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Daily Archives: September 30, 2008

Typhoon leaves two dead,closes markets in Taiwan


 Typhoon Jangmi lashed Taiwan with heavy rain and strong winds yesterday as it moved offshore, leaving two dead and forcing the closure of schools, offices and financial markets, officials said.

A further 58 people were reported to have been injured by Jangmi, which was downgraded to a tropical storm, as it was forecast to churn towards Japan. Authorities in China ordered hundreds of thousands of residents to evacuate from the country’s southeast coast, despite the storm losing momentum as it approached the area. In central Taiwan, a woman on a motorbike was killed when she was hit by a broken cable, while an elderly man was blown over by fierce winds and drowned in a rice paddy. A tourist bus flipped over in strong winds in northeastern Ilan county late Sunday, injuring 35 people, the National Fire Agency said. Residents were told to take precautions from continued downpours and possible flooding, while more than 3,000 residents were evacuated from remote villages, and fishing boats sought shelter at ports, it added. Jangmi, meaning “rose” in Korean, made landfall Sunday packing gusts of up to 191 kilometres per hour, the Central Weather Bureau said. The Civil Aeronautics Administration said 116 domestic and 35 international flights had been cancelled as of 5:00am yesterday but that most schedules would return to normal during the day. Railway services were also suspended Sunday. Separately, a yacht with four US citizens on board was reported missing in waters south of the East China Sea, the Japan Coast Guard said. In China, the authorities evacuated more than 460,000 people from the eastern coast, and tens of thousands of fishing boats were ordered back to shore as the storm approached yesterday, state media reported. China’s National Meteorological Observatory however said Fujian and Zhejiang provinces might be spared as Jangmi weakened and moved northward, Xinhua news agency reported. But the observatory said there was still a chance the storm could change course and make landfall on the mainland, the report said. Rescue teams based in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen on Sunday helped bring 27 Taiwanese sailors and 10 others from various countries, mostly Indonesians,to safety, after their vessels struggled in the Taiwan Strait.

US, foreign navy ships close in on Somali pirates

by Mustafa Haji Abdinur*

A US destroyer and other foreign navy ships yesterday converged on a Ukrainian vessel seized by Somali pirates last week with its cargo of combat tanks and other weapons.
At least one US navy ship kept watch as pirates moored the MV Faina off the notorious Indian Ocean buccaneers' lair of Harardhere with their most spectacular bounty in close to 60 successful hijackings this year.
"San Diego-based destroyer USS Howard is on station and is in visual range of MV Faina, which is anchored off the Somalia coast near the harbour city of Hobyo," the US naval forces central command said.
"My crew is actively monitoring the situation, keeping constant watch on the vessel and the waters in the immediate vicinity," the ship's commanding officer, Curtis Goodnight, said in a statement.
The Belize-flagged ship's crew of 21 consists of Ukrainians, Russians and Latvians. According to a spokesman for the pirates, one crew member died of natural causes following the vessel's September 25 capture.
"He was not a victim of gunshots or violence," Sugule Ali said Sunday via satellite phone, refusing to identify the deceased.
"What we are awaiting eagerly is the 20 million dollars, nothing less, nothing more," he said, apparently lowering the ransom from an earlier reported figure of 35 million dollars.
The ship was headed to the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was seized. Nairobi said the shipment was part of a contract with Ukraine to update some of its military hardware.
Andrew Mwangura, who runs the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, had said that cargo may have been destined for the authorities of South Sudan, a claim denied by Nairobi.
According to the Ukrainian defence ministry, the MV Faina is carrying 33 Soviet-type T-72 tanks as well as other military supplies.
The pirates said two other foreign navy vessels were in the vicinity besides the US destroyer.
"We are not afraid of their presence, that will not make us to abandon the ship or to refrain from asking (for) the money," Ali said.
"There is no shortage of food supply and all the crew members are healthy and well including ours."
There was no immediate confirmation of the two other ships' origin but a Russian navy officer told the Itar-Tass news agency that a vessel was being dispatched to the area.
"The Navy commander has ordered the Baltic Fleet to send the Neutrashimy patrol ship to the Somalia zone," Russian Navy Assistant Commander Igor Dygalo was quoted as saying.
A Somali elder speaking from a coastal area near Harardhere confirmed that foreign navy forces were in sight and ruled out a scenario in which the pirates would offload the seized military equipment.
"The pirates made contacts with friends on the ground and they are saying that at least two warships came close to them, I believe they have no chances of escaping with the shipment," Ali Harun said.
Mwangura also said that "a US helicopter is flying overhead to prevent the pirates from offloading ammunition from the ship."
The Horn of Africa country is ablaze with a deadly conflict pitting Islamist insurgents against Ethiopian troops allied to the transitional government.
There has been no evidence so far that the Islamist rebels are connected to the recent surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirates have carried out at least 56 successful attacks on foreign ships since the start of the year, 13 of which are still being held.
Piracy along Somalia's long, unpatrolled coastline on the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden started years ago as an effort to deter foreign fishing boats depleting the country's maritime resources.
Over the past few years, it has evolved into a well-organised industry, with pirates armed to the teeth targeting anything from tourist yachts to huge merchant vessels and demanding huge ransoms.
Somalia's northeastern tip juts out into the Indian Ocean and commands access to the Gulf of Aden, a key international maritime route leading to the Suez Canal and through which an estimated 30 percent of the world's oil transits.