Saturday, 16 May 2015

Six bodies recovered in Colombia mine collapse, 9 believed to be missing

Rescuers Friday said they had found six bodies in a collapsed, unlicensed gold mine on an indigenous reservation in a central Colombian town.

Another nine miners were believed to still be missing after the accident on Wednesday in the northwestern town of Riosucio, where authorities are carrying out an investigation of the mine.

Rescuers were working into the evening to retrieve the sixth miner's remains, hours after the recovery of a separate body sapped the hopes of anxious relatives that more of the missing might still be found alive.

The first two bodies were spotted Thursday, with rescuers finding two more several hours later.

The workers are believed to be trapped in shafts 17 meters (55 feet) below ground.

The bodies were taken to the city of Pereira to be identified.

Search and rescue operations are due to be completed over the weekend, according to government disaster relief agency UNGRD.

The mine collapse occurred after a power failure prevented the operation of the pumps that drew water from the nearby Cauca River.

The head of the National Mining Agency told Radio Blu the organization would look into the the owners of the mine, which was in the process of legalization but was prohibited from digging the shafts that were involved in the collapse.

Investigators say a power cut in the area likely shut off the mine's water pumps, flooding the shafts and leading to the collapse.

The workers at the mine had no formal contract with the company for their high-risk work, the mining agency said in a statement.

Colombia is a major gold producer and business has boomed over the past decade as the price of gold has risen from less than $400 per ounce to almost $1,200.

Saturday 16 May 2015

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All 8 bodies of US Helicopter crash in Nepal recovered

Nepal's army says the bodies of all eight people on board a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter that crashed Tuesday have been recovered.

Officials said Saturday teams from the U.S. military and Nepal's army are at the scene of the crash, investigating what may have caused the aircraft to go down in a rugged, mountainous area.

Neither the cause of the crash nor the identities of the eight people aboard the craft have been disclosed. Lieutenant-General John Wissler confirmed Friday that the helicopter was carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers.

The general, a senior commander of Marines based in Japan, noted the enormous loss of life Nepal has suffered during the past three weeks, from the strongest earthquake in the Himalayas in more than 80 years and many aftershocks, including another strong and damaging earthquake this week.

The Defense Ministry in Kathmandu announced the helicopter went down three days ago in a mountainous area of east-central Nepal and said it was not possible for anyone onboard to have survived.

U.S. officials they are assessing the details of the crash of the UH-1Y Huey helicopter, which was part of an American task force in Nepal dubbed Operation Sahayogi Haat (Helping Hand).

The wreckage was found by a Nepalese search team about 8 miles north of Charikot, the military said in a statement.

The Pentagon said that the families of the Marines had been notified and that the names of the crew members would be released within 24 hours.

“They were courageous, they were selfless individuals dedicated to the international rescue mission here in Nepal,” Marine Lt. Gen. John Wissler said.

The Huey went missing while it was distributing aid on Tuesday, the day a strong aftershock hit Nepal and killed more than 100 people and after the crew was heard over the radio saying the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.

The Huey, a helicopter dating back to the Vietnam War era, was completely destroyed, Nepal's top defence ministry official said.

After a three-day search the Huey was spotted near the village of Ghorthali at an altitude of 11,200 ft (3,400 m), an army general told Reuters, as helicopters and Nepali ground troops converged on the crash site.

Air Force search and rescue crew identified the crash site in a rugged forest at 11,000 feet elevation, but couldn’t stay on the scene because of high wind and inclement weather.

The area's tallest peak soars to more than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Hillsides are cloaked with forest that made it hard to find the helicopter even though it came down just a few miles from Charikot, the capital of Dolakha district, half a day's drive to the east of Kathmandu.

An army base in the town has been serving as a hub for operations to airlift and treat those injured in the two earthquakes, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala flew in on Thursday for an on-the-spot briefing.

In a statement, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter thanked the Nepalese and Indian governments for their continued support in the search and recovery operations.

“This tragedy is a reminder of the vital but dangerous role that American service members play in delivering humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said. “Our mission continues in Nepal, and we remain dedicated to answering the call when disaster strikes, both in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.”

To verify that the broken, burned wreckage was that of the missing Huey, the U.S. sent in four Air Force pararescue specialists and a combat rescue officer. That verification was announced Friday morning.

No distress call was made before the Huey went missing while taking supplies to stranded villagers, but there may have been a transmission about a fuel problem, officials said.

The aircraft is attached to Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 based at Camp Pendleton.

The squadron was in the Philippines on a training mission when it was directed to Nepal to join the relief effort after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on April 25 that killed more than 8,300 people. On Tuesday, it was responding to a magnitude 7.3 aftershock that caused additional deaths and destruction.

The first quake, which struck on April 25 with a magnitude of 7.8, has killed 8,199 people. The death toll from a 7.3 aftershock on Tuesday has reached 117, with many victims in Dolakha.

Saturday 16 May 2015

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23 bodies unclaimed at Kathmandu, Nepal, morgue

First, there is the bulletin board littered with black-and-white photos of the unidentified dead. Mangled bodies with mouths gaping, eyes squeezed shut and arms lifted overhead in apparent surrender.

Then there are the plastic baggies of what they were carrying or wearing. A fish-themed watch. A scrap of denim. A single flip flop obscuring a wad of cash.

Kathmandu's official earthquake morgue, located next to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, is a dismal place. For some, though, finding physical evidence of a loved one's abrupt end can provide a measure of relief.

Since the 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck three weeks ago, at least 100 people streamed through this nondescript temporary resting place, seeking some sign to hold out hope or move on.

"It's not a cheerful moment," acknowledged Nepal Police Superintendent Prakash Adhikari, who keeps a meticulous log of the 300 bodies that were brought here after the quake.

Still, "when they find the deceased," Adhikari says, "they feel pleasure."

The morgue is one of several places around the capital city where residents can file a missing person's report. Before they do, they scan the board for the latest entries, identified by a simple tag number, along with approximate age, height and where the body was recovered.

The log listed 45 missing entries Wednesday, one day after a second major earthquake sent this Himalayan nation into tailspin overdrive.

Among the lost, three Indonesian citizens who had disappeared from Langtang, a popular trekking area. An orange cardholder, wrapped in plastic, was waiting to be found.

The News Journal is in Nepal this week reporting on the Delaware Medical Relief Team's efforts to provide medical treatment and supplies to earthquake survivors. The medical team has committed waves of volunteers over the next few months. The newest group of five, including doctors, physician assistants, EMTs and logistics experts, are scheduled to arrive in Nepal Sunday.

Team member Ashish Parikh, a Newark cardiologist, has performed a handful of angioplasties at the cardiac hospital next to the morgue. The operation, which involves widening narrow and obstructed arteries, can cost $25,000 in the United States. Parikh is volunteering his time and expertise.

On Wednesday, the hospital transformed into a courtyard tent community of more than 50 heart patients who were evacuated from the building the day before.

Next door, Spanish police commissioner Ramon Gomez has sat on the same rickety bench for 15 days straight, waiting on a clue about the whereabouts of six Spanish citizens. Like the Indonesians, they were last seen in Langtang.

Immediately after the first quake, nearly 70 members of the Spanish Army and Spanish Military Police assisted with search and rescue efforts and humanitarian relief, Gomez said.

But, as with any natural disaster, international attention is easily distracted by competing priorities. The Spaniards left within 10 days.

Gomez, who is based in New Delhi, was the last man on the ground. Despite his depressing assignment, he insisted that he was content to be among his friends, members of the Nepal Police.

By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the morgue was mostly deserted, apart from spillover hospital visitors who couldn't snag a seat. Twenty-three bodies remained unclaimed.

Fearful of the next aftershock, locals gathered in small groups in open fields and in intimate cafes with obvious escape routes.

For a moment, the dead could wait.

The survivors needed to figure out where they would sleep safely that night – and the many nights ahead.

Saturday 16 May 2015

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