News Flash – 14 June 2018

National News



Four robbers attack cash van, tie up security men, flee with Rs 16 lakhs



MUMBAI: Four armed men robbed a private cash van of Rs 16 lakh on Sion-Panvel Road in Mankhurd on Wednesday evening. This came 24 hours after two persons shot dead wine shop-owner, Sajnish Singh Chawla, in Goregaon and fled with Rs 4 lakh. The Securitrans (India) Pvt Ltd van did not have any armed guard even though it was carrying more than Rs 2 crore. The robbers, however, could not break open the lock of a trunk which had Rs 37 lakh, Mankhurd police said. The van had collected more than Rs 16 lakh from the Mankhurd railway ticket collection office and was on its way to Trombay when an Alto overtook it. “Four masked men, armed with choppers and firearms, came out and one of them tried to break open the front glass of the van. They tied up three security men inside and took a small trunk containing more than Rs 16 lakh, and fled in the car towards Sion Road,” said an officer. A passenger in a passing autorickshaw alerted a police patrol van. She told police that some men had tied up some guards in the van and were beating them up. Locals even gave the car’s registration number, but it is suspected to be fake, said deputy commissioner of police (zone VI) Shaji Umap. The Mankhurd police have registered a robbery case and city crime branch teams have started a parallel probe. Sources said police have secured closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the car at a junction at Sion-Panvel Road.



Mumbai: Prabhadevi tower blaze rages 4 hours, guts InfoTech investor’s penthouse


MUMBAI: Fire broke out in a duplex penthouse at Worli’s plush Beau-Monde Towers shortly after 2pm on Wednesday, and raged for over four hours, gutting the apartment. There was no one in the flat except the owners’ domestic help, who escaped unhurt. The flat’s owners, business couple Harish and Roopa Fabiani, are NRIs who live in Spain. Though the fire didn’t result in any casualties (except for two firefighters sustaining minor injuries), it once again highlighted the city’s lack of preparedness when it comes to highrise blazes: Almost the entire firefighting operations were conducted using the building’s own firefighting system, while the fire brigade’s much-touted 90-metre hydraulic platform ladder, though brought to the site, could not be pressed into service as it faced problems of access. A fire brigade source said that prima facie, a short circuit could not be ruled out as the cause of the blaze, though a probe has been ordered to formally ascertain the reasons. The fire brigade got a call from the building close to ten minutes past 2pm. Its personnel reached the site in a few minutes and shot straight for the penthouse, which is in Tower B (in all, BeauMonde has three towers). Shortly after, 95-odd residents emerged out of the tower and gathered around the main gate of the premises. A fire officer said several residents from the other two towers too reached the ground. Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone, who owns a flat at BeauMonde Towers, tweeted around 5pm, assuring fans of her safety. “I am safe. Thank you everyone. Let us pray for our firefighters who are at site risking their lives…” read the tweet. Firefighters faced an uphill task battling the blaze.


Besides intense heat and smoke, they had to contend with strong winds at the height they were carrying out their operations. Every time the fire seemed to have been put out, it revived with renewed vigour. It was only about 5.30pm, almost three and a half hours after the blaze started, that the fire brigade could more or less bring the blaze under control. It took them about an hour more to begin cooling operations. The tower’s power supply has been disconnected. An officer said it will be restored after a detailed examination. He said the building’s firefighting system was in good condition and that is what was primarily used to control the fire. More than 2 lakh litres of water was used up, some of it coming from the fire brigade’s water tankers. Chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said, “The internal firefighting system helped tremendously to contain the fire. All highrises should maintain their firefighting equipment in a good condition”. A resident said, “As soon as we came to know of the fire, we switched off the electric and gas mains”. Local MLA Sada Sarvankar, who was at the spot, blamed the BMC’s building proposal department for sanctioning highrises though the city’s layout and also the fire brigade’s limitations makes tower blazes difficult to fight. He said he would place a calling attention motion before the state assembly during the monsoon session, demanding that no permission should be given for a highrise unless there is proof of fire safety and assurance from the fire brigade that they can battle blazes with their own equipment. The police too were at the site and maintained a bandobast. “We will conduct a detailed panchnama,” said an officer. The building’s security personnel could be seen managing crowds and barring people from entering no-go zones of operations.



Rajasthan storms trap Delhi-NCR in heat and dust, condition ‘severe’

The high pollution levels being seen during this time of the year in Delhi are unusual and primarily due to dust storms from Rajasthan. Less



NEW DELHI: Delhi’s air quality plunged into the “severe” category on Wednesday as dusty conditions continued for a second straight day, trapping the city under a blanket of heat and particulate matter. PM 10 levels shot up to over eight times the safe standard, levels last seen this winter. Agencies like the CPCB and the Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) were pushed into action with an emergency task force meeting conducted to issue directions to chief secretaries of all Delhi NCR states to carry out sprinkling of water to keep the dust down and be prepared for any additional measures over the next few days. According to the IMD, similar conditions are likely to persist for the next three days with little change expected in terms of the dust hanging in the air. “The high pollution levels being seen during this time of the year in Delhi are unusual and primarily due to dust storms from Rajasthan. The wind direction in Delhi changed on June 10 to west and northwest, and then, from June 12, it has been west and southwest, due to which hot air and dust from Rajasthan has started moving into Delhi,” a statement by the ministry of environment and forests said on Wednesday.


Statement from the ministry of environment and forests said that civic corporations, DPCC and construction agencies have been alerted to carry out water sprinkling. Delhi’s air quality read 445 and was classified as “severe”, according to CPCB’s Air Quality Index (AQI), as the all too familiar feelings of irritation in the throat and a burning sensation in the eyes returned to those commuting. Values between 401 to 500 fall in the “severe” category wherein the air can “affect healthy people and seriously impact those with existing diseases”, according to CPCB’s health advisory. Data from CPCB’s central control room showed Delhi’s average PM 10 level peaking at 823 micrograms per cubic metre at 5 pm, eight times the safe standard, while the PM 2.5 level was 216 micrograms per cubic metre at 8 pm. The safe standards for both ultrafine particles are 100 and 60 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively. Delhi had recorded higher PM 10 levels last on November 8 when it had crossed 1,000 micrograms per cubic metre, while PM 2.5 levels were recorded at 805 micrograms per cubic metre.


It was also unusually hot during the day, adding to the misery. Delhi witnessed one of its highest minimum temperatures of the season at 34oC, six degrees above normal. The recorded maximum was 41.2oC. According to A Sudhakar, member secretary of CPCB, another meeting will be held on Thursday to review the situation. “The IMD has forecast that the activity will continue for the next three days. We will hold a meeting with all agencies and, if these levels continue, emergency action like stopping construction work will be initiated along with stopping the use of hot-mix plants and stone-crushers.,” said Sudhakar. EPCA member Sunita Narain, meanwhile, said the body had written letters to all chief secretaries in NCR about the pollution and asked them to improve sprinkling in their areas. “The Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) has written a letter to all chief secretaries and environment secretaries in NCR about the pollution levels. PM 10 levels have gone up to 800 micrograms per cubic metres, which is in the ‘severe+’ category under the graded response action plan (GRAP). We understand that this is dust so we have asked agencies to improve sprinkling and control dust right now,” said Narain.



Delhi: 2 Jewellery stores robbed within a radius of 10km



NEW DELHI: The encounter death of four gangsters in Chhatarpur on Saturday doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for city criminals. On Tuesday, two jewellery showrooms were robbed in two hours within a 10-kilometre radius. In the robbery that took place in Adarsh Nagar of northwest Delhi, the criminals killed a jeweller and stole at least Rs 10 lakh in cash and jewellery. In the Rohini heist, the robbers made away with valuables worth Rs 28 lakh without hurting anyone. Special Cell and Crime Branch have been roped in to track the robbers. Cops are probing if the heists were the handiwork of the same gang as three criminals were involved in both. In Adarsh Nagar, three men arrived at HR Jewellers around 3.55pm. They held the owner, Hemant Kaushal (40), and the employees at gunpoint and carried out the robbery within 10 minutes. Kaushal tried to stop them and in the ensuing scuffle one of them shot at him thrice. The bullets hit him in the chest and he collapsed. The robbers fled on a bike waving their pistols to scare away the locals. Police rushed Kaushal to Max Hospital where he was declared brought dead. DCP (northwest) Aslam Khan said an FIR of armed robbery and murder had been registered. Kaushal’s family lives on the floor above the showroom. At the time of the incident, he was helping his 13-year-old son with his homework. He was shot in front of his son. Family members rushed downstairs after hearing the gunshot. The incident was captured by CCTV cameras installed inside the shop. One of the criminals was seen sitting on a motorcycle outside the showroom.


Three hours earlier, three armed men entered Kalyan Jewellers in Rohini’s Sector 8 and robbed cash and jewellery after holding the employees at gunpoint. The criminals also took the DVR of the CCTV cameras installed inside the shop. This incident happened around 1pm, DCP (Rohini) Rajneesh Gupta confirmed. An FIR has been filed at Rohini (north) police station. The showroom manager, Himanshu, and another employee were present when the three criminals came and started inquiring about the gold jewellery in the shop. When one of them started going towards the store room, a robber kept the pistol on his temple. The other two criminals also pulled out their weapons and told them to move to a corner of the shop. They threatened to kill them if anyone tried to make a sudden move. One of the criminals then stashed all the jewellery and cash that he could lay his hands on inside a bag. When the robbers started leaving, the employees and locals chased them. However, they sped away on their getaway vehicle parked at a distance. In both the incidents, police have sought a list of current and former employees to ascertain their involvement. CCTV footage from the area is being scanned to get clues about the identity of the robbers.



Blaze at New Market; encroachment delays firefight



KOLKATA: Limited vehicle maneuverable space owing to hawker encroachment in New Market proved costly for a shop there as fire tenders could not reach in time to douse a fire that had engulfed the establishment on Wednesday. The fire tenders had to take a longer route because the shortest possible approach to the spot is encroached by hawkers. The fire trucks could access the area nearly 20 minutes after the firemen reached the spot. The delay, fire department officers said, could have proved disastrous had it been a bigger blaze. Around 4.45pm, a short circuit started a fire on a mezzanine floor of Gupta Jee, a shop in G-block that sells bed covers. Within minutes’ smoke engulfed the entire area. The area was teeming with Eid shoppers at the time. Mohammad Anwar Khan, a shop owner, said, “The entire block was evacuated. Many traders moved merchandise out of their shops”.


Four fire tenders brought the fire under control. “The nearest fire station is on Free School Street and it would not have taken us more than five minutes to reach New Market. But as the area is encroached by hawkers, fire tenders could not reach the Biryani House entrance opposite Nizam’s, which was the easiest point of access to Gupta Jee. Instead, we had to go via SN Banerjee Road and take the Bertram Street entrance. It cost us 20 minutes,’ a senior fire officer said. SS Hogg Market Traders’ Association president Ashok Gupta said, “We have been petitioning the mayor and the MMiC (market) regularly to regulate hawkers so that vehicles can access the market. While we lose business around the year as shoppers cannot park their cars, it becomes critical when there is an emergency. It is a heritage market that belongs to KMC and deserves better care”.



Rain lashes Kolkata, waterlogging and traffic congestion at several places



KOLKATA: The Southwest monsoon advanced to other parts of Bengal on Tuesday, a day after it arrived in Kolkata, South and North 24 Parganas. “After covering the whole of Kolkata, North and South 24 Parganas, monsoon has entered East and West Midnapore, parts of Howrah, Hooghly, Nadia, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpog,” said Sanjib Bandyopadhyay, deputy director general of meteorology at Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) Kolkata. Even as Alipore recorded a mere 7.2 mm of rain on the first day of the monsoon, on Tuesday rainfall amount doubled with the Met office recording 15 mm of rain. The city registered widespread rain though South Kolkata recorded heavier rainfall than North Kolkata. Place like Ballygunge and Dhapa Lock recorded a rainfall of 94 mm and 83 mm respectively in a hour between 3 pm and 4 pm. Met office sees more rain on Wednesday. “There is a chance of similar kind of rainfall activity in Kolkata for another 24 hours. But we expect slight decrease in rain from Thursday onwards” said GK Das, RMC director (weather). Many pockets in the city were waterlogged for hours. Traffic crawled during the evening peak hour.



5kg of gold worth Rs 1.55 crore looted from Jewellery firm staffers



AHMEDABAD: Two bikers allegedly looted 5kg gold worth over Rs 1.55 crore from employees of a city-based Jewellers at Amdupura bridge near Kalupur on Monday. The incident occurred when Putar Soni and Govind Patel, employed with the jewellery firm were returning from Naroda after exchanging some gold ornaments. According to a complaint lodged with Shaherkotda police, when they reached Amdupura, two persons on a motorcycle beside them snatched the bag in which gold bars and ornaments were kept. Inspector S M Chaudhari of Shaherkotda police station said that the bag with gold was kept near the footrest of the two wheeler when it the accused snatched it,” said Chaudhari. Sources in police said that Soni and Patel had been working with city-based jeweller Ramesh Pokhra since six and three years respectively. Pokhra has two jewellery shops one each in Manek Chowk and Delhi Chakla. Pokhra used to send the two staffers for exchange of gold and gold ornaments in areas like Nobelnagar, Sardarnagar and Naroda. On Monday too, he sent Soni and Patel for the same job in Naroda. “After the incident, Soni called up Pokhra and narrated what transpired following which Pokhra filed the complaint with police,” said sources in police. A team of special operations group (SOG), crime branch and Shaherkotda police is collecting CCTV footage from near the crime scene.



International News



120 countries at UN condemn Israel over Gaza violence

The UN General Assembly adopted an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and rejected a US bid to put the blame on Hamas.



UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and rejected a US bid to put the blame on Hamas. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March. No Israelis have died. The resolution put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries won 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions. An amendment presented by the United States condemning Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-third majority needed for adoption. Addressing the assembly, US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as biased against Israel and accused Arab countries of trying to score political points at home by seeking to condemn Israel at the United Nations. “For some, attacking Israel is their favorite political sport. That’s why we are here today,” said Haley. “I wish everyone supporting this one-sided resolution would put as much energy into encouraging President Abbas to the negotiating table,” she said. The resolution deplored Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians and called for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Arab countries backing the measure turned to the General Assembly after the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block the resolution on June 1. Unlike the Security Council, resolutions adopted by the assembly are non-binding and there is no veto. The resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the drafting of proposals for an “international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.


These could range from setting up an observer mission to a full-blown peacekeeping force, but action on any option would require backing from the Security Council, where the United States has veto power. Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour dismissed the US amendments blaming Hamas as “games and gimmicks” and urged ambassadors not to be “fooled” by the US proposal. “We are asking for a simple thing,” Mansour told the assembly. “We want our civilian population to be protected”. Turkey’s Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu defended the resolution, saying it was “about taking sides with international law” and showing the Palestinians that the world “does care about their suffering”. Taking the podium, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon assailed the measure as an “attempt to take away our basic right to self-defense.” He warned ambassadors that by supporting the resolution “you are empowering Hamas”. The US amendment condemning Hamas received 62 votes in favor, with 58 against and 42 abstentions. The United States sought to challenge the ruling requiring a two-thirds majority but that was defeated in a separate vote. “We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side,” Haley said in a statement. The General Assembly last held a similarly contentious vote on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in December, when it rejected President Donald Trump‘s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there. Haley had warned at the time that Washington was “taking names” of countries that supported the resolution. That vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. Backed by Arab countries, the Palestinians had lobbied to win as many votes as those cast in support of the Jerusalem resolution.



Saudi-led forces open assault on Yemen port city of Hodeida



DUBAI: The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen‘s exiled government launched a fierce assault on Wednesday on the crucial port city of Hodeida, the biggest offensive of the years-long war in the Arab world’s poorest nation for the main entry point for food in a country already teetering on the brink of famine. The attack on the Red Sea port aims to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and break the civil war’s long stalemate. But it could set off a prolonged street-by-street battle that inflicts heavy casualties. The fear is that a protracted fight could force a shutdown of Hodeida’s port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation. Some 70 percent of Yemen’s food enters via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving. Before dawn Wednesday, convoys of vehicles appeared to be heading toward the rebel-held city as heavy gunfire rang out. The assault, part of an operation dubbed “Golden Victory,” began with coalition airstrikes and shelling by naval ships, according to Saudi-owned satellite news channels and state media. Bombardment was heavy, with one aid official reporting 30 strikes in 30 minutes. “Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes,” said Jolien Veldwijk, the acting country director of the aid group CARE International, which works in Hodeida. “We thought it could not get any worse, but unfortunately we were wrong”.


The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement. Some 2,000 troops who crossed the Red Sea from an Emirati naval base in the African nation of Eritrea landed west of the city with plans to seize Hodeida’s port, Yemeni security officials said. Emirati forces with Yemeni troops moved in from the south near Hodeida’s airport, while others sought to cut off Houthi supply lines to the east, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. Yemen’s exiled government “has exhausted all peaceful and political means to remove the Houthi militia from the port of Hodeida,” it said in a statement. “Liberation of the port of Hodeida is a milestone in our struggle to regain Yemen from the militias”. The Houthi-run Al Masirah satellite news channel later claimed rebel forces hit a Saudi coalition ship near Hodeida with two missiles. Houthi forces have fired missiles at ships previously. The Saudi-led coalition did not immediately acknowledge the incident. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, whose area of responsibility includes the Red Sea, referred questions to the Pentagon, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Forces loyal to Yemen’s exiled government and fighters led by Emirati troops had neared Hodeida in recent days. The port is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, which has been in Houthi hands since September 2014. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015.


The United Nations and other aid groups already had pulled their international staff from Hodeida ahead of the assault. The port remained open, with supplies arriving. Several ships have arrived in recent days, including oil tankers, and there has been no word from the coalition or the UN to stop work, according to a senior port official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Aid groups nevertheless warned of disaster. Robert Mardini, the regional director for the Red Cross, said the push on Hodeida “is likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen”. “The population has already been weakened to extreme levels,” he said. David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, called the offensive “an attack on the political and diplomatic process to bring peace to Yemen.” He said the UN Security Council must act to secure a cease-fire before the people of Hodeida “suffer the same fate as those in AleppoMosul or Raqqa”. Over 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s civil war, which has displaced 2 million more and helped spawn a cholera epidemic. Saudi-led airstrikes have killed large numbers of civilians and damaged vital infrastructure. The UN and Western nations say Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons, from assault rifles to the ballistic missiles they have fired deep into Saudi Arabia, including at the capital, Riyadh.


The coalition has blocked most ports, letting supplies into Hodeida in coordination with the UN The air campaign and fighting have disrupted other supply lines, causing an economic crisis that makes food too expensive for many to afford. The UN says some 600,000 people live in and around Hodeida, and “as many as 250,000 people may lose everything, even their lives” in the assault. Already, Yemeni security officials said some were fleeing the fighting. “We hear sounds of explosions. We are concerned about missiles and shells. Some workers have left to their villages for fear of the war,” said Mohammed, a Hodeida resident who gave only his first name for fear of reprisals. The new UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, tweeted that he was “extremely concerned” by the violence, calling on all parties to exercise restraint. Griffiths’ recent appointment as envoy and his push for new negotiations may have encouraged the Saudi-led coalition to strengthen its hand ahead of any peace talks with the Houthis. The attack came as Washington has been focused on President Donald Trump’s summit this week with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The US has been offering targeting information to the Saudi-led coalition, as well as refueling their warplanes, but was not involved in military operations at the port, Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway said. “We do not provide any additional support to the Saudi coalition’s military operations,” he said.

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