Saturday, 11 July 2015

Cyprus marks four years since Mari disaster

CYPRUS marks four years since the deadly explosion at Mari today.

The incident occurred on 11 July 2011, when 98 containers of explosives that had been stored for 2½ years in the sun on the base near Zygi self-detonated.

The resulting explosion killed 13 people, 12 of them immediately, including Captain Andreas Ioannides, the Commander of the Navy and the base commander, Lambros Lambrou.

Also killed were four navy personnel and six firefighters, while a further 62 people were injured.

The explosion severely damaged hundreds of nearby buildings including all of the buildings in Zygi the island's largest power station, responsible for supplying over half of Cyprus' electricity.

As a result, much of Cyprus was without power in the immediate aftermath of the incident and rolling blackouts were initiated in order to conserve supplies.

Saturday 11 July 2015

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Tunisia recovers 27 migrant bodies from Mediterranean Sea

The bodies of 27 migrants of sub-Saharan origin have been recovered off the coast of Tunisia in the past week, a spokesman for the country's civil protection agency told AFP on Friday.

"Since July 3, 27 bodies have been recovered, most of them off Ben Guerdane", a port in the south of the country, Mongi El Kadhi said.

Earlier, an official at Ben Guerdane port, Fathi Abab, had said 16 bodies that had washed ashore were thought to be of people who had drowned trying to reach Europe.

On June 10 off the same port, 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.

On Sunday, 17 Tunisian migrants were picked up from an inflatable boat off the northern town of El Haouria, the defence ministry said.

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.

According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees figures, of the more than 219,000 migrants who tried to cross the Mediterranean in 2014, at least 3,500 lives were lost.

Hundreds have also died this year attempting to make the perilous crossing to Europe, including some 750 people when a trawler sank in April.

Tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war and hunger in Africa and the Middle East have crossed the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece this year, with the vast majority departing from the coast of Libya.

The International Organisation for Migration said last night that thousands of migrants had been rescued in the last 24 hours in the channel of Sicily, despite strong winds.

Saturday 11 July 2015

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Pipeline blast in Nigeria kills 12 people at repair site

An explosion at an Eni pipeline in Nigeria killed at least 12 people and injured three others, the Italian oil major said in a statement on Friday.

The men were part of a maintenance crew, including security and environment officials, carrying out repairs on Thursday afternoon on the Tebidaba-Clough Creek line near the town of Azuzuama in the Niger delta's Bayelsa state.

On Friday morning, environmental activist Morris Alagoa, whose colleague had traveled to the scene, said that authorities were still combing the area for bodies.

"Four bodies were seen floating on the river today as the search continues," Alagoa said.

Iniro Wills, state commissioner for the ministry of the environment, said that the cause was still being investigated and one of his staff was still missing.

"Three victims rescued are now at the hospital. Two were severely burnt," Wills said.

Eni has a joint venture with Nigeria's state oil company.

Saturday 11 July 2015

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Italian rescue effort gives dignified burial to refugee shipwreck victims

Six victims of a shipwreck in which an estimated 800 fleeing people drowned in the Mediterranean were buried in Italy on Thursday (July 9), nearly three months after their deaths. The bodies were recovered by the Italian navy from the wreck around 380 metres below sea level.

The six wooden coffins were lowered into graves in the community cemetery on the outskirts of Catania, Sicily's second city. Each was marked with a number to identify those buried as victims of the shipwreck on 18 April, when a boat crammed with refugees and migrants sank in the Mediterranean.

A woman's body retrieved immediately after the disaster was buried alongside the remains of five people who were recovered from the sea between 29 June and 1 July by the Italian navy. As of July 10, the total number of bodies recovered from the seabed numbered 13.

The coffins were lowered into the ground by local authority workers, most dressed in sky blue shirts with gold crosses hanging around their necks. As they worked under the baking midday sun, a digger cleared ground for a further seven coffins due to arrive Friday.

A sprig of flowers was thrown onto each coffin as they were laid to rest. There was no formal funeral service.

Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, had previously expressed his wish to have the victims' bodies returned to their relatives, although the depth of the shipwreck and the difficulty in identifying remains makes this almost impossible.

Those who came to be buried in Catania were instead laid to rest between Sicilians' mausoleums and well-kept graves, close to those of a number of people who drowned in 2013. Nearly 600 people died in two separate incidents in October 2013, prompting shocked reactions from EU leaders.

It was however the capsizing in April 2015 -- the worst such incident in decades -- which led the EU to triple funding of its Frontex led Triton and Poseidon sea operations. The increase in search and rescue missions has led to a drastic reduction in the number of deaths. Between January and April 2015, almost 1,800 refugees and migrants drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean. Over May and June, the figure fell to 80.

The number of refugees and migrants taking the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe is however increasing, with 137,000 people arriving in the first six months of 2015 compared to 75,000 during the same period last year.

The majority of those taking the Mediterranean Sea route to reach Europe are people fleeing war, conflict and persecution. A third of people arriving by boat in Italy or Greece are Syrians, escaping an ongoing conflict which has prompted more than four million people to flee their home country. UNHCR data shows the second and third largest groups are from Afghanistan and Eritrea.

Saturday 11 July 2015

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