Massive landslide on Badrinath highway leaves 14,000 pilgrims stuck
Motorists gather after the landslide blocked their route along the national highway on the outskirts of Vishuprayag.
DEHRADUN: Nearly 14,000 pilgrims were left stranded at various places in Chamoli district after a massive landslide blocked the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway on Friday afternoon. The landslide which occurred in Hathi Parvat near Vishnuprayag, 9-km from Joshimath, left 60 metres of the national highway damaged but there were no reports of injury to pilgrims. Confirming that the landslide had left a large numbers of pilgrims stranded, Tripti Bhatt, superintendent of police (SP) Chamoli, told TOI, “After the landslide, at least 1,183 pilgrims were stopped in Govindghat, 900 at Joshimath and 450 at Pandukeshwar from moving ahead. They have been accommodated in nearby hotels, lodges, and gurdwaras and guest houses. Around 11,000 pilgrims were at Badrinath for darshan at the time of the calamity”. While District Magistrate Ashish Joshi said that a total of 1,800 pilgrims got stuck on both sides of a 75-meter wide slide and arrangements have been made for their stay and food, adding that, “yatra has not been halted as reported by certain sections of the media”. The vehicles on their way back from Badrinath had to return to the shrine while those going to Badrinath from Vishnuprayag were forced to return to Joshimath and Govindghat, where the administration made temporary boarding and lodging arrangements for the pilgrims.
The SP said, “The hotels, ashrams and other establishments near Badrinath can house at least one lakh pilgrims so there is no cause of worry.” Many vehicles at Rishikesh have also been stopped from proceeding until the highway is open to traffic again. Deepam Seth, inspector general of police (IG) Law and Order, claimed that none of the vehicles and pilgrims remained trapped in the landslide-affected area. Personnel from Border Roads Organization said that the landslide had brought so much debris on the road that normal traffic movement would only be restored by Saturday night. Colonel Rama Subramanian, BRO commandant, said, “Big boulders rolled down from the mountain with a deafening thud on Friday at 2pm. There is a lot of debris on the road. It seems that it will take at least till Saturday for vehicles to be able to travel on the highway”. The BRO has pressed earthmovers into service to clear the debris, said Colonel P H Sharma, spokesperson of the BRO. Meanwhile, Garhwal commissioner Vinod Sharma has also left for Chamoli to take stock of the situation while disaster management secretary Amit Negi is monitoring the situation from Dehradun.
Hi-tech train may replace double-decker service to Goa
MUMBAI: The future of the Mumbai-Madgaon double-decker hangs in balance with the impending introduction of hi-speed Tejas Express to Goa. While Railways sources indicated that the AC double-decker service to Goa, which is in operation for more than a year, may be discontinued, Central Railway (CR) officials declined to comment on Friday. Tejas Express will be flagged off from Mumbai for Goa on Monday. The 11085 Mumbai LTT-Madgaon double decker Express leave around 5.30am. Sources said that the Tejas Express is likely to leave Mumbai at 5.30am. It will reach Madgaon by 1.30 pm, sources said. The present Jan Shatabdi ferries passengers to Goa in 8 hours and 25 minutes and the Tejas Express will be faster in comparison.
The superfast train, which is expected to travel at speeds up to 130 kmph, will have several modern facilities on board like LCD TV, Wi-Fi and tea/coffee vending machines. It will be equipped with a slew of on-board facilities including redesigned seats, CCTV cameras, automatic doors, personalized infotainment systems and an advanced fire-alarm system, and have cuisine curated by celebrity chefs. The new rake for Tejas will arrive in Mumbai by Saturday morning. “On Monday, railway minister Suresh Prabhu will also rename train no. 11003/11004 Dadar-Sawantwadi- Dadar RajyaRani Express as Tutari Express,” said a Konkan Railway official. Free Wi-Fi will be introduced at Khed, Chiplum, Ratnagiri, Kudal and Sawantwadi among other stations from Sunday.
Bengaluru airport sets up solar farms
BENGALURU: The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) inaugurated solar farms at the Kempegowda International Airport premises on Thursday. The first project of 440kW has been installed in the car park area in front of the BIAL corporate office, and the second project of 2.5MW solar panels at the airside. Both projects – jointly – will reduce carbon emission by 3125 tonnes per annum (3075 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission per annum at the airside and 550 tonnes at the car park area). The project implemented by Bosch Limited, a leading supplier of technology and services and executed by the Bosch Energy and Building Solutions (BEBS) team in India, will generate approximately 4.4 Mio units of electricity, annually. Hari Marar, President – Airport Operations BIAL, said, “BIAL has constantly endeavored to create an enabling environment through its various green initiatives. We have focused on sustainability and embarked on adopting renewable energy as part of our overall green vision. We aim to achieve 50% of our energy needs through renewable power in the next three years. We will continue our effort to look at newer methods to operate our business in an ecologically sustainable environment”.
Both the projects have undergone a rigorous quality process to ensure an active life of 20 years. “Airports are a focus vertical for Bosch. Beyond solar projects, we have security technology and energy efficiency solutions for this sector,” said Soumitra Bhattacharya, president, Bosch Group India. It is crucial for India to have in place a sustainable energy infrastructure. Both projects were designed keeping in mind the uniqueness of their locations – the 440kW project located at the car park area has been designed to optimize land usage enabling the generation of more than six lakh units of power, annually, and double as a car park for about 160 cars; due to the proximity to the runway, the 2.5MW project has been additionally designed to sustain high wind speeds. KIA was certified a carbon neutral airport for effectively offsetting carbon emissions at the airport through a series of focused initiatives in April 2017.
Get over WannaCry, Aadhaar data leak may now haunt Telangana, warns UIDAI
HYDERABAD: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has cautioned the state government on possible leak of Aadhaar data. It has asked the state government to take up sensitization programme for employees of various departments. The UIDAI has also warned against posting of Aadhaar numbers on any public platform. The advisory comes in the wake of accidental leak of Aadhaar data in Jharkhand. Sharing of personal data of Aadhaar beneficiaries on public platforms is violation of existing laws. Several other government departments have also published Aadhaar numbers related to their schemes. Officials, however, did not disclose the names of the departments in the state where there is likelihood of data leak.
Under the new Aadhaar Act, publishing of Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries is illegal. Aadhaar data leak can invoke imprisonment under the new Act. “We have conducted many workshops for departments. Cyber security breach is a major concern now. We told them that they should not display Aadhaar numbers even in the notices served by them,” said UIDAI deputy director-general MVS Rami Reddy. The departments were told to display the last three digits of Aadhaar number only in official communication. Workshops are being conducted in Andhra Pradesh too. Sources said more than promoting Bharat Interface for Money, this sensitization has taken the Centre stage in UIDAI. Meanwhile, officials said that WannaCry ransomware had no impact on the Aadhaar data on the UIDAI servers. All the systems meant for internal consumption have been protected with Microsoft patches.
Flat dwellers twice burned by fire, complex owner scot-free
CHENNAI: Ten days have passed since four people died and eight others were injured when a fire engulfed an illegal five-storey building in Vadapalani that they lived in, but police are yet to file a case against the owner of the complex. Till government agencies determine that the five-storey structure was built in violation of a sanctioned plan, police officers said, they cannot take action against the building owner, E Vijaykumar. Police said they have written to the corporation, CMDA, the PWD and electricity board, seeking details of the building. “We need to have material evidence before registering a case against him [the owner]. The reply from these departments will reveal the kind of violations,” Vadapalani assistant commissioner of police Annadurai said. “We filed a case under CrPC Section 174 (unnatural death) and could alter it to IPC Section 304A (causing death by negligence not amounting to culpable homicide).”
For their part, CMDA officials said the corporation must initiate further action with regard to the building. The owner built 28 apartments in the building, which was occupied by 22 families. Many residents paid lease amounts of several lakhs of rupees; others paid monthly rent. Dasarathan, a tenant who moved into the ill-fated building a month ago, said he had paid Rs 10,000 as advance. “The authorities asked use to move out after the fire. But we have not been repaid the advance as the house owner cannot be contacted,” he said. A neighbour said the tenants are in a desperate situation. “We saw a woman weeping last week outside the building. She had paid a lease amount of Rs 10 lakh,” he said.
US retakes over 55% of ISIS territory: Mattis
WASHINGTON: The US-led international coalition, comprising more than 60 countries, has retaken over 55 per cent of the territories once controlled by the Islamic State terror group, US defence secretary James Mattis said on Friday. “We are leading a comprehensive international campaign to crush ISIS’s claim of invincibility, to deny ISIS a geographic haven from which to hatch murder, eliminate ISIS’s ability to operate externally and eradicate their ability to recruit and finance terrorist operations,” Mattis said. “We have retaken over 55 per cent of ISIS territory there in the core. Over four million people have been liberated. And not one inch of territory seized from ISIS has been recaptured by them,” Mattis told a Pentagon news conference along with General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said the US had fought ISIS elements from Southeast Asia to Africa. “Collaboration among many nations’ intelligence services continues to complicate and blunt ISIS operations even as ISIS continues to pursue and conduct attacks against the United States and our allies through centralize directed plots, also through inspired attacks,” he said, giving an update to reporters on the progress in the fight against ISIS. Mattis said from the Philippines to Europe and beyond, while ISIS remained dangerous, they were no longer carrying an air of strength.
“In Afghanistan two weeks ago, President Ghani announced we had killed the leader of ISIS Khorasan plus approximately two-thirds of their strength been killed during very tough operations mostly in Nangarhar Province,” he said. Lauding France for leading a “brilliant” two-year ongoing campaign in the Lake Chad basin in West Africa to throw ISIS off balance, Mattis said the country’s 4,000 troops were on the ground to support US’ African allies. In Libya, the coalition struck a significant ISIS presence there in January of this year, he said. “Our attack against their concentrated strength was highly effective, and ISIS did not own any major territory any longer there. Elsewhere, too, there have been successes. But in Iraq and Syria lies the core area of ISIS – of a geographic caliphate,” he said. Noting that attacks in Istanbul, Paris and Brussels were planned and coordinated out of ISIS’s so-called capital in Raqqa, Mattis said additional eminent threats to many nations require America to move with urgency against all strongholds still in their hands. East Mosul has fallen after tough fighting by the Iraqi Security Forces with US and coalition support, he said, adding that since January it has been a bit normal with businesses reopening, cleanup underway and kids back in school.
Dunford said the US-led coalition, had reduced ISIS-held territory, limited their freedom of movement, destroyed a great deal of their leadership, reduced the flow of foreign fighters into and from the region and diminished their financial resources. “Perhaps most importantly, we’ve undermined the credibility of their narrative that there’s a physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” he said. Dunford said coalition airstrikes and ground operations had struck approximately 2,600 ISIS-held gas and oil targets, 1500 tanker trucks. “That’s resulted in ISIS having the lowest revenue at any point since 2014,” he said, adding that the coalition has also removed the dreaded outfit’s key leaders from the battlefield. “These losses have limited ISIS’ ability to plan and direct external attacks, recruit foreign fighters, broadcast their narrative and fund their brand of terror,” Dunford said. He said the US’ strategic approach was to cut the connectivity between ISIS affiliates and associates, specifically the foreign fighter flow, their illicit resources and their message. “Our objective is to drive down ISIS’s capability to a point where local forces, with tailored support from the international community, are able to provide security. We’re doing this today in Libya, Somalia and Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan,” he said.
French researchers find way to unlock WannaCry without ransom
FRANKFURT: French researchers said on Friday they had found a last-chance way for technicians to save Windows files encrypted by WannaCry, racing against a deadline as the ransomware threatens to start locking up victims’ computers first infected a week ago. WannaCry, which started to sweep round the globe last Friday and has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations, threatens to lock out victims+ who have not paid a sum of $300 to $600 within one week of infection. A loose-knit team of security researchers scattered across the globe said they had collaborated to develop a workaround to unlock the encryption key for files hit in the global attack, which several independent security researchers have confirmed. But the researchers said their solution would only work in certain conditions, namely if computers had not been rebooted since becoming infected and if victims applied the fix before WannaCry carried out its threat to lock their files permanently. The group includes Adrien Guinet, who works as a security expert, Matthieu Suiche, who is an internationally known hacker, and Benjamin Delpy, who helped out by night, in his spare time, outside his day job at the Banque de France.
“We knew we must go fast because, as time passes, there is less chance to recover,” Delpy said after a second sleepless night of work this week allowed him to release a workable way to decrypt WannaCry at 6 am Paris time (0400 GMT) on Friday. Delpy calls his free tool for decrypting infected computers without paying ransom “wanakiwi“. Suiche published a blog with technical details summarizing what the group of passing online acquaintances has built and is racing to share with technical staff at organisations infected by WannaCry. Wanakiwi was quickly tested and shown to work on Windows 7 and older Windows versions XP and 2003, Suiche said, adding that he believed the hastily developed fix+ also works with Windows 2008 and Vista, meaning the entire universe of affected PCs. “(The method) should work with any operating system from XP to Win7,” Suiche told Reuters, via direct message on Twitter. Delpy added that so far, banking, energy and some government intelligence agencies from several European countries and India+ had contacted him regarding the fix.
THE ONLY WORKABLE SOLUTION: Guinet, a security researcher at Paris-based Quarks Lab, published the theoretical technique for decrypting WannaCry files late Wednesday and Thursday, which Delpy, also in Paris, figured out how to turn into a practical tool to salvage files. Suiche, based in Dubai and one of the world’s top independent security researchers, provided advice and testing to ensure the fix worked across all various versions of Windows. His blog post links to a Delpy’s “wanakiwi” decryption tool which is based on Guinet’s original concept. His idea involves extracting the keys to WannaCry encryption codes using prime numbers rather than attempting to break the endless string of digits behind the malicious software’s full encryption key. “This is not a perfect solution,” Suiche said. “But this is so far the only workable solution to help enterprises to recover their files if they have been infected and have no back-ups” which allow users to restore data without paying black-mailers. As of Wednesday, half of all internet addresses corrupted globally by WannaCry were located in China and Russia, with 30 and 20 percent of infections, respectively, according to data supplied by threat intelligence firm Kryptos Logic.
By contrast, the United States accounts for 7 percent of WannaCry infections while Britain, France and Germany each represent just 2 percent of worldwide attacks, Kryptos said. Only 309 transactions worth around $94,000 appear to have been paid into WannaCry blackmail accounts by Friday (1345 GMT), seven days after the attack began. (Reuters graphic: [tmsnrt.rs/2rqaLyz). That’s just under one in 1,000 of the estimated victims. This may reflect a variety of factors, security experts say, including skepticism that attackers will honour their promises or the possibility that organisations have back-up storage plans allowing them to recover their data without paying ransom.
Death toll in southern Libyan attack rises to 141: Official
BENGHAZI, LIBYA: A spokesman for east Libyan armed forces said on Friday that as many as 141 people had been killed a day earlier in an attack on a southern air base. Ahmed al-Mismari, a spokesman for the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), said 103 of those killed in the attack at Brak Al-Shati air base were LNA troops stationed in the area. Earlier, the mayor of Brak Al-Shati and a medical source in the town put the death toll at 89, though the medical official said some bodies had not been brought to the hospital. It was not possible to independently verify the number of casualties. Local and LNA officials have said that some of those killed were civilians who appeared to have been summarily executed.
North Korea says linking cyber-attack to Pyongyang is ‘ridiculous’
UNITED NATIONS: North Korea’s deputy UN envoy said on Friday “it is ridiculous” to link Pyongyang with the WannaCry “ransomware” cyber-attack that started to sweep around the globe a week ago and has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations. WannaCry threatens to lock out victims who have not paid a sum of $300 to $600 within one week of infection. French researchers said on Friday they had found a last-chance way for technicians to save Windows files encrypted by WannaCry. “Relating to the cyber-attack, linking to the DPRK, it is ridiculous,” North Korea’s deputy UN Ambassador Kim in Ryong told a news conference. North Korea is also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). “Whenever something strange happens, it is the stereotype way of the United States and the hostile forces that kick off noisy anti-DPRK campaign deliberately linking with DPRK,” Kim said. Symantec and Kaspersky Lab said on Monday that some code in an earlier version of the WannaCry software had also appeared in programs used by the Lazarus Group, which researchers from many companies have identified as a North Korea-run hacking operation.