News in brief (03/04/2013)
The church of Sint-Niklaas in the coastal town of Westkapelle was last week severely damaged by fire, probably started by work on the roof. The neo-Gothic church is a listed monument, with some parts dating to the ninth century and was last restored in the 1990s. The top of the church’s tower was completely destroyed, and the estimated cost of the damage is €7 million.
The city of Leuven will fund a new international school teaching in English for the children of students, researchers and staff at the university, the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology and the technical institute imec. About 10,000 foreigners live and work in Leuven. The new school should be operational from the start of the 2014-2015 academic year.
The port of Antwerp has been awarded the prestigious Environmental Ports Award for the second year in a row at the World Ports and Trade Summit in Abu Dhabi last week. The port picked up the award ahead of Rotterdam, Los Angeles, Gothenburg and Sydney. “This is an international recognition of the efforts of companies and authorities in the port of Antwerp in environment and sustainability,” said Port Authority CEO Eddy Bruyninckx.
A terror suspect who was shot dead by police after a car chase last week had been under investigation five years ago. Hakim Benladghem, a 39-year-old French national of Algerian origin, was killed after a chase on the A8 in Wallonia. Police later found a cache of arms in his Anderlecht apartment, including explosives. In 2008, he was investigated after being repeatedly detained on the Egyptian-Israeli border and weapons found at his home in Brussels. But the investigation never proceeded, for reasons that remain unclear.
The president of Myanmar has ordered 100 refrigerated milk tankers from the West Flanders manufacturer Packo. The order is the latest success for a Flemish company in the former military-controlled country and was announced last week during a visit by Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters to Myanmar. A planned meeting between Peeters and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi had to be cancelled at the last minute because of religious unrest in the area.
Rail authority NMBS is looking into the possibility of installing automatic doors activated by ticket holders to restrict access to station platforms, in an attempt to reduce the number of cases of aggression on board trains. A recent report revealed that seven out of 10 cases of violence against rail staff start with an argument about tickets.
Theme park Plopsaland in De Panne has produced a brochure explaining to care workers for the mentally and physically handicapped the restrictions to the park’s attractions. Last year Plopsaland received criticism after it refused a girl with Down’s Syndrome entry to the water-flume ride. The booklet explains the physical requirements for the more risky rides and cuts the number of those closed to the physically handicapped from 19 to nine. Staff will also receive extra training.
Flemish nature minister Joke Schauvliege has awarded this year’s Rudi Verheyen Prize to Professor Martin Hermy of the University of Leuven, for his research on plant diversity as a basis for nature management policy. Hermy is head of the university’s Woodland, Nature and Landscape department and has taken part in more than 60 research projects on plant diversity. The prize, worth €8,000, is named after the Antwerp university professor and founder of the Institute for Sustainable Development and has been awarded annually since 2003.
Residents in Assenede, East Flanders, will appeal a decision by Flemish environment minister Joke Schauvliege to grant an environmental permit to a pig farm in the town to allow them to expand their capacity from 1,200 to 14,600 pigs, as well as nearly 6,400 piglets. The farm has also been given permission to process 20,000 tonnes of manure, and residents said they had no confidence that the conditions on smell nuisance could be met.
The Bio Safety Council, made up of representatives of regional and federal governments, has approved the continuation of field experiments into genetically modified crops, including poplar trees and corn. The council said the risk to health and to the environment were “virtually non-existent” as long as strict controls were in force. In Zwijnaarde, East Flanders, the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology is overseeing a trial of 448 poplar trees engineered to produce less lignine, which makes them easier to convert into bio-fuels.
Animal rights group Gaia is filing a legal complaint against the Leuven student club Reuzegom after they posted a video on Facebook in which a student is seen shooting a piglet. The students, as part of an initiation rite, then cooked and ate the pig. The video has since been removed from Facebook but can still be seen on the Gaia website. Previously, Reuzegom had denied Gaia’s allegation that new members were made to keep a rabbit for a semester before killing it with their own hands.