Monday, 2 February 2015

10 workers die as effluent tank explodes in Ranipet

It was something that the Fire and Rescue Services personnel of Vellore district have not witnessed earlier. In the early hours of Saturday, they waded through a path filled with effluents up to their knees to rescue persons trapped in the wall collapse of a Secured Landfill Facility at Ranipet.

Nine members of the Fire Services Station at Ranipet SIPCOT rushed to the SIDCO Industrial Estate, after receiving a call at 1.30 a.m. about the incident. Another 14 to 15 members from the nearby fire stations of Ranipet and Arcot joined them in the operation.

“The odour emanating from the slush made it difficult for us. We somehow managed, as it was an open area. We wore masks due to the presence of chemical agents in the slush and wore gum boots as we had to walk through the slush all the way to the spot,” said G. Thandavan, Station Fire Officer, Ranipet SIPCOT station. Lack of lighting added to their difficulties. “It was like a tsunami. The bodies were literally buried under the slush and it made searching hard. We had to watch every step we took and moved slowly,” he added.

The site is nearly two kilometres away from the Ranipet SIPCOT fire station, said a member of the rescue team. The rescue team personnel said that they had never encountered such a massive industrial accident in Vellore before. “There was knee-deep slush deposited in the area. Our legs started to itch. We recovered all the bodies by morning but stayed on till afternoon to see if our help was needed,” a team member said.

Meenakshi Vijayakumar, deputy director of Fire Services, North Western Region, Vellore, and S. Murugesan, district officer, Fire and Rescue Services, Vellore, advised the team on rescue operations.

Mr. Thandavan said they recovered 10 bodies and rescued one person from the site. “The rescued person, Ravi, had managed to climb up to the top of a building. He was caught there for seven hours and we brought him down using a ladder,” he added.

The SLF was being used to stock liquid effluent of 86 tanneries and leather factories. Two tanks, each with 1,000 cubic metres capacity, were used for the purpose, though only one had permission to hold the effluent stock. The one that exploded did not have the requisite permission.

On information, Fire and Rescue Service personnel rushed to the spot. After much struggle, they recovered the bodies and sent them to the Government Vellore Medical College and Hospital for autopsy. Later, nine bodies were sent to Chennai from where they will be sent to their hometowns in West Bengal by train.

Monday 2 February 2015

continue reading

Fire at Bangladesh plastics factory kills at least 13

At least 13 people were killed and more than a dozen injured on Saturday when a fire broke out in a plastic factory in Bangladesh’s capital, emergency service officials said.

Police and fire officers believe the blaze started when gas cylinders exploded in the factory’s boiler room, then raced through the four-storey Nasim Plastic factory in minutes.

“We’ve recovered 13 bodies,” local police chief Mohammad Jashimuddin told AFP, adding the fire was brought under control in around two hours and that the factory floors had been thoroughly searched. “Three people were critically burnt and they were shifted to a hospital,” he added.

A fire official said those who died were plastic factory workers who were burnt or suffocated after they were trapped on the upper floors. Factory worker Mohammad Khokon said 150-200 people usually work in the building, but the number on site was less than that because it was a weekend.

Dozens of friends and relatives of the missing workers crowded the factory site in Dhaka’s northern Mirpur suburb as fire fighters sifted through the charred remains of the building.

Relatives of eleven fire victims, who died in Saturday’s inferno at a Styrofoam package factory –APCCO Bangladesh Ltd – at Mirpur 1 in the capital, identified their charred bodies yesterday.

The remaining two bodies were beyond recognition as they were burnt badly. The Dhaka Medical College authorities have decided to run a DNA test to ascertain their identities.

After the bodies were taken to the DMCH following the incident on Saturday night relatives thronged the premises to identify the bodies.

As most of the bodies were charred their relatives had to identify the bodies by their dresses, old spots, ornaments and birthmarks.

But the members of two families claimed one of the unidentified bodies as Zahirul and Afzal respectively prompting the authorities to carry out a DNA test.

A heart-rending situation descended on the morgue premises when the relatives identified the bodies. Later they were handed over to them after verifications.

Safety conditions at Bangladeshi factories have come under international scrutiny in recent years. A fire at a garment factory killed 112 workers in 2012, and in 2013 more than 1,100 people died in the collapse of a building housing five garment factories. That led a group of mostly European fashion brands to fund safety inspections in garment factories that began last year.

Monday 2 February 2015

continue reading

Flight QZ8501: Indonesian rescuers resume search for remaining 86 victims

Indonesian rescuers yesterday resumed their search for 86 victims still missing from the AirAsia plane that crashed on Dec 28 with 162 people on board, an official said.

National search and rescue agency chief Bambang Soelistyo last week said search and rescue teams were being given two days’ break after weeks searching in inhospitable conditions.

Sixty-eight divers from the national search and rescue agency as well as others from companies and clubs would focus on scouring the fuselage of Flight QZ8501 and the seabed for remaining bodies, he said.

So far, 76 bodies have been recovered after the plane went down in the Java Sea in stormy weather during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.

“Search operations have resumed. Our focus today (yesterday) is to find bodies that could be trapped in the fuselage, or buried in mud,” S.B. Supriyadi, a search and rescue agency official who has been coordinating the hunt, told AFP.

“The weather is good, and the waves were only a metre high,” he said, adding that six boats were in the search area.”

The search mission has been expanded to the island of Sulawesi after fishermen found bodies with identity documents matching the passengers on the ill-fated flight.

The Indonesian military, which has provided the bulk of personnel and equipment for the operation, withdrew from the search Tuesday. But Supriyadi said the current group also comprised of competent divers.

“Skills-wise, they are as good as those from the military as they have experience helping to evacuate sunken boats before,” he added.

“We hope we can still find the remaining bodies,” he said.

Monday 2 January 2015

continue reading

Commission: Mexico has 'serious problem' with disappearances

Mexico has a "serious problem" with disappearances and lacks a comprehensive national list of the missing to effectively deal with the problem, according to a report the country's National Human Rights Commission will present Monday to the U.N.Commission chairman Luis Raul Gonzalez Perez will ask the United Nations Committee On Enforced Disappearances in Geneva to make several recommendations to Mexico's government on the issue, said the document, which The Associated Press was allowed to see.

According to the latest official figures, there are 23,271 people missing or not located in Mexico, of which 621 are being sought by the federal Attorney General's Office's Search Unit.

The numbers were provided by the office's general prosecutor for human rights, Eliana Garcia, on Jan. 19 to a forum in the Chamber of Deputies.

But in its report, the human rights commission says there are no clear criteria for establishing how many people are missing and stresses that the "impunity" surrounding forced disappearances in the 1970s and 1980s created the conditions for the crime to continue being committed today, as can be seen with the 43 students who disappeared in September in southern Guerrero state.

Gonzalez Perez said officials needs to systemize and debug various existing databases because there is no "effective, comprehensive and transparent national" registry that would allow officials to know the real number of people who have disappeared in Mexico.

The commission will ask that authorities in Mexico continue the search for clandestine graves, identify the bodies found in them and create a unified system for building a reliable national list of the disappeared with a genetic registry.

It will also call on lawmakers to complete pending legislation related to the National Registry of the Disappeared or Missing Persons and the law on forced disappearances.

The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto promised that on taking office it would release verifiable figures on the number of the disappeared in Mexico. In August 2014, it published a list of 22,322 persons missing since 2006.

A total of 9,790 of them had disappeared since the beginning of his presidency on Dec. 1, 2012.Eliana Garcia, speaking to lawmakers in January, gave the new official figure with roughly 1,000 more missing without explanation.

But a legislative press release that day said the new registry of the missing dates back to 2003.

The attorney general and six of Mexico's 32 regions have begun working on a unified database, but the process is slow.

For example, as of last September, Mexico City's Federal District, one of the most capable regions, had only entered data for 20 of the 13,000 unidentified bodies it has in its files.

Relatives of the missing, including family of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural teachers college, have traveled to Geneva to share their experiences with the U.N. committee.

The relatives have questioned the government's conclusion that the students were killed and incinerated after being seized by police in a city controlled by a drug cartel.

Monday 2 January 2015

continue reading

NamUs helps give a name to the nameless dead and missing

Since its inception in 2007, NamUs has given peace of mind to hundreds of families searching for missing loved ones and closure to law enforcement officials trying to identify bodies.

The number of missing and unidentified people is “really staggering,” said Arthur Eisenberg, director of the UNT Center for Human Identification. NamUs, which is funded by the National Institute of Justice, has been housed at the UNT Health Science Center since 2011 after moving from Florida.

About 90,000 missing person cases are active in the U.S. every day; there are an estimated 40,000 unidentified remains nationwide.

NamUs staffers, who work with heartbreaking report after heartbreaking report of the missing and the dead, call it a “silent mass disaster.”

They address that disaster by operating several public databases - of unidentified bodies, missing people and “unclaimed persons,” those whose bodies have been identified but next of kin is unknown.

Though the task is huge, the NamUs staff is small - about 20 people scattered across the country. But they’re a dedicated group, including fingerprint analysts, DNA analysts and forensic dentists.

“We eat and live and breathe to try to make these identifications,” Eisenberg said, citing the pain of bewildered families. He said that if any of his family members “disappeared for more than a minute, I’d be a basket case.”

“You have to believe in it,” Eisenberg said. “You have to have the passion. And I think most of us here have the passion.”

Whether staffers find what happened to the missing or identify an anonymous body, “there’s not a day that one of us doesn’t have a tear in his eye.”

Part of what makes NamUs unique is that most of the voluminous data collected from coroners, medical examiners, police agencies and families - ranging from photos of clothing to descriptions of tattoos - is not restricted to law enforcement personnel. Anyone can go on the website and search the information.

Stephanie Clack of Missouri did - and found her sister’s body in 2009.

She’d been searching for Paula Davis since she disappeared 22 years earlier. “Within 20-30 minutes, I found her,” Clack said.

Clack was 14 years old and Paula was 21 the last time they saw each other over a pizza in 1987.

They talked about buying tickets for an upcoming concert, but Paula never returned to her apartment that night.

Though she had struggled with drugs, Paula had a job and a child, and “she never took off without calling,” Clack said.

Her relatives filed a missing persons report with police. Then they waited.

Through the years they checked to see if her Social Security number or driver’s license had been used.

“Back then’ there really wasn’t other ways to look,” Clack said.

When Clack heard about NamUs in 2009, she immediately searched the website.

A couple of general searches didn’t turn up a match, so Clack looked for tattoos. When she found a body in Ohio, marked with tattoos of a rose and a unicorn, she knew it was Paula.

Paula had been strangled shortly after she disappeared, Clack learned.

The crime was never solved. But Paula’s family was at least able to bring her remains home.

NamUs “gave me back what I need,” Clack said, “which was my sister.”

Before she was identified, Paula was buried as an unknown Jane Doe. In 1987, authorities usually wrote down a description of an unidentified body, took fingerprints if possible, and filed the report in a drawer where it was often forgotten.

If the body was found in a county or state different from where the missing person was reported, the two reports were unlikely to be matched.

But as computer technology evolved, and unidentified bodies stacked up in morgues and graveyards, coroners and medical examiners pushed for a system to spread the word about unidentified remains, said B.J. Spamer, director of the training and analysis division at NamUs.

“These are the agencies that are tasked with identifying remains,” she said. “Up until the unidentified NamUs database went live, they didn’t have any tools to help them resolve their case.”

The unidentified bodies data was posted in 2007; the next year, the missing persons database was added. In 2009, programming made it possible to search the databases against each other, Spamer said.

Since the program was launched, about 8,000 missing person cases reported to NamUs and about 1,500 unidentified remains have been resolved.

Those are just a fraction of the missing and unidentified cases nationwide because many old cases have not been submitted. Law enforcement agencies are not required to report cases to NamUs.

“But the benefits of NamUs are such that it’s really not a hard sell,” Spamer said. NamUs offers free resources such as DNA, dental and fingerprint analysis.

Gay Johnson, investigator with the Hood County sheriff, regularly submits information to NamUs. She’s currently working with the agency to identify a missing person who may have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge in California.

Johnson shipped the fingerprints from the missing person to NamUs and arranged for DNA samples from a relative in another state to be sent to the agency. If the body is found, she hopes a match will be made.

Law enforcement personnel are not the only source of information for NamUs. The public also can submit a report over the phone or online.

Information from the public is verified with local law enforcement before it is posted.

“They go through that verification process primarily to protect the privacy of the people being reported,” Spamer said.

For instance, some “missing” people, such as a spouse fleeing an abuser, may not want to be located.

NamUs is not a missing persons locator service, Spamer said. Some callers wanting to file a report have simply lost contact with their relative. “‘I haven’t seen my brother in 30 years - I’d like to get in touch with him again’ is not the purpose of NamUs.”

Most of the time, “we’re looking for missing person cases where we think there’s foul play,” Spamer said.

Fingerprint specialist Bill Bailey, who recently helped identify a body unknown since 1992, said NamUs allows families to put questions about their loved ones to rest.

“You never put closure to death, never,” said Bailey who worked in the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office before joining NamUs. “You might be able to move on, but it’s never closed.”

“But at least,” he said, “there’s answers.”

Monday 2 February 2015

Read more:

continue reading