UNHCR Chief cancels UAE visit due to UN deaths on Ethiopian plane crash 

The High Commissioner for the United Nations’ Refugee agency (UNHCR) has cancelled a scheduled visit to the UAE. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 March 2019
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UNHCR Chief cancels UAE visit due to UN deaths on Ethiopian plane crash 

  • Filippo Grandi flew back to Geneva from Abu Dhabi after hearing that two staff members of the UNHCR were among the 157 who died
  • Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 had plummeted to the ground shortly after take-off

DUBAI: The High Commissioner for the United Nations’ Refugee agency (UNHCR) has cancelled a scheduled visit to the UAE, following the death of 19 UN staff members who were in the Ethiopian flight to Nairobi that crashed on Sunday. 
Filippo Grandi flew back to Geneva from Abu Dhabi on Sunday after hearing that two staff members of the UNHCR were among the 157 who died when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plummeted to the ground shortly after take-off. 
“It is with great sadness and shock that I have learned today that UNHCR colleagues were among the passengers of the Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302 which crashed in Ethiopia this morning,” Grandi said in a statement. 
“UNHCR has suffered today a huge loss. Our deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of our colleagues and all others we have so tragically lost today,” he added. 
The UN high commissioner was scheduled to speak at the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development (DIHAD) conference on Tuesday. 
The other 17 UN members that were killed were part of the other UN agencies including the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The airline said the flight had passengers from at least 35 countries, some of whom were aid workers for other humanitarian organizations.
Although the cause of the crash is not yet known, Ethiopian Airlines has grounded its Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet until further notice, the airline said on its Twitter account on Monday.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.