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Archive for Monday, May 27, 2002

Briefly

May 27, 2002

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Vatican City: Pope's travels may be cut

As Pope John Paul II on Sunday concluded an arduous five-day trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, the Vatican indicated that the increasingly frail pope's health may force him to cut back on foreign trips.

The pontiff, who is scheduled to visit Canada, Mexico and Guatemala in July, may drop Mexico and Guatemala from the itinerary, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

"Toronto is clear," Navarro said. "In Toronto, there will be the World Youth Day. As far as the others are concerned, we'll see. No decision has been made yet."

John Paul, 82, suffers from Parkinson's disease. He read only portions of his speeches and appeared extremely weak throughout his trip.

Mozambique: Rigged brake doomed train

The worst rail disaster in Mozambique's history, which killed 196 people, occurred after a railroad worker unsuccessfully tried to use four large stones to keep a packed passenger train from sliding down a hill, a railway official said Sunday.

The train developed a mechanical fault as it descended a hill, so the driver disconnected the passenger section, at the back of the train, and drove the front section carrying freight to the nearby Tenga station, railway officials said.

The driver had wedged four large stones under the wheels of the passenger train to keep it from sliding down the hill, but the stones apparently came loose and the train barreled down the tracks into the freight train, said Antonio Libombo, an official with the Mozambican Railway Co.

Taiwan: Jet broke up before crash

The China Airlines jet that crashed into the Taiwan Strait split into four pieces before plunging into the choppy waters, killing 225 passengers and crew, the chief crash investigator said Sunday.

Search crews on Sunday pulled 83 bodies from seas that reeked of jet fuel, but the Boeing 747-200's flight data and voice recorders, or "black boxes," had not yet been recovered, leaving the accident's cause a mystery.

About 20 minutes after Flight CI611 took off from Taipei's international airport Saturday, military radar showed it "disintegrated" into four pieces before dropping off the radar screen, said Kay Yong, managing director of Taiwan's Aviation Safety Council.

"There was an in-flight breakup above the altitude of 30,000 feet. We are very positive about this," Yong said.

Yong and other officials would not speculate on what caused the 22-year-old plane to break up.

Israel: Army raids continue

Israeli troops kept up their almost daily raids into Palestinian areas Sunday, searching for militants in two West Bank towns, maintaining a curfew on a string of villages and pulling out of Bethlehem after an incursion that lasted only a few hours.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the army would press ahead with its in-and-out raids because of a recent upsurge in Palestinian attacks.

"The wave of warnings, attempted terrorist attacks, and terrorist attacks is significant," Ben-Eliezer told the weekly Cabinet meeting. "Most attacks are thwarted, but a minority do get through."

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