At least 19 killed as under-construction flyover collapses in Varanasi
The Uttar Pradesh Bridge Construction Corporation was constructing the 2,261-metre-long bridge at a cost of Rs 129 crore.
VARANASI: At least 19 people were killed and over 12 injured after being crushed under two concrete beams which fell off 40-foot-high pillars of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi on Tuesday evening. The mammoth slabs came crashing on crawling traffic on a busy service lane at 5:30pm between Cantonment railway station and Lahartara rail over-bridge on Tuesday evening. Nine vehicles, including a bus, two SUVs, two cars, auto and two-wheelers lay in a twisted, mangled heap, triggering panic and chaos in the peak evening hours.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) comprising 350 personnel, Army Medical Corps and police were swiftly pressed into rescue operations and it took more than four hours to extricate bodies after 200-tonne capacity cranes were pressed to partially lift the beams. Rescue operations were delayed as the heavy-duty cranes had to be brought in from NHAI campus, 15 km away. Before the NDRF arrived, it was local slum dwellers who swung into action after hearing the thud and cries of passengers writhing in pain on the busy street. Many eye-witnesses claimed rescue operations began after an hour and many of those trapped under rubble died. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath, deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya air dashed to Varanasi to take stock of the situation. The twin beams were mounted on pillar No. 79 and 80, just a week back and were left unsecured without locks. When the slabs came crashing down, labourers and the contractor at the site fled the scene. An eye-witness said, “Luckily, few passengers were seated in the bus when the beams fell. We rescued them from the wreckage and rushed them to hospital on auto-rickshaws. But pulling out trapped people from mangled SUVs, cars and two-wheelers was impossible for us”. Earlier, a police team rushed to the tragedy site and mobilised cranes to lift the beams. SSP RK Bhardwaj along with NDRF and army joined rescue operations. Despite engaging six cranes, the beams could be lifted only partially to extricate bodies. The injured were rushed to SPG Divisional Hospital and also nearby private hospitals.
“It was mayhem on a busy street. We could not fathom what was happening after the beams crashed with a bang. People were running everywhere in panic,” said Mohan Kumar, an eye-witness. Another resident, Mohammad Shaqil saw death in close quarters. “I saw the beams crashing on a biker, just a few feet away from me. He died on the spot. Concrete splinters hit the front of my bike. Allah saved me”. CM Yogi Adityanath has announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for critically injured. He also set up a high-powered three-member panel under agriculture production commissioner Raj Pratap Singh to look into the accident, which will submit a preliminary report within 48 hours. Till reports last came in, rescue operations were continuing. Officials at ground zero said, all emergency services have been roped in. Traffic has been diverted to ease relief-and-rescue operation. “It is difficult to say how many are still trapped. Rescue work is on and our focus is to take out the people from under the rubble,” said a district official. PM Narendra Modi tweeted he discussed the matter with chief minister Yogi Adityanath. “Extremely saddened by loss of lives due to the collapse of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi. I pray the injured recover soon. Spoke to officials and asked them to ensure all possible support to those affected,” Modi said in a tweet. He added, “I spoke to UP CM Yogi Adityanath. The UP government is monitoring the situation closely and is working on the ground to assist the affected”.
Two Romanians who cloned cards and skimmed Rs 50 L from bank accounts arrested
Mumbai: In a first, two Romanians, who were part of a gang that cloned 2,000 debit cards and siphoned off over 50 lakh from bank accounts of Indians, were arrested from a guesthouse in Mumbai. Gang members had installed skimmers along with secret cameras at ATM kiosks in Hyderabad and Delhi. Police managed to recover 35 lakh from the duo-Vasile Gabriel Razvan and Buricea Alexandru Mihai of Romania-at the time of their arrest. The duo along with their associates, Ticu Bogdan Costinel and Puica Eugn Marian, had hatched a plan to clone debit cards of Indians by placing skimmers at ATM centres, Cyberabad police commissioner V C Sajjanar said. Gabriel researched on the internet about top Indian cities and chose Hyderabad as one of their locations to steal debit card data. After discussing details with his aides, Gabriel obtained business visas for the gang to visit India. In December 2017, Gabriel and Alexandru came to Hyderabad and identified ATM kiosks where there were no security guards. After noting down details of the ATMs, the two went to Delhi and looked for ATMs without security guards there. In January 2018, the gang installed skimmers along with secret cameras at ATMs in Delhi and, using the information gathered, cloned debit cards. Using the cloned cards, they withdrew 9.5 lakh from ATMs in Mumbai in January and converted the Indian currency to euros at outlets of a financial services firm. Gabriel and Alexandru cloned cards while staying at a hotel near the Mumbai international airport.
40 feared drowned as boat capsizes in Andhra Pradesh
DEVIPATNAM: Around 40 people are feared drowned after a boat capsized due to strong winds in the Godavari River on Tuesday evening. Twelve, including two women and a child, swam to safety. The boat was carrying them from Kondamodalu in West Godavari district to Polavaram. Twenty boats, expert swimmers and NDRF teams have swung into action immediately to trace the missing people. The rescue operation is on in the river in pitch-dark condition. Poor light is hampering the rescue work. Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu has directed the district authorities to take all necessary steps to rescue the missing people. The mishap took place near Manturu, 18 km from the mandal headquarters of Devipatnam, around 6pm. According to those who swam to safety, there were about 55 passengers, mostly tribals, on the boat. They complained that the operator did not heed their pleas to stop the boat even as strong winds were blowing. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday night expressed anguish over the boat tragedy and prayed for the safe return of those missing. “Anguished by the capsizing of a boat in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district. Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the safety of those missing,” he tweeted.
Culprits used skimmers to steal data from ATM’s
HYDERABAD: Nigerian gangs duping people through online frauds is passe. Now, Romanians are on the prowl, siphoning off money from bank accounts by cloning debit cards. After receiving complaints from 45 people about money being fraudulently withdrawn from their bank accounts using debit cards in Mumbai, Cyberabad police went to four ATM kiosks in Malad and Goregaon, where cash was withdrawn, and the two ATM centres in Kukatpally, where the complainants went to withdraw cash , and scanned the CCTV footage. In the footage, police saw foreigners, wearing caps or covering their faces, attaching skimmers to card slots to scan details of debit card when a customer swipes and fixing secret cameras to the machine dome above the key panel to record PIN number. The CCTVs also captured foreigners withdrawing cash between 11pm and 1am using the cloned cards to exploit daily cash withdrawal limit.
Police then checked with their counterparts of other states and discovered that Romanian gangs were indulging in debit card cloning and gathered details of Romanians visiting India during the particular period. Police also kept a watch on the Romanians visiting the particular ATM centres in Malad and Goregaon and caught one of the offenders when he came to withdraw cash. Based on the information given by him, another offender was caught from a guest house in Mumbai along with cash, cloned cards and other incriminating evidence. On interrogation, the duo confessed that Romanian and Bulgarian gangs had been resorting to debit card cloning frauds in India. The gang members travel in autos to zero in on ATMs in metros. They select kiosks without security. A gang member installs a skimmer, while the second one uninstalls it within a day. Another member clones the cards using data gathered in skimmer and video recorder, while the fourth member withdraws cash from ATMs. They confessed to have purchased the gadgets from an e-marketing portal.
Kolkata may be lashed by thunderstorm in next 48 hours
KOLKATA: Kolkata was left singed on Tuesday with the maximum temperature soaring to 33.8°C and the maximum humidity touching 90%. Though parts of north Bengal received thundershowers under the influence of a cyclonic circulation, south remained dry. But the Met office spied a thunderstorm in Kolkata in the next 48 hours. A cyclonic circulation stretched between eastern Bihar and north Bengal. It could move southward, predicted the Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC). “If it moves downwards, Kolkata and the neighbouring south Bengal districts could be lashed by thunderstorms either on Wednesday or Thursday,” said RMC director GK Das. While humidity soared to 90%, the city’s real feel temperature – calculated on the basis humidity, intensity of sun rays, wind speed, cloudiness and precipitation – touched 42°C at 4pm on Tuesday, according to a private weather forecasting service. “Since moisture incursion from the sea is happening on a regular basis, humidity has been high. This has made the conditions uncomfortable. It is due to the high humidity that thundershowers have been precipitated on a regular basis this season,” explained Das. Kolkata received five squalls in April and two this month so far, the last one being on May 13. The mercury had plunged by 10 degrees and humidity dropped below 60% after Sunday’s thunderstorm. “But they have spiraled up again. Unless we have another system-triggered storm, the mercury will rise. But we expect another relief by the middle of the week,” said Das.
Taliban attacks Farah city in west Afghanistan
KABUL: Afghan officials say Taliban insurgents have attacked Farah city, the capital of Farah province in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, killing and wounding dozens of security forces. Fared Bakhtawer, head of the Farah provincial council, says several security checkpoints were overrun by Taliban fighters on Tuesday morning and that an intense gun battle was ongoing in the city. Bakhtawer says up to 30 security forces were killed or wounded in the attacks. Mohammad Sarwar Osmani, a lawmaker form Farah province, also confirmed the Taliban attacks. Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility. He said fighters launched attacks form multiple directions, after which they overran several checkpoints in the city. Farah also has border with Helmand province, where the Taliban controls several districts.
Israel strikes on Syria kill at least 23 fighters
BEIRUT: Israeli strikes on several areas of Syria overnight killed at least 23 fighters, including five Syrian regime troops and 18 other allied forces, a monitor said Thursday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an officer was among the regime troops killed in the strikes and that the casualties included foreigners. Israel’s army said it hit dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria. The Russian defence ministry, whose country has forces in Syria supporting the regime, said 28 Israeli warplanes took part in the raids and around 70 missiles were fired. Areas near Damascus as well as in the centre and southwest of the country were among the targets, the Observatory said. The strikes “caused human losses in a number of the targeted areas”, it said, adding the death toll was likely to rise.
Syria’s army announced a death toll of just three people. “A number of missiles of the Israeli enemy killed three people and wounded two others,” an army spokesman said on state television. The strikes also “destroyed a radar station and an arms depot, and inflicted material damage on a number of air force battalions”, it said. Israel said it targeted Syrian positions after rocket fire towards its forces in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights that it blamed on Iran. A senior military pro-regime source in Syria confirmed the salvo of rockets, but insisted Israel fired first. The strikes come after the Syrian army late Tuesday said it intercepted two Israeli missiles, while the Observatory said eight Iranians were among 15 foreign pro-regime fighters killed in that attack. Since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011, Israel has repeatedly targeted positions of the Syrian army and Lebanon‘s Shiite movement Hezbollah backing it inside the country.