Sunday, 8 November 2015

Philippines marks second anniversary of devastating Typhoon Haiyan

The Philippines Sunday marked the second anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan - with the bodies of possible victims of the disaster which left at least 7,350 people dead or missing still being uncovered.

Thousands of residents marked the two-year milestone in the city of Tacloban, which was devastated by the huge storm, as memorials were unveiled and masses held.

On Saturday authorities confirmed they found six new bodies.

The unidentified skeletal remains were found by a man scavenging for wood in the outskirts of the city, according to Tacloban fire chief Charlie Herson.

"These are possible victims of the typhoon. They were buried by debris, in piles of wood," he told AFP.

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit land, smashed into the central Philippines on November 8, 2013. The once-thriving city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte suffered the worst damage with hundreds of houses washed away by a storm surge.

To mark the tragedy Sunday, special memorials were unveiled and Roman Catholic masses were said for the victims, including the more than 2,400 mostly-unidentified bodies buried in a mass grave in Tacloban.

Thousands of Tacloban residents are still living in makeshift temporary homes as questions are raised about the speed of reconstruction.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there would "always be discussions" on the speed of reconstruction, adding: "We understand such sentiments."

But he added despite local critics, foreign agencies, including the United Nations, had said the Philippines was rebuilding faster than other developing countries struck by comparable natural disasters.

"What befell us was massive and we are continuing to provide assistance... always following our principle, to build back better," he said.

However, local congressman, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, said "this is still not yet the old Tacloban. This is still not the old Leyte. It will still be a long time before things get back to normal."

Some Tacloban residents are still clinging to hope their missing loved ones are still alive.

Single mother Angelina Marquez, 17, said she hoped Remegildo, the father of her child, would reappear two years after he went missing during the storm.

"I still believe that he may have been washed away to a different place and the time will come, like in the movies, when he will come back to me," she said.

Sunday 8 November 2015

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Death toll in Lahore factory tragedy jumps to 49

More bodies of the victims of the Sundar Industrial Factory tragedy were recovered on Saturday, raising the death toll to 49.

Rescuers are of the view that there are still chances of survival of the victims. A worker trapped under the debris has contacted his family by phone.

Relatives of the victims are praying for the safety of their loved ones. Rescue activities using heavy machinery have been expedited.

The body of the owner has also been recovered.

Rescue officials said over a hundred survivors had so far been pulled from the wreckage of the four-storey Rajput Polyester factory which manufactured polythene shopping bags.

No part of the four-storey building remained standing after the disaster, leaving dozens of workers trapped under the debris.

It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many were still trapped.

Soldiers and rescuers were preparing to clear the rubble in front of the factory and move towards the rear of the building where they fear they will discover more victims.

Injured survivors said the factory’s owner, who was adding a new floor to the building, had ignored an advice from his contractor and pleas from his workers to stop construction after cracks appeared in the walls following a powerful earthquake last week.

A spokesman for Rescue 1122 told the media that of the 167 people trapped in the building, 109 had been rescued. Most of them had minor injuries.

Meanwhile, an 18-year-old youth, Shahid, was recovered alive from the debris of the factory after 51 hours of the tragedy on Friday evening.

The Lahore DCO, Captain (Retd.) Usman, said that rescue teams had recovered Shahid.

“We were looking for life, and it has been proved that we have found a life,” he said.

Sunday 08 November 2015

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Typhhon Yolanda:6 more bodies dug up 2 years later

Six remains have been recovered under the debris two years after Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ devastated the province of Leyte.

Mayor Alfred Romualdez said firewood gatherers found the bodies behind the San Jose National High School in Barangay 87 in this city’s San Jose district.

Only three of the remains have their skulls intact and one of them is believed to be a child because of the size of its skull.

“Running priest’ Robert Reyes and another priest blessed the bodies that could no longer be identified because only the skull and skeletons had remained of the victims who were believed to have been washed away by the storm surge during the Yolanda onslaught.

“Every now and then, we find bodies in the swampy areas,” the mayor said.

The congressman said bodies will continue to be found two years after the calamity.

Barangay Chairman Leo Bahin of Barangay 87 San Jose confirmed that the remains were indeed recovered at the back of San Jose National High School.

“Yung lima kanina (Saturday) lang nakita, yung isa two days ago pa nakita ng mga mangangahoy,” Bahin said.

According to Bahin, since 2013, there are incidents were firewood gatherers recovered bones and other body parts but this is the first time that they saw skulls.

Two of them were suspected to be woman because they still had their underwear and bra.

The remains were laid at the barangay hall awaiting for representatives of Bureau of Fire, who were tasked to make proper identification of the victims.

“Sa ngayon wala pang mag claim, mahirap naman ito ma identify kasi dalawang taon na silang nakabaon sa debris at buto na lang. Turn-over na lang namin, bahala na ang Bureau of Fire na mag identify,” Bahin said.

It was in San Jose where there were several casualties of Typhoon Yolanda were recorded.

“We still feel the pain. Nararamdaman pa rin namin ang lungkot na dulot ng Typhoon Yolanda,” Rep. Romualdez said.

The senatorial candidate of Lakas-CMD said the local government here continues to provide assistance to the survivors.

“We will see how we can help in identifying them, para maibigay sa kanilang pamilya at mabigyan ng disenteng libing,” the congressman added.

Meanwhile, a typhoon survivor-turned-author said that the victims still could not contain the surge of emotion two years after Yolanda (international name, Haiyan) hit the province.

“We are still healing and it will take a long time to process that but let that not waste away what we have worked so hard in rebuilding back our lives,” said Albert Mulles, a storm survivor from Tacloban City.

Out of his struggles to survive and immortalize the terrible experience he and his family had experienced, Mulles published a book entitled ‘‘Haiyan: Untold Story: A Story of Hope and Survival”.

The book’s launching came about as the province remembered the second anniversary of Yolanda, the world’s worst storm to hit land, survivors and their supporters around the country trooped to the city to pay tribute to the dead, whose numbers have reached over 7,500 mostly in Tacloban and nearby towns, according to government’s estimate.

“For us, it is important to remember—not only the most disastrous and fiercest supertyphoon in the world—but the courage and determination of people at the ground zero rising up forming the broadest survivor network and holding our government and world leaders accountable,” said Efleda Bautista, convenor of People Surge, a broad coalition of storm survivors in central Philippines.

“The stronger the rain poured the louder were the people’s chant. People Surge pushed through the march despite strong rain…Everyone was soaked in the rain but hearts filled with warmth and determination,” she added, as they welcomed thousands of fellow survivors from various parts of Leyte, Samar, and outside Eastern Visayas who marched to the city on Saturday.

Aside from holding a vigil to remember those who died, the group also led a protest marched dubbed as “Global Day of Rage against Neglect and Impunity” to what they said as government’s “criminal negligence” and “snail-paced rehabilitation” in Yolanda-hit communities, nothing that thousands of families are still in bunkhouses and temporary shelters two years after the storm.

They also assailed the government for its lack of transparency in spending the billions of donations and funds for the survivors.

“Watching the news on TV about how the government still does not reveal the real Yolanda casualty count even after two years, brings back painful memories... And confirms a lot about those in power. Well, for one, they still want to be in control of all those donations, and second, it will only prove how poor our disaster preparedness and handling are,” said Aaron Almadro, 32, a survivor in Palo, Leyte, expressing his frustration on the social media.

“We lost more than 20,000 loved ones, twenty thousand people, including both my parents and a lot of friends! Why can’t they say the numbers? They’re all busy campaigning for next year’s elections but they aren’t even finished with the rehabilitation and assistance. Yolanda happened, government. We will never forget. So, government, whatever you say, whatever you try to do, is already two years late,” he added.

Meanwhile, Fr. Amadeo Alvero of the Palo Archdiocese in Leyte, said that there are also enough reasons to thank for during this year’s commemorative event.

“Without them it would have been difficult for us to bring our life back to where we are now. But with them our life after Yolanda is getting better. Thanks to all who have helped us and brought us hope. Their sacrifices and love will always be remembered. I thank God for all of them,” he added.

“We in the Church gratefully recognize the role played by private charities, of international and national non-government organizations for the people’s recovery and healing. These organizations have been a vital source of relief and comfort,” also said Msgr. Ramon B. Aguilos of Palo Archdiocese.

Reflecting on the Yolanda tragedy, Aguilos wrote that: “Among the ‘blessings in the disguise’ that transpired is the opening of new links, partnership and relationships with development institutions.”

On January 17 this year, no less than Pope Francis visited Tacloban and Palo to bring comfort to pray for the victims and comfort to the survivors.

While many humanitarian organizations also came to revive the city immediately after the storm. “To date, PRC’s Haiyan Recovery program has built 66,011

homes out of the target 80,203 or 86 percent of the target number of houses to be built, amounting to around 2.2 billion pesos. The Red Cross Haiyan shelter program is spread across nine Haiyan-affected provinces: Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Leyte, Palawan, and Western Samar,” said Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon.

In a statement, PRC said that “as of end of October, 884,228 people have benefitted from PRC’s Haiyan Recovery Program which includes services ranging from shelter, livelihood, cash relief assistance, water and sanitation, hygiene promotion, and rehabilitation of classrooms.”

“To the people of Tacloban, I am humbled to be called your mayor and honored to have been given a chance to serve a people who have shown to the entire Philippines and the entire world their admirable strength and resistance in the face of individual tragedies, their quiet courage to carry on despite their losses; their firm determination to make Tacloban a better City after the deluge.

“It is our vision to make Tacloban a livable city where every Taclobanon can sleep soundly in the safety and comfort of a humane shelter and live a decent quality life to live up to its potential of infinite possibilities for progress and growth.

“In the silence of our hearts, may that day be marked for posterity--never to be forgotten―never to be erased.

“May all who come this way remember―that on this piece of earth―the whole world converged to make Tacloban the template of a people’s firm resolve to rise above their sorrow and create the new landscape of their future. May God forever bless our bellowed city,” Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez said in his commemorative message this year.

This followed as the local government has lined up various commemorative activities on Saturday, starting from the a holy mass in the coastal district of Anibong in the city, followed by the reading of dedication and unveiling of a memorial marker, a “Concert of Hope” by Philippine Madrigal Singer and Power Dance from Manila, and premier showing of documentary film “Fields of Hope.”

On Sunday, November 8, locals joined a commemorative walk around the city, followed by the holy Mass by Palo Archbishop John Du, ringing of church bells, siren blast and the sounding of the storm, and unveiling of another marker located in the Tacloban Astrodome Center.

Sunday 8 November 2015

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Friday, 6 November 2015

Death toll from Lahore factory collapse rises to 35

The bodies of two more labourers were recovered from under the rubble at the site of a collapsed factory at the Sundar Industrial Estate near Lahore on Friday, as the death toll from the tragedy rose to at least 35, officials said.

Rescue officials said over a hundred survivors had so far been pulled from the wreckage of the four-storeyed Rajput Polyester factory, which manufactured polythene shopping bags about 45 km south of the eastern city of Lahore, and collapsed on Wednesday night.

35 bodies have now been recovered by rescue crews using heavy construction machinery and other tools to dig through the debris, rescue official said.

Efforts were still underway on Friday, the third day of the search and rescue operation, to clear the debris and look for any survivors or bodies of the victims.

No part of the four-storey building remained standing after the disaster, leaving dozens of workers trapped under the debris. It was unclear how many people were in the building when it collapsed or how many – dead or alive – may still be trapped.

Officials feared that between 35 to 40 persons may still be trapped under the wreckage of the factory.

"There are less chances of finding more injured under the rubble but we are looking for dead bodies," Arshad Zia, head of rescue services in Punjab, told news agency AFP.

Soldiers and rescuers were preparing to clear the rubble in front of the factory and move towards the rear of the building where they fear they will discover more victims.

Injured survivors said the factory's owner, who was adding a new floor to the building, had ignored advice from his contractor and pleas from his workers to stop construction after cracks in the walls following a powerful earthquake last week.

The quake of magnitude 7.5 killed more than 300 people in Pakistan and the northern parts of neighbouring Afghanistan and damaged thousands of buildings.

Pakistan's construction sector is plagued by poor oversight and developers frequently flout building codes. In September 2012, 289 people burned to death in a fire at a garment factory in Karachi. On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore killed 25.

Friday 6 November 2015

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All bodies from air crash in Egypt identified

Relatives of the victims in the plane crash above Sinai have identified visually all the bodies, spokesman of the Healthcare Ministry Oleg Salagai told reporters on Friday.

"The procedure of visual identification is over, and the genetic identification continues," he said.

As of Friday, relatives of the victims asked for medical assistance 691 times, and 715 requested psychological support. Five people were taken to hospitals.

Russian Kogalymavia’s A321 plane, en-route from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, crashed in the early morning of October 31 just some 20 minutes after its takeoff. The disaster site is 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of the administrative centre of North Sinai Governorate, the city of Al-Arish.

Flight 9268 carried 217 passengers and seven crewmembers and they were all officially announced dead following the tragic accident. Most passengers were Russian nationals. Among the passengers onboard were also four Ukrainian citizens and one Belarusian national.

Friday 6 November 2015

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Brazil dam burst: at least 15 feared dead after disaster at BHP-owned mine

A dam that burst at an iron-ore mine in south-eastern Brazil on Thursday is thought to have killed at least 15 people, devastating a nearby town with mudslides and leaving officials in the remote region scrambling to assess casualties.

Forty-five people were still missing after the disaster at the Germano mine near the town of Mariana in Minas Gerais state, a local union told the G1 news portal.

The mine is operated by Samarco, a joint venture between the Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton and the Brazilian company Vale.

Andrew Mackenzie, the chief executive of BHP, said in Melbourne: “Most of what happened there has been under the cloak of darkness.

“At daybreak, clearly we will do an awful lot more and give you further updates.”

The company would “take all steps” to ensure the safety of the workers and communities affected by the disaster.

Video footage on the G1 website showed houses of a village destroyed by flood waters and clay-red mud that surged down valleys in the mountainous region. Large vehicles lay tossed on their sides.

There was no official confirmation on the total number of dead and missing. A city hall official confirmed one death and 16 injuries, adding that dozens more were still missing.

Civil defence authorities in Mariana said they were evacuating about 600 people to higher ground from the village of Bento Rodrigues, about 7km (just over 4 miles) beneath the dam that burst, which was flooded as a result of the accident.

Television footage showed dozens of homes destroyed by the mudslide. A car rested on top of a wall where the roof of a building had been ripped off.

Authorities said the flood had also reached another village further down the hill, Paracatu de Baixo, and that inhabitants there were also being evacuated.

Rescue crews continued to search the muddy waters after nightfall. Brazilian army units nearby stood ready to help the search and rescue effort and the minister of national integration, Gilberto Occhi, planned to visit the state on Friday to provide assistance, according to a note from the presidency.

Samarco said in a statement it had not yet determined why the dam burst or the extent of the disaster.

BHP Billiton said in a statement that it was “concerned for the safety of employees and the local community ... We are in the process of obtaining more details from Samarco Mineracao.”

Authorities said the dam was built to hold back water and residue from mining operations, a mixture that can often be toxic. The dam was holding so-called tailings, a mining waste product of metal filings, water and occasionally chemicals. It was located near the Gualaxo do Norte river, fuelling fears of potential water contamination.

Rescue teams were searching for survivors or bodies, and residents living nearby were told to evacuate to higher ground.

Samarco said in a statement on its website that it was making “every effort to prioritise care to people and mitigate damage to the environment”.

“It is not possible at this moment to confirm a cause,” it added.

A statement from the city hall of Mariana, a city of about 40,000 people 300km (185 miles) north of Rio de Janeiro, said the dam ruptured at 4.20pm in an area roughly 20km from the city centre.

The disaster comes as both Vale and BHP are battling a collapse in iron ore prices and a wider slump in the industry.

The Germano mine is a 50-50 joint venture between the world’s largest iron miner and the largest mining company.

Iron ore is transported down a slurry pipe to Espirito Santo in south-eastern Brazil, where it is turned into pellets. Samarco produces around 30 million tonnes per year, according to its website.

Friday 6 November 2015

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Thursday, 5 November 2015

Hundreds of bodies lie unclaimed in city mortuaries

Nearly 200 bodies have been unclaimed from state mortuaries around the Tshwane metro in the past three years.

And throughout Gauteng, more than 4 000 bodies were unidentified or unclaimed during that period, and though there had been a decline in the past, the numbers were showing growth which had officials worried.

Gauteng MEC for health and social development Qedani Mahlangu said there were various reasons for the unidentified bodies. “The main reasons include: lack of authentic identification documentation; foreign nationals and South Africans from other provinces who travel without ID documents; and socio-economic reasons, including resource constraints for burial for families,” she said.

“From 1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013, mortuaries had 1 603 unidentified and 242 unclaimed bodies, from 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014, 1 254 unidentified and 334 unclaimed and from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, 1 272 unidentified and 403 unclaimed. In the period under review, Pretoria had 181 unclaimed bodies, Springs 203, Roodepoort 145 and Johannesburg 119.

Jack Bloom, DA Gauteng shadow MEC for health said this showed the Gauteng health department had been struggling since 2006 to develop an internet-based system that could assist people with identifying bodies. “According to the MEC, the Gauteng forensic pathology ‘is currently developing a comprehensive mortuary management system targeting January 2016 for completion with first phase piloting for February 2016,” said Bloom.

The DA hoped that the internet system was implemented sooner rather than later to give relatives looking for missing loved ones a central database, rather than having to visit each and every mortuary around the country, which was very traumatic and time-consuming.

Thursday 5 November 2015

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Pakistan factory collapses, killing at least 18, scores trapped

At least 18 people were killed and up to 150 trapped on Wednesday when a factory collapsed near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, officials said, adding to a number of industrial disasters to hit the South Asian nation.

Rescue workers digging for survivors with construction equipment have recovered 75 injured people so far, said Mohammad Usman, a senior local government official who was on the scene.

Eighteen dead bodies have also been found, he said.

Around 150 people were feared trapped under the rubble after the building collapsed, said rescue worker Kashif Nazir at the scene.

No part of the four-floor building remained standing after the disaster, and hundreds of rescue workers were carefully picking through piles of concrete and bricks to find survivors.

"People have received phone calls from three or four people from inside the debris, so we cannot remove the rubble recklessly," said Usman.

The military was flying urban search-and-rescue teams to the scene, said a military spokesman in a text message.

"Army engineers have been immediately moved for the rescue operation," the message said.

The factory, located at an industrial site about 20 km (12 miles) south of the city, manufactured shopping bags. It was not clear what caused the collapse, though construction work had been going on there.

"My son is a daily wage laborer here. We can't find him among the dead or the injured, so I am just hoping that he will be recovered from the rubble safely," said Mohammad Ramzan, whose 24-year-old son Amin was missing.

Pakistan's construction sector suffers from poor oversight and developers frequently flout building codes.

In September 2012, 289 people burned to death in a fire at a garment factory in the southern city of Karachi. On the same day, a fire at a shoe factory in Lahore killed 25.

Thursday 5 November 2015

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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Plane crash kills up to 41 passengers in South Sudan

Up to 41 people are feared dead after a plane crash-landed into a nearby community shortly after taking off from South Sudan’s capital Juba, reports say.

A police officer and local media reported at least 41 people had been killed as bodies were counted at the wreck site.

Police were pulling bodies of men, women and children out of the wreckage of the cargo plane, which crashed into a small farming community on a small island in the White Nile river, close to Juba airport.

Several small farming communities live on the island, but it is not clear if some of the victims were people who were on the ground when the plane hit.

“Cargo plane heading to Paloch in Upper Nile State crashed just 800 metres from Juba International Airport runway,” reported Radio Miraya, a UN-backed station.

The radio said airport officials had told them only three passengers had survived.

The main fuselage of the plane had ploughed into thick woodland, with debris scattered around the riverbank in a wide area.

Several small farming communities live on the island, and it was not clear if some of the victims were people who were on the ground when the plane hit.

Radmir Gainanov, spokesman for Russia’s diplomatic mission in Uganda, which also oversees South Sudan, said the embassy was in touch with local authorities, including the defence ministry.

“We are clarifying details,” he told AFP from Uganda.

Juba’s airport is the busiest in the war-torn country, which is the size of Spain and Portugal combined but with few tarred roads.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

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Bodies of 33 victims of Saturday's plane crash in Egypt identified

A Russian official says families have identified the bodies of 33 victims killed in Saturday's plane crash over Egypt

The Russian jet crashed over the Sinai Peninsula early Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Most of them were holidaymakers from Russia's St. Petersburg.

Igor Albin, deputy governor of St. Petersburg, said in a televised conference call that as of Wednesday morning families have identified 33 bodies.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said rescue teams in Egypt have expanded the search area to 40 square kilometers (15 square miles).

Russian officials have refrained from announcing the cause of the crash, citing the ongoing investigation.

Wednesday 4 November 2015

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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Island has nowhere to bury the drowned

The mayor of the Greek island of Lesbos has said there is no more room to bury the increasing number of asylum-seekers killed in shipwrecks of smuggling boats coming in from nearby Turkey.

Mayor Spyros Galinos told Greece's Vima FM radio yesterday that there were more than 50 bodies in the morgue on the eastern Aegean island that he was still trying to find a burial location for.

Mr Galinos said he was trying to fast-track procedures so a field next to the main ceme- tery could be taken over for burials.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year.

With rougher weather coming on, the bodies of 19 people were recovered from the Aegean in three separate incidents on Sunday alone.


Yesterday, four refugees drowned and six were missing off the Greek island of Farmakonisi after their boat sank, the Greek coastguard said. Four people were rescued, a spokesman said in a statement.

The vessel the migrants were travelling on sank in an unknown location north of the island. Eleven people, including six infants, drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the island of Samos, trapping them in the cabin.

The toll from drowning among thousands of refugees making the crossing from Turkey to Greece's outlying eastern islands has risen in recent weeks with the onset of colder weather and rougher seas There were near-gale force winds blowing in the Aegean at the weekend.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

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Wreckage in Atlantic confirmed as missing cargo ship

Debris discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean has been confirmed as the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed on its Twitter account that the survey of the 15,000ft deep site will continue as investigators continue to look for more information on the final moments of the vessel.

El Faro sank on 1 October east of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people on board. No survivors were found.

Sonar has indicated that the ship landed on the bottom upright, which could help teams recover the ship's voyage data recorder or "black box", the NTSB said.

Crews sent a remotely operated vehicle to confirm the wreckage after sonar imaging picked it up on Saturday.

The US Navy will continue to search the site on Tuesday with the vehicle, using its underwater cameras.

The "black box" could contain key information including audio from the bridge and comments from the captain on the condition of the ship.

Peter Knudsen, a spokesman for the NTSB, said: "The ship will certainly not be recovered; the ship is going to stay there. The containers are too deep to do any kind of recovery mission.

"If human remains are encountered, an attempt would be made to recover them."

El Faro's captain Michael Davidson had called in before the vessel disappeared saying the ship had lost engine power during its voyage from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

He said the ship was listing and taking on water. The ship also sent out three different distress signals.

So far, no bodies have been recovered. The Coast Guard spotted one body floating in a survival suit after the boat disappeared, but there have been no traces of others.

Deb Roberts, mother of the ship's engineer Michael Holland, said positive identification of El Faro was "like losing Mike all over again".

"My head wants answers, but my heart wants to stick to my vision of hope, stick to my vision of him being out on an island out there," she said.

"It does make it very difficult."

Four families have filed lawsuits against the ship's owner, Tote Marine, and Mr Davidson.

They alleged the company failed to maintain the vessel properly and made the decision to sail with a strong storm brewing offshore that put the lives of the crew at risk.

Tote Marine has defended itself in US District Court. It asked a judge to release it from liability last week.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

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First 10 bodies of Egypt plane crash identified

The first 10 bodies of victims of Saturday's plane crash over Egypt were identified by their families Tuesday, Russian officials said.

Metrojet's Airbus A321-200 en route from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, killing all 224 on board. The overwhelming majority of the passengers were Russian holidaymakers flying home.

Alexei Smirnov of the Russian emergency situations ministry said that a total of 140 bodies and more than 100 body parts were delivered to St. Petersburg on two government planes on Monday and Tuesday and that a third plane is expected to bring more remains later on Tuesday.

A total of 196 bodies from the Russian airliner crash have been recovered and the search operation has ended, cabinet spokesperson Hossam Qawish announced Monday, Ahram Arabic website reported. A Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations airplane carrying body parts and belongings of the Airbus A-321 crash's victims departed from Cairo and arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported.

Another Russian airplane arrived on Monday with the bodies of 140 victims.

Russian authorities have set up a crisis centre next to Pulkovo airport, where the planes are arriving, for family members to provide DNA samples for identification, AFP reported. The site is also being used as a memorial site to commemorate the victims.

Confusing reports and theories emerged on Monday as to what could have caused the crash.

Some aviation experts raised the possibility that a bomb on board the Airbus brought it down, while others cited an incident in 2001 when the aircraft grazed the runway with its tail while landing.

Metrojet firmly denied that the crash could have been caused by either equipment failure or crew error.

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy has instructed its staff not to travel anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash as a "precautionary measure."

Tuesday 3 November 2015

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Thailand: Coordination committee of missing persons and unidentified bodies to be set-up

A coordination committee will be set up to handle cases of missing persons and unidentified bodies, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

Mr Wissanu said authorities who receive complaints about a missing person or are informed of an unidentified body must forward the information to the committee.

Usually information about missing people or unidentified bodies is kept at police stations where complaints are lodged, he said.

The committee will act as a database of missing persons and unidentified body cases with the help of the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) under the Justice Ministry. This will help speed up investigations, the deputy prime minister said.

Region-based coordinating panels will also be set up across the country. The southern panel will be based at Prince of Songkla University, the northern panel at Chiang Mai University and the northeast panel at Khon Kaen University.

Mr Wissanu said the university campuses were chosen as they all have hospitals.

The idea for a coordinating panel was proposed by Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former CIFS director-general, before her retirement in September, he said.

Mr Wissanu said the centre was essential and in line with international practices. The country must have a central point of contact especially when it faces a crisis like a tsunami, he added.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

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Overcrowded bus veers off mountain road in Nepal, killing 30

A bus packed with passengers riding both inside and on its roof veered off a mountain road in northwest Nepal on Tuesday, killing 30 people and injuring 35 others, officials said.

Government administrator Shiv Ram Gelal said the bus drove off the road near Ramche village and rolled about 150 metres down a slope.

Gelal said the bus was overcrowded because of a severe fuel shortage in the country that has limited transportation.

Police, soldiers and local villagers helped recover injured people and bodies from the wreckage.

Rescuers struggled to recover bodies and help the injured to safety after the bus fell 200 metres (656 feet) off the mountainous road in Rasuwa district, home to the popular Langtang trekking route.

“Of the 30 dead, 29 were recovered from the accident site and one died while undergoing treatment,” district chief Shiva Ram Gelal said, adding that one of those killed was an infant.

“We have sent 35 other people who were wounded to nearby hospitals and we are continuing to search the area,” Gelal said.

Gelal told AFP the cause of the accident was not clear yet. But injured passengers said the vehicle was overcrowded, with people travelling on the roof, he added.

Police were investigating the accident, which occurred about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Accidents in Nepal are generally caused by poorly maintained roads and vehicles.

The severe fuel shortage has forced people to travel on the roofs of buses, which generally is not allowed for safety reasons. It has become common to see bus roofs packed with people and police rarely stop them.

Ethnic protesters have blocked a key border point with India since September, which has prevented the import of fuel and other supplies.

Nepal normally gets all of its fuel from India.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

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Monday, 2 November 2015

Dozens missing as ferry sinks on Chindwin River

At least four people have died and as many as 80 more are missing after a boat sank on the Chindwin River in Mandalay Region’s Kalaywa township yesterday.

Rescuers said they were able to save about 30 passengers, but witnesses claimed that around 100 people were on board the vessel at the time of the accident.

The boat, called the Ya Zar Tun, sank around 5:30am, according to the township head, who was alerted to the incident an hour later. The official said everyone was still in the river by the time authorities arrived to begin the rescue operation.

The bodies of four people were recovered soon after, while the boat captain, as well as his wife and one-year-old son, were among the 70-80 people still missing at the end of the day yesterday, according to the township official.

U Aung Zaw, the Kalaywa township National League for Democracy secretary, said a party campaign team arrived in Gazet village, Kalaywa township, yesterday morning, but instead of canvassing, the group began assisting the rescuers.

“[The team] helped bring four passengers who had serious injuries to the Kalaywa hospital,” he said, adding that they had been cut by a broken glass cover on the upper deck of the boat that shattered before the vessel capsized.

U Aung Zaw also said all of the dead recovered yesterday were women. They have yet to be identified.

A 20-year-old local resident said the boat was crammed with about 100 people before it hit an eddy and sank. He also said that an army unit came to assist the rescuers on the water yesterday.

Ko Kyaw Thet Win, chair of the Upper Chindwin Youth Network, blamed the slew of accidents on the Chindwin River on careless driving. He said that crashes happen frequently in the area, due to a lack of safety checks and routine maintenance. He speculated that the Ya Zar Tun appeared to have been overloaded, and may have sunk due to an imbalance. The official cause of the accident remains unknown, however.

A ferry disaster in March off the coast of Rakhine State officially claimed 72 lives, while survivors’ say the actual toll is much higher. The Aung Takon 3’s ship log recorded 214 passengers and crew, though it was officially licensed to carry just 176. Those on board claim there were over 400 people stuffed on to the boat, which was also heavily overloaded with cargo, including some even crammed into the toilets.

The accident prompted a closer examination of the state of the government’s underfunded ferry network, and the Inland Water Transport promised more stringent safety checks, training for staff and onboard demonstrations.

Monday 2 November 2015

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Sinai plane crash: first bodies arrive in Russia, Family members providing DNA samples

The bodies of 140 of the people killed when a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai desert have begun arriving back home in Saint Petersburg as Russian officials confirmed the aircraft broke up in the air.

The crash killed all 224 people onboard after disaster struck at high altitude, prompting aviation experts to speculate that a sudden mechanical failure or a midair explosion could have been to blame.

The remains of victims were to be taken in a motorcade to a crematorium in Saint Petersburg for identification, which will begin later on Monday, according to Russia’s emergency ministry, which organised the flight.

Family members have been providing DNA samples at a crisis centre set up close to the airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people are bringing flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children as young as 10 months old.

In Egypt, investigators had rushed to the scene of the wreckage after the crash where 163 bodies had been recovered by Sunday afternoon. Some were found several miles away from the twisted and blackened remains of the Airbus A321. Many personal effects were strewn about with the wreckage in the desert.

Victor Sorochenko, the head of Russia’s interstate aviation committee, said it was too early to draw firm conclusions but it was clear that the plane had broken up in flight on its way from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg.

That, according to experts, could indicate a bomb caused the disaster, although an explosive decompression from a technical failure is equally possible. The aircraft, built in 1997, suffered a tail strike in 2001, where the rear end of the plane touches the runway on takeoff. It underwent extensive repairs.

At least one major air disaster, a Japan Airlines crash, has been ascribed to weakness caused by similar repairs years earlier. Tony Cable, a former senior investigator at the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch, said “any weakness or fatigue would be bad news” in that part of the plane.

On Saturday, a militant group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility for bringing down the Metrojet, or Kogalymavia, Airbus A321 “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land” – a reference to the aerial bombing campaign recently begun by Vladimir Putin.

Technical or mechanical failure, the firing of a missile or an onboard explosion are being investigated as possible causes of the Airbus A321 crash

However, Egypt and Russia both disputed the group’s claim, suggesting militants in northern Sinai, where Egypt has been fighting an Islamic insurgency, did not have the weaponry to hit a flight at 9,000 metres (31,000ft).

In a bid to help recover bodies and examine evidence from the disaster, Russia’s emergencies ministry sent more than 100 workers to the crash site in Egypt, which is spread over nearly 15 sq km (6 sq miles). They are being joined by staff from the French accident investigation agency, BEA, who will provide technical expertise as the aircraft was designed in France, as well as investigators from Germany, where the plane was manufactured, and Russia, where the Kogalymavia airline operates.

The dead, including more than 20 children, were all Russian apart from four Ukrainians and one person from Belarus.

Russian officials said the revelation that the aircraft broke up in midair did not necessarily mean a bomb had caused the tragedy. News agency Interfax reported that Russia’s transport safety watchdog, Rostransnadzor, had ordered Kogalymavia to ground its fleet of Airbus A321s until the cause of the disaster had been established. An official from Kogalymavia said it was discussing the timing of the safety checks and would take its Airbus A321 planes out of active use one by one without disrupting its flight schedule.

The plane was one of the oldest A321s in service, although its age is not regarded as excessive. It was previously operated by the Lebanese company Middle East Airlines, Turkey’s Onur Air, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Syrian company Cham Wings Airlines. It had flown 56,000 hours in nearly 21,000 flights.

An Egyptian ground service official who examined the plane before takeoff told the Associated Press it appeared to be in good condition: “Everything checked out in 35 minutes.”

However, a Russian TV channel said a pilot had expressed doubts about its condition. Natalya Trukhacheva, identified as the wife of co-pilot Sergei Trukhachev, was reported as saying he had complained before the flight “that the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired”.

Kogalymavia failed a safety inspection in 2014 but reportedly rectified the violations and its planes had not been involved in serious crashes before. A Kogalymavia Tu-154 caught fire on the runway in Surgut on 1 January 2011, however, killing three people and injuring 44.

The aircraft took off at 5.51am Cairo time (03.51 GMT) on Saturday and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry said in a statement. According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative flight tracking service based in Sweden, it descended rapidly at about 1,800 metres a minute.

Monday 2 November 2015

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Four babies among 13 migrants who drowned after two boats capsize on deadly crossing from Turkey to Greece

At least 13 migrants including four babies drowned when two boats making the perilous crossing from Turkey to Greece capsized today.

One boat overturned off the Greek island of Samos - just 20 metres from the shore. Ten bodies, including six children - four of them babies - were found in the vessel's cabin while one was discovered washed up on the island.

Two others were still missing with coastguards saying 15 were plucked from the water.

A boat from the European border agency Frontex also recovered two bodies near the island of Farmakonnisi, near Samos, after what is believed to be a separate capsizing.

Frontex managed to rescued three others, who said their boat was carrying 15 people when it sank in Turkish waters.

Greek authorities and the Turkish coastguard 'continue to search the zone to find the migrants who disappeared in the sinking, which probably took place off the Turkish coast'.

The new sinkings add to a string of migrant boat tragedies since Monday off the Greek islands of Lesbos, Kalymnos and Rhodes in which more than 60 people have drowned, at least 28 of them children.

Photographs have been emerging of lifeless bodies washing up on Lesbos.

On Friday alone, 22 people, including 17 children, lost their lives trying to cross to the eastern Aegean islands from Turkey, to which more than two million Syrian refugees have fled.

That followed another tragic day on Wednesday when 24 migrants - 11 of them children - died in five shipwrecks off Lesbos, Samos and Agathonisi.

Since the beginning of the year, 580,125 migrants have landed on Greece’s shores, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, with a total of 723,221 crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Monday 2 November 2015

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Wreckage believed to be of doomed ship El Faro which vanished with 33 crew on board found in 15,000ft deep water near where it sunk during Hurricane Joaquin

Wreckage believed to be of the doomed ship El Faro, which sank off the coast of the Bahamas with 33 crew on board, has been found by the US Navy.

Officials said a search team is believed to have found the ship in 15,000ft deep water near its last known position.

The 790ft cargo vessel vanished on October 1 after sailing directly into the path of Hurricane Joaquin following a 'hull breach'.

A statement from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said a US Navy ship used sonar to detect the wreckage, but will need to confirm its identity with a deep ocean search vehicle. It could take up to 15 days to do this.

El Faro's captain called in an emergency before the vessel disappeared saying the ship had lost its engine power, was taking in water and was listing.

The ship, which was slated to be replaced, was on its voyage from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with 33 mostly American crewmembers when it sunk.

Investigators said Michael Davidson intended to pass 65 miles from the center of the Category 4 storm, a decision maritime experts said was risky, but then plowed full steam towards it.

Earlier this month debris believed to be from the cargo ship washed ashore on the Bahamas.

Part of a refrigeration unit that was discovered at the edge of a beach on the island of Great Exuma was confirmed to be from the doomed ship.

The tracking number on the large piece of cargo, SEG9028902, proved a match when compared with information found on Tote Maritime’s customer tracking system.

Besides the refrigeration system, other items that possibly came from El Faro have been washing ashore on Exuma and San Salvador, including dozens of containers of body wash and deodorant, shaving cream, syringes and tennis shoes.

The El Faro and its 33 mostly American crew members disappeared October 1 after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin in the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a US-flagged vessel since 1983.

The ship's owner, New Jersey-based Tote Inc, has previously said the loss of propulsion is likely what doomed the ship as it was engulfed by high seas whipped up by Joaquin.

According to the NTSB, electronic distress alerts were received by the US Coast Guard from three separate sources on board El Faro but the Coast Guard never had direct voice communications with the ship.

In a recorded satellite phone call Captain Michael Davidson told the ship's owner he had a 'hull breach' after taking on water in one of the holds, the NTSB said Tuesday.

It said the captain also reported that the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and that engineers could not get it restarted.

Monday 2 November 2015

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

15 killed, 13 injured in Zambo market fire

At least 15 people, including six children, were killed and 13 others were injured when a fire broke out at the old public market along Magay street here at dawn yesterday.

Authorities said the fire razed the “ukay-ukay” (used clothing) section of the market and spread to vegetable stalls and an adjacent commercial building.

Police Officer 3 Rafael Salcedo said the blaze started at 2:45 a.m. at the used clothing section after electrical lines sparked when power resumed following a blackout in the area.

The fire reached the third alarm before it was put out two hours later.

More than 300 stalls were destroyed by the fire, according to city fire marshal Dominador Zabala Jr.

Zabala said the fire trucks had difficulty in entering the site due to narrow alleys. He said rescuers recovered some of the bodies in makeshift stalls built above a creek.

The fatalities were identified.

Zamboanga police spokesman Chief Inspector Joel Tuttuh said most of the fatalities were vendors, who had been staying in their stalls with their families.

Some of the victims were taken to the Brent Hospital and the others were brought to the Zamboanga City Medical Center for treatment.

City disaster risk reduction management officer Elmeir Apolinario said the injured victims survived by passing through the sewerage.

Damage to property was placed at P8 million.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar ordered the police and fire bureau to investigate the cause of the blaze.

The local government extended assistance to the victims.

Sunday 1 November 2015

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Sinai plane crash: Search widens for bodies and debris

Teams investigating the fate of a Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Saturday killing all 224 on board have widened their search for bodies and debris.

So far 163 bodies have been found but the search area was extended to 15km (9 miles) after some were located away from the main wreck of the Airbus 321. Russia is observing a day of mourning after its worst air disaster.

Egypt and Russia dismissed IS claims that its militants were responsible.

Jihadists allied to so-called Islamic State in Sinai, where such groups are active, made a claim on social media that they had brought down flight KGL9268.

But Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said experts had confirmed that a plane could not be downed at 9,450m (31,000ft), the altitude the plane was flying at, by weapons the militants are known to possess.

Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said no evidence had been seen that indicated the plane was targeted.

However, three airlines - Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa - have decided not to fly over the Sinai Peninsula until more information is available. Two smaller carriers, flydubai and Air Arabia, also said they would re-route flights.

British Airways and easyJet said they would not alter their routes.

One Egyptian official said the plane suddenly "disappeared off the radar"

The Kogalymavia Airbus A-321 came down early on Saturday, shortly after leaving the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for the Russian city of St Petersburg. Russian and French investigators have joined the Egyptian-led probe, along with experts from Airbus, which is headquartered in France.

Meanwhile a Russian team has arrived at the crash site to join efforts to recover bodies, Russian media say. Egyptian officials said the perimeter for the search for bodies and debris had been widened to 15km.

Some bodies had been recovered within a radius of 5km on Saturday, and that of a three-year-old girl was found 8km from the scene, they added.

Prime Minister Sharif Ismail (third from right) visited the site of the crash on Saturday afternoon The plane's black boxes have been found and sent for analysis, officials said.

Egypt's civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said there had been no sign of any problems on board the flight, contradicting earlier reports that the pilot had asked to make an emergency landing.

The widow of the plane's co-pilot told Russian TV her husband had complained about the aircraft's technical condition.

The BBC's Sally Nabil in Cairo says the crash has been a major blow to Egypt's already struggling tourism industry, and the Egyptian authorities are trying hard to accelerate the investigation process.

The plane was carrying 217 passengers, including 25 children, Russian transport authorities said. There were seven crew members on board.

Egyptian officials had said 213 of the passengers were Russian and four were Ukrainian, but Russian officials said at least one of the victims was from Belarus. The bodies of 163 victims have so far been recovered and taken to Cairo.

The first bodies to be returned to Russia are expected to be flown to St Petersburg on Sunday. One unnamed official described a "tragic scene" with bodies of victims still strapped to seats.

The plane appeared to have split in two, he told Reuters, with one part burning up and the other crashing into a rock.

Flight path 05:58 Egyptian time (03:58 GMT): Flight leaves Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian cabinet says in a statement
06:14 Egyptian time (04:14 GMT): Plane fails to make scheduled contact with air traffic control based in Larnaca, Cyprus, according to Sergei Izdolsky, an official with Russia's air transport agency
06:17 Egyptian time, approx (04:17 GMT): Plane comes down over the Sinai peninsula, according to Airbus
11:12 Egyptian time (09:12 GMT): Flight had been due to land in St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport

Sunday 1 November 2015

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