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Troubled history fuel Japan-China tension

Troubled history fuel Japan-China tension

NANJING, China (AP) — Strolling through China's sprawling memorial to a 1937 massacre by Japanese troops, a 64-year-old retired teacher said the incident remains an open wound.

"Japan is a country without credibility. They pretend to be friendly, but they can't be trusted," Qi Houjie said as a frigid wind swept the austere plaza of the Nanking Massacre Memorial Hall.

Across the waters, Japanese visiting a Shinto shrine in Tokyo that enshrines 14 convicted war criminals among 2.5 million war dead say they're tired of Chinese harping, underscoring a gradual hardening of attitudes toward China. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a traditional offering to Yasukuni Shrine on Monday, the start of a 3-day spring festival, but didn't visit. His visit to the shrine last December set off a diplomatic firestorm.

"The harsher they criticize, the more strongly I feel it's not their business," said Ayumi Shiraishi, a 28-year-old hotel employee who decided to see Yasukuni while on a recent trip to the Japanese capital. "It's a matter of the prime minister's belief, as he has said, and there is nothing wrong with that."

The Tokyo shrine and the memorial hall in Nanjing, as Nanking is now called, are physical embodiments of divergent views of history that still strain China-Japan relations, 70 years after the war. They complicate America's objective of maintaining peace and stability in the Pacific, as President Barack Obama starts a four-country Asian tour in Japan this week. The implications are potentially serious, particularly over contested uninhabited islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.

Following Japan's nationalization of the islands in September 2012, violent protests targeting Japanese businesses and brands broke out in many Chinese cities, inadvertently underscoring the vital economic relationship between the sides that continues to defy the political chill.

More recently, newly installed officials at public broadcaster NHK drew fire when one denied the Nanking massacre — in which China claims 300,000 civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered — happened and another downplayed the Imperial Army's use of sex slaves, an issue that has chilled Japan's relations with South Korea too.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida called those statements "regrettable" and said they don't represent the government's views. The government apologized to the former sex slaves in 1993 and more generally for its "colonial rule and aggression" on the 50th anniversary of the end of the World War II in 1995.

Such explanations carry little weight among a Chinese public raised on highly negative portrayals of Japan.

No perceived slight is too obscure to go unnoticed. When a smiling Abe posed in a fighter jet last year, Chinese observers were quick to note that the plane was marked 731, the number of a notorious wartime chemical and biological weapons unit. Abe's office said it was pure coincidence.

The constant hectoring is one factor sparking a backlash among Japanese, said Sven Saaler, a professor of modern Japanese history at Sophia University in Tokyo.

"I don't think there is such a strong shift to the right, or such a strong resurgence of nationalism but anti-Chinese sentiment has become very strong," Saaler said.

The latest Pew Research Global Attitudes survey from last July showed just 5 percent of Japanese felt positively toward China.

Shiraishi said she was inspired to visit Yasukuni and its war museum by a recent movie based on a novel by Naoki Hyakuta, the NHK advisor who said the Nanking massacre is a fabrication. She said the film caused her to question the history she learned at school that portrayed Japan solely as an aggressor.

"In order to challenge unfair claims from China and South Korea, we have to acquire a proper understanding of our own history," she said.

In contrast, 60-year-old retiree Masao Nakajima, said he's no fan of revisionist views of the war and thinks Abe's visit to Yasukuni was a mistake.

"Prime Minister Abe should have been more careful about the impact of his actions. I don't want him to go again as long as he is prime minister," said Nakajima, after exploring Yasukuni's spacious grounds. The least Japan can do is not "do things that we know would offend the victims."

Hardening views among young Japanese may also partly be a symptom of insecurity about widespread perceptions that their country is in decline, experts say.

China's accusations against Japan are undercut by its own selective approach to history and manipulation of nationalism to shore up ruling party support, critics say. Official histories exaggerate the communist role in fighting the Japanese while minimizing that of the rival Nationalists.

China also downplays Japanese attempts to make things right, including its official apologies for the war — at least 25 by one Chinese scholar's count — and nearly $36 billion in financial assistance provided by Tokyo in the postwar decades.

Instead, Beijing is doubling-down on the anti-Japanese narrative. It recently opened a memorial hall venerating Korean nationalist Ahn Jung-geun, who killed Japan's former resident-general in Korea on a visit to China in 1909; proclaimed days to commemorate the Nanking massacre and Japan's surrender; and is backing a lawsuit against a pair of Japanese companies accused of using Chinese slave labor.

Those moves serve China's goals of winning domestic support and diminishing Tokyo's regional role, but also build support among Japanese for leaving their post-World War II pacifism behind, said Rana Mitter, professor of modern Chinese history and politics at Oxford University.

"As a result, you end up with two different discourses that simply cannot meet at the middle," Mitter said.

Such sentiments find a natural home at the massacre memorial, with its displays of wartime artifacts, including an actual mass grave, and constant references to Japanese cruelty.

Zhang Ya, a 20-year-old student visiting the hall with friends, said that when it comes to history, "I don't have good feelings toward the Japanese."

While no one wants a shooting war over the disputed islands, Japan shouldn't underestimate Chinese resolve, she said.

"We must take back the Diaoyu Islands," Zhang said. "Japan knows very well we won't give them up like cowards."

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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. AP writer Ken Moritsugu in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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Sub search for missing jet two-thirds complete

Sub search for missing jet two-thirds complete

PERTH, Australia (AP) — As the search continued off the coast of Australia for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet on Monday, the airline announced another plane bound for India was forced to make an emergency landing after one of its tires burst on takeoff.

All 159 passengers and seven crew members arrived safely back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about 2 a.m. on Monday, around four hours after the plane took off for Bangalore, India. The incident brought additional drama to an airline already under immense pressure for answers from the public and the families of those missing from Flight 370, more than six weeks after it departed the same airport.

Meanwhile, a robotic submarine continued scouring a desolate patch of silt-covered seafloor in the Indian Ocean for any trace of the missing plane. The unmanned sub has spent nearly a week searching for the plane's black boxes and has covered about two-thirds of its focused search area. But it has yet to uncover any clues that could shed light on the plane's mysterious disappearance.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 has made eight trips below the surface to scan the seabed far off the coast of western Australia, journeying beyond its recommended depth of 4 1/2 kilometers (2.8 miles). Its search area forms a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius around the location of an underwater signal that was believed to have come from the aircraft's black boxes. The search coordination center said the sonar scan of the seafloor in that area was expected to be completed sometime this week.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has stressed the importance of the weekend's submarine missions, but added that even if no debris was recovered, the scope of the search may be broadened or other assets may be used.

The search for debris on the ocean surface also continued Monday, with up to 10 military aircraft and 11 ships combing a 49,500 square kilometer (19,000 square mile) area, about 1,700 kilometers (1,000 miles) northwest of Perth, the search coordination center said. A cyclone was swirling over the ocean northwest of the search area, and was expected to bring increasing rain and winds to the northern section of the search zone later Monday.

The search coordination center has said the hunt for floating debris will continue through at least Tuesday.

Radar and satellite data show the jet veered far off course on March 8 for unknown reasons and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of debris has been recovered since the massive multinational hunt began.

There have been numerous leads, but all have turned out to be false. The most promising development came when four underwater signals were detected April 5 and 8. The sounds were consistent with pings that would have been emanating from the plane's flight data and cockpit recorders' beacons before their batteries died.

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Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

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Follow Margie Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/MargieMasonAP

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SKorean president: Ferry crew actions 'murderous'

SKorean president: Ferry crew actions 'murderous'

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday that the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed "unforgivable, murderous acts" in the disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry Sewol sank Wednesday. By then the ship had tilted so much that many of the roughly 240 people missing are believed to be trapped inside.

At a Cabinet briefing, Park said the captain and crew "told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers."

"Legally and ethically," she said, "this is an unimaginable act."

The captain and two crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, and prosecutors said Monday that another four crew members have been detained. Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don said prosecutors would decide within 48 hours whether ask a court for arrest warrants for the four — two first mates, a second mate and a chief engineer.

Video showed that captain Lee Joon-seok, 68, was among the first people rescued. Some of his crew said he had been hurt, but a doctor who treated him said he had no fracture and only light injuries.

Lee spoke of "pain in the left rib and in the back, but that was it," Jang Ki-joon, director of the orthopedic department of Jindo Hankook University. Jang said he did not realize Lee was the captain until after he treated him.

So far 64 bodies have been recovered, and about 240 people remain missing. About 225 of the missing and dead are students from a single high school near Seoul who were on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

As divers increasingly make their way into the submerged ship, including a new entryway through the dining hall Monday, there's been a big jump in the discovery of corpses. And that means that on Jindo, an island near where the ferry sank, relatives of the missing must look at sparse details such as gender, height, hair length and clothing to see if their loved ones have been found.

There are no names listed as relatives huddle around white signboards to identify bodies from a sunken ferry — just the slimmest of clues about mostly young lives now lost. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

"I'm afraid to even look at the white boards," said Lim Son-mi, 50, whose 16-year-old daughter, Park Hye-son, has not been found. "But because all the information is quite similar, whenever I look at it, my heart breaks."

Relatives have already lined up to give DNA samples at the gymnasium where many of them are staying, to make bodies easier to identify when they are recovered.

A transcript released by the coast guard Sunday shows the ship, which carried 476 people, was crippled by confusion and indecision well after it began listing Wednesday.

About 30 minutes after the Sewol began tilting, a crew member repeatedly asked a marine traffic controller whether passengers would be rescued if they abandoned ship off South Korea's southern coast.

That followed several statements from the ship that people aboard could not move and another in which someone said that it was "impossible to broadcast" instructions.

An unidentified official at Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center told the crew that they should "go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing."

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?" the unidentified crew member asked.

"At least make them wear life rings and make them escape!" the traffic-center official responded.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?" the crew member asked again.

"Don't let them go bare — at least make them wear life rings and make them escape," the traffic official repeated. "The rescue of human lives from the Sewol ferry ... the captain should make his own decision and evacuate them. We don't know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you're going to evacuate passengers or not."

"I'm not talking about that," the crew member said. "I asked — if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?"

The traffic official then said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, though another civilian ship was already nearby and had told controllers that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

Ahn said Monday that a number of Sewol crew members, but not the captain, took part in the conversation.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, but prosecutors have said the ship made a sharp turn before it began to list.

More than 170 people survived the sinking of the Sewol, but the confirmed death toll climbed over the weekend after divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel and quickly discovered more than a dozen bodies. They had been hampered for days by strong currents, bad weather and low visibility.

Many relatives of the missing have been staying in a gymnasium on Jindo island, but dozens of relatives have started camping out at the port there to be closer to where the search was taking place, sleeping in tents. A Buddhist monk in white robes stood facing the water and chanted in a calm monotone as several relatives stood behind him, their hands pressed together and heads bowed in prayer.

The Sewol's captain was arrested Saturday, along with one of the ship's three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate. The third mate was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the bridge at the time.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said the third mate has refused to tell investigators why she made the sharp turn. Prosecutors have not named the third mate, but a fellow crew member identified her as Park Han-kyul.

As he was taken from court in Mokpo on Saturday, the captain explained his decision to wait before ordering an evacuation.

"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold," Lee told reporters, describing his fear that passengers, even if they were wearing life jackets, could drift away "and face many other difficulties."

He said rescue boats had not yet arrived, and there were no civilian vessels nearby.

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Kim reported from Mokpo, South Korea; Foster Klug, Youkyung Lee, Jung-yoon Choi and Leon Drouin-Keith in Seoul; and Minjeong Hong in Jindo contributed to this report.

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Group concerned for activist missing in Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) — An international human rights group is calling on Thai authorities to investigate the disappearance of a prominent environmental activist.

Human Rights Watch says Por Cha Lee Rakcharoen, known as "Billy," has been missing since he was detained last week in Petchaburi province's Kaengkrachan National Park.

Park chief Chaiwat Limlikitaksorn says Billy had been arrested for carrying illegal wild honey but was released because it was deemed a petty offence.

The rights group says Chaiwat himself is under investigation for allegedly masterminding the killing of an activist from Billy's network in 2011.

Police Col. Woradet Suanklaai says a missing person complaint has been submitted but Billy's whereabouts remain unknown.

5 hours ago

SKorean president: Ferry crew actions 'murderous'

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Park Geun-hye says the captain and some crew members of the sunken ferry committed 'unforgivable, murderous acts' in the disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing.

She made the comments Monday at a Cabinet briefing. The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the ferry Sewol sank Wednesday. By then the ship had tilted so much that many of the roughly 240 people missing are believed to be trapped inside.

Park says the captain and crew "told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers." She says that "legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act."

5 hours ago

Prosecutor says 4 ferry crewmembers detained

Prosecutor says 4 ferry crewmembers detained

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — A South Korean prosecutor says four more crewmembers from a sunken ferry have been detained on allegations of failing to protect passengers.

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer are also accused of abandoning the ship.

Ahn says prosecutors are considering whether to ask a court for a formal arrest warrant that would allow for a longer period of investigation. South Koreans can only be detained for 48 hours without a court-issued formal arrest warrant.

The ferry's captain and two other crewmembers were previously formally arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

Sixty-four bodies have been recovered, and about 240 people are still missing.

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Asian stocks mixed after holiday weekend

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Monday in light trading after Japan reported a jump in its trade deficit and investors looked ahead to economic data this week from China and Korea.

Oil declined but stayed above $104 per barrel amid concern over simmering tensions in Ukraine.

The regional heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index, added 0.7 percent to 14,620.45 despite the government's announcement that the country's trade deficit widened by nearly 70 percent to a record high in the year ending March 31. It was Japan's third straight deficit year.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 percent to 2,096.75. Investors are waiting for the preliminary version of HSBC Corp.'s survey of Chinese manufacturing due out Wednesday for signs of whether an economic slowdown has bottomed out.

The flash purchasing managers index "will be closely watched after a raft of mixed (but mostly soft) data," said Mizuho Bank in a report. "Potential for upside resides more in stimulus prospects rather than activity pick-up."

Taiwan's Taiex shed 0.2 percent to 8,951.10 and Seoul's Kospi lost 0.3 percent to 1,997.36. Korea is due to report data Thursday that are expected to show economic growth slowed in the first quarter.

Singapore was flat while Manila and Jakarta rose. Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong were closed for the Easter holiday.

Oil shed 23 cents to $104.07 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange amid concern about tensions in Ukraine following an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian insurgents. The contract added 44 cents in the previous session to $104.30 on concern Russian supplies might be disrupted if Europe or the United States impose sanctions.

In currency markets, the dollar gained 0.2 percent to 102.66 yen and the euro was flat at $1.381.

6 hours ago

Japan PM sends offering to war shrine

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent a religious offering to a Tokyo shrine that honors the dead including executed war criminals, a center of tension with Japan's neighbors.

Abe's offering Monday at the Yasukuni Shrine marks the April 21-23 spring festival, one of the shrine's key annual events. But the move suggests he will not visit Yasukuni ahead of President Barack Obama's visit beginning Wednesday.

Two ministers of his Cabinet have visited Yasukuni over the past two weeks.

The shrine has long been a flashpoint between Japan and neighbors China and both Koreas. They see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, and repeated visits by Japanese leaders as a lack of remorse over wartime history.

Yasukui enshrines 2.6 million war dead including, 14 Class A war criminals from World War II.

7 hours ago

Anti-junta Myanmar journalist Win Tin dies at 85

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Win Tin, a prominent journalist who became Myanmar's longest-serving political prisoner after challenging military rule by co-founding the National League for Democracy has died. He was 85. He died of renal failure Monday morning, family said.

A feisty former newspaper editor, Win Tin was a close aide to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, another founder in 1988 of the pro-democracy party. In 1989, she was put under house arrest and Win Tin wa sent to prison for his political activities. His sentence was extended twice for various pretexts.

Freed in 2008, he continued working with the NLD through the country's transition from military rule to an elected — though army-dominated — government in 2011. He also started a foundation to give assistance to current and former political prisoners.

8 hours ago

Japan logs record $134B trade deficit in FY 2013

TOKYO (AP) — Japan's trade deficit surged nearly 70 percent to a record 13.75 trillion yen ($134 billion) in the last fiscal year as exports failed to keep pace with surging costs for imported oil and gas.

The Finance Ministry reported Monday that exports in the year that ended March 31 rose 10.8 percent over the year before to 70.8 trillion yen ($690.5 billion) while imports climbed 17.3 percent to 84.6 trillion yen ($825 billion).

Resource-scarce Japan's costs for imports of energy have soared since the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant led to the closures of all of its nuclear reactors for safety checks.

Meanwhile, a weakening of the Japanese yen last year further pushed costs for all imports higher, while exports have risen only modestly.

9 hours ago

Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after gear fails

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia Airlines says a flight heading to India made an emergency landing in Kuala Lumpur after it was forced to turn back when its right landing gear malfunctioned.

The airline said on its Facebook page that Flight 192 to Bangalore, India, carrying 166 people, landed safely at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 1:56 a.m. Monday, about four hours after it departed.

The airline says the right landing gear of the Boeing 737-800 "malfunctioned upon takeoff."

The flight left Kuala Lumpur at 10:09 p.m. Sunday and was scheduled to reach Bangalore about 90 minutes later.

Searchers are continuing to look for a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared March 8 on an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

15 hours ago

Myanmar says 22 dead in Kachin fighting this month

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar says fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in the northeastern, strife-torn state of Kachin has left at least 22 people dead this month.

The clashes in Kachin come despite efforts by President Thein Sein's government to forge a nationwide cease-fire agreement with all armed ethnic groups — a deadline that has repeatedly been pushed back because of ongoing clashes.

The state-run Kyemon daily reported Sunday that the latest violence erupted on April 4 after members of the Kachin Independence Army ambushed an army column in the Man Wein Gyi region.

It said the "mopping up" operation that followed resulted in the capture of a rebel camp.

At least 14 government troops and eight rebels were killed.

18 hours ago

Thai police: 2-year-old killed in southern attack

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — Police in southern Thailand say suspected insurgents shot dead three people, including a 2-year-old girl, in a drive-by shooting.

Police Col. Chartchai Chanasit says two gunmen riding on a motorcycle carried out the attack on Sunday in the Bannang Sata district of Yala province.

Chartchai says another boy was injured in the attack.

Last week, an insurgent was killed in a shooting in the same district that also left his 6-year-old son dead.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency flared in 2004.

19 hours ago

Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche

Survivors recall chaos, fear in Everest avalanche

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Survivors of Mount Everest's deadliest avalanche recalled scenes of panic and chaos, describing Sunday how they dug through snow with their hands and ice axes in hopes of finding their friends alive.

Just minutes before the avalanche hit on Friday, about 60 Sherpa guides had been backed up along the dangerous Khumbu Icefall — the edge of a slow-moving glacier known to calve and crack without warning. They heard the sickening boom of ice breaking above, and then the roar of it coming down around them.

As details of the tragedy trickle down the mountain, Nepal's tight-knit climbing community has been left reeling and struggling to make sense of an accident that they say could have happened to any one of them, at any time.

"We were sweating, panting, digging for our friends," survivor Cheddar Sherpa said, standing beside his friend's body at the Sherpa monastery in Katmandu, Nepal's capital.

As he helped carry down the injured, he had no idea who might still be alive. "We were terrified," he said.

At least 13 people were killed, and another three are still missing, though there is almost no hope of finding them alive.

Climbing has been halted amid a search operation to locate bodies buried under snow, but the operation was suspended Sunday afternoon due to bad weather, and it was unclear whether it would resume on Monday, Tourism Ministry official Mohan Sapkota said.

The expeditions ferrying foreigners to Everest's peak said they would continue the climbs, though they're not sure when — or how, with some guides now injured or gone.

All of the victims were from Nepal's ethnic Sherpa community, which relies heavily on the country's alpine trekking and climbing industry, with many making a living as climbing guides and others catering to foreign visitors by providing restaurants, equipment or transportation.

At the time of the avalanche, according to Cheddar Sherpa, dozens of Sherpa climbers were carrying tents and equipment to higher elevations in preparation for their foreign clients to ascend next month, when weather conditions are best.

They got caught in a traffic jam behind several Sherpas struggling to fix one of the aluminum ladders laid over the crevasses that cut through the Icefall.

Meanwhile, several other Sherpas, who had already passed before the avalanche hit, remain stranded above the collapsed Icefall, waiting until a new trail can be dug and new ropes fixed, said Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

It was unclear how long that would take, but Tshering said the group had tents and enough food to last for days.

Hospitals in Katmandu were treating four survivors of the avalanche for broken bones, punctured lungs and other injuries.

While there were hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews at Everest's base camp preparing to climb the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak, few had been around the Khumbu Icefall on Friday, according to American climber Jon Reiter, who spoke with the Santa Rosa Press Democrat (http://bit.ly/1hcOA0R) by satellite phone from the base camp.

He and an Australian had been climbing in the area when their Sherpa guide shoved them back from the avalanche, and out of harm's way.

"We were moving up to Camp 1, just after dawn, when we heard that 'crack,'" said Reiter, 49, a contractor from Kenwood, California. "My first thought was to film it, and I reached for my camera. But the Sherpa yelled to get down. Things started happening in slow motion. Big blocks of snow and ice started coming down all around."

It's not clear how close Reiter was to the avalanche. But in response to questions, he wrote on his blog: "There were very few Western climbers in the area, and all of us had our climbing Sherpa by our sides and they all survived."

The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a fierce blizzard on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, and was later memorialized in a book, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

Hundreds of people, both foreigners and Sherpas, have died trying to reach the world's highest peak. About a quarter of them were killed in avalanches, climbing officials say.

More than 4,000 climbers have reached the top of Everest since 1953, when the mountain was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Nepal this year began stationing officials and medical personnel at Everest's base camp, located at 5,300 meters (17,380 feet), to better monitor the flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations during the March-May climbing season.

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Transcript of SKorea ship sinking: 'We can't move'

Transcript of SKorea ship sinking: 'We can't move'

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — The following is a portion of the transcript released Sunday by the South Korean coast guard of the conversation between the ferry that sank Wednesday and the Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) on Jindo island. The ferry Sewol issued its distress call to another VTS center before these communications began. The Associated Press translated the transcript from Korean. The names of other ships included in the transcript are omitted at the request of South Korean authorities.

9:07 a.m.

SEWOL: Jindo VTS, this is Sewol ferry.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry, this is VTS. Is your ship sinking now?

SEWOL: Yes, that's right. Please send the coast guard here right away.

JINDO VTS: (Ship A), this is Jindo VTS.

SHIP A: Yes, go ahead.

JINDO VTS: 2.1 miles to your right, the Sewol ferry is sinking. We ask for your help in its rescue. Please go there and rescue it.

SHIP A: Yes, we're on our way.

9:08 a.m. - 9:09 a.m.

(Jindo VTS makes calls to other ships to help out, and a second one responds.)

9:10 a.m.

SEWOL: Jindo VTS, this is Sewol.

JINDO VTS: Yes, this is VTS.

SEWOL: We are too tilted. We're almost going to fall over.

JINDO VTS: How are the people on board? (Ship A) is approaching your ship as fast as it can.

SEWOL: We are too tilted, we almost can't move.

9:11 a.m.

JINDO VTS: (Ship B), this is Jindo Coastal VTS. On your portside M/V Sewol is man overboard.

SHIP B: OK. OK. I will alter course port side.

9:12 a.m.

JINDO VTS: Sewol, this is Jindo VTS. Are the people on board on the life rafts or life boats?

SEWOL: No, we're not yet. The ship is too tilted, we can't move.

9:13 a.m.

JINDO VTS: How many people are on board?

SEWOL: Yes, 450 people. ... It's about 500 people.

JINDO VTS: Yes, right now, a ship nearby, (Ship A), is on its way.

SEWOL: Yes. Please come quickly.

9:14 a.m.

JINDO VTS: We are even contacting all nearby fishing boats.

SHIP A: The boat next to ours is evacuating. It's completely tilted to the left, it's dangerous to approach, but we'll try to approach while keeping a safe distance as much as we can.

JINDO VTS: Please approach as fast as you can. Please cooperate actively to rescue people.

SHIP A: Yes. If the passengers evacuate, we'll rescue.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, are passengers able to evacuate?

SEWOL: The ship is too tilted, so it's impossible to evacuate.

JINDO VTS: We are contacting as many patrol boats and fishing boats and they are on their way.

(Jindo VTS communicates with another ship that offers to help.)

9:17 a.m.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, this is Jindo VTS. Can you hear? (Repeats four times.) What's the status of the sinking?

SEWOL: It's tilted more than 50 degrees to the left and it's impossible for people to move either left or right. Crew members are asked to wear life jackets and stand by. ... But actually it's impossible to check if they're wearing them or not. The crew members are gathered on the bridge and cannot move. Please come quickly.

9:18 a.m.

JINDO VTS: OK, Sewol. How high has the water risen inside the ferry?

SEWOL: That cannot be checked either. I can confirm from the front side of the ship that some of the container boxes on the deck have fallen, but I can't move. I can't move even one step, left or right, on the bridge, so I'm holding the wall, barely standing.

JINDO VTS: (Ship A) is nearby and is approaching.

SEWOL: Yes, OK.

SHIP A: If passengers don't evacuate, I can't move alongside. Anyway, we'll be careful and move alongside to provide support.

9:19 a.m.

JINDO VTS: (Unclear to whom this is addressed.) Currently, it is completely impossible for the Sewol ferry to evacuate. When you get there and when passengers evacuate, please rescue them as safely as you can.

(Jindo VTS calls other ships.)

9:21 a.m.

SEWOL: Is the coast guard on its way? How long will it take to get here? Harbor affairs Jeju (another shore authority), can you hear the Sewol?

JINDO VTS: Sewol, right now, (Ship A) is approaching. It's impossible for it to come alongside. It is standing by.

9:22 a.m.

SEWOL: OK. How long will it take for the coast guard to get here?

JINDO VTS: Yes, hold on.

9:23 a.m.

SHIP A: We are right in front of you. We will stand by and when the people evacuate, we'll rescue them.

JINDO VTS: Yes, understood. Nearby, (Ship B) and (Ship C) are on their way. When passengers evacuate, please rescue them immediately.

SHIP A: Currently, there are some things floating near the front side of the Sewol. It's impossible to approach. It looks like it's about to sink.

JINDO VTS: It'll take 15 minutes before patrol boats arrive. Broadcast to the passengers that they should wear life jackets.

SEWOL: It's impossible to broadcast now.

9:24 a.m.

JINDO VTS: Even if it's impossible to broadcast, please go out as much you can and make the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.

SEWOL: If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?

JINDO VTS: At least make them wear life rings and make them escape!

SEWOL: If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?

JINDO VTS: Don't let them go bare, at least make them wear life rings and make them escape!

9:25 a.m.

JINDO VTS: The evacuation of people on board Sewol ferry ... the captain should make a decision about evacuating them. We don't know the situation there. The captain should make the final decision and decide quickly whether to evacuate passengers or not.

9:26 a.m.

SEWOL: I'm not talking about that. I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?

JINDO VTS: Patrol boats will be there in less than 10 minutes.

SEWOL: In 10 minutes?

JINDO VTS: Yes, in about 10 minutes, 10 minutes!

9:27 a.m.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, a helicopter will be there in one minute.

SEWOL: I can't hear you. Please talk to me slowly and clearly.

JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there in one minute.

SEWOL: Say it again.

JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there soon.

9:28 a.m.

SEWOL: There are too many passengers. A helicopter is not enough.

JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there and other ships nearby are approaching, for your information.

9:29 a.m.

SEWOL: OK, got it, Jindo VTS. I can see a ship, but I can't read an AIS (location tracking data). What is the name of the red tanker near the front part of our ferry? Ask the ship to stand by, not in front of us but on the left side.

SHIP A: Yes, we're standing by, but because of the rising tide, we're being drifted. This is (Ship A). Helicopter is above now, for your information.

9:29 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

(Jindo VTS talks to another ship that offers to help. It sends out an announcement that the ferry is sinking with 400 passengers on board and that all ships in the area should approach and help. Another ship responds to the call.)

9:32 a.m.

(The Sewol provides its exact coordinates to Jindo VTS.)

9:33 a.m. - 9:37 a.m.

(Jindo VTS tells all boats to throw out lifejackets and lifeboats to rescue people when they evacuate.)

9:37 a.m. - 9:38 a.m.

JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry, this is Jindo VTS.

SEWOL: Yes, this is Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry

JINDO VTS: What's the status of the sinking?

SEWOL: It's impossible to check. Right now, well, passengers are (doesn't finish sentence). Coast guard and other ships are 50 meters away. Through the left side, people who are going to evacuate are trying to evacuate. I did broadcast, but it's impossible to move even to the left side.

JINDO VTS: OK, got it.

SEWOL: The ship is tilted 60 degrees to the left. Right now, even the aircraft is up there, coast guard. (Meaning unclear.)

(The transcript continues with Jindo VTS sending out SOS calls and contacting other boats to help. It also calls repeatedly to the Sewol, which does not respond.)

20 hours ago Photos

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Abdullah still ahead in new Afghan vote results

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — New partial results released in Afghanistan's presidential election show candidate Abdullah Abdullah still is the front-runner, though a runoff election will be likely.

Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, the chairman of Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, announced the results Sunday. They represent about half of the estimated 7 million ballots cast in the April 5 vote.

Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai's top rival in the country's last election, has 44 percent of the vote tallied. His closest competitor, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, received 33.2 percent of the vote.

Final results are scheduled to be released on May 14.

Ghani and Abdullah are vying to take over from Karzai, who was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.

20 hours ago

Malaysia, Flight 370 relatives talk financial help

Malaysia, Flight 370 relatives talk financial help

PERTH, Australia (AP) — A Malaysian official met Sunday with relatives of passengers who were aboard the missing jetliner and discussed ways of providing them with financial assistance, as an unmanned submarine continued to search for any signs of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin met with the passengers' relatives in Kuala Lumpur to talk about where to go next. Financial assistance was discussed and family members were urged to submit a plan for consideration. He declined to elaborate further, but said a fund could possibly be set up by the government or Malaysia Airlines.

"We realize this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board," said Zainuddin, who heads a committee overseeing the needs of the next of kin. "No words can describe the pain they must be going through. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world."

He added that he would soon visit Beijing to shore up bilateral relations between Malaysia and China. Two-thirds of the missing plane's 227 passengers were Chinese, and many of their family members have been angered by Malaysia's handling of the investigation, with some accusing the government of lying, incompetence or participating in an outright cover-up.

After nearly a week of sweeping the bottom of the ocean with sonar, the unmanned sub began its eighth mission on Sunday. The yellow device has already covered about half of its focused search area, but has yet to uncover any clues that could shed light on the mysterious disappearance of the plane more than six weeks ago.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 has journeyed beyond its recommended depth of 4 1/2 kilometers (2.8 miles) to comb the silt-covered seabed off the coast of western Australia. Its search area forms a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius around the location of an underwater signal that was believed to have come from the aircraft's black boxes. The search center said the sonar scan of the seafloor in that area was expected to be completed sometime next week.

On Saturday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein stressed the importance of the weekend submarine missions in the southern Indian Ocean, but stressed that even if no debris is recovered, the scope of the search may be broadened or other assets may be used.

Meanwhile on Sunday, up to 11 aircraft and 12 ships continued to scan the ocean surface for debris from the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Radar and satellite data show the jet mysteriously veered far off course for unknown reasons and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of debris has been recovered since the massive multinational hunt began.

There have been numerous leads, but all have turned out to be false. The most promising development came when four underwater signals were detected April 5 and 8. The sounds were consistent with pings that would have been emanating from the plane's flight data and cockpit recorders' beacons before their batteries died.

The underwater operation is being complicated by the depth of the largely unexplored silt-covered sea floor. The unmanned submarine has gone beyond its recommended depth, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet. That could risk the equipment, but it is being closely monitored.

The search coordination center has said the hunt for floating debris on the surface will continue for at least the next few days, even though the Australian head of the search effort, Angus Houston, had earlier said it was expected to end sooner.

On Sunday, the visual surface search was to cover an estimated 48,507 square kilometers (18,729 square miles) of sea.

___

Follow Margie Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/MargieMasonAP

23 hours ago Photos

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Delay in ferry evacuation puzzles maritime experts

Delay in ferry evacuation puzzles maritime experts

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — It is a decision that has maritime experts stumped and is at odds with standard procedure: Why were the passengers of the doomed South Korean ferry told to stay in their rooms rather than climb on deck?

Evacuations can be chaotic and dangerous, and an important principle in maritime circles is that even a damaged ship may be the best lifeboat. But car ferries like the Sewol, which left about 300 people missing or dead when it sank Wednesday, are different.

Under certain conditions — like those that confronted the Sewol — car ferries are particularly susceptible to rapid capsizing. This makes it critically important that when there is trouble, the crew quickly evacuate passengers, or at least gather them in preparation to abandon ship.

Though experienced, the captain of the Sewol, Lee Joon-seok, delayed evacuation for at least half an hour after the ship began tipping. Passengers, most of them teenagers on holiday, were initially told to stay below deck.

"If you would have not said a word to them, they would have left to the deck to see what was going on," and a crucial step in any evacuation would have been accomplished, said Mario Vittone, a former U.S. Coast Guard maritime accident investigator and inspector. "They certainly made it worse than saying nothing at all."

Lee has worked about four decades at sea, split between ferries and ocean freighters. A representative for his employer, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., told Yonhap News Agency that he has sailed the company's route from Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju for eight years. A member of his crew, Oh Yong-seok, told The Associated Press that Lee worked on the ferry about 10 days per month.

After his arrest Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, Lee apologized for "causing a disturbance" but defended his decision to wait.

"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee said. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."

Vittone and Thad Allen, the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, said that explanation misses a key point: The captain could have ordered passengers on deck, even if it was not certain that they would have to evacuate the ferry. Allen said in an email that two things needed to be done simultaneously: "Keep trying to save the ship but mitigate the risk to loss of life by preparing the passengers to abandon ship."

Vittone said in an email that while an evacuation would carry risks, there would be no risk in gathering passengers at "muster stations," designated areas the crew would identify during a safety demonstration early in the voyage. From these areas, crew members could make sure everyone had life vests on and then direct people to emergency exits.

"He could have always changed his order if the ship wasn't sinking," he said. "Worst case then would have been that he would have made his passengers suffer the inconvenience of standing around on deck for a few minutes."

While it is not yet certain just what happened with the Sewol, car ferries can tip quickly because of what is known as the "free surface effect." Water that collects on the car deck, which extends the length of the ship, can accelerate the capsizing as it sloshes around. This is not an issue with other ferries, whose decks near the water line are compartmentalized. Even a modest shift in a car ferry's cargo could tilt the ship initially, and if water enters the car deck, the free surface effect could take hold.

Once the Sewol started listing severely, life boats were submerged on one side and equally useless on the other, where gravity held them to the side of the ferry. Passengers became trapped as the ship tilted so badly that walls became ceilings.

Following a pair of European sinkings in which more than 1,000 people died — the Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987 and the Estonia in 1994 — the United Nations' International Maritime Organization studied car ferry design flaws as well as how best to evacuate vessels.

The changes, which included better escape routes and an evacuation analysis in the design process, applied to newly built ships. The Sewol was built in 1994, and thus was not subject to these regulations.

Car ferry crews should know that once the ship becomes unstable, a quick evacuation is essential, maritime experts said.

The head of the association that represents passenger ferries said he was puzzled by the lack of a command to head to muster stations, though he cautioned that a reasonable explanation may emerge.

"It's important because in the case that there is an evacuation order eventually, people are prepared," said Len Roueche, CEO of Interferry, a Canada-based association that represents the ferry industry worldwide.

Members of the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering noted the problems with evacuating passenger ships in a 2003 study. Because passengers are unfamiliar with the often narrow and potentially complex passageways, "they may be confused in selecting evacuation routes: this could result in a delay in evacuation time and may cause some serious consequences," the authors wrote.

The same paper offered a telling example of how even under favorable circumstances, evacuations can be far slower than anticipated. When a high-speed catamaran began listing in the English Channel in 1995, it took more than an hour to evacuate 308 passengers, although the seas were relatively calm and it was daytime. An evacuation drill well before the accident had taken eight minutes.

Under United Nations rules, crews have to conduct evacuation drills at least every two months. Because the Sewol's route was not between nations, however, it would have been subject to Korean regulations.

Allen, the former Coast Guard chief, said that whatever the rule books say, common sense dictates that as a situation deteriorates beyond salvaging, the crew needs to pivot from saving the ship to saving the passengers.

"If there was some period of time when they thought they could stabilize the boat, that is the best thing you can do for your passengers," Allen said. "But the minute you think the ship is in danger, you have to act to get passengers to the boats."

___

Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York and writer Jung-yoon Choi in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

April 20, 2014 4:17 am Photos

Photos

Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — A transcript released Sunday of communications with the South Korean ferry that sank details crippling confusion and indecision, with a crew member questioning whether an evacuation was the right move well after the ship began listing dangerously.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?" the ferry Sewol asked Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday, about a half-hour after the ship began listing. That followed several statements from the ship, beginning at 9 a.m., that people aboard couldn't move, and another in which the ship said it was "impossible to broadcast" instructions.

VTS told the Sewol that patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, but didn't mention that another civilian ship said 10 minutes earlier that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

April 20, 2014 3:54 am

Road accident kills 36 in southern Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani police say a passenger bus has rammed into a disabled flatbed trailer parked on the side of a highway in the south, killing at least 36 people, including 17 women and children.

Police officer Zia Soomro says the bus was headed north near the town of Pannu Aqil when it hit the truck early Sunday.

He also said 20 people were injured in the crash. He said some of the injured were admitted in serious condition to the town hospital and that the death toll could increase.

Soomro said the accident's cause is unclear. He said one track of the road is closed at the site due to construction work.

Bad road infrastructure, poor driving and massive disregard for traffic rules often cause such accidents in Pakistan.

April 20, 2014 1:31 am

Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry

Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is just the beginning of a massive and grim recovery effort.

About 250 people are still missing from the ship, which had been packed with high school students on a holiday trip, and anguished families are furious with the pace of rescue efforts. Divers had previously failed to enter the ferry, officials said, because of extremely strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather.

Beginning late Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while six other bodies were found floating outside Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 52.

At least 23 of the dead are students, according to coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in. Divers have yet to find any survivors in the ship.

A 21-year-old South Korean sailor, surnamed Cho, also died from injuries he sustained Wednesday while working on a warship going to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Cmdr. Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.

The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

Meanwhile, on an island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who'd been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president.

"The government is the killer," they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.

"We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done," Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17, said. "They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Sunday visited the gymnasium where relatives of the ferry's missing passengers have been staying, but he met only with a number of representatives of the family members in a side office. The representatives were to brief other relatives about the meeting later.

Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee said.

"After four or five days the body starts to decay. When it's decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off," he said. "I miss my son. I'm really afraid I might not get to find his body."

The ferry's captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol's three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

Lee, speaking to reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed, defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.

"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee said. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."

The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday with 476 passengers on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore a little before 9 a.m. Wednesday. Most of the missing passengers are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.

With the chances of survival increasingly slim, it is shaping up to be one of South Korea's worst disasters. The loss is more keenly felt because of so many young people, aged 16 or 17, on board. The country's last major ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.

By the time the evacuation order was issued, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside. Several survivors told The Associated Press that they never heard any evacuation order.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the third mate was steering the ship Wednesday morning as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents. According to investigators, the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn. Prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn so sharp that it caused the vessel to list.

Yang said the third mate has six months of experience, and hadn't steered in the area before because another mate usually handles those duties. She took the wheel this time because heavy fog caused a departure delay, Yang said, adding that investigators do not know whether the ship was going faster than usual.

Helmsman Park Kyung-nam identified the third mate as Park Han-kyul. The helmsman who was arrested, 55-year-old Cho Joon-ki, spoke to reporters outside court and accepted some responsibility.

"There was a mistake on my part as well, but the steering had been turned much more than usual," Cho said.

Lee has four decades of experience at sea. A representative for his employer, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., told Yonhap News Agency that he has sailed the company's route from Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju for eight years.

But he was not the Sewol's main captain, and worked on the ship about 10 days a month, helmsman Oh Yong-seok said.

Lee was not on the bridge when the ship began to list. "I gave instructions on the route, then briefly went to the bedroom when it happened," he told reporters.

According to the court, Lee faces five charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two other crew members each face three related charges.

Lee was required by law to be on the bridge helping his crew when the ferry passed through tough-to-navigate areas, said Yang, the senior prosecutor.

Yang said Lee also abandoned people in need of help and rescue, saying, "The captain escaped before the passengers." Video aired by Yonhap showed Lee among the first people to reach the shore by rescue boat.

Yang said the two crew members arrested failed to reduce speed near the islands and failed to carry out necessary measures to save lives.

It's not clear why the two crew members made the sharp turn, Yang said. He said prosecutors would continue to look into whether something other than the turn could have made the ferry sink, but he added that there were no strong waves that could have knocked down the ferry at the time.

Prosecutors will have 10 days to decide whether to indict the captain and crew, but can request a 10-day extension from the court.

Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry, but they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

___

Klug reported from Seoul. Associated Press writers Youkyung Lee and Jung-yoon Choi in Seoul and Gillian Wong in Jindo, South Korea, contributed to this report.

April 20, 2014 12:44 am Photos

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Japan minister at shrine honoring war criminals

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese Cabinet minister has visited a Tokyo shrine that honors the dead including war criminals in what has repeatedly caused friction with Japan's neighbors.

Lawmaker Keiji Furuya, who chairs the National Public Safety Commission, said on his website that he paid respects Sunday morning at the Yasukuni shrine ahead of a festival that starts Monday.

He says he regularly visits Yasukuni at spring and autumn festivals, and on Aug. 15, the day Japan surrendered in 1945.

He said honoring "those dead who gave up their lives for our country is the right thing for a Japanese to do."

Officials' visits to Yasukuni have infuriated China and both Koreas. The 2.5 million Japanese war dead enshrined there include 14 class A war criminals from World War II.

April 19, 2014 8:12 pm

Beijing auto show opens amid market slowdown

BEIJING (AP) — Global and Chinese automakers are looking to the Beijing auto show to help boost sales in a slowing, intensely competitive market.

Brands from General Motors Co. to Chinese SUV maker Great Wall Motors are unveiling new and restyled sedans, sport utility vehicles and other models at Auto China 2014 this week.

China is the world's biggest auto market, with 17.9 million vehicles sold last year. But sales growth is forecast to slow from last year's 15.7 percent to 8 to 10 percent this year. And competition is intense, with global automakers jostling with 25 local brands for sales.

Ambitious domestic brands such as Chery Ltd. are losing ground to foreign rivals. Sales by Chinese independent brands shrank 2.6 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter.

April 19, 2014 7:36 pm

Divers recover 10 more bodies from inside sunken South Korean ferry; death toll now 46

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Divers recover 10 more bodies from inside sunken South Korean ferry; death toll now 46 .

April 19, 2014 6:19 pm

Everest avalanche a reminder of risks Sherpas face

Everest avalanche a reminder of risks Sherpas face

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.

But they couldn't get there quickly enough. No one can move that fast. Not even people who have spent their lives in Everest's shadow, and who have spent years working on the world's highest peak.

By Saturday evening, the bodies of 13 Sherpa guides had been taken from the mountain. Three more were missing, though few held out hope that they were still alive, 36 hours after Friday's avalanche. Four survivors had been flown to hospitals in Katmandu, Nepal's capital, where they were in stable condition.

For the Sherpas, the once-obscure mountain people whose name has become synonymous with Everest, and whose entire culture has been changed by decades of working as guides and porters for wealthy foreigners, it was a brutal reminder of the risks they face.

Many gathered Saturday at the Boudha Monastery in Katmandu, where prayers were said for the dead.

"The mountains are a death trap," said Norbu Tshering, a 50-year-old Sherpa and mountain guide who now lives mostly in Katmandu. With his white hair and dark, wrinkled skin, he looked far older than his age. In hands roughened by years of tough work, he worked a string of Buddhist prayer beads.

"But we have no other work, and most of our people take up this profession, which has now become a tradition for all of us," he said.

The avalanche happened early Friday morning at about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet), as the Sherpa guides were hauling gear through the Khumbu icefall, a treacherous terrain of crevasses and enormous chunks of ice. The men were near an area known to climbers as the "popcorn field," because if its bulging ice, when an enormous chunk broke away from a high glacier and came tumbling down the mountain, setting off an avalanche of ice, according to the website of International Mountain Guides, an Ashford, Washington-based company that had a team that witnessed the disaster.

Nepalese tourism officials said the guides had been fixing ropes — using clamps and special screws to attach miles of nylon cord used by the streams of climbers who begin heading for the summit this time of year. But guiding companies said the ropes had already been laid down, and the Sherpas were carrying loads of tents, oxygen tanks and other gear to the higher camps used by climbers as they approach the summit.

Special teams — known as the Icefall Doctors — fix lines and aluminum ladders through the Khumbu. They were quickly called back to start building a new path, though climbing had been halted for at least a couple of days.

International Mountain Guides said on its website that many climbers had been pleased by the Icefall Doctors' work this year, since lines had been fixed in an area "that is normally not so exposed to the frequent slides."

When the avalanche hit, dozens of climbers and guides raced from the base camp — the mini-city of nylon and prayer flags and nightly parties built every year for its hundreds of temporary residents — in search of survivors, said Prakash Adhikari of the Himalayan Rescue Association, which has a medical team at the camp.

But while the icefall is barely 500 meters (547 yards) higher than the base camp, it can easily take a couple hours to reach the popcorn field, even for the strongest climbers.

It's unclear whether any of the dead could have been saved, even with immediate rescue. Many had probably died instantly, hit by blocks of ice that can easily be larger than a car.

A day after the disaster, many Sherpa guides spoke of their work in ways that reflect the complexities of poor people working in a deeply hazardous place.

The work is dangerous — a year rarely passes without at least one death on Everest — but the Sherpas, who were once among the poorest and most isolated people of Nepal, also now have schools, cellphones and their own middle class.

All that is the result of the economy of Mount Everest, which brings tens of millions of dollars to Nepal every year.

"We have no problem with what we do. It is a job which helps feed our families, sends our children to school," Dawa Dorje, 28, a mountain guide from Everest's foothills, said in Katmandu, where he was picking up equipment for clients.

"We make more money than most of the people in the country. If the foreigners did not come, then we would be out of a job. They need us and we need them — it is a win-win situation," he said.

While the average annual income in Nepal is just $700, a high-altitude Sherpa guide can make $5,000 during the three-month climbing season. Climbers, meanwhile, can easily pay nearly $100,000 for a chance to reach the summit.

And some of what happens on the mountain, Dorje noted, comes down to sheer luck.

"There have been concerns why so many Nepali Sherpas were killed in the avalanche. But they were there at the wrong time. If the avalanche had struck a few days later, then there could have been many foreign fatalities too," he said.

However, the Sherpas are the ones who go first up the mountain. They break the deep snow, lay the fixed ropes and carry the heaviest loads.

They face avalanches, altitude sickness, lack of oxygen and brutal cold.

"The risks for Sherpas on the mountain are twice that of the Western climbers," said Nima Tenzing, a 30-year-old guide who also runs a shop for trekking gear in Katmandu.

Still, he shows no resentment.

"Death and injury on the mountain is part of our lives now. We have lost many of our people to the mountain. But we have to pull ourselves together and continue our work," he said.

___

Sullivan reported from New Delhi.

April 19, 2014 10:18 am Photos

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Strong earthquake strikes off Papua New Guinea

SYDNEY (AP) — A powerful earthquake has struck off the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, but a tsunami warning was in effect.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-7.5 earthquake that struck late Saturday was located 75 kilometers (47 miles) southwest of the town of Panguna on Bougainville Island. It struck at a depth of 31 kilometers (19 miles).

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but said it was not known whether a tsunami had been generated.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea. The country lies on the "Ring of Fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic activity that stretches around the Pacific Rim.

April 19, 2014 9:14 am

Famous television host in Pakistan shot by gunmen

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Police in Pakistan say gunmen have shot a famous television talk show host amid a wave of attacks on journalists in the country.

Police say Hamid Mir, a host on the private television broadcaster Geo, was wounded in the attack Saturday near Karachi's airport.

Senior police officer Pir Mohammad Shah says a single gunman first opened fire on Mir's car, followed by others who chased him on motorcycles. Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat told Geo that Mir suffered three gunshot wounds to the stomach and the upper legs, but was expected to survive.

Last year, authorities found a bomb under Mir's car.

Pakistan is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists recently urged Pakistan's government to do more to protect journalists.

April 19, 2014 9:06 am

Confusion, anger as sunken ferry's relatives wait

Confusion, anger as sunken ferry's relatives wait

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — The informal briefing by a South Korean coast guard rescuer started calmly enough. He stood on a stage in front of relatives of those missing from a sunken ferry, explaining how divers trying to find their loved ones are hampered by poor visibility and can venture only so deep.

Less than an hour later, Saturday's meeting had unraveled. A few dozen relatives rose from the gymnasium floor and surged toward the stage, hurling rapid-fire questions — and a thick, rolled-up wad of paper — at the officials, who stood mostly silently, their heads bowed. One man tried to choke a coast guard lieutenant and punch a maritime policeman, but missed.

The exchange illustrated how relatives of about 270 people missing have grown increasingly exasperated and distrusting of South Korean authorities, in part because of confusion, early missteps and perceived foot-dragging. For days, they have dealt with shock, fear and bewilderment. They have briefly been buoyed by new ideas about how to find survivors, changes in death counts and the number of missing — even rumors of contact with trapped relatives — only to be let down later.

The mood in the gymnasium on Jindo island where hundreds of relatives are waiting for word about their loved ones is generally a somber calm. People murmur to each other or sit silently, staring at the screens that show pixellated footage of ships, rescue rafts and yellow bobbing buoys. Some relatives busy themselves with folding blankets or tidying the spaces they've been living in. Some walk around looking dazed or weep in a friend's embrace.

They're getting help for many needs. Volunteers set up charging stations for cellphones and distribute food and drinks. First aid officers take care of those who have collapsed from exhaustion and grief, hooking them up to glucose intravenous drips. Police have set up a tent where some relatives have given DNA samples, in case they help identify bodies later.

But the seeds of distrust were planted Wednesday, the day the ferry sank with 476 people aboard, 323 of them from a single high school in Ansan. Thirty-two bodies have been recovered, and 174 people survived the disaster.

The high school initially sent parents text messages saying all of the students had been rescued.

Lee Byung-soo, whose son was aboard the ferry, was relieved by the text. He called the maritime police to ask whether there were enough life jackets for all of the students, and whether the water was very cold. The answer, he said, added to his confusion.

"They said all the students were wearing life jackets. When I asked more, they told me to get information from a briefing later," said Lee, a truck driver.

It was only when he arrived at the gymnasium that he realized his son, 15-year-old Lee Seok-joon, had not been saved. "I had to check every picture of the face of the rescued students before I realized that my son was not there," he said.

"The students were killed because the crew members and teachers and adults told them to crawl in the cabin and stay," Lee said, weeping as he spoke in the gymnasium.

The ferry's captain — who was arrested Saturday along with two crew members — has drawn criticism for waiting about 30 minutes to order an evacuation, by which time the boat had listed so steeply many could not escape. Relatives also are angry over the government's response.

"I know this has been a very difficult situation," said Lee Jong-eui, a businessman whose 17-year-old nephew, Nam Hyun-chul, is among the missing. "But aren't people supposed to have faith in the government? The government should have hurried up and have done something, but they just wasted four days, which led to this point. I think this is more like a man-made disaster."

Saturday's briefing began with a family member presenting video footage shot by a diver using a head-mounted camera the night before. The only sounds that could be heard in the gym were the diver's breathing as he gripped a rope with gloved hands and used a flashlight to illuminate the murky water. The diver could be seen pulling the rope as he advanced toward the sunken ship. Dust and sediment washed around in various directions, testifying to the rapid changes in sea current. Glimpses of the ferry could be seen — metal railings and a small window.

Shin Won-sup, special rescue forces lieutenant of the coast guard's south regional headquarters, had barely started explaining the operation when a man in a blue jacket interrupted him.

"Wait, what we want to know is the inside of the ferry. Why weren't you able to film that?" the man asked.

"We weren't able to go in," Shin replied. When he repeated that none of the divers had been able to get inside, the silence from the crowd exuded dissatisfaction.

The questions and accusations quickly mounted:

"You guys just filmed this video to show off to President Park (Geun-hye). To make excuses for yourself."

"Why did you refuse to take the rescue gear and supplies that foreign countries offered?"

"We waited here all this time, trusting these people."

Many family members rose to their feet and approached the stage as the rescuer ducked behind an LED screen. The relatives continued shouting.

"Now that 72 hours has passed, just pick up the dead bodies? Is that what you're saying?"

"Would you have done the same if your own children were in the water?"

One woman climbed onto the stage and went behind one of the screens to demand that Shin and other officials come out to talk to the relatives. The rescuer and two maritime police officers slowly emerged, looking sheepish. Women shouted and yanked at the arms of one officer. A man jumped up and grabbed Shin by the neck but was pulled off by other relatives, but not before he swung at a policeman.

The venting ebbed as some relatives collapsed in tears. A diver would come later to talk more about the difficulty of the search, but for the moment the officials backed away, out of sight.

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Associated Press researcher Minjeong Hong contributed to this report.

April 19, 2014 7:05 am Photos

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Death toll in SKorea ferry sinking climbs to 32

Death toll in SKorea ferry sinking climbs to 32

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — South Korean coast guard officials say they've found three more bodies from the sinking of a ferry, raising the death toll to 32.

Coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in says the latest bodies were recovered Saturday, three days after the ferry sank.

The updated death toll follows the arrest Saturday of the captain of the ferry on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. More than 300 are missing or dead.

Officials say strong currents and rain have made it difficult to get inside the ferry, where most of the passengers are believed to have been trapped.

Prosecutors say the ferry's captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon-seok, was arrested along with the third mate, a 25-year-old woman identified only by her surname, Park, and 55-year-old helmsman Cho Joon-ki.

April 19, 2014 4:24 am Photos

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South Korean coast guard finds 30th body from the sinking of a ferry 3 days ago

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — South Korean coast guard finds 30th body from the sinking of a ferry 3 days ago.

April 19, 2014 4:11 am

Captain of sunken S. Korean ferry, 2 crew arrested

Captain of sunken S. Korean ferry, 2 crew arrested

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — The captain of the ferry that sank off South Korea, leaving more than 300 missing or dead, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

Prosecutors said the ferry captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested early Saturday along helmsman Cho Joon-ki, 55, and the ship's 25-year-old third mate. Another helmsman, Park Kyung-nam, identified the mate as Park Han-kyul.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the third mate was steering the ship Wednesday morning as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents. Investigators said the accident came at a point where the ship had to make a turn, and prosecutor Park Jae-eok said investigators were looking at whether the third mate ordered a turn so sharp that it caused the vessel to list.

Yang said the third mate hadn't steered in the area before because another mate usually handles those duties, but she took the wheel this time because heavy fog caused a departure delay. Yang said investigators do not know whether the ship was going faster than usual.

So far 29 bodies have been recovered since Wednesday's disaster off the southern South Korea coast. More than 270 people are still missing, and most are believed to be trapped inside the 6,852-ton vessel.

Divers fighting strong currents and rain have been unable to get inside the ferry. A civilian diver saw three bodies inside the ship Saturday but was unable to break the windows, said Kwon Yong-deok, a coast guard official. Hundreds of rescuers planned dives Saturday.

The captain apologized Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed. "I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims," Lee told reporters.

"I gave instructions on the route, then briefly went to the bedroom when it (the listing) happened," he said.

The captain defended his decision to wait before ordering an evacuation.

A transcript of a ship-to-shore radio exchange shows that an official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center recommended evacuation just five minutes after the Sewol's distress call. But helmsman Oh Yong-seok told The Associated Press that it took 30 minutes for the captain to give the evacuation order as the boat listed. Several survivors told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

"At the time, the current was very strong, temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee told reporters. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."

Lee faces five charges including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two other crew members each face three related charges, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Yang, the senior prosecutor, said earlier that Lee was not on the bridge when the ferry Sewol was passing through the tough-to-navigate area where it sank. Yang said the law requires the captain to be on the bridge at such times to help the mate.

Yang said Lee also abandoned people in need of help and rescue, saying, "The captain escaped before the passengers." Video aired by Yonhap showed Lee among the first people to reach the shore by rescue boat.

Yang said the two crew members arrested failed to reduce speed near the islands, conducted a sharp turn and failed to carry out necessary measures to save lives.

Cho, the helmsman arrested, accepted some responsibility outside court. "There was a mistake on my part as well, but the steering (gear of the ship) was unusually turned a lot," he told reporters.

Prosecutors will have 10 days to decide whether to indict the captain and crew, but can request a 10-day extension from the court.

The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south with 476 people aboard, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. It capsized within hours of the crew making a distress call to the shore a little before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

With only 174 known survivors and the chances of survival becoming slimmer by the hour, it is shaping up to be one of South Korea's worst disasters, made all the more heartbreaking by the likely loss of so many young people, aged 16 or 17. The 29th confirmed fatality, a woman, was recovered late Friday, the coast guard said.

The country's last major ferry disaster was in 1993, when 292 people were killed.

Only the ferry's dark blue keel jutted out over the surface on Friday, and by that night, even that had disappeared, and rescuers set two giant beige buoys to mark the area. Navy divers attached underwater air bags to the ferry to prevent it from sinking deeper, the Defense Ministry said.

Divers have pumped air into the ship to try to sustain any survivors. Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry, but they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Coast guard official Ko Myung-seok said 176 ships and 28 planes were being mobilized to search the area around the sunken ship Saturday, and that more than 650 civilian, government and military divers were to try to search the interior of the ship. The coast guard also said a thin layer of oil was visible near the area where the ferry sank; about two dozen vessels were summoned to contain the spill.

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Klug reported from Seoul. Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Jung-yoon Choi in Seoul contributed to this report.

April 19, 2014 2:58 am Photos

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Prosecutor says mate steering waters for 1st time

Prosecutor says mate steering waters for 1st time

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — A prosecutor says that the third mate steering a South Korean ferry at the time of a major accident was navigating those waters for the first time.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin told reporters that the 25-year-old mate was steering the ship as it passed through an area with lots of islands clustered close together and fast currents.

The ferry sank Wednesday. More than 270 people are still missing.

Yang says that another mate usually took controls through the area. But because heavy fog caused a departure delay, the third mate was steering the ship through the waters. Yang says investigators have not confirmed whether the ship was going faster than usual.

Police have arrested the ferry captain on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

April 19, 2014 2:05 am Photos

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Prosecutor: Mate steering SKorean ferry at time of accident was navigating waters for 1st time

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — Prosecutor: Mate steering SKorean ferry at time of accident was navigating waters for 1st time.

April 19, 2014 1:58 am

Search resumes for bodies in Everest avalanche

Search resumes for bodies in Everest avalanche

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Rescuers were digging through piles of snow and ice Saturday for four Sherpa guides buried on Mount Everest when an avalanche swept down the slopes and killed 12 other Nepalese guides in the deadliest disaster on the world's highest peak.

Seven of the 12 bodies pulled out and brought down Friday have been handed over to their families in the Everest region, while the other five were taken to Katmandu.

The avalanche barreled down a narrow climbing pass known as the "popcorn field" for its bulging chunks of ice at about 6:30 a.m. Friday. At the time, the group of Sherpa guides had been making their way up to the higher camps to fix ropes and dig a path for foreign clients ahead of next month's peak season.

One of the survivors told his relatives the path up the mountain had been unstable just before the snow slide hit at an elevation near 19,000 feet (5,800 meters). As soon as it occurred, rescuers, guides and climbers rushed to help.

The area is considered particularly dangerous due to its steep slope and deep crevasses that cut through the snow and ice covering the pass year round.

Searchers were trying to work quickly on Saturday in case weather conditions deteriorated, Tourism Ministry official Krishna Lamsal said at the mountain's base camp. But the painstaking effort to navigate the unstable field involved testing the strength of the newly fallen snow and using extra ropes, clamps and aluminum ladders.

Four survivors were conscious and being treated in the intensive care units of several Katmandu hospitals for broken ribs, fractured limbs, punctured lungs and skin abrasions, according to Dr. C.R. Pandey from Grande Hospital. Others with less serious injuries were treated at base camp.

The avalanche struck just as hundreds of climbers, guides and support crews were at Everest's base camp preparing to climb the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak early next month, when weather conditions are most favorable. The Sherpa guides had been setting up camps at higher altitudes, and fixing routes and ropes on slopes above.

One of the injured guides, Dawa Tashi, said the Sherpa had woken up early and were on their way to fix ropes, but were delayed because of the unsteady path. Suddenly, mounds of snow tumbled down on the group and buried many of them, according to Tashi's sister-in-law, Dawa Yanju. Doctors said Tashi had suffered several broken ribs.

The Sherpa people are one of the main ethnic groups in Nepal's alpine region, and many make their living as climbing guides on Everest and other Himalayan peaks.

More than 4,000 climbers have summited Everest since 1953, when it was first conquered by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. Hundreds have died trying.

The worst recorded disaster on Everest had been a fierce blizzard on May 11, 1996, that caused the deaths of eight climbers, including famed mountaineer Rob Hall, and was later memorialized in a book, "Into Thin Air," by Jon Krakauer. Six Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche in 1970.

Earlier this year, Nepal announced several steps to better manage the heavy flow of climbers and speed up rescue operations. The steps included the dispatch of officials and security personnel to the base camp at 17,380 feet (5,300 meters), where they will stay throughout the spring climbing season that ends in May.

April 19, 2014 1:40 am Photos

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Sub search for missing plane to be done in week

Sub search for missing plane to be done in week

PERTH, Australia (AP) — The search coordination center says an underwater robotic submarine is expected to finish searching a narrowed down area of the Indian Ocean seabed for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane within the next week, after completing six missions and so far coming up empty.

As the hunt for Flight 370 hit week six Saturday, the Bluefin 21 unmanned sub began its seventh trip into the depths off the coast of western Australia.

Its search area forms a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) circle around an underwater signal detected April 8 that was believed to be coming from the aircraft's black boxes before their batteries died.

The sonar scan of the seafloor in that area is expected to be completed in five to seven days, the center said in an email to The Associated Press.

April 19, 2014 1:08 am Photos

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4 questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

4 questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers.

Samuel Rogers, a 20-year-old German on a backpacking trip, in Bangkok and on his way to Malaysia.

He asked: "Why did the Malaysian military see the plane on their radar but not report it immediately?"

A: The Malaysian Air Force's official line is that its radar operators spotted the plane but didn't have any reason to suspect it. This is why they didn't attempt to contact the plane or scramble jets to intercept it. Many aviation and defense experts say there are grounds to doubt this. They speculate the air force failed to spot the unidentified plane entering its airspace, or if it did, didn't respond to what could potentially have been a national security threat. Admitting that would be a highly embarrassing and sensitive for any air force, and could be the reason for the delay in publicly confirming that the plane did turn back.

___

Aylen Meir, 25, of Munich, Germany, in Bangkok and on her way to Australia to work as an au pair.

She asked: "Why was the transponder switched off?"

A: Investigators have not categorically said the transponder was shut off deliberately, allowing for the possibility that it malfunctioned or was damaged in an explosion or some other incident. But there are strong grounds to think that someone on board did switch it off. The most obvious reason why a pilot would turn off the transponder is to make their plane invisible to commercial radar or other nearby planes. This would be consistent with the actions of someone on board who wanted to make it hard for anyone to track where the plane was headed, and strengthens suspicion of foul play. It would be very rare for a pilot to turn off the transponder in midair, though if it were malfunctioning they might do that.

___

Yip Royal, 29, a Hong Kong man at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

He asked whether the families of those who had loved ones on board will be compensated.

A: The Montreal Convention governs the amount of compensation airlines must pay when a passenger is injured or dies aboard an international flight. Currently that amount is around $175,000. Relatives will also be able to file suit in their home countries against Malaysia Airlines. They might also try suing Boeing in their own territories. They may get more money if a court rules that either entity were negligent.

Non-American citizens will find it very difficult to sue either the airline or Boeing in an American court, which could award significantly larger payouts. The Montreal Convention stipulates plaintiffs can file suit in five locations: the domicile and principal place of business of the airline, in this case Malaysia; the end destination; the country where the ticket was purchased, and the place where the passenger lived.

The Montreal Convention's rules about where suits can be filed apply only to airlines, so relatives could also try to sue the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing in a U.S. court. But federal courts there have tended to dismiss cases in which the crashes took place overseas and the majority of plaintiffs are foreign.

___

Skander Aissa, who works in the finance industry in Connecticut, at the airport train in Hong Kong. He and his wife were traveling to Taiwan after visiting a friend.

He asked: "Why didn't they install GPS on the plane?

A: The tracking of airplanes is almost entirely radar based, either commercial or military. Some planes have global position systems to help with navigation but they are not tracked on the ground. Since Flight 370 went missing, many people have asked this question and it is likely that tracking systems will be upgraded to ensure a plane is never "lost" again. However, who will pay for the changes and coordinate their implementation remains under debate.

April 19, 2014 1:02 am Photos

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N. Korea criticizes 'human rights racket' of US

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — A North Korean spokesman is blaming the United States and its allies for a "human rights racket" a day after the U.N. Security Council met to discuss a new report that accuses the reclusive communist regime of crimes against humanity.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Friday quoted a spokesman for the country's foreign ministry and accused the U.S. and allies of reaching an "extremely reckless phase" with Thursday's informal council meeting.

It was the first time the Security Council had met on the unprecedented U.N. commission of inquiry report, which recommends that the council refer its findings to the International Criminal Court.

The commission chair says most council members expressly said the matter should be referred. All members but Russia and top Pyongyang ally China attended.

April 18, 2014 1:42 pm

Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for ferry captain

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Prosecutors say they've asked a court to issue an arrest warrant for the captain of the South Korean ferry that sank two days ago, leaving hundreds missing and feared dead.

Prosecutors said Friday that they have also requested arrest warrants for two other crewmembers.

The investigation into the ferry disaster has focused on the sharp turn it took just before it started listing and whether a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives. Investigators are also determining whether the captain abandoned the ship.

Rescuers are struggling to find about 270 people still missing and feared dead.

At least 28 bodies have been recovered. Officials said there were 179 survivors and about 270 people remain missing, many of them high school students.

April 18, 2014 5:47 am

Prosecutors ask court for arrest warrant for captain of South Korean ferry that sank

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Prosecutors ask court for arrest warrant for captain of South Korean ferry that sank.

April 18, 2014 5:37 am

7 killed in shooting on China-Vietnam border

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The Vietnamese government says seven people have been killed in a shootout between Chinese migrants and Vietnamese border guards at a crossing in the north of the country.

The government in the province of Quang Ninh says Vietnamese authorities early Friday detained a group of 16 Chinese including 10 men, four women and two children after they illegally entered the country.

It says they were being taken to the border to be returned to China when one of them seized a gun from a guard, killing one of them.

Vietnamese guards responded and an ensuing standoff and firefight left one other guard and five Chinese dead.

The government didn't say whether the Chinese dead included children and women.

April 18, 2014 5:30 am

Boat capsizes in Indonesia; 7 dead, 30 rescued

KUPANG, Indonesia (AP) — Police say a boat loaded with people in a Good Friday procession has capsized in eastern Indonesia, and at least seven people have died.

Rescuers and fishermen saved 30 injured people and were looking for more survivors.

Local police spokesman Lt. Col. Okto Riwu says the fishing boat was designed to hold only 30 people but had more than 70 onboard. It sank shortly after a 2-meter (6.5-feet) wave crashed into it off Flores island.

The boat was participating in a parade at sea while taking the passengers to Larantuka town in East Nusatenggara province for Good Friday prayers and processions through the town.

Boats and ferries are popular transportation in the vast Indonesian archipelago, and accidents due to overcrowding and poor safety standards are common.

April 18, 2014 5:05 am

Suspected militant, son killed in Thailand's south

HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) — A suspected insurgent and his 6-year-old son were shot dead in Thailand's violence-plagued south, police said Friday.

The man and his son were attacked at a rubber plantation in Bannang Sata distict in Yala province on Thursday, police Col. Chartchai Chanasit said.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in Thailand's three southernmost provinces since an Islamic insurgency flared in 2004.

Police were still investigating the attack and had no suspects. They said Muktar Ali-mama, 31, was a member of an insurgent group and the subject of several arrest warrants, including on murder charges.

Chartchai said villagers found out about the shooting on Thursday evening after the two had gone to work on the plantation. He said Muktar died on the spot and the boy died on the way to the hospital from gunshot wounds in his head and left leg.

In a separate attack in the south, suspected insurgents detonated an improvised bomb at a stadium in Sungai Padi district in Narathiwat province, hurting a police officer and a civilian, according to police Lt. Col. Theerapong Tongduang.

The remote-controlled bomb contained in a gas canister was buried in the stadium's parking lot before a local sports event took place Thursday evening. The explosion also damaged several motorcycles.

Theerapong said authorities believed insurgents were aiming to hurt police officers and civilians attending the sports competition.

The militants mainly target security forces but also kill others, including teachers, who are perceived to be representatives of the government in predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

April 18, 2014 4:58 am

Asia stocks rise in abbreviated trading

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mostly higher in trading muted by Good Friday observance.

Markets in Europe, the U.S. and many countries in Asia were closed for the holiday. Oil trading also was suspended.

Among the markets that traded, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gained 0.7 percent to 14,516.27 while China's Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.1 percent to 2,097.75 after data earlier this week showed economic growth slowed to its lowest level since 2012.

Seoul's Kospi added 0.6 percent to 2,004.28 and Taiwan's Taiex rose 0.3 percent to 8,966.66. Benchmarks in Malaysia and Thailand were slightly higher.

On Thursday, global stocks were subdued after Google and IBM reported weak results, even though General Electric was optimistic and Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley beat expectations.

On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor's 500 rose two points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 1,864.85. The Dow Jones industrial average, however, fell 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 16,408.54, hurt by the big drop in IBM.

The euro inched down to $1.3820 from $1.3816 late Thursday. The dollar was little changed at 102.42 yen from 102.43 yen.

April 18, 2014 4:11 am

Australia's Houston: Calm face of Flight 370 hunt

Australia's Houston: Calm face of Flight 370 hunt

PERTH, Australia (AP) — He speaks with a calm, steady voice as he tackles question after question in an attempt to explain one of the biggest mysteries the modern world has ever known: What happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Angus Houston has become the global face of the massive monthlong search operation off Australia's west coast to find the missing Boeing 777, which is believed to be resting on the silt-covered bottom of the southern Indian Ocean, somewhere in a patch of sea the size of Los Angeles.

The lanky former head of Australia's defense force has been praised for restoring credibility and confidence that was missing early on when Malaysian officials were tasked with providing answers about how and why the jet carrying 239 people could have flown so far off course and vanished.

Once satellite data revealed that the plane was last detected off Australia's coast, the search — along with the responsibility of updating the world — fell on Houston.

As head of the joint agency coordinating the search, Houston has said from the get-go that he has nothing to hide, and has promised to release every detail of the slow-moving hunt to the passengers' families, who are desperate for any pinch of new information that could explain why their loved ones took off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8 but never landed in Beijing.

Houston, 66, has a history of taking care of grieving families, including writing letters to air force pilots' widows. Australians know him as a military man with a heart.

"He's accepted to be an exceptionally professional officer and a very personable one, and a deeply caring person," said Neil James, executive director of the Australian Defense Association security think tank, who's known Houston for years. "A lot of senior military officers have a much colder exterior. They're not always known to be deeply caring, but Houston actually was."

Houston is now a well-known face among Australians, but he didn't start out here. Born in Scotland, he moved Down Under when he was just a young man, working for a stint as a jackaroo, or farm hand, at a cattle station. He later joined the Royal Australian Air Force — where his given name, Allan, was replaced by the nickname Angus because of his strong Scottish accent, which has long since disappeared. He went on to become a decorated helicopter pilot, after being initially told that at nearly 2 meters (6-foot-5), he was too tall to fly fighter jets.

He worked his way up through the ranks, first serving as the air force chief before becoming head of the defense force, where he oversaw military operations in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

When Houston retired from that position in 2011 after six years on the job, then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised many when she gushed about him to his wife at a farewell event. "Every woman I know is a little bit in love with your husband," she said. "I'm a little bit in love with your husband."

His high-level military experience means Houston is no stranger to leaders in China and Malaysia, who are following every step of the search for the missing aircraft just as closely as he is. He refuses to speculate or put too much weight on the potential that any new lead could bring. Instead, he repeatedly warns that the search for an airplane in a vast, largely unexplored area about 4,500 meters (15,000 feet) down on the ocean floor is a major undertaking, and has stressed that there are no guarantees the jet will be found.

"I've watched him on the news ... and he definitely has more credibility than Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysian government," said Wang Chunjiang, whose younger brother was aboard the plane. "The Chinese families really appreciate Australia for their efforts in the search. It isn't their flight, and yet they're really trying their best to do it."

Despite the exhaustive search for Flight 370, not one sliver of debris has been found to indicate where the plane, which was carrying mainly Chinese passengers, might have ended up. Wrong information and misleading messages from Malaysian authorities have lifted the hopes of the passengers' relatives, left them confused or made them downright angry. Some Chinese families, waiting to hear news about their loved ones, have accused authorities of bungling the investigation, lying about information or even possibly participating in a cover-up involving the plane's disappearance.

Malaysia initially said it couldn't release all of the details it had about the flight, prompting suspicion. Then it took about a week to reveal why search crews were sent far west of where the last contact with the plane was made, explaining that radar had detected it there. Even the last words spoken from the cockpit were revised more than two weeks after being released.

Since taking over as head of the search, Houston has managed to create a sense of order.

"He exudes more confidence," said Lim Kit Siang, a veteran Malaysian opposition leader. "People trust him because he is seen as authoritative and he hasn't been plagued by contradictions, confusions or retractions of statements."

But the Australian-led search operation hasn't come without criticism. Media access has been greatly curtailed, compared to more openness in Malaysia, and the message is carefully managed, frustrating hordes of journalists who have camped out for weeks in Perth, on Australia's southwest coast.

Analysis of satellite data led officials to believe the plane veered off course — for reasons that remain a mystery — and flew until it ran out of fuel over a largely unmapped, giant swath of unruly sea.

Throughout the six-week search, hope has soared and sputtered repeatedly, with possible leads ranging from oil slicks to debris floating in the water. Nothing has panned out, but the best shot came when underwater electronic signals were picked up by an Australian ship towing a listening device that can detect pings from the plane's all-important black boxes.

Four transmissions were picked up on April 5 and 8, and Houston has expressed cautious optimism that the sounds had indeed come from the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders' beacons just before their batteries died.

A robotic submarine has now assumed the arduous task of scouring a vast patch of ocean floor that is still largely a mystery itself. The sub is using sonar to map out a potential debris field, but after five dives this week covering more than 110 square kilometers (42 square miles), it has come up empty.

This "is one of the largest search and rescue, search and recovery operations that I've seen in my lifetime," Houston told reporters this week. "We've got to be realistic about this. It may be very difficult to find something, and you don't know how good any lead is until you get your eyes on the wreckage."

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Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and news assistant Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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Follow Margie Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/MargieMasonAP

April 18, 2014 4:08 am Photos

Photos

Vice principal saved from Korea ferry found hanged

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Police say a high school vice principal who had been rescued from a sinking South Korean ferry has been found hanging from a tree.

The news of the death came Friday as rescuers scrambled to find hundreds of people still missing from the ferry and feared dead. The passengers included 325 second-year students from Danwon High School heading to a southern island on a four-day trip.

A police officer says the vice principal, identified only by his surname Kang, was found dead on the island of Jindo where rescued passengers have taken shelter. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity citing department rules. He didn't elaborate.

The ferry sank Wednesday.

Officials have confirmed 28 deaths. But that number is expected to rise sharply. About 270 people are missing.

April 18, 2014 3:56 am

Japan to hunt fewer whales in Pacific this season

TOKYO (AP) — Japan will target fewer whales when the Pacific hunt begins next week and will limit next season's Antarctic whaling to observation.

The decisions came after the International Court of Justice ordered Japan last month to suspend Antarctic whaling. The court said the program was commercial, not scientific as Japan had contended.

Japan's whaling program in the northern Pacific was not challenged in the ruling.

Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Friday that the Pacific catch target was being slashed to about 210 from the current 380.

The annual spring hunt along Japan's northern coast is to begin next week, and the distant expedition in May.

April 18, 2014 3:52 am

Taliban inmates break out of Afghan prison

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An official says three Taliban insurgents escaped from a prison in northern Afghanistan using weapons smuggled into the facility in a jailbreak that killed three police guards.

A spokesman for the Faryab provincial government, Ahmad Jawad Dedar, said on Friday that the breakout took place the previous night. A fourth inmate who was also trying to escape was killed in a shootout with security forces.

Dedar says the fugitives are low-level Taliban operatives who were jailed for planting roadside bombs.

The four inmates launched their breakout during the nightly count of prisoners, throwing several grenades and shooting guards with at least one pistol.

Dedar said authorities have launched a search for the three fugitives and are investigating how the weapons were smuggled into the prison.

April 18, 2014 3:10 am

Chinese relatives pray over lost Malaysian plane

Chinese relatives pray over lost Malaysian plane

PERTH, Australia (AP) — Six weeks into the extensive search for the lost Malaysia Airlines plane without so much as a piece of debris yet found, several Chinese relatives met Friday to pray for spouses who never came home, while begging for answers that could end their misery of not knowing.

Candles burned on a table in the shape of a heart with the letters MH370 in the middle while about three dozen relatives held a prayer service at a hotel ballroom in Beijing where they have been meeting since the Boeing 777 mysteriously vanished. A banner behind them read in Chinese: "Husband, wife, come home soon."

"There are different relationships touched by grief, from children, to parents, to siblings, and now we wanted spouses to have a chance to release their feelings," said Jack Song, a representative for the relatives. Many of those gathered sobbed as gentle music played and a microphone was passed around for anyone who wished to speak.

Thousands of miles away, off the western coast of Australia, aircraft, ships and a robotic submarine continued searching for the aircraft that disappeared with 239 people on board en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, six weeks ago on Saturday.

The U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21 sub was scanning the seabed with sonar to find anything that could resemble wreckage. It has searched 110 square kilometers (42 square miles) of the silt-covered seabed but has found nothing so far, the search coordination center said.

On Thursday, officials said oil samples taken from a slick near the underwater search area were not related to the plane. The underwater search was narrowed to that area because of signals believed to be emanating from the jet's black boxes. The sounds were last detected April 8, about the time the batteries on the beacons from the all-important flight data and cockpit recorders would have failed.

Radar and satellite data show the plane flew far off-course and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of the Indian Ocean where the search has been focused.

The underwater hunt is being complicated by the depth of the largely unexplored sea floor in an untraveled part of the ocean. The unmanned submarine dived to 4,695 meters (15,404 feet) during its fourth search mission, beyond its recommended limit of 4,500 meters (15,000 feet), according to the U.S. 7th Fleet. That could risk the equipment, but it is being closely monitored.

The search coordination center has said the search for floating debris on the surface will continue at least into next week. On Friday, 11 planes and 12 ships searched across about 52,000 square kilometers (20,000 square miles) of sea. The U.S. alone has flown 35 missions, racking up 319 hours of flight time over nearly 450,000 nautical miles of ocean, according to the 7th Fleet.

Some families refuse to believe the aircraft crashed into the sea and have instead denounced the search effort as a cover-up.

"We believe the plane and our relatives are still alive. Bring them home, that's all we ask," said one of the Chinese relatives, who would only give his surname, Zhang. "The only way there could be no evidence, no debris is if the plane landed intact."

He and several other family members marched from the prayer service to a local park and held a brief sit-in on Friday.

For other waiting families, each day with no news brings more tortuous doubts as they try to go on living without knowing why their relatives didn't come home.

"We ask that they find the plane, find our loved ones, live or dead, give us something," Song said. "Until the evidence is presented, we have a right to question."

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Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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Follow Margie Mason on Twitter at twitter.com/MargieMasonAP

April 18, 2014 2:46 am Photos

Photos

Pakistani madrassa names library after bin Laden

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A spokesman for a controversial Pakistani cleric who runs an Islamic seminary for girls in the capital, Islamabad, says he has named the school's new library in honor of Osama bin Laden.

According to the spokesman, Tehsin Ullah, cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz wanted to pay tribute to the al-Qaida chief who was killed by U.S. commandos in 2011.

Ullah said on Friday that Aziz considers bin Laden to be a "martyr" for Islam.

Aziz is also a prayer leader at the city's Red Mosque — a former militant hideout the army raided in 2007. The raid killed dozens and unleashed a wave of militant attacks across Pakistan.

The mosque runs two schools, one for boys and one for girls. The girls' school has an all-female staff and about 15,000 students.

April 18, 2014 2:19 am
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