Monster landslide in Himachal buries vehicles, 50 dead
Local residents and rescue personnel look for survivors at the side of a landslide along a highway roughly 200 kilometres from Shimla.
SHIMLA: Tonnes of slush and boulders came down on a 250-metre stretch of the Mandi-Pathankot national highway following a massive landslide early Sunday morning, burying alive at least 50 people at Kotrupi village in Himachal Pradesh’s Mandi district. Officials said 46 bodies had been recovered while five injured were admitted in the zonal hospital in Mandi town, after the landslide swept away two Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation buses with around 55 passengers on board, some private vehicles and several houses. Forty-two bodies were pulled out of a Manali-bound bus, with 47 on board, which was swept 2km away and got buried under 50 feet of debris. It was coming from Chamba. The other bus, an AC coach headed for Katra from Manali, had eight passengers, of whom three are dead. A biker was also among the dead. Officials said the landslide struck around 12.24am on the highway near Kotrupi, where the two buses had halted for refreshments. Sources said the Katra-bound bus was first hit by a big boulder, then the landslide. The bus rolled down 200 metres into a gorge. Its mangled remains were later retrieved by rescue teams. The administration closed the Mandi-Joginder nagar road and diverted vehicles through alternative routes. Rescue teams from Mandi and Joginder nagar had reached the spot immediately after the incident and efforts are on to find survivors. Mandi deputy commissioner Sandeep Kadam said teams of NDRF, Army, police and home guards have been deployed at the spot.
Agency reports quoted locals saying that they vacated their homes and ran towards the forest area minutes before the landslide. “A few boulders started rolling down just ahead of the disaster. Sensing trouble, we all ran towards the forest area and managed to save ourselves,” a survivor said. She said her house was washed away in the mudslide and the livestock perished. The area has been witnessing heavy rains for the past few days. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh also visited Kotrupi and directed officials to intensify rescue and relief efforts. He distributed immediate relief to the next of the kin of deceased and injured. State revenue minister Kaul Singh Thakur announced a financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, while transport minister announced an assistance of Rs 1 lakh each. Some of the people who died in the incident have been identified as Suruchi Thakur (from Jimjima in Mandi district), Neha (Khadun, in Sarkaghat), Vinod Kumar (Gumma, Mandi district).The injured include Jammu and Kashmir residents Suresh Kumar (from Panjoli, Udhampur district), Babu Ram (Udhampur), Mandeep Singh (Karanbagh), Subhash Singh and Sagar Singh (Kathua), Kullu-Manali residents Pawan Kumar (Fati Bari in Manali), Khub Ram (Jana village in Kullu), Kangra resident Kartar Chand (Kunshal village), and Punjab resident Ajay (Kapurthala).
Bandra man loses Rs 2 crore online, cops find 108 fake bank accounts
MUMBAI: The cybercrime police probing a Rs 1.97 crore cheating of a Bandra senior citizen by a Nigerian gang have found 108 fictitious accounts opened in various banks in Mumbai using fake PAN. Police have arrested the kingpin of the fake PAN card racket from Naya Nagar in Mira Road and got the bank accounts frozen. Police said the 72-year-old Bandra resident was duped by a Facebook “friend from the US” with the promise of lucrative profit in an investment scheme in Afghanistan. The investigation led the police to Delhi, where they arrested Mangal Bishnoi, Amit Agarwal, Sameer Merchant alias Karan Sharma, Jitendra Rathod and Paresh Nisband into whose accounts huge money was transferred by the Bandra resident. The money was immediately withdrawn or transferred from these accounts. During interrogations, police found the gang had opened fake accounts in various banks in Mumbai and Delhi. “During the scrutiny of the Know Your Customer (KYC) documents, it was found that most of the accounts were opened using PAN as the main proof. When we scrutinized those PAN cards, they were found to be fake. Further investigations led us to Mohammed Arif Shaikh a, resident of Naya Nagar. We picked him up and found several discriminating documents and 11 PAN cards from his office. He is an expert in making fake PAN cards. We are probing how he made these fake PAN cards and with whose help,” said a senior officer.
Using these PAN cards, the accused had opened 108 accounts in various banks, which police have frozen. “We have frozen these accounts, which have nearly Rs 1 crore balance in total,” added another police officer. The accused transferred all the money to other accounts, from where it has already been withdrawn. Police suspect Nigerian scamsters to be the masterminds. The Bandra resident had filed a complaint in March that he lost Rs 1.97 to a man, who sent him friend request on Facebook claiming to be a US Army personnel posted in Afghanistan. The man offered him an investment opportunity on a partnership basis, after which duo exchanged phone numbers and started chatting on WhatsApp. After some time, the conman sent a certificate of deposit ‘authorised’ by the US Army Corp to the victim. He said had sent it to the Delhi branch of a nationalized bank also. The victim then got a call from a woman who identified herself to be an executive with that bank, confirming receipt of the certificate. She said the acknowledgement had been mailed to him from the bank’s official email account. Then, the gang started asking him to transfer money he deposited a total of Rs 1.97 crore on one pretext or other. Later, the man couriered him a debit card. “When the complainant tried to withdraw money from ATM, he found it was a fake card. He then realised he had been duped,” said an officer.
Worst flood in 29 year’s hits Assam
Indian Army evacuates villagers in the flood affected areas of Assam.
GUWAHATI: In what seems to be the state’s worst deluge in three decades, the death toll in the second wave of floods rose to 15, with 10 more deaths reported on Sunday. With over 10 lakhs people affected in the last 24 hours, the total number of flood victims shot up to 15 lakhs across 21 districts in Assam. Over 85% of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) was inundated. More than 1.83 lakh displaced have taken shelter in 439 relief camps. Rescue operations by the Army, Indian Air Force, National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force personnel are underway, said state project co-coordinator of Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) Rajib Prakash Baruah. About 3,000 villagers were rescued and shifted to relief camps on Sunday, said defence PRO Lt Col S Newton. Water from the Brahmaputra overflowed into KNP – crossing six feet in many places – forcing animals to flee in search of shelter to the neighbouring Karbi Anglong district. “We will be able to ascertain the number of animal deaths only after the water recedes,” said Kaziranga divisional forest officer Rohini Ballav Saikia, adding that 148 out of 188 anti-poaching camps have been submerged. Four rhino calves have been rescued so far, Saikia said. Rail and road connectivity has been snapped in most places. At least 14 trains have been stranded at different locations. The inundation of NH 37 left hundreds of vehicles stranded on the highway. The first wave of floods between April and July claimed 85 lives and affected about 19 lakh people in the state.
Five held for ATM robbery, shooting at cops in east Delhi
NEW DELHI: Five criminals, who had committed an ATM robbery in Pandav Nagar of east Delhi last month and shot at policemen upon being intercepted, were arrested on Sunday. The accused have been identified as Saalim alias Akram, the kingpin of the gang, Prashant Kumar, Sattar Ahmed, Sajid and Pankaj Arya. On the night of July 13, cops on patrol saw four people with covered faces coming out hurriedly from an ATM of Central Bank carrying a black box. Two of them were armed. On being intercepted, they dropped the box, shot at the cops and escaped. “We deployed our informers and came to know that the gang members were in contact with each other through social media. Technical surveillance was mounted and it came to our notice that the gang members slept at different locations in Delhi every night. The gangsters were arrested after a tip-off,” said DCP (east) Omvir Singh. Two stolen cars, 16 stolen mobile phones, one pistol and two country-made pistols with live cartridges and a toolbox used for dismantling ATMs have been seized from the gang members. Police claim to have solved six criminal cases with their arrest. Saalim is an accused in 35 other cases. He entered the crime world in the year 2000. He was arrested in a case of copper theft and under the Arms Act in 2002. In 2008, he was arrested in the murder case of municipal councilor Saleem Pahlwan. In 2010, he was again arrested for the murder of one Shakil. He was arrested in an attempt to murder case in Geeta Colony in which he had fired at policemen.
Railway Protection Force warns commuters about robbers with blades
MUMBAI: Robbers, with razor blades hidden inside their mouths, shoes, or even their innerwear, have been caught in a number of instances on Central Railway, driving the Railway Protection Force(RPF) to issue an advisory for commuters. These robbers have slashed commuters during peak hour and have also not spared RPF sleuths. “Most of the men caught for looting cellphones or cash from commuters are drug users. They are hooked to brown sugar, mephedrone or whitener and need to make Rs 1000 to 2000 per day to fund their addiction. Besides blades, they could carry pen knives or cigarette lighters. They may even use the weapon to injure themselves so as to avert a conviction,” a senior RPF official said. On August 5, three men were spotted in the CCTV footage of Kurla station, around 1 pm, while they were robbing a commuter’s cellphone near a first-class coach. The RPF kept a watch for the men to return. At 3.20pm, one of the three was spotted again on platform 1 and was picked up. On sustained questioning, he led the RPF to his associates. “At the chowky, one of the robbers Sakir Sayed, slashed his neck with a blade that he had been hiding in his pocket,” said senior inspector Suresh Atri of Kurla RPF. Offenders may later claim, before court, that the prosecuting agency had inflicted the injury on them. “We shot a video clip of Sayed where he admitted he had hurt himself. Sayed claimed he wasn’t involved in any crime and was only hanging out with a friend when he got arrested,” said Atri.
Another trick used by these offenders is to fake an attack of epileptic fits on being arrested. Sadiq Shaikh, who was nabbed last month, remained coiled on the floor till we sprinkled some water on him,” said an RPF officer. Another offender, Manoj Kamble, caught on Saturday, started frothing from the mouth while his questioning was on. But he too sat upright soon after. The RPF has compiled CCTV grabs to understand the different modus operandi used by these offenders. “In some cases, a robber discreetly pokes a commuter standing at the door of a train that has just begun to move. The commuter drops his phone on the platform, as a result. The robber then picks it up and pretends he is all set to hand it to the cops while he actually pockets the device,” said an officer. Another method used by robbers is to jump into a coach, along with the other co-passengers, as soon as a train arrives on the platform. The robber then steals someone’s phone in the melee and gets off, claiming he has boarded a wrong train. A pickpocket, Gafar Ali Shaikh, who has been nabbed by the Kurla GRP over and over since last year, gave a demo to investigators on how he hides a razor blade in his cheek and pulls it out whenever he has to slice a commuter’s pocket. The RPF has now issued an advisory for commuters to keep a check on their belongings every time they board or alight from a coach and to not brandish their phones or valuables while standing at the compartment entrance.
Bomb scare at Delhi’s Vishwavidyalaya Metro station
NEW DELHI: An unattended bag at Vishwavidyalaya Metro station created a scare on Saturday. Bomb detection and disposal squad (BDDS) were called in to check its contents, while the area was sensitized and cleared. A scan of the contents, however, revealed the bag was left behind by a commuter and contained over Rs 2 lakh in cash, a mobile phone and some jewellery. The incident took place around 3.30pm when a CISF personnel noticed an unattended bag on the output roller of the X-ray machine. After looking around for the owner, the BDDS team was called in along with senior CISF officers to check its contents. “After the contents were checked, we realised that a commuter may have left it behind accidentally,” said a senior CISF official. Officials say the mobile phone in the bag was then used to track the owner, while a team checked CCTV surveillance. “The passenger was identified as Kunal. On his arrival, he was handed over the bag after proper verification and tallying with CCTV footage,” said a CISF official.
KSRTC bus catches fire near Chennai, all passengers rescued
This photograph of a Karnataka state transport corporation bus going up in flames near Nazarathpet on Poonamallee Bypass Road on Saturday went viral on social media.
CHENNAI: Around 50 people on board a Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus had a narrow escape when the vehicle burst into flames near Nazarathpet on Poonamallee Bypass Road, Tamil Nadu, on Saturday morning. No one was injured in the blaze that is suspected to have occurred due to an electrical short circuit, a police officer said. The Bengaluru-Chennai bus departed from Shantinagar depot at 10.30pm on Friday and was scheduled to reach Chennai by 6am. However, the bus was delayed due to rush of passengers ahead of the long weekend, said KSRTC officials. Around 8.15am, Sridharan, the driver of the bus coming from Bengaluru, noticed smoke emanating from the rear end where the engine was located, brought it to a halt and asked all 44 passengers to alight, said the officer, quoting travelers. Swiftly, the other crew members helped remove the baggage from the hold. Minutes after the passengers, including 15 women and a child, got off and walked to safety, the Airavat club class vehicle, a multiaxle service, caught fire that soon engulfed it completely. A police team arrived and stopped traffic on both sides of the stretch as there were chances of the air conditioner compressor blowing off. Traffic on the arterial road was disrupted for nearly two hours after the incident.
Fire tenders from Koyambedu and Maduravoyal rushed to the spot and doused the blaze. Police had a tough time handling the situation as large crowds gathered. Buses ferrying employees to various industrial units in Sriperumbudur and beyond had to wait for two hours at different spots along the stretch. The Poonamallee Traffic Investigation Wing registered a case. P Saminathan, who was in the bus, said he had just woken up when he saw smoke emanating from behind. “We were asked to get off and move to a safe spot. The driver and conductor were extremely helpful. We were put on to another bus and brought to Chennai after an hour,” said the Bengaluru-based techie. KSRTC team inspects vehicle: Later in the afternoon, a technical team comprising KSRTC officials from Bengaluru reached the spot and conducted an inspection. The team however couldn’t determine the cause of the accident as the engine on the bus’s rear half was charred. Officials said the vehicle will be brought to Bengaluru for further inspection by RTOs. This, they said, will help get detailed idea about what caused the blaze. Past incidents: The first accident involving a Volvo bus occurred in 2010, also on the Bengaluru – Chennai route. The mishap took place after the rear axle of the vehicle caught fire on reaching Vellore. Another accident happened on October 30, 2013, where a privately operated Volvo bus from Bengaluru to Hyderabad caught fire at Mahbubnagar, charring 45 passengers to death.
Cybercrime vigil: companies need to roll out security lessons
HYDERABAD: Rattled by the current string of cyber-attacks, IT experts have now advised companies to enhance their data protection mechanisms to ensure that it does not fall prey to malicious ransomware like Wannacry and Petya. The first step in protecting a business from malware attacks, they said, was to educate employees as close to 90% of all breaches occur as a result of a worker clicking on an inappropriate website link. While the awareness level, about ransomware and malware attacks, has gone up among companies in Hyderabad, a lot still needs to be done to ensure that their data is not compromised, said members of the Society for Cyberabad Security Council (SCSC). “Taking the recent string of cyber security attacks into account companies must step up their security systems in addition to educating their employees about cyber-threats. Many public as well as private security companies are extremely vulnerable to cyber-attacks today because of the outdated cyber-security solutions installed. This is why we have issued a set of guidelines for all companies to follow in order to identify, contain, mitigate cybercrimes and recover from them.
The third edition of the cyber-security conclave will focus on how to predict ransomware attacks by analysing the history of cyber-attacks and based on inputs from ethical community hackers. The companies can then leverage this knowledge to protect themselves better,” said SCSC general secretary, Bharani Kumar Aroll. According to Venugopal N, the security engineering director, India and SAARC for cyber-security vendor Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, an anti-ransomware software that can detect cyber-security threats in real time is the key when it comes to retrieving lost data. “People have to look at cyber-security as a necessity and not an option. Attacks like Wannacry and Petya cannot be prevented in most cases. When a ransomware attack happens, your data is affected and the hacker for money to get the data back. The attack is bound to happen since somebody will open an affected pdf or excel file. This is why protecting oneself with an anti-ransomware software that can detect such malware in real time is the best solution,” said Venugopal. According to reports, the size and cost of data breaches are also on the rise, in India and elsewhere. Rs 110.0 million is the average total cost of data breach in India which has seen a 12.3% increase in the total cost of data breach year-on-year. Attackers are also demanding more money per stolen record or file, say experts.
Flood cuts off north Bengal, more misery in store
Floods outside Malda Medical College and Hospital after heavy downpour in Malda. (PTI photo)
KOLKATA: North Bengal and the northeastern states got totally cut off from the rest of the country via rail and road on Sunday as flash floods and landslides sent tracks and roads under water. At least two people were killed in a Darjeeling landslide triggered by incessant rain. To make matters worse, the weather department predicts heavy to very heavy rain on Monday. Thousands of passengers were left in the lurch as nearly all trains running towards north Bengal and the northeastern states got cancelled or short-terminated, stranding passengers at small stations without proper food, water and ventilation for several hours. Road connectivity between Bengal and the northeast was disrupted as floodwater inundated large portions of National Highway-31 between Cooch Behar and Toofangunj. Till late on Sunday, there was a breach in the embankment at Atreyee river; the Torsha, Raidak, Mansai and Kaljani rivers are flowing above the danger level in Cooch Behar and an alert has been sounded. Eastern Railway cancelled eight important trains, including Darjeeling Mail and Padatik Express, that were scheduled to start from Sealdah on Sunday. Several trains, including the Darjeeling Mail and Padatik Express that left Sealdah on Saturday evening, were terminated at small stations for several hours before efforts began to bring them back to Kolkata. But that was not before passengers suffered for several hours and demonstrated before railway authorities at different stations. The tracks at New Jalpaiguri and Kishangunj stations were completely submerged in rainwater. The worst affected districts are Alipurduar, where all six blocks have been affected, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar and North Dinajpur. Power supply in Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri and Siliguri was disrupted. Because of heavy rainfall in Bhutan, the water level has increased in Jaldhaka river too. Fourteen lock gates of the Gajoldoba barrage on the Teesta were opened to release more water downstream.
Pradipta Choudhury, a bank official posted in Kolkata, was returning to his Siliguri home on the Darjeeling Mail but it stopped at Murarai, Birbhum, around 2am, four hours after it left Sealdah. After waiting for over six hours there, he finally took a Burdwan-Malda passenger train as Darjeeling Mail could not move further. With no train between Malda and New Jalpaiguri, he came down to National Highway-34 to catch a Siliguri-bound bus, but there was none. He hired a car for Rs 10,000 but the car refused to move any further at Dalkhola, around 4.30 pm, as the road ahead was inundated. Choudhury, like hundreds others, had to wade through the water to reach relatively drier ground, from where he was finally able to take public transport late on Sunday. Like him, hundreds of passengers faced similar troubles. Alipurduar residents Somnath Chakraborty and Sumita Chakraborty, on board a Padatik Express, were stranded at Chatra station in Birbhum from 3am to 10am, before they took motorized vans to Rampurhat before coming back to Kolkata on a passenger train. “The AC was switched off by early morning and there was no water or food. The station shops charged Rs 25 for a cake that costs Rs 10 and water bottles were selling at double and triple the MRP,” Chakraborty said. Passengers were found waiting on the road to catch buses or cars, while others flocked the railway enquiry stalls to get information of trains. At various stations, the local administration reached out to passengers later in the evening with food and water. The Met office has predicted heavy to very heavy rain for Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Malda, North and South Dinajpur on Monday and said the monsoon trough currently lies over the foothills of the Himalayas, which is triggering intense rain in north Bengal. “We expect this monsoon trough to cross over to Gangetic West Bengal by Tuesday. Once that happens, rainfall will decrease in north Bengal,” said G K Das, director (weather), Regional Meteorological Centre, Kolkata.
Retired doctor robbed at knifepoint of gold, cash
CHENNAI: Two unidentified men robbed a 77-year-old retired doctor at knife point on Sunday, and took from her a gold chain weighing 11 sovereigns (88g) and Rs 10,000 in cash. Police said Dr. Sujatha was a spinster staying alone in an individual house at Nerkundram. She was a former senior civil surgeon at Government Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital. Around 3pm, two unidentified men approached her asking for water when she was alone at home. Before opening the door, she inquired about them, and they told her they were labourers from the adjacent building. She left the door open and inside to fetch water, when the duo entered followed her to the kitchen. While one held her at knifepoint, the other asked her to remove the gold chain. They then took her to the almirah and asked her to open it and took Rs 10,000. They threatened to kill her if she raised an alarm. The duo had covered their faces with handkerchiefs to hide their identity. When the robbers escaped, the woman alerted a few of her neighbours who called the police control room. The Koyambedu police have registered a case and are investigating. Police sources said the miscreants also wore gloves to avoid leaving behind fingerprints. “We may have a breakthrough with security camera images from three points,” said a senior police officer. “It appears to be the handiwork of professional offenders who target women who are home alone, ” he said.
At least 17 killed in attack on restaurant in Burkina Faso
OUAGADOUGOU (Burkina Faso): Suspected Islamic extremists opened fire at a Turkish restaurant late Sunday in the capital of Burkina Faso, killing at least 17 people in the second such attack on a restaurant popular with foreigners in the last two years. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, which continued into the early hours Monday with yet another heavy exchange of gun fire overheard by witnesses. Communication minister Remi Dandjinou told journalists that at least 17 people were dead and eight others wounded, according to a provisional toll. The victims came from several different nationalities, he said. Among the dead was at least one French national. Security forces arrived at the scene with armored vehicles after reports of shots fired near Aziz Istanbul, an upscale restaurant in Ouagadougou. The attack brought back painful memories of the January 2016 attack at another cafe that left 30 people dead. Burkina Faso, a landlocked nation in West Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It shares a northern border with Mali, which has long battled Islamic extremists. The three attackers in the 2016 massacre were of foreign origin, according to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility in the aftermath along with the jihadist group known as Al Mourabitoun. But the terror threat in Burkina Faso is increasingly homegrown, experts say. The northern border region is now the home of a local preacher, Ibrahim Malam Dicko, who radicalized and has claimed recent deadly attacks against troops and civilians. His association, Ansarul Islam, is now considered a terrorist group by Burkina Faso’s government.
At least 25 dead in Nepal landslides, floods
KATHMANDU: Floods and landslides caused by torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 25 people in the last two days across Nepal, officials said on Saturday. Heavy rains have hit more than a dozen districts in the country’s far eastern region as well as some areas in the west since Friday morning, the home ministry said. Flooding has occurred across the densely populated lowlands that border India, while some remote districts in the hilly areas of the far east have been hit by landslides triggered by the monsoon rains. “We are still collecting the details of the loss. According to the preliminary reports to the ministry over 25 people are feared dead,” Home Ministry spokesperson Deepak Kafle told AFP. The Prime Minister’s office issued a statement putting the death toll at more than two dozen since Friday. Thirteen people died in eastern districts and at least four others are missing, the head of the region’s police Ramesh Bhattarai said. Telephone and electricity lines have also been affected by the heavy downpour making it difficult to confirm the full extent of the damage in remote areas, the police chief added. Roads across the southern plains have been blocked by the rains and three highway bridges collapsed in western Banke district, Home Minister Janardan Sharma said at a press conference. Images on social media showed the runway at Biratnagar airport in eastern Morang district submerged in a metre (three feet) of water with an empty plane stranded on the tarmac.
Chief of Morang district police Arun BC said that airport had been shut due to the flooding. The most recent deaths bring the total death toll from this year’s monsoon to over 90, according to government figures. Nearly 100 people died last year in Nepal during the rainy season, which typically begins in late June and lasts until the end of August. Last weekend in the central lowlands, four girls from the same family drowned when they fell into a flooded roadside ditch. Another girl died and one was injured when they fell in open drains that had been submerged by monsoon flooding in the Kathmandu Valley last month. Footage shot by a bystander shows one of the girls tentatively navigating a flooded road, before suddenly disappearing into the brown muddy water. A few seconds later she appears out of another drain about 10 metres away. The video went viral on social media in Nepal, sparking outrage over the condition of the roads in the capital. Nepal’s weather department issued an alert Saturday warning that heavy rains were expected to continue for another day, and advised districts to close schools and residents to stay indoors.
London subway fire: 4 treated for smoke inhalation
LONDON: A fire broke out on a London subway train today, leaving passengers choking on smoke and sparking the rush-hour evacuation of one of the busiest stations on the transit network. Firefighters dealt with a small blaze aboard a Bakerloo Line train at Oxford Circus station, and paramedics treated four people for smoke inhalation, taking two of them to a hospital as a precaution, authorities said. Passengers said staff ordered everyone to leave the station just before 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) as smoke billowed from a train. Passenger Tom Singer tweeted a photograph of smoke filling a carriage and spilling onto a platform. Another photo posted by Joe Bunting showed passengers in a smoky subway car covering their mouths and noses. Subway operator Transport for London said the cause was an electrical fault under one of the carriages.
Storms disrupt Beijing flights, authorities warn of flash flooding, landslides
Tourists hold umbrellas as they visit Tiananmen Square during a rainstorm in Beijing.
BEIJING: Thunderstorms lashed Beijing on Saturday, disrupting hundreds of flights at one of the world’s largest airports, while authorities warned that rain and wind could cause landslides in the area where a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck this week. Beijing city authorities raised their weather alert level early on Saturday afternoon to “orange” from “yellow”, warning that lightning, hail, wind and as much as 70 mm of rain would hit the city, potentially causing flash floods in mountainous areas. Almost 500 flights were listed as cancelled from 9am until midnight and 182 were delayed at China’s busiest airport, the website showed. Air China Ltd said on its Weibo social media account that some 137 of its flights in and out of the capital had been cancelled as of 11am. Torrential rain storms are fairly frequent in Beijing in the summer months, often causing long delays at the airport. Other airports affected by the downpours included Shanghai, Nanjing in Jiangsu province, Hangzhou in Zhejiang along the Yangtze River delta. The others were in northern regions: Shijiazhuang in Hebei, Taiyuan in Shanxi, Lanzhou in Gansu, Xining in Qinghai and Yinchuan in Ningxia. In a statement, China’s National Meteorological Centre cautioned rescue crews working in Jiuzhaigou, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, to be on alert for landslides and lightning. Heavy rain was expected across south-eastern China on Saturday, it said. The extreme weather came after a tornado struck Inner Mongolia on Friday, killing five people, injuring more than 50 and destroying homes in a major city.
Egypt train crash toll hits 41 as drivers questioned
A policeman crosses the cleared crooked railway tracks at the site of a fatal train collision in on the outskirts of Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: The death toll from Egypt’s latest train disaster rose to 41 on Saturday as two drivers were questioned and cranes worked to clear the stricken railway line between Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The drivers of the two trains that collided on Friday have been held for questioning and four railway officials suspended pending the results of a probe into its causes, Transportation Minister Hisham Arafat told an Egyptian broadcaster. Under floodlights, rescue teams had combed wrecked carriages all night for casualties. Transport ministry officials, quoted on state television, have said the crash in farmland on the outskirts of Alexandria was probably caused by a malfunction in one train that brought it to a halt. The other train then crashed into it. Arafat had told reporters at the scene of the accident that it was not yet clear why the train had stopped, but suggested old traffic signals were to blame. “We have a big problem we had already announced, which is old traffic signals. We are completely overhauling them. This section here is being developed,” he said. An injured passenger who was on the stationary train said its departure had been delayed and that it kept stopping en route. “It stopped every now and then between stations or before stations for five minutes, I don’t know why,” the man told Dream television station from his hospital bed. “Everyone was scattered (by the collision), bodies were flung around,” he said. The toll from Friday’s accident when the two trains collided near Alexandria rose to 41 dead, the health ministry said on Saturday. The accident also wounded 132 people, with 79 being discharged after treatment while 53 remained in hospital on Saturday, Health Minister Ahmed Emad el-Din Rady said. A stream of ambulances had ferried the injured, stretched out on the ground in a field alongside the railway tracks, to Alexandria hospitals.
Workers used cranes to lift four knotted sheet-metal carriages blocking the normally busy Cairo-Alexandria line. One train had been heading to Alexandria from Cairo and the other from Port Said, east along the coast. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has sent his condolences to the victims’ families and ordered a probe to “hold accountable” those responsible for the disaster. It was the deadliest train accident in the North African country since a train ploughed into a bus carrying schoolchildren in November 2012, killing 47 people. That accident jolted the government which ordered an investigation and sacked the transport minister and the head of the railway authority. The accident was blamed on a train signal operator who fell asleep on the job. The probe, however, did not prevent further accidents. Just months later, a train carrying military conscripts derailed, killing 17 people. Around a year later, a collision between a train and a bus killed 27 people south of the capital. They had been returning from a wedding when the train ploughed into their bus and a truck at a railway crossing. Egyptians have long complained that the government has failed to deal with chronic transport problems, with roads as poorly maintained as railway lines. There have been many other fatal crashes on Egypt’s heavily-used rail network. In July 2008, at least 44 people died near Marsa Matruh in northwestern Egypt when a runaway truck hurtled into a bus, a lorry and several cars waiting at a level crossing, shunting the vehicles into the path of a train. At least 58 Egyptians were killed and 144 injured in August 2006 in a collision between two trains travelling on the same track. In the wake of that crash, a court sentenced 14 railway employees to one year in prison for neglect. The deadliest accident on Egypt’s railways dates back to 2002 when 373 people died as a fire ripped through a crowded train south of the capital.
Strong earthquake strikes off Indonesian island of Sumatra
JAKARTA: A strong earthquake has struck off the coast of southern Sumatra in Indonesia. There are no immediate reports of damage or tsunami warning. The US Geological Survey says the quake had a magnitude of 6.4 and occurred at a depth of 35 kilometers (21 miles). It was centered 74 kilometers (46 miles) west of the coastal city of Bengkulu.