Fire kills eight, wounds 50 in northern Portugal

Policemen and firefighters work outside the building, in the background, where a heater exploded killing people in the village of Vila Nova da Rainha, outside Tondela, northern Portugal, in the early hours of Sunday, Jan. 14 2018. A wood-burning stove exploded and started a fire late Saturday at the packed premises of a local residents’ association in the north of Portugal, officials said.(AP/Sergio Azenha)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Fire kills eight, wounds 50 in northern Portugal

LISBON: Fire ripped through a local community center in northern Portugal late Saturday, killing eight people and injuring another 50, police said.
“Around 70 people were having dinner in the building when the fire broke out and we have a number of dead people as well as between 50 and 60 people injured,” civil protection chief Paulo Santos told AFP.
The fire broke out near Tondela, which lies between the northern towns of Coimbra and Viseu which were badly hit by a series of deadly wildfires in October, with some of the more seriously wounded airlifted to hospital by helicopter, he said.
Tondela mayor Jose Antonio Jesus told RTP public television that the fire broke out when a wood-burning stove exploded as people gathered for an amateur card tournament where they were playing Sueca, a very popular game in Portugal.
The fire spread very rapidly but was finally quenched after an hour, the Tondela fire service said.


Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

Empty seats of the United States delegation are pictured one day after the US announced their withdraw during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 39 min 29 sec ago
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Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal

GENEVA: Diplomats from across the globe defended the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the US withdrew from a body it branded an anti-Israel “cesspool.”
Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, who currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and has been pushing a faltering reform drive, described the Geneva-based chamber as the best place to trigger action on dangerous rights crises.
“Let me say it very clearly, if human rights issues are not discussed here, in this very room, they have little chance to be dealt with meaningfully anywhere else,” he told the council’s 38th session, hours after Washington announced its pullout.
Suc further praised the 47-member council as the “only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide.”
Once he receives formal notification of the US withdrawal, Suc said he would arrange for the American seat to be removed and work with the General Assembly to elect a replacement member. China, which has on multiple occasions voiced support for multilateral institutions abandoned by US President Donald Trump, portrayed the council as “a major body... to promote the realization of human rights.”
“All delegations attach great importance to this body,” said Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yu Jianhua.
China currently sits on the council and rights groups have repeatedly criticized Beijing for seeking to stifle criticism of its own conduct.
The EU assured that it “remains steadfastly and reliably committed to the Human Rights Council,” and said it would continue to try to fix the body’s problems despite the US withdrawal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced the decision on Wednesday, making good on a threat Haley made in Geneva a year ago.
They said their calls for change, notably to fix “hypocrisy” and “unrelenting bias” against Israel were ignored.
Membership of the council, established in 2006 to replace the disgraced Human Rights Commission, has long been controversial.
Current members include Burundi, the Philippines and Venezuela — all nations accused of massive abuses against civilians.
But the main US objection was the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates discussion of Israel at each of the three annual sessions.
Israel is the only country recorded as a dedicated agenda item.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal, experts and diplomats have noted that without US pushback, resolutions approving investigations of Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could multiply.