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Australia resumes hunt for refugee boat victims, toll rises

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday warned further bodies would be recovered after a boat carrying asylum seekers hit rocks and was shattered by huge waves, killing at least 28 people.

The wooden craft, believed to be crowded with up to 100 Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers and their children, hit rocks at Christmas Island Wednesday and was shattered by huge waves as traumatised residents looked on helplessly.

Residents and police (R) try to rescue refugees from an asylum boat (C) being smashed by violent seas against the jagged coastline of Australia’s Christmas Island on December 15, 2010. AFP

“We do not know with any certainty how many people there were on the boat, Gillard told reporters.

“We have got to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that more bodies will be found and there will be further loss of life than we know now.”

Customs officials told AFP the search for survivors and the dead resumed at first light on the west coast. They could not confirm how long the rescue operation would last.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the death toll from the disaster had risen to 28 — from 27 late Wednesday — while 44 people had been saved with the help of navy personnel and Christmas Island residents.

“The latest report that I have is that we have 44 people rescued and 28 deceased,” he said.

But he warned that survivors had reported that 70-100 people were on board the rickety boat, which witnesses said was thought to be carrying few life jackets. The Flying Doctors have said up to 50 were believed dead.

“I don’t like to speculate on any particular outcome, but obviously the rescuers will be doing their best… to salvage and rescue persons still in the water or to get any bodies they’re able to get out of the water,” Bowen said.

But he also hinted that the chances of finding survivors in “particularly treacherous” seas churned up by an approaching monsoonal storm were dwindling, adding that the exact number of dead would “probably never” be known.

He declined to comment on how the boat managed to get so close to the remote island — closely watched as the main people-smuggling route from Indonesia — without being intercepted by border police.

“I?m not in the position to comment on that one way or another,” Bowen said. “There?ll be an appropriate time for investigation and for further information to be released on that.”

At least 5,000 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have made their way to Australia this year, often on leaky boats from Indonesia.

Lawyers and refugee advocates including Amnesty and the UNHCR said the tragedy highlighted the desperate plight of refugees and urged greater cooperation between nations for more humane solutions.

Shocked survivors of the wreck, including 11 children, huddled in a hospital and a reception centre on Christmas Island, where a makeshift morgue was also set up. Local residents were reeling from the horror of what they witnessed.

Two seriously injured women were flown to hospital in Perth, one with abdominal injuries and the other suffering from respiratory problems from inhaling sea water and diesel, medics from the Flying Doctors said.

Many of the injured were treated by medical services on Christmas Island, home to Australia’s main immigration detention centre for boat people.

Traumatised island residents told how they had watched from the cliffs as the tragedy unfolded.

“There were children in the water. There was one very small child in a life jacket floating face down for a very long time… clearly dead,” said local shop owner Simon Prince.

“It’s something I’m not going to forget very quickly,” he told AFP.

Woken near dawn by the screams of victims, locals gathered life jackets and rushed to the sheer limestone cliffs to offer help, but strong winds blew the flotation devices back onshore.

The terrified group drifted for about an hour after losing engine power and only one man managed an “incredible leap” to safety before the surging waves smashed the rickety vessel apart on the rocks, Prince said.

People were crushed against jagged limestone as navy rescuers battled towering swells to reach them in inflatable dinghies, while locals made a human chain and tried to cast ropes and life preservers down.

Flying Doctors transported patients from the island, which lies 2,650 kilometres (1,650 miles) northwest of Perth.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has cancelled her Christmas holiday to deal with the tragedy, was set to give a briefing alongside her immigration minister later Thursday.

Five Afghan refugees perished last year when their boat exploded off Ashmore Reef, near Christmas Island, injuring 30 others.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia volcano death toll rises to 322

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

JAKARTA, Nov 23, 2010 (AFP) – Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano has killed 322 people since it began erupting late last month, and over 130,000 people are still living in makeshift camps, an official said Tuesday.

“The Merapi death toll has reached 322 people. More than 130,000 people are still living in temporary shelters,” disaster management official Agam Ferdatama said, updating the previous toll of 309 dead.

“Rescuers found many bodies in the incinerated area of Cangkringan,” he said.

The government reduced the exclusion zone on Friday for the second time in a week because of the volcano’s declining volatility, allowing more refugees to return to their homes.

Ferdatama said they had updated the number of refugees from more than 200,000 people.

Merapi killed around 1,300 people in 1930 but experts say November has seen its biggest convulsions since 1872.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia volcano death toll rises to 240

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2010 at 9:53 am

Death toll in Pakistan suicide attack rises to 68

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

Death toll rises to 18 in India ferry sinking

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2010 at 11:12 am

Two more bodies were pulled out of a fast-flowing river in eastern India on Sunday taking the death toll to 18 after an overcrowded ferry capsized and sank, with scores of people still missing.

Coastguard and navy vessels searched for further victims of the ferry accident, which took place on Saturday morning in West Bengal state.

“We now have collected 18 bodies from the river which is wide and turbulent, and we are uncertain of exactly how many more people are missing,” senior state police officer Surojit Karpurokayastha told AFP.

The vessel, which was carrying around 150 people, capsized in a river in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Kolkata, capital of West Bengal.

The boat had the capacity of just 60 passengers, officials said, but was badly overloaded.

The passengers, who were mainly farmers and fishermen, were returning from a Muslim religious function when the accident occurred.

Naval fishing vessels, hovercraft and helicopters joined the rescue operation when the search was restarted at dawn on Sunday, the Press Trust of India said, adding the victims were 15 women and three girls.

It said the exact spot where the ferry sank had yet to be established.

Some television news channel reported that more than 100 people were missing, but officials dismissed the number.

“I only remember a big tide and then everything was blank. I had my son sitting beside me. But right now I don’t know where he is,” Ajmal Sheikh, 23, told the IANS news agency.

Press reports said the boat had turned over after hitting a sand bank in rough conditions.

The ferry was one of five vessels making their way to Kakdwip from Khejuri when it sank in the Muriganga River off Ghoramara Island.

“The boat was badly overcrowded and the vessel sank after a giant wave slapped the side of the vessel,” West Bengal civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee told AFP.

Fishermen plucked at least 60 survivors from the water while others managed to swim to safety, police said.

“The river’s strong current is hampering the search operation,” Mukherjee said.

Anxious relatives were keeping vigil for news of their loved ones.

Rescuers erected floodlights on the river’s banks to make the search easier at night, but authorities feared that many of the victims had been swept away by the current.

Boat accidents are common in the South Asian subcontinent due to lax safety standards and overloading.

A similar ferry accident occurred in the same river in September, leaving two dozen people dead.
Source: SGGP

Haiti toll rises above 250, new cases taper off

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 at 9:38 am

Haiti cholera deaths rose above 250 but the number of new infections and fatalities began to taper off, offering hope the epidemic might have been contained.

The new toll of 253 dead and 3,115 infections, provided by the director general of Haiti’s health department Gabriel Thimote, represented an increase of only 33 fatalities over a 24-hour period.

The disease “is limited to a well-defined perimeter” in the northern region of Artibonite and part of the central plateau, Foreign Minister Marie-Michele Rey told reporters.

Speaking in Switzerland where she was attending a summit of French-speaking nations, Rey said that for the time being “those who are on the spot appear to be able to contain the situation.”

But fears linger of a major health crisis should the outbreak infiltrate Port-au-Prince’s squalid tent cities, where hundreds of thousands live in awful conditions after being displaced by January’s earthquake.

Sick victims and families wait at St. Nicolas Hospital in St. Marc, north of Port-au-Prince. Haiti cholera deaths rose above 250 but the number of new infections and fatalities began to taper off, offering hope the epidemic might have been contained

Cholera is primarily passed on through contaminated water or food and could spread like wildfire through the unsanitary tent cities, where displaced families bathe outside, do laundry and share meals in close quarters.

Only five people in the capital have been diagnosed with cholera so far and the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said they had all traveled in from the epicenter of the outbreak in the Artibonite river area.

“These cases thus do not represent a spread of the epidemic because this is not a new location of infection,” the UN body said, adding that the development was, however, “worrying.”

Contamination of the Artibonite River, an artery crossing Haiti’s rural center that thousands of people use for much of their daily activities, is believed to be the source of the epidemic.

Regional health director Dieula Louissaint stressed the need to isolate patients to contain the spread of the disease, which, with its characteristic severe vomiting and diarrhea, can dehydrate and kill in a matter of hours.

“We cannot continue to treat cholera in this structure where we are also seeing other kinds of patients,” Louissaint said. “We need to establish specific treatment centers.”

Around 3,000 people have been admitted to hospitals and health centers near Saint-Marc, a main town several hours northwest of the capital.

More than 50 inmates at a prison in the center of the country have also been infected and three have died, officials said.

“The situation is under control. The population should not give in to panic, but people must take hygienic measures seriously,” advised Jocelyne Pierre-Louis, a physician with the health ministry.

President Rene Preval and Health Minister Alex Larsen toured regions affected by the epidemic on Saturday, as authorities vowed they were working to provide clean water to residents.

On Friday, the health ministry asked the United Nations operations in Haiti to take charge of distributing medication sent by international donors.

Doctors Without Borders was setting up a field hospital in Saint Marc to treat patients and Oxfam sent five emergency specialists to Artibonite to set up water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for up to 100,000 people.

The Canadian government has offered to set up a military hospital on the ground and the United States has pledged to set up large tents to treat patients.

Canada, which has its own sizable Haitian population, also offered to send one million Canadian dollars to help fight the spread of the outbreak.

“Canada is worried about the risk that this serious disease spreads to other communities,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

The aid agency Oxfam said it will distribute soap, water tablets and rehydration salt packs to 25,000 HaItians as part of the effort to rein in the cholera outbreak.

“We are obviously concerned about the spread of cholera to Port-au-Prince,” Oxfam’s health advisor Raphael Mutiku said.

Still, he stressed, “earthquake victims living in and around the capital have better access to clean water, latrines and better knowledge of good hygiene practices than in rural areas.”

“We are working as quickly as possible to stop the spread of cholera. We have a lot of resources in the country right now and luckily this is a very preventable and treatable disease,” Mutiku added.

World Vision meanwhile also sent teams fanning out to distribute emergency health supplies and address cholera preventative measures.

“While we can’t be sure the direction this will take, we’re preparing for challenging weeks ahead,” said World Vision’s Program Director in Port-au-Prince, Sabrina Pourmand Nolen.

“Right now, the priority is to continue doing everything we can to stop the spread of this fast-moving disease,” she added.

The US branch of the Red Cross said Saturday that three large shipments of supplies had arrived on Haiti, already considered the poorest country in the western hemisphere even before January’s 7.0-magnitude quake.

Large parts of the capital Port-au-Prince and other nearby towns were flattened, a quarter of a million people lost their lives and even more were displaced after losing their homes.

But up until this week, Haiti had at least been spared a major disease outbreak and aid workers are now desperately trying to keep the cholera at bay before it causes a second disaster for the nation in just 10 months.

Further bad news for Haiti, US scientists reported that the January 12 earthquake had failed to release all the tension in a notorious seismic fault, leaving its capital exposed to the risk of another seismic disaster.

Source: SGGP

Rescue continues as flood death toll rises

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Rescue continues as flood death toll rises

QĐND – Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 20:57 (GMT+7)

The entire 16-strong crew of a sunken fishing boat was rescued by Brunei marines off the Hoang Sa archipelago at 17h on October 19, reported the rescue force.

The Hoa Hai boat, captained by Nguyen Ngoc Sinh, was broken by typhoon Megi and lost contact with land.

The news was confirmed by Ly Son island authorities in the central province of Quang Ngai later the same day, who said Captain Sinh had telephoned his family about his and crew members’ survival. However, information on the whereabouts of the rescued fishermen has not yet been released.

The Hoa Hai boat was just one of eight fishing boats stranded in dangerous waters.

The provincial border guards command said about 411 fishing boats are still offshore and they are trying to locate and contact with these fishing boats.

Since typhoon Megi hit the central region on October 13, the death toll has reached 36.

Almost 200,000 homes have been inundated, over 8,000 ha of rice fields, 38,000 ha of crops and almost 40,000 tonnes of food in stores have been either flooded or swept away.

Domestic and international efforts have been increasing to alleviate the plight of typhoon victims.

The Vietnam Red Cross Association President, Tran Ngoc Tang, said the association has sent supplies to 12,000 victim families, which however fell far behind demand by people in flood areas.

The association on October 18 sent the third batch of urgent aid worth over VND2.1 billion (roughly US$107,000) in cash and kind to typhoon Megi victims in the three central provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh. The aid included VND350 million in cash, 3,000 barrels of water-purifying pills, 50 tents and 3,600 barrels of daily necessities.

The Prime Minister has signed decisions to aid disaster victims in the central region.

One of the decisions allowed the allocation of VND70 billion from the 2010 Central Hedge Fund and free supply of 3,000 tonnes of rice for flood victims in the three central provinces .

The Ministry of Finance has been assigned to allocate VND20 billion to buy seedlings, domestic animals and aquatic breeds to help recover production in flood areas.

In addition, the Prime Minister has entrusted the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to supply free 2,800 tonnes of rice seedlings, 200 tonnes of maize seedlings and 110 tonnes of vegetable seedlings for 15 provinces hit by the recent natural disasters, including the three central provinces hit by typhoon Megi.

The Vietnamese Embassy and the Vietnamese Community Federation in Laos have also raised over VND170 million for their flood-hit patriots.

The Vietnamese in Khammuon province have donated VND70 million to help flood victims in the central region.

The Vietnamese Embassy in South Africa has donated 5,000 Rand (roughly US$700) for flood victims in Quang Binh province.

Source: VOVNews/VNA

Source: QDND

Death toll from typhoon rises to 76 in Philippines

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2010 at 11:24 am

MANILA, July 20, 2010 (AFP) – The death toll from Typhoon Conson in the Philippines rose to 76 on Tuesday as rescuers pulled more bodies from the sea, with dozens more still missing and feared dead, authorities said.

A fishing vessel capsized in Mariveles, Bataan, the Philippines on July 15, 2010. AFP photo

The number of missing stood at 72 as coast guard and navy boats were joined by aircraft in scouring the waters nearly a week after the typhoon hit, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said.

“The search and rescue operations are still going on, as long as there are still people missing,” said Relan Asuncion, section chief of the civil defence office.

The death toll was up from 68 but the number of missing was down from Monday’s earlier report of 84, authorities said.

Asuncion told AFP that aside from the additional bodies being found, the number of missing was falling as field units removed the names of those who had been listed twice.

Conson slammed into the country on July 13, directly hitting the capital Manila as it cut westward into the South China Sea with a ferocity that caught weather forecasters by surprise.

It caused massive power outages across Luzon, toppled power lines, uprooted trees and destroyed thousands of homes.

Days later, the damage caused by the storm was still being counted with over 2,000 people still sheltered in evacuation centres, the government said.

In China the storm killed at least two people, and left one dead and about a dozen missing in Vietnam.

Source: SGGP

CPI rises slightly in June

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 12:41 pm

The country’s consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.22 percent in June over the previous month and has risen 8.75 percent year-on-year, said the General Statistics Office.

CPI figures for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. (

The highest increase came in the market for alcohol and tobacco, which increased 0.62 percent, perhaps due to hot weather bolstering the demand for beverages.

Costs for construction materials registered lowest level of increase, 0.01 percent, due declining prices for steel and gasoline.

The price of food and catering services surged by 0.37 percent; the price of rice however, decreased by 0.83 percent.

The CPI in June only a increased slightly due to the continually reducing price of rice, plus prices of many other essential commodities, such as petrol, oil, building materials, medicines and food also seeing reductions or moderate increases.

The price of gold increased by 3.09 percent over the previous month, spurned on by fluctuations in the US and EU markets.

The US dollar exchange rate, meanwhile, continued to decline 0.17 percent on the domestic market versus last month.

Ho Chi Minh City’s consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.35 percent over the previous month and up 4.88 percent from the beginning of the year, said the office.

The highest increases were seen in entertainment and tourism services, housing and electricity. Water and construction materials rose 0.93 percent and 0.87 percent respectively; restaurant services increased by 0.57 percent and postal and telecom services went up 0.42 percent.

Hanoi’s CPI rose by 0.21 percent, driving up its six months figure to 5.13 percent.

Da Nang City’s CPI rose by 0.28 percent and Hai Phong City’s CPI 0.38 percent.

Source: SGGP

Nation rises in IT ranking

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Nation rises in IT ranking

QĐND – Sunday, June 20, 2010, 22:26 (GMT+7)

Vietnam rose from 98th ranking in 2007 to 86th in 2008, according to the latest report from Information and Communication Development Index ranking 159 countries and territories.

The top 10 countries ranked in order were Sweden, Luxembourg, Republic of Korea, Denmark, Holland, Iceland, Switzerland, Japan, Norway and the UK.

Vietnam, as one of the developing countries, has recorded dramatic improvement in index scores together with the countries of Bahrain, Cape Verde, Greece, Macedonia, Nigeria and United Arab Emirates.

Source: VNA

Source: QDND