Monday, 16 July 2012

Nepal bus crash kills at least 39

At least 39 people are dead after an overcrowded bus carrying Hindu pilgrims skidded off a wet road in southern Nepal.

The driver lost control of the bus on the rain-slicked road and it plunged into a flooded irrigation canal, according to Nepalese police official Gyan Bikram Shah.

Rescuers have recovered 39 bodies.

Shah said the bus was so packed that some people were riding on the roof.

Most of those on board were believed to be Indian nationals from the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh visiting Nepal on an annual pilgrimage to Hindu temples.

However, the victims' identities are not yet clear because Indian citizens do not need to register when they cross into Nepal, Shah said.

The driver is believed to have survived the crash but may have fled, Shah said.

The crash site is about 100 miles (160km) south-west of the capital, Kathmandu.

Monday 16 July 2012

continue reading

9 die in Nepal's 2nd bus disaster in 2 days

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) - Police in Nepal say a bus veered off a highway and plunged into a river, killing at least nine people and injuring 18 more in the mountainous nation's second road disaster in as many days.

The bus rolled some 100 meters (330 feet) from the highway and plunged Monday in the Trishuli river about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Katmandu, the capital.

Six bodies were pulled from the wreckage and three people died on the way to the hospital. Rescuers continued searching the swollen river for passengers.

It was not clear how many people had been on the bus.

Police are investigating the cause.

At least 39 people were killed on Sunday in another bus accident in Nepal, where roads and vehicles are often poorly maintained.

Monday 16 July 2012

continue reading

32 dead or missing as flood victims begin clean-up

TOKYO - Flood victims in Japan began a full-scale clean-up operation Monday after record rainfall forced hundreds of thousands to flee and left at least 32 dead or missing in northern Kyushu.

Residents together with volunteers and local government officials shovelled mud and moved damaged furniture from their homes, while mechanical diggers removed fallen trees and debris from the roads.

Four days of torrential rainfall wrought devastation in the four prefectures of Kumamoto, Oita, Saga and Fukuoka, with rivers bursting their banks, and muddy water destroying or inundating houses.

 Electricity remained cut off to some 2,600 houses in northern Kyushu, according to Kyushu Electric Power Co, while local governments sent emergency response teams to villagers isolated by landslides.

Troops were called in Sunday to airlift supplies to those cut off, while local authorities dispatched rescue helicopters to ferry the elderly to hospital.

The death toll from landslides and floods rose to 27 Monday afternoon as the body of a 57-year-old man was recovered in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, officials said.

Rescuers continued searching for five missing people. Television footage showed rescue divers searching a river, while troops looking for bodies scoured flooded rice fields.

“We are stepping up efforts to remove rubble as roads remain covered with mud at many points,” Masatatsu Minoda, an official from Kyushu’s Kumamoto Prefecture, told AFP by phone. “Workers are engaged in clean-up efforts while taking care against possible further landslides. We may have to stop working if it rains heavily again.”

The meteorological agency said rains had eased but warned further downpours on Monday could trigger more landslides.

Light rainfall was recorded in northern Kyushu Monday morning but there were no immediate reports of further damage.

Most of the 400,000 people who were ordered or advised to evacuate their homes on the island were allowed to return home after authorities began lifting evacuation orders Sunday. But 6,000 were still under instructions to stay away.

In Yame, a mountainous area of Kyushu’s Fukuoka Prefecture, 5,000 people had been isolated by landslides, but just 82 remained cut off Monday, officials said.

Rainfall of up to 81.7 centimeters has been recorded in hardest-hit Aso, situated at the foot of a volcano in Kumamoto, where at least 19 people were killed and three others were still missing.

There was also heavy rain on Sunday in Kyoto—500 kilometers east of the affected areas in Kyushu—where about 20 people were temporarily trapped after a stream broke its banks.

Monday 16 July 2012

continue reading

Hope lost in death, leaving nothing but a number

WITH their hopes for a better life snatched by a ferocious ocean, the bodies of 18 asylum-seekers who drowned in last month's two boat sinkings were unceremoniously loaded on to a plane bound for Perth at Christmas Island on the weekend.

The human tide continued with an asylum boat believed to be carrying 51 Tamil asylum-seekers arriving at Christmas Island and the merchant vessel Atlantic Hero rescuing 27 people 320km northwest of the Cocos Islands yesterday.

On Saturday each of the 18 bodies was transported in a vacuum-sealed wooden coffin marked with a numbered label and this, sadly, may be the only ultimate identifier for some of the victims. Just two of the bodies, both from the first capsizing, on June 21, have been identified so far.

There was only one victim from the second sinking, which happened less than a week later in the seas between Indonesia and Christmas Island. The sole victim of the second sinking is an adult male and West Australian police have said he could not be identified by any of the 130 survivors because they did not know him. Instead police will now try to identity the man, along with the the 15 unidentified bodies from the first capsizing, via disaster victim identification techniques such as dental records and matching DNA with family members.

This is likely to be a long and difficult process, with families from around the world and Australia contacting authorities desperate to know if their loved ones are among the bodies recovered. Post-mortems are also likely to be carried out on some of the bodies.

WA Police have established that there were as many as 220 passengers on the boat that sank on June 21, and only 110 people survived. These survivors, along with the 130 from the second high seas disaster, have been held in detention facilities on Christmas Island.

They have been interviewed by WA Police about the disaster and how they came to risk their lives in an unseaworthy vessel. As well, some have been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police about the people-smugglers they used to arrange their journey and the crew on the boat.

WA police detectives also left the island on the weekend, but their work will continue in Perth, where they will attempt to piece together who the missing are and prepare an extensive report for WA coroner Alastair Hope.

The bodies that left on Saturday had sat for weeks in a makeshift morgue that consisted of refrigerated shipping containers. These were placed behind the AFP headquarters, just metres down the road from Barracks Cafe.

Cafe co-owner Trish O'Donnell said people were deeply touched by the impact of bodies and injured passengers arriving on the island. Like many locals she is concerned people are becoming desensitised to tragedy. "It's not our island any more," she said.

The island's Muslim community also has been uncomfortable about the length of time the bodies remained on the island. Imam Abdul Ghaffar Ismail said Muslims were uneasy about this because Islam demanded bodies were buried as soon as possible.

It is unclear at this stage how many of the bodies will be buried in Australia and how many are likely to be repatriated to family in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Monday 16 July 2012

continue reading