Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christians Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Christian worshipers light candles inside the Church of Nativity, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 24 Dec 2008

It is a festive Christmas Eve in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Palestinian boy and girl scouts marched through Manger Square in Bethlehem, kicking off Christmas Eve celebrations.
They marched past the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, with Palestinian flags waving overhead. Religious celebrations began with the arrival of the Latin Patriarch, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land.
Monks and priests in white robes held a solemn procession into the church, as thousands of Palestinians and pilgrims from around the world looked on.Preston Moore came from the midwestern U.S. state of Illinois.
"It is a great experience, wonderful. Feel jubilation, peace, a new hope for a new year," he said.
By Robert Berger Bethlehem
24 December 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

SINGAPORE: The world’s largest observation wheel, the Singapore Flyer, will be closed until investigations into Tuesday’s incident are complete.

A major power disruption left 173 passengers stranded for about six hours.

Police say operations will be allowed to resume once the ride is certified safe.
Trapped passengers were able to leave their capsules after the Singapore Flyer resumed rotating at about 11:11pm (1511 GMT) on Tuesday.

Earlier, a few passengers were lowered down to safety in a sling—like device from one of the observation capsules.

A 70—year—old woman complaining of dizziness, and a boy who vomited were taken to hospital, said Lieutenant Colonel N. Subhas, of the paramedic and fire service.
A spokeswoman for the attraction said about 173 people were onboard the wheel when a short circuit in one of the drive motors occurred at around 5:00pm.
At least five passengers were lifted through the hatch on top of each capsule and winched to the ground by a private rescue firm engaged by Singapore Flyer.
The Flyer’s technical team managed to isolate the problem and restored electricity, including the air—conditioning, to the capsules. The team also worked with the Singapore Civil Defence Force to resolve the problem.

Those stranded were provided with food and drink.

Mr Steven Yeo, General Manager of the Singapore Flyer, said: "At 4.50pm, we experienced an electrical problem on our drive unit number 1, north unit, which caused several of our electrical supplies to be cut. The defect has actually been isolated. We found it to be the drive unit itself. The rest of the wheel, the rest of the supply, is in full functioning order at the moment."

A passenger who was stuck in one of the capsules said there was a sudden jerk before the wheel stopped turning. An announcement a few minutes later said there was a technical error.
Madam Lim Boon Siang, a passenger stuck in one of the capsules, said: "About 4.30pm or 4.15pm, after we passed the maximum altitude, it suddenly jerked to a stop, and then for a good five to 10 minutes, we waited.

"We thought that this could be something normal. And then there was a message that came in that said that it has stopped temporary. Everybody was calm, but initially the air—con was switched off, so it was very hot due to the evening sun. They opened up the air ventilator, and the air—con is working now."

She said there were about 10 other people, including children, in her cabin.
The spokesperson said: "Their safety was never at risk while they were in the capsules. Every capsule is equipped with an intercom system which is linked to the control room — for passengers and the control room personnel to communicate.

"Our staff promptly informed passengers of the situation and reassured them that measures were being taken to fix the technical problem. There are also surveillance cameras installed in every capsule for the operations team to monitor what is going on in all capsules."
Singapore Flyer has reimbursed all affected passengers for their tickets and is making alternative transport arrangements for travellers who missed their flights to Europe and coaches to Malaysia.

A ride on the 165—metre tall wheel, about 42 storeys high, typically takes half an hour and each capsule can take up to 28 people.
Since the Flyer became operational in February this year, this is the third time it has encountered problems.

The last time a technical glitch occurred was just three weeks ago, on December 4. The wheel was stuck for nearly five hours due to extreme weather conditions and some 70 people were affected. In July, the Flyer stopped due to a minor fault in the braking system.
Unlike cramped, old—style Ferris wheel carriages that hang in the open air, the Singapore Flyer and other large observation wheels feature fixed "capsules".

The 28 sleek—looking capsules — about the size of a city bus — can hold up to 28 people, and passengers can walk around during the slowly—moving ride.

The Singapore Flyer, worth about S$240 million (US$171 million), was a private venture backed mainly by German investors and built by Mitsubishi Corp and Takenaka Corp of Japan.
Singapore—based Great Wheel Corp is also building wheels in Beijing and Berlin, which will edge out the Singapore Flyer as the world’s biggest when they begin turning in about two years, the chairman of Singapore Flyer, Florian Bollen, said before the attraction opened. — AFP/CNA/vm/de

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Its Finally Over!

MUMBAI (AFP) - - Indian commandos on Saturday killed the last remaining gunmen in Mumbai's Taj hotel to end a devastating attack by Islamic militants on India's financial capital that left 195 dead, including 26 foreigners.

Shortly after dawn on the third day of the siege, heavy gunfire and loud explosions signalled the final commando offensive against the militants, who had held hundreds of security personnel at bay for 60 hours.

"All operations are over. All the terrorists have been killed," Mumbai police chief Hassan Gafoor said, as the special forces units emerged from the smoke-filled hotel and firemen moved in to douse a fierce blaze.

On Friday, elite troops had stormed a Mumbai Jewish centre and killed two gunmen -- but also found six dead Israeli hostages, including a US-based rabbi and his wife, who were murdered as the commandos closed in.

Another luxury hotel that was attacked, the Oberoi/Trident, was declared clear of militants late Friday, with scores of trapped guests rescued and 24 bodies found.
"They were the kind of people with no remorse -- anybody and whomsoever came in front of them they fired at," an Indian commando said of the young gunmen.
The head of the commando forces, J.K. Dutt, said his men were conducting a final sweep of the battle-scarred Taj.

"We are now going through each and every room to make sure it is safe," Dutt said, appealing to any guests still hidden in the hotel to make themselves known.
Mumbai disaster official R. Jadhav told AFP that 195 people had been killed and nearly 300 injured in the battle, which began when the dozen or so militants split into groups to attack multiple targets across the city, including the main railway station and a hospital.
TV channels described the attacks as "India's 9/11."

There were concerns that the death toll could rise as emergency services combed the warren of rooms at the main siege sites for more bodies.

The 26 foreigners killed included a total of eight Israelis, five Americans, two French nationals, two Australians, two Canadians, a German, a Japanese, a British Cypriot, an Italian, a Singaporean , a Thai and a Mauritian.

Around 15 security personnel were killed, including the head of Mumbai's anti-terrorist squad who was cremated with full honours Saturday at a funeral attended by thousands.
Eleven militants were confirmed dead and one captured. Indian intelligence sources said the detained gunman had confessed to coming from Pakistan.

One group entered Mumbai by boat, while others were believed to have rented property in the city -- stockpiling arms and explosives -- before the attacks were launched.
The crisis risked escalating into a major stand-off between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan , with Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying that "some elements in Pakistan" were responsible for the assault.

A number of Indian officials suggested the militants were from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba -- notorious for a deadly assault on the Indian parliament in 2001 that pushed New Delhi and Islamabad to the edge of war.
Pakistani leaders insisted their government had nothing to do with the attacks and appealed to India not to get drawn into a dangerous "blame game."

The two countries have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
Survivors have given terrifying accounts of the carnage in the hotels. Many said they hid in the dark for hours, barricaded in rooms or hiding under beds, inside wardrobes or bathrooms.
"I cannot believe what I have seen in the last 36 hours. I have seen dead bodies, blood everywhere and only heard gunshots," said Muneer Al Mahaj after he was rescued.
South African security guard Faisul Nagel was having dinner with colleagues at a restaurant in the Taj hotel when the assault began.

"We basically put the lights off in the restaurant just to create an element of surprise. And we armed ourselves with kitchen knives and meat cleavers," he told AFP.
They ended up helping around 120 people escape -- including a 90-year-old woman carried in her chair down 25 flights of stairs.

Television footage of the inside of the hotel showed half-eaten meals left on tables as diners fled for their lives. The restaurant walls were pockmarked with bullet holes and the floor covered with a thick layer of glass.

Witnesses said the attackers had specifically rounded up people with US and British passports.
Both the United States and Britain expressed condolences and offered to help investigate the assault on Mumbai, which has been hit by terror attacks before. Nearly 190 people were killed in train bombings in 2006.

India's newspapers laid much of the blame at the door of the intelligence agencies.

Friday, November 28, 2008

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Mumbai Attacks - Special Report

Singaporean held hostage at Mumbai's Oberoi Hotel killedBy Ca-Mie De Souza, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 28 November 2008 2151 hrs

"Indian National Security Guards (NSG) commandos prepare to attack from the rooftop of Nariman House in Mumbai

Mumbai Attacks - Special Report
SINGAPORE: Singapore's Foreign Ministry says the Singaporean Chinese woman held hostage at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai has been killed. Speaking at a news conference at the Ministry, Director of the Consular Directorate Jai Sohan Singh said they were told at 9:35pm Singapore time that she died tragically. This was after her husband, who had flown up to Mumbai, made a final confirmation of her identity. She is 28-year-old Lo Hwei Yen, a lawyer at a Singapore-based offshore law firm, who was in Mumbai on a working trip. Indian authorities had found her body on the 19th floor of the hotel. The Singapore Foreign Ministry is helping the family to make arrangements to bring back the body. The Foreign Ministry confirms there are no more Singaporeans stranded in any of the hotels in the Indian financial capital which was hit by coordinated terror attacks on Wednesday night. 115 Singaporeans were known to be in Mumbai either for work or leisure during the attacks that have killed some 130 people. Meanwhile, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has expressed his sadness over the death of Ms Lo. He knows the family and had attended her wedding last year. Upon learning the tragic news, SM Goh went to visit the family who were in a state of shock. "Unfortunately, what we feared came true," Mr Goh told reporters. - CNA/ir

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


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