Seven injured in massive blaze at German theme park

A black column of smoke rises from a warehouse in flames above the amusement park ‘Europapark’ in Rust, southern Germany on May 26, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Seven injured in massive blaze at German theme park

  • It took 250 firefighters until the next morning to extinguish the inferno, which sent huge columns of black smoke into the air.
  • The cause of the blaze remains under investigation

FRANKFURT: Seven firefighters were injured in efforts to put out a massive blaze at Germany’s largest amusement park, police said Sunday, as it reopened to visitors despite extensive damage to some areas.
The fire at Europa-Park started early Saturday evening in a storage facility before engulfing the Pirates of Batavia boat ride, completely destroying the attraction.
It took some 250 firefighters until the next morning to extinguish the inferno, which sent huge columns of black smoke into the air.
Dramatic images of the raging fire were widely captured by visitors to the theme park in Rust, southwestern Germany and shared on social media.
Some 25,000 people had to be evacuated from the park, but none suffered any injuries.
The local Offenburg police said in a statement that the blaze had left seven firefighters “lightly injured,” without giving details.
All of them were able to leave hospital after receiving medical attention.
Europa-park opened its doors as normal on Sunday, although large sections of the Dutch and Scandinavian-themed areas remain closed because of fire damage.
Europa-park’s chief executive Michael Mack tweeted his thanks for the rescue services, saying Saturday had been “a sad day” for the park.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. Police said some firefighters remained at the scene to carry out damping down operations and secure the area to allow experts to assess the damage.
Founded in 1975, Europa-Park is Europe’s second-most popular amusement park after Disneyland, attracting some 5.7 million visitors last year.


Pakistan welcomes, but India rejects Chinese envoy’s call for ‘peace talks’

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago
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Pakistan welcomes, but India rejects Chinese envoy’s call for ‘peace talks’

  • Islamabad is willing to talk to India 'bilaterally, trilaterally, or multilaterally — the important thing is dialogue,' says Mushahid Hussain
  • India is wary because of Pakistan's 'close strategic alliance' with China, says Ashok Behuria

NEW DELHI, ISLAMABAD: The Indian government has rejected a Chinese call for a trilateral meeting to help resolve tensions between India and Pakistan, saying that the relationship between the nuclear rivals was “purely bilateral.”
On Monday, China’s ambassador to India, Luo Zhaohui, urged India and Pakistan to meet with China on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian political, economic and security forum with eight countries, including India and Pakistan, as members.
The envoy made his remarks in a speech at the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi on the theme “Beyond Wuhan: How far and fast can China-India relations go?”
“If China, Russia and Mongolia can have a trilateral summit, then why not India, China and Pakistan?” Luo asked.
India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Tuesday that the ministry had seen reports of the Chinese envoy’s comments, but had not received any official offer from the Chinese government.
“We consider the statement as the personal opinion of the ambassador,” he said. “Matters related to India-Pakistan relations are purely bilateral in nature and have no scope for the involvement of any third country.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry also said on Tuesday that China had not officially communicated the offer to Islamabad.
Dr. Mohammed Faisal, a Foreign Office spokesman, told Arab News the ministry was unaware of the Chinese gesture. He declined to comment further.
The Chinese envoy’s remarks reflect growing fears in Beijing that rivalry between India and Pakistan could threaten its One Belt One Road development strategy to connect Eurasian countries through a trillion-dollar trade corridor.
Since 1947 India has been involved in four wars and countless border skirmishes with Pakistan, and the two continue to wrestle for dominance in the subcontinent. China is also a political and military ally of Islamabad.
Apart from its distrust of Pakistan, India is also deeply wary of China.
Last June the two countries were locked in a face-off on the Doklam plateau at the trijunction between India, Bhutan and China, an area disputed by China and Bhutan.
Ashok Behuria, the coordinator of the South Asia Center at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, described the Chinese envoy’s idea as a “non-starter.”
“India officially will never consider it,” Behuria said.
“India opposes any suggestion of mediation with Pakistan, so that will always stand in the way of a tripartite meet. And because of the close strategic alliance between Pakistan and China, India will be doubly wary of such a suggestion.”
Lt. Gen. (Retd) S.L. Narasimhan, a China expert, dismissed the Chinese offer, saying India would not welcome third-party intervention.
“China seems to be trying to get into the role of mediation— this is not the first issue it has offered to mediate,” he said.
“If someone is trying to mediate on your behalf, he attains a position where he can adjudicate and increase his influence,” Narasimhan said. “That is what China seems to be trying here.”
However, Luo’s comments were welcomed by Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Committee and head of the Pakistan-China Institute.
“The proposal has been made by a senior diplomat who has served in Pakistan and comes in the context of some major developments,” Sayed told Arab News.
“One is the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan, where they held a six-hour talk. The second is the discussion between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. The third is the sudden strengthening of the Afghan peace process in which again China is the factor.
“China is keen because it has launched what is probably the most important diplomatic and development initiative of the 21st century — Xi’s ‘belt and road’ strategy,” he said.
“Beijing feels there should be an environment of peace, security and stability in Asia to provide the context for operations and connectivity sought under the belt and road initiative.”
Sayed said Pakistan is willing to talk to India “bilaterally, trilaterally, or multilaterally — the important thing is dialogue.”
“If North Korea and America can have a dialogue over Korean issues, why not Pakistan and India over Kashmir and other bilateral issues that affect our relations?“
Analysts say India is unlikely to agree to talks with Islamabad before Pakistan’s elections in July. New Delhi is relying on informal communication channels, though with Indian elections due in 2019 it is unclear if the Modi administration would change its position on a resumption of dialogue.

Sayed said China has immense trade leverage over India, with New Delhi “feeling isolated from the general trend in the region.”
“India is feeling the pressure, diplomatically and otherwise,” he said.

“There is a difference between Indian policy and its posturing, and sooner or later it will have to come to the conference table to start talking to Pakistan rather than talking at Pakistan,” he said.