Thursday, 18 July 2013

Quebec brings 9/11 expert to help sift through train crash wreckage

A US expert who worked on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is helping Canadian authorities sift through wreckage left more than a week after a runaway train barreled into a lakeside town in Quebec killing 50 people, police said on Wednesday.

Frank DePaolo, an emergency specialist from New York's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, visited the ruins of Lac-Megantic earlier in the week.

DePaolo is an expert in managing major disaster sites and is responsible for one of the forensic teams working at the collapsed World Trade Center towers in New York City.

"He said the efforts were complex and difficult and he was overwhelmed (by) the enormity of the situation," Quebec police spokesman Michel Forget told reporters.

A spokeswoman in DePaolo's New York office said he was not available for comment.

Investigators are painstakingly working their way through Lac-Megantic, where a runaway crude oil train derailed and exploded on July 6 leaving burned-down buildings, mountains of rail-related debris and charred trees. Some 37 bodies have been recovered and investigators are still searching for more remains.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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Refugees swamp outpost morgue on Christmas Island

Australia's remote outpost of Christmas Island has increased its mortuary spaces tenfold as the Indian Ocean continues to claim the lives of a rapidly rising number of asylum seekers.

Yesterday, searchers abandoned their hunt for at least four people drowned when an overcrowded boat of 150 people capsized as it was being escorted to Christmas Island by navy patrol boats.

Rough seas prevented sailors from boarding the stricken vessel. They pulled 144 survivors from the water and recovered four bodies as an RAAF Orion dropped life rafts in the hope more could cling to life.

Only days earlier, nine people, including a 1-year-old boy, drowned in a similar tragedy, adding to a toll of more than 800 who have perished or disappeared on the dangerous voyage from Indonesia.

"We now have mortuary facilities that will cater for 50 bodies and that is a statement within itself," Christmas Island administrator Jon Stanhope told ABC radio yesterday.

"I sometimes wish that ... each of us would perhaps look at asylum seekers not as a bulk anonymous grouping of individuals, but as individual human beings that have hopes and aspirations and dreams and feel the same pain and suffer the same grief as each of us."

But there is little chance of any softening of Australia's increasingly hardline on asylum seekers, especially in the heat of an election campaign in which the fraught issue will play a large role in deciding who wins power.

Labor, trying to regain lost ground after its earlier relaxation of former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard's draconian Pacific Solution - and a belief among voters that the Coalition is better able to control Australia's borders - is toughening its stance.

"If I'm trying to summarise what Australians want, this is what they want: they want us to be kind, they want us to be compassionate," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told a community cabinet meeting in Rockhampton this week.

"But they want an orderly migration system so when we're faced with the challenge of people smugglers, let me tell you, this is really tough."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is uncompromising in his determination to reinstate the harshest aspects of Howard's policy, yesterday urging Rudd to recall Parliament to debate asylum seekers and promising bipartisan support if Labor returned to the full Pacific Solution.

The numbers sailing from Indonesia are accelerating. More than 20,000 have arrived so far this year, with 40,000 expected by the end of December. Foreign Minister Bob Carr has warned that this could double.

The main detention facility on Christmas Island is holding about 3600 asylum seekers, beyond its planned capacity. Hundreds more are in camps on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, centres Labor had closed after Rudd's 2007 victory but re-opened as many of Howard's policies were progressively reintroduced.

Faced with a huge humanitarian and political crisis, the Government is shifting to a far tougher position, tightening refugee assessment rules that at present accept 90 per cent of asylum seekers as genuine refugees.

Carr has claimed many are economic migrants, rather than genuine refugees, despite a lack of evidence that has been criticised by Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs and refugee advocates.

Changes are already underway, initially aimed at refugee appeals tribunals that Carr said "have not been hard-headed enough".

The ABC reported yesterday that tribunals have been ordered to give higher priority to assessments of conditions in asylum seekers' countries of origin prepared by the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department.

Critics believe the department takes a more benign view of conditions in major source countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, than other agencies, allowing asylum seekers to be returned.

Distress call

A new search and rescue operation was under way last night off Christmas Island after an asylum seeker boat carrying 80 people issued a distress call.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a request for assistance from the vessel at around 2.25pm.

A P3 Orion aircraft was last night at the scene about 94 nautical miles off Christmas Island, and ships had been radioed by the authority and asked to assist.

HMAS Bathurst, ACV Triton and a merchant ship, were expected to arrive.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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Man arrested for stealing 56 skulls from cemeteries and setting up a skeleton museum at his home in Austria

A man has been arrested after police found 56 skulls and other human skeletal remains which had been stolen from graves in a museum at his home.

Police conducted a search of the house in Austria's Burgenland province after the unidentified 47-year-old tried to sell three of the skulls and two thigh bones at a flea market.

Detectives discovered the man had created a museum in his home which contained the skulls and 55 other bones.

State broadcaster ORF said Tuesday that the bones were taken from graves of a church cemetery.

Detectives displayed some of the skulls in a cardboard box at a news conference today.

Speaking to The Guardian, a police spokesman said he had never encountered such a case in his 37 years in the force.

He said he did not know why the man had collected the bones or why he had tried to sell some of them.

'But there's nothing new under the sun,' he said.

The man has been charged by police with 'disturbing the peace of the dead' following the discovery.

Police said the bones had now been returned to the cemetery.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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City Light Hotel collapse death toll mounts to 18

One more person who suffered injuries in the City Light Hotel collapse succumbed at Gandhi Hospital here on Wednesday. This increased the death toll to 18.

The deceased has been identified as Nagayya, a resident of Jogipeta in Medak district. He was consuming tea at the hotel when its entire structure collapsed on July 8. He was admitted to Gandhi Hospital with serious injuries where he died on Wednesday.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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Bridge collapses killing 12 people in China

Video footage has captured the moment that the bridge crumbled into the high waters of a flooded river in south-west China.

The bridge reportedly had six vehicles on it when it was submerged. Three people were rescued from the water but 12 were killed.

Lin Rui survived, recalling the collapse he said: "I remember that at that time there were many people watching the flood on river bank. Then I felt the car shaking and saw cracks on road.

"The middle of the bridge was raised and then suddenly it fell way.

"It happened just in one or two seconds. And there was no time for me to respond".

Rescuers are continuing to search for some of the bodies of those killed.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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Belongings of World War Two pilots returned to their families almost 70 years later

It was a journey which began in the dying days of the Second World War - and will end 68 years later with the honours denied to them in death.

When 20-year-olds Sergeant David Raikes, Flight Sergeant David Perkins, Wireless Operator and Air Gunner Flight Sergeant Alexander Bostock and Air Gunner Warrant Officer John Hunt of the Royal Australian Air Force aged 21, took off from Forli near Rimini on April 21, 1945 they had no idea the war in Italy would be over four days later - and their own war would end that night in a field.

The four, part of 18 Squadron Bomber Command, were brought down by German anti-aircraft as they targeted a river crossing on the Po at Taglio di Po.

With no wreckage and no bodies they were listed as missing. For their families there would be no further news.

The torment of their wait summed up in a letter from Warrant Officer Hunt’s mother who described the six months since her son’s disappearance as “just hell”. She and many of the other relatives died without hearing anything more on their missing men.

The answers they had so longed for came in July 2011 when a team of amateur archeologists discovered the wreckage buried when they crashed.

Metal detectors revealed an engagement ring and an inscribed watch, excavation work unearthed human remains and the wreckage of Boston BZ590.

Today the local community in Felonica, Northern Italy, honoured those who perished by opening the Boston Room in the local museum.

In it are the parts of the plane and personal effects of those who lost their lives.

The rusted, warped metal work that survived the impact and subsequent fire. It will stand as a memorial to the commitment and sacrifice of Bomber Command.

Tomorrow decades on the men who set out to serve their country in another will be laid to rest - honoured by the country they died in and country they died for.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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Police investigate Berkshire cold case

Thames Valley Police is trying to identify a man whose body was found in the River Thames in Windsor in 1990.

An artist’s impression of the man, drawn from forensic photographs, shows what he may have looked like when alive.

He is white, around 30 years old, about 6ft, with dark brown curly hair and a thin pencil moustache. He was wearing a BHS grey hooded anorak, a BHS blue jumper, Nico pink sports t-shirt and blue denim jeans.

Most notably his was wearing a gent’s wrist watch with a face formed from a USA twenty cent/dollar face (actual watch pictured).

In his possession, the man had a betting slip for a £10 win on Midnight Court in the 1.15pm race at Newbury, issued at 11.05am on 24 February 1990 at the Clock Tower Betting Office in Duke Street, Brighton.

Police believe he may have known people in the Brighton area.

Renewed police activity to find the identity of this man is solely in the hope of being able to let his family and friends know what happened to him.

The case is part of Operation Nightingale, which was started to identify eight unrelated cases of bodies from fatal incidents that remain unidentified across the Thames Valley, dating back to the 1970s.

The cold cases, which cover Berkshire East, Berkshire West, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire remain unresolved with the victim’s identity yet to be ascertained.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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More victims put to rest at Srebrenica

Muhić Fatima died 18 years ago, when she was just two days old and before she even had a name, the youngest victim of the Srebrenica genocide. Her body was found in December 2012 with five other victims in a mass grave.

The child was one of 409 victims buried this year at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre in Potocari. Born July 12th 1995, the baby's remains were laid to rest alongside her father, Hajrudin, two uncles and grandfather. Her mother, Hava, gave the child her name, Muhić, just days before the burial.

"The human mind cannot comprehend what they have done to us and our suffering for our loved ones," said Fadila Efendić, who buried her 20-year-old son, Fejzo, who was also killed at Srebrenica.

Among the 409 identified victims buried in Potocari last week, 44 of them were boys ages 14 to 18.

Munira Subašić, the president of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Association, understands Efendic's grief. After 18 years of searching for her son Nermin, Subašić buried two bones -- an arm and a leg -- dug up and identified using DNA analysis.

"I did not give birth to a child without the head and the rest of the body. One of Nermin's bones was found at the site where church is being built now, while the other bone was found 3 miles away," Subašić said.

Lejla Cengic of the Institute for Missing Persons said to cover up crimes, bodies were moved and scattered so that victims could never be found.

"Forensic analyses succeed to associate certain primary and secondary graves. If there were no DNA analyses, it is certain that the identity of the found victims would never be determined," Cengic said.

More than 30,000 people attended this year's memorial, including officials from the region and the world. They all emphasised that the crime at Srebrenica must not go unpunished.

"Although there is a peace, there is still no justice. Thousands of victims still wait for the punishment of the responsible ones for these crimes," said Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Who does not know Srebrenica and its pain does not know Bosnia and Herzegovina," said Valentin Inzko, the high representative of the international community in BiH.

Inzko was a participant in a three-day Peace March organised as a reminder of the suffering and tribulation of Srebrenica victims. Participants walk 120 kilometres following the same path that victims walked trying to avoid the carnage in 1995.

"The road is not easy, but we are motivated by the desire to get to Potocari and worship the victims of Srebrenica," said Elvir Takipović from Osijek, Croatia, who along with several other Croatian war veterans participated in the march.

There are 6,066 victims in the Memorial Centre in Potocari, silent witnesses of horrific crimes which occurred in Srebrenica. There are still 2,306 missing.

Thursday 18 July 2013

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