Explosion rocks Wisconsin town; at least 3 hurt

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Firefighters work the scene of an explosion in downtown Sun Prairie, Wis., Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP)
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A large plume of smoke from a massive fire is seen in Sun Prairie, Wis., Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Witnesses said the fire broke out after a loud boom Tuesday night shook the community. Police blocked off downtown streets from traffic and onlookers. (AP Photo/Todd Richmond)
Updated 11 July 2018
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Explosion rocks Wisconsin town; at least 3 hurt

  • Konopacki said the firefighters and officer were taken to a hospital

SUN PRAIRIE, Wisconsin: An explosion rocked the downtown area of a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin, after a contractor struck a natural gas main Tuesday, injuring at least two firefighters and a police officer, authorities said.
No deaths were immediately reported, and it wasn’t known if anyone else was hurt.
Police Lt. Kevin Konopacki said that around 6:20 p.m., firefighters and police responded to a reported gas leak in downtown Sun Prairie, a community of about 30,000. Witnesses reported the powerful blast about 7:15 p.m. It sent a plume of smoke and flames into the air.
Konopacki said the firefighters and officer were taken to a hospital. He said he didn’t know if anyone else was hurt.
WE Energies spokeswoman Cathy Schulze said the gas main strike was reported to the utility early Tuesday evening ahead of the explosion. She said the utility’s first responders were in the area working to shut off the flow of gas and make the area safe.
The blast appeared to be centered on the Barr House, a pub in an area filled with other bars, restaurants and businesses. Authorities evacuated a five-block radius and set up a shelter at Sun Prairie High School.
Steve Owen, 60, who owns Sun City Cyclery and Skates in downtown Sun Prairie, said he saw firefighters and police officers on the street and then the explosion happened. He said the building across from his shop “literally lifted up.”
He said the force of the blast knocked him back in his chair and that he ran outside and saw a ball of fire.
“People were scrambling,” said Owen, who lives above his shop.
Jill Thompson, 56, who lives about two blocks from where the blast occurred, said, “It shook the whole building. I thought someone had hit the building with their vehicle. We seen the smoke immediately.”
The area is about half a block from City Hall.


Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2017 Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier (L), French Defence Minister Florence Parly (C) and chairman of Reliance Group Anil Ambani arrive at MIHAN SEZ, where she will participates in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), in Nagpur. (AFP)
Updated 18 min 28 sec ago
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Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

  • Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016

NEW DELHI: Former French president Francois Hollande has fueled controversy over India’s multi-billion-dollar 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault.
His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in India in recent weeks, since the opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favoring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.
The party alleges Modi gave preferential treatment to industrialist Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Group, to the detriment of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.
“We did not have a say in that,” Hollande told investigative website Mediapart. “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani.
“We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” added Hollande, who was president of France from 2012-2017.
French firm Dassault had spent years negotiating a deal for 126 fighter jets to be manufactured in India with HAL, but talks had stalled.
On taking office, the Modi government canceled the negotiations and decided to directly purchase 36 jets made in France.
Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016.
“That is why, moreover, this group (Reliance) did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet.”
Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday, the former French leader insisted that France “did not choose Reliance in any way.”
When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this.”

Contacted by AFP, France’s embassy in New Delhi did not comment.
India’s defense ministry wrote on Twitter that neither the Indian nor French government “had any say in the commercial decision.”
The French foreign ministry later issued a statement saying that “the sole obligations of the French government were to assure delivery and the quality of the equipment.”
Paris was “in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners,” it added.
For its part, Dassault Aviation said in a statement Friday that the contract was “a government-to-government agreement.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has led the opposition’s focus on the deal, wrote: “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.”
“The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonored the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi added.
Foreign manufacturers obtaining arms contracts in India are obliged to reinvest a portion of the sums collected in India.
Under the Rafale deal, France must spend amounts totalling around half the eight billion euros ($9.4 bn) paid by the Indian government.
Dassault has invested more than 100 million euros in its joint venture with Reliance.
India — the world’s largest defense importer — has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing territorial disputes with its nuclear-armed neighbors, including a strengthening China.
It intends to use compensations payments such as in the Rafale deal to create a local defense industry.