Superstorms across India kill 127, shatter homes and lives
NEW DELHI: Severe thunderstorms lashed many parts of the country on Wednesday night, killing at least 127 people in the last 24 hours and leaving a trail of destruction, with houses flattened, trees uprooted and electricity poles in disarray. The maximum devastation occurred in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, where the storms claimed 112 lives. Uttar Pradesh reported 73 deaths, of which 46 were in Agra district alone. As many as 39 people died in Rajasthan, followed by seven in Telangana, four in Uttarakhand and two each in Jharkhand and Punjab. The fury of unusually strong winds and heavy rains lasted for up to three hours in many places on Wednesday night, but the full extent of the damage was known only on Thursday. “Concrete houses came down like pack of cards one after the other. Trees, streetlights and whatever stood taller than a few feet were flattened by the winds. We took out victims from debris of houses and ferried them to hospitals on motorcycles,” Narendra Sharma, the SHO of Kheragarh police station in Agra district, told TOI after spending the night in rescue ops. With 24 deaths, Kheragarh tehsil in Agra near UP Rajasthan border bore the maximum brunt of the storm in the district. Deaths were reported from other parts of the state too. These included three each in Bijnor and Kanpur Dehat, two each in Saharanpur, Hamirpur, Mirzapur and Kanpur city; and one each in Bareilly, Pilibhit, Chitrakoot, Rae Bareli, Unnao, Mathura, Amroha, Banda, Sitapur, Sambhal, Etawah, Allahabad and Rampur. Nearly 90 people were injured in the state. The UP government has announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh each for the families of the deceased.
In Rajasthan, home minister Gulab Chand Kataria put the toll at 33 on Thursday, but unofficial sources said it had climbed to 39 by evening. Over 200 people have been injured in the storm which affected Bharatpur, Dholpur and Alwar districts. After a horrifying night, Thursday morning brought in a host of woes as people woke up to disruption in water and power supply. As many as 12,700 electricity polls were uprooted and 1,523 transformers damaged in the three districts. More than 50,000 trees were destroyed. The Rajasthan government rushed ministers to the three districts on Thursday while chief minister Vasundhara Raje is scheduled to visit the affected areas of Bharatpur on Friday. “Seventeen persons have died in Bharatpur, nine in Alwar and five in Dholpur district due to the dust storm,” Kataria said. In Uttarakhand, casualties were reported from Almora, Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts. In Telangana, heavy rains triggered by a cyclonic circulation killed seven people across the state. Strong winds plunged many areas in Hyderabad into darkness. Deaths were reported from Hyderabad, Ranga Reddy, Nalgonda and Warangal districts. In Punjab, two people were killed in Patiala city when the boundary wall of an under construction house collapsed on them. The victims died on the spot within minutes. In Jharkhand, two women were killed in Sahibganj district when they were struck by lightning.
Cash handler held for stealing Rs 19 lakh from bank, claims friends conned him
MUMBAI: An employee of a logistics firm handling cash for a nationalized bank has been arrested for siphoning off Rs 19 lakh from the bank’s chest at Bandra-Kurla Complex. He claims he was hoodwinked of Rs 10 lakh by friends when he agreed to facilitate a cash deal, and later lost another Rs 9 lakh in a desperate bid to recoup that loss. The police are unconvinced. Nilesh Hadkar, a custodian with Arcus Solutions which has a contract with Bank of Baroda, has been remanded in BKC police custody. Arcus ferries cash from BoB’s chest to branches and ATMs. Hadkar, 30, who had been working with the firm for six years, took out Rs 2.26 crore from the chest on February 12 and brought it to Arcus’ office in Wadala. “It is normal practice to take cash from the bank’s chest to the logistics firm, where the notes are arranged in bundles by denomination and taken back. They are meant to be disbursed to various ATMs later,” explained an official. The next day, Hadkar handed over a slip confirming he had deposited the Rs 2.26 crore. Later that evening, bank officials said the money had not been deposited. Hadkar’s bosses disputed it, saying they had a receipt of deposit. BoB officials met Arvind Salunke at Arcus’ Wadala office, who showed them the receipt. When they called Hadkar for an explanation, his cellphone was not reachable.
Finally, they got in touch with him on February 15. “Hadkar arrived at the BoB office and gave Rs 2.07 crore he had kept in a locked trunk. He admitted that he had taken Rs 19 lakh and would return it soon,” said a police officer. The bank registered an FIR with BKC police, accusing Hadkar of cheating, forgery and criminal intimidation. Last week, police arrested Hadkar. He told them that on February 12, while he was on his way to deposit the cash, his friend Vichare called him and said if Hadkar hands over Rs 10 lakh in Rs 2,000 notes, he will return the amount in Rs 100 notes, and pay Hadkar Rs 1 lakh. Hadkar said he took the bait as he wanted to get married and went to Ghatkopar. While Hadkar and Vichare, who had come with friends, were counting the cash, some of them raised an alarm of a police raid. With Hadkar distracted, they fled with the money. He wanted to make up the loss, and jumped at the chance when a few weeks later another friend Dinesh Mehtri suggested that if he gives Rs 9 lakh, he would return Rs 19 lakh in a few days. But he disappeared with the money. “We don’t believe his story and suspect that he has stolen the money and is making up stories,” said a BKC police officer.
CISF to have 6,600 personnel for Delhi Metro, VIP security
About 9,000 CISF men and women are currently deployed to secure the existing stations of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).
NEW DELHI: The CISF will soon get over 6,600 additional personnel to bolster its strength for its two major tasks of guarding the Delhi Metro and VIPs, officials said on Thursday. They said an ‘in principle’ approval has been accorded for the sanction of 5,140 posts to enhance the capacity of the force for guarding the new phase-III expansion of the Delhi Metro, while another 1,540 posts will be in place to bolster the strength of its VIP security wing called the Special Security Group (SSG). The approval is in the final stages and a total of 6,680 posts will be sanctioned for these two tasks by the Union Home Ministry, they said. CISF Director General (DG) Rajesh Ranjan confirmed the development and told PTI that ensuring fool-proof security for the Delhi Metro and its passengers is the most important task for the paramilitary. The DG, who took charge on April 11, had yesterday reviewed the security arrangements at the metro and visited some stations. The phase-III expansion project of the Delhi Metro is being implemented at a cost of around Rs 40,000 crore and a total of 140 km of network will be added to the current coverage of 213 km. The latest phase, with some part already operational, will also add 15 interchange stations to the existing nine and will take the count of total stations in the Delhi-NCR to 227. The fresh manpower of the CISF will be used to guard this network, the officials said.
About 9,000 CISF men and women are currently deployed to secure the existing stations of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC). The force that guards over 70 VIPs like National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley will deploy the fresh manpower to fill existing posts and expand the SSG wing, they said. The SSG, they said, has about 1,200 personnel in position as of now. The Central Industrial Security Force is the nodal agency to guard the Delhi Metro, but some areas like the entry and exit points and the passage to the stations — the unpaid areas are not under its cover. These areas are jointly secured by the CISF and the metro unit of the Delhi Police. DG Ranjan said the force has prepared a plan to “proactively” secure these grey areas by deploying special patrol teams and quick reaction teams. “My aim is to usher in more and more welfare projects for the force personnel like creating more accommodation facilities for them and initiating measures for financial literacy among the personnel,” he said.
6,300 complaints lodged on Maharashtra police portal one year after launch
MUMBAI: When a bunch of creditors started hounding Gajanan Patil for recovering loans, the Sangli-based building contractor slipped into depression. Patil had repaid a sizeable chunk of money but the creditors wouldn’t stop harassing him. Later a friend suggested that he approach the police for help. Patil was hesitant as he expected the usual run around that complainants are given. But on his friend’s advice, he logged on to a portal started by the state police where one can lodge e-complaints and receive status updates on SMS. In the first week of January, the office of the Sangli superintendent of police summoned the creditors for an intervention and sorted out the matter in Patil’s presence. The Maharashtra Citizens’ Portal has recorded over 6,300 e-complaints since its launch last year. The portal provides 24 services to citizens. One has to register on the website and provide his contact details for lodging an e-complaint. An acknowledgement would be sent on email and SMS. The complaint would reach the police station concerned through Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems. An officer is then nominated to look into the complaint and this information is sent to the complainant via a text message.
“If a cognizable offence is made out, the complainant would be required to go to a police station. FIRs can’t be filed online as the complainant’s signature is required on it. But once an FIR is lodged, it can be published on the portal,” said an officer. At every stage, the complainant receives a text message of the status. “The biggest advantage is that a complainant can be certain of an official record of his grievance being maintained. Political pressure could stop registration of an offence at a police station, but this wouldn’t happen online,” said Patil. The portal has received over 19 lakh hits so far, said additional director general of police Sanjeev Singhal. “Besides e-complaints, we have been giving permission for festivals, processions and events online,” Singhal said. While the portal is popular, an app launched around the same time has been marred by glitches.
Rain kills five in Telangana, crop loss at 100 crore
A car wades through a water-logged street in King Koti.
HYDERABAD: Heavy rain accompanied by strong wind and hail left a trail of destruction in several parts of Telangana on Thursday. A man died after a portion of his house collapsed in Warangal, while two people were killed n Nalgonda and one each in Rangareddy and Warangal in rain related incidents. Normal life was hit hard with road transport disrupted due to fall of trees on arterial roads. Power supply was disrupted and scores of villages plunged into darkness. Though the sudden downpour brought the much-needed relief from the sweltering summer heat, it caused untold damage to farmers in several districts across the state. Standing crop spread over thousands of acres was flattened. Unseasonal rains damage paddy and maize, mango crop worst hit Heavy downpour on Thursday damaged crops in several parts of Telangana. Even the farm produce brought to market yards for sale was damaged. Thousands of quintals of paddy and maize was exposed to rainwater as farmers had little time to cover them with tarpaulins. Stock had piled up at many market yards either due to shortage of lorries or lack of remunerative prices. This is the third time this summer that farmers in many parts of Telangana had suffered crop losses due to unseasonal rains. Mango crop was worst hit. Cotton and chilli crop was also affected. Hundreds of acres of vegetable crops, particularly leafy vegetables, were inundated by heavy rains accompanied by hailstones. The crop and yield loss is being pegged at ₹100 crore.
Heavy rain lashed Khammam and Bhadradri-Kothagudem districts on Thursday morning causing severe damage to crop. By evening, the rains spread across Warangal-Urban, Warangal-Rural, Karimnagar, Yadadri, Mancherial, Nalgonda, Bhupalapalli, Suryapet, Medchal, Rangareddy, Sangareddy, Medak and Siddipet districts. A few tin sheets of Warangal railway station were blown away by strong wind. A 70-year-old man, Ayodhya, died at SR Nagar in Warangal after a portion of his house collapsed. Electricity poles fell over a house in Warangal. Huge trees were uprooted at several places. A century-old Peepul tree was uprooted in Siddipet. e-Seva centres did not function due to power outages in Warangal. Students applying for various competitive examinations were affected. Many could not download hall tickets. Services were paralyzed in government and private hospitals, including MGM Hospital. About 300 quintals of paddy was damaged in Jammikunta market yard of Karimnagar district. Traffic on Jagtyal, Manthani, Mahamuttaram and Kaleshwaram roads was hit. Warangal-Karimnagar highway was the worst hit. About 10,000 bags of red chilli and turmeric were drenched in rainwater at Enumamula agricultural market. Annamaneni Gopal Rao, CMD of TSNPDCL, told TOI that about 200 poles were uprooted and power supply was being restored on a war footing. Venkatapuram and Burgampadu in Khammam district recorded 30 mm of rainfall, followed by Bhadrachalam and Aswaraopet 20 mm and Aswapuram, Pinapaka and Manuguru 10 mm. The highest maximum temperature of 43 degrees Celsius on Thursday was recorded at Adilabad and Nizamabad.
Private Security Guards on Metro radar
KOLKATA: To bolster security along its network, particularly at stations, Metro Railway is planning to hire personnel from private security agencies. If this happens, Kolkata Metro will be the first railway zone in the country to hire private security guards. In the past, this was planned for several stations, including Howrah, but the ministry of railways didn’t seem too keen. To increase manpower, the ministry had then ordered RPF personnel guarding non-essential assets to be redeployed in more important places. However, this hasn’t solved the problem. “There is a shortage of RPF personnel in Metro Railway. There are nearly 660 personnel working in shifts, but that is not adequate, given the length of the network and the volume of passengers. We are now planning to go for outsourcing to increase manpower. We will get in touch with private security agencies and proper procedure will be followed before selection,” Metro Railway CPRO Indrani Banerjee said. Monday evening’s incident at the Dum Dum station, when a young couple was reportedly assaulted by co-passengers for hugging inside a train, has established that there aren’t sufficient security personnel at all stations. While Kolkata Police does pitch in with personnel, who form the Metro Railway Police, even their numbers aren’t adequate to curb such incidents of violence.
This is not the first instance of violence in the Metro in the last few weeks. A couple of weeks ago, an irate mob destroyed Metro property at Belgachhia after a squall stalled services between Dum Dum and Noapara. “While all our new rakes — from ICF and Dalian — have closed-circuit TV cameras inside coaches, a decision has also been taken to try and fit surveillance cameras inside the 13 existing air-conditioned rakes. It has already been sanctioned and we are waiting for the Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) to finalise its specifications. For the time being, we are proceeding as per the RDSO’s draft specifications and have sought budgetary quotations from domestic and international firms. Some companies will be visiting our Noapara car shed on Saturday to find out whether the CCTV cameras can be fitted in the existing AC coaches. The system will have to be as per our specifications. We will require clear images,” Banerjee added. A Research Designs and Standards Organisation team will also visit the Metro car shed soon to finalise details. Officials are hopeful that a solution will soon be available to make the rakes more secure for passengers.
Alert auto driver catches bag snatchers
Chennai: An alert autorickshaw driver helped nab two men, who snatched a bag from a school teacher as she was walking on the road in Egmore. The driver noticed the robbers snatching the bag and trying to flee with the valuables. He acted swiftly hitting the men’s motorbike from behind with his vehicle. In the impact, the robbers fell on road, and were caught by passersby. The two men were later handed over to the police. The arrested men were identified as K Vijayakumar, 21, a resident of K K Nagar and M Vijay, 20, a resident of MGR Nagar. The police also seized their bike. The police said the auto driver G Suresh Kumar, 37, a resident of Egmore, was returning home at 9pm when he saw the men snatch the bag. The woman screamed for help prompting action on the part of Kumar and passersby. Kumar was later called to the police commissioner’s office where he was commended for his quick thinking. Police commissioner A K Viswanathan gave him a reward in appreciation of his efforts.
Fire breaks out in testing lab at SAC
A statement from SAC said that the fire took place in Building 37 at about 1.15pm on Thursday.
AHMEDABAD: A fire broke out in an equipment testing facility on Isro’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) campus in Satellite on Thursday afternoon. Sources in the Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services (AFES) said the fire was quickly controlled but it took three and a half hours to clear the smoke and make sure there were no flames left and that the fire wouldn’t spread. “The fire-fighting operation began with seven vehicles but 24 vehicles were eventually engaged, due to the importance of the campus,” said an AFES official. A statement from SAC said that the fire took place in Building 37 at about 1.15pm. “The fire wing of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) at SAC rushed to the spot and tried to control the blaze. Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services (AFES) personnel soon reached the site and battled the fire,” the statement said. “Mukesh Kumar, municipal commissioner; Vikrant Pandey, district collector; M F Dastoor, chief fire officer and special director, FSL, reached the site and supervised the operation,” the statement said.
According to SAC, the fire was controlled in one and a half hour. “Two CISF personnel and two AFES personnel engaged in the firefighting reported breathlessness and were treated at a nearby hospital,” the statement said. “The immediate cause of the fire has not been identified and it will be confirmed only after an investigation by the competent authorities. The incident is not expected to affect projects and programmes of SAC/Isro significantly,” the statement from SAC said. Sources with first-hand information said the fire had started in the building’s insulation foam. The fire itself was not big but smoke spread through the building and its surroundings. The follow-up operation was thus to clear the smoke so technical experts could check the equipment and ascertain that there was no further risk of fire.
Boat with 53 Iraqis, Syrians runs aground in northern Greece
THESSALONIKI (GREECE): Greek authorities say they have picked up 53 people, all believed to be from Iraq and Syria, after the boat smuggling them into the country ran aground on a remote beach off the mainland of northeastern Greece. Authorities said today the boat, a 12-metre (40-foot) Turkish-flagged yacht, ran aground on Molyvoti beach in the northeastern Rodopi region, far from any of the usual smuggling routes used to ferry migrants and refugees from Turkey to Greece. The group comprised 19 men, 11 women and 23 children aged between 2 and 8. Hundreds of migrants continue to pass from Turkey into Greece. Nearly all cross either from the Turkish coast to nearby Greek islands or forge across a river along the Greek-Turkish land border.
Russian fighter jet crashes off Syria, both pilots killed
BEIRUT: A Russian fighter jet crashed today off the coast of Syria, killing both pilots, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, which said the plane did not come under fire and that the crash may have been caused by a bird getting sucked into one of the engines. State news agency Tass cited the ministry as saying the Su-30 crashed shortly after takeoff from the Russian air base at Hemeimeem in Syria. Russia has been waging an air campaign in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces since 2015. In March, a Russian military cargo plane crashed as it was descending to land at Hemeimeem, killing all 39 people on board. The military blamed the crash on a technical error and insisted the plane was not shot down. Russia leases the Hemeimeem military base in Syria, near the Mediterranean coast. In the capital Damascus, Syrian troops managed to capture more areas from the Islamic State group on the southern edge of the city cutting the region held by extremists into two parts. The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said troops today cut off IS fighters based in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk from those in the Hajar al-Aswad neighbourhood to the south. Yarmouk and Hajar al-Aswad are the last two areas outside government control in Damascus.
Syrian troops began a major offensive two weeks ago to retake the area under the cover of airstrikes. The fighting led to the displacement of thousands of Palestinian refugees and others to neighbouring areas. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that since the government offensive began on April 19, 112 soldiers and pro-government gunmen as well as 91 IS fighters have been killed. Dozens of civilians have been killed as well in the fighting, according to the war monitor. Near Hajar al-Aswad, preparations were underway to evacuate thousands of opposition fighters and civilians from three southern suburbs following a deal reached last week to hand over the area to government forces. State TV said buses started entering the southern suburbs of Babila, Beit Sahem and Yalda to evacuate some 5,000 fighters and their families, while those who decide to stay are eligible for amnesty. The Observatory said some of the fighters and civilians will be heading to the northwestern rebel-held province of Idlib and the town of Afrin, which is controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters. Others will head to rebel-held areas in the southern province of Daraa, which borders Jordan.
Man ploughes car several times into pedestrians in China; cop among 2 killed
BEIJING: A Chinese man drove his car into pedestrians several times, killing two people, including a policeman, in central Hubei province, state media reported on Thursday. The driver allegedly drove directly into the bystanders several times, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported on the incident that took place on Monday. The policeman, Liu Guibin, in Jingshan County of the province had rushed along with a colleague to the spot after they were alerted about the speeding car. They tried to intervene but the driver could not be stopped. Meanwhile, they called for back-up and tried to get pedestrians out of harm’s way, it said. The driver drove directly into the bystanders several times before Liu was run over as he was pushing others out of the way, the report said. Liu was sent to hospital, but he and another victim died while three others were injured, it said. The accused driver was later arrested, with the police saying that a probe was underway but his motive was still not clear.