News Flash – 13 December 2017

National News



ATM Broken Open, Rs. 3 Lakh Cash Stolen In Coimbatore


COIMBATORE:  An ATM of a private bank here was today found broken open and about Rs. 3 lakh cash stolen, police said. The theft at the ATM of the IndusInd Bank at Vilankurichi Road came to light when a truck driver visited it to withdraw cash at around 3.30 am and alerted the police and bank officials. The CCTV camera in the ATM was also found damaged, police said adding a gas cutter had been used to open the machine. The heist was suspected to have been committed between 1.30 am, when the last transaction was recorded, and 3.30 am, police said. It was not known how many persons were involved in the crime and investigations were on, police added.



3 jawans die, 2 missing as avalanches hit J&K


SRINAGAR/JAMMU: Three jawans and an Army porter were killed while two soldiers went missing in two avalanches that hit north Kashmir’s Kupwara and Bandipora districts in the past 24 hours. The missing jawans are feared dead, a defence spokesperson said on Tuesday. Two soldiers went missing after an avalanche hit a security installation of the Army’s 20 Dogra regiment in Kupwara’s Nowgam sector. Police said operations are under way to find them. In Bandipora’s Gurez sector, an avalanche struck a security installation manned by 36 Rashtriya Rifles in the Baktoor region, killing three soldiers. Army porter Ghulam Qadir Khan, a resident of Gurez, fell to his death after slipping from a height during snowfall, said police. Khan was part of a four-member group, the rest of whom skidded to safety, they added. The Valley received the season’s first snowfall on Monday, with the upper reaches receiving snow since the evening, triggering multiple avalanches in north Kashmir.


The meteorological department recorded about six inches of snow at Gulmarg — the popular ski resort — till 8.30am on Monday. Pahalgam in south Kashmir received three inches of snow and Tosamaidan six inches. The Valley received more snow coupled with heavy rain on Tuesday, forcing shut the Srinagar-Jammu highway for the second consecutive day. Heavy snowfall on Razdan Top and Gurez valley disrupted traffic movement on Mughal Road and the Bandipora-Gurez road, while inclement weather also suspended chopper services in Katra. “The Jammu-Srinagar highway that links the rest of India with Kashmir was closed for vehicular traffic as a precautionary measure following heavy snowfall on both sides of Jawahar Tunnel, Banihal, Patnitop and Ramban, and landslides triggered at Pathiyal on Tuesday morning,” Ramban SSP Mohan Lal said.



A major cyclone highly unlikely in Mumbai but rising sea level a problem: Expert

Owing to Cyclone Ockhi, Mumbai recorded the highest-ever December rainfall on December 6.



Adam Sobel, director and chief scientist at Columbia University‘s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate, was boarding a plane from New York last Monday when he heard the forecast: Cyclone Ockhi was heading to Mumbai too. Fortunately, the cyclone weakened as it progressed. But the moment was still eerie—for Sobel and his team is studying the likelihood and potential impacts of a cyclone hitting Mumbai, something that has not happened in recent history. Sobel, who will give a lecture Tuesday at the Columbia Global Centre in Mumbai, spoke to TOI. Excerpts: On the current cyclone risk for Mumbai: Estimates of cyclone risk both from our model and from [the MIT model] tell us that in the historical climate, a major cyclone landfall in Mumbai, that is strong enough to generate a significant storm surge, is at least a several-hundred-year-event. That means the probability in a single year is a fraction of a percent. But if you look at Sandy, that was also a couple-of-hundred-years event for New York. The similarity with New York is quite spooky. There are one or two cyclones a year in the Arabian Sea, but they tend to go west to the Arabian Peninsula or north to Gujarat—Gujarat has had several landfalls in the last 20 years—but they never make that right turn to Mumbai. The same thing was true in the Atlantic, the hurricanes never took a left turn to New York—until Sandy. Ockhi did that take right turn last week but weakened before landfall.


How climate change might affect this risk: We are still working on that part. … A recent study from Princeton, which has one of the best high-resolution climate models, claims that cyclone risk has substantially increased in the Arabian Sea, specifically in the post-monsoon season (see box). The risk would still be low, even for example a 100% increase from 1-2 cyclones a year in the Arabian Sea would mean 2-4 cyclones a year, most of which won’t threaten Mumbai. But it’s still a big increase. The other big problem is sea level rise. If you do have a cyclone, then a storm surge starts from a higher level. On the city’s vulnerability: Vulnerability is high because the city is flat, it’s right by the sea, it has huge populations at low elevations, and high-value real estate. Flooding events like in 2005 have already demonstrated the vulnerability. … Historically, the biggest disasters are the ones that are sufficiently rare that the place develops without worrying about it. But then it happens. If it was a common occurrence, the city would have developed differently.



On the lessons from Hurricane Sandy: The biggest single message would be that while Mumbai has many issues, and some events are more probably than others, it is not that unreasonable to think about emergency management planning. New York had reports going back at least 20 years on what an event [like Sandy] would look like, where the water would come in, because as in Mumbai, storm surge is more important than winds. They knew to shut the subways ahead of time because they would flood, and where to evacuate people from and how long it would take. All the hard hit areas in New York were former wetlands, barrier islands, and landfill (reclamation) of which there is more in Mumbai.


On post-Sandy measures: There have been lots of measures, and a lot of federal money coming in, for flood proofing like floodwalls, elevations, barriers. A couple of places in Staten Island that were built on wetlands and were washed out during Sandy are being restored to wetlands—the state is buying residents out. But that’s the exception. By and large the areas hardest hit is not being abandoned, they are being redeveloped. In some cases, in smarter ways by elevating the house or not putting utilities in basements. But many scientists think we would be better off if there was a managed retreat [from the coastline. But that’s hard to do. Politically and economically, the waterfront is valuable. And some people don’t want to move out.



3,000 cops & 50 CCTV cameras to keep vigil


HYDERABAD: Rooftop surveillance, more than 50 CCTV cameras with a dedicated command control centre and over 3,000 policemen on the ground will provide security cover to Lal Bahadur (LB) Stadium during the World Telugu Conference (WTC), scheduled to be held between December 15 and 19. Already, Special Branch (SB) sleuths in coordination with local police carried out enumeration of residents, businessmen and offices around LB Stadium. The inaugural ceremony would be attended by Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, while President Ram Nath Kovind will be the chief guest at the valedictory on December 19. An Army unit, which oversees the security of President, along with Central intelligence sleuths are expected to meet Hyderabad police in the next few days to take stock of the security arrangements being prepared for the WTC. As 25,000 delegates are likely to attend the event, police have come up with an “evacuation plan” in case of an emergency situation. A few entry/exit gates of the LB stadium, which had been kept closed for several years, would be opened.


Security arrangements would be made both inside and outside the stadium by Telangana police. There would be an outer layer of security, where food courts and Telangana Sambaralu will be organised. A majority of the 3,000 policemen on security duty during the event would be posted at LB Stadium. Forces would be drawn from surrounding districts of Hyderabad too. Some policemen from Intelligence Security Wing (ISW), Hyderabad police, would be posted on rooftops of nearby buildings to keep tabs on happenings in the vicinity of the venues. As part of crowd management, WTC organisers have divided participants into different categories and they were issued passes with different colours, each representing specific category with specific entry/exit points.



Fog affects flight services at Chennai airport



CHENNAI: Four flights, including two international flights, were diverted and nine arrivals and more than 20 departures were delayed due to poor visibility caused by fog at Chennai airport on Tuesday. Flights which were scheduled between 5.30am and 8am were affected. Sources said an IndiGo flight from Singapore was diverted to Hyderabad while an Oman Air flight from Muscat, a GoAir flight from Mumbai and a flight from Pune were diverted to Bengaluru after visibility dipped to 100 metre. Fog delayed morning departures from Chennai. Flights scheduled at 6am could depart only after 8am. A Chennai-Kochi flight was delayed by three hours while flights to Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Guwahati, Dubai, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore and Kolkata were delayed by two hours. A Chennai-Dubai IndiGo flight and a Chennai-Kuala Lumpur Batik Air flight were delayed from one hour to two hours. They departed after 9am. Departures became normal after 10am while arrivals became normal after 10.30am.



International News



Firefighters wrestle to control massive California wildfire


CARPINTERIA: An out-of-control California wildfire that has already destroyed nearly 700 homes in its path of destruction crept closer to the upscale hillside community of Montecito on Tuesday despite calmer winds that slowed its progress. The Thomas Fire, which broke out on Dec. 4 near the community of Ojai, has since traveled 27 miles (43 km) to become the fifth-largest blaze in state history. It has blackened more than 368 square miles (953 square km) in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City. Officials said that while the conflagration charred another 2,500 acres overnight, a break in the hot, dry Santa Ana winds on Tuesday sapped its forward momentum and allowed crews to prevent further damage to homes. “It’s doing what we want it to do. The fire is staying away from the homes,” said Captain Steve Concialdi of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The flames were 25 percent contained as of Tuesday evening. Concialdi said that some of the 7,000 firefighters deployed against the blaze had taken advantage of the better weather to set controlled burns in a canyon near the community of Carpinteria and near homes in an effort to further deprive the flames of fuel. The National Weather Service has warned that the Santa Ana winds could return as early as Wednesday, meaning that the fire remains dangerous and unpredictable.


“Severe fire weather will continue to promote significant fire growth further into Santa Barbara County, threatening the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Montecito and Summerland,” Cal Fire said in a statement. In Washington, members of the House of Representatives met with Vice President Mike Pence to discuss the crisis. Representative Julia Brownley, whose district includes Ventura, said all resources had arrived to fight the blaze, which could take another week to contain. In Carpinteria, Michelle Warner, who has lived in the seaside town her whole life, and her toddler daughter wore face masks to protect them from the thick smoke. Thanks to the firefighters’ efforts, Warner, a 45-year-old writer, said she had no plans to evacuate. “We plan to stick it out for at least another day, hoping that conditions will get better,” she said. The Thomas Fire has so far destroyed 904 structures, including 691 homes. Efforts to combat the flames, which have displaced more than 94,000 people, have cost more than $48 million. Many public schools in Santa Barbara and school districts nearby have canceled classes this week and will not reopen until the annual winter break is completed in January. Some of the other fires burning over the past week in San Diego and Los Angeles counties have been largely brought under control by the thousands of firefighters on the ground. The Los Angeles Fire Department said on Tuesday that investigators had determined that the Skirball Fire, which destroyed six homes in the posh Bel-Air community of the city, was started by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment underneath a freeway.



Magnitude 6.2 quake hits Kerman province in Iran



BEIRUT: An earthquake of magnitude 6.2 hit Kerman province in southeast Iran on Tuesday, state media reported, giving no initial details of possible casualties. The quake struck near the town of Hojdak, according to state TV. The US geological survey recorded its magnitude as 6.1 and said it struck at a depth of 57 km (35 miles). Another quake, which Iranian state media reported at 6.0 and the USGS reported at 5.4, hit western Iran on Monday, in the same region where a magnitude 7.3 earthquake killed at least 530 people last month. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries from Monday’s quake. President Hassan Rouhani has highlighted his government’s efforts in bringing aid and temporary housing to the victims of last month’s quake.

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