News Flash – 11 September 2017

National News



T2 conducts mock security drill, flight ops hit



MUMBAI: A bomb threat evacuation drill involving more than 300 securities, airline and airport personnel was carried out at the Mumbai international airport Terminal 2 (T2) on Sunday afternoon. As would have happened during a real emergency, many passengers waiting to board flights or disembark from aircraft were inconvenienced because of the security exercise. Jet Airways tweeted that departure delays of up to 50 minutes were expected till 8 pm due to the mock drill. An airport source said Air India flight AI -144 from Newark landed at1.12 pm. “By the time it parked, the drill had started and so as per the standard operating practice, the passengers were kept on board the aircraft till the completion of drill. They were allowed to disembark and enter the terminal building at 2.43 pm. Some passengers put up a protest and created some nuisance,” the source said. Other passengers were more cooperative. Saarthak Dutt, a passenger onboard a Jet Airways flight from Delhi, said they had to wait inside the aircraft for about 45 minutes after their flight landed at 2 pm. “The flight landed 15 minutes before schedule, but before we could disembark the Captain announced that we will need to stay put in the aircraft as a drill was on,” said Dutt.



“I had planned to meet some family members before heading out for the meetings, but couldn’t,” he added. Expectedly, social media platforms aired the “bomb threat” at the Mumbai airport with a few users tweeting that the airport has been shut down and others wondering if it was safe to travel. The hour-long drill began at 1.30 pm with the CISF security personnel, airline and airport staff unaware that a mock drill was underway. The Bomb detection and disposal team was called, sniffer dogs were brought in and passengers were evacuated to prepare the airport for a bomb threat. “The drill was carried out to find out how quickly can the airport terminal be evacuated in event of bomb threat,” CISF senior commandant SK Mohanka said adding that they chose Sunday afternoon for the drill as it’s generally lean hour. “There is a list of Standard Operating Procedures to be followed during such events. We check if these were followed satisfactorily, whether there was panic,” he added.



Two school assaults in two days- How safe are schools, anyway?



New Delhi: Two days, two incidents of school students in NCR being assaulted by staff members. Close on the heels of the gruesome murder of a seven-year-old student in Gurgaon’s Ryan International School by a bus conductor, a five-year-old was raped inside a washroom of a private school in east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar by a school peon. The last few years have had at least half-a-dozen reported cases where members of the support staff of a school sexually assaulted a student. In most such cases, the accused were employed at the school only a short while before the incident, often through third-party vendors without proper police verification. Even as security lapses regarding the bus conductor continue to come to the fore, the police say that it is not mandatory as per law for schools to conduct a background verification of their teaching and non-teaching staff. After the rape of a six-year-old in a school in Bengaluru in 2014, the Bengaluru Police made background verification of school staff members mandatory. However, in NCR, no such rule has been implemented. The Delhi Police says that even though it is not mandatory, they encourage school managements to do the verification process, which is also available online, and is done by the Special Branch of the Delhi Police. Madhur Verma, DCP (Crime) and PRO, Delhi Police, tells us, “As per law, it is not mandatory for school management to undertake background verification of their teaching or non-teaching staff, but we encourage them to do so. We do background verification of tenants and domestic help, but school staff doesn’t come under the domestic help category. We ask schools to do a background check or to get the verification done from our website. The police verification of cab employees is also not mandatory, but after the Uber rape, we asked cab agencies to not employ staff without police verification. The schools should also come forward and get the verification done before employing any staff member to ensure security of children”.


A Delhi Police official, not wishing to be named, says, “What the CBSE school safety guidelines say and what is implemented at the ground level are totally different. My kid is in a pre-school, so I am aware of these security lapses not only as a police officer, but as a parent too. The security of school children doesn’t mean two security guards at the gate or in the parking area. There are thousands of non-teaching staff members in NCR including peons and bus conductors. If these schools contact the police for verification of every staff member, imagine the workload of local police stations! But schools do not contact police unless an incident is reported. The security lapses in schools are more common than one can imagine. Most of the time, transport is outsourced to an agency. In that case, who is responsible for those hired? Schools do not pay attention to all these aspects and the guidelines are breached not only by smaller schools, but by the reputed ones too”. The Gurgaon police is now planning to intensify verification drives in schools and other institutions. A Gurgaon Police official tells us, “Police verification is a must for every institution, and we ask schools to update their list at the local police station whenever they hire an employee. However, such instructions are not always taken seriously by schools. We receive forms for background checks from schools, but corporate houses are more active in checking the background of their employees than schools are”. Manish Sehgal, PRO, Gurgaon Police, adds, “We will intensify verification and background check drives in schools and other institutions to ensure there are no security lapses”.



Fire in 5-storey residential building in Mumbai’s Vile Parle



MUMBAI: A fire broke out in a five storey residential building at Vile Parle on Sunday afternoon. One fireman involved in the rescue operations sustained injuries in the incident and was admitted to the nearby hospital. Around 1.30 pm on Sunday the Mumbai Fire Brigade received a call about a fire at Sagar Jyoti building in JVPD scheme Vile Parle-west. Five fire engines, one ambulance and three water tankers were rushed to the spot. According to preliminary information received the fire started in the air conditioning unit of one of the flats in the society. Firefighting and cooling operations continued for around five hours leading to one of the fireman Sameer Ambekar, 32, to be injured in the incident. He was rushed to Cooper hospital and is currently stable said civic officials.



Bengaluru: Heavy rain maroons buses, hospital, uproots 33 trees

After Dubasipalya Lake breached, water inundated Mysuru road and marooned two buses with 36 passengers on board. One bus was coming from Bhagamandala and the other from Madikeri. The passengers were rescued in boats deployed by the fire department.



BENGALURU: Heavy overnight rain for the second consecutive day in Bengaluru left a trail of destruction on Sunday: One lake breached, another overflowed, a river in spate, two major thoroughfares flooded and several localities waterlogged. Rafts were deployed to evacuate 20 patients from an inundated hospital and 36 from aboard two state transport buses in the early hours of the day. The weatherman predicted moderate to heavy rain in Bengaluru on Monday. The Met department said the city recorded 66.1mm rainfall till 8.30am on Sunday. The quantum was put at 68.7mm on Saturday , most of it on Friday night when three people died after a tree fell on their car and a man was washed away in a drain. Saturday night’s rain was intense over the entire western swathe of Bengaluru -from Kodigehalli in the north to Gottigere and Begur in the south. Though the rest of the city received moderate to heavy rainfall, it was heavy in pockets like Koramangala, BTM Layout and Bilekahalli. Kengeri received 167mm of rainfall and Bilekahalli 128mm. Rain on Saturday night bared its fangs in the early hours. Thirty-three trees were uprooted in the night. A part of the compound wall of Infosys in Phase I of Electronic City came crashing, damaging several bicycles inside the campus.


Around 3.30am, Dubasipalya Lake, off Mysuru Road, breached. Vrishabhavati, next to the highway , was in spate. The water from the lake flooded Mysuru road in front of RV College of Engineering, marooning three cars and two Bengaluru bound KSRTC buses. Fire services rushed in g stranded pas rafts to bring stranded passengers to safety. Mysuru road remained waterlogged till 11am, forcing police to resort to traffic diversions between Mylasandra Junction and RR Nagar entrance. The Outer Ring Road stretch between Silk Board Junction and BTM Layout, too, remained under three feet water till the forenoon. South of Bengaluru, swirling rainwaters entered Community Health Centre, Kaggalipura, where 20 patients were under treatment, around 3am. Rafts were rushed to evacuate the patients. Two of them were sent to Vani Vilas Hospital, one to Victoria Hospital, 10 others chose private hospitals and a like number went home. In the afternoon, Begur Lake in southeast Bengaluru overflowed around 4pm, sending water gushing into Beguru Main Road, Mico Layout and Vishwapriya Layout.



GRP’s efforts make rail safe for women



HYDERABAD: Crime rates on railway platforms and train compartments have seen a significant drop in the past three years, if documents available with the Government Railway Police (GRP) are anything to go by . While the railway police of Secunderabad had registered five complaints of harassment in 2014, the number shot by 1 in 2015.Only two such cases were reported on railway stations in 2016. This year so far, four women have lodged harassment complaints with the GRP. According to GRP authorities, the reason for this dip in crime rate is rooted in the SHE team’s dedicated efforts at curbing eve-teasing and other offences outraging the modesty of women passengers. Officials said that the special DHE teams formed by GRP in Telangana a year ago have been working on a war footing to bring down the habitual criminal offences that are usually meted out to women on train compartments, railway stations and its adjacent precincts. “The crimes by habitual offenders on trains and railway platforms have come down and at the same time, there has been a spurt in molestation, eve-teasing or other abuses cases committed by the youths who know the victims. We punish them depending on the nature of their offence and sometimes reprimand them with a strict warning when the offence is not so serious,” said S Rajendra Prasad, SP of Secunderabad railway police district. Apart from harassment, SHE teams also patrol railway tracks to clamp down on chain snatchers.


GRP sources said that the railway stations primarily prone to harassment of women are Lingampally, Hi-Tec City, Falaknuma and Dabeerpura. “Women travelling by MMTS mostly have to face eve-teasing and abuses on these platforms where our patrolling teams are keeping a strict vigil to put an end to the nuisance,” added the SP. However, the railway police department in the state is reeling under staff constraints, especially lady constables who play an important role to crackdown on such offences and ensure safety for women passengers. The GRP has a total of three She teams now for looking into the safety of women. Each team comprises a lady constable and a cop. “The crime rate has come down significantly. Currently, we are facing problems due to the shortage of staff and we are not in the position to assign many GRP personnel on duty to the She team that can work better if the government increases the strength of staff,” said S Rajendra Prasad. “We take stringent actions after receiving complaints from women and during the investigation we have also seen that some complaints are fake. However, the offenders muster the courage to pester a woman when she is at an isolated place. So, we advise them to be among the crowds and it becomes easier for us to catch the culprit,” added the SP.



Now, RAF team created to combat dengue, malaria



KOLKATA: The twin dengue deaths in Kasba last week has shaken the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) authorities into action. The KMC health department has created a Rapid Action Force (RAF) team for dengue prevention in Kasba and Ballygunge and some areas off Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, where dengue cases have been reported of late. The RAF personnel from the KMC health department will visit these areas at regular intervals for a month to ward off a dengue scare among the local residents. The decision to send the RAF team was taken after two dengue deaths at a housing complex on Thursday. “We have decided to put Kasba, Haltu, Garfa and some other areas close to EM Bypass under strict vigil. Regular anti-dengue drives will be conducted in these areas to prevent dengue from spreading to other bordering areas,” a KMC health department official said. The RAF team was formed with personnel specially trained in vector control activities on the ground level. The RAF team’s work schedule will comprise identifying mosquito larvae responsible for outbreak of dengue or malaria and to kill adult mosquitoes.


According to a KMC health department official, several RAF teams are now working in city’s dengue-prone areas. “The specially trained teams are now active in Dum Dum, Cossipore, College Street, Park Circus, Tiljala, Ballygunge, Kasba, Dhakuria, Lake Gardens, Anwar Shah Road, Alipore and Tollygunge among other vulnerable areas,” the civic official said. Of late, these areas have witnessed a spurt in dengue cases. “This is a very crucial period. We must strengthen our anti-dengue drives to prevent the dreaded disease from spreading. We can’t take chances till winter sets in,” the civic official said. The KMC health department has also decided to keep open all 15 dengue detection centres open during Durga Puja to offer treatment facilities to the citizens, said a KMC health official. “We are taking all necessary measures on a war footing, including fogging in all the 41 wards, spraying larvae ide, making sudden inspections in various areas and door-to-door visits by civic workers,” said Bidhannagar Corporation MMIC (Health) Pranay Roy.



Fresh floods in 5 Assam districts, 72,000 people hit


GUWAHATI: A fresh wave of flood inundated several places in five districts of the state on Sunday, affecting thousands of people. According to the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), nearly 72,000 people in Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Sonitpur, Morigaon and Nagaon districts have been hit by the latest flood wave. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams fanned out in different flood-affected areas for evacuation of marooned people and distribution of relief materials. NDRF said incessant rainfall and rising water level in Jarashar river caused heavy flooding in Sonitpur district. The 1st battalion of NDRF evacuated 753 marooned villagers to safer places in several villages of Sonitpur. Eight NDRF teams, comprising 16 deep divers, 32 boats and other life-saving aids have been deployed in Barpeta, Dhubri, Cachar, Sonitpur and Kamrup districts. Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has already directed state water resources minister Keshav Mahanta to visit the affected areas and assess the damage caused and supervise the relief and rescue operations. At present, 21 relief camps have been set up in five districts, where about 100 people have taken shelter. ASDMA also said the Brahmaputra in Jorhat district and its tributaries (Dhansiri in Golaghat district and Jia Bharaliin Sonitpur district) are flowing above danger level as of Sunday. The latest spell comes at a time when the state is still recovering from the third flood wave this year.



CBI books bank, 19 firms for sending Rs 421 crore abroad



CHENNAI: The anti-corruption branch of CBI, Chennai on Friday booked unknown officials of Punjab National Bank and 19 companies, mainly at Sowcarpet in north Chennai, for suspected remittances of Rs 421 crore in foreign currency to UAE, Hong Kong and Taiwan through shell companies. A case of criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery and criminal misconduct by public servants has been made out, but case details indicate the Enforcement Directorate(ED) could step in to press other charges. The modus operandi in the case registered by the CBI is similar to the one in the recent case registered by ED officials who arrested the son of former DMK minister Ko Si Mani. The 19 companies named in the CBI FIR had opened accounts with PNB and were sending out foreign exchange without genuine business transactions. Money was flowing into the accounts through RTGS transactions from other banks, credit co-operative societies and accounts in Mumbai. This money was sent out as outward remittances, a method of settlement of dues, through the PNB accounts. A request with a quotation issued by a foreign supplier for 100% advance remittance was made with the bank. The outward remittance was kept at less than $100,000 so that it did not violate regulatory requirements of Reserve Bank of India and hence escape the FEMA violations or ED requirements.


About 700 such remittances worth around Rs 420 crore were made for imports during the five-month period. All these were routed through a Nostro account maintained by PNB with HSBC, New York. When the bank verified the addresses of the account holders, it found none of them there. When it began to insist on the bill of entries as evidence of import, the account holders stopped coming to the bank for foreign remittances, CBI said in the FIR. The PNB branch also earned Rs 17 lakh as commission and the CBI has alleged that the officials did not verify the genuineness of the transactions or ascertain if the customers had the financial wherewithal to receive such huge money through RTGS. All the transactions together have caused a loss of Rs 421 crore in foreign exchange to the government of India, CBI said. In the case handled by ED, the officials had discovered some import-export shell companies which had routed Rs 20 crore in foreign exchange to several Southeast Asian countries without producing genuine bill of entries.



International News



Death toll now at 90 as aftershocks rattle southern Mexico


JUCHITAN (MEXICO): Life for many has moved outdoors in the quake-shocked city of Juchitan, where a third of the homes are reported uninhabitable and repeated aftershocks have scared people away from many structures still standing. The city on Sunday was littered with rubble from Thursday night’s magnitude 8.1 earthquake, which killed at least 90 people across southern Mexico — at least three dozen of them in Juchitan itself. Officials in Oaxaca and Chiapas states said thousands of houses and hundreds of schools had been damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people were reported to be without water service. Many people continued to sleep outside, fearful of more collapses, as strong aftershocks continued to rattle the town, including a magnitude 5.2 jolt early Sunday. Some Juchitecos seeking solace trekked through the destruction to find an open-air Mass on Sunday since many of the churches were either damaged or left vacant until they could be checked. On Sunday evening, Bishop Oscar Campos Contreras conducted Mass for about 200 people at an open-air basketball court next to a collapsed school and in front of the heavily damaged St. Vicente Ferrer church, which lost one bell tower and very nearly the other. Campos told those gathered that Mass would continue to be held outdoors for the foreseeable future, “because here we feel safer”. Friends and family embraced and cried, overcome with emotion stored for days. The bishop’s homily was part lesson and part pep talk for a community stunned by the destruction. “There is no one who can say: `Nothing happened to me because of my money, because of my strength or my youth or my prestige or my fame nothing happened,’ Campos said.



“We are all weak”. Yesenia Cruz Jimenez was relieved to hear Mass would be held outdoors. Her house broke apart and her family is still sleeping in the yard, suffering rain and aftershocks. “There is nowhere safe in town,” she said. “It is safer here and people can concentrate better in this place”. Local officials said they had counted nearly 800 aftershocks of all sizes since the big quake, and the US Geological Survey counted nearly 60 with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater. Oaxaca Gov. Alejandro Murat said Sunday that the death toll in his state had risen to 71, while officials have reported 19 killed in Chiapas and Tabasco states. Juchitan’s downtown streets grew increasingly congested Sunday as dump trucks and heavy equipment hauled away debris and pushed smaller piles of debris into larger mountains of rubble. Teams of soldiers and federal police with shovels and sledgehammers fanned out across neighborhoods to help demolish damaged buildings. Volunteers, many teens from religious or community groups in surrounding towns that were not as severely hit, turned out in force to distribute water and clothing or lend a hand. Help was slower to arrive in Union Hidalgo, a town of about 20,000 people about 30 minutes to the east. Collapsed homes pocked neighborhoods there, and the town lacked electricity, water and cellphone service. Delia Cruz Valencia stood in a puddle-filled street overseeing demolition of what remained of her sister’s house next door.



Her sister took their mother for medical treatment outside the city before the earthquake and had not been able to make her way back. Men with pry bars ripped away the bottom half of a brick and stucco exterior wall to rescue a large wooden wardrobe because the house was too unstable to access through the door. Cruz said she was next door with her two daughters when the earthquake struck shortly before midnight Thursday. “We all three hugged, but even so we were moving. We were pushed from here to there” by the rolling earth, she said. When she reached the street, she saw a cloud of dust rising from the house her sister shared with their mother. Cruz’s great-grandfather had built it a century ago. “If my sister had been here, she wouldn’t have been found alive,” Cruz said, choking back tears. Mexico’s education secretary, Aurelio Nuno, announced that schools will remain closed Monday in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Back in Juchitan, the general hospital has settled into a temporary home at a school gymnasium, with gurneys parked atop the basketball court. The hospital’s regular building was damaged. Maria Teresa Sales Alvarez said it was “chaos” when the earthquake struck the single-story building, but staff moved patients outside and transferred most of those who required specialized care to other facilities.



Hurricane Irma roars into Florida Keys, brings deadly storm surge

Rough surf churned up by the approaching hurricane damaged the docks at Whale harbour in the Florida Keys on September 9, 2017.



FORT MYERS, Florida: Hurricane Irma‘s northern edge crashed into the Florida Keys on Sunday, bringing a double barrel threat of destructive winds and life-threatening storm surges that sparked one of the largest evacuations in US history. The storm, which hammered Cuba‘s northern coast a day earlier, was a Category 4 hurricane about 15 miles (25 km) south-southeast of Key West, Florida, as of 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (210 kph), the National Hurricane Center said. It was on a path that would take it along the state’s Gulf of Mexico coast near population centers including Tampa and St. Petersburg, the NHC said. Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night in emergency shelters. Storm surges pushed by a high tide were forecast to be as high as 15 feet (4.6 meters) for low-lying area along the state’s southwest coast on Sunday, which could produce catastrophic flooding for thousands of homes. “Take action now to protect your life,” the National Weather Service in Key West advised. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation”. Officials in Florida have ordered a total of 6.3 million people, or about a third of the state’s population, to evacuate, creating massive traffic jams on highways and overcrowding shelters. Irma, which killed at least 22 people in the Caribbean, was likely to cause billions of dollars in damage to the third-most-populous US state. Wind gusts near hurricane force began to batter the Florida Keys late on Saturday, the NHC said, with Key West seeing gusts of more than 80 mph on Sunday morning and water levels about 2 feet (61 cms) above normal.


SEEKING SHELTER: The NHC has put out a hurricane warning and a tropical storm warning stretching through almost all of Florida into Georgia and South Carolina – an area where more than 20 million people live. Florida Power & Light said more than 430,000 customers in Florida were without power as of Sunday morning. Irma comes just days after Hurricane Harvey dumped record-setting rain in Texas, causing unprecedented flooding, killing at least 60 people and leaving an estimated $180 billion in property damage in its wake. Almost three months remain in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through November. Tracking models showed Irma would make landfall on the Keys and head along Florida’s west coast, slamming the state that is a major tourism hub, with an economy comprising about 5 percent of US gross domestic product. Amid urgent warnings from state officials to evacuate before it was too late, downtown Miami was all but abandoned on Saturday. On Florida’s west coast, resident Charley Ball said he expected a storm surge to completely engulf the island of Sanibel where he lives. “Just left the island and said goodbye to everything I own,” said Ball, 62. In Cuba, the destruction along the north central coast was similar to that suffered by other Caribbean islands over the last week as Irma plowed into Ciego de Avila province. It was the first time the eye of a Category 5 storm had made landfall in Cuba since 1932, state media said, and the island’s Communist government ordered the evacuation of more than a million people from its path.



Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh nears 300,000

A Rohingya refugee reaches out to a woman as they arrive in Bangladesh.



COX’S BAZAR: Nearly 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhin estate into Bangladesh in the 15 days since new violence erupted, the United Nations said on Saturday. The figure has jumped about 20,000 in a day. “Some 290,000 Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh since August 25+ ,” said Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency. Officials said the UN has found more Rohingya in villages and areas which were previously not included by relief agencies. Most of the Rohingya are arriving by foot or boat across Bangladesh’s 278 kilometre (172 mile) border with Myanmar, a fourth of which is made up by the Naf river. The UN said there was a sharp increase in arrivals on Wednesday, when more than 300 boats arrived in Bangladesh. On Thursday the UN had put the number at 164,000. The Rohingya have long been subjected to discrimination+ in Buddhist majority Myanmar, which denies them citizenship. Myanmar’s government regards them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, even if they have lived in the country for generations. Refugee camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar already had about 300,000 Rohingya before the upsurge in violence and are now overwhelmed. The tens of thousands of new arrivals have nowhere to shelter from monsoon rains. The latest figure takes the number of Rohingya refugees who have arrived in Bangladesh since violence erupted last October to 377,000. Those flocking into Bangladesh have given harrowing accounts of killings, rape and arson by Myanmar’s army. The Myanmar authorities deny any wrongdoing. Most have walked for days and the United Nations says many are sick, exhausted and in desperate need of shelter, food and water.

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