Thursday, 18 April 2013

Search operation for remaining 19 avalanche victims resumed in Gayari sector

he search operation for the remaining bodies of the victims of April 2012 avalanche in Gayari area near the Siachen glacier has resumed after opening of weather and melting of snow, according to a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Thursday, DawnNews reported.

At least 140 people including personnel of Pakistan Army and civilians were martyred on April 7 last year when an avalanche struck an Army camp high in the mountains of Kashmir after which a search operation had commenced to recover the bodies of the buried soldiers.

The search operation was suspended on November 27 2012 due to winters season. 121 bodies have been recovered so far whereas 19 bodies are yet to be found.

The statement once again reiterated that the sustained efforts would continue till recovery of last man.

Heavy engineering equipment pieces including excavators, dozers and drill machine along with 228 personnel have been employed for the task.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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3 killed, 30 still missing in Indonesia's capsized boat

Rescuers managed to retrieve 3 dead bodies on Thursday from the capsized boat in East Kalimantan river of Mahakam as the search for 30 missing passengers continues, a senior official at Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the BNPB spokesperson said that 30 people managed to survive from the mishap that occurred on Wednesday afternoon. Citing to several sources passengers onboard the ill- fated Arinda boat were 63 people.

"According to data provided by the rapid response post command, total number of passengers was 63 people. Other sources said that they were 64 people onboard. Further verification on the exact number of passengers is conducted by the authority at the moment," Sutopo told Xinhua by phone.

Due to lack of passengers manifest document, the BNPB estimated earlier that passengers onboard the ill-fated boat that capsized at 18:00 middle Indonesian time (WITA) were 50 people.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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Chemical blast brings echoes from ship explosion disaster 66 years earlier

The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant that ripped through the town of West, Texas, on Wednesday, stirred echoes of one of the worst industrial accidents in United States history, which struck the state 66 years ago earlier this week.

On April 16, 1947, the French cargo ship SS Grandcamp, anchored in Texas City, was being loaded with a cargo of ammonium nitrate fertilizer when a fire broke out on board.

At 9:12 a.m., the ship exploded and took much of the town with it, according to the archives of Moore Memorial Public Library in Texas City. A second blast rattled the area 16 hours later.

It remains one of the worst industrial disasters ever to hit the United States.

To this day, there is no definitive death toll. The Texas State Historical Association notes that 576 people are listed on the site's memorial wall but that many more may have died.

Because so many victims were so horribly mangled, and because of the number of foreign sailors and itinerant dockworkers, it is impossible say how many people actually perished, both the library and the historical association say.

About 1,000 homes and businesses were either heavily damaged or destroyed in the explosion, which caused a 15-foot-high tidal wave, killed 28 firemen and destroyed all the town's firefighting equipment. Contemporary accounts say the blast shattered windows 40 miles away in Houston and was felt 250 miles away in Louisiana.

About 150 embalmers worked at a temporary morgue, and identification of bodies continued through mid-June. Even students from regional dental schools were called in to try to identify remains.

The deaths in Texas City were not necessarily in vain.

Experts examined industrial safety and in particular the handling and storage of chemicals.

There was a new awareness of the danger of ammonium nitrate, which had been abundant as wartime munitions were converted to fertilizer.

And governments around the country saw the need for coordinated emergency response and disaster relief.

In many ways, people are probably safer today because of the explosions in Texas City, and the town recovered financially in the years after the disaster, remaining home to a thriving petrochemical industry. The Census Bureau shows that the population is bigger than ever, with more than 45,000 people calling Texas City home.

But the effect left by the disaster is difficult to overstate.

After a June 22 public funeral, an editorial in the Texas City Sun said those touched by the event had been "bound together by a great and common tragedy for which there is no ready word of solace."

Thursday 18 April 2013

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20 dead in car accident on Benin-Asaba highway

No fewer than 20 persons reportedly lost their lives along Benin-Asaba expressway yesterday in an auto-crash which occurred at about 5.30pm.

Eyewitness said that apart from the 18-seater bus with registration number AA 246 XX which crashed into the bush around Onicha-Ugbo leaving the 18 passengers dead, another lorry driver lost his brakes and veered off the road almost at the same scene, killing himself and his conductor instantly.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the 18-seater bus lost two of its tyres while on top speed before crashing into the bush.

Road safety officials who were on hand to evacuate the dead bodies, but craved anonymity, blamed the driver of the bus for reckless driving.

The trailer was said to have leapt out of the lorry after he lost the brakes of the vehicle while the lorry was still in motion in an attempt to save his life, but jumped into broken bottles, while his colleague died under the trailer after it crashed into the bush.

LEADERSHIP checks reveal that frequent accidents on the expressway in the last six months has left no fewer than 75 persons dead, a situation road safety officials blamed on reckless driving.

At the time of filing the report, relations of the victims were seen at the scene of the accident wailing.

Only last Sunday, two tankers were involved in a head-on collision in which four people reportedly died.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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Team seeks to return Vietnam artifacts

During the Vietnam conflict, Australian soldiers souvenired personal items from the bodies of slain Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers.

There's nothing especially unusual about this - soldiers have done the same in every war.

The veterans - plus various museums, military history rooms and even RSL clubs - hold letters, certificates, diaries, photos and more that belonged to the dead.

Now a team of University of NSW researchers at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) wants to find these items and return them.

The group wants federal government help to repatriate the materials to families and present unclaimed documents to appropriate institutions in Vietnam.

But appeals to the Department of Defence were rejected, as was a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs, while the Department of Veterans Affairs said it wasn't its area of responsibility.

"We are a couple of retired folks who are doing this on the smell of an oily rag," team leader Dr Bob Hall, a Vietnam war veteran said.

"We reckon the government has an obligation, moral and legal, under the Geneva Convention to do this and it ought to bloody well chip in some support."

The Geneva Convention specifies that at the end of hostilities, opposing sides must notify locations of war dead and return artifacts.

But Australia has officially done neither, even though Vietnam helped in the search for the six Australians missing in action in Vietnam - all of whom were found and their remains returned to family.

Hall and his team's mission grew out of a long-running project analysing operations of the Australian task force in Vietnam in 1966-71.

"The intellectual gold to be found out of Vietnam is much greater than you can currently find out of Afghanistan because all the records are available," Hall said.

"All the records of the Australian embassy in Saigon are now publicly available.

"You can go into the archives and look through all the discussions inside the embassy."

The records include more than 4500 combat after-action reports filed by Australian soldiers.

Using the raw information, a detailed database has been created that's still useful today.

For example, it shows when, where and in what circumstances firefights started and even how many shots were needed to inflict a casualty.

It also includes details of enemy dead, who - under the practice of the time - were buried at the battle site.

"We realised we had the location of where the Australians buried all the Vietnamese we killed," said fellow researcher Derril De Heer, also a Vietnam veteran.

It appears some 3796 bodies were hastily interred in unmarked graves.

The discovery coincided with the finding of the remains of Australia's last two servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam war - Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver - who died when their Canberra bomber crashed in November 1970.

"There's a belief in Vietnam that if you die violently or die where you are not known, your spirit will wander," De Heer said.

And so Operation Wandering Souls was conceived as a private humanitarian venture to help find some of Vietnam's estimated 300,000-600,000 missing dead of the Vietnam conflict.

Hall's team transposed all the burial site grid references onto Vietnam-era topographical maps, converting them to latitude and longitude locations on Google earth images.

Then in 2010, then-defence minister John Faulkner presented the database to Vietnam's deputy defence minister.

But there was more.

Some Australian intelligence reports, based on documents found on the bodies, gave actual names.

So the team realised they could put names to some of the Vietnamese dead by matching People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) casualty records against dates and locations in the Australian records.

From this discovery came another significant development.

Victorian Vietnam veteran Laurens Wildeboer contacted the team to reveal he had a scarf, notebook and book of poetry from his time in Vietnam and asked if they could help give back the artifacts.

In a widely reported ceremony in Vietnam last year, the scarf and notebook were handed over to the dead soldier's mother.

"As a result, people have been giving us artifacts that have been taken from bodies - letters, photographs and other stuff," De Heer said.

"We now have about 120 letters. We have certificates, photographs. We know there is more around Australia either in private museums or people have held onto it. Some is in defence museums or history rooms."

Among the cache is a collection of 40 pencil and charcoal sketches taken from the body of a soldier killed at the 1966 Battle of Long Tan. Other material is likely being held at the Australian War Memorial and RSL clubs. One military museum is believed to hold a gold ring taken from a dead soldier.

So Operation Wandering Souls is now appealing to anyone with such material to pass it over.

"We will try and find the families. If not, we will hand it to the Vietnamese government," De Heer said.

But without federal help, the mission will have to be funded out of the team's own pockets.

Last year's visit required De Heer to hire a 30-seater bus to transport a Vietnamese media contingent and feed them, all out of his own funds.

The team reckons about $130,000 would be enough, considering the goodwill their efforts have produced in Vietnam, and would cover travel within Australia to collect items and travel to Vietnam to present them.

"We believe the costs should be met by the Australian government, since we are fulfilling the government's legal responsibilities under the Geneva Convention," De Heer said.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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Many casualties in Texas Waco fertiliser plant blast

Scores of people are injured and an unknown number are dead after a huge explosion at a fertiliser plant near Waco in the US state of Texas.

Dozens of homes and buildings have been destroyed, and several are still on fire, after the West Fertilizer plant exploded at about 19:50 (00:50 GMT).

Some people are thought still to be trapped in buildings and a number of firefighters are reported missing.

Emergency services officials said ammonia may have caused the explosion.

It has been reported the company had 54,000lbs (20 tonnes) of anhydrous ammonia on site.

Firefighters had been tackling a blaze at the plant when the explosion in West, a town of about 2,700 people some 20 miles (32km) north of Waco, occurred.

Police said the half the town had been evacuated, amid fears of possible further explosions or a leak of toxic gas.

The plant is right on the edge of town, only a few hundred metres from houses, a school and nursing home.

Sgt William Swanton of the Waco police department said power to the town had been shut off to prevent further accidents.

He confirmed there were deaths, but could not give a figure.

Police have been conducting house-to-house searches to check for casualties.

'Like a war zone'

TV images showed streams of emergency vehicles descending on the site and ambulance crews using a nearby sports field as an emergency treatment area. The injured were being carried to hospital not just in ambulances but in police squad cars and helicopters.

Glenn A Robinson, chief executive of Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center in Waco, told CNN that his hospital had received 66 injured people including 38 who were seriously hurt.

He said the hospital was seeing "everything from orthopaedic injuries to patients that are experiencing serious blood loss".

McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said: "It's a lot of devastation. I've never seen anything like this. It looks like a war zone with all the debris."

A nursing home was caught in the explosion and some people were believed trapped inside.

Witness Debby Marak told the Associated Press news agency that she had seen smoke coming from the area near the plant and had driven over to see what was happening.

She said that when she arrived, two boys ran towards her screaming that the authorities had told them to leave because the fertiliser plant was going to explode.

She said she drove a short distance before the blast happened.

"It was like being in a tornado," she said. "Stuff was flying everywhere. It blew out my windshield. It was like the whole earth shook."

Another resident told KWTX-TV that she heard several explosions from 13 miles (20km) away.

"It sounded like three bombs going off very close to us,'' said Lydia Zimmerman.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement: "We are monitoring developments and gathering information as details continue to emerge about this incident.

"We have also mobilised state resources to help local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of West, and the first responders on the scene."

The Dallas Morning News reported that West Fertilizer had told the Environmental Protection Agency that it presented no risk of fire or explosion.

The newspaper said it had seen documents in which the plant said it stored large amounts of anhydrous ammonia, but the worst scenario envisaged was a release of ammonia gas that would harm no-one.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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Planned mass burial for slain 12 policemen in Bayelsa rejected

The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, has turned down the proposed plan by the Bayelsa State Police Command to conduct a mass burial for the burnt and decomposed corpses of the 12 Policemen killed a fortnight ago by armed men suspected to be ex-militants.

LEADERSHIP gathered that the Bayelsa Police Command led by Commissioner, Mr. Kingsley Omire, had been under pressure from families of the slain policemen to release to them the corpses of their loved ones.But such request was turned down by Kingsley Omire with the claim that the identity of the deceased officers cannot be determined.

Indications however emerged yesterday that the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, has kicked against request by the Bayelsa State command to conduct a mass burial for the 12 policemen killed by gunmen in Bayelsa State.

According to Police sources, the IG and other top police officers at the Headquarters argued that the idea of mass burial for the slain policemen is derogatory and insisted that a medical examination must be conducted on the mutilated bodies to ascertain their identities.

A senior police officer told our correspondent that the IG had already sent a team of qualified pathologists to conduct the examination. The Medical Team, according to the security source, is headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, "they have commenced investigations"

"The IG has ordered medical investigations to know e identities of persons killed by the gunmen. The IG is against burying them in a mass grave despite the fact that their bodies were burnt beyond recognition. The inquiry is ongoing and the team which is led by an assistant Commissioner, a pathologist, has commenced the investigation", he said.

Attempts to speak with the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr.Alex Akhigbe, failed as he did not answer his calls and neither reply text messages to him.

Thursday 18 April 2013

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Boat capsizes on river in central Indonesia; 2 confirmed dead and dozens missing

Officials say a boat carrying about 50 people has capsized while crossing a river in central Indonesia, leaving at least two people dead and dozens believed missing.

Rescue official Mujiono, who uses one name, says 11 people were rescued after the boat sank Wednesday in the Mahakam River in East Kalimantan. He says the bodies of two women were recovered.

The boat was believed to be carrying about 50 workers. National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the exact number of missing was unclear because no passenger manifest exists.

Rescue efforts were hampered by strong winds and currents.

Ships are a key mode of transportation in Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago. Boats are often overcrowded and in poor condition.

Wednesday 18 April 2013

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2 children die in Kenya landslide; 41 flood deaths

Kenya's Red Cross says two children buried in a landslide overnight have died, as the country's death toll from heavy flooding rose to 41.

The Red Cross said Wednesday that the landslide in Narok County happened after a heavy downpour that destroyed houses and farms. The two children were buried alive while sleeping.

A search and rescue mission to find the children was hampered by impassable roads. The bodies were recovered in the afternoon.

Kenya's annual long rains have brought heavy flooding around the country, displacing thousands of people. The Red Cross says 41 people have died from floods in recent days.

Wednesday 18 April 2013

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