India, July 17 (AP/UNB) — Rescuers cleared debris and used sniffer dogs Wednesday to find possible survivors under the rubble of a dilapidated building that collapsed in India's financial capital of Mumbai. At least 12 people were killed, and several are still feared trapped.
Dozens of rescuers worked overnight at the site where they have pulled out 11 survivors since the four-story building collapsed Tuesday, fire official Ashok Talpade said early Wednesday. The survivors included a child who was treated at a hospital and later allowed to go home. Others remain hospitalized.
A 16-year-old girl trapped under a heavy door was taken out by rescuers who cut through iron beams and cleared debris using hydraulic cutters.
The lane where the collapse occurred is too narrow for rescue vehicles, so equipment was carried by hand. People also formed a human chain to remove debris.
Heavy monsoon rains fall in India from June to September, causing severe flooding and collapsing poorly built and dilapidated structures.
At least four other collapses have occurred this month in Mumbai and another western city, Pune, killing at least 31 people. On Sunday, a building collapse in the northern town of Solan killed 14 people.
Maharashtra state's top elected official, Devendra Fadanavis, said the building that collapsed Tuesday was nearly 100 years old and 15 families were living there.
Talpade said the families had stayed after being asked to leave. Waris Pathan, an opposition lawmaker, said the building was a death trap, with authorities saying they had no money to rebuild the structure.
Pyongyang, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — North Korea on Tuesday suggested it might call off its 20-month suspension of nuclear and missile tests because of summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills that the North calls preparation for an eventual invasion.
The statement by the North's Foreign Ministry comes amid a general deadlock in nuclear talks, but after an extraordinary meeting of the U.S. and North Korean leaders at the Korean border raised hopes that negotiations on the North's growing nuclear and missile arsenal would soon resume.
The statement serves as a reminder of North Korea's longstanding antipathy toward U.S.-South Korean military cooperation, which the allies call defensive and routine but the North sees as hostile. It also ramps up the pressure on the United States going into any new round of talks.
At the dramatic June 30 meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, Trump crossed the border dividing the North and South, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korean territory. The leaders agreed in closed-door talks to resume nuclear diplomacy that had been stalled since their failed second summit in Vietnam in February.
Despite the seeming mini-breakthrough, there has been little public progress since. North Korea wants widespread relief from harsh U.S.-led sanctions in return for pledging to give up parts of its weapons program, but the United States is demanding greater steps toward disarmament before it agrees to relinquish the leverage provided by the sanctions.
Amid the diplomatic jockeying, North Korea said Tuesday that upcoming regular summertime U.S.-South Korean military drills are forcing it to rethink whether it should be committed to the promises it has made to the United States. It cited its moratorium on nuclear and missile tests and other steps aimed at improving ties with Washington.
The statement said Trump vowed to suspend military drills with South Korea during his first and third meetings with Kim, but the planned summertime drills with Seoul and the deployment of weapons in the South show that Washington is not fulfilling that promise.
"With the U.S. unilaterally reneging on its commitments, we are gradually losing our justifications to follow through on the commitments we made with the U.S. as well," said the statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
It also said it is not bound by any legal documents to suspend its nuclear and missile tests.
Since it conducted the third of its three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in November 2017, North Korea hasn't tested any long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. After entering talks with Washington, Kim suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, allowing Trump to boast of winning an achievement in his North Korea policy.
Later Tuesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued another statement warning that it will wait to see if the U.S.-South Korea military drills take place as planned to decide on the fate of North Korea-U.S. nuclear diplomacy.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service, the country's main spy agency, told lawmakers in a private briefing Tuesday that there were no suspicious activities at North Korea's main long-range rocket launch site in the northwest and its missile research center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, according to Kim Min-ki, one of the lawmakers who attended the briefing.
Outside experts say North Korea has suggested that it could further put off or cancel the resumption of nuclear talks if the United States doesn't offer to accept its calls for a slow, step-by-step nuclear disarmament process or widespread sanctions relief. But some analysts say North Korea will eventually return to the talks because Kim wants cooperation with outside powers as part of a plan to revive his country's troubled economy.
Hong Kong, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Colin Wong has come to know the sting of pepper spray well.
After more than a month of demonstrations in Hong Kong's sweltering heat, memories of the burning sensation are a constant reminder of what protesters call an excessive use of force by police. Each time he felt the now-familiar sting, Wong, 18, was more determined to not back down.
"Every time we come out and stand up, problems continue to arise afterward," Wong said, referring to the protesters' dissatisfaction with responses from law enforcement and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam. "Trust in the whole Hong Kong government is bankrupt."
What began as a protest against an extradition bill has ballooned into a fundamental challenge to the way Hong Kong is governed — and the role of the Chinese government in the city's affairs. "Hong Kong is not China" has become a refrain of the movement in what is a Chinese territory, but with its own laws and a separate legal system under a "one country, two systems" framework.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Hong Kong in three marches last month to oppose the extradition legislation, which would have allowed suspects to be sent to face trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened.
In recent weeks, the demonstrations have also included two smaller protests led by nativist-leaning groups against an influx of mainland Chinese into the city of 7.4 million people. All of it traces back to an underlying mistrust of the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities, which fuels calls for a more responsive government that protesters believe democracy would bring.
When Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997, its residents were promised certain freedoms not afforded to mainland Chinese. Opponents of the extradition bill argued that a hallmark of the "one country, two systems" framework — Hong Kong's independent judicial system — would be compromised under the proposed legislation.
Lam initially maintained that the bill would move forward, but has since declared them indefinitely suspended and "dead." The protests, however, have continued unabated, as demonstrators call for Lam's resignation, the legislation's formal withdrawal and an investigation into police tactics. They also demand that protesters not be punished — as the leaders of the pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" demonstrations in 2014 were.
Across these issues, protesters have increasingly held up signs expressing a broader wish: a yearning for greater democracy.
Slogans such as "Free Hong Kong" and "Democracy Now" have become more widely used, said Antony Dapiran, a Hong Kong-based lawyer and author of a book about the city's recent protest history who has been attending the protests since they began.
"People are fundamentally saying that they don't trust the mainland Communist government," he said. "There's an underlying anxiety and fear in Hong Kong of what they're going to do."
Pro-democracy sentiment has become more pronounced in recent years as Hong Kong residents increasingly feel that Beijing, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, is encroaching on their promised freedoms.
A principal demand has been for "universal suffrage," which means allowing Hong Kong citizens to vote directly for their chief executive and Legislative Council. The current chief executive, Lam, was chosen in 2017 by a 1,200-person committee dominated by pro-Beijing elites.
Several events have fueled anxieties about eroding boundaries between Hong Kong and the mainland. Five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared and ended up in Chinese custody, and the 2014 protest leaders were sent to prison. Meanwhile, China has built a high-speed rail link between the mainland and Hong Kong and plans to include both in a "Greater Bay Area," seen as attempts by Beijing to meld Hong Kong with the mainland.
"The furor over the extradition bill has since metamorphosed into a generalized movement uniting Hong Kong people of all ages and from all walks of life to express their frustrations and disappointments about an array of issues related to China," said Phil Chan, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm.
Mainland Chinese traders, as well as middle-aged mainland women who sing and dance loudly in a public park, have also been targets of Hong Kong protesters.
In what has become a recurring pattern, a demonstration Sunday in the northern district of Sha Tin was peaceful for most of the day, but scuffles broke out when police started clearing streets after nightfall. Some protesters retreated into a shopping complex where they and police hit each other with clubs and umbrellas. Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker, described the clashes as an "eye-for-an-eye retaliatory" approach.
Wong was in the area Sunday, trying to help fellow protesters find safety. He said they are now gearing up for a large protest this Sunday at the government complex in the Admiralty district.
"There is a reason that all of these citizens are standing up," said Wong, a recent high school graduate who plans to study design at university in the fall. "We still have to work, we still have to study, we would like to have normal holidays."
Instead, he has spent his summer break administering first aid to protesters and helping to document the events.
"I just can't imagine how this will end," he said.
Quetta, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — A Pakistani official says rescue teams saved two miners and retrieved the bodies of eight others after a methane explosion trapped the 10 in a coalmine in southwestern Baluchistan province.
Imran Zarkun, a top disaster management official, says the search operation was completed on Tuesday. An investigation into the incident will follow.
The mine partially caved in more than 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) below the surface in the Degari area near the provincial capital, Quetta, following the Sunday night explosion.
The two miners rescued on Tuesday were in critical condition. On Monday, rescuers found another miner, not part of the group of 10, who had been closer to the surface when the blast occurred.
Safety standards are widely ignored in the coal-mining industry in Pakistan, leading to numerous deadly incidents.
Gauhati, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Monsoon flooding and landslides continued to cause havoc in South Asia on Tuesday, with the death toll rising to 78 in Nepal and authorities in neighboring northeastern India battling to provide relief to over 4 million people in Assam state, officials said.
Nepal's National Emergency Operation Center said more than 40,000 soldiers and police were using helicopters and roads to rush food, tents and medicine to thousands of people hit by the annual flooding. Rescuers also were searching for 32 missing people.
In Bangladesh, more than 100,000 people were affected by flooding in the north and forecasters warned that major rivers continued to swell across the country.
Rivers burst their banks in the northern district of Lalmonirhat, marooning villages, news reports said, quoting local water board officials.
In the Indian state of Assam, officials said floodwaters have killed at least 19 people and brought misery to some 4.5 million.
More than 85,000 people have taken shelter in 187 state government-run camps in 30 of the state's 33 districts, the state disaster management authority said in a statement.
Atiqua Sultana, a district magistrate, said a flooded river washed away a 150-meter (490-foot) stretch of Assam's border road with Bangladesh, flooding 70 villages on the Indian side.
Around 80% of Assam's Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horn rhinoceros, has been flooded by the Brahmaputra river, which flows along the sanctuary, forest officer Jutika Borah said.
After causing flooding and landslides in Nepal, three rivers have been overflowing in India and submerging parts of eastern Bihar state, killing at least 24 people, said Pratata Amrit, a state government official.
More than 2.5 million people have been hit by the flooding in 12 of 38 districts of Bihar state, Amrit said.
In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains battered parts of the low-lying country.
Bangladesh, with 160 million people and more than 130 rivers, is prone to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.
Monsoon rains hit the region in June-September. The rains are crucial for rain-fed crops planted during the season.