Saturday, 12 September 2015

At least 80 killed, over 50 injured in cylinder blast in Jhabua district

At least 80 persons were killed and at least 50 others were injured in a massive explosion near a busy bus stand in Petlawad town of Jhabua district on Saturday morning, said Chief Medical Health Officer Arun Sharma.

The police initially thought that LPG cylinders in Sethia restaurant exploded but later said explosives stored in the adjacent house went off killing most of its occupants. The dead included at least eight to nine employees of the restaurant and customers who were having breakfast.

The explosion was of very high intensity and affected nearby houses and vehicles. Additional SP (Jhabua) Seema Alawa said 25 bodies had already been sent for post mortem.

Gelatin sticks and detonators were stored in the house that was rented. The house and the restaurant were completed damaged in the explosion. Rajendra Kumar Kaswa, the house owner, reportedly had a license.

Authorities said rescue work was on because some people could still be buried under the debris. The injured were rushed to Ratlam, Indore and Jhabua. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured.

ome Minister Babulal Gaur, who left for the spot with top bureaucrats and police officers, had said LPG cylinders kept in the restaurant exploded. Meanwhile, a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has been dispatched to Jhabua to help in the salvage operations of the collapsed building.

“A team equipped with gadgets to operate in collapsed structures has been sent to the accident site in Jhabua from Vadodara in Gujarat.The team will assist local administration in retrieval operations,” NDRF Director General O P Singh told PTI in Delhi. PM Narendra Modi expressed grief over loss of lives in the explosion.

Saturday 12 September 2015

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India 7/11 bombings: Forensic lessons learnt from 2006 blasts

Until 11.30 pm, five hours after seven bombs rocked Mumbai local trains, the civic-run Sion hospital, which was nearest to the spot had 43 dead bodies, more than double its morgue capacity. Like the 1993 blasts, over 100 deaths were reported in less than an hour in city hospitals.

The bodies were badly mutilated. Sion hospital morgue had a capacity of 22 bodies (now upgraded to 78).

It took hours to vacate an OPD ward to place the increasing number of mutilated bodies. “We realized then, that resource management needs to be improved,” assistant professor at forensic department Dr Rajesh Dere said.

There were talks of a system to grade the injured to ensure treatment is first given to the severely injured during disasters, but it has not been implemented.

While National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) recommends identification of warehouses for storing bodies in case of mass casualties, doctors at tertiary-care hospitals admit no such back-up options are present, either under the state government or the civic body guidelines.

The 2006 blasts had something forensic experts were not used to, bodies mutilated beyond recognition. In the days that followed the blasts, relatives had to run from one hospital to another looking for bodies.

The difficult part was showing mutilated limbs or body parts for identification, forensic experts admit. “The disaster made us realize that a centralized system needs to be generated where, whenever there is a disaster, pictures could be clicked of dead bodies and their belongings and numbered. Relatives could view the picture for identification.

This would save them the trouble of running around,” Dr Harish Pathak, KEM Hospital’s forensic department head said. No such system is in place. In case a disaster strikes, each civic and state hospital documents dead bodies without co-coordinating with the other hospitals. The disaster plan sets guidelines for a nodal officer in each public hospital to be the point of contact.

For the 24 civic hospitals, just one nodal officer has been assigned, apart from another nodal officer at JJ hospital. Additionally, the triage system continues to remain in books. According to Dere, in case of mass casualties, social workers and police officers first identify critical patients and send them to the nearest hospital. “Currently, it is like first come, first admit.

In such cases, those in need of urgent medical attention may be left behind. By the time they are transported to a hospital, they lose the golden hour period,” Dere said. According to experts, in a triage, patients requiring immediate attention are marked ‘red’ while those with less serious injuries are marked ‘yellow’. The dead are marked ‘black’ and can be attended to last.

“Police need to be sensitized on the triage method. This will help in saving lives,” Pathak said

Last to be disposed — skull of ‘bomber’

A part of the skull bone, half frontal face with a cracked maxilla and broken cheekbones were the last remains of a body disposed off after the 7/11 Mumbai train blasts. The skull, buried 186 days after the blasts, was suspected to be of a terrorist named Salim, though it could never be confirmed. He was the 187th person to be buried in the weeks that followed the blasts.

In the years that followed, two other victims— Ashfaq Khan and Parag Sawant— passed away bringing the death toll to 189.

Forensic experts, part of the investigation in 2006, remember how the half charred face was brought to them within hours of the blasts on July 11, 2006. In the next three days, 186 of the 187 bodies, rather parts of bodies, were identified and claimed by relatives. Except that one skull.

“We then suspected that the skull may belong to the bomber himself,” said Dr Harish Pathak, then associate professor at forensic department of civic-run Sion hospital, where the skull was kept in the morgue. The hospital contacted ATS who arranged for facial reconstruction for identification.

A team of plastic surgeons, dental surgeons and forensic experts reconstructed the face, said Dr Rajesh Dere, currently assistant professor in Sion hospital’s forensic department. The half skull bone had broken into over a dozen pieces which had to be carefully put together, he said.

“The maxilla (part of upper jaw and palate) had cracked and we required a dental team to fix it. In the process of reconstruction, we realized that the deceased must have been very close to the bomb when it went off,” Pathak said. The forensic experts believe that the bomb was either in the backpack or close to the mid-riff of the “bomber” and the explosion blew almost the whole of his body.

The team took a week to reconstruct the facial bone following which plastic surgeons helped in creating a cosmetic skin. The probable face structure was generated on computer and an artist was called to make a sketch. “The sketch was circulated among investigating agencies, but nothing came out of it,” a doctor, who was part of the team, said.

Saturday 12 September 2015

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Mecca crane collapse: 107 dead and at least 238 injured after crane comes down on Grand Mosque

At least 107 people have died and at least 238 injured after a huge crane toppled over and crashed through the roof of Islam’s most holy site in Mecca.

A violent rainstorm and strong winds brought down the crane at the Grand Mosque as constructions workers were trying to make the huge complex safer for the millions of visiting Hajj pilgrims expected in the coming weeks.

Tons of rubble and debris rained down scores of people gathering in the mosque for 6.30pm prayers when a section of the crane crashed through the roof.

Footage showed the crane toppling towards a three-storey section of the mosque complex, before smashing into the roof.

Photographs of the disaster show a grisly scene, with police and onlookers attending to numerous bodies strewn around the polished mosque floor in pools of blood.

Other footage showed bodies and blood amid the rubble, while dazed and bloodied survivors staggering past debris in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

Saudi Arabia's civil defense authority provided a series of rising casualty numbers on its official Twitter account as ambulances whisked the wounded to area hospitals.

The nationalities of those caught up in the disaster were uncertain last night and the Foreign Office was making inquiries to establish if any Britons had been killed or injured. Thousands of Britons are already in Mecca or are heading there for the Hajj.

Sympathy and tributes were offered by people from around the world last night and the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted: “1000s of British people are undertaking #Hajj and we hope they are safe tonight as tragedy in #Makkah unfolds. Prayers for all the victims.”

Omer El-Hamdoon, President of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: “Our prayers are directed to those who have died that God shower them with His mercy.

"Our thoughts are with the families and friends, at this difficult time, whilst waiting for news. As we pray to God that He gives full and speedy recovery to all those injured.”

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: "I'm shocked and saddened to hear of the accident in Mecca involving a large number of fatalities amongst those attending the Hajj. My thoughts are with the families of those affected."

Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Mansouri, spokesman for the presidency of the Mecca and Medina mosque affairs, said in a statement that the accident happened during a severe storm carrying strong winds and heavy rain.

The governor of the Mecca region, Prince Khalid al-Faisal, quickly called for the formation of a committee to investigate the cause of the accident.

He directed all appropriate authorities to provide support for the injured.

The Grand Mosque - the Masjid al-Haram - contains the Kaaba, the black cube-shaped building which Muslims face when they pray wherever they are in the world and is Islam’s most sacred shrine.

Muslims are expected to perform pilgrimages to the Kaaba at least once during their lifetimes and once there they walk around it seven times anti-clockwise in a rite known as Tawaf.

The accident took place as the Grand Mosque prepared to welcome the millions of pilgrims who will gather there later this month for Islam's annual Hajj pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.

The crane struck a third floor area on the eastern side of the Grand Mosque around 5.45pm, while the building was packed with the 6.30pm Friday prayers approaching. The crane’s arm crashed into the top edge of the building and, crumpling under its own weight, the top section smashed down into the roof.

Several cranes surround the mosque to support an ongoing expansion and other construction work that has transformed the area around the sanctuary.

The $60 billion redevelopment is being carried out by the Saudi Binladin Group - owned by Osama Bin Laden’s family.

In the past, Hajj at Mecca has been the scene of tragedies including stampedes which left many pilgrims dead - in 2006 several hundred people died in a stampede.

The huge complex covers more than 88 acres and includes indoor and outdoor prayer areas. It is open 24-hours a day.

Steep hills and low-rise traditional buildings that once surrounded the mosque have in recent years given way to shopping malls and luxury hotels — among them the world's third-tallest building, a giant clock tower that is the centerpiece of the Abraj al-Bait complex.

The Binladin family - also built the Abraj al-Bait project - has been close to the ruling Al Saud family for decades and oversees major building projects around the country.

The project to expand Mecca’s Grand Mosque was launched in 2011 by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

In July, King Salman bin Abdulaziz announced a further five projects to increase the capacity of the complex, including more tunnels and squares.

Eventually the development is expected to double the area around the Kaaba for pilgrims, enabling the number who take part to rise from three million annually to seven million by 2040.

Security services often ring Islam's sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorization, and last year the number of pilgrims was restricted as a safety measure because of the construction work.

Saturday 12 September 2015

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