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At least 15 people were killed when a passenger van travelling in southern Pakistan crashed and caught fire, officials said Sunday.

The van was carrying passengers from Karachi to Hyderabad city when it struck an object and careered off the road late Saturday.

“The death toll in the unfortunate accident has reached 15,” Owais Shah, the transport minister of Sindh province, told AFP.

Five other people were injured, three of them critically, he said.

Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Faisal Edhi, head of the non-profit Edhi Foundation which runs the morgue the bodies were taken to.

Investigators were looking to see if a natural gas cylinder aboard the bus had contributed to the inferno.

Such incidents occur frequently on Pakistan’s roads, where speeding, dilapidated vehicles, and badly maintained roads all contribute to the accident rate.

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(FILES) This file photo taken on November 20, 2015 shows Chinese flags next to a worker clearing a conveyer belt used to transport coal, near a coal mine at Datong, in China's northern Shanxi province.
(FILES) This file photo taken on November 20, 2015 shows Chinese flags next to a worker clearing a conveyer belt used to transport coal, near a coal mine at Datong, in China’s northern Shanxi province.

 

Sixteen workers died and one is in a critical condition after being trapped underground in a coal mine in southwest China on Sunday, reported state broadcaster CCTV.

A conveyor belt caught fire in the early hours of the morning, state news agency Xinhua cited the government as saying, which produced dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Medics are fighting to save the life of the remaining survivor, CCTV reported.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation, said the Qijiang district government on social media platform Weibo.

The facility, Songzao Coal Mine, is owned by state energy firm Chongqing Energy and located just outside the city of Chongqing.

Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.

At least 14 miners were killed in a coal and gas blast last December at a mine in southwestern Guizhou province.

In December 2018, seven miners were killed in Chongqing after the connecting segment of a skip broke and fell down a shaft.

In October the same year, 21 miners died in eastern Shandong province after pressure inside a mine caused rocks to fracture and break, blocking the tunnel and trapping the workers. Only one miner was rescued alive.

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In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

 

OPEC faces a critical moment in its 60-year history with the coronavirus crushing crude demand and prices, discord among its members, and threats from a world seeking cleaner fuels.

Founded on September 14, 1960, by Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela who sought to control crude oil output, OPEC currently comprises 13 members including nations from Africa and Latin America.

The 60th anniversary “comes at a critical moment in its history”, UniCredit analyst Edoardo Campanella said in reference to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“Its ability to steer the oil market in its favour has never been put in question to the extent it is now,” he noted.

– ‘Relevant role’ –

The Vienna-based institution convenes for regular meetings to assess the state of supply and demand in the marketplace, and its pronouncements can still spark major price swings.

That ability has dimmed in recent years however, prompting it to join forces with ten non-OPEC producers including Russia to curb their collective output.

OPEC+ essentially wanted to counter surging energy supplies from shale rock in the United States and help clear a stubborn supply glut on world markets.

Today, OPEC pumps about one third of global oil — but OPEC+ accounts for almost 50 percent, giving it greater clout.

Carlo Alberto de Casa, trader at Activtrades, insisted that the cartel retains a “relevant” function in the market, dismissing talk the organisation was a “has-been”.

“They are slightly less influential compared to the past, also due to production of non-OPEC countries and new extraction techniques. But I still see a role for OPEC,” he told AFP.

This despite the larger OPEC+ in March failing to agree on a new strategy — with Russia refusing cartel kingpin Saudi Arabia’s request to cut their collective output and combat a virus-fuelled slump in crude demand.

In response, top global exporter Saudi slashed its prices and raised output to preserve market share in the face of Russian opposition.

The Saudi-Russian price war, in tandem with the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, sent oil prices off a cliff — and even caused New York’s light sweet crude contract to briefly turn negative in April — meaning producers paid buyers to take the oil off their hands.

After the unprecedented market crash, OPEC+ in May slashed up to a fifth of its output — a move that triggered a sharp rebound in crude prices to current levels around $40 per barrel.

Added to the supply backdrop, the United States, now the world’s biggest oil producer, curbed the pace of costly shale extraction.

Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, while noting that OPEC has lost market share in recent years, said the cartel still has an important role to play because it possesses the largest amount of accessible crude.

This meant that extracting its oil resulted in fewer carbon emissions, she said.

“I would argue that OPEC would become more and more important” in the future, she concluded.

AFP

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A man has a PCR test for the novel coronavirus at a medical laboratory in Paris amids the Covid-19 pandemic on September 4, 2020.Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

France will face a months-long coronavirus epidemic that will overwhelm its health system if something does not change, one of the country’s top medical figures warned Sunday.

“The second wave is arriving faster than we thought,” Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in the country’s worst-hit areas, including the Mediterranean city of Marseille and the Paris region, have run into local resistance.

Bouet told the paper that warnings delivered this week by Health Minister Olivier Veran had not gone far enough.

“He didn’t say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months,” Bouet said.

There would be no medical staff available to provide reinforcements, and France’s health system would be unable to meet all the demands placed on it, he warned.

The health workers responsible for the spring “miracle” would not be able plug those gaps, he added.

“Many of them are exhausted, traumatised.”

France’s health service on Saturday recorded 14,412 new cases over the previous 24 hours — slightly lower than the record 16,000 registered on both Thursday and Friday.

But over the last seven days, 4,102 people have been hospitalised, 763 of whom are being treated in intensive care.

On Saturday, Marseille bar and restaurant owners demonstrated outside the city’s commercial courthouse against forced closures due to start this evening.

AFP

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to “instruct Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to take immediate steps to expeditiously, diligently, effectively and fairly prosecute high-profile corruption cases, and to publish details of the whereabouts of allegedly missing case files, as well as the status of prosecution of all the cases being handled by his office.”

The organization said: “The high-profile corruption cases include 103 cases reportedly sent by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] in 2017, and the 15 allegedly missing case files sent by the now-defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, [SPIP] in 2019 to Mr Malami.”

In the letter dated 26 September 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The authorities’ failure to diligently and expeditiously prosecute high profile corruption cases amounts to a fundamental breach of constitutional and international obligations. Continuing failure to prosecute these cases may create the perception of a deliberate effort to protect those considered to be very influential and powerful.”

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According to the organization: “The fact that these cases have been pending for several years suggests that your government has not carried out its public, constitutional and international obligations, including the obligations to show that no one is above the law as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”

The organization said: “Public interest demands that high-profile corruption cases are concluded within a reasonable time so that those guilty are punished and the innocent are set free. The rule of law and the preservation of democracy also require that the authorities duly proceed in accordance with the law against every high-profile person suspected of grand corruption, irrespective of where he/she is placed in the political hierarchy.”

The letter, copied to Mr Malami, read in part: “SERAP is seriously concerned about the apparent inertia by the authorities to diligently and expeditiously prosecute high-profile corruption cases. While many of these cases have been dragging before your assumption of office in May 2015, several of the cases have not satisfactorily progressed, contrary to Nigerians’ expectations.”

“Speedily, diligently, effectively and fairly prosecuting high-profile corruption cases would demonstrate your government’s commitment to enhance probity in public life and willingness to enforce accountability in public life. The basic postulate of the concept of equality: ‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you’, should be your government’s approach to high profile corruption cases.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] particularly section 15[5], and Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, as well as the rule of law.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure the diligent, expeditious, and effective prosecution of longstanding high-profile corruption cases, including the 103 cases and the allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile corruption suspects.”

“We would be grateful if your government begins to implement the recommended action and measures within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to pursue prosecution of these longstanding high-profile corruption cases to their logical conclusion, and to regularly report to Nigerians on the progress of prosecution.”

“People get frustrated in the system if the process of justice is not allowed to take its normal course, more so, when apparently deliberate attempts are made to subvert and delay the process.”

“There is a nexus between corruption at high places in public life and threats to the integrity, welfare, security and economy of the country, as well as the rule of law. There is therefore a clear need for an expeditious, diligent and effective prosecution of these cases, which have already been delayed for several years.”

“Expeditious prosecution of those suspected of grand corruption irrespective of the position and status of that person is imperative to retain public confidence in the ability and willingness of authorities to prevent and combat corruption.”

“According to our information, details of about 103 high-profile corruption cases being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] were reportedly made available in 2017 to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon request.”

“Further, the case files of 15 high-profile corruption suspects are allegedly missing. The missing files are among the 23 cases reportedly sent by the now-defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, [SPIP] in 2019 to Mr Malami, and include some charges of fraud involving some former governors and senators, as well as non-declaration of assets and possession of foreign accounts cases.”

SERAP, therefore, urged President Buhari to instruct Mr Malami to:

1. Explain why after several years these high-profile corruption cases have not been expeditiously, diligently, effectively, and satisfactorily prosecuted to logical conclusion; 2. Take immediate and concrete steps to prosecute the cases in close cooperation and collaboration with appropriate anticorruption agencies; 3. Publish details of the whereabouts of the allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile individuals suspected of corruption, including the status of prosecution of the cases, as well as those of the 103 cases reportedly sent to Mr Malami; 4. Invite civil society groups and the international community to monitor the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases, and to periodically report to Nigerians the status of their prosecution

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the details of the whereabouts of allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile individuals suspected of grand corruption, and the status of prosecution of the cases, as well as those of the 103 cases reportedly sent to Mr Malami.”

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