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story.lead_photo.caption A man looks at wreckage after a helicopter crashed into the front of a cargo truck Monday during an emergency landing, on a main highway in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 66-year-old Brazilian television news anchor Ricardo Boechat and the pilot perished in the accident. Police say the truck driver suffered only minor injuries.

Fire at New Delhi hotel kills 17 people

NEW DELHI -- At least 17 people have died in a fire at a hotel in western New Delhi, police said.

At least four others were injured in this morning's blaze at the Arpit Palace Hotel, Deputy Police Commissioner Mandeep Singh Randhawa said. Their medical conditions were not immediately known.

The hotel is located in Karol Bagh, an area in India's capital city that's full of shops and budget hotels and is popular with tourists.

Fire officer Vijay Paul said 25 fire engines responded to the blaze, which had engulfed all but the ground floor of the five-story hotel.

The fire has been extinguished, but authorities were letting the building cool before investigating what sparked it.

About three dozen people were rescued from the hotel, Paul said.

Wildfire threat fades in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- About 3,000 people who fled as a wildfire threatened a New Zealand town were allowed to return home Monday as firefighting conditions improved.

Another 400 residents living in valleys near the fire aren't yet able to return, although officials hope they will be able to soon.

Firefighters say they've gained the upper hand over the blaze thanks to favorable weather conditions. The forest fire began nearly a week ago on the South Island and burned 5,700 acres. It burned down one house and prompted evacuations beginning Friday.

"It's a large fire, and the fact that we're able to get residents back into Wakefield this afternoon is extremely positive news," said Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi.

He said residents who return need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions change. But he added that he's hopeful valley residents will also be able to return home soon.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the fire as "extraordinary" and "fairly unprecedented."

"The feedback that we've had from those who were at the frontline of this fire was that there was a real intensity to this fire, that the drought-like conditions they're experiencing contributed to that," Ardern said.

About 190 firefighters, 10 helicopters and two planes were deployed to battle the fire. No significant rainfall is forecast in the area over the next two weeks, and authorities say they expect they will need to keep dampening down hotspots until March.

Authorities believe the fire was started by sparks from farm equipment.

Australia and New Zealand have been experiencing a hot Southern Hemisphere summer.

Australia sweltered through its hottest month on record in January and there have been wildfires razing the south and flooding in the tropical north. New Zealand's weather hasn't been as extreme, although it did experience a heatwave over the last few days of January.

India's bootleg-liquor death toll rises

LUCKNOW, India -- Police say the death toll in northern India from tainted bootleg liquor has risen to 79 people.

Uttar Pradesh state police officer Ashok Kumar said Monday that 49 people died in two separate incidents in that state while 30 people who consumed a toxic brew in neighboring Uttarakhand state also died.

Examinations found that the liquor contained methanol, commonly called wood alcohol, a chemical that attacks the central nervous system.

Uttar Pradesh government spokesman Awanish Awasthi said more than 3,000 people have been arrested in a drive against tainted liquor since Saturday.

Bootleg liquor operations flourish in rural India, where many people can't afford to buy alcohol from state-approved shops.

Producers often mix liquor with cheap chemicals to increase potency and profit.

Thai king's sister barred from politics

BANGKOK -- Thailand's Election Commission on Monday disqualified the sister of the country's king from becoming a candidate for prime minister in next month's general election, saying all royals have to be above politics and the monarchy must remain politically neutral.

The commission's decision came after her brother issued an order describing Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's political bid as inappropriate and unconstitutional.

The Thai Raksa Chart Party last Friday registered Ubolratana as its candidate, defying precedent against royal involvement in politics.

Her choice of party was notable because the party is associated with the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup after being accused of abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy.

A royal order late Friday night from King Maha Vajiralongkorn said tradition and law barred the princess from politics.

Ubolratana's involvement was seen as a challenge to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a 2014 military coup and is favored to win the March 24 election, which 55 parties are contesting. The military, a bitter foe of the exiled Thaksin, is closely allied to the palace.

Thai Raksa Chart on Saturday hastily issued a statement declaring its loyalty to the king and acceptance of his order, though it was technically too late to withdraw Ubolratana's candidacy.


Ships take part in the Pakistani navy’s Multinational Exercise AMAN-19, near Karachi, Pakistan, on Monday. A five-day multinational exercise hosted by Pakistan has begun near the southern port city of Karachi aimed at enhancing cooperation in keeping the seas safe from pirates, terrorists and smugglers.

A Section on 02/12/2019

Print Headline: 152 Mexico priests removed in 9 years Wildfire threat fades in New Zealand India's bootleg-liquor death toll rises Thai king's sister barred from politics

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