World Briefs: Hundreds flee fires in Australia

Hundreds flee fires in Australia

SYDNEY • Bush and grass fires sweeping across south-east Australia destroyed homes, killed cattle and forced hundreds to flee yesterday as dry, hot winds fanned the flames.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported. The fires, believed to have been sparked by lightning on Saturday, were raging out of control across the state of Victoria's rural south-west.

About 280 firefighters were battling the blazes while 22,000 homes were without power after the high winds brought down trees. About a dozen homes were destroyed.

In the northern city of Darwin, about 25,000 homes were also without power after a tropical cyclone felled trees. No deaths were reported.


Russia stockpiling nerve agent: Britain

LONDON • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said yesterday that Russia has been stockpiling the deadly nerve agent used to poison a Russian former double agent in Britain and has been investigating how such weapons can be used in assassinations.

Britain has said Russia used the Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok to attack Mr Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the first known offensive use of such a weapon on European soil since World War II. Russia has denied any such involvement.

Britain and Russia have each expelled 23 diplomats over the attack.

Officials from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will arrive in Britain today to investigate the samples used in the attack and the results should be known in about two weeks, said Britain's Foreign Ministry.


Florida officials knew of crack in bridge

MIAMI • Engineers and state and university officials met hours before a new pedestrian bridge collapsed in southern Florida last Thursday, but concluded a crack in the structure was not a safety concern.

Florida International University last Saturday said the meeting involved FIGG, the private contractor for the overall bridge design, as well as the university, Department of Transportation officials and Munilla Construction Management, which installed the US$14.2 million (S$18.7 million) bridge.

Six people died after the bridge collapsed, including five whose bodies were recovered on Saturday as workers pulled out vehicles from the rubble.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2018, with the headline 'World Briefs'. Subscribe