Friday, 28 February 2014

28 February 1975: Worst ever Tube disaster as 43 die in Moorgate crash

Forty-two Tube passengers were killed after their train failed to stop at Moorgate station in the worst ever crash on the London Underground on this day in 1975.

Driver Leslie Newson, 56, also died after ploughing – without any apparent reason - into a wall at the terminus of the Highbury branch of the Northern Line at 8.46am.

The force of the 30mph crash was so immense that it caused three carriages to completely crumble up and sever passengers’ limbs with twisted shards of steel.

A total of 74 people were hurt on the train, which was later found to have had no faults and appeared to speed up as it entered the station at the peak of rush hour.

Newson, who was considered an unlikely suicide candidate, had carried on past the platform, into the tunnel and smashed through a sand barrier and into a brick wall.

The packed station, which is in the heart of the City, was immediately plunged into darkness as huge amounts of soot and sand filled the air.

Doctors and nurses from nearby St Bartholomew’s Hospital rushed to help dozens of police officers and firefighters in the 13-hour-long rescue effort.

Gerard Kemp of the Daily Telegraph, the only journalist allowed in the tunnel, revealed: 'It was a horrible mess of limbs and mangled iron.

'One of the great problems was the intense heat down there. It must have been 120 degrees. It was like opening the door of an oven.'

A police officer described conditions as 'like trying to work in a sardine can' with the twisted wreckage leaving barely a foot of space for rescuers to squeeze though.

And a firefighter told the UPI news agency: 'Many of the dead have been hit by coach wheels that ripped though the floor'.

Among the last of the survivors to be rescued was 19-year-old policewoman Margaret Liles, who had her foot amputated so that she could be lifted from the wreckage.

As she lay inside the mangled carriage, the officer, who had only joined the Met four days earlier, told her mother outside: 'I’m all right, Mum.'

She and Geoffrey Benton, 27, waited in the choking heat until 10pm before being freed by firemen, whom they both chatted with throughout the rescue operation.

Later, police chief Brian Tibbenham said: 'Their condition is remarkably good considering they spent the whole day face-to-face with dead bodies.'

A subsequent Department of the Environment report determined that the driver had caused the crash, but was unable to say why he failed to stop.

The investigation confirmed that the hitherto conscientious driver never applied the brakes, which had been faultless along with the signalling equipment and track.

The most puzzling revelation was that Newson, who had worked on the Tube for six years, had not even raised his hands to protect his face at the moment of impact.

There was no evidence that he was suicidal – and indeed had £270 in his pocket with which he had planned to use to buy a car for his daughter after his shift.

The coroner’s verdict was accidental death.

A BBC investigation later considered the possibility that he had lost concentration and confused the Moorgate terminus with the closed through-station at Essex Road.

London Underground, which until then had an exemplary safety record during its 112–year history, introduced a raft of new safety measures after the tragedy.

Among them was a system that came to be known as Moorgate protection, which stops a train automatically if the driver fails to brake at dead-ends.

Since the disaster, there have been nine crashes and derailments on the Tube network and only two deaths, both drivers.

London Underground, which is used by up to 4.4million people a day, has on average only one fatal accident for every 300million journeys.

The Northern Line spur was axed at the end of 1975, and the tunnels and Moorgate terminus is now used by a national rail line from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.

Friday 28 February 2014

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Thailand school bus crash east of Bangkok kills at least 15 people

At least 15 people, including 13 children, have been killed after a bus carrying students on a trip to the seaside collided with a lorry in eastern Thailand.

Authorities say more than 45 others were injured in the pre-dawn accident in Prachinburi involving the double-decker bus and an 18-wheel truck.

About 60 students, aged around 10 to 14 years old, were heading to the resort city of Pattaya from the north-eastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

"Thirteen students and two teachers died - 11 of them at the scene - and more than 30 injured are in three nearby hospitals," police lieutenant Colonel Anukarn Thamvijarn said.

He says five of the injured were in a serious condition.

"The bus's brakes may have failed or the driver might have fallen asleep," he said.

The accident reportedly happened on a steep and winding stretch of highway.

Police are searching for the driver, who fled the scene.

Local media showed pictures of a row of bodies covered by sheets laid out by the side of the wreckage of the bus, whose top deck was crushed on one side.

The smash is the latest in a series of deadly accidents involving buses in Thailand, where roads are among the most dangerous in the world.

The accident happened on a narrow stretch of road that cannot be widened because it cuts through a national park, Nuttapong Boontob, from the non-profit Thailand Accident Research Center, said.

"The road is always busy with big trucks as it links the north-eastern region and the eastern seaboard where there are many industrial estates," he said.

Thailand has poor record on road deaths

Roughly 60 per cent of traffic accidents in Thailand are caused by human error, according to Mr Nuttapong, with poor road and vehicle conditions posing additional hazards.

Bus operators are required to provide seat belts but passengers are not legally obliged to use them.

A recent report by the World Health Organization found that the country saw some 38.1 road deaths per 100,000 people - behind only the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean and the South Pacific island of Niue.

That compares with an average of 18.5 in south-east Asia as a whole.

In December, dozens of people were killed when a bus carrying New Year travellers plunged off one of Thailand's highest bridges in the kingdom's northeast.

At least 20 people were killed in October when a tour bus carrying elderly Buddhist devotees fell into a ravine, also in the northeast.

Friday 28 February 2014

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Organization works to identify migrants who disappeared along border

The Colibri Center for Human Rights was founded with the aim of ending the sorrowful cycle for many families of having a loved one missing in the Arizona desert.

"We're a search center and we're working on the identification of immigrants who died crossing the border, and we have the support of the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner with the Missing Migrants project," said the director of Colibri, anthropologist Robin Reineke.

She said that the center receives calls from families in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American countries.

She also explained that the work of Colibri consists of comparing the information provided by the families with the remains found in the desert with the goal of identifying the bodies.

"In the conversation about immigration reform in the United States, we want the reality of the border to be understood. We're also seeking to educate; we have families who can tell their story," the anthropologist said.

Currently, Colibri's database contains extensive information about some 2,000 immigrants who went missing along the California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas border with Mexico.

"We found that there is a very wide gap for the families looking for immigrants who disappeared crossing the border and there was nowhere they could call and get trustworthy information. Many call the consulates but the problem is that the information is in different places," said Reineke.

Colibri's Chelsea Halstead, who receives the reports from the families, said that on average they receive 70 calls per week.

The center's vision, Halstead explained, is to help in the creation of a more compassionate border zone where the protection of life is part of the "security" dialogue.

In 2013, 169 immigrants are known to have died in the desert, of whom 95 remain unidentified.

Friday 28 February 2014

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Report criticizes Mexico for lack of accountability on 'disappeared' people

The Mexican government has reported but not accounted for thousands of people who were reported "disappeared," according to the U.S. State Department "2013 Country Reports on Human Rights" released today.

"In February the Secretariat of Government (SEGOB) reported that 26,121 individuals had disappeared between 2006 and 2012, although government officials acknowledged the figures were not precise," according to the report.

"According to criminal justice experts, most of these were likely to have been perpetrated by TCOs (organized crime organizations). The SEGOB report identified the groups most vulnerable to forced disappearance as human rights defenders, political and social activists, migrants, men living in areas of conflict, and women and children trafficking victims."

The report mentions the status of Luz Estela "Lucha" Castro Rodriguez, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist in Juarez and Chihuahua City, who was threatened. Castro is well known in the El Paso border region.

Last year, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights granted precautionary measures to Castro, who, according to the court, faced "extreme risk" as a result of her work with a women's rights organization in Chihuahua, the U.S. report said. In August, the court extended the precautionary measures, requirement that the government provide security, through at least Sept. 30.

Although Mexico established a national registry for missing or disappeared persons in 2012, the government did not adopt measures to update the database of such persons, the U.S. report said.

The registry did not distinguish between people who went missing and those who were disappeared or kidnapped by criminal groups, the report said. Additionally, the report said the Mexico's National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH) reported that "there were at least 7,000 unidentified bodies of persons killed between 2006 and 2012 in morgues and common graves."

"Kidnapping remained a serious and under reported problem for persons of all socioeconomic levels," the report said, "and there were credible reports of police involvement in kidnappings for ransom, primarily at the state and local level. The National System for Public Security reported 1,032 reports of kidnapping filed between December 2012 and June 2013, although official estimates placed the number of unreported kidnappings considerably higher."

Mexico's violent drug cartel wars also led to displacements in various regions of the country, the report said. "According to the CNDH, approximately 120,000 individuals were internally displaced as of July, most of whom fled their communities in response to violence related to narcotics trafficking."

Friday 28 February 2014

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