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December 21, 2008

UK government sells stake in nuclear weapons firm

Filed under: United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

UK government sells stake in nuclear weapons firm

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

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A Trident D5 missile launched from underwater by an American submarine

The British government has decided to sell off its stake in the British nuclear weapon manufacturer, Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE). The move has been met with anger and claims of cover up by the opposition parties. The news was broken by Jacobs Engineering, the California based company who bought the government’s shares, and by a single line comment on the British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) website. British Nuclear Fuels plc, a government owned company, held one third of the shares in AWE’s operating company, with British firm Serco and American defence contractor Lockheed Martin each having a further third. The Atomic Weapons Establishment, which is based in Aldermaston, produces the warheads for the Lockheed Martin Trident D5 missile used by the Royal Navy’s Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines.

The details of the deal have not been published, though opposition Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable suggested the deal was “probably in the millions rather than the billions”, echoing fears that the firm may have been undervalued in its sale. Both the methods of the deal’s announcement and the deal itself have been attacked by both opposition parties. There is anger in some quarters over the deal being revealed on a website rather than through the commons, the Liberal Democrats describing such a failure as staggering. The Liberal Democrats have also raised the issue of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, their defence spokesman Nick Harvey questioned “The whole argument used for Britain having a separate weapons establishment is that this is required by the non-proliferation treaty, as technology sharing is not allowed. We must therefore query the rationale of a US company having a majority shareholding in AWE. How does this all square?”

The Tories have also raised doubts over the decision, with Commons Public Accounts Select Committee member Richard Bacon suggesting that they may involve the National Audit Office. The Tory defence spokesperson, Gerald Howarth, commented that the firm was “critical” and said “What I’m absolutely determined is that the United Kingdom should have total control of its independent nuclear capability”. Mr Howarth criticised handing over control to American firms, saying that the British people would want to know “their politicians are in command of the research and development of this capability”.

The Ministry of Defence has defended the decision, saying “the UK Government not AWE that sets the UK’s nuclear policy”. The MoD also assured that the sale would have no affect on the independence of the British nuclear deterrent or on the safe operation of AWE. These statements have been backed up by news from the government that it has retained the ability to re-assert control over the site should it feel the need, due to a “Special Share”.



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Two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana destroyed in Afghan school

Filed under: Afghanistan,Crime and law — admin @ 5:00 am

Two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana destroyed in Afghan school

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

View of Arghandab Valley in Kandahar.

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The combined efforts of agents from the Afghan Commandos and Coalition forces have led to the discovery and destruction of two-and-a-half tonnes of marijuana in an abandoned school in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Friday.

Kandahār province or Qandahar (کندھار,{قندهار) is one of the largest of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is located in southern Afghanistan, between Helamand, Oruzgan and Zabul provinces. Its capital is the city of Kandahār, also spelled Qandahār, (کندهار or قندهار), the second largest city in Afghanistan, with a population of 450,300 (2006 estimate). Kandahar City is located on the Arghandab River. The province has a population of nearly 890,000, with more than 300,000 living in its capital city. The main inhabitants of Kandahar province are the Pashtun people.

Map of the districts of Kandahar province of Afghanistan.

An improvised explosive device and an unexploded mortar round, both 100-meters away from the school, also were destroyed. Foot patrol by the combined forces yielded tips which led to the drug discovery. A Commando also discovered a large room filled with marijuana seeds. The marijuana was placed in two-foot-tall (0.6-meter) stacks that filled multiple 12ft-by-12ft rooms. Rust on the furniture suggests the Afghan schoolhouse may not have been used as such for a long period of time. No students or faculty were around at the time of the drug bust.

U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesperson, Col. Jerry O’Hara said that “using drugs to fund insurgent activity is bad enough; using a school as a drug warehouse is an attack on the future of all Afghanistan.”

Xinhua has reported that “according to a recent U.N. report, Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world’s opium as Taliban militants will benefit nearly 500 million U.S. dollars from opium trade in 2008.”

Meanwhile, coalition troops have killed four militants in Zabul Province. They also detained five suspects on Saturday. Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “the United States would send between 20,000 and 30,000 more forces to Afghanistan by summer.” “Those forces will primarily move into the country’s south, where the insurgency is the most entrenched,” he added.



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Taiwan culls 18000 chickens due to H5N2 virus outbreak

Taiwan culls 18000 chickens due to H5N2 virus outbreak

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

3D Modell Influenzavirus.

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New outbreaks of H5N2 have been confirmed in Taiwan. Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Wu-hsiung has confirmed on Saturday that “the recent chicken deaths at a poultry farm in Kaohsiung County’s Luchu Township (on October 21) were caused by the low-pathogenic H5N2 bird flu virus, that is not communicable to humans.” They had slaughtered 18,000 chickens on November 14. “The problem has been resolved,” he said. COA has been monitoring wild and migratory birds and said “it is still investigating the source of the infection.”

Lujhu Township (蘆竹鄉) is a rural township in northwestern Taoyuan County in Taiwan. It is located at kilometer 49 of the Highway no.1, close to the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (IATA: TPE). Kaohsiung County (高雄縣, Gāoxióng Xiàn, Gaosyóng Siàn, Kao-hsiung Hsien; Ko-hiông-kōan) is a county in southern Taiwan administered as a County of Taiwan. It encloses but does not include Kaohsiung City.

Mr Huang Kwo-ching, deputy director of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, however, said, “we took the most stringent measures in dealing with the episode as according to the rules of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there was no need to slaughter those chickens.”

A transmission electron micrograph of influenza A virus, late passage.

H5N2 is a subtype of the species Influenzavirus A (avian influenza virus or bird flu virus). A highly pathogenic strain of H5N2 caused bird flu outbreaks with significant spread to numerous farms, resulting in great economic losses in 1983 in Pennsylvania, USA in chickens and turkeys, in 1994 in Mexico in chickens and a minor outbreak in 1997 in Italy in chickens.

Deputy Minister Hu Sing-hwa (胡興華) explained that “after viral separation and cultivation, second results showed that the chickens had a H5N2 Intravenous Pathogenicity Index [IVPI] of 0.89, which makes it low-pathogenic,” adding that “We will also continue to monitor the 76 chicken farms around the affected farm for three months.”

Taiwan has thus stopped its poultry exports for at least three months.

Meanwhile, Taiwan News has reported that “Japan has banned the imports of Taiwan’s poultry. Being the biggest duck provider to Japan, Taiwan exports 5,000 tons of duck annually worth US$23 million (approximately NT$750 million). For the time being, US$4 million (NT$130 million) worth of duck in the process of shipping, customs clearance is expected to be affected.” For this reason, COA has promised to subsidize poultry farmers affected by the virus which broke out on October 21. H5N2 avian flu strain first broke out in Taiwan in January 2004.



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Philippines Supreme Court to probe leak of draft judgment in election case

Philippines Supreme Court to probe leak of draft judgment in election case

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila.

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has started an inquiry into leaks of a draft of a still unpromulgated election decision by ponente Justice Ruben T. Reyes on the citizenship case of Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong of the 14th Congress of the Philippines.

Four justices were visibly absent at the En Banc ceremony of retiring Justice Ruben Reyes Thursday. Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Renato Corona did not attend the traditional court proceeding. Newsbreak Magazine has reported that “Justice Ruben T. Reyes, who came to the SC under a cloud of doubt, is leaving the hallowed chamber under a cloud of doubt. The leakage scandal that has embarrassed members of the Court has further underscored the respect–or lack of it–his peers have bestowed on Reyes.”

In a December 12 three-page en banc resolution, penned by Justice Ruben Reyes, the Court formed an Investigating Committee under Justice Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, “to investigate the unauthorized release of the unpromulgated ponencia … to determine who are responsible for this leakage of a confidential internal document of the En Banc, and to recommend to the En Banc the appropriate actions thereon.”

A preliminary contempt of court citation order was also issued against the petitioner Louis Biraogo. The unpublished decision, “is part of the confidential internal deliberations of the Court. No copy of the unpromulgated ponencia can be released to any person outside of the En Banc. Any release of a copy to the public, or to the parties, of an unpromulgated ponencia infringes on the confidential internal deliberations of the Court and constitutes contempt of court,” the Court ruled.

Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court Reynato S. Puno speaking at 2007 U.P. Law alumni homecoming.

In the 2007 Philippine congressional election for Negros Oriental’s first district, Limkaichong won over poll candidates Jerome Paras and Oliver Paras. Biraogo had filed a disqualification case against Limkaichong for allegedly being a Chinese. He distributed to local media copies of the 37-page July 15 Court decision duly signed by all of the justices except Chief Justice Reynato Puno. The unpromulgated judgment annulled Limkaichong’s election victory.

In a two-page letter, Biraogo has revealed an “irregularity” in the High Tribunal. He told media, that “a law dean, who is a close fraternity brother of Chief Justice Puno and a junior assistant of the Solicitor-General, who is also Puno’s fraternity brother, argued for Limkaichong during the oral argument conducted on Aug. 26, instead of the counsel on record.” CJ Puno is a member of the UP College of Law, Alpha Phi Beta fraternity. Biraogo accused Chief Justice Puno of delaying the release of the decision. “My suspicion is the Chief Justice may have a hand in this irregularity. These circumstances led me to believe the Chief Justice may have been dishonest in his dealings…and may prejudice the faith of people in the judiciary. I was likewise informed (by an unnamed SC) employee that (Puno) was the one who prodded the members to hold oral arguments,” Biraogo added. “The said decision was dated July 15, 2008 but what is irregular and maybe anomalous is that it was not promulgated until now. In fact what is questionable is an oral argument was conducted on August 26, 2008 despite a decision already made on July 15, 2008,” he further said.

This is not the first time that the Philippine judiciary had been involved in massive corruption. In the recent GSIS-Meralco bribery case, the High Court dismissed Associate Justice Vicente Q. Roxas, punished Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr. with 2 months suspension, and reprimanded 2 other CA Justices. In September 2006, Atty. Romeo Roxas accused Justice Minita Chico-Nazario of issuing a ruling for certain considerations, and calling the Supreme Court a “dispenser of injustice”. Roxas said her decision ordering him and one Santiago Pastor to return more than P17 million to Antonio de Zuzuarregui Jr. was wrong and unjust. Roxas told Nazario: to “sleep well if you still can” and that she would be judged by the “Supreme Dispenser of Justice.” Roxas was cited for indirect contempt and fined P30,000.

In April 2007, Philippine Court of Appeals then Presiding Justice Ruben Reyes ordered an investigation and a regular auditing and inventory of temporary restraining orders (TROs) issued by the 69 CA Justices. Reyes stated: “I will order a monthly or quarterly inventory of TROs, for transparency and to watch the movements of the so-called Dirty Dozen [the 12 most corrupt CA justices].” CJ Reynato Puno said that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez had not yet submitted the list and the Supreme Court was waiting for its delivery amid her formal investigation against the “Dirty Dozen.”

In September 2007, Lawyer Victor de la Serna accused Justice Dante Tinga of accepting a P10-million bribe in the Johnny Chan versus Carmelita Fudot lawsuit, regarding a land located in Doljo, Panglao, Bohol. De la Serna alleged that in the September 26, 2007 meeting, Chan, owner of Bellevue Hotel, paid Tinga P10 million in exchange for a favorable decision. On September 13, 2007, Tinga penned a decision in favor of Chan’s Cattleya Land Inc., over Fudot, client of De La Serna. The court, however, upheld Tinga, and fined De La Serna P 30,000 for indirect contempt.

In September 2007, Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago denied charges that she received P10-million (US $ 224,000) bribe money (as published by The Daily Tribune, Malaya newspaper’s Amado Macasaet and Newsbreak, the previous week).

In January 2005, and December 2006, Philippines Social Weather Stations released the results of its 2 surveys on corruption in the judiciary. It reported that: a) “like 1995, 1/4 of lawyers said many/very many judges are corrupt. But (49%) stated that a judges received bribes, just 8% of lawyers admitted they reported the bribery, because they could not prove it. [Tables 8-9]; judges, however, said, just 7% call many/very many judges as corrupt[Tables 10-11] ;b) Judges see some corruption; proportions who said – many/very many corrupt judges or justices: 17% in reference to RTC judges, 14% to MTC judges, 12% to Court of Appeals justices, 4% i to Shari’a Court judges, 4% to Sandiganbayan justices and 2% in reference to Supreme Court justices [Table 15].”



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Wikipedia Learn more about Supreme Court of the Philippines and Reynato Puno on Wikipedia.
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International controversy over UN declaration to stop anti-homosexuality legislation

International controversy over UN declaration to stop anti-homosexuality legislation

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

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The United States — along with Russia, China, and many Arab countries — has stirred up international tensions by refusing to sign a United Nations declaration that condemns anti-gay laws and demands international decriminalization of homosexuality.

The historic declaration was crafted in conjunction with the anniversary of the U.N.’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The new motion would extend the rights guaranteed in the UDHR to homosexual and transgender people, 60 years after the original declaration was made. It was backed by France and the Netherlands, and has been signed by sixty-six countries including Mexico, Israel, Australia and Japan.

The refusal of the U.S. to sign the non-binding declaration was prompted by its own legal questions. Officials said signing the declaration would cause a conflict between state and federal governments because of laws already in place. American military personnel are not allowed to be openly gay, and in some states landlords and employers are allowed to discriminate against a sexual orientation.

Carolyn Vadino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., said the refusal to sign the declaration does not mean the U.S. believes human rights violations related to sexual orientation are acceptable.

Gay rights activists in the U.S. and around the world, however, expressed anger at the United States’ decision, with one international group calling the stance “appalling.” Former chief U.S. spokesman to the U.N. Richard Grenell said the United States’ reasons for not signing the declaration were “ridiculous,” adding that “the U.S. lack of support on this issue only dims our once bright beacon of hope and freedom for those who are persecuted and oppressed.”

Representatives around the world have also spoken out against the U.S. decision, and in support of the updated declaration. Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said the declaration was purely symbolic but that he would accept nothing less than for “human rights apply to all people in all places at all times.” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay discussed concerns over the countries that have not signed the document, comparing anti-gay laws to Apartheid laws and saying that stigma was to blame for unpunished violence and discrimination.

The declaration has met opposition from several Arab and African countries, which issued a joint statement condemning the attempt at “the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts.” One Syrian official said it would lead to more pedophilia. In many of these countries homosexuality is a criminal offense and, in seven nations, homosexuality carries a death sentence.

The Vatican has rejected the declaration as well, saying it appreciates the efforts made to end the criminal status of gays in many countries but that the declaration “gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms.” The vague definitions of ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’, it said, would undermine existing and future laws.

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Deposed Mauritanian president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is released

Deposed Mauritanian president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi is released

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi.

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Mauritania’s President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi has been freed “without conditions” from house arrest by the military junta on Sunday.

Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi (Arabic: سيدي محمد ولد الشيخ عبد الله) is a Mauritanian politician who served in the government during the 1970s, and after a long period of absence from politics he won the March 2007 presidential election, taking office on 19 April 2007. He was deposed in a military coup d’etat on August 6, 2008.

He was removed from Lemden to his soldiers guarded private residence in Nouakchott (Arabic: نواكشوط or انواكشوط), the Capital and by far the largest city of Mauritania. It is one of the largest cities in the Sahara. The city is the administrative and economic centre of Mauritania.

Sidi’s release is a result of protracted and intense international pressure on the ruling military High Council of State headed by General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, to restore constitutional rule to the nation. France and the US had canceled their aid, while the African Union has also suspended the country due to the 6 August coup d’état. But the leaders still refused to reinstate Sidi, amid the demands of the EU, the United States and other major donors.

Aerial view of Nouakchott.

Reuters has reported that “the EU says it will avoid sanctions that would hurt Mauritania’s 3 million people, and continues to pay Nouakchott over $100 million a year for fishing rights, underpinning the state budget.” Further, the United States on Friday announced it would cut trade benefits for Mauritania as of January 1.

It is expected that Sidi will be allowed to participate in a “national consultation meeting” on December 27. But in an interview by the French newspaper Le Monde, he said that “participating in the December 27 talks would be to legitimise the coup d’état”.



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  • “Mauritania president Abdallahi arrested in coup” — Wikinews, August 6, 2008

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BBC reporters arrested in Iran on suspicion of espionage

Filed under: Asia,Iran — admin @ 5:00 am

BBC reporters arrested in Iran on suspicion of espionage

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

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At least one team of British reporters for the BBC have been arrested in Tehran, Iran. Officials there say the reporters are suspected of spying on Iran and had the assistance of the British embassy in Tehran. A number of other teams are under investigation for espionage.

“Iran’s security agencies have revealed that several BBC reporters intended to engage in espionage in the Islamic Republic of Iran with the support of the UK embassy, said Foreign Policy and National Security Commission of the Iranian parliament member, Muhammad Karim Abedi. He was speaking during an interview on Iran’s top news agency, the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Abedi did not say how many were arrested and did not specify any names. He alleges the reporters were staying in a hotel under false names, and were planning to organize groups of people that were not in favor of the practices of the Iranian government. He also alleges that the BBC is not in Iran to report on news events, but are in the country “recruiting individuals for intelligence activities.”

“Fortunately, the Iranian intelligence services have arrested one or two teams and a number of other teams are under investigation,” added Abedi.

Abedi also said that many other people involved with the espionage plot have been arrested and that authorities are currently searching for more suspects.

So far neither the British government nor the BBC have commented on the incident.



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Violence erupts in Vladivostok, Russia

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Central square of Vladivostok (Russian Pacific Coast)were paint blood red today. Russian riot police detained at least 200 people on Sunday protesting against government decision to raise import tariffs on used foreign cars. Riot police broke up an rally organized against new car import duties, kicked a protester as he was being held and hurled a cameraman’s gear to the ground.

“People behaved themselves very peacefully. It is very cold today, so people would dance around the Christmas tree, Several dozen reporters who covered the event were also seized, including teams from Russian and Japanese television stations.They beat us all — those who resisted and those who did not. In the buses the floor was sprinkled with blood,” witness said.

Later, riot police broke up a gathering of around 500 people who were singing and dancing around a decorated holiday tree on a square. December’s rallies are the largest anti-government demonstrations in years.


Sources

Russia riot police detain 100 at crisis protest http://uk.reuters.com/article/mideast/idUKTRE4BK0VL20081221?sp=true

Police beat people celebrating holiday in Russia http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g1SqhP_Al_MnpMaJr0cQqyCi1VlAD9573DR00

Russian police seize protesters, reporters at anti-tariff demo http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5h5-jI2KRDGECzquFu2UFygsuZSMw

Pics are here http://matroskin-cat.livejournal.com/

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BBC reporters arrested in Iran for suspicion of espionage

Filed under: Crime and law,Iran,Politics and conflicts,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

At least one team of British reporters for the BBC have been arrested in Tehran, Iran. Officials there say the reporters are suspected of spying on Iran and had the assistance of the British embassy in Tehran. A number of other teams are under investigation for espionage.

“Iran’s security agencies have revealed that several BBC reporters intended to engage in espionage in the Islamic Republic of Iran with the support of the UK embassy, said Foreign Policy and National Security Commission of the Iranian parliament member, Muhammad Karim Abedi. He was speaking during an interview on Iran’s top news agency, the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Abedi did not say how many were arrested and did not specify any names. He alleges the reporters were staying in a hotel under false names, and were planning to organize groups of people that were not in favor of the practices of the Iranian government. He also alleges that the BBC is not in Iran to report on news events, but are in the country “recruiting individuals for intelligence activities.”

“Fortunately, the Iranian intelligence services have arrested one or two teams and a number of other teams are under investigation,” added Abedi.

Abedi also said that many other people involved with the espionage plot have been arrested and that authorities are currently searching for more suspects.

So far the British government nor the BBC have commented on the incident.


Sources

  • “Iranian official says BBC teams arrested for “espionage activities””. Individual.com, December 20, 2008
  • “Several BBC reporters arrested in Tehran”. Trend News, December 20, 2008
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

Continental 737 off runway at Denver International Airport

Sunday, December 21, 2008

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A Boeing 737 passenger jet owned and operated by Continental Airlines taking off from Denver, Colorado, in the United States ran off the end of the runway and into a ravine at 6:20 PM local time on Saturday, according to officials. The aeroplane burst into flames, and the 112 people onboard were forced to evacuate the aircraft by the use of slides. Ground crews promptly arrived at the scene, and the fire was swiftly extinguished.

Thirty-eight people sustained injuries, such as broken bones, after the accident. Two of the injured were reported to be in critical condition.

Patrick Hynes, the Denver Fire Department Division Chief, stated that the fire associated with the accident burnt the entire right side of the plane, causing melted plastic from the overhead compartments to drip onto the seats below them.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known. The weather in Denver at the time of the crash was cold, but not snowy. Kim Day, the Denver International Airport manager of aviation, reported that the aeroplane went off course about 2 000 feet off the end of the runway, and did not seem to be airborne.

The accident forced the west airfield of the airport to shut down, and resulted in delays of 40 minutes, Day added, saying that delays on Sunday are also expected.

Debris remained on the runway, with the landing gear and left engine of the craft torn off.

Mike Wilson, a passenger onboard the aeroplane, described the accident and the chaos that followed: “By the time the plane stopped we were burning pretty well and I think I could feel the heat even through the bulkhead and window. I made for the exit door as quickly as I could, fearing the right wing might explode from the fire. Once out, I scrambled down the wing.”


Sources

  • “Passenger jet veers off Denver runway; 38 hurt”. MSNBC, December 21
  • Solomon Banda/Associated Press “Continental jet goes off Denver runway; 38 hurt”. cleveland.com, December 21
This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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