Monday, 26 December 2016

Fukushima dad finds remains of daughter, but no closure for 3/11

A man’s painstaking search over nearly six years has finally uncovered remains of his 7-year-old daughter who disappeared in the 2011 tsunami.

But the discovery has not brought closure for the father, Norio Kimura, who plans to keep sifting through the debris on the coast of this town in the shadow of the ruined Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“I am glad, but only small parts of her have been recovered,” said Kimura, 51. “I will continue my search until I find everything.”

A breakthrough in his private search for daughter Yuna came on Dec. 9, when a volunteer found a scarf she was wearing on the day the tsunami struck. It was near the coast only a few hundred meters from where Kimura’s home once stood in Okuma.

A further search of the area uncovered parts of neck and jaw bones among the tsunami debris.

A DNA test conducted by Fukushima prefectural police showed the remains were of Yuna. Kimura was informed of the test result on Dec. 22.

However, he said he still has no intention of submitting a document to officially certify her death until the rest of her body is found.

Yuna was the last resident of Okuma officially listed as missing.

Kimura’s house was located about 4 kilometers south of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and 100 meters from the coast. The tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, destroyed the home and swept away Yuna, Kimura’s wife, Miyuki, then 37, and his father, Wataro, then 77.

The bodies of Miyuki and Wataro were recovered that year. But Yuna remained missing.

The meltdowns at the nuclear plant forced Kimura to evacuate from Okuma and halt his search for Yuna.

Although the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, police and volunteers conducted searches along the coast of the Tohoku region, radioactive fallout prevented extensive checks around Okuma in the early days of the recovery effort.

Most parts of the town are still located in the government-designated “difficult-to-return zone” because of high radiation levels. Access is limited to former residents, but only for short periods.

Kimura resumed his personal search for Yuna at the end of 2011, when the government allowed those limited-period returns to Okuma.

After settling in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, with his mother and surviving daughter, Kimura frequently made round trips of about 1,000 kilometers in his search for Yuna. He often wore protective clothing against radiation in his endeavor.

Yuna’s remains were found in an area where Kimura discovered a shoe in June 2012 that his daughter was wearing on the day of the disaster.

Kimura said he intends to increase his trips to Okuma and focus his search on the area where Yuna’s bones were discovered.

“I do hold anger toward TEPCO, which caused the nuclear crisis, and the government, which was not committed enough to the body-recovery effort,” Kimura said. “I am mortified that it took nearly six years to find her.”

Sunday 26 December 2016

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Up to 30 drown after Christmas ferry accident in Uganda

At least 30 people reportedly drowned Christmas Day when their boat overturned on Lake Albert in western Uganda. The victims included members of a local football team and their supporters.

Ugandan police reported on Monday that 21 people are missing and nine bodies have been recovered after a ferry transporting a local football team and their supporters on the way to a game capsized. The ferry was reportedly overloaded and many on the boat were intoxicated.

Ugandan police with the help of local fishermen were able to rescue 15 people. The group was on their way to watch a friendly Christmas Day match in a nearby village.

"There was a party on the boat, the passengers were dancing and others were drunk. The boat was overloaded with 45 people, all members of the football team and local fans," police commander John Rutagira told.

"The water was calm but the problem came in when the merry-making team and fans tilted to one side of the boat. It capsized killing about 30 people," he added.

The majority of ferries used in Uganda are locally-made wooden boats with planks for seating and a small outboard motor. The ferries are often overloaded and passengers are usually not offered life vests.

One of the survivors told the local Daily Monitor newspaper that he survived after swimming for almost an hour to shore.

According to local reports, one of those killed was an 18-year-old woman who went to cheer for her local team. She leaves behind a five-month-old baby.

Fatal accidents are frequent on Ugandan waters. Just three days earlier, a ferry accident on Lake Victoria - which makes up Uganda's southern border - killed 20 people. Last November, 10 people drowned when a ferry capsized on Lake Albert.

Sunday 26 December 2016

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Russia plane crash: more fragments and bodies pulled from Black Sea

Amid a huge search for Russian military plane which crashed on Sunday, several large fragments and bodies from the jet have been pulled from the Black Sea.

But, initial claims that the jet’s fuselage have been sighted have been denied.

More than 3,500 thousand personnel, including nearly 150 divers are said to be involved in the massive search operation.

Russia’s Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said: “Using acoustic imaging, we have established a radius of about 500 meters in which the wreckage has been spread. The average depth of the fragments is about 30 metres, allowing us to use all the search-and-rescue equipment we have at our disposal”.

Rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies as well as body fragments and flew them Monday to Moscow, where the remains will be identified.

Russia also asked Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia, which lies 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) east of the Sochi airport, to help look for plane debris or bodies.

The plane came into service in 1983 and Russian officials increasingly think a technical fault or pilot error were behind the accident.

Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said: ‘‘A terrorist act is not being considered to be the most likely cause. We increasingly believe the reason for this disaster was either technical or pilot error.’‘

For the moment, the Syria bound plane’s black box flight recorders have not yet been found. Officials admit locating them will be a challenge as they were not fitted with radio beacons.

The flight was heading to Syria having originated in Moscow. It had landed in Sochi for refueling and disappeared from radar two minutes after taking off from the city’s Adler airport.

The plane was carrying 64 members of Russia’s internationally renowned Alexandrov military music ensemble, who were set to perform for Russian troops in Syria.

Sunday 26 December 2016

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12 years after Asia tsunami, 400 bodies still unidentified in Thailand

At least 400 victims of Asia’s 2004 tsunami that killed 226,000 people remain unidentified in Thailand 12 years after one of the worst natural disasters in human history.

The 9.15 magnitude December 26 earthquake triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean in one of the biggest natural disasters in history.

Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka were among the worst hit countries. Some 5,395 people were killed in Thailand, among them about 2,000 foreign tourists.

“Since the 2004 tsunami, authorities have contacted between 4,000 to 5,000 relatives to come and receive bodies. There are about 400 bodies that we cannot identify,” Anand Boonkerkaew, deputy superintendent of Takua Pa district police in Phang Nga province, said.

Thailand’s tourist high season is in full swing and in much of the area affected by the tsunami, it is business as usual. New hotels have replaced those flattened by the wall of water.

The 9.15 magnitude December 26 earthquake triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean in one of the biggest natural disasters in history, with most of the lives lost in Indonesia.

Of the 26 Australians who died in the Boxing Day disaster, 23 were in Thailand.

"Since the 2004 tsunami, authorities have contacted between 4000 to 5000 relatives to come and receive bodies. There are about 400 bodies that we cannot identify," Anand Boonkerkaew, deputy superintendent of Takua Pa district police in Phang Nga province, told Reuters.

Communities in the six tsunami-hit Thai provinces - Phuket, Krabi, Phang-nga, Ranong, Satun and Trang - held commemorative activities such as giving alms to Buddhist monks.

Maitree Kongkraijak, co-ordinator for the Tsunami disaster network representing Ban Nam Khem community in Phang-nga province told DPA commemorative activities had been organised every year since 2005, with this year's events themed Towards Sustainable Development.

Maitree said activities were community-based and locals were encouraged to join evacuation drills and educational activities so they were prepared in case another disaster struck.

In Aceh, thousands of Indonesians prayed for their loved ones at mass graves and mosques Monday to mark the tsunami which devastated the province.

Some 170,000 lives were lost in the country when a the “megathrust” quake struck Aceh, a predominantly Muslim province in the northern tip of Sumatra island, bringing about massive waves that also hit coastal areas as far away as Somalia.

“I came here every year to pray for my children, daughter-in-law, and their three children,” Maryam, who goes by one name, said at the Ulee Lheue mass grave, where 14,800 people were buried.

The bodies of her family were never found but 65-year-old Maryam, who survived by holding on to a tree trunk, was certain her family were buried in the mass grave as they lived in the vicinity at the time of the tsunami.

Graves across the province, including in Siron in Aceh Besar district where more than 46,000 were buried, were crowded with people who scattered flowers on the earth where they believe the remains of their loved ones lie to rest.

Survivors then gathered at a mass prayer in Ulee Lheue mosque, one of the few sea-front mosques still standing in the region after the tsunami.

“The main reason to commemorate the earthquake and tsunami disaster was not to open old wounds,” acting Aceh governor Soedarmo told the mosque attendance.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where the meeting of continental plates causes strong seismic activity, and is frequently hit by earthquakes. The tsunami commemoration comes just weeks after a strong 6.5-magnitude shallow quake struck inland in Pidie Jaya, a district in Aceh, killing more than 100 people, levelling hundreds of buildings and displacing nearly 84,000 people.

Sunday 26 December 2016

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Indonesia air force plane crashes, killing all 13 on board

An Indonesian air force Hercules C-130 aeroplane has crashed in remote Papua province in the east of the country, killing everyone on board. Three pilots and 10 other military personnel died, officials say.

Air force chief of staff Agus Supriatna told MetroTV that bad weather was suspected to have caused the crash.

The Hercules was carrying food supplies from Timika to Wamena when it came down in mountainous terrain near to its destination early on Sunday.

The wreckage has been located and the bodies of the dead are being brought to Wamena, Ivan Ahmad Riski Titus, operational director of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, told Reuters.

The flight had left Timika at 05:35 (20:35 GMT Saturday) and was expected to land in Wamena at 06:13.

"The tower in Wamena has spotted the plane, but it was not certain that the plane saw the runway," said deputy air force chief of staff Hadiyan Sumintaatmadja. Personnel from the air force base in Jayapura, the regional capital, were on standby to assist the team at the crash site.

Indonesia has a poor air safety record.

In June 2015, the same type of plane belonging to the country's air force crashed near a residential neighbourhood shortly after taking off from Medan. All 12 crew and 109 passengers on board were killed, along with 22 people on the ground.

Sunday 18 December 2016

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

At Least 60 killed as church collapses in Nigeria

The roof of the Reigners Bible Church in Uyo, capital of the Akwa Ibom state in Nigeria, collapsed Saturday, killing at least 60 people, and perhaps many more, according to local media and officials.

Some reports put the number much higher, with many people are believed to be still trapped under the debris.

Hundreds of people on Saturday were inside the Reigners Bible Church including Akwa Ibom state governor Udom Emmanuel, who survived the disaster.

The church was still under construction and workers had rushed to complete it for the ordination, witnesses said.

Emmanuel said there would be an investigation into whether safety standards had been compromised.

Pictures from the scene show collapsed metal girders and corrugated iron sheeting.

President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed "deep sorrow" over the incident.

A rescue official initially spoke of 60 bodies recovered from the debris, while the state-run Nigerian News Agency said "between 50 and 200" could have been killed. But a hospital director said on Sunday that at least 160 died in the disaster. The toll could mount as a crane removes the debris.

An unnamed survivor quoted by Nigeria's Channels TV said: "Normal church service was going on."

"It was about 20 minutes after the governor arrived. Suddenly, the roof fell on worshippers. The governor was quickly rescued. But others were not that lucky."

Building collapses are relatively common in Nigeria, mainly due to the use of sub-standard materials and the violation of building regulations.

In 2014, 116 people died when a multi-story guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

Sunday 11 December 2016

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Hyderabad building collapse: toll touches 11

The death toll in the under-construction building collapse incident rose to 11 on Saturday with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team finding more dead bodies under the rubble.

The six-storied building collapsed like a pack of cards on Thursday night in the busy IT sector of the city, apparently due to structural issues.

A mother and a child were pulled out from the debris on Saturday and were admitted to the Continental Hospital in Gachibowli.

The hospital said that their condition is out of danger. All the deceased belonged to four families living in temporary shelters under the first floor of the building.

Most of the victims belong to Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, who eke a living as construction labourers in the city.

The Andhra Pradesh government has arranged for free transport of their bodies to their hometowns.

Sunday 11 December 2016

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ATR-42 crash: Nine victims identified, bodies handed over to heirs

Nine more dead bodies of the victims of the ill-fated PIA plane crash have been identified and handed over to the heirs on Saturday while the relatives of the remaining 38 victims are likely to wait for another few days as the DNA tests would take at least seven to nine days.

A PIA plane carrying 47 people crashed Wednesday on a domestic flight from the mountainous northern city of Chitral to Islamabad, killing all on board.

The plane took off from Chitral around 3:50PM and PIA said the plane crashed at 1642 local time (1142 GMT) in the Havelian area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, about 125 km north of Islamabad.

Talking to Pakistan Today, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Administrator Dr Altaf Hussain said that nine dead bodies of the Havelian plane crash victims have been handed over to the heirs after identification.

Dr Altaf made it clear that they would not take rest until the completion of the identification process of the bodies and the process of DNA test would continue even during the weekly holidays because they could feel the agony the relatives of the victims were passing through.

He said that they would not go on weekly and Eid Milad-un-Nabi (SAW) holidays in order to ensure early completion of DNA test so as the bodies of the victims could be handed over to the heirs as soon as possible after identification.

The relatives of Chinese national Han Quiang, who was also among the passengers of the ill-fated plane, arrived on Saturday and the PIA arranged their stay.

He said that Han Wei, brother of Chinese national Han Quiang, gave blood sample for DNA test, adding that relatives of all the victims have given samples of their blood for DNA tests, however relatives of two foreigners Herald Kessler and Herwing Eichelbenger could not reach so far.

Dr Altaf refuted the reports that the blood samples have been sent to other laboratories for DNA tests and added that all the arrangements have been made in PIMS for conducting NDA tests, because the hospital has all the equipment to carry out the tests.

The Safety Investigation Board has formally kicked off its probe into PIA’s plane crash, with authorities expecting outcome of the inquiry not before one-and-a-half month.

Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airline (PIA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bernd Hildenbrand has said that the national airline was taking all possible steps to facilitate the bereaved families and would ensure that remaining dead bodies are also handed over immediately after their identification process is completed.

Speaking during his visit to Saddha Batolni village in the vicinity of Havelian, where ATR 42 aircraft (AP-BHO) had crashed on December 7, Bernd Hildenbrand said that the PIA has nominated focal persons for coordinating with those families keeping them updated in this regard.

The PIA CEO laid a wreath of flowers at the site and observed one-minute silence in remembrance of the martyrs. He also met with local people of the area and thanked them for promptly helping in rescue efforts.

Sunday 11 December 2016

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Oil truck fireball kills at least 42 in central Kenya

A fireball from an oil lorry engulfed vehicles on one of Kenya's main highways, killing at least 42 people late on Saturday, a rescue worker at the scene said.

The tanker lorry rammed into vehicles north of the central town of Naivasha then exploded, an official with the National Disaster Management Authority said.

"More bodies are still trapped inside the burned vehicles," Red Cross volunteer Moha Maris told Reuters.

The government gave a lower death toll. "The information that we have is that 13 vehicles were involved and so far we have retrieved 33 bodies," Irungu Nyakera, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, told a news conference.

The vehicle went out of control while going downhill on the road from the capital of Nairobi to Naivasha late on Saturday, said Mwachi Pius Mwachi, the deputy director and communications officer for the National Disaster Management Unit.

“This is a serious chemical incident,” Mwachi said. “Police and other rescuers are still on the scene … clearing debris.”

Kenya has struggled to reduce the rising number of road accidents as more people acquire vehicles in the country’s growing middle class.

In 2013 the government reintroduced breathalysers to limit accidents blamed on drunk drivers.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority 1,574 died in road accidents in the first half of 2016 – 86 more deaths than in the same period of 2015.

An official in Naivasha said 50 people were being treated in several hospitals for burns, eight of them in a serious condition.

In 2009, more than 100 people burned to death near the central town of Molo after a lorry carrying petrol caught fire.

Sunday 11 December 2016

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Sunday, 4 December 2016

At Least 9 Dead, More Missing After Fire During California Warehouse Party

Anxious families were awaiting word Saturday on whether their loved ones had escaped a raging inferno in Oakland, California, after at least nine people were killed during a late-night party at a converted warehouse.

At least two dozen people remained unaccounted for, officials said. "We expect the number of deceased to go up," said Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly. "This is a very, very sensitive time."

Emergency responders have had to delicately trudge through the rubble in the search for more victims, Kelly said. He described a twisted mass of beams, wires, and wood that he called a "maze."

During the fire at the building — known as the Oakland Ghost Ship — the roof collapsed onto the second floor where the party was held, and parts of the second floor collapsed onto the first floor, officials said.

Fire Department Operations Chief Mark Hoffman said he saw no evidence of sprinklers. The first floor was an artists' collective made up of divided workspaces that Hoffman described as a "labyrinth."

Recovery crews were pulled out after the structure began to shift and became unsafe but later resumed.

"The building is very, very tricky to work," Kelly said, who expected crews to continue to work for the next 48 hours. "We have water that's still coming down on top of our people. There's beams, there's all sorts of wreckage and debris that we have to maneuver through."

The blaze happened at about 11:24 p.m. PT Friday (2:24 a.m. ET Saturday), while a party was being held in the "warehouse-type structure," Oakland Fire Department Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said. At least 25 people were unaccounted for, she added.

Hospitals received very few injured victims, Kelly said. "It appears that people either made it out, or they didn't make it out," he told reporters.

Most of those who attended the party were in their 20s and 30s, and some were visiting from other countries, officials said, complicating identification efforts.

The building was last designated as a warehouse and did not have permits to serve as either a residence or an event space, Darin Ranelletti, the interim director of Oakland's Planning and Building Department, said.

Ranelletti confirmed his department had opened an investigation into the building Nov. 13 because of reports of blight and illegal construction inside the building. They were able to confirm the reports of blight, but they had not ascertained whether the reports of construction there were credible.

"We had an inspector attempt to enter the building," he said, adding that the inspector had made a visit Nov. 17. "The inspection had not concluded, and it was still underway."

Danica Estrella told NBC News her 32-year-old brother, Brandon Chase Wittenauer, had been at the event and was still missing as of Saturday. The family was calling local hospitals trying to find Wittenauer, who is a full-time musician.

Also among the missing was Feral Pines, an immediate family member confirmed to NBC News. Pines had also been at the event.

Other relatives and friends were posting about their loved ones on Facebook, listing them as either safe or missing to spread the word.

Distraught families gathered at an assistance center set up at the sheriff's substation. Dan Vega, whose brother is missing, told the San Jose Mercury News from the assistance center that the wait for answers was agonizing.

"I have my work boots, I have gloves, I just want to find him," he said.

No smoke alarms went off after the fire, officials said. There were two known exits from the building, Kelly said.

The owner of the building told NBC Bay Area through a family member that they rented the building for the last couple of years but did not regularly communicate with the tenants. The owner said they were "so sorry to hear about the tragedy and those injured and killed," and were trying to figure out what happened, but declined to comment further for legal reasons.

A task force was assembled to investigate the cause of the blaze.

"There's no reason yet to suspect arson, however you have to work these investigations at the worst-case scenario, and then downgrade from there," Kelly said. "Something as simple as a cigarette could cause a fire that could lead to something like this."

Oakland police were looking into the history of the building and its occupancy.

"We're not going to find out all those answers right now. We're very much focused on identifying those who are still missing, locating those who have suffered loss inside who are deceased," said police spokeswoman Johnna Watson.

According to records obtained by NBC Bay Area, the building was already under investigation for structural deficiencies before Friday's fire.

The Oakland Planning and Building Department launched an investigation into the habitability of the warehouse less than a month ago, citing an "illegal interior building structure."

Also in November, a "housing habitability complaint" was filed describing how trash piles up in front of the building, creating a blight in the neighborhood, a search of enforcement records on the Oakland Department of Planning and Building website shows.

Firefighters said "some victims may have been trapped in Friday's fire since they couldn't escape down a makeshift, one-way stairwell leading to the second floor that was built out of wooden pallets," NBC Bay Area reported. Authorities said the pallet stairwell caught fire and was instantly incinerated.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the fire an "immense tragedy." She met with a roomful of people who have loved ones who are missing and said she was unable to give them much comfort.

"It is painful to tell them that it will be a considerable amount of time before we can give them the information and the closure that they deserve," she said.

Nine bodies have been recovered and officials are working to identify them, Kelly said, but it is expected more bodies will be found as firefighters access a "maze" of twisted metal, wires and wood fallen on top of each other. Most of the nine bodies found were on the second floor, officials said.

Fingerprints of those found were being rushed for identification, and officials are discussing bringing in cadaver dogs and robots to aid in the search, Kelly said. Many of those at the warehouse were in their 20s and 30s, he said.

"Several dozen people that were thought missing here have been located and are alive," Kelly said. "So that's the good news that we have to offer at this time."

The recovery effort is expected to take at least 48 hours, possibly longer, Kelly said at a 6 p.m. news conference. Excavators will be punching holes into walls to allow access.

The Oakland Athletics tweeted a link for donations for those affected and said it would match donations up to $20,000. The amount was later increased to $30,000.

Sunday 04 December 2016

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Body remains recovered after Indonesia police plane with 13 disappears

Rescuers in Indonesia have recovered body parts in the sea where a police plane with 13 people aboard is believed to have crashed after takeoff.

The light aircraft lost contact Saturday off the southeast coast of Sumatra island near Singapore. Officials say all 13 aboard, including five crew and eight police passengers, are feared dead.

National Search and Rescue Agency chief Henry Bambang Soelistyo says the M28 Skytruck plane is believed to have plunged into 24-meter (79-feet) deep waters.

He told a news conference Sunday that body remains probably of the victims were found in the area where villagers earlier retrieved a seat and a bag containing a cellphone and police documents.

Indonesian police have confirmed a police aircraft carrying 13 senior officers, including three pilots crashed in waters near Lingga regency, Riau Islands province in Sumatra.

Its Head of Public Relations Boy Rafli Amar, in a media statement here, said the Cassa aircraft departed from Pangkal Pinang at 9.24am and was scheduled to land in Batam at 10.58am. He said when the aircraft did not land, police received reports that it has lost contact with the control centre.

“A search and rescue team has been despatched at the last point the aircraft was detected and found several objects believed to the plane’s parts between Mensanak Island and Sebangka Island and Gentar Island in the Lingga regency waters,” he said.

Police had also received information from the public who found part of the aircraft fuselage and several items belonging to the passengers, including police uniforms, caps and bags scattered at sea.

Sunday 04 December 2016

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Toll in China's mine blast rises to 32

Thirty-two miners have died in the second coal mine explosion in a week in China, state-run media reports.

The gas explosion hit the mine in Chifeng city in the Inner Mongolia region at midday on Saturday. Out of 181 miners working underground, 149 managed to get out and the rest died, official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The mine was operated by the Baoma Mining Co Ltd., Xinhua said.

News of the blast came just hours after 21 miners who were trapped for four days after an explosion hit their unlicensed coal mine were confirmed dead in northeast China's Heilongjiang province. Four people were arrested in connection with that disaster.

China's mining industry has long been among the world's deadliest, and top work safety regulators have acknowledged that some mines cut corners on safety standards due to financial pressure.

Authorities earlier reported 17 deaths and an undisclosed number of persons still trapped in the mine, but Xinhua reported everyone trapped is now believed to have died. The explosion occurred around noon at a mine operated by the Baoma Mining Co. in the Yuanbaoshan district of Chifeng city, Xinhua reported.

An investigation into what caused the blast is still ongoing, but Xinhua reported Sunday that "It has been confirmed to be a gas explosion accident."

Sunday 04 December 2016

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