Friday, 4 November 2016

240 migrants feared dead after boats capsize in the Mediterranean in new refugee disaster

SURVIVORS say as many as 240 people have died in two shipwrecks off Libya, the UN refugee agency reported Thursday, bringing this year’s toll to more than 4220 migrants dead or missing in risky Mediterranean Sea crossings, the highest count on record.

Carlotta Sami, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Italy, said 31 survivors of two shipwrecks who arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa reported that the rubber dinghies they were travelling in had capsized Wednesday in heavy seas shortly after leaving Libya.

The first dinghy — which carried around 140 people, including six children and about 20 women, some pregnant — sank when wooden planks laid at the bottom broke, causing the dinghy to capsize 25 miles (40km) off the Libyan coast, the UNHCR said. Twenty-nine people were rescued, and 12 bodies were recovered.

In a separate operation, two women found swimming at sea told rescuers that 128 other people had died in their wreck.

“I am deeply saddened by another tragedy on the high seas,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “So many lives could be saved through more resettlement and legal pathways to protection. The Mediterranean is a deadly stretch of sea for refugees and migrants, yet they still see no other option but to risk their lives to cross it.” UNHCR emphasised that the number of dead was an estimate.

International agencies rely heavily on survivor accounts to tally the number of people dead or missing in the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats.

Often the boats sink in high seas, where it is difficult if not impossible to recover any bodies. In both cases reported Thursday, most people on board appeared to have been sub-Saharan Africans.

UNHCR said the increased number of deaths this year is partly due to the fact that smugglers are often using rubber dinghies, which are prone to deflating, capsizing and losing people who fall overboard. In addition, more migrants are arriving with severe burns from being exposed to fuel mixed with sea water in the bottom of the dinghies. Smugglers are using rubber dinghies because they are cheaper and easier to obtain.

According to the IOM, 3777 people were dead or missing as they tried to cross the Mediterranean last year, the previous high.

Friday 4 November 2016

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30 more bodies pulled from sea in Batam

Rescuers have recovered 30 more bodies from waters around Nongsa Point Marina in Batam, Riau Islands, on Friday morning, bringing the total number of deceased victims in a fatal boat accident in the area to 51. The bodies have been taken to the Riau Islands Police’s Bhayangkara Hospital for identification.

Police spokesperson Adj.Sr.Comr.Erlangga said the remains were seen floating on the sea surface. “The weather today is relatively good compared to the two previous days, enabling the search to run smoothly,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

With the latest operation result, Erlangga said nine people remained missing and relevant authorities would continue their search operations

“The search operation will be conducted until Nov.9 or seven days after the incident. But the emergency period can be extended, depending on the situation on the field. Insya Allah [God willing] we can recover all passengers still missing today,” said Erlangga, adding it had been confirmed that 41 survived the incident.

He said 40 boats provided by several institutions and two helicopters belonging to the Riau Islands Police and the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) were involved in the search operation.

As reported earlier, a boat carrying 98 illegal Indonesian migrant workers and their families and three crew members sank in Nongsa waters early on Wednesday. Having departed from Selingi, Johor Bahru, Malaysia, the boat capsized when it was struck by a large wave in Nongsa.

It was earlier reported that 18 people were killed in the incident before rescuers in a follow up operation found three more bodies on Thursday evening. A member of the Batam Disaster Mitigation Agency’s (BPBD) rescue team, Zabri Alhijra, said locals found the three bodies on Tanjung Memban Beach, Batam, at around 11:30 p.m.

“They found them floating on the water. They were later handed over to the rescue team,” said Zabri. Strong winds and large waves had hampered rescue operations, Zabri added.

Friday 4 November 2016

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Shipyard disaster: Rescuers spot four more bodies on tanker deck

Rescue workers have spotted three to four bodies lying on the deck of a burning tanker on Thursday as firefighters continued their battle to put out the blaze following a series of explosions aboard the vessel on November 1 at the Gadani ship-breaking yard.

“Some three to four burnt corpses were seen by the rescuers as they managed to climb up the ship in a bid to determine the situation inside the burning vessel,” Saad, grandson of the late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi, told The Express Tribune.

More than 100 people who were reportedly inside the 1995-built tanker Aces at the time of the explosion are unaccounted for.

Eighteen-year-old Saad, who has taken part in the rescue operation since day one, explained that rescuers from the Edhi Foundation and the fire-brigade department, however, could not fetch the bodies down to the ground because of metal sheets that were too hot to stand on.

Rescuers were finding it difficult to carry out their work on the deck in the rear from where flames were leaping into the air, he said.

Meanwhile, workers continued their strike over the tragic incident which is seen as the worst disaster in the history of Gadani ship-breaking yard.

So far, 19 people are confirmed dead while over 50 others are injured.

Friday 4 November 2016

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