Monday, 14 July 2014

One year since train crash killed 7 outside Paris

The crash happened in an instant one year ago on Saturday in the outskirts of Paris, but the image of a mangled intercity train has left an indelible image on the survivors.

“I clung on with my arm to keep from falling and when I looked down, I saw a passenger, half their body disappeared in a few seconds,” said Manou N’Diaye, a survivor who spoke to Le Monde newspaper.

Packed with 385 passengers, the train travelling from Limoges to Paris derailed some 32 kilometres from the capital and beneath a cloud of dust, split into two.

The train – No. 3657 – veered off the track as it entered the Brétigny-sur-Orge station.

Cars ploughed into each other as it smashed into the platform, leaving seven people dead and dozens injured.

Last week, investigators cited a rail joint that worked loose gradually from a track in the absence of proper maintenance, but ruled out the accident as a “malicious act.”

More than 200 irregularities of varying degree were spotted on the surveyed stretch of track and had not been dealt with adequately.

One year on from the accident, 32 passengers of the 177 who reported physical or psychological injury have accepted an offer of compensation, according to report by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Passengers have not been the only victims of psychological trauma over the past year.

SNCF employees are often quoted as saying "before and after Brétigny".

“I think of all of these people,” reportedly said the driver of the train during a ceremony on Saturday. “I think of them, that’s all.”

Monday 14 July 2014

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23 killed in Casablanca buildings collapse

The death toll after three buildings collapsed in Morocco's largest city and commercial capital Casablanca has risen to 23.

Fifteen bodies were recovered from the rubble in one day on Sunday, including two children and Moroccan actress Amal Maarouf and her mother, local authorities said.

News website Yibiladi said the actress had continued to respond to calls on her mobile phone for several hours after the calamity but did not elaborate.

Medics said earlier on Sunday that 17 people were still being treated in hospital, while authorities warned of more buried bodies.

Rescue operations were temporarily suspended on Sunday afternoon as emergency teams sought more sophisticated equipment, sparking anger from relatives of the missing.

By evening the site had been cordoned off and the media barred, drawing criticism.

"Search for bodies suspended, equipment deficient. Three days to notice it," the Economist newspaper scoffed in a post on its Internet site.

It was still not known why the three apartment blocks in El-Hank district collapsed on Friday.

Residents told AFP the accident probably resulted from "haphazard works" on the lower floors of the buildings, as well as a general lack of maintenance.

Casablanca has a population of around five million, with many living in squalid conditions in sprawling slums, some exposed to serious safety hazards.

Monday 14 July 2014

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Costa Concordia raised: Divers to search and recover last missing body

Italian officials have pledged to search for the last remaining missing body within the partially submerged Costa Concordia wreckage as the salvage operation makes one final push this week.

Removal of the 290-metre vessel from the seabed will get underway today and last for several days, two-and-a-half years after it ran aground and capsized off the west coast of Italy.

Thirty-two people died in the incident, with most bodies since recovered except one – an Indian waiter.

Franco Gabrielli, from the Civil Protection Department, said it was a “great sorrow” that the final body has not yet been found.

He pledged that divers will continue to search for the last victim as the delicate operation to remove the ship begins this week.

Mr Gabrielli told reporters on the island of Giglio – off which the ship had sunk – that while the weather wasn’t optimal for the mammoth task of extracting the wreck, it was good enough to allow it to start.

The Concordia will be refloated and towed to Genoa on the mainland, where it will be used for scrap.

The cruise liner was successfully moved upright last September, with the hull currently resting on a false bed created at a depth of roughly 30 metres.

The comprehensive process of removing the ship from its current location means that an initial section of the structure will be floated first so that engineers can check for damage.

A pneumatic system will be used to pump water gradually from 30 caissons (airtight tanks) surrounding the wreck, filling them with air and pushing the vessel upwards.

Engineers will float a small section at first to check for structural damage. If the Costa Concordia cannot be moved in one piece, it will have to be dismantled where it is.

If the structure is safe, the ship will be moved 30 meters away from shore before being gradually refloated.

Each of the 13 decks will be examined as they emerge for any hazards that could seep into the ocean.

When the process is finished, a section of about 18 metres will remain submerged and the 114,500-tonne vessel will be tugged at a steady two knots to Genoa on a four-day journey over 190 nautical miles.

Monday 14 July 2014

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