Isnin, 17 Februari 2014

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Japanese divers found alive after going missing in Bali: police (Updated)

Posted: 17 Feb 2014 12:39 AM PST

SEMAWANG, Indonesia, Feb 17, 2014 (AFP) - Five Japanese divers have now been found alive off the Indonesian resort island of Bali more three days after going missing, a disaster agency official said Monday.

Rudi Tjandi, from the Bali disaster agency, said officials found the divers holding on to a coral reef off Nusa Penida island, southeast of Bali.

They were among seven Japanese divers, all women, who went missing Friday.

A huge search swung into action after the seven women went missing on Friday during their third dive of the day from the island of Nusa Lembongan, just east of Bali.

Rescue efforts were hampered by poor weather Monday, with a helicopter only able to join the search in the afternoon after being grounded by heavy rain and strong winds in the morning.

But around 3:30 pm (0730 GMT) four of the women were found alive in waters some 300 metres (1,000 feet) off the coast of Nusa Penida, an island just southeast of Bali, said local police chief Nyoman Suarsika.

"They are now being rescued and taken to Sanur," he added, referring to a beach area of southern Bali popular with tourists.

He did not have news of the three women still missing, and could not immediately say exactly where the other four were rescued or give their names.

Distraught relatives of the divers have been arriving in Bali, with a distressed husband of one of them spotted on Sanur beach.

"I'm praying for her safety," the mother of missing instructor Shoko Takahashi told reporters in Japan on Sunday before leaving for Bali, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun daily.

"She is an active person with a dependable personality. She never does foolhardy things."

Takahashi and her husband had set up the operator known as Yellow Scuba that took the divers out on the trip, Japanese consular official Kenichi Takeyama confirmed.

He said two members of her family had joined a small briefing on the search at the consulate in Bali.

"The family members are understandably very concerned and they want to know all the details - what the conditions were like, what the current and temperature was like," Takeyama said.

Takeyama said Yellow Scuba had provided boats and staff for the search.

The women were experienced scuba divers who had logged more than 50 dives each.

The dive boat's skipper said he was following the divers for some 20 minutes before a sudden downpour made the water cloudy, according to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

He moved his 10-metre-long boat to a point some hundreds of metres away where the divers were expected to resurface at an agreed time, the report said.

When they failed to resurface, the skipper said he searched for them for an hour before reporting the incident.

But Bali province search and rescue chief Didi Hamzar told reporters on Sunday he had received information that the skipper had run out of fuel at some point, and had to refuel before heading to the agreed meeting spot.

John Chapman, a Briton who runs the World Diving Lembongan operation on the island where the women went missing, said the heavy rain and choppy sea could have been a factor in their disappearance.

He said a sudden downpour would have made some safety procedures, such as meeting at a brightly marked buoy, difficult because of poor visibility.

"Often operators coming from Bali, they don't necessarily have the knowledge of the currents and conditions. Some areas are for experienced divers and anyone coming here should make sure they use a good operator," he said.

To assist rescue officials, Chapman on Sunday conducted a dive to simulate the group's, saying the current was "quite gentle" but became much rougher when he surfaced.

Hamzar said the divers left from Blue Point on Nusa Lembongan, an area recommended only for experienced divers because of its strong currents, which often strike suddenly.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said the missing women were named by police and rescue authorities as: Ritsuko Miyata, 59, Emi Yamamoto, 33, Nahomi Tomita, 28, Aya Morizono, 27, Atsumi Yoshinobe, 29, Shoko Takahashi, 29, and Saori Furukawa, 27.

Missing Nepal passenger plane found, no survivors: official

Posted: 16 Feb 2014 11:16 PM PST

KATHMANDU, Feb 17, 2014 (AFP) - Nepalese police on Monday discovered the wreckage of a plane carrying 18 people that had gone missing one day earlier in the country's mountainous west, but no survivors have been found, an official said.

The Nepal Airlines plane with 15 passengers and three crew crashed into a forested hill in Arghakhanchi district, 226 kilometres (140 miles) west of the capital, with aircraft pieces found in a nearby village, an aviation official told AFP.

"The plane crashed into a hill, police have found its wreckage in a village, but no survivors," Bimlesh Lal Karna, chief air traffic controller at the country's largest airport in Kathmandu, told AFP.

"Most of the plane is completely broken into small pieces, no one could have survived the accident," he added.

The plane, carrying locals and one passenger from Denmark, lost contact with air traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the popular tourist town of Pokhara on Sunday afternoon.

The aircraft from the state-run carrier encountered heavy rain en route from Pokhara to the town of Jumla, 353 kilometres west of Kathmandu.

The downpour hampered Sunday's efforts to locate the plane, with two helicopters forced to turn back because of bad weather.

Police resumed their search at first light on Monday, finally spotting scattered pieces of the wreckage during an aerial search of Arghakhanchi.

Steep terrain prevented the helicopter from landing in the forested area, prompting police to be dropped to the ground instead, aviation official Karna said.

The passengers included Manab Sejuwal, a local politician from the ruling Nepali Congress party. 

Police trace passengers' phones

More than 150 Nepalese soldiers and police had fanned out across the hilly region from Sunday afternoon, trekking uphill and using mobile phone signals to try to locate the aircraft, officials said.

"Some of the passengers' mobiles are still on, so we used the help of phone companies to get a rough idea of the area where the planes might have crashed," Karna said.

The incident again raises concerns about the Himalayan nation's aviation sector, which has come under fire from international authorities after a series of fatal accidents.

The European Union in December banned all the country's airlines from flying to the EU.

Nepal, which counts tourism as a major contributor to its economy, has suffered a number of air crashes in recent years, which have usually been attributed to inexperienced pilots, poor management and inadequate maintenance.

A Chinese tourist and a local pilot were killed when an ultra-light aircraft crashed into a hill in Pokhara last October.

Last May, 21 people including eight Japanese tourists were hurt when a small plane skidded off an airport runway in northern Nepal and plunged into a river.

Fifteen people were killed at the same airport in May 2012 when a plane carrying Indian pilgrims crashed into a mountain.

In September 2012, 19 people, including seven Britons and four Chinese, were killed after an Everest-bound plane crashed minutes after taking off from Kathmandu in an accident which the government blamed on a "panic-stricken" pilot.

At the time of the blacklisting last year, EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said the country's safety record "does not leave us any other choice".

Government officials said the ban was "unfortunate" and came after months spent on upgrading safety and monitoring aircraft.


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