Friday, 6 March 2015

Death toll from Mediterranean migrant drowning tragedy climbs to 50

The latest migrant drowning tragedy in the Mediterranean claimed at least 50 lives, 40 more than first thought, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said.

Italy’s coastguard had rescued 127 people and recovered 10 bodies on Tuesday after a boat capsized off Sicily when the people on board rushed to one side of the vessel in a stampede to get onto the arriving coastguard boat.

Interviews with the survivors have since revealed that at least another 40 people went overboard prior to the arrival of the rescuers, IOM spokesman Flavio di Giacomo told AFP yesterday.

“We drew up a list of the relatives and friends of survivors who were on the boat and there are at least 40 unaccounted for,” he said. “Some of them were children, although we cannot say exactly how many.”

The group rescued on Tuesday included 27 children and 51 women.

Di Giacomo said the latest deaths took the migrant death toll in the waters between north Africa and southern Italy to more than 400 since the start of the year.

The high number has been linked to a surge in the numbers attempting the perilous crossing during the winter months.

The increasing confidence and resources of people smugglers and the worsening chaos in Libya have both been put forward as explanations for the acceleration in the flow of migrants trying to reach Europe by sea after making their way to north Africa overland from West Asia, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Italy’s foreign ministry had said yesterday that 8,918 migrants had been landed in Italy between January 1 and March 4, a near 60 per cent increase from the total of 5,611 registered in the same period in 2014.

About 170,000 migrants landed in Italy in the whole of 2014 and current trends suggest that record figure could be comfortably exceeded this year.

Friday 6 March 2015

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Identities of 83 bodies still mystery nearly four years after 3/11

The National Police Agency said Friday 83 bodies found after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami remained unidentified as of the end of February, down 15 from a year earlier.

The death toll from the natural disasters stood at 15,890 in 12 prefectures, up by six. The number of missing fell by 47 to 2,589.

Of the 15,807 identified bodies, 15,737 were in the three northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which took the brunt of the disasters. Those who were 65 or older accounted for 56 percent of the bodies, while 90 percent of the deaths overall were attributed to drowning.

Friday 6 March 2015

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Nigeria: Pathologist’s report confirms identity of Church collapse victim

After months of agony and uncertainty the family of Patricia Mkhulisi, who died in the Nigerian church collapse last year, were convinced they had been given a stranger’s body, but yesterday a pathologist’s report confirmed the remains were hers. However, Mkhulisi’s brother, Lwandle Mkhulisi, said the family might approach another laboratory for a second opinion, saying the tests were done at a laboratory suggested to them by the department of health.

The pathologist’s report confirmed the DNA samples matched those of Mkhulisi’s children, verifying the body was hers.

Lwandle Mkhulisi said his mother was not satisfied with the results. The e-mail from the department of health set out guidelines for the tests to be conducted and stated the DNA samples had to be sent to a recognised laboratory. It recommended DNA-Biotech, Ampath and Lancet laboratories.

Lwandle did not specify which laboratory the family went to, nor did he explain why they were not convinced by the latest report.

Mkhulisi’s body was one of the last 11 repatriated from Nigeria after the Synagogue Church of All Nations disaster last September in which 116 people lost their lives – 81 being South Africans.

When the body was returned to the family about a month ago, the Mkhulisi family’s heartache was replaced by anger, as they believed they had been deceived.

Lwandle Mkhulisi said they looked for a gap that Mkhulisi had in her teeth, but the teeth of the body they were given did not have a gap. He added they were unable to see other facial features, as there were head injuries, nor could they identify the rest of the body.

Mkhulisi’s death certificate from the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital said she had died from exsanguination (blood loss to a degree sufficient to cause death), disruption of the right brachial vessels and “building collapse”.

“We have no evidence this is my sister. We were given the body in a bag with a certificate which had no thumbprints on it, told not to open the bag and to just bury it,” said Lwandle Mkhulisi.

The initial DNA tests on samples from victims’ bodies sent to South Africa were conducted by Dr Munro Marx, head of Stellenbosch University’s Unistel Medical Laboratories.

He said Mkhulisi’s DNA sample matched her two children and brother.

Friday 6 March 2015

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