Monday, 10 February 2014

Madinah hotel blaze kills 15 pilgrims

Fifteen pilgrims died and 130 others were injured in a fire that broke out at a hotel in Madinah on Saturday, the Madinah Governorate said in a statement.

The fire occurred at the Ishraq Al-Madina Hotel at 2:33 p.m.

Eyewitnesses said the victims were of different nationalities and included Egyptians and Turks.

Civil Defense firefighters were able to put out the blaze by 5 p.m., the governorate said.

Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman has been following up on the incident.

An investigation to ascertain the cause of the fire has been launched, sources said. Preliminary reports indicate that the fire occurred as a result of a short circuit during maintenance work.

Thirty of the injured were treated on the spot, while others were sent to King Fahd Hospital and the Ansar Hospital. According to one report, Ansar received four bodies and 91 injured.

Most pilgrims died of suffocation, the statement said. There were about 700 guests in the hotel at the time the fire broke out. Authorities evacuated guests and closed off streets leading to the hotel on Sitteen Street. Some pilgrims who were trapped inside the hotel climbed to the roof of the building for safety.

A large number of people had gathered in front of the hotel, obstructing rescue efforts.

Eighteen fire-fighting teams were dispatched to put out the blaze, while the Red Crescent deployed 14 first-aid teams and Madinah’s Health Department eight teams.

An Indian pilgrim staying at a nearby building said she saw a huge plume of dark smoke coming out of the hotel as she was returning from the Prophet’s Mosque at around 2:45 p.m.

“We saw some people waving through the windows for help. We also saw several firefighters engaged in rescue operations. A large number of people had gathered in front of the hotel. It was a frightening scene,” she said. There were conflicting reports about the number of Egyptian casualties.

Ahmed Zaki, an official at the Egyptian Consulate in Jeddah, said they had received information about the death of four Egyptians. Another report said that as many as 12 of the 15 victims were Egyptians. Egyptian Ambassador Afifi Abdel-Wahab was quoted as telling an Egyptian television channel that “15 Egyptians died in the fire.”

Prince Faisal has ordered hotel guests to be relocated.

Monday 10 February 2014

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51 dead in Burundi flood disaster

At least 51 people perished in flooding and landslides in a night of torrential rain in the Burundi capital that swept away hundreds of homes and cut off roads and power, officials said Monday.

Police in Bujumbura said the toll was the highest in living memory from a disaster caused by freak weather, with more than 100 people also injured.

“The rain that fell in torrents overnight on the capital caused a disaster,” Security Minister Gabriel Nizigama told reporters.

“We have already found the bodies of 51 people killed when their houses collapsed or were swept away.”

Police said several hundred homes were destroyed after torrential rains began battering the city late Sunday.

Houses in the poorer parts of town are often built from mud bricks, which offer no resistance to torrents of water and mud.

“It’s the first time in the history of Bujumbura that we have seen damage on this scale,” Bujumbura mayor Saidi Juma said, calling for “solidarity on a national and international scale” to help the city cope.

In the district of Kinama in the hardest hit north of the city, a stream broke its banks, with waters rising to shoulder level in some places.

By midday the flooding had subsided, leaving scenes of devastation.

Zawadi, a mother-of-five, stood in the ruins of her Kinama home, feeding her five-month-old baby surrounded by jerry cans and muddy clothing.

“I heard the children shouting during the night,” she said, recounting how she had gone into their room to find them standing up on their bed, which was already under water.

The whole family was able to run outside before the walls caved in, but one neighboring family was less fortunate, with the parents and their three children crushed to death.

On the western outskirts of Bujumbura, residents told similar stories.

“Around midnight we heard something cracking and we all ran outside for fear the house would fall on us,” said Gaudence Nyandwi, whose father Venant was being transferred from an improvised stretcher to a car, his face contorted in pain.

“My father went back inside to see if he could save anything and the house fell on him. We think he might have a broken leg,” Nyandwi told AFP.

Nizigama said burials of the victims would begin on Monday because there was not enough space for their bodies in the capital’s mortuaries.

He was speaking at a police station in the worst affected northern part of Bujumbura, where an AFP journalist saw 27 bodies covered in white sheeting.

Nizigama, touring the disaster zone with other ministers, promised food aid to those who lost their homes and said the government would bear the cost of burying relatives and would provide new housing.

Torrential rain fell solidly for 10 hours overnight, causing power cuts in whole areas of the city which lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

The road leading out of the capital to neighboring Rwanda was blocked because of a landslide while a bridge was washed away on the road to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monday 10 February 2014

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43 more victims identified thru' DNA tests

The National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory of Dhaka Medical College has identified 43 more bodies that had been buried at the Jurain graveyard after those were recovered from the Rana Plaza collapse site.

These bodies were among the around 290 bodies buried at the Jurain graveyard, as those could not be identified.

So far, 200 such bodies that were burned beyond recognition have been identified through DNA test, said Sharif Akhtaruzzaman, the national technical adviser of the lab, yesterday.

DNA samples of another 112 bodies are still to be identified while the lab is working on 10 other samples, he added.

“A list of the 43 identified workers has been sent to the labour ministry,” he said.

The Rana Plaza building collapsed on April 24 last year, killing at least 1,135 and injuring hundreds.

Nearly 10 months into the disaster, families of the workers whose bodies were not found have received little compensation from the authorities.

Monday 10 February 2014

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Bolivia mudslide buries village; 4 dead, 9 missing

Heavy rains caused a mudslide that buried much of a small mountainside settlement in central Bolivia, killing at least four people, local officials said Sunday. Nine more people were listed as missing.

Jimena Alegre, an official for the Morochota municipality, told The Associated Press by telephone that the slide occurred Saturday night in the Quechua community of Chuypakasa and buried the homes of 15 families.

Rescue squads were digging through the site in hopes of finding more survivors. The first responders were from Cochabamba, which is about 220 kilometers (135 miles) east of the capital of La Paz.

Heavy rains have been falling across most of Bolivia since November and civil defense officials say 46,850 families have been affected.

The government news agency ABI said Sunday that 40 people have been killed, including 10 who died two weeks ago in a mudslide in the Amazon town of Rurrenabaque.

Monday 10 February 2014

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Odisha Boat Disaster Toll Mounts To 24; Seven Still Missing in Hirakud reservoir

Thirteen more bodies were recovered today taking the toll in the boat capsize incident in Odisha's Sambalpur district to 24 even as efforts were on to trace at least seven more missing persons.

The bodies were found as scuba divers were engaged in the morning to trace the missing persons after the boat capsize in Sambalpur district yesterday, Special Relief Commissioner P K Mohapatra told PTI.

He said at least seven persons were still missing.

"The number of missing persons might vary with additional information being received from local people," Mohapatra said.

The scuba divers also located the sunken boat.

The state government has announced Rs 1.5 lakh ex-gratia for the family members of the dead and free treatment for the survivors.

An administrative inquiry by Sambalpur's revenue divisional commissioner has been ordered.

Recounting the sequence of events in the Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs minister Kalpataru Das said that around 114 family members of the Lion's Club, Sambalpur went on a picnic beside the Hirakud reservoir.

He said the picnickers while returning set sail in a large motorised boat from Tilla Ghat.

In addition, around 30 people, some with motorcycles, from nearby villages also boarded the boat, Das said.

The boatmen asked some of the picknickers to disembark as the boat was overloaded, but this was ignored, the minister said.

Halfway through the return journey, the motor of the boat suddenly stopped creating panic among the passengers with the boat capsizing.

Another boat rushed to rescue the passengers with most of them jumping into the water.

As soon as the district administration received about the capsize, the collector, the superintendent of police, and the fire-brigade launched a rescue operation, Das said.

He said that about 80 persons were rescued by 6:00 pm yesterday. Those in a critical condition were admitted to the district headquarters hospital in Sambalpur, VSS Medical College Hospital in Burla and JMJ Hospital at Bareipali.

Those with minor injuries were discharged after first-aid.

Monday 10 February 2014

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