Monthly Archives: February 2020

News Flash – 29 February 2020

National News



Phone Thief Drags Woman Out of Moving Train Near Borivli Station



Mumbai: A 28-year-old woman, who is employed as a visual effects artist, was dragged out of a moving Vapi passenger train when she caught the man who snatched her phone near Borivli station. The accused, Wasim Shaikh, was later arrested. Cops said he is a history-sheeter who had been extended from railway property. The incident took place on February 20, when the woman (name withheld on request) was returning from Palghar. “I usually commute by local trains, but when the Vapi passenger arrived at 6.50pm, I boarded it as it was getting late. The train was packed, but I managed to get a seat in the general coach,” she told TOI. By 8.11pm, the train reached Borivli’s platform 10. “The train halted for nearly 10 minutes at the station. I dialled my mother, but as I was not getting network, I moved to a single seat closer to the door.” Just then the train started moving. As she was going through photographs on her phone, a man, who was in the coach, snatched her phone. “I grabbed his arm, confident that he could not escape as the train had left the platform. But to my horror, he jumped out of the moving train and dragged me along. I landed on the tracks and hurt my head and shoulders even as he scaled a wall and fled. I screamed for help and a couple from a building near the tracks came to my rescue,” she said. They offered her water and cotton to stop the blood flowing from her head, and helped her reach the platform where a policewoman rushed her to hospital. “I couldn’t register a complaint at that time, but did after I got better,” she said. Based on the description given by the woman and going through CCTV footages of various stations, the police tracked down Shaikh, who lives on a pavement in Borivli. “Shaikh led our team to Rahul Kahar (20) who had bought the stolen phone. He too was arrested,” said senior inspector Bhaskar Pawar, Borivli GRP.



Two Held for Attempting to Break Pen ATM



Chennai: Two men were arrested on Friday for attempting to break open an ATM as they could not withdraw cash at Rathan Bazaar in Parry’s on February 25. A police team solved the case with the help of the CCTV camera footage and the arrested Sudhakar and Suryah, both are natives of Chidambaram, employed as coolie in Parry’s.



International News



Coronavirus Slows in China, But Gallops Across the Globe


China: After Brazil confirmed its first coronavirus patient this week, cases have now been reported from every continent except Antarctica, forcing countries to take drastic measures for its containment. Italy has at least 11 towns on lockdown while parts of UK, Japan, Iran and Germany have shut down schools. In California, 8,400 people are being monitored for the virus. Several countries, including India, have either lowered flight frequency to affected countries or issued travel advisories. Saudi Arabia has banned foreign pilgrims. Amid a warning from the World Health Organisation that the new coronavirus has “pandemic potential”, TOI tracks its global march as the death toll touches 2,867 and confirmed cases cross 83,000 on Friday. In US, preparation for pandemic On his Indian visit, US President Donald Trump cast coronavirus as “a problem that’s going to go away”, but experts disagree. The US State Department and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it expects Covid-19 to spread in the US. Dr Nancy Meissonier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was quoted by CBS News as saying, “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more of a question of exactly when this will happen.” The US has recorded 60 confirmed cases and Trump has announced a new team led by Vice President Mike Pence to tackle the virus. Tourists trapped as Europe locks down Italian towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto remain under lockdown with schools, churches and markets shut with the country reporting 655 cases and 17 deaths. The Vatican is shutting all catacombs open to public as humidity and limited space in the underground burial sites can favour spread of the virus, according to CNBC. Neighbours are nervous too. Several European countries now have confirmed cases and many of them can be traced back to Italy.



Earlier this week, a dozen UK schools sent home students and teachers who had returned from skiing trips in the Italian Alps, according to The Guardian. About 1,000 holidaymakers and workers were quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife, a top destination in Spain’s Canary Islands, after two Italian guests tested positive. India issues travel advisories Iran, one of the worst affected nations outside China, said its deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, tested positive for the coronavirus. By Friday, 34 people had died out of 338 positive cases. Dubai and UAE have halted all flights to Iran and several nations have advised citizens to avoid travel. India has issued an advisory that people from Iran, South Korea and Italy or having such travel history since February 10, 2020, may be quarantined for 14 days on arrival. Travel to Singapore is also not advised. On Thursday, India temporarily suspended visa on arrivals for nationals of Japan and South Korea. South Korea, which has the largest outbreak outside mainland China, has recorded 13 deaths and 2,337 confirmed cases. Japan’s botched quarantine Media reports have quoted Japan’s health minister as admitting that many who were allowed to disembark the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remained moored in Yokohama for several weeks, have developed symptoms, including fever, and will now undergo tests. Nearly 1,000 passengers were allowed to leave the ship last week after testing negative. PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday asked schools to close until April. Improvement in China? The number of daily cases reported outside China have exceeded the number of cases reported within the country. Cities in China have started lowering their emergency response level, local media reported. Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, however, remains under lockdown with mainland China recording 2,788 deaths and 78,824 infections.



WHO Raises Global Virus Risk to Top Level after 56 Nations Hit

NOT TAKING CHANCES: School children disinfect their hands before leaving school in Osaka. Japan has ordered schools across the country to close from Monday to check spread of the new coronavirus.



Beijing: From eastern Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa, a steady stream of new cases on Friday fuelled the sense that the new coronavirus epidemic may be turning into a global pandemic, with some health officials saying it may be inevitable. At least 210 people have died from coronavirus in Iran, in various cities, as of Thursday night, BBC Persian reported on Friday, citing hospital sources. An Iranian health ministry spokesman, however, rejected the claim and said that only 34 people had died in the country of the virus so far and that 388 were infected. In Japan, officials in the northern island of Hokkaido declared a state of emergency because of the pace of new infections there. South Korean officials are rushing to test thousands of members of a church at the centre of that country’s outbreak. The virus has had wide-ranging impact, even forcing K-pop megastars BTS to cancel four Seoul concerts due in April. Africa has long been a source of concern, and a case in Nigeria raised fears that more infections might lurk there undetected. Nigeria aid the patient was an Italian citizen who had returned to Lagos, the country’s largest city, from Milan on Tuesday. The patient was stable, did not have “serious symptoms” and was being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, a suburb of Lagos.



In Europe, Wales and Northern Ireland both reported their first confirmed cases, and Switzerland banned all gatherings of more than 1,000 people. More than 83,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and more than 2,800 have died, according to NYT. New infections outside China are now outpacing those within the country, the site of the first and by far the largest outbreak. The World Health Organisation on Friday raised its global risk assessment of the new coronavirus to its highest level. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the risk was being raised to “very high” because of the continued increase in cases and the number of new countries affected in recent days. These developments “are clearly of concern”, Tedros told reporters in Geneva. But he added: “We still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.” The WHO does not officially use the word “pandemic,” often defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease, but many health experts say the coronavirus epidemic is one, or soon will be. The virus has proliferated around the globe over the past week, emerging on every continent except Antarctica, prompting many governments and businesses to try to stop people travelling or gathering in crowded places. Still, signs in China offered hope that the outbreak could be contained. China reported 44 more deaths on Friday, raising its toll to 2,788, with 327 new cases the lowest daily figure for new infections in more than a month.

News Flash – 28 February 2020

National News



Corona Scare, Ignorance are Fueling Social Tensions


New Delhi: Global anxiety about the spread of the novel coronavirus has fueled racial tensions, prompting the United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday to urge the world to tackle the “disturbing wave of prejudice” against people of Chinese and East Asian ethnicity. In India as well, the virus spawned fear has stoked xenophobic sentiments. Earlier this month, a student of Delhi University’s Kirori Mal College who hails from the Northeast complained to college authorities that she was called ‘coronavirus’ on campus by a group of students. The principal, Vibha Singh Chauhan, said the college would soon hold a sensitisation programme for students. In Mumbai, a resident of a housing society shot and circulated a video of a woman from Nagaland, suspecting her to be Chinese. The 23-year-old woman had arrived from Kohima to visit a friend a tenant in the society on February 10 when another resident shot a video of her and again sent it to the landlord. The friend hosting the woman, a 23-year-old from Nagaland studying at Tata Institute of Social Sciences(TISS), said, “I was shocked to see the video where my friend was being filmed by my neighbour.



His wife even asked my friend to leave the building.” Fear of and ignorance about coronavirus is increasingly resulting in anyone with East Asian features or people from China and its neighbourhood becoming targets of racist slurs and discrimination in campuses, hotels, and malls. About the time Lui (name changed), a 27-year-old Chinese man, reached Kerala for the last leg of his solo expedition across Southeast Asia, the severity of an unassuming flulike illness reported from a sea market in China had become apparent. By February 4, thousands of cases of the novel coronavirus had come to light. All the hotels Lui went to, including government-run guest houses, denied him accommodation because he was Chinese. When he approached the city police commissioner for help, he was taken to the isolation ward of a hospital though he did not have any symptoms. For two weeks, the hospital was Lui’s home. Later, tests cleared him of infection and yet no hotel was ready to take him in.



Rioting Mobs Leave Behind Ghost Town, Over 3,000 Houses Deserted


New Delhi: On the roads of certain areas of Shiv Vihar, you will not spot a soul. While everyone’s attention has been on the key riot zones like Chand Bagh, Gokulpuri and Maujpur-Jafrabad, areas surrounding Phase 8 and 9 in Shiv Vihar along the Loni (Ghaziabad) border have the eerie look of abandoned habitations. More than 3,000 houses lie abandoned, hundreds have been ransacked. The untended shops and factories of the deserted Shiv Vihar were being looted even when TOI visited the area on Thursday evening. Sudha Devi, 45, one of the few Hindu residents of the area, alleged that police and the city administration had forsaken them. “Where were you when gas cylinders were being used to burn down houses here,” she asked, her eyes surveying the half burnt houses and charred skeletons on cars. Devi’s husband, a transport department employee, said the family has moved in with relatives in Shanti Nagar. “A crowd of more than 2,000 burned down these houses on Monday night. It was a nightmare,” he shuddered, adding, “Bhagwan na kare kabhi kisi ke sath ab aisa ho (I pray God won’t let this happen to anyone else).” The only reason they were in Shiv Vihar was to save their house from arsonists. In a mixed locality dominated by Muslims, the houses there still had smoke billowing out on Thursday. Two places of worship were damaged, with the shells of exploded cylinders lying there a tell-tale sign. Rioters, in particular, targeted religious inscriptions. Gaurav Kumar said that all the Muslims had left the colony. “There is no one to talk to even,” the dejected man said, glancing at the charred remains of his neighbours’ houses.



A Muslim family, hurrying to leave the area, did not want to say anything. “There is nothing for us here now. We will start our lives somewhere else,” one of the women said. Their voices were the only sound save for the cawing of crows along the stretch of 25 Foota Road, where some houses had ‘Jai Shri Ram’ scrawled on doors in an attempt to save themselves from rioters. One landlord talked of his tenants for the past 15 years. “Saleem sahab and his family packed their bags and left when passions started to intensify on Monday. I never had any problem with them. But seeing what is left now, it is good they left,” he remarked. Water and electricity supply remain cut. Residents said that despite the presence of the Rapid Action Force, there still is fear. “The security personnel are on the main road, not on the interior lanes. It has been four days since we slept properly,” said Gaurav Kumar’s father. “When it turns dark, we sit outside our houses because inside we won’t even come to know if someone comes to burn the house down. At least outside we can run to safety”. Many bakeries in the area were owned by Muslims who had employed mostly Hindu workers and salesman. Ram Kumar, a supply agent for the bakeries, said he had surely lost his source of income with the bakeries all lying shuttered now. He looked dejectedly at children helping themselves to rusks at a bakery he once worked for.



International News



US, Germany Report First Cases of Infection from Unknown Source


USA: The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection. The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins. Public health officials said the infected individual was a resident of Solano County, in Northern California, but they have not disclosed any other information to protect the patient’s privacy. Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week. But the CDC has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus. The CDC could not be reached for comment. The new case, in which the source of infection is unknown, is cause for concern, experts said. “That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.



All of the 59 other cases in the US had travelled from abroad or had been in close contact with those who traveled. Health officials have been on high alert for so called community spread. Meanwhile, health officials in Germany reacted aggressively on Thursday after a man with no known connection to anyone infected with the coronavirus tested positive for the illness. In addition to closing schools in the community where he lived, they reached out to hundreds of people who took part in a carnival celebration over the weekend where the man was also present, urging them to stay home. Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the man lives, said that the authorities were still trying to figure out how the man had contracted the coronavirus virus. He remains critically ill. In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases. Those infected include Masoumeh Ebtekar one of Iran’s seven vice presidents who oversees women and family affairs, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi and two MPs. Ebtekar’s case was said to be mild. In Europe, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported their first cases, while several other countries registered new infections.

News Flash – 27 February 2020

National News



Burglars Flee with Gold as Couple goes on Vacation



Hyderabad: A couple’s wedding anniversary ended on a bitter note after burglars made away with 30 tola gold and a kg of silver from their Tilak Nagar residence when they were holidaying in Ooty. Shiva Kumar, a techie and his wife are residents of Nallakunta. “On Monday the house owner informed the duo that their house window was open and it looks suspicious. The couple returned on Wednesday,” Nallakunta inspector K Muralidhar said. The couple noticed that 30 tolas of gold, a kg of silver jewellery and other items were missing. A case was registered under Section 380 of the IPC.



Disease on the Prowl: In Slums, Many Families have 2 or more TB Patients


Hyderabad: Three months ago, Shaheen Begun, who is just 32, lost her husband to tuberculosis. He was the family’s sole breadwinner. He was undergoing treatment for relapse of tuberculosis for the third time in a matter of two years at the community health centre (CHC) in Barkas. After he passed away, their 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with tuberculosis (contact tracing was done by CHC) and is undergoing treatment. The dread of the disease has caught on her extended family as well and they remain out of touch now. “My relatives are even hesitant to meet us. They don’t invite us to any function and we stay away too. Now I fear for my daughter’s life,” said the distraught mother. Several families living in slums in the city are facing the same problem, with more than one family member being diagnosed with the disease. They also complained that government help (₹500 per month and free medicines) is not sufficient.



In three slum areas that TOI visited, a few by lanes had 3-7 houses with a cluster of tuberculosis patients. The spread has been rapid despite many of these patients being under treatment. Another family in Bandlaguda slum area has a second member battling the disease. “Our elderly neighbour passed away because of tuberculosis. Later, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis and now my 4-year-old child has also contracted the disease,” said a 34-year-old woman, who is now on daily dosage of injections and pills to cure the multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (an aggressive form of tuberculosis). Though the government provides ₹500 a month and free medicines to patients, the cases of patients discontinuing the treatment are hardly being followed up. “The government health officials have visited only once so far. They give medicines, but I find them useless and have stopped taking them,” said a patient.



240 Indians Evacuated from Wuhan & Ship

A special plane of Indian Air Force (IAF) comprising crew, medical team and support staff before their departure from Air Force Station in Palam, New Delhi to Wuhan in China on Wednesday.



New Delhi/Margao: Close to 240 Indians were evacuated from coronavirus-hit Wuhan and cruise liner Diamond Princess, moored off the coast of Japan, in two separate operations by the Indian government on Wednesday. Over 100 of them a mix crowd of students and professionals boarded a military transport aircraft that had reached the Wuhan airport to evacuate them in the evening. Among their co-passengers were citizens from several other countries as India had offered to evacuate those from neighbouring nations, depending on the availability of space. A list of evacuees accessed by TOI has 125 names, including three Indian embassy officials. People from Myanmar, Tanzania, South Africa, Maldives, over a dozen from Bangladesh, Chinese spouses of Indians and one person from the US featured on the list. This came even as the evacuation of 138 Indians onboard Diamond Princess brought cheer to families undergoing an agonizing wait in India. The cruise ship was quarantined off the coast of Japan since February 3 after several passengers, including 16 Indians, were found positive. An Air India aircraft carrying the passengers, which included at least 51 Goans, is expected to land in New Delhi late on Wednesday.



24 Killed as Bus Falls into Mej River in Rajasthan

TRAGIC: Thirteen people died on the spot while the rest succumbed to their injuries on the way to hospital in Lakheri town.



Kota: In a tragic accident, 24 people of a wedding party were killed and five critically injured after a private bus carrying them fell into Mej River on Kota-Dausa highway in Bundi district of Rajasthan on Wednesday morning. Thirteen people died on the spot while the rest succumbed to their injuries on the way to hospital in Lakheri town. The deceased included 11 women and three children. The wedding party was on its way to Sawai Madhopur city from Kota to carry out the ritual of ‘bhaat’ (gifts). “At least 29 people, including the driver, were in the bus,” DSP Shyamsunder Vishoni said. Driver Shyam Singh, who is among the dead, apparently lost balance of the bus while traversing an old bridge, which had no railings, near Papdi village. The vehicle fell from a height of about 25 feet. The accident occurred around 9.30am. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced a relief of Rs.2 lakhs each to the kin of the deceased. Bundi district collector Antar Singh Nehara told TOI that three of the injured were in a state of trauma.



International News



Covid-19 has Infected Every Continent Except Antarctica

People wearing masks near Barcaccia fountain in Rome. Italy has become the focal point of the outbreak in Europe with 322 cases.



Shanghai/Seoul: Asia reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, including an American soldier stationed in South Korea, as the US warned of a pandemic, the disease spread in Europe and Brazil confirmed Latin America’s first infection. And for the first time, more new cases were reported outside China than inside, according to the World Health Organisation. Chinese officials on Tuesday reported 411 new infections; in the rest of the world, the number was 427. The total number of cases globally has now reached 80,980 and nearly 3,000 have died. “The sudden increases of cases in Italy, Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. The virus now has a toehold on every continent but Antarctica. In Africa, Algeria confirmed its first case on Tuesday. Egypt has also reported a case. Australia has confirmed a total of 22 cases as of Saturday. South Korea, which with 1,261 cases has the most outside China, reported 284 new ones including a US soldier. Brazil reported the first case in Latin America a 61-year old who had visited Italy. Pakistan, too, reported its first two cases of the coronavirus. There have been nearly 50 deaths outside China, including 11 in Italy and 19 in Iran, the most outside China. Kuwait said new cases, all linked to travel to Iran, took its tally to 25, while Bahrain said its infections had risen to 26. In Europe, Italy has become a front line in the global outbreak with 322 cases. Italians or people who had visited the country, have tested positive in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Spain, North Macedonia and Switzerland. France, with 17 cases, reported its second death.

News Flash – 26 February 2020

National News



Eighteen Cases of H1N1 in City Since January, 8 this Month



Mumbai: Around 18 cases of influenza H1N1 have been detected in the city since January, including eight in February. The civic authorities said while there have been no deaths, confirmed cases have been reported from across the city. Incidentally, at least two travellers isolated for suspected coronavirus at Kasturba Hospital in Chinchpokli have tested positive for H1N1, initially termed swine flu. Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said while one has been treated and discharged, the other patient is undergoing treatment. Last week, software giant SAP had shut their office in Bengaluru after two employees tested positive for the virus. They had also temporarily closed their offices in Gurgaon and Mumbai for disinfection. BMC’s executive health officer, Dr Padmaja Keskar, said the cases are under control. On the concern of private physicians that cases are underreported, she said unless a patient is serious, there is no need to carry out a test. “Guidelines are clear. If the physician is sure of the symptoms, he/she can start treating the patient with oseltamivir,” she said. BMC data also shows that in February 2019, nearly 40 confirmed cases were reported. In 2019, Mumbai witnessed 451 cases and five deaths, a significant rise from 2018’s incidence of 25 cases and zero casualties. Civic health experts said since the occurrence of H1N1 in the city is cyclic, it is unlikely there will be a spurt this year.



Delhi World’s Most Polluted Capital, 21 Indian Cities in Top 30, Says Report

UNBREATHABLE: According to the World Air Quality Report 2019, India ranked fifth in the world’s most polluted countries, with Bangladesh taking the top spot, followed by Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan.



New Delhi: New Delhi topped the list of most polluted capital cities in the world in 2019, according to a new report, which also revealed that 21 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities were in India. Ghaziabad, meanwhile, had the dubious distinction of being the most polluted city in the world. According to the World Air Quality Report 2019, compiled by IQAir, Air Visual, Ghaziabad was followed by Hotan in China, and then Gujranwala and Faisalabad in Pakistan. Delhi took the fifth place. The 21 Indian cities named in the list in the order of their ranking were Ghaziabad, Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Greater Noida, Bandhwari, Lucknow, Bulandshahr, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Jind, Faridabad, Coraut, Bhiwadi, Patna, Palwal, Muzaffarpur, Hisar, Kutail, Jodhpur and Moradabad. As per the country-wise data, India ranked fifth in the world’s most polluted countries with Bangladesh taking the top spot, followed by Pakistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan.



The report, however, also mentions that Indian cities have shown improvement compared with last year. “Whilst cities in India, on average, exceed the World Health Organisation target for annual PM2.5 exposures by 500%, national air pollution decreased by 20% from 2018 to 2019 with 98% of the cities experiencing improvement,” the report stated. Frank Hammes, IQAir CEO said, “While coronavirus is dominating international headlines, a silent killer is contributing to nearly seven million more deaths per year that is air pollution. The gap in air quality data in large parts of the world poses a serious problem, as what is not measured cannot be managed”. Avinash Chanchal, senior campaigner at Greenpeace India, said the steps being taken to control pollution were not sufficient. “In Delhi, be it bypass roads, shutting down of Badarpur power plant, shifting industries to PNG and BS-VI mandate have had result in reduction of pollution levels on an annual average basis, but the latest World Air Quality Report is an indication that the steps taken are not sufficient,” he said.



Over 150 Swine Flu Cases in just Two Months



New Delhi: The scare over swine flu isn’t limited to the Supreme Court, where five judges are said to be infected with the viral illness. Across Delhi, at least 152 positive cases of the influenza virus which took to epidemic proportions in 2009 and has since become a part of seasonal influenza have been reported in the last two months. There are no deaths reported though, as per the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) a central health body. Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, internal medicine at Indraprastha Apollo hospital said the sudden upsurge in cases could be due to a mutation of the virus. “All viruses change or mutate to adapt. We don’t know for sure but it’s possible that the H1N1 influenza virus has mutated, leading to higher rates of transmission,” he said. In the last two weeks, Chatterjee added, the hospital has admitted at least four to five persons suffering from severe symptoms of swine flu. “Most patients have mild symptoms like running nose, sore throat and fever. Admission is required in case of breathlessness or persons in extremes of age who need regular monitoring,” the doctor said. According to Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis CDoc, those with existing illnesses such as diabetes are being advised to take preventive vaccination.



Another doctor said symptoms of swine flu are similar to common flu and even the novel coronavirus infection, increasing the fear in the public. Last year, Delhi had reported 3,627 cases of H1N1 of which 31 persons had died. The death toll across the country was 1,218 in 2019, the NCDC data revealed. The latest update on H1N1 situation in the country shows 884 people have been diagnosed positive for H1N1 over the last one-and-a-half-months in the country and there have been 14 deaths. Tamil Nadu reported the maximum cases (172), followed by Delhi (152), Karnataka (151) and Telangana (148). The union health ministry issued a statement in the wake of five SC judges testing positive for swine flu. It stated that the court rooms and residences of the judges were being sanitised. The ministry said H1N1 is a seasonal infection, which usually occurs every year with two peaks: once in January to March and the other between July to September. It advised people to maintain hand hygiene and avoid crowded places. “The symptoms of swine flu are similar to common viral illnesses. Patients feel lethargic, have high-grade fever and sore throat, among other symptoms. The treatment is mostly symptomatic,” said a doctor. He added that maintaining hygiene was the most important. “People should wash their hands at regular intervals with disinfectants. If there is prolonged fever, one must see a doctor and not ignore symptoms such as difficulty in breathing,” he said.



2 Tanzanians Held for Stealing Cash from ATM’s via Fake Cards

SCAMMER DUO: Alex Mendrad Mseke and George Genes Assey.



Bengaluru: Ramanagara district police arrested two Tanzanian youths based in Bengaluru for allegedly stealing cash from ATMs using duplicate debit cards. The accused Alex Mendrad Mseke, 24, of Yelahanka and George Genes Assey, 24, of Rajyotsavanagar near Kumaraswamy Layout had come to India in 2017 on a student visa. Mseke is pursuing B Pharma in a private college near Hennur, while Assey is an undergraduate student at a private college in Kumaraswamy Layout. Investigations revealed the accused would fix skimming machines and cameras at ATM kiosks in isolated places and steal credentials of cards whenever customers withdrew cash. “The duo has associates, who are also nationals of African countries. The gang used to steal money from ATMs to lead a lavish life in Bengaluru. We will nab the other suspects soon,” a police officer said. According to police, the accused stole Rs 40,000 in four transactions from the savings account of one Shivakumar in Canara Bank. He filed a complaint with Kudur police on October 31, 2019.



A police team headed by Magadi circle inspector Ravikumar RG learnt the money was withdrawn from an ATM kiosk in Yelahanka using a fake debit card. Police collected the CCTV footage and managed to arrest the duo last week in Bengaluru. Preliminary probe revealed Shivakumar had withdrawn money from a Canara Bank ATM at Mallasandra near Bagalagunte, north Bengaluru. The gang stole his card credentials using a skimming machine and PIN through a secret camera they had installed. Then they created a fake debit card and withdrew Rs 40,000 in four transactions in a short span of five minutes on October 31, 2019. “The accused confessed to having committed several similar offences and efforts are on to trace the victims. We produced Mseke and Assey before the court and took them into our custody for 10 days,” an investigating officer said. Police seized three fake debit cards, two passports, a laptop, three mobile phones, a car, two bikes, skimming machine and other items from the duo.



Conmen Hack Hospital’s Bank Account, Divert Rs.17 Lakhs After Cloning SIM



Bengaluru: Cybercriminals targeted the bank account of a Bengaluru hospital and siphoned off Rs 17 lakh after cloning the official sim card attached to it and adding unknown members as online banking beneficiaries. Spandana Nursing Home authorities have lodged a police complaint. Hospital sources said the online banking fraud came to light on February 19 after an official postpaid cellphone number attached to a bank account of the hospital chain stopped working. “On February 14, the Airtel sim was suddenly inactive with incoming and outgoing calls being barred. We desperately contacted the Airtel helpline requesting the service be restored, but in vain. After repeated efforts a representative even visited the Airtel kiosk the sim was functional on February 20,” said a senior executive from Spandana. While the sim was inactive, fraudsters managed to make 12 online transactions from Spandana Pharma’s Central Bank of India (CBI) account (Rajajinagar branch). They diverted Rs 17 lakh to unknown bank accounts through IMPS and NEFT. “We realised the money had been transferred only after the mobile number was restored. We got to know the culprits had cloned the number, hacked the account and added beneficiaries to it,” added the executive. Dr S Preeti, chief medical director of Spandana Pharma, filed the complaint with Yeshwantpur police last week.



Gold, Rs.18L Stolen in Tirupur Bank Heist


Tirupur: A day after the daring robbery at the State Bank of India’s branch near Palladam came to light, police and the bank authorities are staring at more questions than answers. On Tuesday, police were yet to figure out the exact quantum of gold jewels stolen by the burglars at the Kallipalayam branch of the bank. After gathering information from the bank authorities and the depositors, they could only arrive at a rough estimate, which is a massive 800 to 1,000 sovereigns of gold and Rs.18 lakhs in cash. Police are also trying to find out how many men were involved in the heist, their identity and whether the loot was done in one night or two nights during the weekend holiday. The burglars had bent the window grill and gained entry into the bank. The heist came to light on Monday morning when the staff came to work. The burglars had broken the CCTV cameras and took away the hard disks containing the footage. “The public need not worry. We have formed six teams. We will soon nab the culprits and recover the stolen jewels and cash,” said SP Disha Mittal. Police said there were 110-odd safety lockers in the bank where customers kept their valuables. Of these, 27 lockers were broken open by the burglars and the jewels stolen. In addition, Rs 18.5 lakh was stolen from the bank’s cash chest, police said.



“The bank has details of gold ornaments pledged by the customers. But those were not stolen. The valuables in the safety lockers maintained by the customers were taken away. So, we had to summon the customers and collect details of the gold jewels they had kept in those lockers,” a police officer said. “We had to verify if there are any discrepancies in the claims of the customers too,” he said. The inquiry with customers is still on and the exact value of the stolen goods would be arrived at soon. Several depositors had gathered in front of the bank and staged a protest on the Tirupur-Palladam road. One of them, identifying himself as Sivanesh from Thottathupalayam, said he had kept 70 sovereigns of gold jewels in the locker and it was now missing. On Tuesday, Coimbatore range DIG G Karthikeyan, Tirupur SP Disha Mittal, and Palladam DSP Murugavel visited the spot and conducted inquiries with the public and bank authorities. Police said they have collected CCTV footage from a mill in the vicinity showing two men moving near the bank building on Sunday night. But their faces were not clear. Also, police suspect that they could have struck at the bank on Saturday night and then again on Sunday night since it was difficult to break open the window, drill holes in 27 lockers and decamp with the ornaments in one night.



International News



Italy Sees 27% More Coronavirus Cases, Spain Quarantines Hotel

Military officers in face masks guard Duomo cathedral in Milan, Italy.



Rome: Italy reported a 27% increase in the number of coronavirus cases on Tuesday and an infected doctor forced a hotel to be quarantined in Spain’s Canary Islands, evidence that the epicentre of the outbreak in Europe is spreading with travellers to and from the afflicted north. However, China appears to be getting the new coronavirus under control. Chinese officials reported 508 new cases and 71 deaths as of Monday, a slower pace than in previous days. Global cases of the virus have passed 80,000, the vast majority in China. Italy Premier Giuseppe Conte defended the measures Italy has taken to contain the outbreak and predicted a stabilising of numbers soon, but he acknowledged that the rise in cases the most outside Asia was “worrisome”. “Obviously I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” he said before a meeting with a visiting WHO mission. “But we trust that with the measures we’ve implemented there will be a containing effect in the coming days”.



Italy has closed schools, museums and theatres in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo. But Italy hasn’t yet identified the source of the outbreak and overnight reported a 27% increase in positive cases from 222 to 283, including in regions outside the north. Seven people have died, all of them elderly, suffering from other ailments, or both. The southern island of Sicily reported its first positive case from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in Lombardy. Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, well south of the epicenter. Croatia, meanwhile, confirmed its first case in a man who had been to Milan, the capital of Lombardy. And Austria confirmed two cases in a couple who travelled from Bergamo to their home in Innsbruck last Friday. Switzerland also reported its first case of new coronavirus on Tuesday. “It’s confirmed,” a spokeswoman for Switzerland’s federal health office said. In the Canary Islands, meanwhile, a doctor from the north tested positive in a Tenerife clinic and was placed in isolation. The H10 Adeje Palace hotel where he was staying was locked down, and its 1,000 tourists prevented from leaving, according to Spanish news media and town officials in Adeje.

News Flash – 25 February 2020

National News



Dacoits Poison Watch Dogs, Loot Rs.7L from Parsi Couple’s Palghar Bungalow


Mumbai: Five unidentified armed dacoits assaulted an elderly Parsi couple, poisoned their two watchdogs and hens, and fled with cash and jewellery worth nearly Rs 7 lakh from their bungalow in the Dahanu taluka of Palghar district in the early hours of Saturday. One of the dogs and two hens died. The dacoits damaged the closed circuit television (CCTV) at the bungalow before committing the crime. Rohinton Taraporewala (73) and his wife Homai (70) were asleep in their ground-plus-one-storey bungalow, Tarapore Villa, in the Bawda village of Vangaon. Around 1.30am, the couple was woken up by some sounds from the rear side of the bungalow. Before they could react, they were surrounded by the dacoits who had gained entry by breaking open the rear door of the bungalow. One held a revolver at Homai while the others, armed with sickles, knives and iron rods, assaulted Rohinton on his right eyebrow and back. The dacoits demanded the keys of the cupboard in the bedroom. Rohinton, a retired chikoo farmer, and Homai pleaded with the dacoits to spare them and handed over the keys. The dacoits ransacked the cupboards in the bedroom and near the dining table and fled with cash and jewellery worth Rs 6.6 lakh. They also stole the digital video recorder (DVR) of the CCTV and the cable box.



It was only after the dacoits fled that the couple came out of their bungalow to find the canines had been poisoned. While one of them was already dead, the other survived as it vomited. Two hens were found dead too. Rohinton said, “While we are lucky to have been spared by the dacoits, my licensed revolver, which I had surrendered to the police ahead of the zilla parishad elections, would have helped scare away the dacoits.” It was returned to him after the dacoity. The couple that lives alone had installed the CCTV a few years ago. The two strays that the couple had adopted would be let loose in the bungalow premises at night. The couple’s son, a doctor, lives in the UK and their married daughter in the US. Police suspect the dacoits may have kept a watch on the bungalow. They knew about the watchdogs and hence silenced them before breaking in. Residents of other bungalows, located at a distance, did not hear any sounds. Police are questioning painters who were carrying out work in the bungalow. Vangaon police registered a case under Indian Penal Code sections 394, 395 and 397 for dacoity and 429 and 427 for maiming cattle. Police said they will examine CCTVs in the locality for leads.



Alarmed Delhi Cops on Alert after Intel Report


New Delhi: Delhi Police will be on very high alert in the next 24 hours as intelligence agencies have received inputs that the riots could intensify in order to put the international spotlight on Citizenship Amendment Act with President Trump in the capital. The intelligence branch and special cell are keeping a close tab on the developments and coordinating with the intelligence bureau with regular updates which are being shared with secret service officials in-charge of Trump’s security. The agencies are also learnt to be probing the role of at least three organisations, including Popular Front of India (PFI), in fanning Monday’s violence. After the death of one of its cops and injuries sustained by four dozen others, the police brass is reworking its strategy to tackle the riots. The plan to whip up frenzy seems to have been set in motion days in advance and only intensified on Sunday night. Stones and Molotov cocktails were piled up at strategic locations like houses, rooftops, balconies. It is disturbing that the police did not anticipate this. Perhaps because of the impending visit of the US President or lack clear orders, the force was evidently ill-prepared. TOI spoke to several policemen and many agreed that the police did not seem to be on the front foot this time. In fact, TOI was witness to instances where rioters beat up people after asking for their names. Delhi Police, however, denied being lax and said they took appropriate measures.



Security Guard Killed trying to Foil Robbery Bid



Kolkata: A night guard died after being hit on the head by robbers, who failed to break open the shutter of a jewellery shop in Bhangor, post-midnight on Sunday. Cops chased and apprehend one, but the rest fled. Around 1.30am on Monday, night guard Sayed Ali Mollah (60) was patrolling at Sona Patti in Bhangor Bazar when he was alerted by the sound of someone trying to cut open the shutter of a shop. Mollah then tried to stop the gang, which had about 10 people. But one of them hit on his head with an iron rod. He slumped to the ground. Later, he was declared dead at a hospital.



Burglars Strike Gold at Bank in Second Attempt



Chennai: Burglars decamped with jewellery and cash from the State Bank of India branch on the Palladam-Tirupur Road, three months after a failed attempt. The heist came to light on Monday morning by staff of the branch at Kallipalayam. Bank authorities have not ascertained the quantum of money and jewellery stolen, a police officer said. The branch lacks security guards at night and burglar alarms, despite the earlier bid to loot it in October.



Nigerian Youth held for Fixing PIN-Capturing Device at ATM



Puducherry: The Puducherry police arrested a Nigerian on Friday on charges of fixing a skimmer and a camera to record PIN at an ATM of a nationalized bank. Jasher Celestine, 28, from Nigeria, has been staying at Mambakkam in Chennai for the past three years, police said. Police have launched a search for Miller Aleksandrov Hristov of Bulgaria and Milton Vladimir Cornel Zambrano of Venezuela, Jasher’s accomplices in the crime. Senior superintendent of police (law and order) Rahul Alwal said Jasher had fixed a PIN-capturing device to the ATM and added he might have planned to install a skimmer later. “The fraudsters fixed PIN-capturing devices above the ATM keypads and skimmers near the card slots. The device has a camera and records PINs keyed in by unsuspecting customers while the skimmer collected the card details. The video and card details got stored in a memory card. They removed the devices later and made duplicate debit, credit cards with the stolen details using a magnetic strip writer. They then siphoned money from the victims’ bank accounts,” said Alwal.



He said two gangs worked together in such crimes. “One gang collects PINs and details of the cards and sells the information to other gang over the Darknet. The other gang makes bogus cards with stolen card details and steals the money,” he said. Alwal said Jasher mainly collected card details and passed the info to Miller and Milton, who operate internationally. “The absconding suspects belong to an international gang that makes bogus cards. The two used to visit Jasher often to collect card details. We have sent their photos to the respective countries to nab them,” he said. The issue came to the light when the ATM coordinator lodged a complaint with the cybercrime cell stating that he found a PIN-capturing device fixed above the keypad during his routine supervision. Jasher confessed to the crime. Police have booked the three under Sections 379 and 511of IPC and Section 66 C and D of IT Act, 2000.



International News



Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Virus Cases Soar in West Asia

Beijing on Monday warned its citizens against travelling to the US, saying that Chinese tourists have been treated unfairly in the country due to excessive prevention measures over the outbreak.



Seoul: The new virus took aim at a broadening swath of the globe on Monday, with officials in West Asia and Europe scrambling to limit the spread of an outbreak that showed signs of stabilising at its Chinese epicentre but posed new threats far beyond. Clusters of the virus continued to emerge, including a possible one in Qom, an Iranian city where the country’s semiofficial ILNA news agency cited a lawmaker in reporting a staggering 50 people had died of Covid-19. Iran’s health ministry rejected that, insisting toll remained at 12. Five neighbouring countries Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Afghanistan reported their first cases, with those infected all having links to Iran. Italy has locked down 50,000 people in 10 towns to contain the first major virus outbreak in Europe, as fears grow of a spread across the continent. On Monday, the number of cases in Italy rose to 219 from at least 152 on Sunday. Across the world, stock markets and futures dipped on fears of a global slowdown due to the virus spread, with the Dow down more than 800 points. The number of people sickened by the coronavirus topped 79,000 globally. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said using the word “pandemic” did not fit the facts. “We must focus on containment while preparing for a potential pandemic,” he said in Geneva.

News Flash – 24 February 2020

National News



Fraudsters Exploit Remote Access Apps to Dupe Victims



Hyderabad: Posing as employees of e-wallet service providers, cyber fraudsters have been duping hundreds of people by making them install remote desktop access applications such as Team-Viewer Quick Support and AnyDesk. On January 9, B Venkatesh, a 53-year-old steel merchant from Ram Nagar approached cybercrime sleuths of Hyderabad stating that an unknown person had called him on January 7. Introducing himself as Rajendra Prasad, an employee of Paytm, the caller asked him to update KYC details of his Paytm account. “The fraudster asked the complainant to download AnyDesk app in his phone to update KYC details. After making the complainant install AnyDesk, the accused remotely accessed his cell phone by obtaining the access code from him. Subsequently, the fraudster obtained Paytm account details of the complainant, including UPI PIN and siphoned off Rs.1.03 lakh from his bank account,” cybercrime inspector D Prashant said. On January 7, T Anand, 59, a private employee from Ameerpet, lodged a complaint with cybercrime sleuths alleging that he received an SMS on January 6 stating that his Paytm account had expired.



“In the message, the fraudsters mentioned a fake contact number of Paytm customer care. When Anand called the fake number, the fraudster made him install TeamViewer Quick Support remote desktop access app. After the installation of the app, the fraudster gained access to the mobile phone of the victim by obtaining the required code from him. As per the instructions of the fraudster, the accused also made the victim recharge his Paytm wallet with the linked ICICI bank account and made him link his credit card to the wallet, all the while looking at the cell phone details remotely. With the information obtained, they siphoned off Rs.1.88 lakh from his bank account and his credit card,” the inspector said. Similarly, on January 21, a case was registered based on the complaint of Md. Saqib Jawab, an Imam of a mosque in Tolichowki, regarding fraudsters siphoning off Rs. 40,000 off him by posing as representatives of Bank of Baroda and making him install AnyDesk app. According to the cybercrime police, fraudsters also siphoned off Rs. Rs 1.96 lakh from the bank account of businessman P Narsing Rao Aravind Kumar of Narayanguda and Rs. 99,000 from businessman Dheeraj Agarwal of Bahadurpura, posing as customer care executives of banks or e-wallet services and making them install the Quick Support app.



Houses, Shops Set Ablaze as Trinamool Man Dies

At least 10 houses and some shops were set ablaze in the violence in Churabhandar that followed a Trinamool Congress worker’s death in an attack.



Jalpaiguri: Hours after a Trinamool Congress activist died in hospital on Saturday following an attack, suspected party workers went on the rampage at Churabhandar in Maynaguri in this north Bengal district setting ablaze 10 houses and some shops on Sunday evening. Around 20 BJP supporters were said to be injured in the attack at Churabhandar, which is said to be a saffron party stronghold where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a rally on February 8, 2019. Trinamool activist Bhombal Ghosh (34) was hacked on February 14, allegedly by BJP workers, and he died at North Bengal Medical College Hospital (NBMCH) on Saturday evening. Police said Ghosh had suffered a severe head injury. A BJP worker, Tapas Roy, was arrested on Sunday, and police have filed an FIR against 15 men, including a Tripura Police personnel. BJP workers alleged that the attack on the houses of party workers started in the presence of police after Roy’s arrest. Violence broke out after Ghosh’s body was brought to Churabhandar from NBMCH, and Trinamool functionaries, alleged BJP activists, delivered a virulent speech against BJP blaming its workers for the death. Later, Trinamool supporters put up a blockade in the area preventing police from reaching the trouble spot. Trinamool Youth Congress district president Saikat Chatterjee ruled out the involvement of his party workers in any violence. He said it was the result of an internal feud in BJP. BJP’s Shyam Pradhan, however, said Ghosh was killed due to infighting in Trinamool and saffron-party workers were subsequently implicated in the murder. Jalpaiguri SP Abhishek Modi said a strong police force has been deployed to control the situation.



International News



Concern Over Coronavirus Spread Grows with Jump in Cases Globally

VENICE CARNIVAL CALLED OFF: Italy stepped up measures on Sunday to ban public gatherings amid rapidly rising numbers of Covid-19 cases in the country, calling off the famed Venice Carnival attended by thousands of revellers. Buses, trains and other forms of public transport, including boats in Venice, are being disinfected. Museums have been ordered to shut down after Sunday in Venice, a top tourist draw anytime of the year.



Seoul/Shanghai: International concern about the spread of coronavirus outside China grew on Sunday with sharp rises in infections in three countries — South Korea, Italy and Iran. South Korea went on high alert after the number of infections surged over 600 with six deaths. Italy saw a rise to 132 cases and imposed stringent curbs in parts of the country to try to stop the spread. Iran has reported 43 cases, with eight deaths. In China, which has seen the vast majority of cases, authorities reported 648 new infections — higher than a day earlier — but only 18 were outside of Hubei province, the lowest number outside the epicentre since authorities began publishing data a month ago and locked down large parts of the country. The virus has killed 2,442 people in China, which has reported 76,936 cases, and has slammed the brakes on the world’s second largest economy. It has spread to some 26 other countries and territories, with a toll of around two dozen, according to a Reuters tally. President Moon Jae-in on Sunday put South Korea on the highest possible alert in its fight against the coronavirus. “The coming few days will be a critical time for us,” he said at an emergency meeting of government officials to discuss the outbreak, which in just days has spiraled to 602 confirmed infections and six deaths. “The central government, local governments, health officials and medical personnel and the entire people must wage an all-out, concerted response to the problem.” By raising the alert to Level 4, or “serious,” Moon authorised the government to take steps like barring visitors from specific countries and restricting public transportation, as well as locking down cities, as China has done.



Many of South Korea’s coronavirus cases are in the southeastern city of Daegu, which has essentially been placed under a state of emergency, though people are still free to enter and leave the city. A 59-year-old man on Sunday was the sixth person to die in the country after contracting the virus. Health officials in Italy raced to contain the first major coronavirus outbreak in Europe, locking down more than 50,000 people in 10 towns in the northern Lombardy region, where a sizeable cluster of coronavirus infections has emerged, and passing emergency measures that apply throughout the country. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy has risen by 89 to 132, officials said on Sunday, and 88 of those cases are in the Lombardy region. At least three people have died, including a 77-yearold woman and a 78-year-old man, and at least 26 are in intensive care, officials said. Responding to the sudden spike, officials closed schools and cancelled the last two days of the Venice carnival, which draws thousands of people from around the world. Officials also cancelled trade fairs, opera performances and soccer matches, in a test of whether the virus can be successfully contained in relatively open European societies. Two military structures in Lombardy were being prepared to become isolation camps while a military base in Rome has been housing evacuees from Wuhan, Chin. The base is also housing the Italian passengers of the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship that has been under quarantine in Yokohama, Japan. Officials also announced two cases in Venice for the first time, as the number of cases in the Veneto region, where Venice is the capital, rose to 25.



The announcement to cancel the Venice carnival was made after an estimated 20,000 people attended an event in St Mark’s Square on Sunday morning. Carnival activities, which began on February 8 with tens of thousands of people gathering in St. Mark’s, were to end on Tuesday. Pakistan and Turkey temporarily closed their borders with Iran on Sunday, as Tehran announced that it would close schools, universities and cultural centres across 14 provinces in an effort to curb the coronavirus. The outbreak has killed at least eight people in Iran, state TV said. The health ministry said on Saturday that 43 people had tested positive, with eight deaths, state-run Press TV reported. Pakistan’s 959-km border with Iran is mostly porous, and controlling a potential spread of the coronavirus poses a major challenge. “Due to the very serious nature of coronavirus outbreak in Iran, we have to take stringent precautionary measures,” Mir Zia Ullah, the home minister of Balochistan province, which borders Iran, said. “All kind of movement has been suspended”. Turkey’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, said, “Because of the fact that the picture in Iran is getting worse, we decided to temporarily shut down our border with our neighbour. Land and rail crossings from Iran to our country will be stopped. All international flights will be temporarily and one-sidedly stopped.” Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey imposed travel and immigration restrictions on Iran on Sunday.

News Flash – 21 February 2020

National News



H1N1 Scare in Tech Hub after SAP India Hits Panic Button



Bengaluru: A tech hub of Bengaluru was in the grip of an H1N1 influenza scare on Thursday after German software major SAP pressed the panic button following two of its employees in the city contracting the virus. However, health department officials said there’s no cause for alarm. SAP shut its offices in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Gurugram and asked all employees to work from home till further notice. It undertook fumigation and sanitisation of the offices. The news spread after RMZ, which operates the business park in which SAP is located in Bengaluru, issued an advisory to all tenants on measures they could take, specifically mentioning SAP’s actions. The park’s other tenants include Accenture, Honeywell, Danske IT, Shell Technologies, Morgan Stanley, Capgemini and ANZ. Sources said some of these companies told employees to work from home for the next three days, but considering they are holidays for most employees (Mahashivaratri followed by the weekend), the order will have little impact.



Workshop goes up in Flames, 18 Cars Destroyed


Kolkata: A blaze engulfed a car workshop and raged on for one-and-a-half hours on Thursday, destroying a dozen vehicles and partially damaging at least six more. No one was injured. The incident took place at the Maruti Hossainpur workshop, located over a kilometre off EM Bypass in Madurdaha. Residents said they first noticed smoke coming out of the front section of the workshop around 1.30pm but the fire spread so fast that within 15 minutes, dark plumes could be seen from as far as Tagore Park on Bypass. As the flames leapt up, people living in high-rises in the area panicked and evacuated their homes, fearing the fire might reach them. But before rushing out in the open, many of them called the police and fire brigade. Another workshop located nearby shifted out its cars, partly as a safety measure and partly to make space for fire engines to reach the spot. “It was our lunchtime and most of us were eating. The fire caught us unawares. We rushed into the shed to salvage as many vehicles as we could. Locals also pitched in. We managed to save 20-odd vehicles but those left on the hydraulic lift could not be brought down in time. We are yet to come to the exact number of damaged cars but the vehicles on the mechanical lift were the worst hit,” said Biswajit Mondal, an employee. Locals claimed fire engines took longer than usual to reach the spot. But fire officers denied the charge. “We reacted immediately and sent five engines. The approach road is extremely narrow.



We could not send more than three fire engines together to the site and adopted the relay system. We sent 10 engines in total,” a fire officer said. A bore well and water reservoirs on the apartment compounds ensured there was no dearth of water. “My wife and I had just finished lunch, when we noticed thick smoke outside. Fearing the flames were leaping towards our buildings, we asked everyone to evacuate. It would have been better had the fire engines reached a bit earlier, but all of us here did everything in our capacity to contain the fire,” said Avishek Sinha Roy, a resident of Korean Pearl Complex, next to the workshop. Both fire minister Sujit Bose and actor-turned-MP Mimi Chakraborty visited the spot. “We need to ascertain the cause of fire. We needed foam to douse the blaze,” Bose told TOI. While officers remained tight-lipped about the cause though they hinted at a possible short circuit, locals and some employees claimed work on installing ACs were going on inside and something might have gone wrong there. The theory gained credence as the front and middle sections of the unit, which housed ACs, were more damaged than the rear side. Car owners Indrajit Chowdhury from Ajay Nagar and Subhajit Ganguly from Patuli stood looked on, devastated. Both had sent their cars to the workshop in the morning. “They are promising to hand over my car with full-road worthiness but one does not know how long it will take,” Ganguly told TOI.



Thief Steals Two CCTV Cameras, Caught on Lens

(L) One of the cameras was stolen from this slot from a (R) Garia complex.



Kolkata: A thief who planned to break into an apartment complex in Garia on Tuesday night stopped short as CCTV cameras were installed at every corner, literally. So, he did what he thought was the next best thing: steal two of the cameras to try and sell them. What he did not realize was that those very cameras recorded the theft and the images were saved. Based on those grabs, cops tracked him down in less than 24 hours and promptly lodged an FIR. The accused has been identified as Amir Ali Gazi alias Raja (27), a resident of Bizli in Garia. “We arrested the accused and sent him to court on Thursday. He had wrapped his face with a piece of cloth but we tracked him down, based on the clothes he wore that night that were captured on camera,” said an officer. The two cameras were installed by Sabari Sengupta (51), who lived in Block A of the complex, said the police. “She claimed around 9pm on February 19, she found the two CCTV cameras at her house stolen. His face wrapped, the accused entered the common parking-garage area and carried out the theft. We will find out whether he had planned to return to that flat, after taking the CCTV cameras away,” said an officer. Police said it explained the importance of bringing CCTV cameras even in residential areas under cop purview. “Monitoring with cameras help us collate records and it has assisted us in a number of arrests,” said an officer.



19 Killed, 25 Injured after Truck Jumps Median, Rams Bus in Tamil Nadu

DEADLY CRASH: The container got detached after the truck hit the median, crossed to the other lane and ripped the right side of the bus.



Coimbatore: Nineteen people, including a bus driver and five women, were killed and 25 other injured when a container truck rammed a Kerala Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus near Tirupur in Tamil Nadu early on Thursday. Police said the bus with 48 passengers collided with the truck at 3.40am near Avinashi in Tirupur district on Avinashi-Salem bypass road. The Garuda Volvo bus was on its way to Ernakulam from Bengaluru. The container truck carrying 25 tonnes of floor tiles was going to Bengaluru from Kochi. According to police, truck driver K A Hemaraj, 37, from Kollathumkundil at Ottapalam near Palakkad, dozed off and lost control of the vehicle. The truck hit the 30-cm-high median and crossed over to the other side of the lane. In the impact the container got detached and tore down the right side of the bus, killing most people seated on the side. Survivors were trapped as the front portion of the bus was completely mangled in the collision. Passing motorists informed the Tirupur city police who rushed to the spot. Fire and rescue services personnel started rescue work with the public joining them in breaking open the glass panes of the bus and helping passengers come out.



International News



China Changes its Virus Diagnosis Criteria, Again Confusion Ensues

CLASH IN UKRAINE OVER EVACUEES FROM CHINA: Residents of Ukrainian village of Novi Sanzhary protest the arrival of evacuees from China’s Hubei province on Thursday. They fear they could be infected with the coronavirus despite authorities insisting there was no danger. Protesters blocked the road leading to a sanatorium where the evacuees are to be quarantined. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his compatriots to show solidarity and remember that ‘we are all human.



China: For the second time in a week, China on Thursday changed its criteria for confirming coronavirus cases, throwing into confusion the methodology that the country at the heart of the outbreak uses to track transmissions and resulting in a dramatic decrease in new infections. The new criteria exclude patients from Hubei province, the hardest-hit area of the outbreak, who are diagnosed using clinical methods, including CT scans and an assessment of symptoms. Instead, patients there would be counted as having contracted the virus only when confirmed by a specialised nucleic acid test. Using the new criteria, officials in the province on Thursday recorded 349 new cases in the previous 24 hours, a notable shift from the 1,749 figure released a day earlier. The total national figure now stands at 74,576. New deaths rose by 114 on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 2,118. In its sixth iteration of a diagnosis regime, the government said it would differentiate between “suspected” and “confirmed” cases from now on. Cases would only be considered confirmed after genetic testing. Such tests are notoriously difficult to conduct, and the results are often wrong. It takes at least two days to process the results of the test. The change has caused confusion among public health experts, who said it is now extra difficult to track the outbreak in China. “For an epidemiologist, it’s really frustrating when case definitions keep on changing,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong. “Why can’t they work out what’s a probable, suspected and confirmed case? It’s totally confusing”.



Last week, the government switched to counting cases based on diagnoses made in clinical settings, including scanning patients’ lungs, in an effort to more quickly isolate and treat patients. As a result, however, the country may have over counted cases because lung scans are an imperfect means to diagnose patients. Even patients with ordinary seasonal flu may develop pneumonia visible on a lung scan. Japan reports first deaths of ship passengers Two elderly passengers taken off the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess because they were infected with the new virus have died, Japan’s health ministry said on Thursday, becoming the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel. Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness. The two victims, a man and woman in their 80s who are both Japanese, were believed to have been infected before health checks and a February 5 quarantine began on the ship, health ministry official Masami Sakoi said. They had been hospitalised on February 11 and 12 and each tested positive a day later. The ministry also announced on Thursday that two more government officials had become infected while providing clerical work on the ship to help in the quarantine effort. Four other officials — a quarantine official, a paramedic who carried an infected passenger, a health ministry worker and an emergency relief medical expert — have also been sickened. The 621 cases confirmed among the Diamond Princess’s original 3,711 people on board are the most anywhere outside China. In all, Japan has over 700 confirmed cases.



Gunman Kills 9 Immigrants in Two Bars in Germany


Hanau (Germany): A 43-year-old German who posted a manifesto calling for the “complete extermination” of many “races or cultures in our midst” shot and killed nine people of immigrant background, most of them Turkish, in an attack on a hookah bar and other sites in a Frankfurt suburb, authorities said on Thursday. He was later found dead at his home along with his mother, and authorities said they were treating the rampage as an act of domestic terrorism. The gunman attacked the hookah bar and a neighbouring cafe in Hanau around 10pm on Wednesday, killing several people, then travelled about 2.5km and opened fire again, first on a car and then a sports bar, claiming more victims. The bloodshed came amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany and stepped-up efforts from authorities to crack down on it, including last week’s detention of a dozen men on suspicion they were planning attacks against politicians and minorities. Chancellor Angela Merkel said the shootings exposed the “poison” of racism in Germany, and she pledged to stand up against those who seek to divide the country. Hookah lounges are places where people gather to smoke flavored tobacco from Middle Eastern water pipes, and Metin Kan, who knew many of the victims, said it was obvious why the gunman chose the neighbourhood. “It’s a place frequented by immigrants.” People of Turkish background make up Germany’s single largest minority, and Turkey’s ambassador said five of the dead were Turkish citizens.



Germany’s federal prosecutor, Peter Frank, said that all nine killed were of immigrant backgrounds and that six others were injured, one seriously. Investigators said it appeared the gunman acted alone, but Frank said authorities are trying to find out whether there were others who knew of or supported the attack. Witnesses and surveillance videos of the getaway car led authorities quickly to the gunman’s home, said Peter Beuth, interior minister for the state of Hesse. Both the attacker and his 72-year-old mother had gunshot wounds, and the weapon was found on him, Beuth said. Frank identified the gunman only as Tobias R, in line with German privacy laws, and confirmed he had posted extremist videos and a manifesto with “confused ideas and far-fetched conspiracy theories” on his website, which has since been taken down. In the manifesto, Rathjen claimed to have approached police several times with conspiracy theories. But Beuth said it does not appear the gunman had a criminal record or was on the radar of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Among the documents posted to the website was a 24-page, rambling manifesto in German detailing, among other things, fears that he has been under government surveillance for years. He blamed the surveillance for his inability to have a relationship with a woman. “We now have ethnic groups, races or cultures in our midst that are destructive in every respect,” he also wrote. He said he envisioned first a “rough cleaning” and then a “fine cleaning” that could halve the world’s population. He wrote: “The following people must be completely exterminated: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the complete Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines”.

News Flash – 20 February 2020

National News



Thieves Walk Off with Wheels from Cars Parked in Kalikapur


Kolkata: A group of miscreants fled with five wheels from three vehicles parked in Kalikapur on Saturday night. Before leaving, the thieves placed bricks under the vehicles so that they don’t topple. The city had witnessed a similar incident at Salt Lake’s AE Block last August. Surprisingly, the sedans from which Tyres were stolen last year are of the same make. One of the victims had brought the car barely three months back while the two other cars were being run on rent. The owners, both residents of Rupanjali Park in Kalikapur, were stumped to see their vehicles in that state when they stepped out of their home last Sunday. They waited for two days though before making a formal complaint. The block adjoining the Kalikapur Bazar allows an easy getaway, bypassing check posts on the Bypass at night. But police believe the thieves had used a vehicle to ferry the stolen wheels. Each alloy wheel, along with tyre, costs around Rs 4,000-Rs 8,000. Around 6am last Sunday, one of the owners, Chayan Shaw (22), was about to board his car to get to work, when he saw the left front and rear wheels missing. He rushed to the other side and was relieved to see the wheels along the kerb were at least in place. “Losing two wheels is better than four. I guess those who stole the wheels did not have enough space on the other side to open the wheels. The thieves were prepared and had brought a jack to lift the car and a wrench to open the nuts so that the wheels could be removed.



They also brought bricks to place the car on it before removing the jack. The theft included more than one person,” said Shaw, who had invested all his savings to buy the car to run it with car rental agency. What Shaw saw next was even more curious. The wheels of another sedan parked in front of his car, also a Swift Dzire, were missing as well. The car belonged to another person, Manik Bag, who had bought the car in 2017. “He woke up around 8am to learn about the case. I have been living in this area for long but never have I heard about such a theft here,” added Shaw. The locals claimed the theft is now “big news” in the area. “We do have two CCTVs fitted at the entrance of our neighbourhood, but it is for cops to find out. Cops from Garfa police station arrived promptly. They are trying to check the footage from cameras fixed in adjoining lanes and blocks to identify unfamiliar vehicles that may have entered and left the area that night,” said Shaw. “We are also checking if someone has recently joined a tyre retailer in the belt or if a car had gone out from a workshop during the night,” an investigator said. A single FIR has been drawn up, citing the car numbers and addresses of the owners.



3 Dead, 9 Hurt in Crane Crash at Shooting Spot

A crane crashed on a small tent while lifting a load of lighting equipment.



Chennai: Three people, including an assistant director, were killed and nine others were injured in an accident during the film shooting of Kamal Haasan movie ‘Indian -2’ at EVP Film City near Poonamallee on Wednesday. Sources said the accident took place at 9.15pm when a crane crashed on a small tent while lifting a load of lighting equipment. The deceased identified as Krishna, 34, assistant director, and Madhu, 29, and Chandran, 60, caterers of the unit were among a group of people sitting inside the tent coordinating the shoot. The injured have been rushed to Saveetha Medical College and Hospital. “Three people were brought dead. They suffered crush injuries. Their bodies have been sent to mortuary. The injured are stable,” said hospital sources. Actor Kamal Haasan who was at the site has rushed to the hospital to attend to the injured. A call was placed for 108 ambulances, but two of them were later cancelled by a caller from the film city, said a source. Kamal Hassan in a tweet said “I have faced and overcome many accidents. But today’s is the worst of them all. I lost three comrades. The sadness of family members who lost them will be manifold than mine. I share their loss and sorrow as one among them. My deep condolences. The shoot has been going on at the place for the last few days. Kajal Agarwal, Rakul Preet Singh and Siddharth are part of the big-budget film directed by Shankar.



Fire Breaks out in Salem, Trees Destroyed

BURNING ISSUE: Local residents saw fire raging in the hills on Tuesday night and alerted the forest department and Shevapet fire service station officials.



Salem: A fire broke out in Uthumalai in Salem on Tuesday night, destroying trees and herbs spread across a few acres. The forest department is yet to ascertain both the cause of fire and the extent of damage caused by the same. According to a senior forest officer, local residents saw fire raging in the hills at night and alerted the forest department and Shevapet fire service station officials, who sprang into action to put it out and prevent it from spreading to more areas. Quoting residents, the officer said thick smoke started to emanate from the hill area around 11pm on Tuesday. “The fire spread soon”. He said they had removed dry leaves in the surrounding areas of the incident place to prevent fire from spreading to other areas. “We, along with the fire and rescue services personnel, managed to put out the fire on Wednesday morning. An inquiry is on to identify whether it was a natural fire or manmade one,” the officer said.



International News



About 500 Leave Isolated Ship, Indians Still on Board

About 500 passengers who tested negative for COVID-19 were allowed to disembark from Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday.



Japan: About 500 passengers left the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship moored at Yokohama in Japan over coronavirus fears, on Wednesday at the end of a 14-day quarantine period that began on February 5. Six Indian passengers and 125 Indian crew members, however, were not among those who left the ship on the first day of the phased disembarkation. “While I have been tested for the novel coronavirus, the results have not come in. If I test negative, I can leave. I am hoping that will be tomorrow, or maybe the day after,” said a Japanese passenger, who wanted to be identified as ‘Daxa’. The remaining 2,000-odd passengers are expected to be released by February 21. “The disembark process will be undertaken over several consecutive days, since they will be tested, and the testing and results require two to three days to complete. A certificate that indicates a negative Covid-19 test result will be granted by Japanese health authorities to exit the ship,” a statement issued by Princess Cruises, which runs Diamond Princess, said. Meanwhile, one more Indian crew member has tested positive for the virus, taking the number of Indians infected to seven. They are undergoing treatment in local hospitals. “Another Indian crew member had tested positive earlier but was found to not have the infection after subsequent tests,” first secretary (political) at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo Suman Kansotiya told TOI.



Those who are recovering in hospitals will be provided travel assistance by the cruise line. But for the 1,000-odd crew members, many of whom helped the Japan Disaster Medical Assistance Team and the 150 Japan Self-Defence Forces (the military) personnel escort passengers out of the ship on Wednesday, quarantine has not even begun. “I was isolated after I tested positive. Other crew members will have to start over when all passengers leave,” said Sonali Thakkar, a security officer from Mumbai. Once the second quarantine is over and everyone has left the ship, it will be “taken to a special service dock, where it will receive a rigorous Level 3 cleaning, Princess Cruises stated. But even as passengers started leaving, concerns grew globally about efficacy of quarantine on the ship. On Tuesday, a video posted by eminent infectious diseases specialist, Dr Kentaro Iwata, about the lack of safety protocols went viral. “There was not a single professional infection control person inside the ship. There was nobody in charge of infection prevention as a professional. The bureaucrats were in charge of everything … A medical officer had stopped using protective equipment because she was sure she was infected,” Dr Iwata said in the video. Princess Cruises did not respond to questions about Iwata’s statement.