Rain fury in northeast: 70,000 hit, 4,000 more displaced
GUWAHATI/SILCHAR/SHILLONG: Southwest monsoon rains wreaked havoc in the Northeast, inundating large areas in five districts of Assam, which increased the affected population twofold to a little less than 70,000 with 3,905 people displaced in the last 24 hours. Two people have been reported missing in Sonitpur district. At Paschim Balia village in Karimganj district, five members of a family — including two women — were critically injured when the house they were living in was damaged by a landslide on Sunday morning. Officials said incessant rain for the past few days had triggered the landslide. Heavy rain has also affected BSF outposts in Purnanagar, Shela, Thariaghat, Betgora, Omkhawa, Mukamchera areas in the East Khasi Hills district, Barmanbari, Kachuadogri in South West Khasi Hills district, Sonatal in West Jaintia Hills district and Angratoli in South Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.
A spokesperson at the Meghalaya Frontier Headquarters of the BSF in Shillong said, “Flood-like situation in certain places has caused huge damage to the India-Bangladesh Border Fence (IBBF) in many places. Some government property has also been damaged in the area of 123 Battalion BSF. The IBBF has been submerged in many low-lying areas in Meghalaya”. According to the Assam Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), three new districts — Udalguri, Biswanath and Sonitpur — have been affected by the floods since Saturday. The situation in Lakhimpur and Darrang districts, which were hit by floods on Saturday, turned grim on Sunday. The affected population in Darrang — which was 25,000 on Saturday — climbed to 55,000, while that in Lakhimpur increased from 5,000 to 7,000 in 24 hours. Authorities have set up 10 relief camps in Udalguri and Sonitpur districts where 3,905 people are taking shelter. More than 1,600 hectares of agricultural land has been inundated in these five districts in Assam. The ASDMA said the Dhansiri and Jia Bhoroli rivers are flowing above the danger level mark.
Woman flyer, cousin held after tiff with airport security staff
MUMBAI: A confrontation between airport security personnel and a woman flyer turned ugly and ended up with the arrest of the flyer and her relative by Sahar police on Saturday. While security staffers claimed the 28-year-old woman, a lawyer, and her cousin abused and assaulted them, the two flyers alleged that the security staff had asked “irrelevant, personal” questions. They allegedly asked the woman to “explain her relationship with the man (her cousin)”. The incident took place at the Mumbai airport where the lawyer arrived late on Friday to receive her cousin who flew into the city from Delhi at 8.30 pm. They were to catch a 5 am flight for Goa. They booked themselves into the transit hotel located in terminal 2. Since the hotel is inside the airport premises, passengers had to undergo security before they are allowed to enter it. Accordingly the duo cleared the security, checked in and then left the airport to go into the city for dinner. When they returned to the airport, they were asked to undergo security again and that’s when the problem began. Said a CISF spokesperson: “They did not co-operate, thinking they were only going to the hotel, so why are they being asked to undergo security again”.
The official said that since the transit hotel is inside the airport terminal, security check has to be carried out every time a passenger enters the premises. “They obstructed our officials from carrying out duty. Also, the male passenger pushed a male officer”. The woman flyer’s advocate, Shantanu Singh, said that it is strange that security personnel accused his clients of assaulting them around 11.30 pm on Friday. “Had they assaulted officials, why were they arrested four hours later?” he said. The CISF official countered: “We don’t ask personal questions. They should have agreed to undergo security check, that was all. We took long to arrest them as it takes time to take legal recourse and we knew they were inside the airport and hadn’t left the premises”. CISF sub-inspector Manoj Siwach’s complaint said he and his colleague, Sheetal Jayant, were on duty when the woman hurled abuses. “When I enquired, she abused me.” A senior officer, Chanchal Singh, said his juniors were not getting personal, but ensuring the flyer’s well-being. The two flyers were released on bail.
Speedbreakers kill: They cause 30 crashes and 9 deaths a day
NEW DELHI: Speedbreakers probably take more lives in India than they save. Road transport ministry data reveals that these ‘safeguards’ are the cause of 30 crashes daily, killing at least nine people a day. That’s the average for two years since the government started collecting data on speedbreakers in 2014. Last year’s figures are yet to be published, but government sources say they are likely to be similar. In fact, speedbreakers in India claimed more lives (3,409 in 2015) than all road accidents in Australia and the UK (2,937 deaths in 2015) put together. Faulty design, poor material and lack of prominent markings make them dangerous for road users. “This is a menace across the country. We have speedbreakers on every road which can break your bones and damage your vehicle,” admitted Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari. He told TOI that his ministry will write to states to ensure norms are followed while building speedbreakers. Gadkari said his ministry will seek to ensure that speedbreakers come up only at designated spots after a proper assessment.
In rural areas, speedbreakers can be found at every 100 metres, particularly near the residence of local leaders. In many places, people make DIY bumps with bricks to slow down traffic. While the ministry has instructed highway-owning agencies to remove all speedbreakers from the main carriageways, it says it can only advise states to follow norms. So, are speedbreakers a good idea or not? Traffic experts say that depends on the type of road. For example, there should be a speedbreaker where a minor road meets a major road so that vehicles coming from small roads slow down. In urban areas, they should be built after assessing how crash-prone those areas are. But ill-designed speedbreakers become dangerous, cautions A P Bahadur, road safety consultant for World Bank. He suggests greater use of alternatives like rumble strips and 5mm thermoplastic layers. “People feel speedbreaker is the only solution to road crashes. There are instances when locals demand its immediate construction after a major crash takes place,” he says. In such cases, local engineers do what is demanded of them.
Woman gives birth on flight, baby gets free Jet pass for life
MUMBAI: A 30-weeks pregnant woman went into labour on-board a Jet Airways flight bound for Kochi from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday morning and delivered a boy even as the flight was diverted to Mumbai. “The baby was born around 8.45am, while the flight landed at Mumbai at 9.12,” said an airport source. Among the passengers was a paramedic who, along with the flight attendants, assisted the pregnant passenger, Cicymol Jose, a source said. The new passenger had neither a passport or a valid air ticket, but since his is the first birth aboard a Jet Airways flight, the airline rewarded him with a free lifetime pass for air travel. According to a statement issued by Jet Airways, the mother and baby were rushed to hospital after landing and were doing well. Their Kerala-based family was informed about the development by the airline.
The airline commended its crew “for their response and promptness that saw them successfully translate their training into life-saving action”. It also expressed its gratitude to one “Ms. Wilson, the on-board paramedic, for her guidance”. According to Jet Airways’ policy, women are allowed to travel on the airline until the 36th week of pregnancy provided they get a medical certificate stating that they are fit for travel. An airport source said: “The aircraft would have been over the Indian airspace when the baby was born, but the detail about the newborn’s nationality isn’t known yet”. This year also saw another premature birth on a flight. In April, a 28-weeks pregnant passenger onboard a Turkish Airlines flight went into labour shortly after the aircraft took off from Guinea capital, Conakry, for the Burkina Faso capital.
Snag hits Blue line for over an hour
NEW DELHI: Thousands of passengers were stranded on Sunday as the snag-prone Blue line of Delhi Metro was hit by another technical glitch. Train services were affected between 5.31pm and 6.44pm due to breakage of a catenary wire (overhead equipment) near the Noida Sector 15 station on the line towards Dwarka Sector 21. “To undertake immediate restoration, services were run on single line between Noida Sector 16 and Yamuna Bank through the down line and short loop services were introduced between Noida Sector 16 and Noida City Centre stations,” a DMRC spokesperson said. The work was over by 6.44pm, he added. Sunday being a holiday, the rush didn’t go out of hand though the snag happened during the evening peak hours. There was, however, considerable crowding at Yamuna Bank interchange station. On the Yamuna Bank-Noida City Centre section, passengers had to wait for up to 45 minutes for a train. Passengers also complained about inadequate announcements. On Tuesday, the line experienced utter chaos after train services were affected for three hours during peak evening rush hours as the catenary wire between Yamuna Bank and Indraprastha stations snapped after it was hit by an eagle.
Men also seek aid at women’s helpline
BENGALURU: City Police’s Vanitha Sahayavani (women’s helpline) gets its share of men seeking help after being allegedly tormented by their wives. While one walked in with a broken tooth when his partner punched him, the other was locked up in a bathroom for 10 hours by his better half. Over 25% of cases reported at the helpline at the police commisionerates and the Family Counselling Centre attached to it pertain to men who claim to have been harassed by women. There were four complaints by men this month. “Even though this is a forum to help women, we have many men reaching out to us, following trouble in their marriage. Some claim they were beaten up by partners,” said Rani Shetty, head of Parihar, under which Vanitha Sahayavani and the counselling centre operates. Last December, electrical engineer Siddanna, 34, and software engineer Mallika, 45, (both names changed) got married after four years of courtship. The couple moved into her home in Chandra Layout. “At a wedding function, an acquaintance asked Siddanna if Mallika was his elder sister.
This ignited trouble in their relationship,” said B S Saraswathi, senior counsellor handling the case. The wife grew extremely possessive and began scrutinizing his cellphone. “Then she started locking him inside the house on his off days when she went to work. He approached us in mid-May for help. As couple counselling was in progress, a few weeks ago, she locked him up in the bathroom,” Saraswathi added. Siddanna cried out to neighbours through a vent and they alerted his family. With the help of Vijayanagar police, his father reached the house and rescued an unconscious Siddanna who had been locked up for over 10 hours. He is now absconding, possibly out of fear. The latest case at the forum was of a banking professional who claimed he was ousted from his Old Airport Road home by his defence ministry employee wife, her father and brother and then forced to reside in a hotel.
Large portion of gutted T Nagar building collapses, none hurt
CHENNAI: A major portion of the fire-ravaged Chennai Silks building collapsed on Saturday morning when it was being demolished by workers. None was injured in the incident, police said. The state government had asked the apparel store’s management to bring down the building after experts declared it unsafe. Demolition work which begun last week was stopped after the death of a crane operator. The demolition on Saturday morning created a huge cloud of dust and debris leading to suffocation and poor visibility in the area. Around 10am, a portion of the building came crashing down after which police personnel rushed to the spot and evacuated the adjoining areas. They removed the hawkers and their wares from and declared Usman Road out of bounds for the public.
The demolition contractor, Peer Mohammed, told reporters that the collapse was not accidental but well-planned and done under supervision. “We are nearing the deadline and there was a need to complete the process soon as the main structures were carefully removed over the past few days,” he said. With the demolition still on, residents in the surrounding areas are worried with some complaining of breathing problems. S Kannan, a T Nagar resident, said, “I hope the demolition is finished at the earliest and our life returns to normal”. Besides residents, the diversion of traffic from South Usman Road to Burkit Road, Venkatanarayana Road, Dhandapani Street, Madley Road, Natesan Street, Rameshwaram Road and Ramanathan Road has been holding up traffic, inconveniencing motorists. MTC buses, which normally ply through the South Usman Road flyover, are being diverted through Burkit Road causing huge traffic jams throughout the day.
Vehicle rams into crowd outside London mosque, casualties feared
LONDON: A vehicle struck pedestrians near a mosque in north London early Monday morning, causing several casualties, police said. One person has been arrested. The London Ambulance Service says the injured are being taken to hospitals. Eyewitnesses reported seeing police give emergency medical treatment to at least one of the injured. The Muslim Council tweeted that worshippers were struck by a van as they were leaving prayers at the Finsbury Park mosque. It said its prayers are with the victims. The neighborhood has two mosques, and several hundred worshippers would have been in the area after attending prayers as part of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan. The Finsbury Park mosque was associated with extremist ideology for several years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States but was shut down and reorganized. It has not been associated with radical views for more than a decade. London police have declared the crash a major incident and closed the area to normal traffic. Metropolitan Police said officers were called to the scene on Seven Sisters Road at 12:20 a.m. Monday. Many police cars and ambulances responded to the incident. No other details were immediately available. Britain’s terrorist alert has been set at “severe” meaning an attack is highly likely. Earlier this month, a van veered into pedestrians on London Bridge, setting off vehicle and knife attacks that killed eight people and wounded many others on the bridge and in the nearby Borough Market area. Three Muslim extremists who carried out the attack were killed by police. Manchester was also hit by a severe attack when a bomber killed more than 20 people at an Ariana Grande concert.
24 killed in air raid on Yemen market: Reports
SANAA: At least 24 civilians were killed in an air raid today on a market in northern Yemen, a medical official and witnesses said, blaming the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemeni rebels. Most of the casualties worked in the Mashnaq market in the rebel-controlled Saada province on the Saudi border, an official at a nearby hospital told AFP on condition of anonymity. Witnesses said the market was a centre for trafficking in qat, a leafy stimulant plant that is widely used in Yemen but illegal in Saudi Arabia. One of the witnesses said some of the casualties had “just returned from a trip across the border”. The Saudi-led Arab military coalition has been accused of air strikes in Yemen for more than two years against areas controlled by the Shiite Huthi rebels. Saada itself has come under heavy bombing since 2015, when the coalition intervened to support the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in its fight against the Iran-backed Huthis. The coalition claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on the rebel-held capital Sanaa in October 2016 which targeted a gathering of mourners at a funeral ceremony, killing more than 140 people.
The Huthis have also accused the Saudi-led coalition of a raid last month that killed 23 civilians, including women and children, in the southwestern city of Taez. The Saudi-led coalition- which accused the rebels of using civilians as “human shields”- has not claimed responsibility for that attack. The rebels, who control a string of strategic ports along the Red Sea coastline and the norther highlands that border Saudi Arabia, have sporadically launched rocket attacks across the border. In late January, the Huthis attacked a Saudi warship in the Red Sea, killing two sailors. More than 8,000 people have been killed in the past two years and tens of thousands wounded in the war in Yemen, according to the World Health Organization. The UN has called Yemen the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world” and warns that 17 million people, or two-thirds of the population, face a serious threat of famine this year. More than 900 people have died of cholera in recent weeks in the second outbreak of the deadly infection in less than a year in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world long before the war.
ISIS threat in Southeast Asia raises alarm in Washington
WASHINGTON: Southeast Asia‘s jihadis who fought by the hundreds for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria now have a different battle closer to home in the southern Philippines. It’s a scenario raising significant alarm in Washington. The recent assault by ISIS-aligned fighters on the Philippine city of Marawi has left more than 300 people dead, exposing the shortcomings of local security forces and the extremist group’s spreading reach in a region where counter terrorism gains are coming undone. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress last week a long-running US military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago. Small numbers of US special forces remain in an “advise and assist” role, and the US is providing aerial surveillance to help the Philippines retake Marawi, an inland city of more than 200,000 people. But lawmakers, including from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, want a bigger US role, short of boots on the ground. They fear the area is becoming a new hub for Islamist fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond. “I don’t know that ISIS are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region,” said Republican Sen Joni Ernst of Iowa. He added, “We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control”. US intelligence and counterterrorism officials note that IS has publicly accepted pledges from various groups in the Philippines. In a June 2016 video, it called on followers in Southeast Asia to go to the Philippines if they cannot reach Syria.
About 40 foreigners, mostly from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, have been among 500 involved in fighting in Marawi, the Philippine military says. Reports indicate at least one Saudi, a Chechen and a Yemeni killed. In all, more than 200 militants have died in the standoff, now in its fourth week. Video obtained by The Associated Press from the Philippine military indicates an alliance of local Muslim fighters, aligned with IS, are coordinating complex attacks. They include the Islamic State’s purported leader in Southeast Asia: Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, with a $5 million bounty on his head. US officials are assessing whether any of the estimated 1,000 Southeast Asians who traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years are fighting in Catholic-majority Philippines. They fear ungoverned areas in the mostly Muslim region around Marawi could make the area a terror hub as in the 1990s. Then, the Philippines was a base of operations for al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, who plotted in 1994-95 to blow up airliners over the Pacific. The plot was foiled. But the same men were instrumental in the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Other nations share the fear. Singapore recently warned of IS exerting a radicalizing influence “well beyond” what that of al-Qaida and Jemaah Islamiyah ever mustered. Jemaah Islamiyah carried out major terror attacks around the region in the 2000s. IS already has been linked to attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, and foiled plots in Singapore, this past year.
This month, Mattis told the region’s defense chiefs that “together we must act now to prevent this threat from growing.” In Congress this past week, he stressed intelligence sharing and nations like Singapore sharing the burden, rather than deploying US troops. More than 500 US special forces were based in the Mindanao region from 2002 to 2014, advising and training Filipino forces against the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for bombings and kidnappings. When it ended, Philippine and US officials voiced concern about the US withdrawal “could lead to a resurgence of a renewed terrorist threat,” the RAND Corp later reported. Months before the withdrawal, Abu Sayyaf pledged support to IS. Supporting the Philippines isn’t straightforward in Washington. President Rodrigo Duterte is accused of overlooking and even condoning indiscriminate killings by his forces in a war on drugs. Thousands have died. But that campaign has involved mainly police and anti-narcotic forces, not the military leading the anti-IS fight. Still, the Philippine government is partly to blame for Marawi’s violence, said Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asia expert at the National War College. He said the root cause was the government’s failure to fulfill a 2014 peace agreement with the nation’s largest Muslim insurgency, which fueled recruitment for IS-inspired groups. Ernst, who chairs a Senate panel on emerging threats, wants the US military to restart a higher-profile, “named operation” helping the Philippines counter IS. The Pentagon retains between 50 and 100 special forces in the region. At the request of the Philippine military, it has deployed a P3 Orion plane to surveil Marawi. It gave more than 600 assault firearms to Filipino counterterrorism forces last week. Duterte has retreated from threats to expel US forces from the Philippines as he seeks better ties with China. He said recently he hadn’t sought more US help, but was thankful for what he was getting.
China Eastern Airlines hits turbulence, 26 injured
China Eastern Airlines said on its official account that it has arranged medical services but gave no other details.
BEIJING: At least 26 people were injured, four of them seriously, when a China Eastern Airlines flight from Paris hit turbulence on Sunday over southwest China, state media said. The incident happened when Flight MU744 from Charles de Gaulle Airport was descending to land at Kunming Changshui International Airport in Yunnan province, Xinhua news agency reported. Passengers are being treated for bone fractures, scalp lacerations and soft tissue injuries caused by falling baggage or collisions with overhead lockers, it cited local hospitals as saying. “We felt strong turbulence twice and minor turbulence three times. The process lasted about 10 minutes,” the agency quoted a slightly injured passenger surnamed Zhang as saying. The nationalities of the other injured passengers are unclear. China Eastern Airlines said on its official microblog account that it has arranged medical services but gave no other details. “We remind all passengers, for your safety, please fasten safety belts,” the post added. The airline did not respond to questions from AFP. The plane landed around 9 am (0100 GMT) on Sunday, an hour later than scheduled, according to Xinhua. “We applauded when the plane landed safely. We feel lucky the plane did not crash,” an injured passenger surnamed Shang was quoted as saying.
Resort outside Mali’s capital under attack
DAKAR: A luxury resort popular with Western expatriates outside Mali‘s capital Bamako came under attack by gunmen on Sunday, a spokesman at the Security Ministry said. He had no further details of the attack on Le Complement resort in Dougourakoro, to the east of the capital Bamako, but said it was still going on.