Friday, 29 December 2017

New York apartment fire: at least 12 people killed in Bronx

At least 12 people, including a child, have died in a blaze at a Bronx apartment building on a frigid night, New York City’s mayor has said.

Calling it an “unspeakable tragedy”, Bill de Blasio said one of the victims was an infant and four other people were critically injured. Visiting the scene, the mayor said: “This will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years.”

He praised firefighters for saving 12 people from the blaze, which is now under control after breaking out just before 7pm at a five-storey building a block from the Bronx Zoo.

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro called the fire, “historic in its magnitude”, because of the number of lives lost. “Our hearts go out to every person who lost a loved one here and everyone who is fighting for their lives,” he said.

Nigro said the fire started on the first floor and quickly spread upstairs. People died on multiple floors, and ranged in age from one to over 50.

More than 160 firefighters worked in bone-chilling cold, just 15 degrees, to rescue people from the building as the fire quickly spread. A nearby school has been set up to shelter evacuees on a bitterly cold night. Water sprayed from hoses froze into ice on the street.

Witnesses recounted their ordeal. Fifty-nine-year-old Thierno Diallo said he was asleep in his ground-floor apartment when he heard banging on the door. He said he heard people screaming, “There’s a fire in the building!”, prompting him to run out in his bathrobe, jacket and sandals.

Ana Santiago, who lives in an adjoining building, told the New York Times she fled when she smelled the smoke and saw young girls who had escaped the fire standing on the fire escape in bare feet with no coats.

Neighborhood resident Robert Gonzalez, who has a friend who lives in the building, said she got out on a fire escape as another resident fled with five children. “When I got here, she was crying,” Gonzalez said.

Windows on some upper floors were smashed and blackened. “The smoke was crazy, people screaming, ‘Get out!,” a witness, Jamal Flicker, told the New York Post. “I heard a woman yelling, ‘We’re trapped, help!”

According to city records, the building had no elevator. Fire escapes were visible on the facade of the building.

One of New York’s deadliest fires in recent memory happened elsewhere in the Bronx in 2007. Nine children and one adult died in a blaze sparked by a space heater.

Friday 29 December 2017

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Huge fire at Mumbai restaurant kills at least 14

At least 14 people were killed when a huge blaze tore through a popular restaurant in Mumbai early on Friday, police said, in the latest disaster to raise concerns over fire safety in India.

Many of the victims were young women who were attending a birthday party on the rooftop when the fire broke out. Doctors said they died of asphyxiation, apparently as they tried to flee the burning building.

Local media reported that a false ceiling had collapsed in the four-storey building in the Indian financial capital, trapping people inside as they tried to escape.

The fire was extinguished in the early hours but an AFP reporter at the scene said the rooftop where the party was taking place had been gutted, with charred ice buckets and ashtrays strewn around.

“Fourteen people have succumbed to their injuries and remaining victims have been discharged from the KEM hospital. Most of the deaths were due to asphyxiation,” Avinash Supe, dean of local KEM hospital told AFP.

Police said they were investigating the cause of the fire, and had filed a preliminary case against the restaurant’s owners.

Eleven of the victims were female partygoers, according to authorities.

One woman who said she was in the building at the time told of the desperate scenes as people tried to escape.

“There was a stampede and someone pushed me,” Sulbha Arora said on Twitter.

“People were running over me even as the ceiling above me was collapsing in flames. Still don’t know how I got out alive. Some powers were definitely protecting me.”

Television footage of the latest disaster showed fire engines and emergency teams rushing to the scene as the building was being consumed by flames and dark plumes of smoke rose into the night sky.

Firefighter Sanjay Hiwarle told reporters the blaze was brought under control during the night and a “cooling operation” was under way.

The restaurant was in the city’s Kamala Mills compound, which also houses hotels and offices.

Friday 29 December 2017

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Tanzania: Boat Disaster Toll Rises to 19 After Recovery of Six Bodies

Six more bodies of passengers who drowned in Lake Tanganyika after two boats collided in Uvinza District early on Friday were recovered yesterday.

The recovery took to 19 the number of people confirmed dead in the accident, according to the Principal Officer of the Surface and Marine Transport and Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) in Kigoma Region, Mr Amaniel Sekulu.

The boats - MV Atakalo Mola, which was carrying 65 passengers, and MV Pasaka, which had 137 passengers on board - collided, with MV Pasaka capsizing at around 3am on Friday.

Many of the passengers on board MV Pasaka were worshipers from the Pentecostal Church of God (PCG), who were heading to join neighbouring church congregations for Christmas celebrations.

Authorities said 22 passengers were feared to have drowned after the accident.

Mr Sekulu said a recovery operation was still going on.

"There are passengers who are still missing, and that is why the recovery operation is still going on. If nobody else is found alive, then we at least have to find the bodies of the missing passengers," he said.

The operation involved divers from the Police Marine Unit, Tanzania People's Defence Force and local fishing villages. Most of the passengers who drowned in the tragedy were choir members from the PCG church in Kalilani Village.

A choir member with the Tanzania Assemblies of God (TAG) in Lubengela Village, Mr Kitendo Abasi, told The Citizen on Friday that 30 PCG members were on the boat when the accident occurred.

"Many of the church members boarded the boat on the journey to the villages of Buhingu, Igalula, Mgambazi and Sigunga," he noted.

Mr Abasi added that he had escorted the church members to board the boat.

The accident occurred shortly before the boat was about to dock at Lubengela Village to pick up more church members.

Friday 29 December 2017

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Saturday, 23 December 2017

In past three years, nearly 8,500 unidentified bodies found in Delhi

In past three years, the national Capital have seen more than 8,000 unidentified dead bodies in the different areas. Police claimed that they did everything to identify the bodies and also tried to search the family members of the deceased.

The police data accessed by Millennium Post stated that in last three years (2015 to 2017), 8,486 dead bodies were recovered from different parts of national Capital. The year 2015 witnessed 3,063 dead bodies whereas in the year 2016 more than three thousand dead bodies were recovered.

The current year saw 2,415 dead bodies till November.

The dead bodies were recovered from railway tracks, street, parks, and many other places. The investigation has been a tough ask for the police. In some cases, the police team had to check CCTV footages of the spot where the body was found in real time to know from where the person came.

''In some cases more than two police personnel continuously checked the footage's for several hours in real time if one takes break another came to the seat like that it happened," said a senior police official.

In September a man committed suicide from a building in GTB Nagar area a suicide note was recovered from the possession. Handwriting and the grammar usage in the suicide note were checked.

Police sources claimed that dialect used in the suicide note indicates that the man can be either from Uttar Pradesh or from Bihar. The bodies which are been found in railway track police contact other states in order to check whether any person went missing from there.

In Zonal Integrated Police Network (zip police put the information on the dead bodies and also advertisement is also given in the newspaper to identify the bodies.

After the effort police were able to identify the dead bodies and contact their parents. If the bodies are not identified last rites been done by police and now NGOs are also coming forward for conducting the last rites.

In some cases, police have the unidentified body through tattoo in the body and in some cases the type of clothes what the deceased is wearing help them in the identification of age and also some clues about the person.

Saturday 23 December 2017

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Japan is struggling to deal with the remains of dead North Korean sailors who keep washing up in 'ghost ships'

Nearly 90 boats, suspected to have come from North Korea, have gone adrift this year and Japan is struggling with what to do with the bodies of those found on board.

The so called "ghost ships" are thought to be North Korean fishing boats and have been drifting ashore in Japan for years. This year, 89 boats washed ashore and, since 2013, 345 mysterious boats have found their way to Japan.

And while Japanese officials are not willing to confirm how many bodies have been discovered on the boats — because of unspecified "diplomatic repercussions" — there would easily be dozens of retrieved bodies that need to go somewhere.

In the past, boats have been dismantled and bodies cremated before being sent to shrines, but these processes bear significant costs.

The Japan Times reported this week that the local government in Oga, hopes to eventually be able to return the cremains of eight bodies it cremated to their families. The government kept fingernails and toenails from each of the bodies, that were all found on adrift boats since November, so as to be able to identify each of them by DNA in the future.

The bodies are being kept indefinitely in eight plain white boxes on a table at the back of a Zen temple, according to The New York Times. If they are never claimed they will eventually be buried in a "grave for unknown souls."

Japan Times reported North Korea has lodged a request for several of the cremains in Oga.

Another government in Tsuruoka, south of Oga, has cremated five bodies found on its beaches in December. Cremains from two of those bodies have also been kept alongside badges of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung that were on the bodies when they were discovered.

Like many countries, Japan does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. What they do have is a contentious history. North Korea previously admitted to kidnapping Japanese nationals from beachside towns decades ago, and many of North Korea's recent missile tests have landed in the Sea of Japan.

Earlier this year, South Korea's newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported many of the fishermen's remains who arrive in Japan on ghost ships are not returned to North Korea because North Korea won't pay for their repatriation.

Japan charges two to three million yen ($17,000 to $26,000) to cover the costs of destroying the boats and cremating bodies.

While the two countries don't officially communicate, they both have local Red Cross organizations that have coordinated discussions on several occassions.

An official told Japan Times "all we can do is wait for contact from the Japanese Red Cross or others" because of the lack of diplomatic channels.

The North Korean Red Cross has requested the return of some fishermen in the past (Japanese officials reportedly don't actually expect North Korea to pay the fees), and the Japanese Red Cross Society passed on a request from North Korea to return the cremains of the eight bodies in Oga on December 6.

It is not clear if the ashes have yet been sent back to North Korea. If they haven't, they will still be under the care of temple priest Ryosen Kojima.

"They are humans just like us," Kojima told The Times. "But they have no one to look after their ashes."

Saturday 23 December 2017

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32 killed as bus falls into river in western India

At least 32 people were killed on Saturday after a passenger bus veered off a bridge and plunged into a river in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, police said.

Another 10 passengers were injured in the crash in the Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan state, 375 kilometers (235 miles) south of New Delhi, said government official K.L. Katara.

The speeding bus was trying to overtake another vehicle when it rammed through the bridge railing, said B.L. Soni, a top police officer.

Police are investigating what caused the driver to lose control of the bus. It wasn't clear if the driver survived, or how many people were aboard the bus.

Rescuers have so far recovered 32 bodies from the river.

The bus was on its way to Lalsot, a town in Rajasthan, after picking up passengers from the Sawai Madhopur railroad station when it crashed around 6 a.m., said police officer Narain Singh.

Driver fatigue, negligence, poor quality roads and vehicle maintenance are the usual causes of such accidents in India. Police figures show India has the world's highest road accident death toll, with more than 110,000 people dying each year in crashes.

Saturday 23 December 2017

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Nearly 90 feared dead, dozens missing in Philippine mudslide

Nearly 90 people are feared to have been killed and dozens are missing after a tropical storm hit the southern Philippines triggering mudslides and flooding, police and disaster officials said on Saturday.

The casualties were all on the main southern island of Mindanao, they said.

Emergency workers and soldiers rushed to the remote village in the Lanao del Norte province.

"We have no contact with village officials because power and communications lines were down due to a tropical storm," said Roy Secuya, a local official.

The area had been hit by Tropical storm Tembin.

"The river rose and most of the homes were swept away. The village is no longer there," Tubod police officer Gerry Parami told AFP by telephone.

Police, soldiers and volunteers used shovels to dig through mud and debris in a bid to recover bodies in Dalama, a farming village of about 2,000 people near Tubod, Parami added

Boulders brought down by flash floods also buried around 40 houses in the town of Piagapo, killing at least 10 people, civil defence officer Saripada Pacasum told AFP.

"We've sent rescuers but they're making little progress due to the rocks," he said.

The Philippines is pummelled by 20 major storms each year on average, many of them deadly. But Mindanao, home to 20 million people, is rarely hit by these cyclones.

Eight other people were killed by floods elsewhere on Lanao del Sur province, Pacasum said.

Police said three people each died from landslides in the provinces of Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay, while one fatality was also reported in Iligan city.

Four people were listed as missing after being buried in landslides or being swept away by floodwaters, while more than 12,000 have fled their homes, they added.

After slicing across Mindanao on Friday, Tembin sped west over the Sulu Sea with gusts of 95 kilometres an hour.

It was forecast to smash into the tip of the western island of Palawan late Saturday, the state weather service said.

Tembin struck less than a week after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak devastated the central Philippines, leaving 54 dead and 24 missing.

The deadliest typhoon to hit the country was Haiyan, which left 7,350 people dead and destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines in November 2013.

Saturday 23 December 2017

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Thursday, 31 August 2017

South Asia floods: Mumbai building collapses as monsoon rains wreak havoc

At least 21 people are dead and more than a dozen others trapped after monsoon downpours caused a building to collapse in Mumbai.

The four-storey residential building gave way on Thursday morning in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar, after roads were turned into rivers in India’s financial capital. The city has been struggling to cope with some of the heaviest rainfall in more than 15 years.

Rescue workers, police and residents helped pull 13 people out of the rubble and were looking for those buried beneath. Authorities have advised people living in an adjacent building to evacuate after it developed cracks following the collapse.

The death toll could have been much worse, officials said, because the building, which houses a nursery school, collapsed half an hour before children were due to arrive at 9am.

Thousands more buildings that are more than 100 years old are at risk of collapse due in part to foundations being weakened by flood waters.

Across the region more than 1,200 people are feared to have died and 40 million are estimated to have been affected by flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Vast swaths of land are underwater in the eastern part of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where more than 100 people have reportedly died, 3,097 villages are submerged and almost 3 million villagers have been affected by flooding, according to officials. Army personnel have joined rescuers to evacuate people from the area.

The storm reached Pakistan on Thursday, lashing the port city of Karachi, where at least 14 people have died, and streets have been submerged by water. The country’s meteorological department forecast that the rains would continue for three days in various parts of Sindh province, where authorities closed schools as a precaution.

Up to 97mm (3.8in) of rain has been recorded in some areas of Karachi, filling the streets with muddy water, sewage and rubbish.

Among the dead was an eight-year-old boy who was crushed when a building belonging to the Federal Investigation Agency collapsed. Most of the dead were electrocuted, leading the city’s energy provider, K-Electric, to cut power to certain areas.

“Some feeders have been switched off in view of safety concerns in areas with waterlogging, and restoration work will be expedited in affected areas as soon as standing water is wiped out,” Sadia Dada, the director of marketing and communication for K-Electric, told Dawn newspaper.

About 6,000 villagers are threatened with flooding after the rains breached the Thado dam on the Malir river. The army has been called in to help with evacuation, and has also provided Karachi’s city administration with water extraction pumps.

Windstorms and rain are also expected in the Balochistan and Punjab provinces. The meteorological department said rains were also expected in the capital, Islamabad, and in Pakistan’s portion of Kashmir.

One third of Bangladesh was believed to be underwater and the UN described the situation in Nepal, where 150 people have died, as the worst flooding in a decade.

The floods have also destroyed or damaged 18,000 schools in the south Asia region, meaning that about 1.8 million children cannot go to classes, Save the Children said on Thursday.

The charity said hundreds of thousands of children could fall permanently out of the school system if education was not prioritised in relief efforts.

“We haven’t seen flooding on this scale in years and it’s putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk. From our experience, the importance of education is often undervalued in humanitarian crises and we simply cannot let this happen again. We cannot go backwards,” said Rafay Hussain, Save the Children’s general manager in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

“We know that the longer children are out of school following a disaster like this the less likely it is that they’ll ever return. That’s why it’s so important that education is properly funded in this response, to get children back to the classroom as soon as it’s safe to do so and to safeguard their futures.”

Floods have caused devastation in many parts of India. Unprecedented rainfall in Assam in the north-east has killed more than 150 people. About 600 villages are still underwater even though the torrential rain began earlier this month.

Rhinos in Assam’s Kaziranga nature reserve had to flee to higher ground. “We get flooding every year but I have never seen anything quite like this in my life,” Ashok Baruah, a farmer, told journalists.

In Bihar, the death toll has reached 514, with people still living in makeshift huts days after the flooding started. However, the flood waters, which turned fields into lakes, appear to be receding.

In Mumbai, the rain forced nurses and doctors at the busiest hospital in the city to wade through wards knee-high in filthy water to move patients to the first floor. Outside the King Edward memorial hospital, a man going to visit his wife who was due to have a caesarean had to wade through flooded streets to reach her. Children swam or paddled down the streets lying on planks of wood.

Flood victims in the city included a doctor who fell down a manhole and another who died after being trapped in his car while waiting for the water to recede. Others living in the low-lying areas most affected by the flooding were swept away into the sea or died when walls collapsed.

As train services ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded, unable to go home.

TV commentators voiced the anger of those caught in the chaos. The TV personality Suhel Seth lashed out at the “scoundrels, rogues, villains, rascals, incompetents and useless fools” in the municipal authority for not being better prepared for the annual monsoon flooding.

The deluge brought back memories of the 2005 floods that killed more than 500 people in the city.

“Why does nothing change? Why are we left to fend for ourselves when they had weather forecasts warning them of extremely heavy rainfall?” asked the author and columnist Shobhaa De.

31 August 2017

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

At Least 950 Killed In South Asia’s Annual Monsoon Floods

Devastating floods triggered by seasonal monsoon rains have killed more than 950 people and affected close to 40 million across northern India, southern Nepal and northern Bangladesh, officials said.

The rains have led to wide-scale flooding in a broad arc stretching across the Himalayan foothills in the three countries, causing landslides, damaging roads and electric towers and washing away tens of thousands of homes and crops.

Bangladesh, the death toll climbed to 132 while some 7.5 million people have been affected in this year’s floods, according to the Disaster Management Ministry.

Crops on more than 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of land have been washed away while another 600,000 hectares (1,482,600 acres) have been damaged, posing a serious threat to food production, the ministry said.

The U.N. World Food Program said that Bangladesh was at risk of “devastating hunger” after major floods that destroyed crops, homes and livelihoods of people across many impoverished areas in a delta nation of 160 million people.

“Many flood survivors have lost everything: their homes, their possessions, their crops,” Christa Rader, WFP’s Bangladesh country director, said in a statement. “People need food right now, and the full impact on longer-term food security threatens to be devastating.”

In neighboring, the northern Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam in the remote northeast are the worst hit, accounting for 680 deaths, most of them from drowning, snake bites or landslides.

South Asia’s monsoon rains run from June to September.

Disaster management authorities in Bihar said the state’s death toll of 367 could go up further as floodwaters recede and bodies are recovered from submerged houses.

Army soldiers and volunteers have evacuated around 770,000 people from inundated areas. Of these, some 425,000 were living in 1,360 relief camps set up in school and government buildings, said Avinash Kumar, a Bihar state official.

In neighboring Uttar Pradesh, the state government said around 2.3 million people in 25 districts have been affected by the floods when at least three major rivers overflowed their banks, entering fields and homes.

An Uttar Pradesh government spokesman blamed the unprecedented flooding on the release of water from dams in upstream Nepal.

“Rains have been intense but the release of water from Nepal has aggravated the situation,” said Manish Sharma.

Army troops have been helping to evacuate people marooned on rooftops or trees, while air force helicopters dropped packets of food, drinking water and medicines to those camping on higher ground, mostly along highways.

Meanwhile, the state administration was bracing for the threat of infections as floodwaters recede. Health workers have begun sending supplies of mosquito repellent, bleaching powder and water purification tablets to the worst-hit areas, said health official Badri Vishal.

In the eastern state of West Bengal, the top elected official, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, said 152 people had died and 15 million had been affected by floods in the past few weeks.

Another 71 people were killed in Assam as rivers breached their banks and entered low-lying villages. At the renowned Kaziranga National Park, officials said around 300 animals, including around two dozen rhinos and a Royal Bengal tiger, have been killed after floodwaters submerged nearly 80 percent of the wildlife park.

Nepal’s Home Ministry spokesman Ram Krishna Subedi said floodwaters were receding and rivers were returning to normal.

The death toll from the floods in Nepal stood at 146, with about 30 missing.

27 August 2017

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Meet Prakash, man who conducts last rites of unclaimed bodies with respect

The long and short story when a person dies is that he or she is given a proper last rite. But imagine the grief of the family which could not find or identify the bodies of the beloved ones who had died.

Their dilemma is while unable to accept the on the loss, they have an added emotional stress on whether the last rite must have taken place — according to their traditional practices or not — in the event that the body is disposed of as unidentified.

Enter 64-year-old legal consultant Prakash Gidwani — the man who collects unclaimed bodies and ensures that they get a decent funeral irrespective of the religion the dead person might have followed.

Gidwani, a member of the disaster managment cell of BMC, collects the unclaimed bodies from various hospitals in Mumbai.

He has been doing this yeoman service for since the last 34 years. Gidwani said he has performed funerals of over 1,000 bodies so far.

With the help of his associates, Gidwani also pulls out bodies — mostly decomposed — found near the sea shore and informs the local police station as well as the fire brigade.

“I have been doing this social work since 1980. We recover bodies that generally get washed away in sea. Most of such bodies are highly decomposed. After following certain legal procedures, like registration of accidental death case at the police station concerned, we wait till establishment of his/her identity. The unclaimed bodies are generally kept at mortuaries for 15 days. Meantime, we try to find out if any missing complaint has been registered in any police station. Eventually, when we don’t get any lead to establish its identity we conduct its funeral with due respect,” said Gidwani.

He said the BMC provides only 300 kg bundle of firewood for funeral of a body. Gidwani has though some disillusionment in his work. He said mortuary vans overcharged while ferrying decomposed bodies to hospital.

“They demand Rs. 12,000 to take a decomposed body found near the sea shore because of its stench. So we have arranged one vehicle for the purpose,” he said.

Further, the duty officer of a police station gets Rs. 1,500 to conduct the final rites of an unclaimed body. But the procedure to get Rs. 1,500 reimbursed is so lengthy that most of the officers contact Gidwani to shrug off their responsibilities.

Nonetheless, Versova-resident Gidwani feels peace and blissful in cremating the unclaimed bodies with dignity.

“In this fast pace world where modernisation is at the centre, most families have become nuclear and senior citizen parents feel neglected. Such parents leave home in distress either to commit suicide or search shelter in old-age homes. We too take care of such parents by providing them better medical assistance before reuniting them with their children,” Gidwani said.

Gidwani further said to show respect to victims of the 26/11 Mumbai blast, he provided shrouds (kafan) to wrap the bodies before their funeral.

27 August 2017

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Friday, 25 August 2017

Two Deadly Boat Accidents Leave 39 Dead in Brazil

Two boat accidents in less than a week in the North-Northeastern region of Brazil left more than 39 people dead and dozens of missing, according to Brazilian authorities. Officials say they will continue to search for victims in both accidents, one in Para state and another in Bahia.

Rescue workers continue to look for five people who are believed to have been on the boat which sank in the Xingu River in the Amazon region of Para state on Tuesday. Officials say they recovered another eleven bodies on Thursday, making the total number of dead 21.

The ship ran into trouble in a region known as Ponte Grande do Xingu. The vessel left the city of Santarém for Vitoria do Xingu with over fifty people on board. According to officials the ship’s captain did not have authorization to carry passengers in his vessel.

According to survivors a waterspout appeared out of nowhere tipping the boat to one side, “The boat started to crack and everyone went to the bottom,” survivor Bruno Costa, 29, told G1 news. According to Costa, a tarp placed on the boat to protect the passengers from the rain made it more difficult for more people to jump from the boat when it began to sink.

“The tarp prevented many people from leaving. I managed to rescue a two-year-old child, but I did not have a life vest, and neither did the child,” concluded Costa.

The second accident occurred in the busy Todos os Santos Bay, in Bahia’s capital Salvador on Thursday morning, with eighteen confirmed deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

The boat was carrying more than 100 passengers when it ran into trouble trying to cross from Mar Grande, in the tourist enclave of Itaparica island, to Salvador.

Brazil’s President, Michel Temer, issued a statement on Thursday mourning the deaths and making available the resources of the federal government “in the search and support for survivors” as well as in determining the causes and culprits of both accidents.

“Measures to determine the causes of accidents and punish those responsible are being taken at all three levels of government, said the note released by the President’s Communication Secretariat.

25 August 2017

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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

US says some remains of sailors found on USS John McCain after collision

Navy divers searching a flooded compartment of the USS John S. McCain found remains of some of the 10 sailors missing in a collision between the warship and an oil tanker, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander said Tuesday as he promised a full investigation.

Adm. Scott Swift also said at a news conference in Singapore, where the McCain is now docked, that Malaysian officials had found one body, but it had yet to be identified and it was unknown whether it was a crew member.

The collision before dawn on Monday near Singapore tore a gaping hole in the McCain’s left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. Five sailors were injured.

“The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today,” Swift said, adding that it was “premature to say how many and what the status of recovery of those bodies is.”

“We will continue the search and rescue operations until the probability of discovering sailors is exhausted,” Swift said.

He would not say where in the destroyer the bodies were found.

It was the second major collision in two months involving the Pacific-based 7th Fleet, and the Navy has ordered a broad investigation into its performance and readiness. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan. There were two lesser-known incidents in the first half of the year. In January, the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser ran aground near Yokosuka base, the home port of the 7th Fleet, and in May another cruiser, the USS Lake Champlain from the Navy’s 3rd Fleet, had a minor collision with a South Korean fishing boat.

“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said.

He said the Navy would conduct an investigation “to find out if there is a common cause ... and if so, how do we solve that.”

He said he had heard some reports speculating that the Navy could have been a victim of a cyberattack. “We’ve seen no indications of that as yet, but ... we are not taking any consideration off the table,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, the 7th Fleet said the sea search by aircraft and ships from the U.S., Singapore and Malaysian navies would continue east of Singapore where the McCain and the tanker collided.

Megan Partlow of Ohio, who said her fiance was on board the McCain, told The Associated Press in a Facebook message that they last communicated on Sunday and she was losing hope of seeing him again.

“My last text to him was ‘be safe,’ which is the same way we end every conversation. I’m just ready for answers,” she said. The identities of the missing have not been disclosed but Partlow said her fiance’s parents were in touch with the Navy’s family assistance center.

April Brandon of Michigan said her son, Ken Smith, 22, is among the missing sailors. Brandon told Detroit-area TV stations that she was visited by two officers Monday at her home. Illinois U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis says the mother of McCain crew member Logan Palmer says he is missing. Davis says Palmer comes from a “patriotic family” in the Decatur, Illinois, area.

Navy Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, on Monday ordered a pause in 7th Fleet operations for the next few days to allow commanders to get together with leaders, sailors and command officials and identify any immediate steps that need to be taken to ensure safety.

A broader U.S. Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet’s performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers. Richardson said the review will be conducted with the help of the Navy’s office of the inspector general, the safety center and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

“Make no mistake,” Swift said Tuesday, “our sailors on these ships are doing critical work at sea. And for more than 70 years, the U.S. Navy has helped guarantee the security and stability of the western Pacific. ... We owe it to the sailors that man the 7th Fleet and their families to answer the questions that flow from the uncertainty of what happened, how could it happen, and what can be done to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

Swift also lauded the crew for righting the listing ship quickly as they tended to the injured. He said sailors set up watertight boundaries and shored up the ship’s internal structure, and were able to begin evacuating sailors by helicopter within an hour or two of the collision.

He said it was “quite extraordinary” for the McCain to be “up and running as an operational ship almost immediately after the collision.”

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.

China, Washington’s main rival for influence in the Asia-Pacific, seized on the McCain collision to accuse the Navy of endangering maritime navigation in the region. This year’s string of accidents shows the U.S. Navy “is becoming a dangerous obstacle in Asian waters,” the official China Daily newspaper said in its online edition.

The McCain and the Alnic MC oil tanker collided about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia’s coast at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the busy Singapore Strait.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision. Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world’s busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the starboard, or right, side at the front of the ship some 7 meters (23 feet) above its waterline. The ship had a partial load of fuel oil, according to the Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., but no apparent spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the oil tanker at its last port inspection in July, one fire safety deficiency and two safety-of-navigation problems. The official database for ports in Asia doesn’t go into details and the problems apparently were not serious enough for the tanker to be detained.

23 August 2017

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Landfill collapse kills eight in Guinea as family homes are buried by garbage

At least eight people, including two children, have died in Guinea after a rubbish dump site collapsed on houses due to heavy rains.

Dozens were also injured in the incident, which occurred on the outskirts of the capital Conarky on Tuesday ( 22 August).

The landslide submerged houses in the Dar Es Salam neighbourhood after an overnight deluge.

The bodies of the victims were taken to the local morgue. The death toll is expected to increase.

"The rubbish fell onto three homes," senior police official Boubacar Kasse, the police commissioner for Conakry, told AFP.

"There are still many people buried, and we have to do everything possible to save them. We have to get diggers in. Access to the area is very difficult," he continued.

Rescue teams are looking for survivors.

"Currently rescue operations are under way," the government said in a statement quoted by Reuters. "On this sad occasion, the government addresses its deepest condolences to the victims' families."

Dar Es Salam resident Yamoussa Soumah said: "I saw the mountain of garbage collapse on other people's houses. People were trapped. My wife and I heard the mud begin falling on our roof. We were able to escape, but we've lost everything."

Similar incidents have occurred in several countries across Africa in recent months.

Some of these countries are among the continent's poorest nations. They are vulnerable to heavy rainfalls and prone to national disasters due to a lack of urban drainage, and the fact that many houses – mostly ramshackle – are built on slopes.

At least 200 people were killed in a landslide in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) earlier in August. The incident occurred in the Tora village, situated along Lake Albert. The local governor called for the help of the international community to step up search and rescue operations.

"There are many people submerged whom we were unable to save," Pacifique Keta, the vice governor of Ituri province, told Reuters on 18 August. "The rescue is very complicated because there are mountains everywhere, which makes it very difficult to have access."

Around 500 people died in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown after torrential rains caused flooding and a massive mudslide on 14 August, leaving hundreds of survivors homeless.

The Red Cross said at least 600 people are still missing and search-and-rescue operations are ongoing.

Health workers warned of an impending health crisis as corpses had been left in the out in the street before mass burials took place.

What has been labelled as one of Africa's worst natural disasters of recent years took place months after at least 72 people were killed when a rubbish dump collapsed in Ethiopia.

The disaster at the Koshe Garbage Landfill, on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, occurred on 12 March and destroyed makeshift houses at the site.

23 August 2017

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After the mudslides: Sierra Leone's body collectors

After Sierra Leone's deadly mudslides, the race is on to retrieve the body parts of the victims before disease sets in.

Freetown, Sierra Leone - A group of young men wearing protective suits and face masks pace the riverbanks looking for body parts.

One of them removes his mask and starts to chant, "if you smell something bad then tell us, if you smell something bad then tell us…."

Somebody upstream calls and the team rushes forwards, rolling out a body bag as they do so.

A man is standing on the riverbank pointing to a ball of branches, mud and plastic. He gestures that there is a bad smell.

The body collectors wade through the water and start searching under the rubble. After five minutes one of them pulls out a foot; mangled, white and rotting. They drop it into the body bag.

This group of volunteer body collectors, all of whom are young men from neighbouring communities, has been working for seven days to gather the remains of those killed by a deadly mudslide in Sierra Leone on Monday, August 14.

So far, 499 bodies have been unearthed. More than 600 people remain missing. Those who know the affected communities estimate that the real number of victims could be well over 1,000.

"The problem," says body collector Mohamed Jalloh, "is that many of the bodies were torn up by boulders and trees."

After weeks of heavy rain, the side of Sugar Loaf Mountain collapsed, crushing the settlement below called Regent.

The mudslide sent a torrent of water, mud and rocks tumbling down the valley and swept away houses in two other communities; Kaningo and Kumayama.

Some of the people living higher up the riverbanks were able to escape their flooded houses by climbing onto their roofs. But those on the lower flats had no chance.

With body parts still strewn around the riverbanks a week after the disaster, there is a high risk of diseases, including cholera and typhoid, spreading.

The Ministry of Health has issued a statement urging the public to "drink only water collected from a safe source" and to "wash all fruits and vegetables well with clean water before eating". They say that this will help to reduce outbreaks of water borne diseases.

In Regent, volunteer body collector Aruna Momoh says they are still unearthing body parts. "There are still people buried," he says. "We have managed to get the ones in shallow ground out, but there are more deep down."

He has been at the site every day since the disaster. "I live nearby and rushed here on the morning of the mudslide. It happened around 5:45am. By the time I reached there were government ambulances and NGOs. Machinery didn’t arrive until Tuesday. By Thursday the place started to stink, the smell of rotting flesh was everywhere," he says.

Fesellie Marah, a young man from Kumayama, says that ambulances and stretchers didn't reach his community until Monday afternoon. "All we had were gloves and some lappas [sheets of colourful material]. We were pulling masses of bodies out of the rubble and piling them up in the front room of a broken house," he says.

"We'd use the lappas to collect body parts - feet, legs, hands … once they were full, we would tie them up and put it in the same room as the bodies. In the afternoon government ambulances and The Red Cross came and collected the corpses."

He remembers how families were crowding the bodies, crying and screaming. Some were trying to identify their family members, but it was almost impossible because of the condition the bodies were in. Many were crushed, and they were all covered in mud.

Marah says he saw a boy being swept down the river, screaming and holding on to a floating fridge. "We couldn't reach him, but we were all shouting encouragement, telling him to hold on tight. Further downstream he caught on to a palm tree and managed to climb out. He survived."

In Kaningo, Mohamed Jalloh and his friends are still working to collect bodies. Jalloh works as a night guard in an NGO's compound. Since the mudslide, he has been working his regular job at night and collecting bodies by day.

"Since Monday I have hardly slept," he says. "Each day I finish work at 6:30am and come here by 7. Then I sleep for just two hours in the late afternoon. I have so much sympathy for my brothers and sisters who were killed. I want to help reduce the health risk by collecting all the body parts. If we sit down and do nothing, then more people will die from diseases."

Although Jalloh and his colleagues have worked hard to try and collect all the corpses from the wreckage, there are still decaying body parts strewn around, one week on. Furth

er down the river, a group of boys is watching a dog eat something beside a pile of muddy branches and plastic. A sharp, sickly smell hangs in the air. The dog is chewing on a piece of human flesh.

"There are bodies under there," says one of the boys, pointing to the rubble. "But we can't get to them, the dogs went in and started pulling out bits of bodies."

An old man arrives, groans in disgust and throws a stone towards the dog. It runs away, dropping the muddy flesh on the ground.

23 August 2017

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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

New search begins for missing Sewol passengers

As engineers proceeded Sunday with preparations to move the ill-fated ferry ashore, currently loaded on a semisubmersible transport vessel at Mokpo Port, South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced a plan to resume an underwater search of the wreck site.

Starting from Sunday night, 50 divers were to begin work in rotation to search the seabed area of about 32,000 square meters, where the sunken Sewol lay for nearly three years until it was lifted out of the water last week.

In order to prevent the victims’ bodies from being lost during the lifting process, salvage engineers installed an underwater steel fence 200 meters long, 160 meters wide and 3 meters high. The area inside the fence was divided into 40 sections for detailed search.

“The maritime search operation inside the fence should begin tonight,” said Lee Cheol-jo, an official from the Oceans Ministry who oversees the salvage and search operation.

But the official cautioned that strong tide in the area might prevent active searching by divers. “We have strong tides today and may face difficulty diving,” Lee added.

Sewol sank nearly three years ago in the nation’s worst peace-time maritime disaster, leaving over 300 dead, mostly high school students on a field trip. Nine passengers are still unaccounted for. The search for those missing has been on hold since November 2014, when the government decided to salvage the ship without cutting it into pieces.

On Sunday, some belongings of Sewol passengers were found as engineers worked to remove mud from the recovered ferry, which was transported to Mokpo Port on Friday. The ship is expected to be moved to a dry dock Thursday.

Among objects found were handbags, cards and pens, which presumably belonged to the victims, as well as the passport of the ship’s captain Lee Jun-seok, who is in prison on a life sentence for abandoning the ship and its passengers.

The search team also found fragments of animal bones on the ferry’s deck Sunday, where the team had found pieces of animal bone last week. The authorities had initially thought the pieces came from victims until the forensic experts said otherwise.

The government began the work of bringing the Sewol ashore by sending the first batch of transporters to pull the wreckage out of the transport vessel carrying it. The whole package of transporters is expected to arrive Thursday.

About 80 workers will be deployed to remove the mud and the whole process will be conducted manually, the ministry said, citing concerns that remains of the victims or their belongings, if any, could be damaged during the search operation.

“We are going to proceed cautiously and slowly,” said Lee. “It is not something that requires high-level expertise. What’s more important is how we handle (the situation), when we come across bodies.”

Tuesday 04 April 2017

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Sewol ferry disaster: Attention growing over collection of missing bodies

The successful salvaging of the Sewol ferry is drawing attention over whether the remains of nine missing passengers will be retrieved either from within the ferry or from the seabed where the ship had laid for almost three years.

Nine of the 304 passengers who died in the April 2014 ferry disaster in remain unaccounted for. They include the bodies of four students and two teachers of Danwon High School, who were on a school trip to Jeju Island, and three other passengers.

Search operations will be conducted on the ferry after it is drained of water and oil and taken to Mokpo Port this week.

The maritime ministry and Mokpo city government have formed a team of 105 government officials and police to assist in the search.

Searches will first require sediment and floating matter inside to be removed, to clear a way into the ferry. The ministry will then disinfect and wash the ferry and take out the objects found inside. Any objects left by the victims will be handed over to the bereaved family members.

In the meantime, there is a dispute over how to conduct the search. The ministry is reviewing cutting out the passenger cabins from the ferry and putting them upright before initiating the search.

However, bereaved family members are claiming separating the cabins may make it difficult to investigate the cause of the sinking.

Lee Cheol-jo, a senior official at the ministry, said, "This method is reasonable, considering efficiency in making the searches — even if we do cut out the cabins we will conduct inspections of the ferry at the same time."

He added, "We will conduct a pre-examination of the parts that may be damaged in the process of cutting out the cabins so it does not affect the inspections."

The ministry will first search the cabins on the third and fourth decks of the ferry, where the bodies are most likely to be located, based on testimonies from survivors.

It has leased the port for the search until July 20. The ministry put up a fence 200 meters wide, 160 meters long and 3 meters high around the seabed where the Sewol sank, in order to prevent anything that could possibly have drifted out of the ferry during the salvaging from being swept away.

The Chinese consortium led by state-run Shanghai Salvage, which was in charge of recovering the sunken Sewol, will also conduct the seabed search.

The fenced area will be divided into 40 sections, and divers will search one square meter at a time. The search is expected to be tough as currents are strong at the site of the sinking. After the divers make their search, sonar will scan the area.

There is the possibility that the remains may have drifted out of the ferry, as it has been submerged for almost three years. However, considering most of the 295 recovered bodies were retrieved from within the ferry, it is likely that the unaccounted bodies will be trapped inside as well.

Tuesday 04 April 2017

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20 bodies retrieved, 11 hospitalised in Kintampo Waterfalls disaster

Three more persons have been confirmed dead in Sunday's bizarre disaster at the Kintampo Water Falls bringing the death toll to 20.

A total of 17 students of the Wenchi Methodist Senior High School were crushed to death by a tumbling tree during a rainstorm, Sunday afternoon.

Out of 11 others who sustained varying degrees of injuries eight of them are on admission at the Techiman Municipal Hospital while the three others have been rushed to Kumasi for special care.

The Ghana Fire Service has dispatched more personnel to the Waterfalls to intensify the search for possible trapped.

Kintampo Fire Service PRO, Kwaku Boateng, in an interaction with the media said the intensified operational activities of the Service are aimed at finding out if there are more bodies under the water.

What was meant to be a period of fun and excitement at the Kintampo Waterfalls turned tragic Sunday after some revelers largely students of Wenchi Methodist Senior High School in the Brong Ahafo Region were crushed to death after a huge tree tumbled into the water from the mountain.

The students were on an excursion to the Waterfalls in the company of some of their teachers.

One of the teachers in an interaction with Joy News’ Brong Ahafo Regional Correspondent, Anas Sabit, said they instructed the students to vacate the place after the weather turned windy.

He said while the students made their way to the exit, two trees tumbled and nearly fell on the students. This then prompted a change in direction.

One of the teachers later instructed them to take shelter elsewhere, he added. He said the huge tree then fell on them while taking refuge at a place they thought was safe enough.

This account has been corroborated by the Fire Service after their preliminary investigation.

Mr Boateng said the tree that trapped the students to death is the only one that serves as buffer at the Waterfalls in the event of a windy weather.

He said the incident might not have happened had some residents not destroyed the other big trees.

Joy News has gathered Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumiah, has left Accra to visit the scene of the accident and to meet with families of deceased.

Earlier, Tourism Minister, Catherine Afeku, on the Joy FM's Super Morning Show described the accident as "unfortunate" promising to head to the Region to hold talks with local authorities.

Tuesday 04 April 2017

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Colombia starts to bury 273 landslide victims, search continues

Scores of decomposing cadavers were being released for burial on Monday as rescuers continued to search for victims of weekend flooding and landslides that devastated a city in southern Colombia, killing at least 273 people.

Desperate families queued for blocks in the heat to search a morgue for loved ones who died when several rivers burst their banks in the early hours of Saturday, sending water, mud and debris crashing down streets and into houses as people slept.

Bodies wrapped in white sheets lay on the concrete floor of the morgue as officials sought to bury them as soon as possible to avoid the spread of disease. The government has begun vaccination against infection.

"Please speed up delivery of the bodies because they are decomposing," said Yadira Andrea Munoz, a 45-year-old housewife who expected to receive the remains of two relatives who died in the tragedy.

But officials asked for families to be patient.

"We don't want bodies to be delivered wrongly," said Carlos Eduardo Valdes, head of the forensic science institute.

The death toll has ticked up during the day as rescuers searched with dogs and machinery in the mud-choked rubble.

Many families in Mocoa have spent days and nights digging through the debris with their hands despite a lack of food, clean water and electricity.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who made a third visit to the area on Monday, blamed climate change for the disaster, saying Mocoa had received one-third of its usual monthly rain in just one night, causing the rivers to burst their banks.

Others said deforestation in surrounding mountains meant there were few trees to prevent water washing down bare slopes.

More than 500 people were staying in emergency housing and social services had helped 10 lost children find their parents. As many as 43 children were killed.

Families of the dead will receive about $6,400 in aid and the government will cover hospital and funeral costs.

The Colombian Red Cross says it has received 374 requests for help from families unable to locate loved ones, people whose whereabouts were still unknown three days after the disaster.

President Manuel Santos, making his third visit to the remote city in as many days, said 90 per cent of the dead had now been identified and that they would not consider anyone "disappeared" until they have established the death toll to the extent possible.

Much of Mocoa was still strewn with rocks, tree limbs, and brown muck. Search and rescue teams continued to probe debris piles when someone heard a possible sound of movement.

Even in a country where heavy rains, a mountainous landscape and informal construction combine to make landslides a common occurrence, the scale of the Mocoa disaster was daunting compared with recent tragedies, including a 2015 landslide that killed nearly 100 people.

Colombia's deadliest landslide, the 1985 Armero disaster, killed more than 20,000 people.

Santos urged Colombians to take precautions against flooding and continued rains.

Flooding in Peru last month killed more than 100 people and destroyed infrastructure.

Tuesday 04 April 2017

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Manchester's forgotten tragedy - the day a plane crashed into a Wythenshawe estate

It's one of the city's worst tragedies - yet it's one that many people are still unaware happened here.

On March 14, 1957 - 60 years ago tomorrow - an airliner crashed short of the Manchester Airport runway, smashing into a house in nearby Wythenshawe.

The crash killed all 20 people on board the plane, and two people in the house - tragically, the wife and baby son of a man who had campaigned about the dangers of low-flying aircraft in the area.

It was 1.46pm, and a British European Airways (BEA) Viscount Discovery aircraft was on its final approach to Ringway at the end of its flight from Amsterdam.

It was a fairly normal March Manchester day - weather was not a contributing factor in what happened, and all appeared normal as flight number 411 descended through the low clouds, the landing gear was lowered and the crew looked ahead in preparation for final approach.

According to an official accident description , around a mile from the runway the aircraft made a sudden right turn, at a steep downward angle.

The right wingtip touched the ground - the plane broke up, burst into flames and smashed into a house on Shadowmoss Road, Wythenshawe.

It left a scene of devastation - the house was obliterated, and the plane was left in several pieces, with the tail and engines coming to rest yards away from the wreckage of the building.

Emergency services were there within minutes, in great numbers, and the inferno was quickly extinguished. But the 15 passengers, five crew, and the mother and her baby that were in the house when it was hit, stood no chance.

Three other houses were badly damaged and several people inside them were injured. It took rescue workers took many hours to recover the bodies.

M.E.N. reporters spoke to shocked residents who witnessed the horror. One said: "The plane looked as though it was going straight through the front door of one of the houses."

Adam McAllum told us: "I was in the back kitchen and saw the plane flying low over the field at the back of the house.

"His engines cut out. One wing seemed to dip then swing right over the other way and he crumpled into the row of houses. It seemed the pilot was trying to pull the plane to open ground. He was doing his best."

Our report described a grim scene an hour after the crash:

"Thick grey smoke rose from the 30ft mass of wreckage. Firemen, ambulancemen and civilian volunteers climbed over the foam-covered debris, clawing desperately to get to the heart of the fire and see if there were any survivors.

"Nurses stood waiting with stretchers. A crowd of nearly 2,000 gathered. From them came more and more volunteers to help, including women who helped to heave on a rope attached to masses of debris, to make a way to the heart of the fire.

"Children's toys - teddy bears and dolls - were thrown from the blazing wreckage."

Roy Peacock's home was just yards from the impact. He said: "I saw flames spurting from the plane before it crashed. I was getting off the bus at the corner of the road and I was terrified - it looked as though the plane was bound to crash into the house.

"I knew that my wife and two of my children were in the house. I ran as fast as I could and found that the plane had torn through the houses on the other side of the block and stopped about 20 yards from our house.

"My wife was in the back kitchen and saw the houses before her crumble as the plane tore through."

Mechanical failure was suspected as the cause of the crash, and in the days following the disaster British European Airways withdrew up to 25 of its fleet of Viscount 701 aircraft "as a precautionary measure", to carry out checks on its flap-operating mechanism.

But as the investigation began, the talk in Manchester was about the future safety of residential areas close to airports.

The M.E.N reported how a year before the crash, ex-airport fireman Wally Wilding had launched a petition protesting about the dangers of low-flying aircraft. His fears came to pass in the most tragic way imaginable - it was his wife and baby son who were killed in the house that the plane struck.

We called for Manchester Corporation to launch an "immediate and top-level inquiry ... to make quite sure that the houses in Shadowmoss Road are NOT in a dangerous position".

An official investigation found that crash probably happened because of metal fatigue in a bolt led to a flap unit becoming detached from the trailing edge of the right wing, causing a flap to become locked.

Sadly, it wasn't to be the last time Greater Manchester was hit by air disasters, with crashes involving the Manchester United team in Munich in 1958 , in Stockport in 1967 , and at the airport in 1985.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

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Monday, 13 March 2017

Death toll from rubbish dump landslide in Ethiopia rises to 65

At least 65 people were killed in a giant landslide at Ethiopia’s largest rubbish dump this weekend, officials said on Monday, with entire families including children buried alive in the tragedy.

“The rescue operation is still ongoing. Security personnel and rescuers are trying their level best to locate any possible survivors, while searching for the dead,” said communication minister Negeri Lencho.

Police and firefighters combing a “vast area” at the dump outside Addis Ababa found bodies throughout the day, Lencho said.

The disaster on Saturday at the dump flattened dozens of the homes of people living in the Koshe dump when part of the largest pile of rubbish collapsed.

“The number of dead has reached 65,” said Dagmawit Moges, head of the city communications bureau.

Many of the victims were squatters who scavenged for a living in the 30-hectare (74-acre) dump.

“Those at the top [of the dump] were taken by this pile, because it split and people could not make [their] way out of this debris,” Lencho said, adding that most of the dead recovered were women and children.

The landfill is the country’s largest and home to perhaps hundreds of people who collected recyclables that were trucked in from neighbourhoods around the city of about 4 million people.

The government tried last year to close the dump and shift it to a new location, but opposition from residents at the new site scuttled the plan.

Residents blamed a biogas plant being constructed on top of the rubbish for causing the collapse. They said work by bulldozers to flatten the area around the plant contributed to it.

Lencho said the cause was still being investigated, but denied that the plant’s construction had anything to do with the collapse. He blamed the squatters for digging into the hillside, destabilising it and causing it to fall.

All the shacks built on the landfill would be demolished and the residents resettled elsewhere, he said.

But Amnesty International said the government was fully responsible for the disaster. “It was aware that the landfill was full to capacity but continued to use it regardless. It also let hundreds of people continue to live in close proximity to it,” the group’s Muthoni Wanyeki said in a statement.

“These people, including many women and children, had no option but to live and work in such a hazardous environment because of the government’s failure to protect their right to adequate housing, and decent work.”

Ibrahim Mohammed, a day labourer living at the landfill whose house narrowly escaped destruction, said on Sunday the disaster happened in three minutes. He estimated that more than 300 people lived on the landfill.

For more than 40 years the Koshe site has been the main garbage dump for the rapidly growing city of Addis Ababa. People had built the houses about two to three years ago, said Berhanu Degefe, a rubbish collector who lives at the dump but whose home was not destroyed.

“Their livelihood depends on the trash. They collect from here and they live here,” Degefe said, referring to the victims and other squatters. “This part, all of it went down,” he said, gesturing at a huge chunk of the hill that suddenly slid. Degefe said they were levelling ground for the plant, increasing pressure on the hillside and causing the collapse.

Koshe, whose name means “dirt” in local slang, was closed last year by city authorities who asked people to move to the new dump site outside Addis Ababa. But the community there did not want the landfill, and so the garbage collectors moved back.

An AP reporter saw four bodies taken away by ambulances after being pulled from the debris. Elderly women cried, and others stood anxiously waiting for news of loved ones. Six excavators dug through the ruins.

"My house was right inside there," said a shaken Tebeju Asres, pointing to where one of the excavators was digging in deep, black mud. "My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don't know the fate of all of them."

The resumption of garbage dumping at the site in recent months likely caused the landslide, Assefa said.

Smaller collapses have occurred at Koshe - or "dirty" in the local Amharic language - in the past two years but only two or three people were killed, Assefa said. "In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill," the Addis Ababa mayor said.

Monday 13 March 2017

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