Sunday, 25 January 2015

QZ8501: Two more bodies identified

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 25 January 2015

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AirAsia flight QZ8501: four more bodies recovered from wreckage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 25 January 2015

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Disaster exposes Mutoko nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday 25 January 2015

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