Friday, 27 February 2015

Mumbai railway cop gives dignity to unclaimed bodies

They may have had to lead their lives alone, but Nayna Devekar ensures that they have somebody with them at least on their final journey.

What’s more, Devekar makes sure that the last rites are conducted in strict accordance with the dictates of the deceased’s religion. Attached with the Kurla Government Railway Police since 2011, Devekar has laid more than 450 unclaimed bodies to rest, some of which were found on the city’s roads as well.

“On my first day with the GRP, a girl had died in a railway accident and nobody turned up to claim her body. After several days had passed, I decided to conduct her last rites according to the customs of her religion.

That experience touched my heart and I decided to ensure that the final rites are conducted properly for every person who dies in a railway accident,” said the constable. “Every day, I check the list of the people who die in railway accidents and later take custody of unclaimed bodies to conduct their last rites.

I believe that a railway accident is one of the worst ways for a person to die and I want to make sure that they don’t have to make their final journey alone,” she added.

‘Religion is key’

Devekar said she finds out the religion of the person with the help of the belongings found on the body. Once Devekar is sure of the deceased’s religion, she treats the body accordingly. She ensures that the body is taken to a crematorium if the person was a Hindu, to a burial ground for a Muslim, and so on.

“It is important not only for the last rites to be conducted, but for them to be conducted according to the religion of the deceased. During duty hours, I ensure that people do not cross the railway tracks and try to make them aware of the consequences, and conduct the funerals for the dead while I’m off duty.

People just don’t realise that they are playing with their lives by trespassing on the railway tracks,” said the constable. Devekar said that while most of the cost for the funeral is borne by the government, she bears the expenses of the things like ghee etc required for cremation and also pays small amounts to the workers involved. She said that she conducts the funerals before or after duty hours, depending on her shift.

Devekar’s superior, Deputy Commissioner of Police Rupali Ambure said, “We highly appreciate and admire her work and encourage her. She will be felicitated and given a reward on Women’s Day.”

Friday 27 February 2015

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Bangladesh ferry death toll rises to 79

The death toll in Bangladesh's MV Mostafa ferry disaster rose to 79, according to the latest official count of bodies recovered. On the river Padma, near Shivalaya Upazila sub-district, the motor launch Mostafa carrying over 200 passengers capsized after being hit on 22 February by the 330 gt cargo vessel Nargis-1, which was carrying fertiliser.

Shivalaya Upazila Nirbahi district executive officer Galiv Khan, also in charge of the ferry accident control room, told IHS Maritime this morning that nine further bodies had been recovered following the previous official count of 70 bodies on 23 February. He added that relatives have claimed 78 bodies. The unidentified body was transferred to the local hospital morgue.

The recovered bodies comprised 19 children, 25 women and 35 men, Fire Service control room manager Enayet Hossain confirmed to IHS Maritime.

Bangladesh Department of Shipping (DOS) officials estimate some 120 passengers were saved from the river by rescuers. The relatives of an estimated 20 passengers still reported missing are continuing the search for bodies in the Padma, a lower tributary of the Ganges. They have registered the missing persons' names with the police. Khan said he had received five names and the search for bodies continues.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority said the Mostafa was salvaged on 23 February using the salvage ship Rustam. The captain of the Nargis-1 has been arrested. A DoS team is now investigating the cause of the accident.

Friday 27 February 2015

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Planned Canadian DNA data bank to link missing persons with unidentified remains

Canada’s much-anticipated DNA data bank for linking missing persons with unidentified remains has been heralded as a powerful new tool to identify the nameless and help put killers behind bars. The Conservative government has also touted the data bank as a way to bring some closure to families of missing aboriginal women whose loved ones may, in fact, be dead – their unclaimed remains buried in unmarked graves or stored at coroners’ offices in cardboard boxes.

But a Globe and Mail investigation has found that plans for the data bank fall far short of the system in the United States, which American and Canadian experts deem a gold standard. This means fewer cold cases could be solved, fewer people could be identified and fewer criminals could be brought to justice.

The RCMP have not yet presented police agencies, coroners and medical examiners with a plan for the data bank, which passed into legislation last year and is expected to launch in the spring of 2017. But the federal police service revealed to The Globe that Ottawa will not pay for DNA testing in missing-persons and unidentified-remains cases, as Washington does. In Canada, it will also be up to police and death investigators to decide which types of DNA to profile, while in the U.S. a centralized lab always attempts to analyze two types. The Canadian approach means the country’s data bank will not be as well-populated or as consistent as the one in the U.S.

The DNA data bank will be of particular significance to the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women who are meeting in Ottawa on Friday, the same day as a national round table on violence against native women convenes in the capital.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected calls for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, saying the tragedies are not part of a “sociological phenomenon” but rather crimes best handled by police. His government has pointed to the data bank as part of its strategy to address the issue of violence against aboriginal women, who are far more likely to be killed or go missing than non-native women.

anada’s much-anticipated DNA data bank for linking missing persons with unidentified remains has been heralded as a powerful new tool to identify the nameless and help put killers behind bars. The Conservative government has also touted the data bank as a way to bring some closure to families of missing aboriginal women whose loved ones may, in fact, be dead – their unclaimed remains buried in unmarked graves or stored at coroners’ offices in cardboard boxes.

But a Globe and Mail investigation has found that plans for the data bank fall far short of the system in the United States, which American and Canadian experts deem a gold standard. This means fewer cold cases could be solved, fewer people could be identified and fewer criminals could be brought to justice.

The RCMP have not yet presented police agencies, coroners and medical examiners with a plan for the data bank, which passed into legislation last year and is expected to launch in the spring of 2017. But the federal police service revealed to The Globe that Ottawa will not pay for DNA testing in missing-persons and unidentified-remains cases, as Washington does. In Canada, it will also be up to police and death investigators to decide which types of DNA to profile, while in the U.S. a centralized lab always attempts to analyze two types. The Canadian approach means the country’s data bank will not be as well-populated or as consistent as the one in the U.S.

The DNA data bank will be of particular significance to the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women who are meeting in Ottawa on Friday, the same day as a national round table on violence against native women convenes in the capital.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected calls for a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women, saying the tragedies are not part of a “sociological phenomenon” but rather crimes best handled by police. His government has pointed to the data bank as part of its strategy to address the issue of violence against aboriginal women, who are far more likely to be killed or go missing than non-native women.

Canadian and American experts said it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the specific ancestry of a set of remains. Forensic analysis, including anthropological and dental, can provide solid hints, but authorities are loath to describe a woman as native when it is also possible she was Asian.

Although the whole picture is unknown, Canada’s unidentified dead include at least 11 women who were aboriginal or could possibly have been aboriginal: three in Ontario, three of Inuit ancestry in Nunavut, two in Alberta and one each in Yukon, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

Little is known about their lives before they became Jane Does. One woman was found in a river in New Westminster, B.C., in 1991 wearing a gold wedding band. One homeless woman, perhaps from New Brunswick, died after choking on her vomit in a Toronto apartment in 1974. Another woman’s bones were found in 2006 strewn across a field in Mossleigh, Alta.; a farmer told police he had not seen the remains there the year before.

These women are among Canada’s 91 unidentified female remains. There are also 470 unidentified males and 136 cases where the sex is unknown. All 13 provinces and territories eventually provided data to The Globe, but several jurisdictions took more than three months to do so, some citing a lack of resources to collect the information. The 697 figure is not a complete tally, since it does not include very old or very recently found remains or, in the case of Ontario, newborns.

Canada is years behind the U.S. and the United Kingdom in identifying its anonymous dead. Both countries have national DNA databanks that store and compare genetic profiles from missing persons and unidentified remains. The American databank launched a full 15 years ago.

The Canadian government already has a National DNA Data Bank that includes profiles related to crime scenes and convicted offenders. Profiles related to missing persons and unidentified remains will be added. This genetics-based tool will help to ensure that if someone goes missing in one part of the country and is found dead in another, the link between the two cases could be made.

As part of its strategy to address the number of unsolved cases involving murdered and missing indigenous women, Canada launched a National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains in 2011. The centre, which maintains a website featuring cases across the country and runs a bigger, non-public database that searches for links, will support the DNA databank.

The RCMP does not track whether the centre has helped put names to the nameless thus far, so it is difficult to gauge its effectiveness. In part because the centre’s work has not progressed as quickly as Ontario expected, the province will this year revamp its own website featuring missing-persons and unidentified remains cases.

For more than a decade, victims’ families have been calling on Ottawa to create a DNA-based databank for missing persons and unidentified remains. Bill after bill, however, languished in Parliament as privacy concerns persisted.

The delay has been hard on those with missing loved ones, including Laurie Odjick, whose then-teenaged daughter, Maisy Odjick, disappeared with her friend Shannon Alexander in 2008 from a First Nations community in Quebec. “It’s frustrating, it’s maddening and it’s upsetting,” she said. “Out of respect for these human remains, they should be going home to their families.”

The delay may also have logistical and financial implications: Since most provinces and territories conduct DNA testing on a case-by-case basis, it is unclear how many of Canada’s existing unidentified remains will be retroactively tested to populate the databank – especially since the RCMP will not require coroners and medical examiners to go back and test remains for which samples have not already been culled.

Ontario, the province with the most unidentified remains in the country, has sufficient DNA profiles for 74 of its 239 remains. Any further testing will be costly and time-consuming, requiring the exhumation of bodies and the extraction of DNA from degraded samples. Alberta does not routinely do DNA testing of unidentified remains. An Alberta Justice spokeswoman said it is too soon to say whether the province’s medical examiners will participate in the databank. The province, which currently has 52 unidentified remains, first needs to see how the databank will function and what will be expected of death investigators.

The RCMP said it will let police, coroners and medical examiners decide what kind of DNA to submit to the national databank – nuclear, mitochondrial or both. In the U.S., a Texas-based centre, which is federally mandated to process missing-persons and unidentified-remains samples, attempts to get both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA in all cases.

Nuclear DNA is the more conclusive of the two when it comes to identification, but mitochondrial DNA has its advantages: It better withstands time and elements, and since it is passed down the matrilineal line between even distant relatives, it can fill a void if DNA from a missing person or their immediate family is unavailable for uploading into the databank.

Arthur Eisenberg, the director of the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, said consistently analyzing both types of DNA maximizes the potential for successful identification.

In the U.S., Washington pays for DNA testing for missing persons and unidentified remains samples sent to the Texas lab. Dr. Eisenberg said over the past decade, the lab received $10-million in federal funding primarily for DNA testing.

In Canada, federal dollars for the databank – $8.1-million over five years beginning in 2016-2017, and $1.3-million annually ongoing – will only go toward creating the databank and maintaining it. The RCMP told The Globe that police agencies, coroners and medical examiners will be expected to pay for genetic analysis at accredited labs.

Sergeant John Hebert, the head of Calgary police’s missing-persons team, is concerned about DNA costs remaining with police and death investigators. Without federal funding for the actual testing, he suspects fewer cases will be profiled and that the effectiveness of the databank could be reduced. It is possible that not much will change from the status quo, he said. He pointed to the American approach as a model he hopes Canada will emulate, saying it “has had tremendous success.”

For Bernadette Smith, whose sister, Claudette Osborne, went missing in Winnipeg in 2008, waiting to learn whether her sibling’s DNA matches any of Canada’s unidentified remains is difficult. It is Ms. Smith’s understanding that her sister’s DNA was entered into the American databank years ago.

“We know there’s a possibility of her not being alive, but we don’t let go of the hope that she might walk through the door,” Ms. Smith said. “If she’s out there somewhere, unidentified, then whenever this database gets put together, we’ll have some questions. Why wasn’t this done sooner?”

Friday 27 February 2015

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Afghanistan avalanche dead crosses 200

At least 100 more people were reported dead in avalanches in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, bringing the total death toll since Wednesday morning to at least 230 people, Afghan officials told.

The northeastern Panjshir province is so far the worst-hit area in the country, where authorities recovered 86 more bodies Thursday, bringing the toll since Wednesday morning to 186 in this province alone according to provincial police chief Gen. Aziz Ghairat

Ghairat said that there were more than 100 others who had suffered injuries in the avalanches and heavy snowfall in the area. He added that there were at least 100 others missing in the area.

"Several villages, including provincial capital were hit by avalanches; two villages totally disappeared from the face of the earth," Ghairat said.

He added that local aid workers and those sent by the central government were able to so far open only 18 kilometers of roads that connect the provincial capital with local districts.

Afghan Defense Ministry officials said that choppers at their disposal were unable to land on most of the avalanche-hit areas of Panjshir.

A provincial police spokesperson in northeastern Badakhshan province told AA on Thursday that at least 18 people were killed when an avalanche hit a remote village. Earlier this week, 10 people had lost their lives in avalanches in the same province.

Afghanistan’s Natural Disaster Management Authority's senior official Mohammad Aslam Sayas on Thursday told AA that emergency assistance, including medicines, food, tents and warm clothes were sent to disaster-hit areas.

"Apart from avalanches, heavy snowfalls and floods have caused human losses and destruction in several provinces, including Panjshir, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kapisa, Parwan, Nuristan and capital Kabul," Ayas said.

At least eight people, including women and children were also killed in heavy rains and snowfall in eastern Nangarhar and Laghman provinces, he added.

It is feared that there are scores more dead buried under the snow, which authorities are yet to discover.

On Wednesday, 13 people were reported dead in avalanches in Parwan province and five others in central Bamyan provinces.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a statement offered condolences to the victims’ families and ordered authorities to do their best to help the people in the disaster-hit areas.

The Afghan national cricket team also dedicated their shock victory Thursday against Scotland at the ongoing cricket world cup in New Zealand to the Afghan victims.

Local Afghans along with government workers have been carrying out rescue operations in the disaster areas since Wednesday morning. Fazul Rahim, a local from Khenj district, told AA Wednesday via phone that at least 13 people were killed in his single village alone; two of his cousins were among the dead.

"We have discovered the bodies, but cold weather and snow-covered ground is not allowing us to bury our loved ones," Rahim added.

The Salang Tunnel Pass, which connects Afghanistan's northern provinces with the southern provinces remains closed because of more than 70 avalanches that have hit the country since Feb. 24.

Afghan capital Kabul and adjacent provinces, too, continue to suffer with many areas facing severe power shortages because of storms and heavy snowfall giving no respite to the war ravaged Afghan people.

Friday 27 February 2015

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Church collapse: DNA expert explains how Nigeria bodies were matched to families

Pathologists that conducted DNA testing on the Nigeria building collapse victims, Unistel Medical Laboratories, cannot say with certainty that families received correct bodies.

The firm's managing director, Dr Munro Marx, said they could “only vouch for the tissue sample we received and the match with the family member”.

He explained that each body was allocated a number corresponding with the number on the tissue sample sent to their laboratory at the University of Stellenbosch.

Marx said they then generated DNA profiles from the tissue samples, which were then matched with DNA profiles of family members.

The Mkhulisi family in Germiston is disputing the identity of the body they have received, saying their daughter, Phumzile Mkhulisi,47, had a distinct gap between her front teeth but the body they have had none.

Marx said in this case, the tissue sample matched the DNA profiles of Mkhulisi's two sons and that of her brother.

“We, in this case, communicated with the disaster team that was in Nigeria and they also identified the body using certain physical features. Together with the two, we were able to confirm that, that body, with that number, corresponds with the children therefore that is (Phumzile). But we have no control on whether that body was in the bag that was numbered(according to the tissue sample),” he said.

He however emphasised that it was highly unlikely that there was a mix-up, saying it was ensured that the number on the bag corresponded with documents.

“That I know because we were in constant communication with(the team) during the loading process(on the plane to SA) to make sure that this matches to that,” he said.

Marx said the gap the Mkhulisis are referring to could have been closed as a result of heat compression.

He said discolouring caused by the chemical used to embalm the bodies, Formaldehyde, could be the reason the body appeared to have no skin.

The family, which has been granted permission to conduct tests on the body, vowed to push for the exhumation of all the bodies if the tests were negative.

Of the 116 people who died in the collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations building in Lagos in September, 85 were from South Africa.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Avalanche in Afghanistan kills at least 124 people

At least 124 people have died in north-eastern Afghanistan, after heavy winter snow caused an avalanche which buried and killed residents across four provinces.

Panjshir province, around 60 miles (100km) north-west of the capital, Kabul, was the heaviest hit, as avalanches destroyed or damaged around 100 homes, said Mohammad Aslam Syas, the deputy director of the Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers desperately used their hands to try to save those buried underneath the snow, the acting governor of Panjshir, Abdul Rahman Kabiri said.

President Ashraf Ghani sent his condolences to the families of the dead, and said he was “saddened by news of the avalanches and flooding across the country”.

He added that he had ordered urgent assessments of the extent of damage.

Heavy snowstorms which began early yesterday hampered rescue efforts, after snowfall nearly 3ft deep accumulated in some areas and fallen trees blocked roads in the Panjshir Valley.

As many as 600 families were affected by avalanches in Panjshir valley’s Dara district, according to people trying to reach the area to assist rescuers.

“People there have told me that two of my relatives have been killed and eight others are still under the snow,” an Afghan man who goes by the single name Sharafudin told reporters.

“My son and I are trying to get through to see if we can help find their bodies. But it will take us at least three or four hours to get there because of the snow and the road is very narrow, so we have to walk, the car can't get through.

”We've had no help yet from the authorities, no medicines, no machinery to open the roads so we can get to the buried houses.“

The snowfall which has covered large parts of Afghanistan and caused the tragic avalanches came towards the end of an otherwise mild and dry winter.

Meanwhile, authorities in Parwan province have closed the strategic Salang Tunnel over avalanche fears.

Power to much of the capital has been cut since earlier this week, after power cables crossing the tunnel were damaged.

However, forecasters expected snow to start melting in the Panjshir Valley and much of the mountainous north-west of the Hindu Kush range in coming days.

As Afghanistan has suffered through some three decades of war, the subsequently weakened infrastructure outside of towns and cities means natural disasters such as landslides, floods and avalanches take a heavy toll on a country.

In May, a massive landslide killed anywhere from 250 to 2,700 people, authorities said at the time. Another landslide in 2012 killed 71 people. Authorities were not able to recover the vast majority of bodies and ended up declaring the site a massive grave.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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Seven more bodies pulled out, Padma ferry disaster deaths climb to 78

Seven more bodies were pulled out from the river in Manikganj’s Shibalay and Harirampur Upazilas on Wednesday morning.

Six of the bodies were identified and handed over to their families, Paturia river police outpost Sub-Inspector Abdul Khalel told reporters.

Authorities called off the rescue operation on Monday after the ferry was tugged to the banks.

Fire service rescuers, however, have kept up the search for victims, said Manikganj Fire Brigade’s Station Officer Jihad Hossain.

Seven people were still missing, according to their families.

The ferry, carrying 150 passengers and crew, capsized after colliding with a trawler on the river Padma. Rescuers managed to save at least 50 passengers, Harun told Reuters.

Police have seized the trawler and arrested the captain and his three crew, Harun said.

Twenty-seven of the bodies recovered were inside the ferry, Harun said. Another 43 bodies were pulled from the water on Sunday, more than half of them women and children, he said. Rescue attempts had now ended.

A similar accident on Feb. 13 killed at least seven passengers in southern Bangladesh.

Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, suffers regular ferry disasters. Death tolls sometimes run into the hundreds.

The ferry had been heading to Paturia from Daulatdia in Rajbari, about 135 km (85 miles) west of the capital Dhaka. Shajahan Khan, the shipping minister, told reporters at the scene that an investigation had been opened.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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India: Camp to find missing people, identify bodies

Ten police units from the adjoining districts will come together for the first time for identifying missing people and unidentified bodies during a two-day camp at the Bhimashankar hall of Pune rural police headquarters at Chavanagar in Pashan on Wednesday.

The police teams of Pune rural, Pune city, Ahmednagar, Thane rural, Raigad, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur and Navi Mumbai will participate in the camp which will remain open for people between 10 am and 8 pm.

Manoj Lohiya, superintendent of police (Pune rural), said the aim is to identify people who were murdered. "For instance a body is found in Sangli, but a missing person's complaint is registered in Pune. The camp will help police units tally the details and share data to identify such missing people," he said.

The rural police failed to find 200 missing people in 2014 and 30 in 2015 so far. It has also failed to establish identities of 17 unidentified people found murdered in 2014 and one in 2015.

The Pune police have failed to detect 3,344 missing persons complaint in 2014 and 230 in 2015. The number of unidentified people found murdered in Pune is one each in 2014 and 2015. The camp will be inaugurated by special inspector general of police (Kolhapur range) Ritesh Kumar at 10 am on Wednesday.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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One more AirAsia victim identified

The Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Surabaya has identified the body of a female passenger of AirAsia flight QZ8501 that plunged into the Karimata Strait, Central Kalimantan.

DVI team head Snr. Comr. Dr. Budiyono said on Tuesday that the victim had been identified as Kathleen Fulvia Linaksita, 12, a resident of Surabaya.

“We identified her by comparing her DNA with the DNA of her father, Tony Linaksita, who died in the plane accident and was identified earlier,” Budiyono was quoted by Antara as saying.

With the identification of Kathleen, he said the team had identified 97 bodies among the 103 recovered.

The plane crashed into the Java Sea on Dec. 28 with the loss of all 155 passengers and seven crew members.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Bangladesh ferry disaster death toll rises

The death toll in Bangladesh's passenger ferry tragedy on the river Padma in Manikganj, near Dhaka, has risen to 72.

Two more dead bodies were unofficially claimed, soon after official announcement of the recovery of 70 bodies on 23 February.

At least five passengers remain missing, Bangladesh Department of Shipping's (DoS's) chief nautical surveyor Jashim Uddin Sarker told IHS Maritime.

He said around 120 passengers were saved by local rescuers and other vessels from Padma, which is the Bangladesh part of the river Ganges. However, family members of at least 30 missing passengers are still searching for bodies in the disaster area, according to the reports published today (24 February) in local media. The exact number of those on board has not yet been determined.

The over-loaded double-decker motor launch, Mostafa, with an estimated 200 passengers, capsized after being hit by fertiliser laden cargo vessel Nargis-1 and sank on 22 February before noon, near the Paturia terminal. Mostafa was heading towards Paturia from nearby Daulatdia. According to Sarker, Nargis-1 is a bay-crossing vessel, weighing around 330 gt. DoS's chief engineer, Fakhrul Islam, confirmed to IHS Maritime that the names of both vessels were correct and registered with the department.

Of the recovered dead bodies of 28 women, 15 children, and 27 men, 29 were recovered from the cabin of the salvaged Mostafa. The vessel was salvaged on 23 February morning, when the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA)'s salvage ship Rustam pulled the ferry out of the mid-stream of the Padma, BIWTA chairman Dr Samsuddoha Khondaker told IHS Maritime.

Sarker said the latest two reported bodies recovered by rescuers may be counted unofficially as the search for bodies continues by private operators and the local district administration, including the local fire service. DoS sources said the government will continue the search for bodies for several days.

Islam said Mostafa's night-time capacity was 62 passengers, while the day-time capacity was 140. DoS officials admitted that such vessels are known to have violated capacity regulations and that the operations of cargo vessels is inadequately overseen by law enforcers due to shortages of equipment and manpower. As a result accidents occur every year, with large numbers of casualties.

The police arrested the captain of Nargis-1, the vessel that reportedly ran into the side of Mostafa causing it to capsize. A three-member committee from the DoS has been set up to determine the cause of the accident. Witnesses said Mostafa sank shortly after being hit by Nargis-1.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Bangladesh: Rescue operation called off, ferry pulled out to the bank

Manikganj Deputy Commissioner has called off the rescue operation after passenger ferry ML Mostofa was pulled out and turned around near the banks of the river Padma.

Deputy Commissioner Rashida Ferdous has called off the rescue operation after 69 bodies were fished out of the river until 10:30am on Monday, more than 20 hours after the disaster.

“However local authorities and divers will keep up the search with trawlers for more bodies that might be around”, she said.

57 of the total 69 bodies have been identified and handed over to the families.

The remaining 12 unidentified bodies would be sent to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital’s (DMCH) morgue, she added.

“We have requested (the DMCH) to keep the bodies for at least two days, so that their families could identify them.”

Double-decker ML Mostofa-3, on its way to Daulatdia, sank after being hit by cargo vessel MV Nargis-1 soon after leaving Paturia dock on Sunday noon.

More than a hundred passengers of two buses -- ‘Comfort Line’ and ‘Rajdhani Express’ -- were being ferried across the river.

Witnesses said, the vessel sank shortly after being hit by the cargo vessel MV Nargis-1.

Locals with boats and trawlers rushed to rescue the passenger. Some of the passengers swam to nearby boats and trawlers.

A BIWTC tugboat located the ferry on Sunday afternoon. Rescue vessel, ‘Rustom’ pulled it out and carried it to the banks of the river around 4:30am.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan visited the site and announced Tk 100,000 for families of each victim. The Manikganj district administration has announced a further Tk 20,000.

The DC at a press conference said so far only one missing complaint has been filed.

The total number of passengers on the ferry could not be verified. “The ferry could hold 140 passengers, my guess is there should be about 150 passengers on board”, said DC Rashida.

Asked if the vessel was overcrowded that caused it to capsize, DC said it was the captains’ lack of skill that led to the disaster. “They (the captains) were not alert. Both the captains have proved they were professionally incompetent. ”

The cargo vessel’s captain and two of its crew have been arrested. The Department of Shipping has formed a three-member committee to probe the accident.

Monday 23 February 2015

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Ten passengers die as van catches fire near Nooriabad

At least ten passengers were burnt to death and ten others injured when a van overturned and its CNG cylinder exploded near Nooriabad town in Jamshoro district late Sunday night, Dunya News reported.

The ill-fated van was traveling from Karachi to Hyderabad.

Medical teams have collected samples to conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies, many of which were charred beyond recognition.

Two victims including 40-year-old Musarrat and her husband Iqbal (45) have been identified by their relatives. Both were residents of Latifabad area in Hyderabad.

On the other hand, authorities have decided to cancel route permits of the bus transporter and register a case against the owner of the van.

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

Monday 23 February 2015

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Families of Lagos victims cannot live without certainty

The tragedy of the death of 84 South Africans at a Nigerian church in Lagos last year is far from over, the pain is nowhere near its end.

One family whose daughter was among those killed when a building at the church collapsed has threatened to go to court for an order that the bodies of all the victims be exhumed if the results of independent DNA testing do not confirm that the body they received was that of their child.

The family is adamant that the body they received is not that of their daughter, Phumzile Mkhulisi, 47. The family's suspicions arose after what it claims was state bungling and "unconvincing" statements by South African officials.

Although our government did everything in its power to help repatriate the bodies, it is worrying that one family cannot have closure.

Mkhulisi's brother says h er body could be in any one of 80-odd graves across the country.

It was painful, and outright shocking, that the Nigerian authorities acted at snail's pace to identify the South Africans killed at the church.

Now we are faced with serious allegations that some of the bodies might have been wrongly identified.

This tragedy tells us that the government should add dental records to its identification systems.

Some will say that the government did not send the victims to Nigeria, and that it should be praised for helping to bring the bodies home.

But families have the right to know that they are burying the right body. They cannot be expected to keep quiet when there are doubts about who is in the coffin.

We call on the South African and Nigerian governments to clear up lingering doubts about the identity of some of the dead.

The Mkhulisi family will get closure only when all its questions have been answered.

Monday 23 February 2015

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Sunday, 22 February 2015

At least 41 dead after overcrowded ferry sinks in Bangladesh river

An overcrowded ferry has sunk in a Bangladesh river leaving at least 41 people including 11 children dead as rescuers search for missing passengers.

The ferry collided with a cargo vessel and sank within minutes on the Padma river, the second deadly boat accident in a fortnight in the country, which has a history of ferry tragedies.

"Divers have recovered 41 bodies. The dead included 11 children and seven women," local police chief Rakibuz Zaman said, updating an earlier toll of 38.

Officials said they did not know the exact number of people missing, but said search and rescue efforts would continue through the night, with the aid of floodlights from other ferries on the river.

Rescuers were unloading bodies from small boats some 70km from the capital Dhaka at the Paturia ferry terminal in the country's northwest, where grieving relatives have gathered to identify them.

"We found one body but five are still missing. We were returning home after the opening of a temple," Hindu holy man Kumud Ranjan Goswami said of his colleagues.

Survivors said the MV Mostofa was overcrowded with about 70-150 passengers crammed into the upper and lower decks, leaving them scrambling to find their loved ones when the tragedy struck.

"I was holding my mother's hand when the cargo boat hit our ferry from behind," an 18-year-old who gave his name as Al Amin told AFP at the terminal.

"Within two minutes the ferry was sunk. Before I realised I was washed away to the middle of the river.

"I swam and a ferry rescued me. But I don't know what happened to my mom."

Police chief Mr Zaman said some 50 people "swam ashore or were rescued by other vessels".

Bangladeshi ferries do not normally keep passenger lists, making it difficult to establish how many are missing after an accident.

An official said a salvage vessel was on its way to raise the sunken ferry, adding that the master of the cargo ship and two other crew had been arrested.

The Padma river is one of the largest in the delta nation, and boats are the main form of travel in many of Bangladesh's remote rural areas, especially in the south and northeast.

Local newspaper Prothom Alo quoted one survivor, Hafizur Rahman, as saying the cargo ship hit the boat 15 minutes after departure - causing it to overturn and trapping many passengers.

"I was on the deck of the ferry and fell into the river. Those who were on the deck were able to come out but none of the passengers inside could get out," Mr Rahman told the paper.

Boat capsizes are common in Bangladesh, one of Asia's poorest nations, which is criss-crossed by more than 230 rivers.

Experts blame poorly maintained vessels, flaws in design and overcrowding for most of the tragedies.

This month, at least five people including a minor were killed when an overloaded ferry carrying some 200 passengers capsized in an estuary in the south of the country.

About 50 people were also killed in August last year when a crowded ferry sank in rough weather in the Munshiganj district.

Naval officials have said more than 95 percent of Bangladesh's hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized boats do not meet minimum safety regulations.

Sunday 22 February 2015

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Bangladesh ferry capsizes with 100 passengers on board

A Bangladeshi ferry carrying more than 100 passengers capsized on Sunday in the Padma river, 70 km (44 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, police said.

Bidhan Tripura, police superintendent of Manikganj district, said the ferry was hit by a cargo trawler but that no casualties had yet been reported.

Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, suffers regular ferry disasters, with deaths sometimes running into the hundreds.

The ferry was heading to Paturia from Daulatdia in Rajbari.

Ten days ago, at least three people have died after a boat carrying Muslim pilgrims travelling to an annual Islamic congregation capsized in a river in southern Bangladesh.

The overloaded ferry with 200 passengers aboard sank on Friday Feb 13 in the Taltoli estuary leading to the Bay of Bengal, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of the capital, Dhaka, police said.

Most of the passengers on the boat, which departed from Bangladesh’s southernmost coastal town of Kuakata, were heading to a religious gathering in the southwestern Bangladesh district of Barguna, said Babul Akhter, an official at Barguna police station.

While rescuers in Bangladesh have managed to retrieve the bodies after the boat capsized, still five passengers are unaccounted for, Akhter said, adding, “Most of the passengers were able to swim ashore.”

Ferry accidents are common in riverine low-lying Bangladesh with slack safety standards. Casualties of appalling shipping accidents sometimes run above hundreds.

Last August, Bangladesh for the first time arrested the owner of a ferry which sank resulting in the death of 110 people.

Sunday 22 February 2015

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Dukki mine disaster: Bodies of seven miners recovered on fourth day

At least seven dead bodies of laborers have been recovered today (Sunday) from a coal mine in Duki area of Loralai, Dunya News reported.

According to sources, fourth day of evacuating the laborers from the coal mine is underway in Loralai.

Rescue teams and Levies personnel’s pulled out four bodies from the mine last night whereas three were evacuated early morning today.

Four of the laborers have been identified as Jin Bakht, Mir Alim, Aqal Zaman and Azeem Khan.

According to rescue teams, the bodies of the laborers are burned and mutilated.

Mining industry of Loralai earns hundreds of millions rupees but in case of such accident, there are no rescue measurements for the labourers.

Earlier, the coal mine collapsed on Thursday morning when suddenly the mine was filled with gas and a blast occurred.

As many as 20 miners got stuck under the collapsed mine while at least eight died on the spot. After 24 hours, 11 laborers were rescued alive but unconscious.

Rescue team from Quetta could make it to Loralai after 10 hours of the accident.

Tehseeldar of Dukki, Habibur Rehman told Dunya News that dead bodies of the miners to be retrieved are 2200 feet down the earth.

Sunday 22 February 2015

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Bus overturns in western Indonesia, killing 18

Police say a crowded bus overturned on a toll road on Indonesia’s main island of Java and 18 people were killed.

Java police Lt. Col. Pungki Bhuwana says about 50 other passengers were injured in the crash Friday on Jatingaleh turnpike near Semarang, the capital of Central Java province.

The bus ran out of control and rolled over on a sharp bend, hitting a road divider before ending up on a gorge wall.

It was carrying members of a Quran recitation group back from the Central Java town of Pekalongan to Bojonegoro in East Java.

The injured victims were taken to the Bhayangkara, Kariadi, St. Elisabeth and Sultan Agung hospitals. Semarang Traffic Police unit chief Adj. Sr. Comr.

Sixteen passengers of the Sang Engon bus died after it rolled over at high speed on the Jangli toll road in Semarang on Friday.

Two more passengers of a bus that rolled over in Semarang, Central Java, died on Saturday, bringing the accident death toll to 18.

Central Java Police medic and health division head Sr. Comr. Rini Muliawati said the two victims died at Kariadi Hospital.

"The remains have been taken to their hometown in Bojonegoro, East Java," Rini said in Semarang as quoted by Antara news agency.

The bus was transporting 58 passengers, most of them middle-aged, from Bojonegoro on Friday morning to a religious event in Pekalongan, Central Java.

The Disaster Victim Identification team (DVI) of new Central Java Police has identified five of a total of 18 bodies of victims killed.

Tim Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) Sector Health Medicine (Dokkes) Central Java Police opened a post Ante Mortem for reporting missing persons related to the accident at Toll Teak Ngaleh.

Ante Mortem post Bhayangkara Hospital Complex opened in Semarang. Dokkes Head of Central Java Police, Police Commissioner Muliawati Rini said, passengers are not all know each other.

For identification of victims it also involves INAFIS (Indonesian Automatic Fingerprint Identification System) Central Java Police. "Not all victims identified. Data ante mortem less complete (profile or supporting data on the victim), "he said in the Post DVI, Friday February 20th.

Saturday 21 February 2015

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10 workers dead in Abu Dhabi building fire

In one of the worst fires in the UAE, 10 people were killed and eight injured in an early morning blaze in the capital’s Musaffah area at a local tyre shop located in a two-storey building on Friday.

The ground floor had seven stores and one car repair-shop and witnesses say five of the commercial units and the car repair shop were affected by the fire. The blaze spread to the upper level, which was being illegally used as a workers’ accommodation, police said.

“The 10 individuals who died were residing in the upper floor that was actually designed to be used as a warehouse, not a place of residence,” a statement by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said.

Police said the fire victims were of different nationalities.

Firefighters doused the fire and evacuated the building after receiving a tip-off at 3.44 am that a fire had broken out in three car repair shops in the Mussafah area of Abu Dhabi.

Quick Intervention

Civil Defence vehicles from the Musaffah’s main centre M14 and M33, Al Wathba, Al Maqta and Khalifa City B, all headed towards the scene. Quick Intervention Units from Khalifa City A and Mohammad Bin Zayed City in addition to patrols, ambulances, rescue, medical prevention and investigation teams all rushed to help.

Thick, black smoke surrounded the scene just behind the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), witnesses said. The bodies were transferred to the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), hospital employees reported.

The injured individuals were also taken to SKMC and Al Jazira Hospital for treatment. The Abu Dhabi Police arrested the building’s owner, and is in the process arresting the other suspects, including the building supervisor. The Abu Dhabi Civil Defense General Directorate had warned investors, workshop owners, and workers of the dangers associated with illegal housing, and indicated that they would show zero tolerance to those who disregard public safety conditions.


A full investigation is underway and the area has been cordoned off to conduct a forensic sweep to determine the fire’s origin. Victims were brought to public hospital, the Shaikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), at about 8am, said Nizam, a Bangladeshi worker who lives in Musaffah Industrial area. “We wanted to see what was happening, but the area was cordoned off by police personnel and I don’t know if anyone was really allowed to enter the hospital,” he said.

“We heard that some workers were shifted to buildings adjoining SKMC (which earlier housed Al Jazira Hospital) but we did not have access to them either,” he added. Sources at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), which manages public healthcare facilities in the emirate, were unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.

A doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, said that medical staff who were off duty had been asked to come in. “Many of us were asked to come to the hospital to help deal with the emergency cases,” he said.

Saturday 21 February 2015

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Efforts to retrieve 7 coal miners bodies in Duki still underway

A rescue operation is still underway to retrieve the dead bodies of the seven coal miners who are trapped in 2,200-feet deep coalmine at Duki Coalfield in Loralai district.

The coalmine collapsed on Thursday after a huge explosion, causing a landslide with the miners trapped inside. At least eight were killed and 15 others were injured as they made efforts to rescue their colleagues.

“There is huge quantity of Methane inside the mine which is causing trouble in the rescue operation,” Levies official Habibur Rehman told Express Tribune on Saturday. “The rescue operation is still underway to retrieve the bodies,” he added.

He said the rescue operation could take more than 12 hours for the bodies of seven coal miners to be taken out.

The member of National Assembly from Shangla, Dr Ibadullah Khan visited the mine which belongs to a private contractor who had got the contract from Agha Mohammed Sharif Tareen Company.

“The incident occurred purely due to negligence. It seems as if no safety measures were adopted,” an official at the site said, adding that “the mine was poorly ventilated.”

With no rescue facility available nearby, miners started a rescue mission and 14 of them have been wounded as a result of Methane gas. A formal rescue missing started 15 hours later on Friday afternoon, and rescue workers made attempts to pull dead bodies and the injured from the mine.

Saturday 21 February 2015

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No sign of Cemfjord bodies during survey, say investigators

An underwater survey of the Cemfjord, which sank in the Pentland Firth nearly two months ago, saw no sign of the missing crew’s bodies.

And investigators from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) say that any attempt to raise the wreck could be “extremely challenging”.

The Cemfjord is sitting on the sea bed – at a depth of around 270ft – after mysteriously sinking at the start of the year.

No distress call was issued and despite a major search, the eight men on board are missing, presumed dead.

One theory is that the vessel was overcome in bad weather while passing through the Pentland Firth.

The MAIB has said that its fieldwork is now complete. This included sending a remote operated vehicle (ROV) underwater to examine the wreck.

In a statement, the agency said: “A detailed examination of the wreck has been completed using multi-beam sonar, video and still camera techniques.

“Detailed analysis of the records obtained will take some weeks but it is evident that the vessel’s hull remains intact with no indications of structural failure. The bodies of the crew were not observed during the survey.

“The wreck is partially inverted and lying on its superstructure in deep water with very strong tidal conditions that would make any attempt to dive on the site extremely hazardous.

“However, the ROV surveys did provide good evidence that will allow the MAIB to complete its investigation into the vessel’s loss.

“There is no need to raise the wreck for the purposes of the MAIB’s investigation; any attempt to do so would be extremely challenging and may not be technically possible given the size and condition of the wreck, the nature of its cargo, deep water and strong tidal currents.”

Relatives of the seven Polish men will attended a memorial service will be held at the port of Gydnia today.

Saturday 21 February 2015

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Friday, 20 February 2015

Genetic bank operated by families of missing Mexicans

The lack of response by the Mexican government on the issue of missing people in the country has pushed many of the victims' families into becoming genuine experts on research and forensic science so much so that they are now operating a genetic bank without government intervention.

Involved in the project are researchers Ernesto Schwartz and Arely Cruz, as well as family members such as Julia Alonso, whose son went missing in New Leon state in 2008.

"Unfortunately, we have become experts, but not because we wanted but due to the misfortune of having a government like the one we have," Alonso told reporters at a press briefing Thursday.

It was held to announce the positive identification of Brenda Damaris Gonzalez, the first body to be identified through the project which has funding from Durham University in Britain.

Without a genetic test to prove it, Juana Solis, the mother of the young girl who went missing in 2011 also in New Leon, would not have believed that the bag of remains handed to her was her daughter.

Which is why she turned to the Civil Governance Forensic (GFC) team and her case became the seed for the citizens' project along with the knowledge acquired by the two researchers during their work in Colombia.

In fact, it was in that country that they came up with the idea of a model of civic participation in the field of forensic sciences.

Until now, the project has received funding of $386,000 from the British university to perform independent DNA tests for the families of the missing as well as to set up a genetic bank.

Rodolfo Franco, one of the GFC founders, told Spanish news agency Efe that one of the main objectives of the project was so that "the government sees that citizens can be organised to participate in forensic matters" and got motivated to extend their cooperation.

The project has three steps. The first is "to shape a citizen administration that will manage a database", that has already been fulfilled thanks to a group of victims, all public figures known for fighting for the cases of the missing.

Among them is Tita Radilla, the daughter of Rosendo Radilla who disappeared in 1974 after being arrested by the Mexican army, a case for which Mexico was found guilty by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

According to Radilla, it is clear that "there is no response, no clarification of facts" by the government and there are "bodies that are buried when there are hundreds of families searching for their families, and, even then, those human remains are put in mass graves without identifying them".

The second step of the project, which is still under way, is the collection of data of the families of the people who have disappeared. Until now, it has managed to gather data from more than 600 families, many of them from Iguala in the state of Guerrero.

On Sep 26 last year, 43 students went missing in that state. Since then, dozens of mass graves have been discovered with unidentified bodies, prompting the family members to question the disappearances and search for their loved ones through such initiatives.

The third step has yet to start, explained Franco, and will be the creation of a bio-bank with genetic samples from the families which could be matched with the information from bodies.

Currently, there is enough funding to conduct tests on more than 1,500 people, but the aim is to continue bumping up that number, given that the figure is still falls woefully short of the more than 27,000 people that remain missing in Mexico today, Franco said.

Friday 20 February 2015

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Nigerian church collapse: family questions identification of victim

The family of a Nigerian church collapse victim has given government officials an ultimatum – grant us permission to conduct our own DNA tests or face court.

In a letter to the director-general of health Malebona Matsoso, Lwandle Mkhulisi appeals to government officials to grant the family permission to have tests conducted to verify whether the body given to them two weeks ago was that of his sister Patricia Mkhulisi.

“We, the above named person’s family, we are really concerned about the correct identity of the remains that we have received, as we did not receive any proof of identity. We therefore request permission to conduct our private DNA test as we are not going to conduct any burial until we are satisfied with the deceased’s identity,” the family said.

Matsoso has until the end of Friday to give a “satisfactory” answer, failing which the family will approach the high court.

Mkhulisi’s sister’s body was among the last 11 bodies brought back into the country following delays that tested the patience of family members.

Although they were given strict instructions not to open the body bag for fear those around the body it could contract the Ebola virus, Mkhulisi’s family defied the orders, saying they needed evidence the body they were about to bury was that of his sister.

Mkhulisi said on Friday morning: “We are very angry that the government is preventing us from getting closure. We can’t find any distinguishing marks on the body and the gap in her teeth… there’s no gap there.

“They are insisting we shouldn’t open the bag. What is very odd… nothing is broken… it’s a full body. What’s horrifying is that there’s no skin… but the bones are intact,” Mkhulisi said.

When told the bodies were being brought back “we were relieved and hoped we’d get closure”. But two weeks on, the family still can’t lay their sister to rest.

“It took us a long time to accept that she’s one of those who died. She has two children and the youngest one is really broken. My mother is also not coping,” he said.

A Government spokeswoman could not be reached for comment on Friday morning.

Friday 20 February 2015

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Bodies of Nigerian church collapse victims examined by families

Most of the KwaZulu-Natal families whose relatives died in the Lagos church building disaster on Thursday said they were certain they had buried the correct bodies as they had examined them before the burials. “Even though government officials had told us not to open the bags in which the bodies were put in, we did not heed the advice – we opened the bag and examined the remains. We definitely buried the right person,” Lindo Wittle, whose cousin, Nokuphila Precious Maphumulo was among the 85 South Africans who died in the Nigerian church tragedy, said.

Five KZN residents: Maphumulo from Ezimbokodweni, Durban couple Dicky and Dennis Ngcobo, Sabelo Myeni from Jozini and Nomusa Nyawo from Ngwavuma, were among the 85 South Africans who died in the Lagos tragedy.

Their bodies were buried in the province following their repatriation from Nigeria in November last year.

At the time of the bodies’ arrival in the country, South African government officials had advised relatives not to inspect the bodies – which were in black bags, as there were in an advanced state of decomposition.

“We heard about the incidents. However, we are not concerned at all because we opened the bag and checked her – we are satisfied as a family that we buried the right body,” Thulani Zungu, the spokesperson for Nyawo’s family said.

Myeni’s brother, Joseph Khumalo, said while he did not inspect the remains himself, the family elders did.

“Ordinarily, I would have viewed the body but was told not to. However, other members of the family did check and they told us that it was her,” he said.

Friday 20 February 2015

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Chinese New Year celebrations, AirAsia Victim Identification QZ8501 closed

Out of respect for the celebration of Chinese New Year , the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team will postpone the victim identification process of AirAsia plane QZ8501 in the hospitals in Surabaya.

"Tomorrow the process of identification of the holiday, because as we respect our colleagues who are celebrating Chinese New Year, " said Head of Public Relations of East Java Police Kombespol Awi Setiyono in Post Crisis Center of East Java Police Headquarters on Wednesday (18/02/2015).

Awi said the decision has been discussed with the family who today are in the waiting room of the AirAsia Post Crisis Center, and turns the approved family day off day.

"In addition, tomorrow is also red dates, and DVI teams are also no data that must be managed for the process of reconciliation," he added. According to Awi, DVI team is dependent upon DNA samples were sent to the Indonesian Police Headquarters, which until now still no results.

So there is no data to be processed by the DVI team. "Because tomorrow off, then hopefully on Friday that DNA data has been sent, so there are more bodies were identified," said AWI. To date a total of bodies and body parts that have AirAsia DVI team received as many as 104. Of that amount, a total of bodies that have been identified through day 53 numbered 96.

Includes 2 parts of the body and the first bodies were later declared as non-human but primates. While the rest, 8 bodies divided into five bodies intact and 3 parts of the body, it is stored in a cold room Hospitals Surabaya for further identification process is carried out. The aircraft AirAsia QZ8501 Surabaya-Singapore flight declared lost contact On December 28, 2014 last.

155 passenger aircraft and 7 crew fell in the Strait Karimata, Pangkalan Bun, Central Kalimantan. Until today, the process of search and evacuation of victims is still underway by the Basarnas team.

Friday 20 February 2015

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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Eleven killed, 30 injured in North Korean sinkhole collapse

Eleven people-most of them women-were killed and around 30 injured in North Korea when earth they were plowing collapsed beneath them, according to a source inside the country.

The workers had been mobilized to plow at the October 18 Jonghap Farm in Yanggang province, along the border with China, on Feb. 3 as part of an annual bid by the Kim Jong Un regime to improve acidic soil for farming, an area resident told RFA's Korean Service on condition of anonymity.

Due to low temperatures during the winter, much of the earth had been turned to ice, and the workers-from the Baek-du Youth Team, and the Baek-am Tile Works and Rural Construction Unit-had been ordered to dig until they found unfrozen soil, the source said.

However, a sinkhole had developed beneath the ice and when the workers pierced through the frozen layer of soil, the ground collapsed, burying them alive, according to the source. A second source from Yanggang told RFA that four tractors had been deployed for four days as part of the rescue effort.

"Lots of officials, including those from the party committee and rural development committee responded to the accident, staying at the scene throughout the rescue attempt," the source said.

"The accident resulted in 11 deaths and about 30 injuries, almost all of whom were women." It was unclear how the sinkhole had formed, though they are commonly found in nature when groundwater causes the dissolution of carbonate rock, such as limestone, or as a result of human activity, such as mining or when natural water-drainage patterns are altered.

The sources did not provide details about how workers sought to treat the acidic soil, which the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington says is common in the North due to "decades of over-fertilization" that have also left farmland with little organic matter.

An official in Yanggang expressed remorse for the incident, telling RFA that a similar accident had occurred in December last year involving a sinkhole collapse, though it had resulted in no casualties. He said if additional safety measures had been implemented since the earlier accident, they might have saved the lives of the workers and avoided other damage.

The official criticized what he called "excessive demands" from the central authorities, saying that while plowing should be done after the harvest, local officials had been ordered to carry out the work during the winter each year, resulting in frequent accidents. "Local officials know well how difficult the soil-plowing work is in the winter, but can't help requiring people to do it because of a severe shortage of workers," the source said.

Thursday 19 February 2015

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Geotagging could help find missing persons

As cyclones bear down on parts of northern Australia, people are being urged to switch on geotagging on their mobile phones to help emergency services track them down in the case of an emergency.

The warning comes as Cyclone Lam in the NT moves on the coast of the northern Top End and Cyclone Marcia barrels towards Queensland's Capricornia coast.

The function logs the geographical co-ordinates of users' photos when shared on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and provides a map to lead police to where the photo was uploaded.

Geotagging can also be used to help stay on top of other issues which can arise during severe weather events.

Photos of fires, floods and downed power lines shared online with their metadata will also give emergency services instantaneous information on the problem, and where it's located.

Thursday 19 February 2015

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Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus: Greek-Cypriot Missing from the 1974 Turkish Invasion Identified

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP), in a press conference held today at the Anthropological Laboratory in the UN-protected area of the now defunct Nicosia Airport, has announced it “identified the right person” in the case of missing Greek-Cypriot Georgios Foris. At the same time, the three members of the Committee announced that a Red Cross independent expert has already been requested to probe this specific case.

As the Committee explained, Foris originated from the village of Assia and has been missing since the 1974 Turkish military invasion. His remains were exhumed from a well in Assia, along with the remains of another 38 unidentified individuals. His family has recently contested the identification process, although as described, some of the remains returned to his relatives did not belong to him. Therefore, the family has sought a DNA re-examination of his remains, undertaken by the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics. “In this case, as in the 567 other cases of missing persons identified by the CMP, we can certify that the right person was identified,” said Paul-Henri Arni, the Committee’s third member.

The press conference was held by Arni, Greek-Cypriot member Nestoras Nestoros and Turkish-Cypriot member Gulden Plumer Kucuk. Referring to Foris case, Arni, after expressing his sympathy to Foris’ family, highlighted that “our archaeologists determined that most of the remains originally buried at the site had been removed, as has been the case in other locations. What was left was a large number of small, isolated commingled remains -that is mixed up remains- which our scientists have tried to associate to separate individuals in painstaking work over the past four years. In the case at hand, several larger bones, most notably a skull, were associated with a number of very small bones. Following well-established international practice in the identification of human remains, the CMP tested the larger skeletal elements, nine in total, for DNA. The smaller ones were associated based on anthropological analysis. Testing all bones for DNA would exceed the CMP’s financial means, and, more importantly, in the case of small bones, would require their destruction, leaving nothing or only small fragments that could be returned to families.”

Furthermore, as he explained, “the family of the missing person identified by us challenged our identification based on teeth characteristics and opted to seek a retesting of the remains using DNA. While we have not received any of the results, it appears that the analysis undertaken on behalf of the family confirmed that all nine larger bones that the CMP had identified on the basis of DNA had been correctly identified.”

The above, as Arni said, allows us to draw two very important conclusions: “Firstly, the CMP identified the right person. In this case, as in the 567 other cases of missing persons identified by the CMP, we can certify that the right person was identified. Secondly, the work of the DNA laboratory is not an issue in this case. If anything, the family’s retesting has confirmed that our laboratory, in this case the ICMP in Sarajevo, worked well. We therefore would like to stress that the discussion about bringing the CMP’s genetic work back to Cyprus has no place in the context of this case. Those who pretend otherwise are misleading the public.”

On his behalf, Nestoros said that in the cases of mass graves, where bones have been relocated at a later stage, leaving only a fraction of the original remains to scientists to determine to whom they belong, CMP is considering to start giving back to the families only the remains that have been analyzed for DNA. The practice today is to let anthropologists associate smaller skeletal elements in order “to give more bones back to the families” as the CMP members said, noting however the risk at stake.

Additionally, Kucuk noted that the CMP is aware of the families’ sensitivities with missing persons and added that the Committee is trying to provide them with all the answers, along with the remains of their beloved ones. As she further explained, there are a lot of cases of mass graves with “commingled bones” and noted the scientists’ difficulty to determine to whom they belong.

Asked about the relocation of remains in Cyprus, Arni said he has “no idea” who did it but added that this “happened everywhere. It happened also in the south,” referring to the free areas of the Republic of Cyprus.

Finally, according to Kucuk, overall, the CMP has exhumed almost 1,000 persons, with the remains of 400 awaiting identification. Another 1,000 are still to be found, she concluded.

Thursday 19 February 2015

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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Missing Persons: Arizona has more than almost all other states

Stuart Somershoe's work as a Phoenix police detective is among the most painstaking and, often, gruesome, law enforcement work there is.

“I work cold cases for missing and unidentified persons in the Phoenix Police Department,” Somershoe says. Some of Somershoe’s cases date back to the 1940s, and in many of them, it’s unlikely the person is still alive.

In his and other police agencies in Arizona, it's a labor unlike others and unlike in other states. For Arizona has more sets of unidentified remains and, per capita, missing persons cases than almost any other state, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, known as NamUs.

The state has more than 1,300 unidentified sets of human remains. Somershoe said two factors are at work in that statistic: proximity to the border means a lot of under-prepared people try to walk across hundreds of miles through dangerous terrain to get to the U.S.; and related to it is the desert environment, which can quickly obliterate evidence.

“We are a desert and that’s very bad for bodies," Somershoe said. "Bodies disintegrate; bodies decompose a lot quicker than in other states, so it’s harder to identify them when they’re just bones or fragments. When you get outside of the metropolitan area of Phoenix you’re basically in open desert. It’s kind of like our version of the Pacific Ocean. It’s very easy to lose things.”

But the problem isn’t only in Arizona. Nationally, a minimum estimated 40,000 sets of human remains are unidentified, NamUs figures show. “They call it the nation’s silent mass disaster," Somershoe said. "And the reason those numbers (are uncertain) ... is because it’s based on self-reporting from medical examiners, coroners across the country, and we know there’s a lot more out there than what are being reported to us." The relatively recent formation of NamUs created a national database of missing persons and is used extensively by many police agencies trying to connect remains in their charge with reports of those missing along with other potential clues.

"NamUs has been around officially since 2007," said Todd Matthews, the database's case management director. "It went online with the unidentified persons database and in 2009 after a beta trial we added the missing persons database.”

While the database isn’t the first to match DNA of unidentified remains to missing persons, it is the first that allows the families of those missing to take part in the search for their loved ones," Matthews said.

“I think we’ve always needed a national database," he said. "You know, you have city, county, state. We needed something that would go beyond those boundaries, because often a person is missing from New York and possibly found in Connecticut and unless those two compare notes," which is what the database allows.

Federal statistics show about 2000 missing persons in Arizona, among an estimated 80,000 nationwide. Somershoe said the NamUs database could be the key to solving these cases.

“Law enforcement is sometimes very poor in communicating with other jurisdictions," he said. "We tend to hoard information. If my missing person ended up dead in a different county, I may not know about that. If they ended up in another state I may not know about that.

"NAMus is great because we’re all invited into the same room and say, 'Hey, I have pieces of the puzzle; you have pieces of the puzzle, let’s try and resolve these'."

Somershoe said he has solved nearly a dozen cases, some decades old, with the help of NamUs. He said the more information is added to the system, the likelier that thousands of families who are missing loved ones will finally have closure.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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AirAsia flight QZ8501: Two more body parts identified

Two more body parts from a passenger of the crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 were identified on Tuesday, bringing the total number of identified remains to 96 so far, East Java Police said.

The Disaster Victim Identification team leader, Sr. Com. Budiyono, said the police received the two body parts, a left leg and hip, from South Sulawesi on Monday night and identified them as belonging to Yonatan Sebastian, 13, from Malang, East Java.

"The identification was based on the DNA test," Budiyono said in Surabaya as quoted by Antara news agency, adding that the body parts were still being kept at the Bhayangkara Hospital.

The hospital has received 104 remains and body parts from QZ8501, which crashed into the Java Sea in December last year with 162 people aboard.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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India bus crash kills 10 in Madhya Pradesh

At least 10 people have been killed after the bus they were travelling in plunged down a deep gorge in India's central state of Madhya Pradesh.

Reports say the driver lost control of the bus in the Machalia Ghat area of Dhar district, some 125km (77 miles) from the city of Indore late on Monday.

More than 30 people were injured in the incident.

The toll is feared to be rising as rescuers are looking for more bodies and injured in the jungle below the hills.

Primary police investigations suggested that the bus plunged into the gorge after losing balance on the hilly road in Rajgarh area of Dhar, around 125 km from Indore city.

Bus crashes are common in India and often caused by poorly maintained vehicles, overloading and bad driving.

In the latest incident, the bus, carrying more than 40 passengers, was travelling to Rajasthan from Indore when the incident occurred.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are killed on the country's roads and the numbers have been rising steadily - nearly 140,000 people were killed in 2013, according to the government's National Crime Records Bureau.

Last year, a bus plunged into a gorge in the western state of Maharashtra killing 27 people.

In October 2013, at least 42 people died after the luxury bus they were travelling in caught fire in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Police say a collision with a culvert ignited the fuel tank of the vehicle.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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11 Bayelsa politicians to receive mass burial

The 11 women leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that died in a motor accident along the East-West Road on Valentine’s Day will be given a mass burial.

Checks by Daily Sun revealed that the decision to conduct mass burial for them had been made known to their families.

It was gathered that the decision was reached following the inability to identify the corpses.

According to investigation, the victims were burnt beyond recognition and former deputy governor and coordinator of the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN), Bayelsa State chapter, Werinipire Seibarugu and other officials of TAN, who visited the scene immediately after the accident collected the ashes and unidentified skulls of the victims to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yenagoa.

Some of the family members who had earlier rejected the suggestion of a mass burial later agreed when it was explained that the possibility of conducting a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test would take up to six months.

Mr. Ambrose Ayebakuro, the 33 years old son of the late former House of Assembly member, Ruby Benjamin, confirmed that the family had been contacted on the decision to hold a mass burial for the deceased.

Also speaking, Mr. Mathew Utolor, the Chief Accountant of Bayelsa Broadcasting Corporation and husband of one of the deceased, Mrs Ayakpo Utolor, said it was sad that the families could not identify the bodies of the victims.

Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, has described as tragic the accident that claimed the lives of 11 female politicians from Bayelsa State last Saturday.

Kuku, who is also chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, said in a statement signed by his Special Assistant and head of Media, Mr. Daniel Alabrah, that he received the news with shock and a deep feeling of loss.

Commiserating with the Bayelsa State Government, the people of the state and the families of the deceased, he said their demise was very painful and a huge loss to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) family in the state.

“This sad news came at a time everyone was working hard to ensure victory for the PDP in the general elections. The positive contribution of these women to the development of their state and the country will be sorely missed, ”he said.

Kuku prayed God to comfort their families and grant them the fortitude to bear the loss.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

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Tuesday, 17 February 2015

At least 20 dead after power line falls on Haiti carnival float

At least 20 people were killed during a Carnival parade in Haiti’s capital early Tuesday when a music group’s float hit a low-hanging power line, causing them to be electrocuted, officials said.

The accident occurred as thousands of people filled the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince for the raucous annual celebration. People at the scene said someone on the float touched an overhead power line with a pole or stick as the float passed underneath it.

There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties. Nadia Lochard, a coordinator for the Department of Civil Protection, said at least 20 people were killed and 46 were injured.

The float, one of 16 in the downtown Carnival parade, was sponsored by the Haitian hip-hop group Barikad Crew. Some of the victims were instantly electrocuted in a flash of sparks, according to witnesses. Others managed to jump off, causing panic in the crowd.

“I saw the wire falling and sparks and I started running for my life,” said Natacha Saint Fleur, a 22-year-old who was near the float at the time.

Hundreds of people thronged the General Hospital, where many of the victims were taken, some carrying victims and others searching for family members brought by ambulance.

Haitian officials were expected to announce later Tuesday whether they would cancel a second day of Carnival events. Communications Minister Rothchild Francis said the government was working to assist victims.

It is a common practice in Haiti and elsewhere to have someone at the top of a parade float who moves low-hanging power lines. In Brazil, officials said three people were killed when they were electrocuted while standing atop a Carnival float that hit a power line early Tuesday on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

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Thane GRP shows pics of 104 unclaimed bodies at railway stations to get them identified

In a bid to lessen the number of unclaimed bodies, the Thane government railway police (GRP) on Monday set up a camp at Thane station. From morning till 8 in the evening, its officers showed commuters photos of last year's 104 unclaimed deceased to see if any would get identified.

Officers said in the coming days they will set up camps at other railway stations too.

Thane railway jurisdiction covers Thane, Diva, Kalwa and Mumbra stations on the central line and Airoli on the harbour line.

The GRP personnel said they plan to set up camps on one station daily to create awareness among commuters and take their help in getting as many deceased identified as possible. The officers said besides the photos, they have also kept a register for providing commuters any other details they may require in recognising the bodies.

Inspector AS Rane said, "It's a good initiative, a number of commuters have approached us till now. Through this, we aim to help those who don't know for sure what happened to their loved ones and are still searching for them. Also, in case a person has died, getting the body identified and informing his/her family members means they can seek compensation from railways. Same goes for life insurance, in case the deceased had taken a policy which his/her kin can file a claim for."

"We had undertaken a similar initiative last year, which helped us get identification for many unclaimed bodies. This year, apart from these camps that we will be holding, people can also log on to our official website for past records," said GRP commissioner R Singal.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

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7 dead, 4 missing in floods in central Argentina

Seven people are dead and four others are missing in central Argentina after heavy rain led to street floods that swept up several people, including a 5-year-old girl.

Civil Defense director Diego Concha told the television station TN that more than 1 foot (32 centimeters) of rain fell during a 12-hour span in the province of Cordoba, about 700 kilometers (435 miles) northwest of Buenos Aires.

Concha said the bodies of the girl and a young man were recovered Monday, and the others, of various ages, were recovered late Sunday. He said authorities evacuated 400 people and several hundred others had fled on their own.

Images from several local stations showed powerful currents moving vehicles and flooding storefronts and houses.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

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Monday, 16 February 2015

No hope of more survivors in DR Congo boat sinking

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Sunday they had abandoned all hope of finding more survivors, after as many as 100 people went missing when their boat sank on the Congo River.

"We shouldn`t even think about finding any survivors," Jean-Christophe Malela, an official in the western Bandundu province, told AFP, pointing out that the accident occurred on Thursday in an area of rapids.

The accident took place when two boats collided near the city of Kwamouth, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of the capital Kinshasa, Malela said.

Rescuers have so far recovered nine bodies and 42 people had made it to safety, he said.

The World Health Organisation cited survivors as saying there may have been close to 150 people onboard the boat that sank.

Malela said the mishap probably occurred when the overcrowded boat lost speed after one of its engines got caught in a fishing net as it tried to avoid hitting a bigger boat.

Rescue operations to recover bodies for burial would continue.

Authorities said they could not be sure of the exact number of people on board in the absence of any departure records.

The second boat suffered no damages or casualties.

The WHO said on Friday that it was providing medical kits to support a search operation launched by national and provincial authorities, including 100 body bags.

Deadly shipping disasters are common in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to overcrowding on old and poorly-maintained vessels, a lack of life-jackets and the fact that many people do not know how to swim.

Last Monday, at least 20 people died in another sinking further upstream on the Congo River.

Monday 16 February 2015

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13 bodies of victims of crashed AirAsia plane to be identified

As many as 13 bodies of victims of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 remain unidentified on the 50th day of identification process on Sunday as the bodies have gone beyond identification and DNA data are not complete.

Three of the 13 bodies only consisted of body parts, spokesman of the East Java provincial police Snr. Comsr. Awi Setiyono said.

"The 13 bodies which cannot yet be identified are still kept in the cold storage of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in East Java," he said.

He said the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital would try to identify the remaining 13 bodies by gathering DNA data from different parties including the Indonesian Police Headquarters.

"We will resume the identification of the remaining bodies at the Bhayangkara Hospital on Monday (February 16)," he said.

Earlier, on Friday (February 13), the DVI team managed to identify eight bodies and two body parts of victims.

Chief of the East Java provincial police Insp. Gen. Anas Yusuf said a total of 89 bodies had been identified during the identification process.

The AirAsia Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people had gone missing on the morning of December 28 after losing contact with air traffic control on its way from Surabaya, East Java, to Singapore.

Flight QZ8501 lost contact after the pilot sought permission to climb to 38 thousand feet from 32 thousand feet to avoid stormy weather over the sea between Bangka Belitung and West Kalimantan.

Monday 16 February 2015

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1928: The St. Francis Dam disaster

It was just a few minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, when the second worst disaster in California occurred in the Santa Clarita Valley’s San Francisquito Canyon.

The St. Francis Dam, holding back more than 30,000 acre feet of water for the city of Los Angeles, crumbled, sending a 10-story-high wall of water crashing into the Santa Clarita and Santa Clara River valleys.

Loss-of-life estimates range from 430 to more than 600 people. Only the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 killed more Californians. Bodies washed out to sea by the flood were found as far away as San Diego.

This year the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will join the California State University Northridge’s archeology department to sponsor a symposium on the disaster on March 28.

Monday 16 February 2015

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