News Flash – 16 August 2017

National News



Photo of Independence Day at flooded Assam school goes viral

An assistant teacher from Assam celebrates Independence Day.



GUWAHATI: A Facebook post of an assistant teacher at an Assam school, his colleague and two Class III students saluting the national flag on Independence Day while standing in knee-deep floodwater (the children are in chest-deep) has gone viral. Naskara LP School assistant teacher Mizanur Rahman posted the image of himself and others on Facebook and said they waded through waist-deep water to hoist the tricolour. “We hoisted the tricolour and sang the national anthem as we are proud to observe the freedom of our nation,” he said. His Facebook post read, “No need to tell how we are right now, picture will tell all the stories… I did not expect this kind of support… thank you all for sharing this picture”.



Mumbai: Railway clerk swipes card for Rs 1.3 lakh instead of Rs 1,333



MUMBAI: While e-payment at railway booking counters has brought relief to commuters, a serious error, on the part of a Western Railway clerk, has left a Dahisar resident in the lurch. Vikas Manchekar’s credit card was swiped for Rs 1.3 lakh, by mistake, at the railway booking counter in Borivli west on August 4 when he was buying a quarterly first-class pass for the Andheri-Borivli sector. “The amount to be deducted was Rs 1,333.30. However, the booking clerk inadvertently keyed in 1,33,330. Now, I have been chasing Western Railway authorities to get the money refunded,” Manchekar said. He immediately brought this to the notice of the station officials and wrote a complaint seeking immediate refund. He also called up the bank that issued the credit card, but to no avail. He said, “The stress is bound to increase further as an interest of Rs 4,000-5,000 will be levied on the amount after the due date of August 24. Along with the deducted amount, WR should also pay me the interest if it is charged by the bank”.


Manchekar said he had taken time out of his work to visit Mumbai Central, where WR’s Mumbai division office is located, to the pursue the matter. WR’s chief public relations officer Ravinder Bhakar said, “Disciplinary action has been initiated and charge sheet also issued to the booking clerk”. He also said that WR has deputed personnel to pursue the matter with the State Bank of India to get the amount refunded in the commuter’s account at the earliest. “Railways should give intensive training to its booking staff so that such errors do not creep in,” Manchekar said adding that the Point of Sale (POS) machines at the counters should be displayed in such a manner that commuters can verify the amount being deducted before entering the Personal Identification Number (PIN).



Nigerian held for duping Delhiites by cloning cards at ATMs



NEW DELHI: A Nigerian man has been arrested for cloning debit cards of over 100 people and withdrawing money fraudulently from their accounts. The victims had swiped their cards at ATMs in upscale south Delhi colonies. The man identified as Kingsley had a unique modus operandi. Police said he would identify an ATM kiosk that didn’t have a security guard around. He would go inside, rip open the card swiping slot of the machine and place a scanner behind it. Black tape would hold the device in place. Next, Kingsley would place a camera somewhere on the machine so that its focus would be on the keypad. Whenever an ATM user swiped his card, the scanner would capture the details while the camera would record the PIN as the customer keyed it in. Once the customer stepped out, Kingsley would go inside, fetch the card reader and camera, and clone the card with the details. Then he would swipe the cloned card at other ATMs and withdraw money. In this way, customer after customer fell victim to Kingsley’s fraud.


Until one day, a woman who operated an ATM near Hari Nagar found a large transaction done from her card long after she had withdrawn money. She immediately reported the matter to the police, who then obtained footage of CCTV cameras installed nearby. Police spotted two black Africans entering the kiosk and got suspicious. They tracked one of them to a locality near Uttam Nagar. It was Kingsley. He was arrested. During interrogation, Kingsley said that he had placed similar gadgets at an unguarded ATM near Rajendra Dhaba in Safdarjung Enclave and another in Mumbai with the help of his friend seen in the footage. “We have seized the devices used to clone the cards and are scanning through Kingsley’s laptops to find out the identities of the other customers. We have so far recovered the details of 110 customers in Delhi,” said DCP (southwest) Surender Kumar. A theft case has been registered and efforts are on to trace Kingsley’s associate.



Glass shards injure seven in Mumbai’s petrol pump blast


MUMBAI: A blast and a fire in a glass office cabin near a petrol pump injured seven people near Chitra talkies in Dadar (east) around 7.40 pm on Monday. The fire incident occurred during the unloading of petrol into the underground tank at the pump. The fire brigade said it was possible that fuel particles travelled to the cabin and caused a blast near the electric connections there. The incident happened when it was raining heavily. Three of the injured were pump employees and the others were passers-by. The injuries were mostly caused by broken glass shards. The blaze was confined to the cabin and fire officials said they would have had a major incident on their hands if it had travelled to the fuel tank and the tanker. The injured were in hospital and out of danger, said a fire officer. “Fuel normally dissipates in air but this did not happen on Monday and it travelled up to the cabin,” chief fire officer P S Rahangdale said. “The flashbacks blasted the cabin. We are probing if it happened due to a leakage”. The blast in the cabin also damaged the petrol vapours UPS system, plate batteries, office records and a door of a car nearby.



1 in 3 road deaths due to flouting of traffic rules



NEW DELHI: One in every three people killed in road accidents in Delhi suffers that terrible fate because of flouting basic safety regulations like not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt. Delhi traffic police say last year, 572 people were killed in accidents involving two wheelers of whom 70% were either speeding or not wearing safety gear. And of them, 90% were men. Experts say that it takes more than just learning to ride a motorcycle to control a high power sports bike. In fact, biking enthusiasts, part of various clubs in Delhi, have to undergo rigorous training to even venture out on the city roads. Most of the sports bikes need strong reflexes and great control, especially on Indian roads that are often crowded. Strong biking laws are a must, say many experts. Essa Khan, a sports bike instructor in Noida, says many youngsters think professional biking is all about showing off half-learnt skills.


Abhishek Kumar, a dealer of super bikes in central Delhi, said, “We always tell riders to be aware of the rides they are on. Since there are no biker-specific laws in the country, there should be some way through which the government must rein in these practices. They give the general public a wrong impression about sports bike owners”. Police officers say parents who gift such bikes to their teenaged children must monitor their use. Their data also show that almost 40% of road deaths involving two-wheelers are caused due to rider error. Sometimes, safety gear isn’t up to the mark as well. For instance, the helmets available for super bikes often do not comply with the standards. On Monday, too, the victim’s helmet was destroyed on impact. Police also say that T-points and multi-point intersections are the usual spots for accidents. Mouths of flyovers and places where colony roads merge with arterial are becoming danger zones. Police, however, say that private cars are often responsible for two-wheeler crashes.



Bengaluru: Monday rain highest for August in 127 years


BENGALURU: When Bengaluru went to sleep on Monday night, the city had received 44.8mm of rain for August. When it woke up on Tuesday morning, that figure had risen by 128.7mm – the highest rainfall in a day since 1890, according to the Met department. It made up nearly 88% of the rain expected over the entire month, pouring down on the city from 11pm on Monday to 4am on Tuesday. The highest-ever rainfall recorded in the city in a day was on August 27, 1890, when Bengaluru received 162.1mm of rain. According to the Karnataka State Disaster Monitoring Centre (KSDMC), that record was broken on Tuesday. It said the city received 184cm of rain since Monday night, the highest being recorded in Bilekahalli. The overnight rain flooded several parts of the city, submerging parking lots and entire road stretches, and snapped power in vast swathes since the early hours of Tuesday. The Yediyur lake breached a retaining wall, while foam from the Bellandur lake flowed to neighbouring localities. Over 40 rescue boats came out in ST Bed area of Koramangala, while the fire department was called to flush out water from apartments in HSR Layout, Koramangala, Jayanagar and Bannerghatta Road, among other areas. At least 26 trees were uprooted. Wildlife volunteers received panic calls as snakes entered homes in Rajarajeshwari Nagar, JP Nagar, Nagarabhavi, Thanisandra, Uttarahalli and Puttenahalli.


South Bengaluru, home to IT majors and startups, was the worst affected. BTM Layout, Bilekahalli, Koramangala, Arakere, Pattabhiramanagar and Sampangiramanagar received 12.4cm of rain or more overnight. Most Bengalureans heaved a sigh of relief as it was Independence Day: There was no school or office to get to, negotiating the traffic nightmare on the flooded roads. Some I-T professionals had horror stories to relate on waterlogging while returning from night shifts on Monday but there was no untoward incident. While waterlogging complaints were being attended to till late at night, the power situation was back to normal in most parts of the city. Wednesday, a working day, may prove to be troublesome though as thousands of commuters hit the roads. The met department has predicted heavy rainfall for at least another day, due to cyclonic conditions over south coastal Tamil Nadu. While Tuesday was largely cloudy, there was heavy rain in the evening, especially in the north, northwest and eastern parts.



Burglar gang tries to break into bank, fails



KOLKATA: Burglars tried to break into Allahabad Bank’s Naktala branch early on Monday. According to cops, the goons failed to break the vault and finally left without damaging any bank property. The Netaji Nagar police have started a probe based on a complaint from the bank officials. Cops said the accused broke in through an AC duct after removing the board that covered the duct area. “It seems they were well-prepared. They knew the AC had been temporarily shifted due to maintenance work. The burglars also removed the CCTV cameras and changed their direction to avoid being detected,” said an investigating officer. Police are currently collecting statements from the bank officials. “The movement of local criminals and people involved in ATM break-ins are being looked into,” said a senior IPS officer at Lalbazar. Cops are also trying to find out whether the branch used to conduct regular security drills. Earlier, a 10-point guideline had been issued by the detective department, which that laid emphasis on electronic surveillance, installing multiple-point alert systems and scanning movement of visitors.



Dengue fight: Public spots to submit ‘aedes-free’ reports or face closure



CHENNAI: To stem a sharp-rise in cases of dengue and deaths from the mosquito-borne disease, the state health department will soon make it mandatory for the administrators of schools, railway stations, marriage halls, malls, cinema halls and other public places to submit “aides-free” reports to the district collector every week. Tamil Nadu has recorded 15 deaths and more than 6,000 cases of dengue — spread mostly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito — so far this year. Central and western districts of the state have reported a large number of cases over the past three weeks. Public health officials say the situation is likely to worsen if they don’t start an active public campaign. They said the reports will be mandatory till at least the end of January 2018. In a sign that it plans to implement the campaign with all seriousness, the department said it will take strict action against violators. “If any public space is found to be unsafe, we will issue a closure notice under the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act,” director of public health Dr. K Kolandaswamy said. “We can even invoke IPC Section 336 (endangering life or personal safety of others) against offenders”.


“This is not the government’s battle alone,” he said. “Many households and public places have been breeding grounds for mosquitoes… [At the] health department, we need large number of people to be part of this eradication campaign”. According to new advisory by the department, administrators of public places must remove from the premises potential breeding sites such as discarded tyres, plastic containers, coconut shells and paint tins and close overhead tanks and sumps by between 11am and noon every Thursday. They should clearly display the date that they cleaned the place on noticeboards. The advisory said local bodies will be responsible for disposal of the waste. The department has nominated officers of all departments at the district and sub-district levels as nodal officers to monitor the process. District collectors will review the number of “aedes free” certificates and cases every Thursday and also plan field work. Health inspectors will conduct inspections. The department will incorporate self-help organisations, the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan, NSS, youth associations and school and college students, members of resident welfare associations for house visits and source reduction activities. Health minister C Vijaya Baskar said successfully converting the initiative into a people’s movement is the only effective way to tackle the menace. “We are involving multiple departments to bring down the incidence of dengue,” he said.



International News



More than 300 dead, 600 missing in Sierra Leone mudslides

Volunteers wait at the scene of heavy flooding and mudslides in Regent.



FREETOWN: Fatmata Kamara had just stepped outside her house before dawn Monday when she saw the muddy hillside collapsing above her. The only thing she could do was run. She was one of the survivors, those who managed to escape the surging mudslides and floodwaters in and around Sierra Leone‘s capital that killed more than 300 people, many of them trapped as they slept. Another 600 people are missing, the Red Cross said on Tuesday, and the death toll is expected to rise. Thousands lost their homes in the disaster, which was triggered by heavy rains. “I ran away from the house, leaving behind my family,” a grieving Kamara told The Associated Press. “I am the only one that has survived, as my house and dozens of others were covered with mud and boulders”. Rescuers dug with their bare hands through the thick, reddish mud to try to find any survivors in the debris of the homes. Heavy equipment was later brought in, said government spokesman Cornelius Deveaux. The military also was deployed to help. Late Tuesday, Deveaux said that 297 bodies have been recovered so far, including 109 males, 83 females and 105 children. Some bodies were swept into the sea off the coast of the West African nation and have begun washing back ashore. The mortuary of the Connaught Hospital in central Freetown was overwhelmed with the dead. More than 300 bodies of men, women and children were brought there, and many were laid out on the floor. Deveaux said an exact death toll was unknown, and many of the bodies were horribly mangled.


President Ernest Bai Koroma said Sierra Leone was in a state of grief and mourning, with many survivors still in shock. He called for seven days of mourning starting on Wednesday. Radio journalist Gibril Sesay said he lost his entire family. “I am yet to grasp that I survived, and my family is gone,” he said through sobs, unable to continue. Ahmed Sesay, caretaker of a two-story house near the Guma Valley Dam east of the capital, said he was sleeping around 6 a.m. when he felt a vibration. “It was like an earthquake. I ran out of my quarters to the gate of the compound,” he said. “The ground shook and I had to stay outside the compound until daybreak”.  An estimated 9,000 people have been affected in some way by the disaster, said Abdul Nasir, program coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “A river of mud came out of nowhere and swallowed entire communities, just wiped them away. We are racing against time, more flooding and the risk of disease to help these affected communities survive and cope with their loss”.  Charles Mambu, a civil society activist and resident of one affected area, Mount Sugar Loaf, said the magnitude of the destruction indicated that hundreds more people could be dead. In one sign of hope, two people were pulled alive from the debris Monday evening, Mambu said. The UN said it is providing emergency response assistance.


Contingency plans are being put in place to try to stem the outbreak of diseases such as cholera, Deveaux told radio station FM 98.1. The bodies that have been recovered will begin to be buried in the next 48 hours, said Sulaiman Parker, environmental protection officer for the Freetown City Council. Many of the poor areas of Freetown are near sea level and have poor drainage systems, which makes flooding worse during the rainy season. The capital also is plagued by unregulated construction of large residential houses in hilltop areas. Thousands of makeshift settlements in and around the city were severely affected. “The government has been warning people not to construct houses in these areas. When they do this, there are risks,” Nasir said. “People don’t follow the standard construction rules, and that is another reason that many of these houses have been affected”. Deforestation for firewood and charcoal is one of the leading contributors to the flooding and mudslides.



3,000 firefighters in Portugal combat raging wildfire

A firefighter asks for one more length of hose while fighting a wild fire on a slope outside the town of Ferreira do Zezere, central Portugal on Aug. 14, 2017.



LISBON, Portugal: Around 3,000 firefighters in Portugal were struggling to put out more than 150 wildfires raging across the country Tuesday, as persistent hot and dry weather stoked the flames, officials said. In one case, around 800 firefighters supported by air units were needed to finally bring under control a blaze that had burned for three days near the central town of Vila dei Rei. Portuguese public television RTP showed images of towering flames illuminating the night which by morning had left large swathes of scorched forest near the town, where authorities evacuated 112 people Monday. Another 300 firefighters were focused on combating a second large fire also in the interior of the country. RTP showed images of smoke rising as fires advanced through wooded hills, threatening the villages of Ferreira do Zezere and Macedo de Cavaleiros. Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said Tuesday that 55 people had been injured, including four with serious injuries, by fires in Portugal since Aug. 9. Gaspar also said that firefighters would get no relief from the weather. She said temperatures were forecast to rise in the interior of the country, where they could reach 40 C (104 F). Portugal has been especially hard hit by wildfires this year because of a widespread drought. The worst outbreak killed 64 people in June, with many dying on a road as they fled the rampant flames in their cars. On Saturday, the Civil Protection Agency recorded a single day record for the year of 268 separate fires. The agency added that 90 percent of the fires were either intentionally or accidentally started by people. Wildfires in Portugal this year have accounted for more than one-third of the burnt forest in the entire 28-nation European Union.



Death toll in Nepal floods climbs to 91

A boy walks along the flooded area in Saptari District, Nepal on August 14, 2017.



KATHMANDU: The death toll in rain- triggered floods and landslides in Nepal has climbed to 91 with 38 persons still missing and over six million people affected by natural calamity. Nepal Ministry of Home Affairs said 2,847 houses were completely damaged in the disaster, My Republica reported. “A committee was formed under the coordination of Home Minister Janardan Sharma to tally details of the loss. The chief secretary and secretaries of 12 ministries are members of the committee,” Ram Krishna Subedi, spokesperson of the Home Ministry, was quoted by the report. The death toll reached 91 as of Monday evening, the Home Ministry said, adding that normal life in different parts of the country was severely affected while a large number of people were reported displaced by floods, landslides and inundations. It has also said that the government has accelerated the task of rescue and relief operations as well as search for those missing in the flooding and inundation, with more than 26,700 security personnel directly deployed for post-disaster rescue and relief operations. A total of 13 helicopters, including seven of Nepal Army, motorboats, rubber boats and other equipment are being used for search, rescue and relief measures.


Ministry’s spokesperson Ram Krishna Subedi said that tarps, cooking pots, dry foods, salt, vegetable oil and other relief materials have also been distributed in the affected districts. Heavy rainfall has lashed Nepal for the past five days, leading to the swelling of several rivers beyond the danger mark and causing flooding and landslides at many places. Rapti river, which flows through a large part of Nepal towards the southern plains, flooded human settlements and hotels popular with tourists in the Chitwan Valley. All the 35 Indian nationals, who were stranded in Sauraha, a part of the Chitawan National Park, have been rescued, an Indian Embassy spokesperson said. They were rescued to safer place by using tamed elephants. Earlier reports quoting local authorities had said that 200 Indian tourists were among the 700 stranded people, but the Indian Embassy official said only 35 of them were Indian nationals. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), at least 14 people were killed by landslide in Morang district, taking the death toll in the district to 17 and overall to 80. Thirty-five people have been also missing since Friday. The monsoon havoc has affected 27 districts spanning from the eastern, central to the western regions.

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