Thursday, 19 June 2014

India: DNA profiling for armed forces by 2020

The Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) has set 2020 as the deadline for completing its ambitious project of DNA profiling and creation of a repository of all Indian armed forces personnel.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of living organisms. DNA profiling is accepted as the most-advanced and reliable method of establishing identity of living individuals as well as dead bodies and body remnants.

Knowing the identity of each soldier, especially those deployed in the forward and high-risk areas, is critical in case of deaths in the battlefield or in action. The profiling helps to identify the remains of the soldier.

"So far, we have completed 10% of the project work ever since the new DNA-profiling lab went functional last year in the department of forensic sciences here," AFMC director and commandant Vice Admiral Sushil Kumar said on Wednesday.

Deputy commandant and dean Maj Gen Velu Nair said, "The immediate focus is on the high-risk group such as air force pilots, submariners, naval divers, navy pilots, soldiers posted in high altitudes and glaciers and those in counter-insurgency operations. We have completed profiling of the air force pilots and are now moving in a phased manner to others in the high risk group. The project will eventually cover all personnel from army, air force and navy."

"We had to train our staff at the National Forensic Laboratory in Hyderabad and all our collected samples are going to labs in Spain for validation and verification. This is a time-consuming process but, validation is vital as we can't afford any mistakes in profiling of our armed forces personnel. So far, all our samples and findings have proved correct," said Nair.

On the ongoing research related impact of environment on the health of soldiers in high altitudes and the glaciers, he said, "The project is in the last stage and we will publish the results in a medical science journal of international repute in a year's time. Prima facie our studies, over the last two-and-a-half-year, has shown that environment directly is the trigger in 75% cases of health problems suffered by the soldiers."

"We are looking into the genetic and the ethnic part by analyzing our findings to know why it occurs. Also, the idea is to prepare a road map for the army commanders to take a call on reinduction of personnel in the glaciers after a specific period and how much do we compensate them medically," said Nair.

A total of 750 troops were taken from Jammu to higher altitudes above 9,000 ft to go through stages of acclimatization. "In Ladakh region, we actually have been going every quarterly, so far we have made six to seven trips and have checked them out physically and in the labs i.e. testing blood samples at macro and micro (molecular) levels. Later, all 750 troops go turn by turn to the glaciers for 90-day stay and on their return we screen them to look for blood changes. Thereafter, we follow them up for a year to see if they may have got mild blood pressure or a clot in the vein. These are known facts but what we don't know is why it occurs," said Nair.

Profiling Facts

The project, covering over 1.13 million soldiers from Indian Army, will include Indian air force and navy personnel too as per risk and priority factors.

A DNA profiling centre and repository, costing Rs 2.5 crore, was inaugurated at AFMC, Pune in February 2012. The repository has the facility to store blood samples for up to 21 years.

Pilot exercise involving blood samples of 100 soldiers started in November 2012 for standardizing DNA profiling systems.

Full-scale operations were stuck in the medico-legal question of whether DNA profiling will be accepted as evidence in the court of law.

Sanctions from Union ministries of law and health, recognising the authenticity of the DNA extraction and tissue-typing process were then awaited.

New centre finally went functional last year.

Defence Research and Development Organisation has provided expert scientist for the profiling centre.

Thursday 19 June 2014

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Manali tragedy: One more body of a student recovered, 16 still missing

One more body of a student was recovered from Beas river on Wednesday eleven days after 25 persons, including 24 students from a Hyderabad engineering college, were swept away in the river.

Nine bodies have been recovered so far and fifteen students, including three girls and co-tour leader Prahlad, are still missing.

The swollen body floating in the river was spotted by rescue team members, who fished it out of the river.

"The swollen body surfaced near the Pandoh dam, about 12 km downstream Beas from the accident spot," Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said.

"More bodies, which are in the process of bloating are likely to surface in next two or three days," he said.

Massive search operations, aided by advanced technology, were launched to locate 24 B. Tech students of VNR Vignana Jyothi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Hyderabad, and a tour leader, who were washed away in Beas river on June 8 after sudden release of water from the reservoir of the Larji hydro-power project near Thalot.

Singh said one more body was recovered from the river on Wednesday, but it was not of any of the missing Hyderabad engineering students.

The rescue operations would continue to recover the remaining bodies, he added.

About 600 rescue personnel of NDRF, Army, Police, ITBP and 50 expert divers were engaged in the search along 15-km stretch of Beas river from Thalot to Pandoh Dam.

Thursday 19 June 2014

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Nine bodies found, 27 still missing in Carey Island boat tragedy

A search and rescue team recovered nine bodies that were believed to have drowned while another 27 are still missing when a boat carrying 97 passengers, believed to be Indonesians, capsized about two nautical miles from Sungai Air Hitam, near Carey Island, here.

As of 7pm, 61 passengers have been rescued.

Selangor Fire and Rescue Department assistant director of operations Sani Harul said the nine bodies comprised seven men and two women.

"Their bodies were found floating near the shores while 61 others were rescued. The search and rescue operation will continue, since another 27 have not been accounted for.

"The number may be more or less because there is no record of those on the boat," he told reporters here today adding that the search area had been extended to about five kilometres from the shores of Pantai Sungai Air Hitam.

"The search and rescue operation will continue throughout the night if the weather permits," he said.

Sani said 160 personnel, a helicopter from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) and another from the Royal Malaysian Police were involved in the search and rescue operation.

"The search and rescue operation also involves seven fishing boats, five from MMEA, three from the Malaysian Civil Defence Department, three from the Fire and Rescue Department and one from the Marine Police," he said.

The boat carrying 97 passengers was believed to have left the Sungai Judah jetty in Carey Island at about 11pm and capsized about an hour later.

MERS 999 received a distress call at 12.20am and by 3.20am, the Customs at the Jetty Restoran Viking, Jugra found 31 victims and taken in for investigations.

At 10.30am, another 30 were found at Ladang West, Carey Island while the first body was spotted near a dredging vessel in Sungai Langat at 10.55am before another two bodies were found at 2.15pm near Tanjung Rhu and Carey Island.

At 3pm, the fourth body was found in the Carey Island waters while two more bodies were found 10 minutes later near Air Hitam and two hours later another body was found in Tanjung Rhu waters.

Sani said at 6pm another body was found in Tanjung Rhu while the ninth body was found at 6.20pm at Pantai Bangkong, Carey Island.

Meanwhile, Selangor Police Chief Datuk Abdul Samah Mat said the boat capsized because it was overloaded.

"The boat which can only ferry 40 passengers had cramped in 97 passengers and headed to Tanjung Balai, Sumatera," he said.

Police will carry out a thorough investigation because it involved elements of human trafficking, he said.

Thursday 19 June 2014

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Mass grave containing 28 bodies discovered in eastern Mexico

At least 28 bodies have been recovered from a mass grave in Veracruz, an eastern Mexican state plagued by attacks on migrants and drug cartel violence.

The state government said officials had found the grave on a ranch outside the town of Tres Valles. It said investigators were still excavating the grave, but did not release any more details. A local newspaper reported that marines had found the bodies after spotting vultures on a dirt road.

The area was being guarded by federal and state police forces, while people with missing relatives or friends began arriving at the offices of state authorities in Tres Valles to see if their loved ones were among the victims. Investigators were looking for more bodies on the ranch, which is known as El Diamante.

On Monday, authorities found seven bodies in a grave in the nearby town of Cosamaloapan. Authorities said the victims were all members of one family from Tres Valles.

The Gulf Coast state of Veracruz has suffered years of fighting between the Zetas drug cartel and its rivals. It is also crossed by tens of thousands of Central American migrants heading towards the US each year.

Officials have discovered a series of mass graves around Mexico in recent years, several filled with the bodies of migrants killed by the gangs that control profitable migrant-smuggling routes.

One of the largest single mass graves was discovered in 2010 in Tamaulipas state. It contained the bodies of 72 migrants, who authorities said had been killed by members of the Zetas, angry that the victims had declined to work for the cartel.

Thursday 19 June 2014

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US army recovers bodies of 1952 crash victims

The remains of about a third of the service members who died when their military transport plane crashed into an Alaska mountain and then was buried for decades in glacier ice have been identified, military officials said Wednesday.

The Department of Defense released the identities of 17 people onboard the C-124 Globemaster, which crashed in 1952, and said the remains will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

The first burial is believed to be planned for Saturday in Caney, Kansas, for Army Pvt. Leonard A. Kittle, said Tonja Anderson-Dell, a Tampa, Florida, woman who has researched the crash for years.

Her interest was stoked about the crash when her grandmother, now deceased, told her details of her grandfather, Isaac Anderson, 21, who died when the plane hit the mountain on Nov. 22, 1952. Anderson-Dell also maintains a Facebook page about the crash and recovery efforts.

The identifications were bittersweet for her because her grandfather wasn't among them.

"He wasn't part of the ones that will be coming home," she told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday. "However, I am still happy for the families that are bringing their servicemen home."

The plane from McChord Air Force Base, Washington, was headed to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage when it went down with 52 crew members and passengers aboard.

Efforts to reach the crash site immediately after the crash were halted by bad weather. Days later, a member of the Fairbanks Civil Air Patrol, along with a member of the 10th Air Rescue Squadron, landed at a glacier and positively identified the wreckage as the Globemaster.

"In late November and early December 1952, search parties were unable to locate and recover any of the service members," the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The civil air patrol member was Terris Moore, president of the University of Alaska. He later told reporters the plane "obviously was flying at full speed" when it hit Mount Gannett, sliding down the snow-covered cliffs, exploding and disintegrating over 2 or 3 acres, according to an Associated Press story from the time.

The heavy transport plane with 41 passengers and 11 crew members became buried in snow and likely churned beneath the surface of the glacier for decades. The Alaska National Guard discovered the wreckage in June 2012 on Colony Glacier, about 40 miles east of Anchorage.

An eight-man Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command recovered materials such as a life-support system from the wreckage and possible bones from the glacier two summers ago, and took the evidence to the command's lab in Hawaii for analysis. Last year, additional artifacts were visible.

Military officials said in a release that the remaining 35 service members have not yet been recovered from the wreckage, and the site will be monitored for possible future recovery efforts. Further details were not immediately available from a military spokeswoman who didn't return a message to The Associated Press.

Anderson-Dell said it is her understanding the military will continue to fly over the area to see if the glacier has given up any additional material from the wreckage.

Thursday 19 June 2014

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