Monday, 16 February 2015

No hope of more survivors in DR Congo boat sinking

Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo said on Sunday they had abandoned all hope of finding more survivors, after as many as 100 people went missing when their boat sank on the Congo River.

"We shouldn`t even think about finding any survivors," Jean-Christophe Malela, an official in the western Bandundu province, told AFP, pointing out that the accident occurred on Thursday in an area of rapids.

The accident took place when two boats collided near the city of Kwamouth, about 200 kilometres (120 miles) northeast of the capital Kinshasa, Malela said.

Rescuers have so far recovered nine bodies and 42 people had made it to safety, he said.

The World Health Organisation cited survivors as saying there may have been close to 150 people onboard the boat that sank.

Malela said the mishap probably occurred when the overcrowded boat lost speed after one of its engines got caught in a fishing net as it tried to avoid hitting a bigger boat.

Rescue operations to recover bodies for burial would continue.

Authorities said they could not be sure of the exact number of people on board in the absence of any departure records.

The second boat suffered no damages or casualties.

The WHO said on Friday that it was providing medical kits to support a search operation launched by national and provincial authorities, including 100 body bags.

Deadly shipping disasters are common in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to overcrowding on old and poorly-maintained vessels, a lack of life-jackets and the fact that many people do not know how to swim.

Last Monday, at least 20 people died in another sinking further upstream on the Congo River.

Monday 16 February 2015

continue reading

13 bodies of victims of crashed AirAsia plane to be identified

As many as 13 bodies of victims of crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 remain unidentified on the 50th day of identification process on Sunday as the bodies have gone beyond identification and DNA data are not complete.

Three of the 13 bodies only consisted of body parts, spokesman of the East Java provincial police Snr. Comsr. Awi Setiyono said.

"The 13 bodies which cannot yet be identified are still kept in the cold storage of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in East Java," he said.

He said the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team of the Bhayangkara Police Hospital would try to identify the remaining 13 bodies by gathering DNA data from different parties including the Indonesian Police Headquarters.

"We will resume the identification of the remaining bodies at the Bhayangkara Hospital on Monday (February 16)," he said.

Earlier, on Friday (February 13), the DVI team managed to identify eight bodies and two body parts of victims.

Chief of the East Java provincial police Insp. Gen. Anas Yusuf said a total of 89 bodies had been identified during the identification process.

The AirAsia Airbus A320-200 carrying 162 people had gone missing on the morning of December 28 after losing contact with air traffic control on its way from Surabaya, East Java, to Singapore.

Flight QZ8501 lost contact after the pilot sought permission to climb to 38 thousand feet from 32 thousand feet to avoid stormy weather over the sea between Bangka Belitung and West Kalimantan.

Monday 16 February 2015

continue reading

1928: The St. Francis Dam disaster

It was just a few minutes before midnight on March 12, 1928, when the second worst disaster in California occurred in the Santa Clarita Valley’s San Francisquito Canyon.

The St. Francis Dam, holding back more than 30,000 acre feet of water for the city of Los Angeles, crumbled, sending a 10-story-high wall of water crashing into the Santa Clarita and Santa Clara River valleys.

Loss-of-life estimates range from 430 to more than 600 people. Only the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 killed more Californians. Bodies washed out to sea by the flood were found as far away as San Diego.

This year the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society will join the California State University Northridge’s archeology department to sponsor a symposium on the disaster on March 28.

Monday 16 February 2015

continue reading

Remembering the Bridge Hall mill disaster 100 years on

It was one of the largest paper mills in the world and a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution.

But 100 years ago today Bridge Hall mills at Heap Bridge was also the scene of one of Heywood’s worst industrial disasters.

Stretching for half a mile along the north bank of the River Roch the vast works employed hundreds of people from neighbouring Heywood and Bury.

But to satisfy the increased demand for paper from across the globe, the mill was undergoing a expansion project.

On the morning of February 16, 1915, between 20 and 30 men were putting the finishing touches to a 250ft wide, four storey extension when disaster struck.

Shortly before noon ‘without any warning’ the concrete roof collapsed and came crashing down on to the men below.

One onlooker said the building ‘seemed to crumple in like a concertina’.

The Heywood Advertiser reported: “The men on the roof at the time were hurled down among the debris in which those below were buried.

“The noise quickly brought assistance and the task of recovering bodies hidden among the fallen material was commenced with all speed.”

When the dust settled eight men - four from Heywood and four from Bury - were dead and eight others were injured, some seriously.

A ninth man - John Crandon from Wilton Street, Heywood - would later die of his injuries.

The Advertiser described it as ‘one of the most serious catastrophes’ in Heywood’s industrial history.

One worker told of his miraculous escape.

George Preston, 21, of Britannia Street, was carting timber inside the building when the collapse occurred.

Fortunately he became trapped under his horse which prevented the falling masonry crushing him, and after two hours spent calling for help was eventually pulled from the rubble.

He told the Advertiser: “Another man was loading the cart with me when we heard a rumbling noise and suddenly the roof and walls seemed to give way and fell in on top of us.

“The horse and cart were knocked over on top of me and we were all buried beneath the debris.

“My legs were underneath the horse’s body and that, I think, prevented them from being broken by the heavy concrete.”

Another worker, Harry Howarth, of Back George Street, recounted how he was flung through a window into an adjoining building and escaped unhurt.

Making a downward motion with his arm he told reporters: “It went like that and it was over before you could say ‘Jack Robinson’.”

Two days later the county coroner opened his inquiry into the incident.

The hearing at Bury County Court heard the company had commissioned a then new form of reinforced concrete roof in a bid to maximise space and reduce the amount of moisture in the building so as not to affect the paper-making process.

It also emerged no plans had been submitted to the local authority.

The roof designer Hubert Murphy, of London-based Rigid Concrete Company, told the inquiry he believed the cause of the collapse was an error he made in the calculation of the compression of the concrete.

It meant at the crucial point of the roof the concrete was just 16ins thick, instead of the required 32ins.

An architect who examined the building after the collapse also reported much of the concrete hadn’t properly set before props were removed and some steel bars were up to 1.5 ins out of place.

‘Such work was disastrous to designing’ he said.

After considering their verdict for nearly two hours the jury found the collapse was caused by a ‘faulty design.

In a statement read out in court they said: “The cause of the accident was undoubtedly grave errors made in the design of the roof as admitted by the designer Mr Murphy, but the jury do not hold him guilty of criminal negligence.

“The jury is of the opinion that the contractors should have submitted the plans to an expert before giving a guarantee and it is regrettable that the plans were not submitted to the corporation.

“We consider the supervision exercised was lax.”

The coroner summarised the verdict as ‘that the building, by misadventure, collapsed inflicting mortal injuries on the men.’

Monday 16 February 2015

continue reading