Thursday, 5 March 2015

Trips to disaster sites where rescuers are still retrieving bodies: The ominous rise of dark tourism

Last month, TransAsia Airways flight GE-235 crashed shortly after take-off, killing 31 people.

The crash site, in Taipei, represents tragedy for those who lost family members and friends in the disaster, yet to a handful of tourists, it made the perfect background for a holiday snap.

The photo, published by Hong Kong's Apple Daily, shows three women posing in front of the Keeling River, as boats search for crash victims behind them.

Visiting scenes of death and disaster might seem inappropriate to the average holidaymaker, but dark tourism appears to be on the rise.

Philip Stone is Executive Director: Institute for Dark Tourism Research (iDTR), School of Sport, Tourism and The Outdoors, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Preston, UK.

In his paper, Dark Tourism Scholarship: A Critical Review, he explains: 'The act of travel to sites of death, disaster or the seemingly macabre – or what has commonly been referred to as dark tourism – is an increasingly pervasive feature within the contemporary visitor economy.

'Indeed, the commodification of death for popular touristic consumption, whether in the guise of memorials and museums, visitor attractions, special events and exhibitions, or specific tours, has become a focus for mainstream tourism providers.'

Introduced in 1996 the term ‘dark tourism' was brought to the mainstream in 2000, in Lennon and Foley's book Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster.

Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, who has written a blog post on death fascination says there are a number of reasons for our interest in the macabre.

'There's a huge market for witnessing the extremities of human behaviour. By looking at something so extreme it makes us feel better about ourselves,' he told MailOnline Travel.

'Entrepreneurs can exploit that. At the Costa Concordia site people were charging ten euros for tourists wanting to see it.' 'There is also now much more of a desire for unique experiences - we want to do something something that not a lot of other people have done, so we can tell our friends about it.

'Also, people want to be involved in pivotal events in history,' says Professor Griffiths, which explains the photographs taken at plane crash sites.

'But this is nothing new,' he adds. 'People have always flocked towards death - think of public beheadings.'

In South London, Bethlem mental asylum - famously nicknamed Bedlam - recently opened its new £4milllion museum displaying the shackles, ankle tags, padded clothing and disturbing paintings visitors a real insight into the minds of its patients.

While tragic global events appear to trigger an alarming trend for voyeuristic travel.

After the dust settled outside the office of Charlie Hebdo, the Parisian satirical magazine where extremists opened fire, killing 12 people, tourists gathered.

In Australia, social media fans were quick to share their selfies from the site of the Sydney siege, last December, in which a lone gunman held hostage ten customers and eight employees of a Lindt chocolate café located at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia. Three civilians were killed. And New York's Ground Zero, site of the destruction of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, became - and still is - one of the largest tourist attractions in New York.

Following in the footsteps of the countless tours of the Chernobyl Zone offered in Ukraine, recent reports revealed that the site of Japan's nuclear disaster Fukushima is now a tourism hot spot.

Almost four years after the tsunami caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake led to the crisis which caused entire towns to evacuate, tourists are queuing up to see abandoned neighborhoods and crumbling buildings.

'We want to encourage local people for the revitalisation of Fukushima,' tour guide Yusuke Kato told CNN. Genocide, suicide and death are all driving tourism. In January, a German museum announced that it is rebuilding the bunker where Hitler committed suicide in 1945 as a tourist attraction.

Replicating five rooms from the Führerbunker in which the Nazi leader lived during the final months of the Second World War, the exhibit at the 'Top Secret Spy Museum' in Oberhausen, 300 miles from the site of the original lair, is scheduled to open later this year.

'We want this to be an educational experience so that families or groups of school kids can see how it really was; to experience the tiny rooms and the dampness of the bunker. We want to recreate it to show people,' museum director Ingo Mersmann told website.

In Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, La Recoleta, a beautifully ornate cemetery, with over 6,400 mausoleums, is one of the city's most visited tourist locations. Tourists gather as if infront of the Louvre's Mona Lisa, at the grave of the country's famous First Lady, Eva Peron.

While the Ugandan Tourism board recently revealed they plan to attract visitors by offering an Idi Amin tourist trail, according to Kenya News 24.

Uganda Tourism Board executive director, Stephen Asiimwe said in an interview: 'Uganda is still widely defined by the acts of the deceased Idi Amin in numerous countries around the world.'

'Wherever you go they ask about Amin. He is still stuck in people's minds,'

Idi Amin Dada ruled Uganda from 1971 to 1979 and allegedly killed thousands of his opponents. His ruthless army is blamed of raping women and looting people's property.

Thursday 5 March 2015

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Vietnam ends search and rescue operations for missing 16 Filipino crew of MV Jupiter

Vietnam has officially stopped its search and rescue operations for the missing 16 Filipino crew of the ill-fated MV Jupiter, which sank off the coast of Vietnam on January 2. The victims’ families will receive all the benefits due them, according to the Department of Labor and Employment.

Only one of the 19 all-Filipino crew survived the incident but only two bodies of the seafarers were found after the cargo vessel sank.

The lone survivor identified as Angelito Roxas of Iloilo, chief cook, is still undergoing treatment, the cost of which is being borne by Gearbulk Norway.

Gearbulk Norway had declared the missing crew lost.

In a report, the remaining vessels of Vietnam’s Maritime Rescue Coordinating Committee has ceased the SAR operations and has left the vicinity where the ship sunk.

“Alexander Querol, chief operating officer of Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, the local manning agency of Gearbulk Norway, which owned the MV Jupiter, had written to inform me of the stoppage of the search-and-rescue. He also informed me Gearbulk had settled all of the Filipino seafarer-victims’ contractual benefits and the families and beneficiaries have claimed these in Manila with the assistance of the DOLE,” labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said.

“In addition, Gearbulk Norway had committed to extend other benefits, particularly scholarships for the children of the crew,” she said.

“As we assured, they have received all the benefits due them in accordance with their employment contracts and the provisions of the collective bargaining agreements covering the shipowner and the Associated Marine Officers and Seafarers Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) of which the seafarers are members,” said Baldoz.

The Bahamas-flagged ship departed from Malaysia last December 30 en route to China, with 19 Filipino crew members, carrying a cargo of bauxite.

After issuing a distress signal, Bulk Jupiter sank about 150 nautical miles off the Vietnamese coast, according to Gearbulk Holding Limited, owner of the vessel.

Baldoz assured that the government’s paramount concern is to ensure the welfare of Filipino seafarers and their families, especially when maritime accidents happen.

She said that with 300,000 Filipino seafarers deployed annually there is always the likelihood that a Filipino seafarer may be onboard when a ship is reported to be involved in an accident anywhere in the world.

Thursday 5 March 2015

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Officials: 33 bodies recovered from eastern Ukraine mine disaster

The bodies of all 33 workers killed in coal mine explosion Wednesday in eastern Ukraine have been recovered, officials with the Donetsk regional authority said.

Preliminary information indicates the explosion at Zasyadko mine was caused by methane gas, according to DAN, the official news agency for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).

"This did not happen because of shelling," an emergency services official told the news agency.

The explosion occurred just before 6 a.m. local time, when 230 people were at the mine, the official website for separatist-controlled Donetsk city said.

Of those, 157 were evacuated in the initial hours after the blast, including 14 injured and one dead, according to the website. Fifteen rescue teams are working at the scene, it said.

Rescue workers at the Zasyadko mine recovered the last of the miners' bodies, a day after an explosion ripped through the shaft, local officials said.

All of the bodies had been brought to the surface for identification, while survivors were being treated in hospital for burns and gas poisoning.

The Zasyadko mine is located on the outskirts of Donetsk, not far from the frontline in the nearly year-long conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Throughout the fighting, the mine -- one of Ukraine's biggest -- had remained in operation.

Zasyadko mine is one of the most dangerous in terms of methane in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform, which reported that 240 people had died at the mine since 1999 -- 101 miners were killed in a single accident in 2007.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, speaking at a Cabinet meeting, accused the pro-Russian separatists who control the area of denying Ukrainian rescue teams access to the site, Ukrinform reported.

He urged Russia to tell the separatists to allow in the rescue workers.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also called for rescuers to be allowed in.

"I demand Ukrainian rescue workers and investigators to be granted access at the site of the tragedy," he tweeted.

However, DPR representative Denis Pushilin said Ukraine had not offered help with the rescue, and the DPR will ask Russia or separatist authorities in Luhansk for help if needed, according to the separatists' news agency.

Separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko issued an order to close the mine a month ago, but managers ignored the order because the mine legally belongs to Ukraine, Ukrinform cited the separatist news agency as saying.

A shaky ceasefire is currently in place in Donetsk and the neighboring Luhansk region, the center of a months-long conflict between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Thursday 5 March 2015

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