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Australia’s worst mass shooting in 22 years leaves family of 7 dead

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CANBERRA, Australia — A family of seven including four children was found dead with gunshot wounds Friday at a rural property in southwest Australia in what could be the country’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, police and news media said.

The children died with their mother and grandparents. The three generations had moved in 2015 to Osmington, a village of fewer than 700 people near the tourist town of Margaret River, to grow fruit, media reported.

Police would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide, but said they are not looking for a suspect.

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After being alerted by a phone call before dawn, police found the bodies and two guns at the property, Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said. Police wouldn’t say who made the call.

The bodies of two adults were found outside a house and the others were found inside. They all resided at the property, he said.

Police said they have no information that would raise concerns about wider public safety, suggesting a shooter is not at large.

“Police are currently responding to what I can only describe as a horrific incident,” Dawson told reporters.

“This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in particular, the local communities in our southwest,” he added.

Police were attempting to make contact with the victims’ relatives, Dawson said. He declined to release the names or ages of the dead.

Philip Alpers, a Sydney University gun policy analyst, said the tragedy appeared to be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania state in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.

Australia’s gun laws are widely acclaimed as a success, with supporters including former U.S. President Barack Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they were implemented.

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The generally accepted definition of a mass shooting — four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event — has been met only once in Australia since then. In 2014, a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.

Police have revealed few details about the recent killings, and it is not clear whether there was more than one shooter.

Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral pests and predators or sick or injured livestock. But automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.

Osmington is a collection of a few streets, farms, vacation accommodations and vineyards supplying the premium winemaking district known as Margaret River.

Samantha Lee, chair of the Gun Control Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian gun deaths, including suicides.

“Regional and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to these sorts of tragedies, because of the combination of isolation, sometimes mental or financial hardship and easy access to firearms,” Less said in a statement.

“Although the details of this tragedy are yet to come to light, Australia has a tragic history of higher rate of gun deaths in rural areas,” she added.

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Dutch police arrest alleged Asian drug syndicate kingpin | World News

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The alleged leader of an Asian drug syndicate and one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives has been arrested by Dutch police.

Tse Chi Lop, a Chinese-born Canadian national, was arrested at the request of Australian police, who led an investigation that found his organisation dominates the $70bn-a-year Asia-Pacific drug trade.

Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling said Tse was detained without incident at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Friday “based on intelligence we received”.

He is expected to be extradited to Australia after an initial court appearance.

Tse, 57, has lived in Canada, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan in recent years, according to authorities.

According to Australian newspaper The Age, his arrest will also be welcomed by authorities in the US, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and across Europe, places which have all served as markets or supply hubs for his organisation.

The syndicate he allegedly helps control is an amalgam of once-competing Chinese Triad groups that have variously worked with Australian bikies, South American cartels and European crime bosses, the newspaper added.

Australian Federal Police say he is the senior leader of the syndicate – called The Company – and is referred to as “Sam Gor” (Brother Number Three in Cantonese).

In 2019, Jeremy Douglas, Southeast Asia and Pacific representative for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told Reuters that Tse is “in the league of (fellow drug kingpins) El Chapo or maybe Pablo Escobar”.

The AFP did not name Tse in its statement but said the man arrested “is of significant interest to the AFP and other law enforcement agencies”.

“The syndicate targeted Australia over a number of years, importing and distributing large amounts of illicit narcotics, laundering the profits overseas and living off the wealth obtained from crime,” the agency said.

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‘Unacceptable’ vaccine delays cause frustration across European Union | World News

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European countries are growing increasingly frustrated with delays in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca told European Union officials that production problems will result in a 60% cut in deliveries of its Oxford vaccine to the bloc during the first quarter of this year.

This means EU member states will receive only 31 million doses during that period.

The Republic of Ireland said it may have to slow its vaccine rollout as a result of the shortage.

Micheal Martin, the Irish prime minister, told Irish broadcaster RTE that the delays would “put us in a problem”.

He added: “AstraZeneca was going to be the catalyst to be allowed to move from low level to mass vaccination.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine is yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, although it is expected to get regulatory approval next week.

European countries were already facing delays in shipments of the Pfizer vaccine while the pharmaceutical firm increases manufacturing capacity.

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‘No other nation has adopted’ 12-week approach

Also on Saturday, Italian prime minster Giuseppe Conte called the delays to the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine “unacceptable”.

Mr Conte wrote on Facebook that the delays “constitute serious contractual violations, which cause enormous damage to Italy and other European countries, with direct repercussions on the life and health of citizens”.

He also vowed to launch legal action against the pharmaceutical giant to ensure contractual commitments are met.

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COVID-19: Lebanon’s health service close to collapse with case numbers beyond ‘wildest predictions’ | World News

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The head of Lebanon’s main coronavirus hospital has said the country’s health system is close to collapse – with not enough beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators or staff.

In a stark interview with Sky News, Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax coronavirus restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and deaths over the past few weeks.

He allowed our cameras into the casualty department and the intensive care unit of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital in Beirut to see the pressure he and his staff are under.

Dr Abiad said all hospitals were reporting full, or almost full, intensive care units – and many have patients stuck in emergency wards, waiting for a bed.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse
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Dr Abiad said the government has thrown the healthcare system ‘into an abyss’

“Some patients are not able to find a bed and there’s been several cases where patients have died in their homes,” he said.

“If you look at the sharp rise in cases you see that Lebanon is really seeing unprecedented COVID numbers which is even beyond our wildest predictions.

“The number of daily new cases has almost quadrupled since where we were almost a month ago,” said Dr Abiad.

“At the same time we’ve seen that the number of deaths has also tripled and the number of patients in ICU has gone up by almost 100%.”

On 17 December, four days before a nationwide lockdown was due to end, the government decided to ease a series of restrictions for the holiday period.

Under intense pressure from businesses, they allowed nightclubs, bars and restaurants to open at 50% capacity while urging people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

But videos on social media over Christmas and New Year showed packed clubs and bars. No attempts were made to crackdown on the violations.

“It’s clear that those were catastrophic [decisions] and what has happened is they’ve thrown the whole healthcare system of the country into a major abyss,” said Dr Abiad.

In the casualty department, the pressures are obvious. There is a shortage of beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators and staff.

It is a relatively modern hospital but it looks sparse, except for the number of patients.

A nurse strokes a patient’s head.

“I am passing out… I am passing out,” he tells the nurse.

“No, no! You’re doing very well. Don’t be scared. Your oxygen is good. 99%. Honestly it’s very good,” she reassures him.

In the next bed is 53-year-old Aida Derawi. She first began to feel unwell 15 days ago. Her family had hoped she would recover at home, but this week things got worse.

“Yesterday I felt I couldn’t take it anymore,” she says. “My back and lungs were aching. My kids took me around to find a hospital but not a single one would accept me.”

Eventually space was found and she is improving slowly.

Nurse Hussein al Khazn tells us that in this wave of the virus, the patients are no longer predominately elderly.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse. Pic: Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad
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Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad is very much on Lebanon’s frontline

“Much younger now,” he says. “Before we had 50, 60-year-old patients.

“Now it’s 20, 25, 30-year-old patients and they’re very, very critical – all of them.”

On the other side of the city, we’re given access to the Lebanese Red Cross coordination centre.

In a well-organised control room, a team of volunteers is juggling telephone calls from patients’ families with radio calls to the ambulance teams on the ground.

“So, she’s ill with coronavirus?” a volunteer asks down the line. “So she’s got shortness of breath?”

A radio message is sent to one of the dispatch teams.

“We’re dispatched to a patient that tested positive for COVID and she’s currently suffering from desaturation and vomiting,” volunteer medic Waad Abdulaal says from the passenger seat of the ambulance.

“So we’re going to go ahead, assess her and see if there’s a need to take her to the hospital.”

Lebanon was already in a critical state economically.

Years of accumulative economic mismanagement has led to a slow collapse in every sector of society.

That was then exacerbated by the pandemic and the devastating port explosion last year.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse
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Ambulance crews carry an 80-year-old woman down a flight of stairs in darkness due to another power cut

Up several flights of a stairwell, in darkness because of yet another power cut, the Red Cross team reaches its patient.

Madame Imad is 80 years old. She tested positive last week and her diabetes is complicating her condition. She needs to go to hospital, but there is an issue finding a bed for her.

The positivity rate across the country this past week has been at 21% (the 14-day rolling average).

That means the community spread of the virus is out of control. It needs to be at 5% before there is any chance of regaining a grip of the crisis.

Calls are made and they think space has been found at a hospital nearby.

Madame Imad is carried down the stairs as her daughter Sophie looks straight into our camera and pleads: “Show them that there are people dying before they reach the hospital.”

The elderly woman did make it to the hospital. But she was sent home again. There were no beds. Her family has told us her condition this weekend has worsened.

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