Thursday, 15 January 2015

Divers fail to retrieve more bodies in AirAsia jet’s fuselage

Divers today scoured the sunken fuselage of the crashed AirAsia jet in the Java Sea but failed to retrieve the main wreck or any more bodies of the 162 people as bad weather and high waves forced searchers to suspend operations.

The fuselage of the crashed AirAsia Flight QZ8501 — that officials believe contains the remaining bodies of victims who boarded the ill—fated plane — was found by a Singaporean Navy vessel yesterday about 3 kms from where the tail of the aircraft was pulled from the seabed.

The operation to lift the fuselage — attached to part of a wing, the wreckage 26 metres long — from the seabed has so far failed, chief of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo today said.

Authorities have been attempting to lift the fuselage with balloons, a procedure they also used to hoist the tail section of the Airbus A320—200, that usually contains the crucial black box.

All 162 people were killed after the plane, en route from Indonesia’s Surabaya city to Singapore plunged into the Java Sea on December 28. The pilot had requested to fly higher due to stormy weather but was denied permission because of heavy air traffic in the sector.

The past week has been significant in the slow—moving multi—national hunt that has persistently been hampered by bad weather, with the recovery of the crucial black box as well as the tail. The black box recorders are expected to help investigators determine the real cause behind the AirAsia group’s first fatal accident half way into a two—hour flight.

Divers now face the grim task of recovering the dead bodies as only 50 of them have been recovered so far, of which 38 have been identified.

A team of 15 divers plunged into the water early today to examine the main portion of the jet, but failed to determine whether the wreckage can be lifted by using large balloons or if bodies need to be retrieved separately if found inside it due to bad weather and high waves, search and rescue agency coordinator S B Supriyadi said.

Some divers descended again in the afternoon, he added.

The mission to locate the victims will continue, even if no bodies are found in the fuselage, he said, adding success and failure is part of every mission, and that once the mission is no longer effective or efficient, the operation will end.

Recovered bodies will be sent to East Java’s police headquarters in Surabaya for identification.

The search was now being scaled back, with most international vessels leaving, according to officials.

Thursday 15 January 2015

continue reading

At least 108 dead as Central African Republic boat capsizes

At least 108 people died and 14 others are missing after a riverboat capsized on the Oubangui river in Central African Republic, according to the Transportation Ministry.

The sinking happened on Monday after the boat’s motor exploded, starting a fire that quickly engulfed the vessel and forced terrified passengers to jump overboard.

The boat was carrying over 100 people down the Oubangui river from the capital, Bangui, when the fire broke out near the village of Modale, officials said on Thursday.

A naval official said at least 80 people were on board the New Jerusalem when it left Bangui, about 80 miles upstream from where it came to grief. “But others had probably been taken on during the voyage, bringing the number of passengers to more than 100.”

Only one body has so far been found, he said, that of a “child who is being taken back to Bangui with his mother, [who was] one of the few survivors. It is hard to say how many people have died because there is no rescue team [in the area]”.

Joseph Tagbale, the mayor of the port district of Bangui, said it was difficult to estimate how many lives had been lost. “We are asking the authorities to search to see if there are any survivors.”

Residents of nearby towns recovered dozens of bodies from the water today and yesterday after the vessel capsized late on Jan. 13 at Ndimba village, about 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Bangui, according to Ndimba village chief Auguste Gbety. All the recovered bodies were buried on the riverbanks, he said.

“Only 14 people survived because of a lack of emergency resources,” he said.

The Oubangui, a tributary of the Congo River, is more than 1,000 kilometers long and is used by boats to transport goods and people between Bangui and Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo.

Thursday 15 January 2015

continue reading

Sinking of the Viking a century ago

They were scenes a century ago this week that had seldom been seen before in Shields, and that drove home to this seafaring community of ours what the cost of war could be.

Before the outbreak of hostilities six months earlier, the ship Viking, with her smart lines and raked bow, had plied a cheerful summer trade from the Tyne to the fjords of Norway.

But now she was the Viknor, her new name under her new controllers, the Admiralty, and she was operating as an armed merchant cruiser.

And she was missing.

As families of the dozens of local men aboard her gathered at the Mill Dam for news, the effect on them of the announcement that she had been given up as lost was harrowing to observe.

“Painful scenes were witnessed as the worst became known,” wrote one commentator.

HMS Viknor, of the 10th Cruiser Squadron, it was concluded, had sunk in the North Atlantic, north-west of Ireland, with the loss of the entire ship’s complement of 22 officers and 273 ratings, most of whom were Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) ratings.

At least 52 of the men were from the towns and villages that now comprise South Tyneside.

“The loss of the Viknor was the worst maritime disaster to befall the area during the Great War. We owe it to these men to tell their tale,” says Jarrow man Peter Hoy, who is building a huge database of borough men who served in the First World War, and who has researched the stories of many of the Viknor’s local casualties.

Unforgiving as the North Atlantic was then, and remains, only the body of one of those 52 was ever recovered, to allow a proper funeral.

The 5,386-ton Viknor had been built at Govan in 1888, as the Atrato, for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. In 1912, she was bought by the Viking Cruising Company, who renamed her.

When war broke out in the summer of 1914, she was swiftly taken over by the Admiralty – so swiftly that she was forced to abandon a pleasure trip to Norway and return to the Tyne.

She subsequently lay at Hebburn, while it was debated whether she should be turned over the United States government, to take refugees, whom the outbreak of war had stranded in Europe, back to the US.

In the event, three days after Christmas 1914 saw her depart the Tyne on naval patrol.

What happened subsequently has never been established. Was she simply overwhelmed by the heavy seas which, during that week in January 1915, were crashing onto the Atlantic coast of Ireland?

Or is as thought is more likely, did she strike a mine?

Whatever happened when she sank on January 13 off the coast of County Donegal, it was so sudden that there was no distress signal.

Over subsequent days, bodies began to wash up on the Irish coast and, eventually, even in the Hebrides.

Seven men, six of them unidentifiable, were buried in the small cemetery on Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland.

The bodies of a further three were washed ashore on the Hebridean island of Colonsay.

For the vast majority of the Viknor’s crew, however, there is no known grave. They are commemorated on the naval memorial at Plymouth.

Of the 52 South Tyneside men aboard her, the body of only one was recovered and identified.

He was greaser Lewis Ogle, who was able to be named from his tattoos, and who is buried at Larne in Northern Ireland.

He had married Mary Jane Hill in 1902 and the couple lived at Lions Lane in Hebburn.

Peter has also only been able to put a face to one of the victims, leading fireman Bartholomew Logan, whose photograph appeared in the Shields Gazette.

Born in 1880, he was the husband of Margaret Logan (née Bolam) of 1 Forest Hill in Shields, who he had married in 1900. The couple had five children.

He is commemorated on the St. Bede’s Church roll of honour and was also commemorated on the now-lost Holy Trinity Church roll of honour at High Shields.

Says Peter: “Margaret outlived her husband by more than 50 years, and his name appears on her headstone in Harton Cemetery.”

Two Jarrow men who died on the Viknor were brothers-in-law James Adam and John William Sayers. They are commemorated together on a headstone in Jarrow Cemetery.

James, 30, lived with his wife, Amy, in Hibernian Road in Jarrow. Before the war, he had worked as a plater for Palmer’s shipbuilders. He is commemorated on the Palmer’s Cenotaph in Jarrow, and on the roll of honour of the town’s St Paul’s Church.

His brother-in-law, John, was born in Chester-le Street. He lived with his wife, Alice, in Ellison Street in Jarrow.

He was 39 at the time of his death and had six children.

He is also commemorated on the St Paul’s roll of honour.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

continue reading