Friday, 10 April 2015

Thirty-three people killed, mostly children, in bus crash in Morocco

At least 33 people were killed, most of them children, when a bus burst into flames after colliding with a gas tanker in Morocco on Friday, a local official and a rights group said.

"We have many completely carbonised bodies. Authorities have been in contact with the bus company to identify the victims," said Benmane Fadli, regional director of the transportation ministry.

The bus had been heading from the coastal city of Benslimane to Laayoune in Western Sahara when the crash happened near the southern city of Tan-Tan.

Most of the victims were children returning from a school athletic competition in Benslimane, the Tan-Tan bureau of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said in a statement.

The early morning accident at Chbika in southern Morocco was the deadliest in the North African kingdom since 2012 when a bus plunged into a ravine, killing 42 people.

The collision in the province of Tan-Tan killed at least 33 people, MAP news agency reported, quoting local authorities and revising an earlier toll of 31 dead.

They said nine injured people were taken to hospital, but two who were in a serious condition later died.

"A majority of the victims are children aged eight to 14," a regional official from the sports and youth ministry told AFP.

Abdeslam Ahizoune, head of the country's athletics federation, said: "It is a drama that touches us all."

Private media said the bus was transporting the young athletes and their coaches from a competition in Bouznika, a beach resort in the north between the capital Rabat and Casablanca.

Pictures posted on YouTube and on several news websites showed the mangled wreckage of a bus on fire, and witnesses said many of the victims had been asleep when the collision occurred.

"It is a horrible accident. The toll is huge. The fire broke out when the bus and the truck collided and then it spread," social worker El Hassan Mouline told 2M state broadcaster, speaking from the scene.

He said the victims included children who were taking part in a sporting competition, a local athletics champion and an official from the sports and youth ministry.

"The whole team is lost," Mouline said.

News of the accident triggered panic and parents of children who were on the bus rushed to the hospital in the town of Guelmim, demanding the names of the victims, Medi1TV reported.

The broadcaster also reported that at least four children had survived the tragedy but were being treated at hospital for "third degree burns".

King Mohamed VI sent a message of condolences to the families and said he would pay for the burials as well as cover the hospital fees for the injured.

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad visited the scene of the tragedy, while France expressed "solidarity at this tragic time".

Road accidents are common in Morocco, where officials say about 4,000 people are killed each year -- the equivalent to about 11 every day -- in a country of 34 million inhabitants.

In 2010, Morocco imposed tougher driving laws, and last year announced tighter traffic controls and a budget of $265 million (250 million euros) on improving infrastructure for the period 2014-2017.

The authorities say that human error, including speeding, is the main cause of most road accidents in the country.

The World Health Organization says traffic accidents cost Morocco one billion euros ($1.05 billion) each year, or about two percent of its gross domestic product.

Friday 10 April 2015

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India: Revisiting the Victoria Park inferno of 2006 in Meerut

It is exactly nine years since the fire broke out at the consumer electronics fair at Victoria Park in Meerut, claiming 64 lives. "I still remember that day. My parents and aunt had gone to the fair at Victoria Park. My brother and I were at home. It was a trip that just happened without a lot of planning - they wanted to go to the jewellery market but then thought of visiting the fair. I wish I had hugged them before they left, the last time. My aunt escaped with some burn injuries, but my parents never returned," says 15-year-old Vaishnavi Gupta, who was just six when the fire broke out on April 10, 2006.

Sadly, Vaishnavi's younger brother Devyansh, who was four at the time of the tragedy, died in a road accident a year later. She is now the sole survivor in the family, taken care of by grandparents.

Nine years after the incident, a one-man commission of Justice SB Sinha probes the matter, on instructions from the Supreme Court.

Naresh Tayal, whose parents died in the fire, says, "It was the last day of the fair. My parents were keen on purchasing some electronic products available there at a discount. My wife and I and our two kids and my parents arrived at the fair at around 5pm. The fire only started at around 5:30 pm, but soon as we arrived, I started feeling suffocated."

He said he took his wife's hand and led her out, along with their kids. "There was only one small exit gate, and only one person could emerge at a time. The place was so crowded, I could not find my parents. I had told them to follow us and get out of the place, but I guess they did not hear me. The moment we came out of the pandal, the fire started. All I remember now is that the next thing I saw was my father's dead body," he says. He never got his mother's body - he suspects it was exchanged with some other body.

The bodies recovered from the site were all charred beyond recognition. There was so much chaos, and some people carried bodies, in order to claim compensation.

Interestingly, only after the struggle of Sanjay Gupta, who lost five members of his family in the incident, did the Supreme Court order a total compensation of Rs 5.42 crore to all victims. That amount was distributed in December 2014.

Nineteen-year-old Jagat Singh says, "I was 10 when my father died in that incident. I was so shocked, I was in no position to continue studies; besides, money became hard for the family. I have started my own business now. I hope the culprits get the punishment they deserve."

Friday 10 April 2015

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Government procures coffins for Mazabuka accident victims

Government has provided coffins and blankets to all the 17 Mazabuka accident victims that died in the early hours of Monday.

Acting Mazabuka District Commissioner, Wilson Siadunka, disclosed to ZANIS in Mazabuka this morning that government, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), provided the necessary logistics needed for burial.

Mr Siadunka said apart from buying coffins and blankets for the dead, government also provided food and transport for all relatives of the deceased, some of whom came as far as Chipata in the Eastern Province.

He disclosed that from the 17 deceased persons, 11 bodies were on Tuesday transported to Lusaka, two to Monze District and one body was transported to Chipata for burial.

Mr Siadunka further explained that three other bodies were buried in Mazabuka yesterday following the advice given by their family members who allowed burial to take place within the district.

The Acting District Commissioner has thanked relatives of the deceased for what he termed as high levels of cooperation and maturity during the process of identifying the bodies, saying without their support the task would not have been an easy one.

A total of 17 people died on the spot after the Fuso fighter truck they were traveling in from Lusaka to Monze District lost control and rammed into Mazabuka Shoprite Checkers building around 01:00 hours in the early hours of Monday.

Friday 10 April 2015

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Number of Okhotsk Sea trawler accident victims revised to 57

New, revised data shows that 57 people have died as a result of the Dalniy Vostok fishing trawler sinking in the Sea of Okhotsk, while 12 remain missing, the Chief of Maritime Rescue from the port of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Artur Rets, told RIA Novosti on Friday.

The Dalniy Vostok fishing freezer trawler sank in the Sea of Okhotsk shortly before midnight on April 1. There were 132 people on board the vessel. Rescue teams have lifted a total of 119 people from the water.

Previous reports said that 56 people from the trawler had died as a result of the accident, while 13 remained missing. "Initially, the bodies were not counted correctly; two bodies were placed in the same container. So, as of today, 12 people are considered missing," Rets said.

The Far East division of the Russian Emergencies Ministry confirmed with RIA Novosti that a mistake had indeed been made in counting the dead bodies.

"The mistake in calculations happened because there were a lot of people taking part in the [search and rescue] operation, new information kept coming in," an Emergencies Ministry representative said.

Five residents of Russia's Sakhalin Region missing after the sinking of the Dalniy Vostok fishing trawler in the Sea of Okhotsk have been declared dead, local authorities announced in a statement.

Their families will receive one million rubles (about $19,130) each in compensation, according to the statement, which added that the 17 Sakhalin residents that survived the accident have been paid 200,000 rubles ($3,825) each.

Two ships carrying survivors of the accident and the bodies of the dead arrived in the port of Korsakov, a town located in Russia's Sakhalin Region, in the early hours of Tuesday. Some of the survivors are still being treated at regional hospitals, but are expected to be released next week.

On Saturday, acting Sakhalin governor Oleg Kozhemyako said that the sinking of the Dalniy Vostok trawler was likely caused by the crew's failure to comply with safety regulations. A criminal case has been opened and an investigation into the accident is underway.

Friday 10 April 2015

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Haiti: suspected boat accident leaves 21 dead, 17 missing en route to islands

At least 21 people have died and 17 others are missing in a suspected boat capsizing off Haiti’s northern coast, authorities said Thursday.

The group was among 50 believed to be aboard a boat that was headed north to the nearby Turks and Caicos islands, said Jean Henri Petit, an official with Haiti’s civil protection department. He said survivors told police the boat encountered bad weather and tried to return to Haiti when it hit something.

The bodies began to wash ashore Thursday morning in the coastal town of Le Borgne, about 100 miles (160km) north of Port-au-Prince, police inspector Jean Mesamours told the Associated Press.

The families of 10 of the victims had picked up the bodies, while the other 11 dead were buried in a mass grave because no one claimed them, Petit said.

The Turks and Caicos islands are a popular destination for Haitian migrants despite authorities warning them that the voyage is perilous.

Friday 10 April 2015

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