Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Dodgy docs confuse identification of bodies

Four people killed in the Nigerian building collapse were travelling on South African documents, causing confusion about the local death toll, an official said on Monday.

“Initially we were told there were 84 (deaths) but through this rigorous process of identification we have now established four were not South Africans, but they have used South African documents,” acting government spokeswoman Phumla Williams told Sapa.

She said the three Zimbabweans and one Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) citizen all had South African residence permits.

The South African government had been in contact with Zimbabwe and the DRC.

“They have confirmed these are their citizens.”

Williams said the remains of the four people would be brought back from Nigeria with the remains of the South Africans who were killed when the when the multi-storey guest house attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos collapsed on September 12.

Around 115 people were killed.

Tuesday 30 September 2014


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Boats carrying dozens of migrants drowns off Libya's coast; 70 dead

Two boats carrying dozens of migrants to Europe capsized near the Libyan capital on Monday, drowning at least 70 people, two coast guard officials said.

Coast guard spokesman Qassim Ayoub told The Associated Press that rescuers are retrieving dozens of bodies floating in the waves some 18 kilometers (11 miles) off the coast of Tripoli's Tajoura district. He added that 36 African migrants, including three women — one of them pregnant — were rescued.

Ali Sarti, a Libyan Coast Guard unit commander, said patrol boats rescued the migrants lying in "a broken and damaged boat in the middle of the sea" before dawn on Monday.

Ayoub said one of the boats was carrying at least 250 migrants. However, one of the 36 survivors told the AP that there were only 105 people on board. "There was a problem in the boat... Three women and one baby died," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity over concerns about his legal status.

There were no further details on the second boat accident.

Libya has grown increasingly lawless since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muanmar Gadhafi, making it a migration hub for sub-Saharan Africans seeking a better life. Scores die every year on the dangerous journey to Europe.

Refugee numbers have swelled as thousands of people flee conflicts in Syria, Iraq and across the Middle East and Africa, boarding unsafe smugglers' boats in Libya. Nearly 110,000 people have been rescued since January, but at least 1,889 others have died making the perilous crossing, according to the UN refugee agency.

Tuesday 30 September 2014


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Monday, 29 September 2014

Nigeria church collapse: ‘don’t view bodies’

Family members of the South Africans who lost their lives at the Synagogue Church of all Nations in Lagos, Nigeria, on September 12 have been advised not to view the mortal remains of their relatives on their repatriation to South Africa.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said the Department of Social Development has advised families not to view their relatives’ bodies despite prevailing traditional customs.

This was out of concern for potential secondary trauma this may cause and the public health considerations.

“Because of the nature and scale of the disaster, the passage of time and climate conditions in Lagos the remains are not in a good state to be viewed,” the minister said. Currently 115 people are said to have lost their lives in the incident, with 84 being South African citizens.

“So far we have managed to capture the fingerprints of the deceased,” Radebe said.

“We are running the prints through the Department of Home Affairs database and expect to have completed comparisons by the end of the week,” he said.

Alternative means of dental records and DNA analysis are also being used as the forensic evidence has been compromised in some cases.

It has also been established that three Zimbabwe citizens and one from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were among those killed in the disaster.

South African forensic experts are in Lagos, but they are not allowed to perform post mortems on the victims owing to the differences in laws governing the certification of health professionals in Nigeria.

“According to Nigerian law a post mortem must be performed on all deceased persons and a death certificate must be issued before the mortal remains may be repatriated back home,” said Radebe.

A total of 18 post mortems had been concluded to date, Radebe said, but because the South African team of forensic experts was only present in an observatory position, repatriation may take longer than thought.

Radebe said preparations for the repatriation of the remains have already been organised and an appropriate facility has been identified where family members can receive the remains.

“We will repatriate the remains of the deceased on a single flight that is properly equipped for the task when we have the go-ahead from the Nigerian authorities,” Radebe said.

Monday 29 September 2014


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Eight migrants die every day trying to reach richer countries, study reveals

Migrants trying to reach more prosperous countries have died at a rate of eight every day for the past 14 years, the majority of them trying to get to Europe, according to the most comprehensive ever tally of migrant deaths.

Almost 40,000 people have died on migrant routes worldwide, according to estimates by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which added that 22,000 of them perished trying to get to Europe.

An estimated 4,077 died this year alone, suggesting a sharply escalating problem.

According to the IOM, the true number of fatalities is likely to be even higher than the figures in its report.

The research was undertaken by the IOM over six months for its report Fatal Journeys: Tracking Lives Lost During Migration, published on Monday. It called on governments and the international community to address what it described as “an epidemic of crime and victimisation”.

“Our message is blunt: migrants are dying who need not,” said the IOM’s director general, William Lacy Swing. “It is time to do more than count the number of victims. It is time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants.”

The disproportionately high death toll in the Mediterranean, the report concludes, “reflects a dramatic increase in the number of migrants trying to reach Europe”, with more than 112,000 irregular migrants detected by Italian authorities in 2014 – almost three times as many as in 2013.

IOM research records that since 2000, nearly 6,000 more migrant deaths occurred along the US-Mexico border and a further 3,000 deaths from Africa’s Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean.

The research behind Fatal Journeys, which runs to more than 200 pages, began with the October 2013 tragedy when more than 400 migrants died in two shipwrecks near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The report paints a picture characterised too often by international indifference, even over the collection and distribution of the raw data on migrant deaths.

“Although vast sums of money are spent collecting migration and border control data, very few agencies collect and publish data on migrant deaths,” said Frank Laczko, the author of Fatal Journeys, and IOM’s director of migrant research division.

Monday 29 September 2014


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Five more bodies found on Japan's Mount Ontake after eruption

Five more bodies have been found on the slopes of Japan's Mount Ontake, bringing the total number of presumed dead in a volcanic eruption Saturday to 36.

Twenty-four bodies still remain on the mountain, while 12 have been recovered, identified and pronounced dead, Nagano Prefecture Police said Monday.

The search for more missing hikers has been suspended due to dangerous conditions at summit. Hydrogen sulfide gas is being spewed from the mountain, police said, putting rescuers in danger.

The volcano in central Japan unleashed a huge cloud of ash late Saturday morning that billowed down the mountainside and engulfed hikers in its path. Witnesses described hearing a sound like thunder when the eruption began.

Relatives of the missing gathered near Mount Ontake over the weekend desperately seeking information. Among them was Kiyokazu Tokoro from nearby Aichi prefecture, whose son, Yuki, was hiking on the volcano with his girlfriend.

He said he knew they were near the summit at the time of the eruption because his son's girlfriend had sent a photo to a friend minutes beforehand.

"All I can do is beg for your help to get information," he told CNN. "Please help us."

Authorities estimated there were 200 to 250 hikers in the area at the time of the eruption. Most of them were reported to have managed to make the long trek down the mountain.

But some people remained trapped in several lodges on Mount Ontake, and others were missing altogether, local authorities said. More than 350 rescue workers -- a mix of police, firefighters and military personnel -- began climbing two separate routes up the mountain on Sunday morning, authorities in the nearby village of Otaki said.

They said they observed 17-20 inches (40-50 centimeters) of volcanic ash covering the ground in some areas.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the Volcanic Alert Level for Ontake from 1 to 3. That means the public is advised to not approach the volcano, the summit of which is at an altitude of 10,060 feet (3,067 meters).

The agency warned that another large eruption could take place in the next six days or so. Small continuous eruptions continued Sunday.

The volcano's plume of smoke and ash was reported to have disrupted air travel in Japan, causing delays at several airports.

Mount Ontake, the second tallest volcano in Japan, after Mount Fuji, is a popular destination for hikers, especially in the fall when the foliage's rich autumn colors are on display.

The last major eruption of Mount Ontake, which is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo, took place in 1979, according to the Global Volcanism Program at the Smithsonian Institute.

That eruption lasted months, spewing out more than 200,000 tons of ash, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.

Japan is one of the world's most seismically active nations - but there have been no fatalities from volcanic eruptions since 1991, when 43 people died at Mount Unzen in the south-west.

Saturday's eruption forced many of those on the mountain to make emergency descents through clouds of volcanic ash and falling rocks.

"The volcanic rocks fell like hailstones," one man said.

"We couldn't breathe so we covered our mouths with towels. We couldn't open our eyes either."

Another told reporters: "The volcanic ash was hurtling so fast I couldn't run away. I'm worried about people still on the mountain."

Almost 50 people were thought to have stayed on the mountain on Saturday night, reports said.

Rescue efforts will resume on Monday after an intense search on Sunday was called off because of toxic volcanic gases in the area.

Japanese officials can only announce deaths after a formal doctor's examination.

The question many people have been asking is - why were there hundreds of people on top of an active volcano? And, why was there no warning it was about to erupt?

The answer to the first question is that there are lots of active volcanos in Japan, and people hike on them all the time. I have done so myself. Mount Fuji is classed as an active volcano, and hundreds of thousands of people climb it every year.

In some ways the people caught in Saturday's eruption were very unlucky. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday at the peak of the autumn hiking season. Had it been a rainy Wednesday in June the chances are very few people would have been up there.

The question of no warning is harder to answer. Volcanologists point out this was a relatively small eruption, and that it was driven by super-heated steam and ash, not by lava being ejected from the magma chamber. That made it much more difficult to predict.

But it also meant that many of those caught up in the eruption survived. Had it been a large-scale eruption (like the one in 1979) with large pyroclastic flows, many more would have been killed.

Monday 29 September 2014



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Saturday, 27 September 2014

Synagogue collapse: Forensic identification of recovered bodies begins

The Lagos State Government on Friday commenced forensic identification and DNA analysis of bodies recovered from the site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Ikotun, Lagos.

The Commissioner for Health Dr Jide Idris, who made this known in a statement issued to newsmen in Lagos, called for DNA samples from relatives.

"The State Government has considered it necessary to start forensic identification and DNA analysis of the recovered bodies in view of the need to identify each of them.

"Family members and all nationals who believed their relations could have been in the collapsed building should come forward and submit samples.

"They should come forward and submit samples that can aid forensic identification and DNA analysis of recovered bodies,’’ the statement said.

It quoted the commissioner as appealing to the families of the victims especially parents, children and siblings to visit the Department of Forensic Medicine, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.

It added that those eligible to give samples for the forensic identification and DNA analysis in order of preference were the parents, children and siblings of the deceased.

Saturday 27 September 2014


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19 killed in Guinea-Bissau land mine blast

At least 19 people aboard a minibus were killed when a landmine exploded in northern Guinea-Bissau, police said Saturday.

Another 10 people were injured, several seriously, in the blast on a little-used route 70 kilometres (40 miles) north of the capital of Bissau, as the vehicle swerved to avoid water in its path, police and witnesses said.

Three people, including the driver, emerged unscathed.

"The vehicle was overloaded, I was on the roof with some other passengers when we heard a loud boom. The bus was cut in two," one survivor said.

The blast was so powerful that the bodies of most of the victims were flung across nearby fields, some torn into pieces, he added.

The injured were taken to the country´s largest hospital, with ambulances shuttling to and from the site of the explosion late into the evening.

"There were bodies ripped apart, which shows the violence of the explosion," a nurse in the hospital´s emergency room said.

An army mine disposal team was sent in to investigate the accident and the type of mine which caused it.

It could date from the country´s struggle for independence from Portugal 40 years ago, military sources told national radio.

Some 4,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines were left behind by Portuguese colonial army after the 1961-1974 war of independence, according to the anti-mine action centre, Caami.

Saturday 27 September 2014


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Forensic agency issued with contempt notice for delaying DNA reports on the unidentified bodies of the Baldia factory fire incident

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday issued contempt of court notices to the in-charge and project director of the National Forensic Science Agency (NFSA) for their failure to submit a report regarding the progress being made towards preparing reports of DNA tests conducted on the unidentified bodies of the Baldia factory fire incident within two weeks.

The court was hearing an application filed by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler), seeking compliance with the court directive of March 12 last year that ordered the chief secretary to conduct DNA tests on the unidentified bodies prior to their burial.

The petition was filed for the constitution of a judicial commission to fix the responsibility on the people responsible for the fire incident at the Ali Enterprises which claimed the lives of 259 people on September 11, 2012, and to suggest monetary compensation for the legal heirs of the victims.

The division bench headed by SHC Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar took exception to the non-filing of report by the NFSA officials and directed them to file the report along with the explanation by October 17.

The counsel for Ali Enterprises owners Abdul Aziz, Abdul Aziz and Shahid Aziz sought time to file comments on the application seeking transfer of the investigation officer and expeditious trial of the case.

Applicant’s counsel Faisal Siddiqui submitted the investigation officer of the case, Jahanzeb Khan, was delaying the proceedings, alleging that the IO was favouring the accused people and despite the lapse of two years even charges had not been framed against the accused.

He asked the court to direct the Sindh Home Department and the IGP to appoint a senior investigation officer with the permission of the court and direct the trial court to conclude the trial proceedings within six months.

Regarding the payment of compensation to the legal heirs of the victims, the court directed the Workers Welfare Fund secretary to release Rs129.5 million to the Workers Welfare Board for distribution among the victims' families within a week, observing that in case of non-compliance, contempt proceedings would be initiated against him.

The high court also issued a contempt of court notice to the chairman of the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution for not filing a statement regarding the non-payment of compensation to the legal heirs of 255 victims.

Saturday 27 September 2014


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Brazil joins search for shipwreck survivors in the Paraguay river

A "hotel boat" sank on Wednesday in the Paraguay river near the Brazilian border, the boat was carrying Brazilian tourists and Paraguayan crew in a region famous for its wildlife diversity.

Brazilian authorities have joined the search for survivors of a boat carrying 16 passengers and 11 crew that sank on the Paraguay River, near the border on Wednesday.

The bodies of three Brazilian tourists have already been found in the river in the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world that divides Brazil and Paraguay.

“Four teams with 21 officers, including 14 divers have been mobilized,” said Lieutenant Landes, a member of the Brazilian coastguard.

After the sinking of the boat, five Brazilian tourists, and eight Paraguayan crew members were rescued. Eleven people remain missing.

This is the second shipwreck in two days on the Paraguay river, after a Bolivian military boat sank near Forte Coimbra in Brazil, killing two.

Saturday 27 September 2014


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Friday, 26 September 2014

251 victims of MH17 Ukraine crash identified

Forensic experts have identified 251 of the 298 passengers and crew killed on downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after 26 people were named this week, Dutch authorities said on Friday.

"Among the 26 victims, 19 were Dutch and seven were of other nationalities," the justice ministry said in a statement, adding that those nationalities would not be released at the request of their embassies.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 exploded over insurgent-held east Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 on board, 193 of them Dutch.

The findings of an initial report by a Dutch-led team of air crash investigators appear to back up claims that the plane was hit by an anti-aircraft missile.

Kiev and the West have accused Moscow-backed separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denied the charge and pointed the finger back at Kiev.

Last month forensics experts suspended their search for bodies due to clashes between Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels near the crash site northeast of Donetsk.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last week it was still "too dangerous" for investigators to visit the site, and that the Dutch investigators left in Ukraine would return to the Netherlands.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Rutte again vowed to return the remains and belongings of those still at the crash site and that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Friday 26 September 2014


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Global platform for Disaster Victim Identification established

INTERPOL and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) have signed a formal cooperation agreement to manage and operate a permanent global platform centralizing disaster victim identification (DVI) efforts.

The INTERPOL Permanent Platform for Disaster Victim Identification (PDVI) will be established at the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore. The cooperation agreement between INTERPOL and the ICMP outlines the roles each organization will play in the management and operation of the platform.

The INTERPOL PDVI will serve as a global resource and center of excellence to enhance preparedness and build on existing capabilities to respond to large-scale disasters more effectively.

In particular, the PDVI will create a rapid deployment model for DVI assistance to provide the necessary expertise whenever and wherever required to speed up the international response to natural or man-made disasters.

Signed by INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble and ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger, the agreement delineates how the ICMP’s expertise in the forensic aspect of victim identification – including DNA analysis, genetic data processing and biological sampling – will benefit the PDVI and international disaster victim efforts.

“The ICMP has made a significant contribution to international disaster victim identification efforts via its expertise in the application of forensic science to human identification,” Noble said.

“Through this partnership and the combined experience of INTERPOL and the ICMP, we can continue to offer member countries the fastest and most professional response when disaster strikes, and ensure the resources are available to support the DVI process until every victim is identified,” the INTERPOL chief added.

INTERPOL will lead the DVI operations by managing the logistics and infrastructure of the PDVI and coordinating the identification areas of fingerprints and dental records, in addition to other DVI-related activities.

“The establishment of a Permanent Platform for Disaster Victim Identification by INTERPOL and ICMP represents a positive development in addressing the global problem of missing persons cases from natural and man-made disasters,” said ICMP Director General Kathryne Bomberger.

“Given that all countries are vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters, and given that very few of them have the means or capability to reliably identify victims, this platform will offer governments around the world access to state-of-the-art forensic mechanisms and standards to respond to a DVI scenario,” she said.

The agreement builds upon the longstanding partnership between INTERPOL and the ICMP in the area of disaster victim identification including the 2004 Asian tsunami, Typhoon Frank in the Philippines in 2008, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Westgate shopping center terrorist attack in Kenya in 2013, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines 2013 and most recently the Malaysia Airlines MH 17 crash in Ukraine.

Friday 26 September 2014


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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Nigeria church collapse: SA team works to identify more bodies

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe says a South African team of experts is working closely with officials in Nigeria as investigations continue into the Lagos building collapse.

The team is trying to ensure the process of identifying the victims is completed as soon as possible.

At least 115 people were killed when a guesthouse owned by preacher TB Joshua caved in almost two weeks ago, with 84 South Africans among the dead.

Radebe says a South African team in Lagos is working with local authorities.

“The team in Lagos has been able to identify with certainty 62 South Africans. As you know, 115 people died in this tragedy and from that, 84 were South Africans. So we still have a long time to go.”

“Experts from the police are currently visiting families to collect DNA samples.”

He says various methods are being used to identify the bodies.

“Our government appeals to the families and the nation to bear with us as we allow our team in Lagos the necessary time to complete this process of identifying the bodies. It is clear from the information that this is a methodical and time-consuming process.”

He says efforts to identify the bodies have been stepped up as families anxiously wait for the remains to be sent home.

“We will make sure that all deceased persons are repatriated and that the correct body is handed over to the right family.”

The identification process consists of direct identification, photo identification, fingerprint data base comparison, dental record comparison and DNA sampling.

Government says as soon as the bodies are identified, a team of 70 experts from the South African Military Health Service and the Department of Health will be ready to depart to Lagos with specialised equipment to transport the deceased back to South Africa with the required care and respect.

Almost two weeks after the guest house accommodating pastor TB Joshua’s followers collapsed, families have remained in the dark about when they will be able to give their loved ones dignified burials.

The collapse occurred when three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound, where visitors from abroad flock to stay.

Spokesperson Phumla Williams says two South African pathologists are assisting Nigerian authorities conduct DNA tests and positively identify the deceased.

“The process is now moving fast with the assistance of the Nigerian government.”

At the same time, more South Africans who survived the collapse arrived back home today.

Some have, however, decided to remain in Lagos, choosing to return to the Synagogue Church of All Nations.

Twenty-five of the injured were flown back home on Monday and taken to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital for further treatment and assessment.

Of the patients admitted to the hospital, two are still in critical care, two have been transferred to private facilities at the request of their families and four patients have been discharged to the care of their families.

In the meantime, a national task team comprising the Social Development Department, the South African Police Service, Chaplain Services and the Victim Identification Centre has been visiting families of people presumed to have died at the church.

Other teams of social workers are providing psycho-social support to survivors and families of victims at the hospital, OR Tambo International Airport and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation call centre.

Williams says Nigerian authorities are updating the South African inter-ministerial team set up to deal with the tragedy every two hours.

On Tuesday, teams were dispatched to the church of controversial pastor TB Joshua to discuss the return of all South Africans still in the country.

The regular influx of visitors from abroad for the church's services, which can last up to a week, creates demand for accommodation that the church's own guesthouse has been unable to meet, and often spills over into local hotels.

Several African leaders have traveled to Nigeria to meet with Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

The church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles, including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.

Thursday 25 September 2014


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Paraguay: 13 missing after tourist boat capsizes

At least three people were dead and 13 were missing after a tourist boat capsized in the Paraguay River during a storm at the town of Carmelo Peralta in northern Paraguay, authorities said Wednesday night.

Aldo Saldivar, operations manager at the state National Emergency Secretariat, said the boat was carrying 11 Paraguayan crew members and 16 Brazilian tourists.

Saldivar said the tourists were on a fishing expedition to the Pantanal, a wetlands region straddling the border with Brazil about 370 miles (600 kilometers) north of Paraguay's capital, Asuncion.

He said the boat capsized in the harbor of Carmelo Peralta. "Apparently the accident occurred during a strong storm," he said.

Saldivar said 11 of the 27 people on the boat had been able to swim to shore after the vessel turned over. Navy divers were called in to look for the missing and three bodies had been recovered before the search was suspended at nightfall, he said.

Thursday 25 August 2014


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Himachal Pradesh bus accident: toll rises to 25; 17 still missing

At least 25 persons today drowned and 17 others went missing after a bus fell into the Gobind Sagar reservoir at Rayian near Bilaspur, 95 km from Shimla.

Twenty-five bodies have been recovered while 17 injured persons have been taken to a Bilaspur hospital, Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Ajay Sharma said.

He said rescue operations were almost complete and chances of recovering more bodies could not be ruled out.

The deceased included five women, he said, adding 22 bodies have been identified.

The 40-seater bus was packed to capacity and some people were said to have been also travelling on its roof, raising fears that the toll may be higher.

A number of students and labourers, who were making their daily commute from Rishikesh to Bilaspur, are among the victims.

The bus, belonging to a private transportation company, has been pulled out of the reservoir. It was on its way from Rishikesh to Bilaspur and most of the passengers on board were locals.

Among the injured are some passengers who managed to jump out of the bus in order to save themselves.

Divers of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) joined efforts to fish out the bodies.

A large crowd of locals has gathered at the spot making anxious enquiries about the victims of the mishap.

A pall of gloom descended on the village as the news about the accident spread.

Principal Secretary (Revenue) Tarun Shridhar and DGP Sanjay Kumar rushed to the spot along with other senior officers to supervise rescue operations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the accident.

"The Prime Minister extends his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the bus accident in Bilaspur district, HP," the PMO said.

Governor Urmila Singh and Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh expressed sympathies with the next to the kin of the deceased.

The Chief Minister announced immediate relief of Rs. 10,000 each to the next of the kin of the deceased and Rs. 5,000 each to the injured and said that ex-Gratia amount of Rs. 1.50 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased would be released soon.

A magisterial enquiry has been ordered into the mishap.

Thursday 25 September 2014


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Why east London is a hotspot for unidentified fatalities

The tattoo on his left hand simply read "786". In his wallet, along with a fake Italian driving licence, was a photograph of a woman.

The Asian man in his 20s was found washed up in the Thames at Ballast Quay, just south of the Isle of Dogs on January 10, 2011. His body had been in the river for seven days.

His real name remains a mystery as do the circumstances which led him into the river. Somewhere, someone must be missing him and wondering why he disappeared.

There are 235 deaths currently listed as unidentified in the capital from records dating back to the 1960s.

The database by the UK Missing Persons Bureau shows bodies are found all over London, but east of the City and along the Thames features repeatedly.

No-one knows who they are but it's easy to presume most slipped through the net and ended up on the streets.

Keith Fernett, chief executive of charity Anchor House, which operates a homeless hostel in Canning Town, said the reason for this location arose from a cycle of poverty.

"The national hotspot is London," he said.

"You get gangmasters bringing in people on a regular basis, immigrants head to London, and the East End has historically been a point of entry.

"Then they get trapped in the poverty of these boroughs, which also has high incidents of offending. And if those people are not at Anchor House then where are they?"

Working at the east London centre for a decade, Keith (pictured left) has seen a number of cases where people have died or been close to dying in similar circumstances.

The charity now establishes the identification of every person it comes into contact with.

"We did that because a few years ago we discovered one of our residents was a heroin user and he disappeared," said Keith.

"After a few days we called the police and they made inquiries but nothing happened. We then contacted his family who called the police again. They finally found him in the mortuary at Newham Hospital where he had been laying dead for two weeks.

"Society doesn't take the same consideration for someone they believe is homeless or an immigrant that they would for me and you."

And, according to Keith, it's a problem which is growing. This, in part, is due to the negative coverage given towards those in poverty through TV programmes such as Benefits Street, he says, which has contributed to society "hardening" its views towards those on the streets.

The tragic result is isolation and, far too frequently, an anonymous death.

The lifestyle of those living on the streets also dramatically increases the risk of a premature death, very often in east London's vast waterways.

"Only yesterday I had to talk very harshly to an east European man who is an alcoholic and I told him 'if you carry on you'll be found dead in the Thames' because he'll lose control of himself and won't know where he is," said Keith.

"We've had people who were growing up in the East End who 20 years ago would swim in the Royal Docks. And someone decided to continue that, in November, days after leaving hospital with a heart illness. How close must he have come to dying?"

The figures of unidentified deaths is only likely to increase as the capital suffers the effects of a housing crisis at a time of a major population growth.

Anchor House currently has 190 bed spaces but 606 referrals from the authorities in what Keith calls a huge rise of people sleeping on the streets.

"It's affecting people from all walks of life now," said Keith. "We found a mother and her two children living under the Bow Roundabout recently. They were english. These people are out there."

Thursday 25 September 2014


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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

More than 30 die in Sudan boat sinking

More than 30 people have been killed in Sudan when a boat they were travelling in drowned in the River Nile, Sudanese police confirmed on Tuesday. The Sudanese police in the Nile State said in a press release that the 37 from the village of Hagar Alasal died while they were crossing the river to another village on the eastern bank of the river.

The small ferry boat had overloaded with passengers and cargo and that led to its sinking and the death of the people, the police explained.

We are conducting a rescue operation to find the bodies of the victims, until now we have recovered 12 bodies and we are still looking for the remaining bodies.

The people of Sudan widely use riverboats for navigation and transportation of the goods and animals.

The repeated incidents of the drowning of river barges have led to the authorities banning navigation without official permission.

Tuesday 23 September 2014


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Meghalaya flood toll rises to 21, another 24 feared dead

Twenty-one persons have lost their lives and another 24 are feared dead after being reported missing in flood affected areas of Garo Hills region in Meghalaya, according to state government officials.

Incessant rains for the last 36 hours has affected more than three lakh people and more than 20,000 people were camping in relief camps, they said on Tuesday.

At least three districts in Garo Hills region have been declared worst-affected.

Here in Shillong, a landslide has killed at least eight persons, including two women, in Mawbah area on the outskirts of the city last night, East Khasi Hills SP M Kharkrang said.

Seventeen persons were feared dead in North Garo Hills district's Kharkutta area even as the bodies of five persons were retrieved from different places, district Additional SP Ramesh Singh said.

Seven persons have died in South West Garo Hills district and another seven were feared dead in neighbouring West Garo Hills district after they were reported missing, an official said.

In all, 12,000 persons were shifted to 29 relief camps set up in South West Garo Hills district alone, district deputy commissioner Ram Singh said.

In North Garo Hills district and West Garo Hills district, several relief camps have been set up and officials are awaiting reports for an exact number of persons lodged in those camps.

Two teams of NDRF squads have arrived with eight boats in North Garo Hills district for search and rescue operations early today even as the BSF and the Air Force are carrying out similar operations in West Garo Hills district and South West Garo Hills district.

Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, who was stranded in Guwahati along with Speaker AT Mondal while on their way to flood affected region on Monday, reviewed the situation.

Sangma also reviewed the flood affected areas by air and ordered officials of all affected districts to compile details of damages and losses at the earliest.

Tuesday 23 September 2014


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Monday, 22 September 2014

Gresford Mining Disaster 80th anniversary to be marked by special services

The anniversary of the Gresford Disaster, which took the lives of 266 men, will be marked today at a series of special events.

It was on September 22, 1934 that an explosion ripped through the Dennis Section at the colliery killing the men.

In all 261 miners, three rescue men and one surface worker died, leaving 164 widows and 242 fatherless children. Following the disaster the colliery was closed for years putting 1,700 men on the dole.

All the casualties lived in the Wrexham area but only 11 bodies were ever recovered.

At 11am the annual memorial service will take place at the Gresford Miners Memorial Wheel and a service will take place in All Saints Church at 2pm.

Meanwhile at Wrexham Museum a special exhibition pays tribute to the men and their families.

Visitors will be able to listen to the stories of ex miners, watch original film footage and explore fascinating objects and interactive exhibits in the Museum’s Mining Memories exhibition.

Work began sinking the pit at Gresford in 1908 by Westminster and United Collieries Group.

It was completed in 1911 and the mine was one of the deepest in the Denbighshire Coalfield. The Dennis shaft reached depths of about 2,260 feet.

By 1934, a total of 2,200 coal miners were employed at the colliery, with 1,850 working underground and 350 on the surface. Three coal seams were worked at Gresford. The Dennis shaft produced softer industrial coal but was prone to firedamp.

Gresford was always known for its big concentration of gas. Today it would have been siphoned off and used to fire surface boilers or fed into the domestic mains.

But in 1934 it dominated mining often killing men. Rescuers battled for 40 or more hours trying to push back the fires in an effort to reach the men known to be trapped behind the fire, but advanced no more than a yard or two. The first blast had come in the early hours of the Saturday.

An inquiry was launched - the likely cause was an explosion caused by a build-up of gas, chiefly methane, which was ignited, possibly simply by a spark from a metal tool – but no answers were provided, and to this day it is still unknown what caused the explosion.

Six men at work on the edge of the seam made their way out by devious routes.

Teddy Andrews, one of the six men to escape the flames, said after: “One fellow said: ‘Wait until somebody comes for us.’ But nobody was coming. It was the last time we saw them.”

Others were caught by the initial blast so ferocious it hurled men off their feet in different parts of the mine. If they were not killed in the first blast, they could have died in the deadly fire-damp gas or the fires that raged after. Only the winding gear built into a slate plinth remains.

But the disaster dominated public life long after, with an inevitable public enquiry bringing top experts and lawyers, headed by Sir Hartley Shawcross, Sir Patrick Hastings and Sir Stafford Cripps.

Evidence was given by the North Wales Miners Association, the Mines Inspectorate and the Gresford owners. But with most of it buried hundreds of feet beneath the surface, and other evidence partisan and contradictory, there was opportunity to trawl through records and challenge their accuracy at the hearing.

At the end there emerged specimen charges against the manager William Bonsall and many of his lesser officials, but in the end all but those against Bonsall were dropped.

He was charged with failing to keep records of air flow, As a result the company was fined £40 with £350 costs which seemed paltry compared to size of the disaster.

Earlier this year British Pathé released its entire collection onto online video sharing site YouTube including news footage of the disaster.

A new group has also been established, The Friends of Gresford Colliery Disaster, and visitors will be able to find out more about how to join and become involved at the Wrexham Museum exhibition.

Monday 22 September 2014


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Gaza families mourn amid failure to find missing shipwreck victims

More than two weeks after a boat carrying migrants to Europe sunk off the coast of Malta, none of the bodies of Palestinians who are thought to have drowned at sea have been recovered by search teams.

Eight Palestinians are known to have survived the Sept. 6 shipwreck that killed around 500 migrants, and they are being cared for between Italy, Greece, and Malta.

But Palestinian ambassador to Italy Mai al-Kaila on Saturday told Ma’an that rescuers have had difficulties recovering bodies from the sea because the boat capsized in international waters.

Despite this, however, she said that Italian coastal guards are continuing the search for the missing.

Al-Kaila said that Italian authorities have promised to give political asylum to two Palestinians who survived the shipwreck, and the pair will also be allowed to bring their families to live in Italy.

Meanwhile, Marwan Tubasi, Palestine’s ambassador to Greece, told Ma’an Saturday that authorities in that country had granted three Palestinian survivors permission to stay for six months, and that the embassy was working to acquire them Palestinian passports as well.

The fate of those who were unable to make it to European shores, however, is far less certain at this stage, with ambassadors in all three countries pointing out that coast guards have failed to locate any of the missing Palestinians from the sea so far.

In Gaza, some families have already started mourning their missing loved ones, as the days have dragged on and no indication of their survival has surfaced.

Dozens of family members of the missing migrants on Sunday demonstrated outside the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, urging authorities to give them more information on the whereabouts of their missing loved ones.

“15 days have passed and we still haven’t received any news about my husband and my son,” said protester Um Udayy Nahhal.

Speaking to reporters while carrying a photo of her husband Fawzi Nahhal and her seven-year-old son Udayy, she said that the pair were among the migrants feared dead in the shipwreck.

“It is my very right to know whether they are alive or dead,” she told reporters.

A spokesman of the families of missing Gazan migrants also urged the ICRC and other human rights groups to reveal the destiny of the missing migrants for the last 15 days.

Gaza resident Khalil Abu Shammala told Ma’an that two of his sons were on the boat which capsized two weeks ago, one of an unknown number of Palestinians from Gaza who fled to Egypt before boarding the vessel to seek a better life across the sea in Europe.

“The families of the missing people have been in open mourning” for the last two weeks he said, appealing to President Mahmoud Abbas to help uncover information regarding those still missing from the shipwreck.

A key part of the problem relates to the issue of jurisdiction, since the fact that the boat capsized in international water — meaning more than 200 nautical miles away from any coast — means no nearby state is immediately responsible for recovery, while the home states of the migrants themselves generally lack the ability to carry out any rescue operations.

Despite this, the undersecretary of the Palestinian foreign ministry Taysir Jaradat told Ma’an that he would lead a Palestinian delegation to Italy, Malta, and Greece in the coming days to follow up on the boat accident.

The delegation, he said, plans to ask authorities in the three countries for information about the missing Palestinians who potentially drowned in their territorial waters.

Jaradat added that the Palestinian foreign ministry had contacted the Egyptian authorities and asked them to prevent human traffickers from sending migrant boats from Egyptian territories.

Any action on the part of Egyptian authorities, however, will likely fail to stem the flow of migrants across the sea, which has shot up to its highest level in recorded memory this year.

So far, watchdogs say that more than 120,000 migrants have crossed the sea in 2014 alone so far, while more than 2,500 have perished.

The surge is the result of political instability and a lack of economic prospects across the southern Mediterranean and Africa, and the number includes many Palestinians who have fled Syria as well as Gaza via boat from Egypt.

Due to unrest in neighboring Libya and heavy surveillance of the seas off the Moroccan coast, thousands of migrants have started making the trek from Egypt in recent months, a far more lengthy — and far more dangerous — trip than before.

The migrants include hundreds of Gazans who are thought to have escaped via tunnels to Egypt in order to flee the nearly two-month offensive that left more than 2,000 dead and 110,000 homeless in the tiny coastal enclave.

The mass devastation wreaked by the Israeli bombardment has dimmed Gaza’s economic prospects for the near future even further, and as Egypt continues to crack down on movement of goods and people through tunnels — including shooting one man dead on Saturday — the tide is likely to continue.

Monday 22 September 2014


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10 dead, 35 missing after migrant ship sinks off Libyan coast

At least 10 migrants have died in a shipreck off Libya.

35 people are still lost at sea and presumed to have drowned, according to Italian media.

The overcrowded boat was attempting the crossing from North Africa to Italy.

It sank around 50 kilometres from the Libyan coast.

Fifty-five people were saved by a Singapore-flagged merchant ship.

The ship went to the boat's aid after the Italian coastguards received an emergency call by satellite telephone from the vessel.

The survivors said the boat had been carrying around 100 people. Rescuers counted at least 10 bodies in the water.

Italy's coastguard requested other ships in the area change course to the wreck's location to help search for any other survivors.

Earlier this month, 500 people were feared drowned after their boat sank off Malta, leaving just 10 survivors.

According to the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR over 2,500 people have drowned or gone missing attempting to cross from North Africa to Europe this year.

Monday 22 September 2014


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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Cause of fatal Mali air crash still a mystery

Investigators probing the crash of an Air Algerie flight in Mali that killed 116 people in July said on Saturday there was no obvious lead yet and all possibilities, including terrorism, were being explored.

Flight AH5017, a McDonnell Douglas 83 jet that had taken off on July 24 from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso bound for Algiers, crashed in the Mali desert after its pilots asked to turn back as bad weather struck.

"At the moment... nothing is telling us that we can rule out or confirm terrorism. We are not favouring any line of inquiry," Bernard Boudaille, of France's Bureau of Investigations and Analyses (BEA) air safety agency, told reporters in the Malian capital Bamako.

France bore the brunt of the tragedy, with nearly half of the victims its citizens. Other passengers came from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg.

Presenting the initial report into a probe into the tragedy, Boudaille and the head of Mali's civil aviation accident commission, N'Faly Cisse, said the crew was experienced and not hampered by fatigue, and prepared to deal with difficult weather.

Boudaille said the plane's auto-pilot had been disconnected shortly before the crash, but it was unclear if this had been deliberate or the result of an accident as the cockpit voice recording has so far proved unusable.

The black box flight recorder, which was working, shows that the aircraft suffered a "sudden drop" after a "slowdown of its engines" at cruising altitude, he told the news conference.

Boudaille said the weather conditions at the time of the crash "can be considered normal".

The aircraft took "avoidance manoeuvres" to fly around clouds "that could cause severe turbulence and icing", he said.

But he added that the flight recorder showed no signs of turbulence and "there is nothing yet that can prove or disprove the hypothesis of icing" that would have caused the accident.

Vertical drop

Remi Jouty, the head of the BEA, told reporters in August that it seemed likely that the plane had broken up on impact instead of in the air. He said the jet had fallen out of the sky vertically at an extremely high speed and was apparently intact when it hit the ground. "When we look at the trajectory, this leads us to believe that the plane did not break up into several pieces while in flight. This does not exclude that damage was caused during the flight," he said.

"I don't think we can at this point exclude the possibility of a deliberate act but we cannot say more for the moment," he said. The flight recorder showed it took only around a second for the plane to fall from its last recorded altitude of around 500 metres, or 1,600 feet, to the ground of the Malian desert, investigators found.

Authorities initially thought 118 passengers and crew had died in the disaster but it later emerged that two people did not board the plane. International investigators toiled at the site in highly inhospitable conditions and extreme heat for a week after the crash, taking around 1,000 samples of DNA from the site.

Forensic experts had to resort to using the DNA samples to identify the dead, because the power of the impact shattered the bodies of those on board and scattered debris from the plane over a wide area.

The accident was the third crash worldwide in the space of just eight days, capping a disastrous week for the aviation industry. On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in restive eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

And a Taiwanese aircraft crashed in torrential rain in Taiwan on July 23, killing 48.

Saturday 20 September 2014


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Thousands still missing from Bosnia war

Bosnia-Herzegovina is still dealing with the dilemma of thousands of people filed as missing from the Bosnian war in the 1990s, Press TV reports.

According to officials, there are still more than 8,000 missing people from the war that ended 20 years ago, while 22,000 bodies have been exhumed and identified until now.

“After the war in our country, more than 30,000 people were missing due to the numerous crimes committed here and so far we have exhumed and identified around 22,000 people,” Lejla Cengic of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) told the Press TV correspondent in Sarajevo.

According to the ICMP, information at hand regarding the mass graves usually proves to be incorrect, and only about 15 percent of it is reliable.

“A large number of missing people, around 3,000 of them, still have not been identified. Their remains are at 11 different morgues in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We are currently in search of 8,000 missing people and at the moment we do not have the information of where the remains are hidden,” Cengic added.

Their identities have not been determined by DNA analysis due to reasons such as lack of blood samples to compare bone samples with, or the fact that the remains are so damaged that the isolation of DNA is impossible.

At the start of the Bosnian war in 1992, Srebrenica was a mainly Muslim town in a Serb-held part of Bosnia. On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, separated women and children from men, and then systematically murdered the men in mass executions. Mass graves were later found in the area.

More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces.

Saturday 20 September 2014


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Friday, 19 September 2014

Lagos church disaster: 10 South African victims identified

Ten of the South African citizens killed in the building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria have been positively identified, the government said on Thursday.

A South African assessment team which travelled to the West African country on Wednesday said the 10 bodies were identified through reference to identity documents found in their possession.

The families of the deceased had been notified and social workers had been deployed to assist them, the government said.

Officials were maintaining contact with relatives of those who were visiting the church and had asked them to send photographs of their relatives which could be used for identification purposes.

“Since the appeal made yesterday (on Wednesday ) for family members to send photographs of their affected loved ones to the operations centre at dirco, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response and we appreciate this gesture of co-operation,” government said in a statement.

“We have forwarded the pictures to the South African consulate in Nigeria and the team on the ground in Lagos is making use of the pictures in the process of identifying those of our fallen compatriots who can still be identified through the use of photographs.

“We understand that some of the bodies may take a while to be positively identified due to the nature and extent of the calamity.”

A guest house belonging to the church, led by self-styled faith healer TB Joshua, collapsed and was reduced to rubble on Friday.

The assessment team has established that 349 South Africans were in Lagos on matters connected to the church when the disaster occurred.

Some of the survivors of the incident had arrived back in South Africa.

The assessment team was making arrangements for the treatment and return of those who were injured in the disaster.

“The team will also work with authorities on the process of the repatriation of the mortal remains of deceased South Africans,” said government, adding that it would ensure that all the country's citizens were accounted for.

“The SA high commissioner and the consul-general have been working with the leadership of the church and other authorities, visiting the scene, going to hospitals and mortuaries in an effort to provide assistance to all our affected citizens,” said the government.

A 24-hour operations centre had also set up at the department of international relations and co-operation to relay information from Nigeria to the families as well as to receive information from the families and to share such information with the team on the ground in Lagos.

Friday 19 September 2014


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225 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 identified

Forensic experts have identified 225 victims of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, with 14 new names released to families, Dutch authorities said today.

"Among the 14 victims, seven were Dutch and seven were of other nationalities," the justice ministry said in a statement, adding that the other nationalities would not be released at the request of their embassies.

The Boeing 777 exploded over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July, killing all 298 on board.

193 of the passengers were Dutch.

The findings of an initial report by a team of Dutch air crash investigators appears to back-up claims that the plane was hit by an anti-aircraft missile.

Ukraine has accused separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Russia - a charge Moscow denies.

Last month forensics experts suspended their search for bodies due to clashes between Eastern Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels near the crash site northeast of Donetsk.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said today it was still "too dangerous" for investigators to visit the site, and that the Dutch investigators left in Ukraine would return to the Netherlands.

Friday 19 September 2014


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Jammu and Kashmir floods: Death toll climbs to 277

The death toll due to the floods in Jammu and Kashmir has climbed to 277 even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Friday expressed hope that the toll would not be as high as feared earlier.

“The death toll in Jammu is 203 including the 44 members of a marriage party who are missing since there bus as washed away (in Rajouri district),” Omar said.

He said the rescue workers have so far recovered 74 bodies from different parts of Kashmir Valley.

“Other than the 44 persons from Jammu, we do not have many people reported missing.If there would have been, we would have got to know by as communication systems have started working,” he said.

Omar also dismissed rumours that dogs were eating bodies of flood victims or that some bodies had swept away to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). “There is no truth in these rumours,” he added.

At least 18 bodies were recovered from the flood-ravaged Kashmir valley on Monday, witnesses told Rising Kashmir.

Two bodies were recovered from the badly hit Jawahar Nagar area of the Srinagar uptown while as 13 more people are feared dead under the debris.

While government officials weren’t available for the official confirmation, the volunteers who have been actively involved in recusing people from various areas said at least 18 bodies had been recovered from the flood-hit Kashmir Valley.

According to a rescue team headed by Muhammad Shafi Bhat of Jamaat-e-Islami, the situation in Rajbagh, Jawahar Nagar, and Mehjoor Nagar areas was grim.

He said they were on a rescue mission to this area and found out two bodies of non-locals, who had been living in Jawahar Nagar in House No 354.

“They are originally from New Delhi. That is what the neighbouring households told us,” Bhat told Rising Kashmir at Gurduwara Bangla Sahab, Sanat Nagar, where the bodies have been kept for last rites.

The identity of the duo could not be ascertained.

However, according to locals from Jawahar Nagar, they were a father-daughter duo that was living in the house as tenants for some years.

“We initially evacuated people from other areas and then found out that House No 354 collapsed. We barged into it and found the two bodies,” said Bupinder Singh, a rescuer.

Kashmir valley was hit by a massive flood, the worst ever in a century on September 6.

The government and administration were caught unawares with government failing to use its machinery to sound a red alert for evacuating the people from the low lying areas of the Valley.

Public address system was not used to alert the population and most people living in the danger zones slept without knowing the dangers of staying put in their habitations.

According to reports, newborn babies were buried at the Bund side of River Jhelum after a devastating flood swept through Srinagar on September 7.

The breakdown of the telecommunication network across Jammu Kashmir has added to peoples’ miseries.

Locals and professionals working on the ground have been struggling to connect to the relatives and the administration.

“The breakdown of landline network and mobile networks has added to our worries,” said a flood victim, Muhammad Zaman of Rajbagh area.

He remains stationed at Sanatnagar relief camp.

While government continues to remain missing from the ground, locals were pooling money and other resources to set up relief camps in different localities of the city, which were not touched by the flood to run Langars (community kitchens) for the affected families.

Masjids, schools and other government and private buildings have been turned into shelter homes for the sufferers.

Volunteers from rural area like Budgam, Ganderbal, Hajin, Langate, Handwara, Shopian, Kulgam and remote areas like border village of Tangdhar in Baramulla bring relief material including rice, water, milk and vegetables to distribute among the affected families.

“We have been supplying relief material to different localities in the city for the past four days,” said Nazir Khan, a volunteer working with Arnimaal NGO. “It is our duty to help our brethren in this hour of crisis.”

As almost all the major hospitals of the city catering to patient rush from every corner of Kashmir have been either closed down or are functioning partially, locals and some volunteer groups run by journalists, senior citizens, and NGOs have been catering to the various areas of flood-ravaged Kashmir.

A conservative estimate of the damage to public infrastructure like bridges, roads, hospitals and other government buildings in Jammu Kashmir due to the worst floods it has faced in more than a century pegs the losses over Rs 6000 crore, according to the Secretary to the State government’s Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation Department, Vinod Kaul.

Kaul had said in a presentation made to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to the state last week that the estimated damage to public infrastructure was pegged at around Rs 1,000 crore. However, at that time, Srinagar city was still unaffected by the floods.

The damage is widespread in Srinagar as the floods had hit most government facilities there, he said.

Meanwhile, Sunita Narain, Director-General, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has blamed a combination of factors, including unprecedented and intense rain, mismanagement, unplanned urbanisation and a lack of preparedness for the unprecedented downpour and the subsequent devastation caused by the deluge.

Friday 19 September 2014



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Nigeria: Another 17 South Africans presumed dead after church collapse

The South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, has told that the death toll from the collapse in Lagos has risen to 84.

President Jacob Zuma initially announced that 67 South Africans were crushed to death when a residential building owned by TB Joshua's popular church collapsed a week ago.

Late last night, government said 17 South Africans are either dead or missing following the collapse.

Government confirmed that 349 South Africans were in Nigeria to hear Joshua preach.

A total of 265 of them have been found alive.

It’s also been confirmed that an assessment team from South Africa has now touched down in Lagos and will help with coordination.

Government has thanked the families of those still missing for sending photographs to help identify bodies where possible.

Arrangements are being made to bring the bodies home.

Meanwhile, the church maintains the collapse was the result of some kind of an attack and has described those who died as martyrs.

Questions have been asked about the state of the hostel where followers of the controversial pastor stayed.

Friday 19 September 2014


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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

70 dead in Nigeria after church building collapses

70 bodies have been recovered from the rubble of a collapsed church building in Lagos, however, according to Nigerian officials, they remain unidentified.

South African President Jacob Zuma said last night that at least 67 of his compatriots had died in Friday's accident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria, describing it as one of the worst tragedies in his country's recent history.

Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), however, said it was too early to know how many South Africans had been killed in the collapse.

Speaking to Reuters news agency NEMA spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye said: "The president (Zuma) is not in Nigeria. We are working on what we have.

"The church management up until now has not estimated or given us any list of people trapped, so we are just working on blind guesswork until we get to the last rubble."

Mr. Farinloye added that 131 people had been rescued alive.

The collapse occurred when three extra stories were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound, where visitors from abroad come to stay.

The Lagos Pentecostal church is led by the charismatic T.B. Joshua, whose followers describe him as a prophet.

The church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles, including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.

The regular influx of visitors from abroad for the church's services, which can last up to a week, creates demand for accommodation that the church's own guest house has been unable to meet, and often spills over into local hotels.

Several African leaders have travelled to Nigeria to meet with spiritual healer Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Julius Malema, the leader of South Africa's ultra-leftist opposition Economic Freedom Fighters.

Church members initially prevented emergency officials from participating in the rescue, making it difficult to establish death and injury tolls.

South Africa described the search and rescue operation as "very fluid", but defended its count of 67 dead, saying it was based on records and information on the ground from five tour groups that had arranged for South African worshippers to go to Lagos.

"This number is based on credible information," South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said.

Last night Zuma told the SABC national broadcaster that an unknown number of South Africans were "not yet accounted for" and that the nation needed to "grieve together".

Spokesman Mac Maharaj later said the government believed around 300 South Africans from four to five groups were visiting the church on Friday but it was not clear how many were on the spot when the building collapsed.

"It's a very popular church with South Africans," Maharaj said.

South Africa and Nigeria share strong business and diplomatic ties but have had occasional quarrels in the past, notably when South Africa deported 125 Nigerians in 2012 over suspicions their yellow fever certificates were fake.

Nigeria responded by briefly refusing South African residents entry and branding the country xenophobic.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and overtook South Africa as the continent's largest economy this year, heightening rivalry between the two countries.

Wednesday 17 September 2014


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Five more Jonestown mass suicide victims identified among ashes found in Delaware

Names associated with unclaimed cremains found last month at a Dover, Del., funeral home, which include victims of the 1978 Peoples Temple mass suicide-murder in Jonestown, Guyana, were released to the public Monday.

Delaware's Division of Forensic Science said it was releasing the names in hopes of returning the cremated remains to families. The remains were found this summer in a shuttered Minus Funeral Home, and among those found were the 1978 victims of the massacre in which 911 died.

The remains of those killed in Jonestown were identified by officials as: Ottie Mese Guy, Katherine M. Domineck, Tony Walker, Irene Mason and Ruth Atkins.

The remains that were not associated with Jonestown were thought to be of people local to Delaware.

So far, the remains of five have been reunited with surviving family, according to Delaware officials. They include Jonestown victims Irra Johnson, Wanda King, Maud Perkins, and Mary Rodgers, and one deceased person who was not a Jonestown victim.

The work to identify and transfer the remains was through research by state officials. Expertise to identify Jonestown victims came from the help of "the Jonestown Institute at San Diego State University, the California Historical Society and other Jonestown survivors but have been unable to locate any additional family members," according to state officials in a written statement issued Monday.

The cremated remains of 38 people were found at the former funeral home in August by state officials responding to a request to check the property after containers were discovered.

Delaware officials responded in August to a request to check the former funeral home in a downtown Dover neighborhood after containers were discovered.

Seven containers of cremated remains discovered at the funeral home remain unidentified, Delaware officials said Monday.

The cremated remains of nine of the dead turned up in storage at a defunct funeral home in Dover, Delaware more than 30 years after the tragic mass suicide that took the lives of 911 Bay Area residents at Jonestown, in Guyana. The hundreds of members of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project cult headed by preacher Jim Jones died in the mass murder and suicide on Nov. 18, 1978. Jones ordered his followers to drink grape-flavored punch that turned out to be laced with cyanide. Others died after being shot by guards loyal to Jones.

The reason they ended up there is because all the bodies of the dead originally arrived back in the U.S. at Dover Air Force Base, which is home to the nation's largest military mortuary, as the AP reports. These nine unclaimed cremains were clearly lost in the shuffle, and were among 38 containers of remains discovered at the former funeral home this week.

At the time, in November 1978, after multiple cemeteries refused to accept the remains of those unclaimed and/or unidentified victims (many of the bodies that came back to the States were badly decomposed), Evergreen Cemetery in Oakland accepted 406 of the bodies, many of them children. A memorial to the victims was unveiled there in 2008.

The remains [found in Delaware] were clearly marked, with the names of the deceased included on death certificates, authorities said. But Kimberly Chandler, spokeswoman for the Delaware Division of Forensic Science, declined to release the names of the nine people to The Associated Press. Chandler said officials were working to notify relatives.

The massacre/suicide at Jonestown took place shortly after a visit from California Congressman Leo Ryan and his then aide Jackie Speier, along with a news crew from NBC, visited pastor Jim Jones and his flock of followers at the Peoples' Temple on November 17, 1978. Jones had relocated the Temple and many of his diverse group of parishioners to Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America, after facing heightened media scrutiny in San Francisco and allegations of physical and sexual abuse from Temple members.

While many joined the Temple for its radically integrationist, Christian, and Socialist values, they were ultimately caught up in Jones' drug- and ego-fueled delusion, and on November 18 were ordered to drink cyanide-laced Flavor-Aid grape punch, and to give it to their children first. The few members who managed to escape reported seeing anyone who resisted either get shot, or they were forced to consume the poison. It remains the largest mass suicide in human history.

Jones himself died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head and groin, most likely self-inflicted.

Wednesday 17 September 2014



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6 dead, 21 missing 28 days after coal mine blast in Anhui

The search continues for 21 missing coal miners after an explosion in east China's Anhui province 28 days ago trapped the workers in the mine.

An explosion ripped through the mine at about 4 am on Aug. 19 when a total of 39 workers were in mine shafts hundreds of meters underground. Twelve of them managed to escape.

So far rescuers have retrieved the bodies of six workers, but the search for the remaining miners has been hampered by collapsed mine shafts and gas pockets.

Coal deposits at the site of the accident in Huainan City are deep underground, pushing miners to travel to dangerous depths to extract the ore. The Dongfang Mine shaft, where the workers are trapped, descends 500 meters underground.

The provincial coal mine safety inspection bureau revoked the privately-owned Dongfang coal mine's production permit on Tuesday. The operation has an annual production capacity of 90,000 tonnes.

At the time of the incident the mine was operating illegally.

Although the mine was officially licensed, the city government had issued production suspension orders for all coal mines beginning June 30 as part of a flood prevention effort.

The provincial government on Monday urged a thorough overhaul of mines with an annual capacity equal to or lower than 90,000 tonnes, and pledged to provide subsidies for closed mines.

Bai Fafu, a miner who narrowly escaped the Dongfang mine blast, told Xinhua that although the mining is risky, he would seek jobs in other coal mines no matter what, as it was the highest form of income in the local area.

Farmers have surrendered their land to mining firms. The deep-well drilling has damaged the land, making it impossible to be reclaimed after the mineral resources are dug out.

Wednesday 17 September 2014


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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Search continues for missing passengers of sunken ferry

Search and rescue operations continued yesterday for the lone remaining missing passenger of the ferry M/V Maharlika 2 that sank off Southern Leyte on Saturday.

The Coast Guard identified the missing passenger as Felizardo Saberon.

“We believe that this person is on board the ship and is still missing because he is the only one who has relatives looking for him,” PCG Cmdr. Armand Balilo said.

The Coast Guard has issued a notice to mariners to alert commercial ships passing Southern Leyte to be on the lookout and render assistance if they spot Saberon.

“With the recovered bodies, the total number of fatalities has increased to eight,” said Navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Marideth Domingo.

The Coast Guard earlier said 110 passengers survived the tragedy.

Sources from the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council said the sinking of M/V Maharlika 2 was not related to Typhoon Luis.

The roll-on, roll-off ferry sank after developing steering problems off the coastal town of San Ricardo.

Tuesday 16 September 2014


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Migrant boat was 'deliberately sunk' in Mediterranean sea, killing 500

About 500 migrants are feared to have drowned after the boat carrying them from Egypt to Malta was apparently rammed and deliberately sunk by people-traffickers, an intergovernmental group has said.

The news – based on the accounts of two Palestinian survivors – emerged on the same day up to 200 more people were feared dead when another boat heading to Europe capsized off Libya.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said there was no independent verification for what happened to the vessel heading to Malta, mainly because only nine people are believed to have survived. The IOM's account comes from the two Palestinians, who were rescued by another boat and taken to Sicily.

Malta's armed forces said it had flown seven survivors, who were suffering from hypothermia, to a hospital in Crete. It said initial information pointed to a collision of some sort between a boat carrying up to 400 migrants and another vessel.

If the Palestinian men's account is correct, by the IOM's tally about 2,900 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean against 700 for all of 2013. "If this story, which police are investigating, is true, it would be the worst shipwreck in years – not an accident but a mass murder, perpetrated by criminals without scruples or any respect for human life," the IOM said in a statement.

The UN High Commission for Refugees said the situation in the Mediterranean was unclear and it was trying to get confirmation of five shipwrecks. A spokeswomanfor the UN High Commission for Refugees, Carlotta Sami, described it as "without any doubt the deadliest weekend ever in the Mediterranean" and the agency said it believed at least 500 were dead or missing in the last three days.

Leonard Doyle, an IOM spokesman, said the Palestinian men recounted having boarded the people-smuggling vessel in Damietta, Egypt, on 6 September. Midway through the voyage the people-smugglers, who appeared to be travelling in a separate boat, ordered the migrants, who also came from Syria, Sudan and Egypt, to switch to a smaller, less seaworthy vessel. The migrants refused to do so.

Doyle said: "The survivors said the traffickers became so enraged after the migrants refused to board the replacement craft, there was an argument, a fight, and that the smugglers used their boat to sink the one the migrants were on. It seems they intentionally rammed the ship."

One of the Palestinian man, aged 27, said he was able to cling to a lifebuoy for a day and a half, initially with around six other passengers.

Doyle said: "Over the next 24 hours they all disappeared. The man said that among these was one young Egyptian who said he had left home to earn money and pay for the heart medicine of his father."

The survivor was eventually picked up by a Panama-registered container ship that was already carrying 386 survivors from another sunk migrant boat, and taken to Sicily. The same ship seemingly picked up the other Palestinian man, who is aged 33. The IOM has not spoken to the other seven survivors.

The IOM learned of the men's account over the weekend and sent an Egyptian investigator to speak to them. A spokeswoman for the Italian coastguard said it had no information on the apparent sinking as it had not had contact with any survivors. A search of the area had uncovered no trace of a boat or any bodies, she added.

Earlier on Monday, the Libyan navy said a migrant boat carrying around 250 people capsized off the coast near Tripoli. While 36 people were confirmed rescued, many others were feared dead.

A navy spokesman, Ayub Qassem, told Reuters the boat had sunk near Tajoura, east of the capital, Tripoli. He said: "There are so many dead bodies floating in the sea."

Doyle said the IOM had not previously heard of so many migrants drowning by a deliberate sinking, but that if it had happened it was possible no one survived. "On the face of it it's looking like a horrific incident," he said.

Huge numbers of people are attempting to flee from Africa to Europe, with numbers sharply up this year, in part due to the continued violent chaos in Libya and Syria. More than 100,000 people have been rescued since January, the UNHCR, says.

According to the agency that monitors the EU's external borders, more migrants are likely to risk the dangerous crossings this year than at the height of the Arab spring.

By mid-August this year there had already been almost as many illegal border crossings counted as there were in the whole of 2011, when the number reached 140,000, said Frontex.

Doyle said the situations in Libya and Syria were undoubtedly part of the reason for the increased deaths, with "desperate" migrants willing to try the crossing in almost any vessel. "They're very much at the mercy of traffickers," he said.

Earlier this year a leading Libyan people smuggler, speaking anonymously to the Guardian, explained how he uses a different tactic to ensure the trafficking boat can be used again.

The man said that once the Italian military was en route to the ship he and his crew would decamp to a small rubber inflatable. Once the migrants are removed they return to the smuggling boat and return in it to Libya.

Monday 15 September 2014


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Monday, 15 September 2014

Nowshera bus capsize: 21 persons still missing

As twenty one persons of the Nowshera Bus capsize are still missing, the Indian army has contacted Pakistani counterparts to locate bodies across the border.

As per Police sources, forty six bodies have been recovered so far by the rescue teams, while 21 persons are still missing out of the total 67 persons, who were of travelling on the ill fated Bus at the time of mishap.

“Anticipating that the missing persons may have been swept to other side of the border, the Indian army has established contact with Pakistan counterparts to locate the bodies” Police sources said.

They said that the Pak authorities have assured that the bodies would be handed over to the India if they found any.

Sources said that the Pak army was contacted considering the fact that one body of the accident victim was recovered at a distance of about 75 kilometres from the incident site in Pallanwala area of Khour.

Pertinently, a bus carrying 67 persons of a marriage party were washed away in Ghambir rivulet of Lam area of Nowshera when it was on way to Lam village located near LoC.

The incident took place on September 4 at 12:43 PM after which teams of state police, army and NDRF launched rescue operation. The bus was pulled out of the rivulet on 5th of September and fourteen dead bodies were recovered from it while rest thirty two bodies were recovered down the stream.

Meanwhile, the locals of the area have set up a memorial at Thalka village on Jammu - Rajouri - Poonch highway in the shape of a huge hoarding depicting the photos of all those who lost life in the tragic accident.

Monday 15 September 2014


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Death toll in ferry sinking now at eight; five still missing

The death toll from M/V Maharlika 2 has now reached eight as five more bodies were recovered during the search, rescue, and retrieval operations, Marisol Abdurahman's report on "24 Oras" said on Monday evening.

One of the bodies recovered by the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force, and Philippine Coast Guard off the shore one of Surigao City's islands was that of a girl aged two to three years old.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Marideth Domingo, chief of the Navy Public Affairs Office, the recovered bodies have already been claimed by relatives.

"Two of the cadavers are included in the missing individuals reported yesterday. Isa na lang po ngayon ang reportedly missing pa rin," she said, adding search and rescue operations will resume on Tuesday.

According to the survivors, the Coast Guard allowed the vessel to leave the port despite adverse weather conditions that started on Friday night. No typhoon signal had been raised in the province.

"Nung gabi pa lang malakas na hangin dito. Alam naman nila kung puwedeng lumayag o hindi," said one Ma. Isabel Colmenares, one of the survivors.

According to the report, 116 passengers including the crew were on board the vessel. Five persons are still missing, while 113 have been rescued. Three bodies have been recovered earlier.

"May nakuha akong tali. Ginanyan ko dito lahat para ma save ako," said Juditha Reyes, one of the 113 survivors/

M/V Maharlika 2 is a roll-on/roll-off vessel that sank off Southern Leyte between 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

Philharbor Ferries and Port Services, Inc., the owner of the vessel, has said that it was cooperating with the authorities in the search, rescue, and retrieval operations, the report added.

Philharbor also promised to make sure all persons on board the vessel were accounted for. It would also coordinate with coast guard's investigating team to find out the root of the incident.

The operator of the inter-island vessel that sank off Southern Leyte over the weekend said it was looking into a supposed "discrepancy" in the total number of passengers onboard when the incident happened.

According to the coast guard, there were passengers rescued who were not listed in the manifest, which should include complete information on passengers, crew, and cargo.

"Apparently, there was a lapse in the implementation of such protocol," Philharbor said in an email to GMA News Online on Monday.

"[We are] currently investigating on the discrepancy in terms of actual number of passengers who boarded the vessel versus those listed in the manifest. As a standard operating procedure, the list of passengers including the crew should be submitted by the personnel in-charge to the PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) prior to depature," it said.

Philharbor said Maharlika 2 left the station in Lipata, Surigao with 113 people onboard, including 81 passengers and 32 crew members onboard, as well as the following rolling cargo:

five six-wheeler trucks,
one passenger bus,
six 10-wheeler trucks, and
a four-wheeler truck

In an interview with "News To Go" on Monday morning, PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said two dozen people onboard the vessel were not listed in the manifesto.

He said a corrected entry from the ship's captain showed that a total of 116 passengers were on the vessel, with the figures coming from personnel's survey with the crew and passengers with relatives onboard.

"Initially ho, sabi ng kapitan, 'yung drivers nu'ng bus at mga pahinante ay hindi isinama sa mga pasahero na nakalista," Balilo said, adding that they will let Maharlika 2's operator explain the exclusion.

Vessel 'prepared'

In the aftermath of the incident, Philharbor management said it "has activated its Emergency Preparedness Team to attend to all [the] needs" of passengers in the incident, and it has established an investigating team to find out what happened.

The vessel, which has a 403-person capacity, was "prepared for incidents of this nature," with 12 inflatable and six rigid life rafts that can carry 25 persons each, as well as "complete life saving devices on board based on the requirement" of the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea and the Maritime Industry Authority, it also said.

Personnel have been sent to Lipata, Surigao and Liloan in Southern Leyte to assist in the incident, it added.

Some 109 passengers and crew members have been rescued, Philharbor said, adding that "the only person declared missing ... is our Chief Engineer, Nelson Custodio."

"He was among the last to leave the ship and was last seen trying to save a child clutched in his arms," it said.

Meanwhile, the number of casualties in the incident has risen to eight, as the PCG continued its search and rescue operations on Monday.

According to Balilo, the Coast Guard needs to account for the missing passengers first before completely proceeding with the investigation on what went wrong in the incident.

He said Monday that the vessel's sinking was not due to Typhoon Luis, adding that the crew cited "dead on water," or a mechanical failure when they called for help.

Monday 15 September 2014


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