News Flash – 16 June 2017

National News

 

 

Security agency loses contract as guard calls speaker ‘kaka’

 

 

AHMEDABAD: The medical superintendent of civil hospital in Gandhinagar, earlier this week, issued a notice of termination with a month’s notice period to the security agency, which supplied security guards to the hospital. The decision was taken soon after a 28-year-old security guard at the hospital referred to Ramanlal Vora, Gujarat assembly speaker, as ‘kaka’ meaning uncle, while asking him to move his car, said sources. The alleged incident occurred on Saturday last week. “I’ve received a written complaint stating the security guard addressed the speaker as ‘kaka’,” said Dr. Bipin Nayak, the in-charge medical superintendent of the hospital. “Probably the behaviour was not good. Besides, we have received several complaints against the security agency in the past,” he said. “This was the last complaint in a long list based on which we took the decision,” said Dr. Nayak, a professor of gynecology department at civil hospital, Gandhinagar. “The agency has been given a month’s notice, and meanwhile, we will be appointing a new security agency. The security guard is no more deployed at our hospital,” he added. Despite several attempts, Ramanlal Vora could not be reached for comments.

 

 

For now, rains may skip central India: IMD

 

 

PUNE: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has found the behaviour of the monsoon this year to be “peculiar”, saying this may have been responsible for the delayed onset over central India. “This behaviour of the monsoon is peculiar and may put weather forecasters in a spot while declaring the onset in various parts of the country,” an IMD official said. The official, referring to the IMD’s latest Operational Extended Range Forecast, told TOI that the monsoon seems to be travelling directly from the south to the north of India and is expected to reach the foothills there around June 23, covering parts of UttarakhandHimachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab. “In such a scenario, declaring the onset of the monsoon over a region in north India may become tricky. Usually, the monsoon first covers regions in central India before gradually proceeding towards the north.

 

The forecast seems to show good rainfall activity over parts of north India around June 23, but below normal rainfall activity over central India during that time,” a senior IMD official told TOI. The extended range forecast shows the monsoon current’s partial penetration into central India till around June 29, though normally the onset over parts of central India takes place by June 15. J R Kulkarni, retired scientist, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), said an anti-cyclone over central India, which appeared when the monsoon season began and still persists, had initially suppressed the monsoon’s northward progress after it hit Kerala on May 30. “In addition, this anticyclone may also be the reason why the extended range forecast may be showing below-normal rain over central India in the days to come,” he said.

 

 

Armed robbers storm shop, make off with Rs 70 lakh jewellery

 

 

NEW DELHI: A group of armed criminals entered a jewellery shop in south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar on Thursday just after noon and made off with gold ornaments worth Rs 70 lakh. After the daring five-minute heist, the robbers sped off in different directions on two sports bikes. Though they were caught on CCTV cameras, their faces were obscured by red helmets. Sources said police believe this to be the handiwork of a UP-based gang. However, the dialect the criminals used while communicating during the robbery indicated they could also be from outer Delhi or Haryana. In addition gangs based in Meerut, Mathura and Aligarh and criminals who recently come out of jail on bail are being tracked. “We have registered a case of robbery and are probing whether someone known to the shop owner is involved,” said Ishwar Singh, DCP (South). The Special Cell and Crime Branch have been asked to investigate the theft. CCTV footage from neighbouring areas is being studied and shop owners being interviewed. The cops are quizzing helmet sellers in the belief that the gang bought all the helmets used in the crime from the same shop. The robbery appeared to have been well planned after meticulous reconnaissance. The four men entered the jewellery shop around 12.15pm, armed with country-made pistols and meat choppers. Two stood guard at the entrance, while the other pair confronted the shop owner and his employee at the counter.

 

According to Vaibhav Jain, son of the shop owner, the robbers held his father, Pramod Jain, at gunpoint. “They threatened to shoot him if he raised an alarm,” said Vaibhav. “They then asked him to hand over the jewellery items from the showcase behind the cash counter.” Police sources say that the criminals contemptuously asked the shop owner not to bring out any silver jewellery. While the elder Jain began moving the gold ornaments, one of the robbers brought an empty cement bag and stuffed the contraband into it. Two of the men also climbed over the counter and emptied the cash box into their bag. Vaibhav said that most of the stolen items included necklace sets and bangles with diamond studs. In the meanwhile, however, a shop employee, Alam, who was in the strong room behind the shop, saw the men brandishing guns and shouting at his employer. He locked himself in the room and informed the police about the robbery. Vaibhav also said, “I was working in our office in the basement and was unaware of the robbery until Alam called me”. Before the police arrived, however, the four men had accomplished their task. They threatened the jeweler and his employees against raising an alarm and fled on their bikes. Video footage later showed the two bikes zooming past the shop before veering off in different directions.

 

 

3 senior citizens die of swine flu in last 1 week, toll rises to 7

 

 

Mumbai: Three senior citizens from Andheri and Jogeshwari, two of them diabetics and one a patient of hypertension, succumbed to influenza H1N1virus within the last one week, taking the city’s death toll to seven for the year. Both these suburban areas have emerged as the hotbed of swine flu cases this season, the civic body said in its first monsoon bulletin on Thursday. Four persons from outside the city have also died here, while another 34 have been successfully treated. The civic report said a majority of the city’s 177 confirmed H1N1 cases have been detected from Andheri, Jogeshwari, Govandi, Bhandup and Mulund. The maximum cases in the island city were from Byculla, Dadar and Shivaji Park. The areas where the deaths have been reported will be kept under surveillance for 10 days. BMC’s executive health officer Dr. Padmaja Keskar said the cases are from different localities in the wards and ruled out any instance of clustering. With 240 deaths and 1,315 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year, Maharashtra is the worst affected state in the country. Analysing the deaths, the state found delay in initiation of antiviral treatment could be the single biggest factor. The drug oseltamivir works best when given within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms. But there is often a delay as was the case with the 63-year-old victim from Azad road in Andheri (East).

 

The deceased, a known diabetic, had travelled to Devgad and Sindhudurg where he developed fever, cough and breathlessness. He got admitted to a civic hospital three-four days after the symptoms. As per a civic report, he was started on oseltamivir on June 6, two days after he got admitted. He died on June 7 after developing acute respiratory distress syndrome. The 74-year-old deceased from Jogeshwari was also a known case of hypertension and Parkinson’s. He too suffered from fever and cough for 10 days before getting hospitalized. The third, a 75-year-old woman with a history of diabetes and ischemic heart disease, complained of fever and breathless for a week before getting admitted. In both these cases, the patients died despite taking oseltamivir. Keskar said a survey has been done in the worst wards to screen for fever. “We have sensitized private practitioners so that there is no delay in starting of treatment”. State epidemiologist Dr. Pradeep Awate said the percentage of deaths among senior citizens has reduced as compared to previous years. “Over 67% deaths have been in the 21-50 bracket. Six out of the 10 deceased had some or the other health problems. We had about 15-20 deaths in people above 60,” said Awate. He said that deaths among pregnant women too have been brought under control. “It’s less than 10 this year,” he added.

 

 

Shrinking banks putting Delhi at risk of flooding

 

 

NEW DELHI: In 2015, a high-powered panel appointed by the National Green Tribunal and headed by the then union water resources secretary Shashi Shekhar had recommended the ecological development of the Yamuna floodplain in such a manner as to prevent any further encroachments by builders. But with NGT yet to decide on implementing that report, constructions continue on either side of the river. NGT also asked for the demarcation of the Yamuna floodplain taking into account the areas that get inundated on average once in 25 years. “It is important to demarcate the flood plain on this basis immediately to protect it from any encroachments or development activities, which, as already discussed and requested by the high powered committee, would adversely affect the ecology and environment,” the order stated. Following NGT’s order, DDA commissioned IIT-Delhi to carry out the required mapping. Taking the five days between September 2 and September 6, 1995 when Delhi received 174.71mm of rain against an annual rainfall of 617mm, IIT extrapolated the downpour to determine that in the absence of constructions hindering the movement of water, the flooded area would extend to Model Town and Bhalswa in the west and Anand Vihar and Mayur Vihar in the east.

 

With embankments and massive constructions, however, the depth of flood water, IIT’s report said, would rise dramatically to as high as nine metres in some places. “To avoid the enhanced levels of flood water, the Yamuna needs the floodplain,” asserted Professor AK Gosain of IIT Delhi. But with the capital’s land owing agency, Delhi Development Authority, the civic bodies and government officials stymied by the lack of clarity on which agency has ownership of floodplain land, encroachments have opened up Delhi to the risk of flooding. Shashank Shekhar, assistant professor of geology at DU, reiterated, “Delhi has two lifelines: the Ridge and the floodplain. They are a source of perennial potable groundwater. But the Yamuna needs its own space to spread out during monsoons and deposit the debris it brings along”. The DU teacher also explained that the absence of a no-encroachment zone on the riverbed would lead to greater submergence of city spaces, therefore, bigger devastation. Importantly, constructions on the floodplain would obstruct the natural process of silt deposition and vertical recharge of groundwater. “The 97-sq-km floodplain has been left untouched,” Shashank Shekhar declared.

 

 

Beyond Carlton starts social media campaign on fire safety

 

 

BENGALURU: Did you know that of the total deaths due to fire incidents in commercial buildings in the country in 2015, 50% were from Karnataka? This is what the latest National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) data has to say. Now, Beyond Carlton, a citizen group comprising survivors and families of victims of the 2010 Carlton Towers tragedy, has come up with a new social media campaign wherein they are highlighting the need to strengthen fire safety laws. Team members are using NCRB figures to illustrate poor laws for fire safety and to highlight the dire state of existing fire safety procedures. The team has timed the campaign with the fire mishap at Grenfell Tower, London, that claimed 17 lives till Thursday.

 

Uday Vijayan, founder trustee of Beyond Carlton, said it was only after the 2010 tragedy and a PIL that the state fire safety laws were finally changed. “It was only then that we learned that firefighters are not empowered to enter highrises. That has since changed and stricter rules have come into place that penalize violations. Given how apathetic most Indians are to public safety, there’s a long way to go. The example of London fire teaches us we are so far from being safe,” he said. In February 2010, Carlton Towers, a commercial building on Old Airport Road, was engulfed in flames, leaving several people dead and many injured. Comprising active volunteers, the registered charitable trust is publicizing their message using social media and through their website to create shock value. It recently conducted a fire safety workshop at several slums in Bengaluru to educate 90 slum dwellers about the dangers in their surroundings.

 

 

6MW solar energy to power metro stations and maintain trains

The rooftop solar system is expected to meet 90% of the annual energy requirements of metro rail.

 

CHENNAI: Metro stations will soon go green. Solar power will be used to run facilities at the stations as well as for maintenance of trains. Chennai Metro Rail Ltd (CMRL) has signed a contract with a private company to install solar panels, with the capacity to generate 6MW of power in total, in all metro stations. While the solar panels atop CMRL’s Koyambedu building is likely to save more than Rs 1 crore a year, the additional clean energy is expected to reduce expenses further. A Mumbai-based energy solution provider has won the contract to install solar photo-voltaic panels on rooftops of all metro stations. Power generated by these panels will be used for lighting, escalators, elevators, air-conditioning systems and electrical items used for public convenience. Cmrl first began using clean energy when it installed solar panel with a capacity of 1MW at its administrative building in Koyambedu last year. The 5,000 units generated per day from the 1MW grid power the administrative office and for train maintenance work. That installation, it was believed, would help Cmrl save more than Rs 1.12 crore each year.

 

Around the same time, Cmrl also identified about 25 locations spread over more than 1.4 lakh sq. m. According to Cmrl, the contractor is expected to design, manufacture, supply, install, test and commission the solar PV panels. The company is also expected to maintain the system for a certain period. “In elevated corridors, solar panels will be installed above the stations and underground, they will be installed on top of the ancillary building,” an official said. The rooftop solar system is expected to meet 90% of the annual energy requirements depending on the area available. The remaining energy requirement will be met by drawing power from the general grid. Officials said the priority for utilizing the clean energy would be given for internal consumption. The excess power may then be exported to the grid, they added.

 

 

International News

 

 

London inferno extinguished; firefighters search for victims

 

LONDON: London firefighters traumatized by the devastation they witnessed in a high-rise apartment blaze that killed at least 12 people worked Thursday to make the building safe so they could continue the search for more victims. Entire families are missing, and the death toll is certain to rise after flames tore through the 120-unit Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday when most people were asleep. Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said it would be a miracle if anyone were to be found alive. It is unsafe for firefighters to go to all parts of the 24-story tower, so the fire department is working with structural engineers to shore up the building so they can complete a “finger-tip search” of the entire structure, Cotton said. “I spoke to one of my officers who was very near when someone came out the window, and he was in tears and he is a professional fire officer,” Cotton told Sky News. “We like to think of ourselves as “roughty, toughty” and heroes – they are heroes – but they have feelings, and people were absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events”. More than 200 firefighters worked through the night and parts of the building were still seen as being unsafe. Now that the smoke has cleared, the public could only gape at the huge burned-out hulk in the working class, multi-ethnic neighborhood.

 

The blaze in west London’s North Kensington district also injured 74 others, 18 of them critically, and left an unknown number missing. A tenants’ group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building. The cause of the fire is under investigation, and authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building. The renovation project included installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system. Fire experts say the investigators will need to look at what materials were used in the project and who approved their use. Up to 600 people lived in the 120 apartments at Grenfell Tower. After announcing the updated death toll of 12 on Wednesday afternoon, Cmdr. Stuart Cundy said that “we believe this number will sadly increase”. Prime Minister Theresa May promised an investigation and visited the site on Thursday. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that many questions must be answered about safety for the scores of other apartment buildings around the British capital. The London Fire Brigade said it received the first reports of the blaze at 12:54 a.m. and the first engines arrived within six minutes. Survivors told of frantic attempts to escape during the nighttime fire.

 

“The flames, I have never seen anything like it. It just reminded me of 9/11,” said Muna Ali, 45. “The fire started on the upper floors. … Oh my goodness, it spread so quickly. It had completely spread within half an hour”. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the tragedy as volunteers and charities worked through the night to find shelter and food for people who lost their homes. Community centers in London have been overwhelmed by the number of donations flooding in for those left homeless by a high-rise apartment building fire. So much food, clothing, shoes and other items have been coming in that the centers, churches and mosques have had to start turning away new donations. Missing people posters have been put up throughout North Kensington. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has offered free food for survivors at one of his nearby eateries. Many were moved to tears Wednesday at a moment of silent contemplation outside the Notting Hill Methodist Church in west London. “There are times when all the words we can say are not adequate and sometimes words fail us because no words can do justice to how we feel, or what we have seen or what has happened. Today is one of those days,” Rev. Mike Long said. “What we can simply do is look to all that we have seen today – which is good, which is fabulous – people getting together”. Emergency accommodation had been provided to 44 households affected by the fire.

 

 

Suicide bomber strikes near Shiite mosque in Kabul, 4 dead

Medic personnel transport the body of a victim into an ambulance at the site of a suicide attack on a Shiites mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo) Less

 

KABUL, Afghanistan: A suicide bomber struck outside a Shiite mosque in the Afghan capital Kabul late Thursday night, killing four people, including a leader of Afghanistan‘s ethnic Hazaras, Hajji Ramazan Hussainzada. Another five people were wounded, said Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish. Danish said there was gunfire outside the mosque as the suicide bomber tried to force his way inside, but he was stopped by a police officer, who died in the explosion. Another policeman was wounded. The US-based SITE, which tracks the online activity of extremist organizations, said the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency. The Associated Press could not independently verify the claim, however the IS affiliate in Afghanistan has taken responsibility for past attacks against the country’s minority Shiites. Last year IS claimed an attack on a Shiite shrine that killed 14 people. Muslims are observing the holy month of Ramadan, during which the faithful fast from sunrise to sunset and mosques are typically crowded in the evening hours. Kabul has been battered by violence in recent weeks. The worst attack in Afghanistan’s 16-year war took place on May 31 when a massive truck bomb exploded at a busy intersection in Kabul, killing more than 150 people.

 

 

Rescuers aid 4,500 homeless after deadly Bangladesh mudslide

Rescuers prepare to pull out the dead body of a victim after massive landslide in Rangamati district, Bangladesh.

 

DHAKA: Rescuers recovered the body of a woman from the mass of mud that collapsed onto a village in southeastern Bangladesh, and were searching on Thursday for several more missing after landslides killed at least 141, officials said. Officials said the six or so people were still missing in the worst-hit region of Rangamati. “We will continue our search and rescue program today, said Jasim Uddin, a deputy director of the fire department in the worst-hit district. “We are looking for them”. The government, meanwhile, turned its focus to providing food and other aid to some 4,500 people whose homes were swamped by mud and debris unleashed by the landslides on Tuesday. Families were also receiving cash and materials to help them build new homes. “Still, we are alert” for news of more residents missing or in need of rescue, said Shah Kamal, secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management. Kamal said soldiers, firefighters and volunteers were still working to restore access to the remote, hilly areas, where roads have collapsed or been blocked by mud. Soldiers erected a portable bridge to reach landslide-stricken communities in Rangamati.

 

With power cut off in the region since Tuesday, information was slow to trickle out. Villagers were helping in cutting fallen trees and clearing debris in areas where rescuers have been unable to get heavy machinery. Officials reported 104 dead and at least 5,000 homes destroyed or damaged in Rangamati district, where mostly tribal villagers live in small communities near a lake surrounded by hills. Another 28 were killed in the coastal Chittagong district, six died in Bandarban, two in Cox’s Bazar and one in Khagrachhari. The delta nation of Bangladesh is frequently hit by strong storms, flooding and landslides. Experts said this week’s tragedy was also the result of uncontrolled denuding and soil harvesting on hills above unplanned settlements. Many people in hilly regions ignore authorities’ calls to avoid constructing homes on slopes.

 

 

7 dead in China kindergarten blast: State media

 

 

BEIJING: An explosion struck the entrance to a kindergarten in eastern China, leaving 7 dead and 59 injured, state media reported. Police say the blast struck at 4:50 pm on Thursday in Fengxian in Jiangsu province. A cellphone camera video posted on the website of the official People’s Daily newspaper showed more than a dozen people lying motionless in front of the kindergarten’s steel sliding gate, with clothing, shoes and other items strewn on the ground beside pools of blood. It showed ambulances arriving and medics wheeling people into an emergency room. It wasn’t clear whether the blast was an accident or had been deliberately set. The newspaper Xiandaikuaibao on its website cited an unidentified witness as saying the explosive appeared to have been a bottle of cooking gas. Calls to the kindergarten and local hospitals rang unanswered. Kindergartens in China have been targeted before in apparent revenge attacks carried out by people bearing grudges against their neighbors and society. That has prompted a tightening of security around many schools, with the posting of guards equipped with truncheons and the installation of gates and other barriers. China maintains tight control over firearms and most attacks are carried out using knives, axes or homemade explosives.


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