Friday, 30 January 2015

Kathore Link Road accident: 25 bodies handed over to heirs after DNA identification

The bodies of 20 victims of the Kathore Link Road accident were handed over to their families on Thursday, after their identification through the DNA tests.

As many as 62 people were burned alive when the Shikarpur-bound Geo al-Shoaib Coach collided with a tanker on January 11. The victims had been burned beyond recognition.

According to sources, the identification of 25 victims was successfully completed, however, only 20 of the victims’ heirs showed up at the Edhi morgue to receive them.

Sources said that the samples taken for the DNA were not sent to the National Forensic Science Agency as it delays the process. “The samples were sent to a private laboratory in Islamabad and the provincial government bore the expenses,” claimed a health official.

The provincial authorities, meanwhile, came under the flak once again as they had not made any arrangements for the bodies to be transported with the families. Only after media personnel started reporting the mismanagement, did the provincial government send officials to the spot.

Friday 30 January 2015

continue reading

Cops to electronically screen photos of unclaimed bodies

In order to help identify unclaimed bodies, the North region of the Mumbai police, extending from Goregaon to Dahisar, is planning to electronically display photographs of unidentified bodies in public. The drive, according to the officials, is to curtail the increasing number of unclaimed bodies the department is faced with every year.A few weeks ago, the North region of the police had launched a public awareness vehicle to spread awareness among the people about several criminal activities happening in the neighbourhood. The vehicle, a towing vehicle converted into an awareness vehicle is fitted with projector screen that has replaced cranes and comes with a microphone and other necessary electronic equipments.

In order to help identify unclaimed bodies, the North region of the Mumbai police, extending from Goregaon to Dahisar, is planning to electronically display photographs of unidentified bodies in public. The drive, according to the officials, is to curtail the increasing number of unclaimed bodies the department is faced with every year.A few weeks ago, the North region of the police had launched a public awareness vehicle to spread awareness among the people about several criminal activities happening in the neighbourhood. The vehicle, a towing vehicle converted into an awareness vehicle is fitted with projector screen that has replaced cranes and comes with a microphone and other necessary electronic equipments.

A source from the department said that starting next week, the officers plan to screen the photographs of the bodies along with photographs of the belongings through the projector in busy roads, market places and railway stations.

One of the senior inspectors of the region said, "We have received intimation about this from the regional office. They have asked for photographs from all the 17 police stations in the region. We are sending the photos with description of every incident."

Sources from the department said the drive, which will be launched next week, will have the photographs displayed electronically as a slide show, accompanied by the necessary description of the deceased, and the time and spot the body was found at. Another source from the North regional office said, "We will also have somebody announcing the description. The idea is to get people to identify the bodies so they are claimed. All the bodies were found in 2014."

He added that so far 100 photographs have been received by the regional office and about 100 more are awaited. He added that gory pictures of bodies will be filtered as much as possible as the viewing will be in public spaces.Another senior official from the northern region, however, said that since some of the photographs may put off the citizens, cops plan to display pictures of only those who have died of cancer. "We will be displaying only a few graphic pictures whereby the person has died of cancer due to consumption of tobacco products. This is to bring awareness among the masses about ill effects of tobacco," he added.The vehicle is currently being used by the North region police to spread awareness about drug abuse, road safety, street crime and so on.

Friday 30 January 2015

continue reading

38 illegal migrants feared dead as trawler capsizes

At least 38 people are feared dead after an overcrowded fishing trawler, carrying Malaysia-bound illegal migrants, capsized in the Kutubdia channel of the Bay of Bengal in the early hours yesterday.

Rescuers managed to bring ashore 42 people alive including six suspected human traffickers, while later in the day the sunken vessel was also located and dragged towards the shores of Kutubdia island.

Although it is common for a large number of people to seek illegal passage to Malaysia through marine routes from Chittagong every year, such large scale accidents at sea are uncommon in the bay.

Quoting rescued victims, Kutubdia police station Officer-in-Charge Ongshuth Whoyai said the 30-feet long Malaysia-bound trawler, FV Idris, capsized at the southwestern part of Kutubdia channel with about 80 people on board at around 5am.

Receiving the information, Coast Guard ships Towhid and Tanvir along with four metal shark boats, and Bangladesh Navy ships Oporajeyo and Otondro rushed to the spot and rescued 31 people including four suspected traffickers, said Bangladesh Coast Guard (East) Zonal Commander Captain Shahidul Islam.

Meanwhile, Maheshkhali police rescued 11 more people including two suspected traffickers from Matarbari channel, said Maheshkhali OC Alamgir Hossain.

As of filing this report at 9pm, rescue efforts were still going on at the site of the trawler capsize, while the Coast Guard said they would continue searching for survivors throughout the night.

Six of the rescued migrants were admitted to the Kutubdia Upazila Health Complex in critical conditions, said Kutubdia Upazila Health Officer Dr Mohammad Sahabuddin; but he assured that they were now out of danger.

The rescue teams also traced the trawler at around 3pm and brought it near the shore of Kutubdia island an hour later.

According to the rescued victims, who were mostly from Jessore, Bogra, Madaripur, Narayanganj and other northern districts, the FV Idris was not the initial vessel used in their illegal journey to Malaysia.

At first, the traffickers reportedly had around 50 people climb into a different larger vessel at Chittagong’s Majhirghat and started their journey at 11pm on Wednesday. Around 30 more people were picked up from Chittagong’s Banshkhali and Cox’s Bazar’s Pekua, before the vessel arrived at Kutubdia channel at dawn.

Later, all the illegal migrants were crammed into FV Idris, which soon began to sway heavily because of the rough waves and eventually started to sink.

“After swimming for about four hours, Coast Guard personnel rescued us,” said 30-year old Abul Kalam, one of those rescued from the scene.

Another of the rescued, 27-year-old Mohammad Shahadat, said he gave traffickers around Tk1 lakh for going to Malaysia and to secure a job there.

“We were kept in a congested place in the trawler [by the traffickers] and suffered from a shortage of drinking water,” he said.

Police sources at Kutubdia and Maheshkhali said the suspected traffickers who were rescued from the water are Obaidul Haq, Nur Mohammad, Mohammad Ismail Mohammad Yiasin, Tayeb Hossain and Mohammad Rasel.

However, the suspects claimed to be innocent victims who only wanted to go to Malaysia like the others. Two of the suspects – Tayeb and Rasel – said they were cooks in the trawler and helped the boatmen sail.

8 bodies recovered

The bodies of eight fortune seekers, who went missing after an overcrowded fishing trawler, carrying Malaysia-bound illegal migrants, capsized in the Bay of Bengal on Thursday, have been recovered on Friday.

Kutubdia police station Officer-in-Charge Onshu Thoay told the Dhaka Tribune that a joint team of Navy, Coast Guard and local rescuers recovered the bodies around 12 noon.

Coast Guard Public Relation Officer Lt Commander M Rajibul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: "We have pulled the bodies out after searching the rescued trawler and the areas around the point where the trawler sank. Five bodies were inside the trawler while three were in the Bay water."

Trafficking through sea routes

According to a report by the police headquarters’ Anti-Human Trafficking Special Committee, a total 3,793 people were rescued from Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong over the last five years, while around 15,000-20,000 people were trafficked to Thailand and Malaysia in the past decade alone.

The report also found that human traffickers were most active in 60 points of coastal areas under Patuakhali, Barguna, Satkhira, Jhalakati, Khulna, Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, while their agents were influential in 41 districts.

The committee also observed that human trafficking tendency reached the peak during November to April as the sea was more calm in this period.

In a major operation on November 17, 2013, the Bangladesh Navy captured a 25-metre long Myanmar-flag-bearing fishing trawler from the Bay of Bengal, which was being used to illegally send 625 people to Malaysia.

Friday 30 January 2015

continue reading

Malaysia declares MH370 disappearance an ‘accident’, paves way for compensation payments

Malaysia declared yesterday the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident, clearing the way for the airline to pay compensation to victims’ relatives while the search for the plane goes on. The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8 last year, carrying 239 passengers and crew shortly after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing.

Months of searches have failed to turn up any trace. “We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement. The announcement is in accordance with standards of annexes 12 and 13 in the International Civil Aviation, said Azharuddin.

It will allow families of the passengers to obtain assistance through compensation, he said. Malaysia Airlines was ready to proceed immediately with the compensation process to the next-of-kin of the passengers on the flight, he said. China called on Malaysia to compensate families. “We call on the Malaysian side to honor the promise made when they declared the flight to have been lost and earnestly fulfill their compensation responsibilities,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. Most of the passengers on the plane were from China. International investigators are looking into why the Boeing jet veered thousands of miles off course from its scheduled route before eventually plunging into the Indian Ocean.

The search in the Indian Ocean is still going on and Malaysia is also conducting a criminal investigation, Azharuddin said. “Both investigations are limited by the lack of physical evidence at this time, particularly the flight recorders,” he said. “Therefore, at this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident.” The DCA plans to release an interim report on the investigation into the missing jetliner on March 7, a day before the first anniversary of the disappearance, a minister said on Wednesday. “This declaration is by no means the end,” said Azharuddin, adding that it will continue with the search for the missing plane with assistance from China and Australia.

Normal religious rites for MH370 Buddhist and Hindu passengers

Buddhists usually will observe the normal religious rites for those who have died even though their bodies are not found or that they died in a mysterious manner.

The Buddhist Chief High Priest of Malaysia, Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana said Buddhism did not give much priority on burials or cremations.

“The Buddhist burial ceremony is actually simple, but full of dignity and customs and Buddha too did not believe that the conscience or mental power of those who have died do not have any links with the body or ashes which have been left behind.

“Buddha believed that when someone dies, there will be a reincarnation in another place depending on his good deeds or otherwise,” he said when contacted by Bernama here yesterday.

He was asked to comment on the religious rites of Buddhists who were on board the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 following the announcement by the director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman that the aircraft had been officially declared as having been involved in an accident and that everyone on board had perished.

He said that according to the religion, only “Arahants” who had overcome all their desires will not be reborn and as such they would achieve their final objective which was “Nirvana” (paradise).

Meanwhile, for the Hindus, the “Athama Santhi Poojai” ceremony must be held by family members of the victims as a religious ritual.

The president of the Hindu Sangam Malaysia, Datuk Mohan Shan said the “Punyavachanam” ceremony must also be held by followers of the faith.

“Family members must carry out both ceremonies with the help of an ‘Iyer’ (priest) for the peace of the victim’s soul. This ceremony is most important as a ritual to honour the victim,” he said.

Funeral prayers for missing bodies are normally performed for Muslims who died of minor martyrdom due to drowning, fire, murder or accident and their bodies are not found.

Kelantan Mufti Datuk Mohamad Shukri Mohamad said such prayers were not obligatory but encouraged, and meant that the body was not present in front of the congregation or was far away.

The prayers for the missing body was similar to that performed for normal remains of dead Muslims, he said when commenting on the announcement by the Malaysian government today that the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was officially declared an accident under the international aviation regulations and that all the 239 passengers and crew members on board were considered as dead.

The flight MH370 which carried 12 crew members and 227 passengers, including two infants, disappeared from radar screens while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, about an hour after taking off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on March 8, last year.

It was scheduled to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am on the same day. A search mission participated by various nations was initiated in the South China Sea and Andaman Sea before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced on March 24 last year that the flight MH370 had “ended in the southern Indian Ocean”.

Friday 30 January 2015

continue reading

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Fishermen discover two bodies and luggage from doomed AirAsia flight 1,000km from the search zone

Local fisherman have found two bodies and a passenger's bag 1,000km from the AirAsia QZ8501 crash zone, while the Indonesia search and rescue agency temporarily suspended the Java Sea search for missing victims.

An AirAsia statement said that local fishermen in West Sulawesi located two remains in the sea near Majene which are suspected to be that of QZ 8501 passengers.

The remains are being taken to Makassar and will be transported to Surabaya for identification purposes. The fishermen also located a bag in the proximity of the area where the bodies were found – approximately 1,000 kilometres from the aircraft’s lost contact point – that is suspected to belong to one of the passengers.

A multinational search and recovery operation found 72 bodies in the Java Sea and had hoped to find more after locating the fuselage of the plane.

But days of rough weather and poor underwater visibility hampered rescue efforts and the search was temporarily suspended. The Airbus A320 vanished from radar screens during bad weather on December 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city, to Singapore. All 162 passengers and crew were killed.

On Tuesday the Indonesian National Armed Forces withdrew their personnel and assets from the search and evacuation site. But Indonesia's search and rescue agency stated that the search and recovery efforts will resume again on Saturday, allowing them a few days to consolidate all their resources.

AirAsia's statement said that the operation will be conducted for a period of seven days, after which Indonesian authorities will determine the next course of action.

Saturday's new search and recovery operations will be supported by SAR vessels, helicopters, a fixed-wing aircraft provided by AirAsia, divers, and salvage experts.

Authorities also confirmed they have recovered a total of 72 bodies of which 56 have been identified by the Disaster Victim Identification Police Department Republic of Indonesia.

Fourteen remains are still being identified and two remains have yet to arrive at Bhayangkara Hospital, Surabaya.

Thursday 29 January 2015

continue reading

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Mozambique: Flood Death Toll Now 117

The known death toll from the floods in central and northern Mozambique has risen to 117, according to the latest report from the Ministry of State Administration and the Public Service, which supervises the country's disaster management bodies.

The report, submitted to the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) on Tuesday, says that the vast majority of the deaths (93) occurred in Zambezia province.

There were also 13 confirmed deaths in Niassa, eight in Cabo Delgado and three in Nampula. It does not mention the six deaths in Manica province reported by the local branch of the relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), on 20 January.

Some of the victims were swept to their deaths by the flood waters or by mudslides, others were killed when their houses collapsed on top of them, and still others were struck by lightning. The report does not state how many deaths were caused by each of these factors.

The United Nations said last week that the rains in early January had triggered floods affecting nearly one million people in Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. About a quarter of a million people have been forced to leave their homes.

“The floods have killed 117 people, an increase from the last balance of at least 84 dead a week ago,” said Mozambique deputy health minister Mouzinho Saide.

A majority of the deaths occurred in the central coastal region of Zambezia, he said. “The deaths were caused by drowning, lightning and collapsed houses.”

Malawi President Peter Mutharika said on Tuesday that his country, one of the poorest in the world, would probably miss its economic growth forecast this year of 5.8% owing to the rains, which had killed more than 60 people.

A lack of funds has hampered the region’s ability to tackle the effects of the disaster, according to aid groups.

Victims of the Licungo flood are also facing serious water shortages. The flood severely damaged the pumping station which provides water for all of Mocuba town.

Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, who visited Mocuba on 22-24 January, ordered a survey of the costs involved in repairing the pumping station so as to resume the supply of clean water to Mocuba as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, tanker trucks are carrying drinking water to the accommodation centres.

The storms and floods have destroyed 8,814 houses and damaged a further 10,561. 403 schools and seven health units also suffered damage.

Work is under way to repair the five cuts in Zambezia along the main north-south highway. The most serious is on the south bank of the Licungo river in Mocuba town, where the raging flood waters swept away part of the bridge over the Licungo on 12 January. The Portuguese construction company Mota Engil is building a new embankment for the south end of the bridge, and hopes to finish this work by Friday.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

continue reading

70th anniversary of Paymaster mining disaster

Who knew what Hector Poitras was thinking that cold February morning in 1945, when he stepped onto the cage at the Paymaster No. 5 shaft getting ready to ride down into the mine with his co-workers?

It was a Friday. Maybe he was going to a dance that night, or maybe to see a hockey game at The Mac or the South Porcupine Arena. For whatever reason, Poitras didn’t have his mind completely on the job.

Poitras was a young rookie miner. That’s probably why another miner, an older fellow, gave him a friendly nudge and asked him why he didn’t have his cap lamp with him. Poitras had to get off the cage and head for the lamp room, thus missing his ride underground and possibly facing a bucket load of you-know-what from the shift boss.

That mistake would save his life.

The cage had begun its descent into the depths of the mine. Eight men were on the upper deck. Eight were on the lower deck.

The incident itself took only seconds, at about 7:55 that morning.

The cage was moving at a normal speed of about 1,200 feet per minute when the rope broke, said the Ministry of Mines report. There was no evidence to the rope being jerked or kinked, said the report.

The break sent the cage into a free fall, racing to the bottom of the shaft, instantly collapsing into a wreckage of bent steel and broken bodies.

Sixteen men lay dead and dying. It became the second-worst mining disaster in the brief history of the Porcupine Camp. The worst had occurred 17 years earlier, in February 1928, when 39 miners died in the fire at the Hollinger Mine.

This coming Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of that horrible event.


There was no obvious reason why the rope broke. The steel-wire hoist rope had been purchased by Paymaster in March 1941. It had been kept in dry storage for several months and then placed in service in August 1942.

Official records showed the rope had been regularly greased and tested by mine employees.

The official Ministry of Mines report revealed the one-inch thick rope was supposed to have a breaking strength of 102,000 pounds, 51 tons. The combined weight of the cable, the cage and the men inside was only 11,700 pounds, less than six tons.

The cage had been on a run from surface to the 1,050-foot level. It was the third run of the morning, bringing miners to their respective work levels.

Hoistman C. Dukeshire, later testified he was watching the progress of the hoisting when, somewhere as the cage was approaching the 900 level, the cable went slack, indicating a break. Inexplicably, the break in the wire rope had occurred just outside the hoistroom.

About 25 feet of the rope fell back into the hoistroom. The rest of the rope plummeted down into the shaft.

Three miners on the 1,575 level saw the cage pass by their shaft station as it sped toward the bottom. They said the shaft appeared to be full of dust caused by the whipping motion of the cable. Sparks could be a seen.

The men said they had heard a strange ripping or tearing sound, and they would later testify that the cage seemed to be going faster than normal.

The three miners climbed down the manway ladders to the 2,000 level. From there, two of the men went to another shaft to collect rescuers. The third man, machinist Edgar Taillefer, continued down the manway to the bottom of the shaft, near the 2,575 level. He was the first person to see the extent of the disaster. He said he could make out the voices of two men moaning. It is believed that the other 14 men died instantly. Post mortem examinations would show that nearly all the victims suffered broken necks.

It also became clear that the only way to recover the men would be to burn through the broken and twisted steel with cutting torches.

Arrangements were made to bring acetylene torches and mine rescuers to the scene. The recovery work began. The mine rescue men had the grisly task of removing the bodies and placing them in stretcher baskets. Two local doctors were brought underground to assist the rescuers. Only one man was reached who was still alive, but it was reported he died of his injuries as he was being rushed to South Porcupine General Hospital.

On surface, the mine property was a sad and sombre place. Wives, children, friends and relatives gathered and waited for news.

A Timmins priest was at the mine head as the bodies were brought to surface, to administer the last rites of the church.

Ontario Provincial Police and Timmins Police worked together in the process of identifying the victims.

In Toronto, chief mine inspector W.O. Tower immediately made arrangements to visit Timmins. Tower and other mining officials arrived by the overnight train on the Saturday morning and went immediately to the mine.

The process also began to gather evidence and interview witnesses who would be needed at the inquest. Then, as now, a formal inquest was mandatory anytime a miner was killed on the job.

The inquest was held on Feb. 26 and 27, 1945 at the Tisdale Township Hall in South Porcupine. They heard evidence from more than 30 witnesses, most of whom were questioned by senior Crown Attorney S.A. Caldbick of Timmins. Just before the lunch hour on the second day, the inquest jury went to deliberate.

Roughly 90 minutes later, the jury filed back into room, ready to announce its findings.

The jury made a finding for 25-year-old miner Russell Dillon and that finding would apply to the remaining deceased miners.

“We find that Russell Dillon came to his death at 8:00 a.m. on February 2, 1945 in No. 5 shaft of the Paymaster Mine, in the Township of Tisdale, through first, by the breaking of the rope and secondly through the failure of the safety dogs to function properly at stop the cage.

“From the evidence submitted the rope broke because of internal corrosion of which there was no indication from external examination. We consider the dogs faulty in design and operation and recommend that all safety dogs and attachments be approved by a competent authority appointed by the Department of Mines before permitting the use of the same.

“Also that a study be made on the prevention of internal deterioration of hoisting ropes by a Commission appointed by the Provincial Government and every effort be made to prevent it. We strongly recommend that there be no delay by the said Commission in making investigation of all cables, safety devices and hoisting equipment to prevent a recurrence of this serious and deplorable accident. We find that no blame can be attached to anyone through carelessness or neglect,” said the jury document.


The hoist rope incident at the Paymaster Mine set in motion one of the most intense investigations ever undertaking into the overall safety of mine conveyances.

While the inquest into the deaths of the Paymaster miners lasted only two days, the follow-up investigation would take nearly two years.

It was a couple of days after the bodies of the miners were removed from the bottom of No. 5 shaft, that the remains of the wire rope were recovered from the shaft.

The rope was cut into lengths and subjected to several tests, which found that most of the rope was intact and in good shape.

One section of the rope, however, the one that included the break, showed that while the outside of the rope appeared normal, there was corrosion and weakness on the inner strands of wire. In some places, broken strands of wire could be see on the surface of the rope.

A Ministry of Mines expert, Robert Stewart of Toronto, testified at the inquest that the inside core of the wire ropes appeared “rotten”, indicating that regular greasing of the rope did not seem to allow grease and oil to protect the inner strands.

While the break was seen as the primary cause of the disaster, there was also a secondary issue that was regarded just as serious … and deadly.

Attached to the outside of the cage was a series of sharpened steel “teeth” that are spring loaded and set to deploy once the cable goes slack or loses tension. These are called dogs as they are designed to bite into the timber and lock the cage in place, thus preventing the fall.

The cage guides in the mineshaft were made of B.C. fir timbers, four inches by five inches, treated with creosote. The shaft area below 1,200 feet had been lined with new timbers just a month earlier. Rescuers later found that the cage dogs did in fact bite into the timbers, but quickly became clogged with bits of wood.

The dogs had engaged the timbers at about 950 feet below surface, but the cage continued to fall. It is believed this is what created the ripping sound as the steel teeth of the dogs tore into the timbers as the cage continued to plummet.

The inquest jury would later suggest that the design of the dogs was faulty and thus failed to act as a backup to a cable failure. There was also the possibility that pieces of broken rock may have gotten into the mechanism, thus preventing the dogs from being fully deployed. This was investigated, but the results were inconclusive.

As in many mining accidents, changes are made when it is discovered that the old ways of doing things are not as safe as they could be.

The Hollinger Mine fire of February 1928 resulted in the creation of Ontario Mine Rescue, and the training and deployment of underground firefighting teams.

The paymaster incident led to the creation of a provincial rope inspection laboratory.

In January 1947, almost two years after the Paymaster incident, Deputy Mines Minister Harold “Rick” Rickaby submitted a 260-page report to the government and Mines Minister Leslie Frost discussing the overall safety of wire rope and also with cage fall arrest devices, known as dogs.

As part of that study, several Ontario mining companies took action and began a more intense examination of their hoist ropes.

The International Nickel Company Inc. in Copper Cliff joined with the Ontario Mining Association to commission a special study into corrosion problems. Corrosion expert Frank LaQue would head up that study.

Research included special tests carried out at a laboratory in Bayonne, New Jersey, involving several universities, steel making companies, Shell Oil, Standard Oil, Texaco, Imperial Oil and the U.S. Navy, which was conducting a parallel research into the effects of corrosion.

Samples of the wire rope from the Paymaster were included in the study, along with rope samples from the Stobie, Levack and Creighton mines in Sudbury.

The study looked into such things as using better steel, using zinc coatings, using a poly or Bakelite type lining on the steel. None of those ideas panned out. The study recommended that better grease and oil coatings would be helpful, perhaps even coating the individual strands of wire as they were being wound into a full wire rope.

“As for the safety dogs, it was determined through free-fall testing that the design of many cages were prone to failure. It showed that in all cases of rope breakage accidents, the ratio of success to failure for cage dogs was only two to one.

“Free fall safety dog tests have already led to a marked general improvement in safety dog performance, although a great deal of intensive work and experimentation under operations conditions must be done,” said the study.

The study also found that the diameter of hoist drums in most Ontario mines was too small, and caused excessive winding of the rope. This is turn put added crushing stress on ropes under tension. It was decided that larger hoist drums would reduce the amount of crushing stress on the ropes.

In many cases, the rope concern has been solved by adding two and three separate ropes for man cages to ensure safety in the sense that if one rope breaks, the others will hold.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

continue reading

AirAsia flight QZ8501: Indonesia's Basarnas says to continue search for crash victims

Indonesia's search and rescue agency Basarnas said at a press conference on Wednesday it will continue to search for the bodies of the passengers of Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501, a day after the country's military said it was halting the recovery operations.

"Search operations will carry on even though the military has pulled out," Barsanas chief Sambang Soelistyo told reporters in Jakarta. "Our main aim is to find the bodies."

Some of Basarnas's ships have come back to shore after 30 days out at sea to restock, he said, but that was not a sign that the search operation is ending. "No way," said Mr Soelistyo.

He said the recovery operation will resume on Saturday and will not end unless under instructions from President Joko Widodo and after meeting with "all parties concerned".

Bambang Soelistyo, the chief of the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), told reporters on Wednesday that search teams were not affected by the military's pull-out.

They were taking a few days' rest but would resume their operation on Saturday at the latest.

"After seven days we will evaluate whether the operation will be extended or shut down. It will depend on the dynamics of what happens within the seven days," he said.

"If we can find one or two more bodies, that means we have the opportunity to prolong the operation," Reuters quoted him as saying.

Authorities had initially thought that most of the missing bodies would be inside the sunken fuselage, but now believe that is no longer the case.

Agency official S B Supriyadi told AFP news agency that the bodies "could be on the seabed, or have been swept away by waves and currents".

Basarnas are using helicopters, four ships and both professional and volunteer divers in their search.

The team identifying victims who have been found will still remain in operation and stationed in Surabaya, said Mr Soelistyo.

He added that victims' families had been informed of the possible deadline and understand the situation.

BBC Indonesian's Pinta Karana says that families have welcomed efforts to continue the search. But some have also expressed concern about the possible deadline.

Forensic expert Dr Anton Castilani, head of Indonesia's Disaster Identification Unit who was also present at the press conference, said it was getting more difficult to identify the bodies recovered.

Indonesia's military said on Tuesday it would stop the operation, after the team failed to float the fuselage after repeated attempts and that no more bodies had been found in the previous days.

Only 70 bodies of the plane's 162 passengers and crew had been recovered so far.

The Airbus A320-200 crashed in the Java Sea in stormy weather on Dec 28, less than half way into a two-hour flight from Surabaya, Indonesia's second-biggest city, to Singapore. All 162 people onboard were killed.

Except for seven foreigners, all were Indonesian. The foreigners were three Koreans, one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one Briton and a Frenchman – co-pilot Remi Plesel.

Malaysia, Singapore, US, China, Japan and France joined the multinational search and rescue operation at one point.

The Indonesian navy had provided much of the personnel and equipment for the rescue effort. Mr Soelistyo said on Wednesday that Basarnas is deploying new boats to the recovery mission and installing underwater devices to them.

"By law, if within seven days we can't find more victims, we have to evaluate and decide whether to continue or stop," he told reporters. "But if any third party requests us to continue, we will."

The plane's cockpit is suspected to be located in one of the nine coordinates identified, Mr Soelistyo said.

"What we're searching for isn't just the cockpit, but what's inside the cockpit," he said, referring to the bodies of the pilots, Captain Iriyanto and his deputy Remi Plesel.

The team will also try to lift the plane's fuselage from the bottom of the sea, he said.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

continue reading

Indonesian military stops search and recovery for remains of AirAsia QZ8501

The Indonesian military said Tuesday that it was stopping its efforts to recover the remains of AirAsia Flight QZ8501 almost a month after the commercial jet crashed into the sea.

Indonesia's search and rescue agency, Basarnas, will continue its work to try to retrieve bodies from the wreckage site in the Java Sea, the head of the agency, Bambang Soelistyo, said Wednesday.

The military provided the majority of personnel and hardware involved in the recovery operation, which was hindered by bad weather and technical problems.

"We are really disappointed," Imam Sampurno, whose four family members who were on the plane still haven't been found, said of the military's announcement. "We really hope the evacuation process is still going."

Basarnas said it would have 60 divers, eight salvage experts, seven boats, two helicopters and a fixed-wing plane taking part in the continued search efforts, which will resume Saturday after the teams take a rest.

Failed attempts to lift fuselage

Flight QZ8501 went down on December 28 as it flew from the Indonesian city of Surabaya toward Singapore with 162 people on board.

So far, searchers have managed to recover 70 bodies from the sea, leaving 92 still unaccounted for.

Searchers have so far retrieved 70 bodies from the Java Sea.Over the weekend, navy divers tried to lift part of the fuselage of the plane using wire ropes and giant balloons. But the attempts failed after lines attached to the wreckage broke.

An effort to lift a smaller piece of wreckage was also unsuccessful, the military said.

"Our main priority is to find the bodies. We are not going to focus on lifting the fuselage," Soelistyo said Wednesday about the future search plans.

Divers falling sick

The chief of the Indonesian armed forces, Gen. Moeldoko, on Tuesday ordered the military teams involved in the operation to pull out, said military spokesman Manahan Simorangkir.

Officials said that 19 of the 81 navy divers working on the recovery efforts had fallen ill with decompression sickness and would be taken for treatment at a hospital in Jakarta, the capital.

"I told them safety first. But as we know, soldiers, they are always working hard to find the bodies," said Rear Adm. Widodo, commander of the Indonesian Navy's western fleet. "They are not thinking about safety but about doing their duty."

The divers haven't been able to see any more bodies inside the wreckage of the fuselage, Widodo said.

Officials had previously suggested that many of the missing human remains might be found inside the fuselage.

But Widodo said some bodies could be trapped or hidden under wreckage on the seafloor.

Searchers have recovered at least 14 bodies from the fuselage site, including some that floated free during attempts to lift the wreckage, according to officials.

Possible computer issue examined

Indonesian aviation investigators are still trying to establish why Flight QZ8501 went down in an area of heavy thunderstorms last month while other planes nearby completed their journeys safely.

Investigators are looking at whether the aircraft's flight augmentation computers (FACs) played a role in what went wrong, the news agency Reuters reported Tuesday, citing two unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The FAC helps pilots with the stability and control of the aircraft, keeping it on course at the proper altitude and making sure adjustments to the rudder are smooth. It also warns pilots if they try to manually push the plane beyond its capabilities. Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, had two FACs, one serving as a backup.

Indonesian officials have said the aircraft climbed rapidly before it fell into the water.

The reason for the sharp ascent is unclear, but aviation analysts say the FAC could have recognized trouble and, at a critical moment, automatically shifted full control back to the pilots who may not have realized it amid the crisis.

Investigators have submitted their preliminary report into the crash, officials said Tuesday. But authorities have said they don't plan to release it to the public.

Indonesian Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan told CNN on Monday that the final report into the disaster should be published in less than a year.

"It won't be a year, that's my promise," he said.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

continue reading

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Indian government order: Dispose of unclaimed bodies after 10 days

A recent government order has made it mandatory for all government hospitals in the State to dispose of unclaimed dead bodies after 10 days.

Earlier, they were allowed to retain unclaimed bodies in their mortuaries up to one month. However, after 10-15 days, the tissues start deteriorating due to bacterial and other infections making disposal difficult.

As per a recent government order issued by the Health and Family Welfare Department, any dead body in a government hospital mortuary, if unclaimed for more than 10 days, should be handed over to the respective local body authorities for disposal. Bodies not in a decomposed state may be diverted to the Department of Anatomy of government medical colleges which will utilise the cadavers for teaching, said Coimbatore Medical College Hospital Dean S Revwathy.

The hospitals are not allowed to dispose of the bodies directly through voluntary organisations that help in burying unclaimed bodies. They can however collect the bodies from the local body, sources said.

In medico-legal cases, the hospital should complete the postmortem and hand over the body to investigating officer concerned within 10 days. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the police to cremate or bury it. In almost all cases, samples from the body are preserved for a longer time for identification through Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) matching, if required, she added.

The order was issued in response to complaints from government hospitals that 30-40 per cent of dead bodies were left in the mortuaries for months. Once they get decomposed, it is difficult for teaching hospitals to utilise them or conduct postmortems (in medico-legal cases). Moreover they create a bad odour around the mortuary. This order might help in regulating the process of disposal of unidentified bodies, said CMCH sources.

“The CMCH has starting implementing this order, but not fully,” said Sampath of Jeevan Santhi, a non-governmental organisation. “Last week, we disposed of a one-month-old unclaimed body with the help of the Coimbatore Corporation. On an average, it |would take 30-40 days to dispose of an unidentified body and sincere efforts would be necessary to bring this down to 10 days,“ he added.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

continue reading

Monday, 26 January 2015

Spain: 10 dead, 21 hurt in crash of Greek F-16 jet at base

A Greek F-16 fighter jet crashed into other aircraft on the ground during NATO training in southeastern Spain Monday, killing at least 10 French and Greek military personnel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said.

Another 21 people were injured in the incident at the Los Llanos base, which sent flames and a plume of black smoke billowing into the air, the Spanish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Rajoy told Spain's Telecinco news program in an interview Monday night that eight of the dead were French and two were Greek. Eleven of the injured were Italian and 10 were French, he said.

Five of those hurt suffered severe burns and were transported to a Madrid hospital for treatment, and the rest were undergoing treatment in the city of Albacete near the base, the Defense Ministry said.

The French Defense Ministry said five from the country were seriously injured. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will head to the scene Tuesday.

The two-seat jet was taking off but lost thrust and crashed into an area of the base where other aircraft involved in the NATO exercise were parked, the Spanish Defense Ministry said. At least five jets were damaged and a statement from Italy's defense ministry said "numerous" helicopters were damaged.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the crash "a tragedy that affects the whole NATO family."

The Spanish ministry said the jet that crashed was taking part in a NATO training exercise called the Tactical Leadership Program.

The plane crashed at about 15:30 (14:30 GMT) at the base 260 km (160 miles) south-east of Madrid.

Emergency crews extinguished the fire and were assessing how much damage had been done to other planes involved in the Nato exercise, the ministry added.

Aviation analyst Sean Maffett told BBC News Channel it was difficult to imagine how the accident had occurred because the runway where the aircraft was taking off is about 1,000 ft (305 m) away from where the crash apparently took place.

According to a U.S. Air Force website, TLP was formed in 1978 by NATO's Central Region air forces to advance their tactical capabilities and produce tactics, techniques and procedures that improve multi-national tactical air operations.

The 10 NATO countries participating in the program are Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States.

The first TLP course took place at Germany's Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base. It has been held at the Spanish base about a two and a half hour drive from Madrid since June 2009.

Monday 26 January 2015

continue reading

Nine killed in road accident in central Uganda

At least nine people were killed on Sunday in a road accident in the central Ugandan district of Luwero.

Lameck Kigozi, the Savannah regional police spokesperson, told Xinhua by telephone that the nine people were killed along Kampala- Gulu highway following a head-on collision between a Toyota land cruiser and a commuter minus bus.

"Nine people were killed on spot. The bodies have been taken to Kasana hospital in Luwero. We appeal to the relatives of the deceased to come and identify the bodies," said Kigozi, who attributed the accident to reckless driving and over speeding.

"We have launched investigations. We believe the accident was caused as a result of reckless driving and over speeding," said Kigozi.

Meanwhile, an unspecified number of people were on Saturday critically injured when a bus they were travelling in overturned in the western Ugandan district of Kasese.

The accident happened at Kandahi village near Hima town along the Fort Portal - Kasese Highway.Some 2,937 people were killed in Uganda's road accidents in 2013, according to Uganda Police Annual Road Safety Report.

Monday 26 January 2015

continue reading

Liverpool John Moores University's facial reconstruction lab to open this month

Facial reconstructions of wanted criminals and unidentified corpses will be made in Liverpool from next week after the official opening of the city’s Face Lab.

The pioneering facility, part of John Moores University, will also be used by archaeologists to work out how historical figures, who died thousands of years ago, would have looked.

The Face Lab, which opens on January 30, hit headlines last month after scientists used state-of-the-art software to recreate the face of St Nicholas, the Greek bishop who died nearly 1,700 years ago and became better known as Santa Claus.

The Face Lab will also be able to reconstruct profiles based on skeletons discovered during archaeological expeditions and produce facial images for forensic scientists following the discovery of decomposed bodies.

Police forces will also use the facility to make e-fits of criminals based on witness accounts or partial CCTV evidence.

Forensic anthropologist Prof Caroline Wilkinson, director of the Face Lab, said: “We look forward to working with the region’s police, forensic organisations and museums to reveal faces of the past and present, as well as a continuation of our national and international work.

“We also intend to make the research of the Face Lab accessible through our public engagement activity and exhibition contribution – and we plan to run a related art-science postgraduate course at Liverpool School of Art and Design in the near future.”

University vice-chancellor Prof Nigel Weatherill, added: “We are delighted to launch the Fab Lab, which will become renowned as a centre of excellence for craniofacial analysis and forensic art.

“The university already has outstanding relationships with police forces and museums across the North West and we hope the Face Lab will build upon these relationships.

“Through public lectures regarding the work of the Face Lab, we will also aim to further advance our position as a modern civic university.”

The Face Lab is located at Liverpool Science Park off Mount Pleasant.

Monday 26 January 2015

continue reading

'That’s not just a bone, it’s a person, we don’t lose track of that': British Columbia's Coroners team excels at giving names back to unidentified bodies

Last Thursday, Brian Howe got a phone call that he said “put to rest 40 years of uncertainty.”

In 1975, his younger brother Roy Lynn Howe disappeared from his Vancouver home at the age of 26.

As years turned into decades and Roy was still missing, the Howe family came to accept, Brian said, “probably that Roy had died or something happened — but we just didn’t know.”

But then last week, through the diligent work of a dedicated team with the B.C. Coroners Service, Roy Howe’s death was confirmed, his missing person investigation closed, and his next of kin notified.

Even after all those years, the notification was important to the family, said Howe, who called it “a sort of closure.”

In recent years, B.C.’s Identification and Disaster Response Unit (IDRU) has attracted attention from agencies outside the province looking to emulate its recent success with missing persons cases and unidentified bodies.

Cases like Howe’s inspire the IDRU to toil away in the lab and in the field, working to close those files, both old and new.

The unit’s manager, Bill Inkster, leads a team of investigators who examine and catalogue unidentified human remains in B.C., often matching them up with missing person files, such as Howe’s.

When a coroner is crouched in the woods brushing dirt off a human femur, Inkster says: “That’s not just a bone, it’s a person, we don’t lose track of that.

“They had brothers, sisters, they had a life. That’s a person, and there’s no name attached to it. So we never give up trying to identify those.”

Recently B.C. investigators have been closing more cases quickly — and closing more old, cold cases, too — says Inkster, who’s quick to credit that success to the innovative and award-winning IDRU program set up by his predecessor, Stephen Fonseca.

Described as the only unit of its kind in Canada, the IDRU was formed within the B.C. Coroners Service in 2006 under the direction of Fonseca, who Inkster calls “the most brilliant guy I’ve ever met.”

A key element of their success has been effectively “closing the gap” between coroners and cops, according to sources on both sides.

Cpl. Kelly Risling of the RCMP’s Unidentified Human Remains Unit said that before the IDRU’s formation in 2006, “the coroner’s office (and) the RCMP had somewhat struggled with missing person and unidentified body investigations.

“There just wasn’t any sort of collaborative effort in attacking these types of files. Even though we both had different resources, we kind of needed each other to be able to do the job.”

Risling said the increased collaboration between his RCMP unit and the IDRU got results.

“We were the only province in Canada that actually showed a marked decline in the instances of unidentified human remains, because we were actually starting to move forward and identify some of these bodies,” he said.

Risling said he’s been contacted by agencies in other provinces interested in following B.C.’s “cutting edge” missing person investigation model and success.

On a national level, the RCMP launched the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR), a website and database launched in 2013.

Risling said, adding that RCMP headquarters in Ottawa consulted with him, as well as the IDRU’s Inkster and Fonseca, on the NCMPUR’s development, adding “everything that they’re doing on their end is basically modelled after what we’ve accomplished here in B.C.”

“Ottawa did take note of the successes we were having as a collaborative team here,” said Risling.

The IDRU’s work has also aided the police in criminal cases. As a recent example, Vancouver detectives were investigating a missing person who they believed had been murdered.

They had a suspect. But they didn’t have a body, making the prospect of an arrest and criminal charges much more difficult.

The detectives tapped the IDRU, which quickly identified the body of the alleged murder victim, matching it with previously unidentified remains.

VPD homicide Detective Const. Paul Woodcock said: “As soon as we had that body, there was no uncertainty. We were going to lay that charge ... when we had that call from Steve Fonseca, saying ‘Hey guys, I’ve got a match,’ we were doing the happy dance.”

Probably the IDRU’s best known case was the detached feet in sneakers washing up repeatedly on B.C. shorelines in recent years. Inkster, Fonseca and their team identified 10 feet, belonging to six different people.

But one pair — Foot #8 and Foot #10 — belonging to the same man, remain unidentified.

Like Brian Howe, Brenda Dauncey praised the work of the IDRU after she got a phone call that ended years of uncertainty about her brother’s disappearance.

Her brother Brian Carman Law disappeared suddenly in 1989 from his hometown of Prince George, and was missing for more than 20 years, until the IDRU closed the case in 2013.

“Those 23 and three-quarters years, it was hell,” Dauncey said. “So, to find that you have some closure and you know where your loved one is ... We can try and go on and start to heal.”

While it was painful, Dauncey said, to know her brother had died, it was “absolutely” better than the agony of not knowing. That uncertainty, she said, was like “an open wound (that) never gets to heal.”

After the IDRU identified Brian Law’s body, his grave was marked with a stone.

The engraving reads: “Once was lost, now he’s found. Always Loved, Never Forgotten.”

Monday 26 January 2015

continue reading

Sunday, 25 January 2015

QZ8501: Two more bodies identified

Two more passengers of flight QZ8501 have been identified by Indonesian authorities.

In a statement today, AirAsia said the disaster victim identification department identified the two victims as Herumanto Tanus and Lia Sari.

"Additionally, one other body was recovered from inside the wreckage and the remains are currently in Pangkalan Bun, Central Borneo.

To date, authorities have confirmed the recovery of 70 bodies, of which 52 have been identified while 17 are still being identified and one has yet to arrive at Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya," it said.

Meanwhile, attempts to raise the fuselage wreckage continues to be hampered by rough sea conditions.

Sunday 25 January 2015

continue reading

AirAsia flight QZ8501: four more bodies recovered from wreckage

Four more bodies were recovered from the wreckage of AirAsia flight 8501 on Saturday but Indonesian salvage teams failed to raise the fuselage of the crashed passenger jet from the sea bed.

Rescuers workers managed to lift the fuselage of the jet nearly to the water’s surface before it sank to the ocean floor again when the lifting balloons deflated, in a setback in the effort to recover more of the victims’ remains.

Divers were struggling with strong current and poor visibility to prepare to retrieve the 30-metre-long wreckage, said Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, the operations chief at the National Search and Rescue Agency.

“We now need additional balloons,” Supriyadi said after Saturday’s setback.

He added that the cockpit was reported to be about 500 metres from the fuselage at a depth of 30 metres and that the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot might be inside. “Divers would evacuate [them] if they are there,” he said.

Divers were able to enter the main section of the plane, which crashed in the Java Sea last month, for the first time on Friday and retrieved six bodies.

A total of 69 bodies have now been recovered from Flight 8501, which crashed on 28 December with 162 people on board while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, to Singapore.

Poor weather for the past week had prevented salvage workers from reaching the main part of the Airbus A320-200 since its location was determined earlier this month.

Passengers’ belongings including milk cartons, hair rollers and an iPhone with headphones still attached, as well as aircraft parts such as seat cushions and tables, floated out as the fuselage was being lifted, according to one report.

Detritus including wires and seats floating inside the fuselage stopped divers from entering the main section to find more bodies on Friday.

“The divers said it was dark inside, the seats were floating about and the wires were like a tangled yarn,” Supriyadi said.

Rescue officials hoped that more bodies could be retrieved when the fuselage had been raised.

The plane’s black boxes – the cockpit voice and flight data recorders – were recovered last week, and were being analysed by investigators and Airbus advisers.

Indonesian transport minister Ignasius Jonan said this week that the plane climbed unusually fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.

Moments before the plane disappeared from radar screens, the pilot had asked to climb to avoid a major storm but was not immediately granted permission due to heavy air traffic in the area.

Tatang Kurniadi, head of Indonesia’s national transportation safety committee, has ruled out sabotage and said a preliminary report was expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation next week.

A full analysis of what went wrong could take up to a year, he added.

Sunday 25 January 2015

continue reading

Disaster exposes Mutoko nightmare

The incessant torrents washed away bridges in the area and turned mostly dusty roads into gorges, locking the people of this area away from the rest of the world. Up to now, the bridges remain unrepaired while the roads are virtually inaccessible.

For those who live across the Nyamuzizi River, they have to cross the murky waters risking drowning and being attacked by crocodiles.

“We employ the services of some men who help carry us across rivers but at a price,” said Georgina Muswerota from Johane village.

The river daredevils charge a fee of US$5 for a single passage across the river. “If you have luggage the fee goes up,” she said.

Another villager, Aleck Chimanga said the worst affected were schoolchildren who were being forced to miss school many times because of the flooded river. The bridge at the river was swept away by storms three years ago.

“Children at times do not go to school, especially those who attend Chisambiro and Kapondoro schools. It becomes too dangerous for them,” he said with concern etched on his weathered face.

During the burial of victims of some of the Harare-Nyamapanda road accident which claimed 26 people mostly from that area, relatives had to use cattle-drawn scotchcarts to ferry the bodies of their loved ones across the river.

“We were lucky that it has not rained for the past few days otherwise it could have been difficult to get the bodies across,” said a villager.

As a result of the bad roads, all but one public transporter, the Zupco bus on which many villagers perished in the accident, have withdrawn their services.

“We have to wake up at 4am and cross the river then walk all the way to the shops where we catch the bus. If you miss it, then you have to try another day,” said Michael Karonda.

The villagers also blamed the large number of people who died in the recent accident on the inadequate transport.

“If there were many buses people would not have all been on one bus,” said Alfonse Siwetu, a brother to Vengai Chinyama who lost his wife and three children in the accident.

The district administrator for Mutoko, Cephas Mudavanhu said he was aware of the problem.

“We have embarked on a project to rehabilitate and upgrade the roads,” he said.

Chief Mutoko (Philemon Nyachoto) said the roads needed attention as a matter of urgency.

“We are aware that the government has no money but the roads should be improved,” he said.

The Standard last week experienced firsthand the transport nightmare that the villagers live with every day. The news crew had gone to report on the burial of the four members of the same family who were killed in the Zupco bus disaster.

We negotiated our vehicle over collapsed bridges which will certainly flood quickly should there be a heavy downpour. Because the normal route is no longer in use, we had to make several detours and by the time we finally got to Chisambiro Business Centre, I had lost all sense of direction.

Crossing Nyamuzizi River on foot was no easy feat, especially after plodding through a dense forest with tree branches hanging over the small footpath.

Clambering down the river bank was another challenge. The steep edges were dotted with smooth rocks which were so slippery we literally crawled on all fours to get to the base of the river.

On our way out of the river we met a villager who was coming from the funeral who told us it had taken her an hour to get to the homestead from the river. It was already getting dark and there was no doubt therefore that we had to cross the river in the darkness of the night if we had to make our way back to Harare.

Determined to cut the hour to at least 30 minutes, we dragged our weary bodies up the river bank and once again were plunged into another jungle with thistles and the same jagged footpath.

After more than an hour, we finally got to the Chinyamas just in time to catch the last fading light. The return trip in the dark was more than a nightmare.

Sunday 25 January 2015

continue reading

Saturday, 24 January 2015

To keep planes from disappearing, NTSB urges constant tracking

In a response to recent incidents in which large commercial airliners have vanished into oceans, the National Transportation Safety Board is calling for new regulations requiring all passenger planes that fly over large bodies of water to be equipped with more sophisticated flight tracking technologies.

The NTSB recommendations come less than two weeks before international aviation authorities meet in Montreal to debate new flight tracking standards, in the wake of the disappearance on March 8 of a Malaysia Airlines jet.

Aviation authorities believe MH flight 370, a Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, turned dramatically off its course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and crashed somewhere in the south Indian Ocean. Searchers aided by 26 countries have analyzed and mapped 41,000 km of ocean floor, but still, no wreckage has been found.

To prevent such difficult searches in the future, the NTSB recommends planes be equipped with tamper-resistant devices that transmit a plane's location every minute via satellite.

The NTSB is also recommending that the Federal Aviation Administration also require all commercial airlines to equip every plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, the co-called "black boxes," with low-frequency underwater beacons with strong signals that are more easily detected by searchers.

The NTSB also wants the FAA to require longer lasting batteries on the beacons, so that signals can be detected for at least 90 days after a crash. Currently, batteries are required to last at least 30 days.

"Technology has reached a point where we shouldn't have to search hundreds of miles of ocean floor in a frantic race to find these valuable boxes," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher Hart in a statement. "In this day and age, lost aircraft should be a thing of the past."

Among the other recommendations from the government agency that investigates plane crashes and other transportation disasters in the U. S., is that flight data and voice recorders, be designed so that they cannot be disabled. Among the theories in the disappearance of MH 370 is that a member of the flight crew or someone else in the cockpit disabled the devices before the plane veered off-course.

The NTSB also wants cockpit video recorders required on all planes, so that images of the cockpit in the last several minutes before an incident can be preserved.

NTSB investigators have been recommending video recorders for 15 years, citing a number of incidents in which pictures of the controls or video of the pilots' actions could have helped clarify what may have caused a crash.

But airline pilots unions have opposed video recorders in the cockpit, citing privacy concerns, and saying that that video images could be misinterpreted and misused.

Air Line Pilots Association President Tim Canoll calls the recommendation for cockpit video recorders "a premature overreaction ... that will not improve safety and could, in fact, impede it by diverting limited resources that could be used for more valuable safety enhancements."

And while the technology exists for the other NTSB recommendations, some airlines may balk at the cost of purchasing, installing and implementing such systems.

The NTSB recommendations go far beyond what an airline industry task force is recommending. Industry leaders and global regulators gather in Montreal next month for a meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a agency of the United Nations, to debate and possibly adopt new worldwide standards for tracking passenger flights.

Saturday 24 January 2015

continue reading

Road accident in Arunachal Pradesh kills at least 11 labourers

At least eleven labourers were killed on Friday and several others got seriously injured, including three critically, when a vehicle skidded off the road and fell into a deep gorge near Sessa along Bhalukpong-Tawang road of Arunachal Pradesh.

The incident occurred at 3.5 kms from Sessa when the driver of the vehicle failed to negotiate a sharp curve due to poor visibility and fell into the 150-feet-deep-gorge this afternoon, SP A Koan said.

While ten people died on the spot, one succumbed to his injuries at Bhalukpong while he was being taken to Tezpur in neighbouring Assam along with three others, he said.

The vehicle was on its way to Nafra in West Kameng district from Bhalukpong. While all the bodies have been retrieved, the vehicle could not be lifted, the SP said.

On 19 January last, 4 persons were killed near the same spot when their vehicle fell into a deep gorge.

Saturday 24 January 2015

continue reading

60 years on - eyewitness remembers Birmingham's worst train crash

Birmingham's worst train disaster happened on a wintry afternoon at Sutton Coldfield railway station 60 years ago.

On January 23, 1955, an express train carrying around 300 passengers derailed on a sharp bend shortly after 4pm.

Seventeen people, including the train crew, died and a further 25 were injured.

The train had rocketed towards the station at speeds of up to 60mph – twice the speed limit – with devastating results.

Stan Brown, a council lorry driver, was called in to help set up a temporary morgue to deal with the volume of bodies being taken from the wreckage.

“My wife Jean and I were walking down the Parade when we saw a fire engine come by and all the fireman had black faces,” says Stan, now 82 and from Sutton Coldfield.

“The next thing I knew my boss came and took me to the railway station.

“There I saw the terrible tragedy.”

The sight he beheld must have been horrendous.

The train had collided with platforms and nine out of the 10 carriages had derailed.

The first carriage was crushed between the engine and the second carriage.

Another was knocked into the air, causing it to drag along the station roof.

Seven bodies, including those of the two drivers, were trapped inside the train.

Stan, who was 22 at the time, recalls: “Dr Preston, the medical officer, was there as was the surveyor Mr Porter. There were half a dozen chaps helping.

“We went to Riland Road where there was a council yard depot shed we used to store the lorries, steam rollers and salt for the roads.

“The floor was greasy so we covered it with tarpaulin and put sheets up to the windows so people couldn’t see inside.”

Forty ambulances from across the Midlands were sent to the scene along with a mobile surgical unit from Birmingham Accident Hospital, 25 fire crews and 50 extra police officers.

Extra help was also provided by RAF servicemen who were based at Whitemore Common.

“I remember the ambulances carrying the bodies in,” says Stan, who has two children and four grandchildren.

“Then, once the bodies were cleaned up, we laid them out for their families to come and see them.

“We were there for two days. We couldn’t believe how many bodies there were.”

Stan had served with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers for three years in Germany, having been called up for national service as a driver.

“Even though I’d been in the army, I’d never seen a dead body before,” says Stan.

“But everyone was just doing anything they could to help.

“Arthur Anenborough, the ticket collector, had been travelling in the last coach that derailed. He ran to the signal box and managed to avert a further disaster.

“A lady who lived nearby could see what was happening and ran to stop another train from coming down the track.

“The trouble was the train had been travelling too fast. It had exceeded the speed limit and come off the rails. If it had travelled 10 yards more, it would have reached Park Road where there’s a 300-500ft drop onto the road below.

“It’s hard to come to terms with something like that but you just live every day the best you can.”

A passenger called Mr W Forrest, from South Shields, who had been travelling to Coventry and was in the fifth coach.

“The train had been swaying from side to side,” he told the Birmingham Mail at the time.

“Suddenly, there was a terrific rending noise and we were all thrown in a heap.

“Some of us were thrown up and struck the roof.”

The train was the 12.15 from York to Bristol via Sheffield, Derby, Burton-on-Trent and Birmingham, and it had been diverted from its usual route because of engineering works.

Most of the injured went to Sutton Coldfield Hospital, with Birmingham General and the accident hospital also taking casualties.

Although excessive speed was the major factor in the accident, the exact cause was never fully established.

It seems likely the driver knew he was exceeding the speed limit but did not realise the extent of the danger.

One theory was that he thought the train was running late and was making up time, another that there was a gradient to climb after the station which he thought was best approached at full speed.

The steam locomotive, like most at that time, was not fitted with a speedometer.

Following the tragedy, lineside speed restrictions were universally adopted and the Government announced a multi-million pound modernisation plan for the railways.

This included a £210 million programme to improve track and signalling.

Wolverhampton Wanderers player Bobby Thomson had been due to take the train that derailed in Sutton Coldfield that fateful day.

In his book, The Real Bobby Dazzler, he wrote: “Little did Cullis know that seven of his players were due to take that train.

“One of those was me. The others were Colin Tether, Dick Calvert, Harry Middleton, Stan Round, Cyril Bevan and Geoff Sidebottom.

“Cullis called a meeting for the Sunday and we travelled back on the Saturday instead.”

It was a decision that probably saved their lives.

So, could an accident like this happen today?

“It is much less likely,” says Sim Harris, managing editor of Railnews.

“The railways in Britain are now protected by a system called TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System). If a train is travelling too fast, the driver is warned. If the warning is disregarded for more than a few seconds, the brakes are applied.

“The next generation of signalling and train protection, the European Rail Traffic Management System, is now being tested. This includes various visual warnings if the permitted speed is exceeded at any time and, as with TPWS, the system takes over and stops the train if it is travelling too fast or does not have authority to proceed.”


November 5, 1967 – 49 dead after commuter train derailed near Hither Green, South-east London

February 28, 1975 – 43 killed in Moorgate Tube crash, the cause of which remains a mystery

November 23, 1984 – London tube fire traps hundreds – thought to be started by a cigarette

September 19, 1986 – 75 injured and driver dead following collision at Colwich Junction near Rugeley, Staffordshire

November 18, 1987 – 31 dead after Kings Cross Station fire, which began in machine room under a wooden escalator

December 12, 1988 – 35 dead in Clapham rail collision following wiring errors made by an overworked rail worker

October 5, 1999 – 38 people died in Paddington rail crash, resulting in a public inquiry into high speed train safety

October 17, 2000 – Four dead in Hatfield rail crash caused by a cracked rail

February 28, 2001 – Ten people died in Selby rail crash after the driver fell asleep at the wheel

May 10, 2002 – Seven killed in Potters Bar rail crash after the train derailed at high speed

Saturday 24 January 2015

continue reading

At least 14 people killed in highway accident in Mexico

At least 14 people died and 19 others were injured Thursday when a bus collided with a freight truck in the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora, authorities said.

The accident happened before dawn on the road connecting Ciudad Obregon with Guaymas, the state coordinator for emergency services, Carlos Jesus Arias, told Efe.

"So far there are 14 people dead," the official said, adding that the injured were taken to two hospitals in Ciudad Obregon.

The bodies recovered at the scene "are completely burnt" and will be difficult to identify, Arias said.

The crash was apparently caused by an attempt by the driver of the bus, en route to the border metropolis of Tijuana, to pass a cantaloupe-laden truck on a bridge, he said.

Some of the 19 injured survivors are in critical condition, authorities said.

Saturday 24 January 2015

continue reading

Friday, 23 January 2015

Indonesian divers find 6 bodies in fuselage of crashed AirAsia jet

For the first time, Indonesian divers were able Friday to enter the fuselage of the AirAsia jetliner that crashed last month into the Java Sea and retrieved six bodies, an official said.

The operations chief at the National Search and Rescue Agency, Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, said the divers spotted some more bodies inside the fuselage.

"Today we have evacuated six bodies from inside the fuselage," Supriyadi said. "Some other bodies are still there but their position among other debris made it difficult for our divers."

A total of 65 bodies have now been recovered from AirAsia Flight 8501, which crashed Dec. 28 with 162 people on board while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city, to Singapore. Authorities believe many of the other bodies are still inside the fuselage.

Rescuers have been struggling with strong currents and poor visibility in an attempt to lift the fuselage of the Airbus A320 and what appears to be the plane's cockpit from the seabed at a depth of 100 feet.

Bad weather is a suspected factor in the crash. The pilots asked to climb from 32,000 feet to 38,000 feet to avoid threatening clouds, but were denied permission by air traffic controllers because of heavy air traffic.

Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told Parliament earlier this week that radar data showed the plane was climbing at an abnormally high rate, then dropped rapidly and disappeared. No distress signal was sent.

Officials of the National Transportation Safety Committee have ruled out sabotage. Investigators are analyzing data from the aircraft's cockpit voice and flight data recorders with advisers from Airbus, the plane's manufacturer.

The head of the transportation safety committee, Tatang Kurniadi, said a preliminary report on the accident is expected to be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organization next week.

He said a full analysis of what went wrong with the plane could take up to a year.

Saturday 24 January 2014

continue reading

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Highway accident: Forensic experts complete collection of DNA samples

A team of the National Forensic Science Agency of the National Police Bureau has collected the samples of the victims of the tragic accident on Kathore Link Road and their heirs for the DNA identification process.

At least 62 people were burned alive on the Shikarpur-bound Geo al-Shoaib Coach that had started its journey from Karachi. The overcrowded bus caught fire following a collision with a tanker at around midnight on January 11. As the bodies were charred beyond recognition, the authorities had decided to conduct DNA tests to identify the victims before handing the bodies over to the heirs.

The police investigators had later decided to summon the experts from the facility in Islamabad to collect the samples in Karachi, instead of sending them to the laboratory.

The team arrived in Karachi on Monday, after which the police approached the victims’ heirs again for the collection of blood samples. The DNA experts accepted the samples from the remains of the victims collected by the doctors at the hospital, but the blood samples of the relatives were not accepted as most belonged to distant relatives.

The DNA experts had asked that the parents or children’s blood samples be obtained. “Subsequently, we approached the parents or children of the victims for resampling,” explained Investigations SP Malik Altaf. “Only one victim’s family is left now as his father is currently imprisoned at the Sukkur Jail.”

The officer said that the jail authorities have been asked to collect his sample. He added that the experts have assured the police that they will submit the DNA test reports within two weeks.

Thursday 22 January 2015

continue reading

AirAsia Flight 8501: Five more bodies found, divers might reach the wreckage

Divers found five bodies of passengers of AirAsia Flight 8501 belted to their seats near the plane’s fuselage in the Java Sea on Thursday, an Indonesian official said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Rough seas and strong currents have hampered the search efforts for several days.

Three bodies have been retrieved from the sea, while two are yet to be recovered, bringing the total number of bodies found to 58 as of Thursday morning. Officials said they are optimistic that divers would now reach the fuselage where several bodies of passengers are expected to be trapped. The Airbus A320-200 went missing on its way to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board, and crashed after the pilot requested for a change of course to avoid unfavorable weather.

"Our divers found five bodies buried in mud, close to the plane fuselage. They were still belted to their seats," Suryadi B. Supriyadi, director of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, told AFP. "We believe they spilled out of the fuselage, which is 50 to 100 meters away."

Over the past several days, weather had reduced visibility underwater to only 2 meters, making it difficult for divers to reach the fuselage for inspection. However, an improvement in weather on Thursday is expected to help move the search forward.

"But it is a bright, clear day so we remain optimistic that the divers might reach the wreckage today (Thursday)," Supriyadi reportedly said.

The fuselage, which rests at a depth of about 92 feet on the sea floor, was found last week after a search of the shallow waters. The jet’s flight data recorders were also recovered last week and are being analyzed by investigators in Jakarta to help determine the cause of the crash.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said Tuesday that the plane had made an abnormally steep climb before stalling and crashing into the Java Sea.

Thursday 22 January 2015

continue reading

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Fire in shop-house kills eight in South Sulawesi, DVI team identifies victims

A fire gutted a shop in Sungguminasa, Gowa regency, South Sulawesi, early on Tuesday, killing eight people, six of whom died from burn injuries while two died from inhaling toxic fumes.

According to Gowa Fire Department member Abdul Rahim, firefighters found one intact body on the first floor, while the seven remaining victims were found separately on the second floor of the shop.

“We found two bodies hugging each other in a bathroom,” said Rahim.

The bodies were recovered after the fire was brought under control at 5:30 a.m. local time and were immediately taken to Syekh Yusuf General Hospital in Gowa.

At Tuesday noon, members of the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit at the South Sulawesi Police headquarters identified seven of the victims and handed their bodies over to their relatives for burial. Most of them hailed from outside Gowa regency.

Another eight people suffered fractures they sustained when fleeing the flames. Some of them leaped from the second floor of the building, while others ran through the flames.

The shop owner, his wife and other two children were among the eight injured victims, while the others were his niece and nephew and two nannies. They are currently being treated at Grestelina Hospital in Makassar.

Based on information gathered at the scene on Tuesday, the fire broke out on the first floor of the shop, which comprised four shop-houses. The fire quickly spread to the second floor where electronic goods and furniture were sold.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

continue reading

Zimbabwe: 9 more bus crash victims identified

Police have identified nine more people who died during Sunday’s horrific crash along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway, bringing to 25 the number of victims who have been identified so far. The other one is yet to be identified.

Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said six survivors of the accident were still admitted at Parirenyatwa Hospital.

On Monday, there were 13 who were admitted and seven of them were discharged yesterday.

“As the Zimbabwe Republic Police, we continue to appeal to the motoring public to exercise extreme caution on the roads, avoid speeding and the use of defective vehicles,” Snr Asst Comm Charamba said.

Meanwhile, 17 bodies were on Monday collected for burial by relatives. Most of them were taken to Mutoko.

The bodies were at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals mortuary and by yesterday only nine were still to be collected.

Mutoko East legislator Ricky Mawere yesterday said most of the victims were from his constituency.

He confirmed that the relatives had collected the bodies for burial.

Sunday’s horror crash — which claimed 26 lives and left 45 people injured — was declared a State of Disaster, paving the way for bereaved families to receive State assistance for burial of the victims.

This was disclosed by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday.

Twenty-four of the victims died on the spot, one on the way to hospital and the other at Parirenyatwa Hospital on Monday, bringing the death toll to 26.

The affected families received a coffin, US$200 each and transport from the Government.

Mnangagwa urged road users to exercise extreme caution on the road bearing in mind that public transport should not be a danger to human lives.

The Zupco bus heading for Mutoko and the Pioneer bus travelling to Harare side-swiped along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile the opposition MDC-T said it joined “the families of the deceased and the entire nation in mourning the tragic and unnecessary loss of life that continues to wreck havoc on the country’s dilapidated highways.”

“Over the years, the Zanu PF regime has been neglecting the country’s roads and highways resulting in the virtual collapse of our tarred road network. As a result of this perennial neglect, there is virtually no tarred road in the whole of Zimbabwe that is not littered with huge and dangerous potholes.

The country’s highways have been converted into death traps on which thousands of commuters lose their lives year in and year out,” the party said.

The party also condemned the Zanu PF regime’s plans to introduce 32 more tollgates in the country’s roads “at a time the Zimbabwe national Roads Authority (ZINARA) is bogged down by chronic mismanagement and unprecedented corruption leading to a massive pilfering of the money that is collected from the country’s existing tollgates.”

Wednesday 21 January 2015

continue reading

DNA tests fail to identify charred bodies in search for 43 missing Mexican students

Mexican prosecutors said Tuesday that an Austrian forensics lab has been unable to find any more DNA that could be used by conventional means to identify charred remains that might be those of 42 missing college students, but said they have authorised a final, unconventional effort.

The Attorney General’s Office said the University of Innsbruck reported that “excessive heat” damaged the mitochondrial DNA in fragments of teeth and bones, “at least to the point that normal methods cannot be used to successfully analyse them.”

Failure to positively identify the remains would be a setback for the government, which has struggled with widespread, often violent protests demanding that the students be returned alive, and with relatives’ scepticism about the official belief they are dead.

The University had previously found DNA in the remains that belonged to one of the 43 students who were detained and disappeared in the southern state of Guerrero in September. Prosecutors say the students were turned over to a drug gang that killed them and then incinerated their bodies on a fuel-fed pyre, before crushing the charred remains and them in a river.

Authorities sent only 16 sets of remains to Austria, saying the rest were so badly deteriorated there was no chance of identifying them.

The university has offered to use one last technique to identify the remains, but says there is a risk the testing may destroy the samples without obtaining any useful information.

That technique is known as massively parallel sequencing, which uses many computers in coordination to perform a task.

The university said it expected the testing to take another three months, but could not give an exact date for results.

“The main risk is that the DNA extracted may be destroyed “without yielding any usable results, prosecutors cited the university as saying.

Prosecutors said, however, they had authorised the new round of testing.

Vidulfo Rosales, a lawyer representing families of the missing teachers college students, said prosecutors should have consulted the families of the missing students before making that decision.

“If these tests are done on the bone fragments, there could be practically nothing left,” Rosales told local media. “This is going to have an impact on the parents’ belief system. ... In rural tradition, mourning is highly symbolic, highly important.”

The Austrian forensics team is considered a world specialist in identifying damaged remains through DNA testing. In 2004, the lab reconstructed DNA profiles of victims of a tsunami in South Asia whose bodies had been decomposing in extreme heat and humidity.

The students went missing Sept. 26 after confrontations with police in the Guerrero state city of Iguala in which three students and three bystanders were killed. Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam has said they were attacked by police on orders of Iguala’s then mayor, Jose Luis Abarca, who has since been detained after going into hiding.

The police and Abarca allegedly had ties to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang. Police allegedly turned the students over to Guerreros Unidos gunmen, who took them to a local dump, killed them and stacked their bodies on a pyre and used diesel, wood and old tires to burn them.

Authorities are holding more than 70 people in the case, which also forced the governor of Guerrero to resign.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

continue reading