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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