97 Saved From Chinese Ship Afire Off Antarctica

AP Photo/Chile Air Force

Marianela Jarroud Published: Apr 18, 2013,  Associated Press

Smoke billows from a Chinese factory fishing ship Kai Xin just off the coast of Antarctica on April 17 in this photo released by Chile’s Air Force. Around 90 crew members were rescued from the burning ship by the crew of the Norwegian ship Juvel, and Chile’s military says it’s ready to intervene if necessary to prevent an ecological disaster.

SANTIAGO, Chile — A Chinese factory fishing ship caught fire Wednesday just off the coast of Antarctica and 97 crew members were rescued by a nearby Norwegian vessel as Chile’s military mobilized to prevent any environmental damage.

The crew members abandoned the burning Kai Xin and were taken aboard the Juvel about 34 miles from Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins research base near the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula, Chilean officials said.

The ship was not immediately at risk of sinking, and nearby vessels could tow it away from the Antarctic coast if necessary, officials said.

Capt. Juan Marcelo Villegas, maritime governor for Chile’s portion of Antarctica, told The Associated Press that Chile’s navy could send a tugboat from Punta Arenas, near the southern tip of South America, to tow the ship to harbor as long as it remained seaworthy.

Chile’s air force was preparing a second flight for Thursday to check on the vessel’s condition. The Kai Xin left port in Uruguay and Chilean officials did not know how much fuel it was carrying, Villegas said.

“At the moment the weather conditions are pretty favorable. There’s little wind and the ocean conditions are good, so, for the moment, there’s no imminent risk of sinking,” Villegas said.

China’s Panamanian-flagged Skyfrost ship was approaching the area and would be able to take on the rescued sailors, he said.

Chile’s Antarctic base could not handle the rescued crew, Villegas said. He said the chief of China’s Antarctic base had been notified.

China’s Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment, but the official Xinhua News Agency said the Chinese Embassy in Santiago was in close contact with Chilean authorities over the matter.

The environmental group Greenpeace said the crippled Chinese ship is part of an international fleet of about 50 vessels authorized by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to fish off the Antarctic coast.

“This Chinese fishing ship that’s on fire has permission to fish for krill,” Milko Schvartzman, who campaigns against overfishing for Greenpeace, said in an email.

He said Greenpeace opposed the Antarctic fishing. “They don’t know how the ecosystem might be affected by fishing for krill, which forms part of the foundation for the entire ocean food chain,” Schvartzman wrote.

The commission is meeting in July in Berlin to discuss the possible creation of large Antarctic marine reserves. Schvartzman said Greenpeace is lobbying for approval, saying the reserves would “protect one of the most pristine regions left in the oceans.”


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Hero teacher who talked student gunman out of rampage

A Californian teacher who talked a teenage gunman into handing over his loaded shotgun was praised by police as a hero, and credited with saving the lives of his class.

Ryan Heber with his wife Emmy Lou.

Ryan Heber with his wife Emmy Lou.

Ryan Heber, a science teacher at the Union High School in Taft, where one student was left in a critical condition following America’s latest school shooting on Thursday, confronted the 16-year-old gunman seconds after he had shot his first victim.

“I don’t want to shoot you,” the gunman reportedly told Mr Heber, who had been grazed by a pellet but was still able to coax the teenager into giving up his weapon with the help of with a campus supervisor who had rushed to the classroom after hearing three shotgun blasts.

“This teacher and this counsellor stood there face-to-face not knowing if he was going to shoot them,” the local sheriff, Donny Youngblood, told a press conference Friday. “They probably expected the worst and hoped for the best, but they gave the students a chance to escape. The heroics of these two people goes without saying. They could have just as easily have left students, and they didn’t. They knew not to let him leave the classroom with that shotgun.”

The officials said one female student was taken to hospital with possible hearing damage after the shotgun was fired close to her ear, while another girl suffered minor injuries in the scramble to flee.

Police said that the young gunman, who has not been named because he is a minor, had planned the event as a revenge attack against two other students who had bullied him. His pockets were found to be stuffed with more than 30 shotgun cartridges.

The 9am attack at the school 120 miles north-west of Los Angeles has once again raised questions about school safety, coming just a month after 20 primary school children and six female teachers were killed in a gun rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

Joe Biden, the US vice-president, is due to deliver a report to President Barack Obama on Tuesday that is expected to urge tougher gun controls, including a ban on assault weapons.

There remain doubts whether new gun laws banning assault rifles will pass Congress. The National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby that opposes any new controls, met Mr Biden on Thursday, but said it was only “checking a box” and remained confident that Congress would not act on gun laws. The NRA has proposed posting armed guards at every US school.


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