World briefs 5/27/03

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

WHO: Toronto back on list of SARS-affected places

TORONTO -- Precautions at Toronto hospitals since last month's SARS outbreak failed to prevent dozens of possible new cases, health officials conceded Monday as the World Health Organization put Canada's largest city back on its list of SARS-affected places.

The WHO designation is routine for transmission of new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and a spokesman for the U.N. agency said Toronto was nowhere near another WHO warning against travel to the city.

Elsewhere, the number of new cases reported in China was down to eight, while Taiwan reported 15. The health chief for Taiwan's capital resigned to take responsibility for a SARS outbreak at a hospital.

Hong Kong researchers said a SARS vaccine developed with their mainland Chinese counterparts was ready for testing on animals, with results expected in six months.

In Toronto, health authorities scrambled to limit any further possible spread while investigating how eight probable new cases and 26 suspected cases slipped through upgraded monitoring and reaction systems designed to catch SARS.

The new cases included two deaths, and another death of a patient sick for months raised the overall toll in the Toronto area to 27 from more than 150 cases in the biggest SARS outbreak outside of Asia.

British polar explorer stranded on North Pole

LONDON -- A British explorer who reportedly reached the North Pole a week ago has become stranded with his food running low, according to his Web site.

Pen Hadow, 41, claimed to become the first person to reach the geographic North Pole unsupported from Canada on May 19, but a plane has been unable to retrieve him because of broken ice and thick clouds.

Hadow, who started his 478-mile trek on March 17 from Ward Hunt Island in northern Canada, has been waiting in a tent.

The temperature has been about 21 degrees but his food has been running low. He put himself on half rations that should last through Wednesday, his team said on the expedition's Web site.

His wife, Mary, told the British Press Association that her husband knew the weather could be a problem and made plans for it. She stressed that he does not yet need to be rescued.

Strong earthquake rocks northeastern Japan

TOKYO -- A powerful earthquake rocked northeastern Japan on Monday, knocking out power, starting fires and disrupting road and rail traffic. At least 54 people were hurt, mostly with minor injuries caused by falling objects.

The quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was the strongest to hit Japan in more than two years, the nation's Meteorological Agency said. Skyscrapers swayed in Tokyo, 260 miles away. An agency official suggested the impact of the quake might have been mitigated by its depth.

The temblor was centered 44 miles below the sea floor about 12 miles off the coast of northeastern Miyagi state, the agency said.

A magnitude 7.0 quake can cause major damage over a widespread area. More than 6,000 people were killed in the western city of Kobe when a magnitude-7.2 quake struck there in 1995.

-- From wire reports

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