Monday, 19 January 2015

AirAsia Flight 8501: More Bodies Found In Java Sea

High waves and strong currents continue to hamper recovery operations of the fuselage of AirAsia Flight 8501 in the Java Sea, officials said Monday. Indonesian Navy divers on Sunday were unable to access the main body, where most of the victims’ bodies are believed to be trapped.

Suryadi B. Supriyadi, director of Indonesia's search and rescue agency, reportedly said that a team of 15 divers attempted to reach the fuselage, which rests at a depth of about 92 feet on the sea floor, to examine and calculate its weight, but failed to do so due to unfavorable weather conditions. Survey vessels have so far located at least nine big objects, including the jet’s fuselage, while authorities also believe some of them belong to the jet’s cockpit. However, divers reportedly need to be deployed to verify the objects.

“BASARNAS assured that the search and recovery mission of QZ8501 passengers still becomes the main priority as it is suspected that more passengers might be still trapped under the wreckage,” AirAsia Indonesia said, in a statement.

Two more bodies were recovered Sunday from near the location of the fuselage bringing the total number of victims retrieved to 53, of which 45 have been identified so far.

The Disaster Victim Identification Police Department of Republic of Indonesia said that the team is collecting DNA samples to identify the six bodies that had been recovered earlier.

Meanwhile, investigators in Jakarta are still analyzing the flight data recorders, which could help determine the cause of the crash.

The Airbus A320-200 went down with 162 people on board on Dec. 28 after the pilot requested a change of course to avoid bad weather. It was the last known communication from the plane, which was flying to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia. Singapore Disaster Victim Identification team return from mission The Singapore Disaster Victim Identification team returned yesterday (Jan 18) after more than two weeks in Surabaya.

The team, comprising eight police officers and two forensic experts, worked closely with their Indonesian counterparts.

Yesterday, after first being welcomed by Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, the returning team were greeting by family members at a small reception at Changi Airport Terminal 2.

The head of the DVI team shared some of the duties which were conducted when they processed bodies that arrived Pangkalan Bun in Kalimantan.

Duties included collecting fingerprints, DNA samples, dental records, as well as other information like finding out from the next of kin what the victims were wearing before boarding flight QZ8501.

The head of the DVI delegation, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sekher Warrier, said: "We went there to assist the Indonesians during this difficult period and we were helping them to bring closure and comfort to the families of the victims."

Monday 19 January 2015

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Cockroaches with backpacks? They're a search-and-rescue team

A swarm of insects could one day be the most reassuring sight imaginable to someone trapped in a collapsed building. That’s because researchers at N.C. State are developing technology that equips cockroaches to enter disaster areas and send back information for search-and-rescue missions.

“You may be someone who hates the cockroach, but it could be the cockroach that saves you one day,” said Alper Bozkurt, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at N.C. State who has written two papers on the work.These enhanced insects – dubbed biobots or cyborgs – have been developed by Bozkurt and others over the past eight years.

Working initially with moths and, later, cockroaches, the scientists equipped the insects to pick up sounds too distant or faint to be heard outside the rubble.“They carry little backpacks with a small microphone and radio,” Bozkurt said.

“With the two-way radio, they can transmit sound to the outside and also receive commands.”Another facet of the technology allows the insects also to send signals to one another. “It’s a neighbor-to-neighbor interaction that allows someone to build a map,” explained Edgar Lobaton, a robotics engineer and assistant professor in NCSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“These little agents move around and continuously communicate with each other by sending out radio signals. We are learning to take this information, put it in a computer, and create a map of the area.”Because GPS systems usually don’t penetrate concrete and steel, signals emitted by the cockroaches could be extremely important in clearing disaster sites, Bozkurt said.

Steering the insects

To conduct the studies, the scientists attach to cockroaches’ bodies a small platform, which carries the electronic transmission devices. The researchers then control roaches by sending electronic pulses to their antennae.

Their tendency to swarm – with many cockroaches following the behavior of a few – helps scientists keep the deployed insects within certain parameters.“They use their antennae in a tactile manner, like a blind person (might use a cane),” Bozkurt said. “If there’s a wall, the cockroach will follow along by dragging their antennae along the wall.

The idea is if these biobots can detect tunnels or small passages and send back that information, you can find multiple ways between the victim and the first responders.

”Because cockroaches lack pain receptors, the electronic impulses don’t harm them, and the backpacks are removed once the experiment ends, Bozkurt added.Another development has been creation of an “invisible fence” to help corral the insects.

Between 20 and 100 cockroaches at a time have been deployed in these experiments.Bozkurt said he began the work almost eight years ago, with moths.“As a professor, I led a team of graduate students interfacing electronic devices with the insects to steer them from point A to point B.” However, controlling the flying insects posed a difficulty, Bozkurt said. “You have to tether them.

And any disturbance is likely to bring them down.”The cockroach – in particular the large, wingless Madagascar species – was more adaptable to the lab experiments. “Cockroaches come in different sizes; some are small and some are large enough to carry larger payloads,” he said. “And they come with different speeds.

Some are fast, but others are slow enough that we are able to control them. And they are available. ”In addition, Bozkurt said, the work is a good way to demonstrate the value of insects: “Insects play an important role in our ecosystem.”

The work is carried out by three teams at NCSU led by Bozkurt, Lobaton and Mihail Sichitiu, an associate professor of engineering.

It is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation CyberPhysical Systems Program.

Roachlike robots

While Bozkurt is running lab experiments with real cockroaches and Lobaton is developing cyborg mapping capabilities, Sichitiu is experimenting with “robots that act like cockroaches,” Bozkurt said. Sichitiu’s robots with wheels of 6 to 8 inches may be deployed on flat surfaces.

Eventually, scientists hope to program robots to mimic insects, climbing walls and investigating small spaces. Bozkurt admits he has special admiration for cockroaches and spiders.

“The majority of people hate them, but as engineers, we are amazed by their structure, and when we try to build insectlike robots, it’s very difficult.

Although millions have been spent, we still don’t have a robot that can act like an insect. It’s much more complicated than your smartphone. They deserve some respect.”

Monday 19 January 2015

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Zimbabwe: 24 perish in bus disaster

Twenty-four people died while 46 others were seriously injured when two buses were involved in a side-swipe at the 35km peg along the Harare-Nyamapanda Road Sunday morning.

Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the accident occurred when a Harare-bound Pioneer bus, owned by Unifreight, encroached into the lane of a Zupco bus which was travelling in the opposite direction.

“46 people were seriously injured and taken to Parirenyatwa and Harare hospitals. Police are still verifying the number of passengers who were in the two buses,” Charamba said.

“We urge motorists to avoid speeding and drive on the correct side of the road. They should pay attention and be observant whilst moving on the road.”

When NewsDay arrived at the scene, the wreckage of the Pioneer bus was already being towed away while police and workers from the surrounding farms were loading corpses into a Unifreight lorry. Workers from former Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs minister Ray Kaukonde’s farm were helping in retrieving the bodies from the buses.

Kaukonde’s farm, Pagejora Rubie, is close to the accident scene.

“If both the bus drivers were not speeding, maybe the accident could not have happened. The Unifreight bus driver was moving on the white line making it difficult for our driver to avoid him,” said a crash survivor, Patrick Murehwa, who was on the Zupco bus.

Another Zupco passenger, Thomas Matowo, who escaped without injuries, also said their driver was speeding.

“I was not hurt since I was at the back. I managed to pull out three other passengers,” Matowo said.

Blessing Katena from Epworth, who was travelling to Kapandaro in Mutoko, said she escaped unscathed together with her four-year-old son.

“The Unifreight bus driver encroached into our lane and we suspect he might have fallen asleep and lost control of the bus,” Katena said. Most of the casualties were on the Zupco bus which was extensively damaged with the driver said to be among the deceased.

Last August, another Zupco bus side-swiped a haulage truck 13km from the same spot and killed 13 people.

Monday 19 January 2015

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Rescuers resume operation to recover fuselage of crashed AirAsia plane from Java Sea

Rescuers resumed on Monday an operation to recover the fuselage of the crashed AirAsia passenger plane from the seabed of the Java Sea.

The operation to recover the largest chunk of the crashed aircraft began last week, but was obstructed by poor weather conditions in the region.

Rescuers believe that most of the bodies will be found in the fuselage of the plane. As of now, only 51 bodies out of total 162 people on board of the passenger jet were found.

AirAsia flight QZ8501 disappeared from radar screens on December 28 about 40 minutes after its departure from Indonesia's second largest city of Surabaya to Singapore and crashed in the area off Kalimantan (Borneo) Island.

The jet was carrying 155 passengers and seven crewmembers, nationals from six countries (155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Briton, one Malaysian, one Singaporean and a Frenchman).

Rescuers have found the black boxes, but specialists decline to name the reasons for the crash as flight data is still being decoded.

Singapore ends search

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Sunday officially ended its deployment in the multinational search operation for the AirAsia plane, which crashed in the Java Sea December 28, with 162 people on board, the SAF said in a press release.

The Singapore Navy ship MV Swift Rescue, which found the fuselage of the ill-fated plane, returned to the Changi Naval Base Sunday morning, Xinhua reported, citing the SAF.

Singapore’s Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen along with senior SAF officers, received MV Swift Rescue at the naval base, and a minute of silence was observed for the victims of the accident.

Ng praised the contributions of those who took part in the search operation.

“Our SAF servicemen and women gave their best efforts for the search operations,” he said, adding that “their efforts helped bring closure to the families of the victims and provide answers to the cause of the accident”.

The cockpit voice recorder, a part of the black box of the crashed plane, was retrieved Tuesday from the Java sea floor and the main section of the fuselage of the aircraft was located Wednesday.

Rescue teams have so far recovered 48 bodies out of the 162 people who were aboard the aircraft.

The return of MV Swift Rescue marked the end of SAF’s 22-day deployment, in which more than 400 personnel, two C-130 aircrafts, two Super Puma helicopters, five navy ships, and a six-man Autonomous Underwater Vehicle team assisted in the search operations, SAF said.

Monday 19 January 2015

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