Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Ten migrants die in Mediterranean, a thousand rescued

At least 10 North African migrants died when their rubber boat overturned in the southern Mediterranean while almost a thousand more from a total of seven vessels were rescued in a single day this week, Italian and Tunisian authorities said on Wednesday.

The Italian coast guard said in a statement that one of its ships in the area had rescued 121 people after their boat capsized on Tuesday some 50 miles north of Libya. Ten bodies were recovered.

Tunisian naval forces rescued all 81 migrants onboard another boat that had started taking on water off near the Tunisian island of Djerba on Tuesday night, the country's defence ministry said.

Several merchant ships assisted in migrant rescues from seven separate boats in a 24-hour period, bringing to safety almost 1,000 migrants, including 30 children and 50 women, one of them pregnant, the coast guard said.

They were identified as mostly Syrian, Palestinian, Tunisian, Libyan and sub-Saharan Africans, and they are being taken to Italian ports.

Last month, more than 300 people died in a one-week period trying to cross the sea from Libya to Italy, whose southern island of Lampedusa is just 300 kilometres (186 miles) from the Libyan capital of Tripoli.

The number of boat arrivals this year is already outpacing a record set in 2014, with 7,882 counted during the first two months of 2015, a 43 percent increase on the same period a year earlier, according to the Interior Ministry.

The U.N. refugee organisation UNHCR says at least 218,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean by boat in 2014 and 3,500 lives were lost.

The surging numbers prompted Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to renew calls for the European Union to do more to help Italy handle the massive immigration flows.

The opposition anti-immigration Northern League party accused Rome and Brussels of "having blood on their hands" because rescue efforts encourage migrants to make the dangerous crossing, party leader Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.

Italy ended its large-scale search-and-rescue mission Mare Nostrum last year because of the cost and amid criticism that it encouraged people to attempt the journey.

Mare Nostrum was set up after more than 360 migrants drowned when their boat capsized near the Italian coast in October 2013.

It has been replaced by an EU border control mission, Triton, that does not have a specific search-and-rescue mandate and which has fewer ships and a much smaller area of operation hugging tightly to the Italian coast.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

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AirAsia search to continue for one more week

The National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) has agreed to extend search operations for the crashed AirAsia flight QZ8501 victims for another week, giving families hope that more bodies may be recovered.

Forty-year-old Dwiyanto, father of 16-year-old Bima Ali Wicaksana, one of the passengers on the ill-fated plane, said he was holding out hope that his son’s body would be found.

“I hope they will find my son’s remains so I can bury him properly at our family cemetery in Surabaya [East Java]. This is a burden that I have as a father who has lost a son,” Dwiyanto told The Jakarta Post after a closed-door meeting with Basarnas and government representatives in Surabaya on Tuesday.

Dwiyanto acknowledged that Basarnas personnel had done their best so far.

The downsized search effort, according to Basarnas head Air Chief Marshal FH Bambang Soelistyo, will commence on Tuesday, Feb. 3 and end on Feb. 15.

“We have agreed to officially end the major search and rescue operation, but we are going to continue with a smaller operation for one more week,” Bambang told reporters after a closed-door meeting at the East Java Police headquarters.

“The [smaller] operation is [being undertaken] to respect the [wishes of] families. But after the period is over, we will cease the operation completely, “ he said.

Identifying the recovered bodies, however, would continue, he said.

Throughout the two-month operation, search workers have located 107 bodies. Of the 107, only four have yet to be identified.

Bambang said previously that the agency had expended maximum effort in the operation and that past experiences showed it was impossible that every passenger on board the crashed plane would be found.

AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed into the sea off South Kalimantan with 167 people on board — including seven crew members — on its way from Surabaya to Singapore on Dec. 28 last year.

The plane carried 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, a Malaysian, a Singaporean, a Briton, and a French national.

The search and rescue operation began the day the plane was reported missing. Operations were supposed to last just 30 days but Basarnas and the Indonesian Military (TNI) agreed to extend the search past the Jan. 28 deadline.

The operation was also aided by delegations from several foreign countries, including neighbors Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, as well as China, India, Japan, Russia and the US.

Debris and bodies were found three days after the crash, with the plane’s flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) recovered 17 days into the operation.

On Monday, Basarnas handed over the plane’s fuselage, which was recovered on Feb. 27, and transported it from the Karimata Strait aboard the Crest Onyx vessel to the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) in Jakarta for further examination.

According to a preliminary report from the KNKT, the plane’s copilot, first officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel, was in control of the plane before it rapidly climbed and then stalled.

Capt. Iriyanto, an experienced former fighter pilot was serving in a supervising role at the time of the crash.

No cause for the crash has been determined, but officials have previously said inclement weather likely played a role.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

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Nine bodies retrieved from Donetsk mine

The bodies of nine miners have been found at a coal mine in the eastern Ukrainian rebel stronghold of Donetsk where a blast trapped dozens of people, the regional administration said.

The fate of another 23 miners remains unknown, the administration said in a statement. It said the total death toll, including one miner whose body was found earlier, had now reached 10 people.

Mine officials said the explosion was most likely caused by gas and not linked to fighting at the nearby frontline in the war between Moscow-backed rebels and Ukraine government forces.

On Wednesday morning, an explosion occurred in the Zasyadko mine on DPR-controlled territory. According to the DPR Emergencies Ministry, 230 people were in the mine when the blast took place.

A source in Russian law enforcement agencies told RIA Novosti that almost 200 mine workers have already been evacuated while the fate of 32 people remains unknown.

"One hundred ninety-eight people, including 15 injured and 1 dead have been brought to the surface," the agency's source said. Following the blast, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he had ordered rescue teams to be sent to the mine but the DPR authorities had denied them access.

However, DPR negotiator Denis Pushilin said that Kiev did not offer the self-proclaimed republic any help regarding the rescue operation.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

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