Monday, 5 October 2015

Missing ship: El Faro confirmed to have sunk off Bahamas

he lost cargo ship El Faro sank in Bahamian waters after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin, according to the US Coast Guard. The 224m (735ft) vessel and its crew of 33 have been missing since issuing a distress call on Thursday. The coast guard says an "unidentifiable body" has been found but a search remains underway. On Sunday, search planes found debris including life jackets, containers and oil in the water. It was this find that led rescuers to the conclusion that the ship had sank. Along with the body, an empty, heavily damaged life boat has also been found. "We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life," US Coast Guard Capt Mark Fedor said, but adding the crew faced "challenging conditions to survive". The coast guard says it has searched 70,000 sq nautical miles attempting to find the crew of 28 Americans and five Poles. The ship, which was travelling from Florida to Puerto Rico, was taking on water before it sank according to the distress call. Its owners, Tote Maritime, say the ship lost power after its engines broke down. Satellite picture of Hurricane JoaquinImage copyrightREUTERS/NOAA Image caption Hurricane Joaquin from space Tote Maritime, said two vessels it dispatched to the scene had found a container "which appears to be from the El Faro". The company has also defended its decision to allow the ship to sail so close to a hurricane. In a statement it said the crew were "equipped to handle situations such as changing weather." Joaquin brought heavy rains to the Bahamas, damaging a number of houses. The weakened storm has since hit Bermuda.

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Death toll after Guatemala landslide tops 130

The gangly arms of four backhoes dug through a mound of sandy soil that had buried many of the residents of El Cambray alive in a landslide.

Carefully, the diggers turned up sheet metal roofs, broken walls and the bodies of people trapped in the dirt bulging over much of the Guatemalan village.

By early Sunday, they had recovered nearly 90 bodies of people who died after the side of a towering hill broke loose suddenly and crashed down on the village in the darkness of Thursday night.

Since then, residents and rescuers have shoveled and even burrowed with their hands in search of the hundreds of victims the country's Public Ministry estimates were inside the dozens of homes that were instantly engulfed by the landslide.

By Sunday evening, the ministry was reporting 131 people were dead and more than 300 still missing.

Heavy rains sent earth and rock cascading over homes and trapping residents inside on Thursday night. No survivors have been found this weekend despite the efforts of around 1,800 rescue workers sifting through the rubble.

Rain hampered search and rescue efforts on Sunday.

In the town's crowded cemetery, families sobbed as they placed wreaths on hastily-sealed tombs stacked in walls, where simple inscriptions in cement listed the names of the dead.

Many people in El Cambray did not heed a warning to evacuate, said Alejandro Maldonado, the national coordinator for disaster reduction. El Cambray is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Guatemala City.

Somber finds

Rain had soaked the village and the forested hills that rise steeply up around it. The town is nestled in a deep valley, leaving little space between the hillside and the homes below to buffer the force of the earth and trees that fell down on them.

The rescuers and villagers formed long bucket lines of up to 100 people to pass away dirt and debris. Some carried out the bodies of neighbors and loved ones, including children.

"We found the two month-old twins, and now we are looking for their mother and sister," a villager said.

"We only found one of my nieces, in a state that nobody would want to see a family member," said another.

Many were still waiting for the first body of their loved ones to turn up.

"I have 20 missing family members -- my seven brothers, my dad and my brother-in-law" among them, another villager said.

As they tried to salvage what they could from under the dirt to aid them in grieving, the pale gash in the hill left by the landslide gaped down at those digging.

On Saturday, the workers stopped what they were doing briefly and stood still for a moment of silence.

Monday 5 October 2015

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For 2nd day, search in Indonesia fails to locate missing passenger plane with 10 people aboard

For a second day, searchers failed to locate a plane with 10 people on board that went missing in eastern Indonesia, officials said Sunday.

The search for the DHC-5 Twin Otter turboprop plane, owned by the Aviastar Mandiri airline, was again hindered by bad weather and rough terrain, said Henry Bambang Soelistyo, the head of Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency.

The plane lost contact with air traffic controllers 11 minutes after taking off in good weather Friday from Masamba in South Sulawesi province. It was on a routine flight to Makassar, the provincial capital, carrying three crew members and seven passengers, including three children. No distress signal was received.

"Today search have not yet produced any result as expected although we have expanded the search area," Soelistyo said. "I myself have checked locations reported by the locals, but we found nothing."

Two aircraft and two helicopters combed areas around the location where the missing plane was believed to have made the last contact and areas where villagers allegedly heard or spotted the plane before it went missing, said Ivan Ahmad Titus, the agency's operation director.

Soelistyo said the plane may not have been equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, a device attached to the so-called black boxes, which emits a signal indicating its position. Director General of Air Transportation Suprasetyo said officials were investigating that possibility.

Monday's aerial search would focus on the sea, while on the ground, soldiers and policemen would search along the 150-mile route of the Masamba-Makassar flight.

The 1981 Canadian-made plane joined Aviastar in January 2014 and underwent its most recent maintenance on Sept. 15.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of about 250 million people, has been plagued by transportation accidents in recent years, including plane and train crashes and ferry sinkings. It is one of Asia's most rapidly expanding airline markets, but is struggling to obtain qualified pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers and modern airport technology.

Monday 05 October 2015

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