Thursday, 13 August 2015

DNA of Kullu bus accident victims to be preserved

With the bodies of the July 23 Kullu bus accident victims now being retrieved from the Parvati river too decayed to be recognised, the Kullu district administration in Himachal Pradesh will preserve the DNA from these to avoid identification issues later.

The DNA samples from three bodies fished on Tuesday have been collected. The bodies of a woman and two men extracted on Wednesday could not be identified. “Knowing what would be the condition of the bodies that have remained under water for so long, we decided three-four days ago to preserve the DNA from the bodies to be retrieved from now,” said Kullu subdivisional magistrate (SDM) Rohit Rathore.

“The families that claimed the bodies retrieved on Tuesday had identified the victims from their clothes and other belongings; but we have kept the DNA samples as well to avoid controversy later as we find more victims. The DNA samples will be sent to the forensic laboratory at Junga in Shimla district,” said the SDM.

Identification issues had cropped up in June last year when 24 students from Hyderabad were swept away in the Beas river near Thalot in Mandi district. On July 23, a private bus carrying pilgrims from Bathinda, Barnala and Mansa districts of Punjab had fallen into a swollen Parvati river on the Bhuntar-Manikaran road. So far, 20 bodies have been retrieved, while 26 victims are still missing. In the accident, 23 passengers were injured.

Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said still search is going on to recover bodies from river. A anonymous body recovered from river which is not in passengers list.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), and Himachal Pradesh Police continue to search for bodies and possible survivors.

Thursday 13 August 2015

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Japan: Ashes of thousands of wartime dead still unclaimed

The remains of thousands of civilians killed during World War II still remain unclaimed by relatives and languish in storage at temples and other sites across the country, an Asahi Shimbun survey shows.

The families of more than 7,400 people have yet to claim ashes stored in eight cities across Japan, even though the deceased have been identified based on name tags and other items attached to their clothing.

Many of the victims were killed in U.S. air raids. But in Okinawa, the victims were caught up in shelling and fighting.

In an effort to tally the unclaimed remains, The Asahi Shimbun contacted local governments, private-sector organizations, temples and other parties. The study covered Okinawa and 71 cities where 100 or more people are said to have died in connection with the war.

Although the central government has been diligently working to return the remains of Japanese soldiers killed in the war to their families, there had been no detailed research on the uncollected remains of civilians killed in U.S. air raids and other means.

According to the survey results, the ashes of 3,701 people stored in Tokyo have been identified but remain unclaimed by relatives. The figures for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were both leveled by atomic bombing in 1945, are 815 and 122, respectively.

Each of the three cities annually receives several inquiries and ashes have been returned in some cases. But in many instances, ashes that have been identified cannot be claimed because all family members perished in the war, according to the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

The ashes of more than 2,700 identified civilians remain unclaimed in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, Yokohama, Hamamatsu, Osaka and Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. Because the bodies of victims were cremated and buried together in those five cities, relatives are now unable to collect the remains.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki city governments publicly disclose names of the identified victims. In the case of Hamamatsu and Sakai, bereaved families can view lists of remains that have been identified by contacting the temples and private groups storing them. Tokyo and Osaka do not publicly disclose the identities of remains.

The Asahi Shimbun also learned that unidentified remains of more than 300,000 people were buried together at temples and other facilities in Okinawa, Tokyo and 11 other cities.

More than 500,000 civilians are thought to have perished in Japan in World War II, mainly as a result of U.S. air raids.

One reason behind the large number of unclaimed remains is that it was difficult for Japanese officials during the war to identify victims and locate their families in the face of intensified aerial attacks by the United States.

According to records on damage to Tokyo during the war and other source material, the police were responsible for examining and identifying those killed in airstrikes.

But police were overwhelmed by the number of victims in the Great Tokyo Air Raid of March 10, 1945. Corpses were laid out on city streets for several days so people could find their families. The bodies were later transferred to nearby parks and elsewhere for tentative burial because it was thought that leaving them laid out on the ground for a prolonged period could undermine the people's fighting spirit.

Victims of the Great Tokyo Air Raid were exhumed and cremated after the end of the war so they could be enshrined at a Tokyo government-run memorial facility.

Although some of the victims of the air raid were identified, those remains could not be returned to relatives because the bereaved families did not know where or even if the ashes were being stored.

Interviews with bereaved families showed they could not afford to claim their relatives’ ashes as they were caught up on the task of rebuilding their own lives. In some cases, ashes were not returned because authorities mixed up names.

“The wartime authorities prioritized hiding corpses rather than identifying them so as not to lower citizens’ morale,” said Katsumoto Saotome, director of the Center of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage. “If the authorities had actively sought bereaved families of the remains immediately following the war, more ashes may have been returned to their relatives by now.”

Thursday 13 August 2015

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At least 44 dead, hundreds injured as blasts from hazardous materials warehouse rock Chinese city of Tianjin

Huge explosions at a warehouse for dangerous materials in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin killed at least 44 people, including 12 firefighters, and injured hundreds of others.

The massive blasts late on Wednesday night sent fireballs into the air forming a mushroom cloud in the sky.

About 520 people are receiving treatment in hospital, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Sixty-six of them are said to be in a critical condition.

The explosions late on Wednesday blew doors off buildings in the area and shattered windows up to several kilometers away.

Twelve firefighters were killed tackling the blaze, Xinhua said. Thirty-six are missing, according to an earlier report from The Beijing News.

The authorities suspended firefighting efforts at the warehouse on Thursday morning due to a lack of clarity about what dangerous goods are inside and how much is stored, according to a local government statement issued on Thursday.

Fire staff will survey the scene and efforts made to find out what is inside the complex before firefighters return, state television reported.

It said the risk of hazardous chemicals remaining on the site was high.

The city’s fire brigade said its personnel were sent to the warehouse at about 10.50pm on Wednesday night, 40 minutes before the first large explosion occurred.

About 1,000 firefighters were deployed before teams were pulled out on Thursday morning.

About 400 members of China's paramilitary forces are helping with the relief and rescue efforts, the PLA Daily reported.

Roads around the complex have been sealed off and a rail link to the affected area has been suspended.

Tianjin resident Zhang Siyu, whose home is several kilometers from the blast site, said she thought the explosions last night were an earthquake.

“Only once I was outside did I realise it was an explosion. There was the huge fireball in the sky with thick clouds. Everybody could see it.”

Zhang said she could see wounded people weeping. She said she did not see anyone who had been killed, but “I could feel death".

A 28-year-old man told the South China Morning Post that he was driving on a bridge about 1km from the warehouse when the first explosion occurred.

"The first blast was like setting off fire crackers and we were watching it from the car, but when the second one happened the shock wave was much stronger.

"It was like shooting stars. There were also balls of metal falling from from the sky. We had to leave our car and escape at once leaving all of our personal belongs behind," the driver said.

The force of the blast was so strong it buckled metalwork on the car and blew out all of its windows, he added..

Police in Tianjin said an initial blast took place at shipping containers in a warehouse for hazardous materials owned by Ruihai Logistics, a company that says it’s properly approved to handle hazardous materials. State media said senior management of the company had been detained by authorities.

It is part of an industrial park, with some apartment buildings nearby.

Among the chemicals the company handles are sodium cyanide, often used in the mining industry to help extract gold; plus toluene diisocyanate, a toxic organic compound, the China Youth Daily reported, citing the firm's website.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said an initial explosion triggered other blasts at nearby businesses. The National Earthquake Bureau reported two major blasts before midnight, the first with an equivalent of 3 tonnes of TNT and the second with the equivalent of 21 tonnes.

China’s President Xi Jinping has told the city authorities to contain the fire and rescue the injured, the China News Service reported. He also ordered them to fully investigate the cause of the explosions and hold people accountable if they were found to be responsible for the disaster, the report said.

Photos taken by bystanders and circulating on microblogs show a gigantic fireball high in the sky, with a mushroom-cloud. Other photos on state media outlets showed a sea of fire that painted the night sky bright orange, with tall plumes of smoke.

About 2 km from the explosion site is the luxury Fifth Avenue apartment complex on a road strewn with broken glass and pieces of charred metal thrown from explosion. Like surrounding buildings, the Mediterranean style complex had all its windows blown out and some its surfaces were scorched.

“It’s lucky no one had moved in,” said a worker on the site, Liu Junwei, 29. “But for us it’s a total loss. Two years hard work down the drain.”

“It had been all quiet, then the sky just lit up brighter than day and it looked like a fireworks show,” said another worker on the site who gave just his surname, Li.

In one neighborhood about 10 to 20 km from the blast site, some residents were sleeping on the street wearing gas masks, although there was no perceptible problem with the air apart from massive clouds of smoke seen in the distance.

“It was like what we were told a nuclear bomb would be like,” said truck driver Zhao Zhencheng, who spent the night in the cab of his truck. “I’ve never even thought I’d see such a thing. It was terrifying but also beautiful.”

At the nearby Taida Hospital as dawn broke, military medical tents were set up. Photos circulating online showed patients in bandages and with cuts.

One woman spent the night on the street after she was blown from her bed by shock waves from the explosions.

"Even the elevator doors in our block were buckled," she said.

Ruihai Logistics says on its website that it was established in 2011 and is an approved company for handling hazardous materials. It says it handles 1 million tonnes of cargo annually.

Tianjin, with a population of about 15 million, is about 120 km east of Beijing on the Bohai Sea and is one of the country’s major ports. It is also one of China’s more modern cities and is connected to the capital by a high-speed rail line.

Thursday 13 August 2015

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Nepal: Kin of quake missing want relief, compensation

Sange Sherpa of Khijiphalate-5 in Okhaldhunga district had gone missing in a landslide triggered by the April 25 earthquake in Langtang, Rasuwa. His body has yet to be recovered four months after the disaster.

Three months into his disappearance, Sange’s family gave up hope of finding him alive and performed his final rituals. Now his wife Kami and two children are struggling with their lives. “Our house was destroyed in the quake and we are staying under tarpaulins now,” said Kami, adding that they hardly have enough to eat. Some social organisations did provide them some food stuffs but they were insufficient.

“We are in pitiful condition and don’t know how to lead our lives,” she said. The kin of Lucky Sherpa of Khijiphalate-6 too have similar story to tell. Lucky, who went to work in a Langtang hotel, has been missing since the day of the devastating quake. As Lucky was the sole bread winner in her house, the family has found itself in lurch. Lucky’s father, Pasang, said they have not received government relief till date.

Seventeen people from Okhaldhunga had gone missing in the avalanche on that fateful day in Langtang. Of them, nine were from Patle, three from Khijiphalate, four from Khijikatika and one from Bhusinga in Okhaldhunga district. But victims’ families are unable to retrieve the bodies of those missing. The victims’ families demanded that the government declare them as deceased persons and provide relief and compensation amount. Rinji Sherpa, a relative of one of the missing persons, said the government should provide facilities as their family members are no more alive. “The authorities are dilly-dallying in providing compensation,” he said.

When asked to clarify the situation, Assistant Chief District Officer of Okhaldhunga Nagendra Poudel said the Home Ministry had not sent a letter of missing persons in the district. “We have not received the list of missing persons even from Rasuwa,” he said, adding that eight of the missing persons had been identified in the district.

Thursday 13 August 2015

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Days after missing Pawan Hans chopper was located, three bodies found in Arunachal Pradesh

Search and rescue teams looking for a helicopter that went missing in Arunachal Pradesh with three people on board have spotted bodies and wreckage, an official said on Wednesday.

The bodies were spotted along with the wreckage of the Pawan Hans chopper that went missing on August 4 in a deep gorge in a remote forested area in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Ramesh Negi confirmed this on Wednesday but said it will take time to recover the bodies due to the hilly terrain.

"The search team had spotted the bodies amid the wreckage today. The operation is on to recover the bodies now. We are trying to bring it to Khonsa first. However, it is likely to take some time due to the difficult mountainous terrain," he said.

Paratroopers of the Indian Army and some mountaineers will be pressed into service on Thursday to find out the Pawan Hans chopper and its passengers that went missing in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh last week.

Director General of Police S Nitithyanandam told PTI that highly-trained commandos of the HAWS in Jammu and Kashmir, who were airdropped in the tough hilly region, reached the spot where the debris of the chopper had been spotted on Monday last.

It may be mentioned here that the aerial search operations have located the main portion of the wreckage of the Pawan Hans chopper lying in a gorge between two hills on Tuesday but the steep downward climb has made it difficult for the rescue teams to reach to it.

The massive search operations involved Tirap and Changlang district administrations, the army, Assam Rifles and police personnel, as also IAF’s Ml-17, Cheetah helicopters, Sukhoi MKI30 and EW Boeing aircrafts. Joshi's wife Neha and brother Maj Rajesh Joshi had been camping at Khonsa since August 6. Often hindered by inclement weather, the search operation had succeeded in locating the tail portion of the chopper from a place, about 4-5 km away from Sangliam village on a hill covered with dense forest on Monday last, civil aviation secretary B M Mishra had said.

The Dauphin twin-engine helicopter went missing with the Tirap DC and the two pilots after taking off from Khonsa in Tirap district on August 4 last. The chopper was on way to Longding to pick up its Deputy Commissioner and that of Changlang and proceed to New Delhi to attend an important meeting on August 6.

The wreckage has been located between Pongkong and Longliang villages in Tirap district. The bodies were burnt badly as the chopper seems to have exploded following the crash.

After spotting the main portion of the wreckage of the chopper, the government had used the services of army`s paratroopers and mountaineers to reach to the wreckage on Wednesday.

The chopper went missing it took off from Khonsa in Tirap district on August 4.

Tirap Deputy Commissioner Kamlesh Kumar Joshi and two pilots of the chopper were on its way to Longding on a routine sortie and it was supposed to return to Mohanbari airport in Dibrugarh.

Hectic search operations have been on to locate the missing helicopter and its three boarders by the IAF choppers, Army, the Assam Rifles, Arunachal Pradesh police personnel and local villagers since the last eight days.

Thursday 13 August 2015

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Over 60 Missing from NW China Landslide

More than 60 people were missing in China Wednesday after a landslide buried the living quarters of a mining company under one million cubic meters of earth, state media said.

The landslide covered 15 employee dormitories and three houses in Shanyang county in the northern province of Shaanxi shortly after midnight, an official at the county's propaganda office told AFP.

The state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting the provincial government, said late Wednesday that more than 60 people remain missing.

It said four people had been rescued and rushed to hospital. Another 10 at the site had avoided being trapped when the landslide struck, it added.

More than 1.3 million cubic meters of earth buried 15 dorms and three houses at around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Wuzhou Mining Co. in the mountainous county of Shanyang. Earlier reports put the number missing at 40.

Ten people managed to escape by themselves.

Zhou Kunlin, one of the 10, said:"I woken up by people shouting about the danger."

Zhou said he and several colleagues ran out of the dorm and up the mountain. They were lucky to escape with just minor injuries from the falling stones.

"Those who ran down the mountain were buried by the landslide," he said.

"Many just had no time, as the landslide buried the area in mere minutes," he added.

More than 700 police, firefighters, mining rescuers and paramedics are at the scene. Residents living nearby have been evacuated.

Photos posted on news websites showed rescue workers in orange jumpsuits standing next to a pile of earth and rocks at least four times their size. Mechanical backhoes were atop the mound.

President Xi Jinping said he was following the rescue efforts closely and every effort should be made to prevent casualties and further disasters, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Rescue efforts, however, have been hampered by the unstable environment on the surrounding mountain slopes.

A work team sent by the State Council, China's cabinet, is en route to the site to oversee the search and rescue efforts.

Villagers believe excessive mining may be to blame as the region received no rain on Sunday.

The mine's operator was identified by Xinhua as Wuzhou mining company, which according to its parent company is mainly a vanadium producer.

Shanyang is a vanadium-rich county and several mines are located in the township where the landslide occurred. Residents have often voiced concern about the impact of mining activities on the environment.

Separately, an accident at a coal and gas mine on Tuesday night in the southwestern province of Guizhou killed 10 people, provincial work safety authorities said in a statement.

Rescue efforts were under way, the statement said Wednesday.

Xinhua reported Wednesday that 56 miners left the shaft safely after the accident, with five injured and three more still missing.

China -- the world's largest producer of coal -- is grappling to improve standards in the sector, where regulations are often flouted and corruption enables bosses to pursue profits at the cost of worker safety.

Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people last year, a top work safety official said in March.

The official number of mining fatalities is declining but some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.

The country is also prone to landslides, often caused by floods but with lax management of industrial sites sometimes a factor.

In 2008, 277 people died in a mudslide in the northern province of Shanxi after an illegal mining waste reservoir burst its banks following heavy rain.

A total of 58 government and company officials were convicted over the disaster and sentenced to prison terms, some to life.

In 2013, a vast volume of rock crashed down a mountainside east of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, burying 83 people in a mineworkers' camp.

Thursday 13 August 2015

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