Wednesday, 4 February 2015

AirAsia Flight 8501: Indonesian divers retrieve 6 more bodies

Indonesian divers discovered six more bodies Tuesday from the wreckage of the crashed AirAsia plane, bringing to 90 the total number bodies retrieved from the jetliner.

AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, to Singapore.

The National Search and Rescue Agency and traditional divers are continuing the search after the Indonesian navy halted its own efforts last week due to the difficulty of lifting the fuselage from the water.

Agency spokesman Jusuf Latif said the discoveries brought to 90 the total bodies retrieved from the crash.

Some of the bodies were found floating off Sulawesi island, about 620 miles east of the crash scene one month after the crash.

Authorities believe many of the other bodies are still inside the fuselage and other big pieces of wreckage in the area, including the cockpit, which may contain the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot. Authorities have reported the cockpit wreckage to be about 500 meters (yards) from the main body of the Airbus A320.

Suryadi Bambang Supriyadi, the operation chief of the rescue agency, said 13 bodies were discovered by traditional divers on Monday and Tuesday from inside and around the fuselage which is at a depth of 100 feet on the seafloor.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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Taiwan plane crash: TransAsia Airways Flight hoisted from river; 26 confirmed dead

Rescuers used a crane to hoist the fuselage of a wrecked TransAsia Airways plane from a shallow river in Taiwan’s capital late on Wednesday as they searched into the night for 17 people missing in a crash that killed at least 26 others.

Flight 235 with 58 people aboard, most of them travellers from China, banked sharply on its side shortly after takeoff from Taipei, clipped a highway bridge and then careened into the Keelung River.

Rescuers in rubber rafts pulled 15 people alive from the wreckage during daylight. After dark, they brought in the crane, and the death toll was expected to rise once crews were able to search through submerged portions of the fuselage, which came to rest a few dozen meters (yards) from the shore.

Dramatic video clips apparently taken from cars were posted online and aired by broadcasters, showing the ATR 72 propjet as it pivoted onto its side while zooming toward a traffic bridge over the river.

In one of them, the plane rapidly fills the frame as its now-vertical wing scrapes over the road, hitting a vehicle before heading into the river.

Speculation cited in local media said the crew may have turned sharply to follow the line of the river to avoid crashing into a high-rise residential area, but Taiwan’s aviation authority said it had no evidence of that.

Taiwanese broadcasters repeatedly played a recording of the plane’s final contact with the control tower in which the crew called out “Mayday” three times.

The recording offered no direct clues as to why the plane was in distress.

Wednesday’s flight had taken off at 11:53 am from Taipei’s downtown Sungshan Airport en route to the outlying Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen islands.

The crew issued the mayday call shortly after takeoff, Taiwanese civil aviation authorities said.

TransAsia director Peter Chen said contact with the plane was lost four minutes after takeoff. He said weather conditions were suitable for flying and the cause of the accident was unknown.

“Actually this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn’t been used for even a year,” he told a news conference. Thirty-one passengers were from China, Taiwan’s tourism bureau said. Kinmen’s airport is a common link between Taipei and China’s Fujian province.

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said 26 people were confirmed dead, 15 were rescued with injuries and 17 were still missing. It said two people on the ground were hurt.

It was the airline's second French-Italian-built ATR 72 to crash in the past year.

Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei Fire Department official who was coordinating the rescue, said the missing people were either still in the fuselage or had perhaps been pulled down the river.

"At the moment, things don't look too optimistic," Wu told reporters at the scene. "Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives."

Rescuers could be seen pulling luggage from an open plane door to clear the fuselage. Ten inflatable dinghies also searched for the missing.

As a drizzle fell around nightfall, military crews took portable bridges to the scene, where rescue workers were building docks for easier access to the wreckage. About 300 rescue personnel and members of the media stood along the banks of the narrow river.

Part of the freeway above it was littered with debris and was closed after the crash.

Relatives of the victims had not reached the scene by dusk Wednesday but some were expected to arrive Thursday, including some flying from Beijing.

The plane's wing hit a taxi on the freeway, and the driver and a passenger were injured, Chen said.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said it had sent 165 people and eight boats to the riverside rescue scene, joining fire department rescue crews.

Another ATR 72 operated by the same Taipei-based airline crashed in the outlying Taiwan-controlled islands of Penghu last July 23, killing 48 at the end of a typhoon for reasons that are still under investigation.

ATR, a French-Italian consortium based in Toulouse, France, said it was sending a team to Taiwan to help in the investigation.

The ATR 72-600 that crashed Wednesday is manufacturer's best plane model, and the pilot had 4,900 hours of flying experience, said Lin Chih-ming of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at Flightglobal magazine in Singapore, said the ATR 72-600 is the latest iteration of one of the most popular turboprop planes in the world, particularly favored for regional short-hop flights in Asia.

It has a generally good reputation for safety and reliability and is known among airlines for being cheap and efficient to operate.

While it's too early to say what caused the crash, engine trouble or weight shifting were unlikely to be causes, Waldron said. Other possible factors include pilot error, weather or freak incidents such as bird strikes.

"It's too early now to speculate on whether it was an issue with the aircraft or crew," Waldron said.

The accessibility of the crash site should allow for a swift investigation, and an initial report should be available within about a month, Waldron said.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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1,299 unidentified bodies found in Punjab in two years

Punjab police informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that 1,299 unidentified dead bodies were found in the province over the last two years.

Advocate General Punjab Razaq A Mirza submitted Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the SC regarding the registration and tracking of unidentified dead bodies.

He also submitted the inspector general Punjab’s report, which stated that 1,299 unidentified dead bodies were received in 2013 and 2014. Of these, 1,248 dead bodies were handed over for burial, adding that the remaining 51 bodies were handed over to anatomy department.

The report further states that if a body is unidentified, the officer making the investigation shall record a careful description of it, giving all marks, peculiarities, deformities and distinctive features of it and also take the figure impression of it in addition to taking all the reasonable steps to secure identification.

He shall publish a description in the Criminal Intelligent Gazette where such action appears desirable, it said. According to the SOP, the data of unidentified dead bodies will be gathered by the SHO concerned and uploaded on the web within 24 hours of the information received with consultation of the medical superintendent.

Meanwhile, Punjab health department has also stated in its report that in accordance with the rules and regulations, the investigation officer (IO) will bring the dead bodies to the hospital for the postmortem examination.

The report states that IO will hand over the dead body to the head of Anatomy department if not identified.

Meanwhile, the top court has expressed unhappiness over Sindh and K-P governments for not submitting procedure regarding the registration of unidentified dead bodies.

In response, law officers representing the two provinces requested the court to give them 20 more days to submit their respective replies over the procedure.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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Seven killed as New York train hits vehicle

A commuter train has hit a vehicle at a level crossing north of New York City, killing at least seven people and injuring 12, officials say.

The train, with about 800 passengers on board, hit the Jeep Cherokee near Valhalla - about 20 miles (32km) from New York - on Tuesday evening.

The vehicle's female driver was killed, along with six people on the train, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The car and front carriage of the train caught fire following the crash.

The packed commuter train had left Grand Central Station in New York City and was heading to Wassaic in south-east New York State.

The crossing gates at the railroad had come down on top of the vehicle, which had stopped on the tracks, Metro-North Railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan said.

The driver got out to look at the damage, and then got back into the car to drive forward before it was hit by the train. It pushed the vehicle more than 120m (400ft).

It is not yet clear why the vehicle stalled on the tracks.

As a result of the collision the electrified third rail of the track came through the front carriage of the train.

Passengers had to escape from the rear of the train.

Mr Cuomo, who visited the site of the crash, said he witnessed "a truly ugly and brutal sight".

He added: "When you look at the damage done, it's actually amazing that not more people were hurt."

Hundreds were taken to a local rock climbing gym following the crash.

Parts of the railroad remain closed on Wednesday.

Metro-North is the second-busiest railroad in the US, serving about 280,000 passengers a day in New York and Connecticut.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board issued rulings on five accidents that occurred on the railroad in 2013 and 2014, criticising Metro-North while also finding conditions had improved.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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Mozambique: Flood Death Toll Reaches 150

The number of deaths from the storms and floods in central and northern Mozambique so far this year has reached 150, according to Casimiro Abreu, deputy director of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC).

The previous figure for fatalities, released a week ago, was 117. Abreu warned that the death toll could rise in the coming days, since more lifeless bodies are being discovered as the flood waters recede.

Abreu was speaking on Monday at a ceremony where the INC received a donation from the Japanese embassy.

He said that the province worst hit was Zambezia where so far 68 bodies have been recovered. Abreu put the number of people affected by the floods at about 150,000.

The Japanese donation consisted of tents and tarpaulins valued at 130,000 US dollars. The ambassador, Akira Mizutani declared “the Japanese government took prompt and immediate action, and decided to donate emergency humanitarian assistance to the Mozambican people”.

He hoped these goods would complement the efforts of the Mozambican government to mitigate the effects of the disasters which have struck the central and northern provinces.

Abreu thanked the ambassador for the gift. “The Japanese have always been our partners in various sectors of activity, and particularly in disaster management”, he said.

The representative in Mozambique of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Katsuyoshi Sudo, said that Japan has experienced similar situations and is well aware of the pain and suffering caused by natural disasters.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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TransAsia crash: At least twelve dead as plane crashes into Taiwan river

At least 12 people have died after a TransAsia Airways plane clipped a bridge and crashed into a river near the Taiwanese capital of Taipei.

Fifty-eight people were onboard the domestic flight. The fuselage is now half-submerged in the Keelung River and lying on its side.

Rescuers on boats have cut it open to gain access to people trapped inside.

Officials say 16 people have suffered injuries, with some taken to hospital. Thirty people remain unaccounted for.

The ATR-72 turbo-prop plane had just taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the outlying Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, CNA said.

Flight controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:55 local time (02:55 GMT).

Footage of the plane filmed from inside passing cars showed it banking sharply, hitting a taxi and clipping the bridge before crashing into the river.

Television images showed rescuers standing on large sections of broken wreckage trying to pull passengers out of the plane with ropes.

Those that were rescued were helped into dinghies and taken to shore, including a small boy.

Some were then placed on stretchers and taken to hospital. But officials said some passengers were still trapped inside the wreckage which appeared to be upside down and broken into many parts in the river.

"We're asking the public works department for heavy cranes to be deployed, in the hopes that the body of the plane can be lifted up," said Wu Jun-Hong, assistant director of Taipei's fire department.

"At the moment, we think a lot of the trapped people are in the head of the plane.

Out of the 58 people on board 53 are believed to be passengers and five are crew. Thirty-one of the passengers are tourists from mainland China.

The BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei says the Chinese tourists could have been on their way home as many people come to Taiwan through Kinmen island.

The chief executive of TransAsia, Chen Xinde, offered a "deep apology" to passengers and crew on board in a televised news conference, Reuters news agency reported.

TransAsia Airways

Founded in 1951 as Taiwan's first private civilian-operated domestic airline, later expanded to overseas routes.

One of the region's smaller carriers though has rapidly expanded in recent years.

Has about 20 planes in its fleet - a mix of Airbus and dual-propeller ATR planes.

Gained popularity due to its low-cost tickets.

Flies many routes between Taiwan and mainland China, and to other parts of South East Asia.

In July 2014, 48 people died when a TransAsia Airways plane crashed amid stormy weather in Taiwan's Penghu archipelago.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

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