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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Flights cancelled as heavy snow hits Tokyo

Posted: 07 Feb 2014 08:11 PM PST

TOKYO, Feb 08, 2014 (AFP) - Heavy snow struck Tokyo and other areas across Japan on Saturday, grounding nearly 300 flights and suspending some train services as the weather agency issued a severe storm warning for the capital.

Local media reported that at least 43 people were injured due to snow-related accidents.

As much as four centimetres (1.6 inches) of snow was recorded Saturday morning in Tokyo, with a rapidly developing low pressure front heading toward eastern Japan, the meteorological agency said.

Employees were hurriedly removing snow from the pavement in front of their shops and restaurants in Tokyo's bustling Ginza district.

Television footage showed hundreds of passengers queuing for reimbursement or a change of flights at Tokyo's Haneda airport with departure boards indicating the cancellation of many flights.

Further snowfall is expected Saturday afternoon in Tokyo, with up to 20 centimetres of snow expected, the weather agency said.

A bullet train leaves JR Tokyo Station in the snow on February 8, 2014. Wide areas of Japan were hit by snowfall with central Tokyo covered with snow in the morning. - AFP

A bullet train leaves JR Tokyo Station in the snow on February 8, 2014. Wide areas of Japan were hit by snowfall with central Tokyo covered with snow in the morning.  - AFP

The agency issued a heavy snow warning for Tokyo, the first such warning for the capital in 13 years, calling on residents not to go out unless necessary.

Japan Airlines cancelled 265 domestic flights on Saturday due to heavy snow, public broadcaster NHK said.

All Nippon Airways separately cancelled 33 flights, a company spokesman said, adding that more cancellations were expected Saturday afternoon.

Airports in the western cities of Hiroshima and Kagawa were closed as operators were removing snow from the runways.

Railway operators temporarily suspended services of Shinkansen bullet trains in western Japan, NHK said.

Some sections of expressways in central Japan were also closed due to the snow, Kyodo News said.

In Tokyo, several universities delayed the starting times of their entrance examinations for the new academic year that begins in April, Kyodo added.

26 vie to be first Singaporean to fly into space

Posted: 07 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

A 15-YEAR-OLD girl, a former soldier who has climbed Mount Everest and Singapore Airlines (SIA) pilots are among 26 Singaporeans vying to become the first citizen to pilot a craft into near space – more than 20km above sea level.

Seven of them were picked to face the nation for the first time yesterday at the Global Space & Technology Convention held at Sheraton To­­wers.

Whittled down from an initial list of 126 are 22 men, 20 of whom are currently pilots for SIA. The women include two Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates and a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the United States.

One of the 26 will be chosen by April next year to be launched into the atmosphere on National Day, Aug 9, 2015 – Singapore's 50th birthday – according to plans by the Science Centre Board, the Singapore Space and Technology Association, and IN.Genius, a local firm focusing on high-tech energy solutions.

The project is privately funded and has not received backing from the Government, though organisers still hope to secure this. They have so far declined to reveal funding details. The vessel will be a helium stratospheric balloon similar to one flown by Austrian skydiver Felix Baum­gartner in his 2012 record free fall from 39km.

Space and rocket enthusiast and Tanjong Katong Girls' School student Cherie Lim, 15, said she would strive to be fearless if chosen, despite her youth.

"Not everyone gets to do this. I'm looking at it as an adventure." The daughter of an aeronautical engineer, who said her parents are supportive, plans to get her pilot licence after her year-end examinations.

SIA pilot Kevin Lee, 35, said there was some "competitiveness" bet­ween the remaining hopefuls. He felt that his experience in the air and as a naval diver might give him an edge, especially with the gruelling rounds of selection tests still to come.

The 26 will be put through advanced confidence courses, deep diving, para-jumping and a helium balloon pilot course over the next year – with weaker candidates weeded out along the way.

But physical prowess is not the only requirement for a ticket to space. "I want to look for someone with heart, who wants to do this to make Singapore proud," said IN.Genius director Lim Seng, one of seven in the selection panel that also includes former chief defence scientist Lui Pao Chuen and former US Nasa engineer Timothy Kauffman.

Professor Lui said the choice would be a role model for Singaporeans.

"He or she must demonstrate that they can dream about great things, and go through hardship to realise their dreams." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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