- North Korea releases detained Chinese fishing boat, owner says
- Guatemala court annuls Rios Montt genocide conviction
- Monster tornado devastates Oklahoma town; at least 51 dead
Posted: 20 May 2013 06:58 PM PDT
BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea released a Chinese fishing boat on Tuesday after it was taken from waters between the two countries, the boat's owner said, in an incident that had proved a new irritant in ties between the often uneasy allies.
Chinese counsellor to North Korea Jiang Yaxian had told state media earlier that North Korea had "grabbed" the private vessel from off the northern city of Dalian in waters between China and the Korean peninsula.
Other Chinese state media quoted the owner of the missing boat, Yu Xuejun, as saying North Korea was demanding 600,000 yuan ($97,600) for its safe return, along with its 16 crew.
Yu told Chinese media the boat had been snatched on the evening of May 5 and he had approached Chinese authorities five days later to ask them to intervene.
Tensions have been mounting between North Korea and China, Pyongyang's most important economic and political backer. Some Chinese banks have frozen out North Korea's main foreign exchange bank amid frustration in Beijing over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
Speaking to Reuters by telephone, boat owner Yu said his vessel was released early on Tuesday and they had not paid the North Koreans any money.
"The Chinese foreign ministry coordinated with them, so we do not know any details so far," he said in a brief interview.
The case has been widely discussed on China's Twitter-like service Sina Weibo, with angry comments directed at North Korea.
In an editorial on Tuesday published before news of the release, the influential Chinese tabloid the Global Times said China should reduce its aid to North Korea if it continued such behaviour.
"If North Korea continues to go rogue, China should take actions to push it toward a more measured response," the newspaper, published by the Communist Party's official People's Daily, said in an editorial.
"If it is difficult to teach North Korea in words, we can make it understand in deeds."
This is not the first time Chinese vessels have been held by North Korea. A year ago, the impoverished North held a number of boats and fishermen for two weeks before releasing them.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Huang Yan and Maxim Duncan; Editing by Paul Tait)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 20 May 2013 06:56 PM PDT
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Guatemala's constitutional court on Monday overturned a genocide conviction against former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, throwing out all proceedings in his case since a dispute broke out last month over who should hear it.
Rios Montt was found guilty on May 10 of overseeing the deliberate killings by the armed forces of at least 1,771 members of the Maya Ixil population during his 1982-83 rule. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
But the constitutional court said it had thrown out all proceedings in the case dating back until April 19. It was then that the trial against Rios Montt was suspended after a spat between judges over who should take the case.
(Reporting by Mike McDonald; Editing by Dave Graham)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 20 May 2013 06:49 PM PDT
MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) - A massive tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday, killing at least 51 people with winds of up to 200 miles per hour (320 kph) that flattened entire tracts of homes, two schools and a hospital, leaving a wake of tangled wreckage.
Rescue workers raced against the setting sun to find survivors in Oklahoma as the dangerous storm system threatened as many as 10 U.S. states with more twisters.
The Oklahoma medical examiner confirmed 51 deaths, making it the deadliest U.S. tornado since one killed 161 people in Joplin, Missouri, two years ago, according to the National Weather Service. There were 70 reported deaths in all of 2012.
Some 20 to 30 school children were missing and feared dead beneath the rubble, KFOR television reported, citing unnamed officials from the scene.
Police and fire crews pulled third-graders from the devastated Plaza Towers Elementary school in Moore, a KFOR television reporter said from the scene, and aerial video showed teams sifting through the rubble left behind.
"I have never seen anything like this in my 18 years covering tornadoes here in Oklahoma City. This is without question the most horrific," said Lance West, a reporter for KFOR.
The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center provided the town with a warning 16 minutes before the tornado touched down at 3:01 p.m. local time (2001 GMT), which is greater than the average eight to 10 minutes of warning, said Keli Pirtle, a spokeswoman for the centre in Norman, Oklahoma.
The notice was upgraded to emergency warning with "heightened language" at 2:56 p.m., or five minutes before the tornado touched down, Pirtle said.
'A DEBRIS FIELD'
Television images showed blocks of homes levelled by the powerful tornado, cars piled atop one another and buildings on fire.
The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph (320 kph).
Briarwood Elementary School, which also stood in the storm's path, was all but destroyed. On the first floor, sections of walls had been peeled away, affording clear views into the building, while in other areas, cars hurled by the storm winds were lodged in the walls.
While the school was a wreck, nearby playground equipment stood undamaged, though littered with rubble.
Across the street, people picked through the remains of their homes, looking for any possessions they might salvage.
At least 45 people were injured, according to officials of four hospitals.
"They (injured) are coming in minute by minute," said Integris Southwest Medical Center spokeswoman Brooke Cayot. Of the 19 injured there, seven were in critical condition, seven serious and five listed as fair or good, Cayot said.
The University of Oklahoma Medical Center had received at least 20 injured. St. Anthony Healthplex South in Oklahoma City said it received four patients and Midwest Regional received four.
Moore Medical Center sustained significant damage.
"The whole city looks like a debris field," Glenn Lewis, the mayor of Moore, told NBC.
"It looks like we have lost our hospital. I drove by there a while ago and it's pretty much destroyed," Lewis said.
Fire, rescue and emergency medical teams from across the state converged on Moore, and members of the National Guard, activated by Governor Mary Fallin, were on the scene, said Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.
"They are going to going to go house to house, building to building to determine whether anyone is trapped," Watkins said. "If anyone is trapped we want to begin pulling them out as quickly as possible."
The massive twister struck at the height of tornado season, and more were forecast. On Sunday, tornadoes killed two people and injured 39 in Oklahoma.
Witnesses said Monday's tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the region on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5, meaning it had winds over 200 mph (320 kph).
The 1999 event ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today's dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly.
The National Weather Service predicted a 10 percent chance of tornadoes in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. It said parts of four other states - Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa - have a 5 percent risk of tornadoes.
The area at greatest risk includes Joplin, which on Wednesday will mark two years since the tornado that killed 161 people.
(Additional reporting by Lindsay Morris, Carey Gillam, Nick Carey, Brendan O'Brien and Greg McCune; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jim Loney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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