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June 20, 2018

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

SINUI ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — He ran the first chance he got. The sun beat down on the shallow, sea-fed fields where Kim Seong-baek was forced to work without pay, day after 18-hour day mining the big salt crystals that blossomed in the mud around him. Half-blind and in rags, Kim grabbed another slave, and the two disabled men headed for the coast.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) — After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet on Friday, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats. Of the 30 corpses recovered so far, 21 were found on Friday, many of them by a U.S. Navy ship, according to officials.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and a well-oiled communications machine. From the highly visible compassion shown by Fernandes to details such as changing the airline’s bright red logo to a somber gray online, experts say the Malaysia-based budget carrier’s initial response to the tragedy is a textbook example of how to communicate in a crisis.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — At the muddy gravesite where Hayati Lutfiah Hamid was buried, something was missing. Though around 150 villagers had gathered to lay the first identified victim of AirAsia Flight 8501 to rest, the people who would mourn her most were not there. Her husband, Djoko Suseno, 9-year-old daughter, Naura Kanita Rosada Suseno, and mother-in-law, Soemanik Saeran, are all still missing in the Java Sea after their plane went down Sunday, killing all 162 people on board.

SHANGHAI (AP) — Like hundreds of thousands of other revelers, 24-year-old Pan Haiqin decided to ring in the new year on Shanghai’s famed riverfront as the skyscrapers flashed and sparkled. But as the crowd grew and then turned into an out-of-control crush of bodies, the real estate professional never made it up steps to a viewing platform to see the dazzling lights. Nearly 20 hours later, her parents and friends identified her trampled body in a city morgue, one of 36 people killed in one of the deadliest accidents in this showcase Chinese city. Some 49 others were injured.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year said Friday that their lawyers were focusing on deportation at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s command as their best option. An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste held on terror-related charges, a ruling that their lawyers hoped was a step toward resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism on Egypt’s government.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Two Afghan soldiers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of at least 28 people, mostly women and children, who were killed by artillery fired from military checkpoints at a wedding party, an official said Friday. Gen. Sultan Mahmoud, the head of the army in southern Helmand province, where the incident took place on Wednesday night, said the soldiers were arrested late on Friday. Another eight soldiers were still under investigation, he told The Associated Press.

BEIJING (AP) — A senior Chinese diplomat has been removed from his position and is being investigated for an unspecified disciplinary violation. A two-sentence statement from the Foreign Ministry did not offer more details Friday about the removal of Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng. The China News Service reported that Zhang was the head of the ministry’s protocol department.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later expelled from the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback. Ranariddh said in a letter to current leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party that he was accepting their invitation to reassume its presidency. It had removed him in 2006 for alleged incompetence.

In this photo by Heng Sinith, a Cambodian farmer climbs a sugar palm tree to collect palm juice. The farmer, 42-year-old Sam Leng, earns $5 a day by selling juice, a popular refreshment in Southeast and South Asia. It is extracted by cutting the stalk bearing the flowers and hanging a bamboo container to collect the juice, usually overnight. The sweet, fresh juice, normally harvested between November and March, is sold in containers carried by vendors over the shoulder or on bicycles.

BEIJING (AP) — Images of bodies and wreckage floating in Indonesian waters gave relatives of those lost aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 anguish and grief, but they also provided the answers that other families have sought in vain for nearly 10 months. Those with loved ones aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 can only imagine what has happened to them, and can only hope to one day know for sure.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech Thursday that he is open to more talks or even a summit with his South Korean counterpart, a statement welcomed by Seoul, which in turn urged the North to take concrete steps toward normalization of relations. Kim’s call for improving inter-Korea relations comes as Pyongyang is facing heightened criticism over its human rights record and souring ties with Washington over allegations it was involved in the massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures linked to “The Interview,” a dark comedy that portrayed an assassination attempt on Kim.

Revelers crowded New York’s Times Square and converged on the beaches of Brazil and skyscrapers of Dubai to say good riddance to a turbulent 2014 marred by terror woes, Ebola outbreaks and a horrific series of airline disasters. But tragedy struck in Shanghai, Baghdad was on edge and protesters in the United States delivered a sobering reminder of one of the year’s biggest stories.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A huge blaze believed to have been ignited by firecrackers razed nearly a thousand shanties and killed three people in a creekside slum in the Philippine capital, one of more than a dozen fires across the country linked to raucous New Year’s celebrations. Strong winds fanned the flames racing through nearly a kilometer (half a mile) -long row of shanties in a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila before dawn Thursday, said village officer Noel Carino. Firefighters struggled to get near the burning shanties because of narrow alleys.

An AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed Sunday morning while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on a scheduled two-hour flight. Here’s a look at the latest developments: ___

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Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

Iceland cuts aviation alert to orange, no ash from new eruption

By Robert Robertsson and Simon Johnson

REYKJAVIK/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Iceland cut its ash warning level for aviation to orange from red on Sunday, saying a fresh fissure eruption in Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcano system was not creating ash.

Iceland’s largest volcanic system, which cuts a 190 km long and up to 25 km wide (118 miles by 15.5 miles) swathe across the North Atlantic island, has been hit by thousands of earthquakes over the last two weeks and scientists have been on high alert.

In 2010, an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, in a different region of Iceland, closed much of Europe’s air space for six days.

The eruption, which started early on Sunday morning, spewed lava more than 50 meters in the air and is close to an earlier eruption that continued for a few hours early on Friday.

The Met Office raised its ash alert level to red earlier on Sunday but cut it after monitoring the eruption during the day.

“No ash has been detected,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office said in a statement. “The Aviation Colour Code for Bardarbunga has therefore been reset to orange.”

Red is the highest level on a five-color scale and it indicates that an eruption is imminent or under way, with a risk of spewing ash. Orange is the next highest level.

A three nautical mile restricted flight area around the volcanic activity set by the Icelandic Transport Authority has been canceled.

No flight restrictions are in effect as a result of the volcanic eruption.

Icelandic authorities said the latest fissure eruption started in Holuhraun north of Dyngjujokull glacier at around 12 a.m. ET.

Scientists estimate the fissure to be at least 1.5 kilometers long. The lava is estimated to be six to eight meters thick and flowing at a rate of about 1,000 cubic meters per second.

“The eruption is producing 50- to 60-metre high lava fountains,” Armann Hoskuldsson, a geologist at the University of Iceland told Reuters.

Two days ago, a 600 meter-long fissure in a lava field north of the Vatnajokull glacier, which covers part of the Bardarbunga system, erupted.

That eruption only lasted for a few hours and was not in an area covered by ice and did not produce ash. The risk of an ash cloud is highest when there is a sub-glacial eruption as melt water and magma mix to produce ash particles.

The new eruption is very close to Friday’s and is not under the glacier.

“It is almost in the same location. The crack has only extended a little bit further to the north,” Magnusson at the National Crisis Coordination Centre said.

Last week, scientists estimated around 400 million cubic meters of lava had flowed out from under the volcano in a long dike. The eruption on Friday was at its tip.

(Corrects identifying slug, no changes to text)

(Reporting by Robert Robertsson; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Stephen Powell)

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Iceland cuts aviation alert to orange, no ash from new eruption

Hiker dies after falling from treacherous Hawaii trail

(Reuters) – A hiker was killed and another person injured after they fell while hiking a notoriously difficult trail on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday.

A group of five people were hiking the strenuous Kalalau Trail, considered one of the most treacherous in the United States, late on Thursday when a 25-year-old man slipped and fell down rugged cliffs over the Na Pali Coast, the Coast Guard said.

The group called for help around 11:45 p.m. and Coast Guard teams, including a rescue swimmer, located the fallen hiker near the water, said Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie.

The rescue swimmer attempted CPR but the hiker, who was not identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. A second male hiker in the group sustained a severe leg injury falling from the trail and was transported by helicopter to a local hospital, McKenzie said.

The 11-mile trail takes two days to hike on average, with those granted permits to climb the path usually camping for one night along the way, Hawaii state park officials said.

It was unclear if the hikers were camping or still hiking after dark when the accident occurred, McKenzie said. A Kauai Fire Department helicopter hoisted the remaining three hikers off the trail on Friday.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Hiker dies after falling from treacherous Hawaii trail