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Taiwan quake leaves four dead, scores injured

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Taiwan quake leaves four dead, scores injured

At least four persons were feared dead and nearly 60 were injured on Wednesday by a powerful earthquake in Taiwan that damaged dozens of buildings and prompted tsunami warnings that extended to Japan and the Philippines before being lifted.

Officials said the quake and series of strong aftershocks were the strongest to shake the island in decades and warned of more tremors in the days ahead.

“The earthquake is close to land and it’s shallow. It’s felt all over Taiwan and offshore islands,” said the director of Taipei’s Central Weather Administration’s Seismology Centre, Wu Chien-fu.

Strict building regulations and disaster awareness appear to have staved off a major catastrophe for the island, which is regularly hit by earthquakes as it lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

Wu said the quake was the strongest since one of 7.6-magnitude struck in September 1999, killing around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.

Wednesday’s magnitude-7.4 quake struck just before 8:00 a.m. local time (0000 GMT), with the United States Geological Survey putting the epicentre 18 kilometres (11 miles) south of Taiwan’s Hualien City, at a depth of 34.8 kilometres.

“I wanted to run out, but I wasn’t dressed. That was so strong,” said Kelvin Hwang, a guest at a hotel in the capital, Taipei, who sought shelter in the lift lobby on the ninth floor.

Social media was awash with shared videos and images from around the country of buildings swaying as the quake struck.

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Dramatic images were shown on local TV of multi-storey structures in Hualien and elsewhere leaning over after it ended.

Roads to Hualien, a mountain-ringed coastal city of around 100,000 people were reported blocked by landslides.

The Central Emergency Operations Center said one person on a hiking trail was suspected to have been crushed to death by a dislodged boulder, adding nearly 60 people had been treated for quake-related injuries.

In Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, authorities initially issued a tsunami warning but by around 10 am (0200 GMT), the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the threat had “largely passed”.

In the capital, the metro briefly stopped running but resumed within an hour, while residents received warnings from their local borough chiefs to check for any gas leaks.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates, while nearby Japan experiences around 1,500 jolts every year.

Across the Taiwan Strait, social media users in China’s eastern province of Fujian, which borders the southern province of Guangdong, and elsewhere said they also felt strong tremors.

China, which sees self-ruled Taiwan as a renegade province, was “paying close attention” to the quake and “willing to provide disaster relief assistance,” state news agency Xinhua said.

The vast majority of quakes around the area are mild, although the damage they cause varies according to the depth of the epicentre below the Earth’s surface and its location.

The severity of tsunamis — vast and potentially destructive series of waves that can move at hundreds of kilometres per hour — also depends on multiple factors.

READ ALSO  Seven die in Indian train crash

Japan’s biggest earthquake on record was a massive 9.0-magnitude undersea jolt in March 2011 off Japan’s northeast coast, which triggered a tsunami that left around 18,500 people dead or missing.

The 2011 catastrophe also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan’s worst post-war disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Japan saw a major quake on New Year’s Day this year when a 7.5-magnitude tremor hit the Noto Peninsula and killed more than 230 people, many of them when older buildings collapsed.

Source: PUNCH NEWS

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Seven die in Indian train crash

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Seven die in Indian train crash

At least seven people were killed when an express passenger train and a goods train collided on Monday in India’s West Bengal state, derailing three passenger carriages, police said.

Images on Indian broadcasters showed the tangled wreckage of carriages flipped on their side, and one thrust high into the air precariously balanced on another.

Police said rescuers were scouring the twisted carriages in case there were more bodies trapped beneath.

“We have confirmation of seven deaths and 39 passengers admitted at a local hospital with various injuries,” local police officer Iftikar-Ul-Hassan told AFP.

The incident is the latest to hit India’s creaking rail network, which carries millions of passengers daily.

“We just saw the bodies of a dead driver and a guard… their bodies were taken out,” Rajesh Kumar Singh, from the Railway Protection Force, told AFP.

“Some more bodies may be under the crash site, but we don’t yet know for sure.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to “those who lost their loved ones”, in a post on social media, adding that “rescue operations are underway”.

‘Tragic’

West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called the crash “tragic” in a post on social media.

“Doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery and medical assistance,” Banerjee said. “Action on war footing initiated.”

Banerjee said the crash took place in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district, when the Kanchenjunga Express train was hit by a goods train.

Railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the “injured are being shifted to the hospital”.

READ ALSO  US soldier pleads ‘partially’ guilty in Russian theft case

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks and has seen several disasters over the years, the worst in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.

In June last year, a three-train collision killed nearly 300 people in Odisha state.

In recent years, India has been investing huge sums of money to upgrade the network with modern stations and electronic signalling systems.

On Sunday, a train crossed for the first time the world’s highest railway bridge — 359 metres (1178 feet) above a river — in India’s Himalayan region, the railways minister Vaishnaw said.

The arch-shaped steel structure over the Chenab River links sections of northern Jammu and Kashmir state, connecting the disputed territory to the rest of India.

Work on the railway track has been ongoing for nearly three decades, and the trial run comes ahead of a formal opening expected within weeks.

Source: The Punch

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US soldier pleads ‘partially’ guilty in Russian theft case

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US soldier pleads ‘partially’ guilty in Russian theft case

A US soldier held in Russia denied threatening a Russian woman with murder while also pleading “partially” guilty to theft in a court in the far eastern city of Vladivostok Monday.

Gordon Black was arrested in early May in Vladivostok, where he was visiting a Russian woman he met and dated while serving in South Korea.
He is the latest US citizen to be held in Russia.

The 34-year-old was detained after the woman, named by Russian media as Alexandra Vashuk, reported him to the police after an argument.

Russian media quoted Black as saying he was “partially guilty” of theft but that it was not premeditated, and that he was “not guilty” of allegedly threatening Vashuk with murder.

Vashuk had accused Black of allegedly stealing some 10,000 rubles (100 euros) from her and said he had physically attacked her.

Black said she had started an argument after drinking.

He said the pair met in October 2022 on the dating app Tinder in South Korea and had dated there, before Vashuk then invited him to come to Vladivostok.

He said he did not plan to take the money and intended to give it back, saying he took it because he could not access from Russia his money, held in a US bank.

The charges carry up to five years in prison.
Black has been kept in pre-trial detention since his arrest in May.

Source: The Punch

 

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

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UK records sharp decline in migration of students, foreign workers

The number of foreign workers and students moving to the United Kingdom has plummeted by nearly 30 per cent this year, according to new figures released by the Home Office.

The drop, from 121,000 to 85,200 in the first five months of this year, aligns with both the Conservative and Labour parties’ promises to reduce net migration.

This marks the largest decline since the pandemic, with skilled workers, students, and health and care visa holders comprising the bulk of migration to the UK.

These three groups, along with their dependents, accounted for a total of 1.13 million visas issued last year.

The Telegraph reports that the decline is largely attributed to measures implemented by the government, including restrictions on foreign workers and students bringing dependants, increased salary thresholds for skilled workers, and curbs on the shortage of occupation visa schemes.

According to the data, net migration stands at 685,000 for the year ending December 2023, down from a record high of 764,000 in the previous year.

The Conservative government aims to reduce immigration by 300,000, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak vowing to “halve” migration and reduce it further each year if re-elected.

Labour’s manifesto also pledges to reduce net migration, although the party has not specified a target or timeline. The party proposes to link training to immigration, requiring sectors applying for foreign worker visas to first train British citizens.

Home Secretary James Cleverly attributed the decline to his actions, stating, “I took action to drive down legal migration.

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“Data released this week show visa applications have dropped 30 per cent amongst key routes. Labour opposed these actions at every opportunity. If you want to reduce migration, vote Conservative on 4th July,” he said in a tweet on his X handle.

The Migration Advisory Committee chairman, Prof Brian Bell, believes the Prime Minister has a “fighting chance” of reducing net migration to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.

The figures indicate a significant drop in visa applications across various categories, including a 25.4 per cent overall decrease in visas for foreign workers, students, and their dependants.

The number of dependents brought in by students fell by nearly 80 per cent, while health and care worker visa applications decreased by 75.6 per cent.

This development comes ahead of the July 4 election, with immigration policy playing a crucial role in the campaigns of both major parties.

Source: The Punch

 

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Biden pledges not to pardon son or reduce his sentence

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US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction

US President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon his son Hunter or commute any sentence following Hunter’s conviction on charges of lying about his drug addiction while buying a handgun.

“No,” Biden replied when reporters at a G7 summit press conference in Italy asked if he would commute any sentence that 54-year-old Hunter faces.

“I’m extremely proud of my son Hunter. He has overcome an addiction, he’s one of the brightest, most decent men I know,” Biden said.

“I said I’d abide by the jury decision. I will do that. I will not pardon him,” he said.

In the historic first criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child, a jury on Tuesday found Hunter Biden guilty on three felony counts stemming from his 2018 purchase of a handgun while addicted to crack cocaine.

He could face up to 25 years in prison, though as a first-time offender jail time is unlikely. A date was not set for sentencing but it is expected to take place in the next few months.

Biden said in a statement after the verdict that he loved his sole surviving son — his eldest son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015 — and would respect the jury’s conclusion.

But his comments in Italy on Thursday were his first public statement on the verdict.

The day before his Italy trip, Biden, 81, changed his schedule to fly to Wilmington, Delaware, the family hometown where the trial was held.

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Hunter Biden was waiting on the tarmac when Marine One landed and was given a warm hug by his father before they left in a motorcade.

The verdict came as Biden faces a tough re-election battle against Donald Trump, who himself recently became the first former president to become a convicted felon.

Trump was found guilty by a New York jury of breaching election law by lying about hush money payments to a porn star.

 

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

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U.S. issues 300 new sanctions that go after Russia’s war economy

The United States said yesterday it was imposing sanctions on more than 300 individuals and entities connected to Russia’s war on Ukraine, including financial institutions, the Moscow Stock Exchange, and Chinese companies.

The announcement came a day before U.S. President Joe Biden joins other Group of Seven (G7) leaders for a summit in the Italian city of Bari, in which the war in Ukraine is set to feature prominently.

The sweeping set of sanctions is chiefly focused on trade, finance, and industry.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions hit “across multiple sectors essential to Russia’s war effort,” including energy, metals, and mining production.

China was singled out for its support of Moscow.

“The United States remains concerned by the scale and breadth of exports from the People’s Republic of China that supply Russia’s military-industrial base,” Blinken’s statement said.

To that end, the U.S. is sanctioning Chinese companies that provide dual-use goods that “fill critical gaps in Russia’s defence production cycle,” he said.

It is not just China, however. Individuals and organisations in countries elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean are also subject to new restrictive measures.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Russia “is deeply isolated from the international financial system, leaving the Kremlin’s military desperate for access to the outside world.”

She said the sanctions go after critical supplies Russia needs from other countries.

Several Russian banks also saw their foreign locations put on blacklists to make it harder for financial transactions to be fulfilled.

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Other corners of Russia’s financial infrastructure were hit, including the Moscow Stock Exchange and two subsidiaries, and insurance and reinsurance providers.

Source: The Nation

 

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Hezbollah bombs Israel after top commander killed

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Hezbollah bombs Israel after top commander killed

Hezbollah launched nearly 200 rockets at northern occupied Palestinian territories yesterday, igniting fires in retaliation to the killing of a senior Hezbollah commander in southeastern Lebanon in a strike the previous evening.

The attacks raise concern that the military confrontation between the Israeli regime and Hezbollah is escalating, with both saying they are prepared for war.

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The Israeli military confirmed yesterday it had killed Taleb Abdullah as well as three other Hezbollah fighters in the strike.

It also said at least 90 rockets were fired from Lebanese territory as sirens sounded in dozens of settlements across the north of the occupied territories.

Source: The Nation

 

READ ALSO  Seven die in Indian train crash
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