Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Darjeeling: Landslide toll mounts upto 42; 16 persons missing

One more body was found on Monday night in the landslide-battered Darjeeling district, taking the toll to 42.

The search operation was on to recover more missing persons by Army, NDRF, SSB and other rescue teams.

Meanwhile, preliminary repair work was going on along those parts of the three national highways where damage by landslides was comparatively light, according to Public Works Department sources.

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 on Friday, the sky was overcast.

Rescue was hampered at Mirik on Thursday evening 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.

The chief minister on Thursday 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.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Cyprus: Working together for Missing Persons

The European Commission recently organised an event to mark the EU’s important contribution to the Committee on the Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus and to acknowledge the importance of the work carried out by the young Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot scientists working there.

Since 2006, the EU has supported the CMP efforts with a financial contribution of €14.7m.

According to an announcement on the happening, opening remarks at the event were made by Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General in the European Commission, Cihan Sultanoglu, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, and the three CMP members, Paul-Henri Arni, Nestoras Nestoros and Gülden Plümer Küçük.

During the event the video ‘The faces of the CMP’ was screened, in which the scientists reaffirmed their strong commitment to the project.

All the speakers highlighted the CMP’s very important work as one of the most successful confidence building measure helping to cope with a painful chapter of the history of Cyprus and fostering cooperation.

Since 2006, the work of CMP helped in the return of the remains of 595 missing persons to their families.

The CMP’s humanitarian mandate contributes to providing relief to the families of missing persons and to build trust and confidence amongst Cypriots, paving the way towards reconciliation in Cyprus. The European Commission stands ready to continue its support to this project.

The CMP was established in April 1981 by agreement between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities under the auspices of the UN. This bi-communal committee has the mandate to establish the fate of missing persons without attributing any responsibility for the cause of death.

In order to further improve the trust between the two communities, the project aims to increasingly involve the families of the missing persons in the implementation, adding events all over Cyprus and abroad to the information sessions already carried out in schools.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Hospital workers selling organs of dead bodies for high prices in Uttar Pradesh

In a shocking revelation, the employees of the post-mortem house at the medical college hospital in Uttar Pradesh's Meerut town, about 450 kilometres from here, were found to be "selling" organs of the dead bodies, which were sent there for conducting autopsies.

It was found that the organs were sold to the "tantriks" (exorcists) and practitioners of occultism for hefty prices. A sting operation, conducted by a resident of the town, unearthed the shameful and shocking trade.

Kapil Kumar, who conducted the sting operation, said that the employees at the post mortem house auctioned the organs of the dead bodies to the tantriks and occult practitioners. "The organs were sold to the highest bidders," Kumar said.

He said that the "hearts" of the dead bodies were in great demand and fetched the highest price.

Kumar also said that the employees told him that the "organ trade" was in the knowledge of the senior officials and the doctors. "The money goes to all," Kumar said quoting one of the employees, who, sold him an organ.

As the sting operation video went viral, the district authorities went into a tizzy. A magisterial inquiry was later ordered into the matter. "It is a very serious issue...a magisterial probe has been ordered...we will take stern action against any one found guilty," district magistrate Pankaj Yadav said.

Exorcism was quite common in parts of the state and could be witnessed at some of the ghats of the Ganges at Varanasi and at places Gorakhpur, Mirzapur and some other districts.

There have been reports of sacrifice of little children by the "tantriks" to attain "supernatural" power or trace some hidden treasure.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Tunisia recovers bodies of Italy-bound migrants

Tunisian coast guards recovered the decomposed bodies of five migrants who apparently drowned at sea as they sought to reach Italy from conflict-hit Libya, an official said on Monday.

The bodies of the African migrants were spotted Saturday afternoon off the coast of Ben Guerdane in southern Tunisia, said the civil defence official.

The report came after coast guards on Sunday rescued 17 Tunisians who had been trying to make their way to Europe on a rubber dinghy, according to the defence ministry.

The boat broke down off the northern coastal town of El Haouria, a spokesman said.

Tunisian and Italian authorities have been at the forefront of rescue efforts for a flood of mainly African migrants fleeing conflict in Libya and bound for Europe on unseaworthy boats that run into trouble.

In June, Tunisia's navy rescued 356 migrants, mainly Africans but also including Syrians and Pakistanis who had left Libya on a makeshift vessel on their way to Europe.

People smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi to step up their lucrative smuggling business.

But the Mediterranean crossing is perilous and hundreds of migrants have died trying to reach Europe this year alone, while more than 20,000 have reached Italy since the beginning of the year.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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First victims of deadliest migrant shipwreck given funeral in Italy

Italy held a funeral service on Tuesday for 13 migrants who died in the worst shipwreck in the Mediterranean in recent history, while the navy continued its search for other victims of the disaster.

More than 700 people, most of them locked below deck, were believed to have drowned in April. Their overloaded fishing boat capsized after colliding with a ship that had come to their aid some 70 nautical miles off the coast of Libya.

The Italian navy last week retrieved the first bodies from the wreck, which is lying at a depth of about 370 metres (1,200 feet), using remote-controlled vehicles and a submersible basket to haul up the remains.

With the recovery mission still in full swing, simple wooden coffins carrying the bodies of 13 unidentified migrants were carried into the Palazzo della Cultura in Catania, in eastern Sicily, for an inter-religious service.

"Today, we are gathering here to mark the loss of the lives of other human beings, taken away by the sea. Every time it happens we think it is the last time, but unfortunately that is not the case," said Ismail Bouchafa, the imam of Catania.

The bodies were later taken to Catania cemetery but were not immediately buried. The authorities are still deciding where all the victims should be interred.

Tens of thousands of migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year in the hope of reaching Italy or Greece. An estimated 2,000 have drowned.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Philippine National Police fails to identify one of 74 Kentex fatalities

One of the 74 victims who died in the Kentex fire last May 13 remained unidentified as the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory failed to gather DNA samples to identify the body tagged as victim No. 35 that was extracted from the gutted factory in Valenzuela City.

“We have exhausted all means of identification. This is conclusive. One of the 74 victims is unidentified and that’s our findings. We cannot extract DNA from victim No. 35 therefore, we cannot identify him,” Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Aranas, PNP Crime Laboratory acting director, said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

But last June, Kentex Disaster Victim Identification team composed of Crime Laboratory personnel went back to the scene for a final search for the remains of two more victims.

The reinspection yielded the remains of Jony Descallar and Marvi Marcelino. They were added to the previous count of 72 victims in the deadly fire that struck the rubber slippers factory owned by Kentex Manufacturing Corp.

Marcelino and Descallar were added to the 68 victims who were identified through DNA test while three others were physically identified. “Overall, there were 28 male and 45 female victims, with one unknown gender,” Aranas said.

During the final search conducted on June 11, 19, 20 and 22, the DIV team gathered small pieces of bone remnants from different sites of the second floor of the building.

“A fragmented tibia bone was also recovered from the second floor far opposite where most of the burnt bodies were recovered, a strong indication that this could belong to another individual,” Aranas said.

The bodies of Descallar and Marcelino were then identified when the remnants were matched with the DNA samples from the buccal swab samples of their relatives.

“We insisted na kahit dangerous ‘yung area ay nag-search ulit kami right after maalis yung mga nakaharang na debris para ma-identify lahat ng victim,” Aranas explained.

Aranas said that the crime laboratory has coordinated with the Valenzuela City government about the two recently identified fatalities so that death certificates may be issued to their relatives.

While there remains one unidentified victim, Aranas said the DVI team were also not able to identify the relative of one of the 74 claimants. He explained that they cannot simply assume that the unidentified remains would belong to the remaining claimant.

Asked if it would be possible that Victim No. 35 is the relative of the claimant, Aranas said: “Yes, it’s possible. But based on our international system policy, we have to positively identify the victim first through scientific means. We can’t just assume that the claimant is a relative of the unidentified victim.”

This also means the claimant will not be able to avail the benefits as he has no death certificate of a relative to present.

No other means

With the failure to identify his/her remains, Victim No. 3 will remain interred at the Arkong Bato public cemetery in Valenzuela City. “‘Yung skull niya ay masyado nang nasunog. Wala na kaming makuha in any part niya na viable for DNA extraction,” Aranas said.

Asked if there are no other means to identify Victim No. 35, Aranas said: “Yes, but we exerted all our efforts.” He said the DVI had attempted to recover “even the smallest property like a piece of jewelry if she’s a female” of the said victim.

“It was very unfortunate na wala na talaga kaming makuha na pwedeng i-connect sa Victim no. 35,” he said.

But Aranas explained there is an existing law that says that a person may be legally declared dead after five to seven years despite the absence of his remains proving his death.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Families urged to report relatives suspected killed in Hercules crash

The North Sumatra Police’s Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team has called on people to report to the authorities any relatives feared to have died in a military plane disaster last week.

The team asked families to report to the ante mortem post at Bhayangkara Hospital on Jl. Wahid Hasyim in Medan to help identify 10 remaining bodies and 22 body parts collected from the crash site.

The team chairman Sr. Comr. Setyo Purwanto said that the team had collected DNA from the 10 bodies and the 22 body parts to be matched with DNA collected from family members.

“If the families of the victims do not report to the ante mortem post, the 10 bodies and 22 body parts cannot be released,” Setyo said at the hospital on Monday.

In that case, he said, the bodies and body parts would be kept in cooling crates at the hospital.

Family members were also needed, Setyo said, so that their DNA could be matched with the DNA of the human remains.

Setyo also called on the families to bring documents, such as certificates or unwashed clothes, belonging to missing relatives.

Certificates belonging to the victims, he said, would be needed to be matched with the post mortem data taken from the bodies of the victims, while unwashed clothes were needed to check victims’ DNA.

Since the remaining bodies and body parts were moved from Adam Malik Hospital to Bhayangkara Hospital on Saturday, there have been no reports of missing people.

Setyo revealed that 119 people killed in the crash had been identified. Of them, 114 were the bodies of passengers on board the Hercules C-130 aircraft, while the remaining five identified victims had been on the ground.

Of the 114 bodies belonging to the passengers of the plane, 83 have been flown to different parts of Indonesia; the remaining 31 victims were residents of North Sumatra. All have now been buried by their families.

Flights carrying bodies from a hangar at Soewondo Air Base in Medan ceased on Saturday, but the Air Force said it would re-open the hangar if necessary.

“If more bodies are identified and have to be send to their respective families soon, then the Air Force is ready to fly them at any time,” said the commander of Air Force Operation Command I, Air Vice Marshal Agus Dwi Putranto.

The aircraft crashed into a residential area on Jl. Jamin Ginting, near Polonia Airport in North Sumatra’s capital of Medan, shortly after taking off from the Soewondo Air Base last Monday.

All crew and passengers perished in the crash, and the plane also crushed a number of buildings.

Compensation claims, meanwhile, have begun to be filed by the owners of properties damaged in the accident.

The owner of the Beraspati hotel, Suwondo, said he had suffered financial losses of some Rp 100 million from damage caused by the aircraft.

Earlier, Air Force Chief Marshal Agus Supriatna said that his office would compensate all damage to buildings and other property, including cars, caused by the Hercules crash.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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Darjeeling landslides: Rescue operations nearing end

Rescue operations in landslide-hit Darjeeling hills in West Bengal may be over in another two-three days, an official said here on Tuesday.

"We are apprehensive that more bodies can be recovered in the ongoing rescue operations and it may be over after two-three days," officer-in-charge of the district disaster management cell Anindya Sarkar said.

He said a favourable weather in the hills is aiding the rescue operations.

Thirty-five bodies have been recovered till Tuesday noon. Eight people are still missing.

However, several sections of NH-10 connecting Gangtok and Siliguri have been damaged and some time would be needed for repairing them.

The damage is critical especially in Sheti Jora, around 7.5 km away from Siliguri on NH10, where another landslide has been predicted in the ongoing monsoons.

"It will take time to restore the road (NH-10) and until the monsoons are over the situation may not improve," an official in the district cell had said earlier.

However, the official said that the vehicles are plying under risky conditions in some pockets of the highway.

The General Reserve Engineering Force is carrying out the highway restoration and repair works.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the state disaster management department and the Army are jointly carrying out the rescue works.

Tuesday 7 July 2015


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