Tuesday, 7 April 2015

15 people feared dead after train hits a canter truck in Kafue

Fifteen people are feared dead after a light canter truck was hit by a train in Kafue last evening less than 24 hours after 19 people died in a road clash in Mazabuka on Monday morning.

Zambia Police spokesperson Charity Chanda confirmed in a post on social media that five people died on the spot but witnesses say more bodies were retrieved at the scene.

“Five people have died, 14 seriously injured while three sustained minor injuries in an accident which happened between 1830 hours and 1900 hours at the rail crossing in Kafue.

Among the seriously injured is a thief who tried to steal from the scene of accident,” Ms Chanda said.

According to eye witnesses, the light truck overtook other vehicles on the rail crossing that were waiting for the train to pass. The driver failed to stop after discovering that the train had already reached the road crossing point. The truck was hit in the trailor and dragged leaving many people and their animals likes goats seriously injured and others dead.

Early in the day 19 people died when the Fuso Fighter truck they were travelling in rammed into the Shoprite building in Mazabuka.

Among the dead are 10 men, six women and three children of various ages.

Southern Province police chief Mary Chikwanda confirmed the accident which happened around 01:00 hours yesterday.

Ms Chikwanda said in an interview that the truck, registration number ACT 2439, was being driven by Kabaso Mwenya from Lusaka heading to a fishing camp in Monze area.

Mr Mwenya is among the people that died on the spot, while some bodies of the victims were mangled.

According to witnesses, the vehicle was loaded with fridges, mealie meal and other goods which passengers, mostly fish mongers, use in their fish business.

The witnesses also disclosed that some money was discovered tied in a plastic bag at the scene of the accident.

Ms Chikwanda said the driver, whose wife also perished is believed to have been speeding resulting in him failing to negotiate a corner and hit into the building.

Part of the building has been razed due to the impact.

“The accident happened around 01:00 hours and several people died among them 10 men, six women and three children,” Ms Chikwanda said.

Ms Chikwanda further said that about five people sustained serious injuries, mainly broken bones, and were admitted to Mazabuka General Hospital.

Some of the bodies of the victims have been identified, while others were still waiting to be identified.

She appealed to members of the public to help the police and hospital authorities to identify the bodies.

The 23 passengers on the truck are believed to be residents of John Laing Township in Lusaka and were heading to Lonchinvar fishing camp.

President Lungu expressed sadness over the deaths when he visited the Copperbelt yesterday.

Vice-President Inonge Wina, who was in Livingstone for the official opening of the fourth general assembly of the Association of African Public Services Commissions, yesterday observed a moment of silence for the accident victims.

Tuesday 7 April 2015


continue reading

Iraq mass graves uncovered in Tikrit

The suspected mass graves of up to 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers killed by the Islamic State group (IS) have been found in the city of Tikrit. The sites are near the former US Army base, Camp Speicher.

Iraqi forensic teams have begun to excavate 12 graves following the city's recent liberation from IS.

The June 2014 incident is notorious after IS posted videos and pictures of the execution of the mostly Shia soldiers on social media. Survivors say the militants questioned the victims to identity those who were Shia before killing them.

The exhumations have began just days after Tikrit fell to a combination of the Iraqi army and Shia militias following a month long siege. DNA testing will be used to identify the bodies once they have been exhumed, as many families have never had confirmation of their relatives' death.

"We dug up the first mass grave site today. Until now we found at least 20 bodies. Initial indications show indisputably that they were from the Speicher victims," Khalid al-Atbi told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

"It was a heartbreaking scene. We couldn't prevent ourselves from breaking down in tears. What savage barbarian could kill 1,700 persons in cold blood?" he added.

The murder of the soldiers has become a lightening rod for Shia militias who have vowed to avenge the killings. The militias have been credited with halting Islamic State's advance last year, but have themselves been accused of war crimes.

Some of the burial sites are in the presidential compound of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, which became the IS headquarters after they took the city last year.

The offensive launched on 2 March to take back Tikrit involved some 30,000 fighters, two-thirds of them from the Popular Mobilisation (Hasid Shaabi) - a force comprising dozens of Iranian-backed Shia militia.

The Iraqi army is now expected to turn its attention to Mosul, 225km (335 miles) north along the Tigris river. IS's most significant stronghold in Iraq, Mosul, presents a far greater challenge than Tikrit for the US-led air coalition and Iraqi ground forces.

Tuesday 7 April 2015


continue reading

China: Changing funeral trends

In Chinese tradition, a funeral is a complicated and solemn rite. People made preparations for the afterlife in advance, choosing a site for their burial and preparing a coffin and burial clothes. Emperors would spend decades building mausoleums for themselves at tremendous cost.

Since cremation is uncommon, burial is taken seriously in Chinese society. Improper funeral arrangements can wreak ill fortune and disaster on the family of the departed. To a degree, funeral rites and burial customs are determined by the age of the deceased, cause of death, position in society and marital status.

Rites for an elder must follow a prescribed form befitting a person's status and age and must be carried out even if it means the family goes into debt.

Preparations often begin before death has occurred. When a person is on his/her death bed, a coffin will often have already been ordered from an undertaker who oversees all funeral rites.

Now: A sea change

More Chinese families are opting to bury their loved ones at sea because of an increase in local government subsidies and services for the practice.

In cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, governments offer free sea burials or cash subsidies to families. When sea burial was initiated in the 1990s, few were willing to let go of the remains of their dead but there were more than 1,200 such funerals last year.

In order to encourage sea burials, authorities in charge of Beijing funerals have doubled the grant from 2,000 yuan (S$440 dollars) to 4,000 yuan.

Tradition holds that the dead should be buried in earth beside their ancestors, and people visit family tombs on Tomb Sweeping Day.

But a shortage of arable land and other factors led the government to promote more eco-friendly burials and the new policy will allow up to six family members to participate in the ceremony at sea for free. Previously, only two were allowed.

Like the Chinese expression: "A falling leaf returns to its roots," Chinese people have traditionally wished to be buried in their hometown, no matter how much trouble it may cause. But while more Chinese are opting to bury their loved ones at sea it doesn't necessarily follow that people would take a step much further - space funerals.

A Beijing undertaker is offering China's first space burial service, with the cheapest package starting at 5,600 yuan. The most expensive, at 75,000 yuan, will "launch the ashes on a voyage through deepest space on a permanent celestial journey."

Although the cheapest deal costs no more than the popular iPhone 6S, Biian has not had a single client since being authorised two years ago by Celestis Inc. which introduced memorial spaceflights in 1997.

Xu Yi, one of the founders of Biian - which literally means "the other shore" - said many enquiries came from retirees who formerly worked in the aeronautical and space technology industries, "who wish to rest in space", but that no firm reservations have been made.

He thinks opposition from family members made the pensioners give up on the idea. "Chinese traditionally want to keep the ashes and not be separated from them," Xu said.

People with traditional thoughts usually reject the idea of giving up the ashes of their loved ones but this has inspired some innovative companies which turn ashes into diamonds.

Since October last year, Biian has tailor-made more than 100 diamonds from ashes. Xu Yi said his company has even had enquiries from college students. "They called to ask about the price and procedure," Xu explained.

"They were not asking for their family, but for themselves," he said. "It might be too early to talk about issues after death, but it shows the changing attitudes among young people."

Although iPhone7 and Samsung Galaxy Note6 have not been launched yet, their paper models are already available in Guangzhou for the deceased. A package of Apple's products, including an iPad, iPhone6S, earphones and a charger, sells for 10 yuan at a store that specializes on offerings for the deceased on Chaoxing Street in Guangzhou.

Wireless services are provided by "Underworld Communications Corp".

Huang, a store owner on Guangxiao Road in Guangzhou, is seeing robust sales of new products, often favoured more by younger customers. Older buyers prefer the more traditional incense and candles, she said, adding each of her customers is spending about 200 yuan on average. Despite new trends there are still some who believe a decent and expensive cemetery is a necessity. Otherwise, they would probably be regarded as unfilial.

A woman has had to move three times in the past six years to avoid neighbours' harsh words because she agreed to her parents' bodies being used for organ donations, even though her parents' had willed it.

"Neighbors and relatives asked me if I didn't have enough money to afford a decent burial for my father," Zhou Wenting said, adding that some even asked her to "return the body".

For ages, death has been a taboo subject in Chinese culture and education. Parents barely talk about it, school curriculums provide rare discussion of it.

Xu Yi, the co-founder of Biian, has long wanted to make some revolutionary design changes to shrouds, which traditionally clothe dead bodies. He told China Daily that no fashion designers have so far agreed to become involved.

"One designer said: 'If you got famous (from the new design of shrouds), I would die (meaning the designer would not get any work in the design field)'," Xi sighed.

Tuesday 7 April 2015


continue reading