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World Briefs

- - Tuesday, October 11, 2011

THAILAND

Thailand tallies cost of nationwide floods

BANGKOK — Thailand is counting the multibillion-dollar cost of nationwide flooding that has killed nearly 270 people and may yet cause more havoc as waters threaten to engulf the country's capital.

Bank of Thailand Gov. Prasarn Trairatvorakul said a preliminary estimate by the central bank shows economic losses from flooding that began in late July range from $1.9 billion to $2.6 billion.

That figure doesn't include damages to assets or reconstruction costs and is expected to rise as the floodwaters surge toward Bangkok, a city of about 10 million people. Some of its outlying areas are already underwater.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Bangkok officials pleaded Tuesday with the city's residents not to panic as workers raced to complete three critical flood walls with only one or two days to go before the already swollen river that winds through the capital bursts its banks.

MEXICO

Official: Migration drops 70% in Central America

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's immigration chief says there has been a sharp drop in the number of Central Americans crossing Mexico to reach the U.S.

Commissioner Salvador Beltran del Rio says the number of Central Americans crossing Mexico without documents has dropped from 433,000 in 2005 to 140,000 in 2010. He says the downward trend has continued in the first eight months of this year.

Mr. Beltran said Monday that Central Americans crossing Mexico face increased risks of extortion, kidnapping and violence because organized crime has moved into migrant trafficking.

In one of the worst attacks, 72 migrants were slaughtered in the border state of Tamaulipas in August 2010. Most were Central Americans.

GERMANY

Arson attack foiled on Berlin train tracks

BERLIN — An attempted arson attack on a railway link in Germany's capital with three separate explosive devices was thwarted Monday, police said.

It was the third in two days targeting railway operations in and around Germany's capital.

A railway employee found the explosive devices placed on cables along a track in eastern Berlin on Monday morning and alerted security, police spokesman Ivo Habedank said.

The devices did not explode and were defused by police experts. It was not immediately clear how much damage they would have caused, but there are no houses or busy streets nearby.

Parts of Berlin's train services to and from the city's southeast were halted for more than two hours because of the incident.

An arson attempt Monday on Berlin's central station using seven bottles filled with flammable liquid bundled together and linked to a fuse was thwarted at the last minute.

A similar device exploded in a utility shaft next to a high-speed train line west of Berlin a few hours earlier, causing damage but no casualties, and halting train traffic there for the day.

NEW ZEALAND

Oil spill worsens in rough weather

TAURANGA — Rough weather has jostled a cargo ship stuck off New Zealand's coast and worsened its oil leak fivefold to make it the country's worst-ever maritime environmental disaster, the government said Tuesday.

Clumps of heavy oil from the Liberia-flagged Rena have washed up on beaches near Tauranga on New Zealand's North Island.

The 775-foot ship has been foundering since it ran aground Oct. 5 on the Astrolabe Reef, about 14 miles from Tauranga harbor, and the government has demanded to know why the ship crashed into the well-charted reef in calm weather. The ship owner has given no reason for the grounding, but says it is cooperating with authorities.

Rough weather in recent days has kept salvage crews away.

Up to 390 tons of heavy fuel oil spilled from the hull Tuesday, a rate about five times worse than during the initial days of the spill. Officials think the ship had about 1,870 tons of oil and 220 tons of diesel on board before it started leaking.

MYANMAR

Myanmar gives amnesty to 6,300 prisoners

YANGON — Myanmar's newly elected civilian government announced Tuesday it will release more than 6,300 prisoners in an amnesty that could help patch up the country's human rights record and normalize relations with Western nations.

It was widely expected that many of the country's estimated 2,000 political prisoners would be among those freed, but the amnesty announcements broadcast on state radio and television did not supply any names.

Freedom for political detainees has been hotly anticipated as part of liberalizing measures since Myanmar's long-ruling military government handed power in March to a military-backed civilian administration.