Month in brief

Worst floods since 2003 hit Sri Lanka

The worst flooding in over a decade caused more than 200 deaths in Sri Lanka and left around 600,000 people homeless. Heavy monsoon rains set off landslides, which have worsened in recent years as forests are cleared for export crops such as tea and rubber. Neighbouring states and the wider international community rushed in aid, and President Maithripala Sirisena said he would convene an international donor conference to co-ordinate reconstruction.


US student dies after N Korea frees him

Otto Warmbier, held for 17 months in North Korea after he tried to steal a propaganda sign while on a student tour, died near his family home in Ohio shortly after being released. Pyongyang claimed Warmbier, 22, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour, fell into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill, but US doctors said there was no sign of botulism in his system.


India launches heaviest rocket

India successfully launched its heaviest rocket from the Satish Dhawan space centre on Sriharikota island, off the east coast. The 640-tonne GSLV Mark III put India’s latest communications satellite, GSAT 19, into a geosynchronous, or fixed, orbit over the subcontinent. The rocket can carry more than three tonnes into such an orbit, an increase of over 50 per cent, increasing the country’s competitiveness in the international space launch market.


Polynesian canoe circles the globe

The Hokulea, a traditional double-hulled canoe of the kind used by Polynesians to populate the islands of the Pacific, returned to Hawaii after completing the first round-the-world voyage by such a craft. The crew navigated without modern instruments, as their forefathers did, using only the stars, wind, birds and ocean swells. The aim of the three-year, 40,000 nautical miles journey was to support ocean conservation, sustainability and indigenous culture.


Bangladesh removes female statue

Bowing to demands from Islamic hard-liners, a sculpture of a woman representing justice outside the Supreme Court in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, was removed. The statue, erected only five months previously, was targeted by Hefazat-e-Islam, an organisation which organised protests claiming it violated the Islamic prohibition against depicting living beings. The sculptor, Mrinal Haque, said it was a ‘defeat for the freedom-loving, secular people of the country’.


Casino attack falsely claimed by IS

An attack on a casino in Manila which killed 37 people was claimed by Islamic State, but it emerged that the perpetrator was a Christian Filipino with heavy gambling debts. Jessie Javier Carlos, who had been dismissed from a finance ministry job for corruption, was armed, but did not open fire. The deaths were caused by smoke and fumes after he poured petrol over furniture and carpets and set them alight.


Carnage after tanker explodes

At least 150 people were killed and over 100 more suffered burns when a fuel tanker exploded near Bahawalpur, eastern Pakistan. Villagers rushed to collect spilled fuel in cans and bottles after the tanker overturned, apparently because of a burst tyre. The explosion was believed to have been caused by someone lighting a cigarette. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif cut short a visit to London after the disaster.


Rooftop driving school shut down

Chinese authorities closed down a driving school operating on the roof of a seven-storey shopping mall in Wuhan. Billboards hid the driving school from below, but online photos showed lines painted on the rooftop for learner drivers to follow. It had previously been used for parking, with cars being carried by lift, but an official said most students had never driven before, and could easily lose control and drive off the roof.

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