News Flash – 08 June 2018

National News



Season’s greetings: Heavy rain likely for 3 days

Weathermen have not yet officially declared the onset of monsoon over Mumbai, as till Thursday, it had only reached Goa.



MUMBAI: Mumbaikars, prepare yourselves for a wet weekend, as Thursday’s heavy pre-monsoon showers appear to be only the beginning of what lies ahead. If one goes by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast, the city is likely to witness similar thundershowers and heavy rainfall at isolated places on Friday; Saturday could see even heavier showers. Weathermen, though, have not yet officially declared the onset of monsoon over Mumbai, as till Thursday, it had only reached Goa. Ajay Kumar, scientist, IMD Mumbai, said, “We expect monsoon to reach most parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai, in the next 72 hours or before Sunday,” he said. A low pressure area is likely to form over Bay of Bengal, which will lead to heavy rainfall in Mumbai. IMD has a set of criteria to declare the onset of monsoon—south-west wind direction and the city should record two straight days of showers. An IMD release stated that rainfall activity was likely to increase over coastal Karnataka, Goa and south Maharashtra from Thursday. “Widespread rain activity is likely to continue till June 10. It is very likely to extend to north coastal Maharashtra, including Mumbai, from June 8. Extremely heavy rainfall at isolated places is also likely,” said the IMD release.


The city witnessed moderate rain in the intervening night of June 6-7, which petered out in the morning. It once again picked up by noon. The barely two hours of heavy rainfall on the afternoon of June 7 left several parts of the city waterlogged. For instance, parts of Worli Seaface, Bandra Kalanagar, Sion railway station area, Gandhi Market, King’s Circle, Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road, Hindmata and Dadar Parsi Colony were waterlogged. This caused traffic congestion. A local said that storm water drains around Hindmata were not cleaned even after the rain stopped. The tracks between Sion and Matunga were submerged too. Railway officials and workers ensured the water was pumped out. But train services were not badly hit. Officials said trains operated with restricted speed on the waterlogged stretch. Western Railway ran on time; Harbour saw 15-minute delays. Meanwhile, as on June 7, water stock in the seven lakes which supply to Mumbai stood at 2.6 lakh million litres; it was 17.7% against the required 19.2%. Tulsi and Vihar got 12mm and 18 mm, respectively. Nanded, Latur, Osmanabad, Hingoli and a few other areas in Marathwada got considerable rain; 16 circles got more than 65mm and some 100mm.



Coming soon: App which will send flood alerts during rain



BENGALURU: Stuck in office while it’s pouring outside and want to know if the roads to your home are flooded or not? Or if your residential area is facing a waterlogging threat? Soon, you can find out on your smartphone. Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSNDMC) and IISc scientists are developing an app to equip users with crucial information, particularly during monsoon. KSNDMC director GM Srinivasa Reddy said he has scheduled a meeting with senior BBMP officials to discuss the app’s features. “We have telemetric rain gauges installed in different parts of the city which assess rainfall and send automated alerts to our server about the quantity and possibility of flooding in the particular area. At present, such alerts are being sent to district administration officials and other registered members as text messages. Once the app is launched, the information will be on citizens’ fingertips,” he added.


Reddy said one feature of the app will allow the user to check whether the road he/she plans to take is inundated. “Residents in a particular locality can also get alerts on whether the area faces the risk of flooding. We are installing sensors to keep tabs on the water levels of storm water drains during the rainy season. Once they cross the danger mark, alerts on flood threat will be sent to app users. Even the sensors in rain gauges will assess the flood risk for a specific area depending on the quantity of rainfall received and send alerts,” he elaborated. A senior official with KSNDMC said the Centre has entrusted them with the task of developing the app and other mechanism to strengthen rain preparedness. “Depending on its success rate, the project will be replicated in 10 major cities across the country with suitable modifications,” he added. Timely alerts will go a long way in saving lives. Last year, around 16 people were killed due to tree falls, overflowing drains or wall collapse incidents during heavy rain in September and October.



Bird hit damages engine, flight grounded minutes after take-off


KOLKATA: A Port Blair-bound GoAir flight returned to the city shortly after takeoff on Thursday morning after the pilot experienced heavy vibrations in the right engine during the ascent. Inspections carried out by engineers revealed that six engine blades had been damaged, possibly due to a bird strike. Though bird hits were a menace earlier, incidents had come down in recent years. But there has been a spike in bird hit incidents in the past 12 months, triggering concern among airlines operating in the city. According to airport officials, GoAir flight G8-101 took off from Kolkata at 8.35am with 160 passengers on board. It was still in the take-off lift when the plane shuddered. In the cockpit, the engine vibration monitor indicated that the vibration level in the right engine had crossed the threshold point. At the air traffic control, officials suspected something was wrong on the flight as the captain had not yet reported the call sign by which the aircraft is identified on the radar screen. “Usually, when a plane is airborne, the captain reports the call sign and the controller confirms it. That didn’t happen with the GoAir flight. So the controller called for the confirmation. That is when the pilot reported severe vibration and sought permission to return to the airport,” an official said. Though the aircraft had enough fuel to keep it flying for four flights, the pilot could not risk putting more strain on the engine. “When an engine vibrates, it indicates some sort of damage has occurred. Knowing this, no captain will risk flying an aircraft,” explained a veteran pilot. At the airport, ATC put two incoming flights on hold and cleared the way for the distressed aircraft to land. The aircraft touched down at 8.57pm.


During inspection, engineers spotted six damaged blades. Though the airline officials did not make any comment, an airport source said the damage had been caused a bird strike. “Given the extent of damage, the bird would have been the size of a kite,” he said. GoAir subsequently cancelled the flight. With the flight grounded for at least a couple of days, the loss for the airline is expected to be in excess of Rs 5 crore. While bird hits were a menace till seven-eight years ago, such incidents had declined in recent years. But since April 2017, there have been a spate of bird hits that have grounded aircraft and caused loss worth several crores to airlines. Though several measures have been taken to keep the airport premises clean and authorities have urged civic officials of neighbouring municipalities to control garbage disposal to keep birds at bay, the cutting of grass within the airport may have played a part in attracting birds. “When grass is cut before the rains, insects get exposed. Pest control measures have to be intensified to tide over the problem,” said an official. Sarvesh Gupta, chairman of the airlines operators’ committee in Kolkata, said the issue of threat from birds is raised at all environment committee meetings. “The situation has improved over the years. We have to find out what’s happened and take corrective measures,” he said, adding that the airport could consider installing equipment that emit frequencies to drive away birds.



International News



Afghanistan announces Eid ceasefire with Taliban until June 20



KABUL: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced for the first time an unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month, but excluding other militant groups, such as Islamic State. The decision came after a meeting of Islamic clerics this week declared a fatwa, or ruling, against suicide bombings, one of which, claimed by Islamic State, killed 14 people at the entrance to the clerics’ peace tent in Kabul, the capital. The clerics also recommended a ceasefire with the Taliban, who are seeking to re-impose strict Islamic law after their ouster in 2001, and Ghani endorsed the recommendation, announcing a laying down of arms until June 20. Ghani has urged ceasefires with the Taliban before, but this was the first unconditional offer since he was elected in 2014. “This ceasefire is an opportunity for Taliban to introspect (sic) that their violent campaign is not winning them hearts and minds,” Ghani said in a message on social network Twitter after a televised address. There was no immediate reaction from the Taliban but an international political analyst based in Kabul was unimpressed. “It’s a one-sided love story,” he said. US Forces-Afghanistan said they would honour the ceasefire. “We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” Gen. John Nicholson, US Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support commander, said in a statement. The ceasefire would not include US counterterrorism efforts against Islamic State and al Qaeda, it said. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the announcement which he said “shows the seriousness of President Ghani and the Afghan government”.


Russia also gave its backing. “It is completely Afghan-originated and, as you know, it is our policy to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process,” a NATO official, speaking earlier on condition of anonymity, told reporters. Former Afghan army general Atiqullah Amarkhel said the ceasefire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup. “From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he told Reuters. He also said he doubted the Taliban would lay down arms and deny themselves the opportunity of fighting during the holy month of Ramadan, in which attacks have intensified. The Eid al-Fitr holiday ending Ramzan falls at the end of next week. Ghani in February offered recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group in a proposed political process that he said could lead to talks to end more than 16 years of war. Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners among options including new elections involving the militants and a constitutional review in a pact with the Taliban to end a conflict that last year alone killed or wounded more than 10,000 civilians. In August, US President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes, aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table. Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge swaths of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.



Man arrested over arson attacks at mosque and Gurudwara in UK

Mosque and Gurudwara in Leeds set on fire in arson attacks on same night.



LONDON: A 42-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson attacks on a mosque and a Gurudwara in English city of Leeds, police said today as they probed the incident as a hate crime. The Jamia Masjid Abu Huraira Mosque in Hardy Street, Beeston, was attacked on Wednesday along with the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara in Lady Pit Lane. The main door of the mosque in south of the city centre had been set on fire at about 3.45am (local time) on Tuesday. A few minutes later, the door of the Gurudwara was also set on fire. The man, who was not named, was arrested at an address in the city yesterday night after fires were started at the front doors of two buildings. He remains in police custody as enquiries continue, The Guardian reported.


“We are continuing to liaise with our colleagues in the local neighbourhood policing team who are maintaining an increased presence in the area and having regular contact with key representatives from the communities affected to keep them updated and to reassure the wider community,” said Detective Inspector Richard Holmes, of Leeds District CID in a statement following the arrest. Leeds’ Racial Justice Network criticised the lack of national media coverage of the incident, saying it revealed “a lack of concern for Muslim and Sikh lives and reminds us that the terrorist label (and public outrage) is only reserved for black and brown people”. “These attacks follow on from racist and fascist … marches in Leeds and Manchester at the weekend and reflect a resurgence of far-right racism,” they said. “Whilst we believe that the far right is still in the minority, there is a real need for the solidification and growth of anti-racist movements. With our allies across the country, the Racial Justice Network will be a part of it”.

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