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Phuket Gazette World News: Italy ship crash kills 7; $50mn Brussels diamond heist; Ohio captives recount grisly ordeal; Berlusconi jailed



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

Seven killed, two missing after ship hits tower in Italian port
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Seven people were killed and two were missing after a container ship crashed into a concrete control tower in the northern Italian port of Genoa, rescuers said on Wednesday.

The tower, which was 50 metres (160 feet) high and looked much like those at airports, collapsed into the sea late on Tuesday after being struck by the vessel, the Jolly Nero.

Among the dead were three of its officers, a coastguard statement said. Divers were searching for two missing people at the site and cranes were sifting through debris along the shore.

The other victims have yet to be identified. Two were recovered on Wednesday from the wreckage of the tower’s lift, an fire department spokesman said.

The accident happened as staff were changing shifts and there were 13 people in the tower when it was struck, the coastguard said.

As well as the dead and missing, officials said four other people were injured and had been taken to hospital. Two were seriously hurt and a third had lost a foot, investigators said.

“The main injuries are fractures, crushed body parts, significant traumas,” emergency services doctor Andrea Furgani said.

The crash occurred shortly after 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) in calm conditions as the Jolly Nero was manoeuvring out of the port.

Genoa prosecutor Michele Di Lecce has opened an investigation and is focusing on a possible malfunction of the ship’s engine, judicial sources said.

In testimony to parliament after visiting the port, Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi also said an engine problem could be behind the incident, which took place in “perfect” weather conditions.

Other causes could have been a human error or problems with tow cables fixed to two tug boats that were accompanying the ship out of the harbour, Lupi said.

The crash is the most serious maritime accident in Italy since the Costa Concordia liner struck a rock and capsized off the island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people.

“There’s no logical explanation because two tug boats were moving the ship and there was a port pilot on board and sea conditions were optimal,” the head of the Genoa Port Authority, Luigi Merlo, said.

All that was left of the tower was a leaning metal stairway.

The Jolly Nero, which is 238 metres (781 feet) long with a gross tonnage of 40,594 tonnes, is owned by local operator Ignazio Messina and Co.

“A thing like this has never happened, we are devastated,” said Stefano Messina, one of the directors of the family-owned firm, who was in tears when he spoke to a local TV channel.

Police arrest 17 over $50 million Brussels diamond heist
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Police have detained 17 people over the heist of $50 million (32.1 million pounds) in diamonds in February – one of the biggest jewellery robberies in history – after coordinated raids in Belgium, France and Switzerland, Belgian prosecutors said on Wednesday.

More than 300 police were involved in the Belgian operations near Brussels which led to 10 people being detained, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor said. One suspect was held in France and the rest in Switzerland.

Heavily armed and dressed as police, the robbers stole 120 parcels of diamonds from the runway of Brussels airport without firing a shot. The suspect detained in France was believed to be a member of the gang of eight who carried out the heist.

“It’s the only person that we can say at this stage that could have participated in the events on the tarmac,” said Jean-Marc Meilleur, the prosecutor’s spokesman.

“As for the others, we still need to investigate to find out whether they are intermediaries or if they are people who participated directly.”

Belgian authorities have asked for the French suspect to be extradited.

Initially 24 people were rounded up in the Belgian raids, all aged between 30 and 35 years old, and late on Wednesday a Brussels judge decided to keep 10 of them in custody, the prosecution spokesman said.

Under Belgian law, a judge must decide within 24 hours whether to release a person.

Police in Geneva said they had questioned eight people after raids there and had subsequently released six of them, leaving two under investigation. Those figures differed slightly from the details provided by Belgian authorities.

Among those seized in Geneva were a businessman and a lawyer, while around 100,000 Swiss Francs (68,282 pounds) in cash and a number of diamonds were recovered, the police there said. In Belgium, the raids recovered cash and luxury cars, the prosecutor’s spokesman said.

Cleveland captive tells police she took first chance to escape
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Amanda Berry and two other women were isolated, held captive and raped in a house stocked with ropes and chains for nearly a decade, and she told police her escape two days ago was her first chance to break free.

Ohio authorities on Wednesday revealed some of the grisly details of the years Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, and a six-year old girl allegedly spent as prisoners of suspect Ariel Castro, who was charged with kidnapping and rape.

His brothers, who were originally arrested in the case, were not charged and had no knowledge of what Castro, 52, is accused of doing, according to police.

Castro, who owns the house where the women were found on Monday, was charged with three counts of rape, relating to the women, and four counts of kidnapping, said Cleveland city prosecutor Victor Perez at a news conference.

The charges came as police disclosed that the women, who were rescued after Berry fled with the help of a neighbour, had not seen any previous chances to escape in nearly ten years of captivity.

“The only opportunity, after interviewing the young ladies, to escape was the other day when Amanda escaped,” Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the news conference. “They don’t believe that they’ve been outside that home for the last 10 years respectively.”

Authorities said the women recalled leaving the house twice, only to go to the garage on the small lot, when they were disguised in wigs and hats.

Tomba said Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been kept separately in the house, where police have found ropes and chains.

“They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know the others were there,” he said.

Also rescued from the house was Berry’s daughter, who was born on December 25, 2006, during her mother’s captivity, authorities said. A paternity test will be conducted to determine the girl’s father.

As authorities readied their case against Castro, Berry and DeJesus went to their families’ homes on Wednesday. Knight was in a Cleveland hospital where a spokeswoman said she was in good condition.

Berry and her daughter could be seen from an aerial television camera arriving in a convoy of vehicles at her sister’s house and going in the back door.

Before Monday evening, Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003. Her disappearanc

— Phuket Gazette Editors


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