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Jan. 27, 2013 at 10:00 PM   |   Comments

State of emergency in 3 Egyptian cities

CAIRO, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Egyptian President Morsi declared a state of emergency in three cities after seven people were killed Sunday during a funeral for protesters killed Saturday.

The state of emergency, which Morsi said would be in place for one month in Suez, Ismailia, Port Said, authorizes the president and police to use extraordinary powers, suspends the judicial process and curbs civil rights, The New York Times reported.

The declaration came after seven people were reported killed in Port Said, during a mass funeral for 33 people who were killed Saturday during protests of court verdicts on killings during a soccer riot. Egypt has undergone four days of protest around the country, including in Cairo, associated with Friday's second anniversary of the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi announced the state of emergency during an appearance Sunday on state television.

"There is no room for hesitation, so that everybody knows the institution of the state is capable of protecting the citizens," he said. "If I see that the homeland and its children are in danger, I will be forced to do more than that. For the sake of Egypt, I will."

Ahram Online, the government newspaper in Cairo, reported 450 were injured, three of whom were in critical condition.

Mourners at the Al-Mariam Mosque were attacked by tear gas shells from the direction of an army club nearby, the newspaper reported.

Egypt's Ministry of the Interior, on its official Facebook page, denied using tear gas at the funeral and said a number of funeral march mourners threw Molotov cocktails and fired at police stations.

The mass funeral was held for the 33 killed Saturday during protesters' rage and sporadic gunfire that erupted after an Egyptian court sentenced 21 of 73 defendants to death for killing 70 fans during a soccer riot in Port Said.

Protesters in downtown Cairo Saturday threw rocks at security forces who responded with tear gas, Ahram Online said Sunday. Police shut down all roads and highways leading to Tahrir Square.

The U.S. Embassy and the British Embassy closed offices for the day, CNN said.

The Egyptian army took control of the Suez Canal administration building and other government buildings, banks and courts in Port Said and secured water and power facilities in the city, Gen. Ahmed Mohammed Ali told CNN.

Protests were reported in Alexandria and Suez as well as other areas in the country, where demonstrators focused their anger on President Mohamed Morsi, CNN said.


Syrian gov't intensifies attacks on rebels

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The Syrian government stepped up attacks on rebels in Damascus Sunday with warplanes and intensified artillery, anti-government activists in Beirut said.

Thousand of Syrians have fled to Lebanon and 30,000 have sought refuge in Jordan during the past month's fierce fighting, while the United Nations tries to find increased international aid for an underfinanced relief effort, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Activists said rebels attacked a railway station in Qadam, an area of Damascus that had not previously seen fighting, but the Times said the claims could not be verified due to the Syrian government's restrictions on journalists inside the country.

The Syrian network for human rights said it documented 86 deaths across Syria Sunday -- including 26 in an around Damascus, 16 in Aleppo, 15 in Homs, 10 in Idlib, nine in Daraa, seven in Hama and one in Lattakia.

Meetings on the crisis are scheduled for Monday in Paris, between the primary exile opposition group and civilian opposition leaders, the Times reported.

International efforts to end the crisis, in which 60,000 have been killed, seem to have halted, as Russia, which backs Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, is in conflict with the Western and Arab supporters of the Syrian rebels, the Times said.

"(The conflict) must be decided by the Syrian people -- not Russia, not the United States, not any other country," said Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.

Some Syrian rebel leaders said they are angry that Western countries contemplate aiding France in its attacks on al-Qaida-linked terrorists in Mali, while continuing to be reluctant to help Syria despite nearly two years of bloodshed, the Times reported.

"In a situation like Syria, I have to ask, can we make a difference in that situation? Would a military intervention have an impact? How would it affect our ability to support troops who are still in Afghanistan? What would be the aftermath of our involvement on the ground? Could it trigger even worse violence or the use of chemical weapons? What offers the best prospect of a stable post-Assad regime?" U.S. President Barack Obama told The New Republic in an interview published Sunday.

"And how do I weigh tens of thousands who've been killed in Syria versus the tens of thousands who are currently being killed in the Congo? Those are not simple questions."


At least 232 die in Brazilian club fire

SANTA MARIA, Brazil, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- The initial estimate of the death toll from a fire at a nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, has been revised to 232 from 245, officials said.

Col. Guido Pedroso de Melo, the commander of the city's fire department, said emergency responders counted at least 232 dead, down from a previous estimate of 245, The New York Times reported.

Most of the deaths at the Kiss nightclub appeared to have been the result of smoke inhalation, CNN reported. Authorities have identified 185 of them, the report said.

More than 90 people were hospitalized, including 14 for treatment of severe burns.

Col. Adilomar Silva, the regional coordinator of civil defense, said the death toll was expected to rise as firefighters were still pulling bodies out of the club.

Silva said the acoustic insulation in the nightclub caught fire, adding that a pyrotechnics show going on inside the club when the fire started.

Guido de Melo, a state fire official, said there were about 2,000 people in the club, twice its maximum capacity, when the fire broke out around 2 a.m. local time, CNN reported.

He told O Globo, Rio de Janeiro, security guards prevented people from leaving the club after the fire broke out.

"People who were inside the facility informed us ... that security guards blocked the exit to prevent people there from leaving, and that's when the crowd starting panicking, and the tragedy grew worse," he said.

Glauber Fernandes, a reporter from CNN affiliate Band News, reported some of the guards thought there had been a huge fight inside the club "and closed the doors so that the people could not leave without paying their bills from the club."

Luana Santos Silva, who was at the nightclub, told O Globo there was just one "small door for a lot of people" to use in the panic to get out.

Fernandes said many victims were trapped inside the building after a roof collapsed in several places.

Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the fire but pyrotechnics band used during a show before the fire broke out, CNN said.

A fire official told Globo TV the club's license expired in August and had not been renewed.


Floods, high winds batter NSW, Australia

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Ex-tropical cyclone Oswald is moving south in New South Wales, Australia, with winds of as much as 87 mph exacerbating flood damage, officials said.

Floodwaters in the northern part of the state isolated more than 1,900 people and shut part of the Pacific Highway, ABC News reported.

Winds uprooted trees and affected power lines, causing approximately 4,500 homes to lose electricity.

"The seas are in turmoil, there's spume coming in, flowing into the park and we've had a fair bit of structural damage to a number of caravans and annexes," said Richard Adams, who runs seven caravan parks.

More than 800 calls for help kept the New South Wales State Emergency Service busy all night.

Flood warnings are in place for six rivers across the area and high wind and huge waves pound the coastline.

The towns of Thora, Bellingen, Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby experienced minor flooding, ABC said.

Volunteers sandbagged homes and businesses.

A man who was trying to drive through a flooded creek at Murwillumbah, near Byron Bay, was rescued after he was forced to stop, climb onto the roof of his car and call for help, the State Emergency Service said.

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