News Flash – 19 August 2019

National News



Landslides, Flash Floods Kill 31 in HP, Uttarakhand

Over 300 affected people have been evacuated and shifted to safer places.



Shimla/Manali/Uttarkashi: At least 31 people were killed, 10 were missing and hundreds of tourists left stranded as another day of torrential rains in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand triggered flash floods and landslides on Sunday. Himachal got its highest ever single-day rainfall, recording 102.5mm on Sunday, 1,065% higher than normal. Around 670 roads in the state, including 13 national highways, were blocked or washed away, including six bridges. Raghav, 22, a tourist from Telangana, was among the dead after being hit by a rock during a landslide near Manikaran. In Uttarakhand, eight bodies were recovered and at least 10 were missing in flash floods in Mori block of Uttarkashi on Saturday night. Houses were damaged and an entire market washed away. A woman was killed but four others were rescued when their open jeep was swept away while they were trying to cross the swollen Song river in Maldevta area of Dehradun.



The death toll across Himachal was put at 23 while tourists visiting the state during the Independence Day weekend were reported stuck in Lahaul-Spiti and along the Manali-Mandi highway. In the past 24 hours, Uttarakhand received 34.2mm average rainfall against a normal of 13.2mm, recording a surplus of 159%. Nainital district recorded 64.5mm rain, the highest in the state. Officials said flash floods in the Mori block of Uttarakhand district caused substantial damage. Hundreds of hectares of agriculture land were being washed away and dozens of cattle were feared dead. Water, electricity and communication facilities have been hit. According to volunteers at the spot, another five bodies were found in Makudi village. “The total loss to the state property has been assessed at Rs 490 crore,” chief minister Jai Ram Thakur said. “Over 300 affected people have been evacuated and have been shifted to safer places.



Flood Alert: Evacuation begins; Yamuna may Touch 207m Today


New Delhi: With the Yamuna set to cross the danger mark of 204.5 metres, Delhi government on Sunday sounded a flood alert and started evacuating people living on the floodplain. The river was flowing at 203.4 metres on Sunday evening and its water level was expected to rise further on Monday as 8.28 lakh cusecs of water was released from Haryana’s Hathni Kund barrage at 6pm, an official said. The water level is likely to cross 207 metres, about 1.5m above the danger level. District magistrate (east) Deepak Shinde asked the SDM to complete the evacuation process by 9am on Monday. “The water level in Yamuna is rising due to heavy rain as well as release of water from Hathni Kund and may rise up to 207 metres by10 am at ORB (Old River Bridge) by August 19, putting public life and property at risk (sic),” the order stated. Over 50 people were evacuated on Sunday night from Kanchan Colony, Wazirabad, in the wake of the flood alert and shifted to makeshift camps set up by the central district administration. As and when required, more evacuations would be carried out, an official said. The last available official report showed the discharge of water at Hathni Kund barrage at 7,33,967 cusecs around 8pm. The SDMs have been asked to ensure that all necessary arrangements were made at relief camps in coordination with other departments. Officials said preparations were being made to erect tents in nearby areas to accommodate the displaced people. In July last year, traffic movement on Old Yamuna Bridge in Delhi was barred for a few days after the water level breached the danger mark and touched 205.5 metres.



Rain Loses Intensity but Pockets of Kolkata remain Waterlogged


Kolkata: Forty-eight hours after heavy rain lashed and inundated the city, water refused to recede at some pockets of the city, triggering panic among people about an outbreak of dengue or enteric diseases. Apart from knee-deep water on roads, people are also having to bear with the stench emanating from accumulated water. Parts of Ward No. 125 at Dakshin Barisha on the southern fringes of the city, large portions of Ward No. 76 in Kidderpore on western side and some areas of Topsia and Tiljala in eastern parts of the city are still under knee-deep or waist-deep water. “In these areas, we might be scorched to death, but don’t pray for rain,” said Sk Syed Ali, a shopkeeper at Ostadji Para in Dakshin Barisha. His shop was inundated even after a half-an-hour rain. Anisur Rehman, another shopkeeper, was busy draining out water from his stationery shop. The water that seeped into his shop post-midnight damaged reams of papers and other stationery materials kept on the floor.



“But we have been scared of the outbreak of diseases, which has become a routine affair every monsoon,” said Mobarak Ali, a trader. He added, “If the rain pours in next two or three days, it will take longer time for the water to recede and our plight will be manifold. Lack of de-siltation of sewage line appears to cause the waterlogging.” However, the councillor of Ward No. 125, Ghanashree Bag, showed a glimmer of hope for the residents. “This has been an issue of the area for quite some time. We are connecting the area with Kolkata Environment Improvement Project under-road sewer line. Only 150-meter stretch is needed to be linked. We hope to complete the work by Puja,” said Bag. The situation is worse at Babu Bazar area of Kidderpore where the water level on Friday varied from knee-deep to waist-deep, with houses, and shops remaining marooned for five days. “The waterlogging started on Tuesday night when the rain left my shop inundated,” said Alok Saha of Saha Medical Stores.



Dengue Fear Grips Salt Lake, but Civic Body says no need to Panic


Kolkata: With the monsoon finally picking up pace in the city and surrounding areas, dengue menace has started haunting residents of Salt Lake and Rajarhat under Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (BMC), where 18 persons had died of the disease in the last two years. More than eight persons have already fallen prey to dengue in the Habra and Asokenagar belts of North 24 Parganas. As per figures available with the civic body, 50 persons have been tested positive for dengue between January 1 and July 31 this year in Salt Lake and Rajarhat. Dengue cases have been reported from areas like Duttabad, Sukantanagar, a few blocks in Salt Lake and from localities in Kestopur, Raghunathpur and Kaikhali, which are closer to Rajarhat. Though no death has been reported and the number of affected persons is very low considering the huge population in the entire BMC area (about 6.7 lakh), residents said that an outbreak fear has gripped them.



“We have seen the spread of dengue in the last two years. There were actions by civic authorities last year, but this year they are yet to start the drive,” said Tamal Pal, a resident of HB Block. “The anti-dengue drive is yet to pick up pace this year. Considering the situation, this is the high time for the civic body to intensify the anti-dengue drive,” said Bidhannagar Welfare Association secretary Sarat Mullick. Civic officials, however, said that there was nothing to worry. “There is no such report of any dengue outbreak in BMC area till date. We have only received reports a few scattered cases since January. We are conducting mosquito prevention drives in all the 41 wards of BMC on a regular basis. A team has been formed to make sudden inspections at different places, particularly at under-construction buildings. We are following the health department instructions,” said a civic official.



Serial Burglar Nabbed in Vadapalani, 36 Sovereigns of Stolen Gold Recovered



Chennai: Police have nabbed a 32-year-old serial burglar from Vadapalani on Saturday and recovered 36 sovereigns of stolen gold jewellery from him. Police said D Karthik alias Mariappa, a resident of T Nagar, was involved in many robbery and burglary cases in the city; he was detained under the Goondas Act in 2015 and 2017. After a theft reported at Vadapalani recently, assistant commissioner Arockia Prakasam formed a special team led by inspector Sivakumar. The team went through CCTV footage from the locality, looking for anyone seen in the frames collected from different places from were cases were reported. Police identified one such person and the trail took them to T Nagar. They soon zeroed in on Karthik, who had a criminal history. “During interrogation, he admitted to having burgled a house in Vadapalani,” said a policeman. Police retrieved 36 sovereigns of gold which he had sold to pawn brokers and friends in Ashok Nagar, Pondy Bazaar, Teynampet, Choolaimedu, MGR Nagar and Virugambakkam. Karthik, who is a bachelor, stayed with his parents in T Nagar. “He worked as a house painter and looked for locked houses when he went to work. At night, he struck at his targets. He had bought a house in Hosur,” said a police officer. He was remanded in judicial custody.



50 Villages Flood Hit as Rain Pounds Ambur, Vaniyambadi Regions

SWEPT AWAY: Floodwater from rivulets gushed into Mittalam panchayat in Ambur.

PUSHED OUT OF HOME: Many houses in JJ Nagar, in Vinnamangalam near Ambur were inundated.



Chennai: Incessant rain from the early hours of Sunday caused severe damage to crops and property and affected normal life in more than 50 villages surrounding Ambur and Vaniyambadi in Tirupattur district. The heavy rain began around 3am and continued until about 5.30pm. This was after Vellore saw a heavy downpour on Saturday as well. Alangayam near Ambur received 150.8mm of rain, followed by Vaniyambadi with 85.60mm, Ambur 80.60mm and Tirupattur 73.30mm from 6pm on Saturday to 8.30am on Sunday, according to the Meteorological department. More than 100 houses were inundated at Periyavarigam village near Ambur. At Melvittalam, rainwater entered a poultry farm of a person called Yuvaraj, killing more than 500 chicken. Heavy rain at Bairavapalli, also near Ambur, washed away a check dam constructed recently at a cost of Rs.8.5 lakh by the forest department. The compound wall of the newly inaugurated government “Amma Park”, located near the Kailasagiri hillock, collapsed following continuous rain. Floodwater also gushed out from the Ootal reservoir (a rivulet of Palar) flooding villages of Mittalam panchayat, throwing life out of gear in many places. Meanwhile, demanding removal of the stagnant water and seeking relief, villagers of Periyavarigam staged a protest at the village bus stand.



Police and revenue officials went to the spot and pacified them assuring that water would be drained using earthmovers. Environmental activists said the district administration failed to remove encroachments near the water catchment areas properly and didn’t lay drainage channels, resulting in flooding. A Ashokan, an environmental activist and member of Vellore district reversal of ecology committee, said the administration failed to remove encroachments made by farm owners in reservoirs and the banks of the Palar river and claimed it allowed the rain water to enter residential areas. He also demanded immediate eviction of squatters on waterbodies. Karthick Jawahar, 32, of JJ Nagar in Vinnamangalam near Ambur said, “The rain that lashed the region from 3am has led to the collapse of three thatched roof houses. Due to the absence of a drainage channel, rainwater from the national highway directly entered our houses. Almost all the 150 houses in JJ Nagar were inundated”. A minor landslide on the 4th and 5th bend of the Yelagiri hills sparked panic among tourists on Sunday. Many tourists who visited the hill station were yet to return to their hometowns due to the heavy rain. Civic workers were deployed for restoration work.



International News



63 killed as Suicide Bomber Strikes Wedding in Kabul; IS Claims Attack

JOY TURNS TO HORROR: A man breaks down inside the blast-hit wedding hall in Kabul on Sunday. The groom, Mirwais Elmi, recalled greeting smiling guests, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later. The attack ‘changed my happiness to sorrow’, he told TV station Tolo News.



Kabul: The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States. The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan’s US-backed government. IS fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and US led international forces and the Taliban. The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shia neighbourhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of “infidels”. The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for the Kabul attack and condemned it. More than 180 people were wounded, with many women and children among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday as families thronged to Kabul’s crowded cemeteries. “We want peace, not such brutal suicide attacks,” said Ahmad Khan, who was burying a relative.



Both the bride and groom survived. “I won’t ever be able to forget this, however much I try,” the groom, Mirwais Elmi, told the TOLO news channel. He said his cousin and some friends had been killed. “I can’t go to the funerals; I feel very weak … I know that this won’t be the last suffering for Afghans; the suffering will continue”. The bride’s father told TOLO news that 14 members of his family were killed. There has been no let-up in fighting and bomb attacks in Afghanistan over recent months despite talks between the US and the Taliban since late last year. The US special envoy for reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the attack showed the need to accelerate efforts to reach a deal with the Taliban, to help defeat Islamic State. President Trump has made no secret of his desire for a US pullout from Afghanistan and an end to America’s longest war. But there are concerns among Afghan officials and US national security aides that Afghanistan could be plunged into a new civil war that could herald a return of Taliban rule and international militants, including IS, finding a refuge. Afghan officials also fear a Taliban pact could drive some die-hard fighters into the arms of IS.

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