Saturday, 6 June 2015

Nepal says civilians were on crashed US copter, toll now 13

A U.S. military helicopter that crashed in Nepal last month on an earthquake relief mission was carrying five more passengers than first thought, raising the death toll to 13, Nepal's army said Friday.

Authorities initially said six U.S. Marines and two Nepalese soldiers were killed.

According to Army Spokesperson Brigadier General Jadish Chandra Pokharel, the confirmation was made after matching the DNA samples of the deceased family with the samples of their family members. The Army had collected the DNA samples of the relatives of the missing locals last week. The search for the five people was started only after they could not be found at any hospital in Kathmandu even 13 days after they were airlifted from the district. “We are preparing to hand over the bodies to the family members,” Pokhrel said. The body of Lieutenant Tapendra Rawal was handed over to his family in Dailekh where his last rites were performed last week. The body of Warrant Officer Basant Bahadur Titara will also been handed over to his family soon, according to the Army. The US Embassy in Nepal said that Nepali and US armies have been coordinating on the identification of the remains of the five civilians who lost their lives in the crash. “We offer heartfelt condolences to all those who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” said Susan Parker-Jones, director of Public Affairs at the Embassy. The UH-1 "Huey" helicopter crashed May 12 in the northeastern mountains, and the wreckage was found after days of intense searching. The first three charred bodies were retrieved by Nepalese and U.S. military teams, and the rest were found a day later.

The U.S. relief mission was deployed after a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. A magnitude-7.3 quake struck on May 12 and hours later the helicopter crashed.

Four of the Marines were part of the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California. Two other Marines were combat cameramen based in Japan.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. U.S. military officials have said that an Indian helicopter in the air nearby heard radio chatter from the Huey about a possible fuel problem.

Earlier this week, a private helicopter chartered by Doctors Without Borders crashed after hitting power cables, killing all four people on board. Three victims were Nepalese and the other was a Dutch woman.

The government and aid agencies have used helicopters to carry relief materials to mountainous regions where earthquake damage or the lack of existing roads has made delivery of aid all but impossible.

The two earthquakes have killed more than 8,700 people, injured thousands and destroyed many buildings. Saturday 6 June 2015

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11 dead, 8 missing on Malaysian peak after earthquake of 6.0 magnitude

The strong earthquake that jolted Malaysia's Mount Kinabalu left at least 11 people dead and another eight missing on Southeast Asia's highest peak, a government official said on Saturday.

"As at noon time, 11 bodies have been recovered (2 identified) and eight people are still missing," Masidi Manjun, the tourism minister for the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo island, said on his Twitter feed.

The 6.0-magnitude quake struck near the picturesque mountain, a popular tourist destination, on Friday, sending landslides and huge granite boulders tumbling down from the 4,095-metre peak's wide, jagged crown.

The quake was centered northwest of Ranau district in Sabah state on Borneo at a depth of 54 kilometers (34 miles), Malaysia's meteorological department said.

Local media said rescuers recovered two bodies from 4,095-meter Mount Kinabalu believed to be of a local guide and a 12-year-old female Singaporean student.

Sabah police chief Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman confirmed two fatalities but couldn't give further details. Sabah Parks director Jamili Nais said several injured climbers had been brought down the mountain.

Most of the 137 stranded people were cautiously trying to descend with the help of park rangers and guides, and some were expected to reach the base camp by early Saturday, he said. Some were foreigners, but it wasn't clear how many.

The climbing route was apparently blocked or made dangerous by rocks and boulders loosened by the quake and small aftershocks, Jamili said.

Helicopters were unable to land because of bad weather and the high altitude, he said. The quake damaged roads and buildings, including schools and a hospital on Sabah's west coast.

Saturday 6 June 2015

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Ghana: 28 days to claim bodies of floods, GOIL fire victims

Families of persons who died as a result of last Wednesday’s flood and the fire at the GOIL fuel station have up to July 2, 2015 to claim the bodies.

According to the Manager of the Korle-Bu Mortuary Department, Mr George Denkyi, the law permitted unidentified bodies to be buried within 28 days of being received at the morgue.

In effect, bodies at other public health facilities will be affected by this ultimatum.

He explained that a mass burial would be held for the unclaimed bodies after July 3, 2015.

“Postmortem examination will be performed on the bodies to find the cause of death. The unclaimed ones would then be buried in a mass grave after the July 2 deadline,” Mr Denkyi told the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.

Meanwhile, the remains of 64 people who died as a result of floods and the fire outbreak at a GOIL fuel station at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra have been identified.

More than 150 people have been killed by the floods and fire that occurred on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 in some parts of Accra.

The 37 Military Hospital has received 65 victims and out of that number, 32 have been identified, but two are charred beyond recognition. Four persons are currently receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit (IOU).

“There are 65 bodies in our morgue right now. They are 22 females and 43 males while 22 people are currently on admission. A male child is among those admitted.

Sources at the various health centres disclosed these figures to the Daily Graphic in Accra and said that the public was welcome to identify either the deceased or injured persons.

Fifty-seven bodies are in the Police Hospital morgue. Families have managed to identify 30 bodies at the time of going to press yesterday. The Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital received 11 bodies. Six of the deaths were flood-related.

The heavy downpour recorded in some parts of Accra left in its wake death and misery as some persons are still unaccounted for.

Scores of family members have been trooping to various health centres in search of their missing relatives.

At the time of going to press yesterday, devastated Ghanaians were moving from one hospital to another in search of either bodies or family members receiving treatment.

Some found their relatives alive and badly injured, while others have either managed to identify their dead relatives or could not identify them due to the devastating effects of the fire outbreak on their bodies.

There was a sad spectacle at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra yesterday as scores of people were in misery as a result of their inability to locate their missing relatives.

Hospital authorities have made arrangements for the general public to view and identify deceased persons and those on admission.

Troubled family members who spoke to the Daily Graphic indicated they had been to the major hospitals in Accra but were yet to locate their missing relatives.

Saturday 6 June 2015

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Accra floods and fire disaster: Identification of the dead begins

Relatives and friends of people who died in the flood and fire disaster at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle have trooped to various hospitals in Accra to identify their loved ones.

According to reports, there are long queues at 37 Military hospital and Police hospital in Accra as relatives make desperate attempt to find missing relations nearly 48 hours after the incident.

Joy News’ Kwakye Afreh-Nuamah who went to the military hospital reported that most people could not identify their loved ones at the morgue.

“Most of the bodies have been reduced to ashes so only a DNA test will help family members identify their corpse,” he noted.

A distraught man whose sister reportedly drowned in the flood said all efforts to identify the body have proven futile.

He said his late sister who works at the Ministry of Education was going home in a pickup vehicle which was carried away by the floods.

Another man who spoke to Joy News said his friend was part of those who got burnt at the Goil filing station but he has not been able to identify the body.

126 dead bodies from Filling Station disaster sent to three hospitals

The Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the 37th Military and the Police Hospitals have so far received 126 dead bodies from the Wednesday, June 3, Goil Fuel Filling Station disaster at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.

The breakdown at the various hospitals is as follows: Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, 3; the 37th Military Hospital, 66; and the Police Hospital, 57.

Mr Mustapha Salifu, the Head of the Public Relations Department of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, said 15 victims of the disaster were brought to the hospital of which three died through their injuries.

He said six were treated and discharged while another six are on admission; of which four are in critical condition.

He said one of the four in a critical state is yet to be identified.

At the 37th Military Hospital, Major Evelyn Ntiamoah Asamoah, Deputy Director, Public Relations in-charge of Protocol, said the Hospital recorded 46 admissions.

She said 17 persons have been treated and discharged, while 29 are on admission, with four in the intensive care unit.

Police Corporal Faustina Afia Nunekpeku, Public Relations Coordinator, Police Hospital, said the corpses comprised 31 men, 21 women and five children.

She said so far 30 bodies have been identified.

Cpl Nunekpeku said five people are on admission, while five others have been treated and discharged.

Saturday 6 June 2015

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Stricken Chinese cruise ship lifted from Yangtze River; hundreds of bodies recovered

The death toll from China ferry disaster has risen to almost 400, making it China’s worst maritime disaster in more than 60 years.

The Eastern Star Cruise ship that capsized and plunged to the bottom of the riverbed during a storm on the River Yangtze on Monday.

Authorities said Saturday afternoon that after working through the night, they had recovered a total of 396 corpses and their search of the vessel was now complete. Fourteen people survived Monday night’s tragedy, and 46 people remain unaccounted for. Only six of the 396 recovered bodies were found outside the ship.

Yesterday a rescue operation managed to stabilise the boat and turn it upright. Hundreds more bodies were discovered by divers last night.

As soldiers and other personnel worked through the night wearing white hazmat suits and life jackets, searching with flashlights, they said they encountered hallways jammed with furniture and other debris. At times, the stench inside the ship was overpowering and many bodies were swollen, stiff or decomposed. Locked cabin doors and rooms filled with mud and silt also hampered the recovery work, and firefighters were called in at times to clear passageways.

More than 700 troops were tasked with removing the victims; a team of six was assigned to each body. Because the Eastern Star overturned in a remote area, the bodies had to be carried more than two miles to the closest road, then transported in vehicles to the mortuary in Jianli, a small agricultural town.

“When we entered the cabins, we all felt overcome by emotion,” said Zeng Xianmei, chief nurse at the paramilitary hospital in the nearby metropolis of Wuhan, choking up at a news conference.

Liu Xiaowu, chief of staff of a brigade from Guangzhou, said he was particularly determined to recover the remains of the youngest passenger, a 3-year-old girl on a trip with her grandparents. Her body was found in a first-class cabin on the upper deck.

“When our soldiers finally discovered her body, they all cried,” he said. “We all have children.”

Liu and other officials said work would now begin to collect victims’ personal effects from the Eastern Star.

Zhang Shifeng of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said authorities had worked out a standard for processing the bodies and that DNA had been collected from the 387 corpses that had arrived at mortuaries by Saturday afternoon.

Peng Jun of the local Hubei Province office of the Ministry of Civil Affairs said authorities had spent over $1.6 million buying more than 400 freezer caskets for the victims. Earlier, hundreds of refrigerated coffins were brought to Jianli but those were later deemed inadequate given how long the bodies were in the water.

Peng said that once positive DNA matches were made, family members would be allowed to see the remains of their loved ones, though he cautioned that many were disfigured. Eighty-one undertakers have been brought to the area to help prepare the bodies.

In China, the seventh day after a death is the first important day of commemoration. Asked if there were any plans for a group commemoration or memorial service on Sunday, the seventh day after the disaster, Zhang said there were no such plans because a group service would not be in accordance with Chinese tradition. But the Ministry of Transport later announced that a ceremony would be held Sunday morning.

Relatives of the passengers, many of who were tourists over 60, have asked why the vessel continued its voyage despite a severe weather warning in the Hubei province and increasingly violent winds.

Both the captain and the first engineer have been held in custody, although there has been no official cause for the accident, with the accident blamed on sudden, severe winds.

Angry relatives yesterday protested near the site of the accident, which is being tightly controlled by authorities who have confirmed they do not expect to find any more survivors.

The 76-metre vessel, travelling from Nanjing to the south-western city of Chongqing, was caught up in the heavy rains that swept across the Yangtze area on Monday evening – killing another 15 people and leaving eight missing.

The disaster has now caused a higher 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. It is also China's worst shipping catastrophe in seven decades.

More than 1,400 family members have come to Jianli in the central province of Hubei, where the ship went down, with many expressing frustration at the lack of information from the government.

The government says that it is doing everything possible to help the relatives, including providing free accommodation and medical services, and on Saturday state television ran an interview with a tearful family member saying how happy she was with all their help.

Peng Jun, head of Hubei province's civil affairs bureau, told reporters the treatment of the families was "meticulous".

As for the crematorium, which some family members had tried in vain to enter to see the bodies of their loved ones, he said it had a reception center that would work with families.

Authorities would work to "satisfy their reasonable demands, and provide all conveniences to them", he said.

But relatives speaking to Reuters have expressed concern about security apparently being aimed at them, including the number of police cars parked outside of hotels where they are staying.

On Saturday morning, a daily government briefing for family members was cut short after an argument broke out with a representative of the local government. One woman was carried out of the briefing after she fainted.

"There is no information at all. Everyday we're here procrastinating, wasting time. There's no clear-cut answers, there's no progress to inform us of," said Wang Shuang, 24, whose mother and uncle were on the boat.

The government is bringing in equipment to store the bodies, many of which are in an advanced state of decomposition, as well as DNA experts to help with identification.

In a sign of respect for the victims, state television will suspend certain programs and advertisements that "highlight celebrations" for the next three days, Xinhua news agency said.

Saturday 6 June 2015

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