In brief: Relatives arrive; death toll climbs

Christchurch, New Zealand – Relatives of people still missing three days after an earthquake shattered the New Zealand city of Christchurch arrived today from several countries to join an anxious vigil for news that looked increasingly likely to be grim.

The official death toll continued to climb, to 113, and officials said rescue teams had pulled nothing but bodies from the rubble of collapsed buildings for 48 hours. Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the government was preparing to give family members from several countries “the worst type of news.”

An English language school was in one of the hardest-hit buildings, the CTV office block, and students from Japan, China, the Philippines and other nations are believed to be among those inside when it collapsed. Police say up to 120 bodies are still inside and that no one is expected to have survived.

Many relatives of the missing arrived at Christchurch airport today, including about 20 from Japan, who were quickly whisked onto a bus by embassy officials.

Broadcast official, minister arrested

Cairo – Egyptian authorities on Thursday arrested the country’s former information minister and the chairman of state TV and radio on corruption allegations, the latest moves by the country’s ruling military against senior officials of Hosni Mubarak’s ousted regime, security officials said.

In south Cairo, an angry crowd of some 500 people torched two police cars and beat up a young officer who shot a minibus driver in the heat of an argument over the right of way. The incident highlights the tension between police and Egyptians, many of whom are still bristling over years of police brutality and corruption.

Thursday’s arrests of Anas al-Fiqqi, the ex-information minister, and Osama el-Sheikh, the state TV boss, were widely expected. Al-Fiqqi was placed under house arrest earlier this month and el-Sheikh was banned from traveling abroad Wednesday, steps that often precede a criminal investigation or a trial.

Japan population growth slows

Tokyo – Japan says its population has seen the slowest growth since 1920.

The government said in its census report issued today that Japan’s population stood at 128.05 million as of October 2010, up 0.2 percent from the previous census in 2005.

The government said the figure marked the slowest population growth since Japan began a census in 1920. It attributed the weak growth to the nation’s extremely low birthrates.


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