Russia’s Ostankino communications tower, at 540 m the secondlargest freestanding structure in the world, was near collapse after a fire that lasted for 26 hours. The blaze burned through the top of the tower, which houses offices, communications facilities and restaurants. It claimed four lives and blacked out most of Moscow’s television channels, triggering a national debate over Russia’s crumbling infrastructure.
The fire in the tower, which was built in 1967 and is 13 m shorter than Toronto’s CN Tower, was just the latest jolt to Russia. It struck as Russians were still mourning the loss of 118 sailors who died in an explosion on the nuclear submarine Kursk on Aug. 12 in the Barents Sea. After its own rescue attempts failed, the Russian navy had to appeal to the West for help because cuts to its military budget had left it without equipment capable of rescuing the sailors. Russian
President Vladimir Putin, criticized for not responding quickly enough to the Kursk disaster, said the fire in the Ostankino tower symbolized Russia’s decline. “This emergency highlights the condition of the entire nation,” he said. “Only economic development will allow us to avoid such calamities in the future.”
Vietnam frees a Canadian grandmother
Tran Thi Cam, a 74-year-old Toronto grandmother who was arrested in 1996 with her daughter, Nguyen Thi Hiep, at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport for possessing 5.4 kg of heroin, has been freed. The pair were found guilty of trafficking. Nguyen received the death penalty and was executed by a firing squad on April 24, while Tran was sentenced to life in prison. Nguyens body was quiedy returned to the family in Hanoi on Aug. 19. Tran and 10,000 other prisoners were released on Sept. 1 as part of an amnesty celebrating Vietnam’s independence.
‘Thu have flames’
A chilling exchange between crew and air traffic controllers, contained in a report released by France’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau, provided a graphic account of the final moments of Air France Flight 4590. “Concorde zero . . . 4590, you have flames. You have flames behind you,” the tower told the aircraft. Moments later, when discussing the possibility of an emer-
gency landing at another nearby airport, the pilot said: “Too late.” The July 25 accident occurred just minutes after takeoff from Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport and killed all 109 people onboard and four on the ground when the plane crashed into a hotel. The report also said a metal strip found on the runway may have caused the jet’s tire to blow, with the resulting debris piercing the supersonic plane’s fuel tanks and triggering the fire.
An alleged murder plot
Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed, who owns Londons famous Harrods department store, Fded a lawsuit against a half-dozen U.S. security agencies, including the CIA. AÍ Fayed is trying to obtain documents that he claims prove his son, Dodi, and Diana, the Princess of Wales, were murdered in a car crash in Paris three years ago. The 67-year-old alleges their deaths were the result of a government conspiracy to keep his son, a Muslim, from marrying Diana. AÍ Fayed’s allegations came as he renewed his demands for British citizenship, something he has been repeatedly denied.
Life sentence for a skinhead
A German court convicted three neoNazis of beating African immigrant Alberto Adriano to death, and handed down tough sentences in an attempt to halt the rise of racially motivated attacks. Enrico Hillprect, 24, who kicked Adriano 10 times in the head before leaving him to die in a park in the eastern German city of Dessau on June 11, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two minors, both 16, were given nine years.
ETA claims responsibility
In a surprise announcement, the Basque separatist group ETA claimed responsibility for murdering four people in a series of terrorist attacks between May and July. The group’s push for an independent state in northern Spain has escalated since it ended a unilateral ceasefire last December. ETA, whose Euskera-language acronym stands for Basque Homeland and Liberty, is blamed for 800 deaths since 1968.
Military aid for Colombia
U.S. President Bill Clinton, ignoring a bomb scare, travelled to Cartagena, Colombia, where he offered the government a $1.3-billion (U.S.) military aid package to help the country wage war against the cocaine cartels that control much of the country. Critics said the aid package, which includes 60 helicopters, could lead to a war between Americans and Colombian drug traffickers.
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