Monday, 18 February 2013

Authorities recover 4 more bodies at site of Czech gas blast, death toll at 5

Officials say the death toll after a powerful gas explosion that destroyed a three-story apartment building in eastern Czech Republic has risen to five.

Firefighters spokesman Petr Kudela said Monday rescuers working with sniffer dogs found three dead children and one more body burned beyond recognition. Another body was recovered Sunday.

Officials say 11 people were injured in the blast that occurred early Sunday in the town of Frenstat pod Radhostem.

One person is still missing.

Police spokeswoman Sona Stetinska said a gas leak apparently caused the blast, which heavily damaged the building early Sunday in the town of Frenstat pod Radhostem. Fire department spokesman Vladimir Vlcek said it would take hours to search the rubble of the building.

Monday 18 February 2013

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Update: Indonesia floods, landslides kill 17

Four children were among 17 people killed over the weekend in central Indonesia after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides, officials say.

The children, aged between two and nine, died along with 13 adults when flooding and landslides hit the northern part of Sulawesi island early Sunday, said provincial disaster management agency spokesman Howke Makawarung on Monday.

"We recorded 17 people killed. All bodies were found on Sunday," he said, adding that heavy rains had hit three areas, including the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado which saw water levels up to 4m.

Water, which inundated around 5,000 houses in Manado, had receded by Monday and residents had begun cleaning up their homes.

A landslide which hit the city killed a six-year old boy.

"He was taking a bath in the morning when a landslide suddenly struck his house," said the capital deputy mayor Harley Mangindaan.

Indonesia is regularly affected by deadly floods and landslides during its wet season, which lasts for around six months.

Environmentalists blame logging and a failure to reforest denuded land for exacerbating flooding.

Heavy rains caused flooding in the capital Jakarta in January that left 32 people dead and at its peak forced nearly 46,000 to flee their homes.

Sunday 18 February 2013

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Tragic traffic accident kills 7 in Lam Dong

Seven people, including three children, were killed and one was injured after a truck crashed into three motorcycles in the Central Highland province of Lam Dong on February 16.

The accident happened at 17.30 when the truck carrying vegetables was travelling en route from Lam Dong’s Bao Loc district to Ho Chi Minh City.

It bumped into three motorbikes in opposite direction carrying 8 people who were then caught up in the truck chassis and dragged away tens of metres. The truck plunged into the Bao Loc ravine.

Five people were killed at the scene, two other died on the way to hospital, and another was seriously injured at Lam Dong’s General Hospital 2. Among the deaths were three children.

Local police were mobilised to clear traffic and look into the cause of the accident.

They identified the six dead bodies who were all from Lam Dong province.

Vietnamese people are celebrating the traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday which sees a sharp increase in the number of traffic accidents.

Preliminary reports showed that 290 traffic accidents have occurred during the week-long holiday, killing 234 people and injuring 284 others.

Sunday 18 February 2013

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Survivors of 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire mark 10 years

Survivors of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people and relatives of those killed huddled together in bitter cold Sunday at the site of the disaster to mark the 10th anniversary of the fire.

Some brought flowers and paid their respects at the handmade crosses that dot the site for each person who died. Others cried and spoke of missing their loved ones and the difficulty of moving past such trauma.

"People that weren't here really don't understand why we can't let this stuff go. I was 30 seconds away from dying," said Walter Castle Jr., 39, a survivor who suffered third-degree burns in his lungs, throat and bronchial tubes. He said he lost many friends and was in counseling until 2009. Recently, as the 10th anniversary approached, he began having terrible nightmares and had to go back into counseling.

"It's just very tough," he said.

The anniversary of the blaze is Wednesday. The fire broke out when pyrotechnics for the rock band Great White ignited flammable packing foam that had been installed in The Station club as soundproofing. Last month, a fire at a nightclub in Brazil killed more than 230 people under circumstances that were eerily similar: A band's pyrotechnic display set fire to soundproofing foam.

Among those who spoke Sunday was former Gov. Don Carcieri, who took office the month before the fire and still gets choked up when speaking about it. He remembered the days families waited at a hotel for word that their loved ones' remains had been identified, and the anger everyone felt, asking how the tragedy could have happened. But he also remembered how people in Rhode Island, a state with a population of just 1 million, pulled together to help each other.

"At a time of our state's worst tragedy, in some sense, it was our people's finest hour," he said.

Angela Bogart, who was 19 when her mother, Jude Henault, was killed in the fire, said she has come to know and understand her mother more in the 10 years since she died, especially since she has become a mother herself.

"My mom lives in me in everything I do. I hear her voice wherever I go," she said. "When I walk hand-in-hand with my little girl, my mother is holding her other hand."

The ceremony also featured musical performances, a reading of the names of the people who died and 100 seconds of silence.

While somber, the annual gathering at the fire site took on a more hopeful tone this year than in years past because a foundation set up to build a permanent memorial secured ownership of the site in September after years of trying. On Sunday, the Station Fire Memorial Foundation released final plans for the memorial.

They call for a 30-foot-high entrance gate topped by an Aeolian harp. Wind passing through the harp will create music, a reminder that it was music that brought people together that night.

The permanent memorial will include an individual memorial for each person who died and commemorate the survivors, first responders and those who helped care for families of the dead and survivors in the weeks and months after the fire. It will also include a pavilion as a gathering place.

Families are being asked to remove the crosses and other personal mementos that have been left at the site at the makeshift memorial that has developed over the years. The items left behind will be buried in a capsule under an area that is now the parking lot. There will be no digging on the land under where the club once stood because of the fear of disturbing human remains.

While much of the materials and labor to build the memorial will be donated, foundation officials say they need to raise $1 million to $2 million to build and maintain it.

The foundation hopes to break ground in the spring. Construction of the memorial could take one to two years.

Gina Russo, who was badly burned in the fire and whose fiancé was killed, is president of the foundation and said the memorial would turn the site into something beautiful.

"It's a happy moment going forward," she said.

Sunday 17 February 2013

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