Archive for Sunday, March 20, 2005

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March 20, 2005

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Japan

Earthquake triggers tsunami warning

A powerful earthquake rattled southern Japanese today, swaying buildings and prompting warnings of tsunami. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The magnitude-7 temblor, which hit west of Kyushu Island at 10:53 a.m. (7:53 p.m. CST Saturday), was centered at an "extremely shallow" depth below the ocean floor, the Meteorological Agency said. An hour after the initial temblor, aftershocks followed -- at least one a magnitude-4.2 quake.

An hour after the initial quake, the agency said the tsunami danger had passed.

Officials reported water main breaks, and the possibility of power blackouts. Local and bullet train service was halted, after an automatic safety mechanism was triggered by the tremors.

Canada

Explorer tries to copy trek to North Pole

Five men led by a British explorer are attempting to re-create the American explorer Robert E. Peary's disputed 1909 expedition, when he claimed to have reached the North Pole in a record 37 days.

The current expedition, led by British explorer Tom Avery, 29, aims to verify Peary's claim by matching his 37-day time for the 475-mile trek from Cape Columbia in northern Nunavut, the Inuit territory of Canada opposite Greenland. The team planned to leave this morning.

The fastest journey since Peary's day was by a Canadian team in 2000 that reached the Pole after 43 days. Avery's five-strong team will travel in a similar style to Peary's with Canadian Inuit dogs and custom-built wooden sledges.

"They want to solve the greatest polar mystery of all time," said Geraldine McGrory, a spokeswoman for the Barclays Capital Ultimate North Expedition. "They want to prove that Robert Peary did what he said he did. Robert Peary died with his record unsubstantiated, and that's the key thing, to prove it can be done."

Pakistan

Bomb kills at least 27 at shrine of Shiite saint

A bomb exploded Saturday as minority Shiite Muslims congregated at a shrine in a remote town in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 27 people and wounding 18, police said.

Thousands of worshippers were at the shrine of a Shiite saint near the town of Naseerabad, about 210 miles south of Quetta in restive Baluchistan province, when the bomb went off outside, said Mubarak Ali, a local police official.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility and no indication the attack was linked to clashes between renegade tribesmen and government forces at another town in southwestern Baluchistan that left at least 30 people dead last week.

"It was a powerful bomb. There was blood and body parts everywhere," Mehrab Khan, another police official, told The Associated Press. "Right now people are angry. They are wailing and crying. Some of them have blocked roads in the town and we are trying to control the situation."

Haiti

Businesses closed to protest violence

Haiti's usually bustling capital came to a halt Saturday as many shops and businesses closed for a one-day general strike to protest the interim government's failure to counter a surge in violence that has claimed hundreds of lives in recent months.

Streets normally choked with traffic were desolate as banks, supermarkets, gas stations and retail stores shuttered in observance of the strike called by Haiti's Chamber of Commerce.

The group, Haiti's largest private sector body, is calling for tougher tactics against crime and gun violence that has engulfed Port-au-Prince since ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the country amid an uprising last year.

Armed ex-soldiers who helped overthrow Aristide in February 2004 still control much of the countryside, while pro- and anti-Aristide militants wage gunbattles in the slums of the capital.

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