat were but they are widely believed to be asylum seekers trying to get to Europe in search of jobs and a better life.

Lana did not give the nationalities of the passengers but said the boat sunk some three kilometres (almost two miles) off the Libya coast.

Libya has been traditionally a launchpad for African refugees and migrants seeking to make an illegal run across the sea to Europe, with many landing in Italy. Migrants and refugees often travel in rickety and overcrowded wooden fishing boats and there have been several accidents at sea.

Thousands of young North African men make the dangerous and illegal sea journey to Europe to flee poverty, high unemployment and low wages at home. Some leave from Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, but most travel overland to neighboring Libya to take the shorter trip from there.

In April last year, scores of people went missing at sea after a tiny boat carrying more than 200 African migrants fleeing unrest-hit Libya capsized in the night in three-metre-high waves.

In March 2010, around 18 Egyptians drowned at sea trying to flee illegally to Europe. In 2007, 22 people died when two smuggler boats carrying around 150 Egyptians capsized off Italy’s southern coast. The next month, another boat sank off Turkey, killing 50, half of them Egyptians.

Tuesday 28 August 2012


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