Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Afghanistan helicopter crash, killed 10 overseas Filipino workers

Afghanistan helicopter crash, killed 10 overseas Filipino workers. In Manila Philippines, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) confirmed yesterday the death of 10 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in a helicopter crash at a key NATO airbase in southern Afghanistan on Sunday.

OWWA chief Carmelita Dimzon said they have received verified information that 10 Filipinos were among the 16 who died in the air tragedy.

Dimzon declined to release the names of the dead.

“They were legally deployed three or five years ago but they were unable to return since we imposed a ban in Afghanistan,” Dimzon said.

The Philippine government imposed a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Afghanistan due to prevailing hostilities there.

Dimzon gave assurances that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), OWWA and other agencies concerned will work for the immediate repatriation of the bodies of the 10 OFWs once these have been recovered.

“They may already be considered undocumented because of the deployment ban, but we will be giving them all the necessary assistance for Filipino workers,” Dimzon said.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque earlier said they were still verifying the reported deaths of OFWs in a helicopter crash.

Meantime, the nationalities of the six other helicopter crash victims were not immediately known, according to a report of the ABS-CBN news bureau in Dubai.

The report also said that five others were wounded and were treated at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military facility.

The ABS-CBN report said the families of the 10 Filipino fatalities have been informed of the incident.

All ten victims were workers of Fluor Co. which refused to give information on the crash, the report further said.

Minutes before take-off, which was bound for Spin Buldak, the helicopter suddenly burst into flames near the runway, according to the report.

The workers on board the helicopter were supposed to be brought to Spin Buldak, a border city between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last week, 13 Filipino workers bound for Afghanistan were intercepted and offloaded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) by authorities during an operation of the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (TFAIR).

Vice President and presidential adviser on OFWs Noli de Castro said the workers were offloaded from a plane before they could take the flight to Afghanistan.

De Castro, also TFAIR chair, said the 13 Filipino workers were recruited to work as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in Kandahar airfield, a key NATO airbase in Afghanistan.

The workers were promised a monthly salary of $1,300.

The workers’ departure was prevented due to the deployment ban of the Philippines in five countries, including Afghanistan.

De Castro directed the TFAIR to conduct a thorough investigation on the recruiters of the 13 Filipino workers.

Based on its initial investigation, the TFAIR said travel documents of the workers were facilitated by a certain Faisal Ahmad Muhammad Alamri, who reportedly owns Sara Tourism and Cargo, a travel and tours firm in Dubai where the workers were supposed to land before proceeding to Kandahar airfield.

It was learned that once they reach Dubai, they would be met by their counterparts who will assist their entry into Afghanistan.

In March, an OFW who was working as a carpenter inside the Kandahar Air Base was killed in a rocket attack.

The DFA said Norbert Malana Hobayan died from wounds he suffered after being hit by rocket fire outside the Kandahar Air Base, the second biggest military installation in Afghanistan.

Recon International was reportedly Hobayan’s employer.

The DFA reiterated its advisory to the public not to travel to or seek employment in Afghanistan due to the unstable and volatile security situation in that country.

A Canadian government report said security in the southern Afghan region of Kandahar reportedly deteriorated in late 2008 as Taliban militants stepped up their attacks and crime spiked.

Expansion of infrastructure in Kandahar Air Base in Southern Afghanistan, which serves 13,000 troops from 17 countries, began last year at a cost of $780 million.

For years, the largest military facility in Afghanistan has been Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, the main hub for US forces concentrated in the mountainous eastern region where the Taliban insurgents are reportedly mixed with other extremists such as al-Qaeda fighters.

The balance of American power appears to be shifting south, toward the deserts and river valleys where the Taliban were born and a majority of the insurgents are local tribesmen.

Sources: With Pia Lee-Brago - By Mayen Jaymalin (Philstar News)

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