Saturday, 27 June 2015

200 heatwave victims still unidentified, unclaimed; burial to complete today

Nearly 200 bodies remained unidentified and unclaimed at the Edhi morgue for days before over half of them were finally buried by the charity to make space for the bodies of other heatwave victims, said a representative of the country’s largest charity on Friday.

Among the dead included the old, the poor and those fasting, said Faisal Edhi, the representative of Edhi Foundation, while addressing a press conference along with Karachi chapter general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association Dr Qazi Wasiq at Karachi Press Club. They suspected that most of the unclaimed bodies belonged to the people from other districts of Sindh and parts of Punjab province. Many of them could be beggars and drug addicts, Mr Edhi said.

Dr Wasiq said the deaths were unfortunate but everyone knew that it could happen not only because of the heatwave but due to multiple factors caused by negligence on the part of relevant authorities, local government, civil society and community.

He said the bodies which had not yet been claimed were being buried in the Edhi graveyard. Around 140 bodies had been buried so far, while all the remaining would be buried by Saturday, he added.

Saturday 27 June 2015

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The Disappeared: work to identify remains begins

Investigators who have uncovered remains in a search for one of the Disappeared say two bodies have been found in a single grave.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) initially thought the remains found at a bog in the Republic of Ireland on Thursday were those of Joe Lynskey.

He was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in 1972.

There was "surprise", an investigator said, when another body was found.

Two more of the Disappeared, Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, were believed to have been buried close to the site that was being searched in Coghalstown, County Meath. The term the Disappeared refers to victims who were murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Northern Ireland conflict.

Geoff Knupfer, the head of the ICLVR investigation team, said the "assumption" was that the first body discovered was that of Mr Lynskey.

"But as our archaeologists continued to excavate they found further remains in the grave," Mr Knupfer said.

"Because there are two people in the same grave, clearly there's a distinct possibility that what we have here are the remains of Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee. "But that remains to be seen.

"So, we're just saying that we have two victims in the same grave, which fits the profile of the Wright and McKee abduction and murder," he added.

Mr Knupfer also said that an adjoining plot of land had been searched "some years ago" for the bodies of the two men.

While the remains have not yet been identified, Mr McKee's sister Maria said she was feeling a mixture of emotions after being informed that one of the bodies could that of be her brother.

"It's a happy time, but it's also going to be a sad time," Ms McKee said.

"The sad thing about it is my mummy only missed it by three years. On her deathbed she did ask for Kevin.

"It's unreal, it's surreal to us."

Jon Hill, a senior investigator, said that due to the passage of time there could have been confusion among those who had provided information to the ICLVR on the where bodies of the Disappeared had been buried.

"It's so long ago that this happened and this ground where we're searching has changed dramatically from when these events occurred," he said.

Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright were both IRA members who were abducted and murdered by the organisation in 1972.

Mr Lynskey had been a former Cistercian monk from the Beechmount area of west Belfast, and later joined the IRA.

Once the remains have been recovered, they will be taken to Dublin for examination by the state pathologist.

Mr Hill said it would be "some weeks before the DNA can give some more clarity" as to whose bodies had been uncovered.

Maria Lynskey, a niece of Mr Lynskey, had travelled to the site after the initial discovery. null

Joe Lynskey was a former Cistercian monk from west Belfast.

Anne Morgan, the sister of another of the Disappeared, Seamus Ruddy, has been supporting the Lynskey family.

She said Ms Lynskey had "thought the whole day that it was her uncle" who had been found, but has "come to terms" with indications that now may not be the case.

Excavations had started at the bog in March in a search for Mr Lynskey.

Mr Knupford said that if it transpired that his body was not among those that had been found a search of the site would continue.

The ICLVR was set up by the British and Irish governments in 1999 to liaise with former paramilitaries to find the Disappeared.

Any information provided to the commission cannot be used in criminal proceedings.

Over the past 16 years, the ICLVR has searched for 16 people who were officially listed as the Disappeared.

The remains of 10 of the victims have been recovered and formally identified to date.

The most recent confirmed discovery was that of Brendan Megraw, whose remains were found in Oristown bog, also in County Meath, last October.

Saturday 27 June 2015

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Bus overturns, hit by truck on highway in China, killing 12

A bus overturned on a highway and was hit by an oncoming truck in eastern China, killing at least 12 people, officials said.

Another 24 people were injured Friday, including three in serious condition, the government of Wuhu city in Anhui province said. The crash was under investigation.

State broadcaster China Central Television said the bus overturned into the opposite lane and was hit by the cargo truck.

It wasn't clear how many people were aboard the two vehicles.

Photos circulating in the social media showed rescuers in a rain on a wet road with the bus resting on its side.

Road accidents in China are often caused by poor driving, inadequate maintenance, overloading, and dangerous mountain roads. The number of motorists also has been rapidly increasing, with the rise of the country's middle class.

Saturday 27 June 2015

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Authorities identify 9 people killed in Alaska plane crash

The remains of nine people killed Thursday in a plane crash in Southeast Alaska during a flightseeing tour were recovered Friday as federal officials continued their investigation into the cause of the wreck.

Alaska State Troopers late Friday released the names of the victims.

Troopers said the identifications were tentative pending positive ID by the State Medical Examiner’s Office. The victims' relatives were notified, troopers said.

Eight cruise ship passengers on a shore excursion were in the float-equipped de Havilland DHC-3 Otter when it crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan, against a rock face above remote Ella Lake in Misty Fjords National Monument.

The passengers had been aboard the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam, which docked Thursday in Ketchikan at the height of the city’s tourist season.

Promech Air, a Ketchikan-based charter and sightseeing service, operated the single-engine, turbine-powered plane. Promech sold shore excursions through Holland America, according to a statement from the Seattle-based cruise line.

‘Treacherous’ terrain

Brice Banning, National Transportation Safety Board investigator, described the site of the crash as "very treacherous” terrain.

Chris John, with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, confirmed about 5 p.m. that a team had tied down the plane and moved all remains to a Coast Guard boat waiting in a nearby bay.

"We're beginning to break down now and get everyone home," John said. "We haven't heard of any glitches. It just went really well."

John had anticipated earlier Friday that the terrain would pose challenges for the recovery team.

He said the plane rested at a steep angle in a “precarious” position about 800 feet above Ella Lake on the lake's west side. If the plane slipped, he said, it could fall about 100 feet before coming to a rest again.

Jerry Kiffer, president of the rescue squad, said helicopters dropped a crew into the area around 11 a.m. The crew hiked several hundred yards through slides and steep terrain, crossing a creek, before reaching an area above the crash site.

The team rappelled down the cliff, ran a cable through the plane and anchored it to the top of the cliff so the plane would not slip as the team went inside and brought out remains, Kiffer said.

Weather conditions on Thursday thwarted initial recovery efforts but improved significantly Friday, John said

Report of an overdue plane

Banning with NTSB said the cause of the crash has not been determined. He said he planned to fly to the scene Saturday to begin an investigation that will likely last several days. Afterward, responders will take the wreckage to Ketchikan to continue the investigation, he said.

The path the plane took before it crashed Thursday afternoon also remained unclear Friday. Clint Johnson, NTSB Alaska chief, said the plane was on its way back to Ketchikan when it crashed.

The plane had taken off after a stop in Rudyerd Bay in Misty Fjords, said a Promech Air representative.

Promech said the passengers were on the “Misty Fjords Wilderness Cruise & Flight,” a three-hour tour from downtown Ketchikan into Misty Fjords priced at $339 per person. It included a 30-minute “floatplane flight in a bush plane,” according to Promech Air’s website.

At 2:06 p.m. Thursday, troopers got a report that the plane was overdue. An emergency locator transmitter had activated in the vicinity of Misty Fjords, a vast wilderness marked by lakes, waterfalls, fjords and steep-sided glacial valleys.

The National Weather Service had reported scattered rain showers from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at Ketchikan International Airport, with winds between 6 mph and 17 mph. Wind gusts hit 26 mph around noon.

Rob Murray, a pilot who flew with Promech Air between 2007 and 2013, called the flight loop into Misty Fjords “perfectly safe.” But he said gauging weather along the route could be difficult, unless there were cameras in the area or someone on the ground relaying information.

“You’ve got that big area in there where you’ve got to just fly it to see what the weather’s doing,” Murray said.

Friends and relatives phone in

On Friday, troopers said they “tentatively” identified the eight passengers and pilot killed in the crash using information from Promech Air, Holland America Line and photos provided to law enforcement.

Krill, the pilot, worked for Talkeetna Air Taxi last year, confirmed Paul Roderick, director of operations for the company.

As the crash gained national attention Thursday evening, Johnson said, friends and relatives of cruise ship passengers began phoning agencies involved in the response.

Callers grew concerned when they couldn’t reach the people they knew to be aboard the ship, but troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said part of that was likely due to the "lack of (cellular) connectivity in areas in Southeast Alaska.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Peters said. “We’re doing everything we can to take care of (next of kin) notifications. While getting those names out will be a relief to so many people, it is still going to be tragic to the family and friends of those who died.”

Troopers said the medical examiner will make the official positive identifications.

Jason Grenn, spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, said the remains of those killed in the crash will be sent to the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage.

The medical examiner will first work to identify them based on fingerprints and then work through dental records, he said.

“As Alaskans, it’s like, we’ve all been in float planes. We see them all the time; they’re just part of our lives,” Grenn said. “Then people are out enjoying our state and something horrible happens.”

About 9,600 cruise ship tourists daily

Patti Mackey, Ketchikan Visitors Bureau president and chief executive officer, described Promech Air as a “highly regarded company” and flightseeing as a “very popular” attraction with tourists. A majority of the flights go to Misty Fjords, she said.

Tourist season in Ketchikan typically spans from early May to late September, Mackey said. Cruise ships will dock in Ketchikan nearly 500 times this year and roughly three to five ships arrive each day, she said.

On Thursday, cruise ships brought about 9,600 passengers to Ketchikan, and many spent hours in town, she said.

About Thursday’s crash, Mackey said, “Our community is just heartbroken over the loss of lives and it affects everyone.”

The Westerdam left Ketchikan around 7 p.m. Thursday on its way back to Seattle, according to the cruise line. A representative said a team on the ship was offering counseling services.

The seven-day Inside Passage cruise left Seattle last Saturday, the cruise line said.

‘Float planes, they’re the lifeblood of the communities'

Aside from tourism, Mackey said float planes are important to many residents in Southeast Alaska, where communities are not connected to the state’s road system.

“Float planes, they're the lifeblood of the communities down here,” Mackey said. “We all live on islands and they're called air taxis because they just do so much.”

The aircraft involved in the crash, a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, is known as a workhorse in Alaska bush flying. Production of the plane ended in 1967, but in recent years, many Otters have undergone turbine engine conversions, increasing power and performance. They can carry up to 10 passengers.

“This airplane is perfectly suitable for tourist applications,” said Jane Dale, executive director of the Alaska Air Carriers Association. Many Otters, she said, were used in a military capacity and served in the Vietnam War.

In 2013, a de Havilland DHC-3 operated by Rediske Air Inc.crashed at the Soldotna airport, killing all 10 people onboard. An Anchorage Daily News report from that time called it the worst aviation accident in Alaska in at least 25 years. NTSB said the plane may have been overloaded and unbalanced.

Former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was killed in a de Havilland Otter in 2010.

Promech Air said it was not flying Friday but planned to operate limited charter flights starting Saturday.

“Promech Air continues to grieve those who were lost in yesterday’s accident,” the company said in a statement. “Despite this difficult time, our employees are working around the clock supporting and assisting the loved ones of those affected.”

Saturday 27 June 2015

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Death toll from landslides, flashfloods climbs to 15

The death toll from landslides and flashfloods in Cox's Bazar and Bandarban districts has risen to 15.

Five people went missing in Chakaria flashflood early Saturday, our Cox's Bazar correspondent reports.

Of them, four bodies were recovered in the morning.

Chakaria police station OC Subhash Chandra Roy said the two bodies were recovered on Saturday morning.

The bodies were recovered from Kiajor Beel under Gorjania union in Ramu upazila.

Ramu UNO Masud Hossain confirmed the Dhaka Tribune about the deaths.

Two people were killed in separate incidents of landslide at Ramu upazila of Cox’s Bazar on Friday.

Besides, three people drowned in floodwater in the upazila.

Meanwhile, two women drowned as a boat carrying them capsized in a canal due to strong current at Gojania.

In Teknaf upazila, a woman and her minor daughter were killed as a tree collapsed on them in Saint Martin’s Island around noon.

Jahangir Alam, district relief and rehabilitation officer of department of disaster management and relief of Cox’s Bazar, confirmed reporters about the deaths.

In Bandarban, two siblings were killed and their parents injured in a landslide at Banarupa Para in Bandarban municipality area early Friday.

OC of Bandarban Sadar police station Imtiaz Ahmed said the incident took place in the area when a portion of a hill fell and crushed their house at the foot of the hill around 3am.

Firefighters and local people recovered the bodies and rescued two others after frantic efforts. The injured were taken to Sadar Hospital.

Saturday 27 June 2015

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Indian monsoon rains kill 81 and leave over 9,000 stranded

Dozens of people have been killed as monsoon rains engulfed wide areas of Gujarat state in western India and thousands of others have been forced to leave their flooded homes.

Around 9,000 people were evacuated to higher ground in rural areas that have been worst hit by the rains. At least 81 people have been killed, many of them swept away by flood waters and mudslides, or buried in collapsed houses, according to Ridhi Butt, an official with the National Disaster Response Force.

More than 1,000 Hindu pilgrims were also stranded on the mountain paths leading to the Hindu shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath in northern Uttrakhand state, because of the rains. Workers are clearing roads to restore the pilgrimage route, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The monsoon has covered nearly the entire country, with the rains arriving days ahead of schedule. As well as Gujarat, parts of Assam state in the north-east were flooded and a swollen river breached its banks in the northern Jammu-Kashmir state.

India’s financial capital of Mumbai was also badly hit last week when torrential showers closed public transport and led to a breakdown in public services.

The rains follow a heatwave last month that killed more than 2,000 people across the country, with India’s Meteorological Department saying that it expected a drier July than average.

Neighbouring Pakistan has had a heatwave of its own to contend with in recent days, and Anwar Kazmi, of the Edhi Foundation, a private charity that runs a network of ambulances and mortuaries claimed that the death toll there had reached more than 1,150 around the around the port city of Karachi.

Saturday 27 June 2015

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