Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Search on for 28 missing in Kullu

Search operations continued on the sixth day on Tuesday for the 28 passengers from Punjab who got drowned when their bus fell into the swollen Parvati river in Himachal Pradesh.

Eleven bodies have been taken out and 23 people rescued, police said. The passengers were travelling to a Sikh shrine in Manikaran.

Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar told IANS over the telephone that search operations were on to locate the bodies.

Though one more body was recovered from the river, it was not that of the missing passengers, he said.

The official said the bus was still untraceable, and the divers could not successfully carry out the operation as the river was still in spate.

"The flow in the river today (Tuesday) came down marginally owing to less rain in the catchment area. We are hopeful that the water level will decrease in one or two days," he added.

Rescuers said there were chances that the remaining bodies, which were in the process of getting bloated, would start surfacing in the water.

In the first two days, nine bodies were recovered.

Over 150 rescue workers are involved in the search operation, focusing on the 44 km downstream stretch of the river from the accident spot to Pandoh dam.

Most bodies, officials said, were either trapped under the rocks or buried in the riverbed silt.

Meanwhile, parents and family members of many of the missing passengers met Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh here on Tuesday and sought cooperation from the government to locate the bodies.

The chief minister assured the families all possible help, including providing ex-gratia to the accident victims.

Tuesday 28 July 2015


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Fire at Egypt furniture factory kills 25

A fire at a furniture factory outside Cairo killed 25 people on Tuesday, the spokesman for Egypt's health ministry said.

Another 22 people were injured by the fire in El Obour, an industrial city about 35 kilometres (22 miles) northeast of Cairo, Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said.

The cause of the fire was not immediately clear, he said.

A separate fire at a food market in Egypt's second city of Alexandria left 11 people injured on Tuesday, a health ministry official in the city said.

At least 35 people died last week in a boat collision on the Nile that prompted criticism of Egypt's transportation and infrastructure safety standards.

Health Ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar said in a statement that the injured and dead were transported to local hospitals.

Video footage posted on social networks showed thick smoke billowing from the factory as rescuers crowded to help the victims.

Such accidents are relatively common in Egypt, given the dilapidated state of many buildings and failure to adhere to industrial safety norms.

In September 2014, six people died and 22 were injured when a textile dyeing factory collapsed in Cairo in an accident blamed on poor construction.

Tuesday 28 July 2015



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Colombia searches dozens of bodies at Medellin landfill site

Forensic experts in Colombia have begun a search for dozens of bodies at a landfill site believed to be one of the largest urban mass graves in the world.

Relatives of possible victims held a ceremony at the site on the outskirts of the city of Medellin before the excavation started.

The bodies of 90 to 300 people are thought to be buried there.

The disappearances date from 2002, when the army launched an operation against left-wing rebels in the area.

The operation was ordered by Colombia's president at the time, Alvaro Uribe.

Right-wing paramilitaries filled the void when the rebels left the Comuna 13 shantytown area and they are blamed by many for most of the killings.

Criminal gangs are also accused of involvement in some of the disappearances.

Medellin was once considered one of the world's most violent cities.

It was the home of the Medellin Cartel, the drug-trafficking organisation led by Pablo Escobar, who was killed in 1993.

Some 20,000 tonnes of earth will be removed over the next five months in the search for the bodies, reports the BBC's Natalio Cosoy in Bogota. 'Drop of hope'

A ceremony at the site, including a religious service, marked the beginning of the excavation.

"It took us 13 years to get here. This is a drop of hope," said Luz Elena Galeano, leader of an organisation of women fighting for justice for their missing relatives.

Relatives laid flowers and images of their loved ones on the site.

"The ceremony was moving and a commitment to peace and reconciliation," said Colombia's Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo.

More than 200,000 people have been killed since hostilities between the army and Colombia's main rebel group, the Farc, began in 1964.

Both sides have been engaged in nearly three years of peace negotiations, which are being held in Cuba.

Earlier this month, the Colombian government announced a de-escalation of attacks against the rebels, who had announced a unilateral ceasefire.

The talks are aimed at ending hostilities, which would lead to the Farc giving up its armed struggle to join the legal political process.

Tuesday 28 July 2015


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Search for missing Mexican students turns up 129 bodies unrelated to case

The search for 43 Mexican student teachers who disappeared after they were attacked by cartel gunmen and corrupt municipal police officers in September has unearthed the bodies of at least 129 other murder victims.

The corpses were found in 60 clandestine graves across Guerrero, the southern state where the youths vanished 10 months ago, the attorney general’s office said on Monday. None is thought to be linked to the case of the students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college.

The new figures, which were released following a freedom of information request by the Associated Press, have prompted fresh anger at the government’s failure to tackle Mexico’s epidemic of disappearances – and its refusal to investigate allegations that the army may have also played a role in the Ayotzinapa attack.

Only 16 of the 129 bodies have so far been identified; 20 were women, 92 were men, while the gender of the rest has yet to be determined.

Many of the bodies were discovered by grieving families who launched their own search parties after the attack on the Ayotzinapa students.

The attack, in the town of Iguala about 190km (120 miles) south-west of the capital, left six dead and 43 trainee teachers missing. The case has prompted mass protests across Mexico and widespread international condemnation.

So far 110 people have been charged in relation to the attack, but no one has yet been prosecuted.

Scepticism about the official version of events continues to grow, and some relatives of the missing students still cling to the hope that they may still be alive.

Last week, the National Commission for Human Rights said it had found at least 30 omissions in the official investigation.

The government has so far rejected calls by an independent team sent by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate the army’s possible involvement.

Omar García, who survived the attack, told the Guardian: “We’re living in a very serious situation where anyone can be disappeared and murdered, buried in a secret grave and be forgotten, unless their families look for them. The fact that only 16 people have been identified out of 129 shows the state’s lack of will to investigate. Mexico has forensic scientists and anthropologists capable of doing the work, but they’re not given access because there is no political will.”

In Guerrero, the actual number of bodies found since the students disappeared is likely to be higher as the new figures released by the attorney general includes graves discovered between October and May, and only those where specialists were involved in the exhumations.

Nonetheless, the staggering number of mass graves discovered in a single state has refocused attention on Mexico’s disappearance problem.

More than 23,000 people have been reported missing since 2006, and the whereabouts of most remain unknown. Meanwhile around 15,000 bodies have not been identified. Investigations are seriously hampered because there is still no reliable missing persons and DNA database.

Claudia Rangel Lozano, professor of sociology and history and expert in disappearances at Guerrero Autonomous University, said: “While the case of the 43 students has international attention, there are many more families in Guerrero, and all over Mexico, looking for disappeared relatives who the government has no interest in helping.

“It is outrageous and very sad that the state is more interested in issues like energy reform than helping families find their disappeared relatives. There are no trials, no one is punished, and no effort to understands the patterns of violence or the role played by the army, and so the terror continues.”

Meanwhile the relentless violence in Guerrero continues as warring drug cartels battle over opium growing territory and trafficking routes.

The latest murder figures released today revealed 943 murders in Guerrero in the first six months of the year – a 20% rise on the previous year.

Guerrero’s murder rate – 26 per 100,000 people – is four times higher than the national average.

“This latest macabre revelation confirms what we had already found: the sheer magnitude of the crisis of enforced disappearances in Guerrero and elsewhere in Mexico is truly shocking,” said Amnesty America’s Erika Guevara Rosas.

Tuesday 28 July 2015


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