Saturday 16 December 2017

Another body found as attempts to remove Concordia's fuel are hampered

Rough seas off Italy's Tuscan coast yesterday forced a delay in the start of the operation to remove a half-million gallons of fuel from the grounded Costa Concordia, and officials said pumping may now not begin until midweek.

Recovery operations continued, however, and yesterday yielded a 17th body. The woman, who wasn't wearing a life jacket, was found by divers on the submerged sixth-floor deck, civil protection officials said. Some 16 people remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead.

The removal of the fuel aboard the Concordia is a key concern since the seas around Giglio are in a protected marine sanctuary and are a favourite destination for scuba divers. So far, no leakage has been detected, however.

Deaths in Yemen’s al-Qaeda struggle

Yemeni security officials said fighting between government troops and al-Qaeda-linked militants in the country's south has killed at least five people.

The army has been trying for months to dislodge the militants from the towns and territory they seized last spring in Abyan province, taking advantage of the security collapse in the country amid months of political turmoil.

The security officials said Friday's fighting was centred near the town of Jaar, and that four militants and one soldier were killed.

Switzerland-US agreement after probe

Switzerland may reach an agreement with the US about undeclared bank accounts within months, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has said.

"We're hoping that we'll reach an agreement with the US within the next couple of months," the minister said in an interview in Davos, where she had a meeting with the US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The fact that Wegelin & Co, a 270-year-old Swiss private bank, was forced to sell itself to Raiffeisen Group because of a US tax investigation highlights the need to find a solution, she said.

Wegelin yesterday agreed to a sale after three of its bankers were charged this month with conspiring to help US clients hide more than €900m from US tax authorities.

Cuban party to consider term limits

Cuba's Communist Party has begun a two-day conference at which it will consider political term limits and "internal matters". Ageing president Raul Castro, who inherited the presidency from his brother Fidel, will rule over the event.

Meanwhile, Cuban courts last week convicted six local people of cutting down mahogany trees worth under €100 in Havana's Botanical Gardens -- and sentenced them to between eight and 10 years each in prison.

Car bomb could pave way for warfare

THE death toll in Friday's suicide car bomb attack on a Shiite funeral procession in Baghdad has risen to 33.

The atrocity, suspected to be by al-Qaeda members, stepped up apparent efforts to provoke a counter-attack by Shiite militias on Sunnis that could pave the way toward open sectarian warfare now that US troops have left Iraq.

Rio de Janeiro building death toll at 16

Firefighters have raised the death toll from the collapse of three buildings in Rio de Janeiro earlier this week to at least 16 people and say hopes of finding anyone alive beneath the rubble are slim.

A Rio de Janeiro fire department official said rescuers pulled four more bodies from the debris yesterday. The death toll had been 12. Thirteen people are still missing.

It's not yet known why a 20-story building suddenly collapsed, bringing two nearby buildings down with it.

26 killed in Peruvian rehab clinic blaze

A fire swept through a two-story rehab centre for addicts in a poor part of Peru's capital yesterday, killing 26 people.

The Christ is Love centre for drug and alcohol addicts was unlicensed and overcrowded and its residents were apparently kept inside "like prisoners" said the Peruvian minister for health.

UN calls for control over Libyan jails

The UN's top human rights official has insisted Libya's transitional government must take control of all makeshift prisons to prevent further atrocities against detainees.

"There's torture, extrajudicial executions, and rape of both men and women," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Medecins Sans Frontiers last week suspended its work in prisons in Misrata because torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.

Sunday Independent

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