Brace for more: Haryana schools closed, north India on storm alert
NEW DELHI: Days after thunderstorms wreaked havoc across the country, claiming at least 129 lives, the Met department has issued another storm warning for north India for the next two days. Reacting to the alert, Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma announced that all schools in the state will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday. In view of the chances of loss of life and property, the Panchkula administration also advised city residents to take steps to save themselves from strong winds and rain. Farmers were asked to keep their crops well covered. The Met alert says isolated thunderstorms with hail and wind speeds exceeding 50kmph is “very likely” to occur over Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand from Sunday to Tuesday. Thunderstorm activity with similar wind speeds is also “very likely” over Punjab and Haryana on Monday, while squalls and hailstorms could occur in the two states on Tuesday.
For Delhi-NCR, the department said very light rain accompanied with strong gusty winds is likely (26-50% probability) on Monday morning. On Tuesday, another spell of light rain or thundershowers accompanied with squall (wind speed exceeding 50kmph) is likely. Met officials said the current spell of storms is not expected to be as intense as the ones that struck various parts of the country on May 4 and led to over 100 deaths in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan alone. The Met office said in association with the passing western disturbances (WD), a cyclonic circulation over northeast Rajasthan and neighborhood is likely to play a role in the thunderstorm activity and bring rain in the plains of north India. The WD will continue to affect the region till Wednesday, it said, with peak rainfall activity expected on Tuesday.
Assistant driver killed after fire in Mumbai-bound train
The assistant loco pilot (ALP) of Mumbai-bound Howrah Mail died after the engine caught fire between Talni and Dhamangaon, 90km from Nagpur, on Sunday evening. The victim has been identified as SK Vishwakarma (32), a native of Gaya in Bihar. Sources said when the train was passing through Talni, loco pilot DL Bramhe and Vishwakarma saw smoke emanating from the engine. Central Railway chief public relations officer (CPRO) Sunil Udasi said when Vishwakarma noticed the fire, he tried to douse it with a fire extinguisher. “Vishwakarma fell down from the running train while observing the train, as is usually done by ALPs as per procedure. He was rushed to the military hospital at Pulgaon, where he was declared dead,” said Udasi. However, some sources said that when Vishwakarma was trying to extinguish the fire, there was a blast in the transformer, and he was thrown out. No passengers were injured as Bramhe applied the brakes to stop the train.
Building collapses near Whitefield after LPG cylinder blast; 1 killed, 3 hurt
BENGALURU: A 22-year-old employee of a gas agency was killed and three others, including a woman and her three-year old child, were injured after a two-storey building collapsed following a cylinder explosion at Bapuji Circle in Kadugodi near Whitefield on Sunday. Kadugodi police have identified the deceased as Syed Afsar Pasha, a resident of Kadugodi. He was employed by Khalid at BAK Gas Distributors, a private gas agency which operated out of the ground floor of the building. Khalid also operated a bicycle mart from the premises. One of the 22 LPG cylinders exploded around 10.30am, police said, and the building crumbled under the impact. Four people — Pasha and his colleague Saleem aka Kallu aka Pradeep and Sultana and her son Syed Zain — were trapped in the debris. While Pasha and Saleem were on the ground floor at the time of the explosion, Sultana and Zain were on the upper floor. Police and fire and emergency services personnel pulled Sultana, 25, and her son Syed Zain out, and the two were ferried to a nearby private hospital for treatment. The mother and son are out of danger, police quoted doctors as saying.
Emergency personnel rescued Saleem, from West Bengal, at 4pm — six hours after the explosion. He is being treated in a private hospital. Pasha was alive when he was rescued from the debris, but succumbed to injuries in the hospital. Preliminary investigation revealed that Khalid’s son Parvez, who is the building owner, has a licence for the gas agency, but police have registered a case against the duo and detained Parvez. Khalid is still at large. Police said they are waiting for Saleem to recover to question him on what led to the tragic incident. “He is in the ICU and we are waiting for the doctor’s nod to record his statement,” a police officer said. The officer added that a case has been registered against Khalid and his son Parvez under various sections of IPC, The Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order and Essential Commodities Act. Locals allege Khalid and Parvez were illegally refilling LPG cylinders at the outlet. “We will investigate to find out if this is true,” a police officer said. “We don’t know how many cylinders exploded. That will be clear once the debris is cleared”.
MAUD hits road safety mode, issues guidelines
HYDERABAD: With many roads becoming death traps due to improper design and lack of safety measures, the municipal administration department has issued mandatory road safety guidelines to all civic bodies including the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC). The road safety and traffic control & regulatory measures are mandatory for roads that have a minimum carriage way width of nine metres (30 ft). “The civic bodies have to incorporate the traffic control and regulatory measures at the design and construction stage for the roads during maintenance of existing roads and new roads. The urban local bodies have to follow the traffic and regulatory measures code of practice for Road Signs and Code of Practice for Road Markings and Code of Practice for Traffic Management at work zones,” Arvind Kumar, principal secretary of Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD) department said in a GO issued on Friday.
The order said the state government is concerned about the traffic-related incidents in the state. Many people are losing their lives in road accidents and the fatalities are about 35% in urban areas. Engineering officials said some of the road accidents are due to lack of proper road design, signs and road laying errors. For instance, a few years ago there was an accident-prone area on NTR Marg, Necklace Road due to a technical problem in the road curve, and it was rectified by GHMC. Arvind Kumar said to minimize road accidents and make roads safer, it has been decided to provide a check-list of safety measures which need to be followed by the civic bodies while laying or maintaining the roads in their jurisdiction. He said urban local bodies must include the safety and traffic control measures while calling for tenders for taking up road works. Meanwhile, the MA&UD department also issued another order delegating powers to the officers of the municipal administration to take up works up to Rs. 40 lakhs without seeking any administrative approval from the government. In the order, the principal secretary said the decision has been taken in view of the damages caused by rains, gales, and thunderstorms.
Chennai lab’s robot lifesaver can help in rescue operations at sea
Chennai: Soon, a lifesaver clads in red may be spotted at the Marina diving into the sea to rescue swimmers in distress. But before your thoughts run wild, the rescuer will not be a bikini-clad woman à la Baywatch but a robotic device developed by city scientists. The city-based National Institute of Ocean Technology has developed a low-cost robotic lifesaver that can replace lifeguards in search and rescue missions at sea. The ‘robo coastal observer’ or RCO can be operated from the shore by remote control. R Venkatesan, head, ocean observation systems, said the device was primarily developed for scientific applications like studying the surf zone and collecting real-time ocean parameters like temperature, salinity and depth. “Since we designed it for scientific applications, we call it a coastal observer and not lifesaver,” he said. The RCO is a simple device in the form of a swimming pool float. It is attached with a waterproof box containing the microcontroller, electrical thrusters, transmitter and sensors. The control unit also has a GPS module for position indication, flashlight for low light conditions and camera for visual surveillance. Scientists said when thrown into the surf zone from the shore, it can be manoeuvred through the rough waves from the coast at a top speed of 5 knots up to four kilometres by firing its electrical thrusters. With a battery that can last for more than five hours, the device can also be switched to autopilot by feeding the coordinates of the location it has to reach.
In the event of a rescue mission, the swimmer can simply cling onto the circular float of the device or can wear it. The operator can then bring the device back by operating it from the shore. Venkatesan said the device was extensively tested at the Marina with the help of police personnel from the Coastal Security Group of Tamil Nadu. NIOT had recently transferred the technology to Bengaluru-based CT Control Technology through NRDC for commercial scale-up. NIOT director Atmanand said the transfer of technology was on a non-exclusive basis. “The device is basically for rescue purposes. We want the industry to produce it so that it can be beneficial to the common man,” he said. C Sylendra Babu, ADGP, railways said he took the device along when his team swam from the International Maritime Border Line to Arichamunai in the Palk Straitsin March. “You need at least three people to rescue a person struggling in the sea and bring them back to shore because in most cases the waves are so rough that a single rescuer would find it difficult to reach the individual in distress. This device can be manoeuvred to the person in no time,” he said.
45 dead as militia, bandits clash in Nigeria: Civilian militia
KANO: Fighting between armed bandits and militiamen left 45 dead in northern Nigeria, police and a local militia said on Sunday, amid escalating rural violence often involving cattle rustling, robbery and kidnappings. “The 45 bodies were found scattered in the bush. The bandits pursued residents who mobilised to defend the village after overpowering them,” said a vigilante who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals. “The dead included children abandoned by their parents during the attack” in the village of Gwaska, in Kaduna state. “The attackers were obviously armed bandits from neighbouring Zamfara state who have been terrorising Birnin Gwari area,” he added. The Kaduna state police chief, Austin Iwar, confirmed the attack, saying: “There was violence between the militias, who are very powerful, and bandits”. He could not break down the casualties, saying only: “For now all we know is that 12 people were buried yesterday and 33 today”. The vigilante said the bandits struck at about 2:30 pm (1330 GMT) Saturday and stayed for three hours before retreating to their base in the forest in Zamfara. “They burnt down many homes,” he said. The killings follow the death of at least 25 people in separate attacks in northern Nigeria last week. Thirteen people were killed in prolonged clashes between cattle thieves and local civilian militia in Zamfara. In Adamawa, in the northeast, meanwhile, at least 12 people were killed in an attack on several villages.
The attacks underlined the diversity of Nigeria’s security threats that persist in the absence of a robust police force and efficient judicial system. Nigeria is in the grip of a security crisis as nomadic herders and sedentary farmers fight over land in an increasingly bloody battle for resources. Rural communities in Zamfara have been under siege for several years from cattle rustlers and kidnapping gangs, who have raided herding communities, killing, looting and burning homes. To defend themselves, villages and herdsmen form vigilante groups, but they too are often accused of extra-judicial killings, provoking a bloody cycle of retaliatory attacks. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been criticised for failing to curb the violence, which is becoming a key election issue ahead of presidential polls in 2019. Military and police are overstretched in Nigeria, which, along with fighting Boko Haram jihadists in the north, is battling militants and pirates in the oil-rich south, a simmering separatist movement in the east and the bloody conflict between herdsmen and farmers spanning the vast central region.
30 ‘killed and wounded’ in Afghanistan bombing
KABUL: An Afghan official says at least 30 people were “killed and wounded” in a bomb blast inside a mosque in eastern Khost province that was being used as a voter registration center. Talib Mangal, spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed Sunday’s attack and provided the approximate toll. Baser Bena, spokesman for the provincial police chief, also confirmed the attack in Khost city, the provincial capital. Neither had an exact figure for casualties. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and a local Islamic State affiliate reject democratic elections and have targeted them in the past. IS is not known to have a presence in Khost, but has expanded its footprint into other areas in recent years. Last month, an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people and wounding at least 130 others.
18 killed in coal mine accidents in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Two coal mines collapsed in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, killing at least 18 people and injuring six others while five miners remained trapped, officials said. A mine in Marwar area near provincial capital Quetta collapsed on Saturday due to gas explosion and about two dozen miners were trapped inside. Deputy Commissioner, Quetta, Farrukh Atique told PTI that 16 people have died in the collapse. “We have recovered all the 16 bodies from the rubble caused by the collapse in the coal mine,” Atique said. “We have also rescued six workers who are trapped in the rubble and have sent them to hospital for treatment but one miner is still trapped under the rubble” he said. Rescue officials said a dozen of the dead miners belonged to Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “The collapse apparently took place because of a gas explosion and the miners working at that time were trapped inside. Some died on the spot, while others who were badly injured breathed their last under the rubble,” Atique said. Chief of Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Muhammad Tariq also confirmed that 16 miners had been killed. “So far 16 dead bodies and six injured miners have been recovered from the mine,” he said. In the other incident, at least nine miners were trapped in a coal mine Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) in the Sur-range field near Quetta, an official said. He said the rescue workers recovered two dead bodies and two injured miners, while efforts were on to recover another five workers who remain trapped. Mining is considered highly dangerous in Pakistan where dozens of miners are killed each year due to lack of modern mining facilities, training and equipment. According to the Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation (PCMLF), about 100 to 200 labourers die on average in coal mine accidents every year. Last month, at least 11 miners were killed in two separate mining incidents in Darra Adam Khel area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Jhelum district of Punjab.