- - Sunday, October 10, 2010


Rush to build dam in case of new flood

KOLONTAR | Hungary raced against time on Sunday to erect a dam around a ruptured reservoir and divert a new wave of toxic sludge that threatens to overwhelm already devastated villages.

As hundreds of volunteers joined engineers rushing to erect the 2,000-foot dam, a top official said it was only a matter of days before the reservoir housing a chemical residue would begin to crumble.

Repair work also continued on the reservoir itself where cracks have been detected, raising fears that what is already Hungary’s worst environmental disaster could soon get even worse.

At least seven people were killed when the sludge first began seeping from the reservoir next to an aluminum plant before then cascading into nearby villages and tributaries of the Danube.


Police clash with anti-gay rioters

BELGRADE | Serbian riot police fought running battles Sunday with thousands of far-right supporters who hurled Molotov cocktails and stun grenades to try disrupt a gay-pride march in downtown Belgrade. More than 140 people were hurt and more than 200 were arrested, officials said.

Thousands of police officers sealed off the streets in the capital where the march took place, repeatedly clashing at several locations with rioters who tried to burst through security cordons.

Several parked cars were set on fire or damaged, shop windows were broken, garbage containers were overturned and streets signs destroyed. Several shops were looted before police restored peace in the late afternoon.

The anti-gay rioters also fired shots and threw Molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the ruling pro-Western Democratic Party, setting the building’s garage on fire. The state TV building and the headquarters of other political parties were also attacked, with many windows shattered by stones.

Protesters chanting “death to homosexuals” hurled bricks, stones, glass bottles and stun grenades at riot police. Police responded by firing tear gas and deploying armored vehicles to disperse the protesters, who remained in the heart of the capital even after the brief pride march ended.

Interior Minister Ivica Dacic said police estimated that 6,000 rioters faced 5,600 policemen. He praised the police “for preventing even more serious bloodshed.”


Swiss army faces costly downsizing

GENEVA | Switzerland will have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars cutting staff and scrapping equipment as it dramatically downsizes its armed forces, Defense Minister Ueli Maurer said Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Swiss government gave Mr. Maurer a year to come up with a plan to reduce troop numbers from more than 184,000 to 80,000.

The government aims to cap defense spending at $4.6 billion annually.

The downsizing would entail layoffs within the defense department and the army, and a corresponding decommissioning of excess equipment, Mr. Maurer said in an interview with German language newspaper Sonntag.

Switzerland has not been directly involved in an armed conflict since the 19th century.


Dutch Antilles dissolves; two countries created

MIAMI | The former Dutch Caribbean colonies of Curacao and St. Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Sunday in a change of constitutional status that dissolved the Netherlands Antilles.

The two joined Aruba, which in 1986 already had gained such status that maintains direct ties with the Netherlands, while three other islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, became autonomous special municipalities of the Netherlands in the dissolution of the 56-year-old Netherlands Antilles territory.

Under the new arrangement, the Dutch government will remain responsible for defense and foreign policy in the new countries, and have initial oversight over Curacao’s finances under a debt relief deal.


Baltic Sea ferry not at risk of sinking

BERLIN | A 650-foot ferry that was set ablaze by an explosion is no longer at immediate risk of sinking in the Baltic Sea, Danish and German officials said Sunday.

Ulrike Windhoevel, spokeswoman for Germany’s Central Command for Maritime Emergencies, told the Associated Press the fire was under control and there was no imminent danger of the ship breaking up.

The ship Lisco Gloria was set ablaze in the Baltic Sea on Saturday after an accidental explosion on the upper deck, forcing the evacuation of the 236 people aboard.

Authorities hope to be able to board the ship Monday to make a thorough inspection.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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