Rainy respite from bush fires set to end soon
MELBOURNE • A recent respite for Australian firefighters that brought rain and cooler weather is set to end, meteorologists warned yesterday, with hot conditions forecast for later this week, raising a risk that blazes may start spreading again.
Over a week of solid rain in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, the three states most affected by the fires, has more than halved the number of blazes, but above average temperatures are set to return by this weekend. Australia experiences regular bush fires over summer, but this season's fires began early and have claimed 33 lives in the past four months, killed millions of animals and charred an area nearly the size of Greece.
Indian govt to sell entire stake in Air India
NEW DELHI • The Indian government is planning to sell its entire interest in Air India, in a renewed push to sell the airline after an attempt to auction a majority stake about two years ago failed to draw any bids.
A document released yesterday shows March 17 as the deadline for submission of initial expressions of interest, and that any bidder must assume liabilities including 232.87 billion rupees (S$4.4 billion) in debt. Substantial ownership and effective control of the airline must remain with an Indian entity, the government also said.
The potential sale of an airline kept aloft by a US$4.2 billion (S$5.7 billion) 10-year bailout in 2012 comes as the government sells off money-losing assets to manage the fiscal deficit.
Britain mints new coin to mark Brexit
LONDON • Britain yesterday unveiled a new 50-pence coin to mark the country's departure from the European Union. It bears the inscription "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations" and the Brexit date of 31 January 2020.
About three million of the coins will be distributed from banks, post offices and shops from Friday, the government said, with seven million more coins entering circulation later in the year.
The finance ministry had initially planned to mint a coin inscribed 29 March 2019, the original Brexit date before Britain asked to extend its departure from the bloc. It later ordered production to commemorate a new deadline of Oct 31, but another delay put paid to that launch and about one million coins had to be melted down.