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38 killed in fire at Kazakh drug rehab clinic

A fire at a drug treatment centre in southern Kazakhstan killed 38 people early Sunday, officials said.

  • JET Airways staff report to work on Sunday morning as the airlines limps back to normalcy. Image Credit:AP
  • Firefighters cut up a tree that fell onto a road after an earthquake in Caracas, September 12. Image Credit:Reuters
  • Pop singer Elton John kisses baby Lev during a news conference at a orphanage for HIV-positive children in theImage Credit:AP
  • Media and rescuers gather outside the International Commerce Center in Hong Kong. Image Credit:AP

ALMATY: A fire at a drug treatment centre in southern Kazakhstan killed 38 people early Sunday, officials said.

The blaze broke out at about 5.30am local time (2330 GMT) and spread over an area of 650 square metres in Taldykorgan in the Central Asian nation's south, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Emergency workers evacuated 40 people from the building during the fire, the ministry said.

The cause of the blaze was not yet clear. Prime Minister Karim Masimov demanded the creation of a special committee to investigate the incident, RIA-Novosti news agency cited a government spokesman as saying.

Deputy Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov was set to travel to the site of the fire, it said.

Violations of safety regulations are common in the former Soviet state, and deaths caused by accidents and fires are frequent.

According to Emergency Situations Ministry statistics, there have been almost 10,000 fires in Kazakhstan in the first eight months of 2009.

India's Jet Airways pilots end strike after 5 days

NEW DELHI: Pilots at India's Jet Airways resumed work on Sunday ending a five-day strike that led to the cancellation of more than 800 flights, company officials said.

The standoff between the airline and its pilots ended late Saturday after the company agreed to reinstate four pilots who were fired for trying to form a pilots' union.

“We have reached an amicable agreement on all issues,'' Saroj Dutta, executive director at Jet Airways, told reporters.
From Sunday, “the airline will operate its full schedule of services'' on its domestic and international flights with all crew reporting for duty, it said in a statement.

Nearly 450 of more than 700 Jet pilots called in sick for five days. More than 800 flights were canceled since Sept 8.

Jet offered a full refund to passengers whose flights were cancelled, but thousands were stranded and had to scramble to get other flights.

After nearly two days of talks, the airline and pilots' representatives said the sacked pilots would be rehired and that a “consultative group'' would be formed comprising representatives of the company and pilots to continue the process of dialogue to resolve all their problems.

Jet Airways suffered a loss of nearly $8 million (Dh29.5 million) a day during the strike, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

Gunmen kill policeman's sleeping family in Iraq

BAGHDAD: Gunmen broke into the home of a Kurdish policeman in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk while he was away early Sunday, killing his wife and three children as they slept, authorities said.

Omed Abdul Hamid had already left for work when the gunmen burst into the house and sprayed the woman and children with bullets, police Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir said. The children were ages 3 through 10, he said.

The attackers did not steal anything, suggesting it was an insurgent attack, Qadir said.

The oil-rich city has been at the center of tension between Arabs and Kurds, who want to incorporate the city into their self-governed Kurdish region despite opposition from Arabs and the Turkomen ethnic minority.

US commanders have warned that insurgents are trying to exploit the tension to stoke an Arab-Kurdish conflict, which they say poses a greater long-term threat to Iraq's stability than the Sunni-Shiite conflict.

Elsewhere in the area, two separate morning police patrols were hit with roadside bombs in southern Kirkuk, wounding six policemen, police Brig. Gen. Khatab Omar said.

Elton John wants to adopt Ukrainian toddler

Look out Madonna and Angelina Jolie - pop star Elton John may be joining the ranks of A-list celebrities with adopted children.

John says he wants to adopt a 14-month-old Ukrainian toddler he met at an orphanage there.

The singer admits it may not be possible because of bureaucratic obstacles but says a young boy named Lev stole his heart during his visit.

John said Saturday night that he and longtime partner David Furnish had often discussed adopting in the past but said he had been reluctant because he is 62 years old and tours frequently.

But he says meeting Lev has changed his mind and that he wants to give the young boy a good future.

He and Furnish are visiting orphanages in Ukraine as part of his AIDS Foundation work.

Strong earthquake rocks Venezuela

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook major oil exporter Venezuela on Saturday, causing panic in the capital, Caracas, and injuring at least seven people when houses in the countryside collapsed.

The quake, the strongest in the South American nation in years, hit at about 3.40pm local time (2010 GMT), authorities said. It also knocked out power in several regions.

The head of Venezuela's emergency services, Luis Diaz Curbelo, said the quake was felt across the country, but the northwestern state of Falcon was the hardest hit with seven people hurt and some buildings damaged.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 23 miles north-northeast of Puerto Cabello, one of the OPEC nation's main oil ports. It was below the sea at a depth of 6.2 miles.

There was no damage to any oil installation, a source at state oil company PDVSA said.

Hong Kong construction workers plunge down elevator shaft

Police say a group of construction workers have plunged down an elevator shaft of Hong Kong's tallest skyscraper on Sunday, leaving at least three dead.

The accident happened in the afternoon as they were working on the International Commerce Center, a soaring business tower in Hong Kong's Kowloon area, expected to be 118 stories high, and one of the world's tallest buildings once completed next year.

Three male workers were declared dead after being transferred to a hospital, said Laurence Li, duty officer for the Hong Kong police.

Several others were being treated at the scene or transferred to hospitals, thought it wasn't immediately clear how many, Li said.

The workers may have plummeted from the 30th to the tenth floor, Hong Kong government-owned radio RTHK reported, but police could not confirm.

Propaganda launched for North Korean succession: Report

North Korea has launched a public propaganda campaign to prepare its people for the succession of Kim Jong Il's youngest son as leader, a news report said Sunday.

North Korea has mentioned Kim Jong Un by his full name -- which it had not done in the past -- and his qualifications in broadcasts through speakers installed in each house, Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unidentified source on North Korean affairs.

The broadcast campaign was launched in Pyongyang about two months, but it was not clear if it had been extended to other parts of the country, Yonhap said.

North Koreans are obligated to install speakers in their homes to listen to broadcasts on policy of the ruling Workers' Party and its propaganda, according to North Koreans who have defected to the South.

Kim, 67, believed to have suffered a stroke last year, has not publicly named his successor but is widely reported to be grooming the 26-year-old to take over.

However, North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam last week told Japan's Kyodo news agency that Kim Jong Il is in good health and denied that Kim Jong Un had been named successor. He dismissed that as speculation by foreign media aimed at harming the North.

Dozens of Taliban killed after US deaths

A battle in western Afghanistan that included air strikes killed dozens of Taliban militants after an insurgent ambush left three US troops dead, an Afghan official said on Sunday.

The hours-long battle took place on Saturday in the western province of Farah after a complex attack that killed three Americans and seven Afghan troops, said Afghan army spokesman Maj. Abdul Basir Ghori.

The insurgent ambush involved two roadside bombs, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a US military spokeswoman, said on Sunday. Mathias confirmed that fighting in the west continued after the ambush, but she could not provide any casualty figures.

Ghori said about 50 militants were killed in Saturday's battle, but no other Afghan officials could immediately confirm that figure.

During the clash, a coalition air strike hit a home and killed a woman and a teenage girl, said Afghan police spokesman Raouf Ahmadi.