Monday, 30 March 2015

Israeli search and rescue team heads to Germanwings crash site

An Israeli search and rescue unit has flown to the scene of the Germanwings plane crash disaster in the French Alps to assist in the mission to recover victims.

The delegation of eight ZAKA International rescue unit volunteers flew in the early hours of Monday morning, and will arrive later that day.

ZAKA is a voluntary organisation that specialises in search and rescue operations.

Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, agreed to the request of the family of Israeli victim, Eyal Baum, to bring ZAKA from Israel.

They will look to recover and identify the remains of victims, including Eyal Baum, who it is hoped will be given a full Jewish burial in Israel.

The delegation will be led by ZAKA International Rescue Unit head Mati Goldstein and ZAKA International Rescue Unit Chief of Operations Chaim Weingarten.

Monday 30 March 2015

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Painstaking search for bodies of 2,600 soldiers buried alive in Second World War caves gets underway

A painstaking operation to recover the bodies of thousands of soldiers left sealed in caves since the Second World War is underway.

More than 2,600 Japanese troops are believed to have been entombed in explosive-ridden underground networks on a remote coral island in the Pacific nation of Palau.

Local and Japanese archaeologists, guided by munitions experts, have begun a delicate search of about 200 sealed caves, which are littered with unexploded bombs.

The soldiers were trapped underground during heavy bombing as US forces invaded the six-mile long island to take a strategic air field in one of the deadliest battles of the war.

Japanese forces used the caves as a base to defend the island and connected the underground shelters with a network of tunnels and passageways.

More than 10,000 Japanese troops were killed during the ten-week invasion but the bodies of 2,600 were never recovered.

Palau officials have now agreed to open about 200 sealed caves to try and locate the remains ahead of a visit early next month by Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Gaining access to the caves, located in thick forest littered with explosives, is proving difficult and experts took five days to break into just a small seven-foot opening last week.

But archaeologists have already recovered a set of bones which are believed to be human and are due to be sent to Japan for testing.

"They found some bones while they were clearing the entrance of the cave," Bernadette Carreon, a local journalist, told ABC Radio. "They did not use heavy equipment because they have to make it clear of heavy ordnance. When it's clear, the archaeologists can go in and start bone collection."

Families of the missing soldiers have sent representatives to assist with the search and officials in Palau have worked closely with Japan in the past to return any discovered remains home.

Sachio Kageyama, from a group representing families and fellow soldiers of those who fought on the island, told The Japan Times: "I hope the forthcoming visit by the emperor will pave the way for [further] collection of remains."

Experts searching for the missing soldiers are also hoping to locate a long-lost mass grave on the western side of the island.

Documents indicating its location were found in a US naval museum two years ago, including a map pointing to a "Japanese cemetery" in the centre of the island.

US officials have also been searching coral reefs, lagoons and islands surrounding Palau for planes that were lost in the bloody conflict.

Monday 30 March 2015

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Flood in J&K: 8 bodies recovered from Budgam District; rescue operation intensified

After battling massive floods last September, Jammu & Kashmir once again finds itself submerged as heavy rainfall lashed several parts of the state causing deaths and destruction. To make matters worse, the water level in river Jhelum has crossed the danger mark in Srinagar and Sangam region.

Eight dead bodies were recovered from Budgam district even as the state government has intensified the rescue operation in the flood-hit regions of Jammu & Kashmir. Over 21 people are still missing and the state authorities have very little hopes of finding them alive, according to an ANI report.

Two houses at Chadoora area in Kashmir's Budgam district have sunk into the ground and 16 people are feared trapped inside them, Hindustan Times reported.

Following the heavy rainfall on Friday that continued till Sunday, the water level in Jhelum at 6am crossed the danger level of 21 feet at Sangam and reached the 22.4-ft mark. In Ram Munshi Bagh, the water level has reached 18.8 ft against the danger mark of 18 ft, a senior official said, according to PTI.

The state administration has evacuated people living on the banks of river Jhelum and in the view of the increasing water level, residents of low-lying areas have been asked to move to safer places.

Though the rain has subsided since Monday morning, an alert has been sounded as in the eventuality of water level crossing the 23-ft mark, massive rescue and evacuation operation will be required, a government spokesperson said.

Two teams of at least 100 personnel, 50 each, of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in Srinagar. Flood relief camps are also being set up in the affected areas.

"The administration is on full alert following heavy rains in the Valley and the situation is being monitored continuously," deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh told the J&K Assembly. Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed visited Srinagar on Sunday and will again pay a visit to the affected regions to monitor the situation.

The rainfall had earlier caused massive damage in parts of the state. At least 44 structures, including 26 residential buildings, were destroyed. The heavy unseasonal downpour has worst affected the farmers, who have suffered immense loss of winter crops.

Last September, more than 200 people were killed and over 300 villages were submerged in flood water while several thousands were affected.

Monday 30 March 2015

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Searchers make roadway to remote France air crash web site

French investigators hope to speed up identification of the 150 individuals killed in last week's Germanwings plane crash by digging a roadtrack that will enable direct access to the disaster zone higher on a remote Alpine mountainside.

Earthmovers are ploughing a track to the remote crash region that really should be completed by Tuesday or Wednesday, stated Xavier Vialenc, spokesman for 350 military police involved in the search for bodies and components of the pulverized Airbus A320.

"We'll get some time with that," stated Vialenc, adding that physique parts with 78 diverse DNA prints had so far been found.

Up to now, a group of about 15 military police with the process of combing by way of debris have had to be helicoptered into the rocky Alpine ravine or make their way there on foot, but bad weather has hampered helicopter drops, slowing the approach.

Bad weather has halted helicopter flights to the site, forcing investigators to get there on foot.

An access road to the remote site is being dug by a bulldozer to provide all-terrain vehicles with access to the area and could be completed by Monday evening.

An improved route will help investigators bring heavier recovery equipment to the scene.

Vialenc confirmed that the second of the plane's "black box" flight recorders had yet to be found. They hope that will build on the facts from a 1st flight recorder that has led judicial investigators to think the plane was deliberately driven into the mountainside by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz.

All 150 on board, largely German and Spanish, have been killed in the March 24 crash of the plane that was flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

As investigators continued their search, staff from German airline Lufthansa and its Germanwings low-price subsidiary had been deployed to assistance 325 relatives of victims who are getting housed at a hotel in the southern French port city of Marseille, from exactly where they can be ferried closer to the disaster zone.

Monday 30 March 2015

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