Dec 25, 2010

Snow hits christmas journey, many spend night at airports

Stranded air passengers have spent the night at airports in Paris and Brussels after freezing weather severely disrupted Christmas travel.

Some 200 people slept overnight at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, which cancelled 400 flights because of snow and ice.

Flights and trains were also disrupted in Belgium, where significant snow fell overnight, and in Germany.

Conditions were expected to ease throughout Christmas Day.

Airport managers described the extremes of snow and ice at the airport as "exceptional".

Problems were made worse on Friday as a strike by workers at France's main anti-freeze factory disrupted crucial supplies.

Those left at Charles de Gaulle airport overnight were given camp beds and blankets as they saw in Christmas inside the terminal building.

Junior transport minister Thierry Mariani visited exhausted travellers at the airport just before midnight, seeking to explain the situation to would-be passengers.

"Since Roissy [Charles de Gaulle airport] came into being, we've never seen anything like this," Pierre Graff, head of the airport operating group, told France's RTL radio.

However, some passengers had heard enough explanations.

"My flight to Milan has been cancelled twice, the first when there was no snow," Zoe Stephanou, 45, told the AFP news agency.

"I'm so tired that I no longer have the strength to be angry."

Earlier on Friday, airport authorities ordered part of Terminal 2E to be cleared of passengers because of fears that the roof might collapse under the weight of 60cm (2ft) of snow.

In 2004, the same roof collapsed shortly after the terminal opened, killing four people.

The strike by de-icing workers disrupted supplies to Paris' airports, but officials said the situation had eased after a plane brought supplies from the US and a tanker shipped extra anti-freeze from Germany.

Elsewhere, significant snowfalls in Belgium, Germany and Italy continued to cause problems across the transport network.

Between 10cm and 20cm (4in-8in) of snow fell in Belgium overnight, AFP reported, hitting bus travel and keeping one runway closed at the city's airport.

Camp beds were also distributed in an attempt to keep delayed passengers comfortable.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported across Germany, and in northern Italy heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Venice.

Unusually high water levels were reported in the Venice lagoon. In the town of Vicenza, west of Venice, people were moved from their homes because of high river levels

The Danish authorities on the Baltic island of Bornholm say they have given up trying to clear roads blocked by snowdrifts. Three people have been reported missing and police have reiterated pleas to people to stay indoors because of the treacherous conditions.

View: Indian space rocket explodes

An Indian space rocket carrying a communications satellite has exploded on take-off.

Live TV footage showed the rocket disappearing in a plume of smoke moments after its launch in Sriharikota near the city of Chennai (Madras).

India's space organisation said it was investigating the cause of the failure.

India is seeking to increase its share of the growing commercial satellite launch market, and says it wants to send a manned mission in space in 2016.

India's Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) was carrying the GSAT- 5P communication satellite when it exploded in the first stage of the flight on Saturday, December 25, 2010.

"The performance of the (rocket) was normal up to about 50 seconds. Soon after that the vehicle developed large altitude error leading to breaking up of the vehicle," the head of the Indian Space Research Organisation, K Radhakrishnan, told reporters.

"But what caused this interruption has to be studied in detail."

India has successfully launched lighter satellites in recent years, but has faced problems sending up heavier payloads.

Tarmac Building Products cuts 550 jobs, closes one division

West Midlands-based firm Tarmac Building Products Ltd is to cut 550 jobs and close one of its divisions due to "tough market conditions".

The firm, which is based in Wolverhampton, said it planned to close its precast solutions and flooring arm.

It said 217 jobs would be lost in Tallington, Lincolnshire and 106 in Henlade, Somerset.

The remainder are to go in Derby, Lound in Nottinghamshire and Dolyhir in Powys, Wales.

A company spokesman said it was consulting with staff and unions over the plans to cut 500 full-time staff and 50 agency employees.

The company blamed tough trading conditions and uncertain market demand.

"This affects five sites across the UK and, unfortunately, means that around 550 people are at risk of redundancy," the spokesman said.

"We are very conscious of the impact this will have on our employees, their families and the local communities around our sites if the closure goes ahead.

"It is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will begin a 90-day consultation period with employees affected by this. We will also liaise with our customers to discuss how this could impact them."

The company's website describes it as the UK's largest supplier of heavy building products.

It says it has been involved in a wide variety of construction projects including Wembley Stadium, Emirates Stadium and St Pancras Station.

Ivory Coast's crises hit mine production

Shares in Randgold Resources have fallen 4% after the mining company warned political tension in the Ivory Coast would hit its gold production.

Randgold said its Tongon mine was operating, but on a "curtailed basis".

At least 173 people have been killed in the Ivory Coast following last month's disputed election.

Randgold now expects to produce about 35,000 ounces of gold this year.
A second mill had been delayed because delivery of components had been held up in the Abidjan port and by shipping delays caused by the political crisis.

The company also said its fourth-quarter performance would be affected by a "below-target" contribution from its Loulo complex in Mali.

"We knew that 2010 was going to be a challenging year and the fourth quarter is turning out to be even tougher than anticipated," chief executive Mark Bristow said.

Randgold shares fell 235p to 5,320p in morning trading.

Quit or face force, Ecowas threatens Gbagbo

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has told incumbent Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo to stand down or expect to face "legitimate force".

Ecowas said after its summit in Abuja, Nigeria, that it would send an envoy to the country to meet Mr Gbagbo.

It would also convene a meeting of defence ministers to plan military action if he refused to back down, it said.

Before the talks, Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia ruled out a power-sharing arrangement between the rivals like those set up in Kenya and Zimbabwe following disputed elections.

The BBC's Thomas Fessy in the main city Abidjan says the pressure from Ecowas has not come as a surprise, and means that Mr Gbagbo is now definitely boxed in on all sides.

The Ecowas chairman, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has already written personally to Mr Gbagbo to ask him to step down, and offered him refuge.

There have been suggestions that member nations send in troops to strengthen the presence of the UN peacekeeping force, which has about 10,000 troops on the ground.

Ecowas sent peacekeeping forces to Liberia and Sierra Leone during their civil wars in the 1990s.

The statement came at the end of emergency talks on the crisis sparked by a disputed election last month.

The 15-member bloc and other international bodies have recognised his rival Alassane Ouattara as winner.

The Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council says Mr Gbagbo was elected, citing vote-rigging in some areas.

The election was meant to unite the country after a civil war in 2002 split the world's largest cocoa producer in two.

On Thursday, state television, one of the key elements keeping Mr Gbagbo in power, was taken off the air in areas outside Abidjan.

But amid the mounting international pressure, the incumbent president remained defiant, declaring illegal a decision by the West African central bank to give control of his country's account to Mr Ouattara.

Mr Gbagbo's spokesman Ahoua Don Mello read a communique on TV saying it was "illegal and manifestly outside the competence of the West African Monetary Union", and there would be "serious consequences".

Earlier Mr Ouattara urged the country's armed forces to play a "republican role" and protect civilians against attack from "the militias and foreign mercenaries that are spilling Ivorian blood".

He accused Mr Gbagbo of opening a new chapter of violence.

"Violence is returning to our towns and our city neighbourhoods. Serious human rights violations are reported from all corners," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

He thanked the international community for the support it had given him so far.

He said perpetrators of recent violence would be prosecuted and invited investigators from the International Criminal Court to visit the country.

The UN says more than 170 people have been killed in the past week in attacks linked to the Ivorian armed forces, who remain publicly loyal to Mr Gbagbo.

Courtesy: BBC

Dec 24, 2010

Bangladeshi killed by BSF near BDR camp

Indian border guards Border Security Forces (BSF) have shot dead a Bangladeshi youth at Hatibandha Upazila under Lalmonirhat District of Bangladesh today (December 25, 2010).

Witnesses said Saifur Rahman, 22, a cattle trader and resident of Dakkhin Gotamari village at the Upazila fell victim to BSF firing while returning home from India around 6.30am on Friday.

Earlier, a Bangladeshi national named Abdur Rashid, 35, son of Abu Chan Miadead was killed on Balapara frontier in Dimla upazila of Nilphamari District of the country in the early hours on December 17, 2010.

Mentioned that, Mr. Saifur Rahman is the 4th victim of Indian BSF after the killing of Chapainawabganj, Jessore and Nilphamari within the last 15 days. 

Lalmonirhat 31 Rifles Battalion deputy commander Maj Shafique Uddin said Safiur died on the spot as the Indian border guards fired shots on him near Daikhawa camp of Bangladesh border guards.

He said: "The body was taken away by the BSF personnel. BDR have sent a letter asking for return of the body."

HR group says BSF kills one Bangladeshi in every four days

Taking part in an open discussion, Odhikar general secretary Atikur Rahman Khan said BSF is killing one Bangladeshi in every four days.

Human rights group Odhikar and Human Rights Watch at a press conference at BRAC Centre on December 13, 2010 revealed a report on killing, abuse and torture by the Border Security Force (BSF) of India along the border.
About 1,000 Bangladeshis were killed by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) over the last decade, according to a report released by rights groups in the capital city Dhaka in Bangladesh on December 13, 2010.

Apart from the killings, the report says, the Indian border guards usually threaten, abuse and beat Bangladeshi people living in frontiers villages, but they hardly get any cooperation from Bangladesh police. "It's a gross violation of human rights."

The report was prepared based on statements of victims, witnesses, journalists, human rights workers, law enforcement officials and members of BSF and BDR.

The report says that the governments of both Bangladesh and India need to hold joint, fair investigations into the situation. "India must also discard the attitude of avoiding responsibility."

"Both governments must take steps to stop these mindless killings," Mr. Atik said.

A father who lost his teenage son to BSF gunfire and a man who was shot and injured shared their agonies at the press conference.