Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Death toll in Guatemala landslide rises to 161

The death toll from a landslide that devastated a Guatemalan village has risen to 161 as emergency workers continue pulling bodies from the mud and debris, officials said Tuesday.

The search for victims of the landslide, which tore through the village of Cambray II Thursday night after heavy rain, resumed at dawn with the help of a Mexican team with trained rescue dogs, said Sergio Cabanas, head of the government's disaster response program.

But hopes of finding survivors are growing increasingly slim, he said.

Emergency workers pulled 19 bodies from the debris Tuesday, Cabanas said, updating the previous toll from Monday night, when officials said there were 142 dead and about 300 missing.

Workers wore face masks as the stench of decomposing bodies increased, and the area has been closed off to journalists.

The search had to be suspended Sunday because of heavy rain that continued to lash the area, in the municipality of Santa Catarina Pinula, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) east of the capital.

Local authorities had urged the precarious hillside community to relocate several times, most recently in November last year.

But many families have refused, saying they have nowhere to go.

More than 53 percent of the Central American country's 16 million people live in poverty.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

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More bodies recovered from Himachal's Larji Dam

Two more bodies were recovered from Pandoh Dam and Larji Dam today bringing the total number of bodies fished out in the past three days to 17, of which 16 were identified as the passengers of July 23 Sarsari bus tragedy in Himachal Pradesh.

With the identification of 16 bodies, 39 bodies have so far been recovered, while seven bodies are still missing, police said.

Eight bodies were recovered during de-silting on Saturday, while seven bodies were recovered yesterday.

The sixteen bodies, which have been identified, are of the victims of Sarsari bus accident on Kullu-Manali Road, in which 23 persons were killed and another 23 had gone missing, police said.

Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said that the bodies fished out from the dams were identified.

A private bus carrying 69 pilgrims from Mansa, Bhatinda and Talwandi Sabo areas of Punjab had plunged into Parbati River near Sarsari on the Kullu-Manikaran road in Kullu district on July 23 and 23 persons were killed, while another 23 had gone missing.

15 were admitted to hospital and the remaining passengers escaped with minor injuries.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

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Indonesian rescuers recover bodies from Aviastar plane wreckage

An Indonesian search-and-rescue team has recovered the bodies from the wreckage of a small passenger plane that disappeared last week, officials said on Tuesday.

Ten people were aboard the plane, a DHC-6 Twin Otter operated by the small regional airline Aviastar, when it lost contact with air traffic controllers on Friday, minutes after takeoff from the island of Sulawesi. After days of combing the area, rescuers identified the wreckage in a remote, mountainous area of the island on Monday.

The bodies of all 10 victims — three crew members and seven passengers, including three children — have been found and sent to Makassar, the provincial capital, for identification, Adex Yudiswan, a South Sulawesi police spokesman, confirmed on Tuesday. The black box was also retrieved from the site.

The plane had just begun the short flight from Masamba, a small town in the province of South Sulawesi, to Makassar when it crashed. Family members have traveled to South Sulawesi to identify the bodies, Petrus Budi Prasetyo, an official from Aviastar, told reporters.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. Aviastar flies to remote parts of the Indonesian archipelago like Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua, according to its website.

Indonesia’s aviation industry has a poor safety record, and more than 300 people have died in crashes in the past 12 months alone. In June, a military aircraft crashed in the city of Medan on the western island of Sumatra, and in August, a smaller plane went down in the mountains of Papua.

Kurt Mastrovich, a pilot who has years of experience flying in Indonesia, said that while weather and terrain were often challenging factors, a lack of regulation had also led to small airlines’ creating flight paths in far-flung areas with almost no oversight from the central government.

“One of the biggest problems is because the regulator is very underresourced, they haven’t been able to create or evaluate a lot of the routes that have been created,” said Mr. Mastrovich, who was not referring specifically to Aviastar. “So a lot of the companies tend to go through their own process and evaluate their own routes. So there is a lot that gets missed.”

Wednesday 7 October 2015

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Indonesian forensic experts help identify haj disaster victims

Indonesian forensic experts are in Saudi Arabia to help identify those still missing from the country which suffered one of the heaviest losses in last month's haj disaster, an official said Tuesday (Oct 6).

Arsyad Hidayat, the senior Indonesian official in Mecca, told AFP that 11 specialists had arrived three days ago from police headquarters in his country, the world's largest Muslim-populated nation.

"They have special capability in forensics," including fingerprint data, he said, adding that Indonesia's death toll has now risen to 103, with 25 still missing.

Iran has reported the largest toll from the Sep 24 disaster, with 464 dead, followed by Egypt at 146.

More than 20 countries around the world have reported a total of 1,112 dead, mostly from official sources, far in excess of the Saudi figure of 769 killed issued after the stampede at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca.

It is unclear whether other countries have sent their own forensic specialists but Saudi Arabia's Al-Madina daily reported last week that 20 teams from the Saudi passports department were visiting Mecca-area hospitals to record fingerprints of the dead and of unidentified injured.

Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran has repatriated 218 bodies of the 464 people it declared dead in the stampede, while accusing Riyadh of incompetence in its handling of haj safety. Tehran has also criticised the slow pace of identifying the victims.

In Indonesia's case, Hidayat said "there have not been meaningful obstacles" encountered by his country's teams of military and police officers. The teams, headed by a colonel from Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, have been gathering data, checking hospitals and searching for and identifying dead bodies.

"God willing, we are hopefully getting near to the final result," Hidayat said

Wednesday 7 October 2015

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