One dead in oil tanker blaze off Hong Kong

A photo from the Hong Kong Police shows smoke rising from an oil tanker as it tilts to one side. (Hong Kong Police/AFP)
Updated 08 January 2019
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One dead in oil tanker blaze off Hong Kong

  • Twenty-one people have been rescued after those on the vessel either fell or jumped into the sea
  • A number of the victims had suffered burns

HONG KONG: At least one person has died after an oil tanker caught fire off Hong Kong on Tuesday, police said, sending a huge cloud of dark smoke billowing into the air.
Twenty-one people have been rescued after those on the vessel either fell or jumped into the sea, according to a police spokesperson, but it is not yet clear if more people are still missing. A number of the victims had suffered burns.
In a picture posted by the Hong Kong Police, the tanker was seen listing sharply with large plumes of black smoke coming from its middle and flames still burning on the deck.
Officers said they received a report of an oil tanker exploding and catching fire in waters south of the outlying Lamma Island.
“I heard several banging and rumbling sounds, like someone with big hands knocking my glass door,” a resident of Lamma Island’s Mo Tat New Village who gave his name as Shu said.
He added that a smaller banging sound followed about 10 seconds later.
Photos on local news site Apple Daily showed an orange blaze on the ship which was also belching out heavy smoke.
The name on the front of the tanker was Aulac Fortune, which the Hong Kong marine department tracker website showed as arriving at the South Lamma anchorage at 2.58am Tuesday local time.
The MarineTraffic.com website listed the tanker as registered in Vietnam and leaving the southern Chinese industrial city of Dongguan on Monday.
Authorities have dispatched marine police vessels, fireboats and a helicopter in an ongoing rescue operation, the South China Morning Post reported.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
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Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.