Monday, 5 August 2013

Malaysia ends search for 33 Indonesians missing at sea

Malaysian rescuers said on Monday they would stop searching for 33 Indonesians missing at sea, more than four days after their boat sank on their way home to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, with seven confirmed dead.

The wooden boat was believed to be smuggling 44 people, including women and children, from Malaysia's southern state of Johor to Indonesia's Batam island. It sank in rough seas on July 25. Four men were rescued the following day.

Amran Daud, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), said in a statement that search and rescue operations would stop at sunset on Monday as chances of finding survivors had become "increasingly thin".

Rescuers recovered the bodies of four more men on Monday despite rough seas and heavy rain hampering efforts.

Three other bodies -- two women and a man -- were found on Sunday, far away from the accident site as strong currents are believed to have scattered the corpses.

Amran said authorities decided to stop search efforts after "assessing various aspects, including monitoring by helicopters" without finding any clues of survivors.

"But MMEA will continue to have routine patrols in the area, and if there are new leads we will mobilise our members," he said, adding 130 rescuers had scoured an area of almost 3,000 square miles (7,800 square kilometres) since last Friday.

The boat, which authorities believe was "not seaworthy", capsized in high waves about 13 nautical miles (24 kilometres) off the coast.

The passengers are believed to have been illegal migrants who came to Malaysia to work but wanted to return to their country to celebrate Thursday's Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, without passing border controls.

One of the survivors found on Friday said he paid some 1,300 ringgit ($400) for what was to be his first trip home in 13 years.

A search and rescue coordinator told AFP that as many Indonesians sought to sneak back to their country and maritime officials had stepped up patrols, smugglers were choosing more dangerous disembarkation points along the coast.

"It's too dangerous to travel there for small vessels... The swell is big, the wind is strong, the weather unpredictable," he said, referring to the part of the coast from where Thursday's ill-fated boat left.

An estimated four million foreigners, mostly from poorer countries in the region such as Indonesia and Myanmar, work in Malaysia -- many illegally. They fill low-paying jobs shunned by locals on plantations, construction sites and in factories.

Migrant labour right activists have called on Malaysia to further step up patrols and charge boatmen and any official found to be taking bribes to turn a blind eye to the smuggling.

Monday 5 August 2013

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‘It was an act of God’

The Rana Plaza victims were cheated out of their rightful dues by the BGMEA that worked out the compensation package by profiling the industrial accident as a natural disaster.

“The building collapse was beyond the owner’s control. It was an act of God,” said Atiqul Islam, president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).

The garment sector’s apex trade body employed Sections 12, 16 and 20 of Bangladesh Labour Law 2006 to formulate the compensation package under which the victims were paid much less than what they deserve.

Section 12 of the law stipulates that owners can shut down their factories anytime in case of events beyond their control. Such events include fire, malfunction, blackouts, epidemic and violence. Once it is established that an incident falls under Section 12, the factory owner has the right to lay off workers in line with Section 16.

Section 20 says the workers laid-off under Section 16 are entitled to 30 days’ gratuity for each year’s service.

“We paid the workers following this formula,” said Islam. He noted that the BGMEA had paid a month’s salary and overtime payments to every worker who survived the collapse.

The trade body has paid some 2,785 workers of the complex from the Tk 7 crore it pooled from its 2,500-odd members, who contributed Tk 25,000 each.

The families of the dead workers did not receive anything as they could not prove to be the nominees of the victims during the disbursement of salaries.

The relatives of the 291 missing workers, whose DNA profiling is yet to be completed, also didn’t get anything.

AKM Nasim, senior legal counsellor at the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, a workers’ rights group, said the Rana Plaza victims are entitled to additional three months’ salaries under the termination benefit scheme.

“It is unfortunate that the BGMEA opted for another scheme that is inapplicable for the circumstances.”

He said the Rana Plaza collapse was not an “act of God” by any stretch of imagination. “There was no flood, cyclone, earthquake or heavy downpour.”

“How can it be an act of God when it was gross negligence on the part of the employers and the building owner that brought about the catastrophe?”

As an instance of their negligence, the lawyer mentioned that workers were forced to enter the building despite detection of big cracks in its pillars the previous day. “The BGMEA is now saying such things to avoid paying full compensation to the workers.”

Tanjib-ul-Alam, a Supreme Court lawyer, echoed Nasim’s words, and termed the trade body’s attitude very irresponsible.

“It was not an act of God at all. The heavy generators on the rooftops created strong vibrations — enough to make the building collapse.”

Monday 5 August 2013

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How Kenyan hospitals abet the illicit body parts trade

Kenyan hospitals are reluctant to adopt technology to identify unclaimed bodies thereby giving room for illicit body parts business to thrive, industry sources say.

Adopting modern biometric system on patients when they are admitted to hospital would be helpful in the identification process.

A source at Kenyatta National Hospital says his supervisors have been frustrating efforts to adopt technology to boost identification process.

Unidentified group

“My bosses have been fighting the use of fingerprint technology which helps in identification. This has helped make it much easier to have more bodies placed in the unidentified group which are later marked for disposal through city mortuary,” said the source at KNH mortuary.

“Action on the bodies begins once a body is piled in the ready-for-disposal group. It’s like a licence to tamper with the remains,” he said.

KNH had not officially responded to our inquiries on the process they follow in reducing unidentified bodies, most of which become targets of the deadly trade.

“There is a recent case where someone wanted a tooth as an exhibit in a court case. This is simple, all you need is just pluck it from the bodies lined up for disposal and give it to him. He paid Sh5,000,” the attendant told The Standard.

KNH public wing was handling about 900 bodies at the time of this investigation. It has a capacity to hold 300 bodies.

Best practice also demands that before disposal, bodies should be wrapped in a special bag so that they can be retrieved in future.

But in Kenya, most are buried in mass graves and unless a DNA test is conducted, it is increasingly getting difficult to trace and retrieve bodies when need arises.

Funeral Services Association of Kenya (FUSAK) is now calling for adoption of fingerprinting and videotaping technology to help in documentation and reducing the number of unknown people.

There is also need for regulation on how new institutions offering medical studies get their cadavers for learning purposes.

Though most bodies are acquired free of charge, some institutions are trading the bodies.

“They fetch about Sh75,000. This is the price we were selling them to Kenyatta University when they began their medical training school. Though they are not supposed to be sold, there are other costs such as embalming and storage that make it necessary that someone pays for them,” said Mr Ezra Olack, the national chairman of FUSAK.

Keeping brains for medical students is a most common practice. This is done most of the time even without the consent of relatives.

“They are placed in paper bags. Sometimes even briefcases are used to smuggle them out,” he says.

Water that’s been used to wash the dead is also regarded as a hot cake.

Several beliefs

“There are several beliefs about water used to wash the dead ranging from boosting business prospects to snagging husbands. This is one of the most demanded things,” an attendant at City Mortuary said.

“There was a time when a lady wanted to get someone’s husband. So she came for the water. I don’t know most of the details but when the man asked to bathe, the lady is said to have mixed the water with the one collected here and the man went berserk,” he chuckles.

It is understood that the disciplined forces demand for blood of the dead, mostly when one has died in mysterious circumstances.

Monday 5 August 2013

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Photos of missing persons will be displayed till Friday

The display of pictures of missing persons and unidentified dead bodies that was put up at the rural police headquarters at Adgaon from August 2, will now be extended till Friday.

The past three days, the photo gallery has seen a steady flow of relatives of missing persons from various parts of Nashik and adjoining districts. According to officials of the rural police, 304 people have visited the photo gallery, including 125 on Sunday. Most of the visitors were from Nashik city, rural Nashik, Jalgaon and Dhule.

Apart from two dead persons who were identified on August 2, two more were identified on Saturday. The police said they did not have the names of the persons found dead. Relatives who have been able to recognize the missing persons have gone to the respective police stations for further verifications.

For instance, relatives of a person gone missing from Wadner Khakodi near Malegaon and found dead in the jurisdiction of the Kotwali police station in Ahmednagar, have recognized the photo and have gone to the concerned police station for further verification. Similarly, another person gone missing from Gangapur police station and found dead in the jurisdiction of the Karhad police station has been identified.

Approximately 2,500 photos of missing persons and unidentified dead bodies have been put up by the police of Nashik rural, Nashik city, Amravati city, Solapur rural, Satara, Jalgaon, Buldhana, Sangli, Thane city, Latur, Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad rural, Dhule, Nandurbar, Thane rural Ahmednagar, Akola and Ratnagiri.

On the first day of the opening of the gallery, two bodies were identified. The police said the two bodies identified were that of Karbhari Gaikwad (82) of Dhanori, Kopargon, and Anna Manik Pagare (25) of Gaikwad Chowk, old Dhule city.

In view of the rising number of missing persons and dead bodies of unidentified persons, director general of police Sanjeev Dayal has given instructions to gather photos of all missing persons and unidentified dead bodies and display them at various police commissionrates and rural police stations.

Inspector R J Desai of the crime branch, Nashik rural, said that superintendent of police Pravin Padwal has directed to continue with the photo gallery for a few more days in view of the flow of visitors.

Relatives of missing persons have been appealed to attend the display as photos of such persons with the police from across the state have been put up.

Monday 5 August 2013

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Underwater CCTV cameras fail to give clues in Punjab bus mishap case

Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras, installed in the Bhakra Main Line (BML) canal at the Khanauri head for identifying floating dead bodies, failed to capture images of the victims of the bus, which fell into the canal near Sirhind in the wee hours of July 31. The low intensity underwater CCTV cameras, installed in May 2012, could not provide footage of any of the bodies floating in the canal after the accident even as relatives of the victims waited for days for the remains of the departed.

Office-bearers of an NGO, Sahara Charitable Trust, which installed the CCTV cameras, have stressed on the need for installing powerful underwater cameras, post the bus mishap. "The cameras of low intensity failed to withstand the pressure of gushing waters. The purpose of installing these cameras was defeated," said Karamvir Chohan, a Sahara activist.

Floating bodies in BML reach Khanauri head and sometimes get entangled in the wire mesh. People from far off places come in search of missing persons. To help such persons, who come looking for their relatives presumed to have been washed away in the canal, Sahara has constructed a platform and a few rooms for them.

Sensing the urgency, Sangrur district administration has approached Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET) to prepare a foolproof design for locating floating bodies in BML canal. They have also contacted the design centre of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) in this regard.

Sangrur deputy commissioner (DC) Kumar Rahul said, "Cameras, under and over water, were installed last year to locate floating bodies from a distance. But the underwater cameras failed to withstand pressure and broke down. We have now taken up matter with SLIET and BBMB to design and install five cameras at different locations in the canal."

He said cameras capable of locating bodies at the bottom of the canal were needed. "The principal secretary (irrigation) has assured us that there is no dearth of funds for installing the cameras," the DC said.

Monday 5 august 2013

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Punjab bus tragedy: 15 bodies recovered

A Punjab Roadways bus travelling from Delhi to Amritsar fell into the Bhakra canal in Punjab's Fatehgarh Sahib District around 2 am on July 31. Bodies of 15 people, so far have been recovered who were on board.

Body of bus conductor, Raman Kumar, resident to Batala has also been recovered.

Bus went two-and-a-half kilometres downstream leaving hardly any chances of survival of as many as 42 passengers.

Nine deceased have been identified, SHO Sirhind S S Virk said today.

At least 27 persons were feared drowned after a Punjab roadways bus on way from Delhi to Amritsar.

District administration is making all efforts to locate the bodies of the missing persons, Fatehgarh Sahib Deputy Commissioner Arun Sekhri said.

Most of dead bodies were recovered from Patiala and Sangrur districts and kept at the mortuary of Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, he said.

Amloh Naib Tehsildar Nirpal Singh Tiwana has been made nodal officer at Rajindra Hospital to update the family members of missing persons about any development, Sekhri said.

The Deputy Commissioner said help line numbers at district administrative complex, SSP office and Civil Hospital, Fatehgarh Sahib is providing regular information.

Monday 5 August 2013

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