Explosion at major Austrian gas hub, one dead, 18 injured

Steam rises after an explosion occurred at a gas station near Baumgarten an der March, Austria, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. (AP)
Updated 12 December 2017
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Explosion at major Austrian gas hub, one dead, 18 injured

BAUMGARTEN AN DER MARCH, Austria: A large explosion rocked one of Europe’s biggest gas pipeline hubs in Austria on Tuesday, leaving one person dead and 18 injured, emergency services said.
Photos showed a huge tower of orange flame visible for miles around roaring out of the Baumgarten facility some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of Vienna near the Slovak border.
“An explosion occurred at 8:45 am (0745 GMT), followed by a fire,” police spokesman Edmund Tragschitz told AFP.
He later put the number of people hurt, including one seriously as well as those with minor injuries, at around 60.
But Red Cross spokeswoman Sonja Kellner told the Austria Press Agency that one person had been killed and 18 were injured, one of them seriously who has since been airlifted to the hospital in Vienna.
“I heard a huge explosion and thought at first it was a plane crash,” photographer Thomas Hulik, a resident of a nearby village in Slovakia, told AFP.
“Then I saw an immense ball of flame,” he said.
Armin Teichert, a spokesman for the site’s operator Gas Connect Austria, said that the site had been evacuated and that the facility had been put into “security mode.”
The material damage is “major,” Teichert told AFP.
Police said on social media that people should avoid the area.
Media reports said that more than 200 fire fighters from several brigades in the surrounding area were called in to help, as well as a number of air ambulances.
Lower Austria state police said on Twitter that the situation was “under control.”
“Fire services are currently engaged in putting out the fire following the explosion. Emergency services are treating the wounded,” the statement said.
An AFP journalist nearby said that by late morning the flames had been extinguished but there was still a huge cloud of smoke over the site.
Other photos showed the heat from the blast was so extreme that cars parked at the site partially melted.
Police added that the cause of the incident was a “technical” one and the local authorities had begun an investigation.
The Baumgarten site is Austria’s largest reception point for gas, the end-point for a number of pipelines bringing it in from Russia, Norway and elsewhere.
It receives some 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually and redistributes it elsewhere in Europe including to Germany and northern Italy.
Teichert, the Gas Connect Austria spokesman, said that there could be interruptions in supply to Italy and Croatia, but not to elsewhere.
Russian gas giant Gazprom, which relies on the Baumgarten site to send gas to clients around Europe said in a statement that it was aware of the incident.
“Currently the company is working on redistribution of gas flows and (doing) its best to secure uninterrupted gas supplies to the clients on this transport direction,” Gazprom said.


Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

According to President Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened. (AP)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Supreme Court nominee accuser agrees to testify before US Senate

  • Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true
  • Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s

WASHINGTON: The woman whose sexual assault allegation threatens to bring down President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has agreed to testify in the Senate, her lawyers said Saturday, setting up a dramatic showdown next week.
Christine Blasey Ford’s decision followed days of negotiations and came after Trump turned against her and said her accusation could not be true.
Ford “accepts the committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week,” said a message from her lawyers to the Senate Judiciary Committee, US media reported.
Hours later, multiple outlets including Politico and The Daily Beast reported the hearing would take place on Thursday, citing sources familiar with a phone call between the committee and Ford’s lawyers.
The tentative deal capped a day of frenetic developments, with time running out for Trump to get his hand-picked conservative judge confirmed — thereby tilting the Supreme Court firmly to the right for years to come — before November elections when Republicans risk losing control of Congress.
Earlier, the panel had given the California professor until 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) to decide whether to appear, after she rejected a Friday evening deadline imposed by the committee’s Republican leader, Chuck Grassley.
“Although many aspects of the proposal you provided via email, on (Friday) are fundamentally inconsistent with the committee’s promise of a fair, impartial investigation into her allegations, and we are disappointed with the leaks and the bullying that have tainted the process, we are hopeful that we can reach agreement on details,” read the lawyers’ letter cited by The Washington Post.
The White House criticized Ford for allegedly dithering. “But one thing has remained consistent: Brett Kavanaugh remains ready, willing and eager to testify as soon as possible,” it added.

Ford alleges that Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her at a party when he was 17, she was 15 and they were attending private schools outside Washington in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh denies knowledge of any such assault and wants to give his side of the story to the committee.
Grassley had wanted the hearing to take place on Wednesday, but Ford asked that it be held on Thursday at the earliest and to be able to call as a witness a man she says was present during the assault.
The committee’s Republican leadership turned down those demands.
After several days of maintaining a relatively neutral posture, Trump on Friday declared that Ford was lying.
“TAKE THE VOTE!” Trump tweeted, blaming “radical left wing politicians” for the controversy.

According to Trump, the fact that Ford remained silent until now shows the incident probably never happened — even if this runs counter to what experts say is the typical reaction of sexual assault victims afraid or too embarrassed to report.
“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says,” Trump tweeted, “charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”
The senior senator for Trump’s Democratic foes, Chuck Schumer, called the president’s logic a “highly offensive misunderstanding of surviving trauma,” while Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said: “We must treat sexual assault survivors with respect, not bully or try to silence them.”
Even one of Trump’s own Republican senators, Susan Collins — who sits on the Judiciary Committee — said she was “appalled by the president’s tweet.”
“We know that allegations of sexual assault are some of the most under-reported crimes that exist,” Collins said.
Trump’s outburst saw a new #MeToo era hashtag storm the Internet, with people — mostly women — sharing why they did not report being assaulted under the Twitter hashtag #WhyIDidntReport.
Ford told the Post she went public with her claims because she felt her “civic responsibility” was “outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation” after the basic outlines of the story emerged in the media.
Ford’s husband, Russell Ford, was quoted by the Post as saying the thought that Kavanaugh could be considered for the Supreme Court after Trump took office troubled his wife so much that she considered moving as far away as New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘I can’t deal with this,’” Russell Ford said. “’I cannot live in this country if he’s in the Supreme Court.’“
Republicans are frustrated over what they say was the deliberate timing of the last-minute revelation of Ford’s allegation, accusing Democrats of seeking to prevent the process from finishing before the midterm elections in a few weeks.
For their part, Democrats say Republicans are mounting an unseemly rush to get Kavanaugh into the nine-member Supreme Court while they still control the legislature.
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