Monday, 8 October 2012

Three dead, 13 missing in French accident

THREE people were dead and 13 missing on Monday after a boat carrying illegal immigrants capsized in the Indian Ocean off the French overseas territory of Mayotte, the local prefect's office said.

Eight others survived the accident on the boat, which had departed from the Comoran island of Anjouan, about 100 kilometres from Mayotte.

The boat capsized 300 metres off the coast and the search was continuing for other potential survivors, the office said.

Such accidents are common in the area, with several in the last few months including a shipwreck on September 8 that left six dead and 27 others missing and one in July in which seven people died and four went missing.

Mayotte is part of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros. While the three other islands chose independence from France in 1975, it opted to remain under French rule.

Many Comorans hoping to find work or medical care in Mayotte board rickety fishing boats to attempt the risky voyage, often foundering on coral reefs.

Some two-fifths of Mayotte's 200,000 inhabitants are thought to be illegal immigrants

Monday 8 October 2012

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Lack of information adds to trauma of ferry tragedy

Hong Kong's deadliest maritime disaster in four decades brought the city to a standstill a week ago.

While most of us were touched by rescuers who did their best to save more than 100 lives, the tragedy exposed the government's failure to disseminate information to the public, leaving many questions unanswered.

It is fair to say that the government reacted quickly to the disaster, in which a public ferry collided with a private motor launch last Monday night. Under Chief Executive Leung Chung-ying, departmental co-ordination was swiftly in place. But measures to provide updates about the victims were grossly inadequate.

Such information is particularly crucial not only to the rescue operation but also the subsequent investigation. This was glaringly obvious when no one, including the police, could get hold of the number of passengers on board the sunken motor launch, Lamma IV.

The lack of timely information forced distraught relatives to rush around hospitals looking for their loved ones.

Hongkong Electric, the owner of the Lamma IV, has been vague about its passenger list. It was not until the third day after the accident that it said it did not have a list of people on board.

On the same day, the government released just 11 names of the 38 who died, accounting for less than a third of the total. This was later increased to 39.

Officials said they could not release names without the victims' families' consent, despite the fact that the privacy law does not cover dead people.

Such a lack of information is unusual, with reporters normally being given the age, sex and names (sometimes not in full) of accident victims.

For tragedies such as the Manila hostage crisis in 2010 and the fire in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok, last year, the release of information was prompt. In both incidents, a list of people injured and their condition, along with those who died - with full names - were made available the next day.

As of today, the public is still confused about the scale of last Monday's tragedy. While Hongkong Electric revised its first-day figure of 124 passengers to 127, the casualties from various government departments show 131 in total.

Despite the confusion, the government seems to have made premature conclusions about the crash, raising questions as to the truthfulness of the investigations. Officials told the public on Tuesday the vessels were not overloaded. They also said all victims had been accounted for and rescuers had stopped the search.

Journalism academics agreed that more transparency would make investigations easier and fairer.

A full list of the names would allow the public to help identify the missing. Knowing the number of passengers on board will also tell investigators if the vessel was overloaded.

On the downside, the families of those who died could be upset by such aggressive reporting. But there has to be a balance between protecting privacy and the public interest.

Two days after the collision the government assembled rescuers from the disciplined services to share brave tales with the public.

While some officers dismissed the exercise as "propaganda" held at an inappropriate time, the Security Bureau said it was arranged at the media's requests.

It could be argued that the government has selectively released information, or could it be a more worrying sign of sheer incompetence. But the fact remains that an accurate death toll is still unclear today.

It is in the public interest for a thorough probe to be conducted so the government must release as quickly as possible full details of those who have died.

Monday 8 October 2012

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11 dead in Central China ship collision, one missing

CHANGSHA - Eleven people have died after two ships collided Friday afternoon in central China's Hunan province, the local government said Saturday.

One person remains missing, said Liu Lanping, a spokesperson with the city government of Yuanjiang.

A steel ship carrying 22 people collided with an unloaded sand carrier around 4 p.m. Friday on a river in Yuanjiang. All 22 people onboard the steel ship fell into the river. Ten people were rescued, while another 11 perished, Liu said.

A search for the missing person is under way. The cause of the accident is under investigation.

"Around 4 p.m. Friday, I heard a sudden crashing sound," said 50-year-old fisherman Zhong Lepeng, who witnessed the collision.

Zhong said he saw the smaller of the two ships turn on its side, and its bow was submerged.

Zhong and other fishermen rushed to rescue those who had fallen off of the boat. The survivors are receiving medical treatment.

A preliminary investigation by the local government indicated that the steel ship was not certified to carry passengers.

Monday 8 October 2012

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Tough questions on way for Key on body recovery

Prime Minister John Key will face tough questioning today from Pike River families desperate for the Government to restart body-recovery efforts.

Key is due to meet several Pike River family members and their lawyers this afternoon in Greymouth.

It comes as the second anniversary looms of the November 19, 2010, explosion that killed 29 men.

Their bodies remain entombed at the West Coast underground coalmine and no-one has been further than 300 metres along its 2.4-kilometre entry tunnel since the disaster.

The spokesman for some of the victims' families, Bernie Monk, said he planned to ask Key to put up money for recovery efforts as promised because the mine's new owner, Solid Energy, had told families it would be unlikely to start before 2014.

Monk, whose son Michael, 23, died in the blast, said experts hired by the families had given the Government a proposed body-recovery plan, including a staged re-entry into the tunnel up to a large rockfall at about 2.1km.

However, Solid Energy's financial woes meant it was unlikely to push ahead with reclaiming the tunnel, the first stage of re-entering the mine's main working section, where the bodies were believed to lie, he said.

"I believe the reason is they're waiting for coal prices to go up. It's not a top priority for them. That's not good enough for us."

Monk said it had been "very convenient" for the Government that the state-owned enterprise had bought the mine.

"The Government can wipe their hands of it," he said.

"Now everything has come to a standstill. We want the Government to come back and finish what they left."

After Key met Pike families in September last year he said the mine's owners could talk to the Government if funding for body recovery was an issue.

Monday 8 October 2012

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20 Die in Accident on Way to Wedding

No fewer than 20 people were reported dead in auto crash yesterday along Kobape-Abeokuta. The accident occurred at Ototo village located between Paramount F.M Radio Station and Police Computer College, Abeokuta around 7.30 a.m.

The accident was reportedly caused by a truck with registration number, Lagos, JJJ 489XB, which allegedly veered off its lane and rammed into a fully loaded Hiace passengers bus conveying the victims.

It was gathered that the victims, all members of the African Church Solution Camp, Ewang Estate, Abeokuta, had left for Lagos to attend a wedding ceremony of one of their members when tragedy struck.

The driver of the truck was said to have lost control and killed the bus passengers. Many of the victims, according to an eye witness account, died on the spot following the impact of the collision, while others died in hospital.

Two infants, including a two-year-old, were said to be among the victims.

An eye witness claimed the survivors were taken to a state hospital for treatment. Ogun State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Mr. Ayobami Omiyale, confirmed the accident,but said only nine died.

He however said that sympathisers took some corpses away before rescue team arrived the scene.

Also, the coordinator of the Ogun State traffic management outfit, TRACE, at the scene, Sola Bamidele, said the accident was caused by the truck driver.

Bamidele pointed out that the passengers took off from Abeokuta less than 30 minutes before the auto crash occured.

He added that the body (TRACE) was still trying to get in touch with the transport company which owned the ill-fated bus to get the manifest of the passengers.

When Sunday Vanguard visited the State Hospital Ijaye, where the victims were allegedly taken, worried relations were seen, asking for the victims whereabouts.

A doctor coordinating Ogun State Ambulance Services, Hassan Adelakun, said some of the victims died at the scene of incident while others died at the hospital.

Adelakun added that some of the victims corpses were deposited at State Hospital while others were taken to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Idi-Aba, Abeokuta.

Meanwhile, at the African Church Solution Camp, which the victims attended, members wore a pensive mood when Sunday Vanguard visited the place last night.

Monday 8 October 2012

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Sudanese military plane crashes near Khartoum

Thirteen Sudanese military personnel died and nine others were injured when their transport plane crashed on its way to conflict-plagued Darfur, the army told official media.

"Thirteen were killed instantly, and nine were taken to hospital," Sawarmi Khalid Saad, the Sudanese army spokesman, was quoted as saying by the state SUNA news agency.

The plane was traveling from Khartoum to El Fasher in the country's strife-torn Darfur region, Khalid told Reuters news agency, adding that the Antonov 12 transport plane was also carrying military equipment.

"The pilot informed the airport that he had a problem with one of his engines," before the plane went down west of Jebel Aulia, Khalid said.

Jebel Aulia is a popular recreational area about one hour's drive from the capital.

There have been several crashes in Sudan in recent years, where years of US sanctions have made it harder for airlines to get spare parts for their fleets.

In August, 32 people including a government minister died when a plane taking them to an Islamic festival in a southern border state crashed. State media blamed that accident on bad weather.

A military helicopter crashed in the country's North Kordofan state in December because of a technical failure, killing six crew members, the military said at the time.

Government forces have been battling an insurgency in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing the central government of neglecting the remote region.

Monday 8 October 2012

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