More Security Forces on Western Railway
MUMBAI: Western Railway will induct 232 Maharashtra State Security Force personnel and 97 women Home Guards on Thursday to supplement the efforts of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) for passenger security on the suburban section. They will help strengthen the security of passengers, especially women, and crowd management on WR platforms. Sources said the state security force, which is headed by IPS officer Sanjay Barve, will help in crowd control on foot over-bridges, including the one at Elphinstone Road which had witnessed a stampede on September 29 that claimed 23 lives.
30 trains delayed, 18 cancelled as fog engulfs Delhi
NEW DELHI: Normal life continues to be disrupted as a thick layer of fog has engulfed the national capital and the nearby vicinity on Wednesday morning. As many as 30 trains are running late, while 18 have been cancelled and six rescheduled. Meanwhile, the air quality index of Lodhi Road was recorded in the ‘poor’ category, with Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 at 290 and PM 10 at 276, thus depicting degrading air quality. The Meteorological Department has predicted a maximum temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, with lows of seven degree Celsius, coupled with a dense blanket of fog during the day.
Residents of 5 unsafe buildings served notice for January evacuation
KOLKATA: Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation (KMRC) on Wednesday put up notices on five of the seven unsafe buildings along Old Court House Street, asking the occupants to vacate the structures in the third week of January. Though identical notices have been pasted on all buildings, the date and time of evacuation is different (see box). The timing of the evacuation will match the passage of the tunnel-boring machine. For example, occupants of 10 Old Court House Street (renamed Hemanta Bose Sarani) have been asked to stay out the premises from 1pm of January 17 to 11pm of January 21. The tunnel boring machine, on its way to Esplanade, will cross the structure during that time. The notices issued on Wednesday mention that residents will be provided rooms in a hotel on MG Road — the same one where residents of nine Brabourne Road buildings, evacuated in June-July, were put up — at KMRC’s cost. However, all residents of these unsafe buildings won’t be entertained. A demography study of the buildings showed only around 20 of those to be displaced have residential proof. “KMRC will take only them into account and shift them to the hotel. We are not taking any responsibility of shops and offices,” a KMRC official said. The evacuation plan has been split in two phases. In the first phase, these five buildings will be vacated. In the next, which will take place in the first week of February, the rest two (10 and 11 Government Place East) will be evacuated. “Since there is some time left for evacuation of these buildings, we have not yet served them notices,” the official added.
The format of the notice is different from the ones served on Brabourne Road buildings. Issued by KMRC, the content is titled: “Statutory notice”, hinting that there’s a court order backing it. On May 19, Justice Dipankar Dutta of Calcutta high court directed Afcons to “implead the owners of the buildings as respondents in a writ petition and take necessary steps that would meet the needs of all parties.” Afcons had vacated nine Brabourne Road buildings on the basis of this court order. Those served notices on Wednesday seemed to understand the necessity of the evacuation. Baidyanath Das of J Sur & Co, housed in 10 Old Court House Street, said, “The building must be emptied from 1am on January 17 to 11pm on January 21. We shall keep our shop closed during those five days. Not a big deal”. An employee of Punjab & Sind Bank, housed in 8 Old Court House Street, echoed: “Our dates are quite convenient – January 20 to 25 Most of these days are holidays, so it’s not a problem for us. We know we are being shifted as a safety precaution ahead of the tunnel-boring operation”. Since all these buildings are in precarious condition, KMRC will examine their structural stability and take grouting and strengthening measures accordingly. In the event of the first TBM crossing the stretch before schedule and the buildings are found to be stable, the residents would be able to return earlier. The TBM would burrow at varied distances – from 3m to 15m – of the influence zone of the buildings. The ‘influence zone’ denotes a radius of 20m from a building.
Tremors felt in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district
Villagers of Melagaram near Tenkasi in Tirunelveli remaining outdoors after the village experienced mild tremors on Wednesday night.
TIRUNELVELI: Thousands of people in villages in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu panicked and ran to open places on Wednesday night after mild tremors rocked the area. People in Melagaram, Achampudur, Vadakarai, Paimpozhil and Tenkasi and from Thirumalaikovil to Thenmalai felt tremors around 9pm Villagers said they abandoned their dinner and rushed out of their homes. District collector Sandeep Nanduri told TOI that a few villages in Sengottai, Kadayanallur and Tenkasi taluks felt mild tremors. “The tremors lasted only two to three seconds. No damage was reported,” he said and added that the respective tehsildars and revenue officials had been asked to visit the places where tremors were felt.
10 injured in Russian supermarket bombing
Vehicles of emergency services parked near the supermarket after an explosion.
SAINT PETERSBURG: A homemade bomb blast at a supermarket in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg injured 10 people Wednesday, officials said, sparking a probe into attempted murder. “According to preliminary information, an explosion of an unidentified object occurred in a store,” a spokeswoman for Russia‘s Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said in a statement. The blast was caused by a “homemade explosive device with the power equivalent to 200 grammes of TNT filled with lethal fragments,” she said. “The investigation is looking at all possible causes of what happened,” she said, adding that a probe for attempted murder had been launched. The incident comes several months after Russia’s second city was rocked with a metro bombing in April which killed 16 people and amid concern that hundreds of Russian citizens who travelled to fight alongside jihadists groups abroad could pose a mounting security challenge back home. “Ten people have been hospitalised, their lives are not in danger,” the head of the Saint Petersburg investigative unit Alexander Klaus told Russian news agencies. An emergencies ministry representative told AFP that one of the injured was in serious condition. An AFP correspondent at the scene observed first responders and police as well as a car belonging the Federal Security Service (FSB), which investigates acts of terror. The building containing the supermarket did not appear to have sustained serious damage. Police have cordoned off the area while the city’s transportation authority’s briefly rerouted public transport in the neighbourhood. Passerby Galina Gustova, 58, observed the scene with horror.
“How terrible! And this happens as people are shopping ahead of the holidays,” she said. “It’s a good thing nobody died”. The blast came ahead of New Year’s celebrations as well as Russian Orthodox Christmas, which falls on January 7. “I often buy groceries here, I wanted to go in but everything is blocked,” said another local, 20-year-old Viktoria Smirnova. “I’m a doctor, I heard on the news that there was an explosion. I live nearby and thought I could be useful,” another bystander, 50-year-old Marina Bulanova, told AFP. Sources told Russian agencies that the explosive device had been placed in a storage locker. “About 6:30pm there was the sound of a blast. As a result, several people have been injured,” the Saint Petersburg police said. “There is no fire. All shoppers have been evacuated,” an emergencies ministry representative told Interfax. Witness Artur Yeritsyan told TASS news agency that he heard the blast and saw smoke in the shop, but that there were not a lot of customers at the time, with some victims being taken away by ambulances. Saint Petersburg, which is set to host World Cup matches next year, is still reeling from the deadly metro bombing in April that killed 16 and wounded dozens. That bombing was claimed by a group linked to Al-Qaeda which said it was a message to countries engaged in war with Muslims. In July, the FSB said it had detained seven people who were preparing “acts of terror” in Saint Petersburg, particularly its railway system and major public gathering places. And this month Russian security services said they had dismantled an Islamic State group cell apparently preparing attacks in the city. FSB director Alexandra Bortnikov said earlier in December that around 4,500 Russian citizens had travelled abroad to participate in “terrorist” groups.
Taliban car bomb targets Afghan army base, wounding 15
KABUL: An Afghan official says a car bomb has gone off near a military base in the southern city of Lashkar Gah, wounding 15 people. Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said all but one of those wounded in Wednesday’s attack were soldiers. He says the attack targeted a military convoy leaving the base. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said was carried out by a suicide bomber. Lashkar Gah is the capital of Helmand province, where the Taliban have a strong presence and carry out near-daily attacks.