News Flash – 16 March 2018

National News



Family robbed of debit card, phone, cash on train from AP



MUMBAI: A 26-year-old woman travelling from Andhra Pradesh to Lokmanya Tilak Terminus(LTT) with her family was stunned to discover contents of her missing handbag dumped in trash cans of the train’s lavatories early Thursday. It appears the thief stole her handbag while she was asleep, sorted its contents in the lavatory and made off with only those he considered valuable. The GRP recorded the matter, but are yet to lodge an FIR. Lata Juthuga, a Goregaon resident, had gone to Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh to attend a wedding with her parents and brother. Early on Tuesday, the family boarded the Vishakhapatnam-LTT Express from Rajahmundry. Their train entered Mumbai early on Thursday. “Around 3.30am, we were preparing to alight. My father went to the washroom to freshen up. When he got back, he was holding up my purse. My immediate reaction was to look for my handbag and I realised it was missing,” Lata told TOI.


Lata says they started a hunt for the other contents of the handbag. “There were four lavatories in our coach and four in the adjacent one. We were taken aback to find my belongings dumped in trash cans of these lavatories. We found our house keys, notebooks, a Reliance Jio hotspot, earphones, imitation jewellery and cosmetics as well as the empty handbag. They were in a filthy condition and I had to clean them thoroughly later,” she said. Besides the handbag, the thief had made off with a shirt belonging to her dad which he had left on a hanger. “The shirt pockets had his PAN card, Aadhaar card, a bus passes and some cash. My purse had been emptied of cash too. The thief also stole my cellphone and my brother’s debit card from my handbag. But he left behind my debit card and PAN card,” she added. On getting off at LTT at 4.40am, the family approached the GRP and narrated the entire incident. “The incident speaks volumes about the lack of security on trains,” said activist Subhash Gupta, who tweeted about the incident, tagging railway authorities.



Fire guts 30 huts, 16 godowns



KOLKATA: A major fire on Thursday morning along the Strand Bank Road gutted 16 storage units and over 30 huts, leaving hundreds homeless. Thousands were held up as traffic was reduced to a snail’s pace and circular rail services were suspended for hours. Vehicular movement on Strand Road was affected due to the incident creating bottlenecks as vehicles approached the Howrah bridge. Train services on circular railway were disrupted between 12noon and 3.30pm. While fire department officials did not comment on the cause of the fire, locals claimed that embers from a coal oven in a hut nearby had ignited the chemicals kept in containers in the storage units. Ramesh Roy, a small eatery owner, said, “Around 11.50am, I got the whiff of a repugnant odour. I rushed out to find that a chemical storage godown — a few metres away from my shop was in flames. I realised that it was too late to save my shop and fled with the little cash I had”.


The fire continued to spread till 12 noon when the first fire tender arrived at the spot. Divisional fire officer (north) K K Nandy, “The railway authority had not disconnected power to the overhead traction wire till then. However, firemen began spraying water on the fire. They could have been electrocuted had the water jets come in touch with the high-voltage wires”. “Around 12.30pm the flames hinted at subsiding. However, a thick orange smoke suddenly rose upwards. We realized that pitchers containing coloured chemicals had also caught fire,” a fireman said The fire was doused by 3.35pm after 21 fire engines were pressed into service. A Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT) spokesman said, “We had leased the godown for 11 months in April, 2009. After the company refused to renew the lease in March, 2010, we sent several notices. Finally, when efforts were made to evict the illegal occupant, the company moved court. The matter is still pending in court. Under rules, the lessee is supposed to ensure proper fire-control measures on the premises,” a KoPT spokesperson said.



Call 112 for police, fire, ambulance services in Gujarat



AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has plans to have one number that is 112 for all the services in the state. This was announced by Minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja. The MOS said that so far for calling up police one needed to call 100, for fire brigade the number was 102 and for ambulance it was 108 and for women helpline it was 1091. The Government has now plan to integrate all these services into one number and just by dialing 112 the person will be able to lodge any complaint. The project has been conceived and even budgetary allocations have also been made said Jadeja. Jadeja further said that the Congress wanted to incite communalism to come to power in Gujarat. Not just the patel, but the congress had made attempts to create disturbance in the state, but the people of Gujarat especially the patels have shown them they still have full faith in the BJP.  Replying to the debate on supplementary demand for Home, Minister of state for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja said that the BJP has kept up its promise which were made before the elections. He said Justice K A Punj Commission has been formed and the Binanamat Varg Ayog and Nigam which were promised are also being formed and budgetary provisions have also been made.


Jadeja said that of the 527 cases, 12 are private complaints that cannot be withdrawn by the government and another 14 cases are such that the government cannot withdraw them. He said it on the floor of the house that of the 537 cases around 90% of the cases have been withdrawn. He remarked that the patidar were with the BJP as a result the Congress could not put up a good show in Surat which was the hot bed of Patidar agitation. All the seats in Surat were won by BJP. Even in Ahmedabad Vatva and Nikol were patidar dominated seats but in Vatva he said that he won with a margin of 64000 votes. Giving out details of the said that in 1990 the crime rate per lakh population was 283 but the crime rate in 2015 was 203 per lakh population. Jadeja about the offences against women said that in the year 2013 about 11,728 cases were registered for atrocities on women which dropped to 5819 in 2016 a drop of about 50% in the offences against women.



International News



Florida foot bridge collapse leaves 4 people dead

Aerial view shows a pedestrian bridge collapsed at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, U.S., March 15, 2018.



MIAMI: A newly erected pedestrian bridge spanning several lanes of traffic collapsed at Florida International University on Thursday, killing four people, Miami-Dade County fire chief Dave Downey said. Emergency personnel with sniffer dogs searched for signs of life amid the wreckage of concrete slabs and twisted metal after the 950-ton bridge crushed vehicles on one of the busiest roads in South Florida. At least eight vehicles were trapped in the wreckage of the bridge and at least 10 people have been transported to hospitals, officials and doctors told news conferences. Witnesses told local media the vehicles were stopped at a traffic light when the bridge collapsed on top of them at around 1:30 p.m. ET (1730 GMT). “We’re working our way into the pile trying to create holes that we can actually physically see,” Miami-Dade Fire Department Division chief Paul Estopian told reporters. At one point, police requested television helicopters leave the area so rescuers could hear for any sounds of people crying for help from beneath the collapsed structure, CBS Miami television said. Complicating the rescue effort was the uncertainty about the integrity of the bridge, parts of which remained off the ground, much of it inclined, local media reported. The 174-feet (53-meter) long bridge connects the university with the city of Sweetwater and was installed on Saturday in six hours over the eight-lane highway, according to a report posted on the university’s website.


“If anybody has done anything wrong, we will hold them accountable,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott, at a Thursday night press conference, after his office issued statement saying a company contracted to inspect the bridge was not pre-qualified by the state. The bridge was intended to provide a walkway over the busy street where an 18-year-old female FIU student from San Diego was killed while trying to cross last August, according to local media reports. Students at FIU are currently on their spring break vacation, which runs from March 12 to March 17. Student Aura Martinez was having lunch in a nearby restaurant with her mother when a waitress told her the bridge had collapsed. She ran outside and helped pull a woman out of her car, most of which was flattened by the bridge. To keep the inevitable disruption of traffic associated with bridge construction to a minimum, the 174-foot portion of the bridge was built adjacent to Southwest 8th Street using a method called Accelerated Bridge Construction (ABC). It was driven into its perpendicular position across the road by a rig in only six hours on Saturday, according to a statement released by the university. The $14.2 million bridge was designed to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, the most dangerous measure by the National Hurricane Center, and built to last 100 years, the university said. The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate why it collapsed.


President Donald Trump thanked first responders for their courage on Twitter. Along with Governor Scott, US Senator Marco Rubio went to the scene of the collapse. Munilla Construction Management, which installed the bridge was founded in 1983 and owned by five brothers, according to its website. In addition to its Florida operations, the company also has divisions in Texas and Panama and employs 500 people. “Munilla Construction Management is a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist,” the company said in a statement. FIGG Engineering said it took part in the bridge project and the collapse was a first in its 40-year history. Both companies said they would cooperate fully with investigators. Colorado-based engineering company BDI said in a tweet on March 12 that it was “thrilled” to have conducted structural monitoring during the “spectacular” process of moving the bridge into place. The company removed the tweet on Thursday and said in a statement it did so out of respect for individuals affected by the collapse. Scott’s office said FIU picked a firm that was not pre-qualified to check the design of the bridge, which was required because it was such a long pedestrian bridge and other unique characteristics. “The firm selected, Louis Berger, was not FDOT pre-qualified for this service, which is required under FIU’s agreement with the state. FIU’s design build team is responsible for selecting a pre-qualified firm and ensuring this process is followed,” the governor said in a statement. Officials at the Miami office of global engineering services firm Louis Berger were not immediately available for comment.



Thousands stream out of Syrian rebel enclave as army advances

People walk with their belongings as they flee the rebel-held town of Hammouriyeh.



BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Thousands of Syrians fled a rebel pocket in eastern Ghouta on Thursday and crossed by foot to army positions, the largest such outflow in almost a month of fighting, as troops seized more ground in the opposition stronghold. Men, women and children walked along a dirt road to army lines on the outskirts of Hammouriyeh town, footage on state TV showed. They carried blankets, bags, and suitcases on their shoulders, some of them weeping. A group crammed in the back of pickup truck waved Syrian state flags. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 12,500 people left towards government territory. They came out of Hammouriyeh and Jisreen, which the army advanced into on Thursday, and other towns nearby, the UK-based monitor said. A Reuters witness and state-run media separately said thousands were leaving. “Every hour, over 800 people are leaving,” Russia’s RIA news agency cited Major General Vladimir Zolotukhin as saying. It marked the first time such large crowds of people fled the enclave since the government launched a fierce offensive to recapture it nearly a month ago. Last week, pro-government forces splintered rebel territory into three separate pockets in eastern Ghouta, the largest opposition stronghold near the capital. Earlier this week, smaller groups of sick and wounded people were evacuated from another zone further north, under a deal the Jaish al-Islam rebel faction that controls it and Russia. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said 25 aid trucks entered that besieged zone and was headed to the town of Douma. “This is just a little of what these families need,” the ICRC in Syria said in a tweet. ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaquemet said the convoy, which entered through the al-Wafideen crossing with the United Nations, contained food aid for 26,100 people for one month, among other items. The trucks had 5,220 ICRC food parcels and 5,220 World Food Programme flour bags, Jaquemet said. A parcel can feed a family of five for one month.


“STATE’S EMBRACE”: The Syrian army seized swathes of farmland and factories in in the northeast of Hammouriyeh, said a military media unit run by Iran-backed Hezbollah, which fights alongside Damascus. Wael Olwan, spokesman for the Failaq al-Rahman rebel faction that controls the southern pocket, accused the army in a tweet of storming Hammouriyeh and exploiting the plight of civilians fleeing the bombs. The Observatory said government warplanes and shelling had pounded the Failaq zone overnight. Air strikes on the town of Zamalka there killed 12 people on Thursday, it said. The army’s onslaught of air and artillery strikes have battered eastern Ghouta for almost a month, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring thousands more, the United Nations has said. Damascus and its key ally Moscow say their forces only target armed militants and seek to end the rule of Islamist insurgents over civilians and to stop mortar fire on Damascus. They have accused the factions of preventing residents from leaving, which the fighters deny. “Praise God… the families are coming out to suitable locations to the state’s embrace,” an army officer said on state television on Thursday.


State TV showed interviews with people crossing the front, in which they said the Ghouta insurgents had not let them out before. They were coming through a crossing in Hammouriyeh, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) would move them to temporary shelters in rural Damascus, it said. Dozens of people crowded into trucks and tractors waved or chanted as they drove by. The sound of explosions briefly rang out in the background. One man cried and thanked the Syrian army in the broadcast. Another from Hammouriyeh said militants had attacked somebody who tried raising the Syrian flag there in recent weeks. “They fired at him and brought down the flag,” the unnamed man said. The Reuters witness said some arrived at government positions in the nearby town of Beit Sawa on wheelchairs. A Hammouriyeh resident, who gave his name as Abu al-Nour, told Reuters the had been in contact with people in army territory since the offensive started to get civilians out. “For eight days, we have coordinated with the soldiers, telling them we want to get the civilians out,” he said.

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