News Flash – 1 March 2018

National News



With 143, Ballari Road recorded highest no. of accidents in 2017


BENGALURU: Ballari Road is the most accident-prone thoroughfare in the city. Statistics back this. Bengaluru traffic police records show the busy road witnessed the maximum number of accidents (143) last year. It is followed by Old Madras Road in KR Puram traffic police limits which recorded 78 accidents, Tumakuru Road (75) in Peenya, ITPL Main Road (70) in Whitefield, Mahadevapura Ring Road (45) in K R Puram, Hosur Road (36) in Electronics City, Outer Ring Road (32) in HAL and Kanakapura Road (23) in Kumaraswamy Layout. Based on the data, traffic police have identified the most accident-prone roads. While Ballari Road tops the charts since it comes under three traffic police station limits — Hebbal, Yelahanka and Devanahalli — Old Madras Road is also another vulnerable stretch. Experts say the absence of pedestrian facilities, nonfunctional traffic signals, rash driving and shortage of traffic personnel are the primary reasons for accidents on these stretches. They feel plugging the gaps will reduce the number considerably. Additional commissioner of police (traffic) R Hithendra said most of these vulnerable roads are designed to be signal free corridors. “So most of them don’t have pedestrian crossing facilities or pelican signals.


The maximum number of victims of these accidents are pedestrians and two-wheeler riders. In some areas, lack of proper lighting leads to accidents,” he explained, adding they are taking up the issues with stakeholders, including NHAI and BBMP, to make the stretches safe for both walkers and motorists. Another reason for frequent accidents on Ballari Road is the regular movement of traffic to and from the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). Also, due to lack of traffic cops, interceptors and CCTV cameras, monitoring of over speeding vehicles is inadequate. “Traffic police are mainly focusing on enforcement in city limits. Rash and drunk driving are rampant are on these stretches, particularly at night when there are fewer vehicles. Many youngsters are also involved in drag racing on these thoroughfares at night since traffic is less,” said a traffic expert. Traffic police records show the number of accidents in the city has reduced from 7,506 in 2016 to 5,064 in 2017. This has been attributed to reduction in vehicle speed in central business district (CBD) areas during peak hours and the increase in enforcement drives against traffic offenders.



Highrise blaze: Rooftop rescue with skylifts


HYDERABAD: With smoke filling their flats, panic-stricken residents of Pioneer Chambers (opposite Apollo Hospital) at Hyderguda rushed out of their dwellings to save their lives after a fire engulfed their building in the early hours of Wednesday. Some ran to the terrace, while others rushed on to the road in front of the building. However, there was no loss of life in the blaze, which was doused by fire fighters after a three-an-half-hour exercise. Around 30 people were rescued from the terrace using a skylift and more than 20 people struggled their way out through the stair case. “We suspect a short circuit in one of the shops on the ground floor may have triggered the fire in the building (G+5), which soon spread to the second floor. There was no loss of life. We are assessing the property damaged,” district fire officer (Hyderabad) M Srinivas Reddy said. “We received an alert around 3am and reached the spot within 15 minutes. Firefighters started their operations around 3:30am and we extinguished it by 7am,” he added.


In the five-storied building, business establishments and shops occupy the first two floors, while families stay on the remaining floors. When TOI visited the place on Wednesday morning, it was found that the building, where 10 families reside, had no fire safety measures in place. “Around 2:00am, my wife sensed something burning, but we did not take it seriously. When the smell increased, I opened the window. And, within a few minutes, the house was filled with smoke. I could barely see my family members,” said Chaitanya Kumar, who rushed to the terrace from his third floor flat. When people started calling firemen, they were told to cover their face with a wet cloth and reach the terrace. After the accident, most occupants locked their homes and made alternate arrangements as electricity and water supply were yet to be restored. “The firefighters have asked us not to switch on the gas. I hope things will back to normal soon,” T Laxmi, another resident, said.



Fire panic shrouds housing complex


KOLKATA: A fire broke out in the basement of a big retail store at Ganguly Bagan in Baghajatin on Wednesday afternoon, sending all the occupants of the premises, which include a sprawling housing complex, scurrying out onto the parking lot in sheer panic. All the 40 customers and 100 employees at the store, spread over three levels, rushed out before anyone was injured. Iris Multi-Speciality Hospital, which is located next door, was unaffected. Avail of thick smoke shrouded the Big Bazar outlet at Orbit City, much after the fire was doused 45 minutes later. With some of the apartments located just above the source of the fire, the security guards at the compound did not leave anything to chance; they made announcements, alerting all the residents about the blaze, and then escorted everyone from the 136 flats to safety. Scared that smoke might engulf the homes, they even carried a bed-ridden resident—her home is just above the store-—down to the open. As children returned from schools, they waited outside, coughing in the smoke. Anxious mothers tied handkerchiefs on the kids’ faces, hoping that would protect them from choking. A senior fire department officer said a spark was first spotted at a little after 1pm and they received a call at 1.15pm. Four engines were sent to the spot that doused the flames a little under an hour.


Kajari Chakraborti, a resident, said she heard an explosive noise. “When I peeped out of my window, the acrid smell of smoke hit me hard. The façade of the entire complex where the store is located had disappeared behind a curtain of smoke. Presently, our security guards started making announcements and requested everybody to go down to the open,” the homemaker said. Sukala Ghosh lived on the fifth floor of the wing, where the store was located. “I almost fell while running down the stairs. There was an unbearable stench of something burning and we were told by the guards to evacuate as soon as possible,” she said. The fire department officer pointed out that the basement, where the fire broke out, was crammed with inflammable objects, such as cartons, clothes, thermocol and ply boards. He said a short circuit probably started the blaze though a forensic examination report would reveal the exact reason. “Since the basement was packed with inflammable objects, thick, black smoke spread to the other levels of the outlet fast. Our men had to break the glass panes to let the smoke out,” he said, adding the store’s internal fire-fighting system did not work at the time. “We will check whether the system failed or that the store had not installed it at all”.



International News



Snow-covered Britain, Ireland gripped by ‘Beast from the East’


LONDON/DUBLIN: Much of Britain and Ireland was blanketed in snow on Wednesday as freezing Siberian weather dubbed “the Beast from the East“, disrupted the travel plans of thousands. Hundreds of schools were closed and there were delays on roads, railways and at airports on one of the coldest days Britain has experienced at this time of the year for almost three decades. Temperatures fell to minus 12 Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) in some rural areas while Britain’s weather service warned of up to 40 cm of snow in higher areas of Scotland. Ireland could see its worst snow since 1982. “It is the coldest air we have seen over the UK at this time of the year since around 1991,” Becky Mitchell, a meteorologist at Britain’s Met Office, said by telephone. “It is all tied in with the Beast from the East”. The cold spell has been caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic, known by meteorologists as sudden stratospheric warming, which has weakened the jet stream that brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain. “The Jet Stream weakens and so we tend to get a strong easterly flow of air and that air is really originating right from over in Siberia – so very dry, cold continental air,” Mitchell said. The unusual weather could continue as Storm Emma, packing more snow and ice, approaches western England from Portugal and France. Across London, there were severe delays on public transport.


Ireland’s weather service issued a status red warning – the highest level of alert – for five countries in the east, including the capital Dublin after heavy overnight snowfall led to accumulations of 5 to 10 cm. Total snowfall may reach 25 cm by Thursday, it added, prompting the closure of many schools and universities. Business advised workers to stay at home with some roads inaccessible and public transport operating a limited service. Runway operations at Dublin airport were suspended early on Wednesday with a number of flights cancelled and others diverted before the snow was cleared shortly after 0730 GMT to allow services to resume. Photographs on social media showed bare supermarket shelves on Tuesday as people prepared for the cold snap that the weather service had warned could bring the heaviest snowfall since 1982. The chief executive of Irish insurer FBD said on Tuesday she expected the snowfall would be an event for the industry, leading to frozen pipes and possible accidents, though not as severe as Tropical Storm Ophelia which battered Ireland in October.



Aid convoy blocked in Syria despite UN ceasefire order: Official

Syrian civil defence volunteers use buckets to clear out rubble as they dig and search for survivors from beneath a collapsed building following reported regime bombardment in Haza, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on February 26, 2018, beneath which was an underground basement used as a make-shift bomb shelter.



UNITED NATIONS: About 40 trucks are loaded and ready to ferry relief supplies to Syria‘s bomb-and-siege shattered Eastern Ghouta, but there has been no letup in fighting despite a UN ceasefire resolution, a top UN official said Wednesday. Mark Lowcock, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said there has been no change in the situation around the rebel-held enclave in the Damascus suburbs despite a ceasefire resolution Saturday. “When will your resolution be implemented?” he asked, staring fixedly at members of the UN Security Council, who listened in complete silence. Lowcock said trucks loaded with supplies have been poised to go to 10 besieged areas including Douma, the main town in the enclave, since Saturday. But he said there has been no access for humanitarian convoys, nor authorization by the regime to go into the besieged areas, nor medical evacuations since the Security Council resolution was passed, he said. On the contrary, the bombings have continued, and deaths and wounded have mounted, he said, speaking at a monthly Security Council meeting devoted to the Syrian conflict.


The US representative Kelley Currie accused the Syrian regime of violating the ceasefire, while Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the rebels. Carl Skau, the deputy Swedish ambassador to the United Nations, demanded “immediate access” for the humanitarian aid. “There is no time to lose,” he said. Before the meeting began, French ambassador Francois Delattre recalled that the rebels in Ghouta had said Tuesday they were ready to observe a ceasefire, but the Syrian regime has given no sign it is ready to do the same. “It is the collective credibility of the Security Council and the responsibility of each of its members that today is heavily at stake in the Syrian drama,” he said. Jeffrey Feltman, UN under secretary-general for political affairs, expressed frustration over the council’s inaction. “What we need is implementation of (resolution) 2401 and that is not happening,” he said. After a night of intense fighting on the periphery of Eastern Ghouta, Syrian aviation early Wednesday bombed several localities in the rebel enclave, where an estimated 600 civilians have died since February 18, about a quarter of them children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights



Nine killed in Saudi-led air strike attacks in Yemen, residents say



DUBAI: Air strikes killed nine civilians and wounded at least 6 on Wednesday in two separate attacks in north and west Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi movement, residents told Reuters. The Saudi-led coalition, which has intervened in Yemen’s war since 2015 to try to restore president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power, has conducted frequent air strikes and has often hit civilians, although denies ever doing so intentionally. The Houthis, a movement derived from northern Yemen’s Zaidi Shi’ite Muslim community, have controlled much of Yemen including the capital Sanaa since driving Hadi out three years ago. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Muslim allies say the Houthis are aligned with Shi’ite Iran and pose a threat to the region. Residents said four civilians had been killed in an airstrike in the suburbs of the northern city of Saada, the main Houthi stronghold. Five girls were killed in another airstrike that targeted a field in the west of the country, in the western Hodeidah district. On Tuesday, airstrikes killed five civilians in north of the country. The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country – already the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula – to the verge of widespread famine.

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