Philippines downplays US spy plane request

Updated 04 July 2012
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Philippines downplays US spy plane request

MANILA: The Philippines yesterday said the deployment of US spy planes, suggested by President Benigno Aquino, was just one option to monitor the country’s territory, as China appealed for stability in the region.
“If they happen at all, they are surveillance flights, they are not meant to be provocative. There’s no offensive capability here,” said the president’s spokesman Ricky Carandang. China’s foreign ministry, in an embassy statement quoting spokesman Liu Weimin, called on all parties to maintain “peace and stability” in the South China Sea.
“We have noticed the reports,” the ministry spokesman was quoted as saying. “It is the hope of the Chinese side that peace and stability can be maintained... and parties concerned do things conducive to regional peace and stability,” the statement said. It did not specify the Philippines or the United States or mention the almost-three month long dispute between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.
The Scarborough Shoal dispute began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen near the shoal on April 10.
Both countries have been pressing their respective claims to the area with the poorly-equipped Philippines seeking the support of its main defense ally, the United States.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighboring countries. The Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
The shoal sits about 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the western coast of the Philippines’ main island of Luzon.


Seven injured in massive blaze at German theme park

Updated 42 min 5 sec ago
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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.