World briefs 9/29/03

Monday, September 29, 2003

One dead, 29 injured in German train collision

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Two commuter trains collided head on outside a train station in eastern Germany on Sunday, killing an elderly woman and injuring 29 other passengers, police and the German railway said.

One of the trains' engines was completely smashed in the collision on a section of single track 100 yards outside the station in Holzdorf. According to the schedule, one of the trains should have waited for the other before crossing the section.

The accident happened along a section of track in a blind curve under a freeway overpass.

The track did not have a mechanical signal, but was under control of a tower in a nearby station that informed the engineers of train traffic, said Gerold Brehm of the Germany railway, Deutsche Bahn. Police and Deutsche Bahn are investigating.

Egypt's ruling party adopts reform proposals

CAIRO, Egypt -- Egypt's ruling party Sunday adopted a package of broad-sweeping economic and political reforms pushed by the president's son that address democracy, human rights and the status of women in the country.

The endorsement by the National Democratic Party members appeared to consolidate the leadership role of Gamal Mubarak, who has drawn attention in Egyptian politics since his father appointed him head of an influential ruling party committee on policymaking last year.

Mubarak praised the vote on the final day of the party's three-day annual convention and urged the government to start implementing the reforms immediately.

"There are great challenges which we have to meet," he said in a speech after the vote. "The National Democratic Party has made up its mind. There will be no retreat from the path which we have chosen."

Quake aftershocks cause oil refinery fire in Japan

TOKYO -- A storage tank caught fire at an oil refinery in northern Japan on Sunday as aftershocks rocked the region following a powerful earthquake two days earlier. No injuries were reported.

Aftershocks as strong as magnitude 5.4 continued rattling the area in the wake of Friday's magnitude 8 quake.

The fire at the refinery in the northern town of Tomakomai broke out in a 80-foot-high storage tank containing naphtha, a flammable liquid produced when petroleum is distilled. It was still burning eight hours later, sending a plume of black smoke into the air.

It was the second time in three days that a tank went up in flames at the refinery, run by one of Japan's largest oil companies, Idemitsu Co. Friday's earthquake set off a fire in a separate tank that consumed 30,000 kiloliters, or 188,700 barrels, of crude oil.

The lid of the tank was shaken partly open, and the naphtha ignited when it was exposed to the air, national broadcaster NHK and Kyodo News reported.

Firefighters worked into the night to douse the blaze with chemicals and drain the tank, a task expected to last through today.

About 570 people were hurt in Friday's quake -- the strongest quake recorded in the world in the past 2 1/2 years.

The temblor was centered deep under the seabed about 60 miles off the coast.

21 killed when bus falls off mountain road in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran -- A bus plunged from a mountain road in western Iran into a river, killing 21 passengers and injuring 11, state-run Tehran television reported Sunday.

The television said the accident occurred late Saturday on the mountainous Sanandaj-Saqez road in the western Kurdistan province near the Iraqi border.

Some of the survivors are critically injured, the TV report said without providing further details.

Traffic officials blamed the accident on driver error and high speed, according to a later TV report.

Iran has one of the world's highest road accident rates, recording 400,000 accidents and 21,000 crash-related fatalities in 2002 alone.

Unsafe vehicles, disregard for road rules and inadequate emergency services are blamed for the high death toll.

-- From wire reports

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