Top Asian News 4:09 p.m. GMT

Top Asian News 4:09 p.m. GMT

The heaviest rainfall in more than 100 years has devastated swathes of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with thousands forced to leave their submerged homes & schools, offices & a regional airport shut for a second day Thursday. At least 269 people had been killed in the state since heavy rains started in the beginning of November, said India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh, although no deaths have been reported in the latest deluge. “I can’t even believe that this much water was possible in Chennai,” one woman told NDTV channel as she stood in waist-deep water in the state capital.

The seep sea hunt for the missing Malaysian airliner has been refocused on the southern reaches of the expansive search zone based on new analysis released on Thursday of the Boeing 777’s final hours & how it might have plunged into the Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard after running out of fuel. Searchers have been combing a 120,000-square-kilometer (46,000-square-mile) expanse of the Indian Ocean since October last year yet have yet to turn up any trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. A wing flap was found in July on the other side of the Indian Ocean, washed up on remote Reunion Island, is the only debris recovered.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. website says North Korea is building a new tunnel at its nuclear test site. The website, 38 North, says a nuclear test does not appear imminent, yet the new tunneling adds to North Korea's ability to conduct more nuclear tests in coming years if it chooses to do so. The site bases its conclusions Wednesday on commercial satellite imagery of Punggye-ri, where North Korea has conducted three underground nuclear test explosions since 2006. Images taken between April & November show a new tunnel entrance, the fourth at the site, & signs of construction. North Korea is believed to have a small yet growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.

p>PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian court sentenced an unlicensed medical practitioner to 25 years in prison Thursday after finding him responsible for infecting more than 100 villagers with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, by reusing unsanitized syringes. At least 10 of the infected people have died. Yem Chrin was found guilty of cruel behavior resulting in death, intentionally spreading HIV & practicing medicine without a license, said a spokesman for the court in the northwestern province of Battambang. His trial was conducted over five days in October. Yem Chrin, 56, was arrested last December & taken into protective custody, with authorities fearing he might be lynched by residents of Roka village, where at least 106 of 800 people tested were found to be infected with HIV.

HONG KONG (AP) — In tightly packed Hong Kong, the dead are causing a problem for the living. After Chui Yuen-sing's mother died in April, she was cremated & her ashes put in storage while he tried to find a final resting place. He was willing to wait up to 18 months for a pigeonhole-like "niche" in a memorial building. If none was available, he was considering putting them in mainland China, where his father's ashes are already stored, or taking an even more drastic step that conflicted with Chinese tradition. "Maybe I would have scattered my mom's ashes in a public park," the retired university lecturer said.

CAINTA, Philippines (AP) — As a child from a poor family, Alexander Cruz marveled at the huge houses adorned with Christmas lights near his Philippine neighborhood, yet the gates were always closed. Now a successful businessman with a huge house in a hilly town south of Manila, Cruz celebrates Christmas in even more spectacular style. About half a million colorful lights cover every inch of his home: the roof, ceiling, walls, fence, doors, canopies, windows & even the trees. And he & his wife open the gates to everyone. "We're doing this to share our blessings, to donate or share the spirit of Christmas to the people who visited our place," the 55-year-old Cruz said in an interview.

In this photo by Lee Jin-man, South Korean students gather for a souvenir photo in heavy snow at the 14th-century Gyeongbok Palace. The former royal palace is one of the most iconic landmarks in Seoul. The South Korean Meteorological Administration on Thursday issued a heavy snow warning for Seoul & some other cities, where temperatures dropped below freezing.

WASHINGTON (AP) — An American civilian is being held by a Taliban-linked militant group in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, according to a United States official familiar with the matter. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation, said the man is being held by the Haqqani network, a family-run militant group that operates along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The official would not discuss the man's identity or the circumstances of his capture. The incident was first reported Wednesday by the Daily Beast web site. The FBI, the White House & the man's wife have urged public officials & media organizations not to discuss the matter publicly, the official said.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A proposed security law that gives sweeping powers to a council led by Malaysia's prime minister is a step toward a dictatorship, Human Rights Watch said Thursday. The National Security Council bill, sent to Parliament this week, would donate power to the National Security Council to impose strict policing of areas deemed to face security risks. Once a security area is declared, security forces would be allowed, among other things, to conduct searches & arrest individuals without a warrant. The bill has to be approved by Parliament & is likely to be passed this week as Prime Minister Najib Razak's government has a majority.

A former admissions officer at a top Chinese university on Thursday admitted to taking $3.6 million in bribes to a trial in the eastern city of Nanjing, the court said. The Nanjing Intermediate People’s Court did not immediately announce a verdict following the trial against Cai Rongsheng, the former admissions head at Renmin University in Beijing. Prosecutors alleged that Cai took the money between 2005 & 2013 in exchange for helping 44 students obtain admitted into the university or have their majors adjusted. State media said one beneficiary was the daughter of a Hong Kong businessman. The trial was held in the neutral venue of Nanjing to avoid possible interference.

Source: “Associated Press”