News Flash – 2 May 2018

National News

 

 

Cameras to monitor traffic snarls at toll plazas, help ease congestion

 

 

NEW DELHI: In its bid to monitor traffic snarl at toll plazas and to take quick action to ease vehicle flow, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will put a video surveillance system for real-time mapping of congestion at all major toll plazas. In the next six months, the system will be operational at 10 plazas and will be extended to another 200 where daily traffic flow is more than 10,000 vehicles. Each toll plaza will get high quality cameras for providing real-time feed to the command and control room at regional offices (ROs) and also at the NHAI headquarters. This will be a 24×7 facility. Officials said execution of work has commenced and it will be completed in next six months. NHAI has already connected all RO offices with 100 mbps internet network connectivity. “The cameras will continuously give pulse feedback (time stamped photos) to NHAI Command Control Room and ROs Command Room every 30 minutes, but when queuing starts at any toll plaza and the line increases beyond an imaginary line set for IP camera, the camera will switch to video mode and will start streaming videos at regular intervals with alarm and alerts as per escalation matrix.

 

If queue is not cleared in 30 minutes, matter will be escalated to RO and after one hour to NHAI headquarters,” said Akhilesh Srivastava, chief general manager at NHAI. Internet connectivity has also been provided to the empaneled “drone agencies” for a real survey of projects. Drones will be used for getting real-time update on construction of projects. Highways minister Nitin Gadkari said NHAI will soon sign an agreement with Korea Expressway Corporation, which manages its entire highway network from its Traffic Management Centre using sophisticated audio-visual technology, to bring in best technology for traffic management on highways. “The centre has 4View processors, which enable the personnel deployed there to see over 70 separate images and they can view the entire highway network on the screen. By simply entering a vehicle registration number in the system they can track the vehicle quickly,” said an official, who visited the centre with Gadkari last month.

 

 

Mumbai 4th most polluted Megacity in world, 9 in 10 people breathe bad air

 

Mumbai: In an alarming reflection of the city’s air pollution levels, the WHO’s global air pollution database has ranked Mumbai as the fourth most polluted megacity in the world, up from last year’s fifth place. The state capital has also been ranked the 63rd most polluted city among 859 considered by the WHO around the world. The study considered PM2.5 (particulate matter of diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) and PM10. PM2.5 is more dangerous than PM10. The period considered for the study was 2010 to 2016. Among 10 global megacities (habitation of above 14 million), Mumbai, with an average PM10 level of 104ìg/m3 (microgram per cubic metre), came after Delhi (which topped the list), Cairo and Dhaka. Shockingly, it was found to be more polluted than Beijing, which is always in news for its terrible smog-laden days, accompanied with pictures of people moving around in masks. The WHO’s report stated that 9 in 10 people in the world breathe polluted air. In a statement, it said 7 million people die every year because of outdoor and household air pollution. “Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period,” it said. “Mumbai’s air pollution is nearly as bad as Beijing’s, but the city is not paying the required attention to this problem and that is alarming. It is time Mumbai woke up to the situation and took responsibility and react with the sort of urgency Beijing has reacted and how even Delhi is preparing to respond to its growing pollution,” said Sunil Dahiya, senior campaigner, Greenpeace. Quite a few factors contribute to Mumbai’s high air pollution levels.

 

“Construction activity accounts for about 30% of dust particles, followed by vehicular emissions. In addition, open burning of garbage occurs in the city, adding to pollution,” said Rakesh Kumar, director, National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (NEERI). “Nevertheless, the Indian subcontinent cannot be directly compared with other regions of the world. Being in a tropical country, Indian cities have a lot of background pollutants like natural dust. This is why Indian cities have recorded higher level of pollutants (on the WHO list) ”. In Maharashtra, polluted cities include Pune, Navi Mumbai and Nagpur (not in that order; the global rank of a city based on its average PM2.5 level is different from that based on PM10). For Mumbai, WHO used data provided by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board from its monitoring stations in Sion and Bandra and monitoring stations by System of Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR). More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries in the eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas. WHO highlighted that air pollution is mainly responsible for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), causing an estimated one-quarter (24%) of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.

 

 

Security Guard, Plumber die two days after hotel gas leak

Five men were hospitalised after being exposed to toxic gases in a sewage treatment plant at the hotel.

 

 

NEW DELHI: A Security guard and a plumber who had been among the five men hospitalised after being exposed to toxic gases in a sewage treatment plant at Vivanta by Taj-Ambassador Hotel in Khan Market two days ago died on Tuesday. The others, including the deputy chief engineer of the hotel, are under medical observation and not fit yet to speak to police. Madhur Verma, DCP (New Delhi), confirmed the deaths of plumber Ravindra Pal Singh (40) and security guard Vikram (26). Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code related to culpable homicide not amounting to murder has now been added to the case registered against the hotel and Eco Pollutech Engineers, the company holding the contract for maintaining the sewage treatment plant. Police said that Singh died early on Tuesday. Medical staff said the diabetes patient had failed to respond to the treatment after having lost consciousness on Sunday. A few hours after Singh’s death, Vikram suffered a fatal heart attack. Police handed over Singh’s body to the family in the evening, while the autopsy on the security guard’s body will be done on Wednesday morning. Preliminary police investigations established that after the hotel staff reported malfunctioning in the sewage plant’s pumping station, two plumbers from the Eco Pollutech, Singh and Kamdev Patra (58), reached the hotel. They were joined by the in-house plumber Nityanand (51), who entered the sewage treatment section in the basement with Singh. They are believed to have been in the small room looking for possible leaks when Singh undid the coupling of the sewage water line to inspect it for damage.

 

The plant was immediately filled with poisonous gases emanating from the sewage tank. Before losing consciousness, the two dizzy plumbers screamed for help. Patra, who was standing outside the room, responded to their SOS but himself collapsed when trying to drag the men out of the pumping station. Gaurav Sukheja, the deputy chief engineer of the hotel, was overseeing the operation. Before Sukheja (34) and Vikram entered the room to help the men, they raised an alarm. However, they too blacked out soon after. Sewage water then began flowing out of the septic tank and flooded the room. After the hotel contacted the fire department and ambulance services, three firemen in protective suits entered the sewage treatment room and brought out the five unconscious men. Singh, Vikram and Nityanand were taken to Moolchand Hospital in Lajpat Nagar, while Patra and Sukheja were rushed to Lok Nayak Hospital and later shifted to BLK Hospital in Rajinder Nagar. Police said they are waiting for Sukheja, Nityanand and Patra to become fit to make their statements before continuing with the probe but have asked Eco Pollutech to join the investigation. The staff members present at the time of the incident are also being questioned. The hotel said in a statement that it was cooperating with the cops in the investigation and providing support to the families of the five men.

 

 

Massive fire breaks out at Hyderabad zoo

About two acres of land was gutted in a major fire that broke out in the open area of Nehru Zoological Park on Monday morning.

 

 

HYDERABAD: About two acres of land was gutted in a major fire that broke out in the open area of Nehru Zoological Parkon Monday morning. According to fire officials, a team from Chandulal Baradari fire station responded to the emergency call from the zoo at 10.45 am. It took around two hours for the fire tenders to douse the flames of the fire that reduced the grass and several trees to ashes. “The fire caused damage to about two acres of land in the zoo. Once we got information about it, we rushed to the spot and tried to douse the fire. But, the strong winds caused it to spread along open land and hence it took us almost two hours to put out the fire completely,” Srinivas Reddy, District Fire Officer for Hyderabad said. Although the fire officials suspect that the fire was caused due to negligent smoking, initial reports also suggested that the fire could have occurred due to burning of dry grass and other waste inside the zoo premises. The reasons behind the fire mishap are yet to be ascertained, fire department officials said.

 

 

West Bengal: 13 killed, 25 injured after nor’wester strikes

 

KOLKATA: At least 13 people were killed and over 25 injured after lightning struck them during a nor’wester that hit different parts of West Bengal last night, a senior official of the state disaster management said Monday. Of the 13 , three each died in Nadia, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts, and two each in Dakshin Dinajpur and Malda. “Most of them were outside their house and working in their fields while lightning struck them,” he said. Among the four persons injured due to lightning strike in Purulia district, two of them were reported to be critical, the official said. Alerts were issued across all the blocks in the districts and necessary precautionary measures were taken, in view of the warnings issued by the weather department, he said.

 

 

International News

 

 

Dozens killed in Nigeria suicide blasts

 

 

KANO: Suicide bombers killed dozens of people at a mosque and a market in northeast Nigeria on Tuesday, in a twin attack bearing the hallmarks of Islamist insurgents Boko Haram. The blasts happened at about 1:20 pm (1220 GMT) in Mubi, a city some 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the Adamawa state capital, Yola. Adamawa state police spokesman Othman Abubakar said, “For now (the death toll) is 24,” but other sources gave far higher figures. Rescue worker Sani Kakale said: “In my presence, 42 dead bodies were taken to hospital and 68 injured.” A source at Mubi General Hospital told AFP they had “so far” received 37 bodies and dozens of injured, many of them critically. Suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram, the jihadist group whose quest to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009. Mubi has been repeatedly targeted in attacks blamed on Boko Haram since it was briefly overrun by the militants in late 2014. Nigeria’s government and military have long maintained that the Islamic State group affiliate is a spent force and on the verge of defeat. But there has been no let-up in attacks in the northeast, particularly in Borno state, adjacent to Adamawa, which has been the epicentre of the violence. Last Thursday, at least four people were killed when suicide bombers and fighters attempted to storm the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, raising fresh questions about security. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been in the United States this week and met his US counterpart Donald Trump, who pledged more support in the fight against Boko Haram. Nigeria has bought a dozen A-29 Super Tucano light fighter aircraft in a $496-million (413-million-euro) deal. Trump indicated a further order for attack helicopters was also in the pipeline.

 

“These new aircraft will improve Nigeria’s ability to target terrorists and protect civilians,” Trump told a joint news conference with Buhari in Washington on Monday. In Mubi, local volunteer Habu Saleh, who was involved in the rescue effort, described the situation as “chaos all over the place”. “We have evacuated dozens of dead and injured people to the hospital and the rescue operation is still ongoing,” he said. Health workers from the hospital mobilised to attend to the victims, despite being on strike over pay and conditions. Mubi resident Abdullahi Labaran said the first bomber mingled with worshippers who had gathered for prayers at the mosque at the edge of the market. He detonated his explosives “five minutes before the prayer started”, he added. The second bomber blew himself up among the crowds of worshippers, traders and shoppers who fled the mosque towards the butchery section of a nearby market. On November 21, 2017 at least 50 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a mosque during early morning prayers in the Unguwar Shuwa area of Mubi. In October 2012, at least 40 people were killed in an attack on student housing in Mubi that was widely blamed on Boko Haram. In June 2014, at least 40 football supporters, including women and children, died in a bomb attack after a match in the Kabang area of the town.

 

 

10 journalists, 11 children among 37 killed in multiple attacks in Afghanistan

 

KABUL: Ten journalists including Agency France-Presse’s chief photographer in Kabul, Shah Marai, were among dozens killed in multiple attacks across Afghanistan on Monday, in the deadliest day for the country’s media since 2001. Two suicide blasts in Kabul killed 25 people including Marai along with at least eight other journalists, in what Reporters Without Borders said was the most lethal single attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban. The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, was condemned internationally by groups including the United Nations and the European Union, and spurred an outpouring of grief among Afghan journalists, many of whom took to Twitter to post tributes to colleagues and friends. Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai said the second explosion came minutes after the first and targeted reporters at the scene. “The bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd,” he said. The interior ministry confirmed the number of deaths and said 49 people had been wounded amid fears the toll could rise. Later Monday the BBC confirmed that one of its reporters + , 29-year-old Ahmad Shah, was killed in a separate attack in eastern Khost province, near the border with Pakistan. The broadcaster did not immediately give further details. In a third attack 11 children were killed and 16 people wounded, including foreign and Afghan security force members, when a suicide attacker exploded his bomb-laden car near a convoy in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said.

 

 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that attack, which brought the total number of people killed across the country to 37. Journalists from Radio Free Europe and Afghan broadcasters Tolo News and 1TV, as well as others, were among those killed in Kabul, Reporters Without Borders said. “This tragedy reminds us of the danger that our teams continually face on the ground and the essential role journalists play for democracy,” said Fabrice Fries, CEO of AFP. Marai – who was buried later Monday – joined AFP as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power, and began taking pictures on the side, covering stories including the US invasion in 2001. In 2002 he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become chief photographer in the bureau. His versatility and easy camaraderie was demonstrated in a message moments before the second attack, in which he reassured an AFP video colleague who was stuck in traffic and could not reach the scene. “No worry man, I am here,” he said by WhatsApp, adding that he was shooting video in addition to taking photos. He leaves behind six children, including a newborn daughter. “This is a devastating blow for the brave staff of our close-knit Kabul bureau and the entire agency,” said AFP Global News Director Michele Leridon, describing him as a “treasured colleague”. “We can only honour the extraordinary strength, courage, and generosity of a photographer who covered often traumatic, horrific events with sensitivity and consummate professionalism,” Leridon said. “We also send our condolences to the families of other journalists killed in this terrible attack”. IS, which has dramatically stepped up its attacks in Kabul in recent months, claimed responsibility via its propaganda agency Amaq. The attacks come days after the Taliban began their spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s offer of peace talks.

 

Reporters Without Borders said that since 2016 it has recorded the killings of 34 journalists in Afghanistan, which it ranks at 118 out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Index. Prior to Monday’s blasts, the deadliest attack on the media in recent years was in 2016, when seven employees of popular TV channel Tolo were killed in a Taliban suicide bombing. In November last year broadcaster Shamshad TV was stormed by gunmen who killed one person. The defiant station was back on the air within hours, a newscaster with bandaged hands reporting on the attack as its director vowed: “They cannot silence us”. “I’ve seen them work and trust me, the colleagues of the dead will be back to cover the next horrendous attack #pressfreedom”, tweeted journalist Sune Engel Rasmussen Monday, who formerly reported for the Guardian newspaper in Kabul, in response to Monday’s blasts. They follow several bloody attacks across the country, including a bombing that targeted a voter registration centre in Kabul and killed 60 people last week. President Ashraf Ghani’s government is under pressure on multiple fronts this year as it prepares to hold long-delayed legislative elections in October. Some Western and Afghan officials expect 2018 to be a particularly bloody year, with the Taliban and other militant groups controlling or contesting large swathes of the country. “I taught myself photography,” Marai said in a company profile in 2015. “Now my photos appear around the world. “My best memories are when I beat the competition by getting the best photographs of the president or someone else, or from the scene of a bomb attack. I like to be first”.

 

 

Four skiers dead after caught in Swiss Alps storm

 

 

GENEVA: Four skiers were confirmed dead on Monday and five others were in critical condition after being forced to spend the night exposed to the elements in the Swiss Alps, police said. Bad weather in the Pigne d’Arolla area of the Swiss Alps on Sunday caught a group 14 skiers by surprise, police in Valais canton said in a statement. The manager of a rest-stop in the remote mountain region sent out a call for help at dawn on Monday, triggering a major relief operation that involved seven helicopters, police said. “Four people lost their lives, five others are in a critical state,” the statement said. Police indicated that one of those killed “likely” died from a fall and was found dead at the scene, while three others died later in hospital. Some of those not identified as being in critical condition are suffering from “mild hypothermia” but their “lives are not in danger,” according to police. The skiers were Italian, French and German nationals, police said.

 

 

Fruit’s pungent smell mistaken for gas leak, prompts panic

 

MELBOURNE: The pungent smell of the rotten durian fruit at an Australian university library has been mistaken for a gas leak, prompting an evacuation of the building. Specialist crews wearing masks searched the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology university campus library on Saturday, but all they found was rotting durian in a cupboard. About 600 staff and students had cleared the building. A Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokesman said the smell alarmed staff and students as it permeated the air-conditioning system. Durian is a tropical fruit known for its strong smell. It is commonly banned from hotel rooms and public transport across Southeast Asia.


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