Your Monday Briefing: Rescue Efforts End in India Train Crash

Officials investigating one of the deadliest train wrecks in India’s history were focusing on the possibility that a signal failure had caused the disaster. The crash in the eastern state of Odisha on Friday left at least 275 people dead, and more than 1,100 injured, in what officials in a preliminary government report described as a “three-way accident” involving two passenger trains and an idle freight train.

Rescue efforts ended, and all derailed cars were removed from the tracks, but families of the victims were still struggling to reach the site of the wreck to claim the bodies of their loved ones — a journey complicated by a lack of train service. Officials said a majority of the bodies remained unidentified.

Some survivors of the crash said their train was packed with hundreds of migrant laborers, students and daily wage workers who were shoulder to shoulder — and mostly standing — in at least three general compartments when the collision occurred.

Investigation: Officials investigating the crash were focusing on why the electronic signal system used to prevent accidents did not work as intended. They have promised punishment and initiated a high-level inquiry, suggesting that human error and sabotage have not been ruled out.

Context: The disaster renewed longstanding questions about safety in a rail system that transports more than eight billion passengers a year. It also cast a pall over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to modernize India’s infrastructure, which he has made central to his campaign for a third term.

For decades, Hong Kong was the only place in China where the victims of the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, could be publicly mourned. This year, Hong Kong is notable for the ways in which the region is being made to forget.

In the days before the June 4 anniversary of the massacre, even small shops that displayed items alluding to it received multiple visits from the police. Over the weekend, thousands of officers patrolled the Causeway Bay district, where the vigil is normally held, and set up tents to search anybody suspected of trying to mourn the events.

“For us Tiananmen survivors, losing Hong Kong — this very important place that shielded history and truth — is very painful,” said Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader of the Tiananmen Square protest.

Background: In 1989, the democracy movement in China drew huge support from Hong Kong, then a British colony. After the Chinese military cleared student protesters occupying Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds and possibly thousands, some student leaders in Beijing were smuggled to safety via Hong Kong.

Russian forces fired cruise missiles and attack drones at targets across Ukraine overnight, and a 2-year-old girl was killed in the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukrainian officials said. Blasts were reported in Russian-occupied Melitopol and Berdiansk, two Ukrainian cities that analysts say could be targets of the counteroffensive. The authorities in occupied Crimea said they had intercepted nine Ukrainian drones overnight.

After months of preparations, Ukrainian officials have said in recent days that Kyiv’s forces are ready to launch the counteroffensive, and President Volodymyr Zelensky took the unusual step in a speech of thanking a dozen soldiers by name for their service to their country.

Related: Curriculums in Russian schools are increasingly emphasizing patriotism and the heroism of Moscow’s army, and demonizing the West.

Mauritania has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, with some people marrying as many as 20 times throughout their lives.

But when a marriage ends in this Muslim-majority nation, there’s no stigma, shame or sorrow. For centuries, women have been coming together to eat, sing and dance at one another’s divorce parties. Now the custom is being updated for the selfie generation, with inscribed cakes and social media montages, as well as traditional food and music.

After years of ignored pleas and stonewalled requests, deals were finally coming together to return the scores of sculptures, plaques and ornaments known as the Benin Bronzes, which British soldiers plundered in 1897 from Benin City, in what is now Nigeria but was once the center of a kingdom. A museum was being built to showcase and protect the returned treasures.

But that plan has run aground since Nigeria’s outgoing president said in March that he had transferred ownership of the treasures to a direct descendant of the ruler they had been stolen from.

The idea of passing the treasures into private hands has prompted anxiety among some museum officials, but others in the museum sector have said Western institutions should not interfere in the discussion.

At a moment when museums worldwide are trying to come to grips with contested artifacts in their collections, the development underscores how complex restitution efforts can be.


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