asia-pacific

South Korea ore carrier missing in South Atlantic, 22 crew unaccounted

SEOUL: A South Korean cargo vessel is missing after making its last contact in the South Atlantic about 2,500km from shore and 22 crew members are unaccounted for, South Korea’s foreign ministry and news reports said on Sunday.

Two Filipino crew members have been rescued floating in a life raft on Saturday, but other lifeboats and rafts found in the area were empty, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

“A search operation is continuing for the 22 people,” a South Korean foreign ministry official in Seoul said by telephone, adding eight of the missing are South Korean nationals and 14 are Filipinos.

South Korea has requested Brazil and Uruguay to aid in the search and rescue, the official said asking not to be identified.

The very large ore carrier (VLOC) Stellar Daisy owned and operated by South Korea’s Polaris Shipping based in Busan was sailing from Brazil to China carrying iron ore when it sent a distress signal to the ship operator on Friday, Yonhap said.

A message last received on Friday by Polaris from a crew member said the ship was taking in water on the port side and was listing rapidly, Yonhap said.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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asia-pacific-1

Ten more bodies recovered after Bangladeshi ferry sinks, six still missing

DHAKA: Ten more bodies have been recovered from Bangladesh’s Panguchi River, a local official said on Thursday, after a ferry carrying about 80 passengers capsized this week.

Divers had been deployed to find the six people who were still missing, the chief administrator of Morelganj sub-district, Obaidur Rahman, said.

Rashedul Alam, a police official from Morelganj, where the accident happened, said a combination of strong currents and overloading caused the ferry to sink on Tuesday.

Most of the passengers had swum to safety, he said.

Low-lying Bangladesh, with extensive inland waterways and slack safety standards, has a track record of ferry accidents and deaths sometimes run into the hundreds.

(Reporting by Serajul Quadir and Enammul Haque; Editing by Vin Shahrestani)

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asia-pacific

Missing Pakistani activists' families decry blasphemy allegations

ISLAMABAD: Families and supporters of five missing Pakistani activists on Wednesday denounced what they called a campaign to accuse the men of blasphemy, a highly charged allegation that could endanger their lives were they to reappear.

The accusations, made online and in a complaint to police, have unsettled Pakistan’s small community of social activists.

The families of two of the missing men, Salman Haider and Waqass Goraya, described them as part of a “malicious campaign”.

“This campaign can only be meant to divert public sympathy away from our plight and the plight of our loved ones, who have been illegally abducted,” the two families said in a statement handed out at a press conference in the capital, Islamabad.

Associates and supporters of all five men deny they have blasphemed.

The liberal activists disappeared since Jan. 4, and some rights groups and newspapers have questioned whether state or military agencies were in some way involved.

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry has said it is seeking information and the Federal Investigation Agency says it has not arrested them. Other state agencies and the country’s military declined to comment.

Haider, a leftist writer and professor, disappeared in early January as did liberal bloggers Goraya, Aasim Saeed and Ahmed Raza Naseer, as well as Samar Abbas, head of an anti-extremism activist group in Karachi.

All were reported missing separately by their families within a week of each other.

In recent days, the missing activists have been accused of blasphemy in online posts and by at least three television commentators.

Haider Shah, of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan, said the blasphemy allegations endangered the activists.

Even if they were freed without charge, they could be targeted by extremists who believe violence is justified to defend Islam, he added.

“These people will be running from these allegations for the rest of their lives,” Shah said.

In 2011, a Pakistani governor, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard after calling for reform of the blasphemy laws. His killer was hailed a hero by religious hardliners, and tens of thousands of supporters attended his funeral after he was executed last year.

POLICE REVIEWING COMPLAINT

One of the first blasphemy allegations appeared on Jan. 9 on the pro-military Pakistan Defence page on Facebook.

The anonymous Urdu-language post displayed photos of Haider, Goraya and Saeed linking them with a Facebook group called Bhensa, which it said contained “blasphemy toward the Koran”.

When contacted by Reuters via email, an anonymous administrator for Pakistan Defence said the Facebook page and website were an “open source debate platform” and that comments were linked to members who “contribute anonymously”.

The administrator added that, while many posts praised Pakistan’s powerful military, the army was in no way associated with it.

A group called Civil Society of Pakistan filed a police complaint over the weekend against the missing men, demanding that they be charged with insulting the Prophet Mohammad, a crime in Pakistan that carries a mandatory death sentence.

Tariq Asad, chairman of Civil Society of Pakistan, said the organization filed its police complaint in outrage after reading about the case.

“Every Pakistani has awareness of this issue and many have asked us to take this up … Whoever does not love the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, more than his own family is not a true Muslim,” Asad said.

Police officer Khalid Awan, based in Islamabad where the complaint was lodged, said it was under legal review, but so far formal criminal charges had not been brought.

Both Pakistan Defence and Civil Society of Pakistan dismissed suggestions that they were part of a coordinated campaign.

Critics of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws say they have long been used by individuals and religious groups to settle disputes, but activists say that the accusations against the five signal a worrying escalation.

“The intensity of it is very worrying,” said Shahzad Ahmed, director of cyber-security group Bytes for All.

“There is mainstream media, social media: the way it is being projected and repeated, the kind of force that they are using is unprecedented.”

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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QZ8501: AirAsia flight to Singapore missing

AirAsia Indonesia flight QZ8501 travelling from Indonesia to Singapore goes missing with 162 people on board, the company says. Officials says contact was lost over the Java Sea. They’ve called off the search for the night – to resume in the morning.
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Breaking News: AirAsia Flight from Indonesia to Singapore Confirmed Missing

http://news.sky.com/story/1398597/contact-lost-with-airasia-flight-to-singapore
http://rt.com/news/218147-air-asia-flight-missing/
http://edition.cnn.com/2014/12/27/world/asia/airasia-missing-plane
AirAsia flight number QZ8501, bound from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore, has lost contact with air traffic control, the airline has confirmed. The missing flight is an Airbus A320-200 with 155 people on board, Reuters reports.
The plane lost contact with Jakarta air traffic control on Sunday, Indonesian media said, citing Transport Ministry official Hadi Mustofa.
Mustofa said the contact was lost at 6:17 a.m. local time (23:17 GMT on Saturday), after the crew asked for an “unusual route.”
According to an unnamed Indonesian transport official, there are 155 passengers and crew aboard the plane.
The flight was due to land in Singapore at 8:30 a.m. local time (00:30 GMT) and was listed as “delayed.”
AirAsia has confirmed the plane has gone missing in a statement.
“At the present time we unfortunately have no further information regarding the status of the passengers and crew members on board, but we will keep all parties informed as more information becomes available,” the company said.
It added that “search and rescue operations are in progress and AirAsia is cooperating fully and assisting the rescue service.”
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that services have been “activated” to help Indonesia search for the missing flight.
An Emergency Call Center with the number +622129850801 has been established for family and friends of those who may have been on board the flight.
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