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April 21 - 27 2010
Continued from page 1 north-east away from Britain and continental Europe.
Meanwhile, British Airways on Sunday night challenged the blanket ban on flights as its chief executive took to the skies to test the effects of volcanic ash on its aircraft.
BA became the latest airline to challenge the necessity of the no-fly zone imposed by British air traffic authorities amid claims that they had “overreacted”.
The blanket ban was imposed last Thursday by Nats, the national air traffic control service, in line with advice laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in 1982.
Guidelines were brought in after a near-disaster involving a British Airways flight over Indonesia which lost power to all four engines.
But those opposed to the ban claim the aircraft was affected only because it flew directly through the volcanic plume. Defending its decision, Nats said the ash cloud over Britain ‘‘remained dynamic’’.
Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, joined four crew in a three-hour test flight from London, over the Atlantic, to Cardiff and the airline will study the effects of the flight on engines before concluding whether it is safe to fly.
A spokesman for British Airways said that the 550-mile test flight had been completed in two hours 46 minutes, at a range of altitudes. The conditions were perfect and the aircraft encountered no difficulties. “It will now undergo a full technical analysis,” the spokesman added.
The airlines KLM and Lufthansa had earlier carried out a test flight through the ash cloud over Dutch airspace and a KLM spokesman said: “We have not found… irregularities, which indicates the atmosphere is clean and safe to fly.”
The ban on flights was due to run until 7pm on Monday at the earliest. The test flight came as Gordon Brown called a ministerial meeting amid suggestions the Government had been too slow to react.
Five ministers – Lord Mandelson, Lord Adonis, Tessa Jowell, David Miliband and Lord West – lined up outside No10 after the talks to announce plans for Spain to be used as a transport ‘‘hub’’ to try to get British travellers back home.
Spain’s airspace was opened up on Sunday night and plans were being made for British airline passengers to fly into Spain before being placed on ships to take them back to Britain.
Amid accusations of exploiting stranded passengers, Eurostar was charging a minimum £223 for a single ticket from Paris to London in the next two days, more than three times the £69 for a return journey in two weeks’ time, while Virgin Trains was charging £93 for the cheapest available oneway fare from London to Glasgow, more than double the May 13 price.
At Heathrow, the cheapest room at the Crowne Plaza hotel last Thursday night was £355, compared with the usual lowest rate of £99.
Feature, page 18 Editorial comment, page 19
Sound of silence: enjoying a quiet
Neil Tweedie On Kew Green
THEY were playing cricket on Kew Green on Sunday. Nothing unusual in that – the furniture of summer is being put in place in increasingly leafy south-west London.
The spring blooms are out in the Royal Botanical Gardens, and with them the tourists. The ice-cream van outside the gate is again a goldmine.
There was one odd thing, though: the thwack of leather on willow. You could hear it.
You don’t hear much when outdoors in daytime Kew, except for the products of Rolls-Royce, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Not true, actually – there’s always the traffic, the Heathrow flight path’s one serious competitor. But it’s the planes the newcomer notices: one after another, every couple of minutes or so, 1,300 times every 24 hours, a relentless, heavenly procession of noisy aircraft, a Berlin Airlift every day.
If you like spotting airliners, Kew is the place for you. True, the aircraft descending into London Heathrow, the world’s busiest international airport, are no longer as romantic in their lines as the early jetliners, the Comets and VC10s. All podgy, twin-turbofanned, wide-body jobs now, interspersed with the occasional four-engined Boeing 747 or doubledecker Airbus A380. But there are lots of them.
The dawn chorus strikes up with the first hint of light – a Qantas jumbo just in from Sydney or an early-bird, transatlantic red-eye. Find yourself awake at 5am in Kew and you may as well get the bacon and eggs on, because you will, in all likelihood, not be going back to sleep. The same is true for the inhabitants of much of south-east England – in aviation terms (and indeed in any other terms) one of the most congested places on the planet.
Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton: who among their millions of unwilling neighbours has not wished occasionally for some kind of harmless emergency capable of stilling the tumult for at least a while. And then…
We have the Norse gods to thank, of course; the ones in charge of the great volcano near the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland. Sick of being taken for granted by an unbelieving world, they have decided to teach humanity a thing or two about its true place in the order of things. Which turns out to be nowhere near as exalted as we thought. The Tory parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith (who is using the contents of his freshly domiciled wallet to push leaflets through the letterboxes of hapless Kewites at a frequency rivalling Heathrow’s arrivals) is one of those campaigning against a third runway at the airport.
He has found an unlikely ally in Eyjafjallajökull, which last vomited its way into human consciousness in 1821, and seems in no hurry to go back to sleep. And as Goldsmith has found an ally, so have the longsuffering people of Kew.
Of course, Thor, Wodin and the rest will eventually tire of their fun and put the volcano back to its dormant state. The 737s, 747s, 767s and 777s will return, and the air will once again resonate to the sound of people struggling home after a week’s unexpected encounter with the delights of Frankfurt airport.
But that is how it should be. People in Kew (not this one) are mostly well within the one percentage point defining the luckiest people in Britain (in material terms at least). Most of them won’t agree with this, but putting up with a bit of noise is the least they can do for their less fortunate countrymen.
By Richard Edwards Crime Correspondent AN 18-MONTH-OLD girl was “ripped apart like a doll” by a dog in a horrific attack at a family home.
Zumer Ahmed died after being savaged by a large, white American bulldog that belonged to her uncle.
It is not a breed that is banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act but the dog’s owner, Urfan Ahmed, was questioned by police on suspicion of manslaughter and has been bailed.
Zumer was with her mother, grandmother, and three-yearold sister last Saturday when the animal ran into the kitchen of the house in Crawley, West Sussex, and bit into her face and skull.
Two plumbers working on a nearby property went to the child’s aid after hearing screams. They distracted the dog, which was waist height to an adult, and prised the toddler from its jaws.
A friend of the workers, called Arthur and Saquib, said: “When they got in the house the family were just in complete shock and the dog had the child in its mouth.
“There was blood everywhere and apparently the dog had the girl in its mouth like it was a doll. The dog had ripped nearly all of the flesh off her skull, which was covered in teeth marks. The dog was licking up the blood.”
Zumer was taken to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly afterwards. Her parents, Nazir and Saira Ahmed, were said to be utterly distraught.
The 32-year-old uncle lived at the address but was not home at the time. It is understood Mr Ahmed kept four dogs in the garden of the terraced property.
Ana Andrade, 35, a neighbour, said: “His dogs were so well behaved. He would always be teaching them. They were like big teddy bears. This is such a shock. He is such a responsible owner.”
By James Quinn in New York GOLDMAN Sachs has been charged with fraud in the United States after allegations that it misled investors who hoped to make money from betting on toxic “sub-prime” mortgages. Wall Street’s most profitable investment bank is accused of misinforming clients by failing to tell them that one of its traders was betting against the very loans they were hoping would rise in value.
Royal Bank of Scotland was the biggest victim of the alleged fraud, losing £545 million in August 2008.
The mis-selling was allegedly carried out by Fabrice Tourre, a 31-year-old bond trader who worked in the bank’s head office in New York.
He and Goldman Sachs have been charged with two civil counts of securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US’s leading financial regulator.
In an email to a friend, Mr Tourre, who is still employed by the bank and now lives in London, referred to himself as the “fabulous Fab” and allegedly wrote that “the whole building is about to collapse anytime now”.
Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s enforcement director, said:
“The product was new and complex but the deception and conflicts are old and simple.
“Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party.”
The bank denies the charges, which it described as “completely unfounded in law”. “We will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation,” it added.