Monthly Archives: July 2019

News Flash – 31 July 2019

National News



7 get 8 Year’s Jail for Robbing Rs.1.95cr meant for Bank ATM’s



Mumbai: Seven men were sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday for robbing Rs 1.95 crore from a van on its way to load cash in HDFC ATMs in 2015. Among them are the van’s driver Tariq Khan (34) and security guard Sadar-e-Alam Khan (34), who had served sedative-laced tea to the others before the robbery. Sessions judge R M Sadrani found the duo and five others—Balasaheb Muneshwar (24), Mohammad Iqbal (49), Khursid Shaikh (30), Mukhtar Shaikh (37) and Manzoor Shaikh (32)—guilty under section 395 (dacoity) of the Indian Penal Code. Two others are absconding. Public prosecutor Ashwini Rayakar said circumstantial evidence and cellphone records showing the accused were in touch with each other around the time of incident helped nail them. Of the loot, police recovered Rs 1.79 crore from the accused and returned the money to the bank. Accused gave drug-laced tea to guards, On the afternoon of January 16, the cash van with custodian Dharmesh Pedamkar, guards Bashar Khan and Sadar-e-Alam, and driver Tariq collected Rs 2.13 crore from HDFC Bank at Kamala Mills and set off for Virar.



Alam stopped the vehicle at Worli on the pretext of returning money to a friend. He returned 10 minutes later with the tea. The prosecution said after Pedamkar and Bashar fell unconscious, the van and the other accused, following in a car, stopped on the Western Express Highway at Vile Parle. The cash was transferred to the car and they fled. Tariq, however, stayed back. The case was cracked when cops recovered around Rs 4 lakh from Tariq during a search. The numbers on the notes matched those the bank had disbursed. Tariq’s arrest led to that of the others, including four from Punjab. Among the witnesses was Raju Mahajan, who worked with the cash management company. He said around 2.15pm on January 16, a staffer told him that Tariq had called to say he had been given something in his tea and was unable to drive. When Mahajan reached the spot, he saw Pedamkar and Bashar lying unconscious. Tariq said Alam had given them the tea. Later, a car intercepted the van, some people broke open the back door and looted the money. Alam left with them. Another key witness was a tea-seller, who identified Alam and some other accused as those who had bought cups of tea on the afternoon of the robbery.



After Heavy Rain, Panic as Ulhas Overflows again

The rising Ulhas river on Tuesday, a little before it submerged the Rayta bridge on the Kalyan-Murbad road.



Badlapur: Heavy rain in Badlapur and Kalyan from Tuesday morning again saw the Ulhas in spate and triggered panic among people living in low-lying areas or houses near the river. As the rain continued, the swift-flowing river submerged the Rayta bridge on the Kalyan-Murbad road, stopping traffic. “Due to the Rayta bridge being submerged in to Ulhas river, vehicles have been diverted via the Ambivli route,” said Deepak Adke, Tehsildar of Kalyan. The diversion means a 20km detour for residents of Murbad and beyond to reach Kalyan. On Sunday, a part of the approach to the bridge had been washed away, but was restored quickly. Water also entered some of the houses in Kamba village, where over 2,000 villagers had been evacuated on Saturday. Nearby, about a hundred people stuck in riverside resorts and a petrol pump had also been rescued then by IAF choppers and NDRF and other rescue personnel with boats after the Ulhas began overflowing. “After we saw water entering our houses, we shifted our belongings to houses in higher parts as we cannot take a risk,” said Shyam Ubale, a villager.


A grab from a video showing Prashant Tare (in pic) and four youths risking their lives to save a five-month-old baby, which has gone viral on social media. The incident took place on Saturday at the flooded Yadav Nagar in Mohane area of Kalyan. The baby was rescued using a truck tyre tube and another 40 people stuck in the area were taken safely to higher land using guide ropes.



Similarly, many of the 30 families staying at the Matru Krupa Chawl near Bhavani Nagar in Kalyan, who were affected by the flooding on Friday, shifted to an adjoining under construction building. The Ulhas began overflowing at Badlapur too, but the water did not enter the housing societies close to the river. But residents, still recovering from the severe flooding last Friday-Saturday when entire cars went under water, kept a close watch on the water level. “After the heavy rain, we kept watch on the river and the nullah passing close to our building so that we could shift the ground floor residents who have already suffered a lot. However, in a relief, the rain stopped on Tuesday evening,” said Mahendra Javale, who lives at Hendrepada close to the Ulhas. The authorities appealed to citizens living near the Ulhas not to believe rumours that Baravi dam near Badlapur is overflowing and the water is bring released into the Ulhas. The dam supplies Kalyan-Dombivli, Ulhasnagar and Thane. “The messages about Baravi dam overflowing is not correct and we have requested police to take action against those spreading false rumours,” said Prashant Chavan, executive engineer of MIDC.



Lakhs go up in Smoke in ATM Kiosk Blaze

GUTTED: The machine had approximately ₹30 lakhs and was refilled with fresh currency just a day ago.



New Delhi: An ATM kiosk of a private bank in south Delhi’s Amar Colony was gutted in a blaze that started around 8.30am on Tuesday. Locals noticed smoke coming out of the kiosk and informed the fire department. The blaze was brought under control in 30 minutes, but by then the entire structure had been destroyed. Though the official figure is yet to be compiled, it is suspected that currency notes of approximately Rs 30 lakhs were destroyed as the machine had been refilled just a day ago. Police suspect that a short circuit in the air-conditioning caused the fire, but they are probing other angles, including that of foul play. Eyewitnesses told police that no one was inside the kiosk when the fire broke out. Cops are trying to get CCTV footage from inside the kiosk to ascertain the sequence of events. A team of forensics experts visited the accident site and collected evidence to probe what caused the fire. A case has been registered at Amar Colony police station. The statement of the locals has been taken and bank officials have been asked to join in the investigation.



International News



Pakistan Army Plane Crashes into Homes, 19 Killed

Army officials inspect the crash site in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. The military said the aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed.



Islamabad: At least 19 people were killed and 15 others injured when a Pakistani military plane crashed into a residential area near the city of Rawalpindi before dawn on Tuesday. Witnesses said the crash occurred at 2am (02.30am IST) in Mora Kalu village. The dead included five crew members, including two lieutenant colonels, and 14 civilians, rescue officials said. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), army’s media wing, said that the aircraft was on a “routine training flight” when it crashed into the village. After the plane crashed, a fire broke out, engulfing several houses. The ISPR did not specify the type of aircraft involved in the crash but sources said it was King Air 350 turboprop. The military said the army aircraft was on a routine training flight when it crashed, but had no information on the possible cause. An investigation was underway. Ghulam Khan, an eyewitness, said the plane was ablaze before the crash. “It was already on fire in the air,” Khan told media. “It fell on a house where a family used to live,” he added. A video posted on Twitter showed the plane was flying very low before it quickly went down. “All the dead were burnt beyond recognition and required DNA tests for identification,” said Farooq Butt, a spokesman for the rescue services. He feared the death toll could rise since some of those injured were critical. PM Imran Khan offered his condolences and wished a “quick recovery for the injured,” in a tweet.

News Flash – 30 July 2019

National News



July Rainfall in Pune, Mumbai & Thane Highest in over 100 Years


Mumbai: Monsoon 2019 in the Konkan, especially in Mumbai and surrounding areas, has been marked by shorter breaks, a weakening El Nino effect, and intense rain spells. It also helped that strong winds from a cyclonic system near Gujarat brought moisture over Mumbai, ensuring that the monsoon has remained active. “During the past years, constant spells of rain almost throughout the month were rare. Maharashtra had a good rain spell from July 1 to 12, after which the showers took a very short break only to resume with full force,” said Pulak Guhathakurta, who heads the Climate Application and User Interface at IMD-Pune’s Office of Climate Research and Services. “Earlier, heavy rain spells were generally followed by a break in the rain for 10 days or more. This did not happen this time, at least for Konkan and Madhya Maharashtra”. IMD has compiled data for Mumbai district as part of the district rainfall series starting from 1901. The data is based on the average rainfall recorded at five observatories Colaba observatory, Santacruz observatory, Victoria Garden observatory (Byculla zoo), Juhu aerodrome observatory and Podar School observatory (Worli) Guhathakurta said. “The last three observatories are state-run, part-time units that only record rainfall and not temperature or other weather parameters. The IMD has prepared the district series for climatological studies and research. Similar district rainfall series have been prepared for other districts as well, including Pune and Thane,” he said.



A look at rain statistics shows that Mumbai received twice the rain it recorded in July 2016 in just 28 days of July this year. Pune and Thane districts recorded twice and 1.5 times respectively the rain they had got in July 2016. A weather expert said the intense rain witnessed this July in parts of Maharashtra were partly reminiscent of the Kerala floods not in terms of intensity but in the continuity of showers. “The rain in August 2018 in Kerala was full-scale and continuous from August 7-9 and then again from August 15-18. There was barely a break from the rain then in Kerala. Such breaks are usually noticed after heavy spells,” the expert said. The monsoon trough recently shifted to the south of its normal position, which is an ideal weather condition for good rainfall in parts of Maharashtra, said D S Pai, head, climate research and services, IMD. “Strong westerly winds are hitting the west coast, leading to heavy rain in Maharashtra. In the next three to four days too, the state can expect good rain, including Marathwada and Vidarbha,” he said. “Normal to above normal rain is likely to continue for parts of Maharashtra even till August 15”. The director general of meteorology at IMD has told media that El Nino could have been detrimental to the monsoon, but the threat has passed; though El Nino was oscillating between weak and neutral, it now is neutral. Till last month, a weak El Nino was projected to continue through the monsoon season (September-end), and beyond. However, a joint update from the Climate Prediction Center and other US national agencies has shown a dramatic weakening of the condition.



International News



6-Year-Old among 3 Killed in Shooting at California Festival

A social media video grab shows people fleeing after shooting was reported at the Gilroy Garlic Festival near San Jose in California.



Gilroy (California): A shooter cut through a fence and opened fire on a crowd eating and listening to music at a popular food festival in California, killing three people, including a 6-year-old boy, and injuring about 15 others before police quickly shot him dead, authorities said. A law enforcement official said the gunman was Santino Legan and believed he was 19. The official wasn’t authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity on Monday. The shooter appeared to randomly target people when he fired with a rifle on Sunday afternoon, the end of the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival that attracts more than 100,000 people to the city known as the “Garlic Capital of the World”, Gilroy police chief Scot Smithee said. Police responded within a minute and killed the shooter, Smithee said. The festival in the agricultural city of 50,000 about 176km southeast of San Francisco had security that required people to pass through metal detectors and have their bags searched. The shooter sneaked in through a fence that borders a parking lot next to a creek, the police chief said. Some witnesses reported a second suspect, Smithee said, but it was unclear whether that person was armed or just helped in some way. A manhunt stretched into Monday.



Six-year-old Stephen Romero was among those killed. His father Alberto Romero said, “My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6.” The boy’s grandmother, Maribel Romero, said he was “always kind, happy and, you know, playful”. The wounded were taken to multiple hospitals, and their conditions ranged from fair to critical, with some undergoing surgery. At least five were treated and released. Police searched the two-story Gilroy home of the gunman’s family. A woman who lives across the street said Santino Legan had not lived there for at least a year The Gilroy Garlic Festival features food, cooking contests and music and is a decades-old staple in the city. The band TinMan was starting an encore when the shooting started. Singer Jack van Breen said he saw a man wearing a green shirt and grayish handkerchief around his neck fire into the food area with what looked like an assault rifle. He and other members of the band dove under the stage. Van Breen said he heard someone shout: “Why are you doing this?” The reply: “Because I’m really angry.” The audience began screaming and running, and the five members of the band and others dove under the stage. President Trump condemned the “wicked murderer”. In a tweet, California Governor Gavin Newsom called the bloodshed “nothing short of horrific”.

News Flash – 29 July 2019

National News



Badlapur Flood Victims seek payout from Government for Losses


Badlapur: Electricity and water were yet to be restored in Badlapur on Sunday, where housing colonies built in recent years near Ulhas river were flooded by torrential rain the day before. Ground floor flats and parking areas in these buildings went under water, which rose to around one and a half metres and took over 24 hours to recede. Around 50,000 people have been affected. Stranded in their buildings for almost a day, they are now counting their losses in terms of damaged vehicles, electronic goods and furniture. Also, most ground-floor flats will be uninhabitable for some time because of dampness and the accumulation of germs. The affected flats need disinfection to prevent epidemics. The worst-affected areas are Hendrepada, Rameshwadi, Valivali, Ganesh Nagar, Barraj Road and Badlapur village. Most ground-floor residents in these areas were forced to take shelter on the upper floors.



Sanjay Pavde, who lives in Navshiv Ganga Nagar, said, “It started raining here on Friday. By 10.30pm, there was so much water that we had to shift to our neighbours on the floor above for shelter”. He said that around 5.30am on Sunday, when the water level had decreased, he and his family went down, only to find that everything in their flat was damaged. “I haven’t even had the gumption to start counting our losses,” he said. Locals say the government should compensate them for their losses. Another resident of the same building, Rajashree Ketavadikar, said, “We were stranded for almost 30 hours, but not a single government authority visited our home.” Sakharam Vagle, who lives in nearby Rameshwadi, said, “We passed two nights in darkness. Water stored in the building’s tanks got over on Saturday night. Till now, no government or civic agency has visited us”.



Karjat line Shut for over 48 Hours, 25k Passengers hit by Cancellations

Mahalaxmi Express marooned in floodwaters at Vangani on Saturday.



Mumbai: Facing the worst ever damage to railway tracks due to flash floods, services were Paralysed for over 48 hours in the Badlapur-Karjat section of the Central Railway’s Mumbai-Pune corridor during the weekend. After a mammoth operation involving 300 railway personnel, services on this vital suburban corridor was restored at 9pm on Sunday. This has come as a relief to scores of commuters from Karjat to Kalyan, who travel as far as CSMT for work. They can now take trains during Monday morning’s rush hours. The incident also impacted more than 25,000 passengers of long distance trains as at least seven trains were cancelled and 17 were diverted on Sunday. A couple of trains remain cancelled on Monday as well (Mumbai-Hyderabad Express and Panvel-Hazur Sahib Nanded Express). On Saturday, 1,050 passengers went through the trauma of being stranded in Mahalaxmi Express, which was stuck in flood at Vangani. They went through a five-hour rescue by teams of the NDRF, Navy, Air Force, Army, CR and state administration.



The damage to tracks is unprecedented. Said CR chief spokesperson Sunil Udasi, “The huge flow of floodwaters onto tracks inflicted heavy damage to railway property at 54 points, 28 track circuits, 14 signals, and indoor relays and power equipment in two relay huts. Two rakes kept in siding were marooned”. He said the worst damage was the “washout of ballast in a range of 2.5 km along the down track towards Karjat and 1.5km on the up track” towards CSMT. Repair and restoration took a long time. Braving rainfall, more than 300 railway and contract workers worked round the clock to restore normalcy “in record time”, said Udasi. Because of the closure, commuters from Vangani, Neral and Karjat, who had urgent work in Mumbai, had to pay through their noses in the absence of proper state transport. Rajesh Kadam, who reached Badlapur railway station from Neral, said, “We had to pay extra to an autorickshaw driver, who took Rs 100 from each passengers instead of the usual Rs 50”. But there were a few honest drivers as well, who charged regular fares. To ease commuting woes, CR cancelled two mega blocks scheduled for Sunday on the Kalyan-Thane and CSMT-Bandra/Chunabhatti corridors.



Cyclonic Circulation May Trigger more showers in city today: MET

The city received 14.3mm rain on Sunday.



Kolkata: The city received several spells of drizzle on Sunday even as the monsoon trough moved closer to the city and a cyclonic circulation formed over northwest Bay of Bengal. These will continue to trigger intermittent showers also on Monday but the rain may lessen on Tuesday and showers may remain scarce till a low-pressure form over northwest Bay of Bengal later in the week. It could be more intense than the one, which had formed last week and may cause heavy showers, according to the Met office. Kolkata received 14.5mm rain till 5.30 pm on Sunday. The city remained cloudy even as multiple spells of light rain soaked the city since morning. “Since the monsoon trough now passes across Dhanbad and Digha to central Bay of Bengal, Kolkata and south Bengal are receiving showers. A cyclonic circulation over northwest Bay, too, contributed to the rain on Sunday. It may intensify further along with the imminent low-pressure. The latter may take shape on Thursday or Friday and the conditions look favourable for a rainy spell,” said Regional Meteorological Centre director GK Das.



He added the presence of moisture in the air aided the showers on Sunday and may persist till the low-pressure forms. “It seems the system will be a potent one and will lead to heavier showers. There is also a possibility of the low-pressure turning into a depression. If it does, then it will be the first depression of this monsoon,” said Das. It has been a dry monsoon in Kolkata so far with rainfall deficiency crossing 60% in the city this month. While July rain count in Kolkata has frequently been lower than normal over the last 10 years, this year’s deficiency has been the highest. Between 2010 and 2018, Kolkata had a July rain deficit six times. Last year, the deficit was 51%. Gangetic Bengal, too, has a seasonal deficit of around 60%. “This week’s rain will lower the deficit. But it is unlikely to wipe it out completely. In fact, the deficit could remain quite high despite the low-pressure triggered rain which is expected later this week,” said a weather scientist.



International News



Kabul Blast injures Afghan President running Mate, 2 Dead

An injured man is transported to a hospital after blast in Kabul on Sunday.



Kabul: A powerful explosion hit central Kabul on Sunday, wounding Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s running mate on the first day of official campaigning for a presidential election and killing at least two others, officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. At least 25 civilians were injured in the blast on a road near the private Ghalib University, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said. Immediately after the blast, gunmen stormed a nearby building belonging to vice presidential candidate Amrullah Saleh’s Afghan Green Trend Party. Saleh was wounded by shrapnel before being evacuated from the office. Photographs shared by a government official showed Saleh sitting in a garden with blood stains on his right arm, surrounded by security guards. Afghan soldiers killed one gunman but two others were still battling with Afghan forces in a four-storey building near the blast site, Rahimi said, adding 40 civilians had been rescued.



The attack underscored the risks facing the presidential election, which is scheduled for September 28 but which has already been delayed twice this year. Saleh, a former Afghan spy chief turned politician, is an uncompromising opponent of the Taliban and other hardline Islamist groups. He led the country’s National Directorate of Security until 2010. Ghani, Saleh and over a dozen other Afghan politicians, including Hanif Atmar, another former intelligence chief and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former warlord in the anti-Soviet Mujahideen, launched their two-month presidential election campaign on Sunday. Ghani said in a tweet: “My brother, true son of the Afghan soil and first VP candidate of my electoral team, Amrullah Saleh has survived a complex attack by enemies of the state. We are relieved and thank the almighty that the attack has failed”. Saleh, a former close associate of slain anti-Soviet Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who commands strong support among Afghanistan’s minority ethnic Tajiks, was not available for comment.

News Flash – 26 July 2019

National News



Heavy Rain Alert issued for Mumbai, Thane, Pune


Mumbai/Pune: The Regional Meteorological Centre in Mumbai has issued an orange alert for Mumbai, Thane and Pune for Friday. An orange alert is a sign for authorities to prepare for a severe situation. A red alert was issued for July 26 and 28 in Palghar. The alerts intended to signify stages of rough weather, range from yellow to orange to red. Forecast is for heavy to very heavy rain in Mumbai, Thane and Raigad on July 26. Extremely heavy rainfall is likely at isolated places in Palghar. “Due to heavy-to-very-heavy rainfall possibility from July 27, there may be flooding in low-lying areas. Wall collapses in case of old structures cannot be ruled out,” an IMD official said. Mumbai and Thane may receive heavy rainfall (64.5mm-204.4mm) till July 28. Weathermen said there is a cyclonic circulation over South Gujarat and the neighborhood and a feeble offshore trough from North Maharashtra coast to Karnataka coast. The monsoon got active on Tuesday midnight, with the island city recording the highest rain this season of 173mm. “There is a strong monsoon circulation over central and northwest India with the presence of an active monsoon trough slightly to south of its normal position,” said K S Hosalikar, deputy director-general (meteorology), Regional IMD. On Thursday, Santa Cruz observatory recorded 25.4mm and Colaba 11.6mm. Rain since June 1 at Colaba has been 1,292.9mm and Santa Cruz 1,584.5mm.



10 Kids in Virar Hospital rushed to Terrace after Fire in Building

About 30 people were huddled on the terrace for an hour.



Mumbai: A fire broke out in a building that houses a children’s nursing home in Virar (east), leaving at least 10 kids and their parents on tenterhooks for at least an hour on Thursday morning. No one was injured. At least 30 people, including children, who had rushed to the terrace were escorted downstairs by firemen. The building had no fire-fighting equipment. Around 11am, smoke started to billow from the two-story Matru Krupa Building that houses Abhinav Children’s Hospital on the second floor. While no one was admitted to the hospital, those who were visiting rushed to the terrace. Shehnaz Qazi, who had come with her two-year-old son, said that she heard people screaming about a fire in the building. “I, along with mothers of other kids, rushed to the terrace which had its door open,” said Qazi. “The rain kept us from inhaling much smoke”. People huddled on the terrace were herded out of the building after an hour. Fire brigade officials of said that a short circuit in the meter box on the ground floor possibly sparked the fire. An official said that rainwater that may have seeped into the electric meter box possibly sparked the short circuit. While the nursing home is on the second floor, the ground and first floors of the building were vacant.



Captured on CCTV Camera, 2 Women Snatchers held



New Delhi: Three days after a woman lodged an e-FIR about her phone getting snatched in north Delhi’s Sarai Rohilla, a 22-year-old woman, Chandni, and her 18-year-old associate, Monu, have been arrested for the crime. The duo was found carrying out snatchings in north and central Delhi. On Monday, the complainant stated that she was walking back home while talking on her mobile phone when two people came on a two-wheeler from behind. The person riding pillion then snatched her phone. The victim later realised that that snatching was done by a woman and told this to the cops. Police scanned CCTV footage from the stretch and spotted the duo riding a white scooty. On Thursday, policemen at a picket spotted the duo and stopped them for checking. On questioning, Chandni and Monu confessed that they had carried out the snatching. A stolen mobile phone was recovered from them after a search. The woman and her accomplice have been taken in for questioning to ascertain their involvements in other incidents reported in the area. The duo used to target women and snatch their phones and wallets. The phones were sold to a receiver, who is being traced.



Altered Flu Virus in “Stealth Fever” Scare


Kolkata: An “evolved” form of the influenza virus is on the prowl in Kolkata, and it’s already laid several thousand low over the past fortnight. Medical experts are concerned because this virus can spread easily, and causes a fever that shows almost no symptom, making it more difficult to detect and control. The spread of this virus is being helped by the unusually dry and warm monsoon. While the virus has so far neither posed a significant treatment challenge, nor has it exhibited severe forms of discomfort in patients, the city’s medical fraternity is concerned because it’s spreading fast. Unlike the common “season change” influenza, this fever isn’t accompanied by severe discomfort in the form of cough, chest congestion, breathing distress or joint pain. Instead, it has been striking silently, with a sudden bout of high temperature, and disappearing without fuss in three-four days. Experts believe this could be the result of an evolution of the influenza virus, which has been taking on an altered form each year. And the weather is helping it to spread. The virus has been multiplying and spreading fast due to the high humidity, they pointed out. “While we generally come across fever patients with cough and joint pain at this time of the year, this time the fever has been ‘asymptomatic’,” said consultant Arindam Biswas. “It has been characterized by a body temperature of around 100°F, which is remaining constant for three to five days. But the other symptoms have been absent, which is good for patients and easier for doctors to manage. Just paracetamol and rest are enough to deal with the fever, since the accompanying ailments are not there”.



HEALTH ALERT: While a moderate fever without the associated discomforts is easy to treat, it has caused a change in the diagnosis protocol, forcing doctors to recommend tests to rule out malaria and dengue. “This is dengue season and a fever without symptom could be dangerous,” said Joydeep Ghosh, Fortis Hospital internal medicine consultant. “Thankfully, dengue cases have been few so far, but it still needs to be ruled out first”. He added that viruses have been striking with new symptoms every year and this, coupled with the dengue outbreaks, have made them threatening. “Viruses evolve and this could be a new strain. It doesn’t mean that the conventional influenza won’t return next year,” he said. “While evolved virus strains are not untreatable, they may reduce resistance and make it easier for bacterial infections to strike, especially in the case of young and elderly patients. This could turn fatal, if not treated early. Also, muted viral infections often make it difficult for doctors to identify dengue, which may strike simultaneously. So, even a mild symptomless fever has to be taken seriously and tests done to rule out dengue,” said Ghosh. A vast majority of fever patients this month have exhibited just a moderately high body temperature and nothing else, confirmed AMRI Hospital consultant Debashish Saha. “It has been spreading fast since the prevailing humidity is ideal for the multiplication of viruses. Such symptomless fever is rare in Kolkata, since seasonal fevers are invariably accompanied by co-morbidities. But this year has been an exception,” said Saha. Such epidemics are difficult to control, he added, since viruses get easily transmitted in public places. “Schools, colleges, offices, public transport and even open areas are not safe. Viruses get transmitted through the air, so prevention is difficult. The severity of the fever will depend on the individual’s immune system. Children and the elderly are suffering more due to lower levels of immunity. The rest are recovering in three-four days on an average,” said Saha.



MET Predicts Moderate to Heavy Rain in Kolkata for next 3 days


Kolkata: This July has so far been the driest July in Kolkata in the past five years, with the rain deficit figure reaching 67%. Last year, till July 25, this deficit was only 13%. The dry spell, however, ended partially on Thursday with scattered rain across the city, with some heavy spells in some areas. This could only be a prelude to a renewed monsoon flow with the Met office predicting good amount of rain moderate to heavy in the next few days. “The monsoon clouds are already there over city sky. So, we can expect good amount of rain in the next two to three days,” said G K Das, director, weather, at Regional Meteorological Kolkata. A cyclonic circulation over neighbouring Bangladesh and north Bengal had already started triggering rain in parts of south Bengal on Wednesday. The cloud cover over Kolkata on Thursday was also pushed up by this system. This cyclonic circulation may intensify into a low pressure area by Friday and lay over coastal Bengal, close to Kolkata. “In such a case, a few pockets could be lashed by intense showers. We expect rainfall measuring anything between 10mm and 20mm in the next two days,” added Das. Systems like low pressure and depression are expected to develop frequently during July and August, triggering widespread and heavy showers.



In the absence of any such dynamic weather system, rainfall this July has been abysmally low. Till July 25, Kolkata has already recorded a deficit of 67%. “The cumulative rainfall amount in June and July (till July 25) for Kolkata stands at 191.1mm against the normal 583.3mm. Hence, there is a deficit of 67%. Last year, till July 25, the rainfall deficit in the city was only 13%,” said Das. The scheduled arrival date for monsoon in the city is June 8, with an error margin of four days. Usually, there is a trend of rainfall deficit in June every year, baring a few exceptional cases. The shortfall is made up in July and August. This year, there was a two-week delay in arrival of southwest monsoon in Kolkata. With the scanty rain that followed, the city recorded 68% rainfall shortage by June-end. While the entire June rainfall was only 91.5mm, in July, there has been only 191.9mm rainfall so far. The deficit has gone down by only one per cent. Meteorologists fear this deficit may remain remarkably high till July end, with only six days left. “For overall south Bengal, the deficit has dipped to 53%. We expect normal monsoon activity in south Bengal during the next two weeks,” said Das. The cloud cover and the scattered rain on Thursday brought the mercury down to 33.5 degrees Celsius which was one notch above the normal mark. It will remain around 32-33 degrees in the next few days.



Metro to Install CCTV Cameras Inside & Outside AC Rakes


Kolkata: Apart from fitting closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside the coaches of all air-conditioned rakes, Metro Railway is also planning to install some cameras outside to capture real-time footage of what goes on near the doors after a train stops at a station. According to the proposal, the 13 older AC rakes and the two operational ICF Medha ones will get eight CCTV cameras each fitted outside. The BEML rakes for the East-West Metro corridor have six CCTV cameras mounted outside. While four of these are at the doors of the motormen’s coaches (pointing backward), two are in the mid-section of the rake. “The proposal to fit CCTV cameras both inside and outside 15 rakes have been cleared internally. There will be four CCTV cameras each inside the coaches. We shall start the tendering process as soon as the proposal is cleared by the Railway Board. The Dalian rake already has surveillance cameras inside that can record both video and audio. A proposal has also been sent to fit cameras outside to get a clearer view of something happens on the platforms or when the train is in motion,” Metro Railway CPRO Indrani Banerjee said. These changes are being brought about after the accident at the Park Street station on July 13 in which a 66-year-old Kasba resident lost his life.



While the CCTV cameras may not help in preventing such accidents, the footage they capture will certainly help in ascertaining what actually occurred. After Kanjilal’s death, there was a lot of hue and cry on whether it could be prevented. Some passengers inside the coach claimed that they had tried to alert the motorman through the talk-back systems but he did not apply brakes immediately, though none of them turned up to depose before the Commissioner of Metro Railway Safety (CMRS). During his probe into the incident, the CMRS had recommended that all conversations through the talkback system be recorded for future reference. The CCTV cameras being fitted inside the coaches will record video as well as audio footage. Metro Railway, meanwhile, is preparing for trials of the Dalian rake that arrived from China in February this year. Sandbags are already being loaded into the rake for load tests. The rake will then undergo extensive oscillation, riding index and specific energy tests. The electromagnetic interference and magnetic compatibility trials will be conducted thereafter. All these tests will be conducted by the experts from the Lucknow-based Research Design and Standards Organisations (RDSO). Only after the rake clears all trials will more start arriving from China.



Actor alleges assault at Golf Green ATM

The spot of the incident.



Kolkata: An actor has claimed that he was assaulted and harassed by two men when he tried to protect his girlfriend from being molested outside an ATM in the Golf Green area. The actor Debraj Mallick, a cousin of actor Koel Mallick alleged that the Jadavpur police had initially refused to register his complaint and had advised him to ‘settle’ the matter with the perpetrators. Cops indicated that one of the ‘perpetrators’, Azadgarh resident Soumen Chatterjee (25), is a model. “It was a case of a minor argument where both sides came to blows. We have lodged FIRs from both sides,” an officer said. While Debraj claimed that the two men assaulted him, they, in turn, claimed that the couple was chatting in the ATM kiosk. When Chatterjee knocked on the door, the woman hurled expletives and Debraj attacked him.

News Flash – 24 July 2019

National News



Shirt Worn by suspect helps Cops Crack Shooting Case


New Delhi: Almost two weeks after a 30-year-old woman was shot at by bike-borne assailants in Dwarka’s Sector 12 while driving back home, five men, including the mastermind, have been arrested for the crime. A shirt worn by one of the accused helped crack the case. The murder attempt was planned for six months by 27-year-old Chander Prakash alias Chintu, who blamed the woman, Kiran Bala, for the alleged suicide of Premchand, his father’s younger brother. Premchand was a realtor and had come in contact with Bala during a property deal. Their friendship had caused an uproar in the family due to which he allegedly killed himself by drinking phenyl in December 2018. Joint commissioner (Western Range) Madhup Tiwari said that Prakash and his associates Gulab Khan (27), Abhishek (23), Giri Raj Tomar (26) and Narender (33) were nabbed by a team led by DCP (Dwarka) Anto Alphonse. Prakash, who used to earlier run a tour and travel business, had hired the four men to kill Bala by paying them Rs 2 lakh upfront and Rs 3 lakh after completion of the job. He told police that after his uncle’s death, the family’s financial situation deteriorated and he decided to take revenge by killing Bala. The mastermind, who was jailed for a woman’s murder in 2015, got in touch with Tomar and Abhishek whom he had befriended in prison. He asked them to kill Bala in January. The men conducted a recce to note down Bala’s movements and chart an escape route. On July 11, they followed her after she had dropped her son at school in the morning and shot at her.



The investigating team checked Bala’s call details to get clues. They also probed the possibility of the attack being conducted by members of the Nandu gang due to a dispute with Bala over a plot worth Rs 90 lakh. Another team scanned the social media profiles of suspects with a criminal background. A team led by ACP Rajender Singh and inspector Sanjay Kumar scanned CCTV footage and, over seven days, prepared a 43-km escape route taken by the criminals. Police noticed that the assailants had changed their clothes and the motorcycle at a certain place. A clip of the footage in which one of the criminals was seen wearing a black shirt was shown to locals at Fatehpur Beri and they identified him as Narender. The team conducted raids in various places in Uttar Pradesh, but found no clues. Narender’s call details revealed that he was in constant touch with a number active in Najafgarh. This led the team to Prakash, who finally confessed to hatching the conspiracy. The other four were arrested based on the information provided by him. A probe has revealed that Tomar is a member of the Nandu gang. He has two cases of rape and robbery lodged against him. He had jumped parole in January. The gang used to communicate through WhatsApp calls to avoid being detected. They also revealed that they were trying to procure pistols to use them to conduct armed robberies in Delhi-NCR.



Burglars Decamp with Cash & Jewellery worth Lakhs



Lucknow: Burglars targeted the house of a local politician in Hydel colony under Hazratganj police station on Tuesday and decamped with cash and jewellery worth lakhs of rupees, police said. In his complaint, Amresh Singh said he had gone to his office on Tuesday afternoon. At around 2.45 pm, his neighbours found the locks on the front door of the house broken and informed him about the incident. Amresh said the burglars broke open the almirah and locker and took away Rs 2 lakh cash and jewellery worth Rs 8 lakh. Amresh suspected that two people, against whom he had registered a case, were behind the incident.

News Flash – 23 July 2019

National News



86 people saved in City’s Biggest-ever Fire Rescue Operations


Mumbai: In one of the largest rescue operations mounted in recent times, the fire brigade brought down 86 people stranded on the terrace of the nine-storey MTNL telephone exchange off S V Road in Bandra (W) after fire erupted in the building around 3pm on Monday. There was no casualty; a fireman sustained minor injuries. Smoke engulfed neighbouring buildings and a nearby school, and even blew across Bandra railway station. The fire, which allegedly started in an air-conditioning unit, was largely confined to the building’s third and fourth floors. Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale claimed this was the fire brigade’s largest operation, involving 170 breathing apparatus instead of the usual dozen, 16 fire engines and 175 firefighters, along with Robofire a remote-controlled vehicle fitted with firefighting equipment used for the first time. Most of the trapped employees in the building, which houses the MTNL office as well as staff quarters, were brought down by 5.40 in the evening.



Smoke enters nearby School, 2 Buildings; 1,200 Kids Evacuated


Mumbai: Nearly 1,200 students from a school and occupants of two residential buildings that stand close to Bandra’s nine-storey MTNL Telephone Exchange building where a fire broke out on Monday afternoon had to be evacuated as thick smoke entered their premises. Anjuman-e-Islam Girls High School, which stands right behind MTNL building, was filled with smoke minutes after the fire. “Nearly 1,200 students of class V to VIII were in the building. Smoke entered the classrooms and soon, visibility was affected. We immediately took the children to the playground to avoid inhalation of the smoke. We also informed the police, who checked the premises to ensure no one was left behind. Parents too were informed through calls and messages and all students were sent home safely,” said principal Saba Patel. Residents of Sanjary Apartments, which shares a boundary wall with the MTNL building, too complained of smoke entering their building. A fifth-floor resident, Israr Shaikh, said people had difficulty breathing and soon, a fire officer asked them to vacate the building.



“We shifted our families to houses of relatives and only young people are staying back in the compound to keep a tab on the developments”. The A wing of nearby JJ Colony too was affected. A resident of the colony, Mohammad Safi, said, “We vacated houses as firemen alerted us about the seriousness”. As the MTNL building is only about 500m from Bandra station, railway commuters too witnessed the fire. Those travelling by Western Railway trains said they could see fumes as their locals entered Bandra. “I first presumed there was a fire at the station. The fumes had entered the station area,’’ said a commuter who got off at Bandra to get home. WR chief spokesperson Ravinder Bhakar said that the smoke was not thick at the station and did not cause any “suffocation” or “uneasiness” to any commuter. “Also, it did not impact operations of suburban and long-distance trains,” he added. A nearby petrol pump too was shut during the fire-fighting operation.



Ebola, 9 other viral diseases pose a big threat to India


New Delhi: India needs to brace for viral diseases like Ebola that have not entered the country so far but have raged in some other countries in recent years. Scientists from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) — the most important health research bodies in the country have identified 10 emerging viral infections that could pose a threat to public health in India. These include Ebola, MERS-CoV, Yellow Fever and Avian Influenza (H7N9). Dr Balram Bhargava, director general of ICMR, said increasing international travel has raised the chances of these diseases reaching India, so it is important to prepare for emergencies. “Nearly 30,000 Indians live in Uganda, where Ebola has been reported. Some of our troops are also present in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the viral infection has led to an outbreak situation at present,” Dr Bhargava said. Ebola is a highly contagious disease that gets transmitted through bodily fluids and causes haemorrhagic fever with internal and external bleeding. Death occurs in 70% of the cases.



MERS-CoV or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronaviruses, which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has since spread to 26 countries, causes respiratory distress syndrome resulting in multi-organ failure. No case of MERS has been detected in India so far, according to a review of emerging and reemerging viral diseases and new viruses published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR). “Bats are thought to be the natural reservoirs of this virus, and many patients developed the illness after contact with camels. India is home to a great diversity of bat species and has a substantial camel population. The country also reports heavy passenger traffic from the Middle East. These facts call for preparedness and surveillance against this virus,” the IJMR article says. It adds that sporadic cases of H7N9 and H9N2 – subtypes of avian influenza (AI) – have been reported. “Our country has infrastructure and expertise available to tackle any future challenge,” Dr Bhargava said.



Hotel supplier takes YouTube lessons, puts skimmer in ATM


Bengaluru: A 27-year-old hotel supplier who learnt about skimming from YouTube videos was caught while trying to steal customer data at an ATM kiosk. Yeshwantpur police have launched a manhunt to nab another accused. The arrested is Ahmed Hafeez, who works with restaurant in Shivajinagar. The absconding accused is Suhail, 37. Both are from Kasargod in Kerala and have been working in Bengaluru for four years. Wanted to make a quick buck, the two were keen on stealing customers’ debit card data by skimming. You-Tube videos came in handy for them and they learnt how to install skimming machines and small cameras in ATM kiosks. They went back to their hometown and ordered skimming machines and cameras online and started their operation after returning to Bengaluru. After consulting a man who could clone debit cards, the accused started installing skimming machines and cameras in the city.



Ahmed would go to an ATM kiosk early in the morning and install the machine and camera. While returning from work late in the night, he would visit the kiosk again and collect details to clone ATM cards. His luck ran out on July 12 when P Poornachandran, an officer with Canara Bank, came to know from his channel manager Gowtham that someone had installed a skimmer in the bank’s ATM kiosk on Bombay Dyeing Road in Yeshwantpur. The bank officials decided to stay back at night to check who’d collect the skimming device. Around 7.30pm, Hafeez entered the kiosk and was about to remove the skimming machine when bank officials swooped down on him and caught him red-handed. Investigating officials said that preliminary probe revealed that Suhail had installed a skimming machine in an ATM kiosk in Malleswaram too. On the day of Hafeez arrest, Suhail was scheduled to reach the ATM kiosk but did not turn up till 11.30 pm, apparently after getting to know about his friend was already caught.

News Flash – 22 July 2019

National News



Most ATM fraud cases in country recorded in State



New Delhi: The highest number of cases of ATM fraud in 2018-19 has been reported from Maharashtra, with the national capital coming in second place, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data has revealed. These incidents involving amounts of Rs 1 lakh or more were reported by the banks to RBI. The data, accessed by TOI, showed that Maharashtra had 233 cases, while 179 were reported from Delhi. In the capital, people lost around Rs 2.9 crore to these frauds. Only Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu lost more money than Delhi at Rs 4.81 crore and Rs 3.63 crore, respectively. The number of incidents also showed a steep rise from 2017-18, when the banks reported 132 cases of ATM frauds in Delhi, involving a total amount of Rs 2.8 crore. The country witnessed an increase in ATM fraud cases in general (up from 911 to 980). Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura were the only three states that didn’t report a single incident. However, the money lost came down from Rs 65.3 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 21.4 crore in 2018-19.



Police and cybercrime experts, however, said that this was just the tip of the iceberg as amounts of less than Rs 1 lakh were not considered for the data. They said crooks were now employing various means to get control of people’s bank accounts through ATM or debit cards. The most commonly used trick is installing skimmer devices on ATMs and point-of-sale machines, which are then used to fraudulently copy data from cards. This data is then put on blank cards and illegal transactions are carried out. Delhi Police has also found several gangs active in the city who target ATMs where security is not adequate. These gangs target gullible people who come to use the ATM. On the pretext of helping them out, crooks often exchange their cards and then empty the account later. Online frauds are a major concern, too. Crooks posing as customer care agents of banks often fool people into revealing confidential data. Some fraudsters have even set up fake websites, which come up during internet search. People are then targeted when they call the ‘customer care’ numbers mentioned on these websites.



Blaze-Hit Building in Colaba Evacuated


Mumbai: The area around Taj Mahal Palace hotel, especially Merewether Road on which Churchill Chambers lies, is of great historical and maritime significance. Having played host to naval and merchant sailors from around the world, it is a confluence of global architectural and culinary influences. Churchill Chambers, like the other buildings on the street, was built under the Apollo Reclamation (south of the Fort area) Scheme, which facilitated the erection of buildings like Taj Mahal Hotel, Yacht Club, and later Gateway of India. Historian Deepak Rao, who recalls cycling along Merewether Road as a child back in the ’60s, says the building housed many Jews and Anglo Indians who were working for the Bombay Port Trust. “So, the building’s landlord isn’t the BMC but the Bombay Port Trust,” says Rao. But BMC officials said that the building is a privately-owned Mhada cessed building. Mhada engineers later visited the site. “The buildings on Merewether Road are century-old structures with good urban design or uniform mass, scale or arcade below. The style can be classified as colonial hybrid, which means they have mixed elements of renaissance revival and some vernacular accents,” said conservation architect Vikas Dilawari.



The building, on Merewether Road, has a six-storey extension, which remained unaffected by the blaze, though power supply to both wings was disconnected and all residents asked to vacate the premises till the complex was declared safe. The residents moved in with relatives, friends or went to hotels. The victim of the blaze, Shyam Aiyar (50), along with his family members, started to rush down for safety, but went back to douse the flames and got trapped, said a fire officer. He was found by firefighters two hours later, in a critical condition, and shifted to G T Hospital, where he was declared dead. A fireman, Bhurmal Patil, complained of suffocation during firefighting operations. Fire officials said the building’s third floor has been badly affected by the blaze, which spread down till the stairwell on the second floor. “It was by luck that one of our vehicles was in the area on routine inspection. Thus, we could respond to the fire call without any waste of time,” said chief fire officer P S Rahangdale. “Fortunately, no grills had been fitted on the windows of the flats, which helped us save many lives”. A couple of residents said that after realizing that the building was on fire, they rushed down to safety, alerting others on the way. Suresh Kesarwani, who lives on the fourth floor of the building’s extension, said, “Smoke quickly started to spread in both wings. We rushed down, along with family members, knocking on every door we passed by. All the residents in our wing came out safely, but many people were trapped on the top floor of the main wing, which has a separate entry”.



Another resident of the extension, Rohit Kadam, went along with firemen in search of Aiyar, the fire’s victim, after his wife informed them that he was inside the building. Kadam, who knows the building’s layout well, said, “I and another resident went along with the fire brigade team. Thick smoke was everywhere, amid which the firefighters started to look for Kadam all over the third floor. They found him at one corner in serious condition and he was breathing”. Rahangdale, who went to the spot after hearing that people were trapped inside, said, “No firefighting system was in place in the building. We were told that Aiyar went back to fight the blaze and was missing. We found him in a critical state at the back corner of his flat, where the fire was intense”. Deputy commissioner of police (zone I) Sangramsingh Nishandar said the police have registered an accidental death report, he ruled out the possibility of foul play. This is not the first major blaze in Colaba in recent years. In June 2016, a massive fire broke out at the crowded, century-old Metro House on Colaba Causeway. However, firefighters managed to evacuate everybody in the building before the flames could reach its wooden staircase.



Bulgarian Clones Card to withdraw Rs.40000, held



Mumbai: Bandra police on Sunday arrested a Bulgarian national for stealing the debit card details of a 30-year-old bank employee and using them to clone her card and withdraw Rs40,000. The victim found out the ATM kiosk from where the withdrawals had been made and submitted closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage to the cops. Milan Evano Dwaranaski (44) was nabbed when he revisited the Bank of India ATM on SV Road, Bandra (West), on July 20 night. Police have seized at least 15 plain white plastic cards similar in dimensions to debit or credit cards. “Dwaranaski has clammed up, claiming he does not know English,” said sub-inspector Bhimsen Gaikwad. The accused arrived in Mumbai on May 30 on a tourist visa and has been residing in Andheri (East). Probe is on to find out if he is part of a bigger racket.



Bandra police senior inspector, Girish Anavkar, said the bank employee got a slew of text alerts on July 18 midnight. Four transactions of Rs10,000 were carried out from her bank account though the debit card was with her. The woman immediately blocked the card. She later got CCTV footage of the ATM from where the withdrawals had been made. Based on the footage, a police team kept a watch at the kiosk for 24 hours. When Dwaranaski walked in, they immediately recognized the accused and nabbed him. “The accused may be part of a racket that steals card details and PIN numbers by fitting a skimmer in the ATM machine. The other possibility is the accused is part of an online hacker group that sends mails seeking card details claiming the system is undergoing upgradation and steals card details to clone cards,” said a police officer.



Delhi Lost Rs.2.9 Crores to ATM Frauds in a Year


New Delhi: The capital reported 179 cases of ATM frauds in 2018-19, the second highest in the entire country, Reserve Bank of India data has revealed. These incidents involving amounts of Rs 1 lakh or more were reported by the banks to RBI. The data, accessed by TOI, showed that only Maharashtra saw more cases than Delhi (233). In the capital, people lost around Rs 2.9 crore to these frauds. Only Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu lost more money than Delhi at Rs 4.81 crore and Rs 3.63 crore, respectively. The number of incidents also showed a steep rise from 2017-18, when the banks reported 132 cases of ATM frauds in Delhi, involving a total amount of Rs 2.8 crore. The country witnessed an increase in ATM fraud cases in general (up from 911 to 980). Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura were the only three states that didn’t report a single incident. However, the money lost came down from Rs 65.3 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 21.4 crore in 2018-19. Police and cybercrime experts, however, said that this was just the tip of the iceberg as amounts of less than Rs 1 lakh were not considered for the data. They said crooks were now employing various means to get control of people’s bank accounts through ATM or debit cards.



The most commonly used trick is installing skimmer devices on ATMs and point-of-sale machines, which are then used to fraudulently copy data from cards. This data is then put on blank cards and illegal transactions are carried out. Delhi Police has also found several gangs active in the city who target ATMs where security is not adequate. These gangs target gullible people who come to use the ATM. On the pretext of helping them out, crooks often exchange their cards and then empty the account later. Online frauds are a major concern, too. Crooks posing as customer-care agents of banks often fool people into revealing confidential data. Some fraudsters have even set up fake websites, which come up during internet search. People are then targeted when they call the ‘customer care’ numbers mentioned on these websites. Delhi Police’s Cyber Prevention Awareness and Detection (CyPAD) centre is, meanwhile, grappling with a number of issues, including lack of trained manpower to deal with the criminals who appear to be one up on them at every step.

News Flash – 19 July 2019

National News



Man opens Fire to Threaten Security Guards



Chennai: A man opened fire on Wednesday night after he was not allowed to enter his sister’s apartment in Mangadu. Deepak, 31, is a resident of Thiruvananthapuram. He is said to be on anti-depressants. He had come to the city to meet his sister in Iyyapanthangal. On Wednesday, his sister refused to meet him and called the security guards, following which Deepak brandished a gun and fired in the sky. Noticing a crowd gathering, he escaped. Deepak’s sister told police that he owned an air gun.



WhatsApp Flood Alerts come to Rescue of Assam Villagers

NO HELP: A man carries gas cylinders as he wades through a flooded area in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur



Guwahati: WhatsApp, much maligned for being a tool in spreading fake news, paranoia and mass hysteria, has redeemed itself somewhat in the borderlands of India’s northeast. Villagers living along the Assam-Bhutan border now get flood alerts on WhatsApp from ‘friends’ across the border. As many as 56 big and small rivers flow into India from Bhutan via Assam. Historically, this area has been prone to flooding, the intensity of which varies every year. But most of the time, people living downstream, that is on the Indian side, find themselves amid the raging torrent as information flows slower than flood waters. The consequences are often tragic. But for a month now, a system has been in place to issue early flood warning from the Bhutanese side to those in Assam. Sample this recent alert from a Bhutanese villager to someone in India, “Hi good morning bro. Please caution your communities who are vulnerable to swollen river disaster. There is heavy flooding all over Gelephu and her peripherals (sic) ”. For someone who lives on this side of the border, this sort of a heads-up can be a lifesaver.



“Our village is on the Bhutan foothills, and every year we have a tough time when the Manas river swells. Sometimes the deluge comes in the middle of the night. But for a month now, we have been getting these WhatsApp alerts, which helps us to be better prepared,” said Udangshri Narzary of Deosiri village, which is in Chirang district of Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD). Mahendra Brahma, a resident of Indrapur village in the same district, is also positive about it. “We forever waited for something like this. Now, we know when danger is coming. We have several WhatsApp groups where these alerts are shared,” Brahma said. This system came up after Bhutan-India Friendship Association (BIFA) teamed up with North East Research and Social Work Networking (NERSWN), an Indian NGO based in Kokrajhar, the headquarters of BTAD. “Our members constantly monitor WhatsApp. The moment we get any alert; we send it to the last villager. We have already told every border village what to do when we send an alert. We have taught them the basics: how to take their cattle to higher ground, stock up on food and water and carry enough clothes,” NERSWN executive director Raju Narzary told TOI. The alerts aren’t just textual; they come as audio-visual clippings too. And now, efforts are on to expand the reach of this WhatsApp net beyond Bodoland, right down to Bangladesh.



International News



Man Yells ‘You Die’, Burns 33 to Death in Japan Studio

An aerial view of firefighters battling the fire at the studio of Kyoto Animation on Thursday. The suspect was also injured in the attack.



Tokyo: A man screaming “You die!” burst into an animation studio in Kyoto, doused it with a flammable liquid and set it on fire Thursday, killing 33 people in an attack that shocked anime fans across Japan and beyond. Thirty-six others were injured, some of them critically, in a blaze that sent people scrambling up the stairs toward the roof in a desperate — and futile — attempt to escape. Others emerged bleeding, blackened and barefoot. The suspect was injured and taken to a hospital. Police identified him only a 41-yearold man who was not an employee. They gave no immediate details on the motive. Most of the victims were employees of Kyoto Animation, which does work on feature films and TV productions but is best known for its mega-hit stories featuring high school girls. The stories are so popular that some of the places depicted have become pilgrimage sites for fans. The blaze started in the three-story building in Japan’s ancient capital after the attacker sprayed an unidentified liquid accelerant, police and fire officials said.



Japanese media reported the fire might have been set near the front door, forcing people to find other ways out. Firefighters found 33 bodies, 20 of them on the third floor and some on the stairs to the roof, where they apparently collapsed, Kyoto fire official Kazuhiro Hayashi said. A witness who saw the attacker being approached by police told Japanese networks that the man admitted spreading gasoline and setting the fire with a lighter. She told NHK public television that the man had burns on his arms and legs and was angrily complaining that something of his had been “stolen”, possibly by the company. PM Shinzo Abe called the attack “too appalling for words” and offered condolences. Kyoto Animation, better known as KyoAni, was founded in 1981 as an animation and comic book production studio, and its hits include “Lucky Star” of 2008, “KOn!” in 2011 and “Haruhi Suzumiya” in 2009. The company does not have a major presence outside Japan, though it was hired to do secondary animation work on a 1998 “Pokemon” feature that appeared in US theaters and a “Winnie the Pooh” video.