Thousands flocked to a Roman Catholic church on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion over the weekend after believers said they saw the "face of Christ" in the pleats of a church cushion.

Church officials limited access to the Jesus-Misericordieux church in eastern Saint-Andre's Cambuston district to a few minutes per visitor as traffic in the area ground to a halt.

Believers and curious onlookers pulled out cameras to take pictures of the cushion attached to the priest's chair.

A group of about 30 parishioners who had joined a Christian ceremony ahead of the Easter holiday had been the first to notice the particular setting of the cushion.

"This is not a miracle, it's a sign of God," said parish priest Daniel Gavard.

Reunion Bishop Gilbert Aubry has so far not commented on the occurrence which came within days of outbursts of violence over the high cost of living on the island whose economy depends on tourism and subsidies from the French state. (AFP)

Six hurt in reality show audition

Six women received medical treatment and three people were arrested after a stampede as thousands waited in New York on Saturday to audition for the reality show America's Next Top Model.

A New York Police Department official said two women and a man were arrested on charges of inciting to riot and disorderly conduct.

Wins radio reported that chaos erupted outside a Manhattan hotel after a car belching smoke pulled up near the line of women in the afternoon, leading to a cry of "fire" that sparked panic. Witnesses said the situation was compounded when a man leapt from a car and began grabbing women's purses.

Police said six women in the crowd were treated after complaining of feeling faint. Some of the women had lined up all night to audition for the show that airs on the CW network and stars former model Tyra Banks. (Reuters)

Toilet robber gets the cash

A hooded man robbed a bank in the Cyprus capital last weekend after breaking in through a window and hiding in the toilet until it opened for business, Cyprus police said.

The robber escaped with €17,500 and €7,190 after rushing out of the toilet and threatening a cashier and two customers with a gun, officials at the Kaimakli Co-op branch said. Police said they were investigating why the alarm failed to go off when the man broke in.

"When the branch opened, and as the cashier went to put money in the till, a hooded man approached her from behind and took the money at gunpoint. It seems the alarm did not work," Nicosia deputy police chief Sotiris Kotsikas said.

A member of the public gave chase after seeing what had happened but to no avail, although the fleeing robber did drop his gun which turned out to be a fake. (AFP)

Albino killings

Burundi has arrested eight people found with human bones suspected of belonging to albinos, a government official said yesterday.

The east African nation and neighbouring Tanzania have been convulsed by a spate of ritual albino murders fuelled by a body parts trade. Witchdoctors tell clients that albino parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

Nicodeme Gahimbare, a public prosecutor in Ruyigi province, said: "The eight were denounced by two other detained people who have already confessed to killing two albinos."

Since last year, 11 albinos have been killed in Burundi. Forty others have been murdered in Tanzania since mid-2007. There are about 200 albinos in the nation of eight million people. Albinism is a condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin or hair, which makes patients especially vulnerable to skin cancer and makes life particularly difficult in sun-drenched Africa. (Reuters)

Driving through the Northwest Passage

Scientists preparing for the exploration of Mars are planning history's first car drive through the fabled Northwest Passage, a trip to provide data on global warming and man's potential impact on other planets.

The trip using a modified armoured Humvee vehicle will provide data about the thickness of winter ice in the waterway through Canada's high Arctic. The scientists also hope to learn more about what happens to the microbes left behind by humans as they explore remote areas.

Long sought as a faster route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Northwest Passage was first traversed by ship in 1906 by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, a trip that took three years to complete.

This 1,000-mile trip, if successful, would mark the first time a land vehicle crossed the passage. (Reuters)

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