Saturday, 4 April 2015

Sewol tragedy: Grieving parents of Korean ferry victims start long march to mark anniversary

Newly shaven-headed and clad in white mourning robes the grieving parents of the victims of last year’s Sewol ferry disaster began a marathon march today to press for an independent inquiry into the tragedy.

More than 200 people are participating in the march from Ansan city to the capital Seoul, mostly the parents of the 250 students from the same high school who perished when the overloaded ferry sank off the southern island of Jindo on April 16.

With the first anniversary of the tragedy drawing near, the 35 kilometre march is being held to call for the sunken ferry to be brought to the surface to recover those bodies still unaccounted for.

The marchers started off from a public park in Ansan where a giant altar to the victims, complete with their black-ribboned portraits and flowers, has been in place over the past year.

Some wept as they set off carrying pictures of their daughters and sons. Before the march started, many parents shaved their heads in a show of grief and determination.

They chanted slogans and held banners alleging that the government was “insulting” victims’ families by “waving money under their noses” instead of seeking to ensure a thorough and independent investigation.

Over the past year, families have repeatedly staged street protests and sit-ins, demanding a meeting with President Park Geun-Hye and urging her to deliver on her promise to continue the search for those still missing.

“Almost a year has passed since the tragedy but the president has not delivered on her promise. We are going to Seoul to hear from her”, said Chun Myeong-Sun, a representative of the families.

The accident—blamed by many on regulatory failings, official incompetence and the ship’s illegal redesign—prompted Park to vow a complete overhaul of national safety standards.

Following months of political bickering, the South Korean parliament passed a bill in November initiating an independent investigation into the sinking.

But relatives have accused the government of seeking to hamper the probe and contain any political fallout by appointing government officials to key posts in the 17-member inquiry committee.

Committee chairman Lee Suk-Tae—one of the members nominated by the families—said this week that the government, which should be the very subject of the investigation, was seeking to lead the committee, something he labelled “unacceptable.”

More than 50 people have been put on trial on charges linked to the sinking, including 15 crew members—who were among the first to climb into lifeboats.

The Sewol’s captain was jailed in November for 36 years for gross negligence and dereliction of duty, while three other senior crew members were sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 30 years.

The families plan to hold a candle-lit vigil when the protest march arrives in Seoul tomorrow.

Saturday 4 April 2015

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Germanwings flight 9525: 150 DNA profiles isolated

Brice Robin, the Marseilles prosecutor, said forensic scientists have isolated 150 DNA profiles from more than 2,000 samples collected at the crash site. These must now be compared to samples submitted by family members.

But it will take a long time for investigators to match the remains with DNA taken from families of the victims, the Associated Press reported.

More than 2,800 body parts have been found at the crash site, said Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin.

For these results, the investigators had to conduct DNA tests, imaging and 3D scanning all the pieces of the body they found while collecting DNA from the victim items such as jewelry, table cover, razors even the hairs found at the scene.

Saturday 4 April 2015

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Search operation for Russian trawler crew continues

Russian rescuers continued to search Friday for 13 crew members still missing from the trawler that sank in icy waters near Russia's Kamchatka peninsula earlier this week.

According to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, 56 people died when the trawler Dalniy Vostok sank Tuesday in the Sea of Okhotsk. Sixty-three crew members were rescued.

The ship's crew of 132 included 78 Russians. Another 42 were from Myanmar and the rest from Ukraine, Lithuania and Vanuatu.

U Aung Kyaw Moe, an official with Myanmar's embassy in Moscow, told the Voice of America’s Burmese Service that 22 Burmese crew members were rescued, according to Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry.

However, he said the Russian authorities did not know exactly how many Burmese crew members were missing or dead.

He also said that the process of identifying the bodies of those who died would take time, since rescue ships are not expected at the remote site of the wreck until Monday.

More than a dozen of local fishing vessels and some 2,000 people are involved in the rescue operation, Russian emergency services said.

The cause of the accident remains unknown, although officials said the ship may have hit an object in the water.

Russia's Investigative Committee has begun a probe into possible safety violations on board the ship, which sank in about 15 minutes and did not send a distress signal.

Saturday 4 April 2015

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Buriganga trawler capsize toll rises to 16

Divers have found five more bodies from the Buriganga River on Saturday.

This takes the death toll in Thursday’s trawler capsize near Dhaka’s Keraniganj to 16.

Fire service officials say the rescue operation will continue on Saturdaythough it is not clear if any more are reported missing.

Narayanganj Fire Service Assistant Director Md Momtaz Uddin said that five bodies were found after their divers resumed rescue operations on Saturday morning.

Two of the victims, hailing from Dhaka’s Lalbagh area, have been identified.

The other three are between 20 and 25 years of age.

A trawler, with nearly 80 passengers on board, capsized on Thursday after it was hit by a sand-laden cargo vessel near Narayanganj.

Keraniganj Police’s Inspector Abu Siddique said the trawler started for Dhaka from Chandpur’s Matlab Upazila.

It sank around 12:45pm at Aliganj of Keraniganj.

Most of the passengers managed to swim across the banks with the help of locals, but some were believed to be missing, said Inspector Siddique.

Naraynganj’s Deputy Commissioner Anisur Rahman Mia said Fatulla police and coastguards were conducting the rescue operations.

Eight bodies were recovered until Thursday evening and three more were found on Friday.

Saturday 4 April 2015

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