Italy probes cable car crash as lone child survivor recovers

Italy probes cable car crash as lone child survivor recovers
Italy’s transport ministry said a preliminary check of the cable line’s safety and maintenance record show that the whole lift structure underwent a renovation in August 2016. (Italian Vigili del Fuoco Firefighters via AP)
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Updated 24 May 2021

Italy probes cable car crash as lone child survivor recovers

Italy probes cable car crash as lone child survivor recovers
  • The disaster, in one of the most picturesque spots in northern Italy, raised questions anew about the quality and safety of Italy’s transport infrastructure

ROME: Italy’s transport minister was heading Monday to the scene of a cable car disaster that killed 14 people when the lead cable apparently snapped and the cabin careened back down the mountain until it pulled off the line and crashed to the ground.
The lone survivor of Sunday’s horrific incident, a 5-year-old Israeli boy living in Italy, remained hospitalized in Turin Monday with multiple broken bones.
Italian media identified all the other victims as residents of Italy.
The disaster, in one of the most picturesque spots in northern Italy — the Mottarone mountaintop overlooking Lake Maggiore and other lakes near Switzerland — raised questions anew about the quality and safety of Italy’s transport infrastructure.
Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini announced a commission of inquiry had already been formed to investigate the “technical and organizational causes” of the accident, while prosecutors will focus on any criminal blame. Giovannini was heading to the site Monday along with the civil protection chief to inspect the damage.
The transport ministry said a preliminary check of the cable line’s safety and maintenance record show that the whole lift structure underwent a renovation in August 2016, and that a maintenance check was performed in 2017.
Late last year, inspections were performed on the cables themselves, including magnetic inspections on the primary cables of the lift: the cable that pulls the cabin up the mountain, the support cable that holds the car and the rescue cables. In December another visual check was performed, the ministry said.
The mayor of Stresa, Marcella Severino, quoted witnesses as saying they heard a “loud hiss,” apparently when the lead cable snapped. She said the cabin reeled back down the line until it apparently hit a pylon and then plummeted to the ground. It rolled over two or three times before crashing into trees, she said.
It wasn’t immediately clear why a brake had not engaged.
Some of the bodies were thrown from the car and were found amid the trees, she said.
The funicular line is popular with tourists and locals alike to scale Mottarone, which reaches a height of 1,491 meters (4,900 feet) and overlooks several picturesque lakes and the surrounding Alps of Italy’s Piedmont region.
The mountain hosts a small amusement park, Alpyland, that has a children’s rollercoaster, and the area also has mountain bike paths and hiking trails.
It only reopened a few weeks ago after Italy’s wintertime coronavirus lockdowns lifted, and officials hypothesized that families were taking advantage of a sunny Sunday to visit the peak and take in the view.


Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 
Updated 14 sec ago

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 

Ex-general takes aim at UK PM’s Afghan ‘silence’ 
LONDON: A former head of the UK armed forces has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to outline the country’s strategy for Afghanistan as the war-torn nation slides into further conflict amid the Taliban’s advance.
Gen. Lord Richards, former chief of defense staff, said he is “fed up” with the government’s lack of planning for the next stage of supporting Afghanistan, where he served as the commander of coalition forces between 2006 and 2007. He lamented the West’s “defeat” in the country. 
With Western forces lined up to be fully removed by Sept. 11, Richards warned of the potential creation of an “ungoverned space” that could be exploited by terror groups for the planning of atrocities such as the 9/11 attacks.
He told the BBC that he takes a “share of the blame” for the West’s calamitous performance in Afghanistan, but that while NATO military force — chiefly from the US and Britain — largely achieved what was expected, politicians had failed to give Afghanistan sufficient economic and political support following the 2001 removal of the Taliban from power. 
“We have invested — as a country, as the West and the US particularly — 20 years of time and much money and many lives in Afghanistan,” said Richards.
“I’m getting a little bit fed up that I’ve not heard from our government — indeed from the prime minister — as to why we have reached this nadir. It’s really not good enough, and I would like to hear from the government — I think it’s a prime ministerial obligation now — as to why we’ve got into this position and what we are now going to do about it,” he added.
“It’s deflecting attention from our defeat. Added to what happened in Iraq, Libya, Syria, it’s a pretty sorry tale of Western failed geo-strategy over the last 20 years. And it’s time we had an explanation of why and what are we now going to do about it, to prevent it from happening in the way we all now fear might occur.”
The decorated former officer complained that following the invasion, the UN conducted a “light-touch” approach masterminded by envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, which meant the West failed to build on the military gains of 2001. 
Richards said the short supply of economic support meant that the Taliban returned as a threat five years later.
“As all soldiers will tell you, we know we can’t win these things by military means alone. What we hoped we were doing was providing an opportunity for governments, the whole of the West, to act in the way they needed, not just militarily but politically and economically,” he added.
“That didn’t happen … At the very moment, in 2002 to 2005, when the West should have poured in assets — and I’m talking primarily non-military by the way — we didn’t do so. The Taliban sensed an opportunity, they came back.”
Richards warned that the Taliban’s capture of Kandahar — Afghanistan’s second city — is “inevitable” without a change in strategy, which would lead to the group sweeping across the south of the country. 
“My biggest worry at the moment is, with the Western forces having pulled out with no adequate explanation of what is going to replace them, we are going to see a potential collapse in Afghan Armed Forces morale,” he said, adding that the resurgence of Taliban control would “almost certainly” facilitate the return of terror training camps.
“There will be ungoverned space … and in that ungoverned space terrorist acts may yet again be planned and executed,” warned Richards.
“I think we all forget too readily the scenes of 9/11, the Twin Towers and the attack in Washington. That is actually why we went into Afghanistan, and we’ve been spectacularly successful in achieving what we aimed to do,” he added.
“That is now being put at risk, along with all the wonderful gains in terms of education, health, and democracy, allowing people to hope for the future. All that is now, I’m afraid at great risk. We don’t have a substitute strategy and I want to hear what it should be.”

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
SHIMULIA: Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers rushed back to major cities Saturday, besieging train and bus stations, after the government said export factories could reopen despite a deadly coronavirus wave.
With the economy badly hit by the pandemic, the government excluded the factories that supply top brands in Europe and North America from a nationwide lockdown order.
Authorities had ordered factories, offices, transport and shops to close from July 23 to August 5 as daily coronavirus infections and deaths hit record levels.
Officially, Bangladesh has reported 1.2 million cases and more than 20,000 deaths. Experts say the real figures are at least four times higher.
The government said however that the country’s 4,500 garment factories, which employ more than four million people, can reopen from Sunday, sparking a rush back to industrial cities.
The influential garment factory owners had warned of “catastrophic” consequences if orders for foreign brands were not completed on time.
Hundreds of thousands who had gone back to their villages to celebrate the Eid al Adha Muslim festival and sit out the lockdown, headed to Dhaka in any available transport — some just walking in the monsoon rain.
At the Shimulia ferry station, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Dhaka, tens of thousands of workers waited hours for boats to take them to the capital.
Garment factory worker Mohammad Masum, 25, said he left his village before dawn, walked more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) and took rickshaws to get to the ferry port.
“Police stopped us at many checkpoints and the ferry was packed,” he said.
“It was a mad rush to get home when the lockdown was imposed and now we are in trouble again getting back to work,” Jubayer Ahmad, another worker, told AFP.
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter after China and the industry has become the foundation of the economy for the country of 169 million people.
Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said up to $3 billion worth of export orders were at risk if factories had stayed closed.
“The brands would have diverted their orders to other countries,” Hatem told AFP.

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
  • Lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown in the southern Sindh province, including the commercial hub of Karachi and other urban centers, amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.
Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said Friday that a sudden rise in virus cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital. The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.
The Sindh provincial government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6 p.m. All transport between cities is halted and public busses aren’t operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.
Ongoing examinations at schools and universities are also postponed until after the lockdown.
Nationwide, Pakistan on Saturday reported 65 deaths and 4,950 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian country has reported 1,029,811 confirmed cases and 23,360 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.


COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
Updated 31 July 2021

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
  • 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities
  • Lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend

MELBOURNE: Sydney’s coronavirus cases continued to surge on Saturday as police cordoned off the city’s central district, preventing a planned anti-lockdown protest from taking place.
There were 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities that are under a weeks-long strict lockdown while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Saturday’s numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases.
The lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend, with protesters vowing to return to the streets on Saturday.
But the police closed train stations, banned taxis from dropping passengers off downtown and deployed 1,000 officers to set up check points and to disperse any groups.
Australian media reported that the rally’s organizers urged their followers on Saturday to avoid gathering and regroup on a later date.
A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed that only 7 percent of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia’s success in managing the pandemic.
Despite its struggle with spikes of infections, mostly of the Delta variant, Australia has managed to keep its epidemic largely under control with a total of just over 34,000 cases and 924 deaths.
The country has struggled significantly with its vaccination rollout, with the government indicating on Friday it will be months before Australia’s borders reopen. [
In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14.
Parts of the neighboring state Queensland entered into a three-day snap lockdown on Saturday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the Delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.
“We have seen from the experience in other states that the only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” the state’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said. “That is now the nationally agreed approach.”


China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing
Updated 31 July 2021

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing
  • The National Health Commission says 30 of the new infections were local cases, compared with 21 the previous day

BEIJING: China reported on Saturday 55 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 30, compared with 64 cases a day earlier, the health authority said.
The National Health Commission said in a statement 30 of the new infections were local cases, compared with 21 the previous day. There were no new deaths.
The other 25 cases were imported infections originating overseas.
A majority of the local cases were reported in Jiangsu province, the authority said.
The province’s capital city of Nanjing is currently facing an outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant that surfaced earlier this month, traced to airport cleaners who worked on a flight from Russia.
The Nanjing outbreak has since spread to other cities in Jiangsu, the Chinese capital of Beijing, and to other provinces including Anhui, Sichuan, Liaoning, Guangdong and Hunan.
Suzhou, a major city in Jiangsu, announced on Saturday it is shutting all games parlours for chess, cards and mahjong, after several people in another Jiangsu city caught the virus while playing in one such parlour.
To curb the outbreak in Beijing, some schools in the city have asked students on summer vacation to return to Beijing at least fourteen days before the autumn semester starts on August 15, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday.
Zhengzhou, the provincial city of Henan province hit by heavy floods this month, announced on Saturday people leaving the city must test negative for COVID. It also reported one asymptomatic case, its first in many months.
China also reported 19 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 25 a day earlier.
As of July 30, mainland China had a total of 92,930 confirmed coronavirus cases.
China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,636.