TEHRAN: Iranian authorities have said a Ukrainian airliner, which crashed outside Tehran with the loss of all 176 people on board, had turned back after suffering a problem, as Ukrainian experts joined the investigation Thursday.Both Canada and the United States called for a full investigation to determine the cause of Wednesday’s crash, which came shortly after Tehran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad.There was no immediate indication that foul play may have caused the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane to go down soon after take-off, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned against speculating on the crash causes.”The plane, which was initially headed west to leave the airport zone, turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash,” the Iranian Civil Aviation Organisation said on its website late Wednesday.”The plane disappeared from radar screens the moment it reached 8,000 feet (2,400 metres). The pilot sent no radio message about the unusual circumstances.”According to eyewitnesses, a fire was seen on board the plane which grew in intensity,” the organisation added, reporting the first findings of its investigation into the crash.The organisation said it was considering evidence from the ground as well as reports from a second aircraft which was flying above the Ukrainian Boeing 737 as the disaster unfolded.Heartbreaking details started emerging about the victims, most of them from Iran or from the large Iranian diaspora in Canada.Body bags were lined up on the ground, and the passengers’ personal items – including luggage, clothes, a Santa Claus doll and a boxing glove – were scattered in the debris.According to Ukraine, 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans and three Britons were on board, as well as 11 Ukrainians – including nine crew.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Ottawa following the fatal plane crash outside of Tehran, Iran, that claimed the lives of 176 people, including 63 Canadians. pic.twitter.com/uMTdY11jDO
— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) January 9, 2020
About 30 came from the Iranian community around Edmonton, capital of Alberta province in western Canada, where resident Payman Parseyan described the tragedy as “devastating”.”Every one of our community members was touched in one way or another,” Parseyan told Canada’s national broadcaster CBC.Some 45 Ukrainian aviation experts and security officials flew to Tehran early Thursday to participate in the investigation, including “deciphering the black boxes” discovered by Iranian authorities at the crash site, the Ukrainian president said.A Ukrainian security official said investigators were considering seven different possible versions of events.Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council which is tasked with coordinating the investigation, said the leads being studied included both technical malfunctions and foul play, but told AFP that “there is no priority version” yet.The leads under consideration include a collision with another airborne object, a rocket from Iran’s missile defence system, an engine explosion caused by a technical problem, and an explosion on board the aircraft due to an “act of terror”, Danilov said on Facebook.He told AFP that for the moment there was no reason to believe that the airliner had been hit by a missile.Civil aviation chief, Ali Abedzadeh, said Iran would cooperate with Ukraine, but would not send the black boxes to the United States, with which it has had no diplomatic relations for four decades.According to aviation experts, only a handful of countries are capable of analysing black boxes – notably Britain, France, Germany and the United States.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government would ensure a “thorough investigation” and that “Canadians’ questions are answered”.Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke by telephone on Thursday with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Tehran said.Canada is home to a large Iranian diaspora, and UIA offers relatively inexpensive flights between Toronto and Tehran, with a layover in Kiev.It was the ex-Soviet country’s privately owned main carrier’s first fatal crash.
A breath of fresh air: First smog tower installed in Delhi to fight pollution
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New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown extended as outbreak tops 100 cases
WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday extended New Zealand’s strict nationwide COVID-19 lockdown saying the current outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus had not yet peaked.
The level 4 national lockdown was extended by three days until midnight on Aug. 27 while Auckland, the epicenter of the outbreak, will have restrictions in place at least until Aug. 31.
“The safest option for all of us right now is to hold the course for longer,” Ardern said at a news conference.
“If the world has taught us anything it is to be cautious with this variant of COVID-19,” she added.
Ardern said contacts in the community by people infected with the Delta variant were reported all over the country. There are more than 320 locations of interest linked to the outbreak and 13,000 contacts have been recorded, far more than in previous outbreaks.
“Delta has changed the rules of the game,” Ardern said.
New Zealand earlier in the day reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 taking the total number of infections in the outbreak to 107.
The health ministry said in a statement that 33 new cases are in Auckland and two are in the capital Wellington.
Vietnam deploys troops to enforce COVID-19 lockdown in largest city
HANOI: Vietnamese soldiers on Monday were deployed on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City to help enforce a lockdown in the country’s business hub, which has become the epicenter of its worst coronavirus outbreak so far during the pandemic.
Panic-buying broke out at supermarkets in the city of nine million people over the weekend ahead of the tighter lockdown, which started on Monday and prohibits residents from leaving their homes.
Vietnam’s toughest order yet comes amid a spike in fatalities and infections.
Soldiers on Monday were checking permits of residents on the streets and delivering food, according to witnesses and photographs on state media.
The city began movement restrictions early last month, but infections have continued to surge after authorities said there had not been strict enough enforcement of the curbs.
The city has recorded a total of 176,000 COVID-19 infections and 6,670 deaths, accounting for half of the Southeast Asian country’s overall cases and 80 percent of fatalities, according to the health ministry.
Vietnam has over the recent weeks sent 14,600 additional doctors and nurses to the city and its neighboring provinces to support its overwhelmed medical system, the ministry said.
Patients with mild or no symptoms have been told to self-isolate at home.
People in the city’s Phu Nhuan and Go Vap districts said they had received packages of rice, meat, fish and vegetables.
The government announced on Friday it would send 130,000 tons of rice from state stockpiles to Ho Chi Minh City and 23 other cities and provinces.
After managing to contain COVID-19 for much of last year, Vietnam has so far recorded 348,000 infections and at least 8,277 fatalities, with the majority recorded in the current Delta-driven outbreak since late April.
Around 1.8 million of 98 million people, or 1.8 percent of the country’s population, have been fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the region.