Explosion Rocks Texas Chemical Plant

 

An explosion at a chemical plant in Texas early Wednesday sent a large fireball into the sky, media reports said, triggering a mandatory evacuation.

“Please be aware that there is a mandatory evacuation for everyone within a 1/2 mile of the TPC plant in Port Neches,” local fire officials said in a post on the Nederland Volunteer Fire Department’s Facebook page.

Dramatic videos and photos shared on social media showed a massive explosion, with one resident describing waking up to a huge boom and “glass all over us”.

Ryan Mathewson, who lives roughly two minutes from the plant with his family, told AFP: “We woke up to glass all over us and parts of the ceiling caved in, (and) doors blown in.”

The 25-year-old said they were “shook up and scared” following the blast.

County Judge Jeff Branick told local news site KFDM News that there were no injuries reported.

The site of the explosion is believed to be a petrochemical plant roughly 85 miles (135 kilometers) from Houston.

At Least Seven Killed In Kabul Car Bomb Blast

Security personnel and investigators gather at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on November 13, 2019. STR / AFP

 

At least seven people were killed and seven wounded when a car bomb detonated during Kabul’s busy morning rush hour Wednesday, an interior ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said the bomb had gone off in a neighbourhood which is near the interior ministry and north of Kabul airport.

He said the dead were all civilians. “This is the initial information, more details later,” he added.

A source at the interior ministry said the blast was detonated by a suicide bomber in the car, and that it had targeted a convoy of government vehicles on a main road.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in Kabul, which is one of the deadliest places in the war-torn country for civilians.

The blast came one day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that Kabul would release three high-ranking Taliban prisoners in an apparent prisoner swap with Western hostages who were kidnapped by the insurgents in 2016.

The three Taliban prisoners include Anas Haqqani, who was seized in 2014 and whose older brother is the deputy Taliban leader and head of the Haqqani network, a notorious Taliban affiliate.

Ghani did not specify the fate of the Western hostages — an Australian and an American, both professors at the American University in Kabul — and it was not clear when or where they would be freed.

The two, American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks, were kidnapped in August 2016 from the heart of Kabul.

They later appeared looking haggard in a Taliban hostage video, with the insurgents going on to say that King was in poor health.

Ghani noted in his speech that “their health has been deteriorating while in the custody of the terrorists”.

He also did not state when or where the Taliban prisoners would be freed.

But he said that he hoped the decision would help “pave the way” for the start of unofficial direct talks between his government and the Taliban, who have long refused to negotiate with the administration in Kabul.

Direct talks

Over the past year the US and the Taliban had been holding direct talks seeking a deal that would bring the insurgents to the table for peace talks with Kabul, and allow the US to begin withdrawing troops.

But President Donald Trump abruptly ended the negotiations in September, citing continued Taliban violence.

Most experts agree that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, and that talks will have to restart again eventually.

Until then, however, civilians continue to pay a disproportionate price in the long-running and brutal war.

Last month, the United Nations released a report saying an “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September this year.

The figures — 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until September 30 — represent a 42 percent increase over the same period last year.

The UN laid most of the blame at the feet of “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out an insurgency in Afghanistan for more than 18 years.

At Least 20 Wounded, Many Feared Dead In Kabul Wedding Blast

File photo of an explosion in Kabul.

 

At least 20 people were wounded in a blast at a Kabul wedding late Saturday, a local hospital said, while a witness told AFP he had seen many dead bodies at the scene.

The explosion came just as the US and the Taliban are widely expected to sign off on a deal that would see American troops begin to depart Afghanistan in return for various security assurances from the insurgents.

“#Kabul #Afghanistan explosion in a hotel during a wedding party, about 20 patients arrived up to now at our hospital #masscasualty,” the Italian-run Emergency hospital of Kabul said on Twitter.

Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast occurred in a west Kabul wedding hall around 10:40 pm (1810 GMT).

He shared on Facebook photos showing several apparent bodies inside a dining area.

Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.

Mohammad Farhag, who had been at the wedding, said he had been in the women’s section when he heard a huge blast in the men’s area.

“Everyone ran outside shouting and crying,” he said.

“For about 20 minutes the hall was full of smoke. Almost everyone in the men’s section is either dead or wounded. Now, two hours after the blast, they are still taking bodies out of the hall.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility.

Little Security

Government spokesman Feroz Bashari said the blast was “a clear sign that terrorists can’t see Afghans express happiness.”

“You can’t make them bow by killing them. The perpetrators of tonight’s attack shall be held responsible,” he wrote on Twitter.

Insurgents have periodically struck Afghan weddings, which are seen as easy targets because they frequently lack rigorous security precautions.

On July 12, at least six people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a wedding ceremony in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The Islamic State group, which has a growing footprint in the region, claimed the blast.

Expectations are rising for a deal in which the US would start withdrawing its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan after a two-decade war that has turned into a stalemate.

US President Donald Trump has said since the start of his presidency that he wants troops out of the country where Washington has spent more than $1 trillion on military operations and reconstruction since 2001.

In return for the US departure, the Taliban would commit to various security guarantees, including that the Islamist hardliners who long harboured Al-Qaeda would not allow Afghanistan to once again become a jihadist safe haven.

On Friday, Ahmadullah Azkhundzada, brother of Afghan Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada, was among four people killed in a blast at a mosque in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan, a senior official with the provincial government said.

Two Killed, 12 Missing After Huge Blast Rocks China Gas Plant

 

A huge explosion rocked a gas plant in central China on Friday, killing at least two people and injuring another 18, state media said.

Another twelve people were missing after the blast, said state broadcaster CCTV, which shattered windows and doors of buildings in a three-kilometre (1.9-mile) radius.

Official news agency Xinhua had earlier said “many people” were injured by the explosion, which happened at 5:50 pm local time (0950 GMT).

Xinhua said the blast occurred in the air separation unit of the Henan Coal Gas Group factory and not in the gas tank areas, citing a source in the Yima city government. All production at the plant has been stopped.

“Many windows and doors within a three-kilometre radius were shattered, and some interior doors were also blown out by the blast,” CCTV said on its Twitter-like Weibo social media account.

Local media showed amateur videos of a massive column of black smoke billowing from the factory and debris littering the roads.

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Other images showed the doors and windows of homes blown out and shuttered shops with dented metal fronts.

A bloodied man was seen being helped out of a van in a video posted on social media.

AFP could not immediately verify the authenticity of the footage.

Industrial accidents

Deadly industrial accidents are common in China, where safety regulations are often poorly enforced.

In March, a blast at a chemical plant in eastern Jiangsu province killed 78 people and injured hundreds.

The powerful explosion in the eastern city of Yancheng toppled several buildings in the industrial park, blew out windows of nearby homes and even dented metal garage doors.

Authorities detained two dozen people in connection with the March 21 blast, which prompted the government to order a nationwide inspection of chemical firms.

A week after that explosion, seven died following a blast at an electronics component manufacturer in the same province.

In November, a gas leak at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhangjiakou, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, killed 24 people and injured 21 others.

Leaked chloroethylene came in contact with a fire source causing the explosion, authorities said in a February report, which also claimed the Chinese chemical firm responsible for the accident had concealed information and misled investigators.

In 2015, China suffered one of its worst industrial accidents when giant chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin killed at least 165 people.

At Least Six Dead In Suicide Blast At Afghan Wedding

 

 

At least six people were killed and 14 wounded Friday when a suicide bomber attacked a wedding ceremony in eastern Afghanistan.

The Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate later claimed responsibility for the bombing in Nangarhar province close to the Pakistan border, where a host of insurgent organisations operate.

“This morning at 8:00 am (0330 GMT), a suicide bomber detonated himself at a wedding ceremony … in Pachiragam district,” Attaullah Khogyani, the Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, told AFP.

He said six people had been killed and 14 wounded, a change from an earlier toll of five dead and 40 wounded.

“All the villagers were gathered for a wedding ceremony,” said witness Saleem Jan, who was himself a guest and who was wounded in the blast.

Speaking to AFP from hospital, he described confusion as the bomb exploded and people began running.

“I didn’t know what happened,” he said. “When I turned my face I saw dozens of people were wounded, lying on the ground.”

Nangarhar regional hospital spokesman Zahir Adil told AFP that two bodies and 11 injured victims had been taken to the hospital in central Nangarhar city.

The explosion comes just days after historic talks between Afghan representatives and the Taliban wrapped up as part of a US-led effort to end the war.

At the conclusion of the two-day summit in Doha, parties unveiled a joint resolution pledging a “roadmap for peace” in which they sought to reduce civilian casualties to “zero”.

Direct talks between US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban also took place last week.

AFP

Dozens Wounded As Powerful Blast Rocks Kabul

Afghan men walk on a road as smoke rises from the site of an attack in Kabul on July 1, 2019. Dozens of people were wounded with fatalities feared as a powerful car bomb rocked Kabul early July 1, followed by gunmen battling special forces in an area housing military and government buildings, officials said. STR / AFP

Dozens of people were wounded with fatalities feared as a powerful explosion rocked Kabul early Monday, targeting an area of the Afghan capital housing military and government buildings, officials said.

The rush-hour explosion sent a plume of smoke into the air above the Puli Mahmood Khan neighbourhood of the city, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

An AFP reporter said he could hear gunshots shortly after the blast.

“Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals from today’s blast in Kabul,” health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar tweeted.

The area was quickly blocked off by Afghan forces and ambulances, while the nearby “Green Zone” diplomatic area was put on lockdown, with no one allowed in or out.

The heavily-secured neighbourhood is home to some military and government buildings, including one shared by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency and defence ministry, as well as the Afghan Football Federation and the Afghan Cricket Board.

Shams Amini, a football federation spokesman, told AFP that the blast occurred near the federation’s gates.

“Some of our colleagues are trapped inside, we have reports of some injuries. We don’t know if the attackers have entered the building,” he said.

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Nearby Shamshad TV station, which was attacked in 2017, aired images of broken glass and damage to its offices but said it was not the target.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, and police said they did not yet know the target or nature of the blast.

Both the Taliban and the so-called Islamic State group are active in Kabul.

The explosion came two days after the Taliban and the US began their seventh round of talks in the Qatari capital of Doha as Washington eyes a breakthrough before Afghanistan’s September presidential election.

The negotiations have so far centred on four issues — counter-terrorism, the foreign troop presence, an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent ceasefire.

A potential deal would see the US agree to withdraw its troops after more than 17 years in Afghanistan, igniting deep concerns among huge swathes of Afghans who fear the militants will return to some semblance of power.

In return the Taliban would guarantee the country would never again become a safe haven for violent extremist groups, as happened with Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

US officials have previously said they are hoping for a deal before the upcoming Afghan presidential elections, which have already been delayed twice and are now set for September.

17 Injured As Blast Hits Tourist Bus In Egypt

 

An explosion struck a tourist bus on Sunday near Egypt’s famed pyramids, injuring 17 people including foreigners, security and medical sources said.

South Africans and Egyptians were among those injured when an explosive device went off, hitting the bus in Giza, according to the sources. No deaths were reported.

Images circulating online showed some of the bus’ windows shattered.

Sunday’s incident comes after three Vietnamese holidaymakers and their Egyptian guide were killed when a roadside bomb hit their bus as it travelled near the pyramids outside Cairo in December.

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Egypt’s tourism sector has suffered for years due to a series of deadly attacks targeting holidaymakers following the turmoil of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

Authorities have gone to great lengths to lure tourists back, touting a series of archaeological finds and a new museum next to the pyramids, as well as enhanced security at airports and around ancient sites.

The industry has slowly picked up, with tourist arrivals reaching 8.3 million in 2017, compared with 5.3 million the previous year, official statistics showed.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx of 2010 when more than 14 million visitors flocked to see the country’s sites.

AFP

Three Dead, 14 Missing In Ukraine Mine Blast

Ukraine on the Map

 

Three people have died and 14 are missing following a coal mine blast in a separatist eastern region of Ukraine, news agencies reported Friday.

The gas blast ripped through the mine in Yurievka village in the self-proclaimed republic of Lugansk, which broke away from Kiev in 2014 and is run by Moscow-backed rebels.

“At the moment we understand three dead have been brought to the surface. The fate of 14 others is uncertain,” local government official Yevgeny Katsavalov told the Lugansk news service.

Head of the unrecognised republic Leonid Pasechnik on Twitter called the explosion at the Skhidcarbon mine a “terrible tragedy”.

Emergency services were doing “everything necessary,” he said.

The Lugansk news agency said the mine was closed in 2014 due to the conflict between Kiev’s forces and the Russia-backed separatists but was reopened in 2018.

Most of Ukraine’s coal is produced in its eastern region, where the ongoing fighting has cost some 13,000 lives.

Kiev has tried to boost the operations of other pits under its control in the west of the country.

AFP

Death Toll In Sri Lanka Blasts Rises To 310

Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it explodes when police tried to defuse a bomb near St. Anthony’s Shrine as priests look on in Colombo on April 22, 2019. Jewel SAMAD / AFP

 

The toll from a string of deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 310, with several people dying of their injuries overnight, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Around 500 people were wounded in the blasts, Ruwan Gunasekera said in a statement.

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He added that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks, which Sri Lanka’s government has blamed on a previously little-known local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

AFP

Sri Lanka Government Blames Local Islamist Group For Attacks

Security personnel inspect the interior of St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka./ AFP

 

The Sri Lankan government believes a local Islamist extremist group called the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) was behind the deadly suicide bomb attacks that killed nearly 300 people, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said Monday.

Senaratne, who is also a cabinet minister, added that the government was investigating whether the group had “international support”.

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Documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a warning on April 11, saying that a “foreign intelligence agency” had reported NTJ was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.

Not much is known about the NTJ, a radical Muslim group that has been linked to the vandalising of Buddhist statues.

A police source told AFP that all 24 people in custody in connection with the attacks belong to an “extremist” group, but did not specify further.

12 Killed In Egypt Chemical Plant Blast

 

At least 12 people were killed Thursday after a gas tank exploded at an Egyptian fertiliser factory on the Red Sea coast, according to a security source.

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No final numbers of the casualties in Ain Sokhna have been officially confirmed, but medical sources told AFP 10 bodies had been received at a nearby morgue following an incident. Egypt’s official news agency MENA said a total of 15 have been killed and wounded.

AFP

Death Toll From South African Coal Mine Blast Rises To 18

SA Minister Assures Foreign Nationals Of Halted Attacks

 

The death toll from a gas explosion that occurred at disused South African coal mine on February 3 rose to 18 after rescuers recovered 13 more bodies, police said Friday. 

The disaster occurred at Gloria coal mine, located near the town of Middelburg in the eastern province of Mpumalanga.

More than 20 people went into the mine, reputedly to steal copper cables.

Michael Elliott, who is coordinating the rescue operations, told AFP said four bodies were initially brought out shortly after the explosion, and a fifth fatality died in hospital.

Last week rescuers discovered seven bodies but failed to pull them out due to dangerous levels of methane gas.

On Friday they went back underground and came out with 13 bodies.

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“Today’s retrieval brings the total number of bodies brought to the surface to 18 thus far,” police spokesman Leonard Hlathi said in a statement.

“These are bodies of people who … went into a mine shaft where they allegedly intended to steal copper cables,” police spokesman Leonard Hlathi.

He said another group forced its way into the mine appears to rescue the trapped people, but “suffered the same fate”.

Elliot said another nine are believed to be still inside the mine, according to information gathered from the local community.

AFP