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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