Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Bloody football

More than 100 people have now died as a result of a football rivalry in Egypt, and many more deaths could soon follow.    The disaster began with a riot in Port Said last year at a match between al-Masry and Cairo’s al-Ahly, in which more than 70 fans died. 

Last weekend, a court in Port Said sentenced 21 people to death for their part in the disorder.  Following the verdicts, protestors clashed with police, and more than 30 more lives were lost.  

But there is also a political dimension to the trouble.   At the time of the original riot, the Muslim Brotherhood alleged that the violence was orchestrated by supporters of the ousted regime of President Mubarak.

Now the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi is president, and the football protests have become mixed up with demonstrations against what opponents see as his undemocratic approach, leading to dozens of deaths across the country.   (See also my blog of 2 Feb, 2012)
*Another review of Historia mundial de los desastres.  http://www.tiempo.com/ram/29343/historia-mundial-de-los-desastres/

Monday, 28 January 2013

Night club fires

Brazil has declared three days of national mourning for the 231 people who died in a fire at the Kiss night club in the southern city of Santa Maria.    It is said to have started when a member of the band playing there lit a flare on stage.  One band member was killed.

Most of the victims are believed to have perished from inhaling toxic smoke from foam insulation on the ceiling.  There are claims that people could not escape because there was only one emergency exit, and that at first security guards stopped them leaving before they had paid their bills.

According to reports, the club’s fire safety certificate expired last year.   Fireworks or flares were involved in other major night club fires in the United States in 2003, Argentina in 2004, and Thailand and Russia both in 2009.

Probably the deadliest night club fire of all time happened at the Cocoanut Grove in Boston during World War Two, when 492 people died.   It was believed to have been started when a junior member of staff lit a match to try to find a light bulb he had dropped on the floor.  For more details see A Disastrous History of the World.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Iraq disaster goes on......and on

The disaster that Bush and Blair unleashed when they blundered into Iraq a decade ago shows no sign of abating.   Yesterday at least a dozen people, mainly Shia pilgrims, were killed in a series of bombings across the country.

No one has claimed responsibility, but Sunni militants, some of whom have links to al-Qaeda, have been blamed for much of the recent violence.   On Wednesday, more than 40 people were killed by bombs.

According to the authoritative independent Iraq Body Count monitoring group, last year 4,471 civilians were killed, an increase on 2011.   Every week on average, there are 18 bombings in the country.

Relations between Sunnis and Shias appear to get worse by the day.  Under Saddam Hussein, the Sunnis ruled the roost.     Since the invasion, they feel they have been marginalised and they have begun staging strikes and sit-ins.
* http://lagotafria.blogspot.com.es/  2nd blog on this page discusses my Historia Mundial de los desastres

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Haiti three years on

It is three years since Haiti was devastated by the earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people on January 12, 2010.  Today more than 350,000 Haitians are still living in tents.

Most of the rubble has now been cleared from the streets, but around 3 million Haitians are without formal jobs.     Over the last two and a half years, more than 7,500 people have died from cholera, which becomes more dangerous every time a tropical storm strikes.

Last year one of those storms inflicted a further blow when it caused huge damage to crops, sending the cost of living spiralling upwards, and now many of the donor programmes set up after the quake have come to an end.

Billions of dollars in aid were promised in the wake of the disaster, but according to the UN Special Envoy, many pledges have not been fulfilled, and now the organisation is launching a new appeal.     One donor who has come up with the goods is President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who provides subsidised oil worth about $400m a year.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Cold kills dozens in India

We tend to think of excessive heat as the main weather hazard in India, but every winter, people die of the cold.    This year the death toll is believed to have passed 170.

Most of the victims – at least 114 - have been in Uttar Pradesh, with others in Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand.    As usual, the old and the homeless are most at risk, with many of the dead found in parks or on the street.  

Last week, Delhi had its coldest day for 44 years.   Night shelters in the city are overcrowded, and those who cannot get in, have been lighting fires in the street to try to keep warm.

Meanwhile in the Ukraine, at least 37 people have perished from the cold.   (See also my blogs of 4 January, 2010 and 3 January, 2011.)

*Canadian review of new paperback edition of my book Disaster! - http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/51986

Monday, 7 January 2013

Disastrous start to New Year

A Happy New Year to all readers.    Sadly, 2013 got off to a very unhappy start in the Ivory Coast’s biggest city, Abidjan, where 64 people were killed at a fireworks party at the national football stadium.   Another 49 were injured.

According to reports, a deadly crush developed at about one o’ clock in the morning when one group of partygoers tried to leave the event just as crowds of others were arriving.   At least 28 of those killed are said to have been under 15.

The authorities have said that 5,000 extra security personnel had been drafted in, as many people went along to the event to celebrate what they saw as the country’s return to peace following months of violence after a disputed election in 2010.

The government has announced an inquiry, while the opposition has called on the Interior Minister to resign.   About 20 people were killed in a stampede at an international football match at the same stadium in 2009.   (See my blog of March 30, 2009.)
*My book Disaster! has just been published in paperback in the USA - http://www.amazon.com/Disaster-History-Earthquakes-Plagues-Catastrophes/dp/1620871815/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1356715794&sr=1-2&keywords=disaster+withington