Home' Greymouth Star : May 19th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Monday, May 19, 2014
Boats sailed through the streets
of a Serbian town on a mission
to rescue people trapped by rising
waters as the worst floods ever
recorded swept Serbia and Bosnia.
Some residents of Obrenovac,
30km south-west of the capital
Belgrade, were stranded on the
roofs of their homes, calling for
help. Prime Minister Aleksandar
Vucic said all 25,000 citizens would
have to be evacuated.
At least seven people have died in
the unfolding disaster. Thousands
have been evacuated from homes in
central and western areas of Serbia
and in neighbouring Bosnia.
About 135,000 households
were without power across Serbia
and the government approved
emergency electricity imports.
Another 65,000 were without
electricity in Bosnia.
“This is a catastrophe. Nature has
never been so cruel to us,” Serbian
Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic
The heaviest rains since records
began almost 120 years ago have hit
Serbia and Bosnia last week. Three
people, including a rescue worker,
drowned in Serbia. At least two
villagers died in landslides near the
northern Bosnian town of Bijeljina.
The deluge has made many
hillsides unstable in the
mountainous region. Several people
were injured when houses were
destroyed by a landslide on the edge
of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.
Bosnia’s Centre for the Removal
of Land Mines warned that mines
laid during the country’s 1992-95
war could be moved by floods and
In Bosnia, an army helicopter
evacuated a pregnant woman in
labour from her flooded house in
the town of Doboj and took her
to hospital in the central town of
Zenica. Low clouds and fog made
rescue efforts difficult.
In the village of Topcic Polje,
near Zenica, a landslide devoured
dozens of houses and water flooded
the main road.
Villagers fled on foot along
railway tracks with bags and babies
in their arms.
“The people are walking to
Zenica, all the roads are jammed,
we are stuck here and there is no
help from anyone,” villager Asim
Skopljak said by telephone from
Topcic Polje. “ There is no electricity
and no drinking water.”
Surges of high water were
expected to reach the major rivers
Sava and Danube, threatening
thousands more people and roads,
meteorologists in Serbia said.
Bosnia’s central government
appealed for international help.
Russian emergency teams with
rescue boats arrived in Serbia
on Friday and were heading
for Obrenovac to help with the
Israel, Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia,
Austria and Luxembourg have
pledged to send aid including
expert teams, water pumps,
helicopters and rescue boats.
The United States said it would
send 13 motor boats needed for
evacuations in Bosnia.
Poland also saw less severe
flooding after the torrential rains
across eastern Europe.
The road to the Slovak border
crossing in the southern village of
Leluchow was closed and dozens
of houses on the bank of the river
Poprad were inundated.
Some local trains were out of
ser vice, Poland’s state railways PKP
said. News agency PAP reported
that 21,000 people in the south had
no electricity. — Reuters
Serbia suffers worst floods for 120 years
People stand in their apartments as they wait to be evacuated in the flooded town of Obrenovac, south-west of Belgrade.
Police officers stand guard in front of a courthouse in Soma. Turkish police
have detained 18 people, including mining company executives and personnel, as
part of an investigation into last week’s mine disaster. A police official said local
prosecutors were questioning the company employees at the Soma courthouse.
A Turkish court overnight ordered
three suspects to be kept in custody on
a provisional charge of “causing multiple
deaths” in last week’s mine disaster, as
the last of the 301 victims were buried.
Of the remaining 22 people detained
earlier, six have been released but could
face prosecution later. Questioning of
the other 16 people was continuing.
The detentions came five days after
a fire sent deadly carbon monoxide
coursing through the mine in the
western Turkish town of Soma, causing
the county’s worst industrial accident in
The disaster has sparked protests across
Turkey, directed at mine owners accused
of ignoring safety for profit, and at Prime
Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government,
seen as too close to industry bosses and
insensitive in its response.
An initial report on the possible causes
of the accident indicated the fire may
have been triggered by coal heating up
after it came into contact with the air,
prosecutor Bekir Sahiner told reporters
outside the Soma courthouse, rejecting
initial reports that a transformer
explosion was responsible.
“The crime of which the suspects are
accused is causing multiple deaths and
injuries due to negligence,” he said.
The prosecutor did not identify the
three suspects kept in custody but media
reports said they were the plant manager
and two mine engineers.
Earlier, relatives of those detained
joined the crowd of reporters and
bystanders outside the courthouse in
“ We know that we have lost 301 loved
ones, but we have loved ones inside as
well,” the brother of one of the detained
engineers said. He declined to give his
Among those detained was the general
manager of the mining company,
Soma Madencilik, and the son of the
company ’s owner.
Erdogan has presided over a decade of
rapid economic growth but workplace
safety standards have failed to keep pace,
leaving Turkey with one of the world’s
worst industrial accident records.
The plant manager has denied
negligence at the mine, which was
inspected by State officials every six
The rescue operation at the coalmine
ended yesterday after the bodies of the
last two workers were carried out. They
were buried overnight.
Mourners cried and prayed beside a
line of recently-filled graves as one of
them was buried in Soma.
Holding their palms open to the sky,
around a thousand people said “amen”
in unison as a white-bearded imam, or
Muslim prayer leader, recited verses.
“My only wish and battle will be to
make sure Soma is not forgotten,” a
written note, signed “your brother”,
which was left on one grave along with
some flowers, read.
Ramazan, a worker from a mine near
the one where the accident occurred, was
among those paying his respects.
“My friend lost half of his family. And
for what? To make a living,” he said.
“Accidents can happen of course, but
it ’s an accident when one person, two
people die. When 300 people die, its not
an accident any more. ”
As the rescue operation wound up,
police put Soma on virtual lockdown,
setting up checkpoints and detaining
dozens of people to enforce a ban on
protests in response to clashes on Friday
between police and several thousand
Dozens of people were detained
yesterday as hundreds of riot police
patrolled the streets while others checked
identity cards at three checkpoints on
the approach road to Soma.
The checkpoints remained in place
overnight but those detained, including
eight lawyers from the Contemporary
Jurists Association, were released earlier,
media reports said.
There were fresh clashes between
police and demonstrators in Istanbul
and Ankara on Saturday night in protest
at the government ’s handling of the
disaster. Protesters again gathered in
both cities last night to voice their anger.
Erdogan’s opponents blame the
government for privatising leases at
turning them over to politically
connected businessmen who they say
may have skimped on safety to maximise
His ruling AK Party said the formerly
State-run mine at Soma, 480km south-
west of Istanbul, had been inspected 11
times over the past five years. It denied
any suggestion of loopholes in mining
safety regulations. — Reuters
The Obama administration is
teaming up with researchers from
Texas to intensify the battle against
a fungus that has caused $1 billion
in damage to coffee plants across
Latin America and the Caribbean,
United States foreign aid officials
The so-called leaf rust, or roya, is a
yellow and orange-coloured fungus
that has swept coffee fields from
Mexico to Peru over the past two
The plant disease is threatening to
stunt production and drive up the
price of Latin American roasts.
Especially hard hit have been
Central America’s arabica coffee
plants, which produce high-quality
beans used in espressos and gourmet
specialty blends that are in growing
demand in the US and elsewhere
around the world.
Moreover, the blight is jeopardising
the livelihood and food security of
about 500,000 people who make
their living in the coffee industry,
especially small farmers and seasonal
workers, according to the US Agency
Mass job losses could in turn
leave displaced coffee workers more
susceptible to the illegal drug trade
and associated violence in countries
such as Guatemala, Honduras and
El Salvador, agency spokesman
Matthew Herrick said overnight.
In a new programme to be formally
announced later today, USAID is
launching a $5 million partnership
with Texas A and M University’s
world coffee research that seeks to
eradicate the fungus, the agency said
in a statement.
The partnership will support
research to develop rust-resistant
coffee varieties and expand the
capability of the Latin America’s
coffee institutions to monitor and
respond to outbreaks of the blight,
“The current coffee rust outbreak is
the worst in Latin America’s history,”
the agency said in its statement. “It
is estimated that production will fall
by as much as 15-40% in the coming
Sharply falling production yields
would likely result in US consumers
paying more for their favourite roasts
at the local grocery store and coffee
shops, officials said.
The programme with Texas
administration’s Feed the Future
initiative, a global anti-hunger and
anti-poverty effort that USAID
said has reached seven million small
farmers and 12.5 million children.
The latest USAID effort brings
to $14m the sum invested by the
agency in the fight against coffee rust,
officials said. — Reuters
Fungus hits coffee plantations
Nigeria and its neighbours have vowed
to join forces against Boko Haram under
an accord described as a declaration of
war on the Islamic militants holding
more than 200 schoolgirls.
Meeting in Paris, Nigerian President
Goodluck Jonathan and his counterparts
from Benin, Chad, Cameroon and Niger
approved an action plan to counter an
organisation that has been blamed for
2000 deaths this year as well as last
month’s abduction of the schoolgirls
from northeastern Nigeria.
Underlining their threat, Boko Haram
was suspected of carrying out another
attack on the eve of the summit, killing
one Cameroonian soldier and kidnapping
10 Chinese workers in Cameroon.
“ We have seen what this organisation
is capable of,” French President Francois
Hollande said yesterday.
“They have threatened civilians, they
have attacked schools and they have
kidnapped citizens of many countries.
France in particular has been a victim of
“ When more than 200 young girls are
being held in barbaric conditions with
the prospect of being sold into slavery,
there are no questions to be asked, only
actions to be taken,” Hollande added.
The action plan will involve co-
ordination of sur veillance efforts aimed
at finding the girls, the sharing of
intelligence and joint efforts to secure the
porous borders in the region, according
to the summit’s conclusions.
In the longer term, the countries
agreed to forge a regional counter-
terrorism strategy under the auspices
of the existing but barely active Lake
Chad Basin Commission, with technical
expertise and training support from
Britain, France, the European Union and
the United States.
The countries also agreed to push for
UN sanctions against the leaders of Boko
Haram and another Nigerian Islamist
Britain will host a follow-up meeting
on implementation of the action plan
Nigeria’s Jonathan, who has been
criticised for what many see as a lacklustre
response to the girls’ abduction, said he
was committed to returning them to
their distraught families. “ We are totally
committed to finding the girls, wherever
they are,” Jonathan said. “ We’ve been
scanning these areas with sur veillance
aircraft,” he added. — AFP
An album of previously-unreleased
songs by United States singer Michael
Jackson entered the British album
chart at No 1 overnight, almost five
years after his death, the Official
Charts Company said.
Xscape, a collection of eight songs
recorded between 1983 and 1999, is
the 10th album by Jackson to top the
British charts. Several high-profile
producers worked on Jackson’s original
recordings for the album.
Jackson, known as the “King of Pop”
and one of the most influential artists
in music, having sold a billion records
worldwide, died in 2009 at 50 in
Los Angeles from an overdose of the
Xscape outsold Turn Blue by
the Black Keys which debuted at
No 2. Paloma Faith’s A Perfect
Contradiction rose one place to third
while Paolo Nutini dropped to fourth
place with Caustic Love. Glorious by
Foxes completed the top five.
In the singles chart, Rita Ora’s newly
released song I Will Never Let You
Down claimed the top spot, knocking
last week’s No 1 Waves by Mr Probz
into second position. Ora’s partner
Calvin Harris dropped to fourth place
with his song Summer.
John Legend’s All Of Me charted at
No 3 and Hideaway by Kiesza fell two
places to No 5. — Reuters
Jackson tops char ts from the grave
Minority ethic Tamils said
overnight they had been banned
from commemorating the deaths of
their relatives five years ago in the
final battle of a 26-year war with Sri
Lanka’s military, a charge denied by
Rajapaksa, who is under international
pressure to investigate war crimes in
the battle, watched a victory parade
in the south of the island, Tamils said
they had been barred from attending
Hindu temples in the north.
Ananthi Sasitharan, wife of a rebel
leader missing since his Tamil Tiger
separatists surrendered to the army on
May 18, 2009, said the military used
“abusive language” when she tried to
enter the temple in Keerimalai.
“They didn’t allow me to Keerimalai
Hindu temple to conduct my usual
rituals to remember my relatives
killed in the war and my husband.
This is a blatant human rights
violation. It exposes the government ’s
heavy military control over Tamil
civilians,” she said.
Five other residents also said they
had been banned, but declined to be
identified due to possible reprisals.
They said security was tightened
across the northern Jaffna peninsula,
with roads closed to prevent any
commemorative events. They said the
military had ordered Tamils not to
hold any commemorations.
Wanigasooriya said families had
not been barred from their rites, but
some additional security had been
established to maintain stability as
some parties were trying to create
what he described as an “unwanted
“There was no prevention of
individual families commemorating
their dead. O ur concern was
mainly about any organised move
to politically incite people and ...
commemorating terrorists would not
be allowed,” he said.
Wanigasooriya said the military
saw some Tamil families obser ving
religious rituals in temples, including
While both sides mark the end
of the war every year, this fifth
anniversary comes after the main
ethnic Tamil party secured a landslide
in a provincial poll in September,
rekindling the animosity between the
The Tamil National Alliance, the
former political proxy of the defeated
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam,
won 30 seats in the 38-member
council in the former northern war
The TNA victory showed the defeat
of the rebels in 2009 did nothing to
subdue calls for autonomy among
Tamils, who make up about 14% of
Sri Lanka’s 20 million people.
“ When we are suffering with the
loss of lives and other properties,
how can this government justify
their victory?” Sasitharan, a TNA
More than 100,000 people were
killed in the war and thousands,
mainly from the minority Tamil
community living mostly in the
north, are still missing.
The United Nations in March
approved an international probe into
the war crimes allegedly committed
by both Sri Lankan State forces and
Tamil rebels during the conflict,
saying the government had failed to
A UN panel has said around
40,000 mainly Tamil civilians died
in the ferocious final months of the
conflict, but Sri Lanka has disputed
that figure. Both sides committed
atrocities, but army shelling killed
most victims, it concluded.
marking the victory, Rajapaksa went
ahead with the celebrations in the
town of Matara.
“ We celebrate the victory of peace
and not the victory of war. The best
way of respecting the war heroes is
maintaining the peace,” Rajapaksa
told the victory day celebration.
Tamils allege ban on war commemorations
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth sent a
message to the Church of Scotland
on Saturday, recognising the role it
can play in helping to heal divisions
opened up by the increasingly bitter
debate over Scottish independence.
Queen Elizabeth, 88, who
celebrated 60 years on the throne
in 2012, has not publicly entered
the political debate on whether
Scotland should end its 307-year-
old union with England and leave
the United Kingdom.
However, if a majority of Scots
vote in favour of independence in
September, Scottish leader Alex
Salmond has said he wants to keep
the Queen as head of State.
Polling shows most voters are still
against independence but the gap
between the two camps is gradually
shrinking and the temperature of
With both sides of the political
divide voicing concern about online
abuse and threats, the Church of
Scotland has said a healing process
needs to start now to stop the
divisions damaging Scottish society
after the referendum.
The Church said the Queen had
sent a message to the new moderator
(chairman) of its General Assembly,
the Right Reverend John Chalmers,
which was read out at his installation
in Edinburgh on Saturday.
It read: “In this important year of
referendum, we pray that whatever
the outcome, people of faith and
people of good will, will work
together for the social good of
“ We recognise too the important
role the Church can play in holding
the people of Scotland together, in
healing division and safeguarding
the interests of the most vulnerable.”
Although Elizabeth is supreme
governor of the Church of
England, she does not have that
role in Scotland. She has the right
to attend its governing General
Assembly but not to take part in its
“The Q ueen maintains warm
relations with the Church of
Scotland, where she worships when
in Scotland, and from which the
chaplains of the Royal Household
in Scotland are appointed,” the
Church says on its website.
Queen urges church to heal
Prime minister-elect Narendra Modi
has summoned senior figures from his
Hindu nationalist party for talks on
building a new government that is set to
steer India sharply to the right.
Modi was holding meetings in New
Delhi with his closest aides as well
as national and state leaders of his
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) overnight
after storming to power at general
elections with a strong mandate for
A day after parties, street parades and
religious ceremonies were staged around
the country to celebrate the BJP’s
landslide election victory, Modi was
behind closed doors working on forming
his new cabinet.
B S Yeddyurappa, a BJP leader from
the southern State of Karnataka, was
among the first to meet Modi at Gujarat
House in Delhi as rounds of negotiations
for plum posts got under way, television
footage showed. — AFP
(Further story, p4)
Modi in talks on cabinet posts
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