Asia Briefs: Freak storm blamed for cruise ship sinking

Freak storm blamed for cruise ship sinking

BEIJING • An official inquiry has found that a freak storm caused the sinking of a cruise ship on China's Yangtze River with the death of nearly 450 people, and recommended the captain be investigated for possible crimes, state media said yesterday.

The Eastern Star capsized with mostly elderly holidaymakers on board in June, China's worst shipping disaster in more than six decades. Despite widespread public anger, the official report only named relatively low-level government officials as responsible for the disaster, and recommended their sacking.

The report said the captain and other staff made an "inadequate response" to the squall.


8 found alive 5 days after gypsum mine's collapse

BEIJING • Eight people were found alive in a Chinese gypsum mine yesterday, state media said, five days after it collapsed in an accident that reportedly prompted its owner to commit suicide. The mine, in the eastern province of Shandong, caved in last Friday while 29 people were working underground. One miner was killed and 11 escaped or were rescued soon after, leaving 17 trapped in the shaft, said previous Chinese media reports.

The cause of the collapse is under probe, but industrial safety regulations are often flouted in China and bosses often pursue profits at the cost of worker safety.


'Irregularities' in Thai Rajabhakti Park project

BANGKOK • A Thai Defence Ministry team looking into allegations of corruption at a military-built park said yesterday it had found financial "irregularities" in the project but had no authority to investigate.

Rajabhakti Park was built to honour Thailand's much-revered monarchy, but has become a lightning rod for anti-junta sentiment and a potential embarrassment to a military that seized power last year vowing to crack down on graft.

Sitting on army land in the royal resort town of Hua Hin, the project was overseen by General Udomdej Sitabutr, a former army chief who is currently Deputy Defence Minister.


Church apologises for priest riding hoverboard

MANILA • The Philippine Catholic Church has apologised after a priest was filmed riding a hoverboard in church while celebrating Christmas Eve Mass.

In clips that had gone viral on YouTube and social media sites, a middle-aged man in a cassock sings a Christmas song while riding a self-balancing electric scooter between packed pews.

The diocese of San Pablo said Father Albert San Jose rode the hoverboard in his Miraculous Medal church in Binan town 30km south of Manila, "as a way of greeting his parishioners".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'AsiaBriefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe