Thursday, 5 February 2015

Searching for Turkey's missing children

Where is Yakup? It’s been 10 minutes since dinner has started at grandpa’s home in a remote village of eastern Turkey. And Yakup has disappeared. No one is that concerned. It is not unusual for a three-year-old to wander off…

But, 25 years later, his father is still looking for him.

Sakip Ergun, 57, was not present when his son first went missing.

"I had sent my wife with my three children to grandpa's, who lives in our village,” he says.

He has "done everything" to find his son, but nothing has brought him back.

There have been no clues on his whereabouts since he disappeared in a village of almost 500 people in the Turkish province, Erzurum. "I have no foes, thank God," the father says.

"We went on many TV broadcasts," said Sakip. He even met then-president Suleyman Demirel.

But back then, Turkey had not have a police force department for missing people until the relentless cries and demands of distraught families bore fruit.

As the question -- Where is Yakup ? -- lingers, Sakip has no choice but to find comfort in the fact that his numerous efforts to find his son have served to help others track down their loved ones.

Police forces look for nearly 4,000 missing children on average every month in Turkey.

The Turkish national police launched a special team in 2013 of 5,000 experts and police to ramp up searches for missing persons, and found more than 2,600 people in four months, including a few who were missing for more than 20 years.

For a long time, Sakip searched for his son, who would now be 29, with a childhood photo. However, this has changed as Turkish police teams use photo-aging techniques to create an illustration of missing children's potent─▒al adult faces.

But despite the improvements in search techniques for missing children in Turkey, still thousands -- some of which are not children anymore -- remain missing, according to reports.

More than 445,000 missing people have been found between 1995 and 2014, according to the Department of Smuggling, Intelligence, Operations and Information Gathering.

Some 7,070 children, though, are still missing according to a November 2014 department report.

While the Ergun family does not know what happened to Yakup, most cases involving missing children are the result of problems within families or related to drug abuse.

The head of the Association of Families Whose Relatives Went Missing, Zafer Ozbilici, said that socioeconomic issues were the main reason behind missing children cases.

"In general, those children are repressed and from families in financial difficulties or with domestic issues," said Ozbilici, who created the association, after his brother went missing in 1992.

The association has launched various campaigns such as a bus touring Turkey, or grocery bags showcasing pictures of missing children.

It must be noted that almost all children who go missing are brought back to their families within 30 days.

According to the police department report, only one in 1,000 of the missing childrencould not be found within the six months following the disappearance.

Still, Ozbilici warns, it is very dangerous for a child to spend more than 24 hours outside of his home, as it is possible for him to be either a victim or perpetrator of a crime.

He urges for more cooperation among institutions, such as security forces or the family ministry, to accelerate searches.

"An officer is stalled with official paperwork in the time that he could spend on finding a missing child," he complains, citing as an efficient solution the alarm system for missing people in the U.S. called AMBER.

AMBER alert is an emergency code interconnecting the police force with media outlets and other broadcasting means to warn the public to be on the lookout for a certain missing person.

Many families have spent all they have to search for their missing child, says Ozbilici.

"They lose their wealth and savings," says Ozbilici.

Sakip Ergun has spent loads of money during these 25 long years. He once had 10,000 posters and fliers with the picture of his son printed on them.

"We are still waiting as we are believers. You cannot abandon hope from God's mercy," he says.

"People can accept death and live with it. This is much harder than death as you do not know what to accept and you get exhausted after continuous waiting and you keep thinking about your child's whereabouts," says Ozbilici.

That's what Sakip has been living through for a quarter of a century.

And the question remains: Where's Yakup?

Thursday 5 February 2015

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International Red Cross seeks to find fate of 4,500 who went missing during Karabakh War

On 3 February, 2015 First Deputy Minister of Defence of the Republic of Armenia David Tonoyan hosted the Head of the Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Armenia Sarah Epprecht.

During the meeting the parties discussed possible ways of implementation of agreements to exchange data on missing persons.

The First Deputy Minister of Defense underlined that the Armenian side has been successfully cooperating with the ICRC since 1992 and fully intends to carry on this collaboration.

The Head of the ICRC delegation to Armenia noted, on her part, that one of the priorities of the ICRC as an impartial, neutral, and independent organization is to reveal the fate of approximately 4500 people who went missing in the wake of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Davit Tonoyan reported that within the scope of its authority, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Armenia stands ready to cooperate with the Azerbaijani side under the aegis of the ICRC in the exchange of data of missing people which will be a step in implementation of norms of international humanitarian law.

Thursday 5 February 2015

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NamUs: How to Use the National System to Find Missing and Unidentified Persons

When a family member or loved one goes missing, people file a police report, or hire private investigators. In addition to these resources, there is also the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

NamUs, a site run by the Department of Justice, is a database of missing and unidentified persons. The site can be used for online searches, adding up-to-date facts and information to a case, and even volunteering to help with investigations.

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a powerful, free tool to assist law enforcement officers, medical examiners, coroners, allied criminal justice professionals, and the family members of missing persons in resolving these cold cases. NamUs combines online database technology with forensic and analytical resources to solve long-term missing and unidentified person cases.

NamUs resources also include a team of expert Regional System Administrators (RSAs) who assist users with case management and biometric support services. The online databases contain detailed case information that allows for searching using a wide variety of identifiers, such as physical features, dental records and tattoos, while protecting sensitive case data which is restricted and only viewable by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement, clearinghouse personnel, and other allied forensic specialists.

NamUs also offers free forensics services like DNA tests, which can be used to help investigators identify missing or unidentified people.

The missing persons database

This system provides quick and advanced search options just by inputting basic information such as first and last name, gender, and the state in which the missing person was last seen.

To create a missing person file, youmust register and enter the information requested by the system. Once access is given, you can create a file, modify the information, and share any new details with authorities handling the case.

The unidentified and unclaimed persons database

Sometimes police officers recover a body of someone who died and could not be identified, or they may be able to identify a body, but it remains unclaimed. In both cases, the coroners are the ones responsible for opening a file in the NamUs system and modifying any new information.

To do a quick or advanced search for an unidentified person, you must enter the person's information in the corresponding boxes.

If you are searching for an unclaimed person, you can write the person's name and birth date in the search area. Depending on the search results, you can contact the person in charge of the case to claim the body.

Contacting NamUs

Every missing person fact sheet has contact information for the person or agency handling the case.

Users with general questions about the system can email NamUs at

Thursday 5 February 2015

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Rescuers still hope to find 12 missing from Taiwan plane

Taiwanese rescue officials refused to give up hope of finding 12 people still missing on Thursday more than 24 hours after a TransAsia Airways (6702.TW) plane crashed into a Taipei river, killing at least 31.

TransAsia Flight GE235, carrying 58 passengers and crew, lurched between buildings, clipped a taxi and an overpass with one of its wings and crashed upside down into shallow water shortly after take-off from a downtown Taipei airport on Wednesday.

"We have not found survivors or bodies of the 12 missing, but we will not give up. We'll continue to search," said Yeh Chun-hsing, an official with Taipei's fire department.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said there were 15 known survivors. Sixteen of those killed were from among a group of 31 Chinese tourists, most from the southeastern city of Xiamen, it said. Three Chinese passengers were rescued.

The pilot and co-pilot of the almost-new turboprop ATR 72-600 were among those killed, the CAA said. TransAsia identified the pilot as 42-year-old Liao Chien-tsung.

Dramatic pictures captured by a passing motorist showed the plane careening over an overpass, its nose up as its port-side wing struck the taxi and roadway just metres from passing cars.

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.

Taiwanese media reported that it appeared Liao had fought desperately to steer his stricken aircraft between apartment blocks and commercial buildings close to Taipei's Songshan airport before crashing into the river.

The head of Taiwan's CAA, Lin Tyh-ming, has said Liao had 4,916 flying hours under his belt and the co-pilot 6,922 hours.

Taiwanese media reported that Liao, the son of street vendors, passed exams to join the air force. He later flew for China Airlines (2610.TW), Taiwan's main carrier, before joining TransAsia.

The CAA, Taiwan's aviation regulator, ordered TransAsia and Uni Air, a subsidiary of EVA Airways Corp (2618.TW), to conduct engine and fuel system checks on the remaining 22 ATR aircraft they still operate.

TransAsia's shares closed down 6.9 percent on Wednesday, its biggest percentage decline since late 2011, and were down another 4 percent on Thursday. The crash was the latest in a string of aviation disasters in Asia in the past 12 months and TransAsia's second in the past seven months.

Macau's Civil Aviation Authority said the engines of the plane had been replaced at Macau Airport on April 19 last year, during its delivery flight, "due to engine-related technical issues".

It said the engines were replaced by TransAsia engineers and the plane left Macau airport two days later.

Lin from Taiwan's CAA said the aircraft last underwent maintenance on Jan. 26.

The plane was powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127M engines. Pratt & Whitney is part of United Technologies (UTX.N).

The last communication from one of the pilots was "Mayday engine flameout", according to an air traffic control recording on

A flameout can occur when the fuel supply to an engine is interrupted or when there is faulty combustion, but twin-engined aircraft can usually keep flying with one engine.

Taiwan officials said on Wednesday the plane's black box data recorder had been recovered but no information from it had been made available yet.

TransAsia official said the airline would give the families of those killed T$1.2 million (£25,127) for funeral expenses and T$200,000 to each of the injured. Two people on the ground were also injured, it said.

The plane was bound for the Taiwan island of Kinmen, not far from Xiamen. TransAsia said it would fly members of the Chinese passengers' families to Taiwan on Wednesday.

Thursday 5 February 2015

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AirAsia flight QZ8501: 91 victims recovered, 64 identified

The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has recovered 91 bodies of the total 162 passengers on board AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed last December.

The National Police’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team had identified 64 of the 91 bodies as of Wednesday, Antara news agency reported.

Thirteen bodies are still being identified by the DVI team, while another 14 bodies are expected to arrive at Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Surabaya, East Java.

The search efforts are ongoing in the Java Sea and Karimata Strait, where the aircraft - which was en route from Surabaya to Singapore - crashed on Dec. 28.

On Tuesday, divers from the search and rescue team recovered six bodies from the Java Sea.

Another team is operating in Makassar Strait, searching for more bodies and debris in Mamuju waters, West Sulawesi. The search area was extended to the waters around the Pinrang and Selayar islands in South Sulawesi, where local fishermen recently found bodies.

Of the 162 victims, there were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, a French, a British, a Singaporean and a Malaysian.

Thursday 5 February 2015

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AirAsia flight QZ8501: Search expands to Central Sulawesi

The search for victims and wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed in the Karimata Strait, Central Kalimantan, has been expanded to the Makassar Strait in Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi.

The move came following the finding by a local fisherman in Toale subdistrict, Donggala, of parts of an overhead cabin locker suspected to be from the plane.

National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Palu branch operational section head George LM Randang said the find would be the basis for a new search.

“As the stream continues to move to the north, the search will most likely expand as far as the Central Sulawesi region,” George said.

According to him, Basarnas Palu had set up a coordination post in the Pasangkayu region, West Sulawesi, to support the team that was currently sweeping Majene waters with the Makassar search and rescue team.

Separately, a number of fishermen in Donggala said they found pieces of an aircraft that they suspected were from the AirAsia flight.

One of the fishermen, 52-year-old Lamori, said he was surprised when finding parts of an aircraft overhead locker in Donggala waters on Monday.

Other fishermen said they had found many similar pieces while searching for fish.

Based on Lamori’s information, Basarnas Palu and the Donggala Water Police coordinated to search the region. They found parts of an aircraft ceiling and doors.

The findings were to be sent to Surabaya, East Java, for examination.

Meanwhile, in Pinrang regency, South Sulawesi, fishermen reportedly found two bones thought to be from human feet and more aircraft parts on Wednesday.

The bones were found by different fishermen in separate places along the Suppa district coastline, Pinrang, some 950 kilometers from the flight’s crash site.

Fauzan Mahmud of the joint search and rescue team said the first bone was found at about 8 a.m. local time not far from the beach.

The second bone was found at about 10 a.m. the same day in Wiringtasi subdistrict, Suppa. An Adidas trainer was attached to the bone.

“One bone found this morning paired with [the other]. Both were found with trainers of the same brand, black Adidas with a yellow base,” Fauzan said, adding that the bones were found 15 km apart.

The bones found on Wednesday would be transported to Bhayangkara Makassar Hospital, where they would be flown to Surabaya for identification.

Fauzan Mahmud of the joint search and rescue team said the first bone was found at about 8 a.m. local time not far from the beach.

The second bone was found at about 10 a.m. the same day in Wiringtasi subdistrict, Suppa. An Adidas trainer was attached to the bone.

“One bone found this morning paired with [the other]. Both were found with trainers of the same brand, black Adidas with a yellow base,” Fauzan said, adding that the bones were found 15 km apart.

The bones found on Wednesday would be transported to Bhayangkara Makassar Hospital, where they would be flown to Surabaya for identification.

Basarnas Makassar head Roki Azikin said although all body parts and aircraft wreckage had been found by the fishermen, the joint search and rescue team would continue to search waters from Majene to Mamuju in West Sulawesi to the north and to Pinrang and Pare-pare in South Sulawesi to the south.

“We’re currently focusing on the south, which is on Pinrang and Pare-pare,” said Roki, adding that he was unsure how long the search would go on.

However, not all body parts sent from South Sulawesi to the East Java Police’s Disaster and Victim Identification (DVI) unit are from the bodies of victims on the AirAsia flight.

“Today, we determined that one body part labelled B007 is not one of the plane’s victims, but is instead from a primate,” DVI team chief Sr. Comr. Budiyono said as quoted by on Wednesday.

Thursday 5 February 2015

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