Swine flu threat grows; 600 deaths, 12,500 cases this year
NEW DELHI: Swine flu, the viral illness that became a pandemic in 2009, has made a comeback this year, claiming nearly 600 lives across the country so far this year with close to 12,500 cases being reported. Maharashtra is the worst affected with 284 deaths followed by Gujarat (75), Kerala (63) and Rajasthan (59), government data shows. In Delhi, official figures state, 241 people have tested positive for swine flu and four have died, as on July 9. Doctors said the number of deaths could be higher. “People are visiting hospitals late. This is why there have been more deaths. If patients are put on Tamiflu, the drug approved for treating swine flu, as soon as clinical symptoms appear, many lives can be saved,” Dr. Jagdish Prasad, the director general of health services, told TOI. Clinicians suspect the H1N1 virus, which causes swine flu, may have mutated. The disease initially spread through pigs but now transmits from human to human. A central rapid response team has been deployed in Maharashtra to investigate the rising trend of influenza there, Prasad said. He added that government has put Oseltamivir, marketed as Tamiflu, in schedule H1 to enable it to be sold by all licensed chemists under prescription. The drug was earlier in schedule X, wherein only certain selected pharmacists were authorised to stock it. The growing number of swine flu cases so early in the season has had doctors worried. “This is surprising. Swine flu is commonly seen in winter or post-monsoon season. But we have been seeing significant number of cases of swine flu since June in spite of high temperatures that are not conducive for viral growth or transmission,” Dr. Arup Basu, senior chest physician at SGRH, said.
Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, a senior consultant at Apollo Hospitals, said the National Institute of Virology and National Centre for Disease Control should investigate the reasons behind the sudden spurt in swine flu cases. “As clinicians, we need to look out for characteristic symptoms of swine flu throughout the year so that timely action can save lives,” he added. Dr. Sandeep Nayar, head of respiratory medicine at BLK hospital, said three patients who tested positive for swine flu have died at the hospital in the last few months. “They were referred from other hospitals in critical state,” he said. Dr. Atul Gogia, senior consultant, internal medicine at Sir Ganga Ram hospital reported five deaths in his hospital this year. At Max Saket, doctors said five to 10 patients were currently being treated for swine flu. “There is a sudden upsurge in swine flu cases over the past few weeks. Those with severe symptoms require admission,” said Dr. Rommel Tickoo, senior consultant at the hospital. Swine flu, experts say, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by type A strains of the virus. The virus enters the body through inhalation of contaminated droplets or is transferred from a contaminated surface to the eyes, nose or mouth of a person. “Symptoms of swine flu are similar to common viral illnesses. But the intensity is higher. Patients feel lethargic, have high grade fever and sore throat, among other symptoms. Treatment is mostly symptomatic,” said a doctor. In some cases, patients suffer from nausea or diarrhoea. Severe cases can progress to pneumonia and organ failure, say doctors. “Maintaining hygiene is most important. People should wash hands at regular intervals with disinfectants. If there is prolonged fever, one must see a doctor and not ignore symptoms such as difficulty breathing,” doctors say.
Strong wind brings down old bakery chimney, three killed
MUMBAI: Three persons were killed in Jogeshwari after the portion of a bakery chimney collapsed on them following strong wind on Saturday night. Five persons were rushed to Balasaheb Thackeray Trauma Care Municipal Hospital in the vicinity after the chimney of Aqsa Bakery on S V Road collapsed around 10.43pm. Out of the five, three, including a woman, were declared dead, while one is still in hospital, and another was treated and discharged. Residents said there was a loud sound and many gathered to rescue those screaming for help. Kismat Ansari (22) and Jitendra Ansari (21) were declared brought dead, while Teji Barge (22) died around 4.30am the next morning. Civic officials said Barge, whose condition was critical, taken to hospital but succumbed to injuries early on Sunday.
Raju Bhardwaj (26), who suffered head injuries and a fracture, required further treatment and was shifted to Dr. R N Cooper Municipal General Hospital. Another worker, Azimullah Islam Manchuri (48), who sustained injuries, was admitted to the casualty ward and later discharged. Assistant municipal commissioner (K west ward) Prashant Gaikwad said all the deceased were bakery workers. “The shop is a very old structure and has a BMC licence. The workers were cooking when the chimney crashed on them,” said Gaikwad. Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said, “The ground floor structure fell on an adjoining ground floor gala, damaging its roof and trapping five persons, out of which three were rescued by nearby residents before and two by the fire brigade. We did carry on a search for others by clearing the debris”.
Individuals to get bankruptcy protection soon
NEW DELHI: The government has begun work on laying down a process for individuals to be declared bankrupt, which will help them deal with a financial crisis rather than be bogged down by it. The rules being framed will help a defaulter repay the money in a structured way, rather than being forced to cough it up to banks in one go. Sources said the idea is to make the process more humane as the rules would deal with a host of individuals — from farmers and kirana shop owners to a salaried middle class person who may be struggling to repay a loan for reasons like loss of job. “There is huge social stigma attached to this. So, you cannot be punitive. People should be allowed to restructure their lives, ” said Sumant Batra, managing partner and head of the insolvency, secured transactions & corporate law practice at law firm Kesar Dass B & Associates. There are laws dating back over a century to deal with individual bankruptcy but they have been used only sparingly in the last several decades. The jurisdiction mostly lies with district judges.
Currently, banks approach Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act (Sarfaesi), which are aimed at recovering the dues. While the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), enacted by Parliament last year, provides for individuals to be declared bankrupt, so far, action has been confined to the corporate sector and start-ups. The ministry of corporate affairs and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India have now begun discussions on putting in place rules to help individuals and partnership firms. A working group is looking at several aspects, including making counselling mandatory as is the case in Singapore. Similarly, there is a need to make the legal system more easily accessible. “We need to ensure that there is adequate infrastructure to help people who are already stressed. Plus, issues related to state laws need to be worked out,” said a source.
Woman in possession of fake certificates held
Mysuru: A 45-year-old woman, who was in possession of fake certificates from different educational institutions, including those from Karnataka State Open University, was arrested on Thursday. Yashaswini B, a resident of Gokulam, was near the Mysuru taluk office on Thursday, when cops stationed near the administrative centre found something suspicious in her behavior. On detecting police presence, Yashwaswini tried to flee in a car but was stopped by cops before she could go too far. Police subsequently found fake certificates from various varsities in her possession. Nazarbad police have filed a complaint against Yashwaswini on charges of forgery and cheating . Yashaswini has allegedly told the cops that two individuals – one each in Belagavi and Hassan districts – of having supplied her these documents. Police are now on the lookout for the suspects. Nazardbad inspector Shekara said, “CCB sleuths have taken her into custody”.
Rain-wrecked roads: Blame it on slapdash repair & lack of design
HYDERABAD: Flooded with complaints of potholed and waterlogged roads during the latest deluge, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) may have given its engineers a 10-day deadline to carry out the tall task of restoring roads running into nearly 300 km in five zones and the 2,100 potholes adorning them, but experts feel that instead of taking up hasty patchwork, the civic body should think about long-term road planning to resolve the issue. A survey conducted by city based Smart Infrastructural Engineering Services Trust (SIEST) last year had revealed that though the average lifespan of a road should be at least 15 years, roads in Hyderabad do not last more than three months because of poor quality and bad planning. According to P Surya Prakash, founder, Smart Infrastructural Engineering Services Trust, the basic problem plaguing the city’s roads is that GHMC engineers fail to follow proper design and planning norms during road building and restoration. “If you ask for a proper design they will not have one as they are not following any plan. Unless GHMC thinks of a long term solution, roads will continue to get damaged every year,” he said.
Agreeing, Anant Maringanti from Hyderabad Urban Lab said: “This is the case every year, the monsoon comes and the roads get damaged”. But despite SIEST submit ting its survey report to the GHMC commissioner and chief engineer in January this year, specifying in detail the measures required to improve the quality of roads, replete with the cost calculations, the civic body does not seem to have learnt any lessons. “The state allocates around `200 crore to `500 crore for repairing roads every year. Instead we gave an estimate of `7000 crore along with remedies on laying quality roads that will last 15-20 years, but they have not heeded our suggestions. If this continues, roads will only last between December to May before going back to their potholed ways,” Surya Prakash added. “Engineers just cover the potholes with tar on top as they are in a hurry to finish work. They need a better road re-laying plan,” said an activist, also blaming the city’s poor drainage system for water logged roads even after a light shower.
Rivers spill over, flood cloud on districts
KOLKATA: A boy drowned and a girl was swept away by the undercurrent in a flooded Birbhum on Sunday , even as incessant rain in the last 48 hours raised the possibility of floods in many other districts, especially North 24 Parganas, Midnapore, Murshidabad , Bankura, Burdwan and Purulia. Several pockets in these districts are already inundated. In Birbhum, the 12-year-old boy , who went to see the overflowing Bakreswar river on Saturday at Saithia, drowned in it. The girl, Shatabdi Bajikar, was swept away while crossing a culvert at Kirnahar. She couldn’t be traced till Sunday evening. All the major rivers – Mayurakshi, Ajay, Kuye, Bakreswar and Dwarka -flowing above danger level. The Laghata bridge, which connects Birbhum with Burdwan through Kirnahar, is submerged. Several civic areas of Basirhat, Badu ria, Taki, and some pockets of Hingalganj, jacent to the Sunderbans Sandeshkhali adjacent to the Sunderbans have been severely affected in the downpour. It has made rivers like Kalindi, Raimangal, Ichamati and Chotokolagachi spill over. There is every chance of parts of Basirhat subdivisions like Sahebkhali, Hingalganj, Minakha and Sandeshkhali and some places of Basirhat and Taki town getting submerged. Several roads in West Midnapore district have been submerged, stopping buses plying on the Chandrakona-Ghatal route. Boats are being used in flooded areas like Manasha Chatal in Chandrakona. Hundreds of people have been marooned as water from Shilabati and Jhumi rivers entered some areas of Keshpur. Some areas of Sabong, Narayangarh and Pingla have also been submerged. The water level in Subarnarekha river is also on rise. Some mud houses have collapsed at Kharagpur town. In Burdwan, communication system in some remote areas was snapped due to inundation.
Train accidents up by nearly 50% on slow line renewal
CHENNAI: A steep increase in train accidents has accompanied a slowdown in the pace of track renewal by Indian Railways over the past year. ‘Consequential accidents’, or train accidents attributed to shortcomings in railway tracks climbed from 24 to 35, or 45.83%, in 2016-17, data released in a report in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday showed. It is no coincidence, senior officials said, that the railways appears to have put the brakes on track renewal the same year, failing to meet its 2016-17 fiscal target after exceeding its objectives for each of the two previous financial years. “Lack of timely track renewal is a major cause of train accidents,” a senior railway official said. “Track maintenance standards have also fallen as the railways is not purchasing adequate spares for track maintenance”. The railways renewed 2,487km of track across the country of a targeted 2,668km in 2016-17, down from 2,794km in 2015-16 and not even matching the previous year’s goal of 2,500km. Indian Railways has a track network of around 92,000km. Track renewal is a periodic process that the engineering wing of the public transporter carries out based on age and wear and tear of sections on various lines. Track renewal by the railways takes into account traffic on stretches of track, incidence of rail fractures and other factors such as failures and corrosion – a process in large necessitated because an estimated 40% of railway tracks in the country are “saturated”, meaning their utilization exceeds 100% of their capacity.
Accident-related information from three zones, Northern Railway, Central Railway and Southern Railway from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 shows failure of tracks caused 50% of all accidents. Data the railway ministry tabled in Parliament shows that in 40% of all accidents, investigators cite track defect as at least one of the reasons. The railways blamed track faults for several accidents in 2016-17. These include the May 1, 2016 derailment of eight coaches of the Delhi-Faizabad Express in Uttar Pradesh; the August 28, 2016 derailment of 12 coaches of the Trivandrum-Mangalore Express in Kerala; and a December 29, 2016 accident in which five coaches of passenger train between Kalyan and Vithalwadi jumped tracks because of fatigued railway tracks. Railway officials said a vicious cycle often derails track renewal: High capacity lines require the most track repair/renewal but the window for this work is small because they are the busiest routes. Last month, a news agency reported that Indian Railways’ ambitious 10,000-crore plan for capacity addition and track renewal faces delays as Steel Authority of India (SAIL) was not able to meet demand required. The Railway Board chairman reportedly wrote to SAIL, asking officials of the country’s largest steel producer to step up supply.
Texas: 8 people found dead in truck in ‘human trafficking crime’
Police officers at the site where 8 people were found dead in a truck
SAN ANTONIO: Eight people have been found dead in a tractor-trailer outside a Walmart in Texas in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case. Several other people, possibly dozens, were found in the truck, which didn’t have a working air conditioning system, and they were taken to hospitals, firefighters said. A person from the truck approached a Walmart employee in a parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, San Antonio police said. The employee gave the person the water and then called police, and when officers arrived they found the eight people dead in the back of the trailer, police Chief William McManus said. Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles had arrived and picked up other people from the tractor-trailer, police said. “We’re looking at a human trafficking crime this evening,” McManus said. He called the case “a horrific tragedy”. The US Department of Homeland Security was involved in the investigation into what happened, he said.
2 killed, 1 wounded in shooting at Israeli embassy in Jordan
Jordanian security forces stand guard outside the Israeli embassy following an incident.
AMMAN: Two Jordanians were killed and an Israeli was wounded by gunfire Sunday in a residential building in the heavily fortified Israeli embassy compound in Jordan‘s capital, the kingdom’s Public Security Directorate said. Before the shooting, Jordanians had entered the apartment building for carpentry work, the statement said. It did not say what triggered the shooting. Three people were initially wounded in the incident, the security agency said. Two Jordanians later died, according to the agency and the news site Hala Akhbar, linked to the Jordanian military. One of the Jordanians killed was a physician at the scene, the security agency said. The Israeli was in “unstable” condition, the new site said. The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment. The incident comes at a time of mounting tensions between Israel and the Muslim world over metal detectors Israel installed at a Jerusalem shrine revered by Muslims and Jews. Jordan is the Muslim custodian of the site. On Friday, thousands of Jordanians staged an anti-Israeli protest in Amman.
Netanyahu faces pressure over holy site after violence kills 8
JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced mounting pressure on Sunday over new security measures at a sensitive Jerusalem holy site after a weekend of violence left eight people dead, with fears more unrest could follow. Israeli officials signalled they may be open to changing the measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after the installation of metal detectors at entrances following an attack that killed two policemen stoked Palestinian anger. The metal detectors remained in place today morning, though cameras had also been mounted near at least one entrance to the compound in Jerusalem’s Old City — a possible indication of an alternative to the detectors. Netanyahu was also holding a cabinet meeting and was due to meet with his security cabinet later in the day. “Since the start of the events, I have held a series of assessments with security elements including those in the field,” he said at the start of the meeting. “We are receiving from them an up-to-date picture of the situation, as well as recommendations for action, and we will decide accordingly”. Israeli Major General Yoav Mordechai — head of COGAT, the defence ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories — signalled changes to the policy were possible. “We are examining other options and alternatives that will ensure security,” Mordechai said in an interview with Al-Jazeera. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said he would continue to support the metal detectors remaining in place unless police provide a satisfactory alternative. The crisis has resonated internationally.
The UN Security Council will hold closed-door talks Monday about the spiraling violence after Egypt, France and Sweden sought a meeting to “urgently discuss how calls for de-escalation in Jerusalem can be supported”. Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit today accused Israel of “playing with fire” with the new security measures. Tensions have risen throughout the past week over the metal detectors at the compound, which includes the revered Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, following the July 14 attack that killed two policemen. Palestinians reject the metal detectors because they view the move as Israel asserting further control over the site. They have refused to enter the compound in protest and have prayed in the streets outside. Israeli authorities say the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the holy site and emerged from it to shoot the policemen. Today’s main weekly Muslim prayers — which typically draw thousands to Al-Aqsa — brought the situation to a boil. In anticipation of protests, Israel barred men under 50 from entering the Old City for prayers. Clashes broke out between Israeli security forces and Palestinians around the Old City, in other parts of annexed east Jerusalem and in the occupied West Bank, leaving three Palestinians dead.
Hong Kong raises alert as Typhoon Roke approaches
HONG KONG: Hong Kong was bracing on Sunday for Typhoon Roke with winds reaching 73 kmh (45 mph), forcing authorities to shut some services and events in the Asian financial hub, though the city’s international airport continued operating as usual. The Hong Kong Observatory on Sunday morning raised its typhoon signal to 8, one of its highest warnings which rate typhoons up to 10, as Roke was expected to make landfall over the eastern part of the city. When a typhoon 8 signal is in place businesses, government offices and schools stay closed, including banks, port operations and the Hong Kong stock exchange. A spokesman for Hong Kong international airport, one of the busiest airports in the world, said that the flights in and out of the city were operating normally for now, and authorities were keeping an eye on the situation. The local trains were also operating normally, but some bus and ferry services have been canceled, as per the announcements on the government websites. The annual book fair was temporarily closed due to the typhoon.