News & Current Affairs

August 25, 2008

Americans die in Guatemala crash

Americans die in Guatemala crash

Five US aid workers are among 10 people who died in a plane crash in Guatemala on Sunday, police in the Central American state say.

The Guatemalan pilot and co-pilot were also killed when the small aircraft crashed about 90km (55 miles) east of the capital, Guatemala City.

Four other Americans injured on the plane were airlifted to hospital.

Initial reports suggest engine failure was to blame for the crash of the single-engine Cessna Caravan 208.

Victims’ bodies were reportedly badly burnt, making it difficult to identify them and establish their nationalities.

‘The engine just stopped’

The pilot reported engine trouble about 45 minutes after take-off and tried to make an emergency landing, Civil Aviation director Jose Carlos said.

Guatemalan emergency services ferry an injured person to safety

The survivors were evacuated by helicopter from the site

The plane, which had been en route to El Estor close to the Caribbean coast, came down in a field of crops.

The survivors were ferried to Guatemala City by helicopter.

US citizen Sarah Jensen, 19, said her father and brother had been killed and her mother badly burned on her arms and legs.

“Ten minutes before [the crash] the engine just stopped and then we coasted,” she told Reuters news agency, as she limped across the tarmac.

“We tried to land in a field but we overshot. The people on the left side of the plane were okay because there was a big door.”

Ms Jensen and her family had been on a mission to build houses in a village near El Estor.

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August 18, 2008

Grand Canyon rescue as dam bursts

Grand Canyon rescue as dam bursts

A stranded rafter is lowered to shore by a National Park Service employee after being hauled across the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, 17 August 2008

Dozens of campers and rafters have been airlifted out of the area

US rescue crews have airlifted some 170 people to safety from a remote village in the Grand Canyon after a dam burst following days of heavy rain.

Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said water from the Redlands Dam was causing flooding in Supai, at the bottom of Supai canyon.

The remote area, accessible only by foot, on horseback or by air, is home to 400 members of the Havasupai tribe.

Most people have been accounted for but searches will resume later on Monday.

Uprooted

The Redlands dam is on Havasu Creek. The creek feeds the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon.

After the dam burst, people were flown out of the Supai area and then taken on buses to Peach Springs, about 60 miles (96km) south-west of Supai.

About 16 people in a private boating party were among those who had to be rescued after becoming stranded on a ledge on the Colorado river when their rafts were swept away by flood water.

Some hiking trails and footbridges have been washed away and trees uprooted, although no damage or injuries were reported in Supai itself.

A flash flood warning remained in effect with more rain threatened.

The BBC’s Rajesh Mirchandani in Los Angeles says although more than four million visitors go to the Grand Canyon each year access to the lower areas is well regulated.


Are you in the area? Were you affected by the evacuation of the Grand Canyon? Send us your comments

August 7, 2008

Actor Freeman ‘in divorce action’

Actor Freeman ‘in divorce action’

Myrna Colley-Lee and Morgan Freeman

Divorce rumours about Colley-Lee and Freeman surfaced in June

Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman and his wife of 24 years  are to divorce, according to his lawyer.

Bill Luckett told US cable TV show Access Hollywood that Freeman and costume designer Myrna Colley-Lee “are involved in a divorce action”.

He added: “And for legal and practical purposes the pair have been separated since December 2007.”

The 71-year-old Dark Knight star is recovering after being involved in a serious car accident on Sunday.

Freeman was driving a car belonging to his friend, Demaris Meyer, when he lost control and veered off a highway close to his home in Charleston, Mississippi.

The car flipped over several times before landing in a ditch.

Arm injuries

Bill Rogers, who saw the accident happen, recalled a conversation he had with Freeman at the scene: “He said that she had offered him a ride home; that they were friends, and she didn’t really know the way and so he was going to drive the vehicle.”

The pair were airlifted to Memphis’s Regional Medical Centre, about 90 miles (145km) north of where the accident occurred.

The actor suffered a broken arm, broken elbow and minor shoulder injuries.

Mr Luckett, who also co-owns a blues club with Freeman, visited the actor in hospital on Wednesday. He said: “It’s going to take a few months because he got banged up pretty badly actually.”

“He’s in good spirits today and he hopes his golf swing is going to be better than ever now with his fixed arm,” the lawyer added.

Freeman married Myrna in June 1984. He also has two children with his first wife, Jeanette Adair Bradshaw, whom he was married to for 12 years from 1967.

Mechanic

Freeman won a best supporting actor Oscar for boxing drama Million Dollar Baby in 2005.

He has twice been nominated in the leading actor category – for The Shawshank Redemption in 1995 and Driving Miss Daisy in 1990.

Last year it was announced the actor would play former South African president Nelson Mandela in forthcoming film The Human Factor.

His first credited film appearance was in the 1971 movie Who Says I Can’t Ride a Rainbow!

Prior to that, he had worked as a mechanic in the US Air Force.

His film appearances include Se7en, Unforgiven and the rebooted Batman franchise.

August 5, 2008

Dutch climbers airlifted from K2

Pakistani helicopters have rescued two Dutch climbers from a group that lost 11 members over the weekend on the world’s second-highest mountain, K2.

Rescue climbers have reached an Italian mountaineer and are helping him to an advance camp high on the mountain slopes, Reuters news agency said.

About 25 climbers reached the summit on Friday but nine died on descent after an avalanche swept away their ropes.

Earlier, on the ascent, two climbers fell to their deaths.

Many regard the 8,611m (28,251ft) peak as the world’s most difficult to climb.

In the deadliest day in K2’s history, the avalanche occurred when a chunk from an ice pillar snapped away on a feature called the Bottleneck.

Several climbers were swept to their deaths; others froze to death after they were stranded high on the mountain.

Cpt Azeemullah Baig said a Pakistani army helicopter had already picked up the two Dutch climbers.

“Thanks to Almighty Allah, the rescue operation has started this morning,” he told Reuters news agency.

Four rescue climbers reached Italian mountaineer Marco Confortola after attempts to reach him by helicopter were called off in bad weather, Pakistani guide Sultan Alam told Reuters news agency from the K2 base camp.

The rescuers were guiding Mr Confortola to the advanced base camp 6,000 metres up the slopes of K2.

The head of an Italian mountaineering group who spoke to Mr Confortola by satellite phone said his feet were in “very bad” shape from frostbite but that he could still walk and that his hands were in good condition.

Mr Confortola’s brother also spoke to the stranded climber.

“Up there it was hell,” Ansa news agency quoted Mr Confortola telling his brother Luigi.

“During the descent, beyond 8,000 metres (26,000 feet), due to the altitude and the exhaustion I even fell asleep in the snow and when I woke up I could not figure out where I was”.

The Death Zone

The two rescued Dutchmen are being treated for frostbite in a Pakistani military hospital.

“Everything was going well to Camp Four and on [the] summit attempt everything went wrong,” one of the Dutchmen, Wilco Van Rooijen, told Associated Press news agency.

He said some ropes had been laid in the wrong position – a mistake which took several valuable hours to correct, delaying the summit push until just before darkness.

As climbers descended from the peak in the dark, the ice pillar collapsed, sweeping away climbers and stranding others in the high-altitude level known as the Death Zone – where there is not enough oxygen to support life.

Pakistani authorities said three South Koreans, two Nepalis, two Pakistani porters, and French, Serbian, Norwegian and Irish climbers had died on the mountain.

Expedition organisers only learned of the avalanche after a group of climbers arrived back at the mountain’s base camp on Saturday evening.

Reports from the mountain’s base camp say two separate parties of Serbian and Norwegian climbers were able to make it back to base camp.

The Serbians said they buried their team member as it was impossible to bring his body back. The Norwegians said their companion was lost in the avalanche.

Only a few hundred people have climbed K2 and dozens have died in the attempt.

The fatality rate for those who reach the summit at 27% is about three times higher than that for Mount Everest.

One of the worst single-day death tolls was on Everest on 11 May 1996, when eight people died in summit attempts.

Six people fell to their deaths or disappeared during a storm on K2 on 13 August 1995.

The summit of K2 was first reached by two Italians, Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni, on 31 July 1954.

Do you know anyone involved in any of the expeditions or have any information about them? Have you ever attempted to climb K2?

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