Thursday, 10 April 2014

Coroner identifies 40th victim of Lac-Mégantic disaster. Admits that remaining 7 missing people will never be identified

Using microscopic bone fragments and DNA samples, forensic anthropologists have identified the 40th victim of the train derailment at Lac-Mégantic last July.

Jimmy Sirois, 30, has been positively identified and removed from the list of missing persons.

The Quebec coroner’s office had a monumental task after the explosion and fire that decimated the town of Lac Mégantic on July 6.

In all, 47 people were reported dead and with the positive identification of Sirois there are still seven officially classified as missing.

In a statement, the coroner’s office said that due to the intense heat of the fire, fed by tanker trucks full of volatile petroleum products, and the destruction to human remains, it will be impossible to identify any more of the missing.

The coroner's office posted a list on its web site of the victims who were positively identified and the seven whose remains were not recovered but who've been declared legally dead. Most range in age from 57 to 77 but they include a nine-year-old girl. The youngest victim of the disaster was four, the oldest 93.

According to QMI Agency, work identifying the victims was done by forensic experts in Montreal and the United States.

"This work consisted primarily of analyzing fragments and human remains that had been highly altered by the intensity of the fire to which they were exposed, making it impossible to identify all the people who died in the fire," coroner's spokeswoman Genevieve Guilbault said.

The coroner's news release said victim remains now would be released and discussions were underway with relatives and the local parish priest as to when and how they would be returned.

Findings from the coroner's investigation will be made public when it's completed, the agency said

The Lac-Megantic disaster is the deadliest railway explosion in Canadian history.

Thursday 10 April 2014

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Ohio: Local hospitals hold mass-casualty exercise

At St. Rita’s Medical Center, incident commander Katie Hunt stood before a room of hospital employees telling them the morgue was overflowing with bodies.

Some had to be sent to funeral homes immediately to meet religious needs of burying the dead the same day they died. Others could be taken to a morgue the county set up for the influx of bodies.

It was the same deal at Lima Memorial Health System. There were no actual dead bodies, only an exercise hospitals, emergency responders, health departments and coroners in northwestern Ohio were conducting Wednesday as part of an emergency preparedness exercise to make sure hospitals are prepared for a mass casualty response.

This scenario, hospital officials were told there was a deadly breakout of the flu. There were hundreds of deaths, 66 at St. Rita’s over the three weeks the exercise was set up to simulate in one day, said Chief Jeff Ramey who heads the police department and the emergency management program at St. Rita’s.

Lima Memorial had 82 deaths.

“We’re trying to create as much reality as we can without totally disrupting the operations of the facility,” Ramey said. “This is the first time we have really tested our mass fatality plan. We want to see what is good about them and what needs work.”

By early morning, everything at St. Rita’s was going well with a few problems staff was working through.

Lima Memorial Director of Emergency Management Steve Mericle said the drill went well but the hospital staff also gained important information on areas they need to improve.

Communications is one of the key issues, not just inside a big hospital but with everyone on the outside at all hospitals to ensure they can handle the patients coming in. As an example, Mericle said the hospital only has so many ventilators. If all ventilators are in use, paramedics need to know that ahead of time so the patients are taken to a hospital that has available ventilators.

Staff stayed in constant communications paying close attention to the number of patients being treated and where the patients were being treated inside the hospital, Mericle said.

Communications ranged from cellphones and email to staff walking around.

“We had runners going floor to floor,” he said.

While pandemics are less common today, Ramey said less than 100 years ago the Spanish flu killed a lot of people.

Officials were throwing in what Ramey called “speed bumps” along the way, such as requiring staff to meet the religious needs of the dead whose religion requires same day burial.

The drill tested emergency room staff with simulated patients. Staff members were handed paperwork, each sheet containing information on a sick person. They had to treat it as if they were dealing with real patients, determine the test to conduct and order blood work, Ramey said.

They also called staff at home who were off work to ask if they could come in. None were required to come in but the calls were made to determine how many would be available, Ramey said.

At Lima Memorial, 10 percent to 15 percent of the staff was unable to work in the exercise because they were either sick or caring for sick family members. That would happen in real life so officials wanted to make it part of the exercise, Mericle said.

Staff from front-line workers up to the executive staff participated in the exercise, Ramey said.

All the players met later in the day to discuss the entire exercise including what worked and what did not. The exercise gives them a chance to get things right in case a real event hits.

Thursday 10 April 2014

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Digging starts at suspected mass grave in Bosnia

Excavation of a suspected mass grave of victims from the Bosnian war began on Wednesday as prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Serge Brammertz, arrived in the country for talks.

In the town of Donji Vakuf, central Bosnia, digging began at a location which is believed to hold about 150 bodies.

"According to our information, in this area should be a greater number of victims of the recent war, Bosniakcivilians," a spokesperson for the Institute for Missing Persons, Lejla Cengic, told Anadolu Agency.

Despite bad weather which makes the terrain difficult to dig, the mechanical exaction was ordered to proceed by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The site was discovered 10 days ago following research by an investigator. It is believed that this location holds bodiesof 147 Bosniaks, mostly from the town of Prijedor in north-west which suffered mass killings in the 1992-1995 war.

Brammertz arrived in Bosnia and met with representatives of Bosnian war victims. The president of the Association of Prison Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jasmin Meskovic, told Anadolu Agency after a meeting with Brammertz, that they were “encouraged” by his visit.

Twenty years after the war many Bosnian families are still searching for 6,500 missing persons, mass graves are still being discovered and excavations at different locations around the country are still ongoing.

Thursday 10 April 2014

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Sibi train attack: Bodies sent for DNA testing

DNA samples of 12 unidentifiable victims of Tuesday’s bomb attack at Sibi Railway Station have been sent for testing to establish their identities.

Talking to the media on Wednesday, Resident Medical Officer (RMO) of Sandeman Hospital Rasheed Jamali said he had collected the samples for the DNA tests.

“Two bodies have been identified by their relatives. However, bodies will be handed over once we get the results of DNA tests,” Jamali said.

The DNA samples will be sent to Lahore for the test soon.

“We were told to contact the hospital after two or three days,” Mahesh Kumar said who was standing near the morgue. Mahesh is nephew of Biahari Lal who along with his eight family members had died in the deadly bombing. The bodies of eight people were among the 12 brought to Quetta. All blackened and charred beyond recognition.

“Eight people of our family had died but we yet to receive our dead bodies as all the bodies are charred beyond recognition,” he added.

It might take three to four months to get the results of the DNA tests. “The average duration is three to four months,” Home Secretary Balochistan Asad Gillani said.

Around 40 injured survivors were shifted to Quetta for treatment as Civil Hospital Sibi was not equipped to treat patients with serious burn injuries.

Some of the injured have been admitted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Sibi while majority have been sent to CMH Quetta.

According to hospital sources eight bodies have already been handed over to their heirs in Sibi.

Thursday 10 April 2014

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Death toll from Washington landslide rises to 36

The death toll from a massive landslide that struck in Washington state's Cascade Mountains rose to 36 on Wednesday, the Snohomish County medical examiner said.

Of those 36 bodies, 32 have been identified, county officials said.

Ten people are still missing after a rain-saturated hillside along the Stillaguamish River gave way on the outskirts of the rural town of Oso on March 22.

President Barack Obama has announced he will visit the area on April 22, the one month anniversary of the slide, and meet with search crews.

Search crews have been digging through deep, gelatinous mud and debris, which is 70 feet thick in some places, to search for the missing.

Thursday 10 April 2014

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