- - Monday, July 11, 2011

CYPRUS

Defense minister resigns after blast kills 12

MARI — A massive explosion ripped through a Cypriot naval base Monday after a brush fire detonated gunpowder stored in containers, killing 12 people, wounding 62 and prompting the resignations of the country’s defense minister and top military chief.

Bodies covered with white sheets lay scattered on a charred hillside near the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base on the Mediterranean island’s southern coast, while ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals in Larnaca and Limassol.

The blast occurred in the early morning when a brush fire approached dozens of storage containers holding gunpowder that had been confiscated in 2009 from a ship heading from Iran to Syria.

With criticism mounting over how the material had been handled and stored, Defense Minister Costas Papacostas and the country’s top military official, National Guard chief Brig. Gen. Petros Tsalikides.

CHINA

Emerging countries vow to help developing world

BEIJING — The world’s top emerging countries banded together Monday to help fight diseases in the poorest countries, pledging to explore the transfer of technologies to the developing world to enable poor nations to produce cheap and effective lifesaving medicines.

Health ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — meeting in Beijing said their collaboration would help strengthen health systems and increase access to affordable medicines for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

Such cooperation could pressure multinational pharmaceutical companies. Brazil and India have been at the forefront of promoting generic drugs as an affordable alternative to expensive brand-name medicines for people in developing nations.

RUSSIA

41 people on cruise ship killed in sinking on the Volga

KAZAN — Rescuers scoured the wide waters of a Volga River reservoir on Monday, searching with dimming hopes for survivors after an aged, overloaded cruise ship sank amid wind and rain.

Forty-one people were confirmed dead, but more than 80 remained missing.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying Monday that 208 people were believed to have been aboard the Bulgaria when it sank Sunday afternoon.

That’s nearly 75 percent more than the 120 the boat was licensed to carry, officials said.

As of mid-afternoon, 41 bodies had been found, including five children, according to the regional Emergencies Ministry office.

The ministry said 80 survivors were rescued, all of them Russian; it was unclear whether any foreigners were aboard. River cruise boats such as the Bulgaria are highly popular among Russians with trips ranging from a few days to two weeks.

IRAQ

Shiite vice president quits shaky government

BAGHDAD — One of Iraq’s three vice presidents resigned Monday in an apparent attempt to distance himself from what is seen as an increasingly dysfunctional government.

Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, could not be reached for comment. No formal reason was given for his resignation after four years in office.

Mr. Abdul-Mahdi had threatened for months to leave his post. President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, finally accepted his resignation Monday.

Talabani spokesman Naseer al-Ani said Mr. Abdul-Mahdi was encouraged by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party leaders to step down and save the cash-strapped government the cost of his annual salary of $108,000.

But advisers to Mr. Abdul-Mahdi privately have said the vice president feared he would be blamed for being part of a failed government should its leaders be ousted by frustrated Iraqis.

INDIA

Rescue work ends after train wreck kills 68

FATEHPUR — Railway workers Monday began clearing the mangled wreckage of a derailed passenger train in northern India after ending a rescue operation that found 68 bodies.

Throughout the day, anxious relatives searching for missing family members had thronged to the site of Sunday’s crash as bodies wrapped in white shrouds lay in rows on the ground next to the train.

By late Monday afternoon, rescue teams had finished searching the twisted coaches for victims and survivors and the repair work had begun amid pouring rain.

At least 239 passengers were injured when the Kalka Mail jumped the tracks near Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh state, a senior state police official said.

The main government-run hospital in Fatehpur was overrun by grieving relatives searching for their kin among the injured and the dead.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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