x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

War and nature take a toll

Typhoon Morakot wreaks havoc in China and Taiwan, pirates expand their range to northern Europe and lingering health problems foil Schumacher's F1 comeback.

Residents of Cangnan in eastern China are rescued by a bulldozer on Monday after rains from Typhoon Morakot, which means emerald in Thai, caused a landslide. Entire blocks of buildings were washed away in the torrent.
Residents of Cangnan in eastern China are rescued by a bulldozer on Monday after rains from Typhoon Morakot, which means emerald in Thai, caused a landslide. Entire blocks of buildings were washed away in the torrent.

Factions within the Pakistani Taliban were reported to be fighting among themselves after the death of their leader, Baitullah Mehsud. A missile attack was said to have killed Mehsud in his tribal stronghold last week, with several Taliban sources confirming his death. However other senior members of the organisation continued to insist that their leader had survived but was gravely ill. The picture was further complicated after one of those behind the claim that Mehsud was still alive was reported killed in internecine fighting. He later called reporters, saying he was still alive. Pakistan has said it will attempt to recover the leader's body and compare his DNA with a brother, who was killed some months ago.

A new survey revealed that Abu Dhabi was the second most expensive city in the world for business travellers.

Despite the global recession, hotel rates in the capital rose by eight per cent over the past six months, making the city second only to Moscow in the price survey by a corporate travel company. Average rates in Abu Dhabi for a night's stay are now US$378.50 (Dh1,390), more expensive than New York, London and Paris. By contrast, rates in Dubai fell by almost a quarter to Dh1,003. Tourism officials said they are concerned that Abu Dhabi's high prices may discourage some visitors, but the situation should improve as more hotels open.

Typhoon Morakot swept across China and Taiwan, leaving a trail of death and destruction. In Chihpen, Taiwan, a hotel collapsed into a swollen river amid the worst flooding in 50 years. Hundreds were feared dead in a village buried by a mudslide. In eastern China, at least six blocks of flats collapsed after severe landslides, killing and trapping an unknown number of people. The typhoon dropped up to 2.5 metres of rain in some areas, with around one million people evacuated from costal areas in China.

Hillary Clinton slapped down a questioner who asked the US Secretary of State what her husband, Bill, thought about a foreign policy issue. A question from a Congolese student about former President Clinton's views on a trade deal with China, prompted the curt response: "My husband is not secretary of state, I am. "If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channelling my husband." It emerged later that the entire incident had been caused by a translator's error. The student had actually asked what President Barack Obama's views were.

The Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrested after an American man was caught swimming to her lakeside home. A court sentenced Ms Suu Kyi to three years' hard labour, but this was immediately commuted by the country's military leaders. The American, John Yettaw, was given seven years' hard labour. Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Burma's last election in 1990, a result the ruling generals refused to accept. Her new sentence means she will be unable to take part in next year's elections.

A baby elephant had to be rescued after it fell down a manhole in Thailand. The elephant was walking with its handler when it slipped and fell down an open manhole in a drainage ditch. It took workers using a mechanical digger in Rayong province three hours to make the hole big enough for the calf to get free. Elephants are taught tricks to beg from tourists in Thailand, with babies the most popular.

Michael Schumacher abandoned his attempt to return to Formula One motor racing, meaning that he will miss this year's debut Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Schumacher did not pass his medical after failing to recover fully from a neck injury caused by a motorcycle accident earlier this year. The former world champion had hoped to stand in for the injured Felipe Massa on the Ferrari team.

Elections within the Fatah movement saw much of the leadership replaced by younger members. Among the casualties were Fatah's chief Palestinian negotiator with Israel and the head of the Palestinian Authority's presidential office. The elections brought in 14 newcomers to the 23-member ruling Central Committee, including Nasser al Qidwa, a nephew of Yasser Arafat.

The Mona Lisa was attacked with a cup by a deranged Russian woman. Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece escaped unharmed, after the cup shattered against the bulletproof glass that protects the painting in the Louvre Museum, Paris. The woman has since been detained in a psychiatric hospital. The portrait was doused with acid in 1956 and was damaged later the same year by a stone-throwing Bolivian.

Six alleged members of a terrorist network with links to al Qa'eda were arrested in Kuwait for planning an attack on a US military. A statement from the ministry of the interior said all six were Kuwaiti nationals and had confessed. Their main target was said to be Camp Arifan, a huge base south of Kuwait city that houses 15,000 American soldiers, as well as Kuwaiti government targets.

The Russian navy joined the search for a missing cargo ship feared to have been taken by pirates somewhere off the European coast. The Arctic Sea, with a crew of 15 Russians and a cargo of timber, has not been heard from since it radioed a location off Portugal. The ship was due to arrive in Algeria last week but appears to have vanished. One report claimed the Arctic Sea was boarded shortly after entering Swedish waters and that it then passed through the English Channel. Five Russian warships are now leading the hunt for the vessel.

Thousands of Chinese tourists are expected to head to the Emirates after the Chinese government relaxed visa restrictions to the country. From September 15, travel agents will be allowed to send tour groups, according tourism officials. At present around 2,000 visitors come from China every month, but this is expected to rise to close to 10,000. Dubai is likely to prove the most popular destination, along with trade exhibitions.

Abu Dhabi tourism officials are to visit China next month to promote the city. jlangton@thenational.ae