Sunday, 29 March 2015

Şanlıurfa traffic pile-up leaves 12 dead, 11 injured

A traffic accident involving a minibus, a car and a concrete mixer truck killed 12 people and injured 11 others in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa on Sunday.

The accident took place on the Şanlıurfa-Akçakale Highway, with heavy fog and rain negatively affecting driving conditions. A minibus reportedly changed lanes without warning and crashed into a concrete mixer coming from the opposite direction. A car travelling behind the concrete mixer then smashed into the collided vehicles.

A total of 12 people were killed and six others critically injured. Four Syrian nationals were reported to be among the casualties, in addition to young children. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, while the bodies of those killed were taken to the morgue of the Şanlıurfa Council of Forensic Medicine, where autopsies will be carried out.

Deadly traffic accidents are a common occurrence on Turkey's highways. In the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, a bus crash recently claimed the lives of 21 passengers and injured nearly 30 others.

A report released by the National Police Department's Road Services Directorate in late December revealed that at least 3,253 people died at the scene of road accidents in Turkey while 262,193 were injured and taken to hospital between January and November of 2014. During this period, a total of 343,855 accidents occurred due to drivers not following traffic laws, according to the report.

The report also says that in urban areas, on average 28,301 road accidents occurred per month, of which an average of 146 people died at the scene of the accident and 17,794 were taken to hospital for treatment.

The death toll for the number of people who died despite being taken to hospital was not included in the statistics but is estimated to exceed 5,000 per month. According to the report, the main cause of road accidents is driver error. Drivers were estimated to be at fault in 130,522 accidents, while 15,729 accidents were caused by pedestrians.

Sunday 29 March 2015

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Germanwings Flight 4U9525: more on the forensic identification effort

A leading professor who is helping to identify the 600 body parts belonging to the victims of the doomed Germanwings flight says he will be haunted forever by the grim task - as it was revealed the remains of killer co-pilot Andreas Lubitz have already been found.

Professor Michael Tsokos, Germany's most prestigious forensic scientist, said experts are working around the clock to identify the remains of the 150 passengers and crew who were killed when Lubitz deliberately flew the Airbus A320 into the French Alps.

Investigators at the Germanwings crash site have so far retrieved about 600 body parts and have managed to isolate 78 distinct DNA strands from the remains.

Mr Tsokos admitted that Lubitz's remains were among those which had been found and said DNA testing had confirmed the body parts were his. It is hoped his remains may provide clues on any medical treatment he was receiving.

Scientists are now continuing the grim and gruelling task of identifying the rest of the remains which involves photographing and 3D scanning each and every body part.

Police have asked friends and families of the deceased to provide DNA samples and experts hope to match them against the remains and material objects found at the crash site.

Items with vital traces of DNA, such as toothbrushes, razors, jewellery and hair have been collected from the scene and given to scientists at a laboratory in Barcelona. Forensic officers have also been testing samples at a mobile laboratory in Seyne-les-Alpes - the nearest town to the crash site.

It is hoped the findings will provide some clues which will help identify the victims.

Families are also being asked if they can remember what clothes their loved ones were wearing when they boarded the ill-fated flight, in the hope the details could help with the identification process.

They have also been asked about any distinctive marks, such as tattoos, their loves ones might have as well as their dental status and whether they wore dentures.

Mr Tsokos, director of the Institute of legal medicine and forensic sciences, said it is hoped such findings will help identify the remains which will then be cross-examined with the flight's passenger list.

He said each body part would be photographed and scanned in 3D before being placed in a morgue. Once the body has been identified it will be placed in a closed coffin ready for a funeral.

He told German newspaper Bild: 'Radiologists with mobile devices will take CT images of body parts, so as to recognise for example, medically-implanted foreign bodies such as a pacemaker or artificial hip joints.

'Specially trained forensic scientists take [samples] of fingers and palms fingerprints and everything is photographed. 'Every little piece of fabric will be tested on the DNA so that it can be assigned to a particular person.'

He said that within the next three weeks, up to 95 per cent of all victims should be identified. But, he added that it was a haunting task for experts, saying: 'These images will never go out of my head.'

And he said the bodies will strictly be kept in closed coffins because the 'sight of battered corpses can inflict on anyone'. It comes as guards continue to keep 24-hour watch at the crash site, with teams sleeping on the mountainside overnight.

The guards have been on standby at the scene in the province in the southern French Alps since the flight crashed on Tuesday. Philippe Thomy, deputy chief of the High Mountain Gendarmerie, said: 'We sleep next to a cemetery for 150 people.'

Prosecutor Brice Robin revealed today that an access road was currently being built for all-terrain vehicles to reach the site to help with the removal of large parts of the plane.

Mr Robin said the operation could be completed by Monday night, with all body parts and remains being removed from the site within the next seven days.

Sunday 29 March 2015

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More flight MH17 victims' remains flown to Netherlands for burial

Three coffins carrying victim's remains from the MH17 disaster have been flown from Ukraine to the Netherlands. A farewell ceremony including a guard of honour was held in Kharkiv on Saturday, before the Royal Netherlands Air Force plane took off, bound for Eindhoven. Representatives from the Australian and Dutch embassies attended the ceremony.

More wreckage of the Boeing 777 has been found at the crash site by investigators, who are arranging to transport it by road to the Netherlands.

"As of today, we have identified 296 bodies from all 298 people onboard meaning it is one of the highest numbers in the history of this kind of identification".

Flight MH17 was en-route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 last year, when the plane was hit by a missile fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed militants. All 298 onboard died. Officials thanked the Kharkiv authorities for helping transfer the bodies.

Sunday 29 March 2015

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12 bodies recovered in Indonesia landslide

Rescuers have found 12 bodies after a landslide hit Sukabumi district in Indonesia's West Java province on Saturday night, an Indonesian official said on Sunday.

Soldiers, volunteers and policemen were engaged in searching for the missing people under the debris of the damaged houses. With the discovery of all the victims, the operation was terminated, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson of the national disaster management agency.

"All the 12 bodies have been found," Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

Heavy downpour triggered the collapse of a hill in Tegal Panjang village around 10.30 p.m. on Saturday and buried 11 houses, said the spokesperson.

The landslide also buried a road and as many as 300 people fled their homes to take shelter elsewhere, he said.

Landslides are common in Indonesia during heavy downpours.

Sunday 29 March 2015

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DNA from 78 Germanwings crash victims found

Forensic teams have isolated 78 distinct DNA strands from body parts at the Germanwings crash site in the French Alps, while investigators continued their grim task in the arduous mountain terrain.

As well as trying to identify and return bodies to their families, search teams were also hunting for a second "black box" that has yet to be found six days into the search.

The challenges of working on the steep and remote mountainside have been compounded by the violence of the impact -- the plane is said to have crashed into the mountainside at a speed of 700 kilometres (430 miles) per hour, killing all 150 people on board.

"We haven't found a single body intact," said Patrick Touron, deputy director of the police's criminal research institute.

He said the difficulty of the recovery mission was "unprecedented".

"We have slopes of 40 to 60 degrees, falling rocks, and ground that tends to crumble," said Touron. "Some things have to be done by abseiling."

Search teams on the mountain were attached at all times to specialist mountain police.

So far, forensic teams have isolated 78 DNA strands from recovered body parts, said prosecutor Brice Robin, one of the lead investigators.

He said an access road was also being built to the site to allow all-terrain vehicles to remove some of the larger parts of the plane.

Helicopters have been going back and forth to the nearby town of Seynes -- around 60 trips a day.

"Since safety is key, the recovery process is a bit slow, which is a great regret," Touron said.

Most body parts were being winched up to helicopters before being transported to a lab in the nearby town of Seynes where a 50-strong team of forensic doctors and dentists and police identification specialists is working.

Between 400 and 600 body parts were currently being examined, Touron said.

The smallest details can prove crucial: fingerprints, jewellery, bits of ID card, teeth.

"In catastrophes, normally around 90 percent of identifications are done through dental records," Touron added, but in the case of flight 9525, DNA was likely to play a greater role than normal.

Once DNA samples have been taken, they are sent to another lab outside Paris, where they are compared to samples taken from family members this week.

The other top priority is finding the second "black box".

"You have to be there to understand what we're dealing with," said one policeman, returned from the site.

"There is an engine turbine that was thrown 400 metres up from the point of impact."

The debris of the plane is spread across some two hectares (five acres) of mountainside.

The rescue teams, however, are not giving up.

"The teams are highly motivated," said Stephane Laout, from one of the mountain brigades.

The second black box is also known as the "Flight Data Recorder", which logs all technical data from the flight.

"It has been the priority from the start. It's essential for the investigation," said Captain Yves Naffrechoux, another mountain ranger.

"If it has not been completely destroyed or pulverised, the black box will be under the rubble and debris. We must work with caution and a lot of precision."

The black box -- which is actually orange in colour and weighs around 10 kilos -- was originally in a protective casing, but the empty casing has already been found.

"We have to look under every last bit of plane and lift every rock," said Naffrechoux

Sunday 29 March 2015

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