Monday, 4 May 2015

18 dead in Afghanistan bus crash

At least 18 people were killed and three injured on Sunday when a minivan overturned in western Afghanistan, provincial officials said.

The accident in the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province was due to the driver’s “recklessness,” said provincial governor’s spokesman Mirwais Mirzakwal, who gave the casualty figure.

Sharafudeen Majeedi, chief of staff in the governor’s office, confirmed the death toll.

The injured were taken to hospital by local people while police and a rescue team retrieved the bodies.

Afghanistan has some of the world’s most dangerous roads and deadly accidents are common.

In April 2013 a bus hit a wrecked fuel tanker in the southern province of Kandahar, killing 45 people.

He says the accident happened early Sunday in Bala Murghab district. Badghis is one of Afghanistan’s poorest and least developed regions.

Poorly-maintained roads and reckless driving are major issues in Afghanistan. Road fatalities top 6,000 annually, according to the World Health Organization.

Monday 4 May 2015

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Italy says 10 migrants die, 5,800 rescued in ongoing mission

Nearly 5,800 migrants were plucked from boats off the coast of Libya and 10 bodies were recovered in less than 48 hours, Italy's coast guard said, in one of the biggest rescue operations this year.

Two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people desperate to reach a better life in Europe has accelerated as people smugglers take advantage of calmer seas.

Seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and rescuers plucked from the sea the corpses of three others who had jumped into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the coast guard said.

Separately, authorities in Egypt said that three people died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. Thirty-one people were rescued.

Italy's coast guard has coordinated the rescues by its own navy and coast guard, a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency, merchant ships, and one vessel run by the privately funded Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

Growing lawlessness and anarchy in Libya - the last point on one of the main transit routes to Europe - is giving free hand to people smugglers who make an average of 80,000 euros ($90,000) from each boatload, according to an ongoing investigation by an Italian court.

Libyan state news agency Lana said on Sunday authorities there detained 500 migrants in five boats off Tripoli and a further 480 migrants - from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia - were caught in a farm near the central town of Jufra, and another 170 were detained nearby.

Those rescued in the Italian operation were being brought to Italian shores, some already arriving at Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, and others at Trapani, Sicily. More were to be brought ashore overnight and on Monday.

Shocked by last month's record disaster, European Union leaders agreed to triple funding for the EU sea patrol mission Triton, but there is still disagreement on what to do with the people fleeing conflict and poverty in various parts of Africa and the Middle East.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said in a newspaper interview on Sunday that the EU should set up a quota system whereby member countries agree to take in more refugees in order to relieve some of the pressure on Italy, Greece and Malta.

But Austria's proposal is likely to face tough opposition from some members states, including Britain and Hungary.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that EU states should be allowed to set their own rules on migrants, and that Hungary did not want any of them.

Mild spring weather and calm summer seas are expected to push total arrivals in Italy for 2015 to 200,000, an increase of 30,000 on last year, according to an Interior Ministry projection.

About 1,800 are estimated to have perished during the crossing already this year, the UN refugee agency said, while some 51,000 have entered Europe by sea, with 30,500 coming via Italy.

Monday 4 May 2015

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Nepal earthquake rescue teams search for missing trekkers in Himalayas

Police, soldiers and volunteers have launched a major search operation in the remote Langtang region of the Nepalese Himalayas to look for up to 600 trekkers and support staff who have been missing since an 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the south Asian country nine days ago.

The death toll in the disaster has reached 7,365, with 14,355 injured. The bodies of about 100 trekkers and villagers were recovered at the biggest village in Langtang, which lies 60km (40 miles) north of Kathmandu and is on a trekking route popular with westerners.

The entire village, which includes 55 guesthouses used by trekkers, was wiped out by the avalanche, officials said. “Volunteers and police personnel are digging through six-foot snow with shovels looking for more bodies,” Gautam Rimal, assistant chief district officer, said.

Uddab Bhattarai, the most senior administrator in the area, said more than 400 people had been killed in Langtang, with at least 250 missing. “We have been doing search and rescue massively but haven’t been able to figure out the exact number of missing,” he said.

The president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, Ramesh Dhamala, said the number of people missing could at least twice as high. “According to the records, 1,350 Nepalese and foreign trekkers entered Langtang, but once the earthquake struck we were unable to find out how many were still there,” he said. “We assume at least 600 foreigners and Nepalese might be missing in the area.”

Langtang, a region of steep gorges and high mountains on the border with Tibet, was hit by massive landslides after the quake. “It seems that entire hillsides sheared away. There were huge avalanches too, a mix of snow and mud,” said a Kathmandu-based trekking operator with long experience of the region.

Tulsi Prasad Gautam, head of the tourism department in Nepal, described the Langtang valley as “completely wiped away”.

In other parts of the Himalayan country, three people were pulled alive from the rubble of their home on Sunday, eight days after the earthquake, while local media reported that a 101-year-old man was found alive on Saturday.

There was continuing confusion over the climbing season on Everest, the world’s highest peak, with conflicting announcements by government officials. Whatever the eventual administrative decision it appears the spring season, which is the most popular with mountaineers, is unlikely to see any attempts on the 29,000ft mountain.

The route that is laid anew each year through the icefall, one of the most dangerous passages though low down the peak, has been largely destroyed and local Sherpa guides who specialise in preparing a path through the jumble of ice blocks and crevasses are reported to have refused to repair it.

The relief operation has been troubled by bureaucratic bottlenecks, logistic difficulties and rough terrain. Aftershocks are also continuing, though bad weather that had grounded helicopters has cleared.

Nine days after the earthquake, Sushil Koirala, the prime minister of Nepal, has made his first visit outside the capital. The 75-year-old politician travelled to Chautara in Sindhupalchowk district, where at least 3,000 people were killed. “We are doing our best in whatever resources we have,” he said, adding that his home had been damaged.

Western aid officials have expressed frustration at infighting within the Nepalese government, which they say is hampering the relief operation.

The chief district officer of Gorkha, Uddhav Timilsina, said 20,000 tarpaulins had been distributed, though more than twice as many were needed. “Landslides in some places have affected our relief distribution and we haven’t been able to reach some of the affected area because of the road conditions,” he said. “We do have scarcity of food.”

A police spokesman, Kamal Singh Bam, said a shortage of tarpaulins was a serious problem.

US military aircraft and personnel arrived in Nepal on Sunday and were due to begin helping ferry relief supplies to stricken areas outside the capital. The US contingent comprised eight aircraft, including one Huey and two C-130s, and 100-120 personnel, spokeswoman Capt Cassandra Gesecki said.

On Sunday, the government restricted the landing of large cargo aircraft at the congested airport to limit damage to the stressed runway. The UN has said 8 million of Nepal’s 28 million people had been affected by the quake, with at least 2 million needing tents, water, food and medicines over the next three months. A survey found that three-quarters of the buildings in Kathmandu had been destroyed or were unsafe.

Thousands of people remain camped out in the city and its surroundings. Many more remote villages are still to be reached, and aid officials fear further fatalities from infected wounds sustained in the quake and among vulnerable sections of the population such as the elderly and the very young.

Monday 4 May 2015

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Pakistan police: Bus crash death toll climbs to 13

A Pakistani police officer says the death toll from an accident in the southern Sindh province in which a minibus struck a power line and burst into flames has climbed to 13 after five people died at hospitals overnight.

The minibus was carrying a wedding party and had metal dowry furniture strapped to the roof. When the furniture snagged the power line the bus burst into flames and crashed into a tree.

Six women, a man and a child were electrocuted to death.

Police officer Altaf Chandio said another two women and three men died at different hospitals as a result of severe burns.

Chandio says 15 people are still being treated for burns and other injuries at hospitals.

Such incidents are not uncommon in Pakistan, where drivers routinely ignore traffic laws.

Monday 4 May 2015

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At least 21 killed in bus accident in Panna, Madhya Pradesh

At least twenty-one passengers were charred to death and 13 others were injured, one of them critical, when a bus on way to Satna fell off a bridge and caught fire near Pandav Falls, about 10 kms from Panna town on Monday afternoon.

IG (Chhatarpur) Pankaj Shrivastava told The Indian Express that 21 completely charred bodies had been recovered from the private bus that had a capacity to carry 35 passengers. IG Shrivastava said that bursting of the diesel tank was probably the cause of fire.

The bus operated by Anup Travels from Chhatarpur to Satna via Pannaa started at around 12.40 and the mishap occurred about an hour later.

While the condition of 12 survivors was reported to be safe at a government hospital in Panna a 42-year-old passenger had sustained serious burns and was referred to another hospital.

One of the survivors told the district authorities that the bus was being driven at a very high speed when the mishap occurred. Local people however, claimed that the number of passengers was much more than the official figures.

While ordering a magisterial inquiry, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the dead.

Prajapati said the bus' fuel tank might have exploded after it fell down nearly 16 feet from the bridge, causing the fire. The death toll could rise as the rescue operation was still underway, he said.

Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. Chouhan also announced financial help of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 to the seriously injured and the injured victims, respectively.

Monday 4 May 2015

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