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Phuket Gazette World News: China poultry fire kills 119; N Ireland resorts to ‘fake shopfronts’ for G8; Assange talks resume; Oklahoma toll reaches 18

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Phuket Gazette World News: China poultry fire kills 119; N Ireland resorts to ‘fake shopfronts’ for G8; Assange talks resume; Oklahoma toll reaches 18 | The Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Chinese slaughterhouse fire kills 119
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: A blaze at a locked poultry slaughterhouse in northeast China killed at least 119 people on Monday with several still unaccounted for, officials and state media said, triggering online outrage in a country with a grim record on fire safety.

The fire broke out just after dawn near Dehui in Jilin province. The provincial government said it sent more than 500 fire-fighters and more than 270 doctors and nurses to the scene, evacuating 3,000 people living nearby as a precaution.

More than 300 workers were in the plant at the time, with employees reporting hearing a sudden bang and then seeing dark smoke, Xinhua state news agency said.

“About 100 workers have managed to escape from the plant whose gate was locked when the fire occurred,” Xinhua said.

“The complicated interior structure of the prefabricated house in which the fire broke out and the narrow exits have added difficulties to the rescue work.”

The exact number of people unaccounted for was unclear, as was the cause of the fire, Xinhua said. The Jilin government said 54 people were injured and had been rushed to hospital.

People took to social media sites to express their anger.

“Was this place never regularly inspected by fire safety authorities?” wrote one user on China’s popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo.

“Senior officials need to be sacked because of this,” wrote another.

Victims’ relatives gathered outside the building to “demand the government investigate and announce the cause of the accident as soon as possible”, Xinhua said.

Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television cited family members as saying that the doors were always kept locked during working hours during which workers were forbidden to leave and that the slaughterhouse never carried out fire drills.

China’s record is poor. Fire exits in factories are often locked or blocked and regulations can be easily skirted by bribing corrupt officials.

Pictures carried by state media showed smoke rising from a long, low-rise building, whose roof had been almost totally burned away, with fire engines and other rescue vehicles parked in front.

Jilin is a largely agricultural province and an important grower of corn and soy beans.

The slaughterhouse is owned by a small local feed and poultry producer called Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company, according to the government.

A fire at a nightclub in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, killed 44 people in 2008. A senior policeman was jailed for taking bribes to allow the unlicensed venue to remain open.

One of modern China’s worst fire disasters occurred in late 2000, when fire engulfed building workers at a discotheque in a mall in the central city of Luoyang, killing 309.

The vast majority of deadly industrial accidents in China happen in the huge coal mining industry, in which more than 1,300 people died last year from explosions, mine cave-ins and floods.

Britain considers talks with Ecuador over Assange
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Britain is considering holding talks with Ecuador over the future of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the Foreign Office said on Monday.

Assange, 41, took refuge in Ecuador’s tiny embassy in London last June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex assault and rape allegations. He denies the allegations.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said it was considering a request made by Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague when Patino visits the country in mid-June.

“We’re considering that request. We hope the visit will contribute to our joint commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue,” the Foreign Office said.

Fake shop fronts hide Northern Ireland economic woes
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Local councils in Northern Ireland have painted fake shop fronts and covered derelict buildings with huge billboards to hide the economic hardship being felt in towns and villages near the golf resort where G8 leaders will meet this month.

Northern Ireland’s government has spent 2 million pounds tackling dereliction over the past two years, the province’s environment department said, demolishing some buildings and giving others a facelift in a bid to make areas more attractive.

Almost a quarter of so-called dereliction funds were freed up for local councillors in the county of Fermanagh in anticipation of Britain hosting the annual Group of Eight leaders summit there on June 17-18. More than 100 properties have been spruced up.

In the one-street town of Belcoo, the changes are merely cosmetic. At a former butcher’s shop, stickers applied to the windows show a packed meat counter and give the impression that business is booming.

Across the street, another empty unit has been given a makeover to look like a thriving office supply shop. Locals are unimpressed.

“The shop fronts are cosmetic surgery for serious wounds. They are looking after the banks instead of saving good businesses,” said Kevin Maguire, 62, an unemployed man who has lived all his life in Belcoo.

“Where would you see a shop front in Northern Ireland like this anyway? It’s more like something you’d find in Belgravia or Chelsea,” he said, referring to elite districts of London.

The fakes are not the first of their kind in Northern Ireland, a province recovering from three decades of sectarian violence that was largely ended by a peace deal 15 years ago.

Last year smart-looking shop fronts appeared in a series of derelict Belfast stores along the main route from the city centre to the grand Stormont parliament building.

“Northern Ireland is in the international spotlight so it is entirely right that we should portray it in the best light possible,” Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood said in a statement.

“We should do everything we can to make these areas as attractive for residents, tourists and consumers. If we want tourists to visit and stay longer, then tackling major eyesores and dereliction will certainly help.”

Although partly shielded from the economic crisis in the Republic of Ireland thanks to an annual grant from London that accounts for about half of public sector spending, the North has been hit hard by the downturn. Even the luxury five-star hotel where G8 leaders will meet in two weeks’ time has been in receivership since 2011.

In Belcoo, some wonder what will happen to the new shop fronts once Barack Obama and other world leaders have left.

“In six months’ time how are these shops going to look?” asked Jim Leonard, a 50-year-old unemployed bricklayer.

“They’ll just be pieces of paper blowing around the ground.”

Death toll from Oklahoma tornadoes, storms rises to 18
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The death toll from Friday’s tornadoes and storms in Oklahoma has risen to 18 people, including six children and 12 adults, the Oklahoma chief medical examiner said on Monday.

Of

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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World

Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home

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Nigerian astronaut needs $3 million to get home | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Lost In Space? Or lost in reality? Maybe someone will fall for it – Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2

The Nigerians have somewhat of a reputation for scams and scammers. Who hasn’t received an email offering loads of cash in return for your bank account and a moderate deposit? But this letter takes the famous Nigerian Scam to another level. Or perhaps it’s true (we don’t think so…)?

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home
Dr. Bakare Tunde – Astronautics Project Manager
National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA)
Plot 555, Misau Street, PMB 437
Garki, Abuja, FCT NIGERIA

Dear Mr. Sir,

REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE-STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL

I am Dr. Bakare Tunde, the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home.

In the 14 years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars. This is held in a trust at the Lagos National Savings and Trust Association. If we can obtain access to this money, we can place a down payment with the Russian Space Authorities for a Soyuz return flight to bring him back to Earth. I am told this will cost $ 3,000,000 American Dollars. In order to access the his trust fund we need your assistance.

Consequently, my colleagues and I are willing to transfer the total amount to your account or subsequent disbursement, since we as civil servants are prohibited by the Code of Conduct Bureau (Civil Service Laws) from opening and/ or operating foreign accounts in our names.

Needless to say, the trust reposed on you at this juncture is enormous. In return, we have agreed to offer you 20 percent of the transferred sum, while 10 percent shall be set aside for incidental expenses (internal and external) between the parties in the course of the transaction. You will be mandated to remit the balance 70 percent to other accounts in due course.

Kindly expedite action as we are behind schedule to enable us include downpayment in this financial quarter.

Please acknowledge the receipt of this message via my direct number 234 (0) 9-234-XXXX only.

Yours Sincerely, Dr. Bakare Tunde
Astronautics Project Manager
XXXX@nasrda.gov.ng

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Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis

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Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | The Thaiger

Thousands of rescue workers are searching for survivors from the fury of Typhoon Hagibis, two days after the storm slammed into Japan. As of the time of this post, the storm had killed at least 35 people.

(Video from Sky News below…)

Hagibis crashed into the country Saturday evening, but brought hours of torrential rains before it made landfall, causing landslides and filling rivers until they burst their banks.

More than 110,000 rescuers, including 31,000 troops, worked through the night searching for people trapped by the disaster. Local media report at least 35 people have been killed, with the Kyodo news agency reporting nearly 20 people were missing. Government figures from Sunday night were lower, though updates were expected throughout today.

While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hours (134 miles per hour), it was the heavy rains that caused most damage, with 21 rivers bursting their banks.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor. Military and fire department helicopters winched survivors from roofs and balconies in several locations, but in Fukushima one operation went tragically awry when a woman died after falling while being rescued.

The destruction forced the Rugby World Cup being hosted by Japan to cancel several games, but the “Brave Blossoms”, as the national team is known, lifted spirits with a stunning 28-21 victory over Scotland on Sunday that put them into the quarter-finals of the tournament for the first time.

Rescue efforts have been continuing this morning, with local television showing soldiers rowing a rubber rescue dingy through floodwaters in Fukushima, while elsewhere workers removed dirt with a digger.

Thousands of Japanese rescuers looking for survivors of Typhoon Hagibis | News by The Thaiger

The death toll mounted throughout yesterday as bodies were recovered from flooded homes and cars, buildings caught in landslides, and swollen rivers.

The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least five Chinese crew members aboard a boat that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night.

As of this morning, some 57,500 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages. The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.

But most subway trains have resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse PHOTOS: AFP

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Hong Kong

Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia

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Hong Kong property investors turn to SE Asia | The Thaiger

From luxury Singapore apartments to Malaysian seafront condos, Hong Kong investors are shifting cash into Southeast Asian property, demoralised by increasingly violent protests as well as the China-US trade war.

Millions have taken to the streets during four months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the southern Chinese city, hammering tourism while also forcing businesses to lay off staff – and the property sector is feeling the pain. Property stocks in one of the world’s most expensive housing markets have plummeted since June, with developers being forced to offer discounts on new projects and cutting office rents.

Hong Kong businessman Peter Ng bought a condominium on the Malaysian island of Penang – which has a substantial ethnic Chinese population and is popular among Hong Kongers – after the protests erupted.

A 48 year old stock market and property investor told AFP he was worried about long-term damage to the Hong Kong economy if the unrest persists.

“The instability was a catalyst for me. Investors will always look at things like that, political stability.”

And Derek Lee, a Hong Kong businessman who owns a Penang apartment, said he knew others in the semi-autonomous city who were considering investing in south east Asian property because of the unrest.

“People are thinking about how to quicken their ideas, how to make a more stable life,” the 55 year old told AFP. Part of the allure of Malaysia is its relative affordability and prices much lower than Hong Kong.

The Malaysia site of Southeast Asian real estate platform Property Guru has seen a 35 percent increase in visits from Hong Kong, according to its CEO Hari Krishnan.

China-fuelled boom

While Hong Kong’s protests are primarily pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, the summer of rage has been fuelled by years of simmering anger towards Beijing and the local government over falling living standards and the high costs of living.

Hong Kong’s property market is one of least affordable in the world with sky-high prices fuelled, in part, by wealthy mainlanders snapping up investments in a city which has failed for years to build enough flats to meet demand.

But now mainland Chinese, who traditionally viewed property in Hong Kong as a safe investment, are opting for rival financial hub Singapore as a result of the protests and the US-China trade war, according to observers.

There has been a jump this year in sales of luxury apartments in the city-state, which like Hong Kong is known for pricey property, driven partially by mainland Chinese buyers, according to the consultancy OrangeTee & Tie.

“The protests in Hong Kong have made some of the (mainland Chinese) based there… (more concerned) about investing in Hong Kong real estate, so they carry that investment to Singapore,” said Alan Cheong, executive director of the research and consultancy team at Savills.

As well as hitting China’s economy, trade tensions may have discouraged some Chinese from investing in the West and pushed them towards Singapore, with its mostly ethnic Chinese population.

“I think they don’t want to go to the West.”

Singapore is “the closest country culturally to China other than Hong Kong and I think they feel more comfortable with that”. There are further signs the stable, tightly ruled city is benefiting from the Hong Kong turmoil. Goldman Sachs last week estimated as much as $4 billion flowed out of Hong Kong to Singapore this summer.

And analysts warned there was little hope of Hong Kong’s property market recovering soon.

“Hong Kong property share prices have corrected by about 15 to 25% since July,” said Raymond Cheng, head of Hong Kong and China property at CGS-CIMB Securities International.

Residential sales were still holding up but only when developers offered discounts, office rents were expected to fall by as much as five percent and shop rents were also badly affected, he said.

But despite the unrest, businessman Ng, who will rent his Penang property and has no plans to move there permanently for now, was still hopeful about Hong Kong’s long-term prospects.

“The problem may not be solved in the short term but it is not so serious as pessimists think. Everything is still in the government’s control.”

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

PHOTO: newlaunches.sg

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