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7 missing, over 150 rescued after Nepal avalanche

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Kathmandu, Four South Koreans and three Nepali guides remain missing following an avalanche near the Annapurna mountain range, while over 150 domestic and foreign tourists have been rescued from in and around the area, officials said.

The incessant snowfall caused the avalanche near a popular trekking route in the Himalayan country. The area is close to the base camp for Annapurna, one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas.

“Four South Koreans and three Nepalis, guides and porters and who were separated from their nine-member group are still out of contact as over 150 Nepalis and foreigners rescued from around the area on Saturday alone,” Bhim Gurung, chairman of ward No-11 of the Annapurna Rural Municipality, told Xinhua on Saturday evening.

Efforts to mobilize helicopters for the rescue operation were hampered by continued bad weather. But we could not land the helicopters at the main avalanche-hit area from where trekkers are missing,” said Yogesh Sapkota, chief marketing officer at Simrik Air, which was involved in the evacuation on Saturday.

As his company rescued 80 to 100 trekkers, Sapkota said, there was almost no trekker left in Annapurna base camp area. Around 40 people have already arrived in capital Kathmandu while many reached the nearest city Pokhara,” he added.

Despite rescue efforts on Saturday, helicopter companies and trekking agencies said that the situation of the seven people missing remained unknown.

“Search operation is underway but it has not been effective due to bad weather,” Sirata Lama, general secretary of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), an umbrella organization of trekking companies present in the country, told Xinhua on Saturday evening.

Spring and autumn are regarded as the ideal season for trekking in Himalayas, however, many foreign trekkers opt to trek in winter for adventure and due to individual time availability, according to the trekking companies.


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S.Korea warns of more COVID-19 cases as total reaches 2,931

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Seoul, Feb 29 (IANS) South Korea on Saturday warned a large number of virus cases will be reported in Daegu, the epicentre of the country’svirus outbreak, as the total number of infections rose to 2,931, with 17 fatalities.

On Saturday, the country reported 594 new cases of which 476 were in Daegu, 300 km southeast of Seoul, and 60 in neighbouring North Gyeongsang province, Yonhap News Agency quoted the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) as saying.

The sharp increase in cases in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city with a population of 2.5 million, came as authorities began intensive tests on followers of the Shincheonji church.

Many more confirmed virus cases were expected in the coming days as health authorities have begun testing more than 210,000 Shincheonji followers.

South Korea’s health authorities have so far surveyed 88 per cent of the followers of the church, with around 2 per cent of them showing symptoms of the novel virus.

The KCDC said it has collected samples from 3,381 church members who showed symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

“The proportion of confirmed cases among Shincheonji followers is very high, and over the next few days, the number of new cases in Daegu will run high till virus tests on the church followers are completed,” Yonhap News Agency quoted Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip as saying at a briefing here.

South Korea confirmed its first new coronavirus case in a Chinese woman from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, on January 20.

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Pakistan’s economy shows positive indicators: PM’s Office

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Imran Khan Pakistan PM

Islamabad, Feb 28 : Pakistan’s economic indicators are seeing a constant improvement due to efforts made by the current government to overcome the serious economic challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Friday.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, chairing a meeting of his economic team, expressed satisfaction over the improvement in all sectors, adding that his government is making efforts to bring a trickle-down effect of the improving economy on general public and in this regard steps are being taken to provide relief to low income and salaried class of the country, Xinhua reported.

He also directed the economic team to keep the public updated about the positive indicators of the economy in a bid to win the confidence of the local businessman to invest in the country.

Earlier this month, the prime minister approved subsidy of Pakistani Rs 10 billion ($65 million) on five essential food items for controlling rampant inflation in the country.

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Iranian vice president tests positive for coronavirus

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Tehran, Feb 28 Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the coronavirus, an official said on Thursday.

Ebtekar’s adviser Fariba Ibtihaj said the vice president tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency  reported.

“Everyone in the vice president’s team was also tested and the results will be available on Saturday,” she said.

Ebtekar is not the first high-ranking Iranian official to contract the virus.

Ebtekar, joins the deputy health minister, the head of the national security commission and a reformist MP who have been infected with the virus, reports Efe news.

She tested positive on Thursday after showing symptoms the previous day during a cabinet meeting, according to state TV.

The politician is one of the most recognizable in the Islamic Republic and previously held the position of environment minister.

Iran has reported 26 deaths from the deadly disease and 245 cases total with a dramatic surge of 106 new infections registered on Thursday, the Health Ministry said.

Tehran authorities have decided to close down schools and universities in the country to curb the spread of the disease.

Friday prayers in the capital have also been cancelled.

Amid the spread of the virus, neighbouring countries have closed their land borders with Iran and most airlines have suspended their flights or imposed restrictions on air travel to the country.

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