Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Russia offers US space station help after rocket explodes

Yahoo – AFP, 29 Oct 2014

A NASA video image shows an Orbital Sciences Corporation unmanned spacecraft
 exploding on October 28, 2014 at Wallops Island, Virginia, six seconds after launch
(Photo AFP)

Russia on Wednesday offered to help the United States with deliveries to the International Space Station after an unmanned American supply rocket exploded on lift-off.

"If a request is made for the urgent delivery of any American supplies to the ISS with the help of our vessels then we will fulfill the request," Russian space agency official Alexei Krasnov told state-run RIA Novosti news agency, adding that NASA had not yet asked for assistance.

An unmanned rocket owned by private firm Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after a launch from Wallops Island, Virginia on what was to be a resupply mission.

Orbital's Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost, a US-led multi-national collaboration.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

People who came to watch the launch walk away after an unmanned rocket owned
 by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded (background) October 28, 2014 just 
seconds after lift-off from Wallops Island, Virginia (Photo AFP)

Europe stopped delivering supplies to the ISS this summer, and the outpost is now resupplied by Russia and two NASA-contracted private American firms -- Space X and Orbital Sciences.

Russia on Wednesday successfully launched its own supply mission from the Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan.

The Russian cargo ship Progress took off for the ISS on a planned mission to replace a sister vessel.

Krasnov said that the impact of the loss of the rocket on Russian operations at the space station would be "minimal."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Saudi women's driving campaign a 'success'

Yahoo – AFP, 26 Oct 2014

A Saudi woman gets into a taxi in the city of Riyadh on October 26, 2014, as a online
 campaign continues to call for an end to the driving ban for women in the country (AFP
Photo/Fayez Nureldine)

Riyadh (AFP) - Activists pushing for women's right-to-drive in Saudi Arabia declared their online campaign a success Sunday, in the world's only country where women are not allowed to operate cars.

The campaign that began last year and revved up again since the beginning of the month encouraged women to post online images of themselves driving.

Dozens of women have driven and posted during the latest campaign, one activist said, although she knew of only two who hit the streets Saturday and Sunday as the campaign peaked.

Saudi activist Manal Al Sharif drives her
 car in Dubai on October 22, 2013, as she
 campaigns for women's rights to drive in
the country (AFP Photo/Marwan Naamani)
"A day hasn't gone by without receiving one or two videos" of women driving, said the activist.

Men and women have also posted messages of support.

More than 2,800 people have signed an online petition at www.oct26driving.com asking authorities to lift the ban on women driving.

The activist said she did not want to be named because the interior ministry has threatened her with arrest if she speaks publicly about the campaign.

Last year, activists also focused their demands on October 26, when at least four driving videos were posted on YouTube.

Sixteen or more women were fined for taking the wheel on that day.

There is a "huge risk" for female drivers, the activist said when asked why more had not posted images of themselves this year.

Women have previously been arrested, cars have been confiscated, and one received 100 lashes, she alleged.

"So, women are afraid," the activist said.

She added that, apart from driving, the campaign is also about "creating a storm" over the issue.

On Thursday the interior ministry issued a warning to would-be female drivers and their supporters.

The ministry said it would "strictly implement" measures against anyone who "contributes in any manner or by any acts, towards providing violators with the opportunity to undermine the social cohesion".

That means the campaign has had an impact, the activist said.

"I think it's pretty successful. If we're getting a reaction, that means we're effective."

'Half a citizen'

Sahar Nasief defied the warnings and got behind the wheel anyway on Sunday.

"The roads were full of police cars... everybody was on alert," she told AFP from the Red Sea city of Jeddah after running a 15-minute errand in her car because her driver wasn't available.

The authorities' response shows the driving campaign has been "very successful," she agreed.

"Its sad that you live in a country where you feel like half a citizen, that you are a threat to national security," another driver said in a YouTube video posted on Saturday.

Dressed in black with only her eyes exposed, she said she was driving in Riyadh on the weekend.

Saudi women are required to dress in black from head to toe and still need permission from a male guardian to work and marry.

Activists say women's driving is not against the law.

Tradition and custom are behind the prohibition, which is not backed up by an Islamic text or judicial ruling, the online petition states.

But activists said they feel the conservative society is becoming more accepting of women motorists.

"A lot of people now are for the campaign," Nasief said.

Another activist, Aziza al-Yussef, said people notice that she is a woman driver and don't seem to care.

"We are just waiting for a decree from the king to allow it," she said, optimistic that a change is coming.

Hardline clerics protested when King Abdullah, in January last year, decided to give women a 20 percent quota in the previously all-male Shura Council, an advisory body.

The unnamed activist said "it's hard to say" if women are closer to the right to drive.

In the meantime activists say they will keep raising their voices, and getting behind the wheel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

China launches first mission to moon and back

Yahoo – AFP, 24 Oct 2014

A rocket carrying an experimental spacecraft intended for the moon and back
 launches from Xichang space base in China's Sichuan province on October 24,
2014 (AFP Photo)

Beijing (AFP) - China launched its first space mission to the moon and back early Friday, authorities said, the latest step forward for Beijing's ambitious programme to one day land a Chinese citizen on the Earth's only natural satellite.

The unnamed, unmanned probe will travel to the moon, fly around it and head back to Earth, re-entering the atmosphere and landing, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) said in a statement.

"The first stage of the first return journey test in China's moon probe programme has been successful," it said after the launch, from the Xichang space base in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

The module will be 413,000 kilometres from Earth at its furthest point on the eight-day mission, it added.

The official Xinhua news agency said it would re-enter the atmosphere at 11.2 kilometres per second (25,000 mph) before slowing down -- a process that generates extremely high temperatures -- and landing in northern China's Inner Mongolia region.

The mission is intended to test technology to be used in the Chang'e-5, China's fourth lunar probe, which aims to gather samples from the moon's surface and will be launched around 2017, SASTIND said previously.

Beijing sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a marker of its rising global stature and mounting technical expertise, as well as evidence of the ruling Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

The military-run project has plans for a permanent orbiting station by 2020 and eventually to send a human to the moon.

China currently has a rover, the Jade Rabbit, on the surface of the moon.

The craft, launched as part of the Chang'e-3 lunar mission late last year, has been declared a success by Chinese authorities, although it has been beset by mechanical troubles.

Related Article:


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Russia detains crash airport employees

Russia's top investigative agency says four airport workers have been detained over the runway crash that killed the chief of the French oil giant Total. Two executives of Moscow's Vnukovo airport have resigned.

Deutsche Welle, 23 Oct 2014


Russia's Investigative Committee said on Thursday those arrested included an air traffic supervisor and a female trainee who was directing the takeoff of Christophe de Margerie's small executive jet.

Its collision with a snow plough also killed the three-member crew of the Falcon 50 plane (wreckage pictured on left) as it was leaving for Paris from Vnukovo, one of three Moscow airports.

The agency, which reports to President Vladimir Putin, said the head of runway cleaning and head air traffic controller had also been detained.

"The investigation suggests that these people did not respect the norms of flight security and ground operations," said the agency in a statement.

A Moscow court was to decide on Thursday whether to order the formal arrest of the snow plough's driver, who was initially detained for 48 hours.

Vladimir Martynenko was shown on Russian television telling investigators that he strayed unawares onto the runway.

"When I lost my bearings, I myself didn't notice when I drove on to the runway," he said.
Martynenko's lawyer had previously denied a initial claim by investigators that the driver had been intoxicated.

Vnukovo airport announced the resignations of its general director and his deputy "due to the tragic event." They were not detained by investigators, however.

Total announces replacements

At an emergency meeting in Paris on Wednesday, the French oil giant appointed Thierry Desmarest, a former chief executive and chairman at Total, to replace Margerie as chairman of the group until late 2015.

It also appointed Philippe Pouyanne as replacement chief executive.

De Margerie, who had also held both posts -- CEO and board chairman -- had been an outspoken critic of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine.

Total employs about 100,000 employees worldwide and posted revenues of nearly 190 billion euros ($240 billion) in 2013.

ipj/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Indonesian Air Force Forces Down Australian Plane, Detains Pilots

Jakarta Globe, Oct 22, 2014

Personnel from the Indonesian military escort an Australian man from a
light aircraft in Manado, North Sulawesi, on Oct. 22. (Antara Photo)

Jakarta. Indonesian Air Force officials in North Sulawesi forced a civilian aircraft flown by two Australian men to land after the plane entered Indonesian airspace without permission on Wednesday. Pilots Graeme Jacklin and Richard MacLean — both Australian citizens — have been detained by the Indonesian military.

Indonesian Air Force spokesman First Air Marshall Hadi Tjahyanto said the Beechcraft airport was heading to Cebu in the Philippines from Darwin, Australia.

“The aircraft was detected by the national air commando radar and it violated our airspace,” Hadi told Indonesian news portal Vivanews.co.

Hadi said the plane was detected by officers at 8 a.m. on Wednesday while flying over Manado.

Two Sukhoi jet fighters were then scrambled to intercept the aircraft.

The Beechcraft was then forced to land at Manado military air base at 10:30 a.m. Jakarta time.

“After we searched them we found out they didn’t have the necessary documentation,” Heru said, adding that an investigation would continue.

In April another civilian aircraft was forced to land for entering Indonesian airspace.  Officers arrested the pilot, 65-year-old Heinz Peier, who was on his way to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Peier, a Swiss national, was released after obtaining the necessary licenses from the foreign ministry, the transportation ministry and the Indonesian military.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tesla opens patents to rivals in China to expand industry

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-10-19

A Tesla electric car on display at an auto show in Shenyang, Liaoning
province, June 26. (File photo/Xinhua)

Tesla Motors, the world's leading manufacturer of electric vehicles, is allowing the use its patented technology free of cost by any auto manufacturer in China, according to the president of Tesla's China operations Veronica Wu.

Wu reiterated the company's policies on patent use Oct. 14 on the sidelines of an event during which Tesla and China Minsheng Bank announced that they will set up at least 400 charging areas at the bank locations in 20 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.

"We don't exactly know how many people are making use of Tesla's patents as they don't need to inform us in advance of using them," Wu told the China Youth Daily.

Usually, if someone wants to develop electric cars by adopting technology that is the same as or similar to a patented one, they would need to pay the patent holders first, Wu explained.

In this case, however, manufacturers who use Tesla's patented technology do not violate any patent rights as the automobile giant is willing to let its competitors use its technology free of charge, Wu added.

"Our offer aims to let more people enter the industry with low investment costs spurs development of the electric car market. We believe that the industry is still in its formative stage and needs advanced technology to progress," Wu noted.

Tesla has 400 patents of its core technology under its name, including those of electric car battery management, battery charging systems and the development of new types of batteries.

A patent that stands out among the rest is one that the company was granted in 2010 for a new, innovative new type of hybrid car battery, which allows cars to travel long distances without greatly raising the cost.

Tesla pioneered innovations that lowered the manufacturing costs and increased the safety of battery packs. It is now permitting its biggest rivals to make use of their patents in an attempt to nudge the rest of the automotive market to make advancements in technology related to electric vehicles, Wu remarked.

Cab-hailing services expand into ridesharing in China

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2014-10-19

Taxi app advertisement. (Photo/Beijing XiaoJu Technology)

The competition between cab-hailing apps has moved beyond helping customers find a taxi and is now focused on building a platform for transportation services, Shanghai's National Business Daily reports.

"After spending 1.5 billion yuan (US$245 million) over two years, we can be called the internet startup that has burnt the most money," said Cheng Wei, CEO of Beijing Xiaoju Technology that operates cab-hailing app Didi Dache.

Cheng's remarks on Oct. 11 were made after his company and rival Kuaidadi ended a cutthroat subsidy war over the cab-hailing services market earlier this year. The two are now battling it out over establishing transportation service platforms, the newspaper said.

"No one can say how much will be invested over the next five to ten years, but we and our investors would not dare make such investment if we did not think of the travel service platform as a valuable market," Cheng said.

Given the massive room for improvement in the transportation sector, industry insiders told the newspaper that cab-hailing services are unlikely to rely on subsidies for customers or stay in one sector for the long term.

The heavy subsidies ended in May after Kuaidadi and Didi Dache each secured funding from e-commerce giant Alibaba and web portal Tencent, respectively, the newspaper said.

With cab-hailing services unable to turn a profit, Kuaidadi, and later Didi Dache, launched ridesharing services to tap into a more lucrative and high-end market, the newspaper said.

Kuaidadi further established partnerships with Air China, Alipay, and online map services AutoNavi and Baidu, while Didi Dache teamed up with over 100 car rental services and hired its own drivers.

Compared with food, clothes and housing, Cheng said transportation is a sector that has not seen close integration with the internet, and the rise of mobile internet has provided the opportunity for just that.

Meanwhile, Cheng does not expect his company to turn profitable in the next three to five years and his company has no plan to go public.

According to a forecast made by industry insiders, the ridesharing market in China is expected to reach a scale of 400 billion yuan (US$65 billion) in 2016.

Uber, which established the ridesharing market in the United States, and AA (Anytime Anywhere) are both existing players Didi Dache and Kuaidadi will compete against in the Chinese market, the newspaper said.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Japan unveils first passenger jet in four decades

Yahoo – AFP, Antoine Bouthier, 18 Oct 2014

Guests look at a Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) during a ceremony at the Nagoya
airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Komaki (Japan) (AFP) - The first passenger aircraft to be made in Japan in nearly four decades was unveiled Saturday as its manufacturer pushed into the booming regional jet sector with an eye to taking on industry giants Embraer and Bombardier.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a military contractor best known for its "Zero" World War II fighter, pulled back the curtain on its new Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), a fuel-efficient, next-generation aircraft that claims to offer more passenger comfort with lower operating costs.

The jet, which will be delivered to customers from 2017 and was built with assistance from aviation giant Boeing, was unveiled at a ceremony in Komaki, near the central city of Nagoya, on Saturday.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) CEO and president 
Shinichiro Ito delivers his speech during a
 ceremony of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) of
the Nagoya airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on
October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)
"The dream of a Japanese-made product that can be proudly presented to the world for top-notch efficiency and top-notch passenger comfort is finally coming true," said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries chairman Hideaki Omiya.

"This wonderful aircraft that Japan has created after (a wait of) half a century carries with it many people's hopes and dreams."

The plane marks a new chapter for Japan's aviation sector, which last built a commercial airliner in 1962 -- the YS-11 turboprop. It was discontinued about a decade later.

Teruaki Kawai, president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Aircraft, recently said that the plane boasted "state-of-the-art aerodynamic design, and a game-changing engine (that) will significantly cut fuel consumption, noise and emissions, helping airlines enhance competitiveness and profitability in the future".

Japanese firms were banned from developing aircraft by US occupiers following its defeat in World War II.

The country slowly started rebuilding its aviation industry in the 1950s, starting with carrying out repair work for the US military, before expanding its scope to start licensed production of US-developed aircraft for Japan's military. Japanese firms have also long supplied parts to Boeing.

Eye on 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Mitsubishi's short-to-medium-haul regional jet, which comes in a 70- and 90-seat version, was backed by the Japanese government and a consortium of major firms including Toyota, with research and development costs of around 180 billion yen ($1.7 billion).

A Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) moves into the hanger for a ceremony at the Nagoya
airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi Kitamura)

The company has secured 375 orders and options from carriers including All Nippon Airways (ANA), US-based Trans States Holdings, and SkyWest.

Japan Airlines (JAL) has also signed a Letter of Intent for 32 MRJs, which have a list price of $40 million, to be used on domestic flights.

The MRJ project got off the ground in 2008 after ANA agreed to buy two dozen of the planes.

But it quickly hit trouble as the global economic downturn battered the aviation industry, forcing many carriers to slash jobs and routes.

The project took off again as Tokyo tried to lure more overseas visitors ahead of the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The Japanese government is also aiming to expand firms' foothold in the global aviation and military sectors as the domestic market shrinks due to a rapidly ageing population.

Guests look at a Mitsubishi Regional 
Jet (MRJ) during a ceremony at the Nagoya
 airport in Komaki, Aichi prefecture on 
October 18, 2014 (AFP Photo/Toshifumi
Kitamura)
The jet will compete with small aircraft produced by Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier, as well as jets designed by Russian and Chinese firms.

Mitsubishi pointed to expected global demand of 5,000 regional jets over the next two decades.

"Five thousand is not a small number," Kawai told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published this month.

"I'm claiming we can get 50 percent of that. That's what we are aiming at right now. But in 20 years, I'm saying, not in three to five years, if our research is correct. We have to be ambitious.

"For a long time, Japan has been successful in industries such as automobiles," he said. "It should last, but we need to find new industries. Aircraft manufacturing can be one of them."

Automaker Honda is also developing a business jet, with its first delivery expected next year in North America and Europe.

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 "Recalibration of Free Choice"–  Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) SoulsMidpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth,  4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical)  8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) (Text version)

S. Korean official in apparent suicide after concert tragedy

Yahoo – AFP, Park Chan-Kyong, 18 Oct 2014

Policemen stand guard near a broken ventilation grate after concert goers fell
 through it into an underground parking area in Seongnam on October 17, 2014
(AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-Je)

A South Korean official handling safety measures at a concert where 16 people died apparently committed suicide hours after the tragedy which happened when a ventilation grate collapsed, authorities said Saturday.

The death of the 37-year-old local government official, surnamed Oh, was announced as South Korean police launched an investigation into Friday's incident at an outdoor pop concert in the city of Seongnam.

South Korean National Forensic Service
 members check a broken ventilation grate
 after concert goers fell through it into an
 underground parking area in Seongnam on
October 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-
Je)
"I am sorry for the dead victims... Please take a good care of my children", he wrote in a short message to his wife, according to officials.

The victims were standing on a ventilation grating to get a better view when the structure collapsed under their weight, sending them plunging 18.7 metres (62 feet) down into an underground parking area.

Amateur video footage obtained by the YTN news channel showed shocked spectators surrounding the collapsed grate as the popular all-girl K-pop band 4Minute, apparently oblivious to the accident, continued performing on stage.

The incident comes as South Korea is still grappling with the aftermath of the Sewol ferry disaster in April that left more than 300 dead, most of them high school students.

Disaster relief spokesman Kim Nam-Jun told journalists Saturday that Oh, who worked with a group sponsoring the concert, jumped off a building near where the tragedy took place.

He was found dead early Saturday a few hours after he was interrogated by police over the disaster, YTN TV said.

Kim also said authorities had inspected the site Saturday.

"A joint team of police and national forensic experts scoured the site this morning and closely inspected gratings and related structures," he said.

South Korean National Forensic Service
 members check a broken ventilation grate
 after concert goers fell through it into an
 underground parking area in Seongnam 
on October 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Jung Yeon-Je)
Police have questioned 15 people, including officials of the local Internet news provider which financed and organised the concert, Yonhap news agency said.

"If it turns out that safety regulations were ignored, we would bring criminal charges against them," a police official was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

No security

Witnesses told media there were no security guards or safety fences to prevent overflowing spectators climbing onto the grate after some 400 prepared chairs were fully occupied well before the concert kicked off.

More than 700 people were believed to be attending the outdoor concert.

"Many people on the vent gratings were chanting and dancing to the music. I was worried about their safety but there were no security guards around," a 45-year-old man who runs a restaurant near the site was quoted as saying by Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

"The show host repeatedly told the spectators to come off the grate but no one paid heed to the warning," another witness told the paper.

"(Immediately after the accident), screams for help were all drowned out by the din from the concert", Lee Sang-Hoon, a witness, told Dong-A Ilbo daily.

Policemen stand guard near a broken 
ventilation grate after concert goers fell
 through it into an underground parking
 area in Seongnam on October 17, 
2014 (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-Je)
A safety engineering expert, Professor Chung Jae-Hee of the Seoul National University of Science and Technology, said the incident was another "man-made" disaster.

"Basic safety precautions were all brushed aside. The organisers of the show should have at least set up temporary safety fences or deployed security guards there," he told AFP.

"These kind of safety hazards are latent in many places all over this country.

"Over the past decades, economic expansion always took precedence over safety concerns, resulting in the lack of safety conciousness among Koreans."

The Sewol ferry disaster prompted government promises of a national review of safety standards, as it became clear that poor regulatory oversight was a major contributor to the scale of the tragedy.

In February, the roof caved in on a student-packed auditorium near the southern city of Gyeongju, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100. An investigation uncovered evidence of structural flaws and lax management controls.

The last major accident at a music concert was in 2005 when 11 people were crushed to death and nearly 80 injured in a stampede as thousands tried to enter the stadium venue in the southeastern city of Sangju.

Related Article:


Friday, October 17, 2014

Electric taxis from China go into service in Brussels

Want China Times, Xinhua 2014-10-17

One of the BYD e6 electric taxis in service in Brussels, Oct. 15. (Photo/Xinhua)

Belgian officials on Wednesday welcomed 34 fully electric Chinese-made taxis into service in Brussels.

"Using electricity in public transportation, including the taxi sector, is vital for European citizens' quality of life," Pascal Smet, Brussels' minister for mobility and public works, said at the official launch of the e6 taxis made by BYD, a Shenzhen-based Chinese manufacturer of rechargeable batteries and automobiles.

Smet said the electric taxis generate less pollution and noise.

Addressing the ceremony, the Chinese ambassador to Belgium Liao Liqiang said China had paid great attention to the development of greener vehicles and the energy-saving industry at large.

"These 34 BYD e6 taxis symbolize the leadership of Chinese new vehicle technology, helping to electrify transportation in Brussels," he added.

Liao said that the Chinese government was encouraging more companies such as BYD to invest in Belgium.

As part of its fight against climate change and other environmental issues, the European Union aims to use 20% renewable energy by 2020. This has encouraged more and more member states to explore the use of electricity in the transportation sector, instead of traditional fuels.

"As one of the biggest cities in Europe, Brussels will not be left behind by other cites," Smet said.

Fully electric vehicles are becoming a major trend in the world, especially in densely populated cities where it is a pressing imperative that this mode of public transportation become cleaner.

Along with its pure electric taxis, BYD is introducing a range of ebuses in several major global cities, with more than 36 in Europe already test-running the BYD ebus.

BYD Auto Europe's managing director Isbrand Ho said that the e6 will also provide cost savings when compared to diesel fuel.

"Taxi passengers will also enjoy a quiet and comfortable ride," Ho added.

BYD describes the e6 as a spacious, five-passenger, crossover vehicle powered by BYD iron-phosphate batteries. Such pure electric cars can travel for up to 300 km with zero emissions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Great wall of Jakarta' plan to combat floods

Yahoo – AFP, Sam Reeves, 15 Oct 2014

Children residing in the slum area play along a dyke as construction of the
Jakarta sea wall begins, October 9, 2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)

Jakarta has launched a multi-billion-dollar scheme to build a huge sea wall to combat flooding as the Indonesian capital sinks, but there is scepticism about its chances of success in a country with a history of corruption and failed megaprojects.

The 35-kilometre (22-mile) wall, across the Bay of Jakarta off the city's northern coast, is the centrepiece of a project that will cost up to $40 billion over three decades, and also includes reclaiming land for 17 new islands.

The whole project will form the shape of a Garuda, the mythical bird that is Indonesia's national symbol.

Children residing in the slum area play 
along a dyke as construction of the 
Jakarta sea wall begins, October 9, 
2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)
While the aim is to prevent floods, it is hoped up to one million people will live and work on the islands, and help take pressure off a crowded city notorious as one of the world's most uninviting urban sprawls.

Supporters of the project, which officially got under way last week and is run by the Indonesian government with help from Dutch experts, say it is the only long-term solution.

"It's a life-and-death situation," said Purba Robert M. Sianipar, a senior economics ministry official with a key role in the project, adding hundreds were at risk of losing their lives from severe flooding if action was not taken.

However, some wonder whether such an ambitious plan will ever be completed, given Indonesia's bad record on infrastructure projects, such as plan to build a monorail in Jakarta that was embroiled in a storm of corruption six years ago.

Chief Economics Minister Chairul Tanjung suggested as much at last week's launch event, saying disagreements with future governments could knock the project off schedule.

Others question the approach entirely, saying the project will not stop the city from sinking, while graft is also a major danger, with officials sometimes awarding tenders to unsuitable firms in exchange for large kickbacks.

Jakarta has long been hit by floods during the rainy season, when tropical downpours cause rivers to burst their banks and deluge inadequate drainage systems, forcing tens of thousands out of their homes.

Residents gather along a dyke in Jakarta
as construction of the Indonesian capital's
 sea wall begins, October 9, 2014 (AFP/
Photo By Romeo Gaca)
However in 2007, a new type of flood set alarm bells ringing.

Rivers could stop flowing

Slum neighbourhoods were inundated when a high tide surged over sea defences in northern Jakarta, something that had never happened before and which highlighted the severe land subsidence in many areas.

As Jakarta has rapidly grown to a population of about 10 million, increased water extraction for drinking has caused the ground to compact and parts of the city to sink, a problem seen in other coastal conurbations, such as Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.

Parts of coastal north Jakarta, which is built on soft clay, are sinking as fast as 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) a year, meaning they could be metres below sea level in a few decades, according to those behind the sea wall project.

"Basically we are pumping ourselves into the ground," said Victor Coenen, from Dutch consultants Witteveen and Bos, which devised the master plan for the project.

The subsidence also means the 13 rivers in Jakarta may sink below sea level and stop flowing, increasing the risk of inundations.

After the 2007 floods -- which forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes -- officials scrambled to come up with a plan.

It involves strengthening the current, low sea defences over the next few years to provide temporary protection for north Jakarta, home to more than four million people.

A wall of giant iron reinforcement pipes is installed during the construction
of the Jakarta sea wall, October 9, 2014 (AFP/Photo By Romeo Gaca)

Work will then begin on the main wall, which will sit six to eight kilometres (four to five miles) from the coast and will be seven metres (23 feet) above sea level.

Construction of the wall will be finished between 2025 and 2030, while development on the islands -- which will have a mix of high-end and low-cost housing -- could take another decade.

A huge reservoir will be created between the islands and sea wall, where water from downpours can be stored so it does not flood the city, and into which rivers will be able to flow freely.

Plans are also in progress to slow the land subsidence by providing piped water to Jakarta from other areas and stop extraction of ground water.



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Draft of the Master Plan for National Capital Integrated Coastal Development. 
(JG Screen Grab courtesy of the website of the Coordinating Ministry of
Economic Affairs)