April 20, 2008 in Nation/World

World in brief: Torch travels without disruptions

The Spokesman-Review
 

Thousands of people followed the Olympic torch through the sweltering streets of Thailand’s capital Saturday with little of the protests that have accompanied some of the relay’s earlier stops.

The nearly three-hour run, with no disruptions by demonstrators protesting China’s recent crackdown in Tibet, contrasted with the chaos that accompanied the torch’s visits to London, Paris and San Francisco.

About 2,000 uniformed and plainclothes police were deployed along the Bangkok route.

Security officials had little to do but direct traffic and the mostly festive crowds, except at one spot where they came between pro-Tibet demonstrators and pro-Beijing supporters who exchanged angry words.

Protests over China’s crackdown on anti-government riots in Tibet have dogged the torch on its way to the Olympics’ opening ceremony in August in Beijing. The growing criticism of China’s human rights record has turned the coming summer games into one of the most contentious in recent history.

BEIJING

Rescuers search for fishermen

Rescue officials expanded their search today for 18 Chinese fishermen still missing after tropical storm Neoguri brushed over southern Hainan island this weekend.

Five rescue ships and two helicopters have been deployed in the search mission, said an official with the Hainan provincial disaster relief office who gave his surname as Wu.

Three fishing boats went missing in the storm and rescuers have so far found 44 of their crew, Wu said. He added that China has contacted officials in Vietnam and the Philippines to see whether ships from those countries had rescued any of the 18 men still missing.

China’s first typhoon of the year hit land Saturday afternoon but weakened to a tropical storm and moved into the western part of Guangdong province.

Torrential rains were still lashing southern Guangdong province today, but an emergency alert for wind storms had been lifted, according to a report by the China News Agency.

HAVANA

‘Camello’ buses making last runs

First comes the stink of diesel, then a metallic roar, and finally a tower of black smoke that tells you the “camello” – the camel – has reached your stop.

These hulking 18-wheeled beasts, iron mutants made of two Soviet-era buses welded together on a flatbed and pulled by a separate cab, have long been Havana’s public transport nightmare – bumpy, hot and jammed with up to 400 passengers at a time.

But their gradual disappearance is a telling sign of change in the twilight of the Fidel Castro age. The last “camello” is expected to go out of service in Havana tonight.

The camello, so named for its humped front and rear sections, is being eclipsed by thousands of new city buses from China as the government under Castro’s brother, Raul, resuscitates a public transportation system on the brink of collapse.

“I think we should build a monument to the camello,” said retiree Salvador Carrera, a camello passenger. “It has been an extraordinary thing.”

From wire reports


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