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Posts Tagged ‘mourning’

Arizona gunman in court as Obama leads mourning

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:10 am

The man accused of trying to assassinate a congresswoman in an Arizona shooting spree that left six dead appeared in court but said nothing to shed light on his motive.

President Barack Obama led the American nation in a somber minute of silence to honor the 20 people gunned down in Tucson — where he will attend a memorial service on Wednesday, the White House announced.

Flags were at half-staff at the Capitol in Washington, where hundreds of aides and lawmakers crammed the storied steps of Congress to pay silent tribute to the victims, including one of their own.

Democratic lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, 40, was shot through the head at point-blank range before the gunman sprayed a crowd of constituents with bullets, a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge among six who died.

Jared Loughner, who faces the death penalty for the murder of the judge, appeared, his head shaven, amid tight security around the federal court in Arizona state capital Phoenix.

Dressed in a brown prison jumpsuit for the less than 15 minute hearing, 22-year-old Loughner appeared to follow proceedings closely, but said little beyond answering “Yes” to basic questions from Judge Michael Anderson.

The judge agreed to his request to have Judy Clarke, who represented the Unabomber — an anarchist serving life without parole for a 20-year mail bombing spree — and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, as his attorney.

No plea of guilty or not guilty was entered during the hearing and a preliminary court appearance was scheduled for January 24. A mug shot released by police showed the gunman with a haunting smile.

In an update on Giffords’ condition Monday, doctors said she was still responding to basic commands such as squeezing medics’ fingers, fueling growing hope for her recovery, though she remains in a critical condition.

People wait in line to sign condolence books for the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting in Arizona in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill

Authorities said Loughner, a troubled young man booted out of a community college last year, fired a full clip of 31 shots.

He was reloading another clip into his 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol when bystanders, including a 74-year-old retired colonel whose head had just been grazed by a bullet, brought him to the ground.

Obama praised the “extraordinary courage” of those who tackled the gunman, including a young Giffords aide and a woman who helped disarm him.

At the Capitol, Democratic representative Emanuel Cleaver recited a prayer: “We ask blessings on the spirit of this nation… help us move from this dark place to a place of sunshine… we ask that you help keep our hearts pure.”

Outside the Tucson hospital where Giffords clung to life with part of her skull removed, tearful well-wishers gathered, praying and hoping.

A search of Loughner’s home on Saturday unearthed a trove of evidence in a safe, according to the criminal complaint.

A letter from Giffords thanked Loughner for attending one of her earlier public meetings, in August 2007.

Also in the safe they found an envelope with the hand-written notes, “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords,” the affidavit said.

Officials declined to assess Loughner’s motives or mental state. He wrote a stream of barely coherent postings on the Internet that showed an interest in developing a new currency and criticism of “illiterate” fellow residents.

A US senator meanwhile said he plans to present legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips of the type used by the Tucson gunman.

“The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market,” said Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Giffords, who narrowly won re-election last year over a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, is a centrist Democrat who supports increased border security and, incidentally, loose restrictions on gun ownership.

Lawmakers of the rival Republican Party, which made huge gains in November midterm elections, denounced the attack and suspended proceedings of the House of Representatives whose new leadership had taken over just three days earlier.

Source: SGGP

Cambodia holds day of mourning for stampede dead

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 1:19 am

PHNOM PENH, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – Cambodia’s prime minister led a mourning ceremony Thursday at the site of a bridge stampede in the capital that killed over 450 people in the worst national tragedy for decades.

A visibly emotional Hun Sen, dressed in black, wiped away a tear and burnt incense at a small altar erected at the foot of the narrow bridge, now cleared of the shoes, clothing and plastic bottles that were a grim reminder of the disaster that unfolded.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) and his wife Bun Rany (L) grieve during the mourning ceremony on November 25, 2010 in front of the bridge in Phnom Penh. AFP

His wife Bun Rany, wearing a black skirt and a white shirt, stood at her husband’s side and openly cried.

Other government officials also paid their respects during the short ceremony, as a military band played a sombre tune.

Officials said throngs of revellers celebrating the nation’s annual water festival apparently panicked as rumours rippled through the crowds that the bridge to an island in Phnomh Penh was about to give way.

“The deaths happened because the bridge was overcrowded and there was panic that the bridge was collapsing because it is hung by cables and it was swaying,” said Prum Sokha, who heads a panel investigating the tragedy.

“Some started screaming that the bridge was collapsing, that people were getting electric shocks and that the iron cables were snapping, so the people pushed each other and fell down and the stampede happened.

“The people had nowhere to run,” said Sokha, secretary of state at the interior ministry.

The government admitted it had overlooked issues of crowd control, while the victims’ families expressed growing anger about security at the event, which attracted some three million revellers from all over Cambodia.

“We were concerned about the possibilities of boats capsizing and pick-pocketing. We did well, but we did not think about this kind of incident,” government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told AFP.

He said a private firm had been in charge of security on the island and the bridge where the disaster unfolded.

“The place is private, so they used their own security, and police only helped handle order outside,” Kanharith said.

As the first funerals and cremations took place across the country Wednesday, distressed relatives searched for answers.

“I feel very sad and angry about what happened,” Phea Channara said at a funeral service for his 24-year-old sister on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

“I wonder if the police really did their job. Why did they allow it to happen in the first place?”

Hun Sen has described the disaster as Cambodia’s worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-1979 reign of terror, which killed up to a quarter of the population.

The premier said a memorial stupa would be built “to commemorate the souls of the people who lost their lives in the incident… and to remember the serious tragedy for the nation and the Cambodian people.”

Social Affairs Minister Ith Samheng told AFP the toll from the tragedy had jumped to 456 dead and 395 injured.

“Some bodies were transported home straight away and some injured people died at home,” he said, explaining the increase.

Exuberant festival-goers had been crossing the bridge to reach an island hosting concerts, food stalls and ice sculptures when the stampede began, resulting in a deadly crush of bodies.

It marked a tragic end to the boat races, concerts and fireworks that are part of the traditional festival, which celebrates the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and the Mekong river.

Source: SGGP

China observes day of mourning for mudslide victims

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

Flags were flying at half mast and public entertainment cancelled Sunday as China marked a national day of mourning for the more than 1,200 people killed by massive mudslides in the northwest.

Thousands of residents and rescuers in Zhouqu, the remote mountain region in Gansu province flattened by last weekend’s landslides, stopped search efforts to take part in a ceremony to remember the victims, state television said.

Sirens wailed as mourners, wearing white paper flowers and some still clutching their shovels, observed a three-minute silence at 10:00 am.

A man walks past the decomposing body of a mudslide victim in Zhouqu.

Rescuers and medics later resumed their duties, clearing debris from the Bailong River, searching for bodies buried under metres of sludge and spraying disinfectant to prevent a disease outbreak, the Xinhua news agency said.

Flags across the country and at overseas embassies were to be flown at half-mast while public entertainment such as movies, karaoke, online games and television was suspended, state media reports said.

State television broadcast images of about 10,000 people gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing early Sunday to watch a special flag-raising ceremony while other ceremonies were held across the country.

Shortly after midnight, the home pages of Chinese websites turned black and white while newspapers were stripped of colour in a show of mourning, Xinhua said.

According to Chinese tradition, the seventh day after a death marks the height of the mourning period, it said.

Authorities said 505 people in Zhouqu were still missing after the avalanche of mud and rocks, which levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 300 metres wide.

The official death toll stood at 1,239 as of Saturday.

Authorities are struggling to keep up with demand for coffins in the devastated region, whose population is one-third Tibetan, the China Daily said.

Authorities warned heavy rains would continue into Sunday and said further flash floods, landslides and floating debris continued to pose dangers in Gansu province and neighbouring Sichuan, Xinhua said.

In Sichuan, at least 38 people were missing after landslides Saturday destroyed hospital buildings in Wenchuan county, the epicentre of an earthquake in May 2008 that left nearly 87,000 dead or missing, Xinhua said previously. About 10,000 people were evacuated as the government turned schools and municipal office buildings into temporary shelters, it said.

Elsewhere in Gansu, new floods and landslides have killed 33 people and left 63 missing in the city of Longnan close to Zhouqu, Xinhua said.

More than 90,000 residents in Longnan have been evacuated after more than 150 millimetres (six inches) of rain fell overnight on Wednesday.

The mudslides in Gansu are the latest in a string of weather-related disasters across China which is battling its worst floods in a decade.

More than 2,100 people have been left dead or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide, not including the toll from the Zhouqu incident.

The civil affairs ministry said Friday it had not calculated a new nationwide flood death toll.

Source: SGGP

China declares day of mourning for mudslide victims

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 7:21 am

BEIJING, Aug 14, 2010 (AFP) – China on Saturday announced a national day of mourning as millions in the country’s west struggled with more rain and the aftermath of mudslides that have killed more than 1,150 people.

Authorities warned torrential rains would continue into Sunday and said further flash floods, landslides and floating debris continued to pose dangers in Gansu and Sichuan provinces, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Rescuers and residents search the rubbles after the massive landslide in Zhouqu, northwest China’s Gansu province on August 12, 2010. AFP

Flags were to fly at half-mast on Sunday and public entertainment was to be suspended for the day of mourning to express condolences for the mudslide victims, China’s State Council, or Cabinet, said Saturday.

The heavy rains have affected more than 305 million people and caused 1.7 billion dollars in economic losses, the report said, citing the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters agency.

The report did not give details on how the vast numbers of people have been affected.

In mudslide-stricken Zhouqu, a remote mountain town in Gansu province in China’s northwest, 588 people were still missing after last weekend’s avalanche of mud and rocks, which levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 300 metres (1,000 feet) wide.

The official death toll in Zhouqu stood at 1,156 as of Friday.

Health authorities said survivors of the deadly floods and landslides in Zhouqu faced a grim situation after clinics were damaged and vaccines ruined.

However, relief workers continued to gradually restore water, power and telecommunication services in Zhouqu, Xinhua reported Saturday.

Meanwhile work continued to clear Gansu’s Bailong River, which overflowed after it was blocked by debris, triggering fears that further downpours could bring more flooding.

Elsewhere in Gansu, new floods and landslides killed 29 people and left 27 missing in the cities of Longnan and Tianshui close to Zhouqu, Xinhua said.

About 10,600 residents in Longnan were evacuated after more than 150 millimetres (six inches) of rain fell overnight on Wednesday.

Floods also have killed at least nine people and left 12 missing in Gansu’s neighboring province of Sichuan over the past two days.

The mudslides in Zhouqu are the latest in a string of weather-related disasters across China. More than 2,100 people have been left dead or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide, not including the toll from the Zhouqu incident.

The civil affairs ministry said Friday it had not calculated a new nationwide flood death toll.

China’s meteorological agency also warned Saturday heavy rains would return to the country’s northeastern regions after several days of respite, issuing an alert for the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.

Since June, rain-triggered floods had left 85 people dead and 67 others missing in Jilin, according to the local flood control authorities.

Source: SGGP

Moscow in mourning, vows to avenge metro bombings

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2010 at 3:57 am

MOSCOW, March 30, 2010 (AFP) – Moscow held a day of mourning Tuesday for the 38 victims of twin rush-hour suicide bombings on packed metro trains, as Russian leaders pledged to hunt down and wipe out those behind the attacks.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed those responsible for Monday’s bombings would be “destroyed” as authorities pointed the finger at militants from the Northern Caucasus for the deadliest attack in the Russian capital for half a decade.

Russian Rossiya-24 television TV grab shows Moscow policemen near the Lubyanka metro station in Moscow on March 29, 2010 after two explosions during the early morning rush hour in metro stations. AFP photo

President Dmitry Medvedev, while visiting the site of one of the bombings to lay a wreath of red roses, pledged “we will find and wipe out” those behind the blasts, calling them “wild beasts”.

The first explosion shortly before 8:00 am (0400 GMT) ripped through a train that had stopped in the Lubyanka station just below the headquarters of Russia’s FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet KGB.

About 40 minutes later, a second explosion went off in a carriage of a train on the platform at the Park Kultury metro station, named after Moscow’s iconic Gorky Park.

Officials said the attacks were carried out by women wearing belts packed with explosives, marking a return of the so-called “Black Widows” who terrorized Moscow a decade ago with a string of attacks.

“Body parts of two terrorists — female suicide bombers — were found at the scenes of the blasts,” FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said in a televised meeting at the Kremlin.

“According to preliminary information, these people had links to places of residence in the Northern Caucasus,” he added.

Bortnikov said the bombers’ belts were packed with the explosive hexogen and metal shrapnel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that foreign involvement in the attacks had not been ruled out.

“We all know very well that clandestine terrorists are very active on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying in Canada at a Group of Eight ministers’ meeting.

“We know that several attacks have been prepared there, to be carried out not only in Afghanistan, but also in other countries. Sometimes, these journeys go as far as the (Russian) Caucasus.”

Russian police are searching for two women who accompanied the suicide bombers, plus a man who may also have been an accomplice, after identifying them and the bombers through surveillance footage, Interfax reported citing a security source.

Emergency officials said the death toll had reached 38, not including the bombers. Another 64 people were wounded, including a woman from the Philippines and two women from Malaysia who were released from hospital after treatment.

Putin — who cut short a visit to Siberia to return to Moscow — visited some of those injured in a central Moscow hospital on Monday evening.

He earlier warned that “law enforcement agencies will do everything to find and punish the criminals… The terrorists will be destroyed.”

Western leaders offered their condolences to Russia, and US President Barack Obama pledged Washington would “help bring to justice those who undertook this attack” while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called trrrorism a “common enemy”.

“Whether you are in a Moscow subway or a London subway or a train in Madrid or an office building in New York, we face the same enemy,” Clinton said in an interview with the Canadian network CTV.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the so-called “Caucasus Emirate” group led by Chechen militant Doku Umarov has repeatedly warned in recent months it was planning to strike the capital.

Umarov’s group claimed responsibility for last November’s bombing of a passenger train that killed 28 people.

Lubyanka Square is home to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet KGB secret police, and still housed in the notorious building where dissidents were interrogated and shot in Joseph Stalin’s purges.

The Moscow metro continued working despite the disaster, with only one line temporarily shut down, and by the end of the day Lubyanka station had reopened to passengers with only minimal damage to its marble walls.

The Moscow city government declared Tuesday would be a day of mourning.

Monday’s explosions were the deadliest suicide attacks in Moscow since 2004 when the bombing of a metro train killed 41, part of a string of attacks carried out by Chechen militants.

Chechnya has seen rising violence in recent months as pro-Kremlin regional authorities seek to clamp down on an Islamist insurgency that has also spread to the neighbouring majority-Muslim regions of Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Source: SGGP