News Flash – 17 July 2017

National News



Tragedy strikes Amarnath yatra again, 16 die as bus falls into gorge


JAMMU: At least 16 Amarnath pilgrims were killed and over 30 sustained injuries after the bus they were travelling in skidded off the Jammu-Srinagar national highway and plunged into a gorge in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramban district on Sunday. The tragedy struck days after eight Amarnath yatris were killed and dozens wounded after terrorists opened fire on their bus in Anantnag district. Officials said the bus was heading towards Srinagar when its rear tyre burst and the driver lost control of the vehicle. It plunged into a nearly 200-foot-deep gorge of Nachlana Nullah near an Army camp in Ramsoo area in Ramban. “A state road transport corporation bus bearing registration number JK02Y0594 ferrying Amarnath pilgrims rolled down into a gorge near Nachlana area of Ramsoo about 2.15pm,” a police officer said.



Two killed, four hurt in Ulhasnagar landslide



KALYAN: Two people were killed and four others, including a pregnant woman, were injured in a landslide in Ulhasnagar around 5 am on Sunday. A one-storey house perched on a hill in Maharal village collapsed on four other houses that stood lower. The landslide took place following heavy rain over the last three days. The deceased -Aslam Nizamuddin (45) and Saifuddin Khan (50) -died on the spot. Fire officials said that the ground plus-one structure collapsed on four houses. The injured have been identified as Neelam Singh (23), her husband Parvej (26), Aslam’s wife Firdaus Shaikh (30) and Saifuddin’s daughter Khushboo (16). They are undergoing treatment at Central Hospital in Ulhasnagar. The police said that Neelam, who is four months pregnant, has sustained injuries to the shoulder and back. A doctor at Central Hospital said that the baby in the womb is safe. Parvej told TOI that despite the injuries he and his wife have sustained, they are glad to know that there to-be-born child is safe.


Firdaus, who suffered serious head injuries, has not been told of the death of her husband, Aslam, said her relatives. Khushboo used to stay with her father, Saifuddin, while the rest of the family lives in Uttar Pradesh. The teenage girl has been depressed on learning about her father’s death, said a neighbour. Sources said that all the houses in which the victims lived were illegal and were constructed five years ago. Besides, the one-storey house which was affected due to the landslide was also illegal, said sources. Nature’s fury at Kasara too: A landslide also occurred at Kasara Ghat on the Mumbai-Agra highway (NH-3) in the early hours of Sunday. However, there was no loss to life or property, according to the police. The landslide occurred around 7.30 pm on the road from Mumbai to Nashik side, following which the authorities had to keep one lane of the road shut for vehicular traffic.



‘39 Indians abducted in Iraq could be in jail near Mosul’



NEW DELHI: Union foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday met family members of the 39 construction workers abducted from Mosul in 2014 and expressed hope that they would be released soon as India had received information that they were probably lodged in a jail near Mosul. According to Swaraj, the missing Indians are likely in a jail at Badush, northwest of Mosul, where fighting is still on between Islamic State and Iraqi government forces. She said Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari is scheduled to visit India on July 24 and could bring more information about the missing men. “East Mosul has been completely freed from IS and now buildings are being sanitized and authorities are not allowing civilians to go there as there may be bombs and other explosives,” Swaraj said. Fighting is on west of Mosul, she added. Minister of state for external affairs V K Singh was sent to the Gulf nation after its PM announced the liberation of Mosul from IS.


“An official who quoted intelligence sources told Gen Singh that they (workers) were deployed for hospital construction and then in a farm. From there, they were sent to a jail in Badush west of Mosul, where fighting is still on. There has been no information since then,” Swaraj told reporters. She briefed family members of the abducted men, who are mostly from Punjab, about the information gathered by V K Singh. “We called family members of all those who were abducted in Iraq. I had already met them 10 or 12 times, but this time the situation was different as the Iraqi prime minister had declared that Mosul had been freed from the IS. That very day, I asked V K Singh to go to Iraq and collect details about the Indians,” Swaraj said.



H1N1 flu causing neuro problems among kids: Doctors



MUMBAI: A 10-month-old infant from Goregaon has lost his sense of recognition and is unable to identify familiar faces, including his parents’, following a neurological complication caused by influenza H1N1. The extensive brain impairment in the baby has set warning bells ringing among clinicians that the infection can go beyond the respiratory system. Over the last one month, pediatric neurologists have treated at least five to six cases of H1N1 in children who have shown primary symptoms of neurological complications, instead of fever, cough and throat infection. Two of these children continue to be hospitalised. Neuro experts have advised physicians to think of H1N1 while treating unexplained seizures or inflammation in the brain. All the babies required ventilation and ICU care. The Goregaon infant was brought to Surya Child Care Hospital in Santacruz about three weeks ago in an extremely critical condition. The baby was unconscious, breathing with difficulty and almost slipping into coma. While a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) test ruled out dengue and other infections such as herpes, the MRI scan was the red flag. “It showed bleeding in the thalamus, an important region that relays sensory and motor signals. We diagnosed the baby with acute necrotising encephalopathy of childhood (ANEC), a kind of brain damage, which can be caused by viral infections. In this case, it was H1N1. Viral infections have been associated with ANEC but they are extremely rare,” said pediatric neurologist Dr. Omkar Hajirnis, who consults at Surya Hospital. He said the baby has been moved out of ICU recently but he has lost his sense of recognition. “ANEC is also known to cause loss of vision which we are yet to confirm in this child,” he said, adding that he himself has treated four children with brain involvement.


A four-year-old child from south Mumbai was taken to the emergency of Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road, with continuous seizures about three weeks ago. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Anaita Hegde recalled that the boy came in a state of shock with altered sensorium. “We suspected H1N1 and he came positive. He was also from a compromised category, as he had an underlying rare metabolic disorder, known to cause seizures. We kept him in isolation and treated with oseltamivir.” The doctor added that the boy was fortunate to escape any brain damage. “His MRI was normal. Luckily, his mother brought him in time. A few more hours at home could have changed the picture completely,” she said, adding that the child was discharged from the hospital last week after about ten days of hospitalization. Doctors say better diagnosis is bringing complications to light. “We know H1N1 by involvement of lungs but we must consider that very few H1N1 could have involvement of the brain,” said Dr. Bhupendra Avasthi, director of Surya Hospital. Besides Surya, a child with brain complication is currently undergoing treatment at Fortis Hospital, Mulund. Another child, who was undergoing treatment at Jupiter Hospital, Thane, recently went home.


The twin brother of the Goregaon child, who, too, was infected along with the parents, has recovered from the viral infection completely. Pediatric neurologist Dr. Vrajesh Udani, who consults at Mahim’s PD Hinduja Hospital, said that about 30% of H1N1 affected patients have neurological symptoms like headache, irritability, but encephalopathy is extremely rare. “We will probably see it in one out of 1 to 2 lakh cases,” he said. Explaining what causes it, he said, “It’s difficult to pin point, but cytokines or things that come up in the blood against the virus, probably attack the brain,” he said. Dr. Udani added that virus-associated encephalopathy is not uncommon in India. “But since the complication is associated with high disability and mortality rate, parents must consider vaccinating their children against H1N1,” he said. Maharashtra, including Mumbai, has been reeling under an H1N1 outbreak this year. The death toll for the state touched 300 on Sunday. State epidemiologist Dr. Pradeep Awate said that mortality among children is less than 10%. “We haven’t heard of neurological complications so far but gastrointestinal and cardiac manifestations have been brought to our notice,” he said. Doctors say children with underlying medical condition are more at risk to suffer complications of H1N1.



Old Madras Road in KR Puram is Bengaluru’s deadliest stretch

Old Madras Road, which recorded the highest number of accidents and fatalities, tops a list of 17 black spots in the city, according to a city traffic police study.



BENGALURU: A 7km stretch of Old Madras Road in KR Puram, between Benniganahalli and Medahalli junction, has emerged as Bengaluru’s most dreaded location over the past three years, recording the highest number of accidents (208) as well as the highest number of fatalities (54) between 2014 and 2016. The stretch tops a list of 17 black spots -road stretches or sites where a large number of accidents takes place -identified by a Bengaluru city traffic police study this year. It was the fifth most dreaded location in the 2015 study that listed 10 black spots, recording 641 accidents between 2012 and 2014. The situation at Madiwala junction, which had topped the 2015 list of black spots with 931 accidents, appears to have improved as only 12 accidents have been reported in the latest study. On the other hand, all accidents reported on the stretch in Rupena Agrahara, between Silk Board Junction and Bommanahalli, involved fatalities. The junction is in the fourth position in the 2017 list. R Hithendra, additional commissioner of police (traffic), said their worries had changed since 2015 when the last report was prepared. “Earlier, accidents happened all day when the number of vehicles on the road was higher. But now the traffic speed is down to about 8.5kmph during the peak hours. Accidents do not happen during the peak hours. Instead, they are occurring more during night and early morning hours when there are less vehicles and speeding is rampant,” added the official.


Traffic police also blame the accidents on the personal vehicles on the road. “There are 70 lakh vehicles making about one crore trips daily on roads that are made to handle not more than 15 or 20 lakh vehicles. This disparity is the cause for such chaos on the roads,” Hithendra said. The 2017 report also shows that roads in north Bengaluru are increasingly becoming dangerous, particularly signal-free corridors to and from the international airport along Ballari Road. The Hebbal-Kempapura-Columbia Asia Hospital stretch witnessed 60 accidents and 11 deaths between 2014 and 2016, while, Bhadrappa Layout Hebbal Lake Entrance-Big Bazaar (500m) saw 44 accidents and nine fatalities. The corridor between Bethal AG Church and Lumbini Gardens on the Outer Ring Road saw 30 accidents and 12 fatalities in the same period. The jurisdictions of Yelahanka and Chikkajala traffic police account for four and three black spots respectively. While 56 accidents took place in the four stretches under Yelahanka police, the three black spots in Chikkajala recorded 109 accidents. The more deadly aspect of the find: there are more fatalities than accidents in these parts.



25 districts in Telangana record excess rainfall



HYDERABAD: Here’s some news that is sure to bring cheer to Telangana. The state has received excess rainfall during the southwest monsoon till date. As a whole, Telangana received 189 mm rainfall this monsoon against the normal rainfall of 128 mm, which is 47% excess during the water year that ended in June. As many as 25 districts out of 31in the state recorded excess rainfall, while the remaining six witnessed normal rainfall. For the first time, not a single district experienced a rainfall deficit. Thanks to bountiful rains, the groundwater table in the state has reported a major improvement. A comparison of groundwater levels in June this year and 2016 indicates a rise in all the districts, except Mancherial.


The average groundwater level for the state in the month of June 2017 stood at 11.27 metres, whereas it was 15.03 metres during the same period of the previous year. According to data released on Saturday, there has been a rise in average water levels in all the districts of the state. The rise in water levels has been observed in the range of 0.39 metres to 10.77 metres, with Nizamabad district recording the highest. “Since this monsoon period commenced, from this month we expect further recharge of groundwater along with rise in water levels. There should be improvement in water levels in the coming months during this water year,” said an official of the groundwater department. An analysis of the groundwater level data of the current year, recorded through the Piezometer network, indicates that groundwater levels of more than 20 metres depth were recorded in 60 mandals, with water levels ranging between 15-20 metres deep in 83 mandals.



Cops nab six for bomb attack on Teynampet police station



CHENNAI: Police on Sunday said they had solved the July 13 petrol bomb attack on the Teynampet police station with the apprehension of six men. Investigators said they identified the culprits after experts helped them enhance images captured by security cameras installed in the police station. The men revealed during interrogations that they devised the plan to attack the police station since cops repeatedly came in search of them following crimes committed within the station’s limits. The prime suspect J Mani, 23, has been attending court proceedings in a murder case. Another suspect Vinod was also recently booked under the Goondas Act by the Teynampet police. An investigation officer said Mani and Vinod masterminded the plot and took the help of four other friends to execute it after vehicular traffic in front of the Teynampet police station had been stopped temporarily on July 13 to facilitate Metrowater work on the stretch.


The suspects came on three motorbikes and hurled three kerosene filled bombs in front of the office of the assistant commissioner of police. As the CCTVs close to the stretch were outdated, police found it difficult to identify the suspects. “However, we enhanced the CCTV images using advanced technology. This resulted in clearer images which helped us trace the men involved,” said an investigation officer. Police subsequently apprehended Mani, Vinod, I Manikandan, 20, Ayyappan alias Ashwin, 21, S Arun, 18, hailing from Ezhil Nagar in Kannagi Nagar, and M Karthik, 32, a resident of Royapuram. Inquiries revealed that Karthik provided the vehicles to carry out the attack. The Teynampet police registered a case and arrested the six men. They were remanded in judicial custody after being produced before a magistrate court in the city. Police said Vinod had been facing similar charges for hurling petrol bombs at a Tasmac shop on South Boag Road in T Nagar on August 12, 2015.



IAF helicopter airlifts 3 from flood-hit Siyani in Gujarat



AHMEDABAD: Indian Air Force helicopters swung into action on Sunday and rescued three persons from Siyani village of Limbdi Taluka in Gujarat. The helicopter was flown by Wing Commander Vishal Mohan. According to Defence spokesperson Wing Commander Abhishek Matiman as soon they received requisition from the state administration, the MI-17V5 helicopter reached the spot and rescued three persons found waiting with bated breath to be extricated from the midst of gushing flood waters running dangerously close. All the three people were picked up and landed at a safe location. The helicopter of the Jamnagar-based helicopter unit of the Indian Air Force popularly known as the ‘Stallions’, already standing by at Ahmedabad airfield was involved in the rescue operations in extremely challenging weather. The Indian Air Force was called for rescue operation on Saturday also. It has evacuated four persons stranded in flood waters and airlifted them to safety. Wing Commander Matiman added that IAF aircraft and crew will continue to be in a state of readiness to respond to any more request from the state administration.



International News



Woman killed, 4 injured as violence erupts at Venezuela vote


CARACAS, Venezuela: Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans lined up across the country and in expatriate communities around the world Sunday to vote in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolas Maduro‘s plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that’s raising tensions in a nation battered by shortages and anti-government protests. A 61-year-old woman was killed and four people wounded in shooting that erupted after government supporters on motorcycles swarmed an opposition polling site in a church in the traditionally pro-government Catia neighborhood of western Caracas. The opposition mayor of the Caracas borough of Sucre, Carlos Ocariz, said pro-government paramilitary groups attacked voters outside the Our Lady of Carmen Church around 3 p.m. The chief prosecutor’s office said Xiomara Soledad Scott, a nurse, had been killed and three wounded in the incident. Video posted to social media showed massive crowds outside the church, then hundreds of people running in panic outside the church as motorcycle-riding men zoomed past and shots rang out. Maduro made no mention of the incident in comments on state television shortly after the official close of opposition polls at 4 p.m., but he called for an end to violence that he blamed on the opposition. “I’m calling on the opposition to return to peace, to respect for the constitution, to sit and talk,” Maduro said. “Let’s start a new round of talks, of dialogue for peace”. In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for a July 30 vote to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela‘s 1999 constitution.


The opposition says that vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party. The success of the opposition’s symbolic referendum will be measured by how many millions participate. Democratic Unity, a coalition of some 20 opposition parties, has printed 14 million ballots for voters inside and outside the country of 31 million people. Few expect turnout that high but analysts say participation by more than 8 million people would significantly hike pressure on the government. Participation appeared to be high, with large crowds of people lining up at tables in churches and parks across the capital. “Since we opened at 7 a.m. the line hasn’t let up,” said Pedro Garcia, organizer of a voting station filled with hundreds of people in the south Caracas neighborhood of El Valle, a stronghold of government support that has been weakening in recent years. Juan Madriz, a 45-year-old insurance company employee, said he didn’t object to rewriting the constitution per se, but rejected Maduro’s decision to do so without putting that decision to a vote, as his predecessor Hugo Chavez did. “If they’re forcing us, it isn’t democracy,” Madriz said. Isabel Santander, a 67-year-old retired auditor, said she was voting against the constitutional assembly as a protest against the country’s economic collapse. “I signed because there’s no medicine, no food, no security,” she said. “There’s no separation of powers, no freedom of expression”. Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. The country’s chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party. The opposition is boycotting the constitutional assembly.


Instead, it called backers to 2,000 sites across the country to fill out ballots featuring three yes-or-no questions. Do they reject the constitutional assembly? Do they want the armed forces to back congress? Do they support the formation of a government comprised both of Maduro backers and opponents?. The government calls the opposition vote a manipulation aimed at destabilizing the country, and has been urging its supporters to participate in the constitutional assembly, which it calls a way of restoring peace to Venezuela. “Some comrades and brothers may be worn out by the right’s great media campaign. Now they’ve invented this July 16 thing to put the burden on their own people and evade their responsibility,” socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said Saturday. “That’s how the right is, manipulative, fooling their own people”. Polls show that barely 20 percent of Venezuelans favor rewriting the late Hugo Chavez’s 1999 constitution _ about the same level of support as for Maduro. For the government-backed rehearsal, hundreds lined up outside a school in El Valle guarded by heavily armed soldiers and militiamen, waiting quietly to place a practice vote that also served as a show of support for the government. “Our president Chavez supported the poor, the people,” said Yveth Melendez, a 41-year-old homemaker. “Today we’re following his legacy, with President Nicolas Maduro. The constitutional assembly is something that benefits the people”. Opponents of Venezuela’s government blame it for turning one of the region’s most prosperous countries into an economic basket case with a shrinking economy, soaring inflation and widespread shortages. The government blames the crisis on an economic war waged by its opponents and outside backers. The petroleum-rich nation has been hit hard by falling world oil prices. Clashes between protesters and police have left at least 93 people dead, 1,500 wounded and more than 500 behind bars.



Pre-dawn house fire in eastern China kills 22 residents



BEIJING: A pre-dawn fire in a two-story house in eastern China has killed 22 people and injured three. The city of Changshu in Jiangsu province, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Shanghai, said Sunday in a brief social media post that the fire broke out around 4:30 a.m. The post says authorities have put out the fire and finished cleaning the scene. The cause remains under investigation. It’s not clear how many residents survived. An earlier report by the official Xinhua News Agency said more than 20 people lived in the house, citing unnamed sources.



27 dead, 54 missing in DR Congo boat sinking: Official



KINSHASA: At least 27 people have died and 54 are missing after a boat sank in the river Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official said Sunday. “Rigorous” checks had confirmed “at this stage” the numbers of dead and missing in the accident, which happened overnight Thursday to Friday, the administrator of Idiofa territory, Jacques Mbila, told AFP.

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