At least two mining accidents have been reported in China in the past week, causing the deaths of 38 miners in total, the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported via Chinese state-owned media and the international Reuters news agency today.
As a rapidly industrialising country with a wealth of natural resources, the People’s Republic has seen hundreds of mines established to explore for coal, precious metals and other materials, but many mines are unlicensed and the country has a poor safety record generally, with fatal accidents a regular occurrence.
In the past five days, two fatal accidents have been reported. The first occurred in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, where an explosion at a privately owned coal mine killed 21 people, the national news agency Xinhua stated. The incident, which took place in the city of Qitaihe this past Tuesday, trapping 22 miners underground. There is believed to be one survivor and rescue work is still in process.
The second disaster occurred just today, when another coal mine exploded in the Inner Mongolia province on China’s northern border with Mongolia, killing 17. An undisclosed number of mine workers are also trapped, and rescue teams have reached the remote region to try and pull out survivors, according to Xinhua.
New Year’s Day may have been a time of happiness for most, but for the Scottish football club Rangers FC, their fans and for many in Scotland, New Year’s Day 2011 was a time for remembrance for 66 fans who perished in a stampede at the club’s ground in Glasgow forty years ago at the time of the memorial service, which took place in January. The Ibrox disaster of 1971 also saw 200 people injured in the darkest day of the team’s history.
Thousands of people gathered at the Rangers FC home ground in Glasgow in January 2011 to remember one of the darkest chapters in Glaswegian and Scottish football history, reported The Scotsman newspaper today in a past New Year’s events commemoration. Four years ago, the special service was attended by relatives, families and friends of those who died. Many survivors of the Ibrox disaster, despite the onset of old age, also attended to pay their respects to their fallen friends. At the time of the disaster, a match between Rangers and their rivals Celtic was taking place and players from both teams also honoured those who died at the service.
They made a vow to always remember those who perished in the disaster, in which fans attempting to leave the stadium were crushed to death as they tried to leave through overcrowded gates after the conclusion of the game. The incident occurred on the Stairway 13 part of the Old Firm’s Ibrox Stadium, then called Ibrox Park. At that time, 80,000 fans were on the stalls for the Rangers vs. Celtic clash and safety concerns had been raised about the standard of Ibrox’s passageways after two fans died in an earlier stampede. Among the dead in the 1971 disaster included several children, including five school friends from the town of Markinch in Fife. Rangers FC admitted responsibility for the disaster and were later sued by several families of victims.
The tragedy was described by Martin Bain, Rangers’ chief executive, as a “tragedy beyond belief“, according to The Scotsman.
The service was attended by around 5,000 people, including past and present Rangers players, including John Greig, the team captain at the time of the disaster, whose statue forms part of a memorial to the victims of both the 1971 tragedy and a similar incident that occurred at the turn of last century. The Celtic side were represented by manager Neil Lennon, chairman John Reid and chief executive Peter Lawwell.
Victims’ relatives and the footballers placed bouquets of blue and white flowers, the team colours of Rangers at the stand as the current manager Walter Smith, a survivor of the tragedy, and Greig solemnly read out the names of the fans who did not return home that fateful day. As the act of commemoration, several relatives were reported to have turned and saluted to the stand where their loved ones watched the game.
The Celtic chairman then also laid a wreath in his team’s colours of green and white before the crowd, who had gathered at the Govan East Corner area of the stadium, fell silent for two minutes as an act of remembrance. Following this, the Rangers chief executive addressed the mourners, describing the events of January 1971 as an “unimaginable horror“.
He said “January 2, 1971, is a date that will be forever etched deeply into the soul of the Rangers family. Each year we remember with the heaviest of hearts and wish for all the world that the fate of those on Stairway 13 had been so different.
“Forty years may now have passed, but as Willie Waddell said at the time, the scar is deep. It still is, and always will be.”
Martin Bain then went on to recollect to the gathered how Rangers and Celtic put aside their sporting rivalry to rally together and support each other, both fans and officials.
“Rivalries do run deep – sometimes too deep – but at the core of it all is a common bond, and that is a love of football,” he explained. “A game of football should and does bring joy, happiness, frustration and disappointment in different measure, but it should never bring tragedy and disaster.“
To the relatives and friends of those lost, and those who survived Stairway 13, his message was a simple one of remembrance.
“We cannot fully comprehend your grief, your anguish, your torment, or your suffering, but we can come together today to offer you our comfort,” he vowed. “There is a heartfelt desire among all of us to remember and never forget.“
The service was presided over by local Christian clergy, in particular the Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie, who himself was a survivor who was watching the match from the Copland Road terracing at the time the crush occurred. Rev. MacQuarrie described the tragic events as a “personal tragedy” for the families left behind.
After the Reverend’s address, a lifelong Rangers fan, Ian Loch, another survivor, read an extract from a speech famous among the club’s fans. Entitled ‘To Be a Ranger‘, it was originally delivered by past manager, Bill Struth.
“No matter the days of anxiety that come our way, we shall emerge stronger because of the trials to be overcome,” he told the crowd. “That has been the philosophy of the Rangers since the days of the gallant pioneers.”
There was also a musical element to the memorial service as the Glasgow Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Salvation Army and Govan Citadel band led the crowd in the hymns The Lord is My Shepherd, Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah and Follow On. A large banner was seen suspended from the Bill Struth Stand, which stated: ‘In our hearts forever’. Several Scottish figureheads of government and religion also paid their respects along with fans, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bob Winter, Nicola Sturgeon, then the country’s Deputy First Minister, the Right Rev John Christie, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the Most Rev Mario Conti, Glasgow’s archbishop.
An Italian-owned ferry has caught fire off the coast of Greece with 466 passengers and crew aboard, reports Al-Jazeera. Greek officials have stated that a rescue operation is under way to save travellers on the stricken ship, the Norman Atlantic, Al-Jazeera journalists have stated in the report made available online at 10:00 this morning.
Several local vessels immediately rushed to the Norman Atlantic‘s aid and successfully removed 205 people from the deck so far. Fifty-five were taken in by one ship, while the other 150 people rescued so far were said to have escaped the vessel using its lifeboats and are waiting to be picked up by ships attending the SOS call.
The Greek rescue operation is being hampered by heavy winds and choppy sea conditions in the Mediterranean, making it difficult for ships to approach the Norman Atlantic safely. The vessel itself is being lashed by strong winds which rescuer fear may potentially cause the fire to spread rapidly to other parts of the ferry. Seven vessels have however managed to side up to the ship to rescue remaining passengers, while Al-Jazeera also reports that both Italian and Greek aircraft were seen flying above the Norman Atlantic, and two Greek firefighting ships have been sent to tackle the flames.
According to the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency, the fire is believed to have started in a parking bay, which has a stated maximum capacity of 200 vehicles. The Greek television station Mega further reports that the ferry is also transporting an undisclosed volume of olive oil, which rescuers are concerned may pose an explosion risk if the fire reaches the ship’s cargo hold. Greece’s defence minister Nikos Dendias told Mega that Italian rescue services and military personnel responded to a call for help from Greek maritime authorities after the fire occurred shortly after the ferry left the port of Patras en route to the Italian town of Ancona at 5.30 am local time this morning. A passenger who fled the burning ship reported that heat from the blaze had caused the soles of their shoes to melt as they were waiting for assistance in the ferry’s reception area. There are currently no reports of any casualties.
According to the ship tracking website VesselFinder, the Norman Atlantic is currently off the coast of Albania near the town of Fier and had travelled between Ancona in Italy and Patras and Igoumenitsa, both on the Greek mainland. The ship is described by VesselFinder as a dual-purpose passenger and ro-ro cargo ship which is registered under the flag of Italy. She was built in 2009 and is capable of carrying up to 26,904 tonnes. The ferry is operated by the Saremar ferry company based in Cagliari, Sardinia. The company has not yet made any formal comment on the situation on board the ferry.
The hurricane that has brought death and destruction to large parts of the North American continent has finally succumbed to the forces of nature. In little over a week, Hurricane Sandy tore her way through the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Cuba, before making a quick turn over the North Atlantic Ocean and making landfall in Atlantic City, on America’s east coast. Within three days, Sandy destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, killed more than 70 people and created desolate ‘Third World’ disaster conditions in two of the world’s richest nations. The centre of New York became a virtual ghost town, as power supplies to the island of Manhattan were cut off, plunging the skyscrapers of the financial district into darkness.
Apocalyptic conditions saw the city’s streets perennially lashed with driving rain and strong winds. Fifty residences in the nearby town of Oysters’ Creek were consumed by fire, rapidly spread by those winds. Hundreds of thousands of residents over a coastal zone stretching from the New England region to the state of Maine were served with mandatory evacuation notices – officials warned that those who refused to leave were putting their own and their rescuers’ lives in grave risk.
Back in New York, the city’s distinctive yellow cabs soon became little more than yellow metal ducks floating on the deluge of floodwater. The subway system, which serves millions of public transport users every day, succumbed to flooding and electrical damage.
At the height of what many mainstream media commentators dubbed ‘Frankenstorm’, US president Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the New York region as the hurricane began its orgy of wholesale destruction.
A tidal wave measuring 4 metres (13 feet) – twice the height of an adult human – poured seawater into New York’s subway network, flooding many tunnels. Fishing boats were swept inland and one found itself deposited inside the lobby of an apartment complex. In neighbouring New Jersey, railway carriages were swept from their tracks and pushed onto the flyovers of the New Jersey Turnpike, a major road running through the state.
A trawler weighing several tonnes was washed aground in the district of Staten Island. It was abandoned on a local street, giving locals a very real representation of the hurricane’s unbridled power.
The gush of water from the Atlantic not only brought in maritime vessels but also a wall of debris believed to be as much as 2.25 metres (7 feet) high, coating fields and streets with mud and vegetation. The East and Hudson rivers could not cope with the excess water and rapidly burst their banks, adding to the intensive flooding woes. Cars were swept away and underground ‘parking lots’ became giant vats of polluted water with floating vehicles.
A power station providing much of New York’s electricity exploded in strong winds, causing a power outage to large parts of the city. The Tisch Hospital was forced to rely on generators, which subsequently failed, and eventually along with another hospital, patients were completely evacuated as the electricity cut out and they became dependant on battery-powered life support. All over the disaster zone, eight million homes and workplaces lost power, and the situation had become so bad that millions of residents may not see their electricity and running water restored for several days. The utility company, Consolidated Edison, which serviced the power station, stated in an impact assessment that 500,000 households in Manhattan alone were cut off as a result of the explosion which was believed to have been caused by flying debris or flooding of the station’s generation hub.
A nuclear power station, too, came under threat from Sandy. It was shut down amid fears of a repeat of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan when a tsunami wrecked the facility causing a radiation leak potentially harmed thousands of people.
Public transport ceased running entirely, forcing New Yorkers to flee in private cars or with literally their worldly possessions crammed into bags. Many chose to brave out the storm, remaining at home with hurriedly bought emergency food stocks and survival equipment. New York’s airports were shut for business, along with its schools and major businesses. Thousands of air flights linking New York with the outside world were cancelled, stranding holidaymakers who found themselves being overcharged by exploitative hotels. Hundreds of desperate and homeless tourists escaped being ripped off by sleeping in camps set up at JFK and other airports.
As the New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, rushed through emergency measures for his city’s beleaguered residents, the neighbouring state of New Jersey – only the other side of the Hudson river from the city, was the next to bear the brunt of the superstorm. Speaking in a BBC News report, the state’s governor, Chris Christie stated that 2.4 million households in his state were without power, twice as many as when the last major hurricane, Irene, struck the area in August last year.
In a news conference held during the carnage, Governor Christie said that the destruction was “beyond anything I thought I’d ever see”. Not since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the town of New Orleans in 2005, had urban America lived with such fear and uncertainty from the forces of nature.
Atlantic City, where hurricane Sandy first made its American arrival, was left a soaked and gutted mess. Around 30,000 residents were told to leave their homes as the hurricane reached shore at 8:00 pm local time. Sandy brought with her 80 mph winds and a relatively small tsunami that turned Atlantic City’s wide streets into fast-flowing rivers. Sandy had by then fused with a local cold weather front and a smaller tempest, causing it to mutate into the devastating ‘superstorm’. A week later it had reached Canada where it has now fizzled out into an ordinary winter thunderstorm.
During its passage, Sandy crossed 12 U.S. states causing Obama to declare a state of emergency in five of them neighbouring the destruction’s epicentre in New York.
Notwithstanding the human cost to millions of people affected across the eastern and southern portions of North America, the financial costs are estimated to be hugely crippling as the United States struggles to emerge from a bleak recession. The estimation firm Eqecat states that the total costs of damage and rebuilding could run as high as US $10-20 billion.
Many thanks to Sunny Atwal for suggesting today’s article.
“Sandy: Storm-hit New York declared major disaster area” – unknown author, BBC News US & CanadaLINK
“Sandy: Storm-hit New York declared major disaster area” – unknown author, BBC News US & Canada LINK
“Expat blogs roundup: here comes Hurricane Sandy” – Sophie Pitman, The Telegraph LINK
“Hurricane Sandy Devastates New York City Subway, Long Island Rail Road And Metro-North According To MTA” – Tom Herrmann, International Business Times Inc. LINK
“Drowntown, NJ: Utter havoc throughout state” – Jeane Macintosh, Post Wire Services/The New York Post LINK