18 Haitians die when crowded boat capsizes
At least 18 migrants from Haiti died Wednesday when their overloaded sailboat capsized as it was being towed to shore in the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials in the British territory said. A marine unit of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force had intercepted the packed sloop about two hours earlier and was escorting it to shore when it abruptly overturned, sparking a frantic search and rescue operation in the predawn darkness. Karlo Pelissier, the Haitian consul to the Turks and Caicos, said he was told by survivors that several migrants tried to jump off the 28-foot boat and flee to land as they neared the island of Providenciales and that the surge caused the overloaded sloop to overturn. Officials had not confirmed that as the cause of the capsizing. Authorities rescued 32 migrants, including one 12-year-old boy, and recovered the bodies of 18 people. Survivors were being detained at a migrant detention center in Providenciales, the most populated island in the chain southeast of the Bahamas, and there were no major injuries.
Early Christmas fire kills 3, hurts 7
Louisiana officials say a mobile home fire has killed three children and injured seven other people. District Chief Lance LaMarca of the state Fire Marshal's Office said a 13-year-old girl, a 12-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy died at the Whispering Oaks Trailer Park in Houma. Their parents and five other children were taken to a Baton Rouge burn unit. Houma Fire Inspector Mike Millet said the trailer was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. LaMarca said possible causes include space heaters, candles or electrical devices. He said 12 people were in the trailer because the parents and children were visiting from Alabama for Christmas.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Greenpeace crew charges dropped
Russian investigators have dropped charges against all but one of the 30 crew of a Greenpeace ship, who were accused of hooliganism following a protest outside a Russian oil rig in the Arctic, the group said Wednesday. Cristian d'Alessandro of Italy failed to get his criminal case closed due to the lack of an interpreter and will have to visit the St. Petersburg branch of Russia's Investigative Committee again today, said Violetta Ryabko, a Greenpeace spokeswoman. Criminal charges against the crew were closed under an amnesty seen by many as an attempt by the Kremlin to dampen criticism of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.
Vaccines probed in 8 infant deaths
Health authorities in China are investigating one of the nation's biggest vaccine makers after eight infants died in the past two months after injections that were meant to immunize them against hepatitis B. The government said it had suspended the use of millions of doses of a hepatitis B vaccine produced by Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products. Government inspectors have been sent to examine the company's facilities. Six of the deaths have been linked to vaccines produced by Shenzhen Kangtai; the two other infant deaths occurred recently after the use of a hepatitis B vaccine produced by another drugmaker, Beijing Tiantan Biological Products.