News briefs

French rail worker strike over reforms

French railway workers are to go on strike as unions continue to protest against planned labour reforms.

This is expected to further disrupt a transport network already suffering from a shortage of fuel.

French President Francois Hollande has insisted he will not back down over the reforms, which aim to make it easier to recruit and dismiss employees.

Public sector workers in neighbouring Belgium are also going on strike on Tuesday over budget cuts.

The national strike there will see police officers, teachers and some civil servants join train drivers and prison guards, who are already on strike.

As well as budget cutbacks, the unions are protesting against changes to working hours and a rise in the retirement age.

In France, further transport disruption is likely later in the week as Paris metro staff are due to begin indefinite action on Thursday and Air France pilots have voted to strike over pay.

On Monday, six of France’s eight oil refineries were still halted or running at reduced capacity due to union action.

Workers at the oil terminal in the northern port of Le Havre, which supplies Paris’s two main airports, have voted to extend their blockade until Wednesday.

17 Soldiers die in Indian army depot fire

Seventeen Indian soldiers have been killed in a massive fire at a military ammunition depot in western Maharashtra state, army officials say.

The fire in the depot at Pulgaon near Nagpur triggered a number of explosions, leading to the evacuation of people from neighbouring villages.

Firefighters are trying to put out the blaze, in which at least 19 people have also been injured. The dead include two army officers

The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The fire broke out early on Tuesday and spread quickly through the depot.

Reports said about 1,000 villagers had been evacuated as shells and splinters ripped through the area.

There have been several such incidents at army ammunition depots in recent years.

In 2010, a fire at one of the largest depots in eastern Panagarh triggered a series of explosions but caused no injuries.

 

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