Thursday, 23 May 2013

India: Burying unclaimed bodies - The end, with dignity

Reading the third volume of ‘Deivathin Kural,’ S. Sridhar (9840744400) was moved by Paramacharya’s appeal to people to provide a decent burial for unclaimed bodies. “Don’t dump them in burial grounds like garbage. Arrange funerals with basic rituals. Set aside caste, religion, etc.,” he exhorts in the chapter. Sridhar decided on making it his mission and joined hands with Vishranthi, run by Savitri Vaithi. He worked with them for 15 years before starting his own unit, Anatha Pretha Kaingarya Trust, with the blessings of Mahaperiyava. That was in 1985.

The organisations that have tied up with the Trust include Vishranthi, Sai Charan, Aanandam and Kakkum Karangal. Nimmadhi and Premalaya, homes for war widows and the mentally challenged respectively, also approach the Trust.

Unclaimed dead bodies are buried after obtaining police clearance. In the case of orphanages, last rites are performed depending upon the religion of the dead. Sridhar himself lights the funeral pyre, chanting Ram’s name, singing `Raghupathi Ragava Raja Ram’ and remembering Mahaswamigal.

About Rs 1,500 is spent on each cremation and he manages the expenses from the Trust’s funds and personal money. The ash is dissolved in the sea. Some relatives of the departed turn up after the cremation. Sridhar revisits the cremation ground along with the relatives and helps them perform the rites to their satisfaction. He and his wife perform the rites in memory of the dead when they go to places such as Varanasi and Rameswaram. It is worth mentioning that the elderly, living in old age homes, volunteer to donate their eyes after their death.

Sridhar’s ancestors belonged to Nallamoor, about 10 km from Tindivanam. His grandfather was close to Subramania Sastrigal, poorvasrama father of Mahaswamigal. He started an elementary school on the advice of Sastrigal for the village children. Doing social service thus runs in the family. Sridhar’s sons and wife take over the responsibility when he is not around or busy otherwise.

Has he ever regretted? “Certainly not. But I feel a pang when estranged relatives refuse to visit the dying or the dead. With the support of the entire family, I am lucky to be doing this service. Nobody is turned away and no call is ignored.”

It would be appropriate to mention some others, who are engaged in the same mission. Neila, aged 50, has been burying unclaimed bodies from government hospitals for about eight years now, with assistance from her two children. She gets no support from her husband. She even organises programmes on suicide prevention.

Trivikrama Mahadeva, Bangalore, has been doing this for more than four decades now. The Government of Karnataka feted him and the state financial corporation helped him with a van. A flower vendor in Coimbatore, Shanta Kumar, is reportedly doing the same thing – giving a decent funeral to the unclaimed bodies that he picks up from government mortuaries. The efforts of Umar Ali and his friends at Udamalpet, have been appreciated by Dr. Abdul Kalam.

The Chennai-based advocate Venkatasubramaniam’s Jeevatma Kainkaryam Trust, in the name of Mahaswamigal’s poorvashrama mother, is also well known. As regards last rites, Ragavan, a retired Chennai Telephones employee, is offering his Chromepet Gayathri Trust’s services free or at a subsidised rate depending upon the need.

Sridhar has a dream. “I work with Sri Matha Trust in attending to poor cancer patients. The Trust is doing wonderful work but under the present circumstances, it has to send back the terminally ill to their homes. If the Government of Tamil Nadu can allot an acre of land in Tambaram or somewhere close-by, they can be given shelter. The Sri Matha Trust management has already written to the State Government in this regard. I hope there is a positive response.”

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Savar building collapse: Volunteers haunted by rescue trauma

Mamun was hailed a hero for pulling survivors from the ruins of Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza factory complex but now he struggles to sleep, haunted by the memory of sawing off a young woman’s hand.

“I had never even touched the hand of a woman before but it was the only way to save her and the others,” said the 22-year-old in an interview ahead of the one-month anniversary of the disaster.

“My hand was soaked in blood by the end and I still can’t get that image out of my head.”

A total of 1,127 people died when the nine-storey building collapsed on the morning of April 24 in Savar, a suburb of the capital Dhaka, making it one of the deadliest industrial disasters of all time.

But the tragedy took its toll on others, including an army of volunteers who rescued hundreds but also encountered unimaginable horrors such as bodies decayed beyond identity.

Many of the hundreds of volunteers who spent nearly three weeks sifting through the ruins have reported similar signs of trauma as that experienced by Mamun, who like many Bangladeshis only uses one name.

Mamun, a part-time tailor, risked his life to crawl through a hole to reach three women on the second day of the rescue effort, only to find that a hand of one of them was encased in concrete and she was blocking access to the others.

“She was pleading to me: ‘Please cut my hand’. There was no anaesthetic so I borrowed a hacksaw from the army,” he said.

The army says at least 2,438 people — mostly female garment workers—were rescued, including 968 people who were seriously injured. Many of them had limbs amputated either at the site or in hospital.

The scale of the disaster meant students at a medical college next to the local Enam Hospital had to carry out some of the amputations. Sometimes the operations were done without anaesthetic and howls of agony echoed around the hospital.

The hospital says it has treated around 60 volunteers for trauma, including several medical students.

Trainee doctor Sushmita Nargis said she has been taking anti-anxiety tablets as she tries to cope with the memories.

“At one stage it felt as if the only sound I could hear in my head was of ambulance sirens. They just wouldn’t stop,” said Nargis.

“And then there were those heart-wrenching cries of the amputees and their relatives ... How are you meant to feel when hundreds of patients lie all around you, crying and writhing in pain?”

The volunteers included students, street hawkers and housewives as well as garment workers who were the first on the scene.

Sometimes armed with little more than hammers or shovels, they proceeded to pull out hundreds of survivors whom they could see or hear crying out for help.

Others clubbed together to buy specialist drilling equipment.

The Bangladeshi government shunned offers from the United Nations and elsewhere for specialist help, leaving the army to co-ordinate the rescue effort.

As the days went by, the numbers of survivors fell away and the overwhelming memories that linger for the volunteers are the sights and smells of rotting corpses.

Even when the volunteers did manage to locate survivors, they were sometimes unable to bring them to safety as they were trapped by the debris.

Asma Akter Liza, who donated money to buy a drill after selling some of her books and clothes, fought back tears as she recalled the death of one young woman.

“I came across a girl called Bakul and she held out her hand to me from a tiny hole in the rubble,” said the 28-year-old housewife.

“I held her hand for hours and we talked about everything. She called me sister.

“But in the end we could not save her. She was stuck in such a tiny pocket that it was impossible.

“These days her eyes, her cries for help haunt me all the time. Sometimes I can’t control my tears.”

The trauma has prompted many volunteers to seek counselling or medication as they seek to blot out the memories.

“Every time I go to bed, it feels like I’m in a dark place from where I can’t escape,” said

Mamun. “I thought of going to a mental hospital, but I don’t have enough money.”

Mohammed Badal, who pulled 18 of his fellow textile workers from the ruins, also struggles to sleep.

“Whenever I try to sleep, I end up hearing them crying out to me: ‘Please save me brother, please save me brother’,” said the 25-year-old.

“I sometimes even hear the cries in the daytime.”

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Two more avalanche bodies recovered from Gayari

Two more bodies of Shaheed soldiers, who came under a huge snow slide last year, were recovered from Gayari sector in the ongoing search operation during the last 36 hours.

A spokesman for Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Wednesday that 131 bodies had been recovered so far while search for the remaining nine was continuing. It may be mentioned that on April 7, 2012, 140 soldiers and civilians of 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion came under a huge snow slide at Gayari and embraced Shahadat. He said 121 bodies of martyrs were recovered before suspension of Operation Gayari due to winters on November 27, 2012.

After opening of weather and melting of snow, search for the remaining 19 martyrs commenced on April 15, 2013 by employing 228 military personnel and 29 heavy engineering equipment pieces including excavators, dozers and drill machines. It is once again reiterated that these sustained efforts would continue till recovery of last man, he concluded.

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Train crash simulation for Emergency teams in Lincolnshire to test their readiness for a real-life disaster

Emergency teams in Lincolnshire this week simulated a train crash, to test their readiness for a real-life disaster. How did they cope with the panic, chaos and casualties?

The collision occurred at 8.22am. A three-coach train on the east coast mainline hit a trailer being pulled by a tractor. Two of the coaches careered off the tracks, one landing on its side, the other ending up titled at a crazy angle on an embankment. We got there minutes after the impact to see smoke and hear the cries of the passengers in the one carriage still left on the tracks. The passengers in the other two carriages were too traumatised to make much noise.

Until 8.22 it was an ordinary Tuesday morning in rural Lincolnshire. The big sky was slate grey and threatening rain; the rapeseed fields around the crash site swayed in the breeze. The one discordant note was struck by the Classic Cuisine van (hot dogs and burgers £3.80) parked in a field next to the crash site. A couple of hours later the van would be surrounded by hundreds of exhausted emergency staff as they tried to cope with Lincolnshire's biggest ever rail disaster.

Or should that be pseudo-disaster? A train had been derailed, and half an hour after the crash, in a bizarre secondary accident, a lorry looking for a way out of the traffic jam caused by the derailment hit a school, killing and injuring dozens of children and causing a chemical spill that threatened the village ("It's like Casualty," says one observer). But while the police, the fire and ambulance crews, the voluntary agencies, the rescue helicopters that descended on the scene were playing it for real, none of it is real. It's an exercise designed to test how the emergency services would react to a multiple catastrophe.

Lincolnshire takes these exercises very seriously. Every county has to have a disaster plan and to test disaster planning, but most do it using models. Lincolnshire, which two years ago simulated a coastal flood, does it for real – or as real as they can make it. "We have a good track record for realistic exercises," says David Powell, head of the joint emergency management service, who has been planning this week's disaster for nine months. "You test an awful lot more when the blue lights have to turn up, and suddenly they have to talk to each other."

Powell says only a real-time exercise can test the "buggeration" factors – unpredictable elements that no tabletop simulation can anticipate. This one, codenamed Exercise Georgiana (named after a woman killed in a rail disaster in Grantham in 1906), will involve more than a thousand people and last for three days.

The degree of realism is tempered by the fact that all the agencies know what is going to happen and when, though some of the finer details are left sketchy, and Powell reserves the right to introduce "injects", rogue elements he hasn't briefed the participants about. There are also the buggeration factors that no one can anticipate, such as the suspect package found near the school that causes the exercise to be suspended for 10 minutes just in case a real-life explosion is about to occur.

The disaster occurs at a training facility next to RAF Waddington a few miles south of Lincoln – the sort of place where you can crash a train without too many members of the public tweeting about it – but the real site Powell and his planners have in mind is Claypole, a village 15 miles away, which is on the east coast mainline and has a level crossing. The residents have been told their village is about to have disaster visited on it, and many have volunteered to play the part of walking wounded and distressed relatives at a survivor centre that, within a couple of hours of the train crash, will be improvised in the village hall.

The first thing that strikes you at the scene of the crash is how long it takes to get people out of the carriages, even the one that's upright. "There are people dying in here," one of the injured shouts through the window. But still the initial wave of emergency personnel stand around assessing the situation, deciding on a plan of action, establishing priorities. "Health and safety gone mad," wails the Guardian photographer, who looks like he's about to go in alone. He becomes apoplectic when the police start putting tape around the accident scene before getting the injured off the train. I start to fear there could be a real disaster.

Tony Rouse, one of the umpires for the exercise, points out that the power is still on, and the overhead power lines are probably on the ground – any crews trying to effect a rescue would be in danger of electrocution. "If you start losing paramedics, you exacerbate the situation," he says. "It's pointless them being casualties themselves. The whole operation would grind to a halt." He says it could be up to an hour before the casualties are treated. Don't they become hysterical? Surely the people on the train must be baffled by what's going on? "There is conflict," admits Spencer Creek, technical response manager for Lincolnshire fire and rescue, "and that conflict creates problems for responders and casualties. We have to measure the risk, and the risk mustn't outweigh what we're trying to achieve."

Some of the local people who have volunteered to be injured for the day are impressively stroppy about the long delay in providing treatment. "There's a guy in here who can't breathe," shouts one. "Can't one of you blokes who's standing around doing nothing come and help?" Others, though, are less realistic. Staying in character for hours is difficult. Sometimes these exercises are done with trained actors or volunteers who have role-play experience. Powell says that for this exercise they mostly preferred to use local people, including a group of local volunteer first responders, as a way of engaging the community. But I suspect there may also have been cost factors – this is a cheap way of getting bodies – and can't help thinking greater verisimilitude, more hysteria, a greater sense of panic would test the emergency services more.

I feel that even more strongly when I see Georgina Minter playing her role. Minter is one of the dozen or so pros that Lincolnshire has shelled out money on today – all members of Amputees in Action, men and women who have lost limbs and now make themselves available for simulations such as this. They have been made up so their severed limbs look ultra-realistic. Add Minter's Oscar-winning performance as a woman outside the school that has been hit by a lorry – "Where's my baby?" she keeps screaming to a paramedic who looks increasingly shellshocked and who eventually says, "Let's get her out of here, no niceties with this one" – and the test takes on a new dimension. Minter, who four years ago lost both her legs and a hand to necrotising fasciitis, suddenly makes you feel this is more than just a dry run.

"Our role is to rattle the emergency services out of their training mode, put them off a little bit and make them think outside the box," says Karl Ives, Amputees in Action's supervisor for the day: "We want to put a bit of stress on them."

"We're also desensitising them for when it happens for real," adds Lyndsay Adams, an amputee who starred in the Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies and who is today playing the headteacher of the school devastated by the chemical tanker. "They won't have seen it in real life, but this is as real as we can make it."

Dr Peter Holden, a GP who is working here today as a medical incident adviser, has attended three real-life disasters: Hillsborough, the bomb in Tavistock Square on 7/7, and the house explosion in Newark last Sunday. He accepts a test such as this can never quite mimic the real thing – "If this was real, you'd be looking at real blood," he says simply – but reckons the management challenges are the same. "What this does for those who've never really had to do it is make them realise that the first hour is utter chaos, the second hour is organised chaos, and the third hour you begin to go in the right direction."

Holden's role is to prioritise casualties. The paramedics bring them to him with their assessment, and in the space of about 30 seconds he then has to classify them as priority one, two or three. Priority one go straight to hospital; the rest, even those with bloodied faces and broken bones, will have to wait. The people who were getting stroppy on the train two hours ago are now getting stroppy all over again, wondering why they've been parked in a field. A group of boys from Newark College are shivering under blankets after being decontaminated following the chemical spill. One says his nose has been bleeding (in theory, you understand) for two hours. "I'm going to die of a nose bleed," he moans.

"The hard thing for all clinical staff is that in a major incident, you turn everything on its head," explains Holden. "You are doing the most for the most. You can't get stuck in on the first person on the scene. What we've got here is a large number of casualties, many with very serious, life-threatening injuries, who have been stabilised, resuscitated and now have to be shipped out. But we also have all these other people with quite significant injuries who are less serious, and our job there is to stabilise them and feed them into the medical chain so that the medical chain doesn't get indigestion. You will notice that I've ruthlessly kept the walking wounded here. The priority one people will die within minutes, whereas they will take days." You will not die of a nosebleed in two days. The young lad should be fine until at least the weekend.

Over at Claypole, the survivor reception centre is in full swing. The Red Cross is registering the walking wounded and the traumatised as they are brought in and offering first aid. Reassuring women from the Royal Voluntary Service are serving tea and custard creams – the essence of English stiff-upper-lipped fortitude. Local resident Claire Simmonds is playing a woman who believes her elderly parents were on the train and is giving the man from the rail company a hard time over the lack of information she is receiving. Mike Freeman, a volunteer with the Lincolnshire Chaplaincy Scheme, is offering support and trying to keep her calm.

Bang! Mark Bedford, playing a diabetic who was on the train and has lost his insulin, faints, falls off his chair and hits the floor with a resounding thud. If Minter takes the best actress award, Bedford must get best actor. This is one of several identities Bedford was issued with when he reported for volunteer duty. In the morning he had been Mr Disruptive. "We were putting pressure on people really," he says. "It was entertaining. There was a lady from Germany who couldn't speak English. I had the idea of using Google translate to help her."

He says for the most part it worked, but did at one point translate "Where is my brother?" as "Do you need your bathroom repairing?"

Meanwhile, in Lincoln, a strategic command centre has been established in a former nuclear bunker at the county's fire and rescue HQ. There are three levels in the command chain: bronze command – the emergency services on the ground; silver command – a large room at the bunker filled with "cells" dealing with big-picture issues such as logistics, the environment and the media; and gold command, where strategic policy is laid down by 40-plus key people from the 20 or so agencies dealing with the disaster.

I attend the three o'clock meeting, chaired by Chief Inspector Paul Gibson, where they assess how the casualties are being treated, whether Claypole should be evacuated because of the chemical spill, how they will cope with the chaos at local stations (the east coast main line is closed and they are expecting agitated commuters to fight to get on to buses), and when casualty figures should be released. Karen Spencer, the council's strategic communications manager, is desperate to get some figures out – Twitter, like nature, abhors a vacuum and will not be slow to guesstimate figures, she argues – but Gibson is reluctant until they are verified. Their standoff adds a nice moment of drama.

Spencer tells me after the meeting that emergency personnel have to realise the social media revolution has changed the nature of disaster management. "There are so many members of the public with smartphones that people will be tweeting photographs and information immediately," she says. "We are hours and hours late in response. I can only say it so many times. I almost strangled the woman chairing the earlier meeting."

There are tensions between competing parts of the emergency jigsaw: the police are cautious and inherently hierarchical; the council is more used to collective decision-making; its media staff are inclined to be as open as they can in releasing information. Simon Burgess, the council's strategic communications officer, says a key part of the exercise is to highlight these tensions. "No one should be worried about failing," he says. "That's what it's all about – identifying problems. Everything is recorded; everything is minuted; and in the end, in about two weeks' time, we'll be looking at everything – what worked, what didn't work."

By late afternoon, a press statement has been released saying eight people have been killed (I've been tipped off the number of dead will more than double on succeeding days); the police are advising people to "stay calm"; the fire service spokesman clunkily refers to a "protracted ongoing incident". Back at Waddington, the casualties have been freed from the train and the wrecked school, the stroppy walking wounded and the young man with the nosebleed have gone home, and an eerie silence has descended. Two bigwigs from gold command assessing the situation after day one – day two will see the start of the search for the body parts scattered across the site – look content. Given the scale of the catastrophe, it hasn't been a complete disaster.

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Zimbabwe mass graves: Horror tales from the war

66-year-old Rangadza Machiha narrates the “worst” years of his life. It is a period that he rarely wants to talk about. For him it was a time of trouble. A time spent burying dismembered bodies, cleaning and taking fingerprints of slain comrades, digging and dumping their bodies in shallow graves.

“Nhau dzerufu hadzinakidzeka idzi mfana. I was tortured, electrocuted and was put in leg irons and handcuffs for nearly three months. I want to appeal to people to remain united so that this is not repeated. It was a painful experience. Let this be history and never to be repeated. That is my appeal to the people of Zimbabwe,” Mudhara Machiha pleaded.

One thing that is true about the old man is that he still can relate his ordeal at the hands of the Rhodesian security forces 34 years ago like something that happened a fortnight ago. Indeed, that has left a deep scar in his life that he cannot wish away.

It was the war of liberation. The enemy had declared that blacks would never rule the country and was prepared to go to any length to prevent an independent Zimbabwe. The Smith regime was brutal. It left a trail of sorrow in the African family fabric. Many despicable things happened. Let’s continue to tell the tales of our liberation struggle.

Arrested at the height of the liberation struggle after the battle of Rombwe in Rusape on December 28, 1977, Machiha with others were taken to the notorious Rusape Selous Scout Camp.

“On arrival he was covered in a black sack and taken to a room for interrogation. In the room there were pictures of nationalists like Cde (Josiah) Tongogara, President Mugabe and others. These had a wanted dead or alive tag above their heads. A huge reward was placed on their heads,” he said

“I still remember that among those arrested was a freedom fighter, Cde Gafa Tichatonga, who denied knowledge of me. If he had said he knew me I could have been history by now. I was put in leg irons and tortured.

They connected electricity to my male organ and one toe. I cried and thought I would never sire a child again. This was to become a daily occurrence for the next three months,” he added.

Mudhara Machiha was only freed from the leg irons when a relative who was in CID saw him.

Pained by his condition, the policeman oiled the locks that were now rusting and unlocked the shackles. From then on he was to join those who were burying bodies at Castle Farm.

“At the burial site we had to quickly dig the shallow mass graves and cover the bodies as the soldiers who accompanied us feared attacks from the freedom fighters. The numbers differed but ranged between five and eight.

One day we buried 26 bodies in a shallow grave and they came from many areas. They were of all ages and sexes. Some had lost their limbs, heads and others torn to pieces.

“I remember freedom fighters were placed in room at the camp. We would be tasked to wash their hands and take fingerprints. Some of the policemen would puff smoke to neutralise the odour from decaying bodies.

It was a bad experience but there was nothing we could do. We had to perform the duties at gunpoint,” he said.

“Dead bodies would be brought from as far as Wedza and Ruwangwe and Nyanga to be buried in mass graves there. They would be carried in four to five trucks for burial a day and we buried them in the vlei just after that little stream in the east of Mabvazuva suburb.”

Among the names of black soldiers who tortured him most at the camp where Sergegant-Major Chisese while other had nicknames like Mbudziyadhura, Komboniyatsva, Tsvotsvotsvo and Chigadziramemba.

“I remember one known as Mari. That man was cruel, he was my tormentor-in- chief,” Mudhara Machiha says fighting back his tears. He was released on August 18 1978.

“They just told me to leave the camp. I moved to Tsanzaguru Township. I still carry the effects of the torture,” he added.

His experiences at the Rusape Selous Torture Camp tally with that of Mbuya Mazano arrested in Rukweza after fleeing the Battle of Tsanzaguru.

“We were tired after running the whole way from Rusape that I and others decided to climb a huge mango tree for cover. The homestead had a lot of such trees and it was easy to find cover in them.

It was unfortunate that a group of soldiers passed below the mango tree and two of decided to sit under the tree to rest. Because of fear, one of us fell from the tree alerting the soldiers.

“She had blown our cover. The soldiers forced us to climb down the trees before force marching us to St Baduwa where there were people who had been shot dead. We were told to climb into the trucks with the bodies and to sleep alongside the dead bodies.

At road curves blood would spill out of the trucks but we had to remain quiet fearing we would be shot,” she said.

On arrival the bodies were first dumped next to their tent at the camp before being reloaded again for burial at the “butchery”.

“We were forced again to get on the trucks for a makeshift court at the butchery. In the makeshift court there was an electric stool where prisoners of war were forced to sit while being interrogated. The soldiers would drop burning plastics on your naked bodies.

“I did not have to sit on the hot stool as one black soldier shouted; “Ibhebhi rakanaka ndiri kurida usaripise”. That was how I was spared the torture and imminent death at the butchery. Unfortunately, some of my friends who were on the truck with me were tortured and later executed.

They were put in black plastic and buried here,” she said.

Unfortunately for Gogo Mazano that was the start of worse things to come. She was to stay at the camp with soldiers taking turns to rape her. They would move around with her as their sex object.

“Imagine being raped by more than 10 people a day. If you failed to please them they would severely assault you. At one point I fell pregnant but I was beaten till I lost that pregnancy. I was admitted at hospital for nearly three months.

On discharge they came and took me back to the camp. I was only released during the ceasefire in 1979.

“It still haunts me today. It is disheartening that these people have gone scot free and are still unrepentant,” she said.

She recalls some of her tormentors were still alive but most had left the area after independence. Another victim of Rusape Selous Scout Camp Gogo Regina Doto said she was picked in Vhengere Township by a group of auxiliary troops on their way to Chiwetu Rest.

“On arrival at the rest camp, a black cloth was tied on the faces of all the ‘prisoners’ so we would not see what was going on in the camp. Before they had started interrogating us there was the sound of gunfire and so we were again bundled into the trucks and driven to Rusape Selous Scout Camp. On arrival red cloths were tied around our eyes so that we could not see our tormentors. It was also a sign that we had to be executed,” she said.

“Whilst the Rhodesian soldiers were still contemplating what to do with us, the spirits smiled on us and they the camp was attacked by the guerrillas. The Rhodesian troops scurried for cover in the holes at the camp leaving us to face the fire.

“We took advantage of the commotion and ran for dear life back to Vhengere. That is how we survived the camp. It was only towards end of the war that the Selous Scout came to take part of the suburb to Castle Camp. It was painful to see skeletons with shoes on, functioning watches in hand but with no flesh.

“They boasted that they had killed so many. I remember one of them saying there are thousands of your brothers here. They took us to a pit near that hill where we were shown hundreds of decomposing bodies that were to be burnt.

“You see that pit, it used to be deep and that is where most of your brothers and sisters’ bodies were burnt. As they drove away, blood would spill from the trucks along the way and it was a sad sight,” she said.

“At that time, blood of the people who had been killed at the execution site flowed down the slope. There were pits everywhere in this area with bodies of people who were forced to dig their own graves, before being shot and buried there,” she said.

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Cleveland Police use UK Missing Person's Bureau website to identify unresolved cases

Cleveland Police is seeking the services of the UK Missing Person’s Bureau in identifying two outstanding missing people on their records – the oldest dating back to 1970.

Now police also want any information from anyone local on Teesside who can help.

The UK Missing Person’s Bureau was created in April 2008 and forms part of the national operational support to police forces.

Part of their work includes a police service-wide review of the number of bodies and body parts that remain unidentified and enables police forces to call a central team to match details of current or historic missing people with information held on their database.

The bureau helps determine where additional forensic techniques could be used to try to bring resolution to a family about the identity of a person, and is now utilising its website to specifically publicise unidentified bodies in the form of a searchable list of cases.

The two outstanding cases which Cleveland Police hold relate to a body (age and sex unconfirmed) washed up on the beach at Redcar in 1970 and a man found in woods near to the A178 Graythorpe to Seal Sands Road in Hartlepool in 1981.

The body at Redcar was wearing black boots, multi coloured red and fawn socks and a leather belt.

The man in Hartlepool was approximately 20-30 years, 170cm tall, with mousey collar length hair and blue eyes.

He was wearing a blue and navy blue striped jumper, checked shirt and grey corduroy trousers.

The white Adidas training shoes he was wearing at the time had the name ‘SAYER’ written in pen on the inside.

The database can be accessed by anyone via the link and any suggestions as to the possible identity of individuals can be relayed back to the bureau.

Thursday 23 May 2013

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Death toll rises to 23, with 10 still missing, in blast at China explosives plant

The death toll from a massive blast at an explosives plant in eastern China has risen to 23 with 10 people still missing.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that 19 others were injured by the explosion, which ripped through the plant in Shandong province on Monday.

The blast was so strong that 10 of those killed could only be identified by their DNA. Experts from the State Administration of Work Safety have been sent to the factory and are investigating the cause of the explosion.

China has sought to tighten access to explosives used for quarrying following a series of attacks by people using homemade bombs. However, safety rules are often ignored and industrial accidents remain common.

Thursday 23 May 2013

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