Monday, 23 February 2015

Bangladesh: Rescue operation called off, ferry pulled out to the bank

Manikganj Deputy Commissioner has called off the rescue operation after passenger ferry ML Mostofa was pulled out and turned around near the banks of the river Padma.

Deputy Commissioner Rashida Ferdous has called off the rescue operation after 69 bodies were fished out of the river until 10:30am on Monday, more than 20 hours after the disaster.

“However local authorities and divers will keep up the search with trawlers for more bodies that might be around”, she said.

57 of the total 69 bodies have been identified and handed over to the families.

The remaining 12 unidentified bodies would be sent to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital’s (DMCH) morgue, she added.

“We have requested (the DMCH) to keep the bodies for at least two days, so that their families could identify them.”

Double-decker ML Mostofa-3, on its way to Daulatdia, sank after being hit by cargo vessel MV Nargis-1 soon after leaving Paturia dock on Sunday noon.

More than a hundred passengers of two buses -- ‘Comfort Line’ and ‘Rajdhani Express’ -- were being ferried across the river.

Witnesses said, the vessel sank shortly after being hit by the cargo vessel MV Nargis-1.

Locals with boats and trawlers rushed to rescue the passenger. Some of the passengers swam to nearby boats and trawlers.

A BIWTC tugboat located the ferry on Sunday afternoon. Rescue vessel, ‘Rustom’ pulled it out and carried it to the banks of the river around 4:30am.

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan visited the site and announced Tk 100,000 for families of each victim. The Manikganj district administration has announced a further Tk 20,000.

The DC at a press conference said so far only one missing complaint has been filed.

The total number of passengers on the ferry could not be verified. “The ferry could hold 140 passengers, my guess is there should be about 150 passengers on board”, said DC Rashida.

Asked if the vessel was overcrowded that caused it to capsize, DC said it was the captains’ lack of skill that led to the disaster. “They (the captains) were not alert. Both the captains have proved they were professionally incompetent. ”

The cargo vessel’s captain and two of its crew have been arrested. The Department of Shipping has formed a three-member committee to probe the accident.

Monday 23 February 2015

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Ten passengers die as van catches fire near Nooriabad

At least ten passengers were burnt to death and ten others injured when a van overturned and its CNG cylinder exploded near Nooriabad town in Jamshoro district late Sunday night, Dunya News reported.

The ill-fated van was traveling from Karachi to Hyderabad.

Medical teams have collected samples to conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies, many of which were charred beyond recognition.

Two victims including 40-year-old Musarrat and her husband Iqbal (45) have been identified by their relatives. Both were residents of Latifabad area in Hyderabad.

On the other hand, authorities have decided to cancel route permits of the bus transporter and register a case against the owner of the van.

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

Monday 23 February 2015

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Families of Lagos victims cannot live without certainty

The tragedy of the death of 84 South Africans at a Nigerian church in Lagos last year is far from over, the pain is nowhere near its end.

One family whose daughter was among those killed when a building at the church collapsed has threatened to go to court for an order that the bodies of all the victims be exhumed if the results of independent DNA testing do not confirm that the body they received was that of their child.

The family is adamant that the body they received is not that of their daughter, Phumzile Mkhulisi, 47. The family's suspicions arose after what it claims was state bungling and "unconvincing" statements by South African officials.

Although our government did everything in its power to help repatriate the bodies, it is worrying that one family cannot have closure.

Mkhulisi's brother says h er body could be in any one of 80-odd graves across the country.

It was painful, and outright shocking, that the Nigerian authorities acted at snail's pace to identify the South Africans killed at the church.

Now we are faced with serious allegations that some of the bodies might have been wrongly identified.

This tragedy tells us that the government should add dental records to its identification systems.

Some will say that the government did not send the victims to Nigeria, and that it should be praised for helping to bring the bodies home.

But families have the right to know that they are burying the right body. They cannot be expected to keep quiet when there are doubts about who is in the coffin.

We call on the South African and Nigerian governments to clear up lingering doubts about the identity of some of the dead.

The Mkhulisi family will get closure only when all its questions have been answered.

Monday 23 February 2015

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