Tuesday, 4 April 2017

New search begins for missing Sewol passengers

As engineers proceeded Sunday with preparations to move the ill-fated ferry ashore, currently loaded on a semisubmersible transport vessel at Mokpo Port, South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced a plan to resume an underwater search of the wreck site.

Starting from Sunday night, 50 divers were to begin work in rotation to search the seabed area of about 32,000 square meters, where the sunken Sewol lay for nearly three years until it was lifted out of the water last week.

In order to prevent the victims’ bodies from being lost during the lifting process, salvage engineers installed an underwater steel fence 200 meters long, 160 meters wide and 3 meters high. The area inside the fence was divided into 40 sections for detailed search.

“The maritime search operation inside the fence should begin tonight,” said Lee Cheol-jo, an official from the Oceans Ministry who oversees the salvage and search operation.

But the official cautioned that strong tide in the area might prevent active searching by divers. “We have strong tides today and may face difficulty diving,” Lee added.

Sewol sank nearly three years ago in the nation’s worst peace-time maritime disaster, leaving over 300 dead, mostly high school students on a field trip. Nine passengers are still unaccounted for. The search for those missing has been on hold since November 2014, when the government decided to salvage the ship without cutting it into pieces.

On Sunday, some belongings of Sewol passengers were found as engineers worked to remove mud from the recovered ferry, which was transported to Mokpo Port on Friday. The ship is expected to be moved to a dry dock Thursday.

Among objects found were handbags, cards and pens, which presumably belonged to the victims, as well as the passport of the ship’s captain Lee Jun-seok, who is in prison on a life sentence for abandoning the ship and its passengers.

The search team also found fragments of animal bones on the ferry’s deck Sunday, where the team had found pieces of animal bone last week. The authorities had initially thought the pieces came from victims until the forensic experts said otherwise.

The government began the work of bringing the Sewol ashore by sending the first batch of transporters to pull the wreckage out of the transport vessel carrying it. The whole package of transporters is expected to arrive Thursday.

About 80 workers will be deployed to remove the mud and the whole process will be conducted manually, the ministry said, citing concerns that remains of the victims or their belongings, if any, could be damaged during the search operation.

“We are going to proceed cautiously and slowly,” said Lee. “It is not something that requires high-level expertise. What’s more important is how we handle (the situation), when we come across bodies.”

Tuesday 04 April 2017


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Sewol ferry disaster: Attention growing over collection of missing bodies

The successful salvaging of the Sewol ferry is drawing attention over whether the remains of nine missing passengers will be retrieved either from within the ferry or from the seabed where the ship had laid for almost three years.

Nine of the 304 passengers who died in the April 2014 ferry disaster in remain unaccounted for. They include the bodies of four students and two teachers of Danwon High School, who were on a school trip to Jeju Island, and three other passengers.

Search operations will be conducted on the ferry after it is drained of water and oil and taken to Mokpo Port this week.

The maritime ministry and Mokpo city government have formed a team of 105 government officials and police to assist in the search.

Searches will first require sediment and floating matter inside to be removed, to clear a way into the ferry. The ministry will then disinfect and wash the ferry and take out the objects found inside. Any objects left by the victims will be handed over to the bereaved family members.

In the meantime, there is a dispute over how to conduct the search. The ministry is reviewing cutting out the passenger cabins from the ferry and putting them upright before initiating the search.

However, bereaved family members are claiming separating the cabins may make it difficult to investigate the cause of the sinking.

Lee Cheol-jo, a senior official at the ministry, said, "This method is reasonable, considering efficiency in making the searches — even if we do cut out the cabins we will conduct inspections of the ferry at the same time."

He added, "We will conduct a pre-examination of the parts that may be damaged in the process of cutting out the cabins so it does not affect the inspections."

The ministry will first search the cabins on the third and fourth decks of the ferry, where the bodies are most likely to be located, based on testimonies from survivors.

It has leased the port for the search until July 20. The ministry put up a fence 200 meters wide, 160 meters long and 3 meters high around the seabed where the Sewol sank, in order to prevent anything that could possibly have drifted out of the ferry during the salvaging from being swept away.

The Chinese consortium led by state-run Shanghai Salvage, which was in charge of recovering the sunken Sewol, will also conduct the seabed search.

The fenced area will be divided into 40 sections, and divers will search one square meter at a time. The search is expected to be tough as currents are strong at the site of the sinking. After the divers make their search, sonar will scan the area.

There is the possibility that the remains may have drifted out of the ferry, as it has been submerged for almost three years. However, considering most of the 295 recovered bodies were retrieved from within the ferry, it is likely that the unaccounted bodies will be trapped inside as well.

Tuesday 04 April 2017


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20 bodies retrieved, 11 hospitalised in Kintampo Waterfalls disaster

Three more persons have been confirmed dead in Sunday's bizarre disaster at the Kintampo Water Falls bringing the death toll to 20.

A total of 17 students of the Wenchi Methodist Senior High School were crushed to death by a tumbling tree during a rainstorm, Sunday afternoon.

Out of 11 others who sustained varying degrees of injuries eight of them are on admission at the Techiman Municipal Hospital while the three others have been rushed to Kumasi for special care.

The Ghana Fire Service has dispatched more personnel to the Waterfalls to intensify the search for possible trapped.

Kintampo Fire Service PRO, Kwaku Boateng, in an interaction with the media said the intensified operational activities of the Service are aimed at finding out if there are more bodies under the water.

What was meant to be a period of fun and excitement at the Kintampo Waterfalls turned tragic Sunday after some revelers largely students of Wenchi Methodist Senior High School in the Brong Ahafo Region were crushed to death after a huge tree tumbled into the water from the mountain.

The students were on an excursion to the Waterfalls in the company of some of their teachers.

One of the teachers in an interaction with Joy News’ Brong Ahafo Regional Correspondent, Anas Sabit, said they instructed the students to vacate the place after the weather turned windy.

He said while the students made their way to the exit, two trees tumbled and nearly fell on the students. This then prompted a change in direction.

One of the teachers later instructed them to take shelter elsewhere, he added. He said the huge tree then fell on them while taking refuge at a place they thought was safe enough.

This account has been corroborated by the Fire Service after their preliminary investigation.

Mr Boateng said the tree that trapped the students to death is the only one that serves as buffer at the Waterfalls in the event of a windy weather.

He said the incident might not have happened had some residents not destroyed the other big trees.

Joy News has gathered Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumiah, has left Accra to visit the scene of the accident and to meet with families of deceased.

Earlier, Tourism Minister, Catherine Afeku, on the Joy FM's Super Morning Show described the accident as "unfortunate" promising to head to the Region to hold talks with local authorities.

Tuesday 04 April 2017


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Colombia starts to bury 273 landslide victims, search continues

Scores of decomposing cadavers were being released for burial on Monday as rescuers continued to search for victims of weekend flooding and landslides that devastated a city in southern Colombia, killing at least 273 people.

Desperate families queued for blocks in the heat to search a morgue for loved ones who died when several rivers burst their banks in the early hours of Saturday, sending water, mud and debris crashing down streets and into houses as people slept.

Bodies wrapped in white sheets lay on the concrete floor of the morgue as officials sought to bury them as soon as possible to avoid the spread of disease. The government has begun vaccination against infection.

"Please speed up delivery of the bodies because they are decomposing," said Yadira Andrea Munoz, a 45-year-old housewife who expected to receive the remains of two relatives who died in the tragedy.

But officials asked for families to be patient.

"We don't want bodies to be delivered wrongly," said Carlos Eduardo Valdes, head of the forensic science institute.

The death toll has ticked up during the day as rescuers searched with dogs and machinery in the mud-choked rubble.

Many families in Mocoa have spent days and nights digging through the debris with their hands despite a lack of food, clean water and electricity.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who made a third visit to the area on Monday, blamed climate change for the disaster, saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night, causing the rivers to burst their banks.

Others said deforestation in surrounding mountains meant there were few trees to prevent water washing down bare slopes.

More than 500 people were staying in emergency housing and social services had helped 10 lost children find their parents. As many as 43 children were killed.

Families of the dead will receive about $6,400 in aid and the government will cover hospital and funeral costs.

The Colombian Red Cross says it has received 374 requests for help from families unable to locate loved ones, people whose whereabouts were still unknown three days after the disaster.

President Manuel Santos, making his third visit to the remote city in as many days, said 90 per cent of the dead had now been identified and that they would not consider anyone "disappeared" until they have established the death toll to the extent possible.

Much of Mocoa was still strewn with rocks, tree limbs, and brown muck. Search and rescue teams continued to probe debris piles when someone heard a possible sound of movement.

Even in a country where heavy rains, a mountainous landscape and informal construction combine to make landslides a common occurrence, the scale of the Mocoa disaster was daunting compared with recent tragedies, including a 2015 landslide that killed nearly 100 people.

Colombia's deadliest landslide, the 1985 Armero disaster, killed more than 20,000 people.

Santos urged Colombians to take precautions against flooding and continued rains.

Flooding in Peru last month killed more than 100 people and destroyed infrastructure.

Tuesday 04 April 2017


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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Manchester's forgotten tragedy - the day a plane crashed into a Wythenshawe estate

It's one of the city's worst tragedies - yet it's one that many people are still unaware happened here.

On March 14, 1957 - 60 years ago tomorrow - an airliner crashed short of the Manchester Airport runway, smashing into a house in nearby Wythenshawe.

The crash killed all 20 people on board the plane, and two people in the house - tragically, the wife and baby son of a man who had campaigned about the dangers of low-flying aircraft in the area.

It was 1.46pm, and a British European Airways (BEA) Viscount Discovery aircraft was on its final approach to Ringway at the end of its flight from Amsterdam.

It was a fairly normal March Manchester day - weather was not a contributing factor in what happened, and all appeared normal as flight number 411 descended through the low clouds, the landing gear was lowered and the crew looked ahead in preparation for final approach.

According to an official accident description , around a mile from the runway the aircraft made a sudden right turn, at a steep downward angle.

The right wingtip touched the ground - the plane broke up, burst into flames and smashed into a house on Shadowmoss Road, Wythenshawe.

It left a scene of devastation - the house was obliterated, and the plane was left in several pieces, with the tail and engines coming to rest yards away from the wreckage of the building.

Emergency services were there within minutes, in great numbers, and the inferno was quickly extinguished. But the 15 passengers, five crew, and the mother and her baby that were in the house when it was hit, stood no chance.

Three other houses were badly damaged and several people inside them were injured. It took rescue workers took many hours to recover the bodies.

M.E.N. reporters spoke to shocked residents who witnessed the horror. One said: "The plane looked as though it was going straight through the front door of one of the houses."

Adam McAllum told us: "I was in the back kitchen and saw the plane flying low over the field at the back of the house.

"His engines cut out. One wing seemed to dip then swing right over the other way and he crumpled into the row of houses. It seemed the pilot was trying to pull the plane to open ground. He was doing his best."

Our report described a grim scene an hour after the crash:

"Thick grey smoke rose from the 30ft mass of wreckage. Firemen, ambulancemen and civilian volunteers climbed over the foam-covered debris, clawing desperately to get to the heart of the fire and see if there were any survivors.

"Nurses stood waiting with stretchers. A crowd of nearly 2,000 gathered. From them came more and more volunteers to help, including women who helped to heave on a rope attached to masses of debris, to make a way to the heart of the fire.

"Children's toys - teddy bears and dolls - were thrown from the blazing wreckage."

Roy Peacock's home was just yards from the impact. He said: "I saw flames spurting from the plane before it crashed. I was getting off the bus at the corner of the road and I was terrified - it looked as though the plane was bound to crash into the house.

"I knew that my wife and two of my children were in the house. I ran as fast as I could and found that the plane had torn through the houses on the other side of the block and stopped about 20 yards from our house.

"My wife was in the back kitchen and saw the houses before her crumble as the plane tore through."

Mechanical failure was suspected as the cause of the crash, and in the days following the disaster British European Airways withdrew up to 25 of its fleet of Viscount 701 aircraft "as a precautionary measure", to carry out checks on its flap-operating mechanism.

But as the investigation began, the talk in Manchester was about the future safety of residential areas close to airports.

The M.E.N reported how a year before the crash, ex-airport fireman Wally Wilding had launched a petition protesting about the dangers of low-flying aircraft. His fears came to pass in the most tragic way imaginable - it was his wife and baby son who were killed in the house that the plane struck.

We called for Manchester Corporation to launch an "immediate and top-level inquiry ... to make quite sure that the houses in Shadowmoss Road are NOT in a dangerous position".

An official investigation found that crash probably happened because of metal fatigue in a bolt led to a flap unit becoming detached from the trailing edge of the right wing, causing a flap to become locked.

Sadly, it wasn't to be the last time Greater Manchester was hit by air disasters, with crashes involving the Manchester United team in Munich in 1958 , in Stockport in 1967 , and at the airport in 1985.

Tuesday 14 March 2017


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Monday, 13 March 2017

Death toll from rubbish dump landslide in Ethiopia rises to 65

At least 65 people were killed in a giant landslide at Ethiopia’s largest rubbish dump this weekend, officials said on Monday, with entire families including children buried alive in the tragedy.

“The rescue operation is still ongoing. Security personnel and rescuers are trying their level best to locate any possible survivors, while searching for the dead,” said communication minister Negeri Lencho.

Police and firefighters combing a “vast area” at the dump outside Addis Ababa found bodies throughout the day, Lencho said.

The disaster on Saturday at the dump flattened dozens of the homes of people living in the Koshe dump when part of the largest pile of rubbish collapsed.

“The number of dead has reached 65,” said Dagmawit Moges, head of the city communications bureau.

Many of the victims were squatters who scavenged for a living in the 30-hectare (74-acre) dump.

“Those at the top [of the dump] were taken by this pile, because it split and people could not make [their] way out of this debris,” Lencho said, adding that most of the dead recovered were women and children.

The landfill is the country’s largest and home to perhaps hundreds of people who collected recyclables that were trucked in from neighbourhoods around the city of about 4 million people.

The government tried last year to close the dump and shift it to a new location, but opposition from residents at the new site scuttled the plan.

Residents blamed a biogas plant being constructed on top of the rubbish for causing the collapse. They said work by bulldozers to flatten the area around the plant contributed to it.

Lencho said the cause was still being investigated, but denied that the plant’s construction had anything to do with the collapse. He blamed the squatters for digging into the hillside, destabilising it and causing it to fall.

All the shacks built on the landfill would be demolished and the residents resettled elsewhere, he said.

But Amnesty International said the government was fully responsible for the disaster. “It was aware that the landfill was full to capacity but continued to use it regardless. It also let hundreds of people continue to live in close proximity to it,” the group’s Muthoni Wanyeki said in a statement.

“These people, including many women and children, had no option but to live and work in such a hazardous environment because of the government’s failure to protect their right to adequate housing, and decent work.”

Ibrahim Mohammed, a day labourer living at the landfill whose house narrowly escaped destruction, said on Sunday the disaster happened in three minutes. He estimated that more than 300 people lived on the landfill.

For more than 40 years the Koshe site has been the main garbage dump for the rapidly growing city of Addis Ababa. People had built the houses about two to three years ago, said Berhanu Degefe, a rubbish collector who lives at the dump but whose home was not destroyed.

“Their livelihood depends on the trash. They collect from here and they live here,” Degefe said, referring to the victims and other squatters. “This part, all of it went down,” he said, gesturing at a huge chunk of the hill that suddenly slid. Degefe said they were levelling ground for the plant, increasing pressure on the hillside and causing the collapse.

Koshe, whose name means “dirt” in local slang, was closed last year by city authorities who asked people to move to the new dump site outside Addis Ababa. But the community there did not want the landfill, and so the garbage collectors moved back.

An AP reporter saw four bodies taken away by ambulances after being pulled from the debris. Elderly women cried, and others stood anxiously waiting for news of loved ones. Six excavators dug through the ruins.

"My house was right inside there," said a shaken Tebeju Asres, pointing to where one of the excavators was digging in deep, black mud. "My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don't know the fate of all of them."

The resumption of garbage dumping at the site in recent months likely caused the landslide, Assefa said.

Smaller collapses have occurred at Koshe - or "dirty" in the local Amharic language - in the past two years but only two or three people were killed, Assefa said. "In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill," the Addis Ababa mayor said.

Monday 13 March 2017


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