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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