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Vietnam trio confirmed dead in Antarctic ship fire

Three Vietnamese crew members aboard South Korean fishing boat Jeong Woo 2 have been confirmed dead after the ship caught fire in Antarctic waters early Wednesday, according to a BBC report.

“The trio did not make it out of the Jeong Woo 2's accommodation area when the fire broke out,” BBC quoted Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) officials as saying.

The UK news agency said US research vessel Nathaniel B Palmer has been treating seven injured sailors, who are all Vietnamese and Indonesian, after they reached the burning vessel on Wednesday.

The injured victims are expected to be taken to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand once the US vessel reaches the US McMurdo Antarctic base.

All Vietnamese victims have been identified.

According to a source from Vietnamese News Agency (VNA), the three perished are Dang Ngoc Quang, 27, Nguyen Van Dong, 31, and Nguyen Van Son, 24 while four crew members suffering burns are Tran Van Ngoan, 21, Nguyen Tu Liem, 26, Nguyen Chi Cong, 23, and Ngo Van Sy, 34.

US$93 million for rural water supply project

Representatives of the Australian, Danish, and UK governments on January 12 co-signed a Joint Financing Agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to further support Phase 3 of the National Target Program for Rural Water Supply and Sanitation.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, MARD Minister Cao Duc Phat emphasised that the programme gained initial positive results in the first two phases.

Rural people’s living conditions and health were significantly improved, he said.

However, Phat noted, there remain difficulties and challenges that need to be dealt with in the third phase of the programme, including improving the quality of water supply and sanitation and providing running water to people in disadvantaged areas.

The financial resources donated for the third phase will help Vietnam meet the set target, he said, adding that the country is committed to using the capital effectively.

Michael Wilson, Minister-Councillor of the Australian Agency for International Development (Ausaid) recognized the programme’s initial achievements.

He also pointed out that Vietnam did not achieve the target set in the first two phases and urged the country to make greater efforts to reach the target in the third phase of the programme.

The assistance expressed the determination to help Vietnam with its cause for rural development, he said.

The third phase of the programme, running from 2012-2015, aims to increase the coverage of clean water supply to 85 percent of the population and hygienic latrines to 65 percent of households in rural areas. It will also help 45 percent of households have hygienic livestock pens and provide clean water and hygienic latrines for schools and clinics.

HCM City trials e-customs system

An advanced electronic customs clearance procedure system has been experimentally implemented for inbound and outbound cargo ships at the HCM City Port from Wednesday, according to the General Department of Customs.

Called e-Manifest, the system raises efficiency by conveying freight information to customs officials prior to a shipment arriving at a border.

It provides timely information on cargo manifests and relating documents such as information related to crew on incoming ships and dangerous goods.

Thanks to the system, the general department has the capability to transfer manifest information in and out of Viet Nam in near real-time, enabling them to significantly reduce processing times for express packages.

It said the e-Manifest system would be installed at all seaports by the end of this year in an effort to speed up customs clearance processing, increase efficiency and transparency and modernise customs activities in accordance with international standards.

US consul general visits tumor patient

American-Vietnamese Le Thanh An, the United States consul general in Ho Chi Minh City, came to FV hospital on Thursday afternoon to visit Nguyen Duy Hai, whose 82kg tumor has been removed successfully.

The US consul and his lady Le Chi Tam wished Hai well so that Hai could come back to Da Lat central highlands city, his hometown, to celebrate Tet (traditional Lunar New Year) with his family.

He was transferred to a sickroom from ICU on Monday and now can eat rice instead of milk or thin rice gruel as earlier.

Hai told Tuoitrenews he feels 60 percent better than five days ago when he regained consciousness after his 12-long-hour gruelling surgery led by American surgeon McKay McKinnon.

The 32-year-old is likely to be discharged from the hospital before Tet, which falls on January 23, a doctor said.

German Red Cross helps flood victims

More than 35,00 people, including 4,400 students, in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces of An Giang and Dong Thap will benefit from a German Red Cross project.

The Germans have provided US$500,000 to help the Viet Nam Red Cross improve the living conditions of flood victims by repairing houses, providing clean water and finding employment.

About 1,600 households will receive seeds, fertiliser, boats and fishing nets. Three hundred will receive support to repair their homes and 5,300 households and 10 to 15 schools will receive water tanks or water purification systems.

Distressed Vietnamese fishermen being taken to New Zealand

Four Vietnamese sailors who were seriously burnt in a Korean ship fire in the Ross Sea 3,700km from southeastern New Zealand have been transferred to an American ship scheduled to return to the nearest port of New Zealand.

The Korean ship Jeong Woo 2, which belongs to the Republic of Korea company Sunwoo, had had 40 fishermen on board, including 23 Vietnamese.

Le Van Thanh, Vice Head of the Department of Overseas Labour under the Ministry of Labour-Invalids and Social Affairs, said three of the Vietnamese fishermen are still missing and feared dead. The other 16, excluding the four who were burnt, are now on Sunwoo Company’s Jeong Woo 3 and are expected to arrive in New Zealand in 7-10 days.

Thanh said his agency has closely coordinated with the Consular Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with this case.

The Department of Overseas Labour has sent a dispatch to Sunwoo, asking it to take measures to ensure the interests of Vietnamese nationals, including insurance for them.

Meanwhile, the Consular Department has asked the Republic of Korea and New Zealand to quickly investigate the cause of the incident and identify the distressed crewmen, search for the missing, and assist them.

China yet to reply to VN’s request for boat inquiry

The Nha Trang City maritime authorities have yet to receive feedback from the Chinese authorities about their request for help in clarifying the allegation that the foreign ship that rescued Vietnamese fishermen after their boat sank last week had actually caused the accident.

The request was made yesterday since the ship, the Liberian-flagged Main Trader, was set to stop at Shekou port in the Chinese province of Guangdong after the rescue, said Le Van Bay, head of the maritime safety and inspection department of the Nha Trang Maritime Administration.

The agency, ordered by the Vietnam Maritime Administration, has asked the Shekou port authority to examine the Main Trader’s black box to detect its activities before landing at the port, Bay said, adding that a black box on cargo ships usually stores information only within 48 hours.

On January 8, Main Trader, which was en route from Singapore to China, rescued 15 Vietnamese fishermen whose boat had sunk the day before after being rammed by an unidentified ship from behind.

The violent collision caused three fishermen to fall overboard and all 12 remaining crew members had just enough time to put on their life jackets before they were swept away by waves, along with the three others who had fallen in, Nguyen Thanh Le, the boat’s captain said.

After the rescue, the fishermen were transferred to Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC)’s SAR 27-01 ship and arrived at Nha Trang Port on Monday.

But later that same day, Le and the boat’s owner reported to local agencies that Main Trader had caused the accident and had not accidentally found and rescued the fishermen as it claimed to the Vietnam MRCC.

The boat’s owner asked the foreign ship to pay VND3 billion (US$142,680) in compensation for the damaged boat.

When the victims were received by SAR 27-01, none of them reported that the foreign ship had crashed into their boat, but they lodged their allegation with relevant agencies only after they were taken to Nha Trang harbor, said La Tran Quang, an official of the Truong Sa (Spartly) Search and Rescue Station.

“If they had lodged the complaint sooner, we would have asked competent agencies to detain the Main Trader for investigation,” Quang said.

Meanwhile, Le Nguyen Thong, the boat’s owner, said about five minutes after the crew members got abroad the SAR 27-01, one of them phoned him to inform that the Main Trader had hit his boat, causing it to sink.

Vice Party inspector held for gambling $119,000

Police in Soc Trang City have detained 56-year-old Dinh Van Muoi, deputy chairman of the Soc Trang City Party Committee’s Commission for Inspection, for playing Chinese chess games with another person, through which he won VND2.5 billion (US$119,000).

Muoi will be detained for two months pending investigation, police said.

The arrest was made yesterday, following the testimony of Nguyen Thanh Leo, deputy director of the city Department of Transport, who along with Tran Van Tan, director of a drivers’ training center, were detained in December for playing Chinese chess for high stakes: VND1-5 billion ($47,600-238,000) per game.

Leo told the police that he had also played games many times with Muoi and lost VND2.5 billion to him, although Muoi had paid him VND1.9 billion.

The police also searched Muoi’s house and office the same day.

Leo and Tan were arrested on December 22 when they were playing a game of Chinese chess at a local café. By the time the police showed up, Leo had lost VND22 billion ($1.05 million) to Tan, but had only paid Tan VND5 billion.

The police also arrested two others, Nguyen Thanh Hung, 50, and his son Nguyen Thanh Truyen, who had been hired by Tan to force Leo to pay his debt and threaten to kill his family if he failed to do so.

Hung is a loan-shark and a leading gambling broker in Soc Trang, said Colonel Phan Huu Thuy, spokesman of the Soc Trang Province Police Department.

Gambling for money is illegal in Vietnam, except for at certain casinos where only foreigners are allowed to play.

According to local authorities, Leo had been head of Soc Trang city’s Board of Management of Construction Works and secretary of Ward 6’s Party Committee for many years before he was appointed to his current post.

Leo has recently borrowed money from numerous individuals and organizations. Meanwhile, Tan is the owner of many large cafés and restaurants in the city.

The police are continuing with their investigation.

Poor City students receive Tet gifts

The HCM City Student Assistance Centre and universities have been gifting bus tickets and presents to poor students for Tet (Lunar New Year) that will start in less than 10 days to come.

The centre along with the city unit of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper gave bus tickets to 3,500 students who will return home in 22 provinces, including some as far away as Thanh Hoa and Nghe An in the central region.

The students were chosen based on whose families were the worst hit during the last floods in the region between Nghe An and Phu Yen provinces. Ethnic minority students who have not been home for Tet for many years were also chosen.

The tickets cost more than VND1 billion (US$47,600).

The centre will also help students from the central region buy tickets at discounts of 5-25 per cent. The annual Tet exodus sees millions of people travel home from their place of work and study, leaving buses, trains and aircraft packed to the rafters.

Universities and student associations are also making plans to gift bus tickets to their poor members.

The HCM City Social Sciences and Humanities and HCM City University of Technology will each help 100 students.

Next week the centre will give gifts worth VND250,000 ($11.8) each to 1,000 students from other provinces who will remain in HCM City during Tet instead of returning home. It will organise traditional games and parallel sentence composition contests for their entertainment during the holidays.

It has got seasonal jobs for more than 3,000 such students. Also next week the HCM Communist Youth Union will give away gifts to students staying in at 11 dormitories around the city.

Several universities will organise entertainment activities and give gifts to students staying in their dormitories during Tet.

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