Rain pummels north Gujarat; 25,000 people shifted to safer locations
PALANPUR: As many as 25,000 people were shifted, mostly in Banaskantha, as the district faced its worst floods in recent years on Monday. Around 1,000 people stranded in floods were rescued from various villages with the help of Army, Air Force, Border Security Force and National Disaster Response Force that were rushed to the district. Around 10,300 people were shifted in Banaskantha district while 9,790 were taken to safer locations in Patan. Some 2,800 were shifted in Ahmedabad as a precautionary measure. The situation was particularly grim in Dhanera, Deesa and Tharad towns where rain waters flooded houses and drowned vehicles parked on the roads. Dhanera alone got 235 mm rainfall in just six hours. All gates of Dantiwada, Sukhbhadar and Sipu dams were opened after massive influx of water. Heavy rains in adjoining Rajasthan worsened the situation in the region and water released from Dantiwada and Dharoi dams started inundating several villages in the region. With more heavy rains forecast, six additional teams of NDRF were called in from Pune to augment the efforts of 14 teams that are already deployed across the state. Two IAF helicopters were also pressed into service in Banaskantha to rescue stranded families. However, continuous rainfall and
strong winds hampered the relief operations and one carrying food packets and other material to Dhanera had to return to Deesa. Chief minister Vijay Rupani and revenue minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama also rushed to Deesa to oversee the rescue and relief operations. “The problem has been compounded by heavy rains in neighbouring Rajasthan, which led to surge in water levels of rivers and dams in Gujarat,” said Rupani.
In the evening, the training wall of Sipu dam in Banaskantha was damaged but irrigation department officials said there was no threat to the dam. Also, 339 major and minor roads in Banaskantha, including one national highway, 20 state highways and 218 village roads are closed for traffic due to heavy flooding. Late in the evening, Palanpur-Abu highway was also closed for traffic. Huge quantity of grains were also damaged as flood waters gushed into the marketing yards. 11 schools and colleges in Banaskantha, Mehsana, Aravalli and Patan will remain closed on July 25 due to forecast of heavy rain. Also, the Ahmedabad-Rajkot highway was closed for traffic after flood waters started flowing on the low level bridge near Bagodara. In Patan, rain waters flooded hundreds of houses in Santalpur taluka as several low-lying areas were in waist-deep waters. In Mehsana town, most roads and internal lanes were in knee-deep water due to continuous rainfall. An SUV got submerged in the underpass but the driver managed to come out safely early in the morning. There was heavy waterlogging in several societies on Somnath Road and water entered into many shops in Hiranagar locality. In Mount Abu, incessant rains left electricity snapped in the hill station. Little respite is expected for people in north Gujarat as authorities have issued a flood alert following release of more water from Dantiwada and Dharoi dams over the next 24 hours. Principal Secretary, revenue, Pankaj Kumar said that due to heavy inflow from catchment areas, around 50,000 cusecs water was being released from Dharoi dam from Monday. He further said that over two lakh cusecs water was being released from Dantiwada dam because of huge influx from Rajasthan, where situation in three districts is critical. Sixteen villages in Matar and 18 in Kheda have also been put on alert. “Villagers in the downstream (of both dams) are being evacuated as precautionary measure,” Kumar said on his Twitter handle. Sabarkantha district authorities said that around 25 villages in Mehsana are likely to be affected due to release of water from Dharoi dam over Sabarmati river. These include villages in Satlasana, Vadnagar, Kheralu and Vijapur talukas.
Wheels down, Air India flies into mid-air fuel crisis
MUMBAI: Pilots of an Air India flight forgot to retract the aircraft wheel assembly after taking off from Kolkata on Saturday and realised it only half way through the journey to Mumbai when they were forced to land in Nagpur. With the landing gear down, the A320 aircraft guzzled fuel faster and a low fuel situation forced the pilots to divert. Both pilots have been de-rostered by the carrier. Climbing to 4,000ft after AI 676 took off from Kolkata around 9.30am, the pilots would have gone through a “take off/climb checklist”. Among the actions taken is retracting the landing gear. “For some reason, the pilots forgot to do it. With the wheels down, the drag force increases and the aircraft speeds rather noisily through the air,” said a source. Among the consequences would be a poor rate of climb and high fuel consumption. “The pilots are supposed to check fuel at intervals through the trip, which they might not have done. Also, the A320 couldn’t climb beyond 24,000 feet,” the source added.
The fast rate at which the A320 guzzled fuel left the pilots with no option but to divert to Nagpur airport to refuel. Before takeoff, the aircraft is loaded with enough fuel not just to last the journey, but also to circle, taxi and fly to an alternative airport if it’s not possible to land at the destination. But halfway through the almost two hours, 45-minute flight, they were left with not enough fuel to complete the journey safely. “The pilots began to prepare the aircraft for landing and it was only when they decided to put down the landing gear that they realised that it was down all along,” the source added. Air India spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar confirmed the incident. He said both the pilots have been derostered and an investigation is on.
Lok Nayak Bhawan erupts in flames, over 3,000 evacuated
NEW DELHI: A major fire broke out on the fourth floor of Lok Nayak Bhawan near Khan Market on Monday afternoon. There were over 3,000 people inside the building, but they were evacuated within 15 minutes. While no one was injured, firemen had to break open windows and pull out six people who were still trapped inside. Delhi Fire Services said the fire started at 4pm and six fire tenders were rushed to the spot. When the blaze started spreading rapidly, another 20 fire tenders, including three heavy lift cranes, were sent in the next two hours. The fire was controlled by 6.30pm and cooling operations were on till late in the evening. Initial probe suggests that the fire broke out because of a short circuit in an air conditioning unit. Employees are being questioned to ascertain the exact cause. Another fire had broken out in the building two years ago.
While the office of Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC) was gutted, property and documents were destroyed at the National Commission for Scheduled Castes office after the fire spread to parts of the fifth floor. The building also houses the office of Enforcement Directorate. A senior fire officer said they are trying to find out if the building had fire clearance. Renu, an employee at ITSC, called the fire department after noticing smoke coming from the window next to her seat. “One of the AC units on the parapet had caught fire. Sparks fell on piles of paper and files kept near the window due to which the fire spread rapidly. My colleagues and I tried to douse the fire using extinguishers, but failed to do so,” she said. When the fire alarm went off, employees thought it was a mock drill that is conducted every couple of months. “We soon started experiencing problems in breathing and noticed smoke rising from the fourth floor. We left behind our belongings and rushed downstairs,” said Mahesh, an Enforcement Directorate employee.
Education department gets serious: Committees to deal with and create awareness on drug menace
HYDERABAD: Breaking its silence, the education department on Monday said it will be shortly setting up committees at the institutional level to deal with and create awareness on substance abuse. The move came after the excise department wrote to department heads of school, intermediate, collegiate, and technical education wings, asking them to direct colleges and other educational institutions to sensitise their staff about this issue. “In the next 15 days or so, we are planning to organise an awareness programme for representatives of colleges and will educate them on signs to look for and identify, in the initial stages itself, students doing drugs. To make this possible, we will be roping in experts in the field as well as non-profit organisations. Also, we will direct institutions to form committees at the college level to tackle this menace,” said A Vani Prasad, commissioner of collegiate education, admitting that they have already received a letter from the excise department. Though it is not yet clear what steps the government is taking at the school level to create awareness, schools, on their part, have already got down to doing their bit to tackle this menace.
“With the help of a de-addiction centre, we have been organizing programmes for parents, teachers, and students. While the parents were educated on how to identify if a child is getting addicted to any bad habits, students, on the other hand, got to interact with a peer who is into a rehabilitation program for drug abuse. The counselors made use of pictures and other materials to organise the interactive session to have a maximum impact on students,” said Latha Shankar, principal, Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet, adding that the school has made sure that vendors are moved away from the school’s vicinity. She further said that the school is collecting credentials of auto and van drivers and is planning to conduct an awareness program for them as well. M Varalakshmi, principal, Jubilee Hills Public School, too said the school has been continuously conducting awareness session for students. “Apart from this, we have placed a drop box on the premises so that students can drop any information they have about the issue without having to revealing their identity,” Varalakshmi added.
Rains to continue in Bengal today, warns Met
KOLKATA: A strong low-pressure system over Bengal and adjoining Jharkhand triggered heavy showers in Kolkata on Monday, leading to widespread water logging and traffic snarls. And the wet spell may not be over yet, warned the Met office. With the low-pressure refusing to move away, the showers are set to continue at least till Tuesday afternoon. Kolkata received 26.8mm of rain on Monday, taking the monthly count to 548mm, which is almost double the normal. The low pressure moved very little since Sunday, keeping the downpour steady in Kolkata. “We had expected it to move westward on Monday. But it didn’t move enough, leading to the heavy rain. It should move by Tuesday afternoon and the rain could lose intensity in the second half of Tuesday,” said GK Das, director, Regional Meteorological Centre. But the rain won’t stop, courtesy the monsoon trough that remains active in and around south Bengal. “The monsoon trough is active and has been contributing to the rain. So, even if the low pressure moves, the trough will bring more rain,” added Das. This month, Kolkata has received nearly double the normal rain till July 24. The city has received 548mm against a normal average of 277mm, almost 98% higher than the normal, which hasn’t happened in at least a decade. Till July 21, the excess had been 52%. In 2015, Kolkata had finished July with an 84% excess, which was the highest since 2010. Last year, the city had a deficit of 17% in July.
Even if it doesn’t rain heavily till the end of the month, the city could still have the wettest July since 2010, said weathermen. “While July is usually the wettest monsoon month, Kolkata has often had a deficit. This time, July has been exceptionally good in terms of rain volume. While the first fortnight had been the wettest in a decade, the second half has been extremely rainy as well,” said a Met official. The consistent heavy showers have been triggered by recurrent low pressures and an active monsoon trough, explained Das. “These are the two key factors behind rain in monsoon. If one slows down, the volume of rain is going to be affected. This month, we had a potent system every week. It was coupled by the monsoon trough that remains active even now. So, the intervening periods between the formation of systems have been sufficiently wet as well,” said Das. While the normal average rainfall count in Kolkata is 361mm, the city had received less rain in five years since 2010. According to the Met office, absence of low-pressure systems has been primarily responsible for the deficit. “It often happens that a relatively dry July is followed by an unusually wet August. The city hasn’t had a big seasonal deficit in recent years,” said Das.
Two more die of burns, toll in Kodungaiyur fire touches 10
Chennai: Two more people injured in the Kodungaiyur eatery fire died at Government Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital on Monday, bringing the toll to 10. Hospital sources said the man, identified as Naresh, 25, was admitted to KMC with 57% burns. He died without responding to treatment on Monday morning. Meanwhile, Parthiban, 26, succumbed to injuries at KMC on Monday evening. On Sunday, another Parthiban, 27, died at a private hospital in Royapuram without responding to the treatment, while Manikandan, 28, died at KMC. It was reported on Saturday that O Kannan, 36, with 49% burns, died on Saturday morning, while N Baskar, 38, with 65% burns, died on the same evening. A total of 13 patients continue to undergo treatment at the burns unit of the hospital. Ten of them suffer from 40% burns. Nine patients are also undergoing treatment at the Government Stanley Hospital. On July 15, a fire broke out at a bakery in Kodungaiyur, which led to a gas cylinder explosion. The fire in which the gas cylinder exploded last week killed a firemen and 47 others.
Wall of Kindness opened in Tirunelveli
The wall painted brightly in green, yellow and blue colours is located on the collectorate premises.
MADURAI: Tirunelveli district collector Sandeep Nandurion Monday inaugurated a Wall of Kindness for the benefit of the needy. Speaking at the inauguration, the district collector said this was the first of its kind initiative in the district, which is popular in the West. This helps people do charity by giving away things that they do not need but, which could be of use to some other person. It is usually done by attaching hangers to a decorated wall and used clothes are hung on them. People who need them come, take them and walk away. The wall painted brightly in green, yellow and blue colours is located on the collectorate premises. It is titled, “Anbusuvar” and it would also help people give away clothes which would otherwise not enter landfills and be dumped as garbage. Many residents, came forward to donate saris, shirts, t-shirts and books at the wall on the first day. “This is really heartening and gives a sense of fulfillment, to know that these things would help somebody,” said a resident who brought some clothes. Some of the books donated were novels and classics and some people came and browsed through them. “This would also be a good means to make use of books, which could be circulated many times, free of cost helping many,” said Joseph a resident of Tirunelveli. The collector said the wall would be put up in other parts of the district based on the response that this one gets.
Five injured in Swiss chainsaw attack: Reports
The police shut down the old town of Schaffhausen in Switzerland, while they search for an unknown man who attacked people, on Monday, July 24, 2017.
GENEVA: A man armed with a chainsaw injured at least five people in an attack in a Swiss town on Monday, local media reported. The Blick news site said police, ambulances and a helicopter had rushed to the scene in Schaffhausen and had sealed off the area. Witnesses, including a local shop manager, told Blick the attacker was wielding a chainsaw and that businesses and pedestrians had been evacuated. Police told multiple local media outlets there had been an attack but officers have not confirmed that a chainsaw was used.
26 dead, 57 injured in suicide blast near CM residence in Pakistan’s Lahore
Pakistani security officials inspect the site of an explosion in Lahore.
LAHORE: At least 26 people, including policemen, were killed and 57 others injured on Monday when a suspected suicide bomber targeted police personnel deployed near residence-cum-office of Pakistan’s Punjab province Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore. “Police and Lahore Development Authority officials were busy in removing encroachments outside the Arfa Karim Tower, located near the CM’s Model Town residence, when a powerful blast took place,” Rescue 1122 Deeba Shahnaz told PTI. Lahore police chief Capt. (R) Amin Wains confirmed that it was a suicide blast and the “target was police”. The chief minister, who is also the brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was in a meeting at his Model Town office when the blast took place. The Punjab government confirmed that 26 people were killed and 57 others injured in the blast. One Sub- Inspector, 1 ASI and 6 Constables were among dead, it added. Rescue teams shifted the injured to hospital. Emergency was declared in city hospitals. “The condition of several injures is stated to be critical” Shahnaz said. “29 injured persons are being treated at Lahore General Hospital, 9 in Jinnah and 18 in Ittefaq hospital,” the official Twitter account of the Government of Punjab tweeted. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast. Citing police sources, the Geo News reported that a suicide attacker targeted police personnel deployed at the site. The area has been cordoned off by a heavy contingent of security forces and the section of the road has been sealed.
“We are collecting evidence and this could be a suicide bombing. The death toll includes police and civilians,” DIG Operations Haider Ashraf was quoted as saying. Prime Minister Sharif strongly condemned the blast and directed officials to provide best possible medical treatment for the injured. “No words can express the grief which grips my heart right now. Blast destroyed many families, but terrorists can never destroy our resolve,” Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said. “Our blood was spilt on the street but I swear to my Allah that the blood of our innocent martyrs will write end of these cowardly assassins!,” he tweeted. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said terrorism cannot be ruled out as the motive behind the explosion. He added that security forces are conducting their investigations. Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, has witnessed several terror attacks in recent years. In April, six persons were killed and 15 others injured when a suicide bomber targeted a population census team in Lahore’s Bedian Road. In February, a suicide bomber killed 14 people, including senior police officers, near the Punjab Assembly here.