Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Fatal heatwave: Karachi running out of space for the dead

A stench surrounds the Edhi morgue. Bodies, some uncovered, others in a white shroud, lie scattered on the floor. Among them is a man with a white beard and shabby brown clothes, a fly sitting on his chest. Ambulances, parked outside, are also housing the dead until there is space available for them inside the morgue.

The fatal heatwave is making it difficult for the morgues to function, and the largest one in the city – the Edhi morgue at Sohrab Goth – is running out of space. By the scorching Tuesday afternoon, the morgue that has a capacity of 200 bodies had over 250 lying in and around it. Every few minutes, ambulances arrive at the entrance, bringing with them more deceased, mostly victims of the deadly heatwave.

In the last four days, more than 500 bodies were brought to this morgue, says Ghulam Hussain, one of the officials. “It is becoming difficult but we are trying to manage.”

Out on the streets

Umair Syed, an ambulance driver at the Edhi Foundation, parks his vehicle and hurries to shift the body into the cramped morgue. “Make space, make space,” he screams. He has brought a rickshaw driver from Basheer Chowk, who had even poured water over himself to beat the heat but could not make it. “He splashed water on himself but that didn’t help him against the heat. People are dying on the streets,” laments Syed.

Since the heatwave gripped Karachi, Syed has driven 15 bodies from hospitals, homes and outdoors to the morgue. On Tuesday alone, he brought four of them. The Baldia factory incident was the only other time that Syed has seen the morgue so full. He adds that he has never witnessed so many deaths due to the hot weather. “I am picking up bodies with swollen faces.”

Standing next to him, another driver, Afaq Ahmed, has brought a man who died in front of his eyes. The man was travelling on the roof of a W-11 bus when he started shaking and trembling violently. Ahmed had rushed him to the Civil Hospital, Karachi. “He died in front of me.”

The morgues, from the largest run by the Edhi Welfare Organisation at Sohrab Goth to smaller ones run by other charity organisations, such as the Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation, Chhipa, Al-Khidmat and Thanvi Trust, are now out of capacity. There is no place for the dead. Meanwhile, these welfare organisations, who alone bear the mantle of running ambulance services in the country’s largest metropolis, are reeling under the pressure as the number of victims rises with each passing hour.


A man who had come for the ghusl of his sister-in-law, Kishwar Aftab, said that the K-Electric was also to be blamed for the deaths. “People don’t have electricity in their homes. We didn’t have power for many hours in Moosa Colony. My sister-in-law had a high fever and she died.”

The smell emanating from the bodies made him and others cover their nose with their hands or clothes. To stay away from the blistering sun, people tried to huddle under the small shade. Fareed, a shopkeeper, said he had been called from his shop to be given the unfortunate news that his wife had died. She was fasting and had died because of the heat, he said with teary eyes.

Bodies being buried

To accommodate more bodies, the Edhi foundation is now burying the unidentified bodies within a day. They have buried 50 bodies in their graveyard so far.

The graveyards, too, are overbooked. The grave-diggers are taking full advantage of the opportunity and demanding double the standard rates. “Each grave is being sold for at least double the money,” said Shahzad, whose friend died in Gulshan-e-Maymar. “You are lucky for not being refused a grave at this time.”

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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Peru mass grave contains bodies of 17 'killed in 1980s'

Prosecutors in Peru say they have found a mass grave containing 17 bodies high in the Andes, in the Ayacucho region.

The bodies are believed to be those of local farmers kidnapped by the Shining Path rebel group in the 1980s.

Forensic experts said it was clear the 17 had been killed but not by whom.

Almost 70,000 people were killed in the two-decades-long conflict between the Peruvian government and the Maoist rebels, according to figures by Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Prosecutor Honorio Casallo Diaz said investigations carried out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission suggested the farmers had been abducted in the 1980s from the town of Vilcashuaman by members of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group.

They had been missing ever since.

Villagers in the Ayacucho region of Peru were often caught up in the violence between the Shining Path and the security forces This was a common practice by the Shining Path to boost their ranks.

However, it is not clear whether the 17 were killed by their Shining Path captors or by members of the military, who often targeted locals they suspected of collaborating with the guerrillas.

Ayacucho was the heartland of the guerrillas and farmers were often caught between the two warring sides.

The Shining Path posed a major challenge to the Peruvian state in the 1980s and early 90s.

After the capture of its main leaders its influence was greatly reduced.

In December 2011, one of its remaining leaders admitted defeat.

However, remnants of the group are still active in the jungle areas of Peru producing and smuggling cocaine.

Earlier this month, the US treasury department designated the Shining Path a "significant foreign narcotics trafficker".

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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Search resumes on Alaska glacier for service members' remains at decades-old plane crash site

Scientists and volunteers tethered in safety gear and ice cleats painstakingly scoured the frozen dirt and ice to see if a glacier had given up any more of its dead before they are swept into a lake and lost to history.

Fifty-two service members died when their airplane smashed into an Alaska mountain more than 60 years ago. The wreckage was rediscovered in 2012, and the somber recovery effort resumed this month.

"It's a patriotic duty that we're doing up here to the family members of the service members that have paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation," said U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Paul Cocker.

The C-124 Globemaster was en route from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage when it vanished Nov. 22, 1952, with 41 passengers and 11 crew members onboard. The wreckage was found soon after, but became buried in snow, forgotten and eventually became part of the glacier at the bottom of Mount Gannett.

In 2012, an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter flying over the glacier, about 50 miles northeast of Anchorage, rediscovered the wreckage. Recovery efforts have been undertaken each summer since then, and the remains of 17 service members have so far been identified and returned to families for burial.

The race is now on to recover as many remains as possible before the relatively fast-moving glacier, advancing about a couple hundred meters a year, deposits the wreckage in nearby Inner Lake George.

The search area, which covers about three acres, is now near the toe of the glacier, and the leading edge is constantly being cleaved off and pushed into the lake.

"There is no way to know for sure when all of the remains and wreckage will be lost to the lake, this is why we're dedicated to doing all that we can now," Capt. Anastasia Wasem, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an email.

About 12 people, both civilians and active-duty military members, have been at the glacier nearly daily since early June looking for remains and collecting plane wreckage. This year's search effort is scheduled to end Friday. Any remains found will be sent to an armed forces DNA lab in Delaware for identification.

This is the fourth summer on the glacier for Roy Adkins, a civilian working to recover plane wreckage for the military.

Those who have worked the glacier year after year have become accustomed to the changing landscape as the glacier continues to give up wreckage.

"Every year we come out here, there's more and more debris and in different areas," Adkins said. "We've left on a Friday and came back on a Monday, and debris fields have shown up."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bryan Keese of the Alaska Army National Guard ferries the workers to the glacier on a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

He was flying a similar helicopter four years ago when his crew chief, Sgt. Roman Bradford, spotted some yellow fabric on Colony Glacier. That turned out to be a life raft from the Globemaster. A subsequent check of the crash database narrowed down the possibilities, and a crew returned to the glacier and found a log book and dog tags, identifying the wreckage from the 1952 Globemaster.

"It's pretty cool to get these folks back home to where they belong," he said of the effort to identify the human remains found on the glacier.

Tonja Anderson-Dell of Tampa, Florida, has researched the crash for years. Her grandfather, then 21-year-old Isaac Anderson died in the crash but his remains weren't among the 17 that have been identified.

She said the military has told families that some remains and debris might have gone into the lake already, and it worries her that the remains of all 52 men won't be found.

If her grandfather's remains are never identified, she does have some solace, thanks to Keese, the helicopter pilot.

He and others collected wreckage shortly after the discovery. Anderson-Dell and other family members traveled to Alaska to view the materials, including a mail box that still had a lock attached. They were also allowed to take metal pieces home; she says hers still smells like diesel fuel.

"For the families that means a lot because some of us many never bring our guy home but we still have a pace of that plane that they died in," said.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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Pakistan heatwave: Death toll crosses 700 people in Sindh

The death toll from an ongoing heatwave in Pakistan's southern Sindh province has passed 700, local media said, as mortuaries reached capacity.

Dawn newspaper said at least 744 people had died in Karachi and 38 in other areas, citing a government official.

The Edhi Welfare Organisation told the AFP news agency that their morgues had received hundreds of corpses and were now full.

Officials have been criticised for not doing enough to tackle the crisis.

"More than 400 dead bodies have so far been received in our two mortuaries in past three days," Edhi spokesperson Anwar Kazmi told AFP. "The mortuaries have reached capacity."

On Tuesday as temperatures reached 45C (113F), Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif called for emergency measures and the army was deploying to help set up heat stroke centres.

There is anger among local residents at the authorities because power cuts have restricted the use of air-conditioning units and fans, correspondents say.

Matters have been made worse by the widespread abstention from water during daylight hours during the fasting month of Ramadan.

On Tuesday, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said it had received orders from Mr Sharif to take immediate action to tackle the crisis.

This came as Sindh province Health Secretary Saeed Mangnejo said 612 people had died in the main government-run hospitals in the city of Karachi during the past four days. Another 80 are reported to have died in private hospitals.

Many of the victims are elderly people from low-income families.

Thousands more people are being treated, and some of them are in serious condition.

Hot weather is not unusual during summer months in Pakistan, but prolonged power cuts seem to have made matters worse, the BBC's Shahzeb Jillani reports.

Sporadic angry protests have taken place in parts of Karachi, with some people blaming the government and Karachi's main power utility, K-Electric, for failing to avoid deaths, our correspondent adds.

The prime minister had announced that there would be no electricity cuts but outages have increased since the start of Ramadan, he reports.

here's anger on the street about the government's slow response to the crisis. The provincial PPP government appeared aloof and unresponsive. The federal government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif woke up to the tragic deaths on the third day.

While politicians blamed each other for not doing enough, the army - always keen to seize opportunities to demonstrate its soft power - sprang into action to set up "heat stroke relief camps".

By the fourth day, a campaign was launched to reiterate steps people should take in sizzling temperatures.

Many in Karachi feel that had the authorities moved proactively many lives could have been saved.

The hope now is that with the expected pre-monsoon rains later in the week the weather will improve. That will certainly provide much-needed respite to millions affected by the heatwave, but it won't change the chronic underlying problems this ever-growing city of 20 million faces - a dysfunctional infrastructure and poor governance.

According to Pakistan's metrological office cooler weather is forecast from Tuesday.

The all-time highest temperature reached in Karachi is 47C, recorded in 1979.

Last month, nearly 1,700 people died in a heatwave in neighbouring India.

How the body copes with extreme heat

The body's normal core temperature is 37-38C.

If it heats up to 39-40C, the brain tells the muscles to slow down and fatigue sets in. At 40-41C heat exhaustion is likely - and above 41C the body starts to shut down.

Chemical processes start to be affected, the cells inside the body deteriorate and there is a risk of multiple organ failure.

The body cannot even sweat at this point because blood flow to the skin stops, making it feel cold and clammy.

Heatstroke - which can occur at any temperature over 40C - requires professional medical help and if not treated immediately, chances of survival can be slim. There are a number of things people can do to help themselves. These include:

wearing damp clothes which will help lower the body's temperature

sticking one's hands in cold water

placing fans next to windows as this will draw air from outside, which should be cooler

having a lukewarm shower rather than a cold one

fanning the face rather than other parts of the body

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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9 drown on Lake Mweru

Nine people have drowned while four others have survived after an overloaded boat they were travelling in capsized on Lake Mweru in Nchelenge.

Luapula Province police commissioner Hudson Namachila said in an interview yesterday that among the nine deceased persons are Zambians and those from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“Three people survived by clinging to water plants and were rescued and taken to dry land,” he said.

The boat, which capsized at Kasase between Monday around 20:00 hours and Tuesday 06:00 hours, was laden with cassava and the victims were travelling to Nkole Island in the DRC.

None of the victims have been identified and only two bodies had been retrieved by press time by the police working with military personnel and members of the community.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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Projects in South Korea to recover Sewol ferry

Some twenty companies presented projects to recover the Sewol ferry, sunken at sea in April 2014 with a total of 304 fatalities and missing people, said governmental sources today.

According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, amid the projects presented from last May 23 are the ones suggested by companies from South Korea and also from China, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The projects will be reviewed in early July and the name of the company chosen to recover the ferryboat will be released later that same month, said the source.

The decision to recover the ferry was taken meeting the claims of the victims' relatives, who want to identify the exact cause of the accident and find the bodies of the missing people, said recently the news agency Yonhap.

Following the tragedy, the management of President Park Geun-hye was subjected to strong social criticism due to the irregularities that led to the sinking of the ferryboat.

The Sewol ferry, weighing more than 6,800 tons, sank offshore the Jindo Island (southwest) while traveling from Incheon to the Jeju Island.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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99 percent of missing persons in Mexico stay missing

Over the last two years, Mexican law enforcement has managed to locate less than 1 percent of all disappeared people in the country, according to a recent report by El Daily Post. The Mexican daily came to the conclusion by comparing data from two different federal government bodies.

According to figures from the Special Unit for the Search for Disappeared Persons, which was created by the office of the attorney general, Mexican law enforcement managed to locate 112 disappeared people over the last two years.

Only 77 of them were found alive. In the same time period, however, the National Register of Missing and Disappeared Persons documented 26,928 missing people (this number does not include the found 112 people).

The numbers unfortunately suggest if people go missing in Mexico, they are more than likely to stay missing. While the 112 people were found predominantly within the country — in 19 different states of Mexico’s 31 plus the Federal District of Mexico City — three cases were found abroad, in Guatemala, Turkey and the United States, according to national attorney general data.

The missing persons register showed that Mexico's eastern border state of Tamaulipas had the highest number of disappeared people in the last two years, with 5,379 reported cases. Mexico has long been criticized for its high level of violence, disappearances, police corruption and impunity.

This has been compounded since the forced disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state last September, which has caused massive uproar across the country and international condemnation. Of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training school, just one was found, dead; the rest remain missing.

Earlier this year, Mexico's National Public Security System reported equally startling figures: 1,360 people were reported disappeared in the country in the first four months of 2014 alone – an average of 11 new disappearances a day.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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70-year-old victim's identity established in 'missing melawa'

The innovative 'missing melawa' at Umred police station on June 17 or display camp for seeking information on untraceable people especially children, unidentified bodies and cases of unknown murders turned out to be a success of sort for rural police.

Vithal Choudhary, 70, had left from his residence at Jogithana village in Umrer on April 23 this year. A missing complaint was lodged at Umrer police station. In the meantime, Choudhary died in Saoner. A case of accidental death was registered at Saoner police station on May 1 this year.

Choudhary had remained an unidentified body for Saoner police till the 'Missing Melawa' was organized at Umrer police station this month leading to the identification of the septuagenarian.

Rural police have also claimed that vital clues in many missing cases and other incidents of unexplained deaths too have come to fore during the 'melawa' at Umrer police station which was attended by many locals.

Following the success of the Umrer police station, 'Missing Melawa' is set to be organized at Saoner police station on June 26.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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Service to honor 1950 plane crash victims to be held in South Haven

A memorial service for the victims of a 1950 plane crash in Lake Michigan will be held in South Haven on Wednesday. On June 23rd, 1950, Northwest Airlines Flight 2501 was lost over the lake after having left New York on its way to Washington state.

Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501 was a DC-4 propliner operating its daily transcontinental service between New York City and Seattle when it disappeared on the night of June 23, 1950. The flight was carrying 55 passengers and three crew members; the loss of all 58 on board made it the deadliest commercial airliner accident in American history at the time.

There was stormy weather at the time, and vanHeest says that the search originally started off Milwaukee. However, when a boater off South Haven found some debris, the effort turned to southwest Michigan.

The aircraft was at approximately 3,500 feet (1,100 m) over Lake Michigan, 18 miles (29 km) NNW of Benton Harbor, Michigan when it vanished from radar screens after requesting a descent to 2,500 feet (760 m). A widespread search was commenced including using sonar and dragging the bottom of Lake Michigan with trawlers, but to no avail. Considerable light debris, upholstery, and human body fragments were found floating on the surface, but divers were unable to locate the plane's wreckage.

Although the plane has never been found, although there are still yearly searches for it.

In September 2008, a researcher investigating the crash of Flight 2501 found an unmarked grave that she believes contains the remains of some of the 58 victims. Valerie van Heest says human remains from the June 1950 crash into Lake Michigan washed ashore and were buried in a mass grave. She claims they were buried in a St. Joseph-area cemetery without the knowledge of the victims' families, and the grave was never marked. In a 2008 ceremony at the cemetery with 58 family members of Flight 2501, a large black granite marker was placed that now lists the names of the 58 and the words.

Wednesday’s memorial will be at their South Haven grave site, at Lakeview Cemetery at noon. VanHeest will also give a two PM presentation on the disaster at the Michigan Maritime Museum.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

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