Friday, 31 July 2015

Eight persons remain missing one month after Darjeeling landslides

A month after the devastating landslides hit the Darjeeling hills, eight persons still remain missing, with search operations called off a couple of days ago.

On the night of 30 June, heavy rainfall had led to devastating landslides throughout the Darjeeling hills, with major impact seen in Mirik and some areas of Kalimpong sub division with several persons dead and missing.

Search operations were executed jointly by NDRF, SSB, state police disaster management team, and locals, who recovered some of the bodies of the deceased.

According to district administration sources, a total of eight missing persons are yet to be traced in the hills, of who five are from Kalimpong sub division area (1 from 8th Mile and 4 from Kholakham) and three are from Tingling, Mirik, under Kurseong sub division.

The bodies of one Ramesh Rai resident of 7th Mile Kalimpong, recovered from Melli area on 5 July and nine year old Shreha Sharma Suvedi, recovered from Tingling on 6 July were the last of the missing persons found.

A cousin of the Suvedi family, Balkrishna Suvedi said that that on devastating 30 June night, a total of 19 persons lost their lives in the landslides at Limbu Dhura, Tingling, in Mirik out of which 11 were from their family.

The rest were from the Thapa and the Aaley familes.

He added that out of the 19 persons missing, sixteen bodies have been recovered. The bodies of three persons from the Suvedi family, namely Ramlal Suvedi, Kumari Suvedi and Dipraj Suvedi are yet to be found.

He added that on 13 July, they had also performed the last rites of those who had died in the 30 June night landslide excluding the three missing members.

He said that till recently the SSB personnel were seen working in the landslide hit areas to find the missing persons, but for the past couple of days, they too have not been seen conducting search operations.

"As such, we are really worried and in a Dilemma regarding the missing members," he added.

When asked, Darjeeling district magistrate, Anurag Srivastava, he said that for the past couple of days, they have called off the search operation. According to records, 32 people were killed and eight missing persons are yet to be traced out in the hills, he added.

Friday 31 July 2015

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34 still missing in Kullu bus accident

Eight days after the tragic accident in which a bus with 69 people on board plunged into the Parvati River near Sarsari village, search and rescue teams have been unable to locate 34 passengers with only 12 bodies fished out till now. Of these one victim remains unidentified.

Relatives of those still missing have become desperate with many of them wandering near the accident site in hopes, which are swiftly evaporating, of finding their loved ones.

Gurmail Singh, a resident of Mansa district in Punjab, whose 22-year-old son Preet Singh was on the ill fated bus, said the tragedy had left him and his family members shattered. "I'm now a completely broken man and my wife continuously asks me about whether our son has been found," he told this reporter.

After the tragedy Gurmail and his family members arrived at the accident site along with his relatives and have been milling around in the scorching heat every day for any sign of Preet but without success, leaving them completely depressed. Like him there are about other 40 relatives of the missing bus passengers camping in Kullu, hoping against hope the search teams will be able to locate them.

The district administration has deployed 160 diving experts and others including personnel of the National Disaster Response Force, Sashastra Seema Bal (armed border force), Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the police in the search operation. The state government has now sought the assistance of the Indian navy for employing sonar, a technique that uses sound propagation, in the search efforts.

Meanwhile, families of the bus passengers whose bodies have been retrieved have urged the Punjab government to give a compensation of `10 lakh to each of them.

Friday 31 July 2015

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All 23 people aboard crashed Lao helicopter confirmed dead

All 23 people on a Lao military helicopter that crashed earlier this week while traveling to northern Laos have been confirmed dead, military officials and state media said Thursday, though the cause of the accident remains unknown.

Air traffic control in the capital Vientiane lost contact with the MI-17 helicopter—registration number RDPL-34062—at 1:10 p.m. local time on July 27, shortly after it departed Wattay International Airport, heading for Houaphan and Xieng Khuang provinces.

The aircraft was located Wednesday crashed in a remote area of Xaysomboun province’s Longchaeng district, a Lao military official told RFA’s Lao Service, adding that all 19 passengers and four crew members were killed in the accident.

“We have accessed the crash site—all the people on board were killed because the helicopter hit a mountain in eastern Longchaeng district,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The recovery team can now retrieve all the bodies from the crash site.”

An official with Division 703 of the Lao Air Force told RFA that the remains of the dead would be flown to Vientiane for identification and then turned over to relatives for funeral proceedings.

Lao state media cited a Ministry of Defense statement Thursday confirming that all people aboard the helicopter died in the crash.

The ministry said that an investigation is underway into the cause of the crash, but preliminary findings suggest recent heavy rains and extreme weather in the region is likely to blame.

The weather has also hampered recovery efforts by a task force committee assigned to the site, which is reportedly located deep in in the jungle on a slope of Phu Bia Mountain in Longchaeng.

On Wednesday, a senior official from the Ministry of Defense told RFA that at least one of the 19 passengers was a “high-ranking military patient” who had received treatment in Hospital 103 in Vientiane and was returning to Houaphan province.

Hospital 103 is a military hospital operated by the Ministry of Defense which was built to treat soldiers.

A doctor from Hospital 103 told RFA on Wednesday that three other passengers were health professionals from the facility accompanying the patient in the helicopter.

The identities of the other passengers and crew members were not immediately known.

Recent air disasters

Aircraft in impoverished Laos are mostly outdated, and the country has suffered at least two major air disasters within the last two years.

On May 17 last year, a Ukrainian-made Antonov AN-74TK-300 aircraft owned by the Lao military crashed while approaching an airport in Xiengkhuang, killing 17 passengers, including Lao Deputy Prime Minister Douangchay Phichit, Minister of Public Security Thongbanh Sengaphone, and two other high-ranking officials.

The group was en route to attend the 55th anniversary of “strategic gains” made by the Lao military during the Indochina War, according to state media.

The crash, which was attributed to a technical error by the pilot, is the second deadliest air disaster in Lao history, after the crash of Lao Airlines Flight 301 seven months earlier.

On Oct. 16, 2013, Flight 301—an ATR-72 turboprop—plunged into the Mekong River during bad weather as it approached Pakse Airport in southern Laos’s Champasak province, killing all 49 passengers.

Six Australians, seven French, five Thai, three South Koreans, two Vietnamese, as well as passengers from China, Myanmar, Taiwan and the U.S. were killed in the crash, which was also attributed to pilot error.

Friday 31 July 2015

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