Winds kill 16 in Bihar

PATNA: Sixteen people were killed and dozens of families were left homeless in northeastern India when powerful winds caused their houses to collapse, officials said on Wednesday. The deaths occurred in several villages in Bihar, said disaster management official Ramvichar Rai. Local weather officials said the winds were a pre-monsoon phenomenon, and there could be more storms before regular monsoon rains reach this part of India in coming weeks. Rai said the storm also caused heavy crop damage. — AP

Instant rice for troopers

GUWAHATI: Indian soldiers having an appetite for rice have something to cheer about. Instead of chapattis, the men in uniform could soon be eating highly nutritious ready-to-eat rice. The defence ministry is examining a proposal to introduce a unique variety of rice called ‘Kumol Chawol’, or soft-rice grown abundantly in Assam. The proposal to include this local variety into the army’s menu was mooted by minister of state for defence Bijoy Krishna Handique. The proposal to introduce this pre-cooked rice has excited officials as preparing food to cater to the tastes of soldiers drawn from all over India has remained a challenge to chefs, especially in high altitude areas. — HNS

Two hurt in copter crash

DILI: A UN helicopter on a medical evacuation flight crashed landed on Wednesday in East Timor’s central mountainous region injuring two passengers, an aviation official said. The Bell 212 chopper pitched forward and struck the ground as it was landing in Same, a district capital about 50 kilometres south of the capital of Dili. The two Australian flight crew escaped unhurt but both passengers were injured, said the official. Their injuries were not life-threatening. The accident, in which the Australian-registered helicopter was badly damaged, occurred at 0810 GMT. — AP

Whitney show in China

BEIJING: Fresh out of drug rehabilitation, six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston is scheduled to perform in China next month, state-controlled China News Service reported on Wednesday. Authorities, which reportedly have given the go-ahead for a concert in Shanghai on July 22, did not appear to have made their approval conditional on any particular requirements with regards to the pop diva’s outfit or behaviour. Chinese organisers have also applied for permission for a Whitney Houston concert in Beijing on July 25 and are still waiting for approval, the news agency said. — AFP

7 hurt as store collapses

BANGKOK: Part of an eleven-storey department store collapsed on Wednesday in Bangkok, injuring at least seven people, police said. A section of the New World Department Store, in Bangkok’s Bang Lampoo area near a popular backpacker quarter, caved in from the eighth floor where workers had placed rubbish ahead of a planned demolition. “Two people suffered serious injuries such as broken legs and were hospitalised,” a policeman said. — AFP

Movie director held

MUMBAI: Police arrested Bollywood director Kaizad Gustad on Wednesday on accusations of negligence causing the death of his British assistant, Nadia Khan, who was struck by a train while shooting a movie. A local court ordered Gustad, regarded as one of Bollywood’s rising young directors, to be held in jail for eight days while police investigated the case. Gustad and another assistant, Ashish Udeshi, were being held on accusations. — AFP

First Afghan HIV deaths

KABUL: An Afghan father and his two children died of AIDS in Kabul last month, becoming war-shattered Afghanistan’s first registered victims of the disease, a health official said on Wednesday. “A 45-year-old man, a two-year-old and a six-month-old child have died of AIDS in one of Kabul’s hospitals,” an official at the health ministry’s HIV department said. — AFP