NTPC toll at 30; boiler fans may have caused blast
LUCKNOW/UNCHAHAR: The blast at NTPC‘s Unchahar power plant, in which the death toll rose to 30 on Thursday, may have been caused by the malfunctioning of fans meant to maintain pressure inside the boiler. Experts said this possibly led to a sudden surge in the pressure inside, almost 40 times more than normal, causing the boiler to explode. The National Disaster Response Force stepped up the evacuation of workers; by evening, 59 were reported to have suffered grievous injuries. There were approximately 100 workers around the boiler when disaster struck. As per NTPC’s estimates, about 85 people in all were scalded. Five critically injured workers, including two AGMs of NTPC, Mishri Ram and Prabhat Srivastava, were airlifted to a hospital in Gurgaon. NTPC regional executive director (north), Virendra Singh Rathi, said the department of energy had also approached the ministry of defence to provide aircraft to speed up movement. By late Thursday evening, seven more injured were shifted to Delhi. Rathi confirmed that the committee to investigate the cause of the blast would probe the possibility of improper functioning of fans. He told TOI that while one fan pumps air into the furnace, the other sucks the air out. Rathi explained, “There should be a fine balance in the air movement inside the boiler for proper pressure. In case of any imbalance, the system trips and fans start reducing the pressure. In this case it does not seem to have happened. We are waiting for the final inquiry report.” NTPC’s initial inquiry found that the ash duct evacuating the bottom ash too was not functioning properly.
A huge piece of coagulated ash, or clinkers, appears to have bounced in the furnace, causing imbalance in the combustion and subsequently the pressure. According to Rathi, the pressure inside the boiler, which should be maintained at barely five mm water columns (mmwc), shot up by over 40 times to around 250 mmwc. “That opened up what is called the economiser hopper, installed on one side of the boiler. Soon, hot flue gases started emanating and hit the workers who were working in that area,” he said. In Lucknow, Union power minister R K Singh, who visited the plant, said the three-member probe committee, which is to submit its report within 30 days, would look into all aspects — design, installation and maintenance — which could have caused the blast. Rae Bareli witnessed hectic VIP movement with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi leading the pack. He flew to his mother Sonia’s parliamentary constituency early on Thursday to meet the victims. Soon, Union minister Singh and UP energy minister Shrikant Sharma, too, reached the site and then the NTPC hospital to oversee the rescue and enquire about what caused the disaster. Sources said BHEL, which provided the boiler to NTPC, may also come under ambit of the inquiry. The 500-MW sixth unit of the 1550-MW plant was commissioned in March this year.
Fire breaks out in Cuffe Parade highrise
Mumbai: A fire broke out in a 30-storey residential building in Cuffe Parade on Thursday night. No casualties have been reported. The fire brigade received a call around 9.30 pm about the fire. One of the residents said, “The fire broke out in an apartment on the seventh floor and was controlled immediately. It probably started from an AC unit.” A few locals alleged that owing to the Metro-III work opposite the building, the fire brigade found it difficult to negotiate to reach the spot.
Thieves pull out ATM box, make off with Rs 31 lakh
NEW DELHI: The thieves who fled with the ATM cash box containing Rs 31 lakh in south-west Delhi’s Chhawla on October 14, had tied the box to a tempo and pulled out the sealed box from the ground, the CCTV footage of the kiosk revealed. Before breaking into the machine, the men had sprayed black paint on the CCTV camera lens installed at the kiosk, police said. Senior police officers said that they are working on multiple angles in the case and have revealed that the incident matches the modus operandi seen in ATM thefts reported in UP and Haryana and suspect it to be the handiwork of a gang based out of Delhi. “Some suspected people are being probed. We are also investigating with the bank officials why such a large amount was kept in the ATM located at such a desolated location,” police said. Officers said in all the other previous incidents, thieves had vandalised ATMs but none managed to pull out the cash box. Recently, thieves even tried to break into the kiosk through the roof but failed to break into the machine. While it is difficult to ascertain if the thieves were able to use the stolen money, police said the bottom of the machine was cut using sharp tools and gas cutters. After pulling off the machine from the floor, the thieves tied it with a rope and connected one end to a pickup truck they had brought with themselves and dragged it out of the shop.
Hi-tech traffic police bikes to check violations on the move
New Delhi: If you drive in a zigzag manner or violate traffic rules, beware! Traffic cops are soon going to get revamped hi-tech bikes to warn violators before catching up with them to issue challans. The bikes will also be used for patrolling stretches prone to lane violations. The two-wheelers will also be deployed to check stunt biking and speeding in central Delhi. Sources said that around 550 Apache and Pulsar motorcycles issued to traffic police will be modified with LED strobe lights, warning hooters and a hands-free megaphone to alert drivers violating the stop line or conversing on the phone while on the move. Each traffic circle will be allotted one bike for patrol duty at busy intersections. The riders of such bikes will have a sidearm and camera to record violations. They will also have blinkers fixed on their uniforms for being visible during foggy nights. “The plan has been approved and the process to overhaul the bikes is in the process. Patrolling on such bikes will commence within a few months,” said special commissioner (traffic) Dependra Pathak. The helmets of the riders will be fitted with headphones and hands-free devices connected to loud-hailers to direct traffic in case of congestion, especially during events and festivals. The vehicles will also be fitted with carry boxes and high-end communication systems to direct diversions. The two-wheelers will also be fitted with GPS to help senior officers track their positions. Police officers said that such teams could help clear bottlenecks as it would be easier for a cop to reach the source on a bike than in a four-wheeler. Delhi Police has also planned to introduce a first response system attached to the police control room in which bikes will be modified to enter small lanes.
Stabbed staffer masterminded ATM cash heist
V Niteesh and B Rakesh were nabbed from Mandya.
BENGALURU/ MANDYA: A day after Mandya police arrested two men who had allegedly robbed Rs 18.5 lakh from two cash loaders who were walking towards an ICICI Bank ATM kiosk near Jalahalli Cross on Monday, Bengaluru police said the man who was stabbed has confessed to have masterminded the crime. Malavalli police have arrested V Niteesh alias Kunta, 21, and his partner B Rakesh alias Solle, 23, both residents of Nandini Layout and recovered Rs 15.25 lakh from them. “Nitish was taken into custody from Malavalli town. Based on the information provided by Niteesh, we zeroed in on Rakesh,” Mandya SP-G Radhika said. Saga r B, who was shifted to a private hospital following stab injuries, said on Wednesday that he had masterminded the heist. Rakesh is also a colleague of Sagar, an assistant custodian at Secure Value, a cash logistics firm. On Monday around 6.30a m, Sagar and his boss were walking towards the ATM kiosk when two bike-borne men attacked Sagar, who was carrying the cash bag with Rs 18.5 lakh in it. Quickly, the duo sped away on Soladevanahalli Main Road on their black Bajaj Pulsar.
“I had told them to stab me before snatching the cash bag. In a hurry, they stabbed me deeper than I had anticipated,” Sagar told Bagalagunte police. According to police, the accused had hatched the plan a month before. “Knowing we will track their call records, they never used cellphones for discussing the plot. Even on the day of robbery, they did not contact each other on the phone,” police said. “Sagar was to fill cash in four ATMs that morning and the kiosk located in Jalahalli Cross was closer to the main road, while the other three were inside commercial complexes. Sagar and Rakesh thought it will be easier to rob near Jalahalli Cross ATM thinking they could escape easily on the main road,” police said. Bengaluru police will take Sagar into custody once he is released. DCP (north) Chethan Singh Rahtor said he shall get the custody of the other two in a day or two. “There are some legal formalities to be completed before bringing the duo to the city for further investigation,” he said.
Dengue: Toll up to 30 in North 24 Paraganas
BARASAT: Three dengue deaths were reported from the city’s northern suburbs on Tuesday and Wednesday, taking the dengue-related deaths in North 24 Paraganas to 30 in the past three months. Apart from them, three Bongaon residents died of a “mysterious fever”. Barasat trader Dulal Modak, 40, died in a private hospital off EM Bypass on Tuesday. He was admitted after his fever refused to subside. He was treated first at Barasat hospital where he was diagnosed to be NS1 positive. His brother alleged mistreatment at Barasat hospital. Another Barasat resident, Ajit Kumar Dutta, 67, died in a private nursing home off Jessore Road in Barasat on Wednesday morning. He had been admitted on Friday with high fever. Deganga resident Samira Biwi, 45, died in the Sagar Dutta Medical College Hospital on Tuesday. Three Bongaon residents — Kalpana Kahar, Purba Patra and Binay Majumdar — reportedly died due to a mysterious fever. Though their families alleged dengue as the cause, hospital authorities couldn’t confirm it.
Heavy rains disrupt normal life in Chennai, schools shut
The Tamil Nadu State disaster management authority has advised citizens to stay indoors.
CHENNAI: The city received its heaviest spell of rain since the 2015 floods on Thursday evening. Weather blogger Pradeep John has predicted another spell of rain to hit the city within hours. The incoming spell of rain is going to be very intense, John said. There was waterlogging in several areas and public transport was hit. Several commuters were stranded on the roads as rains led to traffic chaos. So far the city has received 13.6cm of rainfall since evening. The Tamil Nadu state disaster management authority advised residents of Chennai to stay indoors. The administration has ordered schools to remain closed on Friday. Earlier today, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami appointed ministers to oversee rain relief work here and in neighbouring Kancheepuram.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has advised people living in lower areas to move to higher ground where people and animals can take shelter. People have been advised to avoid entering flood waters and if need be, use footwear. “Stay away from sewerage lines, gutters, drains, culverts, etc.,” NDMA tweeted. Within a couple of hours on Thursday evening, several parts of the city including Nungambakkam, Saidapet, Neelankarai, Mogappair, Chromepet and Velachery received about more than 10cm rainfall. Northern parts of the city received relatively lesser rainfall. Weathermen have predicted more rain until the weekend. Several arterial roads witnessed heavy traffic from 8pm, leaving commuters stranded. Area cyclone warning centre director S Balachandran said, “A low pressure area has formed over the southwest Bay of Bengal near Sri Lanka. This will bring heavy rainfall in the some of the southern and delta districts on Friday. Chennai will get one or two spells of light showers”.
Southern and delta districts received heavy showers during the 24 hours from 8.30am on Wednesday to 8.30am on Thursday. Palayamkottai (Tirunelveli district) received 13cm rainfall, Tiruchendur (Toothukudi district) 9cm, Chidambaram AWS (Cuddalore district), Kelambakkam (Kancheepuram district) and Srivaikuntam (Toothukudi district) received 8cm each, Nagapattinam (Nagapattinam district), Cheranmahadevi (Tirunelveli district) and Vedaranyam (Nagapattinam district) received 7cm each. The IMD categorises rainfall between 2cm and 6cm as ‘moderate’ and rainfall between 7cm and 11cm as ‘heavy’. Since October, the city has recorded excess rainfall at Nungambakkam and Meenambakkam. In the 14 hours until 10.30pm on Thursday, the city recorded 12cm rainfall at Nungambakkam. Ennore recorded 3cm rainfall, Madhavaram 2.5cm and Meenambakkam 9cm.
Turkey: 39 killed in clash between troops, Kurdish rebels
ANKARA: Clashes between Turkish security force members and Kurdish militants in three mainly Kurdish provinces in southeastern Turkey on Thursday killed eight security force members and 31 militants, officials said. A skirmish erupted near the town of Semdinli, in the province of Hakkari that borders Iraq, after the security forces spotted a group of rebels who were allegedly preparing to launch an attack, the military said. Six soldiers and two government-paid village guards aiding troops in the fight against the rebels were killed in the fighting. An interior ministry statement said 19 rebels were killed in the clash as well as a wider, air power-backed operation launched to catch the militants. Separately, nine rebels were killed in a clash in the province of Tunceli, while three others were killed in Sirnak province, the ministry said. The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, have waged a three-decade-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. The group is considered a terror organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Violence flared again in 2015 after the collapse of a two-year peace process. In a speech in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to press ahead with operations against the PKK. “We will continue our struggle against them until these terrorists are annihilated and are gone,” Erdogan said. The military said several rocket launchers, ammunition, hand grenades and an automatic rifle used by the rebels were seized during the operation near Semdinli.
Runaway 7-year-old girl sneaks onto plane at Geneva airport
GENEVA: A runaway 7-year-old girl slipped through security checks at Geneva’s airport and onto a plane without a ticket before being spotted by a crew member and handed over to police, officials said on Wednesday. Acknowledging an “eminently regrettable” incident that could have ended badly, Geneva Airport spokesman Bertrand Stampfli said authorities were enhancing measures to make sure children are accompanied by adults when passing through security checks. In the incident on Sunday, the girl, who was not identified, initially slipped away from her parents at Geneva’s main railway station and traveled by train to the small airport on the French border. The child repeatedly “took advantage of her small size” and employed a “ruse” to make it look like she was traveling with adults ahead or behind her, Stampfli said. After a first attempt failed, she tried again and succeeded getting aboard an easyJet flight to Corsica. An alert Air France crew member who had spotted the girl trying to board one of the carrier’s flights flagged her to the crew of easyJet, which in turn alerted police.
Using video surveillance footage, airport authorities said she was turned away after trying to follow crew members onto a flight. She then quickly blended into the nearby crowd, pretending to join up with her parents, Stampfli said. The second time, she succeeded by slipping through a gap only large enough for a small child. EasyJet, a low-cost carrier, said in a statement that “an unaccompanied child incorrectly boarded flight EZS1305 from Geneva to Ajaccio,” and said an investigation has been launched. “The crew correctly identified the child should not be onboard and immediately reported it to the police,” the statement said. Silvain Guillaume-Gentil, a spokesman for Geneva police, said the girl’s father had repeatedly notified police after losing track of her near the train station – and even ended up riding briefly in a patrol car to try to find her. He said the family, which was not identified, resided in Geneva. The reason she ran away was not immediately clear. Geneva airport’s Stampfli said representatives of all airport personnel were immediately summoned for a meeting. “What this shows is that while controls for adults and accompanied children are effective, there are holes to fill when it comes to unaccompanied children,” he said. New measures include confirming that children are accompanied by at least one adult at security checks, he said.