Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hundreds of migrants' bodies will be left in the sea after Mediterranean shipwreck

Charities have criticised the "extraordinary" decision by Sicilian authorities to abandon up to 750 migrant victims of a Mediterranean shipwreck at the bottom of the sea.

The Italian navy has found the wreck of the smuggling boat that capsized and sank last month off the Libyan coast, causing the death of hundreds of migrants who had been locked inside the hold.

However, Giovanni Salvi, public prosecutor in Catania, a city on Sicily's east coast, has said the bodies will not be brought up from the sea bed because "their recovery is not useful" for the investigation into the boat's traffickers.

Christopher Hein, the director of the Italian Council for Refugees, said families had a legal right to identify the bodies.

"This [decision] is extraordinary," he told La Repubblica. "The idea that at the bottom of the Mediterranean there are hundreds of bodies that can't be recovered because they don't help with the investigation makes me very angry.

"From a legal point of view, there is a duty to allow family members to identify the bodies and to become a civil party in the trial against those who are allegedly responsible.

"If there had been Germans, Italians, or any other European citizen, amongst the dead, would the judiciary have made the same decision?" Giovanna Di Benedetto, a spokesman for Save the Children, said it was "absolutely essential" for the bodies to be recovered so that "families can pray next to graves and grieve for the dead".

Mr Salvi claimed it was not the responsibility of the judiciary to recover the bodies, despite prosecutors – who have opened a manslaughter investigation into the tragedy – asking the navy to locate the boat.

Only 28 people survived the disaster on the former fishing boat, which was found at a depth of 1,230ft.

Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, previously said the boat should be raised so that victims could be given proper funerals.

Following a shipwreck in October 2013, the judicial authorities in Agrigento, just 93 miles (150km) west of Catania, recovered 350 bodies from the seabed so they could be identified.

The navy said raising the wreck to the surface was possible, but it was up to prosecutors to decide whether to proceed.

Mr Salvi said: "[Recovering the bodies] is not necessary for us. If the government want to do it for humanitarian reasons then that's fine, but we cannot cope with the costs and the delays to the investigation that it would entail. It's not a decision for the judicial authorities."

Sunday 17 May 2015

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Nepal quake death toll becomes highest on record; dozens still missing

The number of people killed in Nepal by two major earthquakes has surpassed 8,500, making the disaster the deadliest to hit the Himalayan country on record, as rescuers on Sunday searched for dozens of people still missing in remote villages.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, killing thousands and demolishing more than half a million homes, most of them in rural areas cut off from emergency medical care.

A second major quake struck on Tuesday 76 kilometres (47 miles) east of the capital Kathmandu, just as Nepalis were beginning to recover from the previous earthquake.

The death toll from the two quakes now stands at 8,583, the home ministry said on Sunday.

The previous deadliest earthquake to strike the country - in 1934 - killed at least 8,519 in Nepal, as well as thousands more in neighbouring India.

In Dolakha district east of Kathmandu, which was hit hardest by the second quake, dozens of landslides have blocked access to remote villages.

In Singati village, devastated by a landslide, dozens are still missing and rescue workers are yet to remove debris from all of the village to recover bodies, district officials said.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told reporters on Sunday 58 foreigners had died in the two earthquakes. Koirala said 112 foreigners were still unaccounted for, although many of those could be backpackers who choose not to register with authorities when they leave the country.

Sunday 17 May 2015

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Bodies recovered from helicopter crash in Nepal are identified

The bodies of six United States Marines and two Nepalese soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that crashed in Nepal while delivering earthquake relief supplies were identified on Sunday, officials have said.

The wreckage of the UH-1 Huey helicopter was first spotted on Friday by the Nepalese Army, but intense wind, rain and thunderstorms and the rugged, mountainous terrain hampered recovery efforts. The army said it had found three charred bodies at the site on Friday and the rest on Saturday.

The crash victims were named on Sunday, as the Nepalese Ministry of Home Affairs said that the death toll since the April 25 earthquake had risen above 8,500.

The Nepalese Army identified its soldiers who were killed as Tapendra Rawal and Basanta Titara and said in a statement that all eight bodies had been flown to Kathmandu, the capital. The army will deliver the bodies of its soldiers to their families on Monday, it said.

The helicopter disappeared on Tuesday after the country was struck by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake, which came less than three weeks after the initial quake measuring 7.8. The aircraft had been delivering relief supplies to villages around Charikot, east of Kathmandu, near the epicenter of the second quake. American, Nepalese and Indian teams who had been engaged in relief work all participated in the search before the bodies were found.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing.

Sunday 17 May 2015

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