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Posts Tagged ‘mourns’

New Zealand PM demands answers as nation mourns miners

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 1:20 am

GREYMOUTH, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Thursday he wanted answers on what went “terribly wrong” in a colliery blast that killed 29 men in the nation’s worst mining disaster for almost a century.

He also warned it could take “months” to recover the bodies of the workers who died underground in one of the country’s worst mining disasters, as the grieving mining community pleaded for the return of their loved ones.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaks at a press conference in Wellington on November 24, 2010 after authorities said all the 29 men missing in the coal mine have died after a powerful second blast tore through the pit. AFP

As flags across New Zealand flew at half-mast, Key said the nation was struggling to understand the tragedy at the Pike River colliery, where miners trapped by an explosion last Friday were confirmed dead after a second blast Wednesday.

“We need answers to what happened at Pike River. Clearly something’s gone terribly wrong and it’s now claimed the lives of 29 people,” said Key, who has travelled to Greymouth on New Zealand’s South Island to be with the families.

“The nation is grieving and mourning alongside them,” he said.

“It’s only right and natural and fair that the family members would want to have the bodies recovered so that they can have some closure.”

However, a lethal cocktail of volatile gases remained in the mine and Key said this would delay recovery attempts.

“That (recovery) has to occur in a way that is safe to those that would undertake that mission,” he told reporters. Previous international experience had shown the operation could take “quite some months”, he said.

As messages of condolence poured in from around the world, Key praised the rescue efforts, which some relatives of the miners have criticised after the gas threat stopped emergency workers from going underground.

“It wasn’t for the want of trying, or the willingness, or the courage or the bravery of those that would have gone in to undertake the rescue — it was just the reality of the situation,” he said.

“A mine in this condition is a highly volatile environment, liable to explode at any time without any notice.”

Authorities have launched at least four inquiries into the disaster, whose victims ranged from a 17-year-old on his first shift to a 62-year-old veteran, and included two Australians, two Britons and a South African.

“This is a mine that’s claimed the lives of 29 men and they (the families) are are entitled to honest answers about what went wrong, what lessons we can learn,” Key said.

Mine owner Pike River Coal said it would cooperate fully and was holding its own investigation into the disaster at the colliery, a new facility that sent its first shipment of hard coking coal for steelmaking to India only this year.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Australia’s prime minister, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II — who is also the head of state of New Zealand — and other dignitaries in expressing their “heartfelt condolences”.

New Zealand has lost “29 brave and hard-working men who will be mourned around the world”, Clinton said as the queen said she was “deeply saddened” by the deaths.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of these 29 brave miners and to all who have been touched by this national disaster,” she said in a message to Key released by Buckingham Palace.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who declared the incident the “darkest hour” of the South Island’s rugged West Coast region, said the focus has turned to the grim task of recovering the bodies for the grieving families.

“They won’t feel closure until they’re (with) their loved ones,” he told TVNZ.

New Zealand’s other major mining company, Solid Energy, has suspended underground operations at its Spring Creek mine near Pike River and its Huntly mine in the North Island as a mark of respect, chief executive Don Elder said.

A number of specialist mine rescue staff from Spring Creek and Huntly were involved in the Pike River rescue operation.

Source: SGGP

Anger and grief as Cambodia mourns stampede dead

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 6:19 am

 Grieving Cambodian families on Wednesday began paying their last respects to relatives among the nearly 380 victims killed in a festival stampede, as anger built over security at the event.

Authorities were probing why the throngs of revellers had panicked at the annual water festival, crushing and trampling people underfoot on an overcrowded narrow bridge in Phnom Penh.

The government admitted it had overlooked issues of crowd control at the three-day event, which attracted some three million revellers to the capital 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.

Cambodian Buddhist monks gather to pray for victims of the stampede in front of the bridge in Phnom Penh on November 23, 2010

A committee had been set up to investigate the cause of the stampede, he said, adding that a private security firm was in charge of the main festival site Diamond Island and its bridges.

“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 began taking place across the country, bewildered 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 Sangheap — who was on the bridge minutes before the stampede happened and helped pull out victims — said the rescuers were slow to respond to the incident.

“The authorities were very late in saving the victims. The company did not manage the security well,” the 32-year-old said, referring to the island’s private security firm.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has described the disaster as Cambodia’s worst tragedy since the Khmer Rouge’s 1975-1979 reign of terror, which left up to a quarter of the population dead. Thursday will be a national day of mourning.

At least 378 people were killed in the stampede and another 750 were injured, government spokesman Phay Siphan told AFP on Tuesday.

Exuberant festival-goers had been crossing the bridge to reach an island hosting concerts, food stalls and ice sculptures before the crowd turned to a deadly crush of writhing and then lifeless human bodies.

In scenes replicated across the city, the dead were laid out in rows under a white tent erected in Calmette Hospital car park, their uncovered faces showing that many had sustained bloody bruises during the stampede.

Military trucks later began delivering the victims back to their relatives.

It was not immediately clear what had triggered the disaster, but Kanharith said a rumour had spread among revellers celebrating one of Cambodia’s biggest festivals that the bridge was unstable.

He said many of the deaths were caused by suffocation and internal injuries, adding that about two-thirds of those killed were women.

One survivor at Calmette Hospital who suffered serious back injuries recalled the anguish of being unable to help others around him as the surging crowd became a suffocating crush.

“I felt selfish when it happened, but I could not help myself. There was a child trapped under me and I wanted to pull him up but I couldn’t,” he said, asking not to be named.

The stampede marked a tragic end to the boat races, concerts and fireworks that are traditionally part of the annual festival to celebrate the reversal of the flow between the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers.

The event — which saw hundreds of brightly coloured boats take part in races on the Tonle Sap — is popular with tourists but the government said no foreigners were believed to be among the victims.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who visited Cambodia earlier this month, offered her country’s “thoughts and prayers” following the disaster. Other countries to send their condolences include Russia, and Asian neighbours Thailand and Singapore.

Source: SGGP

Pleas for justice as Philippines mourns massacre victims

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 4:51 am

SHARIFF AGUAK, Philippines, Nov 23, 2010 (AFP) – Relatives of 57 people killed in the Philippines’ worst political massacre made emotional appeals for justice Tuesday as the nation marked the slaughter’s first anniversary.

Thousands of mourners gathered at a remote hill in the southern province of Maguindanao where the carnage took place to pay their respects and demand the powerful Muslim clan accused of orchestrating the massacre be held to account.

Supporters along with relatives of the 57 people killed in the November 23, 2009 massacre attend a memorial service at the massacre site in Ampatuan, Maguindanao province on the southern island of Mindanao on November 23, 2010. AFP

“I am praying by the will of God that we can get justice,” Tom Teuto, 50, who lost his sister and 13 other relatives in the massacre, told reporters at the site on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Shariff Aguak.

“I am calling on the president to intervene. It has been a year. It has been very painful.”

The Ampatuan clan, which had governed Maguindanao since 2001, allegedly orchestrated the murders of at least 57 people in a futile bid to stop a member of a rival Muslim clan from running for the provincial governorship.

Those killed were relatives and supporters of the rival, Esmael Mangudadatu, who were to have filed his election nomination papers, as well as at least 32 local journalists who had travelled in the convoy.

Their bodies were later found in shallow pits, and witnesses who have testified in an ongoing trial in Manila for Andal Ampatuan Jnr, the clan patriarch’s son and namesake, said he gunned down most of the victims.

President Benigno Aquino declared Tuesday a “day of remembrance” and ordered government employees to wear black to symbolise unity with the victims’ relatives.

“Today we again offer our condolences to the families of the victims and vow to do everything in our power to achieve a timely resolution of this case and ensure this does not happen again,” Aquino said in a statement.

At the massacre site, religious leaders led prayers during an emotional service in which white doves and balloons were released to remember the victims.

Radio and television stations across the country also silenced their broadcasts for 58 seconds at 7:00 am to remember those killed and urge authorities to speed up the prosecutions of those accused.

Although the death toll is officially 57, a 33rd journalist, Humberto Mumay, is believed to have been killed as well.

Mumay’s death would bring the toll to 58 but the Ampatuans are being prosecuted for only 57 murders because Mumay’s body has not been found and he is officially declared as missing.

Ampatuan Snr and Jnr, and four other clan leaders, have been charged and are behind bars.

But Ampatuan Jnr is the only clan leader whose trial has begun and there are fears the court proceedings in the Philippines’ notoriously over-burdened justice system could last for years.

Meanwhile, many members of the Ampatuans’ private army remain on the loose and allegedly can receive calls from their leaders to stage attacks in an effort to eliminate or intimidate witnesses.

“They remain very dangerous and can receive instructions any time (from the Ampatuan leaders) through mobile phones,” Mangudadatu, the rival politician and now provincial governor, told AFP.

Human rights groups have said at least one key prosecution witness has been killed.

The Ampatuans deny being involved in any killings.

The Ampatuans had ruled Maguindanao with the support of then president Gloria Arroyo, who supplied the family’s private militia of up to 5,000 men so they could be used as a proxy force against Muslim separatist rebels.

However, rights watchdogs say Aquino, who took office on June 30 this year, must also address the bigger picture of abolishing all private armies run by politicians across the country.

The government still funds and arms some of these militias to supplement the under-resourced military, and critics say Aquino has either been unwilling or unable to disband the militias.

“The fact that private armies continue to operate a year after the Maguindanao massacre is an affront to the victims and an invitation to further disasters,” said Amnesty International’s Asia director, Sam Zafiri.

Source: SGGP

Pakistan mourns as rains hamper black box search

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

ISLAMABAD, July 29, 2010 (AFP) – Pakistan observed a day of mourning Thursday for the 152 people killed in the country’s worst aviation disaster, as heavy rains delayed the search for the aircraft’s black box.

The Airblue passenger jet from Karachi crashed in a ball of flames, killing everyone on board and disintegrating in the heavily forested Margalla hills outside the Pakistani capital during heavy rain and poor visibility.

A Pakistani police commando watches rescue operations in the Margala Hills close to Islamabad on July 28, 2010. AFP

Pakistani flags were to fly at half mast from all public buildings on Thursday in mourning for the dead.

US President Barack Obama offered his “deepest condolences” to the families and friends of those killed. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy and China’s President Hu Jintao also conveyed his condolences.

“Rescue teams will resume the search operation as soon as it stops raining as we still have to find the black box,” police official Bani Amin told AFP.

Investigators hope the flight data recorder will give clues to the fate of the 10-year-old Airbus which was piloted by an experienced captain.

The government said all possible causes would be investigated, including terrorism, bad weather and sabotage, although officials gave no indication that an attack might have been to blame.

Many of the victims were charred beyond recognition or ripped to pieces, forcing health officials to use DNA tests and ID documentation to identify them.

“Our main concern is to find identification papers and other belongings of the passengers, which will greatly help identify the bodies lying in the hospitals,” said Amin, who has been supervising the rescue operation.

“We may also find some body pieces during the search but it all depends how quickly it stops raining,” he said.

Two Americans, an Austrian-born businessman and seven children were among the 152 people on board flight ED 202 from the southern city of Karachi.

The Airbus 321 was coming in to land at Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International airport when witnesses saw it flying at an unusually low altitude before hearing a deafening boom.

The plane broke apart into a gorge between two hills, scattering debris in three directions on hillsides enveloped in cloud and some distance from the road, severely hampering initial rescue efforts on Wednesday.

“I saw a big ball of smoke and fire everywhere with big pieces of aircraft rolling down the hill,” police official Haji Taj Gul said.

“Nobody survived,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Express TV. “It’s a big tragedy. It’s really a big tragedy.”

Authorities suggested the flight had been diverted due to bad weather, but it was unclear why the jet was flying so low and close to the Margalla Hills — off the normal route for aircraft arriving from Karachi.

Rescue official Arshad Javed told AFP of horrifying scenes at the crash site after the routine commuter flight turned to carnage.

“All we could see were charred hands or feet. I collected two heads, two legs and two hands in a bag,” he said.

“We shouted if anyone was there alive, but heard no voice.”

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed his grief over the “tragic incident” and offered prayers for the dead.

Airbus said the single-aisle plane was a relatively young 10 years old, and the European company offered its full assistance to Pakistani investigators.

Airblue is one of Pakistan’s most respected airlines. It has been operating since 2004, using new Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft on domestic routes and international services to Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Manchester.

Wednesday’s crash was the worst in Pakistan. The only deadlier civilian plane crash involving a Pakistani jet saw a PIA Airbus A300 crash into a cloud-covered hillside on approach to Kathmandu, killing 167 people in 1992.

Source: SGGP

Pakistan mourns as investigators seek clues to air crash

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2010 at 3:17 am

Fresh protests at World Cup as Mandela family mourns

In Uncategorized on June 18, 2010 at 4:27 am

Fresh protests by stadium workers erupted Thursday, adding to a sombre tone at the World Cup as Nelson Mandela mourned his great-granddaughter and the host reeled from a stunning defeat.

Hundreds of mourners joined the Mandela family at the funeral for 13-year-old Zenani Mandela, who died in a car accident on the eve of the World Cup after a concert in Soweto.

Heart-broken, 91-year-old Mandela pulled out of the the World Cup opener. The funeral was his first public appearance since February, when he went to parliament to mark the 20th anniversary of his release from an apartheid prison.

The service at a private school in Johannesburg was filled with song, tears and sometimes laughter at memories of the young girl, who beamed with delight at meeting Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo on her birthday two days before her death.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela arrives for the funeral of his great-granddaughter Zenani Mandela at St Stithian’s College Chapel in Sandton, north of Johannesburg

But across the country in Cape Town, frustrations again boiled over among stadium security guards who clashed with police for the second time this week in a dispute over their pay.

Police fired a stun grenade and rubber bullets to break up the protest by 200 security guards outside the office of Stallion Security, according to the company contracted to provide stewards at four World Cup stadiums.

“They were warned that it’s an illegal gathering. They were given time to disperse and they didn’t. After several attempts we used a stun grenade and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” said police spokesman Andre Traut.

“A number of security guards were then arrested for illegal gathering.”

Police were forced to take over security at four World Cup stadiums after wildcat strikes by stewards.

“If anybody else disrupts any other stadium we are ready, in the shortest possible time, to take over that stadium,” police chief Bheki Cele said.

“There shall be no disruption of 2010 FIFA World Cup matches here in South Africa.”

World Cup boss Danny Jordaan said he was satisfied that the strike disturbances were under control, as police had quickly stepped in.

“I think they’ve done an incredible job. In Cape town within three hours, everything was in place and the game started on time,” he said.

“We just had another meeting with police yesterday and we’re satisfied everything is in place.”

After winning its World Cup bid six years ago, South Africa has fended off accusations about its ability to host the tournament with problems mounting after a triumphant opening.

Bus drivers also staged a brief wildcat strike Monday, while protesters marched Wednesday in Durban against government spending on the tournament.

Stallion Security’s security contracts were cancelled after the steward strikes spread, but the company said the local organising committee had played a role in setting wages.

“The Psira (Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority) linked rates were determined at the LOC’s insistence,” said chief executive Clive Zulberg, the Sapa news agency reported.

The national spirit also dampened after South Africa’s 3-0 thrashing from Uruguay, heightening fears that the host might become the first in World Cup history not make it to the second round.

But Jordaan said supporters will hope again and return to blowing vuvuzelas, the controversial trumpets whose loud buzz has been the trade-mark of the tournament.

“For first time in this tournament, the vuvuzelas were silent yesterday. This nation was silent, this is significant,” Jordaan said.

As cold wintery weather gripped the tournament, motorists were warned on Thursday to take care on roads after heavy snowfalls in parts of the country.

The government has pushed fans to avoid road congestion by using public transport, which received a 40-billion-rand (5.3-billion-dollar, 4.3-billion-euro) upgrade ahead of the tournament.

But a power outage that crippled commuter rail locomotives stranded 2,000 World Cup fans until early Thursday morning after trains were forced to switch from electric to steam locomotives.

Authorities were also accused of scoring an own goal by charging two Dutch women with ambush marketing over a stunt featuring dozens of fans wearing orange mini-dresses.

Source: SGGP

Silent tribute as China mourns quake victims

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 at 4:10 am

China observed a day of national mourning on Wednesday for victims of its killer quake, with newspaper front pages bathed in black and flags lowered to half-mast around the country.

Top leaders and thousands of other people paid a silent tribute to the victims of the 6.9 magnitude earthquake that struck a remote area of northwestern China a week ago, leaving at least 2,064 people dead.

Another 175 people were still missing and more than 12,000 injured after the quake flattened thousands of mainly mudbrick and wood homes in the Yushu region of Qinghai province, a rugged area populated by ethnic Tibetans.

The whole of Qinghai held three minutes of silence at 10:00 am (0200 GMT), while state television showed Chinese President Hu Jintao and other top leaders in Beijing bowing their heads in silent tribute to the victims.

China has observed a day of national mourning for the victims of its killer earthquake, with newspaper front pages bathed in black and flags lowered to half-mast around the country.

“Please be silent for our compatriots who died in the Qinghai Yushu quake,” said a sombre-looking Hu, surrounded by eight other leaders.

In Jiegu, the main town in the disaster zone, officials and rescuers stood silently among the ruins as Chinese flags planted in the rubble fluttered in the wind, state television showed.

And in the main square of Qinghai’s capital Xining, thousands of military personnel, officials, students and citizens mostly clad in black stood in rows, their heads bowed under a light snowfall as sirens and car horns blared.

Throughout the country, the government and its propaganda organs seized on the disaster in a Tibetan region with a restive history to stress national unity.

“In solidarity with the people,” read a front-page headline in the People’s Daily, the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece.

Aid and relief personnel have poured into the disaster area on the Tibetan plateau at an altitude of around 4,000 metres (over 13,000 feet), after delays that officials blamed on its remote location.

Wei Guijun, of the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s top economic planning agency, told reporters the government had already sent 550 million yuan (80 million dollars) in relief funds to the quake zone.

Rescuers were still sifting through rubble in Jiegu, but snow and hail have hindered relief efforts and slowed delivery of badly needed supplies, while altitude sickness also hit many of the workers.

China’s state meteorological agency forecast intermittent rain and snow in the coming days with night temperatures dipping to near-freezing.

On state television, grim-faced anchors delivered emotional tributes to the victims as they devoted all coverage to the day of mourning.

“Yushu, your suffering is our suffering. Your mourning is our mourning,” a woman anchor intoned.

In central Beijing, authorities lowered the national flag to half-mast at Tiananmen Square, and flags were also to be lowered at Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide.

All major state-run newspapers and their online versions carried blackened mastheads while the websites of some government departments were also stripped of colour.

Entertainment activities have been ordered suspended, shutting down cinemas, professional football matches, some television programmes and activity related to the Shanghai Expo opening next month, media reports said.

Foreign entertainment-related television channels such as HBO and ESPN had their programmes blocked in China, replaced by a notice on a black background saying it was due to quake mourning.

International news channels such as CNN and the BBC remained unblocked.

Source: SGGP