Sunday, 16 December 2012

Elementary school shooting victims' bodies identified and names released

Thirty-one hours after their lives were ended when a 20-year-old man forced his way into their school and opened fire on some of the youngest pupils and their teachers, the names of those who died in the Connecticut school rampage were released on Saturday.

The nature of the tragedy is told perhaps most poignantly not through the list of 26 names of the victims published by police, but through their dates of birth. Sixteen of them were born in 2006 – they were six years old; four more were seven. The list of the dead also revealed the names of all the six adults who were killed.

Now that the names have been made public, the first glimpse can be gained of the agony of families whose lives were overturned when Adam Lanza, for reasons that are yet to be disclosed, set out for Sandy Hook elementary school after killing his mother on Friday morning.

The names of the dead were released after the Connecticut chief medical examiner, Dr Wayne Carver, and his team had identified all 26 bodies in the school. Carver said he had shown pictures of the children's faces to the parents to avoid having to bring families into direct contact with the bodies of their children.

Carver said he had seen a "devastating set of injuries. I believe everybody was hit more than once." Of the seven victims he examined personally, each had three to 11 gunshot wounds and two had been shot at close range.

He also indicated that early examinations suggested that all of the shootings had been carried out with a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, one of three weapons recovered close to the gunman who killed himself. Should the exclusive use of the Bushmaster be confirmed by investigation, it could prove significant in any ensuing debate over tightening up gun laws in the wake of the catastrophe.

President Obama said on Saturday that he wants to see "meaningful action" to prevent further such tragedies, and one option already being debated widely is to bring back the federal ban on semi-automatic assault rifles that was introduced by Bill Clinton but allowed to lapse in 2004 by George Bush. The Bushmaster would fall under that category, whereas the other two weapons in Lanza's possession, Glock and Sig Sauer handguns, would not.

While the list of the victims has now been released, police say that a positive identification of the shooter has still not been completed. There are also two adults who were injured in the rampage but are expected to make full recoveries, a police source said.

A stream of visibly distressed families have been calling to pay their respects for the dead at the voluntary fire station located just next to Sandy Hook elementary school. A makeshift memorial comprising balloons, a wreath, bunches of flowers and a large heart made from 20 teddy bears, one for every child victim, grew steadily through the day.

A line of 26 Christmas trees for the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre were put up today in a poignant reminder of those who will miss this holiday season.

The trees were donated by an anonymous benefactor from North Carolina who was moved by an advert for a Christmas tree sale at the Sandy Hook volunteer fire department he saw watching the harrowing coverage of the shooting.

Decorated by women and children helping out at the fire station, the five-foot trees were lined up leading towards the tragic school.

The list of names can be found at:

Sunday 16 December 2012

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6 fishermen die in Lake Victoria mishap

Six fishermen have drowned in Lake Victoria after their boat capsized in Bumbe beach in Funyula constituency.

Only one fisherman was rescued in the 8pm incident.

Initial reports said strong waves hit their boat tipping it over, but the surviving fisherman blamed the accident on an inexperienced coxswain.

It took local fishermen and the provincial administration almost eight hours to retrieve the bodies.

The surviving fisherman was treated at a local hospital and discharged.

Those who died were aged between 15 and 21 years.

The area MP Paul Otuoma grieved with family members and cautioned parents against allowing their young sons to venture into the lake.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Three bodies, boat found adrift off Japan

Three bodies and a partially capsized wooden boat have been found drifting off central Japan, the coastguard says, with a report suggesting the boat originates from Korea.

The almost-submerged boat was spotted off the city of Wajima early on Sunday and the coastguard found the bodies in the sea nearby.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said the craft was marked with the Hangeul alphabet used in North and South Korea.

"The bodies have been recovered but we are still checking details" including their gender and time of death, a coastguard official said.

Several boats have recently been found drifting in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) which separates Japan and the Korean peninsula.

A wooden boat containing a dead man wearing Korean-made boots was found near Japan on December 1, three days after another vessel with five corpses was discovered in the same area.

There was speculation that the five might have been North Korean fishermen who had weather or technical troubles and drifted out to sea.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Update: Philippines typhoon death toll tops 1000

The death toll from a typhoon that devastated the southern Philippines earlier this month has topped 1,000 as hundreds more remain missing, the government said on Sunday.

Typhoon Bopha killed 1,020 people, mostly on the southern island of Mindanao where floods and landslides caused major damage on December 4, civil defence chief Benito Ramos said.

A total of 844 people remain missing, about half of them fishermen who ventured out to sea before Bopha hit, Ramos said, adding he feared many of the missing were dead.

"The death toll will go higher. We found a lot of bodies yesterday, buried under fallen logs and debris," he told AFP.

He added the toll from Bopha, the worst natural disaster to hit the country this year, would exceed the 1,268 confirmed dead after Typhoon Washi struck the southern Philippines in December 2011.

"We prepared. We were just simply overwhelmed," said Ramos.

"They did not expect this intensity. The last time (this part of the country) got hit by a strong storm was 1912," he added.

He added that many evacuation centres were destroyed by the typhoon.

More than 27,000 people remain in such centres almost two weeks after Bopha hit as the search for the dead and missing continues, the civil defence office said.

Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the military forces in the worst-affected region, was less optimistic of finding any survivors.

"We are on (body) retrieval mode already. We are done with search and rescue," he told AFP.

Paniza, who oversees the hardest-hit regions which suffered over 960 dead, said he expected the death toll to rise further.

"It has been 12 days already so it looks like (survival chances) are doubtful," he said.

Among the casualties were seven soldiers who were killed and four who remain missing after they were hit by flash floods while doing relief work, he said.

In the southern town of New Bataan, which suffered over 500 dead, including 235 bodies that are still unidentified, people still struggled to recover, building makeshift shelters out of scrap wood and rags.

Town Mayor Lorenzo Balbin said the toll of the dead may even be larger than the official lists because many transients, who pass through the town of work on small-scale mines and plantations, do not even register as residents

With no one to report them missing, their deaths may go unnoticed, he said.

The situation in the town, which was largely flattened by the typhoon, had improved slightly as more relief aid was reaching the area.

Trucks from government and private relief agencies were seen entering New Bataan, handing out much-needed food to villagers still stunned by the storm's fury.

Balbin said the focus now was on finding new crops to replace those destroyed by the typhoon.

The storm has caused massive damage to infrastructure and agriculture, destroying large tracts of coconut and banana trees.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council initially estimated damage to crops and public infrastructure at 7.16 billion pesos ($174 million).

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms or typhoons each year that occur mainly during the rainy season between June and October. Bopha was the strongest typhoon to strike this year.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Samoa cyclone damage worse than 2009 tsunami

Disaster officials in Samoa say the damage from Cyclone Evan is worse than that caused by the tsunami in 2009.

Most of the country is without power and more than 4500 people are homeless.

Flood waters still surround villages and homes along the southern coast. The situation there is desperate, the damage extensive.

Matautu Tai Lefuga resident Shirley Sera spent the day sifting through what remained of her home.

“This is where I live and thank God I was able to stay alive with my daughter and my family,” says Ms Sera.

Disaster officials say on the south coast alone more than 1000 homes have been destroyed.

“It [the 2009 tsunami] was focussed on the southern coast of Upolu, but for this one the whole country is affected,” says Filomena Nelson, response coordinator for the tsunami.

Apia and the surrounding areas didn't fare any better, and it’s not surprising with the amount of water that rolled through there four days ago. The people were prepared for the wind but not for the devastation. It’s left thousands in evacuation centres.

The building of the Ministry of Health has been transformed into a shelter for those in need.

“It’s very sad,” says Health Ministry assistant chief executive Sosefina Talauta-Tualaulelei. “I think the emotional part hasn’t really hit us yet, but we are just glad we are able to help.”

Staff say they are dealing with an increase in cases of people with respiratory illnesses.

“It’s a very serious health situation, in fact worse than the tsunami,” says Health Ministry director general Talanutina Tupunatagi Toelupe. “With this situation these are people who are displaced and their homes are no longer there.”

Samoa has endured many disasters, but as always the people remain resilient. But they know this won’t be a quick fix. A search for the missing is ongoing, with the death toll likely to rise to 12.

Early this afternoon an Air Force Orion arrived in Samoa from New Zealand. Five of those who are still missing and presumed dead were out in Apia Harbour on two fishing boats when the cyclone hit. The first job for the Air Force crew will be to search for the bodies of those victims

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Nigeria governor, 5 others die in helicopter crash

A navy helicopter crashed Saturday in the country's oil-rich southern delta, killing a state governor and five other people, in the latest air disaster to hit Africa's most populous nation, officials said.

Nigeria's ruling party said in a statement that the governor of the central Nigerian state of Kaduna, Patrick Yakowa, died in the helicopter crash in Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta. The People's Democratic Party's statement described Yakowa's death as a "colossal loss."

The statement said the former national security adviser, General Andrew Azazi, also died in the crash. Azazi was fired in June amid growing sectarian violence in Nigeria, but maintained close ties with the government.

The crash occurred at about 3:30 p.m. after the navy helicopter took off from the village of Okoroba in Bayelsa state where officials had gathered to attend the burial of the father of a presidential aide, said Commodore Kabir Aliyu. He said that the helicopter was headed for Nigeria's oil capital of Port Harcourt when it crashed in the Nembe area of Bayelsa state.

Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency, said four other bodies had been found.

They were said to have been badly burnt and only identified by the shreds of their clothes.

Azazi and Yakowa’s mobile phones rang out continually without any response when several calls were put across to them by some top government officials.

Our correspondent gathered that the naval helicopter was heading for Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but developed a fault and crashed in the village, which also shares a boundary with Nembe Local Government Area.

The Director of Information of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore Kabir Aliyu, confirmed that a Nigerian Navy helicopter was involved in the crash which occurred around 3:30pm.

Aliyu who was silent on the identities of those involved in the crash said a rescue operation comprising personnel of the Joint Task Force, Operation Pulo Shield, the Navy, the Nigerian Air Force and the National Emergency Management Agency, were at work in Bayelsa.

A police source who pleaded anonymity said he was scheduled to board the helicopter but that there was a last minute change in the schedule.

The source said, “Two helicopters took off at the same time. After sometime, we saw the one behind us wobbling and nosediving into the swamp.

“The helicopter took off and was already stabilised on air. It had gained balance and started flying but unfortunately it came crashing.

“We are not suspecting any sabotage because the burial ground was well policed. There were gunboats surrounding the place and many security operatives at the burial ground.”

The former Chairman of the Okoroba Community Development Committee, Mr. Hitler Adunion, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he was the first person to locate the site of the incident.

Adunion said “We sighted the chopper wobbling and crash-landing. By the time we got to the scene, the helicopter was in flames. We tried to put out the flame but it was difficult. We saw the roasted bodies of those inside it.”

Around 7pm on Saturday, NEMA said it had activated its search and rescue team.

“NEMA has activated its search and rescue team in collaboration with other response agencies at the crash site,” Yushau Shuaib of NEMA headquarters was quoted as saying.

Aviation disasters remain common in Nigeria, despite efforts in recent years to improve air safety.

In October, a plane made a crash landing in central Nigeria. A state governor and five others sustained injuries but survived.

In June, a Dana Air MD-83 passenger plane crashed into a neighborhood in the commercial capital of Lagos, killing 153 people onboard and at least 10 people on the ground. It was Nigeria's worst air crash in nearly two decades.

In March, a police helicopter carrying a high-ranking police official crashed in the central Nigerian city of Jos, killing four people.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Six jawans dead, one missing in Siachen avalanche hit

At least six army personnel were killed and another went missing after a snow avalanche hit their posts on Siachen Glacier near Line of Control(LoC) on Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m.

"In a tragic incident today, six soldiers were killed and one went missing when their posts at a height of over 17000 feet were buried under an avalanche in Sub Sector Hanif, Turtuk area of the Siachen Glacier.

Immediately the avalanche rescue teams along with rescue dogs were pressed in to retrieve the bodies," Lt. Col J S Brar, army spokesman in Srinagar, said.

So far six bodies have been retrieved from the snow while as the body of another soldier was missing.

Brar said that the rescue operation was halted due to adverse weather conditions in the area.

Meanwhile, the Disaster Management Cell has issued a medium danger avalanche warning advising people residing in upper reaches not to venture in avalanche prone areas.

"A medium danger avalanche warning for the snowbound areas of Banihal, Chowkibal, Tangdhar, Machil, Keran, Gurez, Sonamarg, Drass and higher reaches of Kargil and Gulmarg has been issued. People living in snow bound areas are advised not to venture in steep avalanche prone slopes," Aamir Ali, coordinator Disaster Management Cell.

This is for the first time in several years that an avalanche has hit an Indian position in the glacier area, the sources said.

The Assam unit is part of the 102 Siachen Brigade and is located at altitudes of around 15-16,000 feet, they said.

An avalanche had hit a Pakistani Army camp in the glacier area last year killing over 100 troops. India has deployed its troops in Siachen for close to 30 years now and has lost more people to the weather and terrain than to enemy bullets.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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Update: Death toll in Greece migrant boat disaster rises to 21

The death toll in the sinking of a makeshift boat carrying migrants off a Greek island near the Turkish coast rose to 21 Sunday after another body was found on a beach, police said.

Six people are still missing, a press officer with the Lesbos island police told AFP.

The latest victim, a man, was found on the island's Thermi beach like all others before him.

Police continued to search for those missing on Sunday.

Rescuers on Saturday had found the bodies of 20 other men on the northern Lesbos beach, but their age was not given.

Only one 20-year-old survivor has been plucked out of the water and was hospitalised in the island capital Mytilene. He told investigators all those on board the boat which also carried women and children were from Afghanistan.

Greek public television Net said two women and two children had been among the passengers.

The group set sail from the western coast of Turkey on Thursday but ran into bad weather that sank their boat during the night, about two miles off Lesbos.

The island is one of several in the eastern Aegean that lie near mainland Turkey and are frequent targets for migrants trying to reach Western Europe.

Migrants often perish trying to make the crossing in makeshift boats, particularly in winter.

Sunday 16 December 2012

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