- - Wednesday, December 5, 2012

PHILIPPINES

NEW BATAAN — Stunned parents searching for missing children examined a row of mud-stained bodies covered with banana leaves while survivors dried their soaked belongings on roadsides Wednesday, a day after a powerful typhoon killed nearly 300 people in the southern Philippines.

Officials fear more bodies may be found as rescuers reach hard-hit areas that were isolated by landslides, floods and downed communications.

At least 151 people died in the worst-hit province of Compostela Valley when Typhoon Bopha lashed the region Tuesday, including 78 villagers and soldiers who perished in a flash flood that swamped two emergency shelters and a military camp, provincial spokeswoman Fe Maestre said.

Disaster-response agencies reported 284 dead in the region and 14 fatalities elsewhere from the typhoon, one of the strongest to hit the country this year.

About 80 people survived the deluge in New Bataan with injuries, and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who visited the town, said 319 others remained missing.

MALI

African leader aims for Mali mission in 2013

PARIS — U.N.-mandated African forces could intervene in lawless northern Mali early next year, Ivory Coast’s president said Wednesday, calling such an operation urgent to prevent the area in West Africa from becoming a hotbed of terrorists and drug traffickers.

Alassane Ouattara spoke while visiting France, which offered financial support for African efforts to stabilize northern Mali and also pressed for a quick military intervention.

Mr. Ouattara chairs the West African bloc known as ECOWAS, which has put together a plan for 3,300 African troops to be deployed in the region.

Mr. Ouattara urged the U.N. on Wednesday to pass a resolution this month allowing the operation. If that happens, the operation could start “in the first quarter” of 2013, he said.

India

Government wins voteto woo foreign big-box firms

NEW DELHI — The Indian government won a vote in parliament’s powerful lower house Wednesday that gave backing to its plans to open up the country’s massive retail sector to international big-box companies such as Wal-Mart.

The government won with 253 votes, while 218 lawmakers who say the move will crush small shop owners and farmers voted against the plan. Forty-three socialist lawmakers abstained.

A loss would have been a major embarrassment but would not have stopped the measure from being implemented after the Cabinet in September decided to allow foreign companies to own stakes of 51 percent in supermarkets and other big retailers for the first time. Individual states, however, would have the right to decide whether to let the retailers operate in their territory.

Parliament’s upper house will debate the issue later this week

The measure to allow foreign retail chains to do business in India was an attempt by the government of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to institute reforms to boost a slowing economy with fresh foreign investment, which could also help farmers and small businesses.

United Kingdom

Gun runner sentenced to seven years in prison

LONDON — A British arms dealer who helped ship thousands of assault rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition from China to Nigeria was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in jail.

Gary Hyde was convicted on two counts of breaching British trade controls and concealing criminal property for moving the weapons without a license and hiding more than $1 million in commission payments.

While the 2006 deal between the Chinese and Nigerian governments was lawful, Hyde failed to get a license for his part in it — an action that Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith chalked up to greed.

Sentencing Hyde at London’s Southwark Crown Court, Judge Smith said it would have been easy for him to apply for a license. He called Hyde’s offenses a “sustained and deceitful flouting of the law.”

France

Villagers shocked after contractors destroy chateau

PARIS | Residents of a sleepy French village in Bordeaux are dumbfounded after discovering their local 18th-century chateau was completely bulldozed “by mistake.”

The mayor’s office in Yvrac said Wednesday that workers who were hired to renovate the grand 140,000-square-foot manor and raze a small building on the same estate in southwest France mixed them up.

“The Chateau de Bellevue was Yvrac’s pride and joy,” said former owner Juliette Marmie. “The whole village is in shock. How can this construction firm make such a mistake?”

Local media reported that the construction company misunderstood the renovation plans of the current owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Stroskin, who wanted to restore the manor to its former baroque glory.

Mr. Stroskin was out of town when the calamity occurred and returned home to discover that only rubble was left of his chateau, a local treasure boasting a grand hall that could host some 200 people and a sweeping stone staircase.

“I’m in shock I understand the turmoil of the community,” Mr. Stroskin said.

He now plans to build an exact replica of lost manor.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports