» Authorities in Pakistan have confirmed one more polio case in Sindh province, bringing the total number of cases to eight in 2008. The country has reported 19 polio cases in the past six

Four people were killed and close to 5,000 forced out of their homes amid heavy rain and flooding in central and southern Chile, and the evacuation figure could rise further, the government said on Thursday. Of those killed, two died in landslides, one was struck by a boulder and another was hit by a falling tree. Television images showed streets turned into rivers in the port town of Valparaiso, where 93 mm (3.7 inches) of rain fell in 24 hours during two storm fronts.

A paper and pulp mill, operating in southern Chile, has pitted a group of fisherfolk against its neighbours and is trying to get away by installing a controversial pipeline to dump waste water from

A towering cloud of hot ash, gas and molten rock spewed miles into the air by a volcano in southern Chile has partially collapsed, raising fears it could smother surrounding villages, an expert said on Tuesday. Luis Lara, a scientist with the government's geology and mining agency, said the column of ash, which had soared as high as 20 miles (30 km), was now about 4.5 miles (7 km). The column of debris, kept aloft by the pressure of constant eruptions, could collapse entirely, smothering the ghost town of Chaiten 6 miles (10 km) away with hot gas, ash and molten rocks.

Experts believe Chile's Chaiten volcano could continue belching out vast clouds of ash for months but distraught residents evacuated from nearby towns say they yearn to return as soon as possible. Ash that has reached as far as Argentina continued to spew for a sixth day on Wednesday, disrupting flights to the southern Patagonia region with no sign of let-up. "Everything is so uncertain," said Patricio Ide, 40, who was evacuated from the remote village of Chaiten to Puerto Montt, 125 miles (200 km) away from the volcano.

Crackling with explosions, Chile's Chaiten volcano began spitting lava on Tuesday following its first eruption in thousands of years, and Navy warships were deployed to evacuate nearby residents in the southern region of Patagonia. Chaiten erupted last Friday, sending a towering plume of ash into the sky that has since coated the surrounding area of southern Chile and reached into neighboring Argentina.

Chile prepared to evacuate another town in its remote Patagonian south on Monday, as ash spewed from a snowcapped volcano for a fourth day after its first eruption in thousands of years. President Michelle Bachelet made her way to the small town of Futaleufu, the second town to be evacuated, as residents packed what belongings they could carry. Futaleufu lies around 810 miles (1,300 km) south of the capital Santiago and 100 miles (160 km) southeast of the erupting Chaiten volcano, which is some distance from Chile's vital mining industry further north.

Covered in thick ash, the Patagonian community of Chaiten was a ghost town on Saturday as a volcano spewed ash a day after its first eruption in thousands of years forced nearly 4,500 people to flee. Authorities have evacuated most of the southern Chilean town's residents since Friday, sending many by boat to Chiloe Island farther north and to Puerto Montt on the mainland. Some are staying in guesthouses, while schools have been turned into makeshift shelters packed with stores of bottled water after a blanket of volcanic ash contaminated ground water.

Some 1,500 people were evacuated late Friday as the Chaiten volcano in southern Chile erupted, hurling hot rocks and belching clouds of ash into the sky. The thick clouds of ash that covered the region also spread to towns in the southern Argentine province of Chubut, where authorities closed schools and issued warnings due to low visibility on some roads. Yet despite the fireworks at the volcano, located some 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) south of Santiago, there were no reports of casualties or damage, Chile's Office of National Emergencies reported.

European gas oil prices set a new high above $1,000 a tonne on Tuesday, boosted by a fire in a key European refinery last week and unexpectedly strong demand. Power blackouts in South Africa, Chile and China have forced many companies to run diesel generators to offset electricity supply interruptions, while a harsh winter in south-east Asia has boosted heating oil demand. ICE April gas oil futures hit a record $1,017 a tonne on Tuesday, up 1.3 per cent on the day and 21.2 per cent since the start of the year.

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