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North raising price of alcohol

The minimum cost of a bottle of Chardonnay could be between £4 and £7 (€4.65 and €8.10) under fresh pricing proposals in the North.

Laws designed to curb binge-drinking and reduce anti-social behaviour are being launched for consultation.

A six-pack of beer may cost a minimum of between £4.40 and £7.70 (€5.10 and €9) under the regulation, which is based on the number of units of alcohol.

10,000 houses flattened in NZ

New Zealand's prime minister says some 10,000 houses in Christchurch will have to be demolished because of earthquake damage and some parts of the city will have to abandoned altogether.

Officials say the confirmed death toll from the February 22 quake is 166, and that it is expected to rise to more than 200.

Prime Minister John Key told reporters today that "there are some parts of Christchurch that can't be rebuilt on" because of liquefaction and other land damage.

US astronaut dies at age 64

Three-time space shuttle crew member John Lounge, who was part of the first mission after the 1986 Challenger disaster, has died in Houston, Texas, at 64.

The navy veteran joined the US astronaut corps in 1980 and flew his first mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1985. His second mission came in 1988, when he was part of a shuttle Discovery mission that was the first flight after Challenger blew up during its launch.

Quake shakes Chile region

A magnitude-6.2 earthquake has shaken a northern region of Chile that has felt several tremors in recent days. No injuries and only minor damage were reported.

The quake was centred in Putre, about 40 miles east of the port of Arica near the border with Peru, and nearly 1,400 miles north of the capital Santiago, the US Geological Survey said.

Meanwhile a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck waters off the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, 19 miles beneath the ocean floor.