Bus catches fire, explodes in heart of Rome

Above, the wreck of an autobus of Roman public transport company Atac, after being destroyed by an accidental fire. Italian media have blamed the succession of blazes on Rome’s aging bus fleet and on poor maintenance. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Bus catches fire, explodes in heart of Rome

ROME: A passenger bus caught fire and exploded in the heart of Rome on Tuesday, witnesses said, sending a plume of black smoke over the city center in the ninth such blaze this year.
Local transport authority Atac said the driver and passengers all managed to evacuate the bus, which came to a halt near the popular Trevi Fountain, before the flames took hold. No-one was injured and there was no suggestion of foul play.
In 2017, some 20 Rome buses were destroyed or damaged by fires.
Italian media have blamed the succession of blazes on Rome’s aging bus fleet and on poo maintenance. Atac, which is struggling under a mountain of debts, says it has upped its repair work and is tackling the problem.
A former head of Atac said last year the company was suffocating under some €1.3 billion of debts and should declare bankruptcy.
According to an internal Atac report, 36 percent of all the company’s buses are in garages because they have broken down or are undergoing maintenance, with the figure rising to 50 percent for the city’s creaking fleet of trams.


UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

Updated 16 February 2019
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UK and Russia hold first talks in over a year

  • The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4
  • The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades

LONDON: Junior foreign ministers from Britain and Russia met in Germany on Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two countries since an alleged nerve agent attack in Britain last March froze diplomatic relations.
Britain’s Minister for Europe Alan Duncan held talks with Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on the margins of the Munich Security Conference, according to the foreign office in London.
“Alan underlined that we have deep differences, and the Russian state would need to choose a different path and act as a responsible international partner before there can be a change in our current relationship with Russia,” it said in a statement.
The meeting is the first between ministers from the two countries following the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which Britain has blamed on Moscow.
The attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, which Britain said was done using a Soviet era nerve agent Novichok, plunged relations to their lowest ebb in decades.
The attack killed a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.
Among a raft of responses, London suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the two countries, and canceled ministers and members of the royal family attending last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“(The) minister reiterated the UK’s and Allies’ firm stance in response to the Russian state’s reckless use of chemical weapons in Salisbury,” the foreign office added in its statement.
“He made clear that Russia must address the concerns of the international community.
“This includes ending its destabilising activity in Ukraine; and the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”
The foreign office said Britain would continue to “build and strengthen our cultural ties and people to people links with Russia wherever we can.”
Ministers from around the world, including those from the US, France, Britain, and Germany, are taking part in several days of talks in Munich this weekend centered on global security issues.