Friday, 3 July 2015

IOM hails efforts to raise migrant death ship off Libya's coast

Migrant arrivals in Italy have topped 20,000 for each of the last two months, reports IOM as 2015 reaches its midpoint.

Approximately 2,900 migrants were rescued at sea in the channel of Sicily in the last 48 hours. The operations have been carried out by the Italian maritime forces and by other EU ships patrolling the Mediterranean: two ships of the Irish and of the British Navy and the MOAS/MSF ship Phoenix.

These new arrivals, according to IOM estimates, brings to about 66,500 the total number of migrants that arrived in Italy in the first six months of the year – a slight increase from 63,884 rescued at this time last year. The rescue operations are ongoing.

Among the rescued migrants, brought to the ports of Lampedusa, Catania, Pozzallo (Sicily), and Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland, most numerous were Eritreans, Nigerians, Gambians, Malians, Senegalese and other sub-Saharan nationals.

Separately, the Italian Navy announced yesterday it had begun efforts to recover the bodies of an estimated 750 or more migrants lost in the channel of Sicily this past April, considered the worst tragedy occurring in the Mediterranean since 2000. The sunken vessel was found in early May by Italian authorities. So far, those bodies recovered, 24 in total, were brought to Malta soon after the tragedy. The sinking resulted in 28 survivors, many of whom confirmed to IOM staffers that their vessel carried around 800 passengers.

The prosecutor’s office of Catania is still conducting its investigation.

“IOM is grateful to the Italian government for having decided to recover the bodies of the migrants who died at sea last 19 April. Thanks to this operation, and to the work of the Italian Navy, families will have the opportunity to identify the bodies of their loved ones and to grieve for them,” said Director of the IOM Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean, Federico Soda.

Meeting Monday (29 June) in London at the Headquarters of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with IMO Secretary General Koji Sekimizu, IOM Director General William Lacy Swing addressed the ongoing situation of perilous migration by sea. Ambassador Swing recalled the agreement of cooperation the two organizations – IOM and IMO – concluded in 1974 and noted with satisfaction their close engagement over many years.

“We recognized that unsafe mixed migration across the oceans and seas has been a serious concern for decades and that it has increased dramatically in recent years posing a major challenge to the international community,” Ambassador Swing said.

The two organizations Monday also announced a seven-point programme to confront the humanitarian crisis. IOM and IMO pledged to:

1. Establish an inter-agency platform for information sharing on unsafe mixed migration by sea, in collaboration with other interested agencies, as soon as possible;

2. Disseminate information material on the dangers of unsafe and irregular migration by sea, in collaboration with other interested agencies;

3. Promote the relevant provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), and international migration law;

4. Support the relevant technical cooperation programmes of each organization;

5. Remain engaged by setting up technical or advisory bodies, as appropriate, on terms and conditions to be mutually agreed upon in each case;

6. Facilitate discussions to find solutions to unsafe migration by sea;

7. Urge the international community to take robust measures against people smugglers who operate without fear or remorse and who deliberately and knowingly endanger the lives of thousands of migrants at sea.

Friday 3 July 2015

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GOIL fire: 58 bodies identified through DNA at Police hospital, 13 remain unidentified.

The Police Hospital has identified 58 victims of the June 3 fire disaster through Deoxiribonucleic Acid (DNA) tests so far. 71 bodies were deposited at the hospitals morgue after the disaster.

President John Mahama directed hospitals to use DNA tests to identify the bodies that were burnt beypmd recognition.

In an interview with Citi News, Director General of the Police Public Affairs Department, DCOP David Ampah Benin told Citi News that the identified bodies would be handed over to their families.

He also revealed that 13 of the bodies are yet to be identified.

“13 bodies are still being kept for identification, so through DNA, we will identify all,” he said, “Others (bodies) were taken into the 37 Military Hospital, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and the Ridge Hospital.”

The Police Hospital also discharged 11 of the 12 injured victims brought to the hospital a month ago.

“DNA is a very complex thing so let’s just wait patiently for the scientists to do their work so that the wrong bodies aren’t given to the wrong person,” he said.

At the 37 Military Hospital 50 bodies have been identified through DNA tests.

According to the acting Public Relations Officer of the 37 Military Hospital, Captain Alfred Marteye, 15 bodies were yet to be identified by relatives.

The hospital had been working together with the Police Homicide Unit and the National Security to conduct DNA tests on the bodies. “This is to ensure that the right body is given to the rightful owner, without any default,” he had said.

He had said that even though some of the victims had been identified, they could not be handed over to their relatives because, “running a DNA test is not a daily affair as one will have to do a thorough check to come out with the right findings, so that we don’t mislead relatives of these victims.”

Friday 3 July 2015

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Forgotten Taplejung, 16 still missing after landslide

Of the 39 people killed in the landslide in Taplejung two weeks ago, the bodies of 16 have still not been found. The bodies that were retrieved were buried nearby since villagers couldn’t take them down to the river for cremation because of the landslide. The air is still putrid with the smell of rotting bodies. Hundreds of cattle were also buried by the landslide. The whole village is silent, there are no sounds of children playing or families getting ready to plant fields. There is only the sound of hungry livestock, left unattended. Even where houses are intact, people are not taking chances.

The terrace farms that were being readied for paddy plantation have turned into grey slopes of mud. The villagers of Liwang were self-sufficient and content, overnight they became destitute and have nothing to eat. Buddhiman Limbu of Liwang lost his son and daughter-in-law and their bodies have not been found. His house and fields are gone. He has two other sons, two daughters and a wife, but they are all homeless and are camping out in a neighbour’s land.

Bhadra Lal Giri lost his wife and son in the landslide. Their bodies have also not been found. A total of 376 houses were destroyed or damaged in the massive landslide triggered by a cloudburst on the night of 10 June. Some 200 houses are at high risk. More than 700 people have been displaced.

Friday 3 July 2015,2381

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Darjeeling landslide: Death toll rises to 40; 16 persons still missing

With the recovery of two more bodies, the toll in landslide-battered Darjeeling district has risen to 40 even as 16 people still missing.

The two bodies were pulled out from the debris at Mirik and Kalimpong and 16 people are missing from Kalimpong Block 1 and 2, an official of West Bengal's Disaster Management Department said.

Rescue operations were underway in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong sub divisions, where multiple landslides had also washed away highways and damaged homes.

Darjeeling District Magistrate Anurag Srivastava said the landslide-affected people were put up in camps and three such camps were set up in Mirik where 200-250 families have been sheltered.

National Disaster Response Team, Civil Defence personnel and local volunteers were engaged in the rescue work.

Rescue teams from the Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Disaster Management Authority have also been pressed into service.

Though it was not raining today, the sky was overcast. Rescue was hampered at Mirik evening yesterday due to a downpour.

The DM said the roads where minor landslips occurred have been cleared while the ones with major landslides, like Siliguri-Kalimpong route, will take some time.

The landslides had caused extensive damage to NH-10 and NH-55, cutting off vital road links to the region.

Toy train services between Darjeeling and New Jalpaiguri also remained suspended following damage to the tracks.

Boulders had rolled down on the tracks at Nimkidara, 2 km from Darjeeling, Darjeeling Station Manager Suman Pradhan said.

Even after the boulders could be removed, tracks were found to be damaged leading to the suspension of the toy train service, he said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each to the families of the deceased in landslides.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the deceased and deputed Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju to rush to the area.

Gorkha Territorial Administration (GTA) chief Bimal Grung had announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.

The chief minister yesterday visited areas in Mirik which were worst affected by landslides, met families of the victims and distributed relief and cheques.

Banerjee reached the affected area taking a detour as the road was damaged by landslides.

Rijiju visited relief camps in Tingling area besides meeting the injured in hospitals.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Death toll from China bus crash rises to 11

The death toll from a bus accident in China rose to 11 as the driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead Thursday. He had been in a coma since the bus carrying 26 Korean government workers on a training program veered off a bridge in northeastern China earlier this week.

An official at the Korean Consulate in Shenyang said 10 out of 16 injured passengers were moved to a bigger hospital in Changchun this morning. The six others, who suffered relatively minor injuries, will be moved to Changchun shortly.

The injured had been treated in a hospital in Jian.

Chung Jae-geun, vice minister of government administration and home affairs whose ministry organized the trip, was dispatched to the scene of the accident and visited the injured in hospital.

The bodies of the 10 dead Korean passengers have been taken to a local mortuary, and 37 family members of the victims traveled to China.

Chinese media reported that authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident. CCTV footage shows the bus speeding before it veered off the bridge.

An official at the Korean Embassy in Beijing said, "We can't make a rash determination of the the cause of the crash due to compensation issues." The official added that it will take some time to get to the bottom of things since the driver is dead.

Some have pointed to safety issues with the bridge, which was built 30 years ago. One resident in the area said no maintenance work has ever been carried out.

Another cause of the many fatalities appears to have been a failure to fasten seat belts. Some passengers aboard other buses said the seat belts did not work.

The South Korean government sent an emergency team to China on Thursday to assist coping with the aftermath of a deadly bus accident in China's northeastern Jilin province, which killed 10 South Korean tourists and a Chinese driver. Four forensic experts from Korea also traveled to the scene of the accident to investigate.

The team of 11 officials will offer convenience to the families of the victims and help them return to South Korea. It will also discuss about the funeral and compensation issues with them, according to officials of South Korea's Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs.

A bus, carrying 28 passengers including 26 South Koreans, fell off a bridge into the river in Ji'an city on Wednesday when it was traveling to the border city of Dandong.

The victims were among 143 local government workers and five training staff who were touring remnants of the Koryo Kingdom in Jian aboard six buses and heading toward the town of Dandong on the border with North Korea.

The Chinese embassy in South Korea told Xinhua that it has assisted some family members of local South Korean government employees involved in the accident to get the emergency visa to China. Most of them will directly receive visa-on-arrival when landing China.

Some family members began arriving at a funeral hall in Ji'an, according to South Korea's Yohap news agency.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Srebrenica survivor brings solace in quest for human bones

Day after day, Ramiz Nukic goes into the woods around Srebrenica in search of a tragic quarry: human bones.

There's rarely a day in which he does not find the remains of at least one murdered boy or man, even 20 years after Europe's worst massacre since World War II. Srebrenica's killing fields swallowed up 8,000 bodies, and the murderers took pains to hide evidence of the genocide.

Nukic's quest started in 1999 after he returned to his empty hometown of Kamenice and began looking for the remains of his murdered father and younger brother. As the family's only male massacre survivor, he became obsessed with bringing closure to their loss. Every day he discovered bones that gave other families the gift of mourning, but not his own. Every day he kept trying, and quietly he built up an astonishing record: Nukic's discoveries have allowed Bosnia's Institute for Missing Persons to identify nearly 300 Srebrenica victims.

But his father and brother eluded him.

Srebrenica was a Muslim town besieged by Serb forces in Bosnia's 1992-95 ethnic war, in which Serbs tried to wrest away territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state. Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic — on trial in The Hague on genocide charges — overran the enclave in July 1995 and some 15,000 Srebrenica men fled into the mountains.

The rest of the population, some 25,000 people, sought protection from Dutch U.N. peacekeepers stationed at the suburb of Potocari. But the outnumbered Blue Helmets could only watch as Serb troops occupied their base and separated men and boys from women, and loaded the males on buses and trucks. They slaughtered some 2,000 men and boys straightaway on July 11, 1995. Then they hunted down and killed 6,000 more who fled into the forests.

Over 7,000 bodies of victims have been found in 93 mass graves and 314 surface sites throughout northeastern Bosnia. Another 1,000 people are still missing.

As the massacre unfolded, Nukic said goodbye to his wife and children in front of the U.N. base, and disappeared into the woods with his father and brother, joining other fleeing Srebrenica men.

But the Serbs set ambushes along their path. As the Bosnian Muslim men sat down to rest on a hill just above Nukic's village, Serb guns and tanks suddenly fired on the group. About a thousand were killed on the spot — including Nukic's father and brother. Nukic survived because he hid in the fern until the shooting was over. Knowing the terrain, he managed to sneak away and eventually find his wife and children in a refugee camp.

Nukic returned to his empty village of Kamenice in 1999 and gathered courage to climb up the hill where his loved ones died. The sight that greeted him froze his blood.

"When I saw those clothes and shoes scattered around the site," he said, "I went numb."

Right at his feet, he found three complete skeletons.

From then on, Nukic searched the woods every day, overturning branches and leaves, hoping to find his father and brother. But there was no way to tell who he found.

"A bone is a bone," he said. "You do not know who it belongs to."

Each time he discovered bones he contacted the Institute for Missing Persons, which took away the remains to identify through DNA analysis.

"I rarely return home empty-handed," he said as he sat on a tree stump next to his latest finding. He is not allowed to touch the bones. It's a crime scene.

"I feel bad when I don't find a bone," said Nukic, a farmer. "I'm happy when I do. Because one family will find closure."

Calmly lighting a cigarette, he pulled out his mobile phone and called his contact at the institute.

After extensive descriptions of his location, institute representative Sadik Selimovic turned up to make the collection.

"Ramiz Nukic's help has no price," Selimovic said. "Thanks to him many bones got their names. I do not know how the institute could repay him. We have run out of words of gratitude for him."

This year, Nukic's dream of finding his father and brother came true, but he wasn't the one who made the discovery: The incomplete remains were found in a mass grave.

He will bury his father on July 11. "It feels good, although he is not complete. I will bury him, and I will know where his grave is," Nukic said.

But his mission is not over. Nukic intends to keep hunting for bones to the end of his life.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Medan plane crash: Families urge release of bodies

Families of the victims of Tuesday’s plane crash in Medan, North Sumatra, have expressed disappointment over the slow release of the bodies of their loved ones, even after physical identification.

One relative, Yenti Arizona, 35, of Pekanbaru, said that she had been in Medan for two days to recover the bodies of her two nephews killed in the crash. However, as of Thursday, the bodies had yet to be released from the morgue.

“I saw for myself their bodies on Wednesday. I was able to recognize them because they were still intact. They could be easily identified because their student cards and ID cards were still in their wallets,” Yenti told The Jakarta Post at Adam Malik General Hospital on Thursday.

Yenti said that her nephews, Rizki Budi Prakarsa, 20, and Rinaldi Widyanto Putra, 15, had left Pekanbaru on board the Hercules aircraft on Tuesday at 9:05 a.m. local time.

The plane stopped in Medan for a transit, crashing three minutes after taking off from Soewondo Airport on its way to Tanjung Pinang with 110 passengers and 12 crew members on board.

Yenti said she was disappointed that the processing of civilian victims had been slow, while the bodies of soldiers had been quickly identified and sent to their hometowns.

Mikhael Asak Sirait, 46, of Medan told the same story, saying that the bodies of his two nieces, Ester Yosephin, 17, and Rita Yunita, 14, had been identified on Wednesday, but on Thursday had still not been released.

The head of the National Police’s Health and Medicine Center (Pusdokkes), Arthur Tampi, denied accusations that the police’s disaster victim identification (DVI) team had delayed sending home the bodies of civilian crash victims.

“Don’t misinterpret the identification process. We have no intention of slowing down the process of sending bodies home,” Arthur told the press at the hospital on Thursday.

He also denied rumors that the DVI team had given priority to military victims. He did confirm, however, that the bodies of all military personnel killed in the crash had been identified and sent to families for burial.

As of midday on Thursday, Arthur said, 63 of the bodies had been identified and sent home to their respective families. He also said that by Friday, identification would be more difficult, as the decaying bodies became less easy to recognize.

Meanwhile on Thursday in Semarang, Central Java, the body of Capt. Sandy Permana, the plane’s pilot, was buried at the Giri Tunggal heroes’ cemetery in a military ceremony led by Adi Soemarmo Air Base commander Col. Haris Haryanto.

“Indonesia has lost one of its best sons. He died in the line of duty,” Haris said in his eulogy.

Sandy is survived by his wife Fitriana Hapsari and two daughters, 3-year-old Putri and 2-year-old Zahira. In Sragen, Central Java, a military funeral ceremony was also held at a public cemetery in Nglorog subdistrict, Ngrampal district, for Second Sgt. Joko Purwanto, who was killed in the crash.

The deputy commander of the Army’s Semarang Ahmad Yani International Airport, Lt. Col. Wahyu Jatmiko, led the ceremony, which was also attended by personnel from the Military District Command 725 Sragen.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Death toll from Ormoc ferry sinking rises to 45 as search resumes

The death toll from a passenger ferry that sank soon after leaving the port of Ormoc City, Leyte Thursday has risen to 45 as five bodies were retrieved from the capsized vessel on Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard said.

Authorities said all passengers and crew were now all accounted for, but moved to slowly lift up the ill-fated boat to check for more bodies after relatives insistedthey were still looking for people who were neither in the hospitals or morgues.

Search and retrieval operations resumed Friday morning to look for the missing, but by afternoon, after retrieving the last five bodies, divers stopped work; and are expected to continue retrieval operations Saturday.

Divers from the Philippine Navy and Air Force earlier joined rescuers of the Coast Guard in searching for at least 10 more missing passengers.

Ormoc City DRRM officer Ciriaco Tolibao said there was a total of 191 people on-board the MV Nirvana-B, as compared to 173 passengers earlier reported, plus 18 crew members.

As of noon Friday, Tolibao said, there were 141 passengers rescued, including the 71 people hospitalized in various hospitals in Ormoc, Leyte.

Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the PCG to conduct a speedy investigation into the cause of the sinking.

The ferry sank around 12:10 p.m. Thursday after capsizing just 200 meters from shore around 30 minutes after leaving port for Camotes island.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the sinking and the Coast Guard has turned over the captain, identified as Warren Oliverio, and other crewmembers to Ormoc police for questioning. Reports said the vessel's owner, Joge Zarco, has also been taken into custody.

Among the angles the Coast Guard is looking into are human error, bad weather and possible overloading.

PCG spokesman Armand Balilo told reporters that the investigation will commence on Friday with the boat captain Warren Oliverio and his crews already in (PCG) custody for their statements.

Initial investigation, however, points to human navigational error as the boat reportedly made a sharp right turn, after it was hit by strong waves, causing the passengers to panic and rush to the right side of the boat, causing it to tilt slowly before capsizing.

Initial angles being followed by the probers are human error, bad weather and possible over loading.

"The ferry was found to be carrying sacks of rice and construction materials, but it doesn't look like overloaded,” Balilo said.

The PCG is checking if the vessel’s structural design had been modified because of extra-seats uncovered in the boat, and if it was approved by the Maritime Industry Authority.

Meanwhile, Cesar Retor, a survivor, said the motorboat was equipped with life jackets but none of them (passengers) wore it. “Probably because they were surprised by the incident,” Retor said.

Some of the survivors, however, said, “We were not given life vests.”

Retor said there were at least 150 sacks of cement on board but it was stockpiled in good condition.

“Ayos naman pagka-pile ng mga semento. Kaya lang nung tumagilid na ang boat namin, nalaglag na mga semento sa gilid, at tumagilid na rin ang sinasakyan namin,” Retor said.

Initial list of survivors

The Philippine Red Cross posted in its website Thursday afternoon the report of its Ormoc-based PRC on the list of victims admitted to various hospitals in Ormoc City.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Gujranwala train accident: Another four bodies recovered, death toll reaches 18

Death toll in Gujranwala train accident has reached 18 after another four bodies were recovered from the canal, Dunya News reported.

Three bodies have been identified while identity of the fourth victim could not be confirmed yet.

On Thursday afternoon, about four bogies of a special train bound for Kharian carrying military troops derailed over Chanawan Bridge near Jamke Chattha and fell down in the canal.

Rescue efforts including army aviation helicopters and SSG divers underway whereas more than eighty persons have been rescued.

Railway sources said the train had 21 cargo wagons and six passenger coaches, of which four fell into the canal. The train was shifting cargo of the Pak Army from Pano Aqil to Kharian.

The pre-partition bridge that collapsed as the train was passing over it was reportedly in a dilapidated condition, however, Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said that possibility of ‘sabotage’ cannot be ruled out in this incident.

Rafique said apparently some other hand seems to be at play in the incident.

On the directives of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a four-member investigation team was formed to probe the incident. The team comprises army’s engineering corps general, a brigadier and railways’s federal government inspector Mian Arshad and AGM Humayyun Rasheed.

The joint investigation team will present its report within 72 hours.

According to authorities, restoration of railway track will take more than two weeks.

Friday 3 July 2015

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Medan plane crash: Search ends as focus turns to identification of bodies

Indonesia has called off a search for victims of Tuesday's military transport plane crash in Medan, North Sumatra, shifting the focus to identifying bodies that were badly burned in the fire that followed.

"We are done with the crash site. Our work now is on the victim identification process. We will soon do the DNA tests," Air Force spokesman Dwi Badarmanto said.

Sixty-three bodies have been identified and sent to their families as of yesterday, while most of the remaining bodies and body parts - from the 122 people thought to have been on board the plane and those on the ground who were killed in the crash - will have to undergo DNA tests in Jakarta before being handed to their families, he added.

Police Brigadier-General Arthur Tampi, who is leading the identification process in Medan, said the 63 bodies were identified using fingerprints, birth marks, clothes, shoes or other property on the bodies. The rest were too burnt for these methods. "From today onwards, the identification process will slow as DNA testing will take time. Samples from the victims' bodies must be compared with the collected samples of the victims' relatives, and the process can be done only in Jakarta," he said.

There were 122 people on the flight, most of them servicemen and their families, said Brig-Gen Arthur. Officials have yet to determine the final death toll, or the number of soldiers and civilians killed, including those on the ground, he said.

Yesterday, rubble from the crash was loaded onto trucks and taken to the air force base in Medan to be sifted through for the more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition, two pistols and other materials missing. The recovery teams had retrieved 10 out of 12 military weapons, including assault rifles.

Locals near the crash site at the time it happened reported hearing loud wind-like noises before what sounded like firecrackers going off and then two loud bangs.

"Then we saw huge fire going up high through our window. We didn't have any idea what it was until a relative called me and said, "Get out of there! A Hercules plane crashed there!' " recounted Ms Lenny Boru Simamora, 38, who works in the nearby Beraspati Hotel. "It felt like an earthquake. We were only tens of metres from where the plane crashed. I was cleaning a room when it happened."

Friday 3 July 2015

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