News Flash – 10 January 2018

National News



To steal Rs 1 crore, they drilled hole in bank wall

Three of the gang members were held on Tuesday.



NEW DELHI: Police on Tuesday claimed to have solved one of the most sensational bank heists in the capital in recent times with the arrest of three men. Among those arrested were a security guard employed at a farmhouse in Narela. The police got on his trail after a part of the looted money was deposited into his wife’s account. A search is still on for at least 12 other members of the gang. Police suspect that they may have fled to Bangladesh. On December 18-19, a group of men had drilled a hole through the wall of a bank in outer Delhi’s Mundka and made off with cash and jewellery worth more than a crore by cutting open a safe and at least 15 lockers. The criminals had drilled their way into the bank through the boundary wall of a vacant plot next to it. They pulled out the CCTVs and the digital video recorder. Using electronic cutters powered by at least eight gas cylinders, the men made precision holes to open the safe, which had Rs 27 lakh in cash, and the lockers in the state cooperative bank, barely 100 yards from the Mundka Metro station. The entire operation lasted at least 10 hours. Investigations revealed that equipment used by the gang to break into the bank was purchased from a shop in Moti Nagar. A part of the stolen gold was melted and sold off in north Delhi. Police said the crooks were inspired by a movie they had recently watched. DCP (outer) M N Tiwari said two of the gang members who were arrested were identified as Raj Kumar Joshi and Vikas Thapa. The third person to be taken into custody was Ramesh, a jeweller, who bought gold worth Rs 60,000 from the crooks and turned them into biscuits.


“A team led by inspector (special staff) Sukhbir Malik was formed to track down the criminals based on some vital clues, including the cylinder that they had left behind. We are still trying to track down other members of the gang,” DCP Tiwari said. Police found that the cylinder that they had fitted with the gas cutter had the markings of a filling station. After tracking down the suppliers, they visited more than 300 shops before zeroing in on the Moti Bagh outlet in south Delhi. Joshi and Thapa were identified from the CCTV footage at the shop. The men were tracked down after Joshi deposited Rs 60,000 into his wife’s account in a bank in Narela. The duo told the police that they carried out the heist after conducting a three-day recce of the area. They chose the particular branch because they found that there were no security guards over the weekend. Also, the empty plot didn’t have any CCTV cover. Police said that, on the first day, it took the thieves nearly three hours to break through the wall that led to the vault. Shockingly, no one from the bank got a whiff of the break-in for nearly two days. Police said that some bank employees were also being questioned. So far, gold worth Rs 4.86 lakh has been recovered. Joshi told police that he was working as guard at Sanjay Colony in Narela during the night and operated an e-rickshaw by the day. Thapa worked at a mobile phone-repair shop.



Jet Airways female crew member arrested with Rs 3.2 crore in US dollars at Delhi airport



NEW DELHI: A female flight attendant of Jet Airways has been arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) for allegedly trying to smuggle out USD 4,80,200 out of the country, according to an official statement. The accused was intercepted by DRI officials when she was on a flight to Hong Kong on Monday, it said. The DRI officials found USD 4,80,200 (approximately Rs 3.21 crore) wrapped in foil in her possession, the statement said. On investigation, it was found that she was working with an agent, named Amit Malhotra, a resident of Vivek Vihar area here, a senior DRI official said. He said that Amit Malhotra was following a modus operandi of using crew members for smuggling of forex. “Malhotra would collect money from some bullion dealers in Delhi and send it via some air hostess to select foreign destinations. The money was being used for purchasing gold abroad. The gold would then be sent to India illegally,” the official said. Malhotra had befriended the Jet Airways crew six months ago during a flight to India, he said. The DRI suspected the role of some other crew members of Jet Airways in smuggling out forex, the official said. “Malhotra has been illegally smuggling forex for the past over one year. There are some other crew members involved in the case. We are also trying to find out the details of bullion dealers involved in this syndicate,” he said. Both Malhotra and the Jet Airways crew member have been arrested, the official said.



Cybersecurity threat on the rise, even non-IT companies not spared



HYDERABAD: With India being ranked fourth globally among the countries most affected by ransomware, cybersecurity continues to be one of the most pressing challenges faced by companies today, shows a report published by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). According to experts, even non-IT companies in the city today are falling prey to ransomware and Petya malware attacks. As per the NASSCOM report, organizations are becoming more vulnerable to fraud and privacy breaches. Year 2017, proved to be difficult even for city-based companies, said experts. “While ransomware attacks used to happen sporadically earlier, in the year 2017, there were a spate of ransomware attacks across the country and in Hyderabad as well. We also noticed that in 2017, even non-IT companies and companies working in the pharma space in Hyderabad fell prey to Wannacry and Petya cyber-attacks. Today, the question is not only whether an attack would occur, but when will it occur and how prepared organizations are to deal with it. The extent of cyber threats is expected to increase manifold in 2018,” said Bharani Arrol, secretary of Society for Cyberabad Security Council (SCSC). According to cybersecurity experts, in 2018, hackers are likely to use advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to conduct massive attacks. “The ways in which cybersecurity threats are growing is a serious cause for concern, especially among startups. We were also hit by the large-scale MongoDB database hacks that hit the globe in September, 2017. Fortunately, we did not suffer any data breaches. However, the incident really woke us up and we immediately put in remedial measures to protect our data and encrypt our entire database,” said Naveen Kumar, founder of a city based startup working in the financial technology space.



Patients rush to safety as fire triggers panic at city hospital

Around 6pm on Tuesday, smoke started billowing out of the first-floor OPD, which was shut.



KOLKATA: A fire at the first-floor outpatients’ department of CMRI Hospital led to panic on Tuesday evening after dense smoke engulfed several floors. Patients, doctors and hospital staff rushed down the staircases, causing a stampede-like situation. A surgery was reportedly stalled and the patient shifted to the ICU. The hospital, though, denied it, claiming that the flames were doused in 10 minutes. No injury was reported. Around 6pm on Tuesday, smoke started billowing out of the first-floor OPD, which was shut. A battery at the UPS section of the ophthalmology department was found in flames around 6.10pm. The resultant smoke wafted up to the upper floors leading to a panic. At least two surgeries on the second floor had just concluded, but a third one was still on. The smoke had spread up to the ninth floor by then. The fire department received the fire call around 6.30pm. Doctors, patients and hospital staff scampered down the stairs as the elevators were shut. Some patients’ kin tried to force back into the wards to check on their relatives. Amid the confusion, hospital authorities brought some patients down to the ground floor. Two patients, who had rushed out of their beds in panic on seeing the smoke, went missing for about 30 minutes. They were later located on the ground floor. “I rushed back to the ward on the 9th floor where my daughter is admitted. The entire stairway was filled with smoke and the lifts were not working. After 20 minutes, the staff told us that the situation was under control. Some of the relatives went down to the first floor to verify if it was true. Once they verified we were reassured but we are scared till now,” said Madhushree Ghosh.


CMRI authorities claimed that the fire was a minor one and no patient had to be evacuated or surgery stalled. “There was a minor incident of short circuit in the OPD department. It was quickly brought under control and has not impacted patient service areas. Authorities have taken prompt and appropriate action. There was no need for any patient evacuation. Patients are being monitored and looked after well. Patient families are being kept updated continuously through personal counselling and public address system,” said a statement issued by the hospital. A hospital spokesperson added that all surgeries were conducted on schedule and at least two were held after the fire. “The surgeries were being held on the second floor, which was unaffected. No procedure had to be stalled or deferred. No patient was evacuated either,” the spokesperson said. The fire brigade reached the hospital around 6.35pm and swung into action. It broke window panes on the first, second and third floors to vent out the smoke. Firemen praised the hospital staff for their prompt action. “The hospital has adequate fire-fighting arrangements and did well to contain the flames. We broke the window panes to cool the building down and ensure that the smoke gets drained out. A battery had caught fire at the UPS on the first floor,” said Swagata Mallik, officer-in-charge (headquarters) of the fire services.



Thieves break into posh Ballygunge house in Kolkata; cash and jewellery worth lakhs stolen



KOLKATA: Thieves broke into the three storeyed house of a software engineer in Ballygunge place and decamped with cash and jewellery worth close to 3.5 lakhs. The theft was discovered on Tuesday morning after the family of five returned from a 4-day vacation at Puri. The family had left the house on Friday and came back on Tuesday to find two rooms at the ground floor ransacked, almirahs broken and cash and jewellery kept inside the vaults missing. Ghosh said apart from a gold medal and a ruby – emerald necklace, a pair of diamond earrings, a gold necklace, four pairs of gold bangles and Rs 26000 in cash was also missing from the house. Cops suspect the thieves broke open the wooden panels of the window at the ground floor and entered the house. Once in, they priced open two steel almirahs and ransacked the divan beds.


While the family was away, Ghosh’s elderly aunt was at her first floor room in the same house but apparently she knew nothing about the theft. “She is sick. One of her maids said she had heard some noises in the ground floor early on Sunday but had thought there were some cats playing in the house and didn’t pay much attention,” said Ghosh. Officers of Gariahat police station probing into the incident said a gang of professional burglars were possibly behind the heist and suspect that they had some insider information about the family not being at home for a period of time. “It looks like the thieves knew that the family was away and that an elderly person stayed in the first floor. That is why they ransacked the first floor but didn’t venture into the floors above. We are questioning the domestic helps and others who used to frequent the house,” said a senior officer of Gariahat police station.



CCTV cover for universities in West Bengal



KOLKATA: The state education department is going to install CCTV in all the universities and is mulling to install CCTVs in all the colleges but at present there is no plan to install close circuit cameras in schools. State education minister Partha Chattopadhaya said at Nabanna, “We will always want the schools to develop the infrastructure but there is no plan to make CCTVs mandatory in the schools. The school administration will decide on it. However, the state government will install CCTVs in the universities and the process of installation have already started”. When asked whether CCTVs will be installed in colleges, the minister, “We are thinking about it”. The decision to put up CCTVs in all university comes after a spate of incidents when authorities, senior teachers and even academics were heckled inside the campuses by the student union members. Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University Sonali Chakrabarti Bandopadhyay had to go on leave following a scuffle between two groups of students in which she got trapped. “This will be a futile exercise. Most of the varsity buildings and campuses are already under CCTV scanner. However, excess of installing CCTVs will be a deterrent to any such incidents happening inside the campus. It is more important to install CCTVs inside the college campuses where such violence is rampant. Also, a close monitoring could be done during college union election when outsiders enter the campuses to start violence,” said a college principal. The state minister also said that the date for the election in colleges will be decided after the higher secondary examination is over.



Death toll in bus strike touches five, losses mount to Rs 100 crore

Nearly 86 % of the 6,809 transport staff are on strike across TN, claims CITU.



Chennai: As the bus strike entered its sixth day on Tuesday, B Jayakumar, 52, of Thiruvottiyur, was fatally run over by an MTC bus near Broadway in the city, taking the toll during the strike period in the state to five. Driver of the bus M Ravi, 40, has been arrested. Several non-fatal accidents too were reported across the state, after temporary drivers were pressed into service. With the transport corporations losing 65% of their revenue each day, the total loss has crossed the Rs 100-crore mark, say sources. “Of the 6,809 staff, nearly 86 % or 5,918 drivers, conductors and other administrative staff were on strike,” said R Vasudevan, a CITU leader, adding that some of them joined the Tuesday stir with their family members. The state has issued notices to nearly 60,000 workers for abstaining from work on January 5 and 6 even after the Madras HC ordered them to return to work. At least 68 crew members have been suspended on charges of disembarking passengers halfway and indulging in violence. The transport department has employed nearly 15,000 temporary staff across its eight corporations. “At least 75.58% of the fleet has been in operation till 6pm on Tuesday,” a transport department official said. The ongoing strike by transport corporation workers across the state intensified on the sixth day as the family members of the participating employees joining. With no sign of the deadlock between the state government and trade unions ending, the workers threatened to further scale up the agitation, apparently angered over showcase notices to several of them.


Chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s appeal in the assembly, urging the workers to accept the government’s offer and withdraw the strike had little impact. Joined by their family members, including children, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation workers gathered outside divisional offices of TNSTC across the state and raised slogans. “It is because of the management’s fault that the transport corporation was suffering losses. Employees should not be penalized with low wages for that,” said Vanitha Chakkaravarthy from Othakkalmandapam who staged a protest with her husband Duraisamy, a TNSTC employee in Coimbatore. In Coimbatore, more than 550 employees protested in front of TNSTC divisional headquarters on Mettupalayam Road, while in Madurai about 500 employees, including 90 women, protested. In Trichy, a similar number of workers and their family members staged a protest. The Trichy police picked up 210 protesters and let them off later. Across the state, several striking employees were also suspended by TNSTC on charges of damaging government buses. In Madurai, 11 staff were suspended in the last four days, based on FIRs registered for damaging buses and preventing other workers from reporting for duty. The carrot and stick approach adopted by the government by seeking to offer a revised wage even as notices were served on a number of striking employees had angered the workers. The striking staff warned that they would further intensify their protest by holding demonstrations in front of labour department offices across the state on Wednesday, alleging that the officials were working against the interest of TNSTC employees.



International News



California mudslides kill at least 13 people in area ravaged by wildfire

Emergency personnel carry a woman rescued from a collapsed house after a mudslide in Montecito, California.



LOS ANGELES: Mudslides, boulders and cascading debris killed at least 13 people on Tuesday in an area of Southern California‘s Coast ravaged by a series of intense wildfires that burned off protective vegetation last month. Heavy downpours struck before dawn on Tuesday after thousands of residents in Santa Barbara County along the Pacific coast north of Los Angeles were ordered to evacuate or urged to do so voluntarily, some of them for a second time since December. But only 10 to 15 percent complied with mandatory orders, said Amber Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Emergency workers, using search dogs and helicopters, have rescued dozens of people stranded in mud-coated rubble in the pristine area, sandwiched between the ocean and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, about 110 miles north of Los Angeles. The upscale communities of Montecito and Carpenteria, just outside the city of Santa Barbara, were hardest hit. The mudslides toppled trees, demolished cars and covered blocks of quiet residential neighborhoods with a thick layer of mud, and blocked Highway 101, a major north-south route along the coast. “The best way I can describe it is, it looked like a World War One battlefield,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference. The death toll could rise, with rescue workers still picking through dozens of damaged and demolished homes in the search for survivors, Brown said. At one point on Tuesday, at least two dozen people were missing, but Brown did not know how many were still missing.


About 300 people were stranded in a canyon. Local officials, using borrowed helicopters from the U.S. Coast Guard, were working to airlift them out, Brown said. The number of fatalities surpassed the death toll from a California mudslide on Jan. 10, 2005, when 10 people were killed as a hillside gave way in the town of La Conchita, less than 20 miles (32 km) south of the latest disaster. The threat of mudslides had prompted the county to order 7,000 residents to leave their homes ahead of a powerful rainstorm and to urge 23,000 others to evacuate voluntarily. The mudslides swept through both the mandatory evacuation zones and areas where people were urged to voluntarily leave, Brown said. Brown, in response to questions of why some places were part of the mandatory evacuation zone, said it was not possible “in a situation like this to define to the house or to the block or to the neighborhood” where a mudslide might occur. The county set up an evacuation shelter at Santa Barbara City College, where some people showed up drenched in mud, and also provided a place for people to take their animals. Last month’s wildfires, the largest in California history, left the area vulnerable to mudslides. The fires burned away grass and shrubs that hold the soil in place and also baked a waxy layer into the earth that prevents water from sinking deeply into the ground. Some local residents had to flee their homes due to the fires last month and again this week because of the rains.


Among them was Colin Funk, 42, who sat up watching mud and debris approaching his Montecito house overnight and fled on Tuesday morning with his wife and three young children as thigh-high mud approached the front doorway. “We started looking around and that’s when we saw parts of roofs and there was a body against our next door neighbor’s car,” Funk, who works as a financial adviser, said by telephone. “I feel lucky,” Funk said. “Some people lost their lives in my neighborhood”. Television personality Ellen DeGeneres, who is among a coterie of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Rob Lowe who own homes in the upscale community of Montecito, posted a photo on Twitter of a roadway choked with mud and brown water. “This is not a river,” DeGeneres wrote on Twitter. “This is the 101 freeway in my neighborhood right now. Montecito needs your love and support”. Some areas of Santa Barbara County early on Tuesday were pounded with more than a half-inch of rain in five minutes, a rate that far exceeds the normal flash flood threshold, officials said. “Where are the frogs and locusts? We’re waiting for them,” Dominic Shiach, a restaurateur from Montecito who evacuated due to last month’s fire, said by telephone. He lives just outside the latest evacuation zone.



Powerful blast kills 7, injures 23 near Pakistan’s Balochistan Assembly



KARACHI: A bomb went off in the centre of the Pakistani city of Quetta, capital of the province of Balochistan, killing seven people and wounding 23 on Tuesday, police and hospital officials said. The blast targeted a police truck close to a high security area where the provincial assembly and other government offices are located. A suicide bomber was believed to have walked up to the truck and blown himself up, senior police officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema told Reuters. The bodies of five policemen and two civilians, as well as the wounded victims, were brought to the Civil Hospital, Dr Waseem Baig told Reuters, adding that death toll could climb as some of the injured were in serious condition.


The attack took place hours after the provincial chief minister, Sanaullah Zehri, resigned, although there was no indication that the blast was connected to provincial politics. Zehri quit after some members of his PML Nawaz party rebelled against him to back a no-confidence motion in the provincial assembly, where he no longer commanded majority support. Balochistan province is an important leg in the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor of energy and infrastructure projects that China hopes to build as part of its “belt and road” initiative. Last month two suicide bombers stormed a packed Christian church in southwestern Pakistan killing nine people and wounding up to 56, in the latest attack claimed by Islamic State in the country.



Snow traps 13,000 tourists at Swiss Alpine resort Zermatt

The Matterhorn mountain is pictured in Zermatt, Switzerland.



GENEVA: Heavy snowfall has trapped some 13,000 tourists at Zermatt, one of Switzerland’s most popular ski stations, the Alpine resort said on Tuesday. The snow has blocked all roads and the train leading to the resort in the southern Swiss canton of Valais, which was also hit by some power outages, head of the station Janine Imesch told AFP. There are currently “around 13,000 tourists at Zermatt,” she said, while the station website warned that “arrivals and departures are not possible at the moment”. The main access road has been closed since Monday, while the train was halted late last night, she said. Zermatt is home to some 5,500 inhabitants and has the capacity to accommodate 13,400 tourists spread across hotels and rental apartments. But the stranded tourists will not be able to take advantage of the abundant snow for the time being, due to the high risk of avalanches in the area. “It is not possible to do downhill or cross country, but that’s ok. It’s a bit romantic,” Imesch said, adding “there is no panic”. A reconnaissance flight is planned over the area to help determine the situation and how to proceed. A number of other Valais villages were also isolated by the heavy precipitation. The Simplon region of Valais was hit by two metres of snow in a 24-hour period, the ATS news agency reported.


Mud and rockslides, as well as flooding, have forced the closure of a number of roads across Valais, as has the risk of avalanches, which regional police have said is currently at the highest possible level. At lower altitudes, heavy rains have meanwhile forced the evacuation of around 20 people from the tiny village of Eyholz, and the hamlet of Mottec was also emptied as a precaution, the RTS broadcaster reported. Beyond Valais, the first men’s World Cup downhill training run in Wengen, in the canton of Bern, was cancelled Tuesday due to snow and high winds, organisers said. Overnight winds of up to 200 kilometres per hour also meant there was significant damage to infrastructure on the course, notably at the finish area where tents and the stands were hit. The piste itself was unaffected.



Magnitude 7.6 quake strikes off Central America, triggers tsunami warning



A massive earthquake of magnitude 7.6 struck north of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea on Tuesday, sparking a tsunami warning in the area, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. The US Geological Survey said the quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.8, was centered 125 miles (202 km) northeast of Barra Patuca in Honduras and 191 miles (307 km) southwest of George Town in the Cayman Islands. It was very shallow, only 6.2 miles (10 km), which would have amplified its effect.



Death toll from Nigeria communal violence reaches 80



LAGOS: Eighty people have been killed in Nigeria‘s central state of Benue since December 31 following clashes between cattle herders and farmers, said an emergency official today. “80 is the number we can say for now, the attacks have not stopped,” Benue State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) executive secretary Emmanuel Shior told AFP.

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