Selasa, 31 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Giant yellow duck explodes in Taiwan...again

Posted: 31 Dec 2013 01:26 AM PST

TAIPEI: A giant yellow duck on display in a northern Taiwan port exploded Tuesday, just hours before it was expected to attract a big crowd to count down the new year.

The 18-metre-tall (59-feet) duck on show at Keelung burst around noon and deflated into a floating yellow disc, only 11 days after it went on display.

It was the second time that a giant inflatable duck - a bath toy replica created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman - had burst while on show in Taiwan.

"We want to apologise to the fans of the yellow rubber duck.... the weather is fine today and we haven't found the cause of the problem. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause," organiser Huang Jing-tai told reporters.

Organisers had planned to stay open past midnight Tuesday in anticipation of a large new year crowd.

The Central News Agency cited an eyewitness as saying the rubber bird might have fallen victim to eagles which scratched it with their claws.

Three Taiwanese cities exhibited their versions of the yellow duck in 2013. But all were forced temporarily to suspend the exhibit due to bad weather or damage.

Last month the duck on display in the northern county of Taoyuan became a high-profile victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which triggered a power outage that caused it to deflate when an air pump stopped working.

Powerful winds caused the duck's rear end to burst while it was being re-inflated. Organisers in Taoyuan had to borrow another duck commissioned by the Kaohsiung city government to continue the show.

The duck at Kaohsiung, which attracted four million visitors during a one-month display, was temporarily deflated and lifted ashore as a safety precaution when Typhoon Usagi pounded the island in September.

Since 2007 the original duck designed by Hofman - which is 16.5 metres tall - has travelled to 13 cities in nine countries, including Brazil, Australia and Hong Kong, on its journey around the world. -AFP

Bangladesh orders arrest of factory owners for deadly fire

Posted: 31 Dec 2013 01:07 AM PST

DHAKA: A Bangladesh court Tuesday ordered the arrest of owners of a garment factory where 111 workers were killed last year in the country's worst such fire, after police laid charges.

The court in Dhaka issued the warrants for Delwar Hossain and his wife Mahmuda Akter and four others over the blaze that gutted the Tazreen factory where workers stitched clothes for Western retailers including Walmart.

Senior judicial magistrate Wasim Sheikh gave the order after declaring all six "fugitives" for failing to appear in court over charges laid by police earlier this month against 13 people over the tragedy, a prosecutor said. 

The magistrate formally accepted the charges against the 13 including the owners, factory managers and security guards, who all face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

"Dhaka's senior judicial magistrate Wasim Sheikh issued the warrants of arrest against the two fugitive owners ... and four other company officials for the Tazreen factory fire," prosecutor Anwarul Kabir told AFP.

"The owners and 11 others have been charged with arson, culpable homicide not amounting to murder and death by negligence," Kabir said. Seven of those charged were in court or in custody.

The fire, the country's deadliest at a garment factory, highlighted appalling safety problems in the sector, a mainstay of the economy, where about four million workers toil for some of the lowest sector wages in the world.

The country suffered an even greater tragedy just months later in April when the Rana Plaza garment factory complex collapsed in Dhaka's outskirts, killing 1,135 people in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

The arrest order signals a toughening stand by local authorities against influential garment manufacturers, who openly flout safety rules for Bangladesh's 4,500 garment factories, where deadly accidents are common.

Police last week said it was possibly the first time an owner has been charged over a fire in the sector, which accounts for up to 80 percent of the impoverished country's exports.

Delwar Hossain, who since the tragedy has been barred from leaving the country, has been accused of breaching construction rules including building unsafe and narrow staircases in the nine-storey building.

Hossain, who is the managing director of the factory and his wife the chairperson, could not be contacted for comment despite several calls to his mobile phone numbers.

Victims of the November 2012 fire, mostly women who were paid as little as $37 a month, found themselves overcome by smoke or were forced to jump from windows on upper floors, police have said.

Managers and security guards were charged over their insistence workers return to their duties even though smoke was billowing from the ground floor where the fire started, according to a police investigation report.

The factory, in the Ashulia industrial district, supplied clothes to a variety of international brands including US giant Walmart, Dutch retailer C&A and ENYCE, a label owned by US rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs. 

Some of the retailers have refused to compensate some 200 workers injured in the fire and families of workers killed, arguing that their orders to suppliers for garments were illegally diverted to the Tazreen factory.

Despite the charges and the arrest warrants, unions said it was unlikely the owners would face tough punishment, predicting that the case would drag on for years.

The industry is the world's second largest after China and factory owners themselves - many of whom are also lawmakers and owners of banks and insurers - wield great influence in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh pledged to clean up the industry after the Rana Plaza disaster and more than 100 top Western retailers have signed up to new safety agreements to allow greater scrutiny of their operations.

The government last month raised minimum wages for workers by 76 percent and launched inspections of factories in the wake of mounting criticism that authorities were failing to improve the sector.

The new minimum wage of $68 a month still makes Bangladesh one of the lowest paid garment sectors in the world, according to activists. -AFP

19,000 Indonesians flee erupting volcano

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 08:55 PM PST

SINABUNG (Indonesia) (AFP) - More than 19,000 people have been displaced by a volcano in Indonesia that has been erupting for months and shot lava into the air nine times overnight, an official said Tuesday. 

Mount Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra sent hot rocks and ash 7,000m (23,000 feet) in the air Monday night and Tuesday morning, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. 

"Mount Sinabung remains on the highest alert level and we have warned there should be no human activity within a five-kilometre (three-mile) radius of the crater," Nugroho said. 

"On Monday night, 19,126 people had fled their homes, and we expect that number to rise," he said.

Police and soldiers were patrolling the danger zone to evacuate people who have chosen to stay in their homes, Nugroho said. 

Mount Sinabung - one of dozens of active volcanoes in Indonesia which straddles major tectonic fault lines, known as the Ring of Fire - erupted in September for the first time since 2010 and has been rumbling ever since. 

In August, five people were killed and hundreds evacuated when a volcano on a tiny island in East Nusa Tenggara province erupted. 

The country's most active volcano, Mount Merapi in central Java, killed more than 350 people in a series of violent eruptions in 2010.

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