’Youngest and brightest’ lost in Pacific ferry disaster

This undated handout photo released by Maritime New Zealand and received on January 31, 2018 shows boys jumping off the deck of the ferry MV Butiraoi, a 17.5-metre (57.4-foot) wooden catamaran, at an unknown location. (AFP)
Updated 01 February 2018
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’Youngest and brightest’ lost in Pacific ferry disaster

WELLINGTON: Many children and teenagers are among those missing after a ferry sank in the remote Pacific, official figures have revealed, with victims described as their region’s “youngest and brightest.”
Radio Kiribati reported late Wednesday that a council survey of Nonouti island, where the ferry departed on January 18, showed there were 88 people aboard.
It said they included 10 children of primary age and 13 high school students.
The youngsters are believed to have been traveling to the Kiribati capital South Tarawa for the start of a new school term.
Only seven people, including a 14-year-old girl, have been found alive so far and hopes are fading of locating any more.
Four aircraft, from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, are combing vast swathes of ocean looking for survivors, along with six boats.
Kiribati President Taneti Maamau told public radio Wednesday that the sinking was a “tragic moment” for the tiny island nation but the search for survivors would continue.
“There are objects that have been spotted like wooden pieces and a gas cylinder and a few other things, but sadly there are still no signs of people spotted yet,” he said.
Former president Anote Tong said Nonouti had lost its “youngest and brightest” and the whole of Kiribati was in shock.
“This is by far the biggest disaster in terms of numbers and also in terms of the people involved,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Tong said there were questions about why it took authorities more than a week to raise the alarm after the ferry, MV Butiraoi, set off on a passage that was only supposed to last two days.
The seven survivors were found drifting in a dinghy on Sunday and the search is now concentrating on finding a life raft that was launched from the sinking ferry.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 49 min 36 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.