- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009


Search continues after plant blast

MOSCOW | Searchers on Sunday combed wreckage at Russia’s largest hydroelectric plant for six workers missing since an explosion a week ago. Three more bodies were found, raising the death toll to at least 69 people.

The Aug. 17 blast at the Sayano-Shushenskaya dam and power plant in Siberia underlined worries about Russia’s decaying Soviet-era infrastructure and raised concern about long-term electricity supplies to the energy-intensive aluminum plants that are a key piece of the region’s economy.

The acting chairman of plant operator RusHydro, Vasily Zubakin, said Sunday that it would likely take three years to get the facility back in service, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

There appears to be virtually no chance that any of the six workers still missing will be found alive in the wreckage of the flooded turbine room.


Fire threatens city suburbs

ATHENS | A raging fire bore down on Athens’ northern suburbs Sunday, prompting panicked residents to battle the flames with tree limbs and buckets, and spurring police to order 10,000 people to evacuate one town immediately.

Frightened inhabitants of Agios Stefanos gathered in the town’s main square in early afternoon as flames closed in on the town center and police with loudspeakers directed everyone to leave immediately on the main highway to Athens, 14 miles to the southwest.

Other residents tried desperately to save their homes with hoses, buckets and branches. Planes swooped low over the town to pour water on the flaming houses.

A state of emergency was declared Saturday in greater Athens. These are the most destructive fires in Greece since blazes killed more than 70 people in 2007.


Pope appears without wrist cast

CASTEL GANDOLFO | Pope Benedict XVI made his first public appearance since having the cast removed from his broken right wrist, joking Sunday that his hand was “freed” but still a bit sluggish.

The pontiff clearly favored his left hand while blessing the faithful gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for his traditional noon blessing, but he was able to bless the crowd with his right hand. The wrist remained covered with a white bandage.

“As you can see, my hand is freed from the cast but it’s still a bit lazy,” Benedict said to applause. “I still have to stay in patience school, but we’ll carry on.”

The 82-year-old pontiff broke his wrist during a late-night fall while on vacation in the papal Alpine chalet in Les Combes, in northern Italy, on July 17. The cast was removed Friday, and doctors said it was healing well.


One dead in beach brawl

AMSTERDAM | Prosecutors say one man died and eight people were wounded when brawls and shooting erupted at a Dutch beach party.

Prosecutors say a 19-year-old died at the Sunset Grooves party at Hoek van Holland, near Rotterdam, on Saturday night. The party, which drew 10,000 people, broke up in confusion. Amateur videos posted on Web sites record partygoers chanting “Rotterdam hooligans” amid gunfire.

Prosecution spokeswoman Jeichien de Graaff said Sunday the cause of the man’s death and the fighting at the party is now under investigation. She said a number of arrests were made Saturday but it is not clear they are related.

National prosecutors are leading the investigation because police discharged firearms.


Minister drops limo for 50-mile flight

BERLIN | Germany’s health minister, Ulla Schmidt, faced fresh accusations of wasting taxpayers’ money over revelations that she used a government plane to avoid a 56-mile car journey and save time.

Renewed criticism of Ms. Schmidt’s use of public money could embarrass her Social Democrats (SPD), who are lagging behind their conservative rivals by more than 10 points in polls.

In July, Ms. Schmidt’s use of a chauffeur-driven Mercedes, which was stolen while she was on vacation in Spain but later found, sparked a row that pollsters say dented the SPD’s ratings.

Newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Ms. Schmidt in April ordered a government jet to fly about 56 miles from Cologne to Maastricht so she could catch a connecting flight to Munich.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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