Gas explosion in New Zealand’s Christchurch injures several people

In this image made from video, people bring their guns to exchange for money in Christchurch, New Zealand on July 13, 2019, months after a deadly terrorist attack on two mosques in the city. A suspected gas explosion in the city on Friday has caused jitters among still jittery residents. (TVNZ via AP)
Updated 19 July 2019

Gas explosion in New Zealand’s Christchurch injures several people

  • Christchurch remains on edge a terrorist attack on two mosques that killed 51 people and wounded dozens
  • Police were investigating the cause of Friday's explosion

WELLINGTON: New Zealand emergency services evacuated residents near what they said was a suspected gas explosion in the South Island city of Christchurch on Friday that left a house on fire and several people injured.
The city remains on edge four months after a lone gunman killed 51 people and wounded dozens in attacks on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
There was no indication that Friday’s blast had any wider security implications.
“Fire and Emergency New Zealand was called to a house on fire ... at about 10.15 a.m. after reports of a large gas explosion,” a spokeswoman for New Zealand’s fire service said.
Four fire engines, a specialist command unit and a fire investigator were at the scene, she said.
Police said in a statement initial reports suggested a number of people had been injured in the incident in the residential suburb of Northwood. Media reports said six people had been taken to hospital.
A house was on fire and police had closed roads and were carrying out evacuations following what they described as a “serious incident.”
A Christchurch hotel worker, who was not identified, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that a sound like an explosion had shaken nearby buildings.
“It was more than an earthquake, you’d think a bomb had gone off,” the newspaper quoted the worker as saying.
Police did not identify the cause of the incident. A Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said a fire investigator was at the scene but did not yet have any official information about the cause.

 


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.