152 die as plane crashes in rainy Pakistani hills

Reuters – A video grab shows debris from a commercial Pakistani passenger plane lying scattered amid shrubbery …
ISLAMABAD – A passenger jet that officials suspect veered off course in monsoon rains and thick clouds crashed into hills overlooking Pakistan's capital Wednesday, killing all 152 people on board and scattering body parts and twisted metal far and wide.

The Airblue jet's crash was the deadliest ever in Pakistan, and just the latest tragedy to jolt a country that has suffered numerous deaths in recent years due to al-Qaida and Taliban attacks. At least two U.S. citizens were on the plane, which carried mostly Pakistanis.

The plane left the southern city of Karachi at 7:45 a.m. for a two-hour flight to Islamabad and was trying to land when it lost contact with the control tower, said Pervez George, a civil aviation official. Airblue is a private airline based in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city.

The aircraft, an Airbus A321, crashed some 15 kilometers from the airport, scorching a wide stretch of the Margalla Hills, including a section behind Faisal Mosque, one of Islamabad's most prominent landmarks. Twisted metal wreckage hung from trees and lay scattered across the ground. Smoke rose from the scene as helicopters hovered.

The exact cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and rescue workers were seeking the "black box" flight data recorder amid the wreckage. But Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said the government did not suspect terrorism.

Rescue workers and citizen volunteers were hampered by the rain, mud and rugged terrain. The crash was so severe it would have been nearly impossible for any of the 146 passengers and six crew members to survive, rescue officials said.

"There is nothing left, just piles and bundles of flesh. There are just some belongings, like two or three traveling bags, some checkbooks, and I saw a picture of a young boy. Otherwise everything is burned," rescue worker Murtaza Khan said.

As the government declared Thursday would be a day of mourning and condolences poured in from the U.S., Britain and other nations, hundreds of people showed up at Islamabad's largest hospital and the airport seeking information on loved ones.

They swarmed ambulances reaching the hospital, but their hopes fell as rescue workers unloaded bags filled with body parts. A large cluster of people also surrounded a passenger list posted near the Airblue counter at the airport.


"We don't know who survived, who died, who is injured," said Zulfikar Ghazi, who lost four relatives. "We are in shock."

Mirza Ahmed Baig rushed to the hills after hearing that the plane carrying his brother had crashed. He wept amid the chilly weather, criticizing the rescue effort as too little and too lax.

"I'm not satisfied at all on the steps the government is taking," Baig said.

As of Wednesday night, when rescue work was suspended till the morning, 115 bodies had been recovered, federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said. DNA tests would be needed to identify most of them, he said.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire confirmed that at least two American citizens were on board, but he declined to provide any further information on their identities or links to Pakistan.

Witnesses said the plane appeared to be flying very low and that it seemed unsteady in the air.

"The plane had lost balance, and then we saw it going down," Saqlain Altaf, who was on a family outing in the hills when the crash occurred, told Pakistan's ARY news channel.

The Pakistan Airline Pilot Association said the plane may have strayed off course, possibly because of the poor weather. Several officials noted the plane seemed to be an unusual distance from the airport, which was some 9 1/2 miles (15 kilometers) away.

"It should not have gone so far," said Air Vice Marshal Riazul Haq, deputy chief of the Civil Aviation Authority. "We want to find out why it did."

Raheel Ahmed, a spokesman for the airline, said the cause of the crash would be investigated. The plane had no known technical issues, and the pilots did not send any emergency signals, Ahmed said. Airblue flies within Pakistan and to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and the United Kingdom.

Airbus said it would provide technical assistance to the crash investigators. The aircraft was initially delivered in 2000, and was leased to Airblue in January 2006. It accumulated about 34,000 flight hours during some 13,500 flights, it said.

The only previous recorded accident for Airblue, a carrier that began flying in 2004, was a tail-strike in May 2008 at Quetta airport by one of the airline's Airbus 321 jets. There were no casualties and damage was minimal, according to the U.S.-based Aviation Safety Network.

Other Pakistani airlines have come under international scrutiny due to safety concerns.

In 2007, the European Union temporarily banned flights in its airspace of most of the aircraft operated by Pakistan's national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines, because of concerns over the age of the aircraft and poor maintenance. The bloc lifted the ban later that year after the airline took action to comply with safety standards.

The last major plane crash in Pakistan was in July 2006 when a Fokker F-27 twin-engine aircraft operated by PIA slammed into a wheat field on the outskirts of the central Pakistani city of Multan, killing all 45 people on board.

In August 1989, another PIA Fokker, with 54 people onboard, went down in northern Pakistan on a domestic flight. The plane's wreckage was never found. In September 1992, a PIA Airbus A300 crashed into a mountain in Nepal, killing all 167 people on board.

The Airbus 320 family of medium-range jets, which includes the A321 model that crashed Wednesday, is one of the most popular in the world, with about 4,300 jets delivered since deliveries began in 1988.

Twenty-one of the aircraft have been lost in accidents since then, according to the Aviation Safety Network's database. The deadliest was a 2007 crash at landing in Sao Paolo by Brazil's TAM airline, in which all 187 people on board perished, along with 12 others on the ground.


AP Aviation Writer Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, as well as Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan in Karachi and Zarar Khan, Nahal Toosi and Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad, contributed to this report.

Worst floods in a decade in China, 30,000 trapped

By CHI-CHI ZHANG, Associated Press Writer Chi-chi Zhang, Associated Press Writer

AP – In this photo provided by China's Xinhua News Agency, flood water gushes from the Xiaolangdi Reservoir …
BEIJING – Floods caused by heavy rains in northeastern China stranded tens of thousands of residents without power Wednesday, as the worst flooding in more than a decade continued to besiege many areas of the country.

Floods this year have killed at least 928 people with 477 missing and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage, the State Flood Control and Drought Prevention office reported. More heavy rains were expected for the southeast, southwest and northeast parts of the country through Thursday.

About 30,000 residents in Kouqian town were trapped in their homes after torrential rains drenched the northeastern province of Jilin on Wednesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Water began flooding the town after the nearby Xingshan Reservoir and the Wende and Songhua rivers overflowed and rescue crews were delivering supplies by boat and moving people to higher ground, state television reported.

Flooding has hit areas all over China. Thousands of workers sandbagged riverbanks and checked reservoirs in preparation for potential floods expected to flow from the swollen Yangtze and Han rivers, an official with the Yangtze Water Resources Commission said Wednesday. He gave only his surname, Zhang, as is common with Chinese officials.

"Right now, the Han river in Hubei province is on the verge breaching warning levels," Zhang said.

The Han is expected to rise this week to its highest level in two decades, Xinhua reported. The flood threat was greater than usual because the Yangtze, into which the Han flows, was also reaching peak levels, it said.

Workers were prepared to blast holes in the Han embankment to divert flood waters into a low-lying area of farms and fish ponds, from which more than 5,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua said.

Although China experiences heavy rains every summer, flooding this year is the worst in more than a decade because the flood-prone Yangtze River Basin has seen 15 percent more rain than in an average year, Duan Yihong, director of the National Meteorological Center, said in a transcript of an interview Wednesday posted on the Xinhua website.

"Rains should begin to slow down in August, but it is hard to predict now what exactly will happen, said Duan. "We have to be vigilant and closely monitor the weather ... do a better job of forecasting."

Thousands of rescuers in central China's Henan province searched for survivors Wednesday after a bridge collapsed from heaving flooding in the Yi River over the weekend, killing 37 people with 29 missing, Xinhua reported.

Floods have also put China's massive Three Gorges Dam to the test. On Wednesday morning, the dam's water flow reached 1.96 million cubic feet (56,000 cubic meters) per second, the biggest peak flow this year, with the water level reaching 518 feet (158 meters), Xinhua said, about 10 percent less than the dam's maximum capacity.

Chinese officials have for years boasted the dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, would end centuries of devastating floods along the Yangtze.

Around China, a total of 875,000 homes have been destroyed, 9.61 million people evacuated, and 22 million acres (8.76 million hectares) of crops ruined in this year's flooding, according to the state flood control office.

China's worst flooding in recent years occurred in 1998, when 4,150 people were killed, most along the Yangtze.

Rare 3D film shows Warsaw devastated after WWII

AP – In this still from the film 'City of Ruins', provided by The Warsaw Uprising Museum and Platige Image, …

 By MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press Writer Monika Scislowska, Associated Press Writer – 8 mins ago

WARSAW, Poland – The plane slowly descends from white clouds and sweeps over a panorama of a city destroyed by the Nazis: the skeletons of bombed bridges jutting from a quiet river, the empty walls of burned-out houses, the Jewish ghetto totally flattened.

It is Warsaw in the spring of 1945, just after World War II.

The sea of rubble that Warsaw was reduced to during the war is vividly reconstructed in a 3D film that historians and computer graphics experts showed for the first time in Warsaw on Wednesday.

The goal of the film, which must be seen with special 3D glasses, is to bringing home to a young generation the scope of the wartime devastation of Poland's capital.

"Young people do not understand what it means that Warsaw was in ruins; they think it was just a few collapsed houses," Jan Oldakowski, the director of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, told reporters at a screening of the film "City of Ruins."

"Nor were we, at the museum, fully aware of what the city looked like," he said.

The 1939-45 destruction was the result of bombings carried out by Nazi Germany, which invaded Poland in 1939 and occupied it for six years, killing millions of people. Most of the damage resulted from the German army's revenge for the city's 1944 uprising against its brutal rule.

The uprising failed after 63 days of an uneven struggle, but as one of Europe's most dramatic acts of resistance to Nazi rule remains an important element of Polish national identity. The heroism shown by the insurgents — among them women and teenagers — is a source of deep pride to this day.

Oldakowski said it took 40 specialists two years to make the five-minute 3D aerial view sequence, a simulation of an imaginary flight of a British Liberator bomber over the city right after the war in 1945.

It reconstructs the trajectory that RAF bombers took when bringing arms and supplies to the insurgency. The uprising began on Aug. 1, 1944, and the release of the film is timed to mark the 66th anniversary.

Starting Sunday, the film will be shown to visitors at the museum, which documents the uprising and is a major draw for tourists and students from across the country. Last year, it had some 500,000 visitors.

Michal Gryn, from the Platige Image studio which made the film, said the team was not aware at first of the challenge before them in the form of the masses of documentary material they had to go through.

"It was a unique project to build a 3D model of authentic city ruins and make five minutes of film from it," Gryn said. "I don't think that anyone in the world has done this."

His team took a helicopter flight over contemporary Warsaw to film base material. They filled it in with detail from some 2,000 historic pictures, films and paintings — some from private archives — to recreate Warsaw as it was after the war.

The result is a computer simulation that shows collapsed bridges along the Vistula River, whole districts of roofless, burned-out houses and the Warsaw Ghetto as a flat sea of rubble.

A solemn musical score enhances the sense of death and menace.

An inscription that closes the film says that before the war some 1.3 million people lived in Warsaw, some 900,000 at the start of the uprising and just 1,000 amid the ruins in 1945.

Before the war, some 10 percent of the city's population was Jewish.

Warsaw has been fully rebuilt, including a meticulous reconstruction of the Gothic and Renaissance Old Town. Today it is a bustling city of some 1.7 million, an administrative and business center with many high-rise buildings.


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KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) is contemplating legal action against the Selangor government to claim compensation for delaying the water tariff adjustments.

Its chief operating officer, Datuk Lee Miang Koi said until the end of this year, the expected compensation to be paid to Syabas was RM1 billion.

Syabas had sent a claim for the compensation but until now, it had yet to get the state government's response, he said at the National Intellectual Discourse hosted by the Special Affairs Department (Jasa) at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Memorial here tonight.

"The water tariff had to be adjusted to enable Syabas to earn revenue to repay loans it had taken to improve the quality of water services. By delaying the adjustments and freezing the Capex programme, the standard of water services will decline.

"This year, payments to treatment plant operators had to be reduced to 45 per cent compared to 60 per cent last year. Syabas is facing legal actions from Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and Abass for not paying them in full," he added.

Meanwhile, Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said foreign registered vehicles were required to buy unsubsidised RON97 petrol.

"The more they buy RON97, more revenue will be generated by the government, The ruling was made in the interest of the people," he added.



KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- Police smashed a four-digit lottery syndicate in a raid on a house in Kalumpang, Hulu Selangor at 6.30pm today.

Raiding party chief ASP Lim Shee Wah of Selangor anti-vice, gambling and secret societies division said six women aged 29-44 years were detained.

"Sixteen laptops, a fax machine and hundreds of riggit were seized in the raid," he told Bernama today.

The six women had been remanded to assist investigation under Section 4A(A) of Common Gaming Houses Act 1953.



Goodbye mouse: Apple's 'Magic Trackpad' goes on sale

An Apple keyboard with mouse pictured in 2005. Apple on Tuesday unveiled the "Magic Trackpad," a touchpad which allows a user to operate a desktop computer with finger gestures, eliminating the need for a mouse.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – Apple on Tuesday unveiled the "Magic Trackpad," a touchpad which allows a user to operate a desktop computer with finger gestures, eliminating the need for a mouse.

The Magic Trackpad costs 69 dollars in the online Apple Store.

The battery-powered device, which looks a bit like a notepad made out of glass and aluminium, connects to Apple's Mac desktop computers using Bluetooth wireless technology.

It allows users to operate their machines using the tapping, swiping and pinching finger gestures well known to owners of iPhones or iPads.

Apple said it works from as far as 33 feet (10 meters) away from the computer.

The touchpad technology has already featured in Apple's MacBook Pro notebook computers.

Apple on Tuesday also unveiled new iMac desktop computers featuring more powerful processors, 21.5-inch and 27-inch screens and price tags of 1,199 dollars to 1,999 dollars.


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