Wednesday, 21 January 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 21 January 2015

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Zimbabwe: 9 more bus crash victims identified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was disclosed by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 21 January 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 21 January 2015

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