News in brief

Will look at independence vote by end of year: Scottish leader

LONDON, January 14 (Reuters): Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Sunday she would be able to make a judgment on whether to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence by the end of this year after a shape of a deal between Britain and the European Union becomes clear. “By roundabout the autumn of this year we should have some clarity about that future relationship,” Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “That’s when I will be able to look at that and make a judgment on what I think the next appropriate steps are for Scotland.”


8 killed in Portugal building fire

Lisbon, January 14 (IANS): At least eight persons have been killed and over 50 injured in a fire that broke out at a two-storey building in Portugal, the media reported. The fire broke out on Saturday night in a building in Vila Nova da Rainha, 250 km from Lisbon, after a heating-boiler exploded, Xinhua news agency reported. The National Civil Protection Authority sent 148 firefighters and 67 vehicles to the scene and the blaze was contained within an hour.


16 injured in Thai boat explosion

BANGKOK, January 14 (Reuters): A tourist speedboat carrying 31 passengers exploded in front of Phi Phi Le island in the southern Thailand province of Krabi on Sunday, injuring 16, mostly tourists from China, the Phi Phi police told Reuters. The speedboat, named “King Poseidon”, was ferrying 27 Chinese tourists from the nearby resort island of Phuket to Phi Phi before its engine caught fire and exploded injuring 14 tourists and two crew members, the police said, adding that the authority is still investigating the cause of the explosion. Out of the 16 injured, six are in a severe condition, Phi Phi hospital staff told Reuters.


Burning Iranian oil tanker finally sinks

BEIJING, January 14 (Reuters): A burning Iranian oil tanker that had drifted into Japan’s exclusive economic zone has sunk after a collision on Jan. 6, Chinese state television said on Sunday. The stricken tanker, called the Sanchi, which had been adrift and on fire for more than a week following the accident with another vessel in the East China Sea, had “suddenly ignited” around noon (0400 GMT), China Central Television said.


Liberia ruling party expels President

MONROVIA , January 14 (Reuters): Liberia’s ruling Unity Party has expelled the west African nation’s outgoing president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, following its candidate’s defeat in a presidential run-off election last month, the party said in a statement distributed on Sunday. The statement said Johnson Sirleaf had violated rules, including a requirement to support the party’s candidates in elections. Former football star George Weah defeated the Unity Party’s Joseph Boakai in a landslide.


Plane skids off Turkish runway

ISTANBUL, January 14 (Reuters): A Pegasus Airlines flight skidded off the runway of a Turkish coastal airport and ended up halfway down a steep slope into the Black Sea, but no passengers or crew were hurt, Turkish media reported on Sunday. The incident happened on Saturday night at Trabzon airport in northeast Turkey. Pictures from the site showed the plane’s nose close to the water’s edge. Pegasus Airlines said in a statement that the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, flying from Ankara to Trabzon, “had a runway excursion incident” as it landed but the 162 passengers, two pilots and four cabin crew were unhurt.


Search mudslide survivors goes on

LOS ANGELES, January 14 (Reuters): The search for survivors of the deadly mudslides in parts of California’s scenic Santa Barbara County continued Sunday even as hopes dwindled to find anyone else alive, officials said. “We’re still in rescue mode and we still hope to find someone alive, although the chances of that are becoming slim,” said Justin Cooper, a spokesperson for the multi-agency response team. The death toll rose to 19 on Saturday and one person was found alive the same day as the hunt continued for five people who remain missing, Cooper said.


Strong earthquake hits Peru

LIMA, January 14 (Reuters): A strong earthquake struck the coast of southern Peru on Sunday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, leaving one dead and around 20 injured and causing homes and roads to collapse. The 7.1 magnitude quake hit at 4:18 a.m. local time (0918 GMT) at a depth of around 10 km (6 miles), the USGS said. Peru’s government Geophysical Institute said the earthquake was of magnitude 6.7 with its epicenter in Lomas, in the southern region of Arequipa. Arequipa Governor Yamila Osorio said on Twitter that one 55-year old man died in the town of Yauca after being crushed by rock, while 20 people were injured in the town of Chala. Several municipalities were without electricity, and many roads and adobe houses had collapsed, Osorio said. Many residents of Lomas were evacuated after feeling an aftershock, she said. Earthquakes are common in Peru, but many homes are built with precarious materials that cannot withstand them.


13 dead in Brazil vehicle pile-up

Sao Paulo, January 14 (IANS): At least 13 people died and 39 others were injured in a five-vehicle traffic accident on an expressway alongside the municipality of Grao Mogol in the southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, officials said. The accident involved a car, a minibus, two vans and a truck with a load of paper that caught fire in the collision, officials at the region’s Fire Department said, Efe reported. Several of the injured are in serious condition and were taken to regional hospitals with the aid of a Military Police helicopter, while most of the 39 who were hurt are in good health and in no danger of death. The accident occurred at kilometer 400 (mile 250) on the BR-251 Expressway, also known as the Julio Garcia Expressway, which covers some 1,500 kilometers between the state of Bahia in the northeast and the west-central state of Mato Grosso, and goes through the nation’s capital, Brasilia.