Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Helicopter on quake relief mission crashes in Nepal

A small helicopter on an earthquake relief mission crashed in high mountains in northeast Nepal on Tuesday, killing at least four people, the army said.

The aircraft, operated by private company Mountain Air, crashed in the district of Sindhupalchowk, about 60 km (38 miles) northeast of Kathmandu.

Sindhupalchowk, which borders Tibet, was one of the regions worst hit by the April 25 and May 12 earthquakes that killed 8,700 people. A massive international relief and rescue operation was carried out for the victims of the disaster.

"We have recovered four bodies from the crash site," said Brigadier General Jagadish Chandra Pokharel, spokesman for the Nepali army.

Some media reports said the chopper hit electric power lines before it crashed, but Pokharel said the cause of the crash was unclear.

Six American and two Nepali soldiers were killed when a U.S. Marines UH-1Y Huey helicopter, also on a relief mission in the neighboring district of Dolakha, crashed in dense mountain forests on the day of the second big earthquake.

Authorities have found DNA evidence at the crash site indicating that five more people may have been on board the U.S. helicopter when it came down, a U.S. military spokesman has said.

Tuesday 2 June 2015


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Malaysian police get permission to exhume remains via Thai territory

Malaysian police have received permission from the Thai authorities to use a route in Thailand to begin exhuming bodies from graves at a transit camp in the Mata Ayer Forest Reserve, Lubuk Sireh.

Perlis police chief, Senior Asst Commissioner Shafie Ismail said as many as 91 graves had been identified in that area.

“The transit camp is quite far from the camp at Wang Kelian (where several bodies were exhumed). Operations at Wang Kelian have ended and the police and forensic teams will rest before starting operations on Wednesday,” he said when contacted by Bernama today.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim disclosed the new transit camp located about 100 metres from the Thai border.

The camp is guarded by General Operations Force personnel.

Tuesday 2 June 2015


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57 bodies identified as Onitsha tanker fire death toll rises to 70

More than 60 people have died in south-eastern Nigeria after a fuel tanker crashed into a busy bus station and caught fire, officials say.

Eyewitnesses say the driver lost control of the tanker as it was going downhill in the city of Onitsha.

Rescue workers say 12 other vehicles caught fire in Sunday's incident, which police say was an accident.

The tanker loaded with petrol on Sunday hit a house and exploded in a huge ball of fire, killing 69 residents.

The death toll went up by one yesterday.

Among the dead were four members of the Onitsha Newspaper distribution, Directors Association (ONDDA).

This was confirmed by the vice chairman of the association, Mr. Emmanuel Uwakwe.

Besides, the Vice Chairman of the Red Cross Society of Nigeria in Anambra state, Prof. Peter Katchy, said yesterday that one of the drivers who was taken to the hospital on Sunday after the incident had died, bringing the death toll to 70.

Katchy said 57 of the hospitalised victims burnt beyond recognition had been identified. Thirteen are yet to be identified.

The Red Cross helmsman said the evacuation of bodies was continuing at Toronto Hospital in Onitsha to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital for forensic analysis.

Vice Chairman of the Vendors Assocaition in Onitsha, Mr. Uwakwe, said the association lost two distributors and two vendors – Ifeanyi Nzekwe, one simply identified as “local man”, Ifeoma and a new vendor whose name he did not remember.

Uwakwe said: “We are in pains and agony. We have visited the injured ones at the hospital. Honestly, what happened on Sunday was a national calamity”.

The senator-elect for Anambra Central Zone, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, has condoled with the families of those that died.

Ekwunife, who cut short her official engagement to visit the scene at Upper Iweka, was sad over the loss of lives and property.

Anambra Central Zone comprises seven local government areas, including the Upper Iweka Area where the incident happened.

Ekwunife said: “It is unfortunate that we continue to lose our loved ones in such careless and difficult situations.

“I want to express my deepest condolences to the families that lost their loved ones in the ugly incident and pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased”

“I promise to make legislation alongside my fellow senators that would put an end to such horrible incidents on Nigerian roads,” Mrs Ekwunife said.

In 2012 more than 100 people died in a blaze as they tried to get oil from an overturned tanker in southern Nigeria.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

http://thenationonlineng.net/new/57-bodies-identified-as-onitsha-tanker-fire-death-toll-rises-to-70/ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-32959825

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Sinkings in South Korea and China present divers different tests

As divers scramble to save hundreds trapped in a capsized cruise ship in China's Yangtze River, the scene in some ways evokes Northeast Asia's last major maritime disaster: the ferry sinking last year that killed more than 300 people off South Korea's southwest coast. Yet even at this early stage, there are far more differences than similarities.

Here are some key points comparing the South Korean and Chinese sinkings:


Already, Chinese divers have reportedly pulled two survivors from the cruise ship, with four others located. It took divers in South Korea more than three agonizing days just to enter the ferry Sewol after it sank on April 16, 2014. By that time, all they could do was retrieve bodies. For those three days, as TV cameras filmed the ferry as it sank, and a stunned nation watched, divers and rescue workers failed repeatedly to get into the ship. Officials said the extreme currents around the South Korean islands where the ferry sank, the cold water temperature and the unpredictable weather made it too dangerous for divers to enter.


Outrage will likely take a different form in China than it did in South Korea, where families of victims sometimes accosted and screamed at officials who visited the scene of the disaster. That anger lingers among many here who see the rescue operations as criminally botched. For the last year, dozens have camped in a major South Korean square to protest the government's handling of the disaster. So great was the uproar that South Korea's president eventually disbanded the much-maligned coast guard, creating a new body meant to oversee national safety issues. Though families in China's capsizing are already expressing their anger, it seems unlikely something similar could happen in their authoritarian country, where crackdowns on dissent are common.


One similarity: Both captains survived. It is too early to say what will happen in China, of course, but the Sewol captain is one of the most hated men in recent South Korean history. He was among the first to escape, filmed by cameras leaping in his underpants from the sinking ship onto a coast guard vessel. He was arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. The rage that he escaped early and unhurt was compounded here by claims that he and his crew botched the evacuation, telling the mostly schoolchildren inside to remain where they were, even as the ship sank and capsized. In April, the captain was given a sentence of life in prison by an appellate court on a homicide conviction.


It's not clear how successful the Chinese rescue operations will be or, if largely unsuccessful, how long the recovery of bodies will take. But the Sewol recovery operations dragged on for seven months, until November when the government called them off. By that time, they'd searched for more than 200 days and recovered 295 bodies; nine are still missing. The physical toll was extreme. Every day divers would gather at a dock and check the weather and currents. If allowed to dive, they had to feel along the side of the ship until they could find a window they could crack open with hammers. Thick sediment inside often made flashlights useless, and divers had to creep along using their hands to feel where they were. Their only lifeline was a 100-meter oxygen hose, and it was a constant battle to keep it from getting snagged. Several divers had to make rapid ascents to the surface, risking decompression sickness, also known as the bends, which in severe cases can be fatal. Two divers died in the Sewol operations.

Tuesday 2 June 2015


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Hundreds missing, many elderly tourists, after ship capsizes on China's Yangtze

Rescuers fought bad weather on Tuesday as they searched for more than 400 people, many of them elderly Chinese tourists, missing after a cruise boat was buffeted by a freak tornado and capsized on the Yangtze River.

The accident on Monday night is likely to end up as China's worst shipping disaster in almost 70 years.

Divers and other rescue workers pulled five people they found trapped in the upturned hull of the four-deck Eastern Star, a fraction of the 458 people state media reported were on board when the ship capsized.

Distraught relatives of some of the passengers scuffled with officials in the city of Shanghai, where many of those on board booked their trips, angry about what they said was a lack of information.

Dozens of rescue boats battled wind and rain to reach the ship, which lay upturned in water about 15 meters (50 feet) deep.

The Xinhua news agency said rescuers could hear people calling for help from inside the ship's hull and television showed rescuers cutting through it with an angle grinder.

One of the people pulled from the capsized boat was a 65-year-old woman. Divers fixed breathing equipment to her nose and mouth to bring her up from under the water.

About another dozen people had been rescued and six bodies recovered, media reported, leaving more than 430 people unaccounted for.

China's weather bureau said a tornado hit the area where the boat was, a freak occurrence in a country where tornados do happen but are not common.

The disaster could bring a bigger toll than the sinking of a ferry in South Korea in April 2014 that killed 304 people, most of them children on a school trip.

The People's Daily, which published a passenger manifest on its microblog, said those on board the Eastern Star ranged in age from three to more than 80.

Tour guide Zhang Hui, 43, told Xinhua the boat sank very fast and he scrambled out a window in torrential rain, clutching a life vest as he could not swim.

"Wave after wave crashed over me; I swallowed a lot of water," Zhang said, adding that he was unable to flag down passing boats and finally struggled ashore as dawn broke holding onto a branch.

President Xi Jinping had ordered that no efforts be spared in the rescue and Premier Li Keqiang went to the scene of the accident in central Hubei province, Xinhua said.

About 60 family members gathered outside a travel agency in Shanghai and demanded information.

"I only found out about this on the television news while I was at work and I came here," said 35-year-old Wang Sheng, whose said his mother and father were on board. "I cried all the way here and here I can't find anyone, the door is locked."


The ship's captain and the chief engineer, who were among the few to be rescued, had been detained by police for questioning, Xinhua said.

According to the Yangtze River navigation administration, the pair said the ship sank quickly after it was caught in the tornado.

Xinhua reported that initial investigations had found the ship was not overloaded and it had enough life vests on board for its passengers. Those rescued were wearing life vests, Xinhua said.

Among those on board were 406 tourists, many of them elderly, along with 47 crew members and five tour guides, the People's Daily said.

State radio said the ship went over in about two minutes and no distress call had been issued. Seven people swam to shore to raise the alarm, media said.

Fishing boats were among the dozens of vessels helping in the search and rescue, Xinhua said, and more than 1,000 police with 40 inflatable boats had also been sent.

The Eastern Star, which has the capacity to carry more than 500 people, was heading to southwestern Chongqing city from Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province. It sank at around 9:28 p.m. in the Jianli section of the Yangtze, Asia's longest river.

Accidents of this magnitude are uncommon in China where major rivers are used for tours and cruises. A tug sank on the Yangtze while undergoing sea trials in January, killing 22 of 25 people on board.

In the worst previous incident of its kind in China, the steamship Kiangya blew up on the Huangpu river in 1948, killing more than 1,000 people.

The Eastern Star is owned by the Chongqing Eastern Shipping Corporation, which runs tours along the Three Gorges section of the Yangtze.

Wang Jianhua, its vice general manager, said it had never suffered an incident of this magnitude. The official Hubei Daily said the company has been operating since 1981.

Tuesday 2 June 2015


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