Friday, 28 June 2013

Monsoon flood - a man-made disaster?

Nearly 3,000 people are still stranded by the monsoon floods in India’s Uttarakhand state, while more than 800 have been killed.  The rains are believed to be the heaviest in 80 years, and have swept away entire villages, while 100,000 people have had to be rescued.

Now there are claims that this has been a man-made and not a natural disaster.  Critics maintain that the root of the problem is the unchecked building of roads, hotels, blocks of flats, and hydroelectric dams.  

This has made the floodwaters more deadly as they have become laden with thousands of tons of silt, boulders and debris, while the escape routes they took in the past down streams and ravines have been blocked.

It is said that the Uttarakhand Disaster Management Authority, formed in October 2007, has never actually met, and that that there were no emergency evacuation plans.  Similarly, modestly priced radar-based technology that could have forecast cloudbursts was never installed.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Indian monsoon death toll rises

The death toll in India’s monsoon floods has now reached at least 600, and may eventually get as high as 1,000. 40,000 people are still stranded in the mountains of Uttarakhand state, the worst hit area.

The early monsoon rains are said to be the heaviest in 60 years, and with more downpours expected, search and rescue efforts are being stepped up. 33,000 people have been saved so far, but the terrain is difficult, and roads and bridges have been washed away.

These are likely to be the deadliest monsoon floods in India since 2008 when more than 2,400 people were killed between June and September in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
Perhaps the worst monsoon flood ever in India came in 1978 when up to 15,000 people were killed, and more than 40 million were driven from their homes.  The disaster was made worse by a cyclone.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Deadly monsoon flood

Monsoon floods in northern India have now killed at least 138 people.  Officials in the state of Uttarakhand, famous for its many Hindu temples, said they were the worst ever known in the area.

Three thousand troops have been deployed to help with the rescue effort, as landslips and flash floods have been making the situation worse, and more rains are forecast from June 22. Twelve thousand pilgrims are stranded at the shrine of  Badrinath.

Because of rising river levels, more than 40 villages have been evacuated. Roads have been closed and crops destroyed, and there are fears of food shortages and possibly disease as bodies are left unburied.

Last August up to 50 people were killed in Uttarakhand when heavy rains triggered a series of flash floods.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Bangladesh factory collapse - inspectors suspended

The Bangladesh government has suspended seven inspectors who it claims were negligent in their oversight of clothing factories in the Rana Plaza building which collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 people.

An official said the inspectors never visited five of the factories and that one had been operating without a licence since 2008. A government investigation has blamed the use of poor building materials for the collapse of the block.

Over the last few years, the number of factories in Bangladesh has soared to more than 240,000, but there are only 50 inspectors.  The clothing industry alone employs more than 3 million workers, mainly women from poor villages.

The Rana Plaza’s owner and five executives and owners of factories housed in the building have all been arrested, but no formal charges have yet been brought.


Monday, 3 June 2013

More deaths at work

Following the collapse of the factory building in Bangladesh, a disastrous fire at a poultry processing plant in China.   At least 112 people have been killed in the blaze at Dehui in Jilin province according to an official news agency.
Dozens of injured workers have been sent to hospital, while about 100 managed to escape, but the news agency added that the ‘complicated interior structure’ of the building and narrow exits had made rescue work difficult. It is also said that the front gate had been locked.
One worker said that as the lights went out, people panicked in the rush to find an exit. An investigation is underway, while according to some reports, the fire took hold after a series of explosions in an electrical system.   
This is China's deadliest fire since 2000, when 309 people died in a dance hall in Luoyang, Henan province, while back in 1845, 1,670 people were killed in the world’s deadliest ever theatre fire in Canton.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Rwanda 1994 genocide - more arrests

Five Rwandan men have been arrested by police in the UK on suspicion of involvement in the 1994 genocide in their country, following an extradition request from prosecutors in Rwanda, who want them to face charges of crimes against humanity.

The five lived all over the country – in Manchester, Bedford, London, Essex and Kent.   In 2009, four of them, who all denied any involvement in the genocide, won a legal battle to stop their extradition after senior judges ruled that they might not get a fair trial.   Three are former mayors.
Welcoming the arrests, Rwanda's chief prosecutor, Martin Ngoga, said Rwanda had made ‘significant progress’ on addressing concerns about fair trials since 2009.  The men are due to appear in court on June 5.

Rwanda’s genocide has the dubious distinction of being the fastest in human history.   In just 100 days, at least 800,000 people – mainly Tutsis – were murdered by Hutu extremists.