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News Flash – 19 February 2020

National News



Blaze at ‘High-Risk’ Dombivli MIDC Unit


Kalyan: A major fire broke out at a chemical unit in Dombivli MIDC on Tuesday afternoon, the latest among several such emergencies over the years requiring evacuation of people from the high-density residential areas situated dangerously close to the industrial area. There were no reports of injuries. The affected unit, Metropolitan Eximchem Pvt Ltd in MIDC Phase 2, was on the list of five “very dangerous” manufacturers that locals want shifted elsewhere. Over 100 explosions took place and the sound could be heard up to 2 km away, reminding people of the Probace factory blast of 2016 that killed a dozen people and damaged over 2,000 homes in a 2-km radius. “The detailed report sought by CM Uddhav Thackeray on companies violating norms is likely to be submitted on February 21 and I have instructed officials to add details about the company which has caught fire today,” Thane district collector Rajesh Narvekar said. The Metropolitan Eximchem fire was still raging at the time of going to press. In recent years, there have been a series of fires and blasts in MIDC areas in the region, raising concerns about ageing infrastructure and outdated safety practices.



The staff at Metropolitan Eximchem said over 500 people were at work there when the fire began in the storage unit at 12.30 pm. The unit occupying around 4,000 square metres produces over 100 products, among them intermediates for dyes, pigments, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Neighbouring companies and a school were given a holiday. The police vacated residential buildings within 500 metres. Some staff members activated a siren to alert others, saving several lives. “We tried to control the fire but when a drum with a chemical started exploding, the fire spread and we went outside, alerting other staff using the siren bell,” a worker said. Senior staff said the first fire brigade vehicle arrived in 15 minutes but the next one took 45 minutes, during which time the fire had spread to the entire unit. Kalyan-Dombivli chief fire officer Dilip Gund said fire teams were also called from Ambernath, Thane and Mumbai. “We used 12 fire brigade vehicles and many water tankers, and 10,000 litres of foam,” he said. Besides the collector, additional commissioner of police Dattatreya Karale and MPCB, MIDC and municipal officers visited the spot.



GPS to Rescue, ATM Robbers Locked Out of Stolen SUV



New Delhi: This is one burglary in which the key to success was locked, quite literally. Buoyed by their success in stealing an ATM in south Delhi on Friday, a gang dared to strike again on Sunday night. They stole an SUV from Naraina, uprooted an ATM of a government bank, put it in the vehicle and sped away. It took the robbers barely 7-10 minutes to steal the car and uproot the ATM, which had Rs 20 lakh in it. What they didn’t realise that the vehicle was fitted with a GPS device. When the owner was informed that his SUV had been stolen, he remotely switched off the engine. The puzzled thieves tried every trick in the book to switch on the ignition, but failed. They then abandoned the vehicle in RK Puram and fled. Harmender Singh (61), a transporter who lives in Rajouri Garden, was informed by his security guard that his white Bolero had been stolen from outside his office in Naraina. He told TOI, “I got the call around 2.20am. My son and I switched on the GPS and the vehicle was seen going towards Mayapuri. We informed police and told them we were going to follow the SUV”.



The SUV was found going towards Delhi Cantonment from where it turned towards Dhaula Kuan. “When we started, we were 12 minutes away from my vehicle. By the time we crossed Moti Bagh, the time difference was just eight minutes. My employees then remotely switched off the SUV’s engine. We found it abandoned in Sector 13 RK Puram”. The father-son duo didn’t find anyone near the SUV. “We soon spotted something inside the boot. I called my driver to ask if he had kept anything there, but he replied in the negative. We then found the ATM along with ropes and spray paint. Soon, police reached and took over,” said Singh. In the meanwhile, police were informed that an ATM near a guesthouse in Naraina had been stolen. A guesthouse employee told police that when they stepped out after hearing noises, the robbers threatened to fire at them. “A case has been registered and teams have been formed to nab the accused,” said DCP (West) Deepak Purohit.



Fire Breaks Out in Bengaluru-Bound GoAir Engine during Takeoff



Bengaluru: Fire broke out on Bengaluru-bound GoAir flight G8-802 during takeoff from Ahmedabad due to a bird-hit on Tuesday. As many as 174 passengers, including three infants on board, had to be deplaned. The right engine of the aircraft caught fire, following which the plane was towed off the runway and the flames doused. The aircraft was inspected by GoAir’s engineering team. While the airline initially said the aircraft had suffered from what it called a foreign object damage, it later confirmed the engine fire was caused by a bird-hit. The flight was scheduled to leave Ahmedabad at 9.20am and reach Bengaluru at 11.25am. However, another flight took off at 1.26pm and landed after 3.40pm. The incident impacted movement of four in-bound flights and departure of six other flights at Ahmedabad. “There is total chaos at Ahmedabad airport, Go Air flight to Bangalore broke down and passengers are suffering for no reason, it’s strange to see that in India still passengers suffer for no reason! Ridiculous,” (sic) tweeted @gauravmbhargava, one of the passengers in the flight. “The right engine of GoAir flight G8-802 from Ahmedabad to Bengaluru is suspected to have suffered from a foreign object damage (FOD) while on take-off roll. The suspected FOD resulted in a small fire which has been doused. All passengers and crew are safe and no emergency evacuation was deemed necessary,” a GoAir spokesperson said soon after the incident.



International News



China Sees Fall in Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Urges Caution

Visitors walk along Singapore’s Marina Bay. Singapore unveiled $4.6 billion in financial packages on Tuesday to deal with the impact of the outbreak, which has battered the city-state’s economy.



Beijing\Shanghai: China reported its fewest new coronavirus infections since January on Tuesday and its lowest daily death toll for a week, but the World Health Organization said data suggesting the epidemic had slowed should still be viewed with caution. Illustrating the economic impact of the outbreak, European shares dropped on Tuesday after Apple Inc. issued a revenue warning due to the disruption the disease is causing to global supply chains. Nikkei Asian Review reported on Tuesday that Apple Inc. will likely miss its schedule for mass producing a more affordable iPhone that it had planned to release this spring. Mass production of the model was expected to start by the end of February, but it could now be delayed until sometime in March, the Nikkei reported. Chinese officials reported 1,886 new cases — the first time the daily figure has fallen below 2,000 since January 30 bringing the mainland China total to 72,436. A figure of 98 new deaths marked the first time the daily toll in China had fallen below 100 since February 11, bringing the total to 1,868. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Chinese data “appears to show a decline in new cases” but any apparent trend “must be interpreted very cautiously”. Outside China, there have been 827 cases of the disease, known as COVID-19, and five deaths, according to a Reuters count. More than half of those cases have been on a cruise ship quarantined off Japan.



Tedros said there had been 92 cases of human-to-human transmission in 12 countries outside China but the WHO did not have the data to make meaningful comparisons to what was going on in China. China says figures indicating a slowdown in new cases in recent days show that aggressive steps it has taken to curb travel and commerce are slowing the spread of the disease beyond central Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan. Despite global concerns about the economic impact of the disease, China’s ambassador to the EU said on Tuesday this would be “limited, short term and manageable”. Chinese state television quoted President Xi Jinping as saying China could still meet its economic growth target for 2020 despite the epidemic. Economists are warning of potential mass layoffs in China later this year if the virus is not contained soon. “The employment situation is OK in the first quarter, but if the virus is not contained by End-March, then from the second quarter, we’ll see a big round of layoffs,” said Dan Wang, an analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Job losses could run as high as 4.5 million, he forecast. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the economy there was in an emergency situation and required stimulus as the epidemic had disrupted demand for South Korean goods. Singapore announced a $4.5 billion financial package to help contain the outbreak in the city-state and weather its economic impact. Singapore Airlines Ltd said it would temporarily cut flights in the three months to May, as the epidemic hits demand for services. In Japan, epidemic has created fears of recession.



Thieves Steal 6,000 Surgical Masks in Japan



Japan: Thieves in Japan have made off with some 6,000 surgical masks from a hospital, with the country facing a mass shortage and a huge price hike online due to the coronavirus. Four boxes containing the face masks disappeared from a locked storage facility at the Japanese Red Cross hospital in Kobe city, an official said on Tuesday. “We still have a large number of masks enough to continue our daily operations at the hospital, but this is so deplorable,” the official said. Police have launched an investigation as they suspect the thieves intend to resell the masks. Masks have sold out at many stores as the number of infections have increased in Japan.



Mysterious Toxic Gas Kills 14 in Karachi



Islamabad: Pakistan has so far not succeeded in identifying the source of a toxic gas leak that killed 14 people and affected more than 500 others in the last three days in the coastal residential area of Karachi. Authorities said they became aware of the incident after people in Karachi’s Kiamari neighbourhood, close to the main port, suddenly started rushing to hospitals with severe breathing problems on Sunday night. Iftikhar Shallwani, Karachi’s commissioner, said at a news conference on Tuesday that while multiple theories were being considered, the source of the mysterious gas leak and its nature remains unclear. He said chemical and nuclear experts from the armed forces are also part of the ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, fear and panic has gripped the area with residents wearing face masks, while many families are moving away from the place.

News Flash – 8 October 2018

National News



5 Hour Traffic Jam on Sion-Panvel highway as Crane, FOB crash during overhaul

The crane and a portion of the FOB were blocking the highway for over three hours before another crane was brought to remove them; as vehicles crawled till around 8.30 pm, some motorists used the time to take snaps of the incident; a photo sent by TOI Citizen Reporter Isaac Gudkar.



Mumbai: Thousands of motorists heading towards the city by the Sion-Panvel highway on Sunday evening were stranded for hours after a portion of a foot over-bridge that was being dismantled for repairs toppled along with a crane at the Mankhurd-end of the Vashi creek bridge around 3.15 pm. The Mumbai-bound carriageway had a nearly 4-km-long traffic jam after the incident, and vehicles were crawling on either side of the Vashi creek bridge till post-midnight. Chembur businessman Rajesh Joshi returning home from Vashi by car said he was stuck on the Vashi bridge for nearly three hours. “It was frustrating… what would have happened if an ambulance was stuck in the traffic jam,” he said. Vighnesh Pujari, a resident of Vashi, said his ailing mother missed her appointment with doctors at a Chembur hospital as they were stuck in the jam. “Now my wife will have to take her to the Doctors tomorrow,” said Pujari. Others complained about friends’ missing their flights after being caught in the jam. Though police claimed that traffic was back to normal after 6.30 pm, there were snarls on the stretch till around 8.30 pm. Toll plaza officials said they were instructed by police to not stop vehicles to collect toll to avert congestion; vehicles were also diverted to other routes. Narrating the incident, a PWD engineer at the spot said they had to bring the FOB portion down and take it for repairs. However, the crane-hook lost balance and toppled over along with the FOB viaduct causing it to fall.


The crane operator jumped out when it started tilting; workers at the spot escaped injuries. Since the area had already been cordoned off for traffic, there was no damage to vehicles either. “Our recent survey suggested that the FOB portion had weakened. The portion on the other side of the road had already been removed after it was hit by a truck last year. After two weeks of repairs, they were to be installed back. Now we will have to engage more cranes to put them back,” said the PWD engineer claiming that the same crane was used to shift the other FOB portion last year. Vashi traffic unit senior inspector Satish Gaikwad said the PWD authorities had not taken prior permission of traffic police for the work. “The PWD team brought two hydra cranes at 12.30pm and told the Vashi traffic unit to manage traffic movement. We would have asked them to deploy four cranes and use gas cutters to remove the FOB. As the PWD didn’t take necessary measures, the mishap occurred. Also, we would not have given them permission to carry out work during the day. Only because of the negligence and improper planning by PWD, there was traffic congestion for more than five hours.” However, PWD officials said they had informed the traffic police about their operation in advance. Shahji Umap, zonal DCP, said no police case has been registered. “Some portion of the FOB had collapsed earlier and the police were also trying to remove it with the authorities,” said Umap.



Deadly heatwaves could hit India: Climate change report


Nagpur: India could face an annual threat of deadly heatwaves, like the one in 2015 that killed at least 2,500 people, if the world gets warmer by 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, says the much anticipated world’s biggest review report on climate change to be released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Monday. TOI had a sneak preview of the report. Its implications will be discussed at the Katowice climate change conference in Poland this December, where governments will review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. Being one of the largest carbon-emitting nations, India is expected to be a key player at the event. The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C warns that average global temperatures could breach the 1.5-degree level as early as 2030.



Flyers stuck at airports for hours as IndiGo system fails



New Delhi: There were long queues at check-in counters across Indian airports on Sunday afternoon as the system of IndiGo – which accounts for 41% of domestic air traffic — went on the blink for over 90 minutes. The problem was across all airports on IndiGo network. The system glitch started at 12.35pm that crippled the airline’s check-in process –issuing boarding passes and check-in baggage tags. This led to formation of long queues across airports. As angry passengers took to social media to register their complaints with the Active-On-Twitter aviation minister Suresh Prabhu and his deputy Jayant Sinha, the airline tweeted: “Our systems were down at all the airports for a while. We are expecting the counters to be crowded more than usual. Seek your patience and cooperation”. Hundreds of passengers were stranded at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru as well. Passengers started piling up at the check-in counters around 12 noon. Many of them were anxious that they would miss their flights.


Baffled by long queues that were not moving, IndiGo passengers took to Twitter. “IndiGo Airlines server is down at Bangalore airport. #Chaos inside the terminal,” tweeted Abhitav Ranjan. While the issue resolved after 2pm, there was such a backlog of stranded passengers that delays continued till evening. IndiGo said in a statement: “We regret the inconvenience caused to our passengers on Sunday afternoon due to system being down across airports for around ninety minutes. Our flights and check-in systems are operating normally now.” The failure of IndiGo’s check-in system had significant impact as the airline has over 1,000 daily flights and handles almost 50 lakh domestic passengers in a month. Security agencies, as of now, do not suspect any foul play or cyber-attack in Sunday’s system crash. “IndiGo has told us it was a technical glitch,” said a senior security official.



Cracker unit explosion kills 19-yr-old worker, injures 10


Kolkata: A powerful blast on Sunday afternoon in a cracker manufacturing unit in Sonarpur killed a 19-year-old worker and injured 10, two of them grievously. The blast site in Sonarpur’s Gobindopur, around 28km from Kolkata, had witnessed a similar explosion in 2016. Police have detained the factory owner; his son is on the run. The critically injured have been shifted to Calcutta National Medical College Hospital (CNMC). Infuriated locals vent their anger at police as they were escorting out the factory owner, Tarun Banerjee. Alleging that the administration was hand in glove with the father-son duo who ran the “illegal” cracker unit, they refused to let the cops leave until they were chased away. The site is in a crowded locality. At 12.45pm, three separate explosions — heard from half a kilometre away — rocked the factory. The force tore out the overhead tin shed and flung it several metres in the air, mauled the iron beams which held the shed and trigged a wall collapse. Those inside were all injured, while some who flung themselves to a nearby pond managed to dodge the blaze. Police later rescued 11 persons from the site and took them to hospital. Debasis Sardar, 19, died after being taken to CNMC. Two others admitted there are critical.


“This is not the first time something like this happened. The first time was in 2016. Father and son had been questioned then. A few months back, they re-started their illegal factory,” said an officer. Police said probe into the 2016 blast had revealed that the factory had a valid license to operate. “We are checking whether they had the same now,” an officer said. Local Trinanmool MLA Jibon Mukhopadhyay echoed the local anger, claiming the unit was illegal. “These illegal units operate without valid trade licences. Moreover, they employ unskilled youths. This causes the accidents. In 2016, they were illegally manufacturing crackers and fireworks here. Police had acted against them. I thought they had stopped work; today I realised they didn’t,” he said. Baruipur police superintendent Avijit Sinha said: “We have detained Banerjee”. Pratima Naskar, who stays a stone’s throw from the factory, said: “My house trembled in the shock wave. The window pane was shattered and I saw the tin shed in the air”.



Data on criminals a touch away for cops


Chennai: Policemen across Tamil Nadu can now identify culprits a little faster as 36 stations have been linked to the data base of the crime records bureau that has more than five lakh fingerprints. This will help crack down on not just criminals involved in heinous crimes, but also those behind cyber and white-collar crime who often change their names and profiles and shift their area of operation, according to top police officers. Tata Consultancy Services installed the fingerprint reading devices at all the district headquarters and police commissionerates, linking them to the state crime records bureau’s (SCRB) data base in Chennai. The system that cost Rs.1.70 crore has been functioning since Thursday. SCRB director and additional director-general of police Seema Agarwal said, “Very soon, we are planning to extend the system to all field-level officers to check the identity of any suspect instantly by feeding in fingerprints”.


For now, fingerprints lifted from a crime scene or taken from suspects are taken to the district headquarters and fed into the ‘Fingerprint Analysis and Criminal Tracing System (FACTS) version-7 installed there. Once the data is entered in the system, the details can be viewed by officials across the state. A police officer said they were in talks with software experts to make the gadgets more user-friendly and faster. Police officers say quick access to the fingerprints data base is crucial for crime detection. A case in point was the arrest in May of Sekar alias ‘Powder’ Sekar, who had done an MSc in Psychology and ran a rehabilitation centre in Thiruverkadu. Three Naxals, Dasarathan, 38, his wife Shenbagavalli, 36, and brother Jagaveerapandian, 34, who had been living in disguise as farmers on the outskirts of Chennai for 17 years, were also identified using their fingerprints in February. Also in February, police identified and arrested Ramkumar, who was involved in nine cases including three murders, and had evaded them for five years by shifting base to south Tamil Nadu.



International News



5,000 feared missing in Indonesia as Quake-Tsunami toll rises to 1700



Jakarta: As many as 5,000 people are believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Palu city, an official said on Sunday, an indication that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll suggests. Indonesia’s disaster agency say they have recovered 1,763 bodies so far from the 7.5-magnitude and subsequent tsunami that struck Sulawesi on September 28. But there are fears that two of the hardest-hit neighbourhoods in Palu — Petobo and Balaroa — could contain thousands more victims. “Based on reports from the (village) heads of Balaroa and Petobo, there are about 5,000 people who have not been found,” agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said on Sunday. “Nevertheless, officials there are still trying to confirm this and are gathering data. It is not easy to obtain the exact number of those trapped…” He said the search for the unaccounted would continue until Thursday, at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead. The figure increases the estimates for missing people since the disaster struck 10 days ago. Officials had initially predicted that some 1,000 people were buried beneath the ruins of Palu.



Limo crash at NY tourist spot kills 20 people



Schoharie (US): A crash involving a limousine at a popular New York state tourist spot killed 20 people, officials said on Sunday. Officials told the Times Union of Albany that a limo speeding down a hill hit bystanders on Saturday at a general store in Schoharie County near Albany, about 270km north of New York City. State police confirmed on Sunday that the toll was 20 and said the crash involved two vehicles. The store is a popular stop for tourists on fall foliage trips. Authorities on Sunday didn’t release names of victims or other specifics.



Taliban strike highway bridges near Kabul



Kabul: The Taliban destroyed highway bridges southwest of Kabul during a wide-ranging assault on security forces, cutting off road traffic between the capital and three provinces on Sunday, officials said. Interior ministry deputy spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said 14 police were killed as the insurgents tried but failed to capture the Sayed Abad district headquarters in Maidan Wardak province. Hekmat Durani, the provincial police chief’s spokesman, said around 20 Taliban fighters were killed and wounded during the battle. The highway between Kabul and Kandahar has since been reopened.