The tail of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 has been found in the Java Sea, raising hopes that the craft’s black boxes will be found. Pictures of the tail taken by divers have also been released. The AirAsia craft disappeared while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore on 28 December, with 162 passengers on board. While approximately 40 bodies and some debris have previously been recovered, the discovery of the tail marks the first significant piece of wreckage to be found by investigators. It is thought that the bodies of many passengers may still be trapped in the main body of the plane. No survivors have been found. Rescue efforts have been hampered by poor weather, while strong underwater currents have carried wreckage away from the plane’s last known location, causing investigators to expand the current search area. Poor weather has also been suggested as a cause of the crash, with the plane requesting to change course shortly before its disappearance.
The Labour Party has called for an emergency summit to help address the growing problems facing Britain’s A&E services. The party has called for health, social care, council and emergency services to convene in order to better deal with the pressures mounting on A&E departments across England. Alleviating pressure in A&E services has become a priority after the National Health Service (NHS) in England reported on Tuesday that its A&E services had experienced its greatest failure to meet waiting time targets in over a decade, with targets missed for the past three months of 2014. Several hospitals also declared ‘major incidents’ over the pressures faced, cancelling non-emergency operations in some cases. The Labour Party has put the NHS at the heart of its general election campaign. In a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham suggested that cuts to social care had helped fuel the growing number of elderly patients visiting A&E and being forced to stay in hospitals.
The Hong Kong government has continued to give its support for the policy of pre-screening candidates for the region’s presidential elections in an official consultation on political reform. Just weeks after the country’s waning pro-democracy protests were brought to an end by the authorities, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Wednesday sought to frame the debate as a discussion of how a Beijing-approved pre-screening committee could operate, rather than question the committee itself. The requirement for candidates to be pre-screened came from a ruling in Beijing in August – a ruling that helped to spark the growth of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. Lam warned lawmakers that failure to approve the plans could lead to the postponement of electoral reform to 2022. Some pro-democracy lawmakers left the Legislative Council building as Lam rose to speak.
The crisis facing A&E departments in the NHS dominates front pages today, with the story making the headlines in the majority of papers. The Times writes in its headline that “Helpline blunders” have helped to cause the “NHS meltdown”, quoting one expert who claims that the rise in patients attending A&E could be attributed to call handlers working in the NHS’ 111 telephone helpline service needlessly recommending patients use A&E services. The Independent leads with the headline “In critical condition”, with its front page featuring data and diagrams illustrating the extent of the crisis. The paper writes that “chronic under-investment in social care” has contributed to a rising number of elderly people using NHS services. The NHS is also the top story in the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Metro and Daily Mirror. Cheaper energy makes the headlines elsewhere, with the Daily Telegraph leading with Chancellor George Osborne’s recommendation that “Energy bills must start to fall now”. With fuel prices falling, the Chancellor has pressured gas companies and airlines to “pass on benefits of falling prices to families”. The Guardian writes of Osborne’s “warning shot” to the companies in its headline, writing that the Chancellor is ‘taking on’ Labour with his actions, while the price of petrol is already falling. The Financial Times focuses on the upcoming Greek election in its headline, writing that “hard-left party” Syriza, currently ahead in opinion polls, has pledged to clamp down on ‘oligarchs’, beginning with those in the media, should it win the election.
British Media on China
On Hong Kong: while details of Hong Kong’s consultation on electoral form have not yet been covered by the British media, stories from the city have received coverage from the BBC and Financial Times. The BBC features a report from before the consultation began, writing that pro-democracy lawmakers “have vowed to veto” proposals they feel to fall short of “genuine” democracy. The FT’s coverage reports that Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest leaders “face prosecution”, after key figures from the protests were “asked to turn themselves in to police” to potentially face prosecution. The list is known to include protest leaders Alex Chow and Joshua Wong, the paper writes.