Thursday, 4 June 2015

Malaysian team enters Thailand to find more human smuggling mass graves

Malaysian police and forensic experts have entered Thailand to find out at least 91 more human smuggling graves believed to be located at a reserve forest near the shared border.

The route via Ban Talok in Thailand will only take about an hour because the path is not as steep as the Wang Kelian route, where another transit camp had been discovered earlier, reports Malaysian news network Astro Awani.

Six land rovers and pick-up trucks were seen leaving the Padang Besar police station at about 9am. The vehicles are believed to be part of the logistics team which will be bringing the equipments to dig the graves.

Malaysian police had earlier said that Thai authorities have granted them five days to enter the camp and bring out the bodies through Thailand’s Banh.

Thailand police in early May had found secret human-trafficking camps on their side of the border and dozens of shallow graves. They launched a crackdown on human-smuggling following the discovery of the mass graves.

Meanwhile, 35 human skeletons found in the Bukit Burma jungle in Wang Kelian and believed to be victims of the human trafficking syndicates have been taken to a hospital for pathological processes.

To date, 139 graves at 28 temporary camps of the human trafficking syndicates were found between Kampung Wai in Kuala Perlis and Tangga 100 at Felcra Lubuk Sireh in Padang Besar.

Thursday 4 June 2015

continue reading

Flash floods kill 13 in southwestern Pakistan

Br> A government official says flash floods triggered by heavy rains have killed at least 13 people in a remote village in southwestern Pakistan.

Deputy District Commissioner Wahid Shah said Thursday that rescuers were still looking for seven people who went missing following the overnight flooding in Khuzdar district in the Baluchistan province.

Shah says the floods damaged or destroyed several homes built near the embankment of a stream. Khuzdar lies 400 kilometers (240 miles) south of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.

Flash floods are common during South Asia's summer monsoon season. But pre-monsoon rains have also caused a lot of damage.

Thursday 4 June 2015

continue reading

Langtang locals returning home to recover their dead

After more than a month of sheltering at Yellow Gomba monastery at Swayambhu in the capital, the locals of Langtang VDC have begun to return to their villages in Rasuwa district in hopes of recovering the bodies of dead relatives and learning about the condition of their settlement.

The catastrophic 7.8 magnitude earthquake of April 25 triggered massive a avalanche in Langtang, which caused great loss of life and property. They locals were forced to relocate due to reoccurring avalanches.

With the earthquake aftershocks now slowly receding, they are heading back to Langtang in hopes of at least recovering the bodies of relatives who perished, if not finding them still alive.

"We've decided to go back as the government has been deaf to our requests to excavate the sites where our families remain buried, even a month after the incident," said Phinjo Tamang of Thangshap, Langtang-7.

Tamang lost his younger brother and mother in the avalanche. Like him, many locals remain unable to perform the final rites of their deceased as the bodies remain unrecovered.

Although the district administration office has prohibited entry to the incident site citing the hazards, 40 local quake victims are heading from Kathmandu to reach the site within two days. As many as 488 displaced locals from Langtang have been sheltering at the Yellow Gomba.

"Of late, the bodies of the deceased can be spotted as the snow has started melting," added Tamang.

Dawa Tsering Tamang of Langtang-5, who lost both his parents, said he is returning home in hopes of recovering their bodies. "Had the Nepal Army not rescued us on time, we too would have been buried. But we are returning as we've heard that tthe snows are melting," he added.

After losing his father, mother, brother and sister, Singey Tamang of Langtang-5 has hardly had any good sleep. He said another reason the locals are returning is that the climate in Kathmandu does not suit them. They are more used to colder climatic conditions.

Another local, Prenurba Tamang, also said that they found it very difficult to adjust to the climate in Kathmandu. Tamang, who lost six members of his family, said, "Mosquitoes don't let us sleep at night. Besides going back to recover our dead, we'd prefer the colder climate there despite the avalanche risks," he added.

"Although the government has categorized our family as 'missing' rather than 'dead', the hopes of finding them alive are very slim. We are returning to at least recover the bodies," said Singey Tamang.

They plan to start recovery operations as soon as they reach back there. They also said they will find safer places to settle in as the government failed to help them relocate properly.

As many as 210 people; including 70 locals, 40 tourists, their guides and porters, have been categorized as 'missing' from Langtang.

According to Gautam Rimal, assistant chief district officer of Langtang, 128 bodies have been excavated from the VDC so far, among which 14 are those of foreign nationals.

Thursday 4 June 2015

continue reading

China boat sinking: 10 more bodies recovered, death toll now 75

A local official says 10 more bodies have been recovered from the overturned ship, bringing the death toll to 75 with more than 360 still unaccounted for.

Jianli county chief Huang Zhen released the figure in an update to reporters on the recovery efforts Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, The Communist Party's Poliburo Standing Committee, the country's highest power, convened a meeting and issued a directive for officials to step up efforts to control public opinion about the disaster response.

It ordered them to both "understand the sorrow of the families" and "concretely preserve social stability."

Some relatives have demanded help from officials in Nanjing and Shanghai to travel to the site in unruly scenes that have drawn a heavy police response.

Bodies are being brought to the Jianli's Rongcheng Crematorium, where at least two relatives of passengers are trying to identify loved ones.

One of them, a woman from the northeastern city of Tianjin who identified herself only by her surname, Zhang, says her mother was aboard the ship. She says authorities told her viewings would not be arranged until later.

"Mom was a wonderful person. She didn't deserve to die like this," Zhang says.

The death toll in the Yangtze River disaster reached 65 on Thursday. More than 370 people remain missing and are feared dead, and 14 have been rescued.

Rescuers have now cut holes into the overturned hull of the cruise ship in three places — near the bow, middle and stern — to search for additional survivors, but have found none so far.

After checking each location, the workers are welding the removed sections of the hull back on and sealing them to maintain the ship's buoyancy and balance.

At the same time, divers are working in three shifts underwater to search the ship's cabins one by one.

The weather has been rainy since last night, but is tapering off as the day goes on.

Earlier Thursday, dressed in white scrubs, dozens of medical workers were standing next to rescuers as they pulled out more bodies from the ship. On the nearby shore of the Yangtze River, relatives of some of the hundreds of victims still unaccounted for cried after being barred entry to the mortuary to seek information about their loved ones.

Access to the site remains blocked by police and paramilitary troops stationed along the Yangtze embankment, and the only information coming out is from the state-run media.

Angry relatives staged a protest near the site and broke through police cordons to demand information.

The Chinese government said rescuers would "take all possible measures" to save the injured and promised a "serious investigation", according to state news agency Xinhua.

"We will never shield mistakes and we'll absolutely not cover up anything," Xu Chengguang, a spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, told a news conference.

But the area around the ship was being tightly controlled, with police checkpoints blocking journalists' access to the river and to local hospitals.

And China's Central Propaganda Department instructed editors not to send reporters to the river and only to use state news agency information.

Large numbers of refrigerated coffins were seen being delivered to a local funeral parlour in Jianli, Hubei province, as authorities braced for hundreds more corpses.

The majority of the victims are believed to be elderly.

Scores of relatives of the passengers have travelled to Jianli to be near the wreck, many from Nanjing where the cruise began in late May.

The families have raised questions about the disaster, including how the ship could have sunk so quickly and why the alarm was apparently slow to be raised.

On Wednesday night, several dozen people pushed through police lines set up to control access to the site and marched towards the river. Officials have now promised to take them to the rescue site on Thursday.

Another group of relatives staged a protest in Shanghai, where the tour company most passengers had booked through, Xiehe Travel, is based. Ji Guoxin, whose parents were still missing, said Xiehe Travel had just given them a hotline number and told them to make their own way to Jianli.

Another protester told reporters: "We want somebody from the local government to receive us and tell all family members what we should do."

The relatives are furious that no-one is providing detailed information about the rescue efforts. Hundreds of relatives are holed up in a nearby hotel lobby, watching the same state television reports for information, furious that no-one is providing them with detailed updates on the rescue efforts.

continue reading

Ghana petrol station inferno kills 90 in Accra

More than 90 people have died in a fire at a petrol station in Ghana's capital, Accra, the fire service says.

A GOIL fuel filling station located near the GCB bank towers at Circle in Accra was exploded after it caught fire unexpectedly, destroying several houses and shops including a drugstore and a forex bureau.

Several vehicles parked at the fuel station and commuters who were taking shelter during the rainstorm at the filling station and bus stop all perished in the explosion.

the fire occurred around 10pm.

It is unclear what could have started the fire but Agya Kwabena, Peace FM's Senior Reporter, who was at the scene, quotes eyewitnesses as saying the fire trapped many who had sought refuge from the torrential rains that had cut off several communities from major roads.

According to him, the police, military and NADMO officers are still on a rescue mission, as the nation still counts the cost.

The fire started as people in the city are trying to cope with two days of heavy rain, which has left many homeless and without power.

The flooding hampered the rescue efforts, the BBC's Sammy Darko reports from Accra.

There are fears that the death toll could rise as the search for bodies continues.

Emergency workers, soldiers and police were recovering bodies from the scene, with graphic footage on national television showing corpses being piled onto the back of a truck, with charred bodies trapped in the wreckage.

Billy Anaglate, a spokesman for Ghana Fire Service, said: "We are still trying to salvage the site of the accident before we can come out with an accurate figure."

A police officer said the fire service alone had retrieved 73 bodies, while Red Cross disaster management coordinator Francis Obeng put the death toll at "more than 70".

Local hospitals said morgues were full, with the death toll likely to rise, according to security officials.

It is thought that people were in the petrol station sheltering from the downpours when the fire broke out, our correspondent says.

President John Mahama has visited the burnt-out petrol station and appealed for calm as the authorities try to cope with the aftermath of the fire and the flooding.

He praised the rescue workers for their work and the lives that they did manage to save but said he was lost for words to express his feelings for those who died.

Two days of heavy rain has brought much of the city to its knees.

There are chaotic scenes with cars being carried away by the water and many roads blocked off.

Hundreds have been trapped in their offices and some have been forced to spend the night in their cars as traffic came to a standstill.

Parts of Accra have been left without power as electricity sub-stations have been damaged in the flooding, which is making the ongoing energy shortages even worse.

Many homes have been inundated and people have been wandering around in their nightclothes after being forced to leave their beds.

One man told a local radio station that he had put his children on top of a wardrobe to save them from the water coming into his house.

President Mahama said that "people building in waterways [and] littering the drains" had contributed to the flooding in the city. Weather forecasters are saying that more rain is on its way.

Thursday 4 June 2015

continue reading

Valenzuela fire: 63 bodies identified

Sixty-three of the 72 victims of the fire that hit Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in Valenzuela City last month have been identified, forensic investigators said on Thursday, June 4.

Sixty of the bodies were identified through DNA testing conducted by members of the Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operations (PNP SOCO) team, while 3 were identified upon retrieval from the fire-hit footwear factory on May 13.

Of the recovered bodies, 26 were male, while 37 were female, according to PNP crime laboratory deputy director for operations Emmanuel Arañas.

Arañas said it would not be possible to recover DNA samples from one of the 9 remaining unidentified bodies because it had been too burned. The SOCO team will continue working to identify the last 8 bodies, he added.

The PNP earlier said it would take two months to identify the bodies because most had been burnt beyond recognition.

But the process of matching DNA samples recovered from the bodies with the samples obtained from the relatives of the victims was completed in 15 days – "one of the fastest in Philippine history," Arañas said.

“The standards we got immediately matched so the process was fast,” he added.

The PNP official attributed the speed of the DNA identification process to their upgraded equipment, 24/7 workforce, and the support of the city government.

Aside from DNA testing, forensics investigators also sought the help of the victims' families, asking them to identify the personal belongings of their loved ones.

On Thursday, the PNP met with the families of the identified victims to issue death certificates.

The families may opt to exhume the bodies currently interred at the Arkong Bato Cemetery for burial in their hometowns. They may also opt to have the remains cremated.

On May 13, a fire sparked by a welding activity tore through Kentex Manufacturing Corporation, killing 72 workers. Most were trapped on the second floor of the building, unable to escape due to the steel bars on the windows.

The incident has prompted calls to review labor violations and the Fire Code of the Philippines, after it was revealed that Kentex was able to operate despite the lack of a fire safety inspection certificate (FSIC).

The Valenzuela city government has ordered the closure of all businesses without FSICs.

Thursday 4 June 2015

continue reading