Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ivory Coast stampede death toll rises

The death toll following a stampede at a New Year's Eve celebration in Ivory Coast has risen to 62, as scores of injured people continue to arrive in hospital in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Witnesses said seven people were still missing and five bodies remained unidentified, as emergency services continued to work in the aftermath of the tragedy at the main football stadium in the centre of Abidjan.

"Yesterday there was a lack of information and many injured people went home," said Diaby Mohamed, a social entrepreneur who is part of a citizens' action group in the aftermath of the disaster. "We asked injured people this morning to come back to the hospital and now they are arriving in their dozens."

Ivory Coast president Alassane Ouattara visited injured people at the Cocody hospital in Abidjan on Tuesday and said that an investigation was under way.

Details are still coming to light about the tragedy, which occurred after a fireworks display that was meant to celebrate Ivory Coast's return to peace after a 2011 civil war. Government officials said many of the dead are children aged between eight and 15.

Rescue workers, who reached the scene relatively quickly on Monday night, said they found people trampled and suffocated as a crowd of thousands was crushed trying to leave the area around the Félix Houphouët-Boigny stadium.

Local newspapers reported that the roadblocks were set up by criminal gangs, attempting to steal money and mobile phones.

Other witnesses blamed security forces who arrived to break up the crowd, triggering a panic in which many people fell over and were trampled, and the failure of the authorities to manage a collision between a large crowed trying to leave the festivities and another large crowd arriving at the same time.

But there were concerns that an official investigation into the incident would be hampered by the removal of evidence from the scene.

"At first people were sad, but now they are angry and I am not sure that the investigation will tell us anything," said Mohamed. "I have been on the ground in the days since this happened, and I saw that all the things that could explain what happened have been removed."

"How can you have an investigation when all the evidence has been removed from the scene?"

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Ivory Coast stampede survivors blame barricades

Survivors of a stampede in Ivory Coast that killed 61 people, most of them children and teenagers, after a New Year's Eve fireworks display said Wednesday that barricades stopped them from moving along a main boulevard, causing the crush of people.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara ordered three days of national mourning and launched an investigation into the causes of the tragedy but two survivors, in interviews with The Associated Press, indicated why so many died in what would normally be an open area, the Boulevard de la Republic. An estimated 50,000 people had gathered in Abidjan's Plateau district to watch the fireworks. The barricades were described as makeshift.

"Near the Justice Palace we were stopped by some people who built wooden blockades in the street," 33-year-old Zoure Sanate said from her bed in Cocody Hospital. "They told us we must stay in the Plateau area until morning. None of us accepted to stay in Plateau until the morning for a celebration that ended at around 1 a.m.

"Then came the stampede of people behind us," she said. "My four children and I were knocked to the ground. I was hearing my kids calling me, but I was powerless and fighting against death. Two of my kids are in hospital with me, but two others are missing. They cannot be found."

Another hospital patient, Brahima Compaore, 39, said he also was caught in the pile of people stopped by the roadblock.

"I found myself on the ground and people were walking on me," said Compaore. "I was only saved by people who pulled me onto the sidewalk."

Local newspapers are speculating that thieves set up the roadblocks so that pickpockets could steal money and mobile phones from the packed-in people.

Ouattara pledged to get answers. Some observers wondered why police did not prevent the tragedy.

"The investigation must take into account all the testimonies of victims," he said Wednesday. "We will have a crisis center to share and receive information."

Ouattara also postponed the traditional New Year's receptions at his residence, which had been scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The leader of a human rights organization said that deadly incidents were predictable because the police and civil authorities had not taken adequate protective measures.

"The situation is deplorable," said Thierry Legre, president of the Ivorian League of Human Rights. "It is our first tragedy of 2013 but in 2012 we could already see possibility of such a tragedy because there are not adequate authorities patrolling our roads and waters."

Legre said the New Year's stampede "exposes our weak and dysfunctional civil protection system. This must be corrected immediately. The government cannot invite people to this kind of public gathering without taking adequate precautions to protect their safety and their lives."

He called on the government "to implement measures to avoid such tragedies in the future by reinforcing the civil protection system."

Just one night before the New Year's incident, there had been a big concert at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium where American rap star Chris Brown performed. That Sunday night event was for the Kora Awards for African musicians. No serious incidents were reported from that event.

The government organized the fireworks to celebrate Ivory Coast's peace, after several months of political violence in early 2011 following disputed elections.

This is not Ivory Coast's first stadium tragedy. In 2009, 22 people died and over 130 were injured in a stampede at a World Cup qualifying match at the Houphouet Boigny Stadium, prompting FIFA, soccer's global governing body, to impose a fine of tens of thousands of dollars on Ivory Coast's soccer federation. The stadium, which officially holds 35,000, was overcrowded at the time of the disaster.

Another African stadium tragedy occurred on New Year's Eve in Angola where at least 10 people, including four children, died in a stampede during a religious gathering at a sports stadium in Luanda, the capital.

Angop, the Angolan news agency, cited officials as saying Tuesday that 120 people were also injured when tens of thousands of people gathered at the stadium and panic ensued. Faustino Sebastiao, spokesman for the national firefighters department, says those who died were crushed and asphyxiated.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Four die, five go missing as passenger jeep falls in river in Chitral

At least four persons died and five others went missing when a passenger jeep plunged into a river here on Tuesday.

According to details, a passenger jeep with 13 persons on board while on its way to Chitral from village Goger skid off road and fell in Mastuj River near Shogram Bridge of Chitral.

The local people and police reached the scene soon after the accident and retrieved four injured people and four dead bodies from river while five went missing in the gushing water of the Mastuj River.

Volunteers and local people continued operation for the missing persons.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Nazi grave robbers stealing medals, equipment and body parts to sell

Grave robbers are plundering the burial sites of thousands of German soldiers to feed the demand in Britain for Nazi memorabilia.

Tens of thousands of troops from the Third Reich were killed in battlefields in east Europe during the Second World War. Alongside their fallen bodies were items such as dog tags, rifles, daggers and helmets.

Organised gangs are now digging up the graves of the dead soldiers to make off with the valuable items. The trade in Nazi memorabilia is worth millions of pounds and Britain is one of a handful of European countries where it is still legal.

But Armed Forces groups have slammed the practice of unearthing the bodies of the men in the hunt for collectible items. The bones are simply scattered on the ground or tossed into mass graves, or in some cases they are even sold.

Military archaeologist Peter Reed branded it ‘wholesale looting’ and said the men’s skeletons are ‘tipped into holes’.

‘Second Word War archaeology is in its infancy at the moment, and these people are destroying our future, as well as desecrating the graves of fallen soldiers who do not deserve to have their bones dug up,’ he told The Times.

The trade is focused around battlefields in eastern Europe and Russia. Items being sold at recent fairs include those excavated from sites in Demyansk in Russia and Kurland in Latvia.

Experts say that Russian authorities turn a blind eye to activities of the gangs, because they have ‘little regard for Germans’. They added that the trade was ‘almost mafia-run’.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

'Flames of hope' from Tohoku disaster memorials destined for Kobe

Continuously burning flames paying tribute to victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster will be carried to Kobe for a Jan. 17 ceremony to remember the Great Hanshin Earthquake, it has been learned.

Flames from three memorials mourning the disaster victims and representing hope for recovery will be transported to the Higashiyuenchi Park in Kobe and used to light candles in the shape of the numbers 1 and 17, for Jan. 17, and 3 and 11, for March 11.

The three gas-fed "flames of hope" in the Tohoku region were themselves lit with flames from a similar "flame of hope" in the Kobe park. A non-profit organization (NPO) that manages the Kobe flame came up with the idea to use the Tohoku flames in the January ceremony. The organization proposed the idea to citizens' groups in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, and Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, which manage the flames there, and received their enthusiastic approval on the plan as a way to thank Kobe for its support.

Representatives from the three Tohoku areas will gather the flames taken from the memorials in advance. At 5:46 a.m. on Jan. 17, the same time the earthquake struck 18 years ago, relatives of the Kobe quake's victims will offer a silent prayer in front of the candles. The representatives who carry the flames are also due to talk with the relatives.

Masami Horiuchi, 62, representative director of the Kobe NPO, says, "On Jan. 17, I want people to remember the areas hit by the Hanshin quake. I want this event to be a symbol of cooperation between the two disaster areas."

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Japan's emperor expresses sympathy for disaster victims

Japan's Emperor Akihito delivered his traditional New Year address on Wednesday, reiterating his sympathy for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

"I was encouraged to see many people visit the affected areas and provide support in the wake of the East Japan Great Earthquake," Akihito told more than 50,000 cheering people who gathered at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

"Together with them, I would like to continue to be with people in the affected areas," the 79-year-old emperor said from a balcony, from which members of the imperial family waved to the crowd.

The 9.0-magnitude quake and monster tsunami ravaged the country's northeast, killing some 19,000 people and crippling a nuclear power plant which leaked radiation into the environment.

The emperor and Empress Michiko have made several visits to the disaster zone and comforted victims at evacuation centres.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Migrant Found Dead after Italy Boat Landings

An immigrant's body washed up on a beach in Sicily on Tuesday after two boat landings from North Africa in two days, including one in which dozens of migrants were forced to swim ashore by the crew.

The body was found near the seaside village of Tre Fontane, the same area where Italian border police said they had tracked down 48 undocumented migrants on Monday and Tuesday after two separate landings.

Many of the migrants were drenched and told police that crew members had pushed them into the sea to make their way to the shore even though many could not swim, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

At least one migrant is still believed missing.

Border guards have arrested the three crew members -- all Tunisian -- of one of the boats involved.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

Bodies of Five Drowned Indonesians Repatriated from Malaysia

The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday said that it has helped repatriate the bodies of five migrant workers who died in a boat mishap in Malaysia and it is working to return five other unidentified bodies.

Residents of Malaysia’s Teluk C bay in Bandar Penawas, Kota Tinggi, found 10 bodies floating in the sea on Dec. 18.

The victims were believed to be Indonesian migrant workers who had taken an engine-equipped long canoe to cross over to Sumatra.

P.L.E. Priatna, the information and media director of the ministry, said that five bodies which had already been identified were repatriated to Lombok and East Java on Dec. 20.

“In cooperation with local officials and the Indonesian people, the Johor Baru consulate general has been able to invite the families to identify the five victims,” Priatna said.

Five other bodies have yet to be identified and are still at the morgue of the Kota Tinggi general hospital, he said.

The Teluk C bay in Bandar Penawar is sparsely populated and is mostly composed of coastal swamps and tall grass. It is often used as a departure and arrival site for operations to transport illegal migrant workers to and from Indonesia.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

11 People killed In Salgaa Accident, Nakuru

Four hours into the New Year 11 road crash victims lay dead in and out of their squashed 14-seater matatu.

They died as they travelled to their loved ones, confident they would see them just before or in the first few hours of the New Year.

The crash that killed them took place at the Salgaa black spot on the Nakuru-Eldoret Highway, which has seen so much blood and tears flow because of road smash-ups and even oil tanker fire tragedies.

The scene bore all the marks of the horror that struck dead at night. They included caked blood on the ground littered with broken glass and torn metal strips from what was the deluxe passenger vehicle. There were also luggage, some bearing gifts the dead hoped to deliver to their families, strewn all over.

Stench of human blood hung in the air at the Salgaa scene where the travellers, coincidentally all men, died. The accident involved a truck, a bus, and their van. The matatu was on the way to Nakuru when it rammed onto a trailer from behind before the driver lost control and hitting a bus heading to Kitale from Nairobi.

As Kenyans struggle to come to terms with the string of horror crashes on the roads, as they marked the first day of the New Year, an accident involving four vehicles in Naivasha claimed three more lives.

Scores of others were seriously injured in the accident that involved a matatu, a bus, a lorry, and a personal car near Ihindu trading centre on the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway.

A witness said a bus heading to Nairobi from Nakuru rammed head-on into an incoming matatu heading to Naivasha.

“The bus was overtaking when it hit an oncoming matatu, which rolled several times before landing in a ditch,” said a witness.

Two other vehicles that were also going to Nairobi rammed into the rear of the bus blocking a section of the road.

In Tuesday’s incident, the driver and a passenger in the matatu died on the spot while ten people were injured, two of them seriously.

“The driver and his passenger died on the spot, while the third person died on arrival at the Kijabe Mission Hospital,” said the witness.

Naivasha police chief Charles Kortok explained initial investigations indicated the bus driver was to blame for the accident.

“The driver of the matatu tried to evade the bus, but his vehicle was hit head-on and rolled several times before hitting a tree,” he said.

On the Salgaa accident on New Year’s Eve, the driver of the bus onto which the ill-fated matatu crashed explained he was on moderate speed of 70km per hour.

Mr Khaemba Kwambi, who sustained slight injuries on the legs and chest, said: “The driver of the matatu was not aware of the trailer, which was also heading to Nakuru but at a low speed. After noticing the lorry the driver tried to avoid it, but rammed it before swerving to the right, hitting us head-on.”

“I was going home from New Year church service, when I heard a bang. On rushing to the scene we found 10 bodies on the road,” said George Nganga, who was at the Salgaa crash scene.

Unfortunately, a survivor rescued by Good Samaritans died while being taken to hospital.

“As we were driving uphill, the matatu was speeding before ramming into the trailer and on impact it was thrown off to the right side of the road,” said the conductor of the bus.

He added that even though the driver of the bus was travelling on moderate speed, he could not avoid hitting the matatu head-on after it swerved to his right.

“This wreckage should be placed at the roundabout to warn errant matatu drivers of the dangers of speeding,” said Moses Gitau.

Rongai divisional police boss Joseph Mwamburi said the driver of the matatu was speeding when the PSV crashed onto the trailer before smashing onto the oncoming bus.

“The matatu was speeding and you can tell from the wreckage. If it were travelling at a moderate speed the driver would have been able to control the vehicle and overtake when the road is clear,” Mwamburi said.

Mwamburi added the driver of the bus and a passenger were injured on the legs and were taken to hospital.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

continue reading

13 killed in Angola stampede

At least 13 people, including four children, have died and 120 others were injured in a stampede at a stadium used for evangelical vigil in the Angolan capital Luanda on New Year's Eve, local media has reported.

Faustino Sebastiao, the civil protection spokesman, said that the victims were crushed and asphyxiated by a crowd of people who were rushing to enter the Cidadela Desportiva stadium after only two of the four gates had been opened on Monday.

Twelve of the injured remained hospitalised on Tuesday.

"We were expecting 70,000 people but far more turned up," Ferner Batalha, a bishop of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, was quoted by the Angolan news agency Angop said on Tuesday as saying.

He said the pentecostalist church had told the authorities about the event and requested that Red Cross workers attend.

Lina Ali, director of clinical services at Americo Boavida hospital, confirmed that the victims had died of asphyxiation, saying 70 people had been hospitalised.

Wednesday 2 January 2012

continue reading

Paris fire kills 5, injures 18 people

Five victims including a kid were found dead following a blaze in Gennevilliers city in Paris Suburbs that broke out early on Wednesday, according to local report.

Two flats in a six-storey building were on fire at 04:15 a.m local time (0315 GMT), injuring 18 people including two firefighters. The causes of the fatal incident were not yet identified.

Eighteen people, including an infant, were hurt and most are now in hospital. About 100 firefighters tackled the fire, using a ladder to rescue people.

A firefighter quoted by French TV said the building was in good condition and it is not clear how the fire started.

Two firefighters who suffered burns to their hands were among the 18 injured.

"The fire was developed in ignorance of the occupants, which is typical for midnight blaze," Frederic Grosjean, deputy spokesman of Paris firefighters told BMTV news channel.

Wednesday 2 January 2012

continue reading