Friday, 7 September 2012

Police use sketches to ID disaster bodies

Facial sketches have helped identify some of the people killed in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami, with 15 people identified since May from sketches drawn by police based on photos of the bodies.

According to the National Police Agency, 223 of the 15,802 bodies found in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures after the Great East Japan Earthquake remained unidentified as of Sept. 5.

The identities of 2,814 bodies--about 20 percent--were confirmed through DNA examination. Police are utilizing traditional techniques as well as modern scientific methods to identify the bodies about 1-1/2 years after the disaster.

The identities of 15,576 bodies, or 98.6 percent of those found in the three prefectures as of Aug. 8, have been confirmed. Soon after the disaster, bodies were identified mainly through their physical characteristics. About six months after the disaster, it became difficult to identify bodies through examination, so police have had to rely more on DNA tests.

However, it was difficult for the police to secure DNA samples of missing people for verification, such as hair or oil left on combs, as most of the missing people's houses were washed away. Samples from only 120 missing people have been obtained from items left in houses.

Since May 2011, the NPA has beefed up efforts to secure DNA samples through other channels, such as asking the Japanese Red Cross Society to provide blood samples of missing people who had donated blood. The NPA also asked medical institutions to provide cells from missing people collected during biopsies.

For those who left no DNA samples, the NPA has collected cheek swabs from relatives of missing people in hopes of a DNA match. Combining the results with other clues, such as teeth and other bodily characteristics, the agency has succeeded in identifying some of the unidentified bodies.

Since May, the prefectural police headquarters of Miyagi and Iwate have released 96 sketches of dead people, which were drawn from pictures of the dead bodies. Many of the bodies' eyes were closed and their faces were damaged, but police artists recreated the faces as if they were alive. The sketches were decisive in identifying the bodies of 15 people.

In June, a man from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, was able to identify the body of his father-in-law, who was 79 years old when he was killed, from a facial sketch posted on a Miyagi prefectural police website.

"I visited the morgue where his body was many times, but I couldn't identify it and even seeing a picture didn't help. However, the facial sketch was identical to his face when he was alive," the man said.

A senior NPA official said: "People seem more comfortable looking at the sketches rather than shocking pictures of dead bodies. We can also alter the the sketches if we don't receive many tips."

About 1 million police officers--counting those who made multiple visits--from around the country have visited the three prefectures to search for those missing after the disaster. However, only 16 bodies were discovered in the six months up to Aug. 31. According to police, 2,925 people remain missing.

Friday 8 September 2012

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Flash Flood In Pakistan-Administered Kashmir Kills 13

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN — Thirteen people were killed on Wednesday when a group of people was washed away by a flash flood in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, emergency officials said on Thursday, raising the death toll as a result of recent monsoon rains in northern Pakistan to 46.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said heavy monsoon rains triggered a flash flood in Machiara Nullah, around 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Muzaffarabad, in the Azad Kashmir region which is administered by Pakistan. The floods washed away at least eighteen people.

Five people were injured and taken to medical facilities while rescue teams had recovered four bodies by Thursday, with the remaining nine people still missing and presumed to have drowned. “Efforts (are) on to recover the remaining dead bodies,” an NDMA official said, identifying the nine missing as six men and three women.

In other rain-triggered incidents on Wednesday, sixteen people were injured when a road collapsed as a bus drove over it in the Kotli district of Azad Kashmir. Landslides also killed two people in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, one in Abbottabad district and the other in Mansehra district.

Heavy monsoon rains in northern Pakistan have killed at least 51 people in recent weeks, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The worst-hit area is Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where emergency officials have reported that at least 31 people were killed and 32 others were injured.

Earlier this year, the Pakistani government warned that nearly 30 million people across the country could be affected by flooding this year, advising local government officials and local citizens for adequate preparedness. Millions of people were also affected by the monsoon season last year, killing more than 300 people. Some areas saw the worst rainfall since at least 1936.

In late July 2010, above-average heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions killed approximately 2,000 people and affected around 20 million others as floods covered about a fifth of the country. Torrential rains overflooded rivers, which went cascading across the country from the mountainous north, inundating successive regions until they reached the sea. It was the country’s worst flooding in modern history.

Friday 7 September 2012

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Toll in bus tragedy rises to nine

The toll in the bus tragedy in West Bengal's Bankura district on Friday rose to nine with recovery of seven more bodies.

Police superintendent of Bankura Mukesh Kumar said five bodies, including that of a young housewife, were found in Bhairabbanki river at Raipur in the district.

Two other bodies were found at Lalagrah in neighbouring West Midnapore during searches this morning, he said.

Search was on for more bodies, especially in the downstream near Lalgrah though no complaints of missing persons had been filed with the police, he said.

The private bus, which had fallen into the swollen river and was washed away while navigating a small bridge at Phulkulsma on way to Durgapur from Jhargram yesterday, has been pulled out of the water and no body was found inside it.

Neither was any body found trapped under the bus, he said.

The body of the 25 year-old housewife from Jhargram in West Midnapore was found at Junbani ghat in Raipur, while those of two men were found at Ekpal Ghat.

Bodies of two other men were found at Ambari ghat, also in Raipur. All the bodies except one found at Ambari have been identified, Kumar said adding all the bodies were taken to Bankura Medical College for post mortem.

Friday 7 September 2012

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Deadly bus crash in south Morocco

At least 42 people died when a bus plunged into a ravine in southern Morocco, officials say.

More than 20 others are reported to have been injured, some seriously.

The bus, travelling between the cities of Marrakesh and Zagora, left the road near the town of Zerkten in Haouz province and fell 150m (490ft), local officials said.

Most of the passengers are believed to be Moroccan. It is not clear if any foreigners are among the casualties.

"We are still in the process of identifying the bodies, as well as the injured," a local official told AFP news agency.

The accident happened in a mountainous area in the early hours of Tuesday, the official news agency Map reported. The cause is not yet known but an official in Haouz said an inquiry had been launched.

At least 24 people were said to be injured, 21 of whom were taken to a hospital in Marrakesh and the rest to a hospital in nearby Ouarzazate.

In a palace statement, King Mohammed VI offered his condolences to families of the victims and said he would pay for their transport, funeral and burial costs.

In July, two separate bus crashes in Morocco killed 26 people.

More than 4,000 people died in road accidents in Morocco last year, according to the transport ministry - an increase of 11.6% on the previous year.

4 September 2012

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Death toll in southwest China quake rises to 64

BEIJING - The death toll from two earthquakes that struck in southwestern China has risen to 64, the Xinhua state-run news agency said on Friday, citing provincial authorities.

Residents described people running out of buildings as the two quakes hit on the border of Yunnan and Guizhou provinces an hour apart around the middle of the day, followed by a string of aftershocks.

Television footage showed people running from damaged buildings and streets strewn with fallen bricks and rocks in Yunnan province's Yiliang district, which appeared to be worst hit.

The Xinhua news agency said 50 people had been killed and that rescuers have rushed to the quake zone. Authorities are also sending thousands of tents, quilts and coats to the area, it said.

The Yiliang county government said on its website that 556 people had been injured, while an online statement from the public affairs bureau in Zhaotong city, which overseas Yiliang, put the figure at 150.

The Zhaotong statement also said 100,000 people were made homeless by the disaster, and at least 20,000 houses collapsed or were damaged.

Altogether 700,000 people have been affected, it said.

The death toll could still rise as some villages remain blocked by landslides and the worst-hit areas may have lost power and communications, Xinhua said, citing local officials.

"The hardest part of the rescue now is traffic," Li Fuchun, the head Luozehe township, identified as the epicentre, was quoted as saying. "Roads are blocked and rescuers have to climb mountains to reach hard-hit villagers."

Rocks as tall as four meters (13 feet) crashed into mountain roads and landslides were also triggered, the report said.

The death toll may have been higher because of the area's denser population, with 205 people per square kilometer compared to 117 across the province, said Huang Pugang, head of the Yunnan seismological bureau, according to Xinhua.

In addition the epicentres of both major quakes were located just five to 15 kilometres from the county seat, he said, while the homes and buildings in the poor area might not have been built to withstand strong quakes.

Footage broadcast on state television network CCTV showed hundreds of people crowded into a sports field in Yiliang, a sprawling town surrounded by green mountains.

Many people took cover outside after the first quake and did not return indoors, said a man surnamed Xia reached by phone. "Lots of people are outside because they fear aftershocks," he said.

"I was walking on the street when I suddenly felt the ground shaking beneath me," posted one witness on Sina Weibo, a microblog similar to Twitter.

"People started rushing outside screaming, it still scares me to think of it now." So far, no casualties have been reported in Guizhou province, but the quake has damaged 1,540 homes there, Xinhua said, quoting the provincial civil affairs department.

The US Geological Survey said the first quake struck at 11.20 am (0320 GMT) at a depth of around 10 kilometres (six miles), with a second quake around an hour later, putting the magnitude of both at 5.6.

The China Earthquake Networks Centre put its magnitude at 5.7 and said it struck at a depth of 14 kilometres.

Southwest China is prone to earthquakes. In May 2008, an 8.0-magnitude quake rocked Sichuan and parts of neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, killing tens of thousands and flattening swathes of the province.

Yiliang county has a population of 550,900, according to the latest official figures, and is listed as a priority district for state aid due to its poor infrastructure and the low average income of residents.

Friday 7 September 2012

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Fireworks factory blaze in India kills at least 40 people

A massive blaze raged for hours at a fireworks factory in southern India, killing at least 40 workers and injuring 60 others on Wednesday, police said. Some reports put the death toll at more than 50. Flames billowing out of the factory could be seen one mile away before firefighters extinguished the fire more than five hours after it began. Photographs taken afterwards showed the factory had burned to rubble, with fireworks littering the ground. The fire spread to 40 of the 60 rooms at the Om Siva Shakti fireworks factory, one of the biggest in Sivakasi, in Tamil Nadu state, a police officer said. The Press Trust of India news agency said about 300 people were working in the factory and 52 died. The CNN-IBN television news channel said rescue workers had completed a search of the devastated building for trapped workers. Large amounts of firecrackers and raw materials were stored in the factory with major Hindu festivals weeks away. The cause of the fire was not immediately known, the officer said. Sivakasi is about 310 miles south-west of Chennai, the state capital. The region has many factories making fireworks, which are used in religious festivals and weddings across India. They also are exported to other Asian countries. Thursday 6 September 2012

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At least 61 die in Turkey boat sinking

At least 61 migrants including Palestinians and Syrians have drowned after their overcrowded boat sank just tens of metres off Turkey’s western Aegean coast. More than half of them are children.

The governor of the coastal district in Turkey’s Izmir province, said an initial investigation showed overcrowding caused the accident. The total death toll stands at 61, including 28 children and three babies.

The governor said 46 people had been rescued alive, including the ship’s Turkish captain and assistant, who had been placed under arrest. He added there were no bodies left on the boat, and he did not expect the death toll to rise any further.

Turkish media reported that the high death toll was because the women and children were in a locked compartment in the lower section of the small vessel. Although there have not been any official confirmation of this.

Nine children were among the dead, according to Turkey's Dogan News Agency. Several dozen survivors, mostly from Iraq and Syria, were able to swim through the Aegean waters to shore, only 50 metres away. Survivors had told authorities that some people were trapped below the deck of the submerged vessel, and divers launched an operation to try to find them.

Television footage showed several rescue vessels near the dim outline of the submerged boat, which lay just below the surface of the water. Ambulances waited at the top of a cliff, but there were no indications that anyone else had survived.

The group of migrants had previously made their way to hotels in the city of Izmir, where smugglers agreed to take them to Britain. Authorities arrested two Turkish suspects in the smuggling operation, Turkey's TRT television reported.

TRT earlier quoted Tahsin Kurtbeyoglu, a local administrator, as saying 20 bodies were recovered, but the toll rose through Thursday as more bodies were pulled from within the boat's confines. Those who survived were on the deck, rather than below with other members of their group.

It was not immediately clear when the boat sank, but many such vessels carrying migrants make the journey at night to avoid detection by authorities.

Migrants from Asia and Africa have long sought to reach Europe by passing through Turkey, and their desperate efforts have occasionally ended in disaster. Each year, thousands try to sail to Greek islands from Turkish soil in rickety boats.

Turkey is now hosting 80,000 Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country and are staying in camps just across the border, and some countries are concerned that larger numbers of Syrians could try to reach Europe illegally.

Greece said in July that it was quadrupling the number of guards at its border with Turkey and boosting other defences in part because of worries about a potential influx.

Some non-governmental groups believe migrants, deterred by tighter enforcement on the land border, are now turning back to more dangerous sea routes in their effort to start a life elsewhere.

Friday 7 September 2012

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