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168 dead, 745 injured in Indonesia tsunami

 
Volcano-triggered tsunami kills at least 168 in Indonesia
At least 168 people have been killed and 745 injured after a tsunami hit the coast on Indonesia's Sunda Strait, government officials said on Sunday.
 
There was no warning of the advancing wave that struck on Saturday around 9.30 p.m., the BBC reported. Deaths have been reported in the Pandeglang, Lampung and Serang regions.
 
The BBC report said there were reports that the death toll in Lampung province alone could be in the hundreds. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, national spokesman at Indonesia's disaster agency, tweeted footage of the damage in Lampung.
 
The national disaster management agency warned people to stay away from the coastline due to fears of another tsunami. Among the areas hit was the popular Tanjung Lesung beach resort in west Java. 
 
Emergency officials were investigating whether the tsunami was caused by Anak Krakatoa, a volcanic island in the Sunda Strait.
 
The country's disaster management agency said hundreds of buildings were damaged by Saturday's tsunami.
 
The possible cause of the tsunami is being said to be undersea landslides after the Anak Krakatoa volcano erupted in the Sunda Strait, which is between the islands of Java and Sumatra and connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean.
 
Volcanologist Jess Phoenix told the BBC that when volcanoes erupt, hot magma pushes underground and can displace and break through colder rock. This can trigger a landslide.
 
But because part of Krakatoa is underwater, she said "instead of just causing a landslide, you get an undersea landslide which pushes water as it moves." This can then cause a tsunami.
 
The disaster management agency said that high seas as a result of the full moon may also have contributed to the strength of the waves.
 
Footage shared on social media showed a large wave crashing into a tent in the resort, in which a popular Indonesian rock band, Seventeen, was performing. 
 
Members of the band were seen being swept away as the wave destroyed the stage. In an Instagram video, singer Riefian Fajarsyah, said the band's bassist and road manager had died, and that three other band members and his own wife were missing.
 
The country's Red Cross said it was on the scene and searching for victims in the rubble of one collapsed building.
 
Oystein Lund Andersen, a Norwegian volcano photographer, who was on the Anyer Beach in West Java, trying to photograph the erupting Krakatoa volcano, told BBC: "Earlier in the evening, there was quite heavy eruption activity. 
 
"But just prior to the waves hitting the beach, there was no activity at all. It was just dark out there.
 
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"And suddenly I saw this wave coming, and I had to run. There were two waves. The first wave wasn't that strong -- I could run from it.
 
"I ran straight to the hotel, where my wife and my son were sleeping. And I woke them up... and I heard a bigger wave coming. I looked out of the window when the second wave hit. It was much bigger.
 
"The wave passed the hotel. Cars were pushed off the road. We and other people at the hotel went straight to the forest (on higher ground) next to the hotel. And we're still up on the hill now."
 
Nugroho, initially said the wave was not a tsunami, but a tidal surge, and told the public not to panic. He later apologised for the mistake, saying there had been confusion because there was no earthquake.
 
Earlier on Sunday, a tsunami warning went off by mistake, causing widespread panic. "A tsunami siren in Labuhan Bay in Pandeglang regency started ringing all of a sudden, without any activation from the authorities," Nugroho said.
 
"There was possibly a technical error that made the sirens ring. Lots of people ran to save themselves... tsunami shelters are now packed."
 
Indonesia is prone to tsunamis because it lies on the Ring of Fire - the line of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.
 
In September, more than 2,000 people died when a powerful earthquake struck just off the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi, setting off a tsunami that engulfed the coastal city of Palu.
 
On 26 December 2004, a series of huge waves triggered by a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed about 2,28,000 people in 14 countries, mostly in Indonesia. However, tsunamis caused by volcanic activity like this are less frequent.
 
IANS
 

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Deadly 'volcano tsunami' hits Indonesia, 62 dead

 
Volcano-triggered tsunami kills at least 62 in Indonesia
At least 62 people have been killed and 584 injured after a tsunami hit the coast on Indonesia's Sunda Strait possibly following undersea landslides after the Krakatoa volcano erupted, government officials say.
 
The disaster management agency warned that the death toll in the tsunami that struck at about 9.30 p.m. on Saturday, might rise further, the BBC reported.
 
The Sunda Strait lies between the islands of Java and Sumatra, connecting the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. 
 
Deaths have been reported in the Pandeglang, South Lampung and Serang regions. Among the areas hit was the popular Tanjung Lesung beach resort in west Java. There was no warning of the advancing wave, the BBC said.
 
Footage shared on social media showed a large wave crashing into a venue in the resort, where a popular Indonesian rock band, "Seventeen", was performing. 
 
Members of the band were seen being swept away as the wave destroyed their stage.
 
In an Instagram post, the band's singer, Riefian Fajarsyah, asked people to pray for his wife, and said two band members and the band's road manager were missing.
 
The country's Red Cross said it was on the scene and searching for victims in the rubble of one collapsed building.
 
Hundreds of buildings have been damaged and 20 people were missing, Efe news quoted the national disaster management agency as saying.
 
Oystein Lund Andersen, a Norwegian volcano photographer, who was on the Anyer Beach in West Java, trying to photograph the erupting Krakatoa volcano, told BBC: "Earlier in the evening, there was quite heavy eruption activity. 
 
"But just prior to the waves hitting the beach, there was no activity at all. It was just dark out there.
 
"And suddenly I saw this wave coming, and I had to run. There were two waves. The first wave wasn't that strong -- I could run from it.
 
"I ran straight to the hotel, where my wife and my son were sleeping. And I woke them up... and I heard a bigger wave coming. I looked out of the window when the second wave hit. It was much bigger.
 
"The wave passed the hotel. Cars were pushed off the road. We and other people at the hotel went straight to the forest (on higher ground) next to the hotel. And we're still up on the hill now."
 
Indonesia is prone to tsunamis because it lies on the Ring of Fire - the line of frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim.
 
In September, more than 2,000 people died when a powerful earthquake struck just off the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi, setting off a tsunami that engulfed the coastal city of Palu.
 
On 26 December 2004, a series of huge waves triggered by a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean killed about 2,28,000 people in 14 countries, mostly in Indonesia. However, tsunamis caused by volcanic activity like this are less frequent.
 
IANS
 

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US Defence Secretary James Mattis resigns

James Mattis
James Mattis
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has resigned after falling out with Donald Trump over the withdrawal of American troops from Syria and Afghanistan, saying in a parting letter that the President deserves someone atop the Pentagon "better aligned" with his views.
 
The retired Marine general's announcement came on Thursday, a day after the Trump administration said that the full withdrawal of US forces from Syria was under way. Mattis said he would leave by the end of February. 
 
Trump overruled his advisers, including Mattis over Syria troop withdrawal and declared victory over the Islamic State. However, the Pentagon and State Department for months have been saying the fight against the group in Syria was far from over, the Washington Post reported.
 
The President also ordered the Pentagon, against Mattis' recommendation, to come up with a plan to pull out approximately half of the 14,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, a move likely to plunge the war-torn nation into further chaos.
 
Mattis released the parting letter after a face-to-face meeting with Trump in which the two men discussed their differences, a senior White House official said.
 
The retired general, in contrast to Trump, favoured international alliances and said that the US derives its strength from its relationships with allies and should treat them with respect. He also said the country must also be "clear-eyed" about threats, including from groups such as the Islamic State.
 
"We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances," Mattis wrote. 
 
The Pentagon released the resignation letter moments after Trump announced on Twitter that Mattis would be leaving, saying the already retired Marine would "retire". Trump made no mention of his differences in opinion with Mattis.
 
"General Jim Mattis will be retiring, with distinction, at the end of February, after having served my administration as Secretary of Defence for the past two years," Trump tweeted. 
 
"During Jim's tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defence will be named shortly," he said.
 
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas and Jack Keane, a retired Army general who was an early supporter of Trump, are possible replacements for Mattis, according to reports.
 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was "shaken" by the resignation and described it as "very serious for our country".
 
Republicans were also dismayed by the decision. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the US must maintain its carefully built alliances and a clear understanding of its friends and foes.
 
Mattis was seen as a bulwark against Trump's "isolationist impulses" and extreme proposals. He served as a calm "reassurer-in-chief" while the President sent out provocative tweets, the Washington Post said. 
 
His departure led to a chorus of concern about the President's temperament and decision-making ability and injected new uncertainty into the administration's approach to global threats.
 
A poll conducted in September found that nearly 90 per cent of US military officers had a favourable view of Mattis' work. 
 
IANS

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Former Nepal PM Tulsi Giri passes away

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Former Nepalese Prime Minister Tulsi Giri died here on Tuesday. He was 92.
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The veteran politician breathed his last in his residence at Budhanilkantha after suffering from liver cancer, reports Xinhua news agency. 
 
Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and senior leaders of various political parties have condoled the former leader's passing. 
 
"I'm saddened at the passing away of former Prime Minister Giri. I pay tribute to late Giri and express deep condolence to the entire family at this hour of tragedy," Oli tweeted. 
 
Giri was politically active from 1960 to 2005. 
 
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Wickremesinghe sworn in as Sri Lankan PM, political impasse ends

Re-instated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (4th R) takes the oath of office before President Maithripala Sirisena (1st R) in Colombo, on December 16, 2018. (Xinhua/IANS)
Re-instated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (4th R) takes the oath of office before President Maithripala Sirisena (1st R) in Colombo, on December 16, 2018. (Xinhua/IANS)
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, sacked from the post in October, was sworn in again on Sunday by President Maithripala Sirisena, a move that ended a nearly two-month political impasse that erupted after his surprising dismissal.
 
Wickremesinghe, who is also the leader of the ruling United National Party (UNP), took his oath of office at the Presidential Secretariat here as hundreds of his supporters massed outside.
 
A new cabinet under Sirisena and Wickremesinghe is expected to be sworn in on Monday.
 
UNP lawmakers told the media that Wickremesinghe's appointment "had restored democracy in the country and the new government would now work towards strengthening the economy and unveiling new proposals".
 
Sunday's move comes after Mahinda Rajapakse resigned on Saturday as Prime Minister, seven weeks after he was appointed by Sirisena following Wickremesinghe's dismissal on October 26.
 
A new caretaker government was also sworn in after the ouster.
 
On Wednesday, Parliament passed a vote of confidence in Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister.
 
The Supreme Court ruled the next day that Sirisena had acted illegally in November by dissolving Parliament and calling snap polls nearly two years ahead of the next elections.
 
The UNP said Wickremesinghe's dismissal by Sirisena had been unconstitutional as he held a majority at parliament.
 
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UAE: 4-year-old gets trapped in washing machine, dies

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A four-year-old boy drowned after he got trapped in a washing machine filled with hot water at his home in Ajman, near here, the police said.
 
The boy was with his grandmother and uncle at their family villa in Al Rawda when he sneaked his way into the laundry room. 
 
He got inside the front-load washing machine and closed its door, prompting the washer to run, the Khaleej Times reported on Thursday, citing police officials.
 
The boy may have climbed into the washing machine out of curiosity and got trapped inside, the police said, adding that the machine soon started spinning, drowning him.
 
The boy was found by his mother when she came to pick him up from his grandmother's house. His uncle had to break the door of the machine to retrieve the child's body.
 
The body was sent for autopsy and an investigation into the case was ongoing.
 
Ajman  is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
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Trump appoints Robert Williams as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia

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United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate Robert Williams, an experienced intelligence officer, as the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs.
 
A statement from the WhiteHouse said  Mr. Williams, for more than 20 years, has specialized in South Asia and Afghanistan affairs as an analyst and intelligence officer.  
 
Since 2017, he has served at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in Washington, D.C., as Associate Deputy Director for Intelligence and Directorate for Operations.  
 
Previously, he was the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia at the National Intelligence Council and Defense Intelligence Officer for South Asia at DIA.  
 
Mr. Williams has also been an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service since 2017, and was previously a senior adjunct professorial lecturer at American University’s School of International Service from 2013 to 2016.
 
He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the National Intelligence Superior Service Medal.
 
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Extradite Vijay Mallya to India, says London court

Vijay Mallya
Vijay Mallya
Beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya must be extradited from the United Kingdom to India to stand trial on charges of committing huge bank frauds, a London court ruled on Monday, saying there was no evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated.
 
"The criticism made of the possible effect of the considerable media attention which would attend a prosecution of Mallya is not significant enough for this court to find he would not have a fair trial," Westminster Magistrates' Court Chief Magistrate Judge Emma Arbuthnot said.
 
"There is insufficient evidence for this court to find that he will not be tried by a competent and fair court," the court said. 
 
The judge also noted that any suggestion that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) courts in India were too "pliable" when it came to CBI cases "is not borne out by reliable evidence". 
 
Arbuthnot, a senior district judge, said she accepted the Indian government's contention that because Mallya had such a high profile, his trial would be under great scrutiny. 
 
"I find that Mallya will be able to raise with the court any overly prejudicial publicity... It will not be a trial by politicians. Courts are used to dealing with high profile cases which are accompanied by often ill-advised political commentary.
 
"I do not accept that the courts in India are there to do what the politicians tell them to do. As I have already said, the court will be under great scrutiny. I do not find any international consensus which would enable me to find that the judges in India are corrupt."
 
Referring to defence argument that there was abuse of legal process, the London judge said: "There is no evidence that the prosecution is politically motivated... I find no grounds for finding an abuse of process."
 
The judge said she was sending Mallya's case to the Home Secretary of State for a decision to be taken on whether to order his extradition.
 
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The court ruling came six days after British national and middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, Christian Michael, was extradited to India after his arrest in Dubai.
 
Mallya fled India in March 2016 but he has repeatedly denied fleeing the country and said he was ready to pay back the money he owed to Indian banks.
 
Earlier, before appearing in the court, Mallya told reporters: "Whatever the judgement, my legal team will review the judgement if required and take appropriate steps thereafter."
 
He said he offered to repay the public sector banks and employees what he owed. 
 
"But that has nothing to do with this extradition decision, this is a completely separate matter."
 
Asked whether his offer of repaying the banks were genuine, he said: "There is nothing genuine or ingenuine. The offer has been made before a court of law, nobody disrespects the court of law by making bogus offers." 
 
He also said that his assets have been attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on their own admission, so they cannot be bogus assets. 
 
"Today, those very same assets are before the court. The ED and the banks are fighting over the same assets. Same assets have a value that is more than enough to pay everybody and that is exactly what I am focusing on," he said. 
 
Welcoming the London court decision, the CBI officials in New Delhi hoped to bring Mallya back to India soon and said that the agency was always strong on facts and legally it was confident while pursuing the extradition process.
 
Proceedings are on in the Mumbai Special Court against Mallya under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
 
Kingfisher began defaulting on loans in 2009-10.
 
Late in 2017, India filed extradition proceedings against Mallya which he has contested. He is currently on bail in London.
 
On June 22, the ED had moved the Special PMLA Court to declare Mallya a "fugitive economic offender" and confiscate all his properties, estimated at more than Rs 12,000 crore, making it the first such case of its kind under the new FEOA (Fugitive Economic Offender Act) law.
 
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Extradite Mallya to India, says London court

Vijay Mallya
Vijay Mallya
Beleaguered industrialist Vijay Mallya must be extradited from the UK to India, where he is accused of committing bank frauds of Rs 9,000 crore, a London court ruled on Monday.
 
The Westminster Magistrates Court gave the ruling following a prolonged litigation involving Mallya, who fled India in March 2016. 
 
The decision came six days after British national and middleman in the Rs 3,600 core AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, Christian Michael, was extradited to India from Dubai.
 
Mallya has repeatedly denied fleeing from India and said he was ready to pay back the money he owed to Indian banks.
 
Proceedings are on before the Mumbai Special Court against Mallya under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act.
 
Late in 2017, India filed extradition proceedings against Mallya which he has contested. He is currently on bail in London.
 
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Trump to nominate Nauert as next UN ambassador

Heather Nauert
Heather Nauert
US President Donald Trump has planned to nominate State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as his new ambassador to the UN.
 
Trump is expected to make the announcement Friday morning, informed sources told CBS News. 
 
Nauert has been on the short list for ambassador to the UN since Haley announced that she was stepping down from her post in October. 
 
Formerly a Fox News anchor, she came to the administration in 2017 with no prior government experience. 
 
She will have to be confirmed by the Senate to secure her position, where Democrats will likely grill Nauert on her qualifications for the position.
 
In her new role, Nauert would be responsible for maintaining international support for economic sanctions against North Korea and continuing the Trump administration's unflinching support for Israel in the face of mounting scrutiny at the UN, reports The Washington Post.
 
A former news reporter for ABC, Nauert joined Fox in 1996, originally as a correspondent and later as a co-host for "Fox and Friends".
 
Nauert has earned a reputation as a stalwart defender of the President even through the turbulent tenure of Trump's first Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
 
A senior administration official told The Washington Post said Nauert would be "an outstanding advocate for the American people at the UN".
 
"She's hard-working, she's smart and she never gives up in advancing an agenda that works for the US," the official said.
 
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Lawmakers meet Italian marines accused of killing Indian fishermen

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Italian lower house of Parliament's Defence Committee members met two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are accused of killing two fishermen off southern India in 2012.
 
"The two informal meetings (on Tuesday) represented an opportunity to show the Defence Committee's interest in an unwavering solidarity over the incident," said a statement from Parliament.
 
A court in the Hague was in October due to begin considering the long-running case which strained bilateral ties and prompted Italy to seek international arbitration in 2015.
 
The fatal shooting in February 2012 of the two unarmed fisherman by Latorre and Girone off Kerala as they guarded an Italian oil tanker sparked a diplomatic incident between Italy and India. 
 
Italy alleges the incident took place in international waters during a UN backed anti-piracy mission. 
 
Girone and Latorre, who have not been charged over the killings, claim they thought the unarmed fishermen were pirates. 
 
Both marines were allowed to return to Italy after the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in August 2015 ruled India had no jurisdiction in the case and referred it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
 
The marines have been allowed to stay in Italy pending the Hague court ruling.
 
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10 Indians arrested in Thailand for fake marriages

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Ten Indian men and 24 Thai women have been arrested in Thailand on charges of forging documents and filing falsified papers to authorities about their marriages, media reports said on Wednesday.
 
Twenty Indian suspects are still at large, Thai police said.
 
They had allegedly produced the falsified marriage certificates to district officials so that they could be legally allowed to reside and take care of their fake spouses, the police added.
 
The police arrested the 10 unidentified Indian nationals who had allegedly manipulated fake marriages with the 24 Thai women who had been hired as alleged accomplices in such bogus scams, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
Six unidentified Thai women were also yet to be located and arrested, an officer told Xinhua. They had been hired at a price of 500 to 5,000 baht to pretend as the Indians' spouses, the police said.
 
Thailand's Immigration Bureau Chief Surachate Hakparn on Tuesday instructed all immigration units throughout the country to crack down on foreigners on suspicion of possibly commit crimes and jeopardize national security. 
 
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Sitharaman meets US Secretary of Defence James N Mattis

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on an official visit to the US from December 2-7, 2018, met Secretary of Defence James N Mattis on Tuesday and held discussions on a broad range of bilateral and international issues of mutual interest. 
 
Mattis also hosted a dinner in her honour. Earlier, Mattis had received Sitharaman on her arrival at the Pentagon. She was accorded the Armed Forces Enhanced Honours Cordon welcome. During their meeting, discussions were held on the growing partnership between India and US in the defence sphere. 
 
They reviewed ongoing initiatives to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation, as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between India and the US.
 
Both sides agreed to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation, building on the discussions and outcomes of the ‘2 + 2 Dialogue’ held in September 2018. Sitharaman highlighted the steps taken by the Government to promote defence sector manufacturing, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ‘Make in India’ flagship programme.
 
Earlier on December 3, she visited the US Department of State, where she signed the condolence book for former US President George HW Bush. She also paid respects at the 'Tomb of the Unknown Soldier' by laying a wreath at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial.
 
At the conclusion of her engagements in Washington DC, Sitharaman was due to visit Reno later on Tuesday for  interactions with select leaders of the Indian community in the US. 
 
She will also visit San Francisco and address a roundtable meeting at Stanford. She will also visit the Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) of the US Department of Defence and interact with start-ups and venture capitalists associated with this unit.
 
From December 5-7, she is scheduled to visit Honolulu, the headquarters of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), recently renamed as INDO-PACOM. During the visit, she will hold meetings with Commander of INDO-PACOM, Admiral Philip S. Davidson. 
 
She will also visit Joint Base Pearl Harbour Hickam, where she would board a US Guided Missile Destroyer and will be briefed on INDO-PACOM activities.
 
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India's heaviest satellite GSAT-11 launched by Ariane 5 mission from French Guiana

Arianespace's Ariane 5 taking off from the spaceport in French Guiana with India's GSAT-11 and Korea's Geo-Kompsat-2A on board on December 4, 2018 evening local time (early on December 5, 2018 IST). (Photo: Arianespace)
Arianespace's Ariane 5 taking off from the spaceport in French Guiana with India's GSAT-11 and Korea's Geo-Kompsat-2A on board on December 4, 2018 evening local time (early on December 5, 2018 IST). (Photo: Arianespace)
India's largest and heaviest communication satellite GSAT-11 was placed in orbit by Arianespace's Ariane 5 mission which took off from its spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana in the wee hours of today.
 
GSAT-11 was one of two international satellite payloads on Flight VA 246, the other being Korea's Geo-Kompsat-2A.
 
"Designated Flight VA246 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, it delivered the ISRO GSAT-11 relay platform for Ku- and Ka-band communications, along with KARI’s Geo-Kompsat-2A – which is to provide meteorological and space weather monitoring data," a press release from Arianespace said.
 
“I want to express my deepest gratitude to two very special partners since the beginning of their space ambitions: ISRO and KARI,” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël in post-launch comments from the spaceport.
 
Israël noted that GSAT-11 was the 22nd ISRO satellite orbited by Arianespace and Ariane-series launchers, tracing the relationship back to India’s APPLE small experimental communications spacecraft, which had a liftoff mass of 670-kg. and was lofted in 1981 by an Ariane 1 version. 
 
On today’s Ariane 5 mission, GSAT-11 weighed in at 5,854.6 kg. – the largest and heaviest satellite ever built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), he said.
 
Deployed first during Ariane 5’s 33-minute mission to geostationary transfer orbit, GSAT-11 will be positioned at 74 degrees East, providing communications services in Ku- and Ka-bands in both forward and return links. The satellite was designed and manufactured by ISRO, with its multi-spot beam coverage over the Indian mainland and nearby islands to bring significant advantages to users when compared with existing India’s INSAT/GSAT satellite systems. GSAT-11’s design lifetime is more than 15 years.
 
With its new system architecture and cutting-edge technology elements, GSAT-11 will generate a capacity of more than 12 Gbps for users from a single platform.
 
Geo-Kompsat-2A was carried in Ariane 5’s lower payload position and released second in the sequence for Flight VA246. Developed by KARI at its South Korean facility in Daejeon, this 3,507.2-kg. satellite will deliver meteorological and space weather monitoring from an orbital position of 128.2 degrees East as part of a Korean government national program.
 
Top ISRO officials were present in Kourou for the launch of GSAT-11, which is part of the space agency's new family of high-throughput satellites (HTS) that will, among other things, enable the provision of high-speed broadband services to new areas.
 
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According to ISRO sources, the launch vehicle carrying India's most advanced high throughput communication satellite lifted off from the spaceport at Kourou at 0207 hours IST.
 
After a 30-minute flight, GSAT-11 separated from the Ariane 5 upper stage in an elliptical Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.  The achieved orbit was very close to the intended one.
 
The satellite will provide high data rate connectivity to users of Indian mainland and islands through 32 user beams in Ku-band and 8 hub beams in Ka-band, they said.
 
“GSAT-11 will boost the broadband connectivity to rural and inaccessible Gram Panchayats in the country coming under the Bharat Net Project, which is part of Digital India Programme,” ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan said.
 
The Bharat Net Project aims to enhance the public welfare schemes like e-banking, e-health, e-governance among others.
 
He said GSAT-11 will act as a forerunner to all future high throughput communication satellites. “Today’s successful mission has boosted the confidence of the entire team,” Dr Sivan added.
 
Post-separation, ISRO's Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka took over the command and control of GSAT-11 and found its health parameters normal.
 
The scientists will undertake phase-wise orbit-raising manoeuvres in the days ahead to place the satellite in the Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) using its on-board propulsion systems. GSAT-11 will be positioned at 74-degree east longitude in the geostationary orbit.
 
Subsequently, the two solar arrays and four antenna reflectors of GSAT-11 will be deployed in orbit.  The satellite will be operational after the successful completion of all in-orbit tests.
 
In the last 21 days, ISRO successfully completed three satellite and two launch vehicle missions.
 
GSAT-11 was originally scheduled for launch by Arianespace's Flight VA243, scheduled for May 25 from Kourou, but it was delayed after ISRO decided in late April to carry out additional technical checks.
 
The satellite had already reached Kourou at the end of March for the flight and was transported back to India for the additional checks.
 
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AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel to be extradited to India from UAE

File photo of an AW101 helicopter. Image courtesy AgustaWestland website
File photo of an AW101 helicopter. Image courtesy AgustaWestland website
Christian James Michel, a British national and a middleman, has been extradited to India, a development that comes as a boost to Indian agencies investigating the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case.
 
The Gulf daily Khaleej Times reported that he had been taken to the Dubai International Airport for taking a flight to Delhi.
 
Official sources in Delhi indicated that Michel will land in India late in the night.
 
The action comes after the Court of Cassation here had in November upheld a lower court order which said that Michel could be extradited to India.
 
According to the report, Michel was kept under detention at the Dubai Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID) as per the Indian government's request. The extradition is undertaken in coordination with the Interpol and the CID. 
 
Michel is one of three middlemen being probed in the case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with the scam. 
 
In January, the ED had lodged a request with the UAE authorities for extraditing Michel. Both the ED and the CBI had filed chargesheets in bribery cases in Indian courts and non-bailable warrants had been issued against the accused. 
 
Last year, a Red Corner notice was issued against Michel by the Interpol on a request by the CBI. RCNs were also issued against two Italians involved in the scam -- Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke.
 
According to Indian investigative agencies, Michel had received at least Rs 235 crore for ensuring that the chopper contract went to AgustaWestland. He was a frequent visitor to India, having undertaken 300 trips to this country between 1997 and 2013. 
 
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The ED officials earlier had said that bribes to Michel were paid through a web of companies located abroad and in India on the pretext of payment for consultancy work. Michel also used his Dubai-based firm Global Services FZE as a conduit for money. 
 
In its chargesheet, the CBI had named former Indian Air Force chief S. P. Tyagi, his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi alias Julie, then IAF Vice Chief J. S. Gujral and advocate Gautam Khaitan as the four Indians involved in the scam. 
 
The chargesheet mentioned Khaitan as the "brain" behind the deal.
 
Others named in the chargesheet included Giuseppe Orsi, the former chief of Italian defence and aerospace major Finmeccanica, and Bruno Spagnolini, former CEO of AgustaWestland, apart from middlemen Michel, Haschke and Gerosa. 
 
On January 1, 2014, India cancelled the contract with Finmeccanica's British subsidiary AgustaWestland for supplying 12 AW-101 VVIP choppers to the IAF over alleged breach of contractual obligations and on charges of paying kickbacks amounting to Rs 423 crore.
 
The CBI, which registered an FIR in the case on March 12, 2013, had alleged that Tyagi and the other accused received kickbacks from AgustaWestland to help it win the contract. 
 
IANS
 

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India's GSAT-11 to be launched by Arianespace's Ariane 5 mission early on Wednesday

Arianespace's Ariane 5 mission, designated as Flight VA 246, in the launch zone at its spaceport in French Guiana with two international satellite payloads: India’s GSAT-11 and Korea's GEO-KOMPSAT-2A. Photo: Arianespace.
Arianespace's Ariane 5 mission, designated as Flight VA 246, in the launch zone at its spaceport in French Guiana with two international satellite payloads: India’s GSAT-11 and Korea's GEO-KOMPSAT-2A. Photo: Arianespace.
India's largest and heaviest communication satellite GSAT-11, with a lift-off mass of 5,854.5 kg, is set to be launched into orbit by Arianespace's Ariane 5 mission from its spaceport at French Guiana in  the wee hours of Wednesday.
 
"The Ariane 5 for Arianespace’s 10th mission of 2018 is now in the launch zone at French Guiana, positioning it for liftoff tomorrow with two international satellite payloads: India’s GSAT-11 and GEO-KOMPSAT-2A for Korea," a press release from Arianespace said.
 
It said the heavy-lift launcher was transferred on Monday from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building to the ELA-3 launch zone, enabling the final countdown to begin for its late afternoon (local time) departure on December 4 during a 1-hour, 16-minute launch window that opens at 5:37 p.m. local time in French Guiana.
 
The launch window between 5.37 p.m. and 6.53 p.m. in French Guiana translates to between 2.07 a.m. and 3.23 a.m. IST on Wednesday.
 
Riding in the upper payload position for the 33-minute mission to geostationary transfer orbit will be GSAT-11, built by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is configured on ISRO's next-generation I-6K satellite bus. It will be positioned at 74 deg. East after deployment by Ariane 5, providing communications services in Ku- and Ka-bands in both forward and return links.
 
Designated Flight VA246, the mission is the 246th launch of an Ariane family vehicle and Arianespace’s sixth in 2018 using the workhorse Ariane 5. The heavyweight launcher will deliver a lift performance of more than 10,200 kg., which includes the mass of its two satellite passengers as well as the Ariane 5’s dual-payload deployment system and integration hardware, the release said.
 
Since the launch of India’s APPLE experimental satellite on Ariane Flight L03 in 1981, Arianespace has placed in orbit 21 Indian satellites and signed 24 launch contracts with ISRO. It has also won almost 90% of the geostationary orbit launch contracts opened to non-Indian launch vehicles.
 
"With two additional satellites remaining in Arianespace’s order book, the launch of GSAT-11 is to be another vivid demonstration of the strong bond uniting Europe and India in space cooperation," the release added.
 
Top ISRO officials are in Kourou for the launch of GSAT-11, which will be part of the space agency's new family of high-throughput satellites (HTS) that will, among other things, enable the provision of high-speed broadband services to new areas.
 
With its new system architecture and cutting-edge technology elements, GSAT-11 will generate a capacity of more than 12 Gbps for users from a single platform.
 
It will join GSAT-29 and GSAT-19, which were launched in November 2014 and June, 2017, respectively.
 
GSAT-11 was originally scheduled for launch by Arianespace's Flight VA243, scheduled for May 25 from Kourou, but it was delayed after ISRO decided in late April to carry out additional technical checks.
 
The satellite had already reached Kourou at the end of March for the flight and was transported back to India for the additional checks.
 
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Qatar says it will pull out of OPEC

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Qatar on Monday announced that it intends to withdraw from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after nearly 60 years of membership in order to focus on its plans to increase natural gas production.
 
The planned January 1, 2019, withdrawal was announced at a press conference here earlier in the day and confirmed by Qatar Petroleum, the state-owned corporation responsible for oil and gas activities, on Twitter. 
 
"The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar's desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production," tweeted Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the country's Minister of State for Energy Affairs.
 
He said that OPEC had been informed of the decision, Efe news reported.
 
Qatar has been a member of OPEC since 1961. It said the organization was aware of its decision to withdraw.
 
Al-Kaabi said the withdrawal decision reflected Qatar's aim to increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes a year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years.
 
IANS
 

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Kamala Harris to decide on 2020 US presidential bid over holidays

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Democrat Kamala Harris, the first Indian-American to serve in the US Senate, said she will make a decision about a potential 2020 presidential bid during the upcoming holiday season.
 
"It will ultimately be a family decision," Harris, who represents the state of California, told MSNBC during an event in San Francisco. "And over the holiday, I will make that decision with my family."
 
Harris, 54, was elected to the Senate in 2016.
 
She ranked fifth in a November poll of Democratic voters' preferred nominee to take on President Donald Trump's re-election bid, Politico news reported on Sunday. 
 
Harris has sent $25,000 to the Democratic parties in four early nominating states: Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire. 
 
In October, she visited Iowa, South Carolina and Wisconsin to campaign for Democratic candidates ahead of the midterm elections.
 
IANS
 

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India will host G20 Summit in 2022: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India will host the G20 Summit in 2022, the year the country will celebrate the 75th Independence Day.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India will host the G20 Summit in 2022, the year the country will celebrate the 75th Independence Day.
 
"In that special year, India looks forward to welcoming the world to the G20 Summit! Come to India, the world's fastest growing large economy! Know India's rich history and diversity, and experience the warm Indian hospitality," he tweeted on Saturday.
 
At the closing ceremony of the two-day G20 Summit held here, the Prime Minister had requested Italy to host the G20 annual summit in 2021 and let India host the international forum in 2022, said an official. 
 
Italy and other countries accepted Modi's request, he said. 
 
Earlier, India was to host the summit in 2021 and Italy in 2022. 
 
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G20: Modi discusses economy, terrorism, fugitive economic offenders

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on cooperation among G20 countries on issues related to global economy, trade tensions, crude oil prices and terrorism and fugitive economic offenders, India's G20 sherpa has said.
 
Addressing the media here, Shaktikanta Das on Saturday said the current challenges being faced by the global economy, especially emerging economy space, were highlighted by Modi at the G20 Summit.
 
"He highlighted the threat of increasing financial vulnerabilities, mainly arising from monetary policies of advanced economies and oil price volatility," Das said.
 
"The Prime Minister also emphasized on unsynchronized policies of advanced economies and the uneven pace of revival of economies of various countries."
 
Modi stressed on escalating trade tensions and its resultant and collateral damages it caused to the least developed countries and other emerging economies, he added. 
 
As regards the way forward, Modi emphasized on the need for pro-active and reformed multilateralism. 
 
"He (Modi) talked about various multilateral institutions and stressed there is need to adopt policies of pro-active and reformed multilateralism, basically to activate various multilateral channels, whether it is the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) or other multilateral channels and, of course, the UN and last but not the least, G20," Das said.
 
Modi highlighted that any instability in the crude oil prices put big pressure on the budgetary resources and domestic finances of the emerging economies.
 
He also appealed for reforming the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and sought dialogue on trade and service in promoting global value chain in the agricultural sector, Das said. 
 
The Prime Minister wanted countries to "immediately" join the automatic exchange of information. 
 
"He highlighted the efforts taken in regards to harnessing transformative technologies, that is robotics, data analytic, education technology, Fin-tech (Financial Technology). He talked about democratization of the technologies at the international level for global good." 
 
Presenting a nine-point action programme against fugitive economic offenders at the second session of the G20 Summit on Friday, Modi said there was a need for a joint effort by member countries to form a mechanism that denies entry and safe havens to all fugitive economic offenders.
 
India is pressing for the extradition of high-profile fugitive economic offenders including Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and Vijay Mallya among others. 
 
The Prime Minister stressed it was time to fully implement and operationalise various aspects of 11-point agenda against terrorism adopted in Hamburg in 2017.
 
He also called upon countries to join the international solar alliance and spoke about global coalition on disaster resilient infrastructure, Das said. 
 
Modi said India will host the G20 Summit in 2022, the year New Delhi celebrates its 75th Independence Day. 
 
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Commander of US 5th Fleet found dead in Bahrain

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Vice-Admiral Scott A. Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet, was found dead in  his residence in Bahrain on Saturday, an official statement said here.
 
"It's my sad duty to inform you that today the Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and I were told that Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, our commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet, was found deceased in his residence in Bahrain today," a statement from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said.
 
"This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at 5th Fleet, and for the entire U.S. Navy," he said.
 
"The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected. Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, the deputy commander of 5th Fleet, has assumed command and is maintaining continuity in our responsibilities and posture in the U.S. 5th Fleet," the statement added.
 
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G20: India presents 9-point agenda to deal with fugitive economic offenders

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India has called for a strong and active cooperation across G-20 countries -- including in legal processes for effective freezing of proceeds of crime and early return of offenders -- to deal with fugitive economic offenders and facilitate asset recovery.
 
Presenting a nine-point action programme against fugitive economic offenders at the second session of the G-20 Summit on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was a need for a joint effort by member countries to form a mechanism that denies entry and safe havens to all fugitive economic offenders.
 
He also suggested that the G-20 forum should consider initiating work on locating properties of economic offenders who have tax debt in the country of their residence for its recovery.
 
"Cooperation in the legal processes such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime should be enhanced and streamlined," he said.
 
He added that the principles of UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNOTC), especially related to international cooperation, should be fully and effectively implemented.
 
"The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should be called upon to assign priority and focus to establishing international cooperation that leads to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between competent authorities and Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs)
 
"FATF should be tasked to formulate a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders," Modi said in his nine-point agenda.
 
He added that the FATF should also develop a set of commonly agreed and standardised procedures related to identification, extradition and judicial proceedings for dealing with such offenders to guide and assist G-20 countries, subject to their domestic law.
 
"Common platform should be set up for sharing experiences and best practices including successful cases of extradition, gaps in existing systems of extradition and legal assistance," the Prime Minister said.
 
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Xi, Putin, Modi agree to increase trilateral cooperation

Leaders of India, China and Russia at a trilateral meeting held in Buenos Aires on Friday had an in-depth exchange of views on expanding mutual cooperation in international fora and to encourage greater interaction among the three countries under new circumstances.
 
Modi holds trilateral meeting with Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin
Leaders of India, China and Russia at a trilateral meeting held here on Friday had an in-depth exchange of views on expanding mutual cooperation in international fora and to encourage greater interaction among the three countries under new circumstances.
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the importance of reform and strengthening of multilateral institutions which have benefitted the world, including the UN, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and well-established as well as new global financial institutions, a statement from India's Ministry of External Affairs said. 
 
They underscored the benefits of a multilateral trading system and an open world economy for global growth and prosperity.
 
Calling it an excellent meeting, Modi said a wide range of subjects were discussed which would further cement the friendship between the three nations and enhance world peace. 
 
The three leaders agreed to have regular consultations at all levels to jointly promote international and regional peace and stability, to strengthen cooperation through BRICS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and East Asia Summit (EAS) mechanisms, to address global challenges such as terrorism and climate change, and to encourage peaceful resolution of all differences.
 
They also acknowledged the importance of cooperation in Russia-India-China format and agreed to hold further such trilateral meetings on multilateral occasions, the Ministry said.
 
On the sideline of G-20 Summit here, US President Donald Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister also held a trilateral meeting, the first ever of its kind.
 
IANS
 

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Former US President George H.W. Bush passes away at 94

 
Former US President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former United States President George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94 in Houston on Friday, his office said.
 
"George Herbert Walker Bush, World War II naval aviator, Texas oil pioneer, and 41st President of the United States of America, died on November 30, 2018," a statement issued by Jim McGrath, his spokesperson said.
 
He was 94. He is survived by his five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and two siblings.
 
Bush  had served as the 41st President of the US from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993.
 
His wife Barbara Bush had predeceased him on April 17 this year at the age of 92.
 
"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died," George W. Bush, Mr. Bush's eldest son, who served as the 43rd President of the United States from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009, said in a statement.
 
"George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41's life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens," the statement addded.
 
IANS adds:
 
George H. W. Bush had steered the nation through a tumultuous period in world affairs.
 
He suffered from a form of Parkinson's disease that forced him to use a wheelchair or motorised scooter in recent years, and he had been in and out of hospitals during that time as his health declined. 
 
In April, a day after attending his wife's funeral, he was treated for an infection that had spread to his blood.
 
Bush, a Republican, was a transitional figure in the White House, where he served from 1989 to 1993, capping a career of more than 40 years in public service. 
 
A decorated Navy pilot who was shot down in the Pacific in 1944, he was the last of the Second World War generation to occupy the Oval Office.
 
Bush was a skilled bureaucratic and diplomatic player who, as President, helped end four decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear engagement with a nuanced handling of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe.
 
Born into privilege and a tradition of service, Bush was a son of a senator, student athlete, Texas oilman, Republican congressman, national party chairman, pioneering diplomat and spy chief, reports CNN. 
 
After his own 1980 presidential campaign came up short, he served two terms as Ronald Reagan's Vice President before reaching the pinnacle of political power by winning the 1988 presidential election, soundly defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis.
 
After losing the White House in 1992, Bush became a widely admired political elder who leapt out of airplanes to mark birthday milestones. 
 
Emphasizing the generosity of his soul, he forged a close and unlikely friendship with Democrat Bill Clinton, the man who ended his presidency. 
 
When Parkinson's disease mostly silenced him in public, Bush flashed his sense of humour by sporting colourful striped socks.
 
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7.0-magnitude quake damages roads, buildings in Alaska

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A magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck near Anchorage, Alaska, damaged roads, buildings and also triggered a temporary tsunami warning, authorities said.
 
The booming quake hit at about 8.30 a.m. on Friday, some 10 miles northeast of Anchorage, at a depth of 21 miles, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). 
 
The USGS reported dozens of aftershocks even after the tsunami warning was cancelled, reports CNN. 
 
The largest, registering 5.7, was located in Anchorage. Seismologists predicted many more in the coming days and weeks.
 
"It was very loud when it came," Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said. 
 
"It was very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience. We live in earthquake country so folks... But this was a big one."
 
Social media and television news video depicted scenes of chaos, including students taking shelter under desks, roads buckling under passing cars, grocery store products tumbling from shelves, hospital workers scrambling for cover and panicked attorneys under tables as a courtroom rocked from side to side.
 
Despite the chaos, Anchorage authorities said on Friday night that no fatalities or serious injuries were reported.
 
The White House said on Friday night that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the disaster and he has approved a federal disaster declaration for Alaska that authorises the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate all disaster relief efforts.
 
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