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Pakistani airliner crashes into neighbourhood, 80 confirmed dead

Jack Burton

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Pakistani airliner crashes into neighbourhood, 80 confirmed dead | The Thaiger
PHOTO: CNN
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UPDATE: As of 3:30pm, the death toll in the incident has risen to 97.

A Pakistan International Airlines plane carrying 99 people crashed into a crowded Karachi neighbourhood yesterday afternoon after trying twice to land at the airport, according to an eyewitness. Provincial health authorities have confirmed at least 80 dead but it’s not clear whether they included casualties on the ground.

2 passengers survived, including Zafar Masood, president of the Bank of Punjab, according to a government spokesman. The bank says he suffered fractures but is “conscious and responding well.”

Engineer Muhammad Zubair, the other survivor, told reporters the pilot came in for one landing, touched down briefly, but took off again. After about 10 more minutes in the air, he announced he was going to make a second attempt, but crashed as he approached the runway

“All I could see around was smoke and fire. I could hear screams from all directions. Kids and adults. All I could see was fire. I couldn’t see any people, just hear their screams.”

“I opened my seat belt and saw some light. I went towards the light. I had to jump down about 10 feet to get to safety.”

The crash happened on the eve of the Muslim Eid Mubarak festival, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Pakistanis travel to visit relatives. Smoke gushed from the site where flight PK 8303 crashed at about 2:45pm, its twisted fuselage lying in the rubble of multi-storey buildings as ambulances rushed through crowds.

Authorities say the Airbus A320 was flying from the eastern city of Lahore to Karachi in the south with 91 passengers and eight crew, just as Pakistan was resuming domestic flights in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Seconds before the crash, the pilot told air traffic controllers he had lost power from both engines, according to a recording posted on liveatc.net, a respected aviation monitoring website.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Hong Kong

Critics say new security laws will infringe on Hong Kong’s autonomy

The Thaiger

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Critics say new security laws will infringe on Hong Kong’s autonomy | The Thaiger

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam has tried to reassure rattled residents and international investors that proposed national security laws won’t trample on the city’s rights and freedoms. She has joined the chorus of reassuring support for Beijing’s attempts to find better ways to control the destabilising protests that have disrupted the city for seven months over the past year.

Lam pleaded to concerned residents about the need to wait for the details of the proposed legislation.

The PR offensive follows Beijing’s plans last week for new national security legislation for Hong Kong that aims to “tackle secession, subversion and terrorist activities” and could even see Chinese intelligence agencies set up a presence in the city.

Lam, the 4th and current Chief Executive of Hong Kong since 2017, maintained that China’s plans to impose a new security law on Hong Kong will “only target a handful of lawbreakers”.

Following months of disruptive, often-violent pro-democracy protests in 2019, Beijing says it needs to enact legislation banning “secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference” in the international finance hub.

But many Hong Kong residents, business associations and Western governments have expressed fear the proposal could be a death blow to the city’s treasured freedoms and lifestyle and usher in an end to the semi-autonomous city running its own affairs – the promise made by China when the former British colony was ‘handed back’ to Chinese control after running the trading city from 1842 to 1997, including a formal 99 year lease.

The announcement of Beijing’s plans for the new law, which would bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, sparked a huge drop on the Hong Kong stock exchange last Friday, the biggest in 5 years.

But Carrie Lam, often seen as playing a puppet role for the Chinese government, says fears the city’s “business-friendly freedoms were at risk were totally groundless”.

“The proposed law only targets a handful of law-breakers. It protects the vast majority of law-abiding, peace-loving residents”.

Chinese leadership has portrayed the protests as a “foreign-backed plot to destabilise the motherland” and has justified the new security law as a necessary way to crack down on “terrorism and calls for independence”. But protesters have maintained that their rallies were the only way to voice their opposition in a city with no universal suffrage.

Protesters again took to Hong Kong’s streets last Sunday after the security law announcement but were again dispersed by police armed tear gas and water cannon in the worst clashes in months. They’ve accused Beijing of timing the introduction of the laws during the coronavirus restrictions in Hong Kong to reduce their capacity for unrest sparked by the new legislation.

The proposed laws have drawn international condemnation, including pointed and official criticisms from the UK, US and Australian leaders. The US has even threatened sanctions if the new laws are enacted.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

No new Covid-19 cases in China, first time since outbreak began

Jack Burton

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No new Covid-19 cases in China, first time since outbreak began | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AsiaNews

There were no new confirmed Covid-19 cases in China yesterday, marking the first time it has seen no daily rise since the pandemic began in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

China’s National Health Commission said in a statement today that this compared to 4 new cases Thursday. It warned, however, that there are 2 new suspected cases: an imported one in Shanghai and a locally transmitted case in the northeastern province of Jilin.

A spokeman for the NHC says asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus fell to 28 from 35 a day earlier.

The country has seen a sharp fall in locally transmitted cases since March, as major restrictions on public movement helped it take control of the epidemic in many parts of the country.

However, it has continued to see an influx of imported cases, mainly involving Chinese returnees from abroad, and new clusters of infections in the northeastern border provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang have arisen in recent weeks.

Wuhan also reported its first cluster of infections since a complete lockdown on the city ended on April 8, prompting officials to warn that measures to fight the epidemic must not be relaxed and to launch a campaign to test all of Wuhan’s 11 million residents.

The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stood at 82,971 yesterday and the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Globally cases stand at 5,207,911, and deaths at 334,848.

SOURCE: Reuters

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Misery as arrival ban keeps families apart

Jack Burton

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Misery as arrival ban keeps families apart | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Thailand’s ban on foreign arrivals is causing misery among families across the nation as foreigners married to Thai nationals plead with the government to let them return to be with their families.

James Jacobs, a Briton stranded in France, told Nation Thailand he wants to return to his 29 year old wife Sopa, who lives in Chiang Mai. Speaking by phone, Sopa said her husband has been stranded in France since Thailand stopped all incoming flights in April for fear of imported Covid-19 infections. She says she can only keep in touch with him online.

Alan Cheetham, another Briton who is stranded in the UK, says he wants to get back to his family in the northeastern Udon Thani province. He created a Facebook page called “Thai Expats Stranded Overseas due to Covid-19 Travel Restrictions” last week. More than 450 people who are in the same situation have already joined. Together with a second page, “Farangs Stranded Abroad due to Lockdown in Thailand,” with 397 members as of today, they share information as part of their efforts to reunite families.

Trapped in Ireland, Michael O’Halloran says he wants to be with his 3 daughters, aged 13, nine and 20 months, now living with his wife in Chon Buri.

Alan Edwards, another expat who is in a similar predicament, says it’s unfair that families are being kept apart during the crisis just because one of the spouses is not Thai.

“I understand that in these difficult times, many difficult decisions have to be made by the Thai government, but does the prejudice against Thai/foreigner families have to go on for so long? How is it fair that Thai people and children must be without a loved one or a parent because they are not Thai?”

Rob Kennedy, who belongs to “Farangs Stranded Abroad due to Lockdown in Thailand,” is trapped in Brunei, and says the Thai embassy there is helpful, but officials in Bangkok are showing little interest in his case. He says he’s willing to pay for quarantine if he’s allowed to return.

Another expat who has a family in the southern resort city of Phuket, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he left Phuket in March and now cannot return. He has a four year old son who has a medical condition.

“Mam,” a Chiang Mai woman who didn’t wish to give her real name, told Nation Thailand that her husband has been stranded in Canada for months.

“My two year old girl often asks, ‘where is Daddy’?”

The Thaiger has received a number of emails along the same lines, pleading for access back to the country to reunite with family and relatives in the Kingdom. The Thaiger has referred them to the Thai embassies in the countries they’re currently living in.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand banned all incoming passenger flights on April 4 and has extended the ban several times. The latest extension is until June 30.

The government says it is worried about importing new Covid-19 cases as the rate of infections is still pretty high in many countries, while here it has dropped to single digit increases for more than a week.

Authorities are letting Thai nationals stranded abroad return home in limited numbers, based on the capacity of state quarantine facilities and hospitals.

Recently, the government decided to have hotels and hospitals work together on quarantine facilities that can accommodate people who want to be comfortable and are willing to pay for it. This model may also apply to foreign tourists.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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