Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Spain, 4 migrants dead in shipwreck, many missing

The bodies of four migrants travelling on a boat that was reported missing three days ago while it was attempting to reach Lanzarote in the Canaries were found Wednesday by Moroccan rescuers off the coast of Tan-Tan in the Maghreb country, according to sources from rescue forces quoted by Cadena Ser radio. Search operations kicked off Tuesday to find the boat, which was carrying some 30 migrants, including six women and five children, including two newborns. Search operations started after NGO Caminando Fronteras sounded the alarm following reports that the boat had taken off from Morocco and was bound for Lanzarote before it was reported missing.

On Wednesday morning, a merchant ship found another boat carrying 11 men and two women some 175 miles south-west of Arguineguin, in the Gran Canaria island where Spanish Salvamar Talia rescue cutters and the Seasmar plane are currently directed.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

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Bodies found on beach after chopper crash with Louisiana soldiers

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter has crashed in the Florida Panhandle, and seven Marines and four soldiers are missing.

Some confirmed human remains have washed ashore in the area where crews are searching for the missing, a spokesman for the Eglin Air Force Base told the Washington Post on Wednesday morning.

“We have confirmed that we have had some human remains wash ashore in the area where our search and rescue team have begun a larger scale operation,” Andrew Bourland said, adding that debris from the aircraft has also washed ashore.

The helicopter is believed to have gone down in the water and foggy conditions were reported in the area at the time of the crash, though it is too soon to say what might have caused the mishap.

According to a Pentagon official who spoke anonymously to the Associated Press, nearly 12 hours after the craft was reported missing, all 11 service members are presumed dead. However, the efforts are still considered a search and rescue operation at this time, Bourland said.

Foggy conditions in the search area have made the operation more difficult, Bourland told the Post. But with dawn breaking, efforts are expected to ramp up.

“We’ve got some daylight, but it is overcast and quite foggy,” Bourland said. “It is having an impact on getting the full scale rescue moving now.”

The helicopter carrying highly trained Marines in a special operations unit, was on a night training mission outside the base, which is near Valparaiso, Fla. It was reported missing at around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, and debris from the crash was found at about 2:00 a.m. Wednesday on an inland stretch of beach between Pensacola and Destin. The military owns miles of beach in the area, which are typically used for training missions.

The Marines are part of a Camp Lejeune-based special operations group and the soldiers are from an Army National Guard unit based out of Hammond, La.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Marines, soldiers and family members of those involved in this mishap. We are working closely with all parties involved to locate our Marines and the Army aircrew as soon as possible,” Major Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command said in a statement.

The downed helicopter was one of two on the mission. The base said the “second helicopter and its personnel on board have returned and are accounted for at this time.”

“Names of the aircrew and Marines on board are being withheld pending [next of kin] notification,” read the statement posted by the base. “The accident is under investigation. Additional details will be provided as they become available.”

Wednesday 11 March 2015

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Remains of 83 Japan tsunami victims still unidentified four years on

The remains of 83 people who perished in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami remain unidentified in the hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima four years after the disaster, with boxes holding the remains temporarily placed at temples and cemeteries.

At the administrative office of the Kuzuoka Boen cemetery park in Sendai's Aoba Ward, three investigators from Miyagi Prefectural Police and Sendai city officials offered bouquets of white lilies and other flowers in front of boxes holding the remains at 10 a.m. on March 10, pressing their hands together as they vowed to identify the victims. The smell of incense sticks was wafting in the air inside the 10-tatami-mat room.

Two of the boxes bear pieces of paper reading "57-RC4" and "55-RA1," respectively. The boxes contain partial remains of victims still unidentified, which were retrieved from the sea and other locations in the wake of the March 11, 2011 disaster. The three police officers, including 61-year-old inspector Yoshihiro Konno, are members of an eight-strong investigative team dedicated to identifying the remains.

As of March 3, Miyagi Prefectural Police had identified the bodies of 9,519 disaster victims, but the remains of 18 people still remain unidentified. Apart from those, there are partial remains -- such as hands and legs -- of about 80 people yet to be identified. Those remains are tentatively placed at 10 locations in the prefecture.

"We get fewer and fewer pieces of information year by year. The creative ability of investigators is being tested," said a senior prefectural police official. Recently, the team managed to identify some of the victims from the initials of a repairer on the back cover of a watch, as well as the production records of artificial teeth.

In November 2012, the team received a letter and 30,000 yen as a donation from a sender who only identified themself as "Southern Cross." "I couldn't do anything after the quake disaster, so I am sending this hoping to offer you something warm to consume. It's the least I could do," read the letter.

A woman living in Mima, Tokushima Prefecture, also sent in donations to the team on seven separate occasions. "I would appreciate it if you could use the money -- though little -- to offer flowers or something (to unidentified victims)," read one of her letters. "My heart aches when I think of the feelings of the relatives of those still unaccounted for," went another letter of hers.

Toshiaki Seki, 80, a resident of Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, donated cash to the investigative unit in January 2013 after learning about it in a newspaper article. "I have a friend living in Sendai, and the disaster is not someone else's business. I wanted to express my feelings of gratitude to the investigators," he told the Mainichi.

The team has thus far received a total of some 270,000 yen in contributions, arriving on 12 separate occasions. The prefectural police force has used all of the money to offer flowers to the unidentified victims.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

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