News Flash – 12 December 2017

National News



Man shot at after bank visit, robbed of Rs 6 lakh



MUMBAI: A 49-year-old man, Karansingh Yadav, who works as a manager at a yarns and chemicals company was shot at by two bike-borne men and robbed of Rs 6 lakh in Palgharon Monday. The masked men fired two bullets at Yadav, said the police. One bullet hit his right thigh and another brushed past him. The incident took place on Monday morning after he took a bus from Bhiwandi where he had gone to withdraw Rs 7.20 lakh for his company. Soon after he alighted from the bus at Kudus in Wada taluka, the bikers fired at him, snatched his bag containing Rs 6 lakh and fled. Yadav had kept rest of the money in another pouch. He collapsed on the road and was rushed to a hospital by passersby. The police said that he is out of danger. The Wada police probing the case have recovered closed circuit television camera (CCTV) footage that shows the two assailants on a motorbike. A bullet has been recovered from the spot. A police official said that the number plate on the motorbike seen in the CC TV footage could be fake. The police suspect it to be an inside job as the accused seemed to know Yadav was coming from the bank. Cops will also look at footage of CCTVs along the route that the bus took. – Sandhya Nair.



Monorail must train staff for emergencies: Fire brigade



Mumbai: The fire brigade has submitted its report, suggesting that the mono rail authorities train their staff to handle any emergency to avoid a serious incident during peak hours. Officials said they are drawing up a plan to train around 80 monorail staff in fire-fighting and evacuation operations during emergencies. Last month, a rake of Mumbai Monorail (Chembur-Wadala) caught fire after the motorman applied emergency brakes at Mysore Colony station. The incident occurred when the train was going from the Wadala depot towards Chembur to begin the day’s services. Fortunately, no one was inside the coach. The fire was confined to two cabs and fire brigade used three engines to extinguish the fire. The fire brigade found that the standard operating procedure (SOP) was not operational as required at the time of the incident. It stated, “SOP on paper could not be effective without proper implementation which was observed during the incident. The situation would have been worsened during peak hours and could have made the scenario worse. Recommendation shall be incorporated taking into consideration view from experts”. The report suggested that the monorail authorities adopt better measures for lifesaving and fire safety by providing proper training to its staff in case of failure of functioning of the fire-fighting system. It also suggested they consider evacuation chutes and ramps or mid-section guideways for passengers in case of an emergency.



Install CCTVs in all 192 police stations: Delhi high court



NEW DELHI: In order to make citizens feel secure while visiting a police station, Delhi high court on Monday favoured installation of CCTVs in each of the 192 police stations in the city. It directed the force to extend its pilot project of putting 10 police stations under CCTV surveillance to the remaining 182 and sought a report on which areas of a typical “thana” the top brass would like to put under surveillance. It said that similar efforts must also be made with respect to 42 chowkis in the city. A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva also ordered Delhi government, police and various civic agencies to coordinate through a nodal agency on whose responsibility it is to light up dark spots or dimly lit up areas that fall under multiple jurisdictions. On the issue of setting up CCTVs in vulnerable areas of the city, where crimes against women was more prevalent, the court gave Delhi government eight weeks’ time to procure and install the cameras. The bench asked Centre to take a decision within six weeks on augmenting the strength of Delhi Police, noting that it was “below the national average” and that many of its personnel were deployed on VIP security duties. HC is hearing a PIL initiated by it in 2012 after the December 16, 2012 gangrape. It had on the last date asked the police commissioner to appear and assist it in areas where directions could be issued to make the city safer. However instead of the top cop, other senior officials of the force were present and informed the court that all the vacancies up till December this year have been taken care.



4 kids injured after fire breaks out in South Delhi home



NEW DELHI: Four children suffered burns after a fire broke out at their house in Molb and village near Badarpur in southeast Delhi on Sunday night. The children were alone at the time of the incident. Fire department officials said the incident was reported around 9:15pm and the fire was contained after one hour. Four children — Ashu, Lucky, Rakhi and Deepali — suffered burns and were rushed to Safdarjung Hospital. Police officers said the fire broke out when the candle, that was kept on a plastic cooler fell. The flames quickly spread to the wire and further engulfed the room. The kids had lit the candle after a power outage in the area. Neighbours noticed smokes and cries of the kids and informed the fire department. They tried to rescue the children but could not enter the house due to heavy smoke. The four children were subsequently rescued and taken to the burn injuries ward of the Safdarjung Hospital. The boys, Ashu and Lucky, suffered minor injuries and were discharged after treatment while the girls, Rakhi and Deepali, suffered around 30% burns and are in the ICU. The parents were away at work at the time of the accident.



Telangana expands road safety study



HYDERABAD: With over 7,000 people dying in road accidents each year in the state, the Telangana government is taking measures to bring down the number of road accidents, Roads and Buildings (R&B) minister Tummala Nageshwara Rao said on Monday. He said while 20% of road accidents occurred due to road defects, 80% were due to driver error. Rao headed the first meeting of cabinet sub-committee on road safety held on Monday which was attended by ministers KT Rama Rao, Jupally Krishna Rao, P Mahender Reddy and Indrakaran Reddy. The committee discussed issues pertaining to formation of road safety authority committees, creation of a road safety fund, road maintenance, cases, parking issues on highways, restricting vehicles which are 15 years and over, among other issues. It was decided to study the best practices and laws in other states that would help reduce accidents. “As of now there is no dedicated department to handle road safety and there has been no required coordination among the departments. Road safety subject will be either given to R&B department or any other department,” Nageshwara Rao said. He said a report would be submitted to the chief minister after views were taken from stakeholders.



Cops sound alarm on WhatsApp frauds



KOLKATA: The city police have warned of a growing number of instances of attempts to hack into WhatsApp, the web-based messaging platform that offers “end-to-end encryption”, system of communication where only the communicating users, and not even the software itself, can read messages. Complaints registered with the Kolkata Police‘s cybercrimes cell have revealed three particular modes of trickery that users should beware of, said sources. The cops said they have taken steps to stop the crimes and spread awareness on them. The most recent complaint involves that of Kolkatan Balakchand Balasaria, whose brother complained to the cops on December 3 that Balasaria‘s WhatsApp account was hacked into and some fraudsters used it to “demean” him by sending obscene messages to his WhatsApp contacts. In the first modus operandi, the hacker first attempts to lay his hands on the target’s cellphone number. For this, several ploys are adopted, the most common being striking up a friendship on social media platforms. Having won the trust of the victim, the hacker initiates a request to change his WhatsApp number by feeding the victim’s number, using the ‘Change Number’ option under the ‘settings’ tab. That is when WhatsApp sends a security verification code to the number’s owner — in this case, the victim.


At this point, the hacker somehow has to convince the victim to share his code. The moment the victim does that, “the hacker restores all of the victim’s contacts, photos and videos from the service provider’s server into his device by using the ‘restore’ option. Later, he misuses this data at will to blackmail the victim,” an officer said. “Just like emails and payment apps, one needs to protect oneself in WhatsApp. It is very important to follow basic safety rules and not share any OTPs with anyone,” the officer said. Police claim there are also Google Play apps that can scan details of around 500 phones and display privately shared messages. Though it is not possible to actually hack the number, the information gathered is then used to send vulgar messages, usually to women. “In 2016, we came across a case in which Kolkata police arrested a man who used an app to scan details of about 500 WhatsApp profiles and send obscene messages to women. We wrote to both WhatsApp and Google about this case in detail,” said Bibhas Chakraborty, a cyber-law expert and the state’s special prosecutor in these cases. Investigators said the third method of trickery targets those using WhatsApp on their computers. A less common trick these days, the CID claims it has submitted charge sheets in several such cases in the past two years.



Cyclone Ockhi: 98 Kanyakumari fishermen feared dead, 530 are still missing


KANYAKUMARI: An audio message from Fr Churchil, general secretary of the South Asian Fishermen Fraternity who is leading the protests here, is being relayed through the Navy to deep-sea fishermen who are safe to call back home. This is one of the new steps taken by the officials in charge of cyclone relief and rescue to get word from many fishermen who may have not had an inkling of the situation back home. Fr Churchil claimed that 98 fishermen were feared dead. The figures collated by pastors of churches in the coastal villages revealed that of the dead, 37 were from Neerody, six from Marthandanthurai, four from Vallavilai, seven from Iraiviputhanthurai, 22 from Chinnathurai, three from Thoothoor, 13 from Colachel, two each from Poothurai and Erayumanthurai and one each from Enayam and Ramanthurai. Referring to the message, Fr Churcil told TOI, “Two top officials asked me for an audio message and a letter making an appeal to the fishermen to return home”. He added that he handed over the letter and the audio message lasting 3.54 minutes, both in Tamil, to the committee on Monday morning. “The officials said the message will be shared to the fishermen through the Indian Navy,” he added. The audio elaborated the disaster and made an appeal to the fishermen to call their homes to assure their families they were fine.


“We believe that at least 530 people were missing by Monday and that 200 to 250 could be safe in a particular locality in the deep sea, far off the Gujarat Coast. They are deep sea fishermen who go fishing for up to 40 or 50 days. This season they usually plan to return home for Christmas. The said locality is not in Cyclone Ockhi’s path and there are chances that the fishermen are unaware of such an incident,” he said. Since there has been no news about them, their families are grieving, not knowing what happened to them, he said. In the audio message, he made an appeal to those fishermen to reach the nearest shore and call their families over phone and give them hope that they were alive. The audio that was circulated to reporters by the district administration also claimed that some boats and fishermen had drifted as far away as Maldives and even Africa. While the government has confirmed that the bodies of only two fishermen had been retrieved or washed ashore and hence can be considered dead, the audio stated that the number of people feared dead (as told by witnesses who survived the disaster) was 97 on Monday morning. “It climbed to 98 by afternoon and we fear that it could be much more,” he said. At Neerodi, the villagers erected a huge banner to mourn the suspected death of the 37 fishermen from the village. Special prayers were offered at churches along the coastal villages where many were yet to return.



International News



New evacuations as huge Southern California fire flares up


LOS ANGELES: A powerful flare-up on the western edge of Southern California‘s largest and most destructive wildfire sent residents fleeing Sunday, as wind-fanned flames churned through old-growth brush in canyons and along hillsides toward coastal towns. Crews with help from a fleet water-dropping planes and helicopters saved homes as unpredictable gusts sent the blaze deeper into residential foothill areas northwest of Los Angeles that haven’t burned in decades. New evacuations were ordered as the fire sent up an enormous plume near Montecito and Carpinteria, seaside areas in Santa Barbara County that had been under fire threat for days and were now choked with smoke. “The winds are kind of squirrely right now,” said county fire spokesman Mike Eliason. “Some places the smoke is going straight up in the air, and others it’s blowing sideways. Depends on what canyon we’re in”. The department posted a photo of one residence engulfed in flames. It’s unclear whether other structures burned. Thousands of homes and businesses in the county were without power. The air thick with acrid smoke, even residents of areas not under evacuation orders took the opportunity to leave, fearing another shutdown of US 101, a key coastal highway that was closed intermittently last week. Officials handed out masks to residents who stayed behind in Montecito, the wealthy hillside enclave that’s home to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bridges and Rob Lowe.


“Our house is under threat of being burned,” Ellen DeGeneres tweeted at midday Sunday. “We just had to evacuate our pets. I’m praying for everyone in our community and thankful to all the incredible firefighters”. A few miles to the west, Santa Barbara Zoo was closed to the public and its 500 animals confined to their night quarters all day. The zoo was just outside the evacuation area, but smoke and ash blew through the 30-acre property. Firefighters made significant progress Saturday on other fronts of the enormous fire that started December 4 in neighboring Ventura County. As containment increased on other major blazes in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties, resources from those fires were diverted to the Santa Barbara foothills. Forecasters said Santa Ana winds that whipped fires across the region last week would continue in some areas at least through Monday. A lack of rain has officials on edge statewide because of parched conditions and no end in sight to the typical fire season. “This is the new normal,” governor Jerry Brown warned Saturday after surveying damage from the deadly Ventura fire. “We’re about ready to have firefighting at Christmas. This is very odd and unusual”. High fire risk is expected to last into January and the governor and experts said climate change is making it a year-round threat.


Overall, the fires have destroyed about 800 homes and other buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced more than 200,000 people to flee flames that have burned over 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) since Dec. 4. One death, so far, a 70-year-old woman who crashed her car on an evacuation route, is attributed to the fire in Santa Paula, a small city where the fire began. The Ventura County blaze also continued to burn into rugged mountains in the Los Padres National Forest near the little town of Ojai and toward a preserve established for endangered California condors. Ojai experienced hazardous levels of smoke at times and officials warned of unhealthy air for large swaths of the region. The South Coast Air Quality Management District urged residents to stay indoors if possible and avoid vigorous outdoor activities. As fires burned in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, firefighters were already in place north of San Diego on Thursday when a major fire erupted and rapidly spread in the Fallbrook area, known for its avocado groves and horse stables in the rolling hills. The fire swept through the San Luis Rey Training Facility, where it killed more than 40 elite thoroughbreds and destroyed more than 100 homes — most of them in a retirement community. Three people were burned trying to escape the fire that continued to smolder Sunday. Most of last week’s fires were in places that burned in the past, including one in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air that burned six homes and another in the city’s rugged foothills above the community of Sylmar and in Santa Paula.



New York blast suspect went from limo driver to accused subway bomber


NEW YORK: The Bangladeshi suspect in Monday’s pipe bomb explosion beneath New York’s Times Square is an angry former limousine driver who learned to build a bomb on the internet at his Brooklyn apartment, officials said. Akayed Ullah, 27, was in police custody after he was injured by a pipe bomb he fastened to his torso with Velcro and zip ties. Three other people were also hurt in the blast in a pedestrian tunnel linking two subway stops beneath West 42nd Street, officials said. One neighbor in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Windsor Terrace said she had not seen him in months but described his home as quiet and observant in Islamic customs. She saw no evidence of extremism. “They’re really nice people. This is shocking,” said the neighbor, Arlene Jograj, a teacher who had greeted Ullah in passing. “We all know each other. We have block parties. I’ve been over there for dinner parties after Ramadan. We’re a really tight-knit street,” she said. Ullah came from the southeastern Bangladeshi district of Chittagong and last visited the country on September 8, Inspector General of Police A K M Shahidul Hoque told Reuters on Monday. He had no criminal record in Bangladesh, Hoque said. Several US officials familiar with the investigation told Reuters there was no information indicating Ullah was previously known to any US spy or law enforcement agency for any connection to militant groups. But that does not rule out the possibility some connection could be found. Ullah arrived in the United States seven years ago on a family visa, one authoritative US source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. US investigators believe he was self-radicalized after entering the United States, most likely by watching militant propaganda on the internet, the officials said, adding that they were unaware of any specific militant video that might have led him to produce his faulty explosive device.


From March 2012 through March 2015, he held a license to drive a limousine or black cab as an independent contractor, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said in a statement. New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo called the suspect a “lone wolf,” similar to the suspect in the most recent attack in New York, when an Uzbek immigrant driving a rented truck ran over people on a bicycle path on Oct. 31, killing eight. Each acted alone, inspired by jihadist groups such as Islamic State, Cuomo said. “Both of them went on the web, downloaded information,” Cuomo said of the two suspects, adding that Ullah learned to make a bomb online. “They’re not people who come from overseas. They live here. They’re disgruntled,” said Cuomo, who went to the scene of the crime where he met with investigators. Ullah was influenced by violent Islamist extremists and was “angry,” Cuomo said. This could have been for any number of reasons, whether because of US policy abroad or his lot in life at home, he said. New York police shut down an entire block of row houses in Windsor Terrace, deploying a large show of force with at least one helicopter flying overhead. It was not clear if the neighborhood was Ullah’s most recent address. Neighbors called it a diverse, family-oriented neighborhood of longstanding white families of Italian and Polish descent with more recent Chinese, Indian and Bangladeshi arrivals “This is a great neighborhood. It’s very family oriented, very safe,” Jorgraj said. “This doesn’t change my opinion of the neighborhood at all. This is just the state of the world we live in now”.



Snow wreaks havoc on travellers in Britain, schools closed

Snowy conditions in Danbury, south east England on Monday December 11. Snow and wintry weather are still wreaking havoc on travelers in Britain, with flights cancelled, roads sheathed in ice and rail travel disrupted.



LONDON: Snow and wintry weather are still wreaking havoc on travellers in Britain, with flights cancelled, roads sheathed in ice and rail travel disrupted Monday. With temperatures predicted to drop overnight to as low as minus 12 Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit), transport officials worked on cleanup. Hundreds of schools were closed and airports struggled under the weight of flight delays. “The worst of the snowfall is behind us,” said Grahame Madge of the Met Office. “It’s now more about dealing with the weather we’ve had”. Europe’s largest airport, Heathrow, warned that hundreds of flights would be cancelled as it cleared the backlog of flights delayed by Sunday’s snowfall. In the world of interconnected air travel, any extended disruption quickly leaves planes and flight crews out of position, knocking them out of the rotation for their next assignments. Airlines are also responsible for de-icing their aircraft, and some have more capacity than others to do so. “The airport remains open and is operating three-quarters of scheduled flights,” Heathrow said in statement. “Before coming to the airport, passengers must check their flight status with their airline”. National Rail said poor weather conditions are affecting travel across England and Wales. Trains on Chiltern Railways, Cross Country, Great Western, and Virgin Trains are also being affected by delays.

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