Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Major search operation ends for AirAsia QZ8501

The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) officially ceased its search operation on Monday for AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed into the sea off South Kalimantan two months ago. However, a much smaller operation will continue for a couple more weeks.

The plane crashed into the sea with 162 people on board, including seven crew members, all of whom are believed to be dead, on its way from Surabaya, East Java, to Singapore on December 28 last year.

Basarnas chief, Air Chief Marshal FH Bambang Soelistyo, said on Monday that he would meet on Tuesday with the families of the passengers and crew whose bodies have yet to be found to talk about the latest situation related to the main search operation and the plans to end it, before eventually making a final decision to call off the operation.

The Basarnas also handed over the fuselage, which it lifted from the seabed on February 27 and transported from the Karimata Strait aboard the Crest Onyx vessel, to the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) at Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok port for further examination earlier on Monday.

“If they want additional [time], of course I will pay attention to it, as long as there is a clear timeline,” said Bambang at the Presidential Office after a meeting with president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on Monday.

“Of course, I also respect the hopes of the families,” he said. “But to find 100 per cent [of the people on board] is also impossible given past experience. We have expended maximum effort.”

Basarnas also planned to provide transportation for the families to see the spot where the plane crashed.

According to Bambang, the president trusted him entirely to make the decision to end the search operation and, at the same time, to accommodate the families’ desires.

“And I told him [Jokowi] about the solution and he completely agreed with me. And, of course, we have to be open to the families about their expectations and reality,” Bambang said.

Three vessels, Bambang said, would be stationed at the search location to continue the additional search operation, which was intended “to give additional [time] for the families” after he officially called off the main operation.

However, Bambang said earlier on Monday that the additional operation would continue searching for bodies for a maximum of two weeks.

“The main operation will be stopped, for sure; however, we will carry on daily operations for two weeks at the most. Everyone has to accept this reality,” Bambang said during the press conference in Tanjung Priok earlier on Monday.

So far, 103 bodies have been found and 97 of them identified.

Meanwhile, AirAsia Indonesia president director Sunu Widyatmoko said the next of kin of three passengers — out of the 155 on board the AirAsia flight — had received 1.25 billion rupiah (US$96,521) in compensation, which is in line with the amount of money stipulated in Transportation Ministry Regulation No. 77/2011.

Sunu added that AirAsia would keep waiting for other victims’ families to complete the paperwork for insurance claims.

“The problem is that there is incomplete [paperwork]. We are working closely with the local administration [to help us coordinate with] the next of kin whose paperwork is not complete yet,” he said as quoted from Antara news agency.

Tuesday 3 March 2015


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Brazilians recover last body after oil-rig blast

Search and rescue teams have recovered the body of the last of nine people killed in a Feb. 11 explosion on an offshore platform leased by Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petrobras, the owner of the rig said Tuesday.

The badly decomposed body was found Monday in a compartment teams had been unable to reach because it was flooded, according to the Norwegian company BM Offshore, which also operates the platform for Petrobras.

The explosion occurred in the engine room of the FPSO Cidade de Sao Mateus rig, anchored in the Atlantic Ocean some 120 kilometers (75 miles) off the coast of Espiritu Santo state.

Seventy-four workers were aboard at the time of the blast. Five bodies were recovered within hours of the explosion and four people were declared missing.

Thirty-three people were injured and two of them remain hospitalized.

Since the blast, operations have been suspended in the platform that was extracting 2.2 million cubic meters (77 million cubic feet) of natural gas per day.

Brazil's oil regulator, the ANP, said the explosion did not cause spills or leaks of hydrocarbons and that the platform has been stabilized, though it has not been authorized to return to operation.

Tuesday 3 March 2015


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SS Eastland disaster, Illinois National Guard share history

Many know of the SS Eastland, which capsized on July 24, 1915 drowning 844 people in the Chicago River.

But few know that the vessel took on a new life after the disaster helping to train Illinois Naval Reserve Sailors for some 30 years and even serving with the U.S. Navy during World War I. The Illinois Naval Reserve was once part of what is now known as the Illinois National Guard.

Immediately after the disaster, the Illinois National Guard's Second Regiment Armory on Washington Blvd. served as the central morgue. The bodies were laid out into rows of 85, and it took several days to completely identify the victims. The armory is no longer in the Illinois National Guard inventory, and is incorporated into Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios. The building is said to be haunted by the victims of the tragedy.

Film of the Eastland disaster surfaced last week after Jeff Nichols, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago and 20 year resident of Chicago, found the footage on a European Union-funded website with digitized WWI Dutch news reels. The footage reminded Chicagoans of what is considered the largest maritime disaster on the Great Lakes. After the disaster, the vessel was bought at auction on Dec. 20, 1915, for $46,000 by Capt. Edward A. Evers of the Illinois Naval Reserve. He oversaw the modification of the vessel into a training ship.

Renamed the USS Wilmette after Wilmette, Illinois, the ship was repurposed as a gunboat with the U.S. Navy during WWI. By the time modifications were made, the war was over and for the second time the vessel became the property of the Illinois Naval Reserve. She served as a training ship for naval reservists in the 9th, 10th, and 11th Naval Districts, making voyages along the shores of the Great Lakes carrying trainees to and from the Great Lakes Naval Station. Wilmette remained in commission, carrying out her reserve training mission until she was placed "out of commission, in service," on Feb. 15, 1940.

The USS Wilmette remained a training vessel until she was decommissioned on Nov. 28, 1945. Her name was struck from the Navy's list on Dec. 19, 1945, and eventually sold for scrap.

"Capt. Evers recycled a bad memory by repurposing the Eastland and filling a need for his Sailors, solving two issues at once," said Adriana Schroeder, Illinois National Guard Command Historian. "This film footage will remain permanent evidence of the historical disaster, an event that ended with Evers' military ingenuity."

Photo 1: The Illinois National Guard Second Regiment Armory on Washington Blvd. served as the central morgue for victims of the SS Eastland disaster, July 24, 1915. The vessel capsized along the banks of the Chicago River, killing 844 of the 2,500 aboard. The bodies were laid out into rows of 85, and it took several days to completely identify the victims.

Tuesday 3 March 2015


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