Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Island has nowhere to bury the drowned

The mayor of the Greek island of Lesbos has said there is no more room to bury the increasing number of asylum-seekers killed in shipwrecks of smuggling boats coming in from nearby Turkey.

Mayor Spyros Galinos told Greece's Vima FM radio yesterday that there were more than 50 bodies in the morgue on the eastern Aegean island that he was still trying to find a burial location for.

Mr Galinos said he was trying to fast-track procedures so a field next to the main ceme- tery could be taken over for burials.

Hundreds of thousands of people have made the short but dangerous crossing from Turkey to Greek islands this year.

With rougher weather coming on, the bodies of 19 people were recovered from the Aegean in three separate incidents on Sunday alone.


Yesterday, four refugees drowned and six were missing off the Greek island of Farmakonisi after their boat sank, the Greek coastguard said. Four people were rescued, a spokesman said in a statement.

The vessel the migrants were travelling on sank in an unknown location north of the island. Eleven people, including six infants, drowned on Sunday when their boat capsized off the island of Samos, trapping them in the cabin.

The toll from drowning among thousands of refugees making the crossing from Turkey to Greece's outlying eastern islands has risen in recent weeks with the onset of colder weather and rougher seas There were near-gale force winds blowing in the Aegean at the weekend.

Tuesday 3 November 2015


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Wreckage in Atlantic confirmed as missing cargo ship

Debris discovered at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean has been confirmed as the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed on its Twitter account that the survey of the 15,000ft deep site will continue as investigators continue to look for more information on the final moments of the vessel.

El Faro sank on 1 October east of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people on board. No survivors were found.

Sonar has indicated that the ship landed on the bottom upright, which could help teams recover the ship's voyage data recorder or "black box", the NTSB said.

Crews sent a remotely operated vehicle to confirm the wreckage after sonar imaging picked it up on Saturday.

The US Navy will continue to search the site on Tuesday with the vehicle, using its underwater cameras.

The "black box" could contain key information including audio from the bridge and comments from the captain on the condition of the ship.

Peter Knudsen, a spokesman for the NTSB, said: "The ship will certainly not be recovered; the ship is going to stay there. The containers are too deep to do any kind of recovery mission.

"If human remains are encountered, an attempt would be made to recover them."

El Faro's captain Michael Davidson had called in before the vessel disappeared saying the ship had lost engine power during its voyage from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

He said the ship was listing and taking on water. The ship also sent out three different distress signals.

So far, no bodies have been recovered. The Coast Guard spotted one body floating in a survival suit after the boat disappeared, but there have been no traces of others.

Deb Roberts, mother of the ship's engineer Michael Holland, said positive identification of El Faro was "like losing Mike all over again".

"My head wants answers, but my heart wants to stick to my vision of hope, stick to my vision of him being out on an island out there," she said.

"It does make it very difficult."

Four families have filed lawsuits against the ship's owner, Tote Marine, and Mr Davidson.

They alleged the company failed to maintain the vessel properly and made the decision to sail with a strong storm brewing offshore that put the lives of the crew at risk.

Tote Marine has defended itself in US District Court. It asked a judge to release it from liability last week.

Tuesday 3 November 2015


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First 10 bodies of Egypt plane crash identified

The first 10 bodies of victims of Saturday's plane crash over Egypt were identified by their families Tuesday, Russian officials said.

Metrojet's Airbus A321-200 en route from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, killing all 224 on board. The overwhelming majority of the passengers were Russian holidaymakers flying home.

Alexei Smirnov of the Russian emergency situations ministry said that a total of 140 bodies and more than 100 body parts were delivered to St. Petersburg on two government planes on Monday and Tuesday and that a third plane is expected to bring more remains later on Tuesday.

A total of 196 bodies from the Russian airliner crash have been recovered and the search operation has ended, cabinet spokesperson Hossam Qawish announced Monday, Ahram Arabic website reported. A Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations airplane carrying body parts and belongings of the Airbus A-321 crash's victims departed from Cairo and arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday, state news agency MENA reported.

Another Russian airplane arrived on Monday with the bodies of 140 victims.

Russian authorities have set up a crisis centre next to Pulkovo airport, where the planes are arriving, for family members to provide DNA samples for identification, AFP reported. The site is also being used as a memorial site to commemorate the victims.

Confusing reports and theories emerged on Monday as to what could have caused the crash.

Some aviation experts raised the possibility that a bomb on board the Airbus brought it down, while others cited an incident in 2001 when the aircraft grazed the runway with its tail while landing.

Metrojet firmly denied that the crash could have been caused by either equipment failure or crew error.

In Egypt, the U.S. Embassy has instructed its staff not to travel anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash as a "precautionary measure."

Tuesday 3 November 2015


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Thailand: Coordination committee of missing persons and unidentified bodies to be set-up

A coordination committee will be set up to handle cases of missing persons and unidentified bodies, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

Mr Wissanu said authorities who receive complaints about a missing person or are informed of an unidentified body must forward the information to the committee.

Usually information about missing people or unidentified bodies is kept at police stations where complaints are lodged, he said.

The committee will act as a database of missing persons and unidentified body cases with the help of the Central Institute of Forensic Science (CIFS) under the Justice Ministry. This will help speed up investigations, the deputy prime minister said.

Region-based coordinating panels will also be set up across the country. The southern panel will be based at Prince of Songkla University, the northern panel at Chiang Mai University and the northeast panel at Khon Kaen University.

Mr Wissanu said the university campuses were chosen as they all have hospitals.

The idea for a coordinating panel was proposed by Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, former CIFS director-general, before her retirement in September, he said.

Mr Wissanu said the centre was essential and in line with international practices. The country must have a central point of contact especially when it faces a crisis like a tsunami, he added.

Tuesday 3 November 2015


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Overcrowded bus veers off mountain road in Nepal, killing 30

A bus packed with passengers riding both inside and on its roof veered off a mountain road in northwest Nepal on Tuesday, killing 30 people and injuring 35 others, officials said.

Government administrator Shiv Ram Gelal said the bus drove off the road near Ramche village and rolled about 150 metres down a slope.

Gelal said the bus was overcrowded because of a severe fuel shortage in the country that has limited transportation.

Police, soldiers and local villagers helped recover injured people and bodies from the wreckage.

Rescuers struggled to recover bodies and help the injured to safety after the bus fell 200 metres (656 feet) off the mountainous road in Rasuwa district, home to the popular Langtang trekking route.

“Of the 30 dead, 29 were recovered from the accident site and one died while undergoing treatment,” district chief Shiva Ram Gelal said, adding that one of those killed was an infant.

“We have sent 35 other people who were wounded to nearby hospitals and we are continuing to search the area,” Gelal said.

Gelal told AFP the cause of the accident was not clear yet. But injured passengers said the vehicle was overcrowded, with people travelling on the roof, he added.

Police were investigating the accident, which occurred about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Accidents in Nepal are generally caused by poorly maintained roads and vehicles.

The severe fuel shortage has forced people to travel on the roofs of buses, which generally is not allowed for safety reasons. It has become common to see bus roofs packed with people and police rarely stop them.

Ethnic protesters have blocked a key border point with India since September, which has prevented the import of fuel and other supplies.

Nepal normally gets all of its fuel from India.

Tuesday 3 November 2015


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