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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
MH370 relatives stage Beijing march against Malaysia
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 25, 2014


Two workers killed after 56-storey plunge in Hong Kong
Hong Kong (AFP) March 25, 2014 - Two construction workers in Hong Kong plunged 56 storeys to their deaths Tuesday, fire authorities said, after the scaffolding they stood upon snapped in two.

The accident took place as the pair renovated a residential building in the upscale Mid-Levels neighbourhood of the former British colony, one of the world's most vertical cities known for its strong safety record.

"When fire officers arrived, the gondola (suspended scaffolding) at the 56th floor was broken. Half of it had fallen to a platform around five or six storeys from the floor," a Hong Kong Fire Services Department spokesman told AFP.

He confirmed that there was one male and one female victim, but had no other information about their identities.

"We located one dead person on the platform and the other person was found dead at a drain nearby," he said, adding that a man on the ground sustained injuries to his hands when struck by falling debris.

Hong Kong police said they are investigating the incident.

Construction-related accidents are relatively uncommon in Hong Kong where last year 24 workers died while doing their jobs, according to the Hong Kong Federation of Occupational Safety and Health Associations.

But with eight fatal construction-related accidents already so far this year, the group's president Victor Kwong said safety is an area of "growing concern".

"There is more and more renovation work in Hong Kong which has many old buildings. The safety regulations are in place but are not always enforced," he said.

Kwong added that it is time for contractors to improve safety procedures and awareness at work, including practical training for employees.

Hong Kong Labour Minister Matthew Cheung said the number of deaths related to construction this year is of "high concern".

"We're very concerned about this very serious accident which resulted in two deaths," he told reporters, conveying his condolences to the families of the deceased workers.

A construction worker was killed and 14 others injured in Hong Kong in October 2012 after they were hit by falling steel rods at the building site for a massive bridge connecting the city with the neighbouring cities of Macau and Zhuhai.

Emotional relatives of Chinese passengers on crashed Flight MH370 scuffled with guards outside Malaysia's embassy on Tuesday and abused the ambassador, demanding answers about the plane's mysterious demise in the stormy Indian Ocean.

But gale-force winds and huge waves halted the ocean search for wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines plane, deferring relatives' quest for physical proof of the plane's destruction and the loss of its 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities -- decried as "murderers" by the Beijing protesters -- defended their decision to release new analysis of satellite data that determined the plane had plunged into the southern seas far off western Australia.

Mark Binskin, vice chief of Australia's Defence Force, underscored the daunting size of the area under scrutiny by air crews flying exhausting sorties out of Perth.

"We're not trying to find a needle in a haystack, we're still trying to define where the haystack is," he told reporters.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said better weather was expected Wednesday, allowing the search to resume.

Twelve planes would take part and an Australian warship would return to sweep an area where debris was sighted from the air.

The Boeing 777 went missing on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, dropping off air traffic control screens in what has become one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. Ever since, relatives in China have accused Malaysia of being deceitful and callous.

Around 200 of them, some in tears, linked arms and shouted slogans denouncing the handling of the slow-burning drama, a day after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced "with deep sadness and regret" that the plane had crashed in the ocean.

- 'Words can't ease pain' -

Scuffles broke out when uniformed security personnel tried to block some relatives from reaching reporters outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

"Return our relatives," the family members shouted as uniformed police and plainclothes security protected the embassy gates. Another slogan went: "The Malaysian government are murderers."

"My son, my son, return my son!" screamed Wen Wancheng, 63, as relatives behind him chanted slogans, raising their fists. Behind him, others bowed their heads and sobbed.

Chinese authorities normally keep a tight rein on any protests in Beijing, but occasionally allow people to vent their feelings, especially against foreign targets such as Japan.

The relatives delivered a written protest to the embassy before leaving.

Malaysia's ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin later arrived at the hotel where relatives are staying, to face an angry tirade.

Some shouted at him to kneel before them, while others launched a volley of abuse, calling him a "liar", "rogue" and "bastard".

Officials from the State Council, China's cabinet, met family members afterwards.

Two-thirds of the passengers aboard the doomed flight were Chinese. China's government has demanded that Kuala Lumpur hand over the satellite data which lay behind Monday's sombre conclusion, provided by British company Inmarsat and verified by British air safety experts.

"We paid great attention to the Malaysian side's announcement of the conclusion, and we have called on the Malaysian side to provide us with evidence and information that can support their conclusion," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya defended the carrier against criticism that some relatives were given the devastating news via text message late Monday.

"Our sole motivation last night... was that the families heard the tragic news before the world did," he said. "There are no words which can ease that pain."

- Mystery may persist forever -

Ahmad Jauhari said the company had deployed more than 700 "dedicated caregivers" to support the next of kin, as well as financial assistance.

Najib gave no details on where the plane may have been lost, but Inmarsat said it was able to work out which direction it flew by measuring hourly satellite "pings" bounced from the plane.

At a press conference Tuesday, Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein gave a detailed technical explanation of the innovatory Inmarsat technique, which considered the velocity of aircraft relative to the satellite.

But he acknowledged that relatives want to see what they term real proof.

"Until we can find debris and confirm the debris is from MH370, it is very difficult for me to have closure for the families," he said.

Numerous aerial sightings of suspected debris had raised hopes that wreckage would be found. But none has been retrieved yet.

The US Navy has sent a specialised device to help find the "black box" of flight and cockpit voice data, along with a robotic underwater vehicle that can scan the ocean's depths.

Those efforts will be crucial in determining what caused the Boeing 777 to deviate inexplicably off course and fly thousands of miles in the wrong direction.

Malaysia believes the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board.

Paul Yap, an aviation lecturer at Singapore's Temasek Polytechnic, said if the black box is not found, "chances are we are never going to find out what really happened".

But even if it is found, the box may still yield nothing on the crucial question of what caused the flight to divert shortly after takeoff, as the cockpit voice recorder retains only the last two hours of conversation.

burs-dma/sm/st

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