Tokyo to ditch nightlife curbs as virus cases plunge

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Tokyo will lift curbs on bar and restaurant opening hours as virus cases in the Japanese capital hit their lowest level this year, officials said Thursday. It is the latest softening of virus restrictions in Japan, where cases have been in freefall for weeks, which experts ascribe to a rapid increase in the vaccination rate. Nationwide, new infections have plunged from record highs of over 25,800 in August to under 400 […]

Four killed in northern China gas explosion

BEIJING, China (AFP) — A gas explosion at a restaurant ripped through a busy street in a major Chinese city on Thursday, killing at least four people and injuring dozens, local authorities said. Dramatic footage from a nearby car’s dashboard camera, published by state media, showed a large cloud of smoke and dust erupting over the street as people ran to safety. State broadcaster CCTV showed windows ripped out of several buildings in a street […]

South Korea rocket launch fails to put payload in orbit: Moon

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — South Korea’s first domestically-developed space rocket failed to put its dummy payload into orbit after its maiden launch on Thursday, President Moon Jae-in said. The launch and all three stages of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle II worked, as did the payload separation, Moon said, but “putting a dummy satellite into orbit remains an unfinished mission”. © Agence France-Presse

Nearly 200 perish in India, Nepal rains

NEW DELHI, India (AFP) – Nearly 200 people have died in floods and landslides in India and Nepal, officials said Thursday, with whole families buried in their homes and two young girls swept away as forecasters warned of yet more heavy rain. Experts say that they were victims of the ever-more unpredictable and extreme weather that has hit South Asia in recent years caused by climate change and exacerbated by deforestation, damming and excessive development. […]

India administers its one billionth Covid jab

  by Aishwarya KUMAR Agence France Presse NEW DELHI, India (AFP) — India administered its billionth Covid-19 vaccine dose on Thursday, half a year after a devastating surge in cases brought the health system close to collapse. According to the government, around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated. However, hundreds of millions of Indians under 18 — who make up […]

South Korea seeks space race entry with first homegrown rocket

SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — South Korea is aiming to join the ranks of advanced spacefaring nations on Thursday when it attempts to put a one-tonne payload into orbit using its first fully homegrown rocket. The country has risen to become the world’s 12th-largest economy and a technologically advanced nation, home to the planet’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker, Samsung Electronics. But it has lagged in the headline-making world of spaceflight, where the Soviet […]

Putin expected to order new virus restrictions as deaths soar

by Ola CICHOWLAS MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia reported Wednesday a record 1,028 Covid deaths in a single day, with President Vladimir Putin expected to introduce new nationwide restrictions in Europe’s worst affected country. The new figures bring Russia’s official death toll to 226,353 — the highest on the continent even as authorities have been accused of vastly downplaying the severity of the pandemic. The country also recorded 34,074 new virus cases, according to an […]

Russia reports record daily Covid deaths

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Russia said Wednesday 1,028 people died of Covid over the past 24 hours, a new record, as President Vladimir Putin mulls introducing nationwide restrictions to curb the spread of the disease. The country recorded 34,074 new coronavirus cases, according to a government tally. Russian officials have been accused of downplaying the severity of the pandemic, but even the official figures bring the country’s official Covid-19 death toll to 226,353 — the […]

14 killed in rare Damascus army bus bombing

by Youssef Karwashan with Omar Haj Kadour in Ariha DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) — A bomb attack on an army bus in Damascus killed 14 people Wednesday in the bloodiest such attack to strike the Syrian capital in four years, the SANA state news agency reported. There was no immediate claim for the bombing but moments later shelling by government forces killed eight people in the Idlib region controlled by groups that have claimed such attack […]

Japan’s Mount Aso volcano erupts

  TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japan’s Mount Aso erupted Wednesday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of metres into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500 […]

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel has confirmed a case of a subvariant of the Delta strain of the coronavirus previously reported in some European countries, the health ministry said. “The variant AY 4.2. that has been discovered in a number of countries in Europe has been identified in Israel,” a ministry statement said late Tuesday. An 11-year-old boy arriving from Europe was the carrier, the ministry said, adding that the case was identified at Ben Gurion […]

Floods, landslides kill 116 in India and Nepal

by Mahesh Pandey with Paavan Mathema in Kathmandu Agence France Presse DEHRADUN, India (AFP) — More than 100 people have died in several days of massive flooding and devastating landslides that swept away roads and houses in India and Nepal, officials said Wednesday, with scores more missing. In Uttarakhand in northern India, officials said that 46 people had died in recent days with 11 missing. In Kerala in the south chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said […]