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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