Earthquake devastates southwestern China
SHANGHAI - The devastation from an earthquake that struck southwestern China Saturday might be much worse than initially feared, state-run news media reported yesterday, saying that the quake had destroyed more than 100,000 homes and that the death toll had risen to at least 28 and was likely to be higher. The earthquake, which was centered in Sichuan province and had a magnitude of 6.1, damaged highways, reservoirs, bridges and hundreds of schools, and it forced the evacuation of more than 40,000 people in Sichuan and neighboring Yunnan province, reported Xinhua, the state news agency. More than 230 people were reported injured. Sichuan was devastated on May 12 by China's worst natural disaster in more than 30 years, a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people and left millions homeless.
Villagers flee floods in northern India
TRIVENIGANJ, India : Stranded by hundreds of miles of floodwaters and trapped on rooftops and trees, desperate villagers stormed rescue boats yesterday as they tried to escape the flooding that tore through a riverbank and spilled over northern India's vast plains. Two weeks after the Kosi River overflowed its banks, Indian officials commandeered private watercraft after hearing that boat owners were charging people up to $150 each for a lifesaving ride - an impossibly large amount for those marooned in impoverished villages where many survive on a dollar a day. At a makeshift command post on a bridge outside Triveniganj, near the Nepal border, boats filled with survivors arrived every 10 or 15 minutes. Anything rescuers could scrounge was put to work - bright orange rubber dinghies, rickety wooden rowboats, canoes and shallow-bottomed army transports that appeared pulled straight from World War II.
Georgia checkpoint open, but refugees stay
KARALETI, Georgia : Traffic moved through a Russian checkpoint yesterday, but crowds of refugees remained camped nearby, preferring hot tents and filthy toilets to the violence they fear awaits them at home. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would give military aid to the two separatist regions at the center of the war with Georgia - a sign Russia has no intention of backing down in the face of Western criticism. The war began Aug. 7 when Georgian forces began heavy shelling of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, hoping to retake control of the province. Russian forces poured in, pushed the Georgians out in a matter of days and then drove deep into Georgia proper. Fighting has ended, but yesterday a handful of Russian soldiers armed with automatic rifles leaned casually on concrete road dividers at the Karaleti checkpoint, about four miles north of the city of Gori, which Russian forces had controlled until Aug. 22.
Detroit mayor seeks plea deal, paper reports
DETROIT: Lawyers for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick have proposed a deal in which he would plead guilty to two felonies, make restitution and serve five years' probation in exchange for avoiding jail time, a newspaper reported yesterday. The Detroit Free Press quoted "a source familiar with all aspects of the negotiations" as saying Kilpatrick's legal team also said he would give up his law license, not run for office for two years and do 300 hours of community service. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy hadn't yet accepted the offer, the newspaper said. A person briefed on the talks told the Associated Press yesterday that the prosecutor's office would not agree to any type of plea that doesn't involve jail time.
Pakistan suspends drive against rebels
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan : Pakistan said yesterday that it was suspending a military operation against insurgents in a tribal region for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but warned any provocations in the area would bring immediate retaliation. A Taliban spokesman welcomed the decision to halt the strikes in the Bajur tribal region, a rumored hide-out of Osama bin Laden near the border with Afghanistan. In another part of the northwest, a blast blamed on a missile reportedly killed four suspected foreign militants. Residents said they saw a drone in the air shortly before the explosion, raising suspicion the U.S. was behind the strike. Pakistan's five-month-old government at first tried peace talks with militants, but those efforts bore little fruit. It has turned to force in recent weeks, including using helicopter gunships and jets to strike suspected insurgent hide-outs.