News Flash – 16 August 2018

National News



Actor smelt a rat at salon, alerted cops to trafficking


Mumbai: Child trafficker Rajesh Gamlewala’s racket was busted early March when actor Preeti Sood visited Shringar Salon in Versova one afternoon and got suspicious on finding three men instructing staff on how to apply makeup on two underage girls. “When I asked the men, they claimed to be sending the children to their parents in the US. I told them to accompany me to the police station, but they refused. I managed to stop two of the men and called the police. Meanwhile, the third escaped with the girls,” Sood told TOI. “I got curious when I got a call from my friend who was at the salon that two minors were getting makeup. I went there on a suspicion that the girls were being readied for brothels. Once there, I realized that the racket was bigger than I thought,” she said. Sood got four men arrested by the Versova police, including a retired sub-inspector’s son. The four are Amir Khan (26; the policeman’s son), Tajuddin Khan (48), Afzal Shaikh (35) and Rizwan Chotani (39). Gamlewala would instruct his gang to find a poor family, usually in Gujarat, willing to sell a child, and another family willing to rent out their child’s passport. A passport with a picture with some resemblance to the about-to-be trafficked child would be selected. The gang would then pay a carrier to take the child to the US on the chosen passport.


Before that, makeup would be applied on the child for a stronger resemblance with the picture on the passport. The carrier would return after leaving the child in the US and return the rented passport. It is not yet clear how the passport would be stamped by immigration without its bearer’s presence. Gamlewala was tracked with the help of a WhatsApp number he used to communicate with his accomplices. “Gamlewala has been arrested before. In 2007, he was caught in Mumbai for passport forgery. We were led to his latest racket because of the March arrests,” said Versova police senior inspector Ravindra Badgujar, part of a team which cracked the case. Supervised by DCP (Zone IX) Paramjit Singh Dahiya, it also comprised inspector Sanjay Pawar, assistant inspector Bharat Patil, sub-inspector Om Totavar and others. The accused have been booked under the IPC’s sections 34 (common intention) and 373 (buying minor for purposes of prostitution). Gamlewala will be in police custody till August 18. His four cronies are in judicial custody. TIMES VIEW: That human traffickers succeed despite checks and the security apparatus inside and outside airports points to the possible collusion of officials. If this theory is proved baseless, it’s all the more worrying because it would then indicate the system itself is creaky despite its apparent stringency. Child trafficking needs to be tackled as seriously in the countries of origin as in the destination nations.



7 revellers swept to death, 30 stranded at MP waterfall

Viral videos showed a group of youngsters desperately trying to hold on as they were pounded by the raging, churning torrent and swept over the edge within seconds at Sultanpur waterfall in MP. Heavy rainfall in the upper reaches on Wednesday had created conditions for a flash flood.



Bhopal: Independence Day revelry turned into a tragedy when at least seven picnickers were swept to their death in a flash flood at Sultanpur waterfall in Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh. IAF choppers and NDRF personnel are trying to rescue about 30 others, who are stranded on a rock, with water rising all around. While unofficial sources put the toll at11, officials confirmed only seven deaths. Viral videos show a group of 8-10 youngsters desperately trying to hold on as they are pounded by the raging, churning torrent and are repeatedly swept over the edge within seconds. Those who have survived so far were lucky to be on a rock about 50 feet upstream. The group that got swept away was far too close to the edge of the waterfall. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tweeted that seven people had been rescued and efforts were being made to recover the rest. Two bodies have been found so far — both deceased are said to be from Gwalior. Sultanpur waterfall is about an hour’s drive from Gwalior and Shivpuri on the Agra-Mumbai highway. It’s a popular picnic spot and hundreds had gathered on I-Day. Police said that many of them were bathing in what was then a gentle stream.


Suddenly, around 4.30pm, the water level started rising. Locals screamed for the picnickers to get out immediately but many couldn’t realise they were in danger. Witnesses say that the river went from a trickle to a torrent in about 30 seconds. Heavy rainfall in the upper reaches on Wednesday evening had created the perfect conditions for a flash flood that took everyone unawares. Some reports said that water release from a dam was responsible, but officials denied it. Rescue operations were initially hampered due to incessant rain and then due to darkness. Shivpuri SP Rajesh Hingankar and Gwalior SP Navneet Bhasin rushed to the spot. “We are not sure how many people have drowned. We are focusing on rescue,” said Bhasin. An SOS was sent to the IAF’s Maharajpura airbase in Gwalior and they responded immediately. Seven persons had been rescued by 10pm, and the IAF personnel were still at it despite bad weather. Those stranded are only 100 feet from the edge.



Rising Yamuna level forces 1,000 people to be Evacuated

TROUBLE OVERFLOWS: The water level could rise even further, after another 13,572 cusecs of water was released at 6pm on Wednesday.



New Delhi: For a second straight day, the water level at the Yamuna rose and touched 205.72 metres at 1pm on Wednesday, forcing over 1,000 people to be evacuated from low-lying areas. The water level had shown a sharp rise in the early hours of Wednesday after around 1.75 lakh cusecs of water was released from Hathni Kund barrage in Haryana on Tuesday night. Officials said the water level could rise even further, after another 13,572 cusecs of water was released at 6pm on Wednesday. Precautionary measures are already in place as they were two weeks back, when the water level at the Yamuna had crossed 206 metres. Delhi chief secretary Anshu Prakash held an emergency meeting on Tuesday after the water level crossed the danger mark of 204.83 metres. The ‘warning’ level for the Yamuna is 204 metres. According to officials from the flood and irrigation department, Yamuna’s water level stayed steady at 205.72 metres between 1pm and 6pm. However, a slight increase is likely when more water is released from the Hathni Kund barrage. “We are looking at the situation closely and if the water level does not drop, the Old Yamuna Bridge may be closed to traffic once again,” said a senior traffic official.


K Mahesh, district magistrate (east and Shahdara), said officials worked on August 15 as well, despite it being a public holiday so that people could be evacuated from low-lying areas. In addition, boats have been kept on standby at vulnerable points, while additional space is being made at schools and community centres. “We were ready for evacuation. People have been moved to higher ground and provided tents and food. We will continue to track the situation through the flood control room and take action accordingly,” said Mahesh. The Yamuna had recorded its highest water level in Delhi in the last five years on July 31 when it touched 206.05 metres. The water level had, however, receded drastically after that and had fallen below the ‘warning’ level in the next 48 hours. The highest ever water level recorded for the Yamuna was in 1978, when it had touched 207.49 metres at Old Yamuna Bridge.



Rain kills 25 people in one day, toll 67; Kochi airport shut till Saturday

RAIN RAGE: Rescue workers evacuate a family from a flood-hit locality in Thiruvananthapuram. The state capital on Wednesday witnessed heavy rain and several low-lying areas were submerged forcing officials to open 14 relief camps.



Thiruvananthapuram: Braving the unprecedented monsoon deluge that has claimed 67 lives in the past seven days, Kerala is trying hard to restore normalcy in the lives of thousands of flood-affected people who have either been isolated or rehabilitated. The IMD, predicting heavy rain and gusty winds for two more days, has declared ‘red alert’ across the state till Thursday. With 25 people dying in various incidents including landslides, electrocution and drowning on Wednesday alone, the official death toll since August 9 has now been pegged at 67. Around 10 people are reported missing from various parts of the state. The worst tragedy of the day was reported from Malappuram where eight people were killed in a house collapse triggered by a landslide. Shutters of 33 of the 39 major dams across Kerala have now been opened. Flights services have been severely disrupted due to the flooding. Cochin international airport had to suspend operation from Wednesday early morning. The operational area is completely inundated. The airport will remain closed till Saturday. Domestic flights to Kochi are being diverted to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. Many international flights are being either rerouted to major south Indian airports or cancelled.


As an emergency, the Union civil aviation ministry has approved the state’s proposal to allow flights to arrive at the Kochi naval base airport. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan described Wednesday’s rain and flood as the “worst ever crisis faced by the state”. Over 1.5 lakh people are now living in rehabilitation camps. Among the places cut off from other regions is the popular tourist destination of Munnar. Domestic and foreign tourists are trapped in Munnar, but they are all safe. While the rain fury had ravaged lives in north and central Kerala earlier, Wednesday’s rain didn’t spare southern Kerala too. Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts were affected badly. The government declared holiday for all educational institutions on Thursday. The shutters of Mullaperiayar dam, the safety of which had been a bone of contention between Kerala and TN, had to be opened in the early hours leading to further raise of water discharge via Idukki dam. The dam water level almost touched 142 metre, the SC approved maximum level, on Wednesday. Vijayan held telephonic discussions with PM Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh who promised all help to Kerala.



Alert driver saves 20 passengers as bus catches fire



Bengaluru: An alert KSRTC driver averted a major mishap after a multi-axle bus caught fire in the wee hours of Wednesday. All 20 passengers on board the bus escaped unhurt. The incident took place when the Bengaluru-bound bus coming from Tirupathi was moving along KR Puram hanging flyover around 5am. As soon as the bus reached the flyover, bus driver Ambari noticed smoke emitting from the engine through the rearview mirror. He immediately stopped the vehicle and asked all passengers to alight. Panicky passengers rushed out of the bus leaving some of the baggage behind. The bus was almost gutted as the fire spread rapidly, stalling traffic on the flyover for some time. By then, the driver had alerted fire officials who reached the spot and doused the flames. Police said no complaint has been registered.



High alert in five rain-battered districts

FURIOUS FLOW: Nine out of 11 gates of Linganamakki dam in Sagar taluk of Shivamogga district were opened as Sharavathi river on which the reservoir is built has filled to the brim.



Bengaluru: Chief minister HD Kumaraswamy who was busy temple hopping for the past two days even as rains pounded Malnad and coastal districts finally took some time to review the situation on Wednesday. After a brief meeting with officials, Kumaraswamy declared a high alert in five rain-hit districts of Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada, Hassan, Chikkamagaluru and Shivamogga and asked the deputy commissioners (DCs) to be on their toes to combat any untoward situation. With heavy rain expected to continue in Malnad and coastal region of Karnataka, the CM asked the DCs to take necessary steps including evacuation of people residing in low-lying areas and deployment of boats. The CM also directed senior secretaries to visit districts and keep themselves apprised of the situation. He also appealed to all district-in-charge ministers to review the situations in their respective areas.


Torrential rains in the last three days has caused floods, landslides and disrupted normal life in the state, forcing suspension of train and bus services. “Though rain has abated in some areas except in parts of Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi, we are not taking any chances,’’ said GS Srinivasa Reddy,’’ director, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre. Flash floods were reported on Wednesday in 30 villages in Honnali and Harapanahalli taluks of Davanagere districts, situated on the banks of Tungabhadra. This was after more than 60,000 cusecs of water was discharged from the Bhadra reservoir, which has filled to its capacity. About 200 houses besides a primary school, temple and a community hall was inundated due to the flash floods. Rains continued to wreak havoc in Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. The Madikeri—Mangaluru Road via Sampaje was shut for vehicular traffic following landslides. The Somwarpet- Sakaleshpur highway was also severely damaged due to rain.



As Mettur Overflows, Several Districts Sink


Chennai: The Mettur dam received an inflow of 1.90 lakh cusecs on Wednesday night, the highest ever this year. Concerned PWD officials diverted the entire water into the surplus pathway as the dam had already reached the full capacity of 120ft. The Central Water Commission (CWC) on Wednesday morning issued an alert about the huge discharge from Kabini and Krishnaraja Sagar 9KRS) dams due to heavy rain in Karnataka and Kerala. The combined discharge will be more than two lakh cusecs and the water is expected to reach Mettur dam in two days. Following the alert, Salem collector Rohini R Bhajibhakare visited the dam on Wednesday. During an urgent meeting she chaired with the dam PWD officials as well as with district officials, she directed them to maintain round-the-clock vigil. Rohini told reporters that a flood alert had been sounded across Salem district and across the downstream districts, including the delta region. “We have advised villagers on the banks of the Cauvery to contact 1077 for any emergency,” she said. Officials in the control room in the district collector’s office would inform those concerned to look into the issue and sort it out at the earliest.


Later, interacting with people living near Mettur dam and river pathways, the collector urged them to ensure their cattle including cows, sheep and goats were in safe areas and were not entering the river. “We have warned the villagers not to fish, swim or bathe in the floodwaters,” she said. In Erode, many residential areas were inundated as surplus water was released from the Bhavanisagar dam near Sathyamangalam after it crossed 100ft on Tuesday night for the first time in 11 years. Collector S Prabhakar, who opened the sluice gates of the dam at 11.30pm on Tuesday to discharge 50,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs) water from the dam, issued a flood alert to people living along the river pathways. On Wednesday, the water level in the dam had risen to 102ft and as a result the discharge level was increased to 50,500 cusecs. The inflow to the dam was recorded at 45,000 cusecs. Surplus water released from the dam entered a few residential areas at MGR Nagar, Iyappan Nagar, Pillayar Street and Fathima Nagar in Sathyamangalam on Wednesday morning. Families in 145 houses were rescued and given shelters in a nearby marriage hall and government school. “We have given them food, clothes and blankets,” the collector said, adding, “They will be given free food until the situation returns to normalcy”.



International News



48 killed as suicide bomber targets Shia students in Afghanistan

A police official near the site of a blast in Kabul on Wednesday.



Kabul: A suicide blast in a mainly Shia area of Kabul killed at least 48 people on Wednesday, the latest in a wave of attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians, soldiers and policemen over recent days. The explosion, targeting an educational centre, tore through a large tent set up as a classroom in the courtyard, killing dozens of teenagers studying for a university entrance examination. The blast, which shattered weeks of relative calm in Kabul, also wounded at least 67, including both male and female students. “Most of the boys at the educational centre have been killed,” said Sayed Ali, who witnessed the blast. “It was horrific and many of the students were torn to pieces”. Doctors at city hospitals, where people had gathered to try to find relatives who had been studying at the centre, said many of the victims were severely burned. “My brother was studying at the centre and he was killed. I’m here to get his body,” said Abdul Khaliq, waiting outside the Isteqlal hospital.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Kabul blast but the attack bore the hallmark of Islamic State, which has conducted many previous attacks on Shia targets. The Taliban denied that it was involved. The explosion, which came as the central city of Ghazni struggles to recover from five days of intense fighting between the Taliban and government forces, underlined how badly security in Afghanistan has degenerated, some two months before parliamentary elections scheduled for October. Earlier on Wednesday, local officials said at least nine policemen and 35 soldiers were killed in an attack on their base in the northern province of Baghlan, the latest of a series that has killed dozens of members of the security forces nationwide. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called for the fighting to stop, saying up to 150 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Ghazni.



Italy bridge collapse toll 39, hundreds forced out of homes

The truck driver was saved thanks to a car that passed it, forcing its driver to brake slightly.



Genoa: Italian prosecutors focused their investigation into the Genoa highway bridge collapse on possible design flaws or inadequate maintenance, as the death toll rose Wednesday to 39 people and Italian politicians looked for someone to blame. Fears mounted that another part of the Morandi Bridge, which was carved in two by the collapse of its midsection during a violent storm Tuesday, could also come crashing down. That prompted authorities on Wednesday to widen an evacuation zone around the bridge, forcing some 630 people out of apartments in nearby buildings. Transportation and infrastructure minister Danilo Toninelli raised the possibility that the evacuees may never again live there, saying the need to rebuild a new bridge on the city’s key artery could require the destruction of nearby residential buildings. On Tuesday, a 260-feet stretch of the 51-year-old bridge collapsed, sending over 30 cars and three trucks plunging up to 150 feet to the ground. Still dazed or shaken, survivors on Wednesday recounted their brushes with death. One truck driver provided a dramatic account, including a description of how a green truck seen in photos worldwide stopped just short off the abyss as the bridge crumbled. The driver identified only as Idris said the green truck was saved thanks to a car that passed it, forcing its driver to brake slightly. The car plunged off into the chasm.

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