Monday, 17 August 2015

Death toll in latest Mediterranean migrant tragedy put at 49

The number of migrants who died in the hold of an overcrowded fishing boat rescued on Saturday has risen to 49, the coast guard said on Sunday.

The bodies of the victims, along with the 312 survivors plucked from the boat off the coast of Libya, were due to arrive at the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday morning aboard the Norwegian ship Siem Pilot.

On Saturday the Italian navy said at least 40 migrants had died, probably from suffocation after inhaling fumes from fuel. . What is expected to the final tally was determined after all the survivors and victims were transferred to the Siem Pilot during the night.

Hundreds of other migrants were rescued from other boats on Saturday and were being taken to ports in Sicily, navy and coast guard officials said. More than 2,300 migrants and refugees have died so far this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 deaths during the whole of last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday. IOM spokesman Joel Millman said nearly a quarter of a million migrants and asylum seekers had arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, compared to 219,000 for all of 2014.

Monday 17 August 2015

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Indonesian plane crash: Debris spotted in mountains

Indonesian searchers believe they have located debris from an airliner that crashed in a mountainous area with 54 people on board.

A search plane spotted the wreckage Monday, but a ground team hasn't yet been able to reach it, said Raymond Konstantin, an official for Indonesia's search and rescue agency.

Authorities had said earlier that villagers in a remote area of Indonesia's eastern Papua province reported seeing the passenger plane crash into a mountain.

It's the Southeast Asian nation's third air disaster in less than eight months.

The ATR42-300 turboprop aircraft operated by Trigana Air Service was carrying 44 adult passengers, five children and five crew members when it went missing during a short domestic flight Sunday. All of those on board were Indonesian, authorities told CNN Indonesia.

Ground team heading to area

The search over rugged, densely forested terrain was halted overnight because poor weather and a lack of light made an already dangerous landscape even more challenging.

A second search plane has been dispatched to verify the debris spotted Monday, Col. I Made Susila Adyana, an Indonesian Air Force official in Papua, told the national news agency Antara.

He said a ground team is heading to the area from the town of Oksibil, the intended destination of the Trigana flight.

The flight lost contact with air traffic control in Papua on Sunday afternoon, the search and rescue agency said on Twitter. It had left Sentani Airport in Jayapura at 2:22 p.m. and was scheduled to land in Oksibil at about 3:16 p.m., officials said.

The plane lost contact at about 2:55 p.m., Transportation Ministry spokesman J.A. Barata told CNN Indonesia.

Barata said there was no indication that a distress call was made from the plane. He said he would be flying from Jakarta to Papua along with investigators and search and rescue officials.

Thunderstorms in the mountains

There are many possible reasons for the apparent lack of a distress call, CNN aviation analyst Mary Schiavo said. It could indicate that flight crew members were too busy dealing with whatever situation arose to have time to send one, or that they simply didn't realize they were in trouble.

Officials said the weather was clear when the plane took off in Jayapura, but CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said there were some thunderstorms over a mountainous area in the flight path.

The weather could get worse in the coming days, possibly impeding rescue efforts in an area with mountain peaks as high as 3 kilometers (10,000 feet).

"The terrain is going to be an issue as well, as we have some pretty steep slopes here," Cabrera said.

Trigana banned from flying in Europe

The Trigana Air Service plane is the third Indonesian aircraft to crash in the past eight months.

In December, AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went down in the Java Sea while headed from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. All 162 people on board were killed.

And in June, an Indonesian military transport plane crashed soon after taking off from the city of Medan, killing at least 135 people.

Trigana Air Service is one of a large number of airlines banned from operating in European airspace "because they are found to be unsafe and/or they are not sufficiently overseen by their authorities," according to the European Commission.

It has been on the list since 2007.

Monday 17 August 2015

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Rescuers find seven bodies after China landslide

At least seven people have died and 57 remain missing more than four days after a landslide hit a mining company in northwest China, the official Xinhua news agency said.

On Sunday (Aug 16) evening seven bodies were retrieved from debris covering employee dormitories in Shanyang county in the northern province of Shaanxi, the news service quoted local rescue officials as saying.

The rescue operation follows a landslide on Wednesday which buried the living quarters of the mining company under one million cubic metres of earth.

The mine's operator was identified by Xinhua as the Wuzhou mining company, which according to its parent company is mainly a vanadium producer. Search efforts had been hampered by a huge volume of mud and rubble, combined with the risk of a second landslide, rescuers told the news agency.

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.

Monday 17 August 2015

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Tianjin blasts death toll rises to 114, 70 missing

Death toll for the massive Tianjin blasts rose to 114 after rescuers found two more bodies in the debris, a municipal publicity official said on Monday.

Gong Jiansheng, deputy head of Tianjin's publicity department, told the press the identities of 54 bodies have been confirmed, adding another 70 people are still missing.

Among the bodies, 39 were firefighters and five were policemen. The number of missing was previously 95, before 25 people were identified among the bodies found.

Most of the missing are firemen, he added.

Rescuers have made four comprehensive search efforts through what they call "a maze of containers", and the search is still underway.

"Navigating through the blast zone is extremely dangerous, because of the burning chemicals and twisted containers, which could collapse at any minute. We had to make marks in order not to get lost," said Wang Ke, who led a group of chemical specialist soldiers.

Two massive blasts, which occurred before midnight on Aug. 12, wreaked havoc several kilometers away.

By Monday, a total of 698 people remain in hospital, of whom 57 are still in critical condition.

A minor explosion occurred on Monday morning at the blast site, located in Binhai New Area. Dark smoke has abated, but flames can still be seen.

Bao Jingling, chief engineer of the city's bureau of environmental protection, said about 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide were stored at the blast site and they remain intact.

The blasts have affected 17,000 households and 1,700 enterprises. At least 6,000 residents have been displaced.

Monday 17 August 2015

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