News Flash – 15 May 2018

National News



Storms kill more in 5 weeks than all of 2017

An uprooted tree from Sunday’s sudden storm is seen falling next to a vehicle, in Delhi.



NEW DELHI: Storms across the country have killed more people since April 11 than all of last year. Since Sunday, thunderstorms claimed 94 lives across six states, taking the death toll in storms since April to 278. Fatalities in the first two weeks of May stand at 223, while 55 people died in April. Last year, storms claimed 197 lives, while the toll in 2016 was 216. The figures are based on numbers collated by TOI and those provided by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). Met department scientists said the storms in north India in the past five weeks were unusual both in number and severity. The current pattern of wind currents resembles what’s usually seen in winter months. Outside of the monsoon season, rain and storm activity in north India take place under the influence of western disturbances, waves of air currents coming in from the Mediterranean. “We are seeing the winter pattern of western disturbances in summer this year. Ten western disturbances have affected north India in April-May, while it is usually three-four,” said M Mohapatra, director general (meteorology), IMD.


During winter, the pattern was the reverse. January, which usually gets the maximum number of western disturbances (WD) of about seven, saw just four this year. In December, when the second highest number of these disturbances rolls in, there was just one. In February, five WDs struck against a normal of six. So, the country got just 33% of its normal rainfall in January and February. “It’s not just the number of WDs that’s important. Whether a WD makes an impact or not depends on its position and intensity. Most of the WDs during the winter months struck in a northerly position, which impacted J&K at most. In the past five weeks, WDs have come in the right direction and intensity to have a big impact,” Mohapatra said. What caused this reversal of pattern is not clear, but the reasons probably lie in largescale weather features. Since the WDs originate around southern Europe, air currents in that region and in the Atlantic Ocean become important. “The reasons need to be studied. One factor that could be coming into play is the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which is currently in the positive phase,” Mohapatra said.



Parents panic as child-lifters video goes viral; 5 beaten up



BENGALURU: Panic gripped several towns and villages bordering Andhra Pradesh after rumours about a gang of child kidnappers went viral on social media. The worst affected were Tumakuru and Ballari districts. The video circulated through WhatsApp went viral on Sunday as worried parents forwarded it. By evening, men carried logs and guarded lanes in remote places, anticipating an attack from the gang. Senior police officers visited these places and pacified the public. Confirming it was a rumour, ADGP Kamal Pant told TOI that SPs were directed to circulate a message on social media, saying the video was edited and originated from a foreign country. Divya Gopinath, SP, Tumakuru, said the video was circulated among villagers of Palavalli, Doddahalli, K Rampura and Ponnasamudra. “The rumour was that the kidnappers have come from Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew that it was an old and edited video. But we had a tough time convincing the villagers,” she said.


Meanwhile, four women, who had come to Ballari in search of jobs from Andhra Pradesh, were handed over to police. “These women were waiting at the bus stand at Sanganakal village in Ballari. Villagers suspected them to be the kidnappers and they were beaten up and handed over to police,” said police. “A similar incident took place in Sirguppa where a 45-year-old beggar was beaten up after mistaking him for a child-lifter,” said a senior police officer from Ballari. Times View: Researchers have proven that fake news and rumour is viral gold. The danger, though, lies in acting on it, as this fake kidnap incident shows. Researchers also found that it wasn’t bots, but human social media users who were responsible for the origin and spread of fake news. Reigning in pranksters and those out for a laugh is a difficult if not impossible task. The responsibility of reining in fake news, therefore, lies on those forwarding such messages, especially the educated. Forward if one must, but do so responsibly.



Anthrax scare hits village near Bandipur reserve



MYSURU: The anthrax scare has come back to haunt the wild animals of Bandipur Tiger Reserve this summer. At least ten heads of cattle died due to this disease at Shivapura village over the past two weeks. This small village in Gundlupet taluk, 8km from Melkammanahalli at the entrance to Bandipura Tiger Reserve, has triggered panic among villagers and wildlife activists as the disease can infect humans as well as mammals. In 2013, there was panic among forest officers after the death of cattle on the forest fringes due to anthrax. Even though the disease did not claim any wildlife that year, in 2004, elephants had died at Nagarahole Tiger Reserve and in Sathyamangalam forest bordering the BRT tiger reserve. The disease was first noticed after two heads of cattle belonging to Lokesh and one each of Shivamma and Subbappa died in the village. Later, six heads of cattle belonging to villagers DC Madappa, Prema, Siddaraju, Papa Shetty and Chinnabasappa died in the past week. There was one death on Monday too. All the cattle were cross-breeds. A few died in neighbouring Hundipura village. After the disease was detected, health and animal husbandry department officials started vaccination. Gundlupet government veterinary officer Dr Mallesh said due to drought over the past few years, the disease has spread. “Villagers may have buried dead animals near the lakes. As there was rain over the past few days, bacterial spores in the soil may have spread with rain water. As cattle graze near the lake, the disease spread,” he said.



Home Guard climbs hoarding, chaos hits traffic at Hyderabad flyover


HYDERABAD: Protesting against the dismissal of over 400 Home Guards, a man on Monday climbed a hoarding at Khairatabad in Hyderabad. He threatened to end his life but was later persuaded by the police to come down after hours of convincing. Home Guards are protesting against their dismissal, after putting years of services in erstwhile AP. After separating from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana government suspended their services. The home guards pleaded to take them back, but to no avail. They along with their families started protesting at Khairatanad flyover after not getting any response from the government. This created a near chaos like situation at the spot with traffic completely at standstill at Punjagutta cross roads.



Bengal’s bloodiest poll day claims 17 lives

supporters block road at Machibhanga on the day of panchayat election



KOLKATA: At least 17 people died as the state’s villages went to vote for the panchayat poll on Monday, making it the bloodiest day of a long season and keeping the 2018 rural vote true to Bengal’s tradition of blood-soaked election narratives. The first lives lost were that of a couple burnt in their sleep in South 24-Parganas’ Kakdwip, hours before the start of polling, and the death meter ticked with metronomic regularity almost every waking hour after that. Miscreants intimidated voters in queue, snatched ballot boxes and singed ballot papers, opened fire at political rivals, hurled bombs at cops and forced poll officials to leave booths at places, raising serious questions over the wisdom of the State Election Commission’s decision to hold the poll on a single day after the 2013 rural election saw a vote spread over five days. Monday’s toll was easily the highest 24-hour count in Bengal’s recent electoral history though state government officials argued that the figure was less than that seen during the 2013 panchayat poll, when 25 people died on the five days when polling took place. The SEC took cognizance of just six poll-related deaths and took recourse to the measuring tape to conclude six others were “non-poll deaths” as they occurred more than 200 metres away from polling booths. The union ministry of home affairs sought a report from the state government on the violence as opposition parties hit the street to protest against the SEC. The CPM staged a demonstration in front of the SEC office and the BJP knocked on Raj Bhavan’s doors to complain against the poll panel. The SEC said it was examining all the complaints and would take a call on re-poll based on a home department report. Many of the deaths have occurred in districts like Murshidabad, South 24-Parganas, Coochbehar, Nadia and Hooghly, which have also seen a disproportionately high number of Trinamool “walkover” winners. The opposition interpreted the bloodbath in these areas as a focused Trinamool bid to gain control over as many panchayat seats as possible ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.



Unconfirmed reports said a Trinamool Congress supporter was killed in Nadia’s Tehatta. Krishnapada Sarkar’s family members claimed he was targeted by opposition supporters. The deaths were also divided across parties, with the Trinamool claiming at least five of the dead as their own, indicating a tacit understanding among and counter-resistance by supporters of all opposition parties, including the BJP and the CPM. Senior Trinamool Congress minister Partha Chatterjee accused the opposition parties and Independents of ganging up against the ruling party. The five Trinamool men who died came from Nadia’s Shantipur and Nakashipara, South 24-Parganas’ Bhangar and North Dinajpur’s Raiganj. People standing in queue at a Shantipur booth lynched Trinamool worker Sanjit Pramanik as he tried to take control of the booth. The angry mob then chased away miscreants, who rode in on 12 motorbikes, and then set the bikes on fire. CPM supporters chased Trinamool worker Bhola Dafadar at Bilkumari in Nadia’s Nakashipara, took him to a neighbouring house’s roof and killed him. Another Trinamool worker, Arif Ali Gaji, was killed inside a Kultali polling booth; the Trinamool accused the SUCI, which denied the charge. Another Trinamool worker died in South Dinajpur’s Tapan. The challenge to the Trinamool came from varied sources, ranging from the Naxal-backed Save Land Livelihood Environment Protection Committee “Independents” in Bhangar to opposition-backed Independents in East Midnapore’s Nadigram and West Midnapore’s forest hamlets. West Burdwan’s Kanksa saw Trinamool “outsiders” being beaten back and West Midnapore’s Keshpur saw cops themselves being forced to retreat amid heavy brick-batting.


But it was the opposition that bore the brunt of the violence. CPM couple Debu and Usha Das were burnt to death in their sleep in Kakdwip, fueling tension in the area. Independent supporter Sahin Shiekh was killed and seven others had bullet wounds in Murshidand’s Naoda, Congress district leader Abu Taher’s turf. BJP activist Tapan Mandal was killed in Murshidabad’s Beldanga. CPM supporters Apu Manna and Jaggeswar Das fell to bullets fired by motorbike-borne Trinamool miscreants at Khodambari in East Mindapore’s Nandigram. BJP activist Tapan Mandal was killed in Murshidabad and, in North 24-Parganas’ Amdanga, CPM activist Toibur Gazi was killed in a clash with Trinamool men. Trinamool minister Rabindranath Ghosh went to a Coochbehar booth and slapped a BJP polling agent, who ran out of the booth to seek his protection after being driven out by Trinamool men. Trinamool supporters damaged ballot boxes and papers in Jyangra, on Kolkata’s northern fringes, in Jalpaiguri’s Rajganj as well as in Murshidabad’s Beldanga and Rejinagar and Birbhum’s Mohammadbazar. Ballot boxes were taken away from polling booths in Hooghly’s Pursura and Tarakeshwar. And, in East Burdwan’s Memari, once a CPM bastion where the party could not even field candidates for the zilla parishad this time, Trinamool men snatched ballot boxes from Kabirpur Primary School. Similar reports came in from Chandrakona and Egra’s Jhumki.



International News



Indonesia bombings: 8-year-old among attackers as second family targets cops

Cops guard the police headquarters in Surabaya, Indonesia.



SURABAYA: A family of Islamist militants in Indonesia carried an eight-year-old into a suicide bomb attack against police in Surabaya on Monday, a day after another militant family killed 13 people in suicide attacks on three churches in the same city. The suicide bombers rode two motorbikes up to a checkpoint outside a police station and blew themselves up, police chief Tito Karnavian told a news conference in Indonesia’s second-largest city. He said the child survived the explosion. Four officers and six civilians were wounded in the attack, East Java police spokesman Frans Barung Mangera said. “We hope the child will recover. We believe she was thrown 3 metres or so up into the air by the impact of the explosion,” said Mangera, adding she had been rushed to hospital. President Joko Widodo branded the attacks in Surabaya the “act of cowards”, and pledged to push through a new anti-terrorism bill to combat Islamist militant networks. After some major successes tackling Islamist militancy since 2001, there has been a resurgence in recent years, including in January 2016 when four suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a shopping area in Jakarta.


Police suspected Sunday’s attacks on the churches were carried out by a cell of the Islamic State-inspired group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an umbrella organisation on a US state department terrorist list that is reckoned to have drawn hundreds Indonesian sympathizers of IS. The father of the family involved in those attacks was the head of a JAD cell in the city, Karnavian said. Earlier, police said his family was among 500 IS sympathizers who had returned from Syria, but the police chief said that was incorrect. During the hunt for the cell, police shot dead four suspects and arrested nine, media reported police as saying. The police chief said the JAD cell may have been answering a call from Islamic State in Syria to “cells throughout the world to mobilise”. In another incident in Sidoarjo, south of Surabaya, police recovered pipe bombs at an apartment where an explosion killed three members of a family alleged to have been making bombs, Karnavian said. Three children from the family survived and were taken to hospital. In all, 31 people have died since Sunday in attacks, including 13 suspected perpetrators and 14 civilians, police said. Security experts said the attacks represented the first time in Indonesia that children had been used by militants on a suicide mission. “The objective of using a family for terror acts is so it is not easily detected by the police,” said security analyst Stanislaus Riyanta.



Over 8,000 people affected by Sri Lanka flash floods

View of a neighborhood destroyed after being flooded by the Cauca river in Puerto Valdivia municipality, Antioquia department, Colombia.



COLOMBO: Over 8,000 people in Sri Lanka have been affected by torrential rains and flash floods that have wreaked havoc in the island nation, officials said. Several people were evacuated from their homes due to the heavy downpour yesterday but as the rains ceased this morning, the situation was normalising, Disaster Management Centre’s spokesperson Pradeep Kodippilli said. Around 8,377 individuals in the Galle and Kalutara Districts have been affected with the flood situation due to torrential rains received yesterday, the centre said. Nearly 7,742 people in Galle District and 635 people in Kalutara District were affected with the flood situation, Kodippilli was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror. The flood situation is gradually improving at the moment, he said, adding that no casualties or damages were reported but those living in low areas have been asked to be vigilant. Meanwhile, Meteorology Department said showers or thundershowers will occur over most provinces in the island. It said showers will occur in the Western and Southern provinces and in the Puttalam District, the report said. Sri Lanka, which has been heavily deforested for cash crops, often witnesses landslides during the monsoon season. Last year, heavy floods and landslides triggered by the worst rainfall killed at least 92 people and left 110 missing. Over 20,000 people had been displaced in seven districts as the south western monsoon caused havoc, destroying hundreds of homes and cutting off several roads.



Ten die in Bangladesh stampede for alms ahead of Ramzan, 50 hurt



CHITTAGONG: A stampede on Monday by thousands of poor villagers outside the home of a businessman distributing alms ahead of Ramzan killed at least 10 women and injured about 50 people, police in southeast Bangladesh said. It is a custom for devout Muslims to donate money or goods to the poor before or during the holy fasting month of Ramzan, which is expected to begin on Wednesday or Thursday this week. The stampede began after people jostled to collect clothes and other items at the residence of the owner of a steel mill, said police official Rafiqul Alamin the district of Chittagong, about 260 km (165 miles) from Dhaka, the capital. “There were 10,000 to 12,000 people, mostly women and trying to push to each other to collect alms ahead of other and that led stampede,” he told Reuters.



Gaza erupts as US opens Jerusalem embassy, Israel kills 52 Palestinians

Palestinians protest near the Gaza-Israel border on Monday against the US move to shift its embassy to Jerusalem.



GAZA CITY: Israeli soldiers shot and killed at least 52 Palestinians during mass protests along the Gaza border on Monday. It was the deadliest day there since a devastating 2014 cross-border war and cast appall over Israel’s festive inauguration of the new US embassy in contested Jerusalem. In a show of anger fueled by the embassy move, protesters set tyres on fire, sending plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops across the border. The Israeli military said its troops had come under fire, and accused protesters of trying to break through the border fence. It said troops shot and killed three Palestinians who were trying to plant a bomb. The steadily climbing death toll and wall-to-wall condemnation of the embassy move by the Arab world raised new doubts about US President Trump’s ambitions to broker what he once said would be the West Asia’s “deal of the century.” By late afternoon, at least 52 Palestinians, including five minors, were killed, the Gaza health ministry said. One of the minors was identified as a girl. At least 1,204 protesters were wounded, including 116 in serious or critical condition. The statement says about 1,200 others suffered other types of injuries, including from tear gas.


At the embassy ceremony in Jerusalem, Trump son-in-law and chief West Asia adviser Jared Kushner placed the blame on the Gaza protesters. “As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” he said. Kushner and Trump daughter Ivanka led a high-powered American delegation that also included the treasury secretary and four Republican senators. The new embassy will temporarily operate from an existing United States consulate, until a decision has been made on a permanent location. In Gaza, the Hamas-led protest was meant to be the biggest yet in a weeks-long campaign against a decade-old blockade of the territory. The Israeli military estimated a turnout of about 40,000, saying this fell short of what Hamas had hoped for. The march was also directed at the inauguration of the embassy. Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a key Trump campaign promise – infuriated the Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as a future capital. Monday marked the biggest showdown in years between Israel’s military and Gaza’s Hamas rulers along the volatile border. The sides have largely observed a ceasefire since the 2014 war – their third in a decade.


The protests mark the culmination of a campaign, led by Hamas and fueled by despair among Gaza’s 2 million people, to break the blockade of the territory imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. Since weekly border marches began in March, 83 Palestinian protesters have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded by Israeli army fire. Hamas said four members, including three security men, were among the dead on Monday. “We say clearly today to all the world that the peaceful march of our people lured the enemy into shedding more blood,” senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas condemned Israeli “massacres” along the Gaza border. Abbas, who declared three days of mourning, also said “the US is no longer a mediator in the Middle East (West Asia),” and the new embassy was tantamount to “a new American settler outpost” in Jerusalem. However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s actions on the Gaza border were self-defence against the enclave’s ruling Hamas group. “Every country has an obligation to defend its borders,” he tweeted.

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