Thursday, 23 July 2015

Migrant crisis: Desperate relatives search for Syrian housewife who disappeared after Greece shipwreck

Syrian Roeda Amir was on a smuggler's boat carrying up to 35 people when it capsized between the small Greek islands of Agathonisi and Farmakonisi just 10 miles from Turkey.

A housewife in war-torn Syria, the 39-year-old ethnic Kurd planned to seek asylum in Europe after reaching Greece by boat with her brother, Rodin.

But those dreams were shattered in the Aegean Sea on 7 July during the deadliest Mediterranean shipwreck since May.

Roeda is one of 16 people declared missing or feared drowned in the incident. Her brother was rescued by the Greek coastguard and is at a hospital on the island of Samos.

And while Greek and Turkish coastguards have rescued respectively eight and 11 people each, only five bodies have been retrieved.

Roeda's cousin, Khaled Ameer, contacted in a desperate plea to find her after IBTimes UK published a report on the shipwreck.

"We haven't had any news about her, we are depressed. Please can you help me?" he said via Facebook.

"My uncle is worried and he's always crying. Same thing for his wife. I always check the news on the web but there is no news, unfortunately."

The family is from Afrin, a town in northern Syria in the Aleppo Governorate that became part of the autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava. In the past few days, Roeda's father has left Rojava to go and search for his daughter in Turkey.

"I can't explain in words the state he's in," said Ameer, who arrived in the UK two years ago and now lives in Nottingham.

"If she's dead, we need to know to hold a funeral for her. But we don't know anything yet."

He agreed to share a photograph which shows Roeda spreading her arms and smiling on the beach on a sunny evening.

IBTimes UK contacted the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Greece which said it was looking into Roeda's case. The Greek coastguard has yet to reply to a request for a list of missing persons during the shipwreck.

Survivors allegedly said that the 15 people that were missing were locked in a room inside the boat and could not open the door. "The coastguard needs a diving expedition to recover the bodies," Ameer said.

More than 68,000 migrants, mainly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees, have attempted to cross the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands, which is double the total figure of arrivals in 2014.

In islands such as Lesbos, which has a population of about 90,000, the arrivals may cause a humanitarian crisis with debt-ridden authorities unable to cope with the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers.

It has been calculated that about 1,000 refugees arrive on the shores of Lesbos daily and more migrants arrived on the island in June than in the whole of the previous year, according to the United Nations. There were about 15,000 arrivals in June as opposed to the 12,187 in 2014.

Thursday 23 July 2015

continue reading

Nile 'party boat' crash kills at least 18 in Egypt

At least 18 people have been killed in a crash between a cargo vessel and a passenger boat on Egypt's River Nile.

Family and friends of a young couple had hired the boat for an engagement party and were sailing north of Cairo when it was hit, eyewitnesses said.

The interior ministry said the bodies of four babies had been recovered. Several passengers are still missing.

Five people were rescued from the crash scene and the captain of the cargo boat has been arrested.

It is not clear if the couple thought to be celebrating their engagement were among the casualties.

Relatives of the dead and missing gathered on the banks of the river to await news of their loved ones.

Witnesses said fishermen had been first on the scene at night to pull out the corpses and survivors.

The search was initially hampered by darkness but resumed after daybreak, with police and emergency vessels trawling the river looking for survivors.

A rescue diver emerged from the water empty handed as a crowd of onlookers and relatives of the passengers gathered on the river bank, an AFP reporter said.

Rescue workers used a mechanical digger to raise the wreckage of the party boat from the water.

"At around 8, 8:30 pm, a big cargo ship collided with the boat," said Mostafa al-Soweissi, whose brother had captained the chartered vessel.

"After the collision we took fisherman boats and from 8:30 until now we took out around 19 bodies," he said, reflecting confusion over the exact toll.

Children missing

Ahmed Helmy, another relative of passengers, said at least five of his family members were killed in the accident.

"Two children are missing," he said.

Helmy accused emergency services of arriving late, but a health ministry official told an Egyptian newspaper that rescue efforts had initially been hampered by the crowd.

Family and friends of a young couple had hired the boat to celebrate their engagement. It was not clear whether the couple were among the dead.

The captain has been detained for four days along with three of his assistants on suspicion of manslaughter, the official MENA news agency reported.

They are also suspected of having operated the ship without following safety regulations, the agency reported.

The Nile, which runs along the length of Egypt, is dotted with cargo ships, party boats and fishing vessels.

In 2011, at least 22 people drowned in southern Egypt when a bus they were in slipped into the Nile from a ferry which crashed into the river bank.

A year before, five people drowned north of Cairo when their boat capsized.

In the deadliest accident involving a ferry, an Egyptian vessel sank in the Red Sea in 2006 killing more than 1,000 people.

The accident fuelled resentment against the veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 popular uprising.

Traffic had been heavy along the Nile, where many Egyptians had been celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Thursday 23 July 2015

continue reading

Flood destroys hundreds of villages; 13 more killed

At least 13 more people have died as heavy floods swept away hundreds of villages in parts of the country, destroying almost everything in their path.

According to reports, as many as six bodies were recovered while six others went missing after a flash flood stream swept away two vehicles and an auto rickshaw in Lasbella, Hub, the industrial town of Balochistan.

The flash floods swept away two vehicles of pilgrims going to the tomb of Shah Noorani. The rescue teams reached the site soon after being informed and recovered six bodies.

It may be mentioned here that the recent torrential rains have caused havoc in Zhob district of Balochistan, inflicting huge losses on livestock and disrupting the communication system.

Standing crops and around 370 livestock have been washed away since the torrential rains began. The townships affected by rains and subsequent streams of rainwater include Taki, Wela, Bring, Omza, Naerazai, Mir Alikhel, Khowsti, Marghazai, Maloor, Torkhala, Deragara Babar, Datozai, Bobai and Irabzai.

Zhob District Chairman Qazi Ahmed Khosti told reporters said the current torrential streams have caused losses worth millions of rupees, and appealed to prime minister, chief minister and the provincial disaster management authority to respond to the disaster quickly so that further losses can be averted.

At least 170 more villages of Kot Adu, Ali Pur and Kandhkot areas have been washed away in floods, while victims continue to shift to safer places. Moreover, moderate level flood in Ravi River has been reported. Separately, Mozah Ahmed Bhagyala in Harappa has completely been inundated.

Flood in Sindh River has resulted in inundation of hundreds of adjoining villages.

According to details, dozens of villages in Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Kahror Laal Hussain and Kot Mithan have been inundated. As many as 70 villages of Ghotki have lost land connections to other parts.

Levees have collapsed in Dera Ghazi Khan, while the authorities have opened spillways of Tarbela Dam.

At least 450,000 cusecs of water is passing through Sindh River at Muzaffargarh point.

The authorities have shut down more than 200 canals due to flood in Head Taunsa. These canals include Muzaffargarh Canal, Dera Ghazi Khan Canal and TP Link.

To add to the tragedy, boats owners are charging at least Rs 1,000 per person to shift families to safer places.

According to a report by the National Disaster Management Authority, this season’s floods have so far caused three deaths in Chitral, while three people have lost their lives in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district. A further three were killed in the Balochistan district of Zhob, the report added.

The flood has also washed away as many as 180 buildings including houses, shops and hotels in Chitral while damaging another 15 bridges and 12 roads, the agency said.

Over in Gilgit-Baltistan, rescue and relief operations continued on Wednesday in Skardu and Ghanche after heavy rain and land sliding.

District Ghanche was the most affected area where about 11 villages were damaged.

Provincial Minister for Education Haji Muhammad Ibrahim is supervising the relief work besides monitoring the rehabilitation work in the affected areas. He said that effective measurers were being taken to restore bridges, power, irrigation channels in all part of the district.

Also, the Rajanpur district administration has set up 32 relief camps while Rescue 1122 shifted 1,300 people to safer places as medium-level flood situation persisted in the mighty Indus River.

Rajanpur DCO Zahoor Hussain visited the flood-affected areas and ordered the rescue teams to continue relief and rescue operations in the district.

The DCO said that the army had not been called in so far to assist the administration, as the Indus River was still experiencing medium-level flood.

He, however, added that help from Pakistan Army would be sought in case the flood level rises above 500,000 cusecs.

Dozens of teams of rescuers were busy in rescuing people from low-lying areas in Rajanpur district at six different points. Water flow from hill torrents was decreasing gradually. No casualty has so far been reported in the wake of the ongoing flood situation and land links among different areas in Rajanpur district were intact.

Thursday 23 July 2015

continue reading