Saturday, 9 February 2013

Proposed mass burial of Baldia fire victims slammed

Speaking at the press conference, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) at the press club on Thursday, they demanded that the payments be made through a commission set up by the Sindh High Court and headed by retired Supreme Court judge Rehmat Hussain Jaffery.

Karamat Ali of Piler, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation and trade union leaders Noor Mohammad, Nawab Ali and Rehana Yasmeen criticised Sindh Health Minister Sagheer Ahmad over his reported statement that the bodies being kept in the Edhi morgue would be buried together. They questioned the move for mass burial of the bodies through the district administration. They asked the government to decide about the burial of the bodies in consultation with the Sindh High Court and the commission it constituted.

Despite conducting DNA tests thrice and waiting for so long, they said it was unfortunate that the bodies had still not been identified, indicating weaknesses in the country’s DNA testing system.

They demanded that the government compensate the relatives who had provided their DNA for testing. Twenty two families who had received the bodies should be immediately provided compensation without further loss of time, they said. They explained that about 262 workers had lost their lives on Sept 11, last year. While relatives of 210 deceased had received compensation cheques, the heirs of 22 victims who received their bodies later were not handed over compensation cheques, they said.

Yet another 17 bodies being kept at the Edhi morgue had not been identified, they added.

They said the factory owners must have a record of all the workers. That record should be recovered to determine the exact number of workers in the factory, they added.

The speakers criticised the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI) for providing to the families the pension documents that were valid for five years only. They demanded that the families of all the victims should be given lifelong pension.

They also demanded that the compensation amount given by the government, factory owners, certification authorities and a German company, KIK, should be pooled for permanent rehabilitation of the families of the factory fire victims.

They further demanded that Justice Qurban Alvi’s commission report be made public.

The speakers also noted that the promise made by the prime minister about payment of death grant from the workers’ welfare fund had not been fulfilled.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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Six people Killed in Landslide in Tibet Autonomous Region

Six people, part of a rescue team, were killed in an avalanche in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Friday.

The six victims were members of a rescue team that was on their way to rescue two herdsmen.

The team consisted of seven local residents in a village in the Zanda County of Ngari Prefecture.

The other villager in the rescue team is currently in a deep coma, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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Chibombo Tragedy bodies await Identification

37 out of the 47 brought in dead (BID) cases from the Chibombo tragedy lying at Kabwe general hospital mortuary have been identified and efforts are being made for relatives to collect the bodies, and hospital authorities have called on relatives and members of the public to help identify the remaining bodies.

And Police have arrested the driver of the Toyota Landcruiser ABH 2214, believed to have been the lead cause of the accident in which 51 people died, the vehicle has also been impounded pending further investigations.

On Thursday around 07:00hours, a Lusaka bound Post bus Mercedes Benz registration number ABV 4020 collided with an oncoming Mercedes Benz foreign truck registration number 1791AB05 belonging to Hermis Trucking company killing the drivers of both vehicles and other passengers on the spot.

47 bodies were taken to Kabwe general hospital mortuary, where as the two other survivors also at the same hospital are said to be in a stable condition. Hospital acting medical superintendent Dr. Sylvester Kasonde disclosed to the Daily Nation in Kabwe that the 2 male victims suffered fractures and lacerations but their condition was stable.

“We received 47 BID cases and two survivors, whose condition is stable but we would like to call upon relatives and members of the public to help identifying the other 10 remaining bodies, so far 37 have been identified and arrangements are being made to have the bodies collected by relatives for onward burial,” said Dr. Kasonde.

Meanwhile central province police division criminal investigations officer (DCIO) Andrew Mbewe has revealed that a white man, the driver of the Land cruiser believed to have been the lead cause of the accident has been arrested.

“We impounded the vehicle and arrested a man whose identity I can only give as Mr. Eeden of Mkushi and he is currently detained at prospect police pending further investigations,” said Mbewe. It is suspected that Eeden, while driving the land cruiser attempted to overtake the bus wrongly but met the truck and as the truck driver tried to avoid hitting into him, lost control of the truck which eventually collided with the bus carrying over 65 people.

And Central province Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD) chairman Fredrick Mulando says his party is saddened by the death of so many people at once and has called for quick traffic reforms by RATSA, if more deaths are to be avoided.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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At least 15 dead in Chile bus accident

At least 15 people were killed and 19 injured on Saturday when a bus carrying soccer fans plunged into a ravine in central Chile, a local official said.

The accident occurred near the town of Tome, in Biobio province, at about 1:00 am (0400 GMT), said Luciano Parra, a spokesman for the Tome mayor's office.

"The information that we have right now shows that, unfortunately, 15 people did not survive, and 19 others were injured," Parra told 24 Hours, a television news channel.

"Seven of those injured are in critical condition at the regional hospital," he added.

The bus was carrying soccer fans from a game that was played the night before in the town of Talcahuano to their home town of Rancagua.

Parra said rescue teams had rushed to the scene but the fall had transformed the bus into a mangled mass of metal, slowing down the rescue process.

Police officers and firefighters were forced to extract survivors one by one, using saws, pliers and other equipment. The exact cause of the accident is being investigated.

Tome is located about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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Floods wash up bodies from the killing fields

Local people who've recently travelled into Sri Lanka's killing fields, where an estimated 40,000 people perished in 2009, say skulls and human bones have risen to the surface after this year's flooding and abandoned belongings are strewn all over the landscape. "It is a horrible scene," said one visitor, "there are still bunkers visible with saris, kid's clothing and suitcases left open under the bushes; you can't imagine what it must have been like for those people to have been crammed into that tiny place so close together". This man was too scared to go close or collect the human remains lest there were mines or unexploded ordinance.

Mullivaikkal is the coastal village where the Tamil Tigers made their last stand in May 2009, along with more than 150,000 starving terrified Tamil civilians. It's synonymous with the worst suffering and slaughter of the decades long conflict - the Srebrenica of Sri Lanka. It's here that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed, according to UN experts.

The photographs show the last belongings of people who may well be dead now. By the time they reached this sandy spit of exposed land, some had already been displaced 40 times in five months. They'd shed almost everything they owned and expected to die. A Catholic priest writing to the Pope in the final days reported more than 3000 deaths and 4000 injuries in just one night: "It was a barrage of artillery, mortar, multi-barrel shelling and cluster bombs, which Sri Lankan government denies using on the civilians in the 'no fire zone'.

The cries of woes and agony of the babies and children, the women and the elderly fill the air polluted by poisonous and unhealthy gases and pierced the hearts of fathers and mothers, of elders and peasants, of old men and women of all walks of life".

The priest disappeared without trace after being seen by many witnesses surrendering to the army.

For the last three and a half years, Mullivaikkal has been off limits - strictly controlled by the Sri Lankan military. Even today locals say there are large numbers of police and army personnel who operate in pairs on motorbikes stopping anyone straying from the main roads. Visitors say local residents are terrified to talk about politics to outsiders. Widows are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse; some in isolated areas described being visited and questioned by male security officials.

Sri Lanka's war zone area has partially opened up so survivors can return home, but also to enable a macabre tourist trail the military have set up primarily for people from the majority Sinhala community to see where their defeated enemy lived.

For decades these northern parts of the country under rebel administration were largely off limits to people in the South. Now busloads of Sri Lankan tourists are coming to see the rebel leader's house and his underground bunker, swimming pool and shooting range. All the exhibits are neatly labeled - "Terrorist Swimming Pool" for example - and in the rebels' erstwhile capital there's even a souvenir shop next to the destroyed landmark of the water tower. Next to each of these sites, there is a cafe where visitors can enjoy a cup of tea prepared by a Sri Lankan soldier. In the official history there's no word of the tens of thousands of civilians who died here - the majority as a result of a brutal government offensive that involved deliberately and repeatedly attacking hospitals, safe zones and food queues. And yet this is an area where almost every Tamil family lost someone in the 2009 war.

"The government has destroyed the childhood home of the rebel leader Prabhakaran, as well as rebels' cemeteries, but has kept the Tiger bunkers and constructed war museums. Why? What kind of argument is being made here?" asks Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at York University in Toronto, Canada. "In a strange way, it amounts to a subtle building-up of the Tigers, a kind of glorification of the threat that they posed - openly on display at the war museum in Puthukkudiyiruppu. The government can then point to it and say, 'look what we were able to destroy' and, of course, 'if we're not careful, look what can re-emerge'", he says.

Clearly this sort of triumphalist tourism does little to foster reconciliation between communities, nor does it do much to benefit the local economy. There's a stark contrast between luxury tourist guest houses and the local living conditions nearly four years after the end of the war. In the war zone the tops of palm trees are now blackened stumps - an indication of the heavy fighting. Most buildings are said to have been destroyed, often razed to the ground. Visitors say most houses or huts along the coast are still without roofs - those that rebuilt them did so by borrowing or receiving money from relatives abroad. Some local families have been reduced to scavenging for scrap metal - often cooking pots or gold that people buried during the final phase of the war in the hope that they'd live to come back to reclaim their property.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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How debris buried Compostela village; Lessons of Typhoon ‘Pablo’

On December 4, 2012, Typhoon “Pablo” (international name “Bopha”) made landfall in Mindanao. Classified as a Category 5 typhoon by US meteorological experts, Pablo packed winds with an average speed of 185 kilometers per hour (kph) and gusts reaching 210 kph. Pablo’s eye crossed Mindanao through Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

It continued west-northwest to Negros Oriental, then to Sulu Sea, crossing Palawan before reaching the West Philippine Sea where it reversed course toward northern Luzon. It dissipated before making landfall.

Despite advanced warnings and preparations by communities, Pablo exacted heavy damage in Mindanao with 1,067 deaths, 834 missing and P37 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture.

Compostela Valley recorded the biggest number of deaths at 612. Davao Oriental saw 395 dead, mostly from the coastal towns of Cateel and Baganga, where the typhoon had made landfall. The municipality of New Bataan suffered 128 fatalities and 450 missing.

SATELLITE images of part of Barangay Andap before and after debris flows buried it. The first image was taken on Oct. 22, 2010 and the second on Dec. 12, 2012. Before photo from Google Earth, After photo from Sentinel Asia

Barangay Andap in New Bataan suffered the most, overwhelmed by a rapid downward moving mass of material that was fluid as wet cement. The mass was composed of boulders, gravel and sand. In its wake, it left a pile of rubble called a debris flow deposit.

Barangay Andap is at the mouth of a mountain drainage network at the base of steeply sided slopes and on the path of a debris flow spawned by intense rainfall during Pablo.

Satellite images and field work in New Bataan reveal a large amount of remobilized debris in Pablo’s aftermath. A total volume of 25-30 million cubic meters is estimated for the debris flow deposit, equivalent to the load of about 2.5-3 million 10-wheel dump trucks full of rocks.

The rubble was spread over a distance of more than 13 km and an area of 2,472 hectares, nearly as large as Makati City. Most of the deposits were less than half a meter thick but in Barangay Andap, including an evacuation site where more than 200 people had sought refuge from floods, boulders piled up to as thick as 8-9 m.

The levee of rocks is characterized by gravel and sand at the base, which increases in size toward the top of the heap. The largest boulders in the debris field measure up to 9 m in diameter.

In interviews, residents of Barangay Andap, who saw the debris flow happen, narrated a short-duration event of 5-10 minutes at between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. of Dec. 4.

Given the length of the deposit field and analysis of video footage at the onset of the event, the speed of the debris flow is estimated at 30-60 kph.

Scour marks in newly incised river channels, some reaching 5 m into the subsurface, reveal the highly erosive power of this flow. Stacks of logs occupy streams and creeks in reaches where gravel and sand deposits dominate. In the center of the poblacion in New Bataan, a stream was clogged by clumps of fallen trees and was the site where dozens of dead bodies were recovered. Old debris flow deposits

Similar but older debris flow deposits with the characteristic large boulders scattered on top of the debris field are found in Barangay Andap. This means that in the past, debris flows smaller in scale, but nonetheless significant, flowed into the municipality.

The rain record in the municipality of Maragusan, about 19.5 km southeast of Barangay Andap, reveals heavy (7-15 mm/hr) to intense rainfall (15-30 mm/hr) over a five-hour period from about 2:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. of Dec. 4. Torrential Rains reached torrential values (>30 mm/hr) from 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., with the peak rain rate of 51.82 mm/hr occurring at 6:45 a.m. This is the kind of rainfall wherein the fastest wiper speed will fail to make a vehicle driver see the road.

Rainfall from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the day of the disaster totaled 172 mm, mostly delivered during the early morning. Such rainfall intensity is within the initiation-threshold values of studied debris-flow occurrences in the Philippines, in particular those that happened on Mayon and Pinatubo volcanoes.

Other contributory factors that led to the generation of debris flows may have been the strong winds of Pablo and the presence of the Philippine Fault Zone (Mati Segment).

Gusts reaching 210 kph uprooted hill slope trees in the 240-square-kilometer upper watershed area of New Bataan and lowered the absorptive capacity of the ground, which in turn triggered soil slips and erosion by storm-induced surface runoff.

Similar in terms of changing the absorptive capacity of a watershed to rainfall, forest and bush fires are known to lower the rainfall initiation thresholds for debris flows.

The Philippine Fault Zone most likely contributed to the weakening of rocks through fracturing. This caused instability of the mountain slope that could have been easily triggered into rock slides and slumps by intense rainfall.

Numerous landslide scars were identified in the upper watershed where the debris flows originated. The material in these smaller landslides fed the debris flow mass that devastated Barangay Andap.

In Compostela Valley, landslides are often blamed on small-scale mining and the attendant destruction of the forest. However, New Bataan is the rest-and-recreation site of Compostela Valley.

No mining activities were observed in the mountainsides from the vantage point of Barangay Andap and the poblacion of New Bataan, validating claims by local officials.

Clearly observed is denudation of the forest and encroachment of coconut plantation fields.

Mindanao has rarely experienced typhoons in the past, but they are now increasing in frequency and intensity. Pablo occurred only a year after Tropical Storm “Sendong” devastated the island, killing 1,268 people and causing P1.8 billion in damage to property. Before Sendong, the last major event was Typhoon “Nitang” in 1984. The residents’ unfamiliarity with such intense cyclones in Mindanao, and the massive landslides and debris flows they generate is reflected in the large number of fatalities.

Decision-makers need a better understanding of these lethal phenomena and a sense of their increasing frequency in order to plan mitigation measures more effectively.

It is important to realize that a massive debris flow transforms the landscape. The next one can be expected to flow along paths other than the newly raised ground. The debris flow, which formed a new channel that passed directly through New Bataan proper, should be addressed before the next typhoon season.

Detailed, community-scale hazard maps are necessary, especially in view of the rapid growth of the Philippine population, which unavoidably expands into other areas, including possibly hazardous ones.

Regional-scale hazard maps are good only for regional planning; the specific siting of new communities requires rigorous evaluation of the hazards in a given area. Safe zones and access to them during emergencies need to be identified and prepared. A developing country has difficulty funding mitigation measures and the best recourse is for individual families to develop an emergency plan. Such planning, of course, requires accurate, accessible, understandable and timely government input.

There is hope. Cagayan de Oro during Pablo was swamped by floods caused by a 6- to 7-meter rise in river water level. Despite the deluge, Kagayanons prevented a repeat of Sendong because they were well-informed and knew exactly what to do. Their model for mitigating natural hazards can be an answer to our disaster dilemma and needs to be replicated elsewhere without delay.

Saturday 9 December 2013

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Five killed in plane crash in Belgium

Belgian media say that a small tourist plane has crashed near Brussels, killing five people, three of them children.

The plane had a problem on takeoff, immediately tried to return to the airport in Charleroi, but crashed beside the runway, the website of the newspaper Le Soir reported.

According to the news website, the victims were a 68-year-old grandfather, his 39-year-old daughter-in-law, and his three grandchildren, aged 7, 6 and 3. The victims were from Brussels, and the children's father was on his way to the airport, news reports said. They were said to be Belgian nationals from Uccle.

The accident is reported to have taken place around 10 a.m. local time, 0900GMT. Photographs showed the plane to be partially disintegrated.

Officials said operations had been suspended at the airport, which is a hub for low-cost carriers such as Ryanair.

The officials said they hoped operations would resume in the afternoon but could give no timetable.

The twisted wreckage of the plane could be seen on the runway, with little but the rear section intact.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Milioto said: "There was a problem on take-off and they tried to come back, but unfortunately the plane crashed."

She added: "Our priority is dealing with this drama. Flights are being diverted to Liege and Brussels."

Flying conditions at the time were reported to be poor, with freezing fog causing difficulties.

Charleroi is Belgium's second international airport after Zaventem in Brussels, and is busy with half-term travel.

On its website, Ryanair listed five flight cancellations for Saturday - all flying out of Charleroi.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo expressed his condolences on Twitter, as did Didier Reynders, the country's foreign minister.

David Gering, a spokesman for Brussels South Airport, told the broadcaster RTBF that an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way. Charleroi is about 35 miles (60 kms) south of Brussels.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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14 bodies recovered after ferry capsizes in Bangladesh, 5 still missing

At least 14 people died and five were still missing after a ferry carrying 50 people collided with a sand barge and sank on Bangladesh's giant Meghna River on Friday, officials said on Saturday.

"Rescuers found 12 dead bodies inside the salvaged ferry, while two bodies were recovered yesterday," said Mohammad Saiful Hassan Badal, administrator of Munshiganj district, where the accident happened.

Six of the dead were children, aged between two and 10.

"We called off the rescue operations with five people missing," he said, adding that about half the passengers managed to swim ashore and some were rescued by local villagers.

Local government administrator Mohammad Saiful Hassan said the search for survivors was called off after Saturday's recovery, but some relatives say their loved ones are still missing.

There was confusion over the number of passengers on board the ferry. Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, and it is frequently unclear how many people are aboard the often overcrowded vessels.

The Meghna River is one of three rivers that forms the Ganges Delta.

Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, and it is frequently unclear how many people are aboard the often overcrowded vessels. Unregulated and overcrowded ferries often run in to trouble on low-lying Bangladesh's extensive network of rivers. Hundreds of people are killed in accidents every year despite government vows to crack down on unlicensed operators.

Saturday 9 February 2013

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AIB wanted Dana crash’s autopsy restricted to pilot, co-pilot, pathology tells coroner

The Consultant Pathologist and Chief Medical Examiner of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Friday, said that the Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, had insisted that post mortem examination be restricted to the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot.

Professor John Obafunwa stated this during a coroner’s inquest into the cause of the June 3, 2012 Dana air mishap.

“Two engineers of AIB that we met with at the Board Room of LASUTH on June 5 (2012) told me I did not need to carry out post mortem on all the victims but should be restricted to the pilot and co-pilot,” Mr. Obafunwa said, during a cross examination by Babatunde Irukera, AIB’s counsel.

During his testimony, last month, Mr. Obafunwa had stated that the bodies of Peter Waxtan, 55, the American pilot, and Mahendra Rathore, 34, the Indian co-pilot; and nine others may have been “completely incinerated.”

In what appeared to be a shocking revelation, Mr. Obafunwa also cleared the air on why Kunbi Banjo, a pathologist at the hospital, was excluded from the team of pathologists who conducted the post mortem examination on the crash victims.

Mrs. Banjo, a Professor of Anatomical Pathology, doubles as a consultant for AIB and had been involved in the agency’s past air accident investigations

The consultant pathologist said that Mrs. Banjo had also tried to dissuade him from carrying out post-mortem tests on all the crash victims.

“If we did not carry out autopsy on all the victims, how do we identify the pilot and the co-pilot? That is a question nobody could answer,” said Mr. Obafunwa, a Professor of Forensic Pathology.

“If we did not do the autopsy on all the victims, we would not have been able to identify them and we would have adopted the old method of mass burial which is the old method we insisted we were not going back to,” he added.

Mr. Obafunwa also said that there is a dearth of pathologists in Nigeria, noting that there are about four forensic pathologists in the entire country.

The rest are anatomical pathologists, according to Mr. Obafunwa.

Oyetade Komolafe, the coroner, adjourned till February 28 for further hearing.

Sunday 9 February 2013

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